Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Shed. Hebrew and Septuagint, "after the plague," which destroyed so many. (Chaldean) After all who had murmured were cut off, the new progeny is numbered. (St. Jerome) (Worthington)
Number. This was done that the general might know what forces he could muster to attack the nations of Chanaan on the west side of the Jordan, and also in order that the lands might be properly distributed. The war lasted seven years, and the distribution of lands was not completed till some time afterwards. It is not clear that those who were not enrolled at this time, as being 20 years of age, would have any portion, except that of their fathers, allotted to them; but it seems, however, rational that those who were arrived at that age when the distribution was made, would have their share like the rest. There were 1820 people fewer than in the register which was taken before, (chap. i.,) thirteen months after the departure from Egypt. The Levites seem not to have been numbered with the utmost exactitude, as only five families are mentioned, (ver. 58, Jansenius,) though there were many more, 1 Paralipomenon xxiii. 6, &c. Their numbers amount to only 23,000. (Calmet) --- They had rather increased in the desert during 38 years; (see chap. iii. 39,) as had also the tribes of Juda, Issachar, and Zabulon, which lay to the east; of Manasses (who perhaps on that account precedes Ephraim) and Benjamin to the west; Dan and Aser to the north. Nephtali proved deficient; so did likewise the tribes of Ruben, Simeon, and Gad, who were stationed to the south of the tabernacle. When they were numbered the first and the second time (Exodus xxxviii. 25, and Numbers i. 46,) they amounted to 603,550, exclusively of the Levites. Now they could only count 601,730 men fit for war. Considering their frequent disasters, it is even a matter of surprise that their ranks were not thinned still more, particularly as we are assured that all who had been numbered before, except Josue and Caleb, the Levites, and such as had kept themselves free from murmuring, had perished, ver. 64. (Haydock) --- In the particular accounts of the tribes, and in the names of persons, the Septuagint frequently differ from the Hebrew. But the total amount agrees.
Them. Hebrew, "commanded Moses and the children of Israel, who came forth out of the land of Egypt." The same plan was now to be pursued as formerly.
Thirty. They had lost therefore 2870 men, chap. i. 21.
Princes. Hebrew, "men of name in the congregation," senators. (Vatable) (Chap. xvi. 2.)
Miracle. Hebrew, "they became a sign," of reproach, and a memorial of God's just judgments, who caused the earth to swallow up Core and his companions alive, by a most disgraceful kind of death, to which the faithless vestal virgins were condemned at Rome, being buried alive; while those who had offered incense were consumed by fire. Many of the ancients assert that Core was also burnt, meaning perhaps by the fire of hell; to which he descended. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] iv. 3.) --- Others have thought that the children of Core were swallowed up with their father. But this is not true, with respect to some of them at least, (Haydock) who by a miracle of divine grace and goodness, were preserved from joining in his sedition; (Calmet) while Core, his wife and servants, all concurred to shew them such a pernicious example. (Haydock) --- Lyranus and the Rabbins tell us, that the children stopped to intreat their father to repent; and while the earth opened under them, God supported them in the air, and gave them the spirit of prophecy; so that they sung, (Psalm xlv.) God is our refuge, &c., or, according to others, the Psalm xli. which has their name in the title. But these accounts are to be received with caution. The Samaritan text, fuerunt in fugam, (Calmet) may be translated, "out of this world they fled away, (11) and the sons of Core did not perish."
Namuel. N has been substituted for i, in the name of Iamuel, as it is read elsewhere, and in the Syriac, both here and 1 Paralipomenon iv. 24, where Ahod is by mistake written with r, instead of d. See also the Arabic. (Kennicott) (Haydock)
Families. Ahod is not mentioned, as he, probably, died without children. See Genesis xlvi. 10. (Menochius) --- Hundred. Their numbers were the most reduced. See chap. xxv. 9. (Haydock)
Hundred. Septuagint add, "4000." This tribe had formerly 45,650. It had lost 5100.
Hundred. Juda had increased 1900.
Issachar had also 9900 more.
Zabulon was more numerous by 3100; so that this division had an additional strength of 13,100, while the former was diminished by 45,070 men. (Haydock)
Machir: 1 Paralipomenon vii. 20, we find Ezriel also mentioned. See chap. xxxi. 39.
Jezer, who is called Abihezer, Josue xvii. 2, and Paralipomenon.
Hundred. Manasses had increased his numbers by 20,500, while
Ephraim had lost 8000. (Haydock)
Bela was the father of two families, ver. 40. The other five children of Benjamin probably left no issue, Genesis xlvi. 21. (Du Hamel)
Benjamin had 10,200 added to his former number. Hence this division of the army, though hurt by Ephraim, (ver. 37,) had an increase of 22,700.
Suhamites. Their father is called Huthim in Genesis, and also by the Septuagint. This branch of Dan was more numerous than formerly by 1700 soldiers.
Aser had an addition of 11,900; and, both together, 13,600. But they were let down by
Nephtali, who had lost 8000; so that this division had only 5600 more. (Haydock)
A less. God introduced among his people that equality, which was so much desired by Lycurgus, Solon, &c. The fertility of the land assigned to Benjamin, compensated for the smallness of its quantity.
Lot. Josue appointed commissioners, who measured the land, and divided it according to its fertility; and the portions assigned to each of the tribes by lot, corresponded with the predications of Jacob and of Moses; God so regulating the lots by his allwise Providence, in order that the people might be more convinced of the truth of the prophecies, and that no undue favour was shewn to any one by Josue, Eleazar, or by the other men in authority. He took the whole upon himself, that none might complain of their rulers. (Calmet) --- Masius supposes that the different divisions of the land were written down, and placed in an urn, and that the heads of the tribes drew according to their birth, Josue xv. 1. --- The heads of families, such as Henoch, &c., (ver. 5.) probably also drew lots, to know what part of territory allotted to the tribe, should fall to their share; (Haydock) and they parcelled out their land among their children. (Menochius)
Core. Three other families are mentioned, Exodus vi. 17, &c. They were not going out to war. (Du Hamel)
Levi. Septuagint, "who bore these (Lobni, &c.) to Levi, in Egypt; and she bore to Amram, Aaron," &c., as if Jochabed had been wife both of Levi and of Amram, which is very improbable. It is more likely that the wives of these two bore the same name. The Hebrew may agree very well with the Vulgate. See Exodus ii. 1. (Calmet) --- It was afterwards forbidden for a person to marry his aunt, Leviticus xviii. (Worthington)
Sinai, if we except the Levites. (Menochius) See chap. xiv. 23. --- Origen (hom. 21.) makes a very good remark on this subject. This circumcised, but rebellious people, conducted by Moses into the desert, clearly points out the Hebrews, who come to the frontiers of the promised land, but are not suffered to cross the Jordan. The uncircumcised are introduced into the land flowing with milk and honey, not by Moses, but by Josue, the figure of our Saviour, who opens heaven to true believers. "The first people is rejected, which had received circumcision, and the second is introduced, which is gathered from the Gentiles; and it is the people which obtains its father's inheritance....If Moses give any inheritance, it is not within the Jordan....it is a land fit for cattle....he does not distribute it by lot....nor can he know the merits of each. This is done by Jesus only, to whom his Father has given all judgment." (Haydock)