1 Apr. Numbers 1:1-2:34

1 Apr. The Book of Numbers – the people of Israel are counted

“The LORD spoke to Moses in the Meeting Tent in the Desert of Sinai. This was on the first day of the second month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt [13 months after the Exodus from Egypt].”

“He said to Moses, ‘You and Aaron must count all the people of Israel by families and family groups, listing the name of each man. You and Aaron must count every man 20 years or older who will serve in the army of Israel, and list them by their divisions. One man from each tribe, the leader of his family, will help you…’”

“Moses and Aaron took these men who had been picked, and called all the people of Israel together on the first day of the second month. Then the people were listed by their families and family groups, and all the men who were 20 years old or older were listed by name…”

“The tribe of Reuben totalled 46,500 men… The tribe of Simeon totalled 59.300 men… The tribe of Gad totalled 45,650 men… The tribe of Judah totalled 74,600 men… The tribe of Issachar totalled 54,400 men… The tribe of Zebulun totalled 57,400 men… The tribe of Ephraim totalled 40,500 men… The tribe of Manasseh totalled 32,200 men… The tribe of Benjamin totalled 35,400 men…The tribe of Dan totalled 62,700 men… The tribe of Asher totalled 41,500 men… The tribe of Naphtali totalled 53,400… The total number of men [who were of fighting age] was 603,550.”

“The families from the tribe of Levi [the Levites] were not listed with the others, because the LORD had told Moses, ‘Do not count the tribe of Levi or include them with the other Israelites [who will fight in the army]. Instead, put the Levites in charge of the Holy Tent of the [Covenant] Agreement and everything that is with it, and they must take care of it and camp around it. Any time the Holy Tent is moved, the Levites must take it down, and any time it is set up, the Levites must do it.'”

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ’The Israelites should make their camp around the Meeting Tent, but they should not camp too close to it. They should camp under their family flag and banners…' So the Israelites obeyed everything the LORD commanded Moses. They camped under their flags, and marched out by families and family groups.”

          (Numbers 1:1 – 2:34)



The Book of Numbers is so called because, within its pages, the Israelites were counted twice – once at Mount Sinai at the beginning of the book (Chapter 1), and again in Chapter 26 before crossing the River Jordan to enter the ‘promised land’ of Canaan.

In the first census taken at Mount Sinai in c.1446BC, the total number of adult Israelite men is recorded as 603,550 (which implies that there were about 2 million Israelite men, women and children).

As only seventy members of Jacob’s family had accompanied him to Egypt in c.1662BC, this figure confirms that the number of Israelites had multiplied by a factor of over eight thousand in under two hundred years – an average threefold increase over some eight or nine generations.

This suggests that there were eight or nine generations during the Israelites’ time in Egypt when food was plentiful and, on average, at least six offspring survived into adulthood in each family of two parents.

A second census taken in Moab before the Israelites crossed the River Jordan and entered Canaan is recorded in Numbers 26:3. The total number of adult Israelite men recorded in this second census about forty years later is 601,730 (again representing about 2 million Israelite men, women and children).

As families at this time were generally very large, and the Israelite population had increased by up to threefold in each generation while in Egypt, this slight reduction in population suggests a very high death rate amongst the Israelites during their forty years in the desert.

Some of these deaths would have been due to illnesses and diseases common at that time - a plague that killed 14,700 people is mentioned around the time of Korah’s rebellion (see Numbers 16:49). But many of the deaths may have been the result of drought and famine within a community not used to living as desert nomads and therefore exceeding the carrying capacity of the arid land and its ability to provide sufficient food.

Chapters 2 to 4 go on to give details of the twelve tribes of Israel, together with various branches of the Levites and their roles in maintaining - and moving - the Tent of Meeting.

In Chapters 5 and 6, Moses is given more laws and guidance on religious purity, restitution for wrongdoings, and vows.

In Chapter 7, the Meeting Tent or 'Tabernacle', housing the 'Ark of the Covenant', is dedicated, and, for twelve days, offerings are brought in thankfulness.

The Levites are set apart to work at the Tent of Meeting in Chapter 8, and in Chapter 9, the Passover festival is celebrated in the Desert of Sinai twelve months after the Israelites left Egypt.

The photo (by Ian Sewell) shows the Sinai Desert from the summit of Mt Sinai.

You can read more about the two silver trumpets commissioned to be blown by the priests when going into battle (Numbers 10:1-10) @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/the-israelites-are-counted/

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