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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 26

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-65

The New Numbering of the People after the Great Judgment Executed upon It

Numbers 26:1-65

1And it came to pass after the plague, that the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying, 2Take the sum of all the congregation of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel. 3And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, 4Take the sum of the people, from twenty years old and upward; as the Lord commanded Moses and the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt.

5Reuben, the eldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben; Hanoch, of whom cometh the family of the Hanochites: of Pallu, the family of the Palluites: 6Of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi, the family of the Carmites. 7These are the families of the Reubenites: and they that were numbered of them were forty and three thousand and seven hundred and thirty. 8And the sons of Pallu; Eliab. 9And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. This is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the Lord: 10And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign. 11Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.

12The sons of Simeon after their families: of 1Nemuel, the family of the Nemuelites: of Jamin, the family of the Jaminites: of 2Jachin, the family of the Jachinites: 13Of 3Zerah, the family of the Zarhites: of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites. 14These are the families of the Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred.

15The children of Gad after their families: of 4Zephon, the family of the Zephonites: of Haggi, the family of the Haggites: of Shuni, the family of the Shunites: 16, 17Of 5Ozni, the family of the Oznites: of Eri, the family of the Erites: Of 6Arod 18the family of the Arodites: of Areli, the family of the Arelites. These are the families of the children of Gad according to those that were numbered of them, forty thousand and five hundred.

19The sons of Judah were Er and Onan: and Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. 20And the sons of Judah after their families were; of Shelah, the family of the Shelahites: of Pharez, the family of the Pharzites: of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites. 21And the sons of Pharez were: of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: 22of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites. These are the families of Judah according to those that were numbered of them, three-score and sixteen thousand and five hundred.

23Of the sons of Issachar after their families: of Tola, the family of the Tolaites: 24of 7Pua, the family of the Punites: Of 8Jashub, the family of the Jashubites: of 25Shimron, the family of the Shimronites. These are the families of Issachar according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and four thousand and three hundred.

26Of the sons of Zebulun after their families: of Sered, the family of the Sardites: of Elon, the family of the Elonites: of Jahleel, the family of the Jahleelites. 27These are the families of the Zebulunites according to those that were numbered of them, threescore thousand and five hundred.

28The sons of Joseph after their families were Manasseh and Ephraim. 29Of the sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites: and Machir begat 30Gilead: of Gilead come the family of the Gileadites. These are the sons of Gilead: of 9Jeezer, the family of the Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites: 31And of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the 32Shechemites: And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the family of the Hepherites.

33And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 34These are the families of Manasseh, and those that were numbered of them, fifty and two thousand and seven hundred.

35These are the sons of Ephraim after their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites: of 10Becher, the family of the Bachrites: of Tahan, the family 36of the Tahanites. And these are the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of 37the Eranites. These are the families of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of them, thirty and two thousand and five hundred. These are the sons of Joseph after their families.

38The sons of Benjamin after their families: of Bela, the family of the Belaites: of Ashbel, the family of the Ashbelites: of 11Ahiram, the family of the Ahiramites: 39Of 12Shupham, the family of the Shuphamites: of Hupham, the family of the Huphamites. 40And the sons of Bela were 13Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the family 41of the Ardites: and of Naaman, the family of the Naamites. These are the sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and six hundred.

42These are the sons of Dan after their families: of 14Shuham, the family of the Shuhamites. These are the families of Dan after their families. 43All the families of the Shuhamites, according to those that were numbered of them, were threescore and four thousand and four hundred.

44Of the children of Asher after their families: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites: of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites: of Beriah, the family of the Beriites. 45Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites: of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites. 46And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah. 47These are the families of the sons of Asher according to those that were numbered of them: who were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.

48Of the sons of Naphtali after their families: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites: of Guni, the family of the Gunites: 49Of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites: 50of 15Shillem, the family of the Shillemites. These are the families of Naphtali according to their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and 51five thousand and four hundred. These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty.

52And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 53Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. 54To many thou shalt 16give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt 17give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him. 55Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. 56According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few.

57And these are they that were numbered of the Levites after their families: of Gershon, the family of the Gershonites; of Kohath, the family of the Kohathites; 58of Merari, the family of the Merarites. These are the families of the Levites: the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, the family of the Korathites. And Kohath begat Amram. 59And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram, Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister. 60And unto Aaron was born Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 61And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the Lord. 62And those that were numbered of them were twenty and three thousand, all males from a month old and upward: for they were not numbered among the children of Israel, because there was no inheritance given them among the children of Israel.

63These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 64But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. 65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.


The more definite preparations for the entrance into Canaan begin with this chapter. It gives us an enlargement, as well as a parallel to the numbering in chap. 1, and has its application in the partition of the land of promise in Joshua 14:0. et seq. An enlargement as to the right of inheritance is found in the succeeding chap. Numbers 26:1-11; the following section, Numbers 26:12-23, contains the calling of Joshua to the leadership of the people after the approaching departure of Moses. Then chap. 28. completes the ordinances for sacrifices and feasts with reference to the approaching settlement in Canaan. Lastly we have the law in regard to vows, chap. 30. Upon this follows the final reckoning with the heathen in the retaliatory raid against the Midianites.

The general object of the mustering is to fix anew the order and number of the army, after it has in the new generation been purified through two death-visitations, especially by the last great catastrophe as by fire, and also after the entire older generation, with the exception of the chosen men Caleb and Joshua, and Moses, whose death was at hand, had passed away. The more definite purpose, however, is the organization of the people with reference to the approaching division of the inheritance according to their fighting strength. Hence the families of the different tribes are enumerated in detail.
To avoid repetition we shall not pursue here the inquiry as to the significance of individual names, but may here also refer to the importance of the names for a proper estimate of the religious and popular character of the Israelites.

Numbers 26:1-4. The order for the mustering. See Numbers 1:0. et seq. [After the plague. “The words fix approximately the date at which the census was taken, and intimate the reason for the great decrease in numbers which was found to have taken place in certain tribes.” Speak. Com. While this may be true with respect to the tribe of Simeon, who were perhaps involved more deeply in the sin of Zimri, there is no sufficient reason to think that a like explanation can be given for the difference in numbers as to the other tribes. Forty years in a life like that which they led, affords ample room for these differences without supposing any extraordinary reason for them. There is no striking variation except with Simeon.—A. G.]18

A special motive is intimated; because they were encamped in the plains of Moab, by Jordan, near Jericho. Hence the numeration here relates to the settlement in Canaan, whereas before it has respect to the army organization. The dependence upon the early numbering occasions the beauty and simplicity of the record here. [The ellipsis in Numbers 26:4 is rightly supplied in our version from Numbers 26:2. Take the sum. “The words ‘from the children of Israel’ in Numbers 26:4 onwards form the introduction to the enumeration of the different tribes, and the verb יהְיוּ, were, must be supplied.” Keil. So Lange also and the LXX.—A. G.]

Numbers 26:5-11. Reuben branches into four families, numbers 43,730. [That the number of the families has no connection with the number of the tribe is evident from a comparison of Reuben with Dan. There may have been families not enumerated here, who for some reason may hare attached themselves to more powerful houses; and it is not necessary to suppose that all the lineal descendants of each house are named. Bible Com.: “A variety of circumstances would naturally tend to bring into prominence some branches of the same parent stock, and throw others into the background.”—A. G.] The grandsons of Pallus of the second family, besides Nemuel (or Jemuel), were the rebels Dathan and Abiram. With the allusion to these names, the account goes back to the fearful end of these insurgents. This end, however, is clearly to be distinguished from the fire-judgment upon the 250 offerers of incense, who themselves a sign, left behind them a sign in the brazen covering upon the altar. The remarkable exception of the children of Korah, the prime mover in the rebellion, who kept themselves from the uproar, and did not perish, is dwelt upon. [The children of Korah died not.—Wordsworth: “Therefore God does not visit the sins of the fathers on the children, unless the children follow the fathers in sin.” A great truth no doubt; but all truth is many-sided. How far is it true that the children’s following in the sins of their father is judicial, without interfering with their freedom in choosing to do so? Bible Com.: “Samuel the prophet was of this family, 1 Chronicles 6:22 seq.; Heman, ‘the king’s seer,’ 1 Chronicles 25:5.”—A. G.]

Numbers 26:12-14. Simeon, five families, numbers 22,200. Obed’s family (Genesis 46:10) had become extinct—Nemuel=Jemuel. [Keil: Yod and Nun are often interchanged. See Ges., Thes., pp. 833 and 557; and Zerah is a name of the same import with Zohar (Zerah, the rising of the sun; Zohar, candor, splendor).”—A. G.]

Numbers 26:15-18. Gad.—Seven families, numbers 40, 500. Ozni is named Egbon, Genesis 46:16.

Numbers 26:19-22. Judah, three families, the third subdivided, numbers 76,500. Er and Onan had perished in Canaan.

Numbers 26:23-25. Issachar.—Four families, numbers 64,300. Jashub is called Job, Genesis 46:13. The two names have the same signification, to return.

Numbers 26:26-27. Zebulon.—Three families, numbers 60,560. [Wordsworth calls attention to the fact that while the three tribes under Reuben had decreased, all those under Judah had increased. The tribes were probably influenced by each other’s example, may have fallen into like sins, and suffered under common judgments.—A. G.]

Numbers 26:28-34. Joseph—Manasseh.—The family of his son Machir was continued in that of Gilead. This appears subdivided into six families. But besides these, there is another family of the Machirites and Gileadites alluded to, i. e. a branch not clearly defined. Numbers 52,700. [Keil: The genealogical accounts in Num 27:36; Joshua 17:0. harmonize, except that Jeezer here is Ariezer in Joshua 17:2, Heber’s son Zelophehad left only five daughters, whose names are given here to prepare the way for the legal regulations in chaps. 27. and 36.—A. G.]

Numbers 26:35-37. Joseph—Ephraim.—Three families and a fourth additional house from Shuthelah his eldest son. Numbers 32,500. Comp. 1 Chronicles 7:20.

Numbers 26:38-41. Benjamin.—Seven families, of which five were founded by sons and two by grandsons, i. e. grandsons who branched off into separate houses. Numbers 45,600. [The differences in the names, Genesis 46:21, may be explained on the supposition that grandsons appear as sons, and partly by the probability that some of those named in Genesis had died like Obed in Simeon childless, or without founding distinct families.—A. G.]

Numbers 26:42-43. Dan.—One family from Shuham (Genesis 46:23, Hushim), which, however, divided itself into several smaller families. Numbers 64,400.

Numbers 26:44-47. Asher. Three families from sons, two from grandsons. He had one daughter Sarah. Numbers 53,400. Ishua of Genesis 46:0. is wanting here, probably as in other cases he had founded no family.

Numbers 26:48-50. Naphtali. Four families. Numbers 45,400.

The total number of persons is 601,730. Compare throughout the genealogical table in Genesis 46:0. and 1 Chronicles 7:0, as well as the commentaries upon them. [A comparison of the totals here and in chap. 1. shows a small loss. The people which had grown so rapidly in Egypt had scarcely held its own through the wilderness, with its sins and judgments. That one generation merely filled the gaps made vacant by the death of that which preceded it, shows that other than merely natural causes were at work in the wasting of the earlier generation, and confirms the history of the wilderness-life.—A. G.]

Numbers 26:52-56. Instructions for the division of the land. First regulation: Each tribe must have a territory whose limits shall be proportionate to its own size. According to the number of names.—Second regulation: It must be decided by lot (between equal territories) which shall fall to each tribe. [The lot was not to determine the extent of the possession, but the relative situation, and was used not only to prevent dissatisfaction and disputes, “but that every tribe might receive with gratitude its possession as assigned to it by God Himself who determines the lot.”—A. G.] Third regulation: Each inheritance bears the name of the ancestor of the tribe.

Numbers 26:57-62. Mustering of the Levites. We have merely a sketch or outline for the sake of completing the list. For since this last enumeration is mainly with reference to the inheritance, and the Levites were not to have any inheritance or possession, they occupy little space here. Thus, 1. The three chief houses: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 2. The particular individual houses: Libnites from Gershon. Hebronites from Kohath, Mahlites and Mushites from Merari, the Korhites likewise from Kohath. 3. We notice a significant fact which forms the central point in this narrative, and has occasioned some difficulty. Kohath’s son is called Amram, the father of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam bears the same name. This illustrious family is through the identity of names brought back closely to its ancestor Levi. [The recurrence of the same names constitutes no difficulty. But Jochebed could not have been the daughter of Levi in the strict sense. Generations have come and gone between Levi and the mother of Moses. She was a daughter of Levi in the sense that she was a descendant. The term does not necessarily determine the nearness of the relation. The words her mother are correctly supplied by our translators. The subject is wanting, and as Keil holds, “must be derived from the verb itself.” The other constructions—“who was born; Vulg. Onkelos; Syr.: “whom his wife bare;” Jarchi, Aben-Ezra—seem forced or inconsistent with the text.—A. G.] 4. The sons of Aaron come out into great prominence. The entire sum of the Levites from a month old and upward was 23,000.

Numbers 26:63-65. Jehovah’s penalty had been fulfilled; the old generation, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, had all passed away; i. e., of course those only who were more than twenty years of age when the earlier mustering occurred. [See Deuteronomy 2:14-15. The entire generation of warriors, those who were twenty years and upward, had perished before Israel crossed the Zered; but the fact that the penal sentence had been thus carried out comes in fitly here, when the new generation has just been mustered.—A. G.]


The new numbering of the people represents the importance of preserving and renewing constantly the registers of the people by the church and the state. Statistics in its nobler sense and purpose.


The new generation and society spring up over the graves of the old. The life which has been saved and purified comes out more fully and grandly after the death penalties had been executed. Cultured society should ever be on its guard and protect itself, even in the consciousness of its condition and strength. It is a sad condition of society when the standing of its members is entirely lost, either in the world or in the wilderness. The religious and moral import of the census.


[1]Marg., Genesis 46:10; Ezek. 6:15, Jemuel.

1 Chronicles 4:24; 1 Chronicles 4:24, Jarib.

Genesis 46:10; Genesis 46:10, Zohar.

Genesis 46:10; Genesis 46:10, Ziphion.

[5]or Ezbon, Genesis 46:16.

Genesis 46:16; Genesis 46:16, Arodi.

[7]or Phuvah.

[8]or Job.

[9]called Abiezer, Joshua 17:2, etc.

1 Chronicles 7:20; 1 Chronicles 7:20, Bered.

Genesis 46:21; Genesis 46:21, Ehi: 1 Chronicles 8:1, Aharah.

Genesis 46:21; Genesis 46:21, Muppim and Huppim.

1 Chronicles 8:3; 1 Chronicles 8:3, Addar.

[14]or Hushim.

1 Chronicles 7:13; 1 Chronicles 7:13, Shallum.

[16]Heb. multiply his inheritance.

[17]Heb. diminish his inheritance.

[18] Hirsch holds that the enumeration was made partly with reference to the Peor corruption, from which every one must now clear himself, and show his lineage beyond question; and with reference to the settlement in Canaan, each one was to answer or give his name, his house, his family, his tribe, and thus make clear that he belonged to Israel, and had part in its work and blessing.—A. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 26". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/numbers-26.html. 1857-84.
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