The Fire by Night God that we find in the early part of the Bible asks Moses to take a count of the people of Israel. That count/census is most of what we find in the book of Numbers.
Does God need to know the numbers? No, he doesn’t need a census to know each of his people who are wandering around in the wilderness eating his manna. He does this so that we will know. I believe he wants us to know how many people will NOT make it into the promised land because of their fear and unbelief. But on top of that, even though we see God as someone who cannot ignore the unbelief, we will see how many people he continues to lead and take care of whil they are wandering around int he wilderness.
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Chapter 1 shows us specifically how many people from each family of Jacob there are. Hey, I’m an analytics guy. Let’s check out the numbers:
- Reuben – 46500
- Simeon – 59300
- Gad – 45650
- Judah – 74600
- Issachar – 54400
- Zebulun – 57400
- Ephraim – 40500
- Manasseh – 32200
- Benjamin- 35400
- Dan – 62700
- Asher – 41500
- Naphtali – 53400
That totals 603,500. This number is made up of males 20 years or older.
God issues commands for how the people of Israel are supposed to travel and how they are supposed to position themselves around the tent of meeting when they stop. When they are on the move, Judah takes the lead, followed by Issachar, then Zebulun. Then the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. Next the Levites with the tent of meeting and supplies. Following the tent is the family of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin. Taking up the rear is Dan, Asher and Naphtali.
Check out the placement of the tribes around the tent.
Levites were not to be included in the count (although the Bible says they total 22000) The Levites are supposed to help Aaron.
Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites (bless you) are to carry holy things, coverings and frames.
Awkward. In this chapter if you suspect that your wife has been unfaithful, you take her to the priest. hmmm. Can you imagine if this happened today? Of course, there would probably be more women dragging their husband to the priests.
The Nazirite Vow is described. Samson learned his requirements from this one.
Offerings and Atonement are described here (as they were in Leviticus.) The Levites are set apart and God even sets up term limits for them to serve. They serve the tent from 25-50 and then serve those when they turn 50.