I found Numbers a really interesting book to read, it elaborates on and explains the law established in Leviticus with real examples. It also provides general information and statistics on the people of Israel, which I thought was interesting too.
The first chapter of Numbers is entirely a census that God told Moses to take and it provides an interesting insight into the tribes of Israel, and subsequently their future divisions.
From verse 6 through to 15 of chapter 1, a man is assigned from each tribe to assist Moses in taking the census, except from the tribe of Levi. This is because the census was primarily to establish the number of fighting men in the tribes of Israel, and Levites were treated separately due to their role in worship. It’s interesting to note though that since Joseph’s sons were both adopted sons of Israel, that there are still 12 tribes with Levi excluded.
At this point, in chapter one, the population of men older than 20 that were able to serve in the army are:
- Reuben – 46,500
- Simeon – 59,300
- Gad – 45,650
- Judah – 74,600
- Issacher – 54,400
- Zebulan – 57,400
- Ephraim son of Joseph – 40,500
- Manasseh son of Joseph – 32,200
- Benjamin – 35,400
- Dan – 62,700
- Asher – 41,500
- Naphtali – 53,400
That’s a total of 603,550 men over the age of 20 that were able to fight. When you consider how many people are excluded, at this point there must have been well over a million Israelites, more than likely, well over 2 million!
Take note of the population comparison though, particularly of Judah. They are the biggest tribe, with 74,600 fighting men. The closest to that is Dan with 62,700, or, if Joseph’s son’s were not considered separately, Joseph would be 72,700.
I find this interesting to note, considering that in the future of Israel, Judah is separated from the rest of Israel as they follow the king of David’s line, where Israel follows a different king and that Judah is likely the only tribe that by that point is capable of standing on it’s own against all of the others and both of their numerous enemies outside their borders. Though they don’t end up standing alone as Simeon and Benjamin stay loyal to David’s line as well.