This was the list of the people of Israel, 601,730.
The second large census taken of Israel recorded in the book of Numbers was for determining the fighting force of Israel’s army. At this point they have already taken some parts of the land through defense against their aggressors. It is important to realize that the 600,000 number represents men only who were twenty years of age and fit for war (Numbers 26:2-4). Following levitical guidelines, this number probably consisted of men from age 20 to 50 who were physically fit for warfare.
The actual number of Israelites was much higher when older men, those not physically capable of warfare, and women and children were factored into the tally. Easily this was a number of over one million people in the encampment. Israel was a large, mobile, city on the move. They needed places to settle. God was preparing them for the next step.
Although this census is to me one of the sleepier moments in the Penteteuch, I draw a lesson from it. It is all about advance planning. God wanted Moses fully aware of the “boots on the ground” at his disposal. It was vital for Joshua’s future success. If God sees it as important and commands it, then I should not shrink from administrative duties for the greater cause of the Kingdom.