Bible study 120 – Numbers 3Posted: January 31, 2017
Now the Levites are registered, and divided into three different clans: Kohath, Gershon and Merari. All males are counted, and adding up the numbers from each clan gives 22,300. Then the text puzzlingly declares the total to be exactly 22,000.
This is not a matter of rounding off the last three hundred, because that number is then used to calculate how many more firstborn males there are among the other tribes, than there are males in total among the Levites. (All firstborn males, including livestock, belong to God, and they have to pay five shekel each to redeem themselves. But since the Levites already belong to God, they work as substitutes for the firstborn of the other tribes.) The total number of firstborn in all the twelve tribes turns out to be 22,273. Which, in a population of more than 600,000 males, would mean that each firstborn would have to have an average of at least 30 living brothers, and presumably an equal number of sisters. I’m not sure that’s even biologically possible, unless a lot of them are twins. It would help explain, however, how the Israelites could number 600,000 males only four generations after Jacob.
The total enrollment, all the firstborn males from a month old and upward, counting the number of names, was twenty-two thousand two hundred seventy-three.