Numbers chs 1 and two
The Staff of Moses
THE BOOK OF NUMBERS
Numbers chapters 1 to 2
The Book of Numbers in Hebrew is called “BaMidbar”, i.e. “In the Wilderness”.
It is so called due to the expression “IN THE WILDERNESS” in the opening verse. In Hebrew the word “Midbar” can mean both wilderness and desert. The Hebrews are often depicted as wandering in the desert for forty years. This “desert” however may have been just as much a “wilderness” in the sense of an unsettled wild area not necessarily a sandy desert in every direction. They also did not really wander. Most of the time they were encamped in a few different places in a semi-permanent manner in each spot, then they moved on. The sojourning in the wilderness symbolizes the destiny of the Israelites during their time of Exile.
The Encampment Around the Tabernacle
[Numbers 1:1] AND THE L-RD SPAKE UNTO MOSES IN THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI, IN THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION, ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SECOND MONTH, IN THE SECOND YEAR AFTER THEY WERE COME OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, SAYING,
<<THE TABERNACLE>>: Later the tabernacle became the Temple in Jerusalem. The Midrash [Numbers Rabah 1;3] says: <If the Peoples of the World had only known how good the Temple was for them they would have placed armies around it to protect it. It was better for them than it was for Israel. This may be seen from how Solomon arranged his prayer at the Dedication of the Temple:
“MOREOVER CONCERNING THE STRANGER, WHICH IS NOT OF THY PEOPLE ISRAEL…. AND DO ACCORDING TO ALL THAT THE STRANGER CALLETH TO THEE FOR” [2-Chronicles 6:32-33].
This referred to the [non-Israelite] stranger but concerning Israel it says:
“RENDER UNTO EVERY MAN ACCORDING UNTO ALL HIS WAYS, WHOSE HEART THOU KNOWEST” [2-Chronicles 6:30]:
If he [i.e. the Israelite] was worthy G-d would grant his request and if not He would not grant it. This applies not only to the Temple but to everything. If it were not for Israel the sun would not shine. By virtue of Israel G-d gives plenty to others in this world. In the World to Come, the peoples of the earth will see how G-d is with Israel and they will come and cling unto Israel as it says,
“IN THOSE DAYS IT SHALL COME TO PASS, THAT TEN MEN SHALL TAKE HOLD OUT OF ALL LANGUAGES OF THE NATIONS, EVEN SHALL TAKE HOLD OF THE SKIRT OF HIM THAT IS A JEW, SAYING, WE WILL GO WITH YOU: FOR WE HAVE HEARD THAT G-D IS WITH YOU” [Zechariah 8:23].
The First Census
[Numbers 1:2] TAKE YE THE SUM OF ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, BY THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, WITH THE NUMBER OF THEIR NAMES, EVERY MALE BY THEIR POLLS;
<<TAKE YE THE SUM>>: In Hebrew “Soo et rosh” literally “Lift up the head”. This is correctly translated as “take the sum of” or “count each one”. Daat Sofrim points out another meaning: Since every word in the Bible was chosen for a reason the particular choice of words comes to teach us something. By having each person counted and affirmed by his name and family and clan the individual receives an affirmation of his self-respect and of his own unique place in Israel. Each person has a place and task that is only his. At some stage in his life he must realize this. The census by name and family and clan came to make each one aware of this fact.
<<THEIR FATHERS>>: Rashi: If a person has a father from one tribe and a mother from another tribe he is considered as belonging to the tribe of his father.
[Numbers 1:3] FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND UPWARD, ALL THAT ARE ABLE TO GO FORTH TO WAR IN ISRAEL: THOU AND AARON SHALL NUMBER THEM BY THEIR ARMIES.
<<TWENTY YEARS>>: Before twenty the male was considered as dependent on his parents. These days for social and economic reasons it may be difficult to delay military conscription until 20 years of age. One solution could be to begin the training before 20 but not release the soldier for fighting purposes until then.
<<THEIR ARMIES>> also rendered as “hosts”. The hosts of Israel below parallel the hosts of angels above (Me’Am Loaz).
[Numbers 1:4] AND WITH YOU THERE SHALL BE A MAN OF EVERY TRIBE; EVERY ONE HEAD OF THE HOUSE OF HIS FATHERS.
<<TRIBE>>: The Hebrew word used here for tribe is “Mateh” and is interchangeable with “Shevet” that also means “tribe”. In Hebrew “Mateh” means “staff” or “rod” and connotes rulership (as mentioned by Daat Sofrim ). Both words can also mean branch or offshoot. The Tribe is a branch or offshoot from the main trunk.
The Tribal Heads
“PRINCES OF THE TRIBES OF THEIR FATHERS”
[Numbers 1:5] AND THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THE MEN THAT SHALL STAND WITH YOU: OF THE TRIBE OF REUBEN; ELIZUR THE SON OF SHEDEUR.
Reuben is counted first. Reuben had lost the rights of the firstborn in practical terms but in ceremonial matters of honor and the like he was still respected and given first place [Daat Sofrim ].
[Numbers 1:6] OF SIMEON; SHELUMIEL THE SON OF ZURISHADDAI.
Rashi: This person is also known as Zimri son of Salu.
[Numbers 1:7] OF JUDAH; NAHSHON THE SON OF AMMINADAB.
[Numbers 1:8] OF ISSACHAR; NETHANEEL THE SON OF ZUAR.
[Numbers 1:9] OF ZEBULUN; ELIAB THE SON OF HELON.
[Numbers 1:10] OF THE CHILDREN OF JOSEPH: OF EPHRAIM; ELISHAMA THE SON OF AMMIHUD: OF MANASSEH; GAMALIEL THE SON OF PEDAHZUR.
Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as separate tribes. The quorum of twelve tribes is still maintained since in this counting the Tribe of Levi is not included.
[Numbers 1:11] OF BENJAMIN; ABIDAN THE SON OF GIDEONI.
[Numbers 1:12] OF DAN; AHIEZER THE SON OF AMMISHADDAI.
[Numbers 1:13] OF ASHER; PAGIEL THE SON OF OCRAN.
[Numbers 1:14] OF GAD; ELIASAPH THE SON OF DEUEL.
[Numbers 1:15] OF NAPHTALI; AHIRA THE SON OF ENAN.
[Numbers 1:16] THESE WERE THE RENOWNED OF THE CONGREGATION, PRINCES OF THE TRIBES OF THEIR FATHERS, HEADS OF THOUSANDS IN ISRAEL.
Each tribe had its own princes. It may be that the national aristocracies of the nations that emerged from the Lost Tribes descended from the nobility of ancient Israel. On occasion conjectures can be made from family names and their sounds or meanings.
[Numbers 1:17] AND MOSES AND AARON TOOK THESE MEN WHICH ARE EXPRESSED BY THEIR NAMES:
[Numbers 1:18] AND THEY ASSEMBLED ALL THE CONGREGATION TOGETHER ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SECOND MONTH, AND THEY DECLARED THEIR PEDIGREES AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, BY THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES, FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND UPWARD, BY THEIR POLLS.
[Numbers 1:19] AS THE L-RD COMMANDED MOSES, SO HE NUMBERED THEM IN THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI.
This occurred in the wilderness to emphasize their total dependence on G-d. Other nations acknowledged G-d as the “G-d of gods” but placed other forces between G-d Almighty and themselves. These forces may exist as angels or they may be imaginary. The bottom line is that pagans act as if the real or imagined intermediary forces have decisive power and so a barrier is created. Israel is supposed to be directly connected to the Almighty. This merits them with greater blessings but also makes them more vulnerable [Daat Sofrim ]. We cannot act as others do.
<YOU ONLY HAVE I KNOWN OF ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH: THEREFORE I WILL PUNISH YOU FOR ALL YOUR INIQUITIES> [Amos 3:2].
Daat Sofrim : The purpose of the census came to emphasize that each person has his own task before G-d. Everyone is unique. Every person is to be counted individually within his family and tribe. Likewise, each and every generation has its own responsibility. We are all different but should seek unification through the Torah.
[Numbers 1:20] AND THE CHILDREN OF REUBEN, ISRAEL'S ELDEST SON, BY THEIR GENERATIONS, AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, BY THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES, BY THEIR POLLS, EVERY MALE FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND UPWARD, ALL THAT WERE ABLE TO GO FORTH TO WAR;
The number of Reubenites was 46,500 [ 1:21].
The numbers of the other tribes were:
Simeon 59,300. Later Simeon would be drastically reduced in number, cf. Numbers 26:14 Simeon = 22,200. Gad 45,650, Judah 614,600, Issachar 54,400, Zebulon 57,400.
[Numbers 1:32] OF THE CHILDREN OF JOSEPH, NAMELY, OF THE CHILDREN OF EPHRAIM, BY THEIR GENERATIONS, AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, BY THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES, FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND UPWARD, ALL THAT WERE ABLE TO GO FORTH TO WAR;
[Numbers 1:33] THOSE THAT WERE NUMBERED OF THEM, EVEN OF THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM, WERE FORTY THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDRED.
[Numbers 1:34] OF THE CHILDREN OF MANASSEH, BY THEIR GENERATIONS, AFTER THEIR FAMILIES, BY THE HOUSE OF THEIR FATHERS, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBER OF THE NAMES, FROM TWENTY YEARS OLD AND UPWARD, ALL THAT WERE ABLE TO GO FORTH TO WAR;
[Numbers 1:35] THOSE THAT WERE NUMBERED OF THEM, EVEN OF THE TRIBE OF MANASSEH, WERE THIRTY AND TWO THOUSAND AND TWO HUNDRED.
Manasseh = 32,200. In this census Ephraim (40,500) outnumbered Manasseh (32,200) but later Manasseh outnumbered Ephraim, cf. Numbers 26:34 Manasseh = 52,700 versus Ephraim = 32,500 (Numbers 26:37).
The number of Benjamin was 35,400 [ 1:37],
of Dan 32,700 [ 1:39]. Later Dan increased greatly, cf. Numbers 26:42: Dan = 64,400.
The number of Asher was 41,500 [ 1:41],
of Naphtali 53,400 [ 1:43].
[Numbers 1:44] THESE ARE THOSE THAT WERE NUMBERED, WHICH MOSES AND AARON NUMBERED, AND THE PRINCES OF ISRAEL, BEING TWELVE MEN: EACH ONE WAS FOR THE HOUSE OF HIS FATHERS.
[Numbers 1:45] 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 1:46] EVEN ALL THEY THAT WERE NUMBERED WERE SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND AND THREE THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY.
The total number of Israelite males between the ages of twenty to sixty was 603,550. This figure does not include the tribe of Levi. The Levites Were Set Apart
[Numbers 1:47] BUT THE LEVITES AFTER THE TRIBE OF THEIR FATHERS WERE NOT NUMBERED AMONG THEM.
[Numbers 1:48] FOR THE L-RD HAD SPOKEN UNTO MOSES, SAYING,
[Numbers 1:49] ONLY THOU SHALT NOT NUMBER THE TRIBE OF LEVI , NEITHER TAKE THE SUM OF THEM AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL:
[Numbers 1:50] BUT THOU SHALT APPOINT THE LEVITES OVER THE TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY, AND OVER ALL THE VESSELS THEREOF, AND OVER ALL THINGS THAT BELONG TO IT: THEY SHALL BEAR THE TABERNACLE, AND ALL THE VESSELS THEREOF; AND THEY SHALL MINISTER UNTO IT, AND SHALL ENCAMP ROUND ABOUT THE TABERNACLE.
[Numbers 1:51] AND WHEN THE TABERNACLE SETTETH FORWARD, THE LEVITES SHALL TAKE IT DOWN: AND WHEN THE TABERNACLE IS TO BE PITCHED, THE LEVITES SHALL SET IT UP: AND THE STRANGER THAT COMETH NIGH SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH.
<<TO DEATH>>: Killed by the hand of heaven. This is explained to mean that he will be taken away before his formerly appointed time – unless he repents. This warning applied to everyone who was not a Levite, even the most exalted. In other words, each one has his place and privileges. We should avoid wanting to intrude on what is not supposed to be ours. We would usually have more than enough of our own if we only act as we should.
[Numbers 1:52] AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SHALL PITCH THEIR TENTS, EVERY MAN BY HIS OWN CAMP, AND EVERY MAN BY HIS OWN STANDARD, THROUGHOUT THEIR HOSTS.
[Numbers 1:53] BUT THE LEVITES SHALL PITCH ROUND ABOUT THE TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY, THAT THERE BE NO WRATH UPON THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: AND THE LEVITES SHALL KEEP THE CHARGE OF THE TABERNACLE OF TESTIMONY.
[Numbers 1:54] AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL DID ACCORDING TO ALL THAT THE L-RD COMMANDED MOSES, SO DID THEY.
The Individual Flags of Each Tribe
[Numbers 2:1] AND THE L-RD SPAKE UNTO MOSES AND UNTO AARON, SAYING,
[Numbers 2:2] EVERY MAN OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL SHALL PITCH BY HIS OWN STANDARD, WITH THE ENSIGN OF THEIR FATHER'S HOUSE: FAR OFF ABOUT THE TABERNACLE OF THE CONGREGATION SHALL THEY PITCH. <<STANDARD>>: They each had their own flags.
The Children of Israel were commanded to encamp around the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was constructed of wood, metals, and various colored textiles. The overwhelming colors of the Tabernacle to an external viewer would have been red, blue, and white. Inside gold replaced white to a degree. Red, blue, and white were the national colors of Israel. Roger Waite of Queensland, Australia, pointed out that most nations we identify as dominated by Israelites have national colors consisting of “at least 2 out of the 3 tri-colors of red, white and blue”.
e.g. Britain- red, white, blue
America- red, white, blue
France- red, white, blue
Holland- red, white, blue
Luxembourg- red, white, blue
Denmark- red, white
Norway- red, white, blue
Sweden- blue, yellow
Finland- blue, white
Iceland- red, white, blue
Belgium- red, yellow, black
Switzerland- red, white
Ireland- green, white, gold
South Africa- blue, white, gold
Israel- blue, white
Canada- red, white
Australia- red, white, blue
New Zealand- red, white, blue”.
The dominant colors of the Tabernacle and of the Israelite Nation were red, white, and blue. These three colors, or at least two of them, are still found on the flags of most Israelite-descended nations.
Characteristics of Identification from the Book of Numbers included:
The use of tribal standards around the Tabernacle (2:2). These standards in most cases depicted symbols similar to those still present on the coats-of-arms of nations in which the relevant tribe is prevalent ¥ .
Tribal Banners and Modern National Emblems
The Midrash (Numbers Rabah 2:7) relates that: The banner of Reuben depicted mandrakes whose flower is similar to the French fleur-de-lis.
Simeon had a green banner and green is the national color of Ireland .
Levi had the Urim and Tumim that were worn as part of the breastplate of the High Priest in the Temple service.
Judah was represented by a lion.
Issachar had the sun and the moon symbolizing the keeping of time and the accuracy and reliability of Swiss watches.
Zebulon was a ship which is the traditional symbol of Holland.
Dan was represented by a snake or serpent like the Welsh dragon.
Gad had the picture of an encampment of troops.
Naphtali had a female deer and the deer became a symbol of Scandinavian royalty and nobility.
Asher had an olive tree and his descendants settled in the north of Britain and became important in the USA which also employs an olive branch as part of its symbols. Asher was also important in Canada which is represented by a maple (rather than an olive) tree but the principle remains.
Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph and the symbol of both these tribes together was a picture of Egypt just like the Great Seal of the USA depicts a pyramid that immediately recalls Egypt.
On the banner of Ephraim was a bull and the English are nicknamed “John Bull ”.
Manasseh had the picture of a unicorn. The symbol of Scotland depicted two unicorns and that of Britain depicts a unicorn and lion. Descendants of the Scots became important in the USA .
The Bow and Arrow Symbolism
of Britain and America
Note that the symbol of both Ephraim and Manasseh together was a picture of Egypt like that of the Great Seal of the USA . Perhaps in many respects both Ephraim and Manasseh together are dominant in the USA even though Manasseh is predominant ? The Great Seal also depicts a grouping of thirteen arrows. We have seen how these were connected to Joseph :
<THE ARCHERS HAVE SORELY GRIEVED HIM, AND SHOT AT HIM, AND HATED HIM> [Genesis 49:23].
Arrows and a bow are also representative of the future re-union of Judah and the Lost Ten Tribes (represented by “Ephraim ”) and the revenge they will take against their enemies:
<WHEN I HAVE BENT JUDAH FOR ME, FILLED THE BOW WITH EPHRAIM, AND RAISED UP THY SONS, O ZION, AGAINST THY SONS, O GREECE, AND MADE THEE [i.e. “Zion”] AS THE SWORD OF A MIGHTY MAN> [Zechariah 9:13].
Robin Hood or Reuben Hod?
William Tell of Switzerland used the bow to obtain independence for his nation from Austria. Historically, even when England was a small, sparsely populated country she asserted herself on the battle-field quite frequently against the French. One of the secrets of English success in medieval times was the effective use of Welsh archers and their longbows. Robin Hood and his merry men were famous for their feats of archery and for “robbing the rich to give to the poor”. Robin Hood is placed at the time of wicked King John (1199-1216 CE) who oppressed everybody including the Jews. The French historian P. Peyrefitte (“The Jews”, 1967, New York) supposed that Robin Hood himself was Jewish and that his real name was Reuben Hod!
¥ For more details see “The Tribes” by Yair Davidy