Numbers 1:2 Commentaries: "Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head
Numbers 1:2
Take you the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) After their families.—The family or clan, mishpahah, included several fathers’ houses (see Kurtz’s Hist. of the Old Covenant, 2, pp. 8-10).

With the number of their names.—Better, according to the number of names. The reference is probably to the previous numbering recorded in Exodus 30:12. There is no corresponding clause in the account of the later numbering in Numbers 26:2.

By their polls—i.e., man by man. The word gulgoleth denotes a man’s head, or skull. Cf. Matthew 27:33.

Numbers 1:2. Take ye the sum — This is not the same muster with that spoken of Exodus 38:26, as plainly appears, because that was before the building of the tabernacle, which was built and set up on the first day of the first month; (Exodus 40:2;) but this was after it, on the first day of the second month. And they were for different ends; that was to tax them for the charges of the tabernacle; but this was for other purposes, as partly, that the great number of the people might be known to the praise of God’s faithfulness, in making good his promises of multiplying them, and for their own encouragement: partly for the better ordering of their camp and march, for they were now beginning their journey; and partly that this account might be compared with the other in the close of the book, where we read that not one of all this vast number, except Caleb and Joshua, were left alive; a fair warning to all future generations to take head of rebelling against the Lord. It is true, the sums and numbers agree in this and the former computation mentioned, (Exodus 38:26,) which is not strange, because there was not much time between these two numberings, and no eminent sin among the people in that interval, whereby God was provoked to diminish their numbers. Some, indeed, suppose, that in that number (Exodus 30:38.) the Levites were included, who are here excepted, (Numbers 1:47,) and that in that interval of time there were grown up as many more men of those years as there were Levites of the same age. Israel —

So the strangers mixed with them were not numbered. Their fathers — The people were divided into twelve tribes, the tribes into great families, (Numbers 26:5,) these great families into lesser families, called the houses of their fathers, because they were distinguished one from another by their fathers.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.

THE FOURTH BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED NUMBERS. Commentary by Robert Jamieson

CHAPTER 1

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.

This is not the same muster with that Exodus 38:26, as plainly appears, because that was before the building of the tabernacle, which was built and set up on the first day of the first month, Exodus 40:2; but this was after it, to wit, on the first day of the second month, as is said Numbers 1:1. And they were for differing ends; that was to tax them for the charges of the tabernacle, but this was for other ends; partly, that the great number of the people might be known to the praise of God’s faithfulness, in making good his promises of multiplying them, and to their own comfort and encouragement; partly, for the better ordering of their camp and march, for they were now beginning their journey; and partly, that this account might be compared with the other in the close of the book, where we read that not one of all this vast number, except Caleb and Joshua, were left alive; which was an evident discovery of the mischievous nature of sin, by which so vast a company were destroyed, and a fair warning to all future generations to take heed of rebelling against the Lord, for which their ancestors had been so dreadfully plagued even to extirpation. It is true, the sums and numbers agree in this and that computation, which is not strange, because there was not much time between the two numberings, and no eminent sin among the people in that interval whereby God was provoked to diminish their numbers. Some conceive, that in that number, Exo 30 Exo 38, the Levites were included, which are here excepted, Numbers 1:47, and that in that interval of time there were grown up as many more men of those years as there were Levites of the same age.

Of the children of Israel; so the stranger mixed with them were not numbered. The people were divided into twelve tribes, the tribes into great families, Numbers 26:5; these great families into lesser families, called

the houses of their fathers, because they were distinguished one from another by their fathers. Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel,.... Excepting the Levites; nor were any account taken of the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the children of Israel, only of them; and this account was taken, partly to observe the fulfilment of the divine promise to Abraham concerning the multiplication of his seed, and partly that it might be observed, that at the end of thirty eight years from hence, when they were numbered again, there were but three left of this large number, their carcasses falling in the wilderness because of their sins; and chiefly, as Aben Ezra observes, this sum was now taken to fix their standards, and for their better and more orderly journeying and encampment; for on the twentieth of this month they set forward on their journey from hence, Numbers 10:11; the word for the order is in the plural number, take ye, being given both to Moses and Aaron, who were to take the number, and did, Numbers 1:3,

after their families; into which their tribes were divided:

by the house of their fathers; for if the mother was of one tribe, and the father of another, the family was according to the tribe of the father, as Jarchi notes, a mother's family being never called a family, as Aben Ezra observes:

with the number of their names; of every particular person, whose name was inserted in a list or register:

every male by their poll; or head (b); for none but males were numbered: the Lord's spiritual Israel are a numbered people, written in the book of life, placed into the hand of Christ, and exactly known by him, even by name; yea, all that belong to him are numbered, and the very airs of their heads,

(b) "per capita sua", Pagninus, &c,

Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. their families] Rather their clans, i.e. groups of families related by blood.

fathershouses] here denotes families, smaller groups consisting of close relations; see Numbers 1:4, Exodus 12:3. The term is, however, elastic. It may denote even an entire tribe, as being descended from a single ancestor (Numbers 17:2), or the main subdivision of a tribe, i.e. a ‘clan’ (Numbers 3:24, Exodus 6:14).

their polls] lit. skulls, a metaphor for ‘individual persons.’ Cf. our word ‘poll-tax,’ and the ‘poll’ at an election. This expression and ‘fathers’ houses’ are not found earlier than P.Verse 2. - Take ye the sum of all the congregation. The census here ordered had clearly been anticipated, as far as the numbers were concerned, by the results of the half-shekel poll-tax for the service of the sanctuary levied some time before on all adult males on pain of Divine displeasure (Exodus 30:11, sq.). Since all who were liable had paid that tax (Exodus 38:25, 26), it would only have been requisite to make slight; corrections for death or coming of age during the interval. The totals, however, in the two cases being exactly the same, it is evident that no such corrections were made, and that the round numbers already obtained were accepted as sufficiently accurate for all practical purposes. After their families. This was to be a registration as well as a census. No doubt the lists and pedigrees collected at this time laid the foundation of that exact and careful genealogical lore which played so important a part both in the religious and in the secular history of the Jews down to the final dispersion. Every Jew had not only his national, but also (and often even more) his tribal and family, associations, traditions, and sympathies. Unity, but not uniformity, - unity in all deepest interests and highest purposes, combined with great variety of character, of tradition, and even of tendency, - was the ideal of the life of Israel. The number of their names. It is impossible to help thinking of the parallel expression in Acts 1:15, of the similarity in position of the two peoples, of the contrast between their numbers and apparent chances of success, of the more striking contrast between their actual achievements. Lastly, the tenth of the land, both of the seed of the land - i.e., not of what was sown, but of what was yielded, the produce of the seed (Deuteronomy 14:22), the harvest reaped, or "corn of the threshing-floor," Numbers 18:27 - and also of the fruit of the tree, i.e., "the fulness of the press" (Numbers 18:27), the wine and oil (Deuteronomy 14:23), belonged to the Lord, were holy to Him, and could not be dedicated to Him by a vow. At the same time they could be redeemed by the addition of a fifth beyond the actual amount.
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