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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-54

Numbers 1:2 . Take ye the sum. The Israelites had been numbered, for the purpose of subscribing half a shekel towards the erection of the tabernacle. Now they are numbered for war; and were afterwards numbered in the plains of Moab for the purpose of entering the land, and dividing it by lot and fair proportions. Every male by their poll. This is a general rule with Moses, as with other historians, to name the males only; the females are rarely named, except on some particular occasions.

Numbers 1:4 . Head of the house of his fathers. The princes of the patriarchs by birth seem to have kept their dignity of seniority till after the time of king Saul, when promotions at court caused it to fall into disuse. This custom was prevalent among gentile tribes.

Numbers 1:27 . The tribe of Judah were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred; men fit for war, women, children and strangers not being counted here. It appears from Genesis 38:0. that Judah left his father’s house, and married very young; he had also a son by Tamar, which accounts for the superior increase of his tribe.

Numbers 1:47 . But the levites were not numbered. As the number before the erection of the tabernacle, and the number now were exactly the same, it is evident that they now used the same rolls of genealogy, and that the levites were exempt from paying the half shekel on account of their services. But if not, the Israelites in less than a year must have increased twenty two thousand; besides replacing the three thousand slain in the revolt of idolatry, when they worshipped the calf.

Numbers 1:50 . Appoint levites over the tabernacle. For these services they were exempt from war, but were required to accompany the Ark, and bore it to the camp when Eli’s sons were slain. When the priests fought, it was of necessity, or of their own will. The Maccabees were illustrious, and were aided by other priests, as well as levites. Abiathar also was with David in all his exile.


It was now but two hundred and seventeen years since Jacob’s family amounted to no more than seventy or seventy five males, and they at this time exceeded a population of two millions and a half. Sixty eight males in six generations, allowing them to have but five sons in each family, will produce one million twelve thousand and five hundred males.

We however most evidently see the hand of providence in this increase of population, for God very much preserved his people while in Egypt from disease and death. He kept his eye constantly fixed on the promise made to Abraham, to multiply his seed as the stars of heaven, and as the dust of the earth which cannot be counted. And he kept his eye, not less fixed on the redemption of the world; for of Abraham’s seed he resolved to raise up the Messiah. And if God, through all the vicissitudes of Israel’s affliction, has ever kept his gracious promises in view, we should never for a moment lose sight of them. They are our star of direction, and cheering hope in the desert land. The fidelity of God, so long tried and so long approved, cannot be doubted now. These promises are an anchor of hope till the storms of passion, and the tempests of life are overpast.

The review of mercies, and of God’s fidelity to Israel, affords not less comfort to those families who declare for God, and refuse sinful conformities to the world. Whether they be oppressed, as Israel in Egypt; whether they want food and raiment, ways and means of living, God, who delivered Jacob in the day of trouble, will surely save them when they cry in affliction.

God numbered his people with a view to extend his care and government to each; and with a view to their being appointed and equipped for marching, defence, and war. So we, like Israel, are called to be a militant church, and go through the pilgrimage of life ready armed before the Lord. May our pastors, leaders and guides, be wise and valiant men, and embolden their flocks by nobly vanquishing the temptations of sin; and when the Lord shall make up his jewels, and number or mark his faithful people, may all our names be enrolled in the book of life.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-1.html. 1835.
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