Verse 51. "These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty." - The following comparative statement will show how much some of the tribes had increased, and others had diminished, since the enumeration in chap. i.
Reuben 43, 730 to 46, 500=2, 770 decrease
Simeon 22, 200 to 59, 300 = 37, 100 decrease
Gad 40, 500 to 45, 650 5, 150 = decrease
Judah 76, 500 to 74, 600 1, 900 = increase
Issachar 64, 300 to 54, 400 = 9, 900 increase
Zebulun 60, 500 to 57, 400 = 3, 100 increase
Manasseh 52, 700 to 32, 200 = 20, 500 increase
Ephraim 32, 500 to 40, 500 = 8, 000 decrease
Benjamin 45, 600 to 35, 400 = 10, 200 increase
Dan 64, 400 to 62, 700 = 1, 700 increase
Asher 53, 400 to 41, 500 = 11, 900 increase
Naphtali 45, 40 53, 400 = 8, 000 decrease
Total 601, 730 to 603, 550 = 1, 820 decrease
On the whole, in 38 years. Decrease in all, 61, 020. Increase in all, 59, 200.
Let it be observed, 1. That among these there was not a man of the former census, save Joshua and Caleb, see ver. 64, 65. 2. That though there was an increase in seven tribes of not less than 74, 800 men, yet so great was the decrease in the other five tribes, that the balance against the present census is 1, 820, as appears above: thus we find that there was an in crease of 601, 728 from 603, 550 in the space of thirty-eight years.
Notwithstanding the amazing increase in some and decrease in other tribes, the same sort of proportion is preserved in the east, west, north, and south divisions, as before; so as to keep the division of Judah, which was always in the front or van, the largest; and the division of Dan, which was always in the rear, the next in number. But it is worthy of remark that as they are now, properly speaking, to commence their grand military operations, so their front, or advanced division, is increased from 186, 400 to 201, 300; and their rear from 157, 600 to 163, 200. The first division is strengthened 14, 900 men, and the last division 5, 600 men. The reasons for this are sufficiently obvious.
Mr. Ainsworth has a curious remark on the number of families in the 12 tribes. "Here are families 1. Of Manasseh 8 7. Of Reuben 4 2. Of Benjamin 7 8. Of Issachar 4 3. Of Gad 7 9. Of Ephraim 4 4. Of Simeon 5 10. Of Naphtali 4 5. Of Judah 5 11. Of Zebulun 3 6. Of Asher 5 12. Of Dan 1 "In all 57; to whom if we add the 12 patriarchs, and Jacob their father, the whole number is 70, the exact number of the souls in Jacob's house that went down to Egypt, Gen. xlvi. 27." In a variety of things in this ancient economy there is a most surprising proportion kept up, which never could have been a fortuitous effect of general causes. But proportion, harmony, and order distinguish all the works of God, both in the natural and moral world.
Verse 55. "The land shall be divided by lot" - The word lrwg goral, translated lot, is supposed by some to signify the stone or pebble formerly used for the purpose of what we term casting lots. The word hlot is Anglo-Saxon, from to divide, or portion out, i. e., fortuitously: it answers to the Greek klhrov, which some think comes from klaw to break; because the lot, being a sort of appeal to God, ("The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord," Prov. xvi. 33,) broke off all contentions and litigations relative to the matter in dispute.
From this original division of the promised land by lot to the children of Israel, all portions, appointments, offices, shares, or divisions in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, were termed lots. So in the New Testament, the word klhrov, lot, is used to signify a portion of spiritual blessedness, and klhronomia, a division by lot, an inheritance; and klhroi, the lotted or appointed persons to different works, shares, &c.; hence our word clergy, klhroi, persons appointed by lot to a lot, portion, or inheritance; see the case of Matthias, Acts i. 26. Persons thus appointed were by accommodation termed inheritors, because originally, when there could be no claims of exclusive right, all lands where a wandering tribe chose to take up its residence were divided by lot, as the promised land in the case before us. So Judah says to Simeon his brother, Judg. i. 3: "Come up with me into my lot." And as God was ever supposed to be the whole disposer in such matters, whatever fell out in the course of God's providence was called a lot. "This is the lot of them that rob us;" Isa. xvii. 14. "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter;" Acts viii. 21. A lot in the promised land was evidently typical of a place in eternal glory. "That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance (klhron, a lot) among them that are sanctified;" Acts xxvi. 18. "Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance, klhrou, of the lot) of the saints in light;" Col. i. 12. "Which is the earnest of our inheritance, (klhronomiav, of our allotted portion;") Eph. i. 4. "What is the riches of the glory of his inheritance," (klhronomiav, allotted portion;) Eph. i. 18. As therefore the promised land was divided by lot to the believing Israelites, God determining the lot as he saw good, none of the people having any claim on or right to it; so the kingdom of heaven is a lot given by the mere good will of God to them that believe and obey him; for as unbelief and disobedience threw 600, 000 people out of the inheritance of the promised land; so none who disbelieve God's word, and rebel against his authority, shall ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. - See Ainsworth. These things happened unto them for examples: see then, reader, that thou fall not after the same example of unbelief.