In the following texts it seems some women were also mentioned among clans of Israel in the second census

Numbers 26:29 NKJV

33 Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

Numbers 26:44 NKJV

44 The sons of Asher according to their families were: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites; of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites; of Beriah, the family of the Beriites. 45 Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites; of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites. 46 And the name of the daughter of Asher was Serah.

Were women also counted in the second census?

1 Answer 1


The account of the numbering begins with God's instructions to Moses and to Eleazar, Aaron's son:

Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers' house, all that are able to go to war in Israel. (Numbers 26:2)

And the summary statement after the numbering is complete, is found here:

These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty. (Numbers 26:51)

In both statements, the actual Hebrew word from which "children" was translated is "בְּנֵ֣י" (bə·nê). This literally means "sons," but is sometimes used to encompass a mixed group, so "children" is not necessarily a wrong translation. Just the same, a look at the Hebrew does not persuade us that women would have been included. If anything, it leans away from this.

There are texts within the same passage which translate this same word "בְּנֵ֣י" (bə·nê) as "sons," for example, verse 28 where we see the "sons of Joseph," verse 29 with "sons of Manasseh," etc.

The normal practice was to number the men--particularly those of age to be able to go to war. When women and children were included, a particular mention of this is made. In this passage, we do not see a special mention of women or of children except with those special cases where the daughters named had inherited their father's property because he had had no sons.

And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. (Numbers 26:33)

Subsequent explanations detail the reason, and precedent-setting policy which came of it, that these daughters were specifically named.

Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. (Numbers 27:1)

The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. (Numbers 27:7)

And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. (Numbers 36:2)

This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry. (Numbers 36:6)

Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: (Numbers 36:10)

For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father's brothers' sons: (Numbers 36:11)

Plainly, these daughters were a special case in which they were appointed their father's inheritance in the absence of any brothers to whom it should ordinarily have been given.

Therefore, one might reasonably conclude that women and children were not generally included in this census, with the exception of these who had inherited their father's property.

  • Are you also claiming that Sarah was more than 400 years old at the time(Genesis 46)?
    – user21676
    Jul 9, 2021 at 9:13
  • @user21676 There is a difference between the "שָֽׂרַח" used in Numbers 26:46 and the "שָׂרָ֖ה" used for Abraham's wife (e.g. Gen. 17:15). Look at both the Hebrew vowels and at the final consonants (left side) to see this. Numbers 26 is certainly not referring to Sarai/Sarah (the daughter of Terah), who died at the age of 127 (see Gen. 23:1), but rather to a daughter of Asher (see vs. 46). The English spellings can sometimes be confusing, which is why a look at the Hebrew can be very helpful. But the mention of "Sarah" in vs. 46 seems more historical in nature, in keeping with Gen. 46:17.
    – Polyhat
    Jul 9, 2021 at 9:47

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