On the first of the second month, in the second year after leaving Egypt, the Lord commanded Moses to count the sons of Israel, every male twenty years old and up, and the Lord designated a leader for each tribe to help Moses. Moses with the leaders of each tribe registered the men, twenty years old and up, by the ancestry in their families, by their fathers’ household who are able to go to war. The tribe of Reuben numbered forty-six thousand. The tribe of Simeon numbered fifty-nine thousand and three hundred. The tribe of Gad numbered forty-five thousand, six hundred and fifty. The tribe of Judah numbered seventy-four thousand and six hundred. The tribe of Issachar numbered fifty-four thousand and four hundred. The tribe of Zebulun numbered fifty-seven thousand and four hundred. The tribe of Ephraim numbered forty thousand and five hundred. The tribe of Manasseh numbered thirty-two thousand and two hundred. The tribe of Benjamin numbered thirty-five thousand and four hundred. The tribe of Dan numbered sixty-seven thousand and seven hundred. The tribe of Asher numbered forty-one thousand and five hundred. The tribe of Naphtali numbered fifty-three thousand and four hundred. Moses and Aaron, with twelve men, the leaders of Israel numbered the sons of Israel who were twenty years old and up, who were able to go to war, six-hundred and three thousand, five-hundred and fifty. The Levites, however, were not counted because they were not to go to war but to keep charge of the tabernacle and the sons of Israel did as the Lord commanded.
The twelve sons of Israel had become thirteen tribes but the men of only twelve tribes were counted. The tribe of Levi was removed because they were designated for service to the Lord. The sons of Joseph became two tribes, so there were twelve tribes counted, representing the twelve sons of Israel. When one considers that it was only the men who were counted, and of the men, only those twenty years and up who were healthy enough to go to war, one realizes the large number of people that Moses was leading on behalf of the Lord. There were also women, children and elderly that were not numbered and a whole tribe of Levi also. Going by these numbers, there were easily, two million persons. It is no wonder that Jethro (Moses’ father in-law) counseled Moses to appoint leaders to help him judge the people. (cf. Ex. 18:17-24) A feminist minded person might question why only the men were counted? This was an enlistment for an army. An army of men to take the land of Canaan. It also shows us that God created men and women for differing purposes. A man is not better than a woman, but men and women have different purposes. These twelve tribes plus one, represent the twelve apostles plus one, when Matthias replaced Judas who betrayed the Lord. (cf. Acts 1:24-26) However, the leader is not Moses, but Christ Jesus the Lord and we are all brothers. (cf. Mt. 23:8-10) These twelve men were sent to take the world with the gospel.