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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 26

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4


Verses 1-4:

The plague (Nu 25:9) was the last serious calamity to face Israel prior to their entry into the Land. Those who died in the plague were victims by their own fault. They were those who joined themselves to Baal-peor.

Following this event, the Lord instructed Moses and Eleazar to take another census, after the pattern of the one taken four decades earlier, see Nu 1. Those to be counted were the men of military age, twenty years old and upward.

This census was in preparation for entering the Land.

Verses 5-7

Verses 5-7:

A distinguishing feature of this census was the enrollment according to families. The reason for this: it was in preparation for the assigning the territory of Palestine to the various tribes. Family unity as well as tribal unity was to be preserved.

The descendants of Reuben numbers 43,730. The earlier census listed 46,500, a decline of 2,770.

Verses 8-11

Verses 8-11:

One feature of this genealogy is the listing of the family of Pallu, and his grandsons Dathan and Abiram. They joined Korah in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron, Nu 16. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth. Korah’s 250 followers were consumed by fire from the Lord.

Korah’s children were spared the fate of their father. The sons of Korah are frequently mentioned among the Levites, as well as in the titles of certain of the Psalms. Samuel was likely a descendant of Korah, 1Ch 6:22-38.

Verses 12-14

Verses 12-14:

The enrollment of Simeon is like that of Ge 46:10; Ex 6:16, except that the name of Ohad is omitted. This may be because he founded no family. There is a variation of the spelling of some of the names, in 1Ch 4:24.

The number of Simeon’s descendants was 22,200. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier census, of 59,300, a decline of 37,100. No explanation is offered for this.

Verses 15-18

Verses 15-18:

Ge 46:16 gives the other listing of the children of Gad.

The census lists the number of the children of Gad as 40,500. The count in the prior census was 45,650, a decline of 5,150.

Verses 19-22

Verses 19-22:

Er and Onan, sons of Judah, were slain by the Lord, before Israel migrated to Egypt, Ge 38:7-10.

Pharez and Zarah (Zerah) were twin sons, borne to Judah by Tamar his daughter-in-law.

The census numbered 76,500 men of Judah. The previous census listed 74,600. This was an increase of 1,900.

Verses 23-25

Verses 23-25:

Issachar’s families numbered in this census 64,300. The previous census listed 54,400. This was an increase of 9,900.

The listing in Ge 46:13 and 1Ch 7:1 has "Job" instead of Jashub." The two names apparently refer to the same person, however.

Verses 26-27

Verses 26, 27:

The listing here is the same as in Ge 46:14.

This census lists the sons of Zebulun as 60,500. The prior census showed the number to be 57,400. This is an increase of 3,100.

Verses 28-34

Verses 28-34:

In the list in 1Ch 7:14-17, it appears that the mother of Machir was from the country of Aram, the home of Jacob’s father-in-law Laban. This may explain the name of Machir’s son, Gilead, as indicative of the territory between Palestine and Aram. ’

In the census recorded in Nu 1, Ephraim is listed first.

The census lists 52,700 men of Manasseh. The earlier census listed 32,200. This was a large increase of 20,500. Scripture gives no explanation of this growth.

Verses 35-37

Verses 35-37:

The census numbered the men of Ephraim at 32,500. This number is a decline of 8,000 from the 40,500 of the earlier census.

This text shows four families of the sons of Ephraim, one of these a grandson. The genealogy of 1Ch 7:21 lists two other sons who were slain by the man of Gath. A third, Beriah, was the ancestor of Joshua. No mention is made of a family founded by him.

Verses 38-41

Verses 38-41:

There is more variation in, the genealogical tables of Benjamin than in any of the other tribes. Three names not in the present list are found in the list in Ge 46:21. The forms of the other names differ. There are also differences found in the listing in 1Ch 7:12; 8:1-5.

The family of Becher (listed in Genesis) with nine sons (1Ch) may have been known by another name, as Ephraim showed a family of Becherites, verse 35.

Benjamin lists seven families: five named from sons, and two from grandsons.

The census of Benjamin numbered 45,600, an increase of 10,200 over the previous count of 35,400.

Verse 42

Only one son of Dan is mentioned: Shusham, also Hushim. If Dan had other children, it is likely they assimilated with the family of Shusham.

The census showed 64,400 men of Da The earlier census showed 62,700, an increase of 1,700.

Verses 44-47

Verses 44-47:

Three families were named for sons, two for grandsons of Asher. A sixth name is listed in Ge 46:17 and 1Ch 7:30: Ishuah, or Ishuah. It is likely that this son founded no family.

The count of Asher’s men showed 53,400, an increase of 11,900 over the first census of 41,500.

Verses 48-51

Verses 48-51:

This list of the families of Naphtali compares with Ge 46:24; and 1Ch 7:13. The census shows 45,400 men of Naphtali. The earlier census showed 53,400, a decline of 8,000.

The total in this second census listed 601,730 men of Israel who were twenty years of age and upward. This is a decline of 1,820.

No. of First Second

Tribe Families Census Census Increase Decrease

Reuben 4 46,500 43,730 2,770

Simeon 5 59,300 22,200 37,100

Gad 7 45,650 40,500 5,150

Judah 5 74,600 76,500 1,900

Issachar 4 54,400. 64,300 3,100

Zebulun 3 57,400 60,500 3,100

Ephraim 4 40,500 32,500 8,000

Manasseh 8 32,200 52,700 20,500

Benjamin 7 35,400 45,600 10,200

Dan 1 62,700 64,400 1,700

Asher 5 53,400 45,400 11,900

Naphtali 4 53,400 45,400 8,000

TOTAL 57 603,550 601,730 1,820

Verses 52-56

Verses 52-56:

The Land was to be divided equitably, with the territory assigned to each tribe regulated according to the size of the population. The territorial assignments were to be made "by lot," God’s way of regulating the outcome, Pr 16:33. This would remove any suspicion of favoritism on the part of Israel’s leaders. The text does not specify the manner of this lot.

Verses 57-62

Verses 57-62:

The census of Levi differed from that of the twelve tribes in this respect: the count of the Levite males was of those one month old and upward, while that of the other tribes was of those twenty years old and upward, men of military age.

The census of the Levites numbered 23,000, an increase of only 727 over the 22,273 listed in the first census, Nu 3:43. The present text does not list the number by families as was the case in the first census, Nu 3:14-43.

Verses 63-65

Verses 63-65:

This census confirmed what God had spoken, in Nu 14:20-35. It revealed that of those numbered in the first census, none remained alive to enter the Land, except Joshua and Caleb. This demonstrates the certainty of God’s promise, both of blessing and of judgment, see Heb 6:18; 3:16-19.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 26". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-26.html. 1985.
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