Today’s reading is about the census that was held after the plague caused by some men in Israel going after Moabite women and marrying themselves to Baal of Peor, a Midianite god.
The first census was taken in the first year the Israelites came out of Egypt.
Now they are in the plains of Moab, just before they enter the Promised Land. We know that none of the people in this census here were in the original one because God had said they would all die in the wilderness because of disobedience. So, we have a whole new generation now, still in their tribes, all twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army.
Even though there had been great disobedience during Israel’s time in the wilderness, God had preserved His people. He hadn’t wiped them out, but in His mercy saves His chosen nation and brings them out of the wilderness, still within the twelve tribes that they had entered in.
Aaron of course has died now, so his son, Eleazer is commissioned by God as the High Priest to draw up this census with Moses. Note that this census is not counted by just anyone, it is God’s chosen who do this. Numbers can cause pride. King David had a census of all his people in 1 Chronicles 21 and was punished for it.
We have all the descendants of Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali: the twelve tribes of Israel. Notice there are two missing, Joseph and Levi, but we still have twelve tribes. Joseph is replaced by his two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh, and the tribe of Levi is not there because they have no land allotted to them. The Levites would be split up and apportioned to each tribe so that every tribe had some Levites within their land to carry out priestly duties for the people.
All the tribes mentioned were given an allotment of land according to the size of their population, and according to each ancestral tribe.
The Israelites were all sons of Israel, or Jacob as he was originally named: the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. God had promised Abraham that he would have so many descendants they could not be counted. They would be as many as the stars in the sky, or the grains of sand on the beach. Here were Abraham’s sons so far – 601,730 of them.
When God makes a promise, He keeps it, despite how we behave.
Lord help me to remember today, that You always keep Your promises. Amen