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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 1

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



God commands Moses and Aaron to number the people that were fit for war, Numbers 1:1-3.

Twelve captains chose, of every tribe one; their names; the number of each tribe, Numbers 1:4-16,

The Levites exempt; to take care of the tabernacle; the other tribes camping round it, Numbers 1:47-54.

Verse 1

They now had been in the wilderness a full year, or near it, as may be gathered by comparing this place with Exodus 19:1; Exodus 40:17, and other places.

In the tabernacle; from the mercy seat.

B.C. 1490

Verse 2

This is not the same muster with that Exodus 38:26, as plainly appears, because that was before the building of the tabernacle, which was built and set up on the first day of the first month, Exodus 40:2; but this was after it, to wit, on the first day of the second month, as is said Numbers 1:1. And they were for differing ends; that was to tax them for the charges of the tabernacle, but this was for other ends; partly, that the great number of the people might be known to the praise of God’s faithfulness, in making good his promises of multiplying them, and to their own comfort and encouragement; partly, for the better ordering of their camp and march, for they were now beginning their journey; and partly, that this account might be compared with the other in the close of the book, where we read that not one of all this vast number, except Caleb and Joshua, were left alive; which was an evident discovery of the mischievous nature of sin, by which so vast a company were destroyed, and a fair warning to all future generations to take heed of rebelling against the Lord, for which their ancestors had been so dreadfully plagued even to extirpation. It is true, the sums and numbers agree in this and that computation, which is not strange, because there was not much time between the two numberings, and no eminent sin among the people in that interval whereby God was provoked to diminish their numbers. Some conceive, that in that number, Exodus 30:0; Exodus 38:0, the Levites were included, which are here excepted, Numbers 1:47, and that in that interval of time there were grown up as many more men of those years as there were Levites of the same age.

Of the children of Israel; so the stranger mixed with them were not numbered. The people were divided into twelve tribes, the tribes into great families, Numbers 26:5; these great families into lesser families, called

the houses of their fathers, because they were distinguished one from another by their fathers.

Verse 4

To inspect the work, that it might be faithfully and impartially done.

Verse 5

With you, to wit, with Moses and Aaron, who were the chief managers of the work. The tribes are here numbered according to the order or quality of their birth, first the children of Leah, then of Rachel, and then of the hand-maids.

Verse 14

Called Reuel, Numbers 2:14, the Hebrew letters daleth and resh being very like, and oft changed.

Verse 16

The renowned, Heb. the named or called, to wit, by Moses and by God’s appointment, to manage this affair, and others as there was occasion. Compare Numbers 16:2; Numbers 26:9.

Heads of thousands. See Exodus 18:21; Numbers 10:4.

Verse 20

By their generations, Heb. to wit, their generations, i.e. the persons begotten of Reuben’s immediate children, who are here subdivided into families, and they into houses, and they into particular persons.

Verse 27

Far more than any other tribe, in accomplishing of Jacob’s prophecy, Genesis 49:0.

Verse 33

Above eight thousand more than Manasseh, towards the accomplishment of that promise, Genesis 48:20, which the devil in vain attempted to defeat by stirring up the men of Gath against them, 1 Chronicles 7:21,1 Chronicles 7:22

Verse 37

The smallest number, except one, though Benjamin had more immediate children than any of his brethren, Genesis 46:21; whereas Dan had but one immediate son, Genesis 46:23, yet now his number is the biggest but one of all the tribes, and is almost double to that of Benjamin. Such great and strange changes God easily can, and frequently doth, make in families, 1 Samuel 2:5. And therefore let none boast or please themselves too much in their numerous offspring.

Verse 49

Because they were not generally to go out to war, which was the thing principally eyed in this muster, Numbers 1:3,Numbers 1:20,Numbers 1:45 but were to attend upon the service or the tabernacle, and therefore are reserved to another distinct muster, Numbers 3:15; Numbers 4:2, &c. And lost this should bc thought to, be designed and done through Moses’s ambition to give his own tribe the pre-eminence, he assures them it was done by God’s express command.

Verse 50

The tabernacle of testimony; so called here, and Exodus 38:21 because it was made chiefly for the sake of the ark of the testimony, 2 Samuel 7:2, which is oft called the testimony, as hath been observed before.

Verse 51


stranger elsewhere is one of another nation, here one of another tribe, one no Levite. That cometh nigh, so as to do the offices mentioned Numbers 1:50.

Verse 53

No wrath, to wit, from God, who is very tender of his worship, and will not suffer the profaners of it to go unpunished; whose wrath is called simply wrath by way of eminency, as the most terrible kind of wrath.

Shall keep the charge, i.e. shall suffer no stranger to approach through curiosity, or any other motive.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/numbers-1.html. 1685.
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