Sunday, 3 May 2015

Israelite census

God told Moses to number the men Israel when they came out from Egypt then again nearly 40 years later. The first a year after leaving Egypt, the second before they entered the promised land. The census of the 12 tribes included the 2 subtribes of Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh. The 12 tribes were divided into 4 companies of 3 tribes, each headed by 1 of the 3 tribes. They camped on different sides of the tabernacle. Levi was not included as they were set apart for service to God. They were counted separately and camped around the tabernacle.

The first census was in the 2nd year after leaving Egypt (Numbers 1). The census data is repeated in Numbers 2 with the division totals. The tribe of Levi is documented in Numbers 3. The second census was in the 40th year after leaving Egypt (Numbers 26).

All males aged 20 and over were counted for the nation census. All males aged 1 month and over were counted for the Levite census.

Israel had grown rapidly from ~70 males a little over 200 years earlier. Because of their unfaithfulness in refusing to fight the Canaanites they died in the desert. A similar number of men over the age of 20 (but none over 60) were alive ~40 years later. While every Israelite over the age of 20 died in the desert (Numbers 14), this may not have included the Levites. There was no spy sent from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 13), Levi had previously been zealous for the Lord (Exodus 32), and the Levite Eleazer (Exodus 6:25) entered Canaan (Joshua 17:4). Caleb and Joshua were also excluded from the punishment (Numbers 14:30).

Here are the numbers for the 2 censuses. The number of Levites does not add up; the sum of the 3 clans is 22,300 but the total given is 22,000. It is likely that the total is correct thus there is probably a transcription error for Gershon or Kohath.

Company Tribe Clan Census 1
Census 2
Numbers 1-3 Numbers 26
Reuben Reuben
46500
43730
South Simeon
59300
22200

Gad
45650
40500




151450
Judah Judah
74600
76500
East Issachar
54400
64300

Zebulun
57400
60500




186400
Ephraim Ephraim
40500
32500
West Manasseh
32200
52700

Benjamin
35400
45600




108100
Dan Dan
62700
64400
North Asher
41500
53400

Naphtali
53400
45400




157600

Total
603550
601730

Levi





Gershon 7500



Kohath 8600



Merari 6200




22000 (22300) 23000

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