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Bible: What Does Numbers 25-26, 32-33 Say About Zeal, Census Taking, and the Inheritance?

Updated on August 21, 2016

The Zealous Phinehas


Zeal for Yahweh

Israel learns at Acacia Grove—the site from which they would later send spies to Rahab (cf. Josh. 2:1)—that they cannot accept invitations to Moabite religious festivals without compromising their own faith (vv. 1-2).

The only way to propitiate Yahweh is to execute the offenders who bowed their knee to Baal of Peor (vv. 3-5).

Therefore, Phinehas impales Zimri, a Simeonite leader (v. 14), who dared flaunt Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite leader (v. 15), in the sight of Moses and Israel; in fact, Aaron’s son runs both of them through in the sinner’s tent, and thus curtails the latest plague (vv. 6-9).

Not only does his commendable zeal for God prevent the LORD from consuming Israel, but it also earns Phinehas Yahweh’s “covenant of peace”: everlasting priesthood for him and his descendants (vv. 10-13).

The LORD commands Moses to attack the Midianites, because they originally intended to seduce Israel from the true worship by means of hospitality and marriage (vv. 16-18).

Numbers 26

A second census of all warriors twenty and above taken after the latest plague reveals a number one thousand eight hundred twenty men fewer than the first numbering (vv. 1-4, 51; cf. Num. 2:32).

The chart below shows the differences between the two censuses:

Census Taking Results

Wilderness of Sinai (First Census--Numbers 2)
The Plains of Moab (Second Census-Numbers 26)
Reuben (vv. 5-11)
43,730 (-2,770)*
Simeon (vv. 12-14)
22,200 (-37,100)
Gad (vv. 15-18)
42,500 (-3,150)
Judah (vv. 19-22)
76,500 (+1,900)
Issachar (vv. 23-25)
64,300 (+9,900)
Zebulun (vv. 26-27)
60,500 (+3,100)
Manasseh (vv. 28-34)
52,700 (+20,500)
Ephraim (vv. 35-37)
32,500 (-8,000)
Benjamin (vv. 38-41)
45,600 (+11,200)
Dan (vv. 42-43)
64,400 (+1,700)
Asher (vv. 44-47)
53,400 (+11,900)
Naphtali (vv. 48-50)
45,400 (-8,000)

The Demise of Dathan and Abiram


Sentence for Rebellion: Death

*Dathan and Abiram, sons of Pallu, a son of Reuben, took with them two hundred fifty others into judgment (vv. 9-10).

Now Yahweh tells Moses the parameters by which the tribes would receive their inheritance (vv. 52-53).

The larger the tribe, the larger the inheritance, and each receives their land by lot (vv. 54-56).

The text delineates the Levites and their families next (vv. 57-61).

They number twenty-three thousand males from one month and above (v. 62).

Moses makes the final point that everyone whom he and Aaron numbered in the original census had died in the wilderness, except for Caleb and Joshua (vv. 63-65).

The River Jordan


Two and One-Half Tribes "This Side" of the Jordan

Numbers 32

The children of Gad and the children of Reuben, ranchers by trade, request from Moses and the other leadership that they may settle in Jazer and Gilead instead of cross the Jordan (vv. 1-5).

Unsettled by their desires, Moses leaps to the conclusion that they are turning away from Yahweh, accusing them of cowardice (v. 6) and engendering discouragement (v. 7).

He launches into a historical tirade detailing how their fathers’ report about the Valley of Eschol discouraged the rest of Israel from entering the Land and moved the LORD to make all of those who “have not wholly followed Me” (except for Caleb and Joshua) to wander in the wilderness for forty years (vv. 8-13).

Moses fears a repeat of this error (vv. 14-15).

The Tribes Who Dwell Apart From the Others

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Seeking to lessen their leader’s anxieties, Gad and Reuben assure him that they plan to fight with their brethren and help them possess their inheritances before returning to their own families and homes in Gilead (vv. 16-18).

They plainly tell Moses that they will not live on the “other side of the Jordan” (v. 19).

Having heard their argument and received their assurance, Moses permits them to proceed with the plan of building, fighting, and returning (vv. 20-22, 24).

However, he also warns them that the LORD will repay them if they go back on their word (v. 23).

Gad and Reuben agree to uphold their part, and they obey Moses’ command (vv. 25-27).

After informing Eleazar, Joshua, and other leaders about the decision of Gad and Reuben (v. 28), Moses commands them to give Gilead to these tribes if they fight with their brethren (v. 29), but not to withhold Canaan possessions from them if they should choose not to cross over armed with the rest of Israel (v. 30).

Gad and Reuben again assure Moses of their intentions to fight with Israel, but live in Gilead after the battles are over (vv. 31-32).

Half the tribe of Manasseh joins Gad and Reuben; with them they receive the kingdoms of Og and Sihon from Moses (v. 33).

Verses 34-36 list the cities that Gad built; verses 37-38 delineate Reuben’s; and verses 39-42 relate the exploits of the children of Manasseh—Machir, Jair, and Nobah—in establishing settlements in Gilead.

Moses Considers the Past


Moses Reviews the Past and Looks to the Future

Numbers 33

Moses reviews all the journeys Israel took from Egypt under the LORD’s direction (vv. 1-2).

[Since most of the verses merely report Israel’s different campsites, this writer will merely cite points of interest in this chapter]:

(1) Verse four indicates that the plagues on Egypt were judgments against their gods.

(2) Israel passed through the Sea of Reeds from before Pi Hahiroth (v. 8).

(3) At Rephidim Israel lacked drinking water (v. 14).

(4) Mount Hor is on the boundary of the land of Edom (v. 37).

(5) Aaron died at Mount Hor in the fifth month of the fortieth year out of Egypt at age one hundred twenty-three (vv. 38-39).

Yahweh gives Moses battle instructions for Israel’s use in the Land (vv. 50-56).

The people must:

(1) Drive out the inhabitants (v. 52a)

(2) Destroy all items of false worship (v. 52b)

(3) Dispossess the inhabitants (v. 53a)

(4) Dwell in their land (v. 53b)

(5) Divide the land by lot; larger inheritances to larger families (v. 54).

If Israel does not follow these plans, the Land’s inhabitants will irritate and harass them, and God will chasten Israel with the same kind of treatment as He planned to do to the Canaanites (vv. 55-56).

© 2014 glynch1


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