Those who argue on the basis of David’s words on the sin of his census that Christians shouldn’t take part in censuses should read this chapter. The Lord commands Moses to take a census of Israel. There is a time and a place for everything under the sun! Judah and Joseph are the strongest tribes! These two tribes become rivals in Israel like Euodia and Syntyche in the church at Philippi.
Statistics (numbers) can be interesting, especially when you attach them to people.
We see Judah at this time fields the largest army, far more than Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob.
Back in Genesis 49 Jacob blessed his sons.
Reuben pays the price for his bad moral decision-making, in v4 Jacob declaring,
“You shall not have preeminence,”
We can certainly see a portion of that true here in the numbers of warriors.
Manasseh has 32,200 warriors at this time, but a few years later in Numbers 26 we see they total 52,700. That’s a remarkable increase!
Numbers are not everything, and they are completely and always within the Lord’s providence, but they do reflect the reality of life, and there is a clear pointer to God’s covenant promises to Abraham.
Israel was growing into a mighty nation!
And if we go deeper, we need to read this together with the information about the Levites.
They were exempt, as v53 says,
“… So that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel.”
The Levites were not to be an army that battled other nations, they were not to camp by their companies by their own standards (v52).
Instead, they were to camp around the tabernacle (God’s meeting place). To keep guard over it.
Because regardless of how powerful Israel could be, it’s the wrath of God that matters! Even half a million soldiers can’t compare to the power of the Almighty. Israel needed to be protected from profaning the tabernacle and being consumed by the wrath of the Lord.
And this is what Jesus did, this and more. He did what the Levites could not do. They merely guarded this earthly tabernacle.
Jesus took the wrath of God on Himself.
Clearly understanding this is important, because it frames how we as God’s people go about our lives.
Paul says in Romans 6 v1,
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
And then in v23,
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
* Heavenly Father,
Thank You for Jesus’ work, that He took Your wrath on Himself, so that we could be obtain the free gift of eternal life.
Thank You for Your love for us, that we see in Jesus – That He would become a curse for us so that we would have blessing.
Please help us to show Your love to those around us today, in whatever means You allow.