And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them…
At the last general election some millions of votes had to be counted. And the proceedings on that occasion illustrated the fact that the verb "to count" is used in two senses. The clerk counts the voting papers he takes out of the ballot box; but presently he comes to one which has been filled up by the voter irregularly, and, throwing it aside, he exclaims, "That will not count," or "I can't count that." He does not mean that there is any physical difficulty in adding that one vote to the number he has arrived at. He means that it must not be reckoned. The same distinction may be seen in the Bible. When David says of God's precious thoughts, "If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand" (Psalm 139:18), the word "count" is used in the ordinary sense of numbering; and the same Hebrew word is sometimes translated "number," as in David's "numbering" of the people. But when the Psalmist complains, "We are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Psalm 44:22), he means not "numbered," but "regarded," or "reckoned"; and the Hebrew word used is elsewhere rendered "reckoned," or "imputed," as in Psalm 32:2, "Unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." So also in the Greek of the New Testament; and teachers should particularly note, in studying this lesson, that in the Authorised Version of Romans
4. the words "count" (which occurs twice), "reckon" (which occurs three times), and "impute" (which occurs six times), all stand for one Greek word, which is used eleven times in that chapter, and always means "count" in the second sense. In the Revised Version this is put right, and in no chapter is the revision more valuable. It renders the word by "reckon" in every case, and every reader feels the immensely increased strength of St. Paul's argument. Now these two senses of the word "count" both appear in Genesis 15, in the fifth and sixth verses. (In the fifth verse the English words "tell" and "numbered" are the same in the Hebrew, and are, of course, equivalent to "count" and "counted"). And in both cases the use of the expression is very significant.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.