BIBLE STUDY SERIES #398, 399 and 400

11 July, 1999

CENSUS - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land. Having passed out of Egyptian bondage through the marvellous miracles of the Signs and Wonders by which the Tribes of Israel were released from that condition, that former generation of Israelites, although they had experienced the commitments of Sinai, and the lessons of The Tabernacle, had stumbled in their approach to this borderland of Canaan. It has been left to the present generation, children of those who failed forty years before, to make good God's Word regarding His intent to give them the Promised Land as their inheritance.

On leaving Egypt the Tribes had of necessity been organized Tribe by Tribe, and Moses, had been given orders by The Almighty, to number the people. Now, with the passage of the years, and the expiry of those of that former generation who had failed to move forward in God's strength to take the land, and who had, in consequence, been condemned to wander in the wilderness until death claimed them, a new population cohort had taken their place. These were now, like their parents, in need of a review census, to establish the present situation regarding their numbers, and the organization needed for mustering to war, and division of the Promised Land, once occupation had begun. In Numbers 26, we find the Scriptural passage which details this, and we had read and considered to verse 18 in that chapter, a section covering the status of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. These are the three tribes whose members had been assigned by The Almighty to occupy and defend the southern side of the great square tribal encampments of Israel at each halt between marches through the Wilderness of Sinai.

Keil and Delitzsch, in their opening comments on the chapter explain that "The families of Reuben tally with Gen. xlvi. 9, Ex. vi. 14, and 1 Chron. v. 3." They make some observations on the usage of the Hebrew term for "sons" and then move to explain that "The Simeonites counted only five families, as Ohad (Gen. xlvi. 10) left no family." They note that "Nemuel is called Jemuel there, as yod and nun are often interchanged", and they add "Zerach is another name of the same signification for Zohar", explaining "Zerach, the rising of the sun; Zohar, candor, splendour." At verses 15-18, they add of the Gadites, that they "are the same as in Gen. xlvi. 16, except that Ozni is called Ezbon there."

Reuben and Simeon were chronologically the two eldest of Jacob's sons, both being sons of Leah, the eldest daughter of Laban, Jacob's father-in-law, and so, they and their descendants after them, might have expected to receive the blessing of seniority, or, at least, some special recognition appropriate to such status. This was particularly so in the case of Reuben's descendants, as they might have obtained that birthright "double portion" due to those who in the societies of those days were the eldest, or "firstborn sons."

However, for sins committed by the tribe patriarch in each case these two tribes, Reuben and Simeon, lost their exalted positions, which, in consequence had been passed to the two sons of Joseph, Rachel's eldest son, as we have seen in Genesis 48. In that chapter, Ephraim and Manasseh had been created heads of two tribes, each in his own right. "As Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine," Jacob had stated in verse 5. In other words, these two sons of Joseph had supplanted Reuben and Simeon, in that they jointly inherited the Israel birthright of the double portion for Joseph. The sin, in the case of Reuben had been that he "went up to his father's couch", and lay with Bilhah, his father's concubine (Genesis 35:22). In the case of Simeon, Genesis 34:25-31 explains that Simeon, along with his full brother Levi had treacherously slaughtered the inhabitants of the city of Shechem over the matter of their sister Dinah.

We can now move ahead to read of the census findings in the case of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, those tribes assigned to take up guard duty and to encamp on the eastern side of the great square of Israel's camp. Judah, Issachar and Zebulun were, like Reuben, Simeon and Levi, descended from Leah, Rachel's older sister, and their assigned positions thus brought together in one solid alignment Leah's sons to guard the whole of the eastern, and most of the southern borders of the camp. Doubtless this was done because these tribes held the closest blood relationship to one another, and were the more likely, therefore, to stand together in the heat and press of battle, instead of allowing petty jealousies of inter-tribal rivalry to permit any weakness in the front they presented to an enemy. The Almighty designated their positions in the defensive lines, and doubtless this cohesive element of solidarity was a consideration in His dispositions of the tribes about the encampment. Gad, who was the elder of the two sons born to Leah's maid, the concubine, Zilpah, was through this relatively close relationship, thus the most appropriate tribal family to take the station of Leah's son, Levi, the tribe of which was withdrawn from the perimeter to serve at the Tabernacle in the centre of the encampment. Keil and Delitzsch note of Gad's descendants that these "are the same as in Gen. xlvi. 16, except that Ozni is called Ezbon there." Thus we find that God had shown His great wisdom in the defensive arrangement for all the tribes of Israel

Moving then, to the eastern side of the encampment, we read at verse 19:

19. The sons of Judah were Er and Onan: and Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan.
20. And the sons of Judah after their families were; of Shelah, the family of the Shelanites: of Pharez, the family of the Pharzites: of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites.
21. And the sons of Pharez were; of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites.
22. These are the families of Judah according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and sixteen thousand and five hundred.

Keil and Delitzsch note that "the sons and families of Judah agree with Gen. xlvi. 12... also with 1 Chron. ii. 3-5. -... . Here, we might note that the whole story of Er, Onan and Shelah, of Pharez and Zerah is fully explained in Genesis 38, for it holds immense importance and significance for us today. It would be well worth while re-reading that chapter as a source of meditative study this coming week, for it tells the story of the origin of the symbolic Coronation regalia used by British monarchs. Tamar, the daughter-in-law to Judah, veiling herself by the road as if an harlot, obtained his seed together with his ceremonial sceptre or staff, his bracelets and his signet or ring as pledge. These were later used to prove that the sons she was carrying were his own flesh and blood descendants when Judah was minded to have her punished by fire for playing the harlot! Judah thereupon acknowledged her more righteous than himself in this matter. These symbolic articles are thus represented in the Coronation service as a direct claim to descent of the British Monarchy from Judah himself, and down the genealogy of the kings of the nation of Judah in the Promised Land. Likewise, the same proof of unmixed descent of Jesus Christ from Judah is attested in the avoidance of the half-Canaanitish descendant, Shelah as an ancestor. The Red Hand of Ulster, in Northern Ireland's heraldry marks descent of that populace from the same origins; the red hand being that of Zerah, with the attached contending claim to first-born status as noted in Genesis 38.

The Companion Bible notes at verse 22 that, while Numbers 2:4 had recorded Judah's numbers as 74,660, we now find the number recorded as 76,500, marking an increase of 1,900 in those last forty years in the wilderness. We continue at verse 23:

23. Of the sons of Issachar after their families: of Tola, the family of the Tolaites: of Pua, the family of the Punites:
24. Of Jashub, the family of the Jashubites: of Shimron, the family of the Shimronites.
25. These are the families of Issachar according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and four thousand and three hundred.

We recall that Issachar's descendants may be represented in Switzerland, and also in Finland. A quotation in the small booklet "One Of Jacob's Sons" by Richmond N. Stewart, ascribes the following exhortation to the great Finnish Field Marshall Mannerheim, spoken when Finland was attacked by Russia in the winter of 1939: "Sons of Issachar, stand and die, but let only scorched earth fall into the hands of the antichrists." The Companion Bible notes of Issachar that the 64,300 here recorded exceed the 54,400 recorded in Numbers 2:6 by 9,900.

26. Of the sons of Zebulun after their families: of Sered, the family of the Sardites: of Elon, the family of the Elonites: of Jahleel, the family of the Jahleelites.
27. These are the families of the Zebulunites according to those that were numbered of them, threescore thousand and five hundred.

Zebulun is thought to have many descendants among the Dutch people today, and a book entitled "Strange Parallel", together with a video of the same title, conveys some good reasons to accept that viewpoint. The Companion Bible notes that Zebulun's 60,500 exceeds the 57,400 of Numbers 2:8 by 3,100. Thus the three tribes at the east side of the camp had all experienced increased numbers through those forty years of wilderness wandering.

We shall continue this study next week.

18 July, 1999

CENSUS - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land. Having passed out of Egyptian bondage through the marvellous miracles of the Signs and Wonders by which the Tribes of Israel were released from that condition, that former generation of Israelites, although they had experienced the commitments of Sinai, and the lessons of The Tabernacle, had stumbled in their approach to this borderland of Canaan. It has been left to the present generation, children of those who failed forty years before, to make good God's Word regarding His intent to give them the Promised Land as their inheritance.

On leaving Egypt the Tribes had of necessity been organized Tribe by Tribe, and Moses, had been given orders by The Almighty, to number the people. Now, with the passage of the years, and the expiry of those of that former generation who had failed to move forward in God's strength to take the land, and who had, in consequence, been condemned to wander in the wilderness until death claimed them, a new population cohort had taken their place. These were now, like their parents, in need of a review census, to establish the present situation regarding their numbers, and the organization needed for mustering to war, and division of the Promised Land, once occupation had begun. In Numbers 26, we find the Scriptural passage which details this, and we had read and considered to verse 27 in that chapter, a section covering the status of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. These are the six tribes whose members had been assigned by The Almighty to occupy and defend the southern and eastern sides of the great square tribal encampments of Israel at each halt between marches through the Wilderness of Sinai.

Today we pick up our Scripture portion at Numbers 26:28, with the tribes assigned to the western side of the camp. These comprise the Tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin, the descendants of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel. As those other tribes previously studied were all either descendants of Leah, or, in the case of Gad, Leah's handmaid, it may be assumed that the wisdom of The Almighty had designated those of Rachel to occupy a portion of the perimeter apart from Leah's sons in order to minimise the chance of contentious strife among these descendants of Jacob's several wives.

Jacob had granted to Joseph the inheritance of the birthright which chronologically might have come to Reuben but for his sexual indiscretion with Jacob's concubine, Bilhah. Thus Leah's eldest son was set aside from the birthright double portion which Jacob thereupon granted to, Rachel's eldest son, Joseph. Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and in order to impart that double portion of the birthright to Joseph, Jacob made each of these grandsons, born to Joseph, tribal heads in their own right, among their uncles, and displacing the two eldest sons of Leah, Reuben and Simeon. This blessing is explained in Genesis 48, and it is understood that these two grandsons, were claimed by Jacob in a ceremony in which Joseph drew them each in turn from Jacob's body, out from between Jacob's knees, symbolising that Jacob claimed them as if they had sprung from his, that is Jacob's, own loins. We note from Genesis 48:21 that the incident occurred as Jacob was nearing his death, which occurred some seventeen years after he arrived in Egypt. These youths were obviously not small boys by this time, as a calculation of their ages will confirm, and it is therefore a mis-conception to suppose, as some do on reading the account, that two small, shy boys were brought out from between Joseph's knees. The matter is most easily accepted if we assume that Joseph took part in the ceremony, drawing forth each son as if born out of Jacob's loins, and thus from between Jacob's knees. Of the two, Ephraim, the younger, was given the headship blessing by Jacob (Genesis 48:14-19) and thus, in the later tribal alliance wherein the northern tribes separated themselves from the monarchy in Judah and took with them their name of Israel, they were sometimes addressed in the name of their birthright holder, Ephraim. We pick up our Scripture portion for today at Numbers 26:28:

28. The sons of Joseph after their families were Manasseh and Ephraim.
29. Of the sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites: and Machir begat Gilead: of Gilead come the family of the Gileadites.
30. These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer, the family of the Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites:
31. And of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites:
32. And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the family of the Hepherites.
33. And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
34. These are the families of Manasseh, and those that were numbered of them, fifty and two thousand and seven hundred.

The Companion Bible notes that "Manasseh comes before Ephraim here, because the tribe had increased. In Num. 2. 18, 20 Ephraim comes first, because he was the standard bearer, and because of the blessing (Gen. 48. 14). At verse 30, in reference to Gilead, the reference states "Cp. 32. 39, 40 and Josh. 17. 1. Jeezer, in Josh. 17. 2, Abiezer. Only this tribe, and Judah (v. 21) had great-grandsons as "heads". Cp. Gen. 50. 23." At vers 33, it notes "daughters, Cp. 27. 1; 36. 1-12; and Josh. 17. 3, 4. Their names are written Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah... and Tirzah." With the number at verse 34 being quoted at 52,700, The Companion Bible compares Num. 2. 21 where the number is 32,200, thus showing an increase of 20,500. At verse 37, the summary of Ephraim is listed at 32,500 but back in Numbers 2:19 it was 40,500, making for a decrease of 7,500.

At this point we might consult Keil and Delitzsch for a momentary clarification. They state "The descendants of Joseph were classified in two leading families, according to his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, who were born before the removal of Israel to Egypt, and were raised into founders of tribes in consequence of the patriarch Israel having adopted them as his own sons... . Eight families descended from Manasseh: viz. one from his son Machir, the second from Machir's son or Manasseh's grandson Gilead, and the other six from the six sons of Gilead. The genealogical accounts in chap. xxvii. 1, xxxvi. 1 and Josh. xvii. 1 ssq., fully harmonize with this, except that Iezer (ver. 30) is called Abiezer in Josh. xvii. 2; whereas only a part of the names mentioned here occur in the genealogical fragments in 1 Chron. ii. 21-24, and vii. 14-29. In ver. 33, a son of Hepher, named Zelophehad, is mentioned. He had no sons, but only daughters, whose names are given here to prepare the way for the legal regulations mentioned in chap. xxvii. and xxxvi., to which this fact gave rise. - Vers. 35-37. It might be worth mentioning at that point that the regulation which is indicated gave daughters without brothers in Israel the legal right to claim the inheritance. This was to become especially important later, when the inheritance of the throne was involved. Jesus Christ had descent humanly speaking from King David through Mary. In the British line of monarchical descent, we understand that the link from Kings of Judah at the time of Jeremiah was also through one of the "king's daughters" who was, by this law, the "seed royal": the princess who rightfully could claim inheritance of Judah's throne, and, being in the care of Jeremiah, escaped the fate of the sons of Zedekiah under the Babylonians in a flight by sea westward, as commemorated in heraldry by the winged female figure on the harp of David in the British Royal Standard. (Some have claimed the figure to be a pagan goddess called Hibernia, but we perceive the connection with Judah, and the root of the word Hibernia is "Hebrew", as in "Hebrides.") We continue with the descendants of Ephraim:

35. These are the sons of Ephraim after their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites: of Becher, the family of the Bachrites: of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites.
36. And these are the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of the Eranites.
37. These are the families of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of them, thirty and two thousand and five hundred. These are the sons of Joseph after their families.

Keil and Delitzsch speak of the descendants of Ephraim in these words: "There were four families descended from Ephraim; three from his sons, and one from his grandson. Of the descendants of Sutelan several successive links are given in 1 Chron. vii. 20 ssq. - Vers. 38-41.

As the descendants of Benjamin might take us beyond our time for today's study, perhaps it would be as well to hold this portion over for the next part of our investigation.

25 July, 1999

CENSUS - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently on the border of the Promised Land. Having passed out of Egyptian bondage through the marvellous miracles of the Signs and Wonders by which the Tribes of Israel were released from that condition, that former generation of Israelites, although they had experienced the commitments of Sinai, and the lessons of The Tabernacle, had stumbled in their approach to this borderland of Canaan. It has been left to the present generation, children of those who failed forty years before, to make good God's Word regarding His intent to give them the Promised Land as their inheritance.

On leaving Egypt the Tribes had of necessity been organized Tribe by Tribe, and Moses, had been given orders by The Almighty, to number the people. Now, with the passage of the years, and the expiry of those of that former generation who had failed to move forward in God's strength to take the land, and who had, in consequence, been condemned to wander in the wilderness until death claimed them, a new population cohort had taken their place. These were now, like their parents, in need of a review census, to establish the present situation regarding their numbers, and the organization needed for mustering to war, and division of the Promised Land, once occupation had begun. In Numbers 26, we find the Scriptural passage which details this, and we had read and considered to verse 37 in that chapter, a section covering the status of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, the six tribes whose members had been assigned by The Almighty to occupy and defend the Southern and Eastern sides of the great square tribal encampments of Israel at each halt between marches through the Wilderness of Sinai, and Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, whose assigned position lay on the Western side of the camp.

Today we pick up our Scripture portion at Numbers 26:38, in order to complete the defensive arrangement for the Western side of the Camp of Israel, with the remaining tribe assigned to that western side, namely the Tribe of Benjamin.

The Tribe of Benjamin stood unique among the Tribes of Israel in certain respects. Benjamin had been born after Jacob had returned from his years of service to his Uncle and Father-in-law, Laban. Hence, Benjamin had been born after the returning family of Jacob had re-entered the area of the Brook Jabbok, where Jacob had received the new name of "Israel." Hence, while all his brothers would be called "Children of Israel", Benjamin himself was the only son of Jacob-Israel who was born an Israelite, and also the only son born within the borders of The Promised Land of Canaan. Benjamin was also, therefore, the only son of Jacob not joining Jacob-Israel in making a symbolic, and perhaps prophetic, bow before Esau and his four-hundred warriors upon their return to the land of Canaan, as described in Genesis 33:5-7.

Benjamin, you may remember, was the second son of Rachel, and younger brother to Joseph. On the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem, as we read in Genesis 35:16-20, Rachel had died giving birth to him. As she was dying in giving him birth, she named him "Benoni", meaning "son of my sorrow", but this name was changed to "Benjamin", meaning "son of the right hand" by Jacob afterwards. I have noted, in the past, that this might have been a result of Benjamin, as a small boy lifting his left hand to Jacob's right hand when learning to walk. The left hand was not the one generally used for such contacts as it was, by convention, reserved to the less-sanitary requirements of life, and thus the act would be noted!

Curiously, Scripture mentions of Benjamin's descendants, a number of these notable for the characteristic of being left-handed. Ehud, one of the Judges, a great grandson of Benjamin, used that characteristic in slaying an oppressor in Judges 3:15, and seven hundred expert left-handed stone-slingers in the army of Benjamin are given special mention in Judges 20:14-16, in the words "every one could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss."

Incidentally, the cultural stigma attached to the left hand is reflected down to the days of Christ's First Advent, and prophetically onward to the Second Advent in Matthew 25:33, the prophetic division of the "sheep" nations from the "goat" nations, and in the House of Commons, the Government side of the House sits to the right hand side of the Speaker of the House, while the Opposition sits traditionally to the Speaker's left.

What, then, shall we say of the Tribe of Benjamin in the Camp of Israel? It stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, positioned on the Western side of the square defensive encampment of Israel, and thus it was brought together with the progeny of those other tribes which were likewise descendants of Rachel. The Camp dispositions, ordered by The Almighty God thereby continued the theme previously noted of Leah's sons; that of placing in closest proximity those who were most closely related among Jacob-Israel's descendants. This is obviously a principle which is, in God's oversight, beneficial for the tranquillity and solidarity of His people. Translated into the national and ethnic context of today, it means that The Almighty God was placing together those who held most nearly identical tribal traditions and racial consanguinity. Enemies of God's people will, conscious of the same principle, seek to weaken God's governmental dispositions through destruction of that arrangement, by mingling among His people others of diverse backgrounds in multicult mosaics which create greater opportunities for friction and eventual destruction of ethnic unity and attempts to preserve the heritage of tribal consciousness.

There is, in the case of the Tribe of Benjamin, one further comment which ought to be added regarding affinity with another tribe. Back in Genesis 44, an incident occurred which must have had repercussions down the generations from that time. Joseph, you might remember, had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, and through his God-given gift of interpretation of dreams, had risen to appointment as the Prime Minister of Egypt by the Pharaoh of that time. His brothers had twice, during a famine, come to Egypt in order to purchase grain, and although Joseph recognized them, they did not know his true identity. Joseph planned some tests, one of which consisted in arranging a charge of theft to be laid against his full-brother, the youngest son of Jacob, Benjamin, in order to see if his other brothers had developed more commendable aspects to their characters than they had manifested those many years before towards himself.

When Benjamin had been required to accompany his brothers on their second mission to purchase grain in Egypt, Judah had given assurances to the aged Jacob concerning Benjamin's safety. The account is found in Genesis 43 and 44. As the plan unfolded, Joseph, known to his brothers only as Zaphnath-paaneah, the powerful Egyptian administrator, had announced that Benjamin was being arrested for theft of Joseph's costly cup. At this, Judah approached, and, stating his commitment to Jacob for Benjamin's safety, offered to become a slave in Benjamin's place. Such a selfless act brought Joseph to reveal his true identity to his brothers. But doubtless it also caused the story of the affair to be related down the generations with utmost appreciation among the descendants of the tribe of Benjamin towards those of the Tribe of Judah. One evidence supportive of the assumption is the decision of the Tribe of Benjamin to resist the temptation to revolt from the Monarchy in Judah when the others of the Northern Tribes made their break to form the separate nation of Israel in the days of Rehoboam.

The Census record of Benjamin as the time to enter The Promised Land drew near is found in Numbers 26:38-41, and it reads as follows:

38. The sons of Benjamin after their families: of Bela, the family of the Belaites: of Ashbel, the family of the Ashbelites: of Ahiram, the family of the Ahiramites:
39. Of Shupham, the family of the Shuphamites: of Hupham, the family of the Huphamites.
40. And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the family of the Ardites: and of Naaman, the family of the Naamites.
41. These are the sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and six hundred.

There are some changes between the listing of Benjamin's genealogy in Genesis 46:21 and the present listing. However, as our time has gone for this present study, we shall have to leave those few further comments on Benjamin for the next census section which moves us on to the Tribes forming the Northern perimeter of the Tribal encampments of Israel.

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