|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-43 The people were numbered to show God's faithfulness in thus increasing the seed of Jacob, that they might be the better trained for the wars and conquest of Canaan, and to ascertain their families in order to the division of the land. It is said of each tribe, that those were numbered who were able to go forth to war; they had wars before them, though now they met with no opposition. Let the believer be prepared to withstand the enemies of his soul, though all may appear to be peace.
Verse 4. - A man of every tribe. The former census, which was for religious purposes only, was made with the assistance of the Levites. This, which was rather for political and military purposes, was supervised by the lay heads of the people.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And with you there shall be a man of every tribe,.... Excepting Levi, of which Moses and Aaron were, to assist in taking the account, and to see that it was an exact and perfect one:
everyone head of the house of his fathers; and prince of the tribe he belonged to, as appears from Numbers 1:16 and Numbers 7:2, where an account is given of the same persons as princes of the tribes that offered at the dedication of the altar, who here assisted in the taking this account; the Targum of Jonathan calls them each a prince, as Prince Elizur, &c.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4-16. with you there shall be a man of every tribe, &c.—The social condition of the Israelites in the wilderness bore a close resemblance to that of the nomad tribes of the East in the present day. The head of the tribe was a hereditary dignity, vested in the oldest son or some other to whom the right of primogeniture was transferred, and under whom were other inferior heads, also hereditary, among the different branches of the tribe. The Israelites being divided into twelve tribes, there were twelve chiefs appointed to assist in taking the census of the people.
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