We find ourselves once again in a list of genealogy, but there is something that I want you to notice about this list that we haven't seen in the previous lists. This list contains historical insights into which tribe did what, and each of these insights normally includes a moment in the family's history when they were not faithful to what the Lord required of them. Look at vs.9 which speaks of the earth swallowing up this family. This scene we already looked at in chapter 16. We also see in vs.61 the recounting of the scene where Levi's sons offered unholy fire before the Lord. The result of these historical occasions inserted into these census numbers, were the reduction of the size of the family.
It is also interesting to see a comparison of this census to the one that was taken in chapter 1 before a whole lot of shaking went on. Remember we have lost a bunch of Israelites to the earth opening up, to battles, to plagues, to serpents and so on. The number given in this chapter is 601,730 compared to chapter 1 the number was 603,550.
Another major change was that in the past when God had promised the land flowing with milk and honey each family got a certain size of land based upon the preference of the Lord. Now we find in vs.52-56 that the land which the new generation will inherit once the old generation has died off, is based upon the drawing of lots and not upon preference. That is also a big deal and quite different from before. We are reminded of the fact that only Joshua and Caleb will be able to enter the promised land from the old school.