Summary of passage: Numbers 26: Another census was ordered by God of the men who were over 20 years of age by family. Reuben numbered 43, 730. Simeon numbered 22,200 including the line of Korah which didn’t die out. Gad numbered 40,500. Judah numbered 76,500. Issachar numbered 64,300. Zebulun numbered 60,500. Manasseh numbered 52,700. Ephraim numbered 32,500. Benjamin numbered 45,600. Dan numbered 64,400. Asher numbered 53,400. Naphtali numbered 45,400. Total number of men: 601,730.
God ordered that each inheritance of land was to be distributed by lot and according to numbers so larger clans would get more land and smaller clans smaller plots.
The Levites numbered 23,000 but were counted separately because they would receive no inheritance of land since they were the priests.
All those counted had previously not been counted in the Desert of Sinai for they all died except for Caleb and Joshua.
Numbers 27: Zelophehad’s daughters approached Moses and Eleazar and asked for their father’s inheritance since he had died and had left no sons as an heir. Moses brought the case to the Lord who established a lasting ordinance which said if there are no sons, then the property goes to the daughters or the nearest living male relative.
3a) They were last counted in the Desert of Sinai about a year after they left Egypt. So it’s been 38 years.
b) In the first census there were 603,550. In the second census there were 601,730. A difference of only 1820 men.
c) All had died–603,548–except two men–Caleb and Joshua.
d) For the same reasons the first census was taken: First, because God said to do it. Second, to find out how many men they had able to fight for the Promised Land.
4) They had courage to approach Moses and Eleazar as women in this culture. But they believed they were right in having property for their families, which God agreed as well. They understood God would provide for them and they asked in faith. However, greater faith is shown here in that they asked God BEFORE they had reached the Promised Land about land they did not yet possess.
This shows they believed God’s words that they would inherit the land–something which we have seen time and time again with the Israelites that they didn’t have faith enough to take the Promised Land. The new generation has grown in faith, haven’t they? And God uses women here to tell us so! Awesome!
Conclusions: Fascinating how the numbers are almost identical. God had completely replaced his people with the next generation like the human body replaces every cell every few years. I wonder what Caleb and Joshua were thinking as the only “old guys” to make it. How humbling!
Great story to include of the girls asking for their rightful inheritance. Note how they stood as one–something we women need to do more of instead of fighting against each other. God is so just and merciful and loving of all His people–men and women alike. Great example of stepping out in faith and asking God for what you believe is your right and in instances where God has told you is your right.
Loved this lesson. We see God’s will and love everywhere and no more clearer here–in the numbers of the people and in his care for the daughters of Zelophehad (an obscure guy who was probably overlooked by his cohorts but not by God who cares for all His people equally). God rewards faithfulness and it is displayed prominently in Numbers 26 & 27. God is good!
End Notes: Numbers 26: Reuben’s tribe lost 2,770 men since the first census (6%). Note that Dathan and Abiram came from here. Scholars speculate that part of Dathan’s and Abiram’s resentment towards Moses was because Moses was descended from a younger son, Levi. Both Dathan and Abiram were from Reuben, the first-born from Jacob. They were a warning sign.
Differences in Population by Tribe in 38 years:
Reuben lost 2,770 (6%).
Simeon lost 37,100 men (63%).
Gad lost 5,150 (11%).
Judah gained 1,900 (3%).
Issachar gained 9,900 (18%).
Zebulun gained 3,100 (5%).
Manasseh gained 20,500 (64%).
Ephraim lost 8,000 (20%).
Benjamin gained 10,200 (29%).
Dan gained 1,700 (3%).
Asher gained 11,900 (29%).
Naphtali lost 8,000 (15%).
Total: A loss of 1,820 or a .3% decline.
Analysis of the numbers: This is fascinating. Most populations grow over time. However, note the Israelites stayed the same. They were wandering around the desert, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, waiting. They were stagnant. Nothing produced. No further advancement in society or civilization. God was probably very, very sad.
[Side Note: I’m sure all you mathematicians LOVED this lesson!!]
Yet hope is seen: The tribes who undoubtedly grew in faith, grew in numbers. The tribes who undoubtedly sinned and grew away from God lost numbers. God rewards the faithful and punishes the unfaithful.
Don’t forget God ordered the Levites not to receive any property in Numbers 18:20 because their inheritance (God Himself) is much greater.
Numbers 27: Daughters did receive a dowry when married so they weren’t completely forgotten before this new law instituted by God.
Note what Moses did: Sought God for the answer. A great example for us.
We will see Zelophehad’s daughters again in Numbers 36 because this rule now posed a problem when the daughters married. Numbers 36 lays out for laws for this situation given once again by God Himself.