Parshat Bamidbar Summary

Parshat Bamidbar is the first parsha in Sefer Bamidbar (also known as Numbers).

This parsha is verses Numbers 1:1 – 4:20, or a total of 159 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Numbers 1:1 – 1:19, 19 verses

The parsha begins with the command to take a census of the Jewish people. One reason for the census was to determine the number of men who were fit to serve in the army.

Therefore, the census counted the number of males from the age of 20 and above. The aliyah lists the tribal leaders who were designated to assist Moses and Aaron with the census.

Join the Thinking Torah weekly newsletter. Click here for details.

Aliyah 2: Numbers 1:20 – 1:54, 35 verses

This aliyah gives us the count for each tribe. Here is the order they were counted in:

  1. Reuvain / Reuben – 46,500
  2. Shimon / Simon – 59,300
  3. Gad – 45,650
  4. Yehuda / Judah – 74,600
  5. Issachar – 54,400
  6. Zevulun – 57,400
  7. Ephraim – 40,500
  8. Manashe – 32,200
  9. Binyamin / Benjamin – 35,400
  10. Dan – 62,700
  11. Asher – 41,500
  12. Naphtali – 53,400

Total census – 603,550

The tribe of Levi was not included in this census.

Aliyah 3: Numbers 2:1 – 2:34, 34 verses

This aliyah describes how the Jewish people were to camp in the wilderness. The camps for the 12 tribes surrounded the Tabernacle (Mishkan) on four sides.

East of the Tabernacle: Yehuda, Issachar, Zevulun for a total of 186,400 fighting men.

South of the Tabernacle: Reuvain, Shimon, Gad for a total of 151,450 fighters.

West of the Tabernacle: Ephraim, Manashe, Binyamin for a total of 108,100.

North of the Tabernacle: Dan, Asher, Naphtali for a total of 157,600.

Again the grand total of fighting men is 603,550.

The order of the camps listed above, is also the order they traveled in when the camp moved. In addition, the Tabernacle and the tribe of Levi traveled after the camp of Reuvain.

Aliyah 4: Numbers 3:1 – 3:13, 13 verses

This aliyah now deals with the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi is to serve the priests and perform various tasks in the Tabernacle. The tribe of Levi are taking the place of the firstborn Jewish males.

Aliyah 5: Numbers 3:14 – 3:39, 26 verses

This aliyah describes the census of the tribe of Levi according to their principle families. Unlike the census of the other tribes, Levites are counted from the age of one month. Again, only the males are counted since they are the ones who will serve in the Tabernacle.

Family of Gershon – 7,500
Family of Kohat – 8,600
Family of Merari – 6,200

Total census – 22,300

But, wait, verse Numbers 3:39 gives a total census of only 22,000!?! Rashi explains that the “extra” 300 were also firstborns and therefore not included in this total.

Aliyah 6: Numbers 3:40 – 3:51, 12 verses

In this aliyah the firstborn Jewish males from the age of one month were counted. Their total was found to be 22,273.

Thus 22,000 of these firstborn were redeemed by the 22,000 Levites. The remaining 273 paid 5 shekels for their redemption. This redemption money (273 x 5 = 1365 shekels) was given to Aaron and his sons.

Aliyah 7: Numbers 4:1 – 4:20, 20 verses

The final aliyah of this parsha recounts the job of the family of Kohat in the Tabernacle. When the Tabernacle moved, the priests were required to cover the aron and all of the other vessels. Then the family of Kohat were commanded to carry the aron, table, menorah, and the incense altar.

Haftarah Summary

The haftarah for Parshat Numbers is Hosea 2:1-22, 22 verses.

Hoshea (also called Hosea in English) is the first of the so-called “minor prophets.” In Jewish tradition they are referred to as the Trei Asar since they are 12 prophets.

The first verse clearly connects the haftarah to the parsha, “The number of the Children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which can neither be measured or counted …”

The prophet relates that even though the Jewish people may go astray, eventually they will be brought back to God with righteousness, justice, kindness, and mercy. See verse 21.

Further Reading

I’ve written a few other articles about the Book of Numbers. You can see them all here.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.