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B'Midbar/Numbers 4:38 And the numbered men of the sons of Gershon by their families, and by their father's households (NASB)
The first word of the text is a Qal participle translated by various bibles as "the numbered men", "the counted ones" or even "the census". The root verb, , pakad, has a rich range of meanings, from which we can learn some interesting perspectives.
The first meaning offered by the dictionary is "visit, go or come to see". This could show that this counting was not simply a mechanical head-count, done at a distance, on an anonymous basis; this idea is re-inforced by the text telling us that the counting was done by families and ancestral households. Those counted were known individuals, each with a name and an individual personality. "I am calling you by name; you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1, CJB).
The second meaning is "examine, prove" and the third is closely related: "review, muster, number". These meanings suggest that each individual could have been tested ore assessed - that his ability to do the work of service in the Mishkan was known, possibly that his attitude to doing the work could have been considered. Just as "G-d loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7, NASB), so He wants people to serve Him willingly and in a good spirit.
The next two meanings are closely matched. The fourth meaning is "look after, take care of". Is there a sense in which G-d had already taken care of these men? He had brought them out of Egypt, preserved them through the desert, enabled them to stand for Him during the episode of the Golden Calf and placed them in families. On the other hand, the fifth meaning is "set over, appoint" - in the same was as those men had been looked after, they were appointed to look after those in the other tribes. The Torah tells us that the Levites were to be spread throughout the people of Israel without any formal land inheritance of their own, so that they could be available to teach all the other tribes the Torah and pass on the traditions of Adonai. "We can encourage others in whatever trials they may be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from G-d" (2 Corinthians 1:4, CJB).
The last meaning the dictionary provides is "deposit, lay up" and this speaks of the investment thatHaShem was making in these men. Not only were they counted and chosen, but they were to be trained and equipped for service, given skills in carrying out the tasks assigned to them. G-d wasn't going to throw them in at the deep end and expect them to sink or swim - He was looking at them as the deposit, laid up to bring a return on His investment. They have been set apart for Him. Yeshua said to His disciples, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:16, ESV).
Further Study: D'varim 7:6-9; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30
Application: Have you been visited by G-d? If so, then know that you have not only been visited but examined and reviewed, that you are being taken care of so that you can take care of others, and that G-d has invested His very self in you so that you may invest in others and bring a return of His investment in you.
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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