Numbers 1 Commentary


A military census (1:1-54)

Before leaving Sinai, Moses took a census of the number of men available for military service, so that he could plan and prepare for the battles that lay ahead. Twelve of Israel’s leading men, one from each tribe, helped him carry out the work (1:1-16). The census was no doubt carried out over several weeks, and was finished twenty days before the people left Sinai (17-46; cf. 10:11).

The Levites were not included in this census, as they were not required for military service. Their duty was to transport and look after the tabernacle, setting it up when the people camped and taking it down when they were ready to move on. For this reason, the Levites camped around the tabernacle, and the other twelve tribes camped farther out according to the plan described in the following chapters (47- 54).

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