Numbers 1 Commentary
Location? The foot of Mount Sinai.
The LORD speaks to Moses and orders him to conduct a census of the community. It is a detailed census. Members of God’s community must be counted one by one and listed by name. We possibly understand why in some sections of the holy script we find long lists of genealogies. Numbers are important to God but that is just statistics. There is more to it. The Message translation puts it this way, Romans 9 verses 20 to 33; if each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled “chosen of God,” They’d be numbers still, not names; salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.
We also want to find out why the LORD called for a census. For sure it wasn’t like the LORD needed to know the numbers! It was Moses who needed to know the figures and not God. It is also interesting that the LORD wanted Moses to conduct the actual census. Why didn’t the LORD just provide the figures? After all the LORD knew the figures already. It was going to be easier, accurate, and cheaper.
Could there be things that the LORD wants us to do for our benefit? I have in mind the sciences and technology. The LORD may want you to know the art of business and the value of customers, not because the LORD hasn’t any idea about ‘earthy’ matters. It is for our benefit. That is how the LORD wants to run the world.
Moses would need the figures to plan his military campaigns. Our own economic battles require planning and much more information about our strengths and capacities. Numbers communicated Israel’s strength. The figures showed the organization and location of resources. For example: if you called Judah to arms, you knew exactly what strength you were drawing out.
This book is about 14 days becoming 40 years. What a trip! It is about a population of 600,000 at the start and the same 600,000 after 40 years. A farmer who starts with two cattle and still has two animals after 40 years should sit down and explain. The book, appropriately named Numbers, must explain these numbers. Forget increase, the fact that we still have men marching into Canaan at the end of 40 years is the greatest miracle in itself. Many of us would say the same thing: a death sentence for our sins is just the right decision, BUT mercy said NO.
Even here we can see the generosity of the LORD in giving Moses a list of helpers. This job is truly important! Not everyone is listed name by name but only men aged 20 or more – capable of military service. This chapter is preparing us for the grand entry into Canaan to possess the land that the LORD had given to Abraham.
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