1:1 1 Now the Lord 2 spoke 3 to Moses in the tent of meeting 4 in the wilderness 5 of Sinai 6 on the first day of the second month of the second year after 7 the Israelites 8 departed from the land of Egypt. 9 He said: 10 1:2 “Take a census 11 of the entire 12 Israelite community 13 by their clans and families, 14 counting the name of every individual male. 15 1:3 You and Aaron are to number 16 all in Israel who can serve in the army, 17 those who are 18 twenty years old or older, 19 by their divisions. 20 1:4 And to help you 21 there is to be a man from each 22 tribe, each man 23 the head 24 of his family. 25 1:5 Now these are the names of the men who are to help 26 you:
from 27 Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur;
1:8 from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar;
1:9 from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;
1:10 from the sons of Joseph:
from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud;
from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur;
1:11 from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni;
1:12 from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai;
1:13 from Asher, Pagiel son of Ocran;
1:15 from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan.”
1:17 So Moses and Aaron took these men who had been mentioned specifically by name, 1:18 and they assembled 35 the entire community together on the first day of the second month. 36 Then the people recorded their ancestry 37 by their clans and families, and the men who were twenty years old or older were listed 38 by name individually, 1:19 just as the Lord had commanded Moses. And so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.
1:20 And they were as follows:
The descendants of Reuben, the firstborn son of Israel: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name individually. 1:21 Those of them who were numbered 39 from the tribe of Reuben were 46,500. 40
1:22 From the descendants of Simeon: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males numbered of them 41 twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name individually. 1:23 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Simeon were 59,300.
1:24 42 From the descendants of Gad: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:25 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Gad were 45,650.
1:26 From the descendants of Judah: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:27 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Judah were 74,600.
1:28 From the descendants of Issachar: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:29 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Issachar were 54,400.
1:30 From the descendants of Zebulun: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:31 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Zebulun were 57,400.
1:32 From the sons of Joseph:
From the descendants of Ephraim: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:33 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Ephraim were 40,500. 1:34 From the descendants of Manasseh: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:35 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Manasseh were 32,200.
1:36 From the descendants of Benjamin: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:37 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Benjamin were 35,400.
1:38 From the descendants of Dan: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:39 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Dan were 62,700.
1:40 From the descendants of Asher: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:41 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Asher were 41,500.
1:42 From 43 the descendants of Naphtali: According to the records of their clans and families, all the males twenty years old or older who could serve in the army were listed by name. 1:43 Those of them who were numbered from the tribe of Naphtali were 53,400.
1:44 These were the men whom Moses and Aaron numbered 44 along with the twelve leaders of Israel, each of whom 45 was from his own family. 1:45 All the Israelites who were twenty years old or older, who could serve in Israel’s army, were numbered 46 according to their families. 1:46 And all those numbered totaled 603,550.
1:47 But 47 the Levites, according to the tribe of their fathers, 48 were not numbered 49 among them. 1:48 The Lord had said to Moses, 50 1:49 “Only the tribe of Levi 51 you must not number 52 or count 53 with 54 the other Israelites. 1:50 But appoint 55 the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, 56 over all its furnishings and over everything in it. They must carry 57 the tabernacle and all its furnishings; and they 58 must attend to it and camp around it. 59 1:51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, 60 the Levites must take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be reassembled, 61 the Levites must set it up. 62 Any unauthorized person 63 who approaches it must be killed.
1:52 “The Israelites will camp according to their divisions, each man in his camp, and each man by his standard. 1:53 But the Levites must camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that the Lord’s anger 64 will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are responsible for the care 65 of the tabernacle of the testimony.”
2:1 67 The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron: 2:2 “Every one 68 of the Israelites must camp 69 under his standard with the emblems of his family; 70 they must camp at some distance 71 around the tent of meeting. 72
2:3 “Now those who will be camping 73 on the east, toward the sunrise, 74 are the divisions 75 of the camp of Judah under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is 76 Nahshon son of Amminadab. 2:4 Those numbered in his division 77 are 74,600. 2:5 Those who will be camping next to them 78 are the tribe of Issachar. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 2:6 Those numbered in his division are 54,400. 2:7 Next will be 79 the tribe of Zebulun. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 2:8 Those numbered in his division are 57,400. 2:9 All those numbered of the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, are 186,400. They will travel 80 at the front.
2:10 “On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. 81 The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. 2:11 Those numbered in his division are 46,500. 2:12 Those who will be camping next to them are the tribe of Simeon. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 2:13 Those numbered in his division are 59,300. 2:14 Next will be 82 the tribe of Gad. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel. 83 2:15 Those numbered in his division are 45,650. 2:16 All those numbered of the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, are 151,450. They will travel second.
2:18 “On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Amihud. 2:19 Those numbered in his division are 40,500. 2:20 Next to them will be the tribe of Manasseh. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 2:21 Those numbered in his division are 32,200. 2:22 Next will be 85 the tribe of Benjamin. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 2:23 Those numbered in his division are 35,400. 2:24 All those numbered of the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, are 108,100. They will travel third.
2:25 “On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan, under their standards. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 2:26 Those numbered in his division are 62,700. 2:27 Those who will be camping next to them are the tribe of Asher. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Ocran. 2:28 Those numbered in his division are 41,500. 2:29 Next will be 86 the tribe of Naphtali. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 2:30 Those numbered in his division are 53,400. 2:31 All those numbered of the camp of Dan are 157,600. They will travel last, under their standards.”
2:32 These are the Israelites, numbered according to their families. 87 All those numbered in the camps, by their divisions, are 603,550. 2:33 But the Levites were not numbered among the other Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.
3:1 89 Now these are the records 90 of Aaron and Moses when 91 the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 3:2 These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab, the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3:3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed 92 priests, whom he consecrated 93 to minister as priests. 94
3:4 Nadab and Abihu died 95 before the Lord 96 when they offered 97 strange 98 fire 99 before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. 100 So Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests 101 in the presence of 102 Aaron their father.
3:5 The Lord spoke to Moses: 3:6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, 103 and present 104 them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 105 3:7 They are responsible for his needs 106 and the needs of the whole community before the tent of meeting, by attending 107 to the service of the tabernacle. 3:8 And they are responsible for all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and for the needs of the Israelites, as they serve 108 in the tabernacle. 3:9 You are to assign 109 the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they will be assigned exclusively 110 to him out of all 111 the Israelites. 3:10 So you are to appoint Aaron and his sons, and they will be responsible for their priesthood; 112 but the unauthorized person 113 who comes near must be put to death.”
3:11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 3:12 “Look, 114 I myself have taken the Levites from among the Israelites instead of 115 every firstborn who opens the womb among the Israelites. So the Levites belong to me, 3:13 because all the firstborn are mine. When I destroyed 116 all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They belong to me. I am the Lord.” 117
3:14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai: 3:15 “Number the Levites by their clans 118 and their families; every male from a month old and upward you are to number.” 119 3:16 So Moses numbered them according to the word 120 of the Lord, just as he had been commanded. 121
3:18 These are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families: Libni and Shimei. 3:19 The sons of Kohath by their families were: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 3:20 The sons of Merari by their families were Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites by their clans.
3:21 From Gershon came the family of the Libnites and the family of the Shimeites; these were the families of the Gershonites. 3:22 Those of them who were numbered, counting every male from a month old and upward, were 7,500. 3:23 The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle toward the west. 3:24 Now the leader 123 of the clan 124 of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael.
3:25 And 125 the responsibilities of the Gershonites in the tent of meeting included the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the curtain at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 3:26 the hangings of the courtyard, 126 the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard that surrounded the tabernacle and the altar, and their ropes, plus all the service connected with these things. 127
3:27 From Kohath came the family of the Amramites, the family of the Izharites, the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites; these were the families of the Kohathites. 128 3:28 Counting every male from a month old and upward, there were 8,600. They were responsible for the care 129 of the sanctuary. 3:29 The families of the Kohathites were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. 3:30 Now the leader of the clan of the families of the Kohathites was Elizaphan son of Uzziel.
3:31 Their responsibilities included the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they ministered, 130 the curtain, and all their service. 131 3:32 Now the head of all the Levitical leaders 132 was Eleazar son of Aaron the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible 133 for the sanctuary.
3:33 From Merari came the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these were 134 the families of Merari. 3:34 Those of them who were numbered, counting every male from a month old and upward, were 6,200. 3:35 Now the leader of the clan of the families of Merari was Zuriel son of Abihail. These were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.
3:36 The appointed responsibilities of the Merarites included the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, its posts, its sockets, its utensils, plus all the service connected with these things, 135 3:37 and the pillars of the courtyard all around, with their sockets, their pegs, and their ropes.
3:38 But those who were to camp in front of the tabernacle on the east, in front of the tent of meeting, were Moses, Aaron, 136 and his sons. They were responsible for the needs 137 of the sanctuary and for the needs of the Israelites, but the unauthorized person who approached was to be put to death. 3:39 All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered by the word 138 of the Lord, according to their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000. 139
3:40 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Number all the firstborn males of the Israelites from a month old and upward, and take 140 the number of their names. 3:41 And take 141 the Levites for me – I am the Lord – instead of all the firstborn males among the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites.” 3:42 So Moses numbered all the firstborn males among the Israelites, as the Lord had commanded him. 3:43 And all the firstborn males, by the number of the names from a month old and upward, totaled 22,273.
3:44 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 3:45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn males among the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. And the Levites will be mine. I am the Lord. 3:46 And for the redemption of the 273 firstborn males of the Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 3:47 collect 142 five shekels for each 143 one individually; you are to collect 144 this amount 145 in the currency of the sanctuary shekel (this shekel is twenty gerahs). 146 3:48 And give the money for the redemption of the excess number of them to Aaron and his sons.”
3:49 So Moses took the redemption money 147 from those who were in excess of those redeemed by the Levites. 3:50 From the firstborn males of the Israelites he collected the money, 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 3:51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
1 sn The book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Pentateuch, traditionally called the Law of Moses. It provides a record of the experience of the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings, and records the laws for the camp as they traveled from place to place. The book focuses on the difficulties of the Israelites due to their lack of faith, rebellion, and apostasy. It also records God’s protection of his people from opposition from without. The book makes a fitting contribution to the collection of holy writings as it shows the spiritual and physical progression of the company of the redeemed toward the promised land. The book has to be studied in conjunction with the other books of the Pentateuch. It builds on the promises made to Abraham in Genesis and the redemption from bondage in Exodus; it completes the cultic instructions for Israel that were laid down in Leviticus, and it concerns the worship in and the movement of the tabernacle that was built in Exodus. But the information here, both legal and historical, was not the major concern in those books. The book gets its title in English (following the Greek tradition) from the two censuses taken of the people, one at the beginning of the wanderings and the other at the end (although the Hebrew title is taken from the beginning of the book, בַּמִּדְבַּר [bammidbar], “in the wilderness”). In these lists particular emphasis is given to the leaders of the clans, a theme that will continue in the book as the focus is on how the leaders function in all the trials and temptations of the journey. The material in this book is essentially a theological interpretation of historical events, and as such it stands as an integral part of the revelation of God. In the study of the book of Numbers, when these issues of the nature of the text are significant to the interpretation and acceptance of the text, the notes will comment on them briefly. The indication at the outset of the book is that Moses had a good number of people who were able to help him compile the statistics and the facts of the wandering community. In Num 11:16-18 there is a group of leaders known as שֹׁטְּרִים(shottÿrim). This term was used in Exod 5:16-19 to describe the officers or foremen of the Israelites. They were appointed supervisors of the clans by Moses, and by the time of Joshua (Josh 1:10) they were a literary guild. The Hebrew word, cognate with Akkadian sataru, means “to write.” These people were to Israel what the scribes and chroniclers were to the pagan nations. They assisted Moses and the priests in their keeping of records. So no matter what they were called from time to time, there was a group of literate people who could keep the records and preserve the information from the very beginning. Their work matches the activities of scribes in the ancient world who used all the literary devices to preserve the material. There is no reason to doubt that the events recorded were attested to and preserved by such eyewitnesses. But their work would have been essentially to serve the leader, Moses. The book essentially follows the order of the events chronologically, more or less. Where it departs from that order it does so for literary or theological reasons. At the center of the theological concern is the tabernacle, its significance to the faith, and therefore the care in using it and in moving it. Its importance explains the presence and the arrangement of the ritual laws. With the records and statistics provided for him, Moses could then introduce into the record the great events in the wilderness experience of Israel, which were to become warnings and encouragements for all time. Most of this material comes from the two years at the beginning of the experience and the two years at the end. But this itself may be a literary device (merism) to show the nature of the wanderings throughout. The Hebrew text of the book of Numbers has been preserved fairly well. It has not been preserved as well as Leviticus, which was most important to the ministry of the priests and Levites. But in comparison with some of the prophetic writings, Numbers represents a well-preserved text. The problems will be discussed in the relevant passages. So Numbers is essentially a part of the unfolding revelation of the Torah, the Law. It shows God’s faithfulness to his covenant plan and to his covenant people, but it also shows the problems incurred by the people’s lack of faith and obedience. The book focuses frequently on the nature of the holy
2 sn The holy name is “Yahweh.” This is the ancient name for the God of the covenant community. The name was explained or interpreted by Moses for the Israelites by the etymological connection to the verb “to be.” God said that its significance was “
3 tn The book begins with the vav (ו) consecutive and the preterite, “and he spoke.” This does not indicate that the book is a continuation of the previous material, for in that case certain other books in the canon would have to be linked with the writings of other people just because they followed them. This form is simply the narrative verb; the conjunction need not be translated. The verb should not be limited to a literary formula, but does indicate the divine source of the command for Moses. God was speaking to Moses throughout the wilderness wanderings from the tent, and so the ideas are from him, and not from the “will of man.”
4 sn This was one of several names by which the tabernacle was known. This was the tent with its furnishings that the Israelites built according to the book of Exodus. While that tabernacle was being built, the
5 sn The English word “wilderness” is workable for the Hebrew term, because it describes land that is wild. The term “desert” works if one thinks of land deserted by people. But to many modern readers “desert” suggests the idea of an arid land without growth. The word must not be pressed to mean only sand dunes; it describes land that has rocks, canyons, oases, shrubs and trees occasionally, some animal life, and of course sand.
6 sn The exact location of Mount Sinai has been debated for some time. The traditional view from very early times is that it is located in the south, Jebel Musa, south of the monastery of St. Catherine. The other plausible suggestion is Ras es-Safsafeh, which is on the other end of the valley near the monastery. The mountain is also called Horeb in the Bible. The wilderness of Sinai would refer to the large plain that is at the base of the mountain. See further G. E. Wright, IDB 4:376-78; and G. I. Davies, The Way of the Wilderness.
7 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct of יָצַא (yatsa’, “to go out”), with a suffix serving as the subjective genitive, and the lamed preposition providing the temporal indication: “according to the going out of them.” The Israelites are clearly intended as the subject.
8 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
9 sn This means that the Israelites had spent nine months at Sinai, because they had arrived there in the third month following the exodus. This account does not follow a strict chronology (see Num 9:1). The difference of one month in the narrative is not a critical difference, but a literary general reference. Here begins a new section of major importance to the future of the nation – the numbering for war and for settlement.
10 tn Heb “saying.” A new sentence was started here in the English translation for stylistic reasons.
11 tn The construction is literally “lift up the head[s],” (שְׂאוּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ, sÿ’u ’et-ro’sh). This idiom for taking a census occurs elsewhere (Exod 30:12; Lev 5:24; Num 1:24; etc.). The idea is simply that of counting heads to arrive at the base for the standing army. This is a different event than the one recorded in Exod 30:11-16, which was taken for a different purpose altogether. The verb is plural, indicating that Moses had help in taking the census.
12 tc Smr lacks the Hebrew word “all” here.
13 tn Heb “the congregation of Israel.”
14 tn The tribe (מַטֶּה, matteh or שֵׁבֶט, shevet) is the main category. The family groups or clans (מִשְׁפְּחֹת, mishpÿkhot) and the households or families (בֵּית אֲבֹת, bet ’avot) were sub-divisions of the tribe.
15 tn This clause simply has “in/with the number of the names of every male with respect to their skulls [individually].” Counting heads, or every skull, simply meant that each person was to be numbered in the census. Except for the Levites, no male was exempt from the count.
16 tn The verb (פָּקַד, paqad) means “to visit, appoint, muster, number.” The word is a common one in scripture. It has as its basic meaning the idea of “determining the destiny” of someone, by appointing, mustering, or visiting. When God “visits,” it is a divine intervention for either blessing or cursing. Here it is the taking of a census for war (see G. André, Determining the Destiny [ConBOT], 16).
17 tn The construction uses the participle “going out” followed by the noun “army.” It describes everyone “going out in a military group,” meaning serving in the army. It was the duty of every able-bodied Israelite to serve in this “peoples” army. There were probably exemptions for the infirm or the crippled, but every male over twenty was chosen. For a discussion of warfare, see P. C. Craigie, The Problem of War in the Old Testament, and P. D. Miller, “The Divine Council and the Prophetic Call to War,” VT 18 (1968): 100-107.
18 tn The text simply has “from twenty years old and higher.”
19 tn Heb “and up.”
21 tn Heb “and with you.”
22 tn The construction uses the noun in a distributive sense: “a man, a man for a tribe,” meaning a man for each tribe.
23 tn The clause expresses a distributive function, “a man” means “each man.”
24 sn See J. R. Bartlett, “The Use of the Word ראשׁ as a Title in the Old Testament,” VT 19 (1969): 1-10.
25 tn Heb “the house of his fathers.”
26 tn The verb is עָמַד (’amad, “to stand”). It literally then is, “who will stand with you.” They will help in the count, but they will also serve as leaders as the camp moves from place to place.
27 tn The preposition lamed (ל) prefixed to the name could be taken in the sense of “from,” but could also be “with regard to” (specification).
28 sn This name and the name Ammishaddai below have the theophoric element (שַׁדַּי, shadday, “the Almighty”). It would mean “the Almighty is my rock”; the later name means “the Almighty is my kinsman.” Other theophoric elements in the passage are “father,” “brother,” and “God.”
30 tc There is a textual difficulty with this verb. The Greek form uses r and not d, giving the name Ra‘oul. There is even some variation in the Hebrew traditions, but BHS (following the Leningrad codex of
31 tc The form has a Kethib-Qere problem, but the sentence calls for the Qere, the passive participle in the construct – “the called of….” These men were God’s choice, and not Moses’, or their own choice. He announced who they would be, and then named them. So they were truly “called” (קָרָא, qara’). The other reading is probably due to a copyist’s error.
32 tn The word is נָשִׂיא (nasi’, “exalted one, prince, leader”). Cf. KJV, ASV, NAB “princes.” These were men apparently revered or respected in their tribes, and so the clear choice to assist Moses with the leadership. See further, E. A. Speiser, “Background and Function of the Biblical na„sÃþá,” CBQ 25 (1963): 111-17.
33 tn Heb “exalted ones of the tribes of their fathers.” The earlier group of elders was chosen by Moses at the advice of his father-in-law. This group represents the few leaders of the tribes that were chosen by God, a more literate group apparently, who were the forerunners of the שֹׁטְּרִים (shottÿrim).
34 tc The Hebrew text has אַלְפֵי (’alfey, “thousands of”). There is some question over this reading in the MT, however. The community groups that have these leaders were larger tribes, but there is little certainty about the size of the divisions.
35 tn The verb is the Hiphil of the root קָהַל (qahal), meaning “to call, assemble”; the related noun is an “assembly.”
36 tc The LXX adds “of the second year.”
37 tn The verb is the Hitpael preterite form וַיִּתְיַלְדוּ (vayyityaldu). The cognate noun תּוֹלְדוֹת (tolÿdot) is the word that means “genealogies, family records, records of ancestry.” The root is יָלַד (yalad, “to bear, give birth to”). Here they were recording their family connections, and not, of course, producing children. The verbal stem seems to be both declarative and reflexive.
38 tn The verb is supplied. The Hebrew text simply has “in/with the number of names of those who are twenty years old and higher according to their skulls.”
39 tn Heb “those numbered of them.” The form is פְּקֻדֵיהֶם (pÿqudehem), the passive participle with the pronominal suffix. This indicates that the number came to 46,500, but it specifically refers to “those numbered.” This expression occurs frequently throughout the book of Numbers.
40 sn There has been much discussion about the numbers in the Israelite wilderness experience. The immediate difficulty for even the casual reader is the enormous number of the population. If indeed there were 603,550 men twenty years of age and older who could fight, the total population of the exodus community counting women and children would have been well over a million, or even two million as calculated by some. This is not a figure that the Bible ever gives, but given the sizes of families the estimate would not be far off. This is a staggering number to have cross the Sea, drink from the oases, or assemble in the plain by Sinai. It is not a question of whether or not God could provide for such a number; it is rather a problem of logistics for a population of that size in that period of time. The problem is not with the text itself, but with the interpretation of the word אֶלֶף (’elef), traditionally translated “thousand.” The word certainly can be taken as “thousand,” and most often is. But in view of the problem of the large number here, some scholars have chosen one of the other meanings attested in literature for this word, perhaps “troop,” or “family,” or “tent group,” even though a word for “family” has already been used (see A. H. McNeile, Numbers, 7; J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges, 120; J. Bright, History of Israel, 144). Another suggestion is to take the word as a “chief” or “captain” based on Ugaritic usage (see R. E. D. Clarke, “The Large Numbers of the Old Testament,” JTVI 87 : 82-92; and J. W. Wenham, “Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” TynBul 18 : 19-53). This interpretation would reduce the size of the Israelite army to about 18,000 men from a population of about 72,000 people. That is a radical change from the traditional reading and may be too arbitrary an estimate. A more unlikely calculation following the idea of a new meaning would attempt to divide the numbers and use the first part to refer to the units and the second the measurement (e.g., 65 thousand and four hundred would become 65 units of four hundred). Another approach has been to study the numbers rhetorically, analyzing the numerical values of letters and words. But this method, known as gematria, came in much later than the biblical period (see for it G. Fohrer, Introduction to the Old Testament, 184; and A. Noordtzij, Numbers [BSC], 24). On this system the numbers for “the sons of Israel” would be 603. But the number of the people in the MT is 603,550. Another rhetorical approach is that which says the text used exaggerations in the numbers on an epic scale to make the point of God’s blessing. R. B. Allen’s view that the numbers have been magnified by a factor of ten (“Numbers,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 2:688-91), which would mean the army was only 60,000 men, seems every bit as arbitrary as Wenham’s view to get down to 18,000. Moreover, such views cannot be harmonized with the instructions in the chapter for them to count every individual skull – that seems very clear. This is not the same kind of general expression one finds in “Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands” (1 Sam 18:7). There one expects the bragging and the exaggerations. But in a text of numbering each male, to argue that the numbers have been inflated ten-fold to form the rhetoric of praise for the way God has blessed the nation demands a much more convincing argument than has typically been given. On the surface it seems satisfactory, but it raises a lot of questions. Everything in Exodus and Numbers attests to the fact that the Israelites were in a population explosion, that their numbers were greater than their Egyptian overlords. Pharaoh had attempted to counter their growth by killing males from the ranks. That only two midwives are named must be taken to mean that they were heads of the guilds, for two could not service a population – even of the smaller estimate given above. But even though the size had to have been great and seen as a threat, we are at a loss to know exactly how to determine it. There is clearly a problem with the word “thousand” here and in many places in the OT, as the literature will show, but the problem cannot really be solved without additional information. The suggestions proposed so far seem to be rather arbitrary attempts to reduce the number to a less-embarrassing total, one that would seem more workable in the light of contemporary populations and armies, as well as space and time for the people’s movement in the wilderness. An army of 10,000 or 20,000 men in those days would have been a large army; an army of 600,000 (albeit a people’s army, which may mean that only a portion of the males would actually fight at any time – as was true at Ai) is large even by today’s standards. But the count appears to have been literal, and the totals calculated accordingly, totals which match other passages in the text. If some formula is used to reduce the thousands in this army, then there is the problem of knowing what to do when a battle has only five thousand, or three thousand men. One can only conclude that on the basis of what we know the word should be left with the translation “thousand,” no matter what difficulties this might suggest to the reader. One should be cautious, though, in speaking of a population of two million, knowing that there are serious problems with the calculation of that number, if not with the word “thousand” itself. It is very doubtful that the population of the wilderness community was in the neighborhood of two million. Nevertheless, until a more convincing explanation of the word “thousand” or the calculation of the numbers is provided, one should retain the reading of the MT but note the difficulty with the large numbers.
41 tc Some witnesses have omitted “those that were numbered of them,” to preserve the literary pattern of the text. The omission is supported by the absence of the expression in the Greek as well as in some MT
43 tc The verse does not have the preposition, only “the descendants of Naphtali.”
44 tn The construction uses both the passive participle הַפְּקֻדִים (happÿqudim) and the verb פָּקַד (paqad), giving a literal translation of “these were the numbered ones, whom Moses and Aaron numbered.”
45 tn Heb “they were one man for the house of his fathers.”
47 tn The vav (ו) on this word indicates a disjunction with the previous sequence of reports. It may be taken as a contrastive clause, translated “but” or “however.”
48 tn The construction is unexpected, for Levites would be from the tribe of Levi. The note seems more likely to express that all these people were organized by tribal lineage, and so too the Levites, according to the tribe of their fathers – individual families of Levites.
49 tc The form in the text is הָתְפָּקְדוּ (hotpaqÿdu); if this is correct, then it is an isolated instance of the reflexive of the Qal of פָּקַד (paqad). Some, however, explain the form as the Hitpael without the doubling of the middle letter and with a compensatory lengthening of the vowel before it (G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 10).
50 tn Heb “had spoken to Moses, saying.” The infinitive construct of אָמַר (’amar), sometimes rendered “saying” in older English translations, does not need to be translated, but can be taken simply as the indicator of direct discourse. Most recent English translations, including the present one, leave the form untranslated for stylistic reasons to avoid redundancy.
52 tn The construction has literally, “only the tribe of Levi you shall not number.” The Greek text rendered the particle אַךְ (’akh) forcefully with “see to it that” or “take care that.” For the uses of this form, see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 65, §388-89.
53 tn Heb “lift up their head.”
54 tn Heb “in the midst of the sons of Israel.”
55 tn The same verb translated “number” (פָּקַד, paqad) is now used to mean “appoint” (הַפְקֵד, hafqed), which focuses more on the purpose of the verbal action of numbering people. Here the idea is that the Levites were appointed to take care of the tabernacle. On the use of this verb with the Levites’ appointment, see M. Gertner, “The Masorah and the Levites,” VT 10 (1960): 252.
56 tn The Hebrew name used here is מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת (mishkan ha’edut). The tabernacle or dwelling place of the
57 tn The imperfect tense here is an obligatory imperfect telling that they are bound to do this since they are appointed for this specific task.
58 tn The addition of the pronoun before the verb is emphatic – they are the ones who are to attend to the tabernacle. The verb used is שָׁרַת (sharat) in the Piel, indicating that they are to serve, minister to, attend to all the details about this shrine.
59 tn Heb “the tabernacle.” The pronoun (“it”) was used in the translation here for stylistic reasons.
60 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with the temporal preposition; the “tabernacle” is then the following genitive. Literally it is “and in the moving of the tabernacle,” meaning, “when the tabernacle is supposed to be moved,” i.e., when people are supposed to move it. The verb נָסָע (nasa’) means “pull up the tent pegs and move,” or more simply, “journey.”
61 tn Here we have the parallel construction using the infinitive construct in a temporal adverbial clause.
62 tn Heb “raise it up.”
63 tn The word used here is זָר (zar), normally translated “stranger” or “outsider.” It is most often used for a foreigner, an outsider, who does not belong in Israel, or who, although allowed in the land, may be viewed with suspicion. But here it seems to include even Israelites other than the tribe of Levi.
64 tc Instead of “wrath” the Greek text has “sin,” focusing the emphasis on the human error and not on the wrath of God. This may have been a conscious change to explain the divine wrath.
tn Heb “so that there be no wrath on.” In context this is clearly the divine anger, so “the
65 tn The main verb of the clause is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive, וְשָׁמְרוּ (vÿshamÿru) meaning they “shall guard, protect, watch over, care for.” It may carry the same obligatory nuance as the preceding verbs because of the sequence. The object used with this is the cognate noun מִשְׁמֶרֶת (mishmeret): “The Levites must care for the care of the tabernacle.” The cognate intensifies the construction to stress that they are responsible for this care.
66 tc The LXX adds “and Aaron.”
67 sn For this chapter, see C. E. Douglas, “The Twelve Houses of Israel,” JTS 37 (1936): 49-56; C. C. Roach, “The Camp in the Wilderness: A Sermon on Numbers 2:2,” Int 13 (1959): 49-54; and G. St. Clair, “Israel in Camp: A Study,” JTS 8 (1907): 185-217.
68 tn Heb “a man by his own standard.”
69 tn The imperfect tense is to be taken in the nuance of instruction.
70 tn Heb “of/for the house of their fathers.”
72 sn The Israelites were camping as a military camp, each tribe with the standards and emblems of the family. The standard was the symbol fastened to the end of a pole and carried to battle. It served to rally the tribe to the battle. The Bible nowhere describes these, although the serpent emblem of Numbers 21:8-9 may give a clue. But they probably did not have shapes of animals in view of the prohibition in the Decalogue. The standards may have been smaller for the families than the ones for the tribes. See further K. A. Kitchen, “Some Egyptian Background to the Old Testament,” TynBul 5 (1960): 11; and T. W. Mann, Divine Presence and Guidance in Israelite Tradition, 169-73.
73 tn The sentence begins with a vav (ו) on a word that is not a finite verb, indicating a new section begins here. The verbal form is a participle with the article used substantivally, with the meaning “and/now those camping.” Many English versions employ a finite verb; cf. KJV “on the east side…shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch.”
75 tn The sentence actually has “[those camping…are] the standard of the camp of Judah according to their divisions.”
76 tn Or “will be.”
77 tc The expression “and his divisions and those numbered of them” is somewhat tautological. The words are synonyms used for statistical purposes, and so neither should be simply deleted.
78 tn Heb “by him” [i.e., Judah].
79 tn This part has been supplied; the text simply has “the tribe of Zebulun.”
80 tn The verb is נָסָע (nasa’): “to journey, travel, set out,” and here, “to move camp.” Judah will go first, or, literally, at the head of the nation, when they begin to travel.
81 tn Here and throughout the line is literally “[under] the standard of the camp of Reuben…according to their divisions.”
82 tn The Hebrew text simply has “and the tribe of Gad.”
83 tc The Leningrad codex, upon which BHS is based, has “Reuel” here. In reading “Deuel” the translation presented above follows many medieval Hebrew manuscripts, Smr, and the Latin Vulgate. Cf. Num 1:14.
84 tn The Hebrew expression is עַל־יָדוֹ (’al-yado, “upon his hand”). This clearly refers to a specifically designated place for each man.
85 tn Here too the Hebrew text simply has “and the tribe of Benjamin.”
86 tn The Hebrew text has “and the tribe of Naphtali.”
88 tn The Hebrew word is כֵּן (ken, “thus, so”).
89 sn For significant literature for this chapter, see M. Aberbach and L. Smolar, “Aaron, Jeroboam, and their Golden Calves,” JBL 86 (1967): 129-40; G. Brin, “The First-born in Israel in the Biblical Period” (Ph.D. diss., University of Tel Aviv, 1971); S. H. Hooke, “Theory and Practice of Substitution,” VT 2 (1952): 2-17; and J. Morgenstern, “A Chapter in the History of the High Priesthood,” AJSL 55 (1938): 1-24.
90 tn The construction is וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת (vÿ’elleh tolÿdot), which was traditionally translated “now these are the generations,” much as it was translated throughout the book of Genesis. The noun can refer to records, stories, genealogies, names, and accounts of people. Here it is the recorded genealogical list with assigned posts included. Like Genesis, it is a heading of a section, and not a colophon as some have suggested. It is here similar to Exodus: “these are the names of.” R. K. Harrison, Numbers (WEC), 62, insists that it is a colophon and should end chapter 2, but if that is followed in the Pentateuch, it creates difficulty throughout the narratives. See the discussion by A. P. Ross, Creation and Blessing, 69-74.
91 tn The expression in the Hebrew text (“in the day of”) is idiomatic for “when.”
92 tn The verb מָשַׁח (mashakh) means “to anoint”; here the form modifies the “priests.” The service of consecration was carried out with anointing oil (Exod 30:30). The verb is used for the anointing of kings as well as priests in the OT, and so out of that derived the technical title “Messiah” for the coming ideal king – the “Anointed One.”
93 tn In this verse the expression is in a relative clause: “who he filled their hand” means “whose hands he filled,” or “whom he consecrated.” The idiomatic expression used here is from Lev 8; it literally is “he filled their hand” (מִלֵּא יָדָם, mille’ yadam). In the ordination service Moses placed some of the meat from the sacrifice in the hand of the ordinand, and this signified what he was going to be about – having his hand full, or being consecrated to the priesthood. There is some evidence that this practice or expression was also known in Mesopotamia. In modern ordination services a NT or a Bible may be placed in the ordinand’s hand – it is what the ministry will be about.
94 tn The form is an infinitival construction for the word for the priest, showing the purpose for the filling of the hands.
95 tn The verb form is the preterite with vav (ו) consecutive, literally “and Nadab died.” Some commentators wish to make the verb a past perfect, rendering it “and Nadab had died,” but this is not necessary. In tracing through the line from Aaron it simply reports that the first two sons died. The reference is to the event recorded in Lev 10 where the sons brought “strange” or foreign” fire to the sanctuary.
96 tc This initial clause is omitted in one Hebrew
97 tn The form בְּהַקְרִבָם (bÿhaqrivam) is the Hiphil infinitive construct functioning as a temporal clause: “when they brought near,” meaning, “when they offered.” The verb קָרַב (qarav) is familiar to students of the NT because of “corban” in Mark 7:11.
98 tn Or “prohibited.” See HALOT 279 s.v. זָר 3.
99 tn The expression אֵשׁ זָרָה (’esh zarah, “strange fire”) seems imprecise and has been interpreted numerous ways (see the helpful summary in J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC 4], 132-33). The infraction may have involved any of the following or a combination thereof: (1) using coals from some place other than the burnt offering altar (i.e., “unauthorized coals” according to J. Milgrom, Leviticus [AB], 1:598; cf. Lev 16:12 and cf. “unauthorized person” [אִישׁ זָר, ’ish zar] in Num 16:40 [17:5 HT], NASB “layman”), (2) using the wrong kind of incense (cf. the Exod 30:9 regulation against “strange incense” [קְטֹרֶת זָרָה, qÿtoret zarah] on the incense altar and the possible connection to Exod 30:34-38), (3) performing an incense offering at an unprescribed time (B. A. Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 59), or (4) entering the Holy of Holies at an inappropriate time (Lev 16:1-2).
sn This event is narrated in Lev 10:1-7.
100 sn The two young priests had been cut down before they had children; the ranks of the family of Aaron were thereby cut in half in one judgment from God. The significance of the act of judgment was to show that the priests had to sanctify the
101 tn The verb is the Piel preterite from the root כָּהַן (kahan): “to function as a priest” or “to minister.”
103 sn The use of the verb קָרַב (qarav) forms an interesting wordplay in the passage. The act of making an offering is described by this verb, as was the reference to the priests’ offering of strange fire. Now the ceremonial presentation of the priests is expressed by the same word – they are being offered to God.
104 tn The verb literally means “make it [the tribe] stand” (וְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֹתוֹ, vÿha’amadta ’oto). The verb is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it will take the same imperative nuance as the form before it, but follow in sequence (“and then”). This refers to the ceremonial presentation in which the tribe would take its place before Aaron, that is, stand before him and await their assignments. The Levites will function more like a sacred guard than anything else, for they had to protect and care for the sanctuary when it was erected and when it was transported (see J. Milgrom, Studies in Levitical Terminology, 8-10).
105 tn The verb וְשֵׁרְתוּ (vÿsherÿtu) is the Piel perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it carries the same volitional force as the preceding verb forms, but may here be subordinated in the sequence to express the purpose or result of the preceding action.
106 tn The Hebrew text uses the perfect tense of שָׁמַר(shamar) with a vav (ו) consecutive to continue the instruction of the preceding verse. It may be translated “and they shall keep” or “they must/are to keep,” but in this context it refers to their appointed duties. The verb is followed by its cognate accusative – “they are to keep his keeping,” or as it is often translated, “his charge.” This would mean whatever Aaron needed them to do. But the noun is also used for the people in the next phrase, and so “charge” cannot be the meaning here. The verse is explaining that the Levites will have duties to perform to meet the needs of Aaron and the congregation.
107 tn The form is the Qal infinitive construct from עָבַד (’avad, “to serve, to work”); it is taken here as a verbal noun and means “by (or in) serving” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 36, §195). This explains the verb “keep [his charge].” Here too the form is followed by a cognate accusative; they will be there to “serve the service” or “work the work.”
108 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct (epexegetically) followed by its cognate accusative. It would convey “to serve the service of the tabernacle,” but more simply it may be rendered as “serving.” Their spiritual and practical service is to serve.
sn The Levites had the duty of taking care of all the tabernacle and its furnishings, especially in times when it was to be moved. But they were also appointed to be gate-keepers (2 Kgs 22:4; 1 Chr 9:19) in order to safeguard the purity of the place and the activities that went on there. Their offices seem to have then become hereditary in time (1 Sam 1:3); they even took on more priestly functions, such as pronouncing the benediction (Deut 10:8). See further R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 348-49.
109 tn The verb וְנָתַתָּה (vÿnatattah) is normally “give.” Here, though, the context refers to the assignment of the Levites to the priests for their duties. The form is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive, continuing the sequence for the imperfect of instruction.
110 tn This emphasis is derived from the simple repetition of the passive participle, נְתוּנִם נְתוּנִם (nÿtunim nÿtunim). See GKC 396 §123.e. The forms serve as the predicate with the subject pronoun.
111 tn The Hebrew text simply has the preposition, “from the Israelites.”
113 tn The word is זָר (zar), usually rendered “stranger, foreigner, pagan.” But in this context it simply refers to anyone who is not a Levite or a priest, an unauthorized person or intruder in the tabernacle. That person would be put to death.
114 tn The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) here carries its deictic force, calling attention to the fact that is being declared. It is underscoring the fact that the
115 tn Literally “in the place of.”
116 tn The form הַכֹּתִי (hakkoti) is the Hiphil infinitive construct of the verb נָכָה (nakhah, “to strike, smite, attack”). Here, after the idiomatic “in the day of,” the form functions in an adverbial clause of time – “when I destroyed.”
117 sn In the Exodus event of the Passover night the principle of substitution was presented. The firstborn child was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and so belonged to God, but then God chose the Levites to serve in the place of the firstborn. The ritual of consecrating the firstborn son to the
119 tn Heb “you are to/shall number them.”
120 tn Heb “at the mouth of the
121 tn The Pual perfect may be given the past perfect translation in this sentence because the act of commanding preceded the act of numbering.
122 tn The word “sons of” does at the outset refer to the sons of Levi. But as the listing continues the expression refers more to the family groups of the various descendants.
123 tn The vav (ו) disjunctive on the noun at the beginning of the verse here signals a greater emphasis on the individual rather than another item in the numbering of the clans.
125 tn The disjunctive vav (ו) here introduces a new section, listing the various duties of the clan in the sanctuary. The Gershonites had a long tradition of service here. In the days of David Asaph and his family were prominent as musicians. Others in the clan controlled the Temple treasuries. But in the wilderness they had specific oversight concerning the tent structure, which included the holy place and the holy of holies.
126 tc The phrases in this verse seem to be direct objects without verbs. BHS suggests deleting the sign of the accusative (for which see P. P. Saydon, “Meanings and Uses of the Particle אֵת,” VT 14 : 263-75).
127 tn Heb “for all the service of it [them].”
128 sn Both Moses and Aaron came from this line (6:16-20). During the Hebrew monarchy this branch of the line of Levi was exemplary in music (1 Chr 6:33-48). They were also helpful to Hezekiah in his reforms (1 Chr 29:12-14).
129 tn The construction here is a little different. The Hebrew text uses the participle in construct plural: שֹׁמְרֵי (shomÿrey, literally “keepers of”). The form specifies the duties of the 8,600 Kohathites. The genitive that follows this participle is the cognate מִשְׁמֶרֶת (mishmeret) that has been used before. So the expression indicates that they were responsible for the care of this part of the cult center. There is no reason to delete one of the forms (as does J. A. Paterson, Numbers, 42), for the repetition stresses the central importance of their work.
130 tn The verb is יְשָׁרְתוּ (yÿsharÿtu, “they will serve/minister”). The imperfect tense in this place, however, probably describes what the priests would do, what they used to do. The verb is in a relative clause: “which they would serve with them,” which should be changed to read “with which they would serve.”
131 tn The word is literally “its [their] service.” It describes all the implements that were there for the maintenance of these things.
132 tn The Hebrew construction has “the leader of the leaders of” (וּנְשִׂיא נְשִׂיאֵי, unÿsi’ nÿsi’ey).
133 tn Heb “the keepers of the responsibility” (שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁמֶרֶת, shomÿrey mishmeret). The participle is a genitive specifying the duty to which he was appointed (thing possessed); its cognate genitive emphasizes that their responsibility was over the holy place.
134 tn The Hebrew text has “these they the families of Merari.” The independent personal pronoun has an anaphoric use, somewhat equivalent to the copula “and” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 23, §115).
136 tc In some Hebrew
137 tn Here again the verb and its cognate noun are used: keeping the keep, or keeping charge over, or taking responsibility for the care of, or the like.
139 tn The total is a rounded off number; it does not duplicate the precise total of 22,300. Some modern scholars try to explain it by positing an error in v. 28, suggesting that “six” should be read as “three” (שֵׁשׁ [shesh] as שָׁלֹשׁ [shalosh]).
140 tn The verb נָשָׂא (nasa’, “take”) has here the sense of collect, take a census, or register the names.
141 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it carries forward the instructions from the preceding verse. The verb “take” now has the sense of appointing or designating the Levites.
142 tn The verb again is the perfect tense in sequence; the meaning of “take” may be interpreted here with the sense of “collect.”
143 tn The idea is expressed simply by repetition: “take five, five, shekels according to the skull.” They were to collect five shekels for each individual.
144 tn The verb form now is the imperfect of instruction or legislation.
145 tn Heb “them,” referring to the five shekels.
146 sn The sanctuary shekel was first mentioned in Exod 30:13. The half-shekel of Exod 38:26 would then be 10 gerahs. Consequently, the calculations would indicate that five shekels was about two ounces of silver for each person. See R. B. Y. Scott, “Weights and Measures of the Bible,” BA 22 (1951): 22-40, and “The Scale-Weights from Ophel, 1963-1964,” PEQ 97 (1965): 128-39.
147 sn The word used is “silver.” Coins were not in existence until after 700