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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 1

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


-Year before the common Year of Christ, 1490.

-Julian Period, 3224.

-Cycle of the Sun, 27.

-Dominical Letter, D.

-Cycle of the Moon, 9.

-Indiction, 6.

-Creation from Tisri or September, 2514.


On the first day of the second month of the second year

after Israel came out of Egypt, God commands Moses to number all

the males of the people from twenty years and upward, who were

effective men and able to go to war, 1-3.

A chief of each tribe is associated with Moses and Aaron in this

business, 4;

the names of whom are given, 5-16.

Moses assembles the people, who declare their pedigrees

according to their families, 17-19.

The descendants of REUBEN are numbered, and amount to 46,500,

ver. 20, 21.

Those of SIMEON, 59,300, ver. 22, 23.

Those of GAD, 45,650, ver. 24, 25.

Those of JUDAH, 74,600, ver. 26, 27.

Those of ISSACHAR, 54,400, ver. 28, 29.

Those of ZEBULUN, 57,400, ver. 30, 31.

Those of EPHRAIM, 40,500, ver. 32, 33.

Those of MANASSEH, 32,200, ver. 34, 35.

Those of BENJAMIN, 35,400, ver. 36, 37.

Those of DAN, 62,700, ver. 38, 39.

Those of ASHER, 41,500, ver. 40, 41.

Those of NAPHTALI, 53,400, ver. 42, 43.

The amount of all the effective men in Israel, from twenty years

old and upward, was 603,550, ver. 44-46.

The LEVITES are not numbered with the tribes, because they were

dedicated to the service of God. Their particular work is

specified, 47-54.


Verse Numbers 1:1. The Lord spake unto Moses-on the first day of the second month — As the tabernacle was erected upon the first day of the first month, in the second year after their coming out of Egypt, Exodus 40:17; and this muster of the people was made on the first day of the second month, in the same year; it is evident that the transactions related in the preceding book must all have taken place in the space of one month, and during the time the Israelites were encamped at Mount Sinai, before they had begun their Journey to the promised land.

Verse 2

Verse Numbers 1:2. Take ye the sum, c. — God, having established the commonwealth of Israel by just and equitable laws, ordained every thing relative to the due performance of his own worship, erected his tabernacle, which was his throne, and the place of his residence among the people, and consecrated his priests who were to minister before him he now orders his subjects to be mustered,

1. That they might see he had not forgotten his promise to Abraham, but was multiplying his posterity.

2. That they might observe due order in their march toward the promised land.

3. That the tribes and families might be properly distinguished; that all litigations concerning property, inheritance, c., might, in all future times, be prevented.

4. That the promise concerning the Messiah might be known to have its due accomplishment, when in the fulness of time God should send him from the seed of Abraham through the house of David. And,

5. That they might know their strength for war for although they should ever consider God as their protector and defence, yet it was necessary that they should be assured of their own fitness, naturally speaking, to cope with any ordinary enemy, or to surmount any common difficulties.

Verse 3

Verse Numbers 1:3. From twenty years old and upward — In this census no women were reckoned, nor children, nor strangers, nor the Levites, nor old men, which, collectively, must have formed an immense multitude; the Levites alone amounted to 22,300. True-born Israelites only are reckoned; such as were able to carry arms, and were expert for war.

Verse 14

Verse Numbers 1:14. Eliasaph, the son of Deuel. — This person is called Reuel, Numbers 2:14. As the ד daleth is very like the ר resh, it was easy to mistake the one for the other. The Septuagint and the Syriac have Reuel in this chapter; and in Numbers 2:14, the Vulgate, the Samaritan, and the Arabic have Deuel instead of Reuel, with which reading a vast number of MSS. concur; and this reading is supported by Numbers 10:20; we may safely conclude therefore that דעואל Deuel, not רעואל Reuel, was the original reading. See Kennicott.

An ancient Jewish rabbin pretends to solve every difficulty by saying that "Eliasaph was a proselyte; that before he embraced the true faith he was called the son of Reuel, but that after his conversion he was called the son of Deuel." As Reuel may be translated the breach of God, and Deuel the knowledge of God, I suppose the rabbin grounded his supposition on the different meanings of the two words.

Verse 16

Verse Numbers 1:16. These were the renowned — Literally, the called, of the congregation - those who were summoned by name to attend. The order of the tribes In the above enumeration may be viewed thus: -

1. Reuben |

2. Simeon |

3. Judah |- Sons of Leah.

4. Issachar |

5. Zebulun |

6. Ephraim |

7. Manasseh |- Sons of Rachel.

8. Benjamin |

9. Dan......... 1st son of Bilhah, Rachel's maid

10. Asher....... 2d son of Zilpah, Leah's maid.

11. Gad......... 1st son of Zilpah.

12. Naphtali.... 2d son of Bilhah.

Verse 25

Verse Numbers 1:25. Forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty. — Mr. Ainsworth has remarked that Gad, the handmaid's son, is the only one of all the tribes whose number ends with fifty, all the others are by thousands, and end with hundreds; which shows God's admirable providence and blessing in multiplying them so, that no odd or broken number was among all the tribes. But Numbers 1:46.

Verse 33

Verse Numbers 1:33. The tribe of Ephraim - forty thousand and five hundred. — Ephraim, as he was blessed beyond his eldest brother Manasseh, Genesis 48:20, so here he is increased by thousands more than Manasseh, and more than the whole tribe of Benjamin, and his blessing continued above his brother, Deuteronomy 33:17. And thus the prophecy, Genesis 48:19, was fulfilled: His younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, (Manasseh.) No word of God can possibly fall to the ground: he alone sees the end from the beginning; his infinite wisdom embraces all occurrences, and it is his province alone to determine what is right, and to predict what himself has purposed to accomplish.

Verse 46

Verse Numbers 1:46. All they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty. — What an astonishing increase from seventy souls that went down into Egypt, Genesis 46:27, about 215 years before, where latterly they had endured the greatest hardships! But God's promise cannot fail (Genesis 16:5;) and who can resist his will, and bring to naught his counsel? That a comparative view may be easily taken of the state of the tribes, I shall produce them here from the first census mentioned in the first chapter of this book, in their decreasing proportion, beginning with the greatest and proceeding to the least; and in the second census, mentioned Numbers 26:1-65, where the increase of some and the decrease of others may be seen in one point of view. It may be just remarked, that except in the case of Gad in this chapter, and Reuben in Numbers 26:7, all the numbers are what may be called whole or round numbers, beginning with thousands, and ending with hundreds, Gad and Reuben alone ending with tens; but the Scripture generally uses round numbers, units and fractions being almost constantly disregarded.

1st census, Numbers 1:0 2d census, Numbers 26:0
1. Judah 74,600 76,500
2. Dan 62,700 64,400
3. Simeon 59,300 22,200
4. Zebulun 57,400 60,500
5. Issachar 54,400 64,300
6. Naphtali 53,400 45,400
7. Reuben 46,500 43,730
8. Gad 45,650 40,500
9. Asher 41,500 53,400
10. Ephraim 40,500 32,500
11. Benjamin 35,400 45,600
12. Manasseh 32,200 52,700
Total 603,550 601,730

Thus we find Judah, the most populous tribe, and Manasseh the least so; the difference between them being so great as 42,400, for which no very satisfactory reason can be assigned.

In the second census, mentioned Numbers 26:34, Judah still has the pre-eminency; and Simeon, the third in number before, is become the least. Now we see also that the little tribe of Manasseh occupies the seventh place for number. Seven of the tribes had an increase; five a decrease. Manasseh had an increase of 20,500; Judah, 1,900; Issachar, 9,900; Zebulun, 3,100; Benjamin, 10,200; Dan, 1,700; Asher, 11,900.

On the contrary there was a decrease in Reuben of 2,770; in Simeon, 37,100; Gad, 5,150; Ephraim, 8,000; Naphtali, 8,000. Decrease in the whole, 61,020 effective men. Numbers 26:51; but balanced with the increase, the decrease was upon the whole 1,820.

On the subject of these enumerations, and the manner in which this vast multitude sprang in about four generations from seventy-five persons, Scheuchzer has some valuable calculations, though liable to some objections, which I shall take the liberty to insert, as they tend to throw considerable light upon the subject.

"We find in the writings of Moses three enumerations of the Jewish people, that follow each other pretty closely: -

The first, which was made at their departure from Egypt, Exodus 12:37, amounted to ..... 600,000
One year after, to ........ 603,550
On entering the land of Canaan, to ..... 601,730
If we add to the number ..... 603,550
that of the Levites given us in Numbers 3:39, and which amounted to ..... 22,000
We shall have for the sum total ..... 625,550

We find the same number, on adding that of each tribe given us in detail, which is the best proof of the exactness of the calculation.

"I think I shall afford the reader some degree of pleasure by presenting him, in this place, the number of each tribe separately, beginning at their earliest ancestors. We shall see, by this means, how faithfully God fulfilled the promise he had made to Abraham, as well as the great utility of the mathematics for the right understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I shall begin with a Genealogical Table of that family which God so wonderfully blessed; and to it I shall afterward add each separate tribe, following the calculation of Reyher, (Math. Mos., p. 222.) And we shall see that the fourth generation, taken with the third, produces the very number mentioned in the text.

Children of JACOB by LEAH. Genesis 46:15.

Numbers 1:21.

Numbers 1:23.
LEVI Gershon Libni

Numbers 3:22.

Kohath Amram

Numbers 3:26.

Merari Mahli

Numbers 3:34.
JUDAH Shelah


Numbers 1:27.

Numbers 1:29.

Numbers 1:31.

Children of JACOB by ZILPAH. Genesis 46:18.
GAD Zilphion

Numbers 1:25.
ASHER Jimnah


Numbers 1:41.
Children of JACOB by RACHEL. Genesis 46:22.
JOSEPH Manasseh


Numbers 1:37.
Children of JACOB by BILHAH. Genesis 46:25.
DAN Hushim
62,700. Numbers 1:39.

Numbers 1:43.

I. - REUBEN 46,500

"Let us now descend to the particular enumeration of each tribe. REUBEN had four sons: now if we suppose that one of these four sons had seven, and that each of the other three had eight, we shall find the number 31 for the first Egyptian generation. If we afterward suppose that each of these 31 sons had five sons, the second generation will amount to 155, which, multiplied by 15, will produce 2,325 for the third generation; and these, multiplied by 19, will make 44,175 for the fourth; so that the third, together with the fourth, will make 46,500. We shall have the same product if the given sum, 46,500, be divided by the most probable number of children, for example, by the number 19; we shall then have 2,447 for the third generation; which sum being deducted from the sum total, there will remain 44,053 for the fourth generation, which is exactly the number that is produced in multiplying 2,440 of the third generation by 18, and the other 7 by 19. If we wish to make the same calculation with respect to the preceding generations, i. e., divide them by the most probable number of children, we shall have the following sums: -

Sons of Reuben ......... 4
I. Generation .......... 31
II. Ditto ............... 215
III. Ditto ............... 2,583
IV. Ditto ............... 43,917
Amount of generations III and IV ... 46,500

II. - SIMEON 59,300

"SIMEON had six sons. Let us suppose that each of the three first had six children, and each of the three others seven, we shall have thirty-nine for the first generation. If we multiply 31 of this number by 9, and 8 by 10, we shall have for the second generation 359; of which number, if we multiply 355 by 11, and 4 by 12, the third generation will give us 3,953. Let us then multiply 3,948 of these by 14, and 5 of them by 15, and we shall have for the fourth 55,347. The third and fourth, added together, will make 59,300.

III. - LEVI 22,300

"Gershon, Levi's eldest son, had two children: let us give to one of these 16 children, and to the other 17, and we shall have 33 for the second generation; 28 of which, multiplied by 15, and 5 by 16, will produce 500 for the third. Multiply each by 14, and these will produce 7,000; and the third and fourth together, 7,500.

"Kohath, Levi's second son, had four sons, which form the first line. Give to one of them 10 sons, and 11 to each of the other three, for the second generation there will be 43. Multiply them by 10, there will be 430 for the third; these, multiplied by 19 for the fourth, will produce the number of 8,170. The third and fourth added together make 8,600.

"Merari, the third son of Levi, had two sons. Give 10 children to each of them, there will then be 20 for the second generation. Now if we say that 10 of these 20 had each 15 sons, and each of the others 16, we shall have 310, which, multiplied by 19, will give us 5,890 for the fourth; and the two last together, 6,200. This may be seen by the following example: -

Gershonites Kohathites Merarites
I. Generation .. 2 4 2
II. Ditto ... 33 43 20
III. Ditto ... 500 430 310
IV. Ditto ... 7,000 8,170 5,890

"Amount of generations III. and IV.: Gershonites, 7,500; Kohathites, 8,600; and Merarites, 6,200 - total number of Levites, 22,300.

IV. - JUDAH 74,600

"The sons of Judah were Shelah, Pharez, and Zerah. His grandsons by Pharez were Hezron and Hamul. Hezron had two sons. Suppose each of them had six children, which will make 12 for the first generation; to eight of whom allow eight children, and nine to each of the others, and there will be 100 for the second generation. To 92 of these then give 18 children, and 19 to the eight others; this will produce for the third generation 1,808. If we then suppose that 1,800 of these had each 18 children, and that each of the other eight had 19, the fourth generation will be 32,552, which, added to the product of the third, will make the descendants of Hezron amount to 34,360.

"Hamul had two sons, who, multiplied by 10, produce the number of 20 for the second generation: these, multiplied by 20, will make 400 for the third, and these again by 25 will produce 10,000 for the fourth. And thus the two last generations will amount together to the number of 10,400.

"If we allow five sons to Shelah, and six to Zerah, we shall have 11 for the first generation. To three of whom allow 10 children and 11 to the other eight, this will give us 118 for the second. To 113 of these give 14, and 15 to the other five, and 1,657 will be produced for the third. Give 17 to 1,643, and 18 to the 14 remaining, and for the fourth there will be 28,183. The third and fourth added together will produce the number of 29,840.

"According to this calculation, all these generations will amount to the following numbers: -

Hezronites ............... 34,360
Hamulites ............... 10,400
Shelanites and Zarhites ... 29,840


V. - ISSACHAR 54,400

"ISSACHAR had five sons. Suppose that three of them had each five children, and the other two, six, we shall have 27 for the first generation. If we then imagine that of these 19 had each nine sons, and each of the other eight 10, the second generation will be 251. Now 241 of these, multiplied by 12, will produce 2,892, and the 10 others, multiplied by 13, will make 130; consequently the third generation will amount to 3,022. If 3,018 of these had each 17 sons, and each of the other four had 18, the fourth generation will be 51,378; the third and fourth generations, then, will produce a number of 54,400.

VI. - ZEBULUN 57,400

"Zebulun had three sons. If we suppose that two of them had in all fourteen children, and the third, six, here will be 20 for the first generation. The second will produce 143, on multiplying 17 by 7, and 3 by 8. If we multiply 135 by 16, and 8 by 17, the third will amount to 2,296. By multiplying the third by 24, the fourth will give us 55,104. The two last will produce, together, 57,400.

VII. - GAD 45,650

"Gad had seven sons.
I. Generation: multiply 3 by 9, and 4 by 10, there will be ..... 67
II. Ditto multiply 61 by 7, and 6 by 8 ..... 475
III. Ditto multiply 471 by 8, and 4 by 9 .... 3,804
IV. Ditto multiply 3,802 by 11, and 2 by 12 .. 41,846
Amount of generations III and IV .... 45,650

VIII. - ASHER 41,500

"The sons of Asher, Jimnah, Ishua, and Isui, multiplied by 8, produce for the
I. Generation ............... 24
II. Ditto multiply 24 by 8 ..... 192
III. Ditto multiply 182 by 11, and 10 by 12 .. 2,122
IV. Ditto multiply 2,118 by 12, and 4 by 13 .. 25,468
Amount of generations III and IV .... 27,590

Heber and Malchiel were sons of Beriah. Now these two sons multiplied by 5, give us for
I. Generation ............... 10
II. Ditto multiply 10 by 11 ..... 110
III. Ditto multiply by 9 ..... 990
IV. Ditto multiply by 12 ..... 11,880
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 12,870

"Another son of
Beriah had in the
I. Generation ............... 1
II. Ditto multiply by 8 ..... 8
III. Ditto multiply by 10 ..... 80
IV. Ditto multiply by 12 ..... 960
Amount of generations III and IV .. 1,040

All these generations added together amount to .. 41,500


I. Generation ............... 10
II. Ditto multiply 6 by 13, and 4 by 14 ..... 134
III. Ditto multiply 132 by 12, and 2 by 13 .... 1,610
IV. Ditto multiply by 19 ..... 30,590
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 32,200
EPHRAIM 40,500
I. Generation ............... 16
II. Ditto multiply by 10 ..... 160
III. Ditto multiply 152 by 12, and 8 by 13 .... 1,928
IV. Ditto multiply 1,916 by 20, and 12 by 21 . 38,572
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 40,500

X. - BENJAMIN 35,400

"He had 10 sons; two of whom, multiplied by 9, and the other 8 by 10, will give for the
I. Generation ............... 98
II. Ditto multiply 95 by 9, and 3 by 10 ..... 885
III. Ditto multiply by 5 ..... 4,425
IV. Ditto multiply by 7 ..... 30,975
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 35,400

XI. - DAN 62,700

I. Generation ............... 11
II. Ditto multiply by 12 ..... 132
III. Ditto multiply by 19 ..... 2,508
IV. Ditto multiply by 24 ..... 60,192
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 62,700

XII. - NAPHTALI 53,400

"He had 4 sons, the half of whom, multiplied by 7, and the other half by 6, give us for the
I. Generation ............... 26
II. Ditto multiply 16 by 11, and 10 by 12 .... 296
III. Ditto multiply 288 by 12, and 8 by 13 .... 3,560
IV. Ditto multiply by 14 ..... 49,840
Amount of generations III and IV ..... 53,400

Total number of all the tribes
I. Reuben ..... 46,500
II. Simeon ..... 59,300
III. Levi ..... 22,300
IV. Judah ..... 74,600
V. Issachar ..... 54,400
VI. Zebulun ..... 57,400
VII. Gad ..... 45,650
VIII. Asher ..... 41,500
IX. Manasseh ..... 32,200
Ephraim ..... 40,500
X. Benjamin ..... 35,400
XI. Dan ..... 62,700
XII. Naphtali ..... 53,400
Total 625,850

"And indeed, without counting the Levites, the number of the Israelites (Numbers 1:46) amounts to .. 603,550
The Levites (Numbers 3:39) amount to ..... 22,300
The whole number together, as above .... 625,850"

In the above calculations, Scheuchzer and Reyher take for granted,

1. That from the going down to Egypt to the exodus there were four generations.

2. That the first two generations had died in Egypt.

3. That the promise of God in multiplying them as the stars of heaven, had taken place particularly in the two last generations.

4. That these two last generations alone form the aggregate sums given in the sacred text.

5. That their method of accounting for this aggregate through the four generations, is not only perfectly natural and mathematical, but strictly accordant with the promises made by God to them, as the sum of each tribe sufficiently proves.

6. That the whole account shows the truth of the Divine promise, the great accuracy of the Jewish lawgiver, and a proof of the inspiration of the sacred writings.

But even to these calculations and deductions there may be objections, e. g. "Scheuchzer gives to 2,508 families of Dan, 24 male children, each above the age of 20: we may fairly allow an equal number of females, and add 5 more under 20, See the note at "Exodus 12:37", and we have 53 children on the average through all the families of a tribe; whilst to 4,425 families of Benjamin are allotted 7 males aged 20, and adding 7 females at 5 children, we have 19 children in each family; a tolerable number; but apparently more reasonable than the other." - ANON.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/numbers-1.html. 1832.
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