A Census Following Plague

Numbers 25:10-26:65

Last week, God sent a plague to punish the Israelites for sinning in Shittim in the plains of Moab. The plague only ended when Phineas, grandson of Aaron, killed Zimri, an Israelite man who was sinning and Cozbi, the Midianite woman with whom he was sinning. In our portion, God blesses Phineas for his actions, granting him an eternal priesthood and a covenant of peace.


The Israel Bible points to the seeming irony of Phineas’s blessing: for an act of violence, he is rewarded with peace. From here we learn a valuable lesson. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Wrongs must be righted. Only where there is truth and justice can peace prevail.


Following the plague, God orders a new census be taken, counting the people over the age of twenty by tribal and familial affiliation. Reuben numbers 43,730; Gad, 40,500; Simeon, 22,200; Judah, 76,500; Issachar, 64,300; Zebulun, 60,500; Manasseh, 52,700; Ephraim, 32,500; Benjamin, 45,600; Dan, 64,400; Asher, 53,400; and Naphtali, 45,400. All told, the Israelites number 601,730. To these, God promises a share in the Promised Land.


The Levites are counted separately, numbering 23,000 males over one month of age. They are not to receive a portion of the land as an inheritance.


The Torah tells us that not one of those counted, besides Joshua and Caleb, was of age during the Sin of the Spies, thus signalling the completion of the punishment God set at that time. As the Israel Bible points out, now is the perfect time to take a census to assess the size of the army that will go forth to conquer the Holy Land as well as determine how that land will be divided.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the identities of the sinners are only revealed here, after the story ends, and not when they are introduced in last week’s portion?

Comments ( 6 )

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  • May be because this portion involves a census, hence naming the defiant leaders involved in that sinful act in the Balak portion becomes important.

  • esta historia nos deja una gran enseñanza como cristianos que debemos confiar cada dis mas en el Señor

    • Yoel

      estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo…. El Espanol es una lengua que ha servido a muchos judios en la Antigua Espana. Y tienen muchas palabras derivadas del semitico.

  • Last week's portion was about sinning and punishment, more or less a closure of the old ways in which the people had wandered in the desert.. Now we are at a new beginning and all will start fresh with new acts and new inspiration. it was also the time of leaving the desert and entering new land. So now we know who and how many will enter and who are the leaders. So they knew on WHO and who to count in entering their new world.

  • Diana Brown

    When we begin reading this chapter, there is something not mentioned that was very important…the sin of Balaam. He instructed Balak that he could not curse Israel. Instead, to get his money, he revealed how to get the edge on Israel. Balaam knew that if Israel obeyed the Lord, they would be blessed. If they sinned, the Lord would judge Israel for their sin. He told Balak that Israel was forbidden to worship any god except Adonai. Also they were to flee from sexual immorality. How do we know that was the information relayed? Yeshua tells us in Revelation 2:14 exactly what Balaam did.
    When the Israeli men “worshiped” with the Moabite women, ate their meat sacrificed to idols, and began to have sexual relations with them, the plague broke out. Repentance began except for one man from Israel, Zimri. He “took up” with Cozbi, a moabite and he was defiantly unrepentant. Zimri had no respect for God’s authority because sexually immorality is a sin that afflicts one’s soul as well as the body. Cozbi was also defiantly repentant because she showed no fear of Israel’s God.
    God’s covenantal promises were on the line and He had to judge to show the whole world He is God and there is no other. That is why the plague broke out. Phineas, I believe, know God would continue to punish so he, a faithful believer, stood up for God and His Commandments. The plague was stopped. This is a great example of how we are called to partner with God in His Plan and Purposes for the willing of the whole world.

    • Diana Brown

      I forgot to add that the order God gave Moses…”Take all the leaders of Israel and kill them by hanging, leaving them publicly exposed in order to turn God’s wrath away from Israel.” This order Moses gave to the judges of Israel. Moses ordered each one of them to execute the men under your jurisdiction who joined in the worship of Baal Peor. All of Israel was in penitence, weeping before the Lord when Phineas took his faith and put it into action. Repentant prayers of Israel was heard, grace was given and Balaam slithered away with the blood of 24,000 on his hands.

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