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May 17, 2011 – Numbers 26

Click here to read Numbers 26 on BibleGateway.com

Numbers 26 is one of those tough passages in the Bible that we find difficult to gain any wisdom from (or from which to gain any wisdom, if you’re an English teacher). It’s a list of names and numbers which may have been exciting to the Israelites, but seems rather boring and tedious to us modern readers. Have no fear, though, all that it means is that we get to dig a little deeper to try to find what God is saying to us today. Wouldn’t want em all to be easy, would you?


This is the second census (counting only the fighting men) that Moses took of the Israelites; the first was nearly 40 years earlier when they first reached Canaan. After all that time wandering around the Sinai peninsula, one of the striking features is that the numbers for the first and second censuses (censi?) are so similar: 603,550 for the first and 601,730 for the second. Despite living in a desert for an entire generation, the people were as strong as before.

Notice in verse 54 that God divides the land by the size of the tribe. The larger tribes got more land. Now, some of the smaller tribes could say “hey, that’s not fair. We should get as much land as so-and-so.” Also, notice verse 56. It seems so oddly out of place in a list of the military, and yet there it is black and white in Holy Writ.


So what do we take from this? Do we just skip over this chapter and rush ahead to the epistles to get to stuff we can apply to ourselves? Nay, nay, thrice nay I say. Here are some pondering points, given in no particular order:

1) God cares for his people. It’s so easy for us to look at desert times as “let’s just survive this.” But God took care of his people, and several tribes dramatically increased in number, showing that God was not only preserving His people, but blessing them as well. (a few tribes lost population too, primarily Simeon and Reuben, which coincidentally were the tribes that God disciplined because of rebellions. Also food for thought.)

2) God has sense of fair play, but it may not be like ours. In several places in the Bible it speaks of “everyone had what they needed.” We tend to want everything to be “fair,” which we narrowly define as “we all should have the same amount of money and stuff.” However, God provides for people according to their need, not according to what their neighbor has; he who had much did not have too much, and he who had little did not have too little.

3) God remembers everyone. Serah was the daughter of one of the least important tribes, and yet she gets a whole verse just to herself in the Bible. Not bad. Some of the kings of Israel only get 2.

And you were gonna skip this chapter. Shame on you.


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