The second census--Numbers 26
The second census
This morning we are take a look at Numbers 26.
-Numbers 26 returns the numbers for a second census that is taken of Israel during their time in the
-Structurally, the Book of Numbers is built around the two census' of this book. Numbers 1-25 comprises
part 1, Numbers 26-36 is part II.
-The first census, recorded in Numbers 1 was taken at God's command 2 years after the Israelites left
Egypt at the foot of Mount Sinai. The primary purpose of that census was to determine Israel's military
strength-- so every man over age 20 was counted one by one.
-The second census, by God's command, takes place 38 years later- this time on the plains of Moab on
the edge of the Promised Land. Again, the primary purpose is to assess Israel's military strength.
-The numbering of the men for the purpose of their serving as soldiers reminds us that the taking of the
Promised land entailed a long conflict (for the nations inhabiting the land were not keen on leaving)
At this time, I'd like to invite you to turn with me to Numbers 26. After reading I'm going to take the rest
of our time to prove to you that Numbers 26 is quite relevant to us today.
(READ parts of Numbers 26, making special note of 7-11*, 33-34*, 63-65*
OBSERVATIONS, LESSONS, PRINCIPLES OF THE TEXT
1. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
-When you compare the number of men aged 20 and over to the first census
there is a negligible difference of 1820 men
-Being organized and taking stock of ones resources is a wise thing*
-Only 3 people over age 20 survived from the first census (Moses, Caleb, and Joshua) Caleb and Joshua
were the two spies who brought back a good report from their foray into the Promised Land 38 years
prior. This means that around 1.5 million Israelites perished in the wilderness. They died because of their
constant grumbling and rebellion against God.
-When you compare the numbers for the specific tribes listed in the two census', some had some big
drops, others had some significant increases. Two tribes stand out. The Tribe of Simeon dropped by 63%
while the tribe of Manasseh increased by 64%. I will explain the reason for this in a few minutes
-The census reminds us of some key events during Israel's sojourn (The rebellion of Dathan, Abiram and
the 250 followers of Korah, the deaths of Aaron's two sons who offered unauthorized fire) The lesson
being that God God is holy and is to be approached and regarded as such
-The numbers in Numbers are here to teach us some important lessons
2. GOD'S WORD CAN BE TRUSTED- His Words and promises always come to pass
One of the big principles of Numbers 26 is this: God's Word always comes to pass
a. In Genesis 12:2 God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation.
With the nation on the doorstep of the land where Abraham was buried-- the land that God promised to
him, there are roughly 3 million Israelites.
b. All the Israelites overs 20 years dying in the wilderness fulfilled God's word.
In Numbers 14:26-35 God says to the Israelites " Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "How long
must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the
complaints the Israelites are making against me. Now tell them this: 'As surely as I live, declares the
Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because
you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the
registration will die. You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will
be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. "'You said your children would be carried off as
plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. But as
for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness. And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the
wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead
in the wilderness. "'Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the
wilderness for forty years-a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will
discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.' I, the Lord, have spoken! I will certainly do these
things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will be destroyed here in
this wilderness, and here they will die!"
NUMBERS 26:63-65 declares the Word of the Lord accomplished
c. Simeon's massive drop in numbers (63% drop) and the Levites receiving no inheritance in Israel serve
as partial fulfillment of Genesis 49:5-7
In Genesis 49 Jacob, on his death bed prophesies these words ""Simeon and Levi are two of a kind; their
weapons are instruments of violence. May I never join in their meetings; may I never be a party to their
plans. For in their anger they murdered men, and they crippled oxen just for sport. A curse on their
anger, for it is fierce; a curse on their wrath, for it is cruel. I will scatter them among the descendants of
Jacob; I will disperse them throughout Israel.
d. Judah's large numbers and pre-eminent place in the nation of Israel fulfilled the Word and promise of
the Lord (See Jacob's prophecy of Genesis 49)
The call of God to us every day is this: Trust me. FOLLOW ME and watch what I will do for you and My
We can trust the Bible. We can trust God. He has a perfect track record. Everything he says has, can, and
will come to pass-- no matter how improbable it may seem
Neat verse: Psalm 119:160 "All your Words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal"
3. GOD CARES ABOUT THE CONCERNS OF INDIVIDUALS-- YOU MATTER TO GOD
In Numbers 1:2 God says to Moses "Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and
families, listing every man by name, one by one." The same process would have been followed in the
The careful listing of ever man by name teaches us that GOD CARES ABOUT INDIVIDUALS
Interesting: People aren't numbers to God. God is interested in individuals. He cares about each person.
In Luke 12:7 we are told that God knows the exact number of hairs that are on our heads. This is in a
passage where we are exhorted not to worry-- God cares for the sparrows, He cares for us. Hence we are
encouraged to cast our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)
Further: Check out Numbers 26:33. In this passage we are told what on the surface seems to be useless
information. We are told that "Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons; he had only daughters, whose
names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah"
Before you write off that note as useless, you need to know that there story is unpacked in Numbers
27:1-11 and later expanded on in Numbers 36.
Point: We-- the bearers of God's image - are important to God--- so important, that he sent Jesus to
earth to die on the cross for our sins-- that we might be reconciled to God.
4. THE RESULT OF SPIRITUAL APATHY AND STAGNATION IS NO GROWTH
Why was it after 40 years the population of Israel was basically exactly the same? Why for 38 years did
they go around in circles? Why did they not advance and take the Promised Land?
I have a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I'd like to read (famous pastor from the 1800's in England)
"It is of God to multiply a nation, or a church. We may not expect any advance in our numbers if we
grieve the Spirit of God, and if by our unbelief we drive him to declare that we shall not prosper. Israel's
growth ceased for forty years; may it never be so with us as a church!"
We it comes to church and our personal walk with the Lord-- there is a big lesson here. We are not to be
lukewarm in our following of the Lord. We must not get lazy as it regards prayer, evangelism, worship,
serving, giving, reading and studying the word, pursuing personal holiness.
I DO NOT WANT TO STAGNATE SPIRITUALLY!
To do so will be to miss out on God's blessing. Obedience brings blessing. (Interesting study: Joshua 5--
in order to receive God's blessing and promises they had to deal with their sin and willful disobedience--
hence circumcision and the rolling away of their reproach before God--- then and only then was the
Promised Land theres)
To guard against stagnating spiritually: I need to be a doer of the Word. I need to guard my guard. I
need to watch my attitude. I need to control my tongue. I need to be thankful. I need to be faithful in
service and worship and witness. I need to grow in generosity. I need to not willful sin rule over me. I
need to be quick to repent. I need to take 1 Peter 1:14-16 seriously "As obedient children, do not
conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so
be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
5. GOD IS A REDEEMING GOD
Take a look with me for a moment at Numbers 26: 7-11.
"These were the clans of Reuben. Their registered troops numbered 43,730. Pallu was the ancestor of
Eliab, and Eliab was the father of Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. This Dathan and Abiram are the same
community leaders who conspired with Korah against Moses and Aaron, rebelling against the Lord. But
the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed them with Korah, and fire devoured 250 of their followers.
This served as a warning to the entire nation of Israel. However, the sons of Korah did not die that day."
I'd like you to take hold of the last few words that I just read "However, the sons/line/descendants of
Korah did not die that day."
So, what happened to those descendants? Did they redeem themselves? Did they carry on in rebellion
When you read the Psalms you might just note that Psalm 42,44-49, 84,85,87, 88 are ascribed to the
sons of Korah. You might also note from 2 Chronicles 20:19 that David had some of them as leaders in
worship in the Temple of the Lord.
WHAT A BIG TURNAROUND! What a testament to the mercy and grace of God
BIG MESSAGE: A person and family can go from having a reputation as rebels against God to people who
love the LORD and our making great contributions to the body of Christ. HOW-- the saving, transforming,
and redeeming work of Christ who came and died on the cross that we might be saved from our sins and
the judgment to come.
Jesus came to save sinners! When a person asks Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and puts their
faith in Christ as Savior and Lord He, by the Spirit of God comes and takes up residence in them--
beginning a life long process of their becoming more and more like Christ.
Turn to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and peace with God
CLOSE SERVICE WITH PSALM 85
English Standard Version (ESV)
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let
them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.