That's some good sleuthing David! It makes sense that the shekel money matches the 273 Levite children. But I still see a problem. Indeed, I think there is an irreconcilable contradiction in these numbers.
Originally Posted by David M
The total number of males from a month old upward sums to 22,300:
Numbers 3:22 From Gershon- 7500 males from a month old and upward.
Numbers 3:28 From Kohath- 8600 males from a month old and upward.
Numbers 3:34 From Merari- 6200 males from a month old and upward.
SUM = 22,300
But Numbers 3:39 says "All the numbered men of the Levites ... every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000."
That's a difference of 300. The counts should have been identical. They were both counting male Levites from a month old and upward. Do you have an explanation for this?
The confusion gets deeper when we look at the first born amongst all Israel, excluding the Levites who were taken "instead of all the first born among the sons of Israel" -
Numbers 3:40 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Number every first-born male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. 41 "And you shall take the Levites for Me, I am the LORD, instead of all the first-born among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the first-born among the cattle of the sons of Israel." 42 So Moses numbered all the first-born among the sons of Israel, just as the LORD had commanded him; 43 and all the first-born males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273.The number Israelites (22,273) is only three less than than the second count of the Levites (22,300). That seems like an odd coincidence. But in any case, the text confirms that the first count of the Levites was correct:
Numbers 3:46 "And for the ransom of the 273 of the first-born of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), 48 and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons." 49 So Moses took the ransom money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; 50 from the first-born of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365.Here the text says that there were 273 more Israelites than Levites. That means that there were only 22,000 Levites. But this directly contradicts the numbers listed which sum to 22,300.
So it looks like there is an irreconcilable contradiction here.