Numbers 1:21
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.The enrollment, being taken principally for military purposes (compare Numbers 1:3, Numbers 1:20), would naturally be arranged by hundreds, fifties, etc. (cf. 2 Kings 1:9, 2 Kings 1:11, 2 Kings 1:13). In eleven tribes the number enrolled consists of complete hundreds. The difference, in this respect, observable in the case of the tribe of Gad here Numbers 1:25, and of the tribe of Reuben at the later census Numbers 26:7, is probably to be accounted for by the pastoral, and consequently nomadic, habits of these tribes, which rendered it difficult to bring all their members together at once for a census. Judah already takes precedence of his brethren in point of numbers (compare Genesis 49:8 note), and Ephraim of Manasseh (compare Genesis 48:19-20). 20-44. These are those that were numbered—In this registration the tribe of Judah appears the most numerous; and accordingly, as the pre-eminence had been assigned to it by Jacob [Ge 49:8-12], it got the precedence in all the encampments of Israel. Of the two half-tribes of Joseph, who is seen to be "a fruitful bough" [Ge 49:22], that of Ephraim was the larger, as had been predicted. The relative increase of all, as in the two just mentioned, was owing to the special blessing of God, conformably to the prophetic declaration of the dying patriarch. But the divine blessing is usually conveyed through the influence of secondary causes; and there is reason to believe that the relative populousness of the tribes would, under God, depend upon the productiveness of the respective localities assigned to them. [For tabular chart, see on [51]Nu 26:64.] No text from Poole on this verse. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. 46,500 men. See Gill on Numbers 1:20. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 21. - Forty and six thousand and five hundred. All the numbers (save of Gad only) are in unbroken hundreds. It might have been so arranged by miracle; but such an overruling would have no assignable object, and therefore it is far better to fall back on the obvious and natural explanation that the totals were approximate. If they were simply the poll-tax figures unaltered, it would be natural to suppose that the offerings were made up in fifty-shekel lots, and the offerers divided as nearly as possible into hundreds. For military purposes a certain number of supernumeraries would be convenient. In the one excepted case of Gad a half-hundred appears for some unexplained cause, Moses and Aaron, who were commanded to number, or rather to muster, the people, were to have with them "a man of every tribe, who was head-man of his fathers' houses," i.e., a tribe-prince, viz., to help them to carry out the mustering. Beth aboth ("fathers' houses"), in Numbers 1:2, is a technical expression for the subdivisions in which the mishpachoth, or families of the tribes, were arranged, and is applied in Numbers 1:4 according to its original usage, based upon the natural division of the tribes into mishpachoth and families, to the fathers' houses which every tribe possessed in the family of its first-born. In Numbers 1:5-15, these heads of tribes were mentioned by name, as in Numbers 2:3., Numbers 7:12., Numbers 10:14. In Numbers 1:16 they are designated as "called men of the congregation," because they were called to diets of the congregation, as representatives of the tribes, to regulate the affairs of the nation; also "princes of the tribes of their fathers," and "heads of the thousands of Israel:" "prince," from the nobility of their birth; and "heads," as chiefs of the alaphim composing the tribes. Alaphim is equivalent to mishpachoth (cf. Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14); because the number of heads of families in the mishpachoth of a tribe might easily amount to a thousand (see at Exodus 18:25). In a similar manner, the term "hundred" in the old German came to be used in several different senses (see Grimm, deutsche Rechts-alterthmer, p. 532).
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