Reading Through Censuses in the Old Testament

In my daily Bible reading plan, one of the sections of the Bible I’m reading through right now is the book of Numbers. Today I came across a section about the Lord commanded a census to be taken. Usually I skim through sections like this, wondering what can be gleaned from this information, other than the reminder that God cares about each individual person, and to be thankful for the faithful men and women who came before us. But then I remembered, “hey, didn’t I read about a census of the Israelites a few weeks ago?” I flip back to Numbers 1, and find that yes, I did read about a census of the Israelites. I found it interesting to note that while most of the clans of the Israelites grew, there were a few that didn’t grow, namely, Reuben (dropped about 3,000), Simeon (from 59,300 down to 22,200!), Gad (more than 5,000 less than previously), Ephraim (8,000 men less than before), and Naphtali (another 8,000 man drop). Keep in mind that this doesn’t include women and children – it only includes the men, “twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’ houses, all in Israel who are able to go to war.” On top of that, the number of Israelites listed in Numbers 1 is 603,550 and in Numbers 26, it is 601,730.

These were those listed by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who listed the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among these there was not one of those listed by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had listed the people of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, “They shall die in the wilderness.” Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Number 26:63-65).

The second census is taken just before the Lord tells them that the Promised Land will be divided according to the number of people belonging to each clan – the bigger your clan, the bigger the land you’ll receive.


About Aaron Golby

Christian. Husband to Katherine.
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