TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 25-26
Numbers 26 records the second census that Israel took in the wilderness. The question is how do we see Jesus in the second census?
In regards to Jesus’ time with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Later, in Luke 24:44, Jesus told the disciples, “There are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
In the second passage from Luke above, Jesus was referencing a statement he made in the sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Basically, Jesus is saying that he will fulfill every dotting of the i and every crossing of the t in the Old Testament. Therefore, every little thing in the Old Testament witnesses to Jesus.
Therefore, I believe that every name and every number in the second census of Israel in the wilderness has something to say about Jesus. We may not see it right away. We may not see after considerable study. But, I believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal these things to us if faithfully and whole-heartedly desire to know.
Unfortunately, one morning of prayer, meditation, and study is not enough to see Jesus everywhere in the census. In fact, I am left with far more questions than answers at this point. I believe one of the best interpreters of scripture is scripture. With that in mind, I want to share you possible theories about how we might see Jesus in the second census of Israel.
COMPARING THE TOTAL POPULATION IN THE 1ST AND 2ND CENSUS
In both the first and the second census, Israel was moving through the wilderness with the tabernacle, which is a picture of Jesus. The first census was taken near the beginning of Israel’s journey through the wilderness and the second census was taken near the end of their journey through the wilderness. So, a comparison of the first and second census might reveal some things about Jesus.
I wrote about the order of the tribes in the census and around the Tabernacle from the first census in Numbers 1 and 2 in The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War – Part 1. In the second census, the tribes are counted in the same order as the first census. Therefore, the meaning of the names of the tribes doesn’t tell a different story between the first and second census.
But, comparing some other facts about the first and second census might. The table shows the name of the tribe, the count from the first census, the count from the second census, the change in population in the tribe, and the tribes position in the camp (S1 would be the first tribe in the south).
The Two Censuses of Israel
|Tribe||1st Census||2nd Census||Change||Camp Position|
The total population in the first census was higher than the total population of the second census. So, Israel had lost people in their wilderness wandering. Why is this important and what might it show us about Jesus?
Well, Israel entered Egypt with 70 people, who were almost all men. Let’s assume you doubled the number of the people of Israel every generation while they were in Egypt. And, let’s assume that a generation lasts 40 years, which there is some evidence of in the Bible. Then, in 14 generations, or 420 years, Israel would have grown from 70 men to 573,440 men. Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. Add some more men over the next 10 years and you would get very close to the total of men in the first census in the wilderness. Despite Israel being persecuted by Pharaoh during their time in Egypt, Exodus 1:7 says, “But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” Indeed, the people of Israel were very fruitful, doubling every generation, while they were persecuted in Egypt.
But, Israel was delivered from Egypt. Israel was free from its persecutor. But, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they were disobedient to God and were constantly grumbling and complaining against God, Moses, and Aaron. And, this is despite the fact that Israel had the tabernacle, Jesus, with them this whole time.
However, the tribes that made up the men able to go to war counted in the first and second census camped at a distance from the tabernacle. At least the distance was far enough that the Levites camped between the tabernacle and the people of Israel. Between their camping at a distance and their constant grumbling and complaining, it’s easy to think that Israel was not connected to Jesus during their wilderness wandering.
John 14:4-5 says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing.” Israel was not connected to the vine. They were not fruitful like they were in Egypt, even though they had freedom from their persecutor.
1,820 FEWER PEOPLE IN THE 2ND CENESUS
What could possibly be important about this? Honestly, I’m not really sure.
But, something that stood out to me while searching the scriptures is that the age of Lamech when he had Noah. Genesis 5:28-29 says, “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.'”
The name Lamech is thought to mean for lowering, for humiliation. He fathered Noah when he was 182 years old. Noah was the 10th man. Genesis 6:9 says that “Noah was righteous man, blameless in his generation.” Out of the one who was lowered or was humiliated came one who was blameless in his generations. The ground had been cursed by Noah would bring relief.
Now, Israel lost 1,820 people in the wildnerness between the first and second census. But, 1,820 is 182 times 10. Could the number of people lost in the wilderness be related to Lamech’s age when he had Noah and the number 10?
In the Bible, the number 10 signifies the law, testimony, responsibility, and completeness of order. Could the fact that Israel lost 1,820 in the wilderness be symbolic of their being lowered or humiliated by their disobedience to the law, the ten commandments, that received in the wilderness? They grumbled and complained the whole way, even though they had the tabernacle, a picture of Christ and the place of God’s presence, with them the whole time.
TRIBES ON THE SOUTH LOSE PEOPLE IN THE WILDERNESS
Based on where they camped around the tabernacle, only the group of three tribes camped on the south side of the tabernacle lost people in total between the first and the second census.
Psalm 75:6-7 says, “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is from God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” The wilderness was south of Israel. Therefore, these verses say that lifting up, or promotion, does not come from the east, west, south. Rather, it comes from the north. This is where God executes his judgment from. Judgment is executed from the throne. Therefore, God’s throne is in the north. Therefore, south is the direction away from God’s throne.
Could it be that the tribes in the south were the only group to lose people the second census in total because they symbolically were the people that went away from God’s throne, that disobeyed his law? It’s an intriguing possibility when you consider the section above. Many of the numbers seem to be speaking about disobedience to Christ, the tabernacle in the midst of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness.
These are just a few of my observations. Ideas that were running through the mind as I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what the census was about. And, I haven’t even gotten to the fact that the Levites gained 1,000 men between the first and second census.
So, I am left with more questions that answers right now about how we see. Jesus in the second census. But, one day the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus here.