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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Numbers 26



The children of Israel are numbered in the plains of Moab: God commands the land of Canaan to be divided.

Before Christ 1452.

Verses 1-2

Numbers 26:1-2. And it came to pass, &c.— After the destruction mentioned in the foregoing chapter, which had cut off all the remains of that murmuring and ungrateful generation that first came out of Egypt, as appears from Num 26:64 the Israelites, their descendants, being now shortly to enter into the land of Canaan, God orders Moses and Eleazar to cause a third poll, or register, of the males of the whole nation to be taken, in the same manner as is prescribed Exo 30:11-12 and as was done before the building of the tabernacle, Exo 38:25 and again when they were to be encamped in the second month of the second year, chap, Num 1:1 demonstrating hereby the divine faithfulness, both in fulfilling the threats pronounced against the disobedience of their forefathers, and in making good the promise of multiplying the seed of Abraham, and thus rendering more easy and regular the division of the country which they were about to possess.

Verse 4

Numbers 26:4. Take the sum of the people Though these words are not in the original, they are plainly to be understood. Houbigant supplies them from the second verse. We have many examples of such omissions; see chap. Num 9:20 Numbers 13:30, &c.

Verse 7

Numbers 26:7. They that were numbered, were forty and three thousand, &c.— By comparing this with chap. Num 1:21 it appears, that, in thirty-eight years, this tribe was diminished by near three thousand men. Some whole households had been destroyed; see Numbers 26:9. Instead of families, some would render the word nations or kindreds, as in Psalms 22:27.

Verse 10

Numbers 26:10. And the earth opened her mouth, &c.— All this respecting Dathan, &c. is most probably inserted to give a reason for the great decrease of the tribe of Reuben; it being supposed by some, that Korah was not swallowed up, but consumed by the fire of God with those who offered unbidden incense. They would render the words thus: the earth swallowed them up, i.e. Dathan and Abiram; and as for Korah, he died with a company, what time the fire devoured, &c.; accordingly, the Samaritan renders it, and the earth swallowed them up, what time that company died; and the fire devoured Korah, with the two hundred and fifty men, who became a sign; i.e. a monument of divine vengeance against rebellious sinners. The French version renders it in the same manner.

Verse 11

Numbers 26:11. Notwithstanding, the children of Korah died not The Jews have a tradition, that while Korah's sons were in their father's tent, soliciting him to desist from his rebellion, on a sudden the earth swallowed up Korah, and left his sons unhurt. Conformable to which tradition, the Vulgate joins the latter part of the 10th with this verse: and lo! a sign, or miracle, was wrought; for whereas Korah himself perished, his sons perished not. However, be that matter as it may, the preservation of Korah's children must be looked upon as a miracle, and as a mark of the Divine goodness, who, in the midst of judgment, remembered mercy. Korah's became a considerable branch of the Levitical family; for they were famous in David's time.

Verse 12

Numbers 26:12. The sons of Simeon See Kennicott's first Dissertation, p. 377. The sons of Simeon are reckoned up here as in Genesis 46:10. Exo 6:15 only Ohad is omitted; his family, perhaps, being extinct; and Nemuel is there called Jemuel; and Jachin, in 1Ch 4:24 is is called Jarib. It is difficult to account for this alteration in the names; but what is more remarkable respecting this tribe is, its diminution of thirty-seven thousand one hundred since the last poll: a decrease, which, probably, was owing to the plague and slaughter in this tribe occasioned by Zimri, who, it is likely, drew over many of his brethren to imitate his example. It appears that God was much irritated against this tribe, by Moses's omitting to bless them before his death. See Deuteronomy 33:0.

Verse 22

Numbers 26:22. Those that were numbered of them, threescore, &c.— Thus, according to his father's prediction, Genesis 49:8. Judah out-stripped his brethren; this tribe having increased since the last poll one thousand nine hundred. See chap. Numbers 1:27.

Verse 33

Numbers 26:33. Zelophehad—had no sons It is extraordinary, that in so many heads of families there is only one to whom no sons were born: to what other cause can this be ascribed than to a peculiar Providence, whereby many more males than females were born for the strength and increase of the Jewish nation?

Verse 42

Numbers 26:42. These are the sons of Dan Thus the sacred writer speaks, though Dan had but one son; it being frequent in the Hebrew to put the plural for the singular. Under the name sons, his descendants in general are included. This tribe increased into very great divisions and subdivisions of families, all derived from Shuham, the only son of Dan. See Gen 46:23 where, by a transposition of letters, Shuham is called Husham. The learned reader will find many such variations in names, the causes for which must be left to the disquisitions of criticism.

Verse 46

Numbers 26:46. The name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah One of Asher's sons, mentioned Genesis 46:17, is omitted here, his family probably being extinct, and the loss thereof recompensed by a daughter, whom some suppose to have been mentioned here on account of the numerous posterity which she had; others, for the eminent virtues for which she was distinguished, and concerning which the cabalists tell several extraordinary stories. See Corn. Bertram, de Rep. Jud. cap. 6: and Selden, de Jure N. & G. lib. 2: cap. 4.

Verse 50

Numbers 26:50. The families of Naphtali Reckoning the tribes twelve, exclusive of the tribe of Levi, (which was not to be settled as a tribe,) there will be twelve tribes and fifty-eight families in all, which make seventy; whence some conjecture, that the number of seventy elders was taken from the number of princes of tribes and heads of families. The princes of tribes led each tribe, and had the administration of their public affairs. The office of the heads of families was to assemble the families of which they were governors. They may be represented as lords lieutenant of counties and their deputy-lieutenants, or as generals and lieutenant-generals. See Lowman's Dissert. p. 76.

Verse 51

Numbers 26:51. Six hundred thousand, &c.— Thus, notwithstanding the accidents that befel them in the desart, and the plagues justly inflicted upon the preceding generation, the Israelites, upon a balance of increase and decrease of all the full-grown males since the last register, appear to be nearly as numerous as then. See chap. Numbers 1:46. It is to be observed, however, that, in the poll, some odd numbers seem to be omitted, it being not likely that, in so many tribes, there were precisely so many round hundreds, and not so much as one over; yet this is the case of all of them except Reuben. See Numbers 26:7.

Verse 54

Numbers 26:54. To every one shall his inheritance be given The tribes being thus registered and methodically distinguished, God informs Moses, that it was his will to make an equal division of the land of Canaan, which the Israelites were about to enter. This equal division of property was, under God, the great bulwark and strength of the Hebrew common-wealth; for, property is the natural foundation of power: hence the natural foundation of every government is laid in the distribution of the lands or territories belonging to the several members of it. If the prince is proprietor of the lands, as in some Eastern governments, he will be absolute: for all who hold the lands, hold them of the prince; and, enjoying them at his will and pleasure, are so dependant on his will, that they are in the condition of slaves, not of free subjects. If the property be divided among a few, the rest holding of them and under them as vassals, the power and authority in government will be in the hands of the few; but if the property be generally divided, and nearly equally, among all the members of the society, the true power and authority of such government will naturally be in all the members of that society, whatever form of union they may have for the better direction of the whole as a political body. Thus Mr. Lowman, Dissert. chap. 2:; and in chap. 3: the reader will find a very able and judicious account of the Hebrew territory, and the distribution of it.

Verse 55

Numbers 26:55. Notwithstanding, the land shall be divided by lot As the land was to be divided among the tribes in proportion to their numbers, the question is, what occasion there was for dividing it likewise by lot? To which it is replied, that the lot seems to respect only the quarter, the particular coast or province, in which every tribe was to be situated; but not the extent of land. For instance, it was first determined by lot, which of the twelve tribes was to inherit in the South, which in the North, and so on; then in that quarter where their lot fell, a larger or smaller portion of land was assigned to them, according to the goodness of the soil, and in proportion as they were more or less numerous. By this method all ground of quarrel among the several tribes was removed; and each acquiesced in his settlement, as allotted to him by God himself, to whom the appeal was made by lot. The same custom was observed by other nations in the division of vacant or conquered lands. Hence the word lot signifies an inheritance in Greek and Latin, as well as in Hebrew. Jdg 1:3. 1 Peter 5:3. Ephes. Numbers 1:14; Numbers 1:18. Concerning this division of the land of Canaan, we shall see more when we come to Joshua, particularly chap. 18:

Verse 57

Numbers 26:57. These are they that were numbered of the Levites For the same reasons for which the other tribes were registered, it was fit that this of Levi should be registered in like manner, under the three chief branches of that sacred order, distinguished chap. Numbers 3:17-18. But, as they were not to inherit with other tribes, they are numbered by themselves. It appears from chap. Num 3:39 that they were considerably increased.

Verse 59

Numbers 26:59. Whom her mother bare to Levi Who bare to Levi. Perizon. 361. See Houbigant's note on the place.

Verse 65

Numbers 26:65. For the Lord had said, &c.— We see here an exact accomplishment of the divine sentence passed, chap. Numbers 14:23, &c. Besides Caleb and Joshua, some of the Levites seem to be excepted; for it is certain that Eleazar was born in Egypt.

REFLECTIONS.—Here is a most remarkable accomplishment of the Divine threatening. Not a man is left of the former numbering, save Caleb and Joshua. Note; (1.) The sinner, however long respited, must perish at the last. (2.) Our lives are in God's hands; and those who have the Almighty for their friend, are perfectly safe amidst the pestilence, and the garments rolled in blood.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 26". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.