Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Bamidbar, Taking a Census of My Own Life; is that a Sin?

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This weeks reading is from Parashat Bamidbar (Bamidbar / Numbers 1:1-4:20), the Lord God speaks to Moshe in the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Moed, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד) saying  ב  שְֹאוּ אֶת-רֹאשׁ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְֹרָאֵל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת כָּל-זָכָר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם:  1:2 ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. (NASB)  The men who are to be numbered are those who are able to go to war, twenty years and older, the number of men from each tribe is given in Bamidbar / Numbers 1:4-46.  The Levites however were not numbered because they are given to the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle (1:47-50).  The scriptures state that the Levites are to camp around the Tabernacle so God’s wrath does not fall upon the congregation of Israel (1:53).  The Scriptures list who will camp on the north, east, south, and west sides of the Tabernacle (2:1-34).  The generations of Aaron are given (3:1-4), then the Lord commands that the Levites be brought before Aaron and declares 3:13‘For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord.’(NASB)  Moshe then numbered Aaron’s sons according to the command of the Lord (3:14) and the number of the first born are listed (3:15-50).  This week’s reading ends with the mitzvot (commandments) on what to do when the Tabernacle moves from one place to another, how the Levites are to prepare the Tabernacle for traveling (4:4-20).

כתבי הקודש / The Holy Scriptures

ספר במדבר פרק א
א   וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָֹה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר: ב   שְֹאוּ אֶת-רֹאשׁ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְֹרָאֵל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת כָּל-זָכָר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם: ג   מִבֶּן עֶשְֹרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה כָּל-יֹצֵא צָבָא בְּיִשְֹרָאֵל תִּפְקְדוּ אֹתָם לְצִבְאֹתָם אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן:

Bamidbar / Numbers 1:1-3
1:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 1:2 ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head 1:3 from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies. (NASB)

In the reading for this week from Bamidbar / Numbers 1:1-3, God speaks to Moshe telling him to number the people.  Studying the Scriptures it is interesting to note that, on occasion, when a king takes a census it is considered a sin to do so before the Lord.  Have you ever asked the question concerning the census that is recorded in the books of 1 Chronicles 21:1-4 and 2 Samuel 24; why did David number Israel?  Why was it was a sin that king David numbered Israel?  Many people look upon this episode as an esoteric commentary not immediately knowing or understanding why God would deal so harshly with King David for simply numbering the people of Israel?  Counting the people may be done for various reasons, both good and bad.  For example, a country might count its people for a census to see how many new roads need to be built.  Numbering the people for this reason would not result in sin by doing so. On the other hand, if a country counted the people to determine how many man are able to draw the sword (as David did) in order to determine whether to invade another country, to attack an enemy, or to glory being great in power, then this is sinful.  King David counted for the purpose of satisfying his pride, which was provoked by Satan.  Based on the biblical text, the conclusion we are able to make regarding David taking a census of the people, he did his census taking out of human ego and pride.  He wanted to know how powerful Israel’s army was.  This is confirmed by God declaring plainly that the number of the men that he counted were “those that drew the sword” (2 Samuel 24:9-10). The offense to the Lord God Almighty concerning Israel was that David had begun to trust in man rather than the Lord.  What was the reason for God asking Moshe to number the people in Bamidbar / Numbers chapter 1?  It was not for the purpose of knowing the power of Israel’s army.  In fact, Israel was going to spend another 40 years wandering the desert.  So why number the people here?  The reason was to provide an account of the number of able bodied men who were delivered up out of Egypt.  In addition to this, we do not read that Moshe taking a ransom for the people following the census (Shemot / Exodus 30:11-12).  This is most likely because God motivated Moshe’s actions by giving the mitzvah to do so.  What is the lesson for us this week?  Will we trust in the Lord for all of our needs or will we behave like David, to take account of all that we have and take pride in our wealth believing the work of our hands was something of our own making and not God’s blessing?  This is related to our walking humbly before the Lord and with repentant hearts.  As we live each day, we should be quick to seek God’s mercy and to seek His Son Yeshua to take away our iniquity.  Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (NASB)  BTT_Parashat Bamidbar-2013

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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!