He tells Moses that Aaron will help him, and there will be a man from each tribe as a representative. YAHWEH lists each head of the tribe, who had been chosen by the congregation.
Moses and Aaron assemble the congregations together, just as YAHWEH had commanded. This all happened in the wilderness of Sinai.
Census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
The tribe of Reuben had 46,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Simeon had 59,300 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Gad had 45,650 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Judah had 74,600 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Issachar had 54,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Zebulun had 57,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Joseph/Ephraim had 40,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Manasseh had 32,200 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Benjamin had 35,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Dan had 62,700 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Asher had 41,500 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
The tribe of Naphtali had 53,400 men 20+ years and fit for war registered.
This was a total of 603,550 men 20+years and fit for war.
The tribe of Levi was not listed because YAHWEH told Moses not to. Instead, YAHWEH said that Moses should appoint the Levites over the tabernacle and everything related to it.
YAHWEH lists the Levites' responsibilities:
- carry the tabernacle and its furnishings
- camp around the tabernacle
- taking down and pitching the tabernacle
- keep guard over the tabernacle
- let no one from other tribes approach the tabernacle
YAHWEH tells Moses that if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.
Moses obeyed YAHWEH, and Israel obeyed Moses.
In I Chronicles 21, David takes a census, but because God did not tell him to do it, rather Satan incited David to do it, Israel is then punished.
1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.” 3 But Joab said, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord's servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?” 4 But the king's word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword. 6 But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king's command was abhorrent to Joab.
7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. 8 And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 And the Lordspoke to Gad, David's seer, saying, 10 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will:12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”13 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-13What we see here is not that census-taking is morally wrong in and of itself. An act can be completely innocent and benign in and of itself, but if it is done outside the command of YAHWEH, it is sin.
It's important to remember that actions we think are harmless enough may actually be acts of disobedience. Here we would do well to remember and follow Proverbs 3:6-8:
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,It is possible that David's reasoning for commanding a census was simply to boast in numbers -- to boast in his own strength and not in the strength and power of the LORD.
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Likewise, 1 Corinthians 13 lists many actions we would automatically identify as altruistic, good, etc. But it all comes down to motive. Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor."
And Paul clarifies that. Yes, do obey, but if your motive is wrong, the action is wrong.
3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.So then, the righteousness of an act largely depends on motives.