Numbers 1:1
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,
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(1) In the tabernacle of the congregation.—The tabernacle of the congregation, or tent of meeting, so called because it was there that God met with Moses (Numbers 17:4; Exodus 25:22), had been set up one month previously (Exodus 40:17), nearly a year after the exodus.

Numbers 1:1. In the wilderness of Sinai — Where now they had been a full year or near it, having left Egypt about thirteen months. Compare this place with Exodus 19:1; Exodus 40:17.

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.A month had passed away since the setting up of the tabernacle Exodus 40:2, Exodus 40:17 : and the Sinaitic legislation was now complete (compare Leviticus 27:34).

A census ("sum") was commanded, to be based not upon any fresh registration of individuals, but upon that which had accompanied the previous collection of the offerings. Compare Exodus 30:11, etc.; Exodus 38:25-28. The offerings had been probably tendered by the people in groups, and if certificates of registration were furnished to such groups, the new census might be easily carried out by means of these documents, and got through Numbers 1:18 in a single day. The present registration enrolled persons "after their families, by the house of their fathers;" and was superintended not by the Levites (see Exodus 38:21 and note), but by Numbers 1:4 an assessor for each tribe to act in the business with Moses and Aaron. The purpose now in view was not religious only. The census now taken would serve as a basis for various civil and military arrangements.



Nu 1:1-54. Moses Numbering the Men of War.

1, 2. on the first day of the second month, &c.—Thirteen months had elapsed since the exodus. About one month had been occupied in the journey; and the rest of the period had been passed in encampment among the recesses of Sinai, where the transactions took place, and the laws, religious and civil, were promulgated, which are contained in the two preceding books. As the tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month, and the order here mentioned was given on the first day of the second, some think the laws in Leviticus were all given in one month. The Israelites having been formed into a separate nation, under the special government of God as their King, it was necessary, before resuming their march towards the promised land, to put them into good order. And accordingly Moses was commissioned, along with Aaron, to take a census of the people. This census was incidentally noticed (Ex 38:26), in reference to the poll tax for the works of the tabernacle; but it is here described in detail, in order to show the relative increase and military strength of the different tribes. The enumeration was confined to those capable of bearing arms [Nu 1:3], and it was to be made with a careful distinction of the tribe, family, and household to which every individual belonged. By this rule of summation many important advantages were secured: an exact genealogical register was formed, the relative strength of each tribe was ascertained, and the reason found for arranging the order of precedence in march as well as disposing the different tribes in camp around the tabernacle. The promise of God to Abraham [Ge 22:17] was seen to be fulfilled in the extraordinary increase of his posterity, and provision made for tracing the regular descent of the Messiah.God commands Moses and Aaron to number the people that were fit for war, Num 1:1-3. Twelve captains chose, of every tribe one; their names; the number of each tribe, Num 1:4-16, The Levites exempt; to take care of the tabernacle; the other tribes camping round it, Num 1:47-54.

They now had been in the wilderness a full year, or near it, as may be gathered by comparing this place with Exo 19:1 40:17, and other places.

In the tabernacle; from the mercy seat.

B.C. 1490

And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai,.... Which is different from the wilderness of Sin, Exodus 16:1; and had its name from the mountain so called, on which God gave the law of the decalogue, and where the Israelites had been encamped eleven months, Exodus 19:1,

in the tabernacle of the congregation; which had now been set up a whole month, and out of which the Lord had delivered to Moses the several laws recorded in the preceding book in that space of time, Exodus 40:17,

on the first day of the second month; the month Ijar, as the Targum of Jonathan, which answers to part of our April, and part of May, and was the second month of the ecclesiastical year, which began with Abib or Nisan:

in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt; that is, the children of Israel, who had now been a year and half a month out of it:

saying, as follows.

And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of {a} Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the {b} second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,

The Argument - In that as God has appointed that his Church in this world shall be under the cross, both so they could learn not to put their trust in worldly things, and also feel his comfort, when all other help fails: he did not immediately bring his people, after their departure out of Egypt, into the land which he had promised them: but led them to and fro for the space of forty years, and kept them in continual exercises before they enjoyed it, to try their faith, teach them to forget the world, and to depend on him. Which trial greatly profited, to discern the wicked and the hypocrites from the faithful and true servants of God, who served him with pure heart, while the other, preferring their earthly lusts to God's glory, and making religion to serve their purpose, complained when they lacked enough to satisfy their lusts, and despised those who God had appointed as rulers over them. By reason of which they provoked God's terrible judgments against them, and are set forth as a notable example for all ages, to beware how they abuse God's word, prefer their own lusts to his will, or despise his ministers. Nonetheless, God is always true to his promise, and governs his by his Holy Spirit, that either they fall not to such inconveniences, or else return to him quickly in true repentance: and therefore he continues his graces toward them, he gives them ordinances and instructions, as well for religion, as outward policy: he preserves them against all deceit and conspiracy, and gives them many victories against their enemies. To avoid all controversies that might arise, he takes away the occasions, by dividing among all the tribes, both the land which they had won, and that also which he had promised, as seemed best to his godly wisdom.

(a) In the place in the wilderness that was near mount Sinai.

(b) Which is part of April and part of May.

1. the tent of meeting] Heb. ’ôhel mô‘çd. A.V. ‘tabernacle of the congregation’ confuses mô‘çd with ‘çdah. LXX. σκηνὴ τοῦ μαρτυρίου (‘tent of witness’) confuses mô‘çd with ‘çdûth. The name ‘tent of meeting’ is a term very frequently employed in P for the Tabernacle (cf. Numbers 3:7 f., Numbers 4:2 f., Exodus 27:21, Leviticus 1:1; Leviticus 1:3). Exodus 29:42 (P ) shews the meaning which attached to it—‘where I will meet with you to speak there unto thee’; it was understood to mean ‘the tent where Jehovah met His people by appointment,’ the ‘tent of tryst.’ But the name was also used in earlier times for the sacred tent, which in Exodus 33:7-11 (E ) is pictured as an ordinary nomad tent which Moses could himself carry and pitch outside the camp. And it seems probable that in the primitive days of which E preserves a record a somewhat different meaning attached to the name. See note on Numbers 12:4.

1–16. Moses is directed to number the fighting men of Israel with the help of twelve princes.

Verse 1. - In the tabernacle of the congregation - where the Lord spake with Moses "face to face" (Exodus 33:11), and where all the laws of Leviticus had been given (Leviticus 1:1). On the first day of the second month, in the second year. On the first day of Zif (or Ijar); a year and a fortnight since the exodus, ten months and a half since their arrival at Sinai, and a month since the tabernacle had been set up. Numbers 1:1Muster of the Twelve Tribes, with the Exception of that of Levi. - Numbers 1:1-3. Before the departure of Israel from Sinai, God commanded Moses, on the first of the second month in the second year after the exodus from Egypt, to take the number of the whole congregation of the children of Israel, "according to their families, according to their fathers' houses (see Exodus 6:14), in (according to) the number of their names," i.e., each one counted singly and entered, but only "every male according to their heads of twenty years old and upwards" (see Exodus 30:14), viz., only צבא כּל־יצא "all who go forth of the army," i.e., all the men capable of bearing arms, because by means of this numbering the tribes and their subdivisions were to be organized as hosts of Jehovah, that the whole congregation might fight as an army for the cause of their Lord (see at Exodus 7:4).
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