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Orders given to Moses to number the people, ver. 1 - 4.
Persons named to assist him therein, ver. 5 - 16.
The particular number of each tribe, ver. 17 - 43.
The sum of all together, ver. 44 - 46.
The Levites excepted, ver. 47 - 54.
1: In the wilderness - Where now they had been a full year or near
it, as may be gathered by comparing this place with (Ex 19:1,40:17).
2: Take the sum - This is not the same muster with that(Ex 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, (Ex 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 ends, 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 to their own encouragement: partly for the better ordering their
camp and march, for they were now beginning their journey; and partly that
this account might he 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 heed of rebelling against the Lord. It is true, the sums and numbers
agree in this and that computation, which is not strange, because there was
not much time between the two numberings, and no eminent sin among the
people in that interval, whereby God was provoked to diminish their numbers.
Some conceive that in that number, (Ex 30:11-16,38:25,26), the
Levites were included, which are here excepted, (Nu 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,(Nu 26:5), these great families into lesser families called the
houses of their fathers, because they were distinguished one from
another by their fathers.
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.
12: Deuel - Called Reuel, (Nu 3:14),
the Hebrew letters Daleth and Resh being often changed.
19: He numbered them - For ought that appears in one day.
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.
27: Threescore and fourteen thousand - Far more than any other tribe,
in accomplishing Jacob's prophecy, (Ge 49:8-12).
33: Ephraim - Above 8000 more than Manasseh, towards the
accomplishment of that promise, (Ge 48:20), which the devil in vain
attempted to defeat by stirring up the men of Gath against them,(1Ch 7:21,22).
37: Thirty five thousand - The smallest number, except one, though
Benjamin had more immediate children than any of his brethren,(Ge 46:21), whereas Dan had but one immediate son, (Ge 46:23),
yet now his number is the biggest 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, (1Sa 2:5). And therefore
let none boast or please themselves too much in their numerous offspring.
49: Levi - Because they were not generally to go out to war, which
was the thing principally eyed in this muster, (Nu 1:3,20,45), 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
50: The tabernacle of testimony - So called here, and (Ex 38:21),
because it was made chiefly for the sake of the ark of the testimony, which
is often called the testimony.
51: That cometh nigh - The stranger elsewhere is one of another
nation, here one of another tribe. So as to do the offices mentioned,(Nu 1:50).
53: No wrath - From God, who is very tender of his worship, and will
not suffer the profaners of it go unpunished! whose wrath is called simply
wrath by way of eminency, as the most terrible kind of wrath.