Numbers 1:1-3

"The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 'Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.'" NIV translation

The Israelites were about to set off on an eleven day journey to the promised land of Canaan. When they got there, they would be required to trust in the Lord and to drive out the people that were there. As a first step, God told Moses to count the men that could serve in the army. All military campaigns begin with an assessment of troop strength and this was the purpose of the census. We must remember that God knew their strength but the leaders did not. We also see that they were to write down the name of each soldier individually. This is a reminder that God knows each and every one of us personally. God also gave them a minimum age of twenty years which reminds us that God bases some things on our physical age. At about the age of thirteen, a boy was considered to be a man but we see that they are not immediately ready to join the army and fight. That is a reminder to us that there is a certain period of time after we come to faith in Jesus that we are to put down roots in the faith and mature. After we have this time to grow in the faith, we are prepared to survive this wilderness fight.

Numbers 1:4 & 5

"'One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you. These are the names of the men who are to assist you: from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur;'" NIV translation

God gave Moses the instructions for conducting the census. They were to be helped by one man from each of the tribes and God gave them the names of the men. This is a reminder to us that God knows each of us personally and He knows our names. As we look at the names we will see that they all point to the fact that it is God who will guide us through this wilderness of life. The first name that was given was Elizur and, in Hebrew, the meaning is "my God is a rock". He was the son of Shedeur which means "light of the Almighty". This obviously points us to the fact that it is God that gives us the wisdom to handle the trials of the wilderness.

Numbers 1:6

"'from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai;'" NIV translation

Shelumiel means "peace of God" and Zurishaddai means "rock of the Almighty". In our travels through this world we will face all kinds of trials just as Israel did but, if we have faith, God will put peace in our hearts. When we remember that our peace comes from Him and not our surroundings or events, we will not be shaken and stray off course.

Numbers 1:7

"'from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab;" NIV translation

The name Nahshon means "enchanter" and speaks of one that is able to see and understand omens or signs. He was the son of Amminadab which means "my kinsman is noble". Israel had visible signs of the presence of God with them in the desert. We, too, have signs all around us of the presence of God in our walk. Many of us miss these signs as we get too busy to take the time to see while others have been taught that God is just watching from heaven instead of being active in our daily lives. "My kinsman is noble" speaks of the fact that God was going to send His Son to pay for our sins.

Numbers 1:8

"from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar;" NIV translation

The Hebrew meaning of Zuar is "little one" and for Nethanel it is "given of God". The selection of Nethanel speaks of the fact that Jesus would come to the earth as a baby. This baby would grow up to die for our sins and to give us access to the Father and the Spirit. It is this Spirit that will guide us through our own wilderness.

Numbers 1:9

"from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;" NIV translation

Eliab which means "God is father" was the son of Helon which means "be firm or endure". God was telling Israel that they could endure anything that they faced because He was on their side. They would need that assurance as they faced the elements of the desert as well as enemies in the land. The same promise is for us through Jesus Christ. We overcome through the power of our heavenly Father.

Numbers 1:10

"from the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur;" NIV translation

The tribe of Levi is not represented because their duties were service to the Lord. In their place, God selected descendants from both of Joseph's sons. Ammihud means "people of praise" and Elishama "God has heard". This reminds us that our duty is to praise God and he will take care of everything. Gamaliel means "God's reward" while Pedahzur means "strong savior" which reminds us that our reward is found in Jesus Christ.

Numbers 1:11

"from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni;" NIV translation

Gideoni means "feller or hewer" as in someone who would cut down a tree while Abidan , means "my father is judge". The selection of this man was an omen of the fact that Israel would rebel as they did not trust God. As we shall see, God judged those who would not trust Him and enter the promised land. They were forced to wander in the desert until they died. This is a picture of the fact that we can either trust in Jesus Christ or we can wander around in this wilderness by ourselves. We are warned that, at the end of the wandering, will be judgment for the disobedient.

Numbers 1:12

"'from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai;'" NIV translation

In Hebrew, the name Ammishaddai means "kinsman of Almighty" and Ahiezer means "brother is help". In these names we see the fact that Jesus Christ the Son of God is our helper in our wanderings. It also reminds us that we are, in fact, the brothers of Jesus as we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and are adopted into the family of God.

Numbers 1:13

"'from Asher, Pagiel son of Okran;'" NIV translation

Okran means "disturber" and Pagiel "God's intervention" and we are reminded that it is only through God's intervention that we are saved. As we navigate this world, it is easy to get caught up in our own efforts. We are reminded that it is the effort of God that sustains us and not our own work.

Numbers 1:14

"'from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel;'" NIV translation

The name Eliasaph means "the Lord increaseth" and Deuel "knowledge of God". This reminds us that our trials and travels in this world have a purpose. That purpose is to increase our knowledge and understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. We are reminded that it is God through the Holy Spirit that provides us with this knowledge.

Numbers 1:15

"'from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan;'" NIV translation

In Hebrew, Enan means "having eyes" and Ahira "my brother is friend". This speaks of the fact that Jesus is our friend and brother. He sees all of our struggles and is there to comfort and to guide us.

Numbers 1:16-19

"These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel. Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been specified, and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month. The people registered their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, as the Lord commanded Moses. And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai:" NIV translation

With God's hand-picked helpers, Moses and Aaron completed the census at Mount Sinai.

Numbers 1:20 & 21

"From the descendants of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Reuben was 46,500." NIV translation

The number of men ready for battle from the tribe is given and we are reminded that Reuben was the firstborn son of Israel. In Genesis 49, Jacob prophesied about his sons and he described Reuben as turbulent meaning he was indecisive. His descendants were characterized by this trait and were about to take that with them into the wilderness. They would be called to trade that indecision for the solid rock that is the wisdom of God.

Numbers 1:22 & 23

"From the descendants of Simeon: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Simeon was 59,300." NIV translation

The next tribe was that of Simeon and Jacob had described them as an angry people. Anger is usually a sign of worry which is the opposite of peace. During this wilderness march, they would be called to trade that anger in for the peace of God.

Numbers 1:24 & 25

"From the descendants of Gad: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Gad was 45,650." NIV translation

The next tribe is that of Gad and Jacob had prophesied that they would be attacked but would also attack the heels of their attackers. They were a relatively small tribe but through faith the Lord would increase their strength.

Numbers 1:26 & 27

"From the descendants of Judah: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Judah was 74,600." NIV translation

The next tribe was that of Judah and Jacob had described them as rulers or leaders. They were large in number but would be asked to read the signs and trust in God and not their own strength.

Numbers 1:28 & 29

"From the descendants of Issachar: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Issachar was 54,400." NIV translation

In Genesis 49, Jacob described Issachar as being comfortable and willing to submit to forced labor. In this march to the promised land, they would be given the opportunity to turn that attitude over to God. They would be given the chance to submit to the will of God instead of the will of men. The same thing is true for us as Christians in the world today. We can be comfortable with the things of this world and labor to get them or we can choose to serve the Lord. Once again, this is a personal decision as God deals with our hearts on an individual basis.

Numbers 1:30 & 31

"From the descendants of Zebulun: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Zebulun was 57,400." NIV translation

Jacob had prophesied that the descendants of Zebulun would be traders or what we would call businessmen. During this march they would be asked to trust in their heavenly Father instead of their ability to earn their sustenance.

Numbers 1:32-35

"From the sons of Joseph: From the descendants of Ephraim: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Ephraim was 40,500. From the descendants of Manasseh: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Manasseh was 32,200." NIV translation

The Levites did not serve in the army so the two sons of Joseph are listed separately. Jacob had said that Joseph would be a fruitful vine and he was as we see here.

Numbers 1:36 & 37

"From the descendants of Benjamin: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400." NIV translation

In Genesis 49, Jacob described Benjamin as a ravenous wolf but, on this march, they would be asked to let God be the judge and trust in Him. That lesson still applies for us today as it is easy to fall into a judgmental mindset but we must trust that God knows all and will repay all.

Numbers 1:38 & 39

"From the descendants of Dan: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Dan was 62,700." NIV translation

Dan was described by Jacob as exhibiting justice. On this journey, his descendants which were many would look out for the interests of the rest of the tribes.

Numbers 1:40 & 41

"From the descendants of Asher: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Asher was 41,500." NIV translation

Jacob prophesied that Asher would have food that was fit for a king. This journey was through a desert wasteland where they would have to trust in God to provide for their needs.

Numbers 1:42 & 43

"From the descendants of Naphtali: All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. The number from the tribe of Naphtali was 53,400." NIV translation

In Genesis 49, Jacob said that Naphtali would be like a female deer that is set free and produces beautiful fawns.

Numbers 1:44-46

"These were the men counted by Moses and Aaron and the twelve leaders of Israel, each one representing his family. All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel's army were counted according to their families. The total number was 603,550." NIV translation

The total number of men in Israel's army is given and we remember that only 70 people had entered the land of Egypt.

Numbers 1:47-51

"The ancestral tribe of the Levites, however, was not counted along with the others. The Lord had said to Moses, 'You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law - over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all of its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death.'" NIV translation

The Levites were not to be counted with the other tribes as they were set apart by God. He had told Moses to appoint them to serve God at the tabernacle and they are a picture of us as Christians. Like the Levites, we are called to walk with the others in this world but we are not to become entangled in its troubles. Our only duty is to listen and to obey the Holy Spirit.

Numbers 1:52-54

"'The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each of them in their own camp under their standard. The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law.' The Israelites did all of this just as the Lord commanded Moses." NIV translation

The Levites were to camp around the tabernacle so that members of the other tribes could not accidentally stumble into the tabernacle and die. In the same way, we, as Christians, walk in this world with the responsibility to let other people know how they can avoid the wrath of God.

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