Numbers 26

 

 

THE SECOND MUSTERING (vs. 1-65)

 

1 “And it came to pass after the plague,” -  This plague was the last event which

seriously diminished the numbers of the Israelites; perhaps it was the last event which

diminished them at all, for it seems to be throughout implied that none died except

through their own fault. It is often supposed that this plague carried off the last

survivors of the generation condemned at Kadesh (see v. 64); but this is opposed to the

statement in Deuteronomy 2:14-15, and is essentially improbable. The victims of the

plague would surely be those who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor; and these

again would surely be the younger, not the older, men in Israel. It is part of the moral

of the story that these offenders deprived themselves, not merely of a few remaining

days, but of many years of happy rest which might have been theirs - “that the

LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,”

 

2 “Take the sum of all the congregation” -  This was certainly not commanded

with a view to the war against Midian, which was of no military importance, and was

actually prosecuted with no more than 12,000 men (ch. 31:5). A general command

to “vex the Midianites had indeed been given (ch.25:17) on the principle of just

retribution (compare II Thessalonians 1:6), but no attempt seems to have been made to

act upon it until a more specific order was issued (ch. 31:2). In any case the present

mustering has to do with something far more important, viz., with the approaching

settlement of the people in its own territory. This is clear from the instructions given

in vs. 52-56, and from the distribution of the tribes into families -“of the children of

Israel, from twenty years old and upward,” - See on ch.1:3 -  throughout their

fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel.”

 

3 “And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them” -  i.e., no doubt with

the responsible chiefs, who must have assisted in this census, as in the previous one

(ch. 1:4), although the fact is not mentioned - “in the plains of Moab by Jordan

near Jericho, saying,”

 

4 “Take the sum of the people,” -  These words are not in the text, but are

borrowed from v.2. Nothing is set down in the original but the brief instruction given

to the census-takers — “from twenty years old and upward, as on the former

occasion.” from twenty years old and upward; as the LORD commanded

Moses and the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt.”

This is the punctuation of the Targums and most of the versions. The Septuagint,

however, detaches these words from the previous sentence and makes them a

general heading for the catalogue which follows. It may be objected to this that

the people now numbered did not come out of Egypt, a full half having been born

in the wilderness, but see on ch. 23:22; 24:8.

 

 

5 “Reuben, the eldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben;” - The four

names here registered as distinguishing families within the tribe of Reuben agree

with the lists given in Genesis 46:9; Exodus 6:14; I Chronicles 5:3 -Hanoch,

of whom cometh the family of the Hanochites: of Pallu, the family

of the Palluites:  6 Of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi,

the family of the Carmites.”

 

7 “These are the families of the Reubenites:” -  The mustering

according to families (tjop]v]mi — Septuagint, dh~moi daemoi - people)

was the distinguishing feature of this census, because it was preparatory to a

territorial settlement in Canaan, in which the unity of the family should be

preserved as well as the unity of the tribe - “and they that were numbered

of them were forty and three thousand and seven hundred and thirty.”

 

8 “And the sons of Pallu;” -  This particular genealogy is added because of the

special interest which attached to the fate of certain members of the family. The

plural “sons” is to be explained here not from the fact (which has nothing to do

with it) that several grandsons are afterwards mentioned, but from the fact that

yneb]W (“and the sons”) was the conventional heading of a family list, and was

written doom by the transcriber before he noticed that only one name followed.

 Eliab.  9  And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. This

ss that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who

strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when

they strove against the LORD:”  (ch. 16).

 

10 “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together

with Korah,” - jr"qoAta,w] μt;ao [l"b]Tiy". Septuagint, kate>pein aujtou<v

kai< Kore> - katpein autous kai Koreswallowed them up together with

Korah.  This distinct statement, which is not modified in the Targums, seems

decisive as to thefate of Korah. If indeed it were quite certain from the detailed

narrative in chapter 16 that Korah perished with his own company, and not with

the Reubenites, then it might be deemed necessary to force this statement into

accordance with that certainty; but it is nowhere stated, or even clearly

implied, that he perished by fire, and therefore there is no excuse for doing

violence to the obvious meaning of this verse. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram

were swallowed up (“a new thing” ch. 16:30), we are told, at the same

time that Korah’s company were consumed by fire; that is a clear statement,

and cannot be set aside by any supposed necessity for avenging the sacri1egious

ambition of Korah by the element of fire - “when that company died, what

time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign.” 

The Hebrew μn properly means a banner or ensign, and is unusual in this sense.

It exactly corresponds, however, to the Greek sh>meionsaemeionsign -  

(used many times in John’s Gospel of the miracles of Christ and what they

signified! – CY – 2011) and has no  doubt the same secondary signification —

a something made conspicuous in order  to attract attention and enforce

 a warning (compare ch.16:30, 38).

 

11 “Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.” -  The confused nature

of the narrative in ch. 16 is well exemplified by this statement; we should

certainly have supposed from (Ibid. v.32) that Korah’s sons had perished with him,

if we were not here told to the contrary. The sons of Korah are frequently mentioned

among the Levites, and Samuel himself would seem to have been of them (see on

I Chronicles 6:22, 28, 33-38, and titles to Psalm 42, 88); it is, however, slightly

doubtful whether the Kohathite Korah of I Chronicles 6:22, the ancestor of Samuel,

is the same as the Izharite Korah, the ancestor of Heman, in (Ibid. v.38.

 

12  The sons of Simeon” -  As in Genesis 46:10; Exodus 6:15, with the

omission  of Ohad, who may not have founded any family. In such cases it is no

doubt possible that there were children, but that for some reason they failed to

hold together, and became attached to other families. In I Chronicles 4:24 the sons

of Simeon appear as Nemuel, Jamin, Jarib, Zerah, and Shaul. In Genesis and

Exodus the first appears as Jemuel. These minute variations are only important

as showing that Divine inspiration did not preserve the sacred records from

errors of transcription - “after their families: of Nemuel, the family of

the Nemuelites: of Jamin, the family of the Jaminites: of Jachin,

the family of the Jachinites:  13 Of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites:

of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites.  14  These are the families of the

Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred.”

 

15 “The children of Gad” - Compare Genesis 46:16, the only other

enumeration of the sons of Gad -  “after their families: of Zephon, the

family of the Zephonites: of Haggi, the family of the Haggites: of

Shuni, the family of the Shunites:  16 “Of Ozni, the family of the Oznites:

of Eri, the family of the Erites:  17  Of Arod, the family of the Arodites:

of Areli, the family of the Arelites.  18 These are the families of the

children of Gad according to those that were numbered of them, forty

thousand and five hundred. 19  The sons of Judah were Er and Onan:

and Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan (Genesis 38:6-9).  20 And the

sons of Judah after their families were;” -  The Beni-Judah, or “men of Judah,”

according to their sub-tribal divisions, are clearly distinguished from the “sons of

Judah as individuals, two of whom are mentioned in the previous verse. Of the

families of Judah, three were named after sons, two after grandsons. As the

Pharzites remained a distinct family apart from the Hamulites and Hezronites,

it may be supposed that Pharez had other sons not mentioned here, or in

Genesis 46:12, or in I Chronicles 2:3-5 - “of Shelah, the family of the

Shelanites: of Pharez, the family of the Pharzites: of Zerah, the family

of the Zarhites.  21 And the sons of Pharez were; of Hezron, the family

of the Hezronites: of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites.  22 These are

the families of Judah according to those that were numbered of them,

threescore and sixteen thousand and five hundred.”

 

 

23 “Of the sons of Issachar after their families:” -  As in Genesis 46:13;

I Chronicles 7:1, except that in Genesis we have Job instead of Jashub; the two

names, however, appear to have the same meaning - “of Tola, the family of

the Tolaites: of Pua, the family of the Punites:  24 Of Jashub, the family

of the Jashubites: of Shimron, the family of the Shimronites.  25 These

are the families of Issachar according to those that were numbered of

them, threescore and four thousand and three hundred.”

 

26  Of the sons of Zebulun” -  As in Genesis 46:14 - “after their families:

of Sered, the family of the Sardites: of Elon, the family of the Elonites:

of Jahleel, the family of the Jahleelites.  27 These are the families of the

Zebulunites according to those that were numbered of them, threescore

thousand and five hundred.”

 

28 “The sons of Joseph after their families  were Manasseh and Ephraim.

29 Of the sons of Manasseh:” -  There is considerable difficulty about the families

of this tribe, because they are not recorded in Genesis, while the details preserved

in I Chronicles 7:14-17 are so obscure and fragmentary as to be extremely perplexing.

According to the present enumeration there were eight families in Manasseh, one

named after his son Machir, one after his grandson Gilead, and the rest after his

great grandsons.  The list given in Joshua 17:1-2 agrees with this, except that

the Machirites and the Gileadites are apparently identified. It appears from

the genealogy in I Chronicles 7 that the mother of Machir was a stranger

from Aram, the country of Laban. This may perhaps account for the fact

that Machir’s son received the name of Gilead, for Gilead was the border

land between Aram and Canaan; it more probably explains the subsequent

allotment of territory in that direction to the Machirites (ch.32:40). Gilead appears

again as a proper name in Judges 11:2 - “of Machir, the family of the

Machirites: and Machir begat Gilead: of Gilead come the family of the

Gileadites.  30 These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer, the family of the

Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites:  31 And of Asriel, the

family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites:

32 And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the

family of the Hepherites.  33 And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons,

but daughters:” -  This is mentioned here because the case was to come prominently

before the lawgiver and the nation (see ch.27:1; 36:1; I Chronicles 7:15) - “and

the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah,

Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 34 These are the families of Manasseh, and

those that were numbered of them, fifty and two thousand and seven hundred.”

 

35 “These are the sons of Ephraim” -  These formed but four families, three

named after sons, one after a grandson. In I Chronicles 7:21 two other sons of

Ephraim are mentioned who were killed in their father’s lifetime, and a third, Beriah,

who was the ancestor of Joshua. He does not seem to have founded a separate family,

possibly because he was so very much younger than his brothers -  “after their

families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites: of Becher, the family

of the Bachrites: of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites.  36  And these are

the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of the Eranites.  37  These are the

families of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of

them, thirty and two thousand and five hundred. These are the sons of

Joseph after their families.”

 

38  The sons of Benjamin” - These formed seven families, five named after sons,

two after grandsons. The list in Genesis 46:21 contains three names here omitted,

and the rest are much changed in form.  Them is still more divergence between

these and the longer genealogies found in I Chronicles 7:6-12; 8:1-5 sq. It is possible

that the family of Becher (Genesis), who had nine sons (1 Chronicles), went under

another name, because there was a family of Becherites in Ephraim (v. 35); and

similarly the family of the Ephraimite Beriah (1 Chronicles) may have ceded its name

in favor of the Asherite family of Beriites (v, 44). But it must be acknowledged that

the various genealogies of Benjamin cannot be reconciled as they stand - “after

their families: of Bela, the family of the Belaites: of Ashbel, the family of

the Ashbelites: of Ahiram, the family of the Ahiramites:  39  Of Shupham,

the family of the Shuphamites: of Hupham, the family of the Huphamites.

40 And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the family of

the Ardites: and of Naaman, the family of the Naamites.  41 These are

the sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of

them were forty and five thousand and six hundred.”

 

42 “These are the sons of Dan” -  These all formed but one family, named

after Shuham (elsewhere Hushim), the only son of Dan that is mentioned. It

is possible that Dan had other children, whose descendants were incorporated

with the Shuhamites - “after their families: of Shuham, the family of the

Shuhamites. These are the families of Dan after their families.  43  All the

families of the Shuhamites, according to those that were numbered of them,

were threescore and four thousand and four hundred.”

 

44  Of the children of Asher” - Of these three families were named after sons,

two after grandsons. In Genesis 46:17;  I Chronicles 7:30-31 a sixth name occurs,

Ishuah, or Isuah. It is possible that its similarity to the following name of Isui or

Ishui led to its accidental omission; but if the family continued to exist in Israel,

such an omission could scarcely be overlooked - “after their families: of Jimna,

the family of the Jimnites: of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites: of Beriah, the

family of the Beriites.  45 Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the

Heberites: of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites.  46 And the name of

the daughter of Asher was Sarah.  47  These are the families of the sons of

Asher according to those that were numbered of them; who were fifty and

three thousand and four hundred.”

 

48 “Of the sons of Naphtali” -  As in Genesis 46:24;  I Chronicles 7:13 - “after

their families: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites: of Guni, the family

of the Gunites:  49  Of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites: of Shillem, the

family of the Shillemites.  50 These are the families of Naphtali according

to their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five

thousand and four hundred.”

 

51  These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred

thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty.” The results of this

census as compared with the former may be tabulated thus:

 

   Tribe        (No. of Families)     First Census      Second Census       Decrease    Increase

 

Reuben.                 (4)                           46,500                     43,730                       6 %

Simeon.                  (5)                           59,300                     22,200                     63 %

Gad.                        (7)                           45,650                     40,500                     11 %

Judah.                    (5)                           74,600                     76,500                                     2½ %                     

Issachar.                (4)                           54,400                     64,300                                     18 %

Zebulun.                (3)                          57,400                     60,500                                     5½ %

Ephraim.                 (4)                           40,500                     32,500                     20 %

Manasseh.            (8)                           32,200                     52,700                                     63 %      

Benjamin.               (7)                           35,400                     45,600                                     29 %                      

Dan.                        (1)                           62,700                     64,400                                     2½ %

Asher.                    (5)                           41,500                     53,400                                     28 %      

Naphtali.                (4)                           53,400                     45,400                     15 %                      

Total     603,550     Total     601,730

 

It is evident that the numbers were taken by centuries, as before, although

an odd thirty appears now in the return for Reuben, as an odd fifty

appeared then in the return for Gad. It has been proposed to explain this on

the ground of their both being pastoral tribes; but if the members of these

tribes were more scattered than the rest, it would be just in their case that

we should expect to find round numbers. The one fact which these figures

establish in a startling way is, that while the nation as a whole remained

heady stationary in point of numbers, the various tribes show a most

unexpected variation. Manasseh, e.g., has increased his population 63 per

cent. in spite of the fact that there is not one man left of sixty years of age,

while Simeon has decreased in the same proportion. There is indeed little

difficulty in accounting for diminishing numbers amidst so many hardships,

and after so many plagues. The fact that Zimri belonged to the tribe of

Simeon, and that this tribe was omitted soon after from the blessing of

Moses (Deuteronomy 33), may easily lead to the conclusion that Simeon

was more than any other tribe involved in the sin of Baal-Peor and the

punishment which followed. But when we compare, e. g., the twin tribes of

Ephraim and Manasseh, concerning whom nothing distinctive is either

stated or hinted, whether bad or good; and when we find that the one has

decreased 20 percent and the other increased 63 percent during the same

interval, and under the same general circumstances, we cannot even guess

at the causes which must have been at work to produce so striking a

difference. It is evident that each tribe had its own history apart from the

general history of the nation — a history which had the most important

results for its own members, but of which we know almost nothing. It is

observable, however, that all the tribes under the leadership of Judah

increased, whilst all those in the camp of Reuben decreased.

 

52 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  53  Unto these the land

shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names.”

The intention clearly was that the extent of the territory assigned to each tribe,

and called by its name (verse 55b), should be regulated according to its

numbers at the discretion of the rulers.

54  To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou

shalt give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be

given according to those that were numbered of him.

.

55  Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot:” - This can

only be reconciled with the preceding order by assuming that the lot was to

determine the situation of the territory, the actual boundaries being left to

the discretion of the rulers. Recourse was had as far as possible to the lot in

order to refer the matter directly to GOD, OF WHOSE WILL AND

GIFT THEY HELD THE LAND (compare Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:26).

The lot would also remove any suspicion that the more numerous tribes,

such as Judah or Dan, were unfairly favored (v. 56) -“according to the

names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.  56 According to

the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few.”

 

57  And these are they that were numbered of the Levites after their

families: of Gershon, the family of the Gershonites: of Kohath, the

family of the Kohathites: of Merari, the family of the Merarites.

58  These are the families of the Levites:” - The three Levitical

sub-tribes have been named in the preceding verse, and the present

enumeration of families is an independent one. The Libnites were

Gershonites (ch.3:21), the Hebronites and Korathites (or Korahites) were

Kohathites (Ibid. ch. 3:19; 16:1), the Mahlites and Mushites were Merarites

(Ibid. ch.3:33).   Two other families, the Shimites (Ibid. v.21) and the Uzzielites 

(Ibid. v.27;  I Chronicles 26:23, and compare Exodus 6:22; I Chronicles 24:24-25),

Are omitted here, perhaps because the list is imperfect (see, however, the note

on v. 62) - “the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the

family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, the family of the

Korathites.  And Kohath begat Amram.

 

59 “And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of

Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt:” -  Rather, “whom she (Ht;ao)

bare.” The missing subject is usually supplied, as in the A.V., and there certainly

seems no more difficulty in doing so here than in I Kings 1:6. Some critics take

Atha” as a proper name — “whom Atha bare;” others render “who was born;”

this, however, like the Septuagint, h{ e]teke tou>touv tw~| Leui< - hae eteke

toutous to Levi – who was born to Levi - requires a change of reading. Perhaps

the text is imperfect. The statement here made, whatever difficulties it creates,

is in entire agreement with Exodus 6:20; I Chronicles 23:6, 12-13, and other

passages. If two Amrams, the later of whom lived some 200 years after the

earlier, have been confused (as we seem driven to believe), the confusion is

consistently maintained through all the extant records (see the note on ch. 3:28) -

 and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.

60 And unto Aaron was born Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

61  And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before

the LORD.”

 

62 “And those that were numbered of them” -  We have here again a

round number (23,000), showing an increase of 1000 since the former

census. It is evident that the males of Levi were not counted by anything

less than hundreds, and probable that they were counted by thousands (see

note on chapter 3:29). The smallness of the increase in a tribe which was

excepted from the general doom at Kadesh, and which in other ways was

so favorably situated, seems to point to some considerable losses. It is

possible that portions of the tribe suffered severely for their share in the

rebellion of Korah; if so, the families of the Shimites and of the Uzzielites

may have been so much reduced as to be merged in the remaining families -

 were twenty and three thousand, all males from a month old and

upward: for they were not numbered among the children of Israel,

because there was no inheritance given them among the children of

Israel.  63 These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the

priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab

by Jordan near Jericho.  64 But among these there was not a man of

them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they

numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.  65 For the

LORD had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And

there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh,

and Joshua the son of Nun.”  This had been known to be practically the

case before they left the wilderness, properly so called (Deuteronomy 2:14-15),

but it was now ascertained for certain. For the necessary exceptions to the

statement see note on ch. 14:24.

 

 

The Final Numbering of the Elect (vs. 1-65)

 

Both the numberings of the children of Israel are to be spiritually interpreted of that

knowledge which God has of His elect, and of their inscription in the registers

of life.  The people of God are to Him as his flock is to the shepherd; he knows his

sheep, and calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out to the journey, or

leadeth them in to rest (John 10:3-4).  Again, the people of God are to Him as his

army is to the captain; they are drawn up (teta>gmenoi tetagmenoiordained –

Acts 13:48) and set in array unto eternal life, every one in his proper place, so that

each may act most to his own advantage, and to the advantage of all. “The Lord

knoweth them that are His” (II Timothy 2:19), according to the saying, “I know

thee by name” (Exodus 33:17; compare Isaiah 43:1), and, “I will not blot out

his name out of the book of life” (Revelation 3:5; compare Philippians 4:3). But

as the numberings of Israel were two, and a great distinction between them, so God’s

knowledge of His elect has a double character, which is in some important respects

strongly contrasted. The first numbering (see the homiletic notes on ch. 1) was for

that march which was to prove a fiery trial to all, and did in fact involve the

destruction of most, albeit entirely through their own default; the second

numbering was for the actual entry into and possession of their long-promised rest.

In like manner there is a twofold election on the part of God, according to which His

people are counted His indeed, and are personally known to Him. There is the

election unto grace, whereby we have been called out of darkness, and made the

soldiers of the cross, and assigned our place in the “one body” (Colossians 3:15),

to share in its privileges and trials, its strifes and consolations; there is also the

election unto glory, whereby, when the probation is past and the temptation

overcome, we are numbered unto eternal life and inheritance among the

saints. On this distinction hangs all the teaching of this chapter. Consider,

therefore, with respect to this mustering as a whole:

 

  • THAT THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUT ONE CENSUS TAKEN,

SINCE ALL WHO WERE NUMBERED AT SINAI WERE

NUMBERED FOR VICTORY AND FOR SPEEDY INHERITANCE

IN CANAAN. That a second muster was needful at all was entirely due to the

rebellion at Kadesh, and the subsequent rejection of that generation.

Even so there is in the will of God concerning us, as declared at large in the

gospel, but one election and one enrolling in the ranks of salvation. All

who are called to grace are designed for glory; none are enlisted under

the cross but may, and should, attain the crown; the Christian name and calling

is not a mockery in any case. That there is a double election, that names

may be blotted out of the book of life, that it is not possible to maintain a

consistent scheme of salvation on the ground of the Divine predestination

alone, is all due, and only due, to the sin and cowardice of men, which

does not indeed cancel the election or impair the glory of God’s Church, but

does alter the personal composition of that Church.  God is not willing

that any should perish but that all should come to ETERNAL LIFE!

(II Peter 3:9)

 

  • THAT AS A FACT NOT ONE (ORDINARY)NAME REMAINED

IN THE SECOND MUSTER WHICH BELONGED TO THE FIRST.

Even so there is not in any case an assurance that those who are called to

grace will persevere unto glory. Not all indeed will,  but all may be lost

through their own rebellion. The two lists, of the baptized and of the finally

saved, ought (in a true sense) to be coincident; as a fact they will no

doubt be startlingly dissimilar.

 

  • THAT THOSE FORMERLY ENROLLED DISAPPEARED ONE

BY ONE, ACCORDING TO THE DECLARATION OF GOD,

BECAUSE THEY HAD REFUSED AT KADESH TO ENTER INTO

REST. Even so if men fall out of the number of such as are being saved (oiJ

swzo>menoi oi sozomenoiones being saved - Acts 2:47), it is simply

because they have refused to enter upon their lot, and have counted

 themselves unworthy of, or unequal to, the attainment of eternal life.

 

  • THAT, NEVERTHELESS, SOME NAMES WERE FOUND IN

BOTH LISTS; as those of Caleb, Joshua, Eleazar, and presumably many of

the Levites. Even so it is abundantly evident, not only from the testimony

of Scripture, but from the example of our brethren, that nothing in our

probation need be fatal to our hopes, if only we be true to God and to

ourselves. Arid note that here is one of the great contrasts between that

dispensation and ours, that whereas only two individuals out of the twelve

tribes obtained inheritance at the last, there will be of us “a great multitude

whom no man can number” (Revelation 7:9).  Nevertheless, we have the

same warning (compare Luke 13:23-25).

 

  • THAT IN EACH CASE THE MUSTERING WAS LIMITED TO

THE SAME CLASS OF MEN VIZ., SUCH AS WERE FIT TO BEAR

ARMS. Even so there is no difference between election to grace and to

glory as far as the position and character of the individual is concerned.

The two states are so far one, even when looked at from the side of man,

that whoso is called to the one needs nothing more to be ready for the

other; he only needs to remain what he is, A SOLDIER OF CHRIST  in

order to be crowned (Revelation 2:10).

 

  • THAT THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ALL ISRAEL REMAINED

PRACTICALLY STATIONARY; so that as many entered after all as

Had refused at Kadesh. Even so God will have His kingdom filled (Luke

14:21-24), and His calling is without repentance (Romans 11:29); so

that if some fall short of salvation, others will be found to take

their place. And note that the long waiting of Israel in the wilderness

was due to the necessity of an evil generation dying out, and another

growing up to equal it in numbers. It may be that the long and

unexpected tarrying of Christ is due to a like necessity; that the number of

the elect is slowly filled up amidst the defection and unworthiness of so

 many.

 

  • THAT THE VARIOUS TRIBES OF ISRAEL SHOWED A

REMARKABLE VARIATION; some showing a great increase,

others a decrease quite as great. Even so while the Church of Christ as

a whole maintains, it may be, its position relative to the rest of the world,

how great has been the variation in size and importance of various branches

of the Church! Think, e.g., what the Greek-speaking Churches were at

one time: and how they are now reduced; and, on the other hand, to what

relative importance have the English-speaking Churches grown from small

beginnings.  (And if America becomes a part of the Great Apostasy from

God, we will become more and more insignificant in the world

CY – 2011)

 

  • THAT IN ONE CASE WE CAN TRACE THE CAUSE OF

DECLINE WITH SOME ASSURANCE. Simeon, the tribe of Zimri,

omitted in the blessing of Moses, must have joined himself more especially

to Baal-Peor. Even so the one thing which we can unhesitatingly assign as

the fruitful cause of loss of spiritual life and decay of Churches is

immorality. Doubtless purity of doctrine is most potent for good, but

impurity of life is still more potent for evil. That Church will train fewest

souls for heaven which gives most place to those fleshly lusts which war

against the soul (I Peter 2:11).  And note that this census was taken

after the plague” which followed on the harlotry of Baal-Peor; for the

thousands who perished then were not of them that were doomed at

Kadesh (see Deuteronomy 2:14), but of those who would have inherited

Canaan in a few months. So it is “after the plague” of fleshly sin and

of its ruinous effects that the servants of God are numbered for eternal life.

“The pure in heart shall see God” (compare Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians

5:5; Revelation 22:15).

 

  • THAT IN ANOTHER CASE WE CAN DISCERN A POSSIBLE

REASON FOR DECAY, IN THAT ALL THE TRIBES UNDER THE

LEADERSHIP OF REUBEN FELL OFF IN NUMBERS (Reuben,

Simeon, Gad). This may point to the unhappy effects of bad example,

And the contagious nature of a turbulent and self-willed spirit in

Religious matters.

 

  • THAT, ON THE CONTRARY, ALL THE CAMPS WHICH WERE

UNDER THE STANDARD OF JUDAH INCREASED (Judah,

Issachar, Zebulun). For to Judah, as having the birthright, appertained

now the promise, “In thee and in thy seed shall all nations be blessed”

(Genesis 12:3).  Thus for the sake of Jesus, who sprang from the tribe of

Judah, the companions of Judah were blessed long ago: and this no doubt

because his character and example were more or less in accordance with

the dignity of his position.

 

  • THAT AFTER ALL THE CAUSES OF INCREASE OR DECLINE

ARE FOR THE MOST PART UNKNOWN, AND LIE BENEATH THE

SURFACE OF THE SACRED RECORD. How little do we know of the

inner history of Ephraim and Manasseh, which has left no trace in the

narrative, and yet had such important effects in their comparative

prosperity! Even so how little do we know of the real life of Churches;

how little can we estimate those forces which determine their spiritual

growth or decadence!

 

  • THAT NOTHING BROUGHT TO LIGHT THE GREAT

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TRIBES EXCEPT THE

MUSTERING ON THE VERGE OF JORDAN. Even so nothing can

really test the comparative excellence, the success or failure, of a Church,

except the verdict of  “THAT DAY” and the numbers then found worthy to

stand before the Son of man.

 

Consider also, with respect to the Levites:

 

  • THAT THEY HAD INCREASED, BUT NOT NEARLY SO MUCH

AS THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE, CONSIDERING THEIR

IMMUNITIES AND PRIVILEGES. Four tribes, although under the

condemnation of Kadesh, had prospered more than they. Even so it is

certain that no situation of vantage, ecclesiastical or religious, delivers us

from spiritual loss, or really makes religious progress easier. Many who

have fewer advantages and greater difficulties, many even who have at

some time fallen under greater condemnation, will nevertheless outstrip

 us in the heavenly race.

 

Consider again, with respect to the inheritance of each tribe in Canaan:

 

  • THAT ITS SITUATION WAS TO BE DECIDED BY LOT, i.e., BY

DIVINE DISPOSITION, APART FROM HUMAN CHOICE OR

FAVOR. Even so our “place in heaven” will be allotted to us by God

Himself, being predestinated for us according to His infinite wisdom,

without any respect of persons.

 

  • THAT ITS BOUNDARIES WERE TO BE DETERMINED BY

ESTIMATION OF THE SIZE AND NEEDS OF EACH. Even so our

place in heaven” will be our own, not only as given to us of God’s free

grace, but as being exactly suited for us, and precisely adapted to our

measure of spiritual growth.

 

Consider again, with respect to the sins of Korah:

 

  • THAT THEY DID NOT PERISH WITH THEIR FATHER (NOT

BEING OF HIS “COMPANY”), BUT LIVED TO FOUND AN

HONOURABLE AND USEFUL FAMILY IN ISRAEL. Even so

God does not visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unless the

children also hate Him.” It is a thing pleasing to God when the children

retrieve the forfeited honor of their father’s name by their good works.

How often does the Church of God find its ornaments and supports amongst

 the children of its greatest enemies!

 

 

 

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