Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Numbers 1-3

The book of Numbers begins on the first day of the second month of the second year after the exodus from Egypyt, and the LORD told Moses to take a census of the Israelites. Chapter one lists the numbers of "men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army" for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, with the exception of the Levites, who are set aside to serve as priests. There were twelve "tribes" enumerated, however, as the descendants of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh were listed seperately. The Levites were given instructions to maintain the Tabernacle, to take it down and set it up and carry and care for it. And "the Israelites did all this just as the LORD commanded Moses."

Chapter two discusses the arrangement of the tribal camps, with each tribe having a specified spot to occupy. To the east, Judah, Issachar and Zebulum; to the south, Reuben, Simeon and Gad; to the west, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Benjamin; and to the north, Dan, Asher and Naphtali. The Levites were to set up in the middle with the Tent of Meeting.

In chapter three, the census is taken of the Levites, including Aaron and Moses and their families. Aaron had four sons, two of whom, Nadab and Abihu, died in the Tabernacle as we saw in Leviticus chapter 10, without sons. The rest of the Levites were given to Aaron to assist him in the priestly duties, "doing the workd of the tabernacle." The LORD said that he was taking the Levites "in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman...for all the firstborn are mine." The rest of the chapter contains the Levite census, 22,000 men at least one month old, as well as the specific duties of the various sub-tribes out of the Levites. But there were 22,273 first-born in the people of Israel, and the LORD instructed Moses to collect five shekels for each of the 273 by which the number of first-born exceeded the number of Levites. "Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • This section is strictly historical data. There is no action, no teaching and no giving of law. There's simply a census and enumeration of the tribes of Israel.
  • The largest tribe was Judah. The second largest was Joseph, 72,700 combined. The smallest number listed is Manasseh at 32,200, but that only represents half of the tribe of Joseph. The smallest tribe was Benjamin.

    The Census - Numbers 1
    Joseph (Ephraim)40,500
    Joseph (Manasseh)32,200
    Levi (Numbers 3)22,000
    Twelve Tribes625,550

  • The size of each tribe is consistent in chapter one and chapter two. The total number, including the Levites, is 625,000, which is consistent with the 600,000 of the exodus, and reasonable for 430 years descent from 69 or 70, as I discussed earlier.

Psalms 20

A short prayer, in which the psalmist asks for the LORD's answer when the reader is in distress. The dedication is "for the director of music," but was this intended for a specific person? Is this a prayer or song written for the uplift or encouragement of a specific person, or a person having a specific title, or is it mislabeled? Whoever it was intended for, it is a prayer for Godly assistance in times of trouble, and praise for the LORD who is known to provide help.

For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.

3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.

4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

9 O LORD, save the king!
Answer us when we call!

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