The census (1 Chr 21:1-21:6)

“Satan stood up against Israel. He incited King David to count the people of Israel. So King David said to Joab and the commanders of the army. ‘Go, number Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan. Bring me a report, so that I may know their number.’ But Joab said. ‘May Yahweh increase the number of his people a hundredfold! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should he bring guilt upon Israel?’ But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel. He came back to Jerusalem. Joab gave the total count of the people to King David. In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword. In Judah there were four hundred seventy thousand who drew the sword. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.”

This time, the biblical chronicler loosely follows 2 Samuel, chapter 24. However, as opposed to 2 Samuel, Satan, instead of an angry Yahweh, incited King David to take this census. Satan has become a personification of evil. King David then wanted a head count of all the people in Israel and Judah so that he told Joab and his army commanders to do this. Joab did not want to do it. He complained about it. In the end King David prevailed. Instead of explaining in detail about how it took 9 months and 20 days and where Joab had to go, as in 2 Samuel, here the biblical writer just explained that Joab went throughout all Israel and then reported back to Jerusalem. However, the results are different. In 2 Samuel, Joab reported to King David that there 800,000 men in Israel, while there were 500,000 in Judah, totaling 1,300,000 men, not counting the women and children. Here the number is 1,100,000 men in Israel and 470,000 in Judah, totaling 1,770,000, nearly a half million more. Besides, here Joab does not count the people of Benjamin or the Levites for reasons that are not clear. Both these numbers of people are extremely large, meaning that over 2 and a half million people might have been in Israel and Judah at this time. Archeologists are very skeptical of these numbers. Notice that this assumes the division of the kingdom into north and south, Israel and Judah, which did not take place until after the death of Solomon.

The census itself (Num 1:20-1:47)

“The descendents of Reuben, Israel’s first-born, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, individually. Thus every male from twenty years old and upward was enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Reuben were forty-six thousand five hundred.”

Tribe of Reuben – 46,500;

“The descendents of Simeon, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, those of them that were numbered, according to the number of names, individually, every male from twenty years old and upward, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Simeon were fifty-nine thousand three hundred.”

Tribe of Simeon – 59,300;

“The descendents of Gad, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Gad were forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty.”

Tribe of Gad – 45.650;

“The descendents of Judah, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Judah were seventy-four thousand six hundred.”

Tribe of Judah – 74,600;

“The descendents of Issachar, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Issachar were fifty-four thousand four hundred.”

Tribe of Issachar – 54,400;

“The descendents of Zebulun, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Zebulun were fifty-seven thousand four hundred.”

Tribe of Zebulun – 57,400;

“The descendents of Joseph, namely the descendents of Ephraim, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Ephraim were forty thousand five hundred.”

Tribe of Ephraim – 40,500;

“The descendents of Manasseh, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Manasseh were thirty-two thousand two hundred.”

Tribe of Manasseh – 32,200;

“The descendents of Benjamin, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Benjamin were thirty-five thousand four hundred.

Tribe of Benjamin – 35,400;

“The descendents of Dan, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Dan were sixty-two thousand seven hundred.

Tribe of Dan – 62,700;

“The descendents of Asher, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Asher were forty-one thousand five hundred.

Tribe of Asher – 41,500

“The descendents of Naphtali, their lineage, in their clans, by their ancestral houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, everyone able to go to war.  Those enrolled of the tribe of Naphtali were fifty-three thousand four hundred.”

Tribe of Naphtali – 53,400

“These are those who were enrolled, whom Moses and Aaron enrolled with the help of the leaders of Israel, twelve men, each representing his ancestral house.  So the whole number of the Israelites by their ancestral houses, from twenty years old and upward were enrolled, every man able to go to war in Israel.  Their whole number was six hundred and three thousand five hundred fifty.   The Levites, however, were not numbered by their ancestral tribe along with them.

Judah and Dan were the largest tribes along with the two sons of Joseph combined.  The smaller tribes were Benjamin, Asher, and Gad.  Gad had a different place than in the preceding enumeration.  The total number was 603,550 people. This excludes the Levites.  Double the number with wives and add children, so that we are probably talking about a couple of million people, perhaps 2,000,000.  This seems like a very high number of people to travel together.  However all the numbers are rounded off to the nearest 100 and 50.  Moving 2 million together with their livestock would be a difficult task. Thus, it is hard to ascertain an exact number, even though it is Numbers.  Some have suggested that you drop a 0 so that you had 60,355 males with their families so that it might be, 250,000 people, but this is still a very large group of people.