The Divine Numbering

More from the Old Testament. The following is taken from Origen’s Homilies on Numbers:

Homily 1
Number 1:1-54

“Not everyone is worthy of the divine numbering, but those who ought to be compromised within the number of God are designated by certain privileges.

1.1 Now this book that is inscribed “of Numbers”, contain clear proof of this fact. It reports that by God’s command women are not summoned to the numbering.  Doubtless this is due to the obstacle of feminine weakness. Nor is any slave summoned, insofar as they are ignoble in life and character. Nor is any Egyptian counted, of those who had been mixed in [with the people], for the obvious reason that  they were foreign-born and barbarians. But only Israelites are counted, not all of them, but those “from twenty years old and upwards.” And it is not merely the consideration of age that is taken into account, but it is asked if he shows strength that is adequate for war. For it is indicated through the word of God that “everyone that goes forth in power is numbered. So it is not solely age, but power too that is required of the Israelite. Those who are of a young age are not numbered, nor are they considered suitable for the divine reckoning, unless they happen to be firstborn or descend from priestly or Levitical stock. These alone among the young men are summoned to the numbering. But absolutely not female is summoned.

1.2 And what does this seem (to indicate)? Can these things be void of mysteries? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit, who dictated these things to be written, composed these things for the sole purpose of informing us who was numbered among the people at that time, and who remained outside of the number? Just what progress will come from this to those who are eager to be instructed by the sacred volumes? For what profit is there in having learned this? Or what is conferred to the soul’s salvation, if one knows that a certain part of the people was numbered in the desert, but a part was left uncounted?

1.3 But if we follow the thought of Paul and believe that “the law is spiritual”, and if we listen spiritually to what it contains, then enormous progress to the soul will appear in these things that are written. For the present reading teaches me that, if I rise above the foolishness of youthful age, if I cease being an infant in thoughts and, “having become a man, I lay aside the things of an infant,” if, I say, I become a young man, and the kind of young man that I “conquer the evil one”, I will seem suitable to be among those of whom it is written: “all who go forth in the power of Israel.” Then I will be counted worthy of the divine numbering. But as long as any of us are characterized by a childish and unstable understanding, or an effeminate and dissolute laziness, or if we have Egyptian and barbaric morality, then we do not deserve to be reckoned by God in the holy and consecrated number. For in the writings of Solomon those who perish are said to be “unnumbered”; but all who are saved are “numbered”.

1.4 Now do you want me to show you that the number of saints is computed by God? Listen to how David speaks about the stars of heaven: “He who numbers the multitude of stars and calls them all by name.” In fact the Savior not only appointed his chosen disciples in accordance with a number, but he even says that the “hairs of their head are numbered.” For he says, “Even the hairs of your head are numbered.” By these words he was assuredly not saying that those hairs are numbered which are ordinarily cut with scissors and fall to the ground, or which are lost and vanish. Rather, he means those hairs of the head are numbered by God which were on the Nazarenes, in whom there was present the power of the Holy Spirit for overthrowing the foreign nations. Therefore, by “the hairs of the head” that come as it were from the head of the apostles, he means the virtues of the soul and the abundance  of meanings which were produced from the principle part of the mind.”


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