Following The tribes are mentioned in the same order as in the earlier census Numbers 25:14. Probably his tribesmen generally had followed his example, and had accordingly suffered most severely in the plague. In the parting blessing of Moses, uttered at no great interval from this date, the tribe of Simeon alone is omitted.
The families of all the tribes, excluding the Levites, number 57. The ancestral heads after whom these families are named correspond nearly with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Jacob, enumerated in Genesis 46:8 ff. Both lists consist mainly of grandchildren of Jacob, both contain also the same two grandchildren of Judah, and the same two grandchildren of Asher. The document in Genesis should be regarded as a list, not of those who went down in their own persons with Jacob into Egypt, but of those whose names were transmitted to their posterity at the date of the Exodus as the heads of Israelite houses, and wire may thus be reckoned the early ancestors of the people.
The judgments visited upon Israel for their sin at Shittim, destroyed the survivors of that vast company, who, nearly forty years before, had incurred the sentence, “They shall surely die in the wilderness.” The numbering of the people by divine direction, during their encampment on the plains of Jordan, showed that “of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, ... there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.” Numbers 26:64, 65. PP 456.1
God had sent judgments upon Israel for yielding to the enticements of the Midianites; but the tempters were not to escape the wrath of divine justice. The Amalekites, who had attacked Israel at Rephidim, falling upon those who were faint and weary behind the host, were not punished till long after; but the Midianites who seduced them into sin were speedily made to feel God's judgments, as being the more dangerous enemies. “Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites” (Numbers 31:2), was the command of God to Moses; “afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.” This mandate was immediately obeyed. One thousand men were chosen from each of the tribes and sent out under the leadership of Phinehas. “And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses.... And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; ... five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.” Verses 7, 8. The women also, who had been made captives by the attacking army, were put to death at the command of Moses, as the most guilty and most dangerous of the foes of Israel. PP 456.2
Such was the end of them that devised mischief against God's people. Says the psalmist: “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” Psalm 9:15. “For the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance. But judgment shall return unto righteousness.” When men “gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous,” the Lord “shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness.” Psalm 94:14, 15, 21, 23. PP 456.3Read in context »