Numbers 1:20
And the children of Reuben, Israel's oldest 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;
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(20) By their generations.—The toledoth, or generations, included the whole of the descendants of the head of the tribe (Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9).

Numbers 1:20. By their generations — That is, the persons begotten of Reuben’s immediate children, who are here subdivided into families, and they into houses, and they into particular persons.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 enrollment, being taken principally for military purposes (compare Numbers 1:3, Numbers 1:20), would naturally be arranged by hundreds, fifties, etc. (cf. 2 Kings 1:9, 2 Kings 1:11, 2 Kings 1:13). In eleven tribes the number enrolled consists of complete hundreds. The difference, in this respect, observable in the case of the tribe of Gad here Numbers 1:25, and of the tribe of Reuben at the later census Numbers 26:7, is probably to be accounted for by the pastoral, and consequently nomadic, habits of these tribes, which rendered it difficult to bring all their members together at once for a census. Judah already takes precedence of his brethren in point of numbers (compare Genesis 49:8 note), and Ephraim of Manasseh (compare Genesis 48:19-20). 20-44. These are those that were numbered—In this registration the tribe of Judah appears the most numerous; and accordingly, as the pre-eminence had been assigned to it by Jacob [Ge 49:8-12], it got the precedence in all the encampments of Israel. Of the two half-tribes of Joseph, who is seen to be "a fruitful bough" [Ge 49:22], that of Ephraim was the larger, as had been predicted. The relative increase of all, as in the two just mentioned, was owing to the special blessing of God, conformably to the prophetic declaration of the dying patriarch. But the divine blessing is usually conveyed through the influence of secondary causes; and there is reason to believe that the relative populousness of the tribes would, under God, depend upon the productiveness of the respective localities assigned to them. [For tabular chart, see on [51]Nu 26:64.] By their generations, Heb. to wit, their generations, i.e. the persons begotten of Reuben’s immediate children, who are here subdivided into families, and they into houses, and they into particular persons. And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son,.... Were numbered first, and next to them those of Simeon and Gad, for they were numbered according to the order in which they were to be encamped; for under Reuben's standard were Simeon and Gad, and under Judah's Issachar and Zebulun, and under Ephraim's Manasseh and Benjamin, and under Dan's Asher and Naphtali; and according to their order were the tribes numbered:

by their generations: or "their generations", the birth, descent, and pedigree of them:

after their families, by the house of their fathers: according to the families and houses to which they belonged:

according to the number of the names by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward; their names were taken down, the number of them counted by their heads, even all the males that were above twenty years of age:

all that were able to go forth to war; which phrase, as it suggests that before this age they were not reckoned able bodied men for war, in common, though some might; so it seems to except all infirm persons, by reason of age and otherwise: now in all the other account of the numbering of the rest of the tribes, the same forms of expression are used as here, only the tribe of Simeon, which is the next, these words are left out, "by their polls, every male", which being twice observed, need not be repeated, since by these instances it might be sufficiently known that the number was taken by a poll, and only of males; so that in Numbers 1:23, there is nothing material to observe, or anything different from what is in this verse, but the particular sums of each tribe numbered, which stand thus: of the tribe of Reuben 46,500; of the tribe of Simeon, 59,300; of the tribe of Gad, 45,650; of the tribe of Judah, 74,600; of the tribe of Issachar, 54,400; of the tribe of Zebulun, 57,400; of the tribe of Ephraim, 40,500; of the tribe of Manasseh, 32,200; of the tribe of Benjamin 35,400; of the tribe of Dan, 62,700; of the tribe of Asher 41,500; of the tribe of Naphtali, 53,400; in which may be observed the various increase of the tribes, agreeably to divine predictions, and according to the sovereign will and infinite wisdom of God: Reuben, the firstborn, did not excel in number, six of the tribes having more in number than he: Judah had by far the greatest increase of them all, from whom the chief ruler was to come, and even the King Messiah; and in process of time was to become a kingdom of itself; Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, was much more fruitful than Manasseh, his elder, more than eight thousand being numbered of the former than of the latter, all which agree with Jacob's prophecies, Genesis 49:4; nor had they always the greatest number who had the most sons at their going down into Egypt; for though Simeon, who had then more sons than Reuben, had at this time a larger posterity; yet Gad, who had more than Simeon, had now fewer descendants; and Dan, who had but one son at that time, had now almost double the number of Benjamin, who then had ten sons: and it may be observed of other tribes, that their increase was not in proportion to the number of the sons of the patriarchs then; see Genesis 46:8.

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;
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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