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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Numbers 26

 

 

Verses 1-51

The writer recorded the numbers of each tribe in these verses. He also included historical notes recalling the sins of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram ( Numbers 26:9-11) as well as those of Er and Onan ( Numbers 26:19). Perhaps he included these to remind the Israelites of these sins so they would not repeat them in the future.

A comparison of the censuses demonstrates that God could still fulfill His promises to the patriarchs even though the Israelites" failures had postponed their fulfillment. This is one of the most important revelations of the Book of Numbers.

"It is utterly remarkable that the total number has remained nearly unchanged even though the people have lived under the most trying conditions for a period of thirty-eight years.... God"s faithfulness to his people is grandly celebrated with this triumphant chapter of census!" [Note: Allen, " Numbers ," p938.]


Verses 1-65

II. PROSPECTS OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION IN THE LAND CHS26-36

The focus of Numbers now changes from the older unbelieving generation of Israelites doomed to die in the wilderness to the younger generation that would enter the Promised Land.

"The parallels and contrasts between this narrative and the book of Ruth suggest that both texts are dealing with similar ideas. In fact, the picture of Ruth provides an excellent counterexample to that of the men of Israel in this episode. Ruth the Moabitess married an Israelite man and forsook her nation"s gods to follow the Lord. For this she was given an inheritance in Israel. In this respect she is also like the daughters of Zelophehad in the next chapters of Numbers who also gained an inheritance among the men of Israel ( Numbers 27:1-11)." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p410.]

A. Preparations for entering the Promised Land from the east chs26-32

The first section of this second part of the book records God"s gracious preparation of the younger generation for their entrance into their inheritance.

1. The second census ch26

Before going into battle against the Midianites as God commanded ( Numbers 25:18), the Lord directed Moses to take another census of the Israelites. Evidently the24 ,000 who died in the recent plague ( Numbers 25:9) were the last of the generation who had refused to enter the land38 years earlier. Only Caleb, Joshua , and Moses remained from the older generation ( Numbers 26:64-65). Leon Wood calculated that if1 ,200 ,000 of the older generation died in38 years, there would have been an average of85 funerals per day in the wilderness. [Note: Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges , p119.] Of course, on some occasions many more died at once due to divine judgments such as the one described in Numbers 25:9.

Moses again counted the men20 years of age and older in all the tribes except Levi as in the census taken just before Israel departed from Sinai (chs1-4). The primary purpose of this census was military, namely, to organize the nation for its battles with the Canaanites as well as with the Midianites. However a second important purpose was to discover the size of each tribe so Moses could allocate territory in the Promised Land proportionately ( Numbers 26:53-54). This list also had historical value for later generations enabling them to trace their genealogies. Notice that this is a list of families or clans, not individuals. The preservation of the nation is a monument to God"s faithfulness to His promises concerning Israel.

". . . His covenanted promises to the patriarchs might be delayed by human sin, but they could not be ultimately frustrated." [Note: Philippians , p275.]

A table of the size of the12tribes when Moses took the two censuses follows.

Tribe

First Census

Second Census

Difference

Reuben

46 ,500

43 ,730

-2 ,770

Simeon

59 ,300

22 ,200

-37 ,100

Gad

46 ,650

40 ,500

-5 ,150

Judah

74 ,600

76 ,500

+1 ,900

Issachar

54 ,400

64 ,300

+9 ,900

Zebulun

57 ,400

60 ,500

+3 ,100

Ephraim

40 ,500

32 ,500

-8 ,000

Manasseh

32 ,200

52 ,700

+20 ,900

Benjamin

35 ,400

45 ,600

+10 ,200

Dan

62 ,700

64 ,400

+1 ,700

Asher

41 ,500

53 ,400

+11 ,900

Naphtali

53 ,400

45 ,400

-8 ,000

Totals

603 ,550

601 ,730

-1 ,820

Zimri was a Simeonite ( Numbers 25:14). Perhaps the large number of Simeonites who died resulted from his kinsmen joining him in his apostasy in chapter25.

Moses also counted the Levite males from one month old and older ( Numbers 26:57-62).

Levi

22 ,000

23 ,000

+1 ,000

Probably there were about13 ,000 males20 years of age or older in Levi. This would have made this tribe the smallest by far.


Verses 52-56

Moses apportioned the land to each tribe according to its population. The casting of lots determined the location of each tribal inheritance in Canaan later ( Numbers 26:54; Joshua 13:7-33).


Verses 57-62

Here Moses recorded the census of the Levites. Moses and Aaron were Kohathites ( Exodus 6:18-20). Their parents" names were Amram and Jochebed ( Numbers 26:59).


Verses 63-65

The chapter closes with a testimony to the faithfulness of God. All but Caleb and Joshua had died in the wilderness, as He had promised. God had preserved the nation and would bring her into the land as He had guaranteed the patriarchs. Nevertheless He had judged the unbelieving generation.

This chapter looks backward over the past38 years and forward to entrance into Canaan.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 26:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/numbers-26.html. 2012.

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