Thursday, March 11, 2021

Numbers. Day 92, The Post-Plague Census, Part Four

Today we pick back up on the second census of Israel with the tribe of Ephraim. "These were the descendants of Ephraim by their clans: through Shuthelah, the Shuthelahite clan; through Beker, the Bekerite clan; through Tahan, the Tahanite clan. These were the descendants of Shuthelah: through Eran, the Eranite clan. These were the clans of Ephraim; those numbered were 32,500." (Numbers 26:35-37a) The tribe of Ephraim has lost 8,000 army men during the wilderness years. In the first census they numbered 40,500. Ephraim and Manasseh (whose tribe we looked at yesterday) were the sons of Joseph and that's why Moses concludes this section by saying, "These were the descendants of Joseph by their clans." (Numbers 26:37b)

"The descendants of Benjamin by their clans were: through Bela, the Belaite clan; through Ashbel, the Ashbelite clan; through Ahiram, the Ahiramite clan; through Shupham, the Shuphamite clan; through Hupham, the Huphamite clan. The descendants of Bela through Ard and Naaman were: through Ard, the Ardite clan; through Naaman, the Naamite clan. These were the clans of Benjamin; those numbered were 45,600." (Numbers 26:38-41) Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob who was treated in Genesis as if he were fragile and in need of constant protection, produced a large number of sons. It appears that neither he nor his offspring were fragile, for his descendants have grown significantly during the wilderness years. In the second census his tribe has 10,200 more fighting men than in the first census. I believe Benjamin's father treated him with the utmost care not because he was physically small and weak or because his health was fragile but because, during the years Jacob thought Joseph was dead, Benjamin was the only remaining son of Jacob's favorite wife Rachel.

"These were the descendants of Dan by their clans: through Shuham, the Shuhamite clan. These were the clans of Dan: All of them were Shumaite clans; and those numbered were 64,400." (Numbers 26:42-43) The number of men able to serve in the army from the tribe of Dan has increased by 1,700.

"The descendants of Asher by their clans were: through Imnah, the Imnite clan; through Ishvi, the Ishvite clan; through Beriah, the Beriiite clan; and through the descendants of Beriah: through Heber, the Heberite clan; through Malkiel, the Malkielite clan. (Asher had a daughter named Serah.) These were the clans of Asher; those numbered were 53,400." (Numbers 26:44-47) The fighting men of Asher's tribe have grown by 11,900 in the wilderness. 

Women aren't mentioned often in Biblical genealogies since family lines are followed through the males, but Asher's daughter Serah was previously named in Genesis 46 when Moses told us about Jacob and his family moving down to Egypt during the famine. Serah is the only granddaughter mentioned for Jacob in that family list. It appears that, like Jacob himself who only had one daughter, Jacob's sons mainly only produced male offspring. Moses seems to be saying in Genesis 46 that the only people he's excluded from the list are the names of the wives of Jacob's sons. (Genesis 46:26-27) If Jacob only had one granddaughter, that explains why Moses takes care to mention her again in Numbers 26 although he says nothing about any of her offspring. If she had descendants counted in the first or second census of Numbers, we would expect to be told this, but Moses says nothing about the descendants of Serah serving in Israel's army. She could have died before she was old enough to marry or she may have married but been infertile. Being a woman, I'm interested in hearing about the women of the Bible, but nothing is known of Serah except that she was a daughter of Asher and that she very likely was the only granddaughter Jacob had. 

Join us tomorrow as we conclude chapter 26 and our look at the second census. I know sometimes it's tempting to skip over numbers and genealogies but the Lord put these in the Bible for a reason. It was important for the Israelites to be able to trace their lineage and to be able to parcel territories out in the promised land accordingly. It was important for the future in case of land disputes or to discern whether a man was able to serve as a priest or caretaker of the tabernacle and its furnishings; only men of the tribe of Levi were qualified for tabernacle service. It was important for the future when judges and kings would rule the nation. After Israel's first and disastrous king's reign, kings will only come from the tribe of Judah, and to be able to rule the land a man had to be able to prove his lineage. Census counts and genealogies may not be the most exciting subjects in the Bible, but they are in it because they need to be in it, and there is value in studying them because, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) All Scripture is useful. If it weren't, it wouldn't be here. We benefit from studying every part of it. 

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