The book of Numbers certainly lives up to its name in the first three chapters, doesn't it. It's just what you've always wanted to know concerning the number of Gadites and Benjamites and Reubenites and etc. that walked about in the wilderness for forty years. Could we have done without these chapters, Lord?
If we had gone without them, then we would have missed a very important miracle. I don't know how well you do with math, I myself am pretty lousy at it. But even a mathematical dunce like me can understand the sort of math that I'm about to present to you. Here's the info we get from these chapters:
These are the numbers of fighting men from each tribe, excluding Levi:
Reuben - 46,500
Simeon - 59,300
Gad - 45,650
Judah - 74,600
Issachar - 54,400
Zebulun - 57,400
Ephraim - 40,500
Manasseh - 32,200
Benjamin - 35,400
Dan - 62,700
Asher - 41,500
Naphtali - 53,400
Total Fighting Men - 603,550
(I didn't even have to do the math myself. The handy MacArthur Study Bible did that for me.)
These figures do not include boys under 20, women, or the tribe of Levi. If you throw those numbers into the mix, then the number of Israelites reaches about 2,000,000. This does not include the folks of the other races, the "mixed multitude", that went out of Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38).
How much food do you suppose it takes to keep the average man going per day? How about two biscuits and two tablespoons of gravy. That's over a million biscuits per day and...a lot of gravy. What about water? How much water does the average person drink per day in the desert? I'll bet they have to drink a good bit to stave off dehydration, especially if they are marching around in circles.
My point is that these boring numbers tell us that God provided for over 2 million people every day for forty years in a desert. A people who left Egypt with no real provision and went into a desert where there was no sustanance. That's a logistical nightmare, folks. I know people who can barely feed two teenagers with daily trips to the grocery store; I can't imagine trying to feed a quarter million teenagers in a desert.
But God did it, and He will provide for you and for me as well. He cares for us as He did for them. I had some very lean years there in seminary. Very lean. But I never missed a meal (even if it was Ramen Noodles), and I certainly didn't starve. My bills were paid, my tuition was taken care of, and I even got to go out occassionally. God is good, and He cares for His people. You can count on it.
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