Census Mechanics From Numbers

Q. Thank you for your ministry and your willingness to address bible questions. My question comes from Numbers Ch. 1. I am trying to understand the mechanics of the census that was taken i.e., how did they count according to the number of names? It’s probably something very basic I am not seeing. Are you aware of a sample of this type of census that I could view? Is this type of census akin to those taken today by government agencies? Thank you again for your courtesy! God bless you!

A. The numbering in this case was for the purpose of determining how many men were of age to serve in Israel’s fighting force, so it was not a true census.  It was more like registering young men for the draft in our time.

The Lord selected the leader of each tribe to help Moses and Aaron list by name each man at least 20 years old from that leader’s tribe. This was repeated for each tribe except Levi whose men were exempt because they were set aside to care for the tabernacle.

This numbering revealed there were just over 600,000 men capable of fighting in the army, indicating a total population of at least 2 or 3 times that large when you add the Levites, women, children, and the elderly.


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