Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. after the plague--That terrible visitation had swept away the
remnant of the old generation, to whom God sware in His wrath that they
should not enter Canaan
2. Take the sum of all the congregation--The design of this new
census, after a lapse of thirty-eight years, was primarily to establish
the vast multiplication of the posterity of Abraham in spite of the
severe judgments inflicted upon them; secondarily, it was to preserve
the distinction of families and to make arrangements, preparatory to an
entrance into the promised land, for the distribution of the country
according to the relative population of the tribes.
7. These are the families of the Reubenites--the principal households,
which were subdivided into numerous smaller families. Reuben had
suffered great diminution by Korah's conspiracy and other outbreaks
10. the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with
Korah--rather, "the things of Korah."
11. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not--Either they
were not parties to their father's crime, or they withdrew from it by
timely repentance. His descendants became famous in the time of David,
and are often mentioned in the Psalms
44:1; 45:1; 46:1; 47:1; 48:1; 49:1; 84:1; 85:1; 87:1; 88:1],
1Ch 6:22, 38.
12. The sons of Simeon--It is supposed that this tribe had been
pre-eminent in the guilt of Baal-peor and had consequently been greatly
reduced in numbers.
Thus God's justice and holiness, as well as His truth and faithfulness,
were strikingly displayed: His justice and holiness in the sweeping
judgments that reduced the ranks of some tribes; and His truth and
faithfulness in the extraordinary increase of others so that the
posterity of Israel continued a numerous people.
53. the land shall be divided according to the number of names--The
portion of each tribe was to be greater or less, according to its
54. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance--that is, to the more
numerous tribes a larger allotment shall be granted.
according to those that were numbered--the number of persons twenty
years old at the time of the census being made, without taking into
account either the increase of those who might have attained that age,
when the land should be actually distributed, or the diminution from
that amount, occasioned during the war of invasion.
55. the land shall be divided by lot--The appeal to the lot did not
place the matter beyond the control of God; for it is at His disposal
and He has fixed to all the bounds of their habitation. The manner in
which the lot was taken has not been recorded. But it is evident that
the lot was cast for determining the section of the country in which
each tribe should be located--not the quantity of their possessions. In
other words, when the lot had decided that a particular tribe was to be
settled in the north or the south, the east or the west, the extent of
territory was allocated according to the rule
58. families of the Levites--The census of this tribe was taken
separately, and on a different principle from the rest. (See
62. twenty and three thousand--so that there was an increase of a
males from a month old and upward--(See on
64. among these there was not a man . . . numbered . . . in the
wilderness of Sinai--The statement in this verse must not be
considered absolute. For, besides Caleb and Joshua, there were alive at
this time Eleazar and Ithamar, and in all probability a considerable
number of Levites, who had no participation in the popular defections
in the wilderness. The tribe of Levi, having neither sent a spy into
Canaan, nor being included in the enumeration at Sinai, must be
regarded as not coming within the range of the fatal sentence; and
therefore it would exhibit a spectacle not to be witnessed in the other
tribes of many in their ranks above sixty years of age.