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The Book of Numbers deals with the wilderness. It is the story of a long discipline resulting from disobedience. History moves forward, for God ever protects His own purposes from the failure of His chosen instruments. The story begins and ends on the margin of the land.
The Book opens with the command of God to number the men of war from twenty years and upwards, and then contains the census of the fighting forces of the nation. The total reached 603,550. The Levites were carefully exempt from this numbering because of their consecration to the sacred service of the Tabernacle, all of which is more particularly dealt with afterwards.
Here, then, we have the first movement in preparation for the coming of the people into the land which God had given to them. As we have constantly seen, the nation had been created to carry out a larger divine purpose.
This purpose was, first, necessarily punitive. Corrupt peoples were to be swept out in the interests of purity and the people of God were to be the instrument of the divine visitation. They must be prepared for warfare, which was the reason for taking the census of the men of war.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Numbers 1". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter