Yesterday we began studying the second census of Israel and we looked at the number of fighting men in the tribes of Reuben and Simeon. Today we begin with the tribe of Gad.
"The descendants of Gad by their clans were: through Zephon, the Zeponite clan; through Haggi, the Haggite clan; through Shuni, the Shunite clan; through Ozni, the Oznite clan; through Eri, the Erite clan; through Arodi, the Arodite clan; through Areli, the Arelite clan. These were the clans of Gad; those numbered were 40,500." (Numbers 26:15-18) There has been a decrease of men able to serve in the army in the tribe of Gad. In the first census the fighting men of Gad numbered 45,650.
Now we move on to the tribe of Judah. "Er and Onan were sons of Judah, but they died in Canaan." (Numbers 26:19) These two sons of Judah died way back in the book of Genesis, while the family of Jacob was still living in Canaan, before the family ever went to Egypt during the famine.
"The descendants of Judah by their clans were: through Shelah, the Shelanite clan; through Perez, the Perezite clan; through Zerah, the Zerahite clan. The descendants of Perez were: through Hezron, the Hezronite clan; through Hamul, the Hamulite clan. These were the clans of Judah; those numbered were 76,500." (Numbers 26:20-22) Unlike the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, the tribe of Judah grew during Israel's forty years in the wilderness. In the first census Judah had 74,600 men able to serve in the army; there has been an increase of 1,900 men. Judah is not the only tribe that grew in number, as we will see as we move on through our chapter.
"The descendants of Issachar by their clans were: through Tola, the Tolaite clan; through Puah, the Puite clan; through Jashub, the Jashubite clan; through Shimron, the Shimronite clan. These were the clans of Issachar; those numbered were 64,300." (Numbers 26:23-25) The tribe of Issachar has also grown. There were 54,400 fighting men of the tribe of Issachar in the first census.
"The descendants of Zebulun by their clans were: through Sered, the Seredite clan; through Elon, the Elonite clan; through Jahleel, the Jahleelite clan. These were the clans of Zebulun; those numbered were 60,500." (Numbers 26:26-27) The number of fighting men has increased since the first census, in which there were 57,400 men able to serve in the army.
As we learned yesterday, the tribe of Simeon has the dubious distinction of being the tribe who lost the most fighting men. We discussed the probable reasons for the decrease: that more men of the tribe of Simeon perished in the plague of Numbers 16 and in the plague of Numbers 25 and that more men of the tribe of Simeon perished of other natural causes during the wilderness years while the Lord allowed the faithless generation to die out before taking Israel on into the promised land. If these things are true, then for some reason there was a larger percentage of men from this tribe who harbored a rebellious spirit toward the Lord. We could spend a lot of time speculating about why this was the case, but the Bible simply doesn't provide an explanation for us. The only thing we know for certain is that the tribe of Simeon suffered more losses than would have occurred naturally, statistically speaking.
We also learned yesterday that the tribe of Reuben decreased in number, although to a far lesser extent than the tribe of Simeon. Two Reubenites joined in Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16 and lost their lives, but other Reubenites may have been of the same mind and may have perished in the plague that followed Korah's rebellion. In today's passage we learn that the tribe of Gad decreased in fighting men during the wilderness years. Men of this tribe may also have perished either in the plague of Numbers 16, following Korah's rebellion, or in the plague of Numbers 25, which killed 24,000 men who committed idolatry and sexual immorality with heathen Moabite and Midianite women.
Tomorrow we'll move on to the tribe of Manasseh: the tribe which has the distinction of growing the most during Israel's years in the wilderness. We'll also look at the remainder of the tribes over the next two or three days. Some will increase in the number of fighting men; some will decrease. But at the end we'll find that the total of fighting men in Israel in the second census has only been reduced by 1,820 men since the first census. Israel is coming out of her wilderness years with almost as large of an army as she had forty years earlier. The Lord has made certain that, in spite of all the mistakes the people have made, there are still enough men to take over the promised land and defend it once they attain it.
The Lord has been faithful to you and to me as well. In spite of all the times we've fallen short, we're still here reading the holy word of God together. He's been gracious to us. He's been merciful to us. He's given us a new day in which to learn about Him and grow in our faith. He's about to bring Israel into a brand new day too, which is why a census is being made before He takes them on toward the land they'll have to fight for. But they won't be fighting for it alone. Their God is with them. You and I aren't fighting our battles alone either. Our God is with us.