Sunday, April 6, 2014

Census Time of the 12 Tribes of Israel

Nadene Goldfoot                                                       

Moses was born in 1391 BCE and died in 1271 BCE as best as has been figured.  He led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land which was Canaan .  When he started he was 80 years old  So it was in the year 1311 BCE that this exodus started.  He didn't make it as he took 40 years to get there, so died at age 120 outside of the land and Joshua had to take over his position of entering the land.  They found that it was important to take a count, a census of the tribes and this is recorded in the Torah twice under NUMBERS, one of the 5 books of Moses.

Every Jew was counted individually as they passed in front of Moses and Aaron at the beginning of their trek away from Egypt and presented proof of his tribal descent. This happened on the 1st of the 2nd month, in the 2nd year after their exodus from Egypt.    They received their blessing and guidance.  Once counted the tribes were arrayed around the Tabernacle, demonstrating that the presence of G-d was the starting point.  It was the central focus of the nation then and for always.  "Jews are a nation by virtue of the Torah."  It is their reason for being a nation,  their raison d'etre.  By accepting this they became a people and by following the Torah they remain a people.  They camped around the Tabernacle which held the Tablets of the Law and marched with it wherever G-d led them.  Our saying is, "More than the Jews have preserved the Sabbath, the Sabbath has preserved the Jews."  The Jews follow their law in that the Sabbath starts on sundown Friday night and ends on Saturday night with the showing of 3 stars in the sky.

The biblical commentator, Rashi, noted that at the beginning of NUMBERS it was G-d who counted the nation at every significant turn.  They were counted as individuals which shows the worth of every person counted.  It would have been easier to count them in masses but sheer numbers wasn't the point of the census.  Each person was to feel that they mattered and that they had a personal responsibility to grow and contribute.  Each tribe had their own uniqueness and each individual was precious in his own right.

Our 5 books of Moses in Numbers tells how the nation slid and an entire generation had to die through the 40 years of walking, but their children came out of it strong and courageous.  They were ready to claim their destiny as the heirs to the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as they gathered around the Tabernacle ready to follow Moses.

The 2nd census was taken after the plague.This was a plague that killed 24,000 people who were part of the exodus.  The people  had settled in Shittim and  started seeing the women of Shittim who came over to them and were being very suggestive.  The foreign women invited the Israelite men to their feasts of their gods and they complied and started to praise their god, Baal-peor. Now,  sexual morality is the foundation of Jewish holiness and we are not to be immoral.  Balaam, a great magician,  counseled Balak, king of Moab,  to entice Jewish men to break their law and they did for the offer of sex. Balaam had told Balak that the only way to harm the people of Israel was to seduce them into sin. For only then would G-d punish His people.  One man was so brazen as to bring his paramour right to Moses and sinned in public view.  You can imagine what he was doing.  He was killed for doing this-the punishment of the period.    This evidently was the plague that hit the Israelite  men.   Then  G-d spoke to Moses and to Elazar, son of Aaron the Kohen and told them to take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, from 21 years of age and up, according to their fathers' houses, all who go out to the legion in Israel.

What we learn from this is that the 600,000 some people on the exodus did not march continually every day, but they did take a break once in a while and here that break led to the death of many for fornicating and starting to worship other gods.  It was not an easy task to change their habits. Here the Moabites were guilty of enticing them to sin in the hopes that G-d would then destroy them.  What has happened to the Moabites now days?  Do you think they are hiding out in some canyon someplace?  I'm afraid not.  They have long disappeared. They may be showing up in DNA tests as a few segments of genes, but as a people, known on this planet-no.  If there are descendants, they are not known as the Moabites anymore.   But Am Yisrael Chai.  The Jewish people are still here.  There are now 6 million Jews  in Israel according to the latest census.

TRIBE                                                        POPULATION      POPULATION      POPULATION
                                                              NUMBERS CH. 1      NUMBERS CH 26      CHANGE

1. Reuben                                             46,500                          43,730                          -2,770
2. Simeon                                             59,300                          22,200                        -37,100
3. Judah                                              74,600                          76,500                         + 1,900 
4. Issachar                                           54,400                          64,300                          + 9,900
5. Zebulun                                           57,400                           60,500                         + 3,100
6. Dan                                                 62,700                           64,400                         + 1,700
7. Naphtali                                          53,400                           45,400                          - 8,000
8. Gad                                                45,650                           40,500                          - 5,150
9. Asher                                             41,500                            53,400                        +11,900
10. Ephraim                                       40,500                            32,500                          - 8,000
11. Manasseh                                    32,200                            52,700                        +20,500
12. Benjamin                                     35,400                            45,600                        +10,200
TOTALS                                        603,550                          601,730                          -1,820

Resource: Tanach, The Stone Edition, ArtScroll Series, Mesorh Heritage Foundation

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