BIBLE STUDY SERIES #401, 402 and 403

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.

1 August, 1999

CENSUS - PART V

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 41 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, and also the Tribe of Benjamin whose assigned position lay on the Western side of the camp.

Today we will be picking up our Scripture portion at Numbers 26:42, in order to complete the defensive arrangement for the Wilderness encampment of Israel. However, as we had to leave some few comments about the listing for the Tribe of Benjamin for today, I shall review those few verses, 38 to 41, pertaining to that Tribe, and explain the matter.

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.

Here, we noted variances with the account found in Genesis 46, and the thought had been that several families previously listed had vanished. The Companion Bible notes of the total of 45,600: "In Num. 2. 23 = 35,400, increase 10,200." It was noted in the same reference at verse 2 that five families had died out in Israel between the numberings of Genesis 46 and the present Census: one of Simeon, one of Asher, and three of Benjamin. However that is an interpolation based upon an argument from silence which may not be entirely correct because some small fragments of Benjamin, along with some of Simeon and of Asher, and perhaps of other tribes, may simply have set out on their own, departing for regions outside of the Biblical focus before The Exodus, or during those forty subsequent distressing, and frequently demanding years of wilderness wandering, in which case, their departure might not have been thought sufficiently worthy of notice in the Scriptural account. Keil and Delitzsch give us the parallel thought that "Becher, Gera, and Rosh, are missing from the founders of families, probably for no other reason than that they either died childless, or did not leave a sufficient number of children to form independent families." The three families mentioned in Genesis 46, but not here are those of Benjamin's sons, Becher, (meaning "youth", or "firstborn"), Gera (meaning "enmity", or "grain") and Rosh, (a name which, in Hebrew, means "head").

We now approach the listings for those Tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali, which, by their assignment to the Northern perimeter of the Tribal Encampments, complete the protective arrangement about the Tabernacle focus of the nation. Let us read our Scripture portion for this segment of Israel, starting at Numbers 26:42:

42. These are the sons of Dan after their families: of Shuham, the family of the Shuhamites. These are the families of Dan after their families.
43. All the families of the Shuhamites, according to those that were numbered of them, were threescore and four thousand and four hundred.

Keil and Delitzsch explain that "The descendants of Dan formed only one family, named from a son of Dan, who is called Shuham here, but Hushim in Gen. xlvi. 23; though this family no doubt branched out into several smaller families, which are not named here, simply because this list contains only the leading families into which the tribes were divided." The number 64,400 listed here, The Companion Bible points out, varies from Numbers 2:26 which lists 62,700 but it adds the word "decrease" which may be misleading. This increase is correctly stated in a note pertaining to verse 51 on the same page.

44. Of the children of Asher after their families: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites: of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites: of Beriah, the family of the Beriites.
45. Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites: of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites.
46. And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah.
47. These are the families of the sons of Asher according to those that were numbered of them; who were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.

At verse 47, The Companion Bible notes "53,400. In Num. 2. 28 - 41,500, increase 11,900"

48. Of the sons of Naphtali after their families: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites: of Guni, the family of the Gunites:
49. Of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites: of Shillem, the family of the Shillemites.
50. These are the families of Naphtali according to their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and four hundred.
51. These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty.

The Companion Bible notes at verse 50: "45,400. In Num. 2. 30 - 53,400, decrease 8,000." Of the total given in verse 51, the reference notes "601,730. In Num. 2.32 = 603,550, total decrease 1,820." There follows a summary note which examines the tribal statistics in relation to each side of the camp, and each of the four mothers. (Leah decreased while Rachel increased, for example.)

As we have pointed out, The Almighty God assigned each of the Tribes of Israel to take a position shoulder-to-shoulder with those of nearest relationship or affinity. Remember that, while all were descended from Jacob-Israel, he had his sons by four different wives: Leah and Rachel, and their maids, Zilpah and Bilhah. The three tribes occupying this Northern part of the camp, thus were descended from the maids or concubines; Bilhah having given birth to Dan and Naphtali, and Zilpah to Asher. Zilpah had given birth first to Gad, but, Gad was assigned to occupied the position separating Leah's sons from Rachel's sons at the South-Western corner of the camp.

Here, then, we meet Dan first, as the leader of those assigned to the North, as Judah led at the Eastern side, Reuben to the South, and Ephraim to the West. Each of these four tribal groups descended from a patriarch holding some claim to pre-eminence. To Judah in the East had been assigned the Sceptre. Reuben, to the South, was chronologically the eldest of Leah's sons. Ephraim, birthright tribe in Joseph's stead, was thus honoured as Joseph was the eldest of Rachel's sons holding the West, while Dan was the eldest among the four sons of the concubines.

"The New Bible Commentary has the following note regarding the whole of Chapter 26, which we might read as a sort of summary of what has been examined through the recent sequence of accounts: "As a result of all that Israel has gone through in the wilderness, the size of the various tribes has been materially altered. A whole generation has died, and the new generation is actually a little smaller than the one that preceded it (51, cf. i. 46). Mortality in the desert has been high, and there have been frequent diminutions through rebellions and plagues. Now the long wilderness experience is over, and a firm basis can be established for determining the size of the tribes. So the command to number is given (1-5) after the plague. The purpose of this census is partly military, to ascertain the number of fighting men available for taking Palestine. Even more, however, it is to establish a basis for division of the land after it is conquered (52-56). Therefore the names of the divisions of the tribes are listed now, which was not done in the previous census (chapter i). An interesting feature of this census is the mention in connection with various tribes of those members who figured prominently in events in the wilderness. Secular tribes are taken in turn, their divisions named, and the total number of each tribe stated (5-51). Then general directions are prescribed for the division of the Promised Land among the various tribes (52-56)."

While we have not examined the remaining verses of the chapter yet, we might still read on to the end of the note which pertains to them also. "The tribe of Levi is taken separately (57-62). Its families are named (57-58), with special mention of the family of Aaron (59-61), and the total number of Levites is given (62). All male Levites over a month old were counted (62), not, as in the case of the secular tribes, only men of an age suitable for purposes of war, that is from twenty years old and upward (2). The chapter concludes by pointing out that, of all who had been numbered at sinai, only two remained to be included in this number (63-65). This, of course, has special reference to fighting men and does not include the priests."

We shall move to that last portion on the next study.

8 August, 1999

CENSUS - PART VI

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 oppressive 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 52 in that chapter, the verses pertaining to the actual genealogical sub-divisions of each of the Tribes, together with the numbers of males available for war in each division, that is to say, those men twenty years of age and upward.

In the words of The New Bible Commentary "Then general directions are prescribed for the division of the Promised Land among the various tribes (52-56). The tribe of Levi is taken separately (57-62). Its families are named (57-58), with special mention of the family of Aaron (59-61), and the total number of Levites is given (62). All male Levites over a month old were counted (62), not, as in the case of the secular tribes, only men of an age suitable for purposes of war, that is from twenty years old and upward (2). The chapter concludes by pointing out that, of all who had been numbered at Sinai, only two remained to be included in this number (63-65). This, of course, has special reference to fighting men and does not include the priests." Let us read the scripture portion of Numbers 26, starting at verse 52:

52. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
53. Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names.
54. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him.
55. Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.
56. According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few.
57. And these are they that were numbered of the Levites after their families: of Gershon, the family of the Gershonites: of Kohath, the family of the Kohathites: of Merari, the family of the Merarites.
58. These are the families of the Levites: the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, the family of the Korathites. And Kohath begat Amram.
59. And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.
60. And unto Aaron was born Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
61. And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD.
62. And those that were numbered of them were twenty and three thousand, all males from a month old and upward: for they were not numbered among the children of Israel, because there was no inheritance given them among the children of Israel.

We may have more to say regarding the method of dividing the land of Canaan, mentioned in verse 52, once the Israelites had invaded it. Under the heading "Vers. 57-62. Mustering of the Levites.", Keil and Delitzsch state "The enumeration of the different Levitical families into which the three leading families of Levi, that were founded by his three sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, were divided, is not complete, but is broken off in ver. 58 after the notice of five different families, for the purpose of tracing once more the descent of Moses and Aaron, the heads not of this tribe only, but of the whole nation, and also of giving the names of the sons of the latter (vers. 59-61). And after this the whole is concluded with a notice of the total number of those who were mustered of the tribe of Levi (ver. 62). - Of the different families mentioned, Libni belonged to Gershon (cf. chap. iii. 21), Hebroni to Kohath (chap. iii. 27), Machli and Mushi to Merari (chap. iii. 33), and Korchi, i.e. the family of Korah (according to chap. xvi. 1; cf. Ex. vi. 21 and 24), to Kohath. Moses and Aaron were descendants of Kohath (see at Ex. vi. 20 and ii. 1)."

Keil and Delitzsch continue in the words "Some difficulty is caused by the relative clause, "whom (one) had born to Levi in Egypt" (ver. 59), on account of the subject being left indefinite. It cannot be Levi's wife, ... for Jochebed, the mother of Moses, was not a daughter of Levi in the strict sense of the word, but only a Levitess or descendant of Levi, who lived about 300 years after Levi... ."

That view would be based, I believe, on the assumption of a stay of four hundred years, in the actual deltaic area of Goshen, in Egypt proper by the families descended of Jacob, Israel. Other sources present the view that the "four hundred years" assigned by God for the oppression in Genesis 15:13 began their count-down long before, with the birth of Isaac because Ishmael, who was a half Egyptian, was apparently a threat to the younger child, and the Patriarchal families of Abraham and Isaac dwelt in the Egyptian-dominated land of Canaan during the lifetime of Isaac which must therefore also form a large portion of the four hundred years. That verse in Genesis 15 mentions simply that "thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them and they shall afflict them four hundred years... ." Now that circumstance was true in Egypt, but it was equally true prior to that, in the subject land of Canaan. 210 years of actual Egyptian residence has been worked out as the segment generally from Joseph onward to the Exodus. In that case, the problem, if there is one, is rather, it would seem, to find allowance for the expansion of the generations of Israelites to the census figures contained in Exodus and Numbers, rather than with the genealogical descent of Aaron and Moses.

63. These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
64. But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.
65. For the LORD had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

Keil and Delitzsch conclude their note on the passage in the words: "The Levites were not mustered along with the rest of the tribes of Israel, because the mustering took place with especial reference to the conquest of Canaan, and the Levites were not to receive any territory as a tribe (see at chap. xviii. 20). - Vers. 63-65. Concluding formula with the remark in ver. 65, that the penal sentence which God had pronounced in chap. xiv. 29 and 38 upon the generation which came out of Egypt, had been completely carried out."

As our time is drawing to a close for today, I might once again draw your thoughts toward the complete oversight which the Almighty God held for every detail of civic as well as religious life for His people. At the Second Advent, we must project that a similar care will be exercised by the Returning Lord, because we are told to pray, in The Lord's Prayer, that the will of Our Father shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. Today's moves preparatory to the setting up of an atheistic or pantheistic one-world government run by self-appointed elitists will be totally removed inasmuch as such usurpation of authority directly challenges the right of Jesus Christ to take His Throne and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. Scripture describes the government in that day as being "with a rod of iron." Revelation 19:15 gives the picture: "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

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