The Census (Numbers 1:1-3)
Verse 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, Which is different from the wilderness of Sin, Exodus 16:1; and had its name from the mountain so called, on which God gave the law of the decalogue, and where the Israelites had been encamped eleven months, Exodus 19:1, in the tabernacle of the congregation; which had now been set up a whole month, and out of which the Lord had delivered to Moses the several laws recorded in the preceding book in that space of time, Exodus 40:17, on the first day of the second month; the month Ijar, part of April, part of May, and was the second month of the ecclesiastical year, which began with Nisan: in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt; that is, the children of Israel, who had now been a year and half a month out of it.
Verse 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 Excepting the Levites; nor were any account taken of the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the children of Israel, only of them; and this account was taken, partly to observe the fulfillment of the divine promise to Abraham concerning the multiplication of his seed, and partly that it might be observed, that at the end of thirty eight years from hence, when they were numbered again, there were but three left of this large number, their carcasses falling in the wilderness because of their sins; and chiefly, this sum was now taken to fix their standards, and for their better and more orderly journeying and encampment; for on the twentieth of this month they set forward on their journey from hence, Numbers 10:11; the word for the order is in the plural number, being given both to Moses and Aaron, who were to take the number, and did.
Verse 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. All that had entered into their twentieth year, or, as it should rather seem, who were full twenty years of age, and all that were above it without any limitation; though some limit it to fifty, and others to sixty years, when men may be reasonably excused going to war; for to know who were fit for it seems to be a principal design of this order, as follows: all that are able to go forth to war in Israel; who being about to journey, might expect to meet with enemies, with whom they would be obliged to engage in battle; and therefore it was proper to know their strength, and whom to call out upon occasion: that the phrase in Israel excepts the mixed multitude; those were not of Israel, and so not numbered, and perhaps not to be trusted or depended upon in war; nor were they mustered and marshaled by the standards of the several tribes; in a mystical sense, those numbered may signify the valiant of Israel, the same as the young men in 1 John 2:14; thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies; each tribe making a considerable army; these people were now typical of the church of God.