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AND the Lord spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai in the tabernacle of the covenant, the first day of the second month, the second year of their going out of Egypt, saying:

NUMBERS

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

This fourth Book of Moses is called Numbers, because it begins with the numbering of the people.  The Hebrews, from its first words, call it Vaydedabber. It contains the transactions of the Israelites, from the second month of the second year after their going out of Egypt, until the beginning of the eleventh month of the 40th year; that is, a history almost of thirty-nine years.  Ch.

 

--- In the nine first chapters various orders of people are described, and several laws are given or repeated.  From the 10th to the 33d, the marches and history of God's people are related; (H.) from the 20th of the second month, in the second year after their departure out of Egypt, till the eleventh month of the 40th year, and the last of Moses: so that this Book contains the transactions of almost thirty-nine years; (T.) whereas, the Book of Leviticus specified only some of the laws and occurrences of one month.  Here we behold what opposition Moses experienced from Aaron and his sister, from Core, and from all the people; and yet God protected him, in the midst of all dangers, and confounded, not only their attempts, but those also of Balaam, and of all his external foes.  H.

 

--- Moses conquers the Madianites, and divides the conquered country between the tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasses.  In the three last chapters, he describes the land of Chanaan, orders all the inhabitants to be exterminated, assigns cities for the Levites, and for refuge; and forbids such marriages, as might cause any confusion in the distribution of the lands belonging to each tribe.  Moses composed this part of the Pentateuch, as well as that of Deuteronomy, a little while before his death, out of the memoirs which he had carefully preserved.  C.

 

--- According to Usher, the people were numbered this second time, A.M. 2514, C. i.; after which they leave the desert of Sinai, (C. x. 11.) go to Cades-barne, and return thither again 2552.  Soon after this, Mary and Aaron die; Moses lifts up the brazen serpent; and the Hebrews take possession of part of the promised land (2553) on the eastern banks of the Jordan.  That on the western side, flowing with milk and honey, was conquered by Josue in the following years.  H.


Ver. 1.  First day of the second month, called after the captivity, Jiar, which party corresponds with our April.  These injunctions were given from the tabernacle, (C.) in the desert, the 12th station, (H.) at the foot of Mount Sinai.




2 Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel by their families, and houses, and the names of every one, as many as are of the male sex,

Ver. 2.  Houses. The families consisted of the immediate descendants of the 12 patriarchs; the houses were from the subdivisions of these.  The same plan of numbering the people was adopted on other occasions.  Jos. viii. 16.  1 K. x. 20.

 

--- Sex, between 20 and 60 years of age.  All the subjects of the Eastern kings may be called upon, if they be able to bear arms; and hence we find such immense armies in the Scripture, and in profane history.  Moses numbered the people once before, (Ex. xxx. 2,) and found exactly the same number of warriors, the dead being replaced by others, during the space of seven months.  Perhaps the odd numbers might not be specified, as all the totals consist of so many exact hundreds, except that of the tribe of Gad, v. 25.  On the former occasion, the people were not perhaps ranged according to their tribes, which was now deemed necessary, as they army was going to begin its march under its respective leaders.  C.



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3 From twenty years old and upwards, of all the men of Israel fit for war, and you shall number them by their troops, thou and Aaron.

Ver. 3.  Arms, (fortium).  "Strong or brave."  The psalmist (civ. 37,) says, there was not one feeble. M.

 

--- Troops.  Heb. "army."  Sept. "force."  Their officers shall be at their head, and shall assist you in the work.  Some might command 1000, others 100, and some only 50.  See Ex. xiii. 18. xviii. 21.

 

--- Princes; the first-born, or most ancient, (Lyran.) the lineal descendants of the patriarchs; (Jansen) or, in fine, such as were chosen for their merit, as all were equally noble; and hence Nahasson, prince of Juda, is mentioned, though he was not a descendant of the eldest son of Juda, but of Phares; and those who were at the head of those who were numbered a little before the death of Moses, were not the descendants of these.  C. xxvi. 64.  In effect, we find that Moses chose for his council, able men out of all Israel.  Ex. xviii. 25.  Bonfrere.  C.


4 And there shall be with you the princes of the tribes, and of the houses in their kindreds, 5 Whose names are these: Of Ruben, Elisur the son of Sedeur. 6 Of Simeon, Salamiel the son of Surisaddai. 7 Of Juda, Nahasson the son of Aminadab.

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8 Of Issachar, Nathanael the son of Suar. 9 Of Zabulon, Eliab the son of Helon. 10 And of the sons of Joseph: of Ephraim, Elisama the son of Ammiud: of Manasses, Gamaliel the son of Phadassur. 11 Of Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gedeon. 12 Of Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammisaddai.
13 Of Aser, Phegiel the son of Ochran. 14 Of Gad, Eliasaph the son of Duel.

Ver. 14.  Duel.  Hebrew Dehuel.  But (C. ii. 14,) we find the word begins R, as the Septuagint have read, Ragouel.  H.


15 Of Nephtali, Ahira the son of Enan. 16 These are the most noble princes of the multitude by their tribes and kindreds, and the chiefs of the army of Israel:

Ver. 16.  Army.  Heb. "of a thousand."  The Vulg. commonly styles them tribunes.  They were "people of name in the assembly," as the Heb. indicates.  C.


17 Whom Moses and Aaron took with all the multitude of the common people: 18 And assembled them on the first day of the second month, reckoning them up by the kindreds, and houses, and families, and heads, and names of every one from twenty years old and upward, 19 As the Lord had commanded Moses. And they were numbered in the desert of Sinai.


20 Of Ruben the eldest son of Israel, by their generations and families and houses and names of every head, all that were of the male sex, from twenty years old and upward, that were able to go forth to war, 21 Were forty-six thousand five hundred. 22 Of the sons of Simeon by their generations and families, and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names and heads of every one, all that were of the male sex, from twenty years old and upward, that were able to go forth to war, 23 Fifty-nine thousand three hundred. 24 Of the sons of Gad, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war,
25 Forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty. 26 Of the sons of Juda, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war,

Ver. 26.  Juda.  This tribe was the most numerous.  But it is not here placed first, because the order of birth in Lia's children is observed.  Then come those of Rachel; and last of all, the children of the two handmaids, Bala and Zelpha.  H.




27 Were reckoned up seventy-four thousand six hundred. 28 Of the sons of Issachar, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that could go forth to war, 29 Were reckoned up fifty-four thousand four hundred. 30 Of the sons of Zabulon, by the generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war, 31 Fifty-seven thousand four hundred. 32 Of the sons of Joseph, namely, of the sons of Ephraim, by the generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war, 33 Forty thousand five hundred. 34 Moreover of the sons of Manasses, by the generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that could go forth to war, 35 Thirty-two thousand two hundred. 36 Of the sons of Benjamin, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war,
37 Thirty-five thousand four hundred. 38 Of the sons of Dan, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war, 39 Sixty-two thousand seven hundred. 40 Of the sons of Aser, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war, 41 Forty-one thousand and five hundred. 42 Of the sons of Nephtali, by their generations and families and houses of their kindreds, were reckoned up by the names of every one from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war, 43 Fifty-three thousand four hundred. 44 These are they who were numbered by Moses and Aaron, and the twelve princes of Israel, every one by the houses of their kindreds. 45 And the whole number of the children of Israel by their houses and families, from twenty years old and upward, that were able to go to war, 46 Were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty men. 47 But the Levites in the tribes of their families were not numbered with them.

Ver. 47.  Levites.  As they attended the tabernacle, like God's peculiar servants, and were not obliged to go forth to battle, it was not necessary to number them with the rest. C.

 

--- They might, however, fight if they thought proper, as the Machabees did.  See Josep. Ant. iii. 11. iv. 4.  T.


48 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
49 Number not the tribe of Levi, neither shalt thou put down the sum of them with the children of Israel: 50 But appoint them over the tabernacle of the testimony, and all the vessels thereof, and whatsoever pertaineth to the ceremonies. They shall carry the tabernacle and all the furniture thereof: and they shall minister, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle. 51 When you are to go forward, the Levites shall take down the tabernacle: when you are to camp, they shall set it up. What stranger soever cometh to it, shall be slain.

Ver. 51.  Stranger, even of any other tribe.  S. Aug. q. 3.  W.


52 And the children of Israel shall camp every man by his troops and bands and army.

Ver. 52.  Army.  Heb. "they shall have their respective camp, and follow their own standards, with their army."  They were drawn up in four large bodies, C. ii. 2, &c.  C.

 

--- The first contained 151,450, the second 186,400, the third 108,100, and the fourth 157,600, under Reuben, Juda, Ephraim, and Dan.


53 But the Levites shall pitch their tents round about the tabernacle, lest there come indignation upon the multitude of the children of Israel, and they shall keep watch, and guard the tabernacle of the testimony.

Ver. 53.  Watch.  Lest any thing should offer any indecency to the tabernacle, and thus provoke God's indignation.  H.


54 And the children of Israel did according to all things which the Lord had commanded Moses.
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