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2014-04-25

Numbers 26:5-51 lists all of the main tribes of the Israelites and their sub-clans, excluding the Levites who, like before, are treated special. Remember, two years ago, the number of battle-ready men came to 603,550. And then there were two years of deadly plagues and bloody wars while living in some of the most inhospitable land on the planet. We’ve estimated a low-end decrease of around 100,000 people, so we should be around 503,550, right? What number does the bible give? 601,730! That’s right, the Israelites were swimming in death, yet they somehow only managed to drop 1,820 of their total number, over 50 times below our estimate! Not only must this be a miracle, but it’s the most common kind of miracle, the kind that happens in an ancient book without any corroborative evidence!

Other than that, the 46 verses contain some recounts of past events and a lot of boring names, most of which are exaltations of God. Some of the more humorous names are: Machir meaning “sold,” Gilead meaning “rocky region,” Jeezer meaning “no help,” Mahlah meaning “disease,” yes the bible says someone actually named their child “disease,” Hoglah meaning “partridge,” (the original partridge family!), Shuthelah meaning “noise of breaking”, Bela meaning “destruction,” Shuham meaning “pit-digger.” Keep those in mind for your next child!

As far as the individual tribe totals, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Ephraim, and Naphtali all saw decreases of several thousand people each. However, quite strikingly, the tribes of Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, and Asher all saw increases in their numbers! The largest change was Manasseh which more than doubled in size! How can all this be possible when the overall sum was on a decline? Because the tribe of Simeon saw a decrease in 37,100 people, more than halving its former glory! I wonder if this is why Zimri was made into a Simeonite in the later editions?

 

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Oh the irony!