Numbers 1:4
And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.
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(4) Of every tribe.—Or, for every tribe.

Every one head . . . —The words may be rendered every one a head . . . There were many heads of fathers’ houses in each tribe; but it appears from Numbers 1:16 (Numbers 7:10-11) that in each case the tribal prince was selected to preside over the census.

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.A month had passed away since the setting up of the tabernacle Exodus 40:2, Exodus 40:17 : and the Sinaitic legislation was now complete (compare Leviticus 27:34).

A census ("sum") was commanded, to be based not upon any fresh registration of individuals, but upon that which had accompanied the previous collection of the offerings. Compare Exodus 30:11, etc.; Exodus 38:25-28. The offerings had been probably tendered by the people in groups, and if certificates of registration were furnished to such groups, the new census might be easily carried out by means of these documents, and got through Numbers 1:18 in a single day. The present registration enrolled persons "after their families, by the house of their fathers;" and was superintended not by the Levites (see Exodus 38:21 and note), but by Numbers 1:4 an assessor for each tribe to act in the business with Moses and Aaron. The purpose now in view was not religious only. The census now taken would serve as a basis for various civil and military arrangements.

4-16. with you there shall be a man of every tribe, &c.—The social condition of the Israelites in the wilderness bore a close resemblance to that of the nomad tribes of the East in the present day. The head of the tribe was a hereditary dignity, vested in the oldest son or some other to whom the right of primogeniture was transferred, and under whom were other inferior heads, also hereditary, among the different branches of the tribe. The Israelites being divided into twelve tribes, there were twelve chiefs appointed to assist in taking the census of the people. To inspect the work, that it might be faithfully and impartially done.

And with you there shall be a man of every tribe,.... Excepting Levi, of which Moses and Aaron were, to assist in taking the account, and to see that it was an exact and perfect one:

everyone head of the house of his fathers; and prince of the tribe he belonged to, as appears from Numbers 1:16 and Numbers 7:2, where an account is given of the same persons as princes of the tribes that offered at the dedication of the altar, who here assisted in the taking this account; the Targum of Jonathan calls them each a prince, as Prince Elizur, &c.

And with you there shall be a {c} man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.

(c) That is, the chiefest man of every tribe.

Verse 4. - A man of every tribe. The former census, which was for religious purposes only, was made with the assistance of the Levites. This, which was rather for political and military purposes, was supervised by the lay heads of the people. Numbers 1:4Moses 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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