And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son,.... Were numbered first, and next to them those of Simeon and Gad, for they were numbered according to the order in which they were to be encamped; for under Reuben's standard were Simeon and Gad, and under Judah's Issachar and Zebulun, and under Ephraim's Manasseh and Benjamin, and under Dan's Asher and Naphtali; and according to their order were the tribes numbered:
by their generations: or "their generations", the birth, descent, and pedigree of them:
after their families, by the house of their fathers: according to the families and houses to which they belonged:
according to the number of the names by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward; their names were taken down, the number of them counted by their heads, even all the males that were above twenty years of age:
all that were able to go forth to war; which phrase, as it suggests that before this age they were not reckoned able bodied men for war, in common, though some might; so it seems to except all infirm persons, by reason of age and otherwise: now in all the other account of the numbering of the rest of the tribes, the same forms of expression are used as here, only the tribe of Simeon, which is the next, these words are left out, "by their polls, every male", which being twice observed, need not be repeated, since by these instances it might be sufficiently known that the number was taken by a poll, and only of males; so that in Numbers 1:23, there is nothing material to observe, or anything different from what is in this verse, but the particular sums of each tribe numbered, which stand thus: of the tribe of Reuben 46,500; of the tribe of Simeon, 59,300; of the tribe of Gad, 45,650; of the tribe of Judah, 74,600; of the tribe of Issachar, 54,400; of the tribe of Zebulun, 57,400; of the tribe of Ephraim, 40,500; of the tribe of Manasseh, 32,200; of the tribe of Benjamin 35,400; of the tribe of Dan, 62,700; of the tribe of Asher 41,500; of the tribe of Naphtali, 53,400; in which may be observed the various increase of the tribes, agreeably to divine predictions, and according to the sovereign will and infinite wisdom of God: Reuben, the firstborn, did not excel in number, six of the tribes having more in number than he: Judah had by far the greatest increase of them all, from whom the chief ruler was to come, and even the King Messiah; and in process of time was to become a kingdom of itself; Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, was much more fruitful than Manasseh, his elder, more than eight thousand being numbered of the former than of the latter, all which agree with Jacob's prophecies, Genesis 49:4; nor had they always the greatest number who had the most sons at their going down into Egypt; for though Simeon, who had then more sons than Reuben, had at this time a larger posterity; yet Gad, who had more than Simeon, had now fewer descendants; and Dan, who had but one son at that time, had now almost double the number of Benjamin, who then had ten sons: and it may be observed of other tribes, that their increase was not in proportion to the number of the sons of the patriarchs then; see Genesis 46:8.