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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 1

A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

Orders given to Moses to number the people, Numbers 1:1-4 . Persons named to assist him therein, Numbers 1:5-16 . The particular number of each tribe, Numbers 1:17-43 . The sum of all together, Numbers 1:44-46 . The Levites excepted, Numbers 1:47-54 .

Verse 1

Numbers 1:1. In the wilderness of Sinai Where now they had been a full year or near it, having left Egypt about thirteen months. Compare this place with Exodus 19:1; Exodus 40:17.

Verse 2

Numbers 1:2. Take ye the sum This is not the same muster with that spoken of 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, on the first day of the second month. And they were for different ends; that was to tax them for the charges of the tabernacle; but this was for other purposes, as 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 for their own 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; a fair warning to all future generations to take head of rebelling against the Lord. It is true, the sums and numbers agree in this and the former computation mentioned, (Exodus 38:26,) which is not strange, because there was not much time between these two numberings, and no eminent sin among the people in that interval, whereby God was provoked to diminish their numbers. Some, indeed, suppose, that in that number (Exodus 30:38.) the Levites were included, who 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. Israel

So the strangers mixed with them were not numbered. Their fathers 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 3

Numbers 1:3. That are able to go forth to war It would seem from this that none of the aged and infirm were numbered, as being unable to go to war. Among several other nations as well as the Jews, particularly the Romans, all who were of age to bear arms were obliged, upon some occasions, to go forth to battle. And hence it is that we read of the kings of Israel bringing such numerous armies into the field as appear hardly credible to those who judge of their manners by ours.

Verse 5

Numbers 1:5. Reuben 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 handmaids.

Verse 14

Numbers 1:14. Deuel Called Reuel, Numbers 2:14, the Hebrew letters daleth and resh being often changed.

Verse 20

Numbers 1:20. By their generations That is, 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

Numbers 1:27. Threescore and fourteen thousand Far more than any other tribe, in accomplishing Jacob’s prophecy, Genesis 49:0.

Verse 33

Numbers 1:33. Ephraim Above eight thousand more than Manasseh, toward the accomplishment of that promise, (Genesis 48:20,) which Satan in vain attempted to defeat by stirring up the men of Gath against them, 1 Chronicles 7:21-22.

Verse 37

Numbers 1:37. Thirty-five thousand 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 largest 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

Numbers 1:49. Levi 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 of the tabernacle. They that minister upon holy things, should not entangle themselves in secular affairs. The ministry itself is work enough for a whole man, and all little enough to be employed in it.

Verses 50-51

Numbers 1:50-51. 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, which is often called the testimony. The stranger elsewhere is one of another nation, here one of another tribe. That cometh nigh So as to do the offices mentioned Numbers 1:50.

Verse 53

Numbers 1:53. No wrath 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 eminence, as the most terrible kind of wrath.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/numbers-1.html. 1857.