Numbers 1:1-16 After the Law and ceremonies and ordinances were given, two years after the Children of Israel left Egypt, the Lord commanded Moses to count the men by clans within the tribes, twenty years old and over for the purpose of building an army for war. They shall appoint a leader for each tribe.
Notes: Israel was camped at Mount Sinai for 11 months as they received the law and the preparations for entering the land of Canaan. The tribal order follows the pattern of Jacob’s wives.
Numbers 1:17-43 The tribe of Reuben contributed 46,500 men. The tribe of Simeon contributed 59,300 men. The tribe of Gad contributed 45,650 men. The tribe of Judah contributed 74,600 men. The tribe of Issachar contributed 54,400 men. The tribe of Zebulun contributed 57,400 men. The tribe of Joseph (through his son Ephraim) contributed 40,500 men. The tribe of Manasseh (The other son of Joseph) contributed 32,200 men. The tribe of Benjamin contributed 35,400 men. The tribe of Dan contributed 62,700 men. The tribe of Asher contributed 41,500 men. The tribe of Naphtali contributed 53,400 men.
Numbers 1:44-54 Excluding the tribe of Levi, for they were the Priestly tribe, 603,500 were made soldiers for war against the people living in Canaan that with God’s help, and their obedience would be conquer in order to take over the land that God had promised them as far back as Abraham. The Levites were responsible for the tabernacle and all its furnishings. They were to set up camp and break down camp as the children of Israel moved toward the promised land. The Levites were to camp around the tabernacle. All the other tribes were to camp by their tribes around the Levites.
Notes: Adding the 603,500 fighting men to the 22,000 Levite males 1 month and older allows for a population of 2 million Israelites when mathematically factoring in females and the other men under 20 and over 60 years of age. The purpose of setting the Levites apart and arranging them around the tabernacle was to keep the wrath of the Lord from consuming Israel. The Levites’ task was to ensure God’s continuing presence with Israel.