Numbers 1:16
These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.
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(16) The renowned of the congregation.—Lit., the called men of the congregation, i.e., the men chosen as representatives of their respective tribes, and appointed to act in that capacity in regulating the affairs of the nation.

Heads of thousands in Israel.—Better, they were the heads of the thousands of Israel. Comp. Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25, where rulers, or princes of thousands, are the highest class of officers recommended by Jethro, and appointed by Moses. See also Numbers 10:4.

1:1-43 The people were numbered to show God's faithfulness in thus increasing the seed of Jacob, that they might be the better trained for the wars and conquest of Canaan, and to ascertain their families in order to the division of the land. It is said of each tribe, that those were numbered who were able to go forth to war; they had wars before them, though now they met with no opposition. Let the believer be prepared to withstand the enemies of his soul, though all may appear to be peace.The princes of the tribes, selected Numbers 1:4 under divine direction, were for the most part the same persons as those chosen a few months previously at the counsel of Jethro Exodus 18:21-26. Nahshon, prince of Judah, is mentioned in Exodus 6:23, and Elishama, in 1 Chronicles 7:26-27. The peers of men like these were no doubt entitled, among their fellows, to the epithet "renowned," Numbers 1:16. 16-18. These were the renowned—literally, "the called" of the congregation, summoned by name; and they entered upon the survey the very day the order was given. The renowned, Heb. the named or called, to wit, by Moses and by God’s appointment, to manage this affair, and others as there was occasion. Compare Numbers 16:2 26:9.

Heads of thousands. See Exodus 18:21 Numbers 10:4. These were the renowned of the congregation,.... The most famous and eminent among the people, for their birth and pedigree, or for their excellent qualities of wisdom, courage, and the like; or "the called of the congregation" (d), whom God had called by name and selected from the rest of the congregation to the above service, whereby great honour was done them: Aben Ezra says, the sense is, that the congregation did nothing until they had called them; with which agrees the note of Jarchi,"who were called to every business of importance in the congregation:"

princes of the tribes of their fathers; as Elizur was prince of the children of Reuben, Numbers 7:30; the same is there said of the rest in their respective tribes:

heads of thousands in Israel; the congregation of Israel being divided into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, by the advice of Jethro, Exodus 18:21; each of these divisions had a ruler over them, and thousands being the highest number, these princes were chiliarchs, rulers or heads of thousands.

(d) "convocati coetus", Montanus, Drusius; "convocati e coetu", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

These were the renowned of the congregation, {e} princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.

(e) Or captains, and governors.

16. they that were called] i.e. ‘chosen’ to help Moses in conducting the census.

their fathers] Their ancestors, the sons of Jacob.

thousands] Another term for a group of relations, irrespective of its exact number; it is probable that it denotes a large group such as a clan, rather than a small group such as a ‘fathers’ house’ (Numbers 1:2); cf. Jdg 6:15, 1 Samuel 10:19; 1 Samuel 10:21, Micah 5:2.Verse 16. - Heads of thousands. Septuagint, chiliarchs; but the word is used for families (see Judges 6:15), and, like all such words, it rapidly lost its numerical significance.

CHAPTER 1:17-46 THE CENSUS TAKEN (verses 17-46). Moses and Aaron, who were commanded to number, or rather to muster, the people, were to have with them "a man of every tribe, who was head-man of his fathers' houses," i.e., a tribe-prince, viz., to help them to carry out the mustering. Beth aboth ("fathers' houses"), in Numbers 1:2, is a technical expression for the subdivisions in which the mishpachoth, or families of the tribes, were arranged, and is applied in Numbers 1:4 according to its original usage, based upon the natural division of the tribes into mishpachoth and families, to the fathers' houses which every tribe possessed in the family of its first-born. In Numbers 1:5-15, these heads of tribes were mentioned by name, as in Numbers 2:3., Numbers 7:12., Numbers 10:14. In Numbers 1:16 they are designated as "called men of the congregation," because they were called to diets of the congregation, as representatives of the tribes, to regulate the affairs of the nation; also "princes of the tribes of their fathers," and "heads of the thousands of Israel:" "prince," from the nobility of their birth; and "heads," as chiefs of the alaphim composing the tribes. Alaphim is equivalent to mishpachoth (cf. Numbers 10:4; Joshua 22:14); because the number of heads of families in the mishpachoth of a tribe might easily amount to a thousand (see at Exodus 18:25). In a similar manner, the term "hundred" in the old German came to be used in several different senses (see Grimm, deutsche Rechts-alterthmer, p. 532).
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