Waxing of Numbers—Waning of Numbers

Thursday, January 13, 2022

So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel (Numbers 1:45 KJV).

What can this fourth Book of Moses tell us about the detrimental effects of sin?

Numbers derives its name from two censuses taken once the Israelites escaped Egyptian slavery. In chapter 1, the LORD commands Moses and Aaron to count every Jewish man 20 years old and above: “So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel; Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty(verses 45,46). That is, 603,550 such Jewish men are reckoned as living.

Toward the end of Numbers, chapter 26, another tally was taken: “And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying, Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel…. These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty(verses 1,2,51). Now, a mere 601,730 Jewish males qualify for war.

What is most startling is the realization these two figures were recorded 40 years apart! Once Israel rebelled against the LORD God in chapters 13 and 14, her people died off in unbelief as they spent four long decades wandering in the wilderness. New generations were born, but, overall, it did not matter. According to the data collected during the second census, the nation itself actually shrank by 1,820 men during those 40 years. Just think how large the nation would have grown had they entered the Promised Land in faith four decades prior! In short, sin took its toll, indubitably affecting future generations—it just took time to become apparent. Never forget, sin’s consequences, though delayed, surely come (Numbers 32:23)!

Our first Bible Q&A for 2022: “What does ‘peculiar’ mean in the King James Bible?