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    Published 1915, Amplified & Edited 2000;

    Letter ""


    Deuter-canonical Books are included as references, and less often, the Pseudoe-pigraphia (extra-biblical New Testament Era writings - such as the Gospel of Barnabas - used for over 300 years by the early Church.

    Though these are not Inerrant Scripture, they are very important as geographical and historical references, and helping to understand how particular Hebrew and Greek words were used.

    Since the Deuter-canonical Books were part of the Jewish Bible that Jesus and Paul used, they have great value for understanding the era between the Covenants, and all things Jewish.

    Many will be surprised to know they were in the Geneva Bible of Calvin and Knox - and the Puritan Pilgrims - and included in the King James for over 275 years . . .

    . . . and left out in later versions - ONLY to make the Bible MORE PROFITABLE, by selling at the usual price, while being much smaller to print!

    No wonder Paul said the "love of money is the root of all evil!"

    Further know, that that these books are rejected by most Bible Preachers today, BECAUSE the Jews of Jesus' Day rejected them for the Jewish Canon at the Council of Jamnia after the fall of Jerusalem.

    This seems reasonable enough, and though these Scribes and Lawyers SHOULD have had superior knowledge in ALL THINGS JEWISH . . . in their Jewish wisdom, THEY ALSO REJECTED JESUS AS THE MESSIAH!!!

    TheDeuter-canonical Books are very "Kingdom of God" and "Messianic" Oriented, thus the Jews sis NOT want any writings confirming that Jesus WAS the Jewish Messiah.

    The wise "Students-N-Scholars" will know them, as they provide light on New Testament Scripture that are NOT understood otherwise;

    Quick Example:

    In Luke 3:36 YOUR Bible reads as follows:

      "Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem (Shem), which was the son of Noe (Noah), which was the son of Lamech;"

    This ancestor of Jesus named "Cainan, son of Arphaxad": where is he in YOUR Bible/ (Check Genesis 11:13, and other genealogies).

    This dilemma - which the WORLD calls a great contradiction in the linage of Jesus as the Christ - can ONLY be solved by the Bible Jesus used, which included the Deuter-canonical Books.

    Do you suppose Jesus knew more about the "Correct Books" of the Bible than your Denomination?


    Cambridge Bible Commentary, Comprehensive;

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    Numbers 1"



      The titles of the five books of Moses, which we use in our Bibles, are all borrowed from theGreek translation of the Seventy, the most ancient version of the Old Testament that we know of.But the title of this book only we turn into English; in all the rest we retain the Greek word itself,for which difference I know no reason but that the Latin translators have generally done the same.Otherwise this book might as well have been called Arithmoi, the Greek title, as the first Genesis,and the second Exodus; or these might as well have been translated, and called, the first theGeneration, or Original, the second the Out-let, or Escape, as this Numbers.—This book was thusentitled because of the numbers of the children of Israel, so often mentioned in this book, and sowell worthy to give a title to it, because it was the remarkable accomplishment of God's promiseto Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude. It also relates to twonumberings of them, one at mount Sinai (ch. i.), the other in the plains of Moab, thirty-nine yearsafter, ch. xxvi. And not three men the same in the last account that were in the first. The book isalmost equally divided between histories and laws, intermixed.We have here, I. The histories of the numbering and marshalling of the tribes (ch. i.-iv.), thededication of the altar and Levites (ch. vii. viii.), their march (ch. ix. x.), their murmuring andunbelief, for which they were sentenced to wander forty years in the wilderness (ch. xi.-xiv.), therebellion of Korah (ch. xvi. xvii.), the history of the last year of the forty (ch. xx.-xxvi.), the conquestof Midian, and the settlement of the two tribes (ch. xxxi. xxxii.), with an account of their journeys,ch. xxxiii. II. Divers laws about the Nazarites, &c. (ch. v. vi.); and again about the priests' charge,&c. (ch. xviii. xix.), feasts (ch. xxviii. xxix.), and vows (ch. xxx.), and relating to their settlementin Canaan, ch. xxvii. xxxiv. xxxv. xxxvi.. An abstract of much of this book we have in a few wordsin Ps. xcv. 10, Forty years long was I grieved with this generation; and an application of it toourselves in Heb. iv. 1, Let us fear lest we seem to come short. Many considerable nations therewere now in being, that dwelt in cities and fortified towns, of which no notice is taken, no accountkept, by the sacred history: but very exact records are kept of the affairs of a handful of people,that dwelt in tents, and wandered strangely in a wilderness, because they were the children of thecovenant. For the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.823Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)

      N U M B E R S

      CHAP. I.

      Israel was now to be formed into a commonwealth, or rather a kingdom; for "the Lord wastheir King" (1 Sam. xii. 12), their government a theocracy, and Moses under him was king inJeshurun, Deut. xxxiii. 5. Now, for the right settlement of this holy state, next to the institution ofgood laws was necessary the institution of good order; and account therefore must be taken of thesubjects of this kingdom, which is done in this chapter, where we have, I. Orders given to Mosesto number the people, ver. 1-4. II. Persons nominated to assist him herein, ver. 5-16. III. Theparticular number of each tribe, as it was given in to Moses, ver. 17-43. IV. The sum total of alltogether, ver. 44-46. V. An exception of the Levites, ver. 47, &c.The Numbering of the Israelites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle ofthe congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after theywere come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 Take ye the sum of all thecongregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of theirfathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; 3 From twentyyears old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaronshall number them by their armies. 4 And with you there shall be a man of everytribe; every one head of the house of his fathers. 5 And these are the names of themen that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur. 6Of Simeon; Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 7 Of Judah; Nahshon the son ofAmminadab. 8 Of Issachar; Nethaneel the son of Zuar. 9 Of Zebulun; Eliab theson of Helon. 10 Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim; Elishama the son ofAmmihud: of Manasseh; Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 11 Of Benjamin; Abidanthe son of Gideoni. 12 Of Dan; Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 13 Of Asher;Pagiel the son of Ocran. 14 Of Gad; Eliasaph the son of Deuel. 15 Of Naphtali;Ahira the son of Enan. 16 These were the renowned of the congregation, princesof the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.I. We have here a commission issued out for the numbering of the people of Israel; and David,long after, paid dearly for doing it without a commission. Here is,1. The date of this commission, v. 1. (1.) The place: it is given at God's court in the wildernessof Sinai, from his royal palace, the tabernacle of the congregation. (2.) The time: In the secondyear after they came up out of Egypt; we may call it the second year of that reign. The laws inLeviticus were given in the first month of that year; these orders were given in the beginning ofthe second month.2. The directions given for the execution of it, v. 2, 3. (1.) None were to be numbered but themales, and those only such as were fit for war. None under twenty years old; for, though some such824Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)might have bulk and strength enough for military service, yet, in compassion to their tender years,God would not have them put upon it to bear arms. (2.) Nor were any to be numbered who throughage, or bodily infirmity, blindness, lameness, or chronical diseases, were unfit for war. The churchbeing militant, those only are reputed the true members of it that have enlisted themselves soldiersof Jesus Christ; for our life, our Christian life, is a warfare. (3.) The account was to be takenaccording to their families, that it might not only be known how many they were, and what weretheir names, but of what tribe and family, or clan, nay, of what particular house every person was;or, reckoning it the muster of an army, to what regiment every man belonged, that he might knowhis place himself and the government might know where to find him. They were numbered a littlebefore this, when their poll-money was paid for the service of the tabernacle, Exod. xxxviii. 25,26. But it should seem they were not then registered by the house of their fathers, as now they were.Their number was the same then that it was now: 603,550 men; for as many as had died since then,and were lost in the account, so many had arrived to be twenty years old, and were added to theaccount. Note, As one generation passeth a way another generation cometh. As vacancies are dailymade, so recruits are daily raised to fill up the vacancies, and Providence takes care that, one timeor other, in one place or other, the births shall balance the burials, that the race of mankind and theholy seed may not be cut off and become extinct.3. Commissioners are named for the doing of this work. Moses and Aaron were to preside (v.3), and one man of every tribe, that was renowned in his tribe, and was presumed to know it well,was to assist in it—the princes of the tribes, v. 16. Note, Those that are honourable should studyto be serviceable; he that is great, let him be your minister, and show, by his knowing the public,that he deserves to be publicly known. The charge of this muster was committed to him who wasthe lord-lieutenant of that tribe. Now,II. Why was this account ordered to be taken and kept? For several reasons. 1. To prove theaccomplishment of the promise made to Abraham, that God would multiply his seed exceedingly,which promise was renewed to Jacob (Gen. xxviii. 14), that his seed should be as the dust of theearth. Now it appears that there did not fail one tittle of that good promise, which was anencouragement to them to hope that the other promise of the land of Canaan for an inheritanceshould also be fulfilled in its season. When the number of a body of men is only guessed at, uponthe view, it is easy for one that is disposed to cavil to surmise that the conjecture is mistaken, andthat, if they were to be counted, they would not be found half so many; therefore God would haveIsrael numbered, that it might be upon record how vastly they were increased in a little time, thatthe power of God's providence and the truth of his promise may be seen and acknowledged by all.It could not have been expected, in any ordinary course of nature, that seventy-five souls (whichwas the number of Jacob's family when he went down into Egypt) should in 215 years (and it wasno longer) multiply into so many hundred thousands. It is therefore to be attributed to anextraordinary virtue in the divine promise and blessing. 2. It was to intimate the particular carewhich God himself would take of his Israel, and which Moses and the inferior rulers were expectedto take of them. God is called the Shepherd of Israel, Ps. lxxx. 1. Now the shepherds always keptcount of their flocks, and delivered them by number to their under-shepherds, that they might knowif any were missing; in like manner God numbers his flock, that of all which he took into his foldhe might lose none but upon a valuable consideration, even those that were sacrificed to his justice.3. It was to put a difference between the true born Israelites and the mixed multitude that wereamong them; none were numbered but Israelites: all the world is but lumber in comparison with825Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)those jewels. Little account is made of others, but the saints God has a particular property in andconcern for. The Lord knows those that are his (2 Tim. ii. 19), knows them by name, Phil. iv. 3.The hairs of their head are numbered; but he will say to others, "I never knew you, never made anyaccount of you." 4. It was in order to their being marshalled into several districts, for the more easyadministration of justice, and their more regular march through the wilderness. It is a rout and arabble, not an army, that is not mustered and put in order.17 And Moses and Aaron took these men which are expressed by their names:18 And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the secondmonth, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of theirfathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward,by their polls. 19 As the Lord commanded Moses, so he numbered them in thewilderness of Sinai. 20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by theirgenerations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the numberof the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all thatwere able to go forth to war; 21 Those that were numbered of them, even of thetribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. 22 Of the childrenof Simeon, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers,those that were numbered of them, according to the number of the names, by theirpolls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forthto war; 23 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Simeon, werefifty and nine thousand and three hundred. 24 Of the children of Gad, by theirgenerations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the numberof the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth towar; 25 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were fortyand five thousand six hundred and fifty. 26 Of the children of Judah, by theirgenerations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the numberof the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth towar; 27 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Judah, werethreescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred. 28 Of the children of Issachar,by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according tothe number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able togo forth to war; 29 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Issachar,were fifty and four thousand and four hundred. 30 Of the children of Zebulun, bytheir generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to thenumber of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to goforth to war; 31 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Zebulun,were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred. 32 Of the children of Joseph,namely, of the children of Ephraim, by their generations, after their families, by the826Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years oldand upward, all that were able to go forth to war; 33 Those that were numbered ofthem, even of the tribe of Ephraim, were forty thousand and five hundred. 34 Ofthe children of Manasseh, by their generations, after their families, by the house oftheir fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old andupward, all that were able to go forth to war; 35 Those that were numbered of them,even of the tribe of Manasseh, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred. 36Of the children of Benjamin, by their generations, after their families, by the houseof their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old andupward, all that were able to go forth to war; 37 Those that were numbered of them,even of the tribe of Benjamin, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred. 38Of the children of Dan, by their generations, after their families, by the house oftheir fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old andupward, all that were able to go forth to war; 39 Those that were numbered of them,even of the tribe of Dan, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred. 40Of the children of Asher, by their generations, after their families, by the house oftheir fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old andupward, all that were able to go forth to war; 41 Those that were numbered of them,even of the tribe of Asher, were forty and one thousand and five hundred. 42 Ofthe children of Naphtali, throughout their generations, after their families, by thehouse of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years oldand upward, all that were able to go forth to war; 43 Those that were numbered ofthem, even of the tribe of Naphtali, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.We have here the speedy execution of the orders given for the numbering of the people. It wasbegun the same day that the orders were given, The first day of the second month; compare v. 18with v. 1. Note, When any work is to be done for God it is good to set about it quickly, while thesense of duty is strong and pressing. And, for aught that appears, it was but one day's work, formany other things were done between this and the twentieth day of this month, when they removedtheir camp, ch. x. 11. Joab was almost ten months numbering the people in David's time (2 Sam.xxiv. 8); but then they were dispersed, now they lived closely together; then Satan proposed thedoing of it, now God commanded it. It was the sooner and more easily done now because it hadbeen done but a little while ago, and they needed but review the old books, with the alterationssince made, which probably they had kept an account of as they occurred.In the particulars here left upon record, we may observe, 1. That the numbers are registered inwords at length (as I may say), and not in figures; to every one of the twelve tribes it is repeated,for the greater ceremony and solemnity of the account, that they were numbered by their generations,after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, to showthat every tribe took and gave in the account by the same rule and in the same method, though somany hands were employed in it, setting down the genealogy first, to show that their familydescended from Israel, then the families themselves in their order, then dividing each family into827Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the houses, or subordinate families, that branched from it, and under these the names of the particularpersons, according to the rules of heraldry. Thus every man might know who were his relations ornext of kin, on which some laws we have already met with did depend: besides that the nearer anyare to us in relation the more ready we should be to do them good. 2. That they all end with hundreds,only Gad with fifty (v. 25), but none of the numbers descend to units or tens. Some think it was aspecial providence that ordered all the tribes just at this time to be even numbers, and no odd orbroken numbers among them, to show them that there was something more than ordinary designedin their increase, there being this uncommon in the circumstance of it. It is rather probable thatMoses having some time before appointed rulers of hundreds, and rulers of fifties (Exod. xviii. 25),they numbered the people by their respective rulers, which would bring the numbers to even hundredsor fifties. 3. That Judah is the must numerous of them all, more than double to Benjamin andManasseh, and almost 12,000 more than any other tribe, v. 27. It was Judah whom his brethrenmust praise because from him Messiah the Prince was to descend; but, because that was a thing ata distance, God did in many ways honour that tribe in the mean time, particularly by the greatincrease of it, for his sake who was to spring out of Judah (Heb. vii. 14) in the fulness of time.Judah was to lead the van through the wilderness, and therefore was furnished accordingly withgreater strength than any other tribe. 4. Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, are numberedas distinct tribes, and both together made up almost as many as Judah; this was in pursuance ofJacob's adoption of them, by which they were equalled with their uncles Reuben and Simeon, Gen.xlviii. 5. It was also the effect of the blessing of Joseph, who was to be a fruitful bough, Gen. xlix.22. And Ephraim the younger is put first, and is more numerous than Manasseh, for Jacob hadcrossed hands, and foreseen ten thousands of Ephraim and thousands of Manasseh. The fulfillingof this confirms our faith in the spirit of prophecy with which the patriarchs were endued. 5. Whenthey came down into Egypt Dan had but one son (Gen. xlvi. 23), and so his tribe was but one family,ch. xxvi. 42. Benjamin had then ten sons (Gen. xlvi. 21), yet now the tribe of Dan is almost doublein number to that of Benjamin. Note, The increasing and diminishing of families do not always goby probabilities. Some are multiplied greatly, and again are diminished, while others that were poorhave families made them like a flock, Ps. cvii. 38, 39, 41; and see Job xii. 23. 6. It is said of eachof the tribes that those were numbered who were able to go forth to war, to remind them that theyhad wars before them, though now they were in peace and met with no opposition. Let not him thatgirdeth on the harness boast as though he had put it off.44 These are those that were numbered, which Moses and Aaron numbered, andthe princes of Israel, being twelve men: each one was for the house of his fathers.45 So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house oftheir fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to warin Israel; 46 Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and threethousand and five hundred and fifty.We have here the sum total at the foot of the account; they were in all 600,000 fighting men,and 3550 over. Some think that when this was their number some months before (Exod. xxxviii.26) the Levites were reckoned with them, but now that tribe was separated for the service of God,yet so many more had by this time attained to the age of twenty years as that still they were thesame number, to show that whatever we part with for the honour and service of God it shall certainlybe made up to us one way of other. Now we see what a vast body of men they were. Let us consider,828Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)1. How much went to maintain all these (besides twice as many more, no question, of women andchildren, sick and aged, and the mixed multitude) for forty years together in the wilderness; andthey were all at God's finding every day, having their food from the dew of heaven, and not fromthe fatness of the earth. O what a great and good housekeeper is our God, that has such numbersdepending on him and receiving from him every day! 2. What work sin makes with a people; withinforty years most of them would indeed have died of course for the common sin of mankind; for,when sin entered into the world, death came with it, and how great are the desolations which itmakes in the earth! But, for the particular sin of unbelief and murmuring, all those that were nownumbered, except two, laid their bones under their iniquity, and perished in the wilderness. 3. Whata great multitude God's spiritual Israel will amount to at last; though at one time, and in one place,they seem to be but a little flock, yet when they come all together they shall be a great multitude,innumerable, Rev. vii. 9. And, though the church's beginning be small, its latter end shall greatlyincrease. A little one shall become a thousand.47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.48 For the Lord had spoken unto Moses, saying, 49 Only thou shalt not numberthe tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel: 50 Butthou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all thevessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle,and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp roundabout the tabernacle. 51 And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shalltake it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up:and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. 52 And the children ofIsrael shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his ownstandard, throughout their hosts. 53 But the Levites shall pitch round about thetabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the childrenof Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony. 54And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, sodid they.Care is here taken to distinguish from the rest of the tribes the tribe of Levi, which, in the matterof the golden calf, had distinguished itself, Exod. xxxii. 26. Note, Singular services shall berecompensed with singular honours. Now,I. It was the honour of the Levites that they were made guardians of the spiritualities; to themwas committed the care of the tabernacle and the treasures thereof, both in their camps and in theirmarches. 1. When they moved the Levites were to take down the tabernacle, to carry it and all thatbelonged to it, and then to set it up again in the place appointed, v. 50, 51. It was for the honour ofthe holy things that none should be permitted to see them, or touch them, but those only who werecalled of God to the service. Thus we all are unfit and unworthy to have fellowship with God untilwe are first called by his grace into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and so, beingthe spiritual seed of that great high priest, are made priests to our God; and it is promised that Godwould take Levites to himself, even from the Gentiles, Isa. lxvi. 21. 2. When they rested the Leviteswere to encamp round about the tabernacle (v. 50, 53), that they might be near their work, and829Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)resident upon their charge, always ready to attend, and that they might be a guard upon the tabernacle,to preserve it from being either plundered or profaned. They must pitch round about the tabernacle,that there be no wrath upon the congregation, as there would be if the tabernacle and the chargeof it were neglected, or those crowded upon it that were not allowed to come near. Note, Great caremust be taken to prevent sin, because the preventing of sin is the preventing of wrath.II. It was their further honour that as Israel, being a holy people, was not reckoned among thenations, so they, being a holy tribe, were not reckoned among other Israelites, but numberedafterwards by themselves, v. 49. The service which the Levites were to do about the sanctuary iscalled (as we render it in the margin) a warfare, ch. iv. 23. And, being engaged in that warfare,they were discharged from military services, and therefore not numbered with those that were togo out to war. Note, Those that minister about holy things should neither entangle themselves, norbe entangled, in secular affairs. The ministry is itself work enough for a whole man, and all littleenough to be employed in it. It is an admonition to ministers to distinguish themselves by theirexemplary conversation from common Israelites, not affecting to seem greater, but aiming to bereally better, every way better than others.N U M B E R SCHAP. II.The thousands of Israel, having been mustered in the former chapter, in this are marshalled,and a regular disposition is made of their camp, by a divine appointment. Here is, I. A general orderconcerning it, ver. 1, 2. II. Particular directions for the posting of each of the tribes, in four distinctsquadrons, three tribes in each squadron. 1. In the van-guard on the east were posted Judah, Issachar,and Zebulun, ver. 3-9. 2. In the right wing, southward, Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, ver. 10-16. 3. Inthe rear, westward, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, ver. 18-24. 4. In the left wing, northward,Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, ver. 25-31. 5. The tabernacle in the centre, ver. 17. III. The conclusionof this appointment, ver. 32, &c.The Stations of the Several Tribes. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2 Every man of thechildren of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father'shouse: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.Here is the general appointment given both for their orderly encampment where they restedand their orderly march when they moved. Some order, it is possible, they had observed hitherto;they came out of Egypt in rank and file (Exod. xiii. 18), but now they were put into a better model.1. They all dwelt in tents, and when they marched carried all their tents along with them, for theyfound no city to dwell in, Ps. cvii. 4. This represents to us our state in this world. It is a movablestate (we are here to-day and gone to-morrow); and it is a military state: is not our life a warfare?We do but pitch our tents in this world, and have in it no continuing city. Let us, therefore, whilewe are pitching in this world, be pressing through it. 2. Those of a tribe were to pitch together,830Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)every man by his own standard. Note, It is the will of God that mutual love and affection, converseand communion, should be kept up among relations. Those that are of kin to each other should, asmuch as they can, be acquainted with each other; and the bonds of nature should be improved forthe strengthening of the bonds of Christian communion. 3. Every one must know his place andkeep in it; they were not allowed to fix where they pleased, nor to remove when they pleased, butGod quarters them, with a charge to abide in their quarters. Note, It is God that appoints us thebounds of our habitation, and to him we must refer ourselves. He shall choose our inheritance forus (Ps. xlvii. 4), and in his choice we must acquiesce, and not love to flit, nor be as the bird thatwanders from her nest. 4. Every tribe had its standard, flag, or ensign, and it should seem everyfamily had some particular ensign of their father's house, which was carried as with us the coloursof each troop or company in a regiment are. These were of use for the distinction of tribes andfamilies, and the gathering and keeping of them together, in allusion to which the preaching of thegospel is said to lift up an ensign, to which the Gentiles shall seek, and by which they shall pitch,Isa. xi. 10, 12. Note, God is the God of order, and not of confusion. These standards made thismighty army seem more beautiful to its friends and more formidable to its enemies. The church ofChrist is said to be as terrible as an army with banners, Cant. vi. 10. It is uncertain how thesestandards were distinguished: some conjecture that the standard of each tribe was of the same colourwith the precious stone in which the name of that tribe was written in the high priest's ephod, andthat this was all the difference. Many of the modern Jews think there was some coat of arms paintedin each standard, which had reference to the blessing of that tribe by Jacob. Judah bore a lion, Dana serpent, Naphtali a hind, Benjamin a wolf, &c. Some of them say the four principal standardswere, Judah a lion, Reuben a man, Joseph an ox, and Dan an eagle, making the appearances inEzekiel's vision to allude it. Others say the name of each tribe was written in its standard. Whateverit was, no doubt it gave a certain direction. 5. They were to pitch about the tabernacle, which wasto be in the midst of them, as the tent of pavilion of a general in the centre of an army. They mustencamp round the tabernacle, (1.) That it might be equally a comfort and joy to them all, as it wasa token of God's gracious presence with them. Ps. xlvi. 5, God is in the midst of her, she shall notbe moved. Their camp had reason to be hearty, when thus they had God in the heart of them. Tohave bread from heaven every day round about their camp, and fire from heaven, with other tokensof God's favour, in the midst of their camp, was abundantly sufficient to answer that question, Isthe Lord among us, or is he not? Happy art thou, O Israel! It is probable that the doors of all theirtents were made to look towards the tabernacle from all sides, for every Israelite should have hiseyes always towards the Lord; therefore they worshipped at the tent-door. The tabernacle was inthe midst of the camp, that it might be near to them; for it is a very desirable thing to have thesolemn administrations of holy ordinances near us and within our reach. The kingdom of God isamong you. (2.) That they might be a guard and defence upon the tabernacle and the Levites onevery side. No invader could come near God's tabernacle without first penetrating the thickest oftheir squadrons. Note, If God undertake the protection of our comforts, we ought in our places toundertake the protection of his institutions, and stand up in defence of his honour, and interest, andministers. 6. Yet they were to pitch afar off, in reverence to the sanctuary, that it might not seemcrowded and thrust up among them, and that the common business of the camp might be noannoyance to it. They were also taught to keep their distance, lest too much familiarity should breedcontempt. It is supposed (from Joshua iii. 4) that the distance between the nearest part of the campand the tabernacle (or perhaps between them and the camp of the Levites, who pitched near the831Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)tabernacle) was 2000 cubits, that is, 1000 yards, little more than half a measured mile with us; butthe outer parts of the camp must needs be much further off. Some compute that the extent of theircamp could be no less than twelve miles square; for it was like a movable city, with streets andlanes, in which perhaps the manna fell, as well as on the outside of the camp, that they might haveit at their doors. In the Christian church we read of a throne (as in the tabernacle there was amercy-seat) which is called a glorious high throne from the beginning (Jer. xvii. 12), and that thronesurrounded by spiritual Israelites, twenty-four elders, double to the number of the tribes, clothedin white raiment (Rev. iv. 4), and the banner over them is Love; but we are not ordered, as theywere, to pitch afar off; no, we are invited to draw near, and come boldly. The saints of the MostHigh are said to be round about him, Ps. lxxvi. 11. God by his grace keep us close to him!3 And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard ofthe camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and Nahshon the son of Amminadabshall be captain of the children of Judah. 4 And his host, and those that werenumbered of them, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred. 5 Andthose that do pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar: and Nethaneel theson of Zuar shall be captain of the children of Issachar. 6 And his host, and thosethat were numbered thereof, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred. 7 Thenthe tribe of Zebulun: and Eliab the son of Helon shall be captain of the children ofZebulun. 8 And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty andseven thousand and four hundred. 9 All that were numbered in the camp of Judahwere an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred,throughout their armies. These shall first set forth. 10 On the south side shall bethe standard of the camp of Reuben according to their armies: and the captain of thechildren of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur. 11 And his host, and thosethat were numbered thereof, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. 12 Andthose which pitch by him shall be the tribe of Simeon: and the captain of the childrenof Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 13 And his host, and thosethat were numbered of them, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred. 14Then the tribe of Gad: and the captain of the sons of Gad shall be Eliasaph the sonof Reuel. 15 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty andfive thousand and six hundred and fifty. 16 All that were numbered in the camp ofReuben were an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred andfifty, throughout their armies. And they shall set forth in the second rank. 17 Thenthe tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites inthe midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in hisplace by their standards. 18 On the west side shall be the standard of the camp ofEphraim according to their armies: and the captain of the sons of Ephraim shall beElishama the son of Ammihud. 19 And his host, and those that were numbered ofthem, were forty thousand and five hundred. 20 And by him shall be the tribe of832Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Manasseh: and the captain of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the sonof Pedahzur. 21 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirtyand two thousand and two hundred. 22 Then the tribe of Benjamin: and the captainof the sons of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni. 23 And his host, andthose that were numbered of them, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.24 All that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim were an hundred thousand andeight thousand and an hundred, throughout their armies. And they shall go forwardin the third rank. 25 The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north side bytheir armies: and the captain of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son ofAmmishaddai. 26 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, werethreescore and two thousand and seven hundred. 27 And those that encamp by himshall be the tribe of Asher: and the captain of the children of Asher shall be Pagielthe son of Ocran. 28 And his host, and those that were numbered of them, wereforty and one thousand and five hundred. 29 Then the tribe of Naphtali: and thecaptain of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan. 30 And his host,and those that were numbered of them, were fifty and three thousand and fourhundred. 31 All they that were numbered in the camp of Dan were an hundredthousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred. They shall go hindmostwith their standards. 32 These are those which were numbered of the children ofIsrael by the house of their fathers: all those that were numbered of the campsthroughout their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundredand fifty. 33 But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; asthe Lord commanded Moses. 34 And the children of Israel did according to all thatthe Lord commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they setforward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.We have here the particular distribution of the twelve tribes into four squadrons, three tribesin a squadron, one of which was to lead the other two. Observe, 1. God himself appointed themtheir place, to prevent strife and envy among them. Had they been left to determine precedencyamong themselves, they would have been in danger of quarrelling with one another (as the discipleswho strove which should be greatest); each would have had a pretence to be first, or at least not tobe last. Had it been left to Moses to determine, they would have quarrelled with him, and chargedhim with partiality; therefore God does it, who is himself the fountain and judge of honour, and inhis appointment all must acquiesce. If God in his providence advance others above us, and abaseus, we ought to be as well satisfied in his doing it in that way as if he did it, as this was done here,by a voice out of the tabernacle; and this consideration, that it appears to be the will of God it shouldbe so, should effectually silence all envies and discontents. And as far as our place comes to be ourchoice our Saviour has given us a rule in Luke xiv. 8, Sit not down in the highest room; and anotherin Matt. xx. 27, He that will be chief, let him be your servant. Those that are most humble and mostserviceable are really most honourable. 2. Every tribe had a captain, a prince, or commander-in-chief,833Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)whom God himself nominated, the same that had been appointed to number them, ch. i. 5. Ourbeing all the children of one Adam is so far from justifying the levellers, and taking away thedistinction of place and honour, that even among the children of the same Abraham, the same Jacob,the same Judah, God himself appointed that one should be captain of all the rest. There are powersordained of God, and those to whom honour and fear are due and must be paid. Some observe thesignificancy of the names of these princes, at least, in general, how much God was in the thoughtsof those that gave them their names, for most of them have El, God, at one end or other of theirnames. Nethaneel, the gift of God; Eliab, my God a Father; Elizur, my God a rock; Shelumiel, Godmy peace; Eliasaph, God has added; Elishama, my God has heard: Gamaliel, God my reward;Pagiel, God has met me. By this it appears that the Israelites in Egypt did not quite forget the nameof their God, but, when they wanted other memorials, preserved the remembrance of it in the namesof their children, and therewith comforted themselves in their affliction. 3. Those tribes were placedtogether under the same standard that were nearest of kin to each other; Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun,were the three younger sons of Leah, and they were put together; and Issachar and Zebulun wouldnot grudge to be under Judah, since they were his younger brethren. Reuben and Simeon wouldnot have been content in their place. Therefore Reuben, Jacob's eldest son, is made chief of thenext squadron; Simeon, no doubt, is willing to be under him, and Gad, the son of Zilpah, Leah'shandmaid, is fitly added to them in Levi's room: Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, are all theposterity of Rachel. Dan, the eldest son of Bilhah, is made a leading tribe, though the son of aconcubine, that more abundant honour might be bestowed on that which lacked; and it was said,Dan should judge his people, and to him were added two younger sons of the handmaids. Thusunexceptionable was the order in which they were placed. 4. The tribe of Judah was in the first postof honour, encamped towards the rising sun, and in their marches led the van, not only because itwas the most numerous tribe, but chiefly because from that tribe Christ was to come, who is theLion of the tribe of Judah, and was to descend from the loins of him who was now nominated chiefcaptain of that tribe. Nahshon is reckoned among the ancestors of Christ, Matt. i. 4. So that, whenhe went before them, Christ himself went before them in effect, as their leader. Judah was the firstof the twelve sons of Jacob that was blessed. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were censured by theirdying father; he therefore being first in blessing, though not in birth, is put first, to teach childrenhow to value the smiles of their godly parents and dread their frowns. 5. The tribes of Levi pitchedclosely about the tabernacle, within the rest of their tribes, v. 17. They must defend the sanctuary,and then the rest of the tribes must defend them. Thus, in the vision which John saw of the gloryof heaven, between the elders and the throne were four living creatures full of eyes, Rev. iv. 6, 8.Civil powers should protect the religious interests of a nation, and be a defence upon that glory. 6.The camp of Dan (and so that tribe is called long after their settlement in Canaan (Judg. xiii. 25),because celebrated for their military prowess), though posted in the left wing when they encamped,was ordered in their march to bring up the rear, v. 31. They were the most numerous, next to Judah,and therefore were ordered into a post which, next to the front, required the most strength, for asthe strength is so shall the day be. Lastly, The children of Israel observed the orders given them,and did as the Lord commanded Moses, v. 34. They put themselves in the posts assigned them,without murmuring or disputing, and, as it was their safety, so it was their beauty; Balaam wascharmed with the sight of it: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! ch. xxiv. 5. Thus the gospel church,called the camp of saints, ought to be compact according to the scripture model, every one knowing834Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)and keeping his place, and then all that wish well to the church rejoice, beholding their order, Col.ii. 5.N U M B E R SCHAP. III.This chapter and the next are concerning the tribe of Levi, which was to be mustered andmarshalled by itself, and not in common with the other tribes, intimating the particular honour putupon them and the particular duty and service required from them. The Levites are in this chapterconsidered, I. As attendants on, and assistants to, the priests in the temple-service. And so we havean account, 1. Of the priests themselves (ver. 1-4) and their work, ver. 10. 2. Of the gift of theLevites to them (ver. 5-9), in order to which they are mustered (ver. 14-16), and the sum of themtaken, ver. 39. Each particular family of them is mustered, has its place assigned and its charge,the Gershonites (ver. 17-26), the Kohathites (ver. 27-32), the Merarites, ver. 33-39. II. As equivalentsfor the first-born, ver. 11-13. 1. The first-born are numbered, and the Levites taken instead of them,as far as the number of the Levites went, ver. 40-45. 2. What first-born there were more than theLevites were redeemed, ver. 46, &c.The Separation of the Levites. (b. c. 1490.)1 These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lordspake with Moses in mount Sinai. 2 And these are the names of the sons of Aaron;Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3 These are the names ofthe sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to ministerin the priest's office. 4 And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when theyoffered strange fire before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had nochildren: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest's office in the sight ofAaron their father. 5 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 6 Bring the tribeof Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister untohim. 7 And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregationbefore the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle. 8 Andthey shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and thecharge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. 9 And thou shaltgive the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out ofthe children of Israel. 10 And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shallwait on their priest's office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.11 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12 And I, behold, I have taken theLevites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth835Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; 13Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in theland of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast:mine shall they be: I am the Lord.Here, I. The family of Aaron is confirmed in the priests' office, v. 10. They had been called toit before, and consecrated; here they are appointed to wait on their priests' office: the apostle usesthis phrase (Rom. xii. 7), Let us wait on our ministry. The office of the ministry requires a constantattendance and great diligence; so frequent are the returns of its work, and yet so transient itsfavourable opportunities, that it must be waited on. Here is repeated what was said before (ch. i.51): The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death, which forbids the invading of the priest'soffice by any other person whatsoever; none must come nigh to minister but Aaron and his sonsonly, all others are strangers. It also lays a charge on the priests, as door-keepers in God's house,to take care that none should come near who were forbidden by the law; they must keep off allintruders, whose approach would be to the profanation of the holy things, telling them that if theycame near it was at their peril, they would die by the hand of God, as Uzza did. The Jews say thatafterwards there was hung over the door of the temple a golden sword (perhaps alluding to thatflaming sword at the entrance of the garden of Eden), on which was engraven, The stranger thatcometh nigh shall be put to death.II. A particular account is given of this family of Aaron; what we have met with beforeconcerning them is here repeated. 1. The consecration of the sons of Aaron, v. 3. They were allanointed to minister before the Lord, though it appeared afterwards, and God knew it, that two ofthem were wise and two were foolish. 2. The fall of the two elder (v. 4): they offered strange fire,and died for so doing, before the Lord. This is mentioned here in the preamble to the law concerningthe priesthood, for a warning to all succeeding priests; let them know, by this example, that Godis a jealous God, and will not be mocked; the holy anointing oil was an honour to the obedient, butnot a shelter to the disobedient. It is here said, They had no children, Providence so ordering it, fortheir greater punishment, that none of their descendants should remain to be priests, and so bearup their name who had profaned God's name. 3. The continuance of the two younger: Eleazar andIthamar ministered in the sight of Aaron. It intimates, (1.) The care they took about their ministrationnot to make any blunders; they kept under their father's eye, and took instruction from him in allthey did, because, probably, Nadab and Abihu got out of their father's sight when they offeredstrange fire. Note, It is good for young people to act under the direction and inspection of thosethat are aged and experienced. (2.) The comfort Aaron took in it; it pleased him to see his youngersons behave themselves prudently and gravely, when his two elder had miscarried. Note, It is agreat satisfaction to parents to see their children walk in the truth, 3 John 4.III. A grant is made of the Levites to be assistants to the priests in their work: Give the Levitesto Aaron, v. 9. Aaron was to have a greater propriety in, and power over, the tribe of Levi than anyother of the prices had in and over their respective tribes. There was a great deal of work belongingto the priests' office, and there were now only three pairs of hands to do it all, Aaron's and his twosons'; for it does not appear that they had either of them any children at this time, at least not anythat were of age to minister, therefore God appoints the Levites to attend upon them. Note, Thosewhom God finds work for his will find help for. Here is, 1. The service for which the Levites weredesigned: they were to minister to the priests in their ministration to the Lord (v. 6), and to keep836Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Aaron's charge (v. 7), as the deacons to the bishops in the evangelical constitution, serving at tables,while the bishops waited on their ministry. The Levites killed the sacrifices, and then the priestsneeded only to sprinkle the blood and burn the fat: the Levites prepared the incense, the priestsburnt it. They were to keep, not only Aaron's charge, but the charge of the whole congregation.Note, It is a great trust that is reposed in ministers, not only for the glory of Christ, but for the goodof his church; so that they must not only keep the charge of the great high priest, but must also befaithful to the souls of men, in trust for whom a dispensation is committed to them. 2. Theconsideration upon which the Levites were demanded; they were taken instead of the first-born.The preservation of the first-born of Israel, when all the first-born of the Egyptians (with whomthey were many of them mingled) were destroyed, was looked upon by him who never makes anyunreasonable demands as cause sufficient of the appropriating of all the first-born thenceforwardto himself (v. 13): All the first-born are mine. That was sufficient to make them his, though he hadgiven no reason for it, for he is the sole fountain and Lord of all beings and powers; but becauseall obedience must flow from love, and acts of duty must be acts of gratitude, before they werechallenged into peculiar services they were crowned with peculiar favours. Note, When he thatmade us saves us we are thereby laid under further obligations to serve him and live to him. God'sright to us by redemption corroborates the right he has to us by creation. Now because the first-bornof a family are generally the favourites, and some would think it a disparagement to have theireldest sons servants to the priests, and attending before the door of the tabernacle, God took thetribe of Levi entire for his own, in lieu of the first-born, v. 12. Note, God's institutions put nohardships upon men in any of their just interests or reasonable affections. It was presumed that theIsraelites would rather part with the Levites than with the first-born, and therefore God graciouslyordered the exchange; yet for us he spared not his own Son.14 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 Numberthe children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every malefrom a month old and upward shalt thou number them. 16 And Moses numberedthem according to the word of the Lord, as he was commanded. 17 And these werethe sons of Levi by their names; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari. 18 And theseare the names of the sons of Gershon by their families; Libni, and Shimei. 19 Andthe sons of Kohath by their families; Amram, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20And the sons of Merari by their families; Mahli, and Mushi. These are the familiesof the Levites according to the house of their fathers. 21 Of Gershon was the familyof the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites: these are the families of theGershonites. 22 Those that were numbered of them, according to the number ofall the males, from a month old and upward, even those that were numbered of themwere seven thousand and five hundred. 23 The families of the Gershonites shallpitch behind the tabernacle westward. 24 And the chief of the house of the fatherof the Gershonites shall be Eliasaph the son of Lael. 25 And the charge of the sonsof Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation shall be the tabernacle, and thetent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of thecongregation, 26 And the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the837Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)court, which is by the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and the cords of itfor all the service thereof. 27 And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, andthe family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of theUzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites. 28 In the number of all themales, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keepingthe charge of the sanctuary. 29 The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch onthe side of the tabernacle southward. 30 And the chief of the house of the father ofthe families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31 And theircharge shall be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and thevessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the servicethereof. 32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be chief over the chief ofthe Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary.33 Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites, and the family of the Mushites: theseare the families of Merari. 34 And those that were numbered of them, accordingto the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousandand two hundred. 35 And the chief of the house of the father of the families ofMerari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the tabernaclenorthward. 36 And under the custody and charge of the sons of Merari shall be theboards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the socketsthereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto, 37 And the pillarsof the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords. 38 Butthose that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacleof the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping thecharge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger thatcometh nigh shall be put to death. 39 All that were numbered of the Levites, whichMoses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the Lord, throughout theirfamilies, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.The Levites being granted to Aaron to minister to him, they are here delivered to him by tale,that he might know what he had, and employ them accordingly. Observe,I. By what rule they were numbered: Every male from a month old and upward, v. 15. Therest of the tribes were numbered only from twenty years old and upwards, and of them those onlythat were able to go forth to war; but into the number of the Levites they must take in both infants,and infirm; being exempted from the war, it was not insisted upon that they should be of age andstrength for the wars. Though it appears afterwards that little more than a third part of the Leviteswere fit to be employed in the service of the tabernacle (about 8000 out of 22,000, ch. iv. 47, 48),yet God would have them all numbered as retainers to his family; that none may think themselvesdisowned and rejected of God because they are not in a capacity of doing him that service whichthey see others do him. The Levites of a month old could not honour God and serve the tabernacle,as those that had grown up; yet out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the Levites' praise was838Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)perfected. Let not little children be hindered from being enrolled among the disciples of Christ, forsuch was the tribe of Levi, of such is the kingdom of heaven, that kingdom of priests. The redemptionof the first-born was reckoned from a month old (ch. xviii. 15, 16), therefore from that age theLevites were numbered. They were numbered after the house of their fathers, not their mothers,for, if the daughter of a Levite married one of another tribe, her son was not a Levite; but we readof a spiritual priest to out God who inherited the unfeigned faith which dwelt in his mother andgrandmother, 2 Tim. i. 5.II. How they were distributed into three classes, according to the number of the sons of Levi,Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and these subdivided into several families, v. 17-20.1. Concerning each of these three classes we have an account, (1.) Of their number. TheGershonites were 7500. The Kohathites were 8600. The Merarites were 6200. The rest of the tribeshad not their subordinate families numbered by themselves as those of Levi; this honour God putupon his own tribe. (2.) Of their post about the tabernacle on which they were to attend. TheGershonites pitched behind the tabernacle, westward, v. 23. The Kohathites on the right hand,southward, v. 29. The Merarites on the left hand, northward, v. 35. And, to complete the square,Moses and Aaron, with the priests, encamped in the front, eastward, v. 38. Thus was the tabernaclesurrounded with its guards; and thus does the angel of the Lord encamp round about those that fearhim, those living temples, Ps. xxxiv. 7. Every one knew his place, and must therein abide with God.(3.) Of their chief or head. As each class had its own place, so each had its own prince. Thecommander of the Gershonites was Eliasaph (v. 24); of the Kohathites Elizaphan (v. 30), of whomwe read (Lev. x. 4) that he was one of the bearers at the funeral of Nadab and Abihu; of the MeraritesZuriel, v. 35. (4.) Of their charge, when the camp moved. Each class knew their own business; itwas requisite they should, for that which is every body's work often proves nobody's work. TheGershonites were charged with the custody and carriage of all the curtains and hangings andcoverings of the tabernacle and court (v. 25, 26), the Kohathites of all the furniture of thetabernacle—the ark, altar, table, &c. (v. 31, 32), the Merarites of the heavy carriage, boards, bars,pillars, &c., v. 36, 37.2. Here we may observe, (1.) That the Kohathites, though they were the second house, yetwere preferred before the elder family of the Gershonites. Besides that Aaron and the priests wereof that family, they were more numerous, and their post and charge more honourable, which probablywas ordered to put an honour upon Moses, who was of that family. Yet, (2.) The posterity of Moseswere not at all dignified or privileged, but stood upon the level with other Levites, that it mightappear he did not seek the advancement of his own family, nor to entail any honours upon it eitherin church or state; he that had honour enough himself coveted not to have his name shine by thatborrowed light, but rather to have the Levites borrow honour from his name. Let none thinkcontemptibly of the Levites, though inferior to the priests, for Moses himself though it prefermentenough for his sons to be Levites. Probably it was because the family of Moses were Levites onlythat in the title of this chapter, which is concerning that tribe (v. 1), Aaron is put before Moses.III. The sum total of the numbers of this tribe. They are computed in all 22,000, v. 39. Thesum of the particular families amounts to 300 more; if this had been added to the sum total, theLevites, instead of being 273 fewer than the first-born, as they were (v. 43), would have beentwenty-seven more, and so the balance would have fallen the other way; but it is supposed that the300 which were struck off from the account when the exchange was to be made were the first-bornof the Levites themselves, born since their coming out of Egypt, which could not be put into the839Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)exchange, because they were already sanctified to God. But that which is especially observablehere is that the tribe of Levi was by much the least of all the tribes. Note, God's part in the worldis too often the smallest part. His chosen are comparatively a little flock.40 And the Lord said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of thechildren of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.41 And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the Lord) instead of all the firstbornamong the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlingsamong the cattle of the children of Israel. 42 And Moses numbered, as the Lordcommanded him, all the firstborn among the children of Israel. 43 And all thefirstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of thosethat were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred andthreescore and thirteen. 44 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 45 Take theLevites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of theLevites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. 46 Andfor those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen ofthe firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites; 47 Thoushalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shaltthou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:) 48 And thou shalt give the money,wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.49 And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above themthat were redeemed by the Levites: 50 Of the firstborn of the children of Israel tookhe the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after theshekel of the sanctuary: 51 And Moses gave the money of them that were redeemedunto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lordcommanded Moses.Here is the exchange made of the Levites for the first-born. 1. The first-born were numberedfrom a month old, v. 42, 43. Those certainly were not reckoned who, though first-born, had becomeheads of families themselves, but those only that were under age; and the learned bishop Patrickis decidedly of opinion that none were numbered but those only that were born since their comingout of Egypt, when the first-born were sanctified, Exod. xiii. 2. If there were 22,000 first-bornmales, we may suppose as many females, and all these brought forth in the first year after theycame out of Egypt, we must hence infer that in the last year of their servitude, even when it was inthe greatest extremity, there were abundance of marriages made among the Israelites; they werenot discouraged by the present distress, but married in faith, expecting that God would shortly visitthem with mercy, and that their children, though born in bondage, should live in liberty and honour.And it was a token of good to them, an evidence that they were blessed of the Lord, that they werenot only kept alive, but greatly increased, in a barren wilderness. 2. The number of the first-born,and that of the Levites, by a special providence, came pretty near to each other; thus, when hedivided the nations, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children ofIsrael, Deut. xxxii. 8. Known unto God are all his works beforehand, and there is an exact proportion840Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)between them, and so it will appear when they come to be compared. The Levites' cattle are saidto be taken instead of the firstlings of the cattle of the children of Israel, that is, the Levites, withall their possessions, were devoted to God instead of the first-born and all theirs; for, when we giveourselves to God, all we have passes as appurtenances with the premises. 3. The small number offirst-born which exceeded the number of the Levites (273 in all) were to be redeemed, at five shekelsapiece, and the redemption-money given to Aaron; for it would not do well to have them added tothe Levites. It is probable that in the exchange they began with the eldest of the first-born, and sodownward, so that those were to be redeemed with money who were the 273 youngest of thefirst-born; more likely so than either that it was determined by lot or that the money was paid outof the public stock. The church is called the church of the first-born, which is redeemed, not asthese were, with silver and gold, but, being devoted by sin to the justice of God, is ransomed withthe precious blood of the Son of God.N U M B E R SCHAP. IV.In the former chapter an account was taken of the whole tribe of Levi, in this we have anaccount of those of that tribe who were in the prime of their time for service, betwixt thirty andfifty years old. I. The serviceable men of the Kohathites are ordered to be numbered, and theircharges are given them, ver. 2-20. II. Of the Gershonites, ver. 24-28. III. Of the Merarites, ver.29-33. IV. The numbers of each, and the sum total at last, are recorded, ver. 34, &c.The Office of the Levites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2 Take the sum ofthe sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the houseof their fathers, 3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, allthat enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. 4 Thisshall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation,about the most holy things: 5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shallcome, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark oftestimony with it: 6 And shall put thereon the covering of badgers' skins, and shallspread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof. 7 Andupon the table of showbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon thedishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continualbread shall be thereon: 8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, andcover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.9 And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and hislamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith841Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)they minister unto it: 10 And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within acovering of badgers' skins, and shall put it upon a bar. 11 And upon the goldenaltar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers' skins,and shall put to the staves thereof: 12 And they shall take all the instruments ofministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue,and cover them with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put them on a bar: 13And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:14 And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister aboutit, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basons, all the vesselsof the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers' skins, and put tothe staves of it. 15 And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of coveringthe sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward;after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holything, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in thetabernacle of the congregation. 16 And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaronthe priest pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meatoffering, and the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all thattherein is, in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof. 17 And the Lord spake untoMoses and unto Aaron, saying, 18 Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of theKohathites from among the Levites: 19 But thus do unto them, that they may live,and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shallgo in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden: 20 But theyshall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they die.We have here a second muster of the tribe of Levi. As that tribe was taken out of all Israel tobe God's peculiar, so the middle-aged men of that tribe were taken from among the rest to be actuallyemployed in the service of the tabernacle. Now observe,I. Who were to be taken into this number. All the males from thirty years old to fifty. Of theother tribes, those that were numbered to go forth to war were from twenty years old and upward,but of the Levites only from thirty to fifty; for the service of God requires the best of our strength,and the prime of our time, which cannot be better spent than to the honour of him who is the firstand best. And a man may make a good soldier much sooner than a good minister. Now,1. They were not to be employed till they were thirty years old, because till then they were indanger of retaining something childish and youthful and had not gravity enough to do the service,and wear the honour, of a Levite. They were entered as probationers at twenty-five years old, (ch.viii. 24), and in David's time, when there was more work to be done, at twenty (1 Chron. xxiii. 24,and so Ezra iii. 8); but they must be five years learning and waiting, and so fitting themselves forservice; nay, in David's time they were ten years in preparation, from twenty to thirty. John Baptistbegan his public ministry, and Christ his, at thirty years old. This is not in the letter of it obligatoryon gospel ministers now, as if they must either not begin their work till thirty years old or mustleave off at fifty; but it gives us two good rules:—(1.) That ministers must not be novices, 1 Tim.842Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)iii. 6. It is a work that requires ripeness of judgment and great steadiness, and therefore those arevery unfit for it who are but babes in knowledge and have not put away childish things. (2.) Thatthey must learn before they teach, serve before they rule, and must first be proved, 1 Tim. iii. 10.2. They were discharged at fifty years old from the toilsome part of the service, particularlythat of carrying the tabernacle; for that is the special service to which they are here ordained, andwhich there was most occasion for while they were in the wilderness. When they began to enterupon old age, they were dismissed, (1.) In favour to them, that they might no be over-toiled whentheir strength began to decay. Twenty years' good service was thought pretty well for one man. (2.)In honour to the work, that it might not be done by those who, through the infirmities of age, wereslow and heavy. The service of God should be done when we are in the most lively active frame.Those do not consider this who put off their repentance to old age, and so leave the best work tobe done in the worst time.II. How their work is described. They are said to enter into the host, or warfare, to do the workin the tabernacle. The ministry is a good work (1 Tim. iii. 1): ministers are not ordained to thehonour only, but to the labour, not only to have the wages, but to do the work. It is also a goodwarfare, 1 Tim. i. 18. Those that enter into the ministry must look upon themselves as entered intothe host, and approve themselves good soldiers, 2 Tim. ii. 3. Now, as to the sons of Kohath inparticular, here is,1. Their service appointed them, in the removes of the tabernacle. Afterwards, when thetabernacle was fixed, they had other work assigned them; but this was the work of the day, whichwas to be done in its day. Observe, Wherever the camp of Israel went, the tabernacle of the Lordwent with them, and care must be taken for the carriage of it. Note, Wherever we go, we must seeto it that we take our religion along with us, and not forget that or any part of it. Now the Kohathiteswere to carry all the holy things of the tabernacle. They were charged with those things before (ch.iii. 31), but here they have more particular instructions given them. (1.) Aaron, and his sons thepriests, must pack up the things which the Kohathites were to carry, as here directed, v. 5, &c. Godhad before appointed that none should come into the most holy place, but only Aaron once a yearwith a cloud of incense (Lev. xvi. 2); and yet, the necessity of their unsettled state requiring it, thatlaw is here dispensed with; for every time they removed Aaron and his sons went in to take downthe ark, and make it up for carriage; for (as the learned bishop Patrick suggests) the shechinah, ordisplay of the divine majesty, which was over the mercy-seat, removed for the present in the pillarof cloud, which was taken up, and then the ark was not dangerous to be approached. (2.) All theholy things must be covered, the ark and table with three coverings, all the rest with two. Even theashes of the altar, in which the holy fire was carefully preserved and raked up, must have a purplecloth spread over them, v. 13. Even the brazen altar, though in the court of the sanctuary it stoodopen to the view of all, yet was covered in the carriage of it. All these coverings were designed,[1.] For safety, that these holy things might not be ruffled with the wind, sullied with the rain, nortarnished with the sun, but that they might be preserved in their beauty; for on all the glory shallbe a defence. The coverings of badgers' skins, being thick and strong, would keep out wet; and,while we are in our passage through the wilderness of this world, it concerns us to be fenced forall weathers, Isa. iv. 5, 6. [2.] For decency and ornament. Most of these things had a cloth of blue,or purple, or scarlet, spread outmost; and the ark was covered with a cloth wholly of blue (v. 6), anemblem (say some) of the azure skies, which are spread like a curtain between us and the Majestyon high, Job xxvi. 9. Those that are faithful to God should endeavour likewise to appear beautiful843Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)before men, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. [3.] For concealment. It signifiedthe darkness of that dispensation. That which is now brought to light by the gospel, and revealedto babes, was then hidden from the wise and prudent. They saw only the coverings, not the holythings themselves (Heb. x. 1); but now Christ has destroyed the face of the covering, Isa. xxv. 7.(3.) When all the holy things were covered, then the Kohathites were to carry them on their shoulders.These things that had staves were carried by their staves (v. 6, 8, 11, 14); those that had not werecarried upon a bar, or bier, or bearing barrow, v. 10, 12. See how the tokens of God's presence inthis world are movable things; but we look for a kingdom that cannot be moved.2. Eleazar, now the eldest son of Aaron, is appointed overseer of the Kohathites in this service(v. 16); he must take care that nothing was forgotten, left behind, or displaced. As a priest he hadmore honour than the Levites, but then he had more care; and that care was a heavier burden, nodoubt, upon his heart, than all the burdens that were laid upon their shoulders. It is much easier todo the work of the tabernacle than to discharge the trusts of it, to obey than to rule.3. Great care must be taken to preserve the lives of these Levites, by preventing theirunseasonable irreverent approach to the most holy things: Cut you not off the Kohathites, v. 18.Note, Those who do not what they can to keep others from sin do what they can to cut them off.[1.] The Kohathites must not see the holy things till the priests had covered them, v. 20. Even thosethat bore the vessels of the Lord saw not what they bore, so much were even those in the darkconcerning the gospel whose office it was to expound the law. And, [2.] When the holy things werecovered, they might not touch them, at least not the ark, called here the holy thing, upon pain ofdeath, v. 15. Uzza was struck dead for the breach of this law. Thus were the Lord's ministersthemselves then kept in fear, and that was a dispensation of terror, as well as darkness; but now,through Christ, the case is altered; we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handles, theword of life (1 John i. 1), and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.21 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 22 Take also the sum of the sonsof Gershon, throughout the houses of their fathers, by their families; 23 From thirtyyears old and upward until fifty years old shalt thou number them; all that enter into perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. 24This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, to serve, and for burdens: 25And they shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, and the tabernacle of thecongregation, his covering, and the covering of the badgers' skins that is above uponit, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, 26 And thehangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, whichis by the tabernacle and by the altar round about, and their cords, and all theinstruments of their service, and all that is made for them: so shall they serve. 27At the appointment of Aaron and his sons shall be all the service of the sons of theGershonites, in all their burdens, and in all their service: and ye shall appoint untothem in charge all their burdens. 28 This is the service of the families of the sonsof Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation: and their charge shall be underthe hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 29 As for the sons of Merari, thoushalt number them after their families, by the house of their fathers; 30 From thirty844Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every onethat entereth into the service, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation.31 And this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in thetabernacle of the congregation; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof,and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof, 32 And the pillars of the court roundabout, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments,and with all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the chargeof their burden. 33 This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, accordingto all their service, in the tabernacle of the congregation, under the hand of Ithamarthe son of Aaron the priest.We have here the charge of the other two families of the Levites, which, though not sohonourable as the first, yet was necessary, and was to be done regularly. 1. The Gershonites werecharged with all the drapery of the tabernacle, the curtains, and hangings, and the coverings ofbadgers' skins, v. 22-26. These they were to take down when the cloud removed, and the ark andthe rest of the holy things were carried away, to pack up and bring with them, and then to set upagain, where the cloud rested. Aaron and his sons allotted to them their respective charge: "Youshall take care of such a curtain, and you of such a hanging, that every one may know his work,and there may be no confusion," v. 27. Ithamar particularly was to take the oversight of them, v.28. 2. The Merarites were charged with the heavy carriage, the boards and bars, the pillars andsockets, the pins and cords, and these were delivered to them by name, v. 31, 32. An inventory wasgiven them of every particular, that it might be forthcoming, and nothing to seek, when the tabernaclewas to be set up again. Though these seemed of less importance than the other things pertaining tothe sanctuary, yet there was this care taken of them, to teach us with the greatest exactness topreserve pure and entire all divine institutions, and to take care that nothing be lost. It also intimatesthe care God takes of his church, and every member of it; the good Shepherd calls his own sheepby name, John x. 3. Here were thousands of men employed about these services, though a muchless number would have served for the bearing of those burdens; but it was requisite that thetabernacle should be taken down, and set up, with great expedition, and many hands would makequick work, especially when every one knew his work. They had tents of their own to take care of,and to take along with them, but the young men under thirty, and the old men above fifty, mightserve for them; nor is there any mention of them, for God's house must always be preferred beforeour own. Their care was preposterous who built and ceiled their own houses while God's house laywaste, Hag. i. 4, 9. The death of the saints is represented as the taking down of the tabernacle (2Cor. v. 1), and the putting of it off, 2 Pet. i. 14. The immortal soul, like the most holy things, is firstcovered and taken away, carried by angels, unseen, under the inspection of the Lord Jesus, ourEleazar. Care is also taken of the body—the skin and flesh, which are as the curtains, the bonesand sinews which are as the bars and pillars; none of these shall be lost; commandment is givenconcerning the bones, a covenant made with the dust; these are in safe custody, and shall all beproduced in the great day, when this tabernacle shall be set up again, and these vile bodies madelike the glorious body of Jesus Christ.34 And Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation numbered the sonsof the Kohathites after their families, and after the house of their fathers, 35 From845Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth intothe service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation: 36 And those thatwere numbered of them by their families were two thousand seven hundred andfifty. 37 These were they that were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, allthat might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, which Moses and Aarondid number according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. 38And those that were numbered of the sons of Gershon, throughout their families,and by the house of their fathers, 39 From thirty years old and upward even untofifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacleof the congregation, 40 Even those that were numbered of them, throughout theirfamilies, by the house of their fathers, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty.41 These are they that were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, ofall that might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, whom Moses andAaron did number according to the commandment of the Lord. 42 And those thatwere numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, throughout their families, bythe house of their fathers, 43 From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty yearsold, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of thecongregation, 44 Even those that were numbered of them after their families, werethree thousand and two hundred. 45 These be those that were numbered of thefamilies of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to theword of the Lord by the hand of Moses. 46 All those that were numbered of theLevites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chief of Israel numbered, after their families,and after the house of their fathers, 47 From thirty years old and upward even untofifty years old, every one that came to do the service of the ministry, and the serviceof the burden in the tabernacle of the congregation, 48 Even those that werenumbered of them, were eight thousand and five hundred and fourscore. 49According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand ofMoses, every one according to his service, and according to his burden: thus werethey numbered of him, as the Lord commanded Moses.We have here a particular account of the numbers of the three families of the Levitesrespectively, that is, of the effective men, between thirty years old and fifty. Observe, 1. TheKohathites were, in all, 8600 from a month old and upwards; but of these there were but 2750serviceable men, not a third part. The Gershonites, in all, 7500, and of them but 2630 serviceablemen, little more than a third part. Note, Of the many that add to the numbers of the church, thereare comparatively but few that contribute to the service of it. So it has been, and so it is; many havea place in the tabernacle that do but little of the work of the tabernacle, Phil. ii. 20, 21. 2. That theMerarites were but 6200 in all, and yet of these there were 3200 serviceable men, that is, more thanhalf. The greatest burden lay upon that family, the boards, and pillars, and sockets; and God soordered it that, though they were the fewest in number, yet they should have the most able men846Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)among them; for whatever service God calls men to he will furnish them for it, and give strengthin proportion to the work, grace sufficient. 3. The whole number of the able men of the tribe ofLevi who entered into God's host to war his warfare was but 8580, whereas the able men of theother tribes that entered into the host of Israel to war their warfare were many more. The least ofthe tribes had almost four times as many able men as the Levites, and some of them more than eighttimes as many; for those that are engaged in the service of this world, and war after the flesh, aremany more than those that are devoted to the service of God, and fight the good fight of faith.N U M B E R SCHAP. V.In this chapter we have, I. An order, pursuant to the laws already made, for the removing ofthe unclean out of the camp, ver. 1-4. II. A repetition of the laws concerning restitution, in case ofwrong done to a neighbour (ver. 5-8), and concerning the appropriating of the hallowed things tothe priests, ver. 9, 10. III. A new law made concerning the trial of a wife suspected of adultery, bythe waters of jealousy, ver. 11, &c.The Unclean to Be Removed. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Command the children of Israel,that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, andwhosoever is defiled by the dead: 3 Both male and female shall ye put out, withoutthe camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof Idwell. 4 And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: asthe Lord spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel. 5 And the Lord spakeunto Moses, saying, 6 Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or womanshall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and thatperson be guilty; 7 Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and heshall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifthpart thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. 8 But if theman have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass berecompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement,whereby an atonement shall be made for him. 9 And every offering of all the holythings of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. 10And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest,it shall be his.847Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Here is, I. A command for the purifying of the camp, by turning out from within its lines allthose that were ceremonially unclean, by issues, leprosies, or the touch of dead bodies, until theywere cleansed according to the law, v. 2, 3.1. These orders are executed immediately, v. 4. (1.) The camp was now newly-modelled andput in order, and therefore, to complete the reformation of it, it is next to be cleansed. Note, Thepurity of the church must be as carefully consulted and preserved as the peace and order of it. It isrequisite, not only that every Israelite be confined to his own standard, but that every pollutedIsraelite be separated from it. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. (2.) God'stabernacle was now fixed in the midst of their camp, and therefore they must be careful to keep itclean. Note, The greater profession of religion any house or family make the more they are obligedto put away iniquity far from their tabernacle, Job xxii. 23. The person, the place, in the midst ofwhich God dwells, must not be defiled; for, if it be, he will be affronted, offended, and provokedto withdraw, 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17.2. This expulsion of the unclean out of the camp was to signify, (1.) What the governors of thechurch ought to do: they must separate between the precious and the vile, and purge out scandalouspersons, as old leaven (1 Cor. v. 8, 13), lest others should be infected and defiled, Heb. xii. 15. Itis for the glory of Christ and the edification of his church that those who are openly and incorrigiblyprofane and vicious should be put out and kept from Christian communion till they repent. (2.)What God himself will do in the great day: he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather out ofhis kingdom all things that offend. As here the unclean were shut out of the camp, so into the newJerusalem no unclean thing shall enter, Rev. xxi. 27.II. A law concerning restitution, in case of wrong done to a neighbour. It is called a sin thatmen commit (v. 6), because it is common among men; a sin of man, that is, a sin against man, soit is thought it should be translated and understood. If a man overreach or defraud his brother inany matter, it is to be looked upon as a trespass against the Lord, who is the protector of right, thepunisher of wrong, and who strictly charges and commands us to do justly. Now what is to be donewhen a man's awakened conscience charges him with guilt of this kind, and brings it to hisremembrance though done long ago? 1. He must confess his sin, confess it to God, confess it to hisneighbour, and so take shame to himself. If he have denied it before, though it go against the grainto own himself in a lie, yet he must do it; because his heart was hardened he denied it, therefore hehas no other way of making it appear that his heart is now softened but by confessing it. 2. He mustbring a sacrifice, a ram of atonement, v. 8. Satisfaction must be made for the offence done to God,whose law is broken, as well as for the loss sustained by our neighbour; restitution in this case isnot sufficient without faith and repentance. 3. Yet the sacrifices would not be accepted till fullamends were made to the party wronged, not only the principal, but a fifth part added to it, v. 7. Itis certain that while that which is got by injustice is knowingly retained in the hands the guilt ofthe injustice remains upon the conscience, and is not purged by sacrifice nor offering, prayers nottears, for it is one and the same continued act of sin persisted in. This law we had before (Lev. vi.4), and it is here added that if the party wronged was dead, and he had no near kinsman who wasentitled to the debt, or if it was any way uncertain to whom the restitution should be made, thisshould not serve for an excuse to detain what was unjustly gotten; to whomsoever it pertained, itwas certainly none of his that got it by sin, and therefore it must be given to the priest, v. 8. If therewere any that could make out a title to it, it must not be given to the priest (God hates robbery forburnt-offerings); but, if there were not, then it lapsed to the great Lord (ob defectum sanguinis—for848Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)want of issue), and the priests were his receivers. Note, Some work of piety or charity is a piece ofnecessary justice to be done by those who are conscience to themselves that they have done wrong,but know not how otherwise to make restitution; what is not our property will never be our profit.III. A general rule concerning hallowed things given upon this occasion, that, whatever wasgiven to the priest, his it shall be, v. 9, 10. 1. He that gave it was not to receive his gift again uponany pretence whatsoever. This law ratifies and confirms all grants for pious uses, that people mightnot give things to the priests in a fit of zeal, and then recall them in a fit of vexation. 2. The otherpriests should not come in sharers with that priest who then officiated, and to whom the hallowedthing, whatever it was, was given. Let him that was most ready and diligent in attending fare thebetter for it: if he do the work, let him have the pay, and much good may it do him.The Bitter Water of Jealousy. (b. c. 1490.)11 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12 Speak unto the children of Israel,and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, andbe kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither shebe taken with the manner; 14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he bejealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him,and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: 15 Then shall the man bringhis wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of anephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; forit is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity toremembrance. 16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord:17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that isin the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: 18 Andthe priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman's head, andput the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and thepriest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: 19 And thepriest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain withthee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thyhusband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: 20 But if thouhast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and someman have lain with thee beside thine husband: 21 Then the priest shall charge thewoman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lordmake thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thighto rot, and thy belly to swell; 22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go intothy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shallsay, Amen, amen. 23 And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shallblot them out with the bitter water: 24 And he shall cause the woman to drink the849Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enterinto her, and become bitter. 25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering outof the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it uponthe altar: 26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorialthereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink thewater. 27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass,that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the waterthat causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shallswell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shallconceive seed. 29 This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to anotherinstead of her husband, and is defiled; 30 Or when the spirit of jealousy comethupon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord,and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. 31 Then shall the man be guiltlessfrom iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.We have here the law concerning the solemn trial of a wife whose husband was jealous of her.Observe,I. What was the case supposed: That a man had some reason to suspect his wife to havecommitted adultery, v. 12-14. Here, 1. The sin of adultery is justly represented as an exceedinglysinful sin; it is going aside from God and virtue, and the good way, Prov. ii. 17. It is committing atrespass against the husband, robbing him of his honour, alienating his right, introducing a spuriousbreed into his family to share with his children in his estate, and violating her covenant with him.It is being defiled; for nothing pollutes the mind and conscience more than this sin does. 2. It issupposed to be a sin which great care is taken by the sinners to conceal, which there is no witnessof. The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, Job xxiv. 15. And the adulteress takes heropportunity when the good man is not at home, Prov. vii. 19. It would not covet to be secret if itwere not shameful; and the devil who draws sinners to this sin teaches them how to cover it. 3. Thespirit of jealousy is supposed to come upon the husband, of which Solomon says, It is the rage ofa man (Prov. vi. 34), and that it is cruel as the grave, Cant. viii. 6. 4. "Yet" (say the Jewish writers)"he must make it appear that he has some just cause for the suspicion." The rule they give is, "Ifthe husband have said unto his wife before witnesses, 'Be not thou in secret with such a man;' and,notwithstanding that admonition, it is afterwards proved that she was in secret with that man, thoughher father or her brother, then he may compel her to drink the bitter water." But the law here doesnot tie him to that particular method of proving the just cause of his suspicion; it might be otherwiseproved. In case it could be proved that she had committed adultery, she was to be put to death (Lev.xx. 10); but, if it was uncertain, then this law took place. Hence, (1.) Let all wives be admonishednot to give any the least occasion for the suspicion of their chastity; it is not enough that they abstainfrom the evil of uncleanness, but they must abstain from all appearance of it, from every thing thatlooks like it, or leads to it, or may give the least umbrage to jealousy; for how great a matter maya little fire kindle! (2.) Let all husbands be admonished not to entertain any causeless or unjustsuspicions of their wives. If charity in general, much more conjugal affection, teaches to think no850Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)evil, 1 Cor. xiii. 5. It is the happiness of the virtuous woman that the heart of her husband doessafely trust in her, Prov. xxxi. 11.II. What was the course prescribed in this case, that, if the suspected wife was innocent, shemight not continue under the reproach and uneasiness of her husband's jealousy, and, if guilty, hersin might find her out, and others might hear, and fear, and take warning.1. The process of the trial must be thus:— (1.) Her husband must bring her to the priest, withthe witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicion, and desire that she might be put uponher trial. The Jews say that the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth,saying to this purport, "Dear daughter, perhaps thou wast overtaken by drinking wine, or wastcarried away by the heat of youth or the examples of bad neighbours; come, confess the truth, forthe sake of his great name which is described in the most sacred ceremony, and do not let it beblotted out with the bitter water." If she confessed, saying, "I am defiled," she was not put to death,but was divorced and lost her dowry; if she said, "I am pure," then they proceeded. (2.) He mustbring a coarse offering of barley-meal, without oil or frankincense, agreeably to the present afflictedstate of his family; for a great affliction it was either to have cause to be jealous or to be jealouswithout cause. It is an offering of memorial, to signify that what was to be done was intended as areligious appeal to the omniscience and justice of God. (3.) The priest was to prepare the water ofjealousy, the holy water out of the laver at which the priests were to wash when they ministered;this must be brought in an earthen vessel, containing (they say) about a pint; and it must be anearthen vessel, because the coarser and plainer every thing was the more agreeable it was to theoccasion. Dust must be put into the water, to signify the reproach she lay under, and the shame sheought to take to herself, putting her mouth in the dust; but dust from the floor of the tabernacle, toput an honour upon every thing that pertained to the place God had chosen to put his name there,and to keep up in the people a reverence for it; see John viii. 6. (4.) The woman was to be set beforethe Lord, at the east gate of the temple-court (say the Jews), and her head was to be uncovered, intoken of her sorrowful condition; and there she stood for a spectacle to the world, that other womenmight learn not to do after her lewdness, Ezek. xxiii. 48. Only the Jews say, "Her own servantswere not to be present, that she might not seem vile in their sight, who were to give honour to her;her husband also must be dismissed." (5.) The priest was to adjure her to tell the truth, and todenounce the curse of God against her if she were guilty, and to declare what would be the effectof her drinking the water of jealousy, v. 19-22. He must assure her that, if she were innocent, thewater would do her no harm, v. 19. None need fear the curse of the law if they have not broken thecommands of the law. But, if she were guilty, this water would be poison to her, it would make herbelly to swell and her thigh to rot, and she should be a curse or abomination among her people, v.21, 22. To this she must say, Amen, as Israel must do to the curses pronounced on mount Ebal,Deut. xxvii. 15-26. Some think the Amen, being doubled, respects both parts of the adjuration, boththat which freed her if innocent and that which condemned her if guilty. No woman, if she wereguilty, could say Amen to this adjuration, and drink the water upon it, unless she disbelieved thetruth of God or defied his justice, and had come to such a pitch of impudence and hard-heartednessin sin as to challenge God Almighty to do his worst, and choose rather to venture upon his cursethan to give him glory by making confession; thus has whoredom taken away the heart. (6.) Thepriest was to write this curse in a scrip or scroll o parchment, verbatim—word for word, as he hadexpressed it, and then to wipe or scrape out what he had written into the water (v. 23), to signifythat it was that curse which impregnated the water, and gave it its strength to effect what was851Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)intended. It signified that, if she were innocent, the curse should be blotted out and never appearagainst her, as it is written, Isa. xliii. 25, I am he that blotteth out thy transgression, and Ps. li. 9,Blot out my iniquities; but that, if she were guilty, the curse, as it was written, being infused intothe water, would enter into her bowels with the water, even like oil into her bones (Ps. cix. 18), aswe read of a curse entering into a house, Zech. v. 4. (7.) The woman must then drink the water (v.24); it is called the bitter water, some think because they put wormwood in it to make it bitter, orrather because it caused the curse. Thus sin is called an evil thing and a bitter for the same reason,because it causeth the curse, Jer. ii. 19. If she had been guilty (and otherwise it did not cause thecurse), she was made to know that though her stolen waters had been sweet, and her bread eatenin secret pleasant, yet the end was bitter as wormwood, Prov. ix. 17, and ch. v. 4. Let all that meddlewith forbidden pleasures know that they will be bitterness in the latter end. The Jews say that if,upon denouncing the curse, the woman was so terrified that she durst not drink the water, butconfessed she was defiled, the priest flung down the water, and cast her offering among the ashes,and she was divorced without dowry: if she confessed not, and yet would not drink, they forcedher to it; and, if she was ready to throw it up again, they hastened her away, that she might notpollute the holy place. (8.) Before she drank the water, the jealousy-offering was waved and offeredupon the altar (v. 25, 26); a handful of it was burnt for a memorial, and the remainder of it eatenby the priest, unless the husband was a priest, and then it was scattered among the ashes. Thisoffering in the midst of the transaction signified that the whole was an appeal to God, as a God thatknows all things, and from whom no secret is hid. (9.) All things being thus performed accordingto the law, they were to wait the issue. The water, with a little dust put into it, and the scrapings ofa written parchment, had no natural tendency at all to do either good or hurt; but if God was thusappealed to in the way of an instituted ordinance, though otherwise the innocent might have continuedunder suspicion and the guilty undiscovered, yet God would so far own his own institution as thatin a little time, by the miraculous operation of Providence, the innocency of the innocent shouldbe cleared, and the sin of the guilty should find them out. [1.] If the suspected woman was reallyguilty, the water she drank would be poison to her (v. 27), her belly would swell and her thigh rotby a vile disease for vile deserts, and she would mourn at the last when her flesh and body wereconsumed, Prov. v. 11. Bishop Patrick says, from some of the Jewish writers, that the effect of thesewaters appeared immediately, she grew pale, and her eyes ready to start out of her head. Dr. Lightfootsays that sometimes it appeared not for two or three years, but she bore no children, was sickly,languished, and rotted at last; it is probable that some indications appeared immediately. The rabbinsay that the adulterer also died in the same day and hour that the adulteress did, and in the samemanner too, that he belly swelled, and his secret parts rotted: a disease perhaps not much unlikethat which in these latter ages the avenging hand of a righteous God has made the scourge ofuncleanness, and with which whores and whoremongers infect, and plague, and ruin one another,since they escape punishment from men. The Jewish doctors add that the waters had this effectupon the adulteress only in case the husband had never offended in the same kind; but that, if hehad at any time defiled the marriage-bed, God did not thus right him against his injurious wife; andthat therefore in the latter and degenerate ages of the Jewish church, when uncleanness did abound,this way of trial was generally disused and laid aside; men, knowing their own crimes, were contentnot to know their wives' crimes. And to this perhaps may refer the threatening (Hos. iv. 14), I willnot punish your spouses when they commit adultery, for you yourselves are separated with whores.[2.] If she were innocent, the water she drank would be physic to her: She shall be free, and shall852Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)conceive seed, v. 28. The Jewish writers magnify the good effects of this water to the innocentwoman, that, to recompense her for the wrong done to her by the suspicion, she should, after thedrinking of these waters, be stronger and look better than ever; if she was sickly, she should becomehealthful, should bear a man-child, and have easy labour.2. From the whole we may learn, (1.) That secret sins are known to God, and sometimes arestrangely brought to light in this life; however, there is a day coming when God will, by JesusChrist, as here by the priest, judge the secrets of men according to the gospel, Rom. ii. 16. (2.) That,in particular, Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. The violation of conjugal faith andchastity is highly provoking to the God of heaven, and sooner or later it will be reckoned for. Thoughwe have not now the waters of jealousy to be a sensible terror to the unclean, yet we have a wordfrom God which ought to be as great a terror, that if any man defile the temple of God, him shallGod destroy, 1 Cor. iii. 17. (3.) That God will find out some way or other to clear the innocencyof the innocent, and to bring forth their righteousness as the light. (4.) That to the pure all thingsare pure, but to the defiled nothing is so, Tit. i. 15. The same word is to some a savour of life untolife, to others a savour of death unto death, like those waters of jealousy, according as they receiveit; the same providence is for good to some and for hurt to others, Jer. xxiv. 5, 8, 9. And, whatsoeverit is intended for, it shall not return void.N U M B E R SCHAP. VI.In this chapter we have, I. The law concerning Nazarites, 1. What it was to which the vow ofa Nazarite obliged him, ver. 1-8. 2. A remedial law in case a Nazarite happened to be polluted bythe touch of a dead body, ver. 9-12. 3. The solemnity of his discharge when his time was up, ver.13-21. II. Instructions given to the priests how they should bless the people, ver. 22, &c.The Law Concerning Nazarites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel,and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow avow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: 3 He shall separate himselffrom wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strongdrink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. 4All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, fromthe kernels even to the husk. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shallno razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separatethhimself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his headgrow. 6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall come at nodead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother,853Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his Godis upon his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord. 9 Andif any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration;then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall heshave it. 10 And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons,to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: 11 And the priestshall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make anatonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head thatsame day. 12 And he shall consecrate unto the Lord the days of his separation, andshall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that werebefore shall be lost, because his separation was defiled. 13 And this is the law ofthe Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought untothe door of the tabernacle of the congregation: 14 And he shall offer his offeringunto the Lord, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering,and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ramwithout blemish for peace offerings, 15 And a basket of unleavened bread, cakesof fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil,and their meat offering, and their drink offerings. 16 And the priest shall bringthem before the Lord, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering: 17And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, with thebasket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and hisdrink offering. 18 And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at thedoor of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of hisseparation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.19 And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavenedcake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the handsof the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven: 20 And the priest shallwave them for a wave offering before the Lord: this is holy for the priest, with thewave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine. 21This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lordfor his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow whichhe vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.After the law for the discovery and shame of those that by sin had made themselves vile, fitlyfollows this for the direction and encouragement of those who by their eminent piety and devotionhad made themselves honourable, and distinguished themselves from their neighbours. It is veryprobable that there were those before the making of this law who went under the character ofNazarites, and were celebrated by that title as persons professing greater strictness and zeal inreligion than other people; for the vow of a Nazarite is spoken of here as a thing already well known,854Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)but the obligation of it is reduced to a greater certainty than hitherto it had been. Joseph is called aNazarite among his brethren (Gen. xlix. 26), not only because separate from them, but becauseeminent among them. Observe,I. The general character of a Nazarite: it is a person separated unto the Lord, v. 2. Some wereNazarites for life, either by divine designation, as Samson (Judg. xiii. 5), and John Baptist (Lukei. 15), or by their parents' vow concerning them, as Samuel, 1 Sam. i. 11. Of these this law speaksnot. Others were so for a certain time, and by their own voluntary engagement, and concerningthem rules are given by this law. A woman might bind herself with the vow of a Nazarite, underthe limitations we find, ch. xxx. 3, where the vow which the woman is supposed to vow unto theLord seems to be meant especially of this vow. The Nazarites were, 1. Devoted to the Lord duringthe time of their Nazariteship, and, it is probable, spent much of their time in the study of the law,in acts of devotion, and instructing others. An air of piety was thereby put upon them, and upontheir whole conversation. 2. They were separated from common persons and common things. Thosethat are consecrated to God must not be conformed to this world. They distinguished themselves,not only from others, but from what they themselves were before and after. 3. They separatedthemselves by vowing a vow. Every Israelite was bound by the divine law to love God with all hisheart, but the Nazarites by their own act and deed bound themselves to some religious observances,as fruits and expressions of that love, which other Israelites were not bound to. Some such therewere, whose spirits God stirred up to be in their day the ornaments of the church, the standard-bearersof religion, and patterns of piety. It is spoken of as a great favour to their nation that God raisedup of their young men for Nazarites, Amos ii. 11. The Nazarites were known in the streets andrespected as purer than snow, whiter than milk, Lam. iv. 7. Christ was called in reproach a Nazarene,so were his followers: but he was no Nazarite according to this law; he drank wine, and toucheddead bodies, yet in his this type had its accomplishment, for in him all purity and perfection met;and every true Christian is a spiritual Nazarite, separated by vow unto the Lord. We find St. Paul,by the persuasion of his friends, in complaisance to the Jews, submitting to this law of the Nazarites;but at the same time it is declared that the Gentiles should observe no such thing, Acts xxi. 24, 25.It was looked upon as a great honour to a man to be a Nazarite, and therefore if a man speak of itas a punishment, saying for instance, "I will be a Nazarite rather than do so or so," he is (say theJews) a wicked man; but he that vows unto the Lord in the way of holiness to be a Nazarite, lo, thecrown of his God is upon his head.II. The particular obligations that the Nazarites lay under. That the fancies of superstitious menmight not multiply their restraints endlessly, God himself lays down the law for them, and givesthem the rule of their profession.1. They must have nothing to do with the fruit of the vine, v. 3, 4. They must drink no winenor string drink, nor eat grapes, no, not the kernel nor the husk; they might not so much as eat araisin. The learned Dr. Lightfoot has a conjecture (Hor. Heb. in Luc. 1. 15), that, as the ceremonialpollutions by leprosy and otherwise represented the sinful state of fallen man, so the institution ofthe order of Nazarites was designed to represent the pure and perfect state of man in innocency,and that the tree of knowledge, forbidden to Adam, was the vine, and for that reason it was forbiddento the Nazarites, and all the produce of it. Those who gave the Nazarites wine to drink did thetempter's work (Amos ii. 12), persuading them to that forbidden fruit. That it was reckoned aperfection and praise not to drink wine appears from the instance of the Rechabites, Jer. xxxv. 6.They were to drink no wine, (1.) That they might be examples of temperance and mortification.855Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Those that separate themselves to God and to his honour must not gratify the desires of the body,but keep it under and bring it into subjection. Drinking a little wine for the stomach's sake is allowed,to help that, 1 Tim. v. 23. But drinking much wine for the palate's sake, to please that, does by nomeans become those who profess to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (2.) That theymight be qualified to employ themselves in the service of God. They must not drink, lest theyshould forget the law (Prov. xxxi. 5), lest they should err through wine, Isa. xxviii. 7. Let allChristians oblige themselves to be very moderate in the use of wine and strong drink; for, if thelove of these once gets the mastery of a man, he becomes a very easy prey to Satan. It is observablethat because they were to drink no wine (which was the thing mainly intended) they were to eatnothing that came of the vine, to teach us with the utmost care and caution to avoid sin and everything that borders upon it and leads to it, or may be a temptation to us. Abstain from all appearanceof evil, 1 Thess. v. 22.2. They must not cut their hair, v. 5. They must neither poll their heads nor shave their beards;this was that mark of Samson's Nazariteship which we often read of in his story. Now, (1.) Thissignified a noble neglect of the body and the ease and ornament of it, which became those who,being separated to God, ought to be wholly taken up with their souls, to secure their peace andbeauty. It signified that they had, for the present, renounced all sorts of sensual pleasures anddelights, and resolved to live a life of self-denial and mortification. Mephibosheth in sorrow trimmednot his beard, 2 Sam. xix. 24. (2.) Some observe that long hair is spoken of as a badge of subjection(1 Cor. xi. 5, &c.); so that the long hair of the Nazarites denoted their subjection to God, and theirputting themselves under his dominion. (3.) By this they were known to all that met them to beNazarites, and so it commanded respect. It made them look great without art; it was nature's crownto the head, and a testimony for them that they had preserved their purity. For, if they had beendefiled, their hair must have been cut, v. 9. See Jer. vii. 29.3. They must not come near any dead body, v. 6, 7. Others might touch dead bodies, andcontracted only a ceremonial pollution by it for some time; some must do it, else the dead must beunburied; but the Nazarites must not do it, upon pain of forfeiting all the honour of their Nazariteship.They must not attend the funeral of any relation, no, not father nor mother, any more than the highpriest himself, because the consecration of his God is upon his head. Those that separate themselvesto God must learn, (1.) To distinguish themselves, and do more than others. (2.) To keep theirconsciences pure from dead works, and not to touch the unclean thing. The greater profession ofreligion we make, and the more eminent we appear, the greater care we must take to avoid all sin,for we have so much the more honour to lose by it. (3.) To moderate their affections even to theirnear relations, so as not to let their sorrow for the loss of them break in upon their joy in God andsubmission to his will. See Matt. viii. 21, 22.4. All the days of their separation they must be holy to the Lord, v. 8. This was the meaningof those external observances, and without this they were of no account. The Nazarites must bedevoted to God, employed for him, and their minds intent upon him; they must keep themselvespure in heart and life, and be in every thing conformable to the divine image and will; this is to beholy, this is to be a Nazarite indeed.III. The provision that was made for the cleansing of a Nazarite, if he happened unavoidablyto contract a ceremonial pollution by the touch of a dead body. No penalty is ordered by this lawfor the wilful breach of the foregoing laws; for it was not supposed that a man who had so muchreligion as to make that vow could have so little as to break it presumptuously: nor could it be856Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)supposed that he should drink wine, or have his hair cut, but by his own fault; but purely by theprovidence of God, without any fault of his own, he might be near a dead body, and that is the caseput (v. 9): If a man die very suddenly by him, he has defiled the head of his consecration. Note,Death sometimes takes men away very suddenly, and without any previous warning. A man mightbe well and dead in so little a time that the most careful Nazarite could not avoid being pollutedby the dead body; so short a step is it sometimes, and so soon taken, from time to eternity. Godprepare us for sudden death! In this case, 1. He must be purified from the ceremonial pollution hehad contracted, as others must, upon the seventh day, v. 9. Nay, more was required for the purifyingof the Nazarite than of any other person that had touched a dead body; he must bring a sin-offeringand a burnt-offering, and an atonement must be made for him, v. 10, 11. This teaches us that sinsof infirmity, and the faults we are overtaken in by surprise, must be seriously repented of, and thatan application must be made of the virtue of Christ's sacrifice to our souls for the forgiveness ofthem every day, 1 John ii. 1, 2. It teaches us also that, if those who make an eminent profession ofreligion do any thing to sully the reputation of their profession, more is expected from them thanothers, for the retrieving both of their peace and of their credit. 2. He must begin the days of hisseparation again; for all that were past before his pollution, though coming ever so near the periodof his time set, were lost, and not reckoned to him, v. 12. This obliged them to be very careful notto defile themselves by the dead, for that was the only thing that made them lose their time, and itteaches us that if a righteous man turn away from his righteousness, and defile himself with deadworks, all his righteousness that he has done shall be lost to him, Ezek. xxxiii. 13. It is all lost, allin vain, if he do not persevere, Gal. iii. 4. He must begin again, and do his first works.IV. The law for the solemn discharge of a Nazarite from his vow, when he had completed thetime he fixed to himself. Before the expiration of that term he could not be discharged; before hevowed, it was in his own power, but it was too late after the vow to make enquiry. The Jews saythat the time of a Nazarite's vow could not be less than thirty days; and if a man said, "I will be aNazarite but for two days," yet he was bound for thirty; but it should seem Paul's vow was for onlyseven days (Acts xxi. 27), or, rather, then he observed the ceremony of finishing that vow ofNazariteship from which, being at a distance from the temple, he had discharged himself someyears before at Cenchrea only by the ceremony of cutting his hair, Acts xviii. 18. When the timeof the vowed separation was out, he was to be made free, 1. Publicly, at the door of the tabernacle(v. 13), that all might take notice of the finishing of his vow, and none might be offended if theysaw him now drink wine, who had so lately refused. 2. It was to be done with sacrifices, v. 14. Lesthe should think that by this eminent piece of devotion he had made God a debtor to him, he isappointed, even when he had finished his vow, to bring an offering to God; for, when we have doneour utmost in duty to God, still we must own ourselves behind-hand with him. He must bring oneof each sort of the instituted offerings. (1.) A burnt-offering, as an acknowledgment of God'ssovereign dominion over him and all he had still, notwithstanding his discharge from this particularvow. (2.) A sin-offering. This, though mentioned second (v. 14), yet seems to have been offeredfirst (v. 16), for atonement must be made for our sins before any of our sacrifices can be accepted.And it is very observable that even the Nazarite, who in the eye of men was purer than snow andwhiter than milk, yet durst not appear before the holy God without a sin-offering. Though he hadfulfilled the vow of his separation without any pollution, yet he must bring a sacrifice for sin; forthere is guilt insensibly contracted by the best of men, even in their best works—some good omitted,some ill admitted, which, if we were dealt with in strict justice, would be our ruin, and in consequence857Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of which it is necessary for us to receive the atonement, and plead it as our righteousness beforeGod. (3.) A peace-offering, in thankfulness to God who had enabled him to fulfil his vow, and insupplication to God for grace to preserve him from ever doing any thing unbecoming one that hadbeen once a Nazarite, remembering that, though he was now freed from the bonds of his own vow,he still remained under the bonds of the divine law. (4.) To these were added the meat-offeringsand drink-offerings, according to the manner (v. 15, 17), for these always accompanied theburnt-offerings and peace-offerings: and, besides these, a basket of unleavened cakes, and wafers.(5.) Part of the peace-offering, with a cake and wafer, was to be waved for a wave-offering (v. 19,20); and this was a gratuity to the priest, who had it for his pains, after it had been first presentedto God. (6.) Besides all this, he might bring his free-will offerings, such as his hand shall get, v.21. More than this he might bring, but not less. And, to grace the solemnity, it was common uponthis occasion to have their friends to be at charges with them, Acts xxi. 24. Lastly, One ceremonymore was appointed, which was like the cancelling of the bond when the condition is performed,and that was the cutting off of his hair, which had been suffered to grow all the time of his being aNazarite, and burning it in the fire over which the peace-offerings were boiling, v. 18. This intimatedthat his full performance of his vow was acceptable to God in Christ the great sacrifice, and nototherwise. Learn hence to vow and pay to the Lord our God, for he has no pleasure in fools.A Form of Benediction Appointed. (b. c. 1490.)22 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 23 Speak unto Aaron and unto hissons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee,and be gracious unto thee: 26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and givethee peace. 27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I willbless them.Here, I. The priests, among other good offices which they were to do, are appointed solemnlyto bless the people in the name of the Lord, v. 23. It was part of their work, Deut. xxi. 5. HerebyGod put an honour upon the priests, for the less is blessed of the better; and hereby he gave greatcomfort and satisfaction to the people, who looked upon the priest as God's mouth to them. Thoughthe priests of himself could do no more than beg a blessing, yet being an intercessor by office, anddoing that in his name who commands the blessing, the prayer carried with it a promise, and hepronounced it as one having authority with his hands lifted up and his face towards the people.Now, 1. This was a type of Christ's errand into the world, which was to bless us (Acts iii. 26), asthe high priest of our profession. The last thing he did on earth was with uplifted hands to bless hisdisciples, Luke xxiv. 50, 51. The learned bishop Pearson observes it as a tradition of the Jews thatthe priests blessed the people only at the close of the morning sacrifice, not of the evening sacrifice,to show (says he) that in the last days, the days of the Messiah, which are (as it were) the eveningof the world, the benediction of the law should cease, and the blessing of Christ should take place.2. It was a pattern to gospel ministers, the masters of assemblies, who are in like manner to dismisstheir solemn assemblies with a blessing. The same that are God's mouth to his people, to teach andcommand them, are his mouth likewise to bless them; and those that receive the law shall receivethe blessing. The Hebrew doctors warn the people that they say not, "What availeth the blessing858Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of this poor simple priest? "For," say they, "the receiving of the blessing depends, not on the priest,but on the holy blessed God."II. A form of blessing is here prescribed them. In their other devotions no form was prescribed,but this being God's command concerning benediction, that it might not look like any thing of theirown, he puts the very words in their mouths, v. 24-26. Here observe, 1. That the blessing iscommanded upon each particular person: The Lord bless thee. They must each of them preparethemselves to receive the blessing, and then they should find enough in it to make them every manhappy. Blessed shalt thou be, Deut. xxviii. 3. If we take the law to ourselves, we may take theblessing to ourselves, as if our names were inserted. 2. That the name Jehovah is three times repeatedin it, and (as the critics observe) each with a different accent in the original; the Jews themselvesthink there is some mystery in this, and we know what it is, the New Testament having explainedit, which directs us to expect the blessing from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of theFather, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, each of which persons is Jehovah, and yet they are"not three Lords, but one Lord," 2 Cor. xiii. 14. 3. That the favour of God is all in all in this blessing,for that is the fountain of all good. (1.) The Lord bless thee! Our blessing God is only our speakingwell of him; his blessing us is doing well for us; those whom he blesses are blessed indeed. (2.)The Lord make his face shine upon thee, alluding to the shining of the sun upon the earth, to enlightenand comfort it, and to renew the face of it. "The Lord love thee and cause thee to know that he lovesthee." We cannot but be happy if we have God's love; and we cannot but be easy if we know thatwe have it. (3.) The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee. This is to the same purport with theformer, and it seems to allude to the smiles of a father upon his child, or of a man upon his friendwhom he takes pleasure in. If God give us the assurances of his special favour and his acceptanceof us, this will put gladness into the heart, Ps. iv. 7, 8. 4. That the fruits of this favour conveyed bythis blessing are protection, pardon, and peace. (1.) Protection from evil, v. 24. The Lord keep thee,for it is he that keeps Israel, and neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. cxxi. 4), and all believers are keptby the power of God. (2.) Pardon of sin, v. 25. The Lord be gracious, or merciful, unto thee. (3.)Peace (v. 26), including all that good which goes to make up a complete happiness.III. God here promises to ratify and confirm the blessing: They shall put my name upon thechildren of Israel, v. 27. God gives them leave to make use of his name in blessing the people, andto bless them as his people, called by his name. This included all the blessings they could pronounceupon them, to mark them for God's peculiar, the people of his choice and love. God's name uponthem was their honour, their comfort, their safety, their plea. We are called by thy name, leave usnot. It is added, and I will bless them. Note, A divine blessing goes along with divine institutions,and puts virtue and efficacy into them. What Christ says of the peace is true of the blessing, "Peaceto this congregation," if the sons of peace and heirs of blessing be there, the peace, the blessing,shall rest upon them, Luke x. 5, 6. For in every place where God records his name he will meet hispeople and bless them.N U M B E R S859Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)CHAP. VII.God having set up house (as it were) in the midst of the camp of Israel, the princes of Israelhere come a visiting with their presents, as tenants to their landlord, in the name of their respectivetribes. I. They brought presents, 1. Upon the dedication of the tabernacle, for the service of that,ver. 1-9. 2. Upon the dedication of the altar, for the use of that, ver. 10-88. And, II. God graciouslysignified his acceptance of them, ver. 89. The two foregoing chapters were the records of additionallaws which God gave to Israel, this is the history of the additional services which Israel performedto God.The Offerings of the Princes. (b. c. 1490.)1 And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, andhad anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar andall the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them; 2 That theprinces of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of thetribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered: 3 And they brought theiroffering before the Lord, six covered waggons, and twelve oxen; a waggon for twoof the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle.4 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 5 Take it of them, that they may be todo the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them untothe Levites, to every man according to his service. 6 And Moses took the waggonsand the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites. 7 Two waggons and four oxen hegave unto the sons of Gershon, according to their service: 8 And four waggons andeight oxen he gave unto the sons of Merari, according unto their service, under thehand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gavenone: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they shouldbear upon their shoulders.Here is the offering of the princes to the service of the tabernacle. Observe,I. When it was; not till it was fully set up, v. 1. When all things were done both about thetabernacle itself, and the camp of Israel which surrounded it, according to the directions given, thenthey began their presents, probably about the eighth day of the second month. Note, Necessaryobservances must always take place of free-will offerings: first those, and then these.II. Who it was that offered: The princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, v. 2. Note,Those that are above others in power and dignity ought to go before others, and endeavour to gobeyond them, in every thing that is good. The more any are advanced the more is expected fromthem, on account of the greater opportunity they have of serving God and their generation. Whatare wealth and authority good for, but as they enable a man to do so much the more good in theworld?III. What was offered: six wagons, with each of them a yoke of oxen to draw them, v. 3.Doubtless these wagons were agreeable to the rest of the furniture of the tabernacle and itsappurtenances, the best of the kind, like the carriages which great princes use when they go in860Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)procession. Some think that God, by Moses, intimated to them what they should bring, or their ownconsideration perhaps suggested to them to make this present. Though God's wisdom had ordainedall the essentials of the tabernacle, yet it seems these accidental conveniences were left to be providedby their own discretion, which was to set in order that which was wanting (Tit. i. 5), and thesewagons were not refused, though no pattern of them was shown to Moses in the mount. Note, Itmust not be expected that the divine institution of ordinances should descend to all thosecircumstances which are determinable, and are fit to be left alterable, by human prudence, thatwisdom which is profitable to direct. Observe, No sooner is the tabernacle fully set up than thisprovision is made for the removal of it. Note, Even when we are but just settled in the world, andthink we are beginning to take root, we must be preparing for changes and removes, especially forthe great change. While we are here in this world, every thing must be accommodated to a militantand movable state. When the tabernacle was framing, the princes were very generous in theirofferings, for then they brought precious stones, and stones to be set (Exod. xxxv. 27), yet nowthey bring more presents. Note, Those that have done good should study to abound therein yet moreand more, and not be weary of well-doing.IV. How the offering was disposed of, and what use was made of it: the wagons and oxen weregiven to the Levites, to be used in carrying the tabernacle, both for their ease (for God would nothave any of his servants overburdened with work), and for the more safe and right conveyance ofthe several parts of the tabernacle, which would be best kept together, and sheltered from theweather, in wagons. 1. The Gershonites, that had the light carriage, the curtains and hangings, hadbut two wagons, and two yoke of oxen (v. 7); when they had loaded these, they must carry the rest,if any remained, upon their shoulders. 2. The Merarites, that had the heavy carriage, and that whichwas most unwieldy, the boards, pillars, sockets, &c., had four wagons, and four yoke of oxenallotted them (v. 8); and yet, if they had not more wagons of their own, they would be obliged tocarry a great deal upon their backs too, for the silver sockets alone weighed 100 talents, which wasabove four tons, and that was enough to load four wagons that were drawn but by one yoke of oxena-piece. But each socket being a talent weight, which is about a man's burden (as appears, 2 Kingsv. 23) probably they carried those on their backs, and put the boards and pillars into the wagons.Observe here, How God wisely and graciously ordered the most strength to those that had the mostwork. Each had wagons according to their service. Whatever burden God in his providence laysupon us, he will by his sufficient grace proportion the strength to it, 1 Cor. x. 13. 3. The Kohathites,that had the most sacred carriage, had no wagons at all, because they were to carry their chargeupon their shoulders (v. 9), with a particular care and veneration. When in David's time they carriedthe ark in a cart, God made them to know to their terror, by the death of Uzza, that they did notseek him in the due order. See 1 Chron. xv. 13.10 And the princes offered for dedicating of the altar in the day that it wasanointed, even the princes offered their offering before the altar. 11 And the Lordsaid unto Moses, They shall offer their offering, each prince on his day, for thededicating of the altar. 12 And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshonthe son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah: 13 And his offering was one silvercharger, the weight thereof was an hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl ofseventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them were full of fine861Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 14 One spoon of ten shekels of gold,full of incense: 15 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for aburnt offering: 16 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 17 And for a sacrificeof peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year:this was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 18 On the second dayNethaneel the son of Zuar, prince of Issachar, did offer: 19 He offered for hisoffering one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirty shekels,one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of themfull of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 20 One spoon of gold of tenshekels, full of incense: 21 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year,for a burnt offering: 22 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 23 And for asacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of thefirst year: this was the offering of Nethaneel the son of Zuar. 24 On the third dayEliab the son of Helon, prince of the children of Zebulun, did offer: 25 His offeringwas one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirty shekels, onesilver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them fullof fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 26 One golden spoon of tenshekels, full of incense: 27 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year,for a burnt offering: 28 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 29 And for asacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of thefirst year: this was the offering of Eliab the son of Helon. 30 On the fourth dayElizur the son of Shedeur, prince of the children of Reuben, did offer: 31 Hisoffering was one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirty shekels, onesilver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them fullof fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 32 One golden spoon of tenshekels, full of incense: 33 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year,for a burnt offering: 34 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 35 And for asacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of thefirst year: this was the offering of Elizur the son of Shedeur. 36 On the fifth dayShelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, prince of the children of Simeon, did offer: 37His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 38 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 39 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of thefirst year, for a burnt offering: 40 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 41 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 42 On the862Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)sixth day Eliasaph the son of Deuel, prince of the children of Gad, offered: 43 Hisoffering was one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirty shekels, asilver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them fullof fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 44 One golden spoon of tenshekels, full of incense: 45 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year,for a burnt offering: 46 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 47 And for asacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of thefirst year: this was the offering of Eliasaph the son of Deuel. 48 On the seventhday Elishama the son of Ammihud, prince of the children of Ephraim, offered: 49His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 50 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 51 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of thefirst year, for a burnt offering: 52 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 53 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Elishama the son of Ammihud. 54 On theeighth day offered Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, prince of the children of Manasseh:55 His offering was one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 56 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 57 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of thefirst year, for a burnt offering: 58 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 59 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 60 On theninth day Abidan the son of Gideoni, prince of the children of Benjamin, offered:61 His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred andthirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary;both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 62 One goldenspoon of ten shekels, full of incense: 63 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb ofthe first year, for a burnt offering: 64 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 65And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambsof the first year: this was the offering of Abidan the son of Gideoni. 66 On the tenthday Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, prince of the children of Dan, offered: 67His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 68 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 69 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the863Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)first year, for a burnt offering: 70 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 71 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 72 On theeleventh day Pagiel the son of Ocran, prince of the children of Asher, offered: 73His offering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 74 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 75 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of thefirst year, for a burnt offering: 76 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 77 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Pagiel the son of Ocran. 78 On the twelfthday Ahira the son of Enan, prince of the children of Naphtali, offered: 79 Hisoffering was one silver charger, the weight whereof was an hundred and thirtyshekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; bothof them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: 80 One golden spoonof ten shekels, full of incense: 81 One young bullock, one ram, one lamb of thefirst year, for a burnt offering: 82 One kid of the goats for a sin offering: 83 Andfor a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs ofthe first year: this was the offering of Ahira the son of Enan. 84 This was thededication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, by the princes of Israel:twelve chargers of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold: 85 Eachcharger of silver weighing an hundred and thirty shekels, each bowl seventy: all thesilver vessels weighed two thousand and four hundred shekels, after the shekel ofthe sanctuary: 86 The golden spoons were twelve, full of incense, weighing tenshekels apiece, after the shekel of the sanctuary: all the gold of the spoons was anhundred and twenty shekels. 87 All the oxen for the burnt offering were twelvebullocks, the rams twelve, the lambs of the first year twelve, with their meat offering:and the kids of the goats for sin offering twelve. 88 And all the oxen for the sacrificeof the peace offerings were twenty and four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he goatssixty, the lambs of the first year sixty. This was the dedication of the altar, after thatit was anointed. 89 And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of thecongregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto himfrom off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the twocherubims: and he spake unto him.We have here an account of the great solemnity of dedicating the altars, both that ofburnt-offerings and that of incense; they had been sanctified before, when they were anointed (Lev.viii. 10, 11), but now they were handselled, as it were, by the princes, with their free-will offerings.864Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)They began the use of them with rich presents, great expressions of joy and gladness, andextraordinary respect to those tokens of God's presence with them. Now observe here,I. That the princes and great men were first and forwardest in the service of God. Those thatare entitled to precedency should go before in good works, and that is true honour. Here is anexample to the nobility and gentry, those that are in authority and of the first rank in their country;they ought to improve their honour and power, their estate and interest, for the promoting of religion,and the service of God, in the places where they live. It is justly expected that those who have morethan others should do more good than others with what they have, else they are unfaithful stewards,and will not make up their account with joy. Nay, great men must not only with their wealth andpower assist and protect those that serve God, but they must make conscience of being devout andreligious themselves, and employing themselves in the exercises of piety, which will greatly redoundto the honour of God (Ps. cxxxviii. 4, 5), and have a good influence upon others, who will be themore easily persuaded to acts of devotion when they see them thus brought into reputation. It iscertain that the greatest of men is less than the least of the ordinances of God; nor are the meanestservices of religion any disparagement to those that make the greatest figure in the world.II. The offerings they brought were very rich and valuable, so rich that some think there wasnot so great a difference in estate between them and others as that they were able to bear the expenseof them themselves, but that the heads of each tribe contributed to the offering which their princebrought.1. They brought some things to remain for standing service, twelve large silver dishes, eachabout sixty ounces weight, as many large silver cups, or bowls, of about thirty-five ounces—theformer to be used for the meat-offerings, the latter for the drink-offerings—the former for the fleshof the sacrifices, the latter for the blood. The latter was God's table (as it were), and it was fit thatso great a King should be served in plate. The golden spoons being filled with incense were intended,it is probable, for the service of the golden altar, for both the altars were anointed at the same time.Note, In works of piety and charity we ought to be generous according as our ability is. He that isthe best should be served with the best we have. The Israelites indeed might well afford to partwith their gold and silver in abundance to the service of the sanctuary, for they needed it not to buymeat and victual their camp, being daily fed with bread from heaven; nor did they need it to buyland, or pay their army, for they were shortly to be put in possession of Canaan.2. They brought some things to be used immediately, offerings of each sort, burnt-offerings,sin-offerings, and a great many peace-offerings (on part of which they were to feast with theirfriends), and the meat-offerings that were to be annexed to them. Hereby they signified their thankfulacceptance of, and cheerful submission to, all those laws concerning the sacrifices which God hadlately by Moses delivered to them. And, though it was a time of joy and rejoicing, yet it is observablethat still in the midst of their sacrifices we find a sin-offering. Since in our best services we areconscious to ourselves that there is a mixture of sin, it is fit that there should be even in our mostjoyful services a mixture of repentance. In all our approaches to God, we must by faith have an eyeto Christ as the great sin-offering, and make mention of him.3. They brought their offerings each on a separate day, in the order that they had been latelyput into, so that the solemnity lasted twelve days. So God appointed (v. 11): They shall bring theiroffering, each prince on his day, and so they did. One sabbath must needs fall within the twelvedays, if not two, but it should seem they did not intermit on the sabbath, for it was holy work, properenough for a holy day. God appointed that it should thus be done on several days, (1.) That solemnity865Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)might be prolonged, and so might be universally taken notice of by all Israel, and the remembranceof it more effectually preserved. (2.) That an equal honour might thereby be put upon each triberespectively; in Aaron's breast-plate each had his precious stone, so in this offering each had hisday. (3.) Thus it would be done more decently and in order; God's work should not be doneconfusedly, and in a hurry; take time, and we shall have done the sooner, or at least we shall havedone the better. (4.) God hereby signified how much pleased he is, and how much pleased we shouldbe, with the exercises of piety and devotion. The repetition of them should be a continual pleasureto us, and we must not be weary of well doing. If extraordinary service be required to be done fortwelve days together, we must not shrink from it, nor call it a task and a burden. (5.) The priestsand Levites, having this occasion to offer the same sacrifices, and those some of every sort, everyday, for so many days together, would have their hands well set in, and would be well versed inthe laws concerning them. (6.) The peace-offerings were all to be eaten the same day they wereoffered, and two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs, were enough for one day's festival;had there been more, especially if all had been brought on one day, there might have been dangerof excess. The virtue of temperance must not be left, under pretence of the religion of feasting.4. All their offerings were exactly the same, without any variation, though it is probable thatneither the princes nor the tribes were all alike rich; but thus it was intimated that all the tribes ofIsrael had an equal share in the altar, and an equal interest in the sacrifices that were offered uponit. Though one tribe was posted more honourably in the camp than another, yet they and theirservices were all alike acceptable to God. Nor must we have faith of our Lord Jesus Christ withrespect to persons, Jam. ii. 1.5. Nahshon, the prince of the tribe of Judah, offered first, because God had given that tribe thefirst post of honour in the camp; and the rest of the tribes acquiesced, and offered in the same orderin which God had appointed them to encamp. Judah, of which tribe Christ came, first, and then therest; thus, in the dedication of souls to God, every man is presented in his own order, Christ thefirst-fruits, 1 Cor. xv. 23. Some observe that Nahshon is the only one that is not expressly called aprince (v. 12), which the Jews give this account of: he is not called a prince, that he might not bepuffed up because he offered first; and all the others are called princes because they (though someof them of the elder house) submitted, and offered after him. Or, because the title of prince of Judahdid more properly belong to Christ, for unto him shall the gathering of the people be.6. Though the offerings were all the same, yet the account of them is repeated at large for eachtribe, in the same words. We are sure there are no vain repetitions in scripture; what then shall wemake of these repetitions? Might it not have served to say of this noble jury that the same offeringwhich their foreman brought each on his day brought likewise? No, God would have it specifiedfor each tribe: and why so? (1.) It was for the encouragement of these princes, and of their respectivetribes, that each of their offerings being recorded at large no slight might seem to be put upon them;for rich and poor meet together before God. (2.) It was for the encouragement of all generous actsof piety and charity, by letting us know that what is so given is lent to the Lord, and he carefullyrecords it, with every one's name prefixed to his gift, because what is so given he will pay again,and even a cup of cold water shall have its reward. He is not unrighteous, to forget either the costor the labour of love, Heb. vi. 10. We find Christ taking particular notice of what was cast into thetreasury, Mark xii. 41. Though what is offered be but little, though it be a contribution to the charityof others, yet if it be according to our ability it shall be recorded, that it may be recompensed in theresurrection of the just.866Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)7. The sum total is added at the foot of the account (v. 84-88), to show how much God waspleased with the mention of his freewill-offerings, and what a great deal they amounted to in thewhole, when every prince brought in his quota! How greatly would the sanctuary of God be enrichedand beautified if all would in their places do their part towards it, by exemplary purity and devotion,extensive charity, and universal usefulness!8. God signified his gracious acceptance of these presents that were brought him, by speakingfamiliarly to Moses, as a man speaks to his friend, from off the mercy-seat (v. 89, ch. xii. 8); andin speaking to him he did in effect speak to all Israel, showing them this token for good, Ps. ciii.7. Note, By this we may know that God hears and accepts our prayers if he gives us grace to hearand receive his word, for thus our communion with him is maintained and kept up. I know not whywe may not suppose that upon each of the days on which these offerings were brought (probablywhile the priests and offerers were feasting upon the peace-offerings) Moses was in the tabernacle,receiving some of those laws and orders which we have already met with in this and the foregoingbook. And here the excellent bishop Patrick observes that God's speaking to Moses thus by anaudible articulate voice, as if he had been clothed with a holy body, might be looked upon as anearnest of the incarnation of the Son of God in the fulness of time, when the Word should be madeflesh, and speak in the language of the sons of men. For, however God at sundry times and in diversmanners spoke unto the fathers, he has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. And that hewho now spoke to Moses, as the shechinah or divine Majesty, from between the cherubim, wasthe eternal Word, the second person in the Trinity, was the pious conjecture of many of the ancients;for all God's communion with man is by his Son, by whom he made the world, and rules the church,and who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.N U M B E R SCHAP. VIII.This chapter is concerning the lamps or lights of the sanctuary. I. The burning lamps in thecandlestick, which the priests were charged to tend, ver. 1-4. II. The living lamps (if I may so callthem), The Levites, who as ministers were burning and shining lights. The ordination of the priestswe had an account of, Lev. viii. Here we have an account of the ordination of the Levites, theinferior clergy. 1. How they were purified, ver. 5-8. 2. How they were parted with by the people,ver. 9, 10. 3. How they were presented to God in lieu of the firstborn, ver. 11-18. 4. How they wereconsigned to Aaron and his sons, to be ministers to them, ver. 19. 5. How all these orders were dulyexecuted, ver. 20-22. And, lastly, the age appointed for their ministration, ver. 23, &c.The Lights of the Sanctuary. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto Aaron, and say untohim, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against thecandlestick. 3 And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against thecandlestick, as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 And this work of the candlestick867Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work:according unto the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses, so he made thecandlestick.Directions were given long before this for the making of the golden candlestick (Exod. xxv.31), and it was made according to the pattern shown to Moses in the mount, Exod. xxxviii. 17. Butnow it was that the lamps were first ordered to be lighted, when other things began to be used.Observe, 1. Who must light the lamps; Aaron himself, he lighted the lamps, v. 3. As the people'srepresentative to God, he thus did the office of a servant in God's house, lighting his Master's candle;as the representative of God to the people, he thus gave them the intimations of God's will andfavour, thus expressed (Ps. xviii. 28), Thou wilt light my candle; and thus Aaron himself was nowlately directed to bless the people, The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, ch. vi. 25. Thecommandment is a lamp, Prov. vi. 23. The scripture is a light shining in a dark place, 2 Pet. i. 19.And a dark place indeed even the church would be without it, as the tabernacle (which had nowindow in it) without the lamps. Now the work of ministers is to light these lamps, by expoundingand applying the word of God. The priest lighted the middle lamp from the fire of the altar, andthe rest of the lamps he lighted one from another, which (says Mr. Ainsworth) signifies that thefountain of all light and knowledge is in Christ, who has the seven spirits of God figured by theseven lamps of fire (Rev. iv. 5), but that in the expounding of scripture one passage must borrowlight from another. He also supposes that, seven being a number of perfection, by the seven branchesof the candlestick is shown the full perfection of the scriptures, which are able to make us wise tosalvation. 2. To what end the lamps were lighted, that they might give light over against thecandlestick, that is, to that part of the tabernacle where the table stood, with the show-bread uponit, over against the candlestick. They were not lighted like tapers in an urn, to burn to themselves,but to give light to the other side of the tabernacle, for therefore candles are lighted, Matt. v. 15.Note, The lights of the world, the lights of the church, must shine as lights. Therefore we have light,that we may give light.The Consecration of the Levites. (b. c. 1490.)5 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 6 Take the Levites from among thechildren of Israel, and cleanse them. 7 And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleansethem: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, andlet them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. 8 Then let them take ayoung bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and anotheryoung bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. 9 And thou shalt bring the Levitesbefore the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assemblyof the children of Israel together: 10 And thou shalt bring the Levites before theLord: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: 11 AndAaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel,that they may execute the service of the Lord. 12 And the Levites shall lay theirhands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering,and the other for a burnt offering, unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the868Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Levites. 13 And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, andoffer them for an offering unto the Lord. 14 Thus shalt thou separate the Levitesfrom among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. 15 And after thatshall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: andthou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. 16 For they are whollygiven unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open everywomb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken themunto me. 17 For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man andbeast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified themfor myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children ofIsrael. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons fromamong the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in thetabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel:that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israelcome nigh unto the sanctuary. 20 And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregationof the children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that the Lordcommanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the children of Israel unto them.21 And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offeredthem as an offering before the Lord; and Aaron made an atonement for them tocleanse them. 22 And after that went the Levites in to do their service in thetabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the Lord hadcommanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them. 23 And the Lordspake unto Moses, saying, 24 This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twentyand five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of thetabernacle of the congregation: 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall ceasewaiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: 26 But shall ministerwith their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, andshall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.We read before of the separating of the Levites from among the children of Israel when theywere numbered, and the numbering of them by themselves (ch. iii. 6, 15), that they might beemployed in the service of the tabernacle. Now here we have directions given for their solemnordination (v. 6), and the performance of it, v. 20. All Israel must know that they took not thishonour to themselves, but were called of God to it; nor was it enough that they were distinguishedfrom their neighbours, but they must be solemnly devoted to God. Note, All that are employed forGod must be dedicated to him, according as the degree of employment is. Christian musts bebaptized, ministers must be ordained; we must first give ourselves unto the Lord, and then ourservices. Observe in what method this was done:I. The Levites must be cleansed, and were so. The rites and ceremonies of their cleansing wereto be performed, 1. By themselves. They must wash their clothes, and not only bathe, but shave869Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)all their flesh, as the leper was to do when he was cleansed, Lev. xiv. 8. They must cause a razorto pass over all their flesh, to clear themselves from that defilement which would not wash off.Jacob, whom God loved, was a smooth man; it was Esau that was hairy. The great pains they wereto take with themselves to make themselves clean teaches all Christians, and ministers particularly,by repentance and mortification, to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, thatthey may perfect holiness. Those must be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. 2. By Moses. Hemust sprinkle the water of purifying upon them, which was prepared by divine direction. Thissignified the application of the blood of Christ to our souls by faith, to purify us from an evilconscience, that we may be fit to serve the living God. It is our duty to cleanse ourselves, and God'spromise that he will cleanse us.II. The Levites, being thus prepared, must be brought before the Lord in a solemn assemblyof all Israel, and the children of Israel must put their hands upon them (v. 10), so transferring theirinterest in them and in their service (to which, as a part, the whole body of the people was entitled)to God and to his sanctuary. They presented them to God as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable,to perform a reasonable service; and therefore, as the offerers in all other cases did, they laid theirhands upon them, desiring that their service might be accepted in lieu of the attendance of the wholecongregation, particularly the first-born, which they acknowledge God might have insisted on. Thiswill not serve to prove a power in the people to ordain ministers; for this imposition of hands bythe children of Israel upon the Levites did not make them ministers of the sanctuary, but onlysignified the people's parting with that tribe out of their militia, and civil incorporations, in orderto their being made ministers by Aaron, who was to offer them before the Lord. All the congregationof the children of Israel could not lay hands on them, but it is probable that the rulers and eldersdid it as the representative body of the people. Some think that the first-born did it because in theirstead the Levites were consecrated to God. Whatever God calls for from us to serve his own gloryby, we must cheerfully resign it, lay our hands upon it, not to detain it but to surrender it, and letit go to him that is entitled to it.III. Sacrifices were to be offered for them, a sin-offering first (v. 12), and then a burnt-offering,to make an atonement for the Levites, who, as the parties concerned, were to lay their hands uponthe head of the sacrifices. See here, 1. That we are all utterly unworthy and unfit to be admittedinto and employed in the service of God, till atonement be made for sin, and thereby our peacemade with God. That interposing cloud must be scattered before there can be any comfortablecommunion settled between God and our souls. 2. That it is by sacrifice, by Christ the great sacrifice,that we are reconciled to God, and made fit to be offered to him. It is by him that Christians aresanctified to the work of their Christianity, and ministers to the work of their ministry. The learnedbishop Patrick's notion of the sacrifice offered by the Levites is that the Levites were themselvesconsidered as an expiatory sacrifice, for they were given to make atonement for the children ofIsrael, (v. 19), and yet not being devoted to death, any more than the first-born were, these twosacrifices were substituted in their stead, upon which therefore they were to lay their hands, thatthe sin which the children of Israel laid upon them (v. 10) might be transferred to these beasts.IV. The Levites themselves were offered before the Lord for an offering of the children ofIsrael, v. 11. Aaron gave them up to God, as being first given up by themselves, and by the childrenof Israel. The original word signifies a wave-offering, not that they were actually waved, but theywere presented to God as the God of heaven, and the Lord of the whole earth, as the wave-offeringswere. And in calling them wave-offerings it was intimated to them that they must continually lift870Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)up themselves towards God in his service, lift up their eyes, lift up their hearts, and must move toand fro with readiness in the business of their profession. They were not ordained to be idle, but tobe active and stirring.V. God here declares his acceptance of them: The Levites shall be mine, v. 14. God took theminstead of the first-born (v. 16-18), of which before, ch. iii. 41. Note, What is in sincerity offeredto God shall be graciously owned and accepted by him. And his ministers who have obtained mercyof him to be faithful have particular marks of favour and honour put upon them: they shall be mine,and then (v. 15) they shall go in to do the service of the tabernacle. God takes them for his own,that they may serve him. All that expect to share in the privileges of the tabernacle must resolve todo the service of the tabernacle. As, on the one hand, none of God's creatures are his necessaryservants (he needs not the service of any of them), so, on the other hand, none are taken merely ashonorary servants, to do nothing. All whom God owns he employs; angels themselves have theirservices.VI. They are then given as a gift to Aaron and his sons (v. 19), yet so as that the benefit accruedto the children of Israel. 1. The Levites must act under the priests as attendants on them, andassistants to them, in the service of the sanctuary. Aaron offers them to God (v. 11), and then Godgives them back to Aaron, v. 19. Note, Whatever we give up to God, he will give back to usunspeakably to our advantage. Our hearts, our children, our estates, are never more ours, moretruly, more comfortably ours, than when we have offered them up to God. 2. They must act for thepeople. They were taken to do the service of the children of Israel, that is, not only to do the servicewhich they should do, but to serve their interests, and do that which would really redound to thehonour, safety, and prosperity of the whole nation. Note, Those that faithfully perform the serviceof God do one of the best services that can be done to the public; God's ministers, while they keepwithin the sphere of their office and conscientiously discharge the duty of it, must be looked uponas some of the most useful servants of their country. The children of Israel can as ill spare the tribeof Levi as any of their tribes. But what is the service they do the children of Israel? It follows, it isto make an atonement for them, that there be no plague among them. It was the priests' work tomake atonement by sacrifice, but the Levites made atonement by attendance, and preserved thepeace with heaven which was made by sacrifice. If the service of the priests in the tabernacle hadbeen left to all the first-born of Israel promiscuously, it would have been either neglected or doneunskillfully and irreverently, being done by those that were not so closely tied to it, nor so diligentlytrained to it, nor so constantly used to it, as the Levites were; and this would bring a plague amongthe children of Israel—meaning, perhaps, the death of the first-born themselves, which was thelast and greatest of the plagues of Egypt. To prevent this, and to preserve the atonement, the Leviteswere appointed to do this service, who should be bred up to it under their parents from their infancy,and therefore would be well versed in it; and so the children of Israel, that is, the first-born, shouldnot need to come nigh to the sanctuary; or, when any Israelites had occasion, the Levites would beready to instruct them, and introduce them, and so prevent any fatal miscarriage or mistake. Note,It is a very great kindness to the church that ministers are appointed to go before the people in thethings of God, as guides, overseers, and rulers, in religious worship, and to make that their business.When Christ ascended on high, he gave these gifts, Eph. iv. 8, 11, 12.VII. The time of their ministration is fixed. 1. They were to enter upon the service at twenty-fiveyears old, v. 24. They were not charged with the carrying of the tabernacle and the utensils of it tillthey were thirty years old, ch. iv. 3. But they were entered to be otherwise serviceable at twenty-five871Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)years old, a very good age for ministers to begin their public work at. The work then required thatstrength of body and the work now requires that maturity of judgment and steadiness of behaviourwhich men rarely arrive at till about that age; and novices are in danger of being lifted up withpride. 2. They were to have a writ of ease at fifty years old; then they were to return from thewarfare, as the phrase is (v. 25), not cashiered with disgrace, but preferred rather to the rest whichtheir age required, to be loaded with the honours of their office, as hitherto they had been with theburdens of it. They shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle, to direct the junior Levites,and set them in; and they shall keep the charge, as guards upon the avenues of the tabernacle, tosee that no stranger intruded, nor any person in his uncleanness, but they shall not be put upon anyservice which may be a fatigue to them. If God's grace provide that men shall have ability accordingto their work, man's prudence should take care that men have work only according to their ability.The aged are most fit for trusts, and to keep the charge; the younger are most fit for work, and todo the service. Those that have used the office of a servant well purchase to themselves a gooddegree, 1 Tim. iii. 13. Yet indeed gifts are not tied to ages (Job xxxii. 9), but all these worketh thatone and the self-same Spirit. Thus was the affair of the Levites settled.N U M B E R SCHAP. IX.This chapter is, I. Concerning the great ordinance of the passover; 1. Orders given for theobservance of it, at the return of the year, ver. 1-5. 2. Provisos added in regard to such as shouldbe ceremonially unclean, or otherwise disabled, at the time when the passover was to be kept, ver.6-14. II. Concerning the great favour of the pillar of cloud, which was a guide to Israel through thewilderness, ver. 15, &c.The Law of the Passover. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first monthof the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 Let thechildren of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. 3 In the fourteenthday of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to allthe rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. 4 AndMoses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover. 5 Andthey kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in thewilderness of Sinai: according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did thechildren of Israel. 6 And there were certain men, who were defiled by the deadbody of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they camebefore Moses and before Aaron on that day: 7 And those men said unto him, Weare defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore are we kept back, that we may872Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)not offer an offering of the Lord in his appointed season among the children ofIsrael? 8 And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord willcommand concerning you. 9 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speakunto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall beunclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep thepassover unto the Lord. 11 The fourteenth day of the second month at even theyshall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leavenone of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinancesof the passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man that is clean, and is not in ajourney, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut offfrom among his people: because he brought not the offering of the Lord in hisappointed season, that man shall bear his sin. 14 And if a stranger shall sojournamong you, and will keep the passover unto the Lord; according to the ordinanceof the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall haveone ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.Here we have,I. An order given for the solemnization of the passover, the day twelvemonth after they cameout of Egypt, on the fourteenth day of the first month of the second year, some days before theywere numbered, for that was done in the beginning of the second month. Observe, 1. God gaveparticular orders for the keeping of this passover, otherwise (it should seem) they would not havekept it, for, in the first institution of this ordinance, it was appointed to be kept when they shouldcome into the land of promise, Exod. xii. 25. And, no passover till they came to Canaan, Josh. v.10. This was an early indication of the abolishing of the ceremonial institutions at last, that, so soonafter they were first appointed, some of them were suffered to lie asleep for so many years. Theordinance of the Lord's supper (which came in the room of the passover) was not thus intermittedor set aside in the first days of the Christian church, though those were days of greater difficultyand distress than Israel knew in the wilderness; nay, in the times of persecution, the Lord's supperwas celebrated more frequently than afterwards. The Israelites in the wilderness could not forgettheir deliverance out of Egypt, their present state was a constant memorandum of it to them. Allthe danger was when they came to Canaan; there therefore they had need to be reminded of therock out of which they were hewn. However, because the first passover was celebrated in a hurry,and was rather the substance itself than the sign, it was the will of God that at the return of the year,when they were more composed, and better acquainted with the divine law, they should observe itagain, that their children might more distinctly understand the solemnity and the better rememberit hereafter. Calvin supposes that they were obliged to keep it now, and notes it as an instance oftheir carelessness that they had need to be reminded of an institution which they so lately received.2. Moses faithfully transmitted to the people the orders given him, v. 4. Thus Paul delivered to thechurches what he received of the Lord concerning the gospel passover, 1 Cor. xi. 23. Note,Magistrates must be monitors, and ministers must stir up men's minds by way of remembrance tothat which is good. 3. The people observed the orders given them, v. 5. Though they had lately keptthe feast of dedication (ch. vii.), yet they did not desire to excuse themselves with that from keeping873Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)this feast. Note, Extraordinary performances must not supersede or jostle out or stated services.They kept the passover even in the wilderness: though our condition be solitary and unsettled, yetwe must keep up our attendance on God by holy ordinances as we have opportunity, for in themwe may find the best conversation and the best repose. Thus is God' Israel provided for in a desert.II. Instructions given concerning those that were ceremonially unclean when they were to eatthe passover. The law of the passover required every Israelite to eat of it. Some subsequent lawshad forbidden those that had contracted any ceremonial pollution to eat of the holy things; thosewhose minds and consciences are defiled by sin are utterly unfit for communion with God, andcannot partake, with any true comfort, of the gospel passover, till they are cleansed by true repentanceand faith: and a sad dilemma they are in; if they come not to holy ordinances, they are guilty of acontempt of them; if they do come in their pollution, they are guilty of a profanation of them. Theymust therefore wash, and then compass God's altar. Now,1. Here is the case that happened in Israel when this passover was to be kept: Certain menwere defiled by the dead body of a man (v. 6), and they lay under that defilement seven days (ch.xix. 11), and in that time might not eat of the holy things, Lev. vii. 20. This was not their iniquity,but their infelicity: some persons must touch dead bodies, to bury them out of sight, and thereforethey could, with the better grace, bring their complaint to Moses.2. The application made to Moses by the person concerned, v. 7. Note, It is people's wisdom,in difficult cases concerning sin and duty, to consult with their ministers whom God has set overthem, and to ask the law at their mouth, Mal. ii. 7. These means we must use in pursuance of ourprayers to God to lead us in a plain path. Observe with what trouble and concern these mencomplained that they were kept back from offering to the Lord. They did not complain of the lawas unjust, but lamented their unhappiness that they fell under the restraint of it at this time, anddesired some expedient might be found out for their relief. Note, It is a blessed thing to see peoplehungering and thirsting after God's ordinances, and to hear them complaining of that which preventstheir enjoyment of them. It should be a trouble to us when by any occasion we are kept back frombringing our offering in the solemnities of a sabbath or a sacrament, as it was to David when hewas banished from the altar, Ps. xlii. 1, 2.3. The deliberation of Moses in resolving this case. Here seemed to be law against law; and,though it is a rule that the latter law must explain the former, yet he pitied these Israelites that werethus deprived of the privilege of the passover, and therefore took time to consult the oracles, andto know what was the mind of God in this case: I will hear what the Lord will command concerningyou, v. 8. Ministers must take example hence in resolving cases of conscience. (1.) They must notdetermine rashly, but take time to consider, that every circumstance may be duly weighted, thecase viewed in a true light, and spiritual things compared with spiritual. (2.) They must ask counselat God's mouth, and not determine according to the bias of their own fancy or affection, butimpartially, according to the mind of God, to the best of their knowledge. We have no such oracleto consult as Moses had, but we must have recourse to the law and the testimony, and speak accordingto that rule; and if, in difficult cases, we take time to spread the matter in particular before God byhumble believing prayer, we have reason to hope that the Spirit who is promised to lead us into alltruth will enable us to direct others in the good and right way.4. The directions which God gave in this case, and in other similar cases, explanatory of thelaw of the passover. The disagreeable accident produced good laws. (1.) Those that happened tobe ceremonially unclean at the time when the passover should be eaten were allowed to eat it that874Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)day month, when they were clean; so were those that happened to be in a journey afar off, v. 10,11. See here, [1.] That when we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it is very necessaryboth that we be clean and that we be composed. [2.] That that may excuse the deferring of a dutyfor a time which yet will not justify us in the total neglect and omission of it. He that is at variancewith his brother may leave his gift before the altar, while he goes to be reconciled to his brother;but when he has done his part towards it, whether it be effected or no, he must come again andoffer his gift, Matt. v. 23, 24. This secondary passover was to be kept on the same day of the monthwith the first, because the ordinance was a memorial of their deliverance on that day of the month.Once we find the whole congregation keeping the passover on this fourteenth day of the secondmonth, in Hezekiah's time (2 Chron. xxx. 15), which perhaps may help to account for the admissionof some that were not clean to the eating of it. Had the general passover been kept in the first month,the unclean might have been put off till the second; but, that being kept in the second month, theyhad no warrant to eat it in the third month, and therefore, rather than not eat of it at all, they wereadmitted, though not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, v. 19, 20. (2.) Wheneverthe passover was kept in the second month, all the rites and ceremonies of it must be strictlyobserved, v. 12. They must not think that, because the time was dispensed with, any part of thesolemnity of it might be abated; when we cannot do as we would we must do the utmost we can inthe service of God. (3.) This allowance in a case of necessity would be no means countenance orindulge any in their neglect to keep the passover at the time appointed, when they were not underthe necessity, v. 13. When a person is under no incapacity to eat the passover in the appointed time,if he neglects it then, upon the presumption of the liberty granted by this law, he puts an affrontupon God, impiously abuses his kindness, and he shall certainly bear his sin, and be cut off fromhis people. Note, As those who against their minds are forced to absent themselves from God'sordinances may comfortably expect the favours of God's grace under their affliction, so those whoof choice absent themselves may justly expect the tokens of God's wrath for their sin. Be notdeceived, God is not mocked. (4.) Here is a clause added in favour of strangers, v. 14. Though itwas requisite that the stranger who would join with them in eating the passover should be circumcisedas a proselyte to their religion (Exod. xii. 48, 49), yet this kind admission of those that were notnative Israelites to eat the passover was an intimation of the favour designed for the poor Gentilesby Christ. As then there was one law, so in the days of the Messiah there should be one gospel, forthe stranger and for him that was born in the land; for in every nation he that fears God and worksrighteousness is accepted of him, and this was a truth before Peter perceived it, Acts x. 34, 35.The Pillar of Cloud and Fire. (b. c. 1490.)15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered thetabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon thetabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16 So it was alway:the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 And when thecloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israeljourneyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitchedtheir tents. 18 At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed,and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon875Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the tabernacle they rested in their tents. 19 And when the cloud tarried long uponthe tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord,and journeyed not. 20 And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon thetabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents,and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. 21 And so it was,when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken upin the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloudwas taken up, they journeyed. 22 Or whether it were two days, or a month, or ayear, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children ofIsrael abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, theyjourneyed. 23 At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at thecommandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at thecommandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.We have here the history of the cloud; not a natural history: who knows the balancings of theclouds? but a divine history of a cloud that was appointed to be the visible sign and symbol ofGod's presence with Israel.I. When the tabernacle was finished this cloud, which before had hung on high over their camp,settled upon the tabernacle, and covered it, to show that God manifests his presence with his peoplein and by his ordinances; there he makes himself known, and to them we must look if we wouldsee the beauty of the Lord, Ps. xxvii. 4; Ezek. xxxvii. 26, 27. Thus God glorified his ownappointments, and signified his acceptance of his people's love and obedience.II. That which appeared as a cloud by day appeared as a fire all night. Had it been a cloud only,it would not have been visible by night; and, had it been a fire only, it would have been scarcelydiscernible by day; but God would give them sensible demonstrations of the constancy of hispresence with them, and his care of them, and that he kept them night and day, Isa. xxvii. 3; Ps.cxxi. 6. And thus we are taught to set God always before us, and to see him near us both night andday. Something of the nature of that divine revelation which the Old-Testament church was governedby might also be signified by these visible signs of God's presence, the cloud denoting the darknessand the fire the terror of that dispensation, in comparison with the more clear and comfortablediscoveries God has made of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.III. This pillar of cloud and fire directed and determined all the motions, marches, andencampments, of Israel in the wilderness. 1. As long as the cloud rested upon the tabernacle, solong they continued in the same place, and never stirred; though no doubt they were very desirousto be pressing forward in their journey towards Canaan, where they longed to be and hoped to bequickly, yet as long as the cloud rested, if it was a month or a year, so long they rested, v. 22. Note,He that believeth doth not make haste. There is no time lost while we are waiting God's time. It isas acceptable a piece of submission to the will of God to sit still contentedly when our lot requiresit as to work for him when we are called to it. 2. When the cloud was taken up, they removed, howcomfortably soever they were encamped, v. 17. Whether it moved by day or night, they delayednot to attend its motions (v. 21), and probably there were some appointed to stand sentinel day andnight within sight of it, to give timely notice to the camp of its beginning to stir, and this called876Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)keeping the charge of the Lord. The people, being thus kept at a constant uncertainty, and havingno time fixed for stopping or removing, were obliged to hold themselves in constant readiness tomarch upon very short warning. And for the same reason we are kept at uncertainty concerning thetime of our putting off the earthly house of this tabernacle, that we may be always ready to removeat the commandment of the Lord. 3. As long and as far as the cloud moved, so long and so far theymarched, and just where it abode they pitched their tents about it, and God's tent under it, v. 17.Note, It is uncomfortable staying when God has departed, but very safe and pleasant going whenwe see God go before us and resting where he appoints us to rest. This is repeated again and againin these verses, because it was a constant miracle, and often repeated, and what never failed in alltheir travels, and because it is a matter which we should take particular notice of as very significantand instructive. It is mentioned long after by David (Ps. cv. 39), and by the people of God aftertheir captivity, Neh. ix. 19. And the guidance of this cloud is spoken of as signifying the guidanceof the blessed Spirit. Isa. lxiii. 14, The Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest, and so didst thou leadthy people. This teaches us, (1.) The particular care God takes of his people. Nothing could be moreexpressive and significant of God's tenderness of Israel than the guidance of this cloud was; it ledthem by the right way (Ps. cvii. 7), went on their pace: God did by it, as it were, cover them withhis feathers. We are not now to expect such sensible tokens of the divine presence and guidanceas this was, but the promise is sure to all God's spiritual Israel that he will guide them by his counsel(Ps. lxxiii. 24), even unto death (Ps. xlviii. 14), that all the children of God shall be led by the Spiritof God (Rom. viii. 14), that he will direct the paths of those who in all their ways acknowledgehim, Prov. iii. 6. There is a particular providence conversant about all their affairs, to direct andoverrule them for the best. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, Ps. xxxvii. 23. (2.)The particular regard we ought to have to God in all our ways. In our affections and actions wemust follow the direction of his word and Spirit; all the motions of our souls must be guided by thedivine will; at the commandment of the Lord our hearts should always move and rest; in all ouraffairs we must follow Providence, reconciling ourselves to all its disposals, and bringing our mindto our condition, whatever it is. The people of Israel, having the cloud for their guide, were easedof the trouble of holding councils of war, to consider when and whither they should march, whichmight have occasioned strifes and debates among them: nor needed they to send spies before toinform them of the posture of the country, or pioneers to clear the way, or officers to mark out theircamp; the pillar of cloud did all this for them: and those that by faith commit their works to theLord, though they are bound to the prudent use of means, yet may in like manner be easy in theexpectation of the event. "Father, thy will be done; dispose of me and mine as thou pleasest; hereI am, desirous to be found waiting on my God continually, to journey and rest at the commandmentof the Lord. What thou wilt, and where thou wilt, only let me be thine, and always in the way ofmy duty."N U M B E R SCHAP. X.877Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)In this chapter we have, I. Orders given about the making and using of silver trumpets, whichseems to have been the last of all the commandments God gave upon mount Sinai, and one of theleast, yet not without its significancy, ver. 1-10. II. The history of the removal of Israel's camp frommount Sinai, and their orderly march into the wilderness of Paran, ver. 11-28. III. Moses's treatywith Hobab, his brother-in-law, ver. 29-32. IV. Moses's prayer at the removing and resting of theark, ver. 33, &c.The Moving of the Camp. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Make thee two trumpets of silver;of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling ofthe assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. 3 And when they shall blowwith them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of thetabernacle of the congregation. 4 And if they blow but with one trumpet, then theprinces, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves untothee. 5 When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall goforward. 6 When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on thesouth side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys. 7But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall notsound an alarm. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets;and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. 9And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shallblow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the Lord yourGod, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. 10 Also in the day of your gladness,and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow withthe trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings;that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God.We have here directions concerning the public notices that were to be given to the people uponseveral occasions by sound of trumpet. In a thing of this nature, one would think, Moses needednot to have been taught of God: his own reason might teach him the conveniency of trumpets; butthe constitution of Israel was to be in every thing divine, and therefore even in this matter, smallas it seems. Moses is here directed, 1. About the making of them. They must be made of silver; notcast but of beaten work (as some read it), the matter and shape, no doubt, very fit for the purpose.He was now ordered to make but two, because there were but two priests to use them. But inSolomon's time we read of 120 priests sounding with trumpets, 2 Chron. v. 12. The form of thesetrumpets is supposed to have been much like ours at this day. 2. Who were to make use of them;not any inferior person, but the priests themselves, the sons of Aaron, v. 8. As great as they were,they must not think it a disparagement to them to be trumpeters in the house of God; the meanestoffice there was honourable. This signified that the Lord's ministers should lift up their voice likea trumpet, to show people their sins (Isa. lviii. 1), to call them to Christ, Isa. xxvii. 13. 3. Uponwhat occasions the trumpets were to be sounded. (1.) For the calling of assemblies, v. 2. Thus theyare told to blow the trumpet in Zion for the calling of a solemn assembly together, to sanctify a878Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)fast, Joel ii. 15. Public notice ought to be given of the time and place of religious assemblies; forthe invitation to the benefit or ordinances is general: whoever will, let him come. wisdom cries inthe chief places of concourse. But, that the trumpet might not give an uncertain sound, they aredirected, if only the princes and elders were to meet, to blow but one of the trumpets; less shouldserve to call them together, who ought to be examples of forwardness in any thing that is good:but, if the body of the people were to be called together, both the trumpets must be sounded, thatthey might be heard at the greater distance. In allusion to this, they are said to be blessed that hearthe joyful sound (Ps. lxxxix. 15), that is, that are invited and called upon to wait upon God in publicordinances, Ps. cxxii. 1. And the general assembly at the great day will be summoned by the soundof the archangel's trumpet, Matt. xxiv. 31. (2.) For the journeying of the camps, to give notice wheneach squadron must move; for no man's voice could reach to give the word of command: soldierswith us that are well disciplined may be exercised by beat of drums. When the trumpets were blownfor this purpose, they mustsound an alarm (v. 5), a broken, quavering, interrupted sound, whichwas proper to excite and encourage the minds of people in their marches against their enemies;whereas a continued equal sound was more proper for the calling of the assembly together (v. 7):yet when the people were called together to deprecate God's judgments we find an alarm sounded,Joel ii. 1. At the first sounding, Judah's squadron marched, at the second Reuben's, at the thirdEphraim's, at the fourth Dan's, v. 5, 6. And some think that this was intended to sanctify theirmarches, for thus were proclaimed by the priests, who were God's mouth to the people, not onlythe divine orders given them to move, but the divine blessing upon them in all their motions. Hethat hath ears, let him hear that God is with them of a truth. King Abijah valued himself and hisarmy very much upon this (2 Chron. xiii. 12), God himself is with us for our captain and his priestswith sounding trumpets. (3.) For the animating and encouraging of their armies, when they wentout in battle (v. 9): "If you go to war, blow with the trumpets, signifying thereby your appeal toheaven for the decision of the controversy, and your prayer to God to give you victory; and Godwill own this his own institution, and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God." Godwill take notice of this sound of the trumpet, and be engaged to fight their battles, and let all thepeople take notice of it, and be encouraged to fight his, as David, when he heard a sound of a goingupon the tops of the mulberry trees. Not that God needed to be awaked by sound of trumpet anymore than Christ needed to be awaked by his disciples in the storm, Matt. viii. 25. But where heintends mercy it is his will that we should solicit it; ministers must stir up the good soldiers of JesusChrist to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil, by assuring them that Christ is thecaptain of their salvation, and will tread Satan under their feet. (4.) For the solemnizing of theirsacred feasts, v. 10. One of their feasts was called a memorial of the blowing of trumpets, Lev.xxiii. 23, &c. And it should seem they were thus to grace the solemnity of all their feasts (Ps. lxxxi.3), and their sacrifices (2 Chron. xxix. 27), to intimate with what joy and delight they performedtheir duty to God, and to raise the minds of those that attended the services to a holy triumph in theGod they worshipped. And then their performances were for a memorial before God; for he takespleasure in our religious exercises when we take pleasure in them. Holy work should be done withholy joy.The Removal of the Camp. (b. c. 1490.)11 And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the secondyear, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. 12 And879Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloudrested in the wilderness of Paran. 13 And they first took their journey accordingto the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. 14 In the first place wentthe standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies: and overhis host was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 15 And over the host of the tribe ofthe children of Issachar was Nethaneel the son of Zuar. 16 And over the host ofthe tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon. 17 And thetabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari setforward, bearing the tabernacle. 18 And the standard of the camp of Reuben setforward according to their armies: and over his host was Elizur the son of Shedeur.19 And over the host of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the sonof Zurishaddai. 20 And over the host of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaphthe son of Deuel. 21 And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: andthe other did set up the tabernacle against they came. 22 And the standard of thecamp of the children of Ephraim set forward according to their armies: and over hishost was Elishama the son of Ammihud. 23 And over the host of the tribe of thechildren of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 24 And over the host ofthe tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni. 25 And thestandard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was the rereward ofall the camps throughout their hosts: and over his host was Ahiezer the son ofAmmishaddai. 26 And over the host of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagielthe son of Ocran. 27 And over the host of the tribe of the children of Naphtali wasAhira the son of Enan. 28 Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israelaccording to their armies, when they set forward.Here is, I. A general account of the removal of the camp of Israel from mount Sinai, beforewhich mountain it had lain now about a year, in which time and place a great deal of memorablebusiness was done. Of this removal, it should seem, God gave them notice some time before (Deut.i. 6, 7): You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn you and take your journey towards theland of promise. The apostle tells us that mount Sinai genders to bondage (Gal. iv. 24), and signifiesthe law there given, which is of use indeed as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, yet we must notrest in it, but advance towards the joys and liberties of the children of God, for our happiness isconferred not by the law, but by promise. Observe, 1. The signal given (v. 11): The cloud was takenup, and we may suppose it stood for some time, till they were ready to march; and a great deal ofwork it was to take down all those tents, and pack up all those goods that they had there; but everyfamily being employed about its own, and all at the same time, many hands made quick work ofit. 2. The march began: They took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord, andjust as the cloud led them, v. 13. Some think that mention is thus frequently made in this and theforegoing chapter of the commandment of the Lord, guiding and governing them in all their travels,to obviate the calumny and reproach which were afterwards thrown upon Israel, that they tarried880Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)so long in the wilderness, because they had lost themselves there, and could not find the way out.No, the matter was not so; in every stage, in every step, they were under divine direction; and, ifthey knew not where they were, yet he that led them knew. Note, Those that have given upthemselves to the direction of God's word and Spirit steer a steady course, even when they seemto be bewildered. While they are sure they cannot lose their God and guide, they need not fearlosing their way. 3. The place they rested in, after three days' march: They went out of the wildernessof Sinai, and rested in the wilderness of Paran. Note, All our removals in this world are but fromone wilderness to another. The changes which we think will be for the better do not always proveso; while we carry about with us, wherever we go, the common infirmities of human nature, wemust expect, wherever we go, to meet with its common calamities; we shall never be at rest, neverat home, till we come to heaven, and all will be well there.II. A particular draught of the order of their march, according to the late model. 1. Judah'ssquadron marched first, v. 14-16. The leading standard, now lodged with that tribe, was an earnestof the sceptre which in David's time should be committed to it, and looked further to the captainof our salvation, of whom it was likewise foretold that unto him should the gathering of the peoplebe. 2. Then came those two families of the Levites which were entrusted to carry the tabernacle.As soon as ever the cloud was taken up, the tabernacle was taken down, and packed up for removing,v. 17. And here the six wagons came laden with the more bulky part of the tabernacle. This frequentremoving of the tabernacle in all their journeys signified the movableness of that ceremonialdispensation. That which was so often shifted would at length vanish away, Heb. viii. 13. 3. Reuben'ssquadron marched forward next, taking place after Judah, according to the commandment of theLord, v. 18-20. 4. Then the Kohathites followed with their charge, the sacred furniture of thetabernacle, in the midst of the camp, the safest and most honourable place, v. 21. And they (that is,says the margin, the Gershonites and Merarites) did set up the tabernacle against they came; andperhaps it is expressed thus generally because, if there was occasion, not those Levites only, butthe other Israelites that were in the first squadron, lent a hand to the tabernacle to hasten the rearingof it up, even before they set up their own tents. 5. Ephraim's squadron followed next after the ark(v. 22-24), to which some think the psalmist alludes when he prays (Ps. lxxx. 2), Before Ephraim,Benjamin, and Manasseh, the three tribes that composed this squadron, stir up thy strength (andthe ark is called his strength, Ps. lxxviii. 61), and come and save us. 6. Dan's squadron followedlast, v. 25-27. It is called the rearward, or gathering host, of all the camps, because it gathered upall that were left behind; not the women and children (these we may suppose were taken care ofby the heads of their families in their respective tribes), but all the unclean, the mixed multitude,and all that were weak and feeble, and cast behind in their march. Note, He that leadeth Joseph likea flock has a tender regard to the hindmost (Ezek. xxxiv. 16), that cannot keep pace with the rest,and of all that are given him he will lose none, John xvii. 11.Moses's Request to Hobab. (b. c. 1490.)29 And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' fatherin law, We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you:come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken goodconcerning Israel. 30 And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mineown land, and to my kindred. 31 And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch881Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to usinstead of eyes. 32 And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that whatgoodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee. 33 And theydeparted from the mount of the Lord three days' journey: and the ark of the covenantof the Lord went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting placefor them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they wentout of the camp. 35 And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said,Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee fleebefore thee. 36 And when it rested, he said, Return, O Lord, unto the manythousands of Israel.Here is, I. An account of what passed between Moses and Hobab, now upon this advance whichthe camp of Israel made towards Canaan. Some think that Hobab was the same with Jethro, Moses'sfather-in-law, and that the story, Exod. xviii., should come in here; it seems more probable thatHobab was the son of Jethro, alias Reuel, or Raguel (Exod. ii. 18), and that when the father, beingaged, went to his own land (Exod. xviii. 27), he left his son Hobab with Moses, as Barzillai leftChimham with David; and the same word signifies both a father-in-law and a brother-in-law. Nowthis Hobab staid contentedly with Israel while they encamped at mount Sinai, near his own country;but, now that they were removing, he was for going back to his own country and kindred, and hisfather's house. Here is, 1. The kind invitation Moses gives him to go forward with them to Canaan,v. 29. He tempts him with a promise that they would certainly be kind to him, and puts God's wordin for security: The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. As if he had said, "Come, cast in thylot among us, and thou shalt fare as we fare; and we have the promise of God that we shall farewell." Note, Those that are bound for the heavenly Canaan should invite and encourage all theirfriends to go along with them, for we shall have never the less of the treasures of the covenant, andthe joys of heaven, for others coming in to share with us. And what argument can be more powerfulwith us to take God's people for our people than this, that God hath spoken good concerning them?It is good having fellowship with those that have fellowship with God (1 John i. 3), and going withthose with whom God is, Zech. viii. 23. 2. Hobab's inclination, and present resolution, to go backto his own country, v. 30. One would have thought that he who had seen so much of the specialpresence of God with Israel, and such surprising tokens of his favour to them, would not haveneeded much invitation to embark with them. But his refusal must be imputed to the affection hehad for his native air and soil, which was not overpowered, as it ought to have been, by a believingregard to the promise of God and a value for covenant blessings. He was indeed a son of Abraham'sloins (for the Midianites descended from Abraham by Keturah), but not an heir of Abraham's faith(Heb. xi. 8), else he would not have given Moses this answer. Note, The things of this world, whichare seen, draw strongly from the pursuit of the things of the other world, which are not seen. Themagnetic virtue of this earth prevails with most people above the attractives of heaven itself. 3. Thegreat importunity Moses used with him to alter his resolution, v. 31, 32. He urges, (1.) That hemight be serviceable to them: "We are to encamp in the wilderness" (a country well known toHobab), "and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes, not to show us where we must encamp, nor whatway we must march" (which the cloud was to direct), "but to show us the conveniences andinconveniences of the place we march through and encamp in, that we may make the best use we882Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)can of the conveniences, and the best fence we can against the inconveniences." Note, It will verywell consist with our trust in God's providence to make use of the help of our friends in those thingswherein they are capable of being serviceable to us. Even those that were led by miracle must notslight the ordinary means of direction. Some think that Moses suggests this to Hobab, not becausehe expected much benefit from his information, but to please him with the thought of being someway useful to so great a body, and so to draw him on with them, by inspiring him with an ambitionto obtain that honour. Calvin gives quite another sense of this place, very agreeably with the original,which yet I do not find taken notice of by any since. "Leave us not, I pray thee, but come along, toshare with us in the promised land, for therefore hast thou known our encampment in the wilderness,and hast been to us instead of eyes; and we cannot make thee amends for sharing with us in ourhardships, and doing us so many good offices, unless thou go with us to Canaan. Surely for thisreason thou didst set out with us that thou mightest go on with us." Note, Those that have begunwell should use that as a reason for their persevering, because otherwise they lose the benefit andrecompence of all they have done and suffered. (2.) That they would be kind to him: What goodnessthe Lord shall do to us, the same we will do to thee, v. 32. Note, [1.] We can give only what wereceive. We can do no more service and kindness to our friends than God is pleased to put it intothe power of our hand to do. This is all we dare promise, to do good as God shall enable us. [2.]Those that share with God's Israel in their labours and hardships shall share with them in theircomforts and honours. Those that are willing to take their lot with them in the wilderness shall havetheir lot with them in Canaan; if we suffer with them we shall reign with them, 2 Tim. ii. 12; Lukexxii. 28, 29.We do not find any reply that Hobab here made to Moses, and therefore we hope that his silencegave consent, and he did not leave them, but that, when he perceived he might be useful, he preferredthat before the gratifying of his own inclination; in this case he left us a good example. And wefind (Judg. i. 16; 1 Sam. xv. 6) that his family was no loser by it.II. An account of the communion between God and Israel in this removal. They left the mountof the Lord (v. 33), that Mount Sinai where they had seen his glory and heard his voice, and hadbeen taken into covenant with him (they must not expect that such appearances of God to them asthey had there been blessed with should be constant); they departed from that celebrated mountain,which we never read of in scripture any more, unless with reference to these past stories; nowfarewell, Sinai; Zion is the mountain of which God has said. This is my rest for ever (Ps. cxxxii.14), and of which we must say so. But when they left the mount of the Lord they took with themthe ark of the covenant of the Lord, by which their stated communion with God was to be kept up.For,1. By it God did direct their paths. The ark of the covenant went before them, some think inplace, at least in this removal; others think only in influence; though it was carried in the midst ofthe camp, yet the cloud that hovered over it directed all their motions. The ark (that is, the God ofthe ark) is said to search out a resting place for them; not that God's infinite wisdom and knowledgeneed to make searches, but every place they were directed to was as convenient for them as if thewisest man they had among them had been employed to go before them, and mark out their campto the best advantage. thus Canaan is said to be a land which God spied out, Ezek. xx. 6.2. By it they did in all their ways acknowledge God, looking upon it as a token of God'spresence; when that moved, or rested, they had their eye up unto God. Moses, as the mouth of thecongregation, lifted up a prayer, both at the removing and at the resting of the ark; thus their going883Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)out and coming in were sanctified by prayer, and it is an example to us to begin and end every day'sjourney, and every day's work, with prayer.(1.) Here is his prayer when the ark set forward: Rise up, Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered,v. 35. They were now in a desolate country, but they were marching towards an enemy's country,and their dependence was upon God for success and victory in their wars, as well as for directionand supply in the wilderness. David used this prayer long after (Ps. lxviii. 1), for he also fought theLords' battles. Note, [1.] There are those in the world that are enemies to God, and haters of him:secret and open enemies; enemies to his truths, his laws, his ordinances, his people. [2.] Thescattering and defeating of God's enemies is a thing to be earnestly desired, and believingly expected,by all the Lord's people. This prayer is a prophecy. Those that persist in rebellion against God arehasting towards their own ruin. [3.] For the scattering and defeating of God's enemies, there needsno more but God's arising. When God arose to judgment, the work was soon done, Ps. lxxvi. 8, 9."Rise, Lord, as the sun riseth to scatter the shadows of the night." Christ's rising from the deadscattered his enemies, Ps. lxviii. 18.(2.) His prayer when the ark rested, v. 36. [1.] That God would cause his people to rest. Sosome read it, "Return, O Lord, the many thousands of Israel, return them to their rest again afterthis fatigue." Thus it is said (Isa. lxiii. 14), The Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest. Thus he praysthat God would give Israel success and victory abroad, and peace and tranquillity at home. [2.]That God himself would take up his rest among them. So we read it: Return to the thousands ofIsrael, the ten thousand thousand, so the word is. Note, First, The church of God is a great body;there are many thousands belonging to God's Israel. Secondly, We ought in our prayers to concernourselves for this body. Thirdly, The welfare and happiness of the Israel of God consist in thecontinual presence of God among them. Their safety consists not in their numbers, though they arethousands, many thousands, but in the favour of God, and his gracious return to them and residencewith them. These thousands are cyphers; he is the figure: and upon this account, Happy art thou,O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people!N U M B E R SCHAP. XI.Hitherto things had gone pretty well in Israel; little interruption had been given to the methodsof God's favour to them since the matter of the golden calf; the people seemed teachable inmarshalling and purifying the camp, the princes devout and generous in dedicating the altar, andthere was good hope that they would be in Canaan presently. But at this chapter begins a melancholyscene; the measures are all broken, God has turned to be their enemy, and fights against them—andit is sin that makes all this mischief. I. Their murmurings kindled a fire among them, which yet wassoon quenched by the prayer of Moses, ver. 1-3. II. No sooner was the fire of judgment quenchedthan the fire of sin breaks out again, and God takes occasion from it to magnify both his mercy andhis justice. 1. The people fret for want of flesh, ver. 4-9. 2. Moses frets for want of help, ver. 10-15.Now, (1.) God promises to gratify them both, to appoint help for Moses (ver. 16, 17), and to give884Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the people flesh, ver. 18-23. And, (2.) He presently makes good both these promises. For, [1.] TheSpirit of God qualifies the seventy elders for the government, ver. 24-30. [2.] The power of Godbrings quails to feast the people, ver. 31, 32. Yet [3.] The justice of God plagued them for theirmurmurings, ver. 33, &c.The Murmurings of the Israelites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heardit; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, andconsumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. 2 And the peoplecried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burntamong them.Here is, I. The people's sin. They complained, v. 1. They were, as it were, complainers. So itis in the margin. There were some secret grudgings and discontents among them, which as yet didnot break out in an open mutiny. But how great a matter did this little fire kindle! They had receivedfrom God excellent laws and ordinances, and yet no sooner had they departed from the mount ofthe Lord than they began to quarrel with God himself. See in this, 1. The sinfulness of sin, whichtakes occasion from the commandment to be the more provoking. 2. The weakness of the lawthrough the flesh, Rom. viii. 3. The law discovered sin, but could not destroy it; checked it, butcould not conquer it. They complained. Interpreters enquire what they complained of; and truly,when they were furnished with so much matter for thanksgiving, one may justly wonder wherethey found any matter for complaint; it is probable that those who complained did not all agree inthe cause. Some perhaps complained that they were removed from Mount Sinai, where they hadbeen at rest so long, others that they did not remove sooner: some complained of the weather, othersof the ways: some perhaps thought three days' journey was too long a march, others thought it notlong enough, because it did not bring them into Canaan. When we consider how their camp wasguided, guarded, graced, what good victuals they had and good company, and what care was takenof them in their marches that their feet should not swell nor their clothes wear (Deut. viii. 4), wemay ask, "What could have been done more for a people to make them easy?" And yet theycomplained. Note, Those that are of a fretful discontented spirit will always find something or otherto quarrel with, though the circumstances of their outward condition be ever so favourable.II. God's just resentment of the affront given to him by this sin: The Lord heard it, though itdoes not appear that Moses did. Note, God is acquainted with the secret frettings and murmuringsof the heart, though they are industriously concealed from men. What he took notice of his wasmuch displeased with, and his anger was kindled. Note, Though God graciously gives us leave tocomplain to him when there is cause (Ps. cxlii. 2), yet he is justly provoked, and takes it very ill,if we complain of him when there is no cause: such conduct in our inferiors provokes us.III. The judgment wherewith God chastised them for this sin: The fire of the Lord burnt amongthem, such flashes of fire from the cloud as had consumed Nadab and Abihu. The fire of their wrathagainst God burned in their minds (Ps. xxxix. 3), and justly does the fire of God's wrath fasten upontheir bodies. We read of their murmurings several times, when they came first out of Egypt, Exod.xv., and xvi., and xvii.. But we do not read of any plagues inflicted on them for their murmurings,as there were now; for now they had had great experience of God's care of them, and therefore now885Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to distrust him was so much the more inexcusable. Now a fire was kindled against Jacob (Ps.lxxviii. 21), but, to show how unwilling God was to contend with them, it fastened on those onlythat were in the uttermost parts of the camp. Thus God's judgments came upon them gradually,that they might take warning.IV. Their cry to Moses, who was their tried intercessor, v. 2. When he slew them, then theysought him, and made their application to Moses to stand their friend. Note, 1. When we complainwithout cause, it is just with God to give us cause to complain. 2. Those that slight God's friendswhen they are in prosperity would be glad to make them their friends when they are in distress.Father Abraham, send Lazarus.V. The prevalency of Moses's intercession for them: When Moses prayed unto the Lord (hewas always ready to stand in the gap to turn away the wrath of God) God had respect to him andhis offering, and the fire was quenched. By this it appears that God delights not in punishing, for,when he has begun his controversy, he is soon prevailed with to let it fall. Moses was one of thoseworthies who by faith quenched the violence of fire.VI. A new name given hereupon to the place, to perpetuate the shame of a murmuring peopleand the honour of a righteous God; the place was called Taberah, a burning (v. 3), that others mighthear, and fear, and take warning not to sin as they did, lest they should smart as they did, 1 Cor. x.10.4 And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children ofIsrael also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? 5 We rememberthe fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and theleeks, and the onions, and the garlick: 6 But now our soul is dried away: there isnothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. 7 And the manna was as corianderseed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 8 And the people went about,and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans,and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. 9 And whenthe dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it. 10 Then Mosesheard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent:and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. 11 AndMoses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and whereforehave I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this peopleupon me? 12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thoushouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth thesucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? 13 Whenceshould I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Giveus flesh, that we may eat. 14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because itis too heavy for me. 15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out ofhand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.These verses represent things sadly unhinged and out of order in Israel, both the people andthe prince uneasy.886Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)I. Here is the people fretting, and speaking against God himself (as it is interpreted, Ps. lxxviii.19), notwithstanding his glorious appearances both to them and for them. Observe,1. Who were the criminals. (1.) The mixed multitude began, they fell a lusting, v. 4. The rabblethat came with them out of Egypt, expecting only the land of promise, but not a state of probationin the way to it. They were hangers on, who took hold of the skirts of the Jews, and would go withthem only because they knew not how to live at home, and were disposed to seek their fortunes (aswe say) abroad. These were the scabbed sheep that infected the flock, the leaven that leavened thewhole lump. Note, A few factious, discontented, ill-natured people, may do a great deal of mischiefin the best societies, if great care be not taken to discountenance them. Such as these are an untowardgeneration, from which it is our wisdom to save ourselves, Acts ii. 40. (2.) Even the children ofIsrael took the infection, as we are informed, v. 4. The holy seed joined themselves to the peopleof these abominations. The mixed multitude here spoken of were not numbered with the childrenof Israel, but were set aside as a people God made no account of; and yet the children of Israel,forgetting their own character and distinction, herded themselves with them and learned their way,as if the scum and outcasts of the camp were to be the privy-counsellors of it. The children of Israel,a people near to God and highly privileged, yet drawn into rebellion against him! O how littlehonour has God in the world, when even the people which he formed for himself, to show forthhis praise, were so much a dishonour to him! Therefore let none think that their external professionsand privileges will be their security either against Satan's temptations to sin or God's judgmentsfor sin. See 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, 12.2. What was the crime: they lusted and murmured. Though they had been lately corrected forthis sin, and many of them overthrown for it, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and thesmell of the fire was still in their nostrils, yet they returned to it. See Prov. xxvii. 22. (1.) Theymagnified the plenty and dainties they had had in Egypt (v. 5), as if God had done them a greatdeal of wrong in taking them thence. While they were in Egypt they sighed by reason of theirburdens, for their lives were made bitter to them with hard bondage; and yet now they talk of Egyptas if they had all lived like princes there, when this serves as a colour for their present discontent.But with what face can they talk of eating fish in Egypt freely, or for nought, as if it cost themnothing, when they paid so dearly for it with their hard service? They remember the cucumbers,and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick (precious stuff indeed to be fondof!), but they do not remember the brick-kilns and the task-masters, the voice of the oppressor andthe smart of the whip. No, these are forgotten by these ungrateful people. (2.) They were sick ofthe good provision God had made for them, v. 6. It was bread from heaven, angels' food. To showhow unreasonable their complaint was, it is here described, v. 7-9. It was good for food, and pleasantto the eye, every grain like an orient pearl; it was wholesome food and nourishing; it was not to becalled dry bread, for it tasted like fresh oil; it was agreeable (the Jews say, Wisd. xvi. 20) to everyman's palate, and tasted as he would have it; and, though it was still the same, yet, by the differentways of dressing it, it yielded them a grateful variety; it cost them no money, nor care, for it fell inthe night, while they slept; and the labour of gathering it was not worth speaking of; they livedupon free quarter, and yet could talk of Egypt's cheapness and the fish they ate there freely. Nay,which was much more valuable than all this, the manna came from the immediate power and bountyof God, not from common providence, but from special favour. It was, as God's compassion, newevery morning, always fresh, not as their food who live on shipboard. While they lived on manna,they seemed to be exempted from the curse which sin has brought on man, that in the sweat of his887Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)face should he eat bread. And yet they speak of manna with such scorn, as if it were not goodenough to be meat for swine: Our soul is dried away. They speak as if God dealt hardly with themin allowing them no better food. At first they admired it (Exod. xvi. 15): What is this? "What acurious precious thing is this!" But now they despised it. Note, Peevish discontented minds willfind fault with that which has no fault in it but that it is too good for them. It is very provoking toGod to undervalue his favours, and to put a but upon our common mercies. Nothing but manna!Those that might be very happy often make themselves very miserable by their discontents. (3.)They could not be satisfied unless they had flesh to eat. They brought flocks and herds with themin great abundance out of Egypt; but either they were covetous, and could not find in their heartsto kill them, lest they should lessen their flocks (they must have flesh as cheap as they had bread,or they would not be pleased), or else they were curious, beef and mutton would not please them;they must have something more nice and delicate, like the fish they did eat in Egypt. Food wouldnot serve; they must be feasted. They had feasted with God upon the peace-offerings which theyhad their share of; but it seems God did not keep a table good enough for them, they must havedaintier bits than any that came to his altar. Note, It is an evidence of the dominion of the carnalmind when we are solicitous to have all the delights and satisfactions of sense wound up to theheight of pleasurableness. Be not desirous of dainties, Prov. xxiii. 1-3. If God gives us foodconvenient, we ought to be thankful, though we do not eat the fat and drink the sweet. (4.) Theydistrusted the power and goodness of God as insufficient for their supply: Who will give us fleshto eat? taking it for granted that God could not. Thus this question is commented up on, Ps. lxxviii.19, 20, Can he provide flesh also? though he had given them flesh with their bread once, when hesaw fit (Exod. xvi. 13), and they might have expected that he would do it again, and in mercy, if,instead of murmuring, they had prayed. Note, It is an offence to God to let our desires go beyondour faith. (5.) They were eager and importunate in their desires; they lusted a lust, so the word is,lusted greatly and greedily, till they wept again for vexation. So childish were the children of Israel,and so humoursome, that they cried because they had not what they would have and when theywould have it. They did not offer up this desire to God, but would rather be beholden to any oneelse than to him. We should not indulge ourselves in any desire which we cannot in faith turn intoprayer, as we cannot when we ask meat for our lust, Ps. lxxviii. 18. For this sin the anger of theLord was kindled greatly against them, which is written for our admonition, that we should not lustafter evil things as they lusted, 1 Cor. x. 6. (6.) Flesh is good food, and may lawfully be eaten; yetthey are said to lust after evil things. What is lawful of itself becomes evil to us when it is whatGod does not allot to us and yet we eagerly desire it.II. Moses himself, though so meek and good a man, is uneasy upon this occasion: Moses alsowas displeased. Now, 1. It must be confessed that the provocation was very great. These murmuringsof theirs reflected great dishonour upon God, and Moses laid to heart the reproaches cast on himself;they knew that he did his utmost for their good, and that he neither did nor could do any thingwithout a divine appointment; and yet to be thus continually teased and clamoured against by anunreasonable ungrateful people would break in upon the temper even of Moses himself. Godconsidered this, and therefore we do not find that he chided him for his uneasiness. 2. Yet Mosesexpressed himself otherwise than became him upon this provocation, and came short of his dutyboth to God and Israel in these expostulations. (1.) He undervalues the honour God had put uponhim, in making him the illustrious minister of his power and grace, in the deliverance and guidanceof that peculiar people, which might have been sufficient to balance the burden. (2.) He complains888Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)too much of a sensible grievance, and lays too near his heart a little noise and fatigue. If he couldnot bear the toil of government, which was but running with the footman, how would he bear theterrors of war, which was contending with horses? He might easily have furnished himself withconsiderations enough to enable him to slight their clamours, and make nothing of them. (3.) Hemagnifies his own performances, that all the burden of the people lay upon him; whereas Godhimself did in effect ease him of all the burden. Moses needed not to be in care to provide quartersfor them, or victuals; God did all. And, if any difficult case happened, he needed not to be in anyperplexity, while he had the oracle to consult, and in it the divine wisdom to direct him, the divineauthority to back him and bear him out, and almighty power itself to dispense rewards andpunishments. (4.) He is not so sensible as he ought to be of the obligation he lay under, by virtueof the divine commission and command, to do the utmost he could for his people, when he suggeststhat because they were not the children of his body therefore he was not concerned to take a fatherlycare of them, though God himself, who might employ him as he pleased, had appointed him to bea father to them. (5.) He takes too much to himself when he asks, Whence should I have flesh togive them (v. 13), as if he were the housekeeper, and not God. Moses gave them not the bread, Johnvi. 32. Nor was it expected that he should give them the flesh, but as an instrument in God's hand;and if he meant, "Whence should God have it for them?" he too much limited the power of theHoly One of Israel. (6.) He speaks distrustfully of the divine grace when he despairs of being ableto bear all this people, v. 14. Had the work been much less, he could not have gone through it inhis own strength; but had it been much greater, through God strengthening him, he might havedone it. (7.) It was worst of all passionately to wish for death, and desire to be killed out of hand,because just at this time his life was made a little uneasy to him, v. 15. Is this Moses? Is this themeekest of all the men on the earth? The best have their infirmities, and fail sometimes in theexercise of that grace for which they are most eminent. But God graciously overlooked Moses'spassion at this time, and therefore we must not be severe in our animadversions upon it, but pray,Lord, lead us not into temptation.Assistance Provided for Moses. (b. c. 1490.)16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders ofIsrael, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them;and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand therewith thee. 17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of thespirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burdenof the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. 18 And say thou untothe people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye havewept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was wellwith us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19 Yeshall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsomeunto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and havewept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt? 21 And Moses said,The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast889Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. 22 Shall the flocksand the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea begathered together for them, to suffice them? 23 And the Lord said unto Moses, Isthe Lord's hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come topass unto thee or not.We have here God's gracious answer to both the foregoing complaints, wherein his goodnesstakes occasion from man's badness to appear so much the more illustrious.I. Provision is made for the redress of the grievances Moses complains of. If he find the weightof government lie too heavy upon him, though he was a little too passionate in his remonstrance,yet he shall be eased, not by being discarded from the government himself, as he justly might havebeen if God had been extreme to mark what he said amiss, but by having assistants appointed him,who should be, as the apostle speaks (1 Cor. xii. 28), helps, governments (that is, helps ingovernment), not at all to lesson or eclipse his honour, but to make the work more easy to him, andto bear the burden of the people with him. And that this provision might be both agreeable andreally serviceable,1. Moses is directed to nominate the persons, v. 16. The people were too hot and heady andtumultuous to be entrusted with the election; Moses must please himself in the choice, that he maynot afterwards complain. The number he is to choose is seventy men, according to the number ofthe souls that went down into Egypt. He must choose such as he knew to be elders, that is, wiseand experienced men. Those that had acquitted themselves best, as rulers of thousands and hundreds(Exod. xviii. 25), purchase to themselves now this good degree. "Choose such as thou knowest tobe elders indeed, and not in name only, officers that execute their office." We read of the samenumber of elders (Exod. xxiv. 1) that went up with Moses to Mount Sinai, but they were distinguishedonly for that occasion, these for a perpetuity; and, according to this constitution, the Sanhedrim, orgreat council of the Jews, which in after ages sat at Jerusalem, and was the highest court of judgmentamong them, consisted of seventy men. Our Saviour seems to have had an eye to it in the choiceof seventy disciples, who were to be assistants to the apostles, Luke x.2. God promises to qualify them. If they were not found fit for the employ, they should bemade fit, else they might prove more a hindrance than a help to Moses, v. 17. Though Moses hadtalked too boldly with God, yet God does not therefore break off communion with him; he bears agreat deal with us, and we must with one another: I will come down (said God) and talk with thee,when thou art more calm and composed; and I will take of the same spirit of wisdom, and piety,and courage, that is upon thee, and put it upon them. Not that Moses had the less of the Spirit fortheir sharing, nor that they were hereby made equal with him; Moses was still unequalled (Deut.xxxiv. 10), but they were clothed with a spirit of government proportionable to their place, andwith a spirit of prophecy to prove their divine call to it, the government being a Theocracy. Note,(1.) Those whom God employs in any service he qualifies for it, and those that are not in somemeasure qualified cannot think themselves duly called. (2.) All good qualifications are from God;every perfect gift is from the Father of lights.II. Even the humour of the discontented people shall be gratified too, that every mouth maybe stopped. They are ordered to sanctify themselves (v. 18), that is, to put themselves into a postureto receive such a proof of God's power as should be a token both of mercy and judgment. Prepareto meet thy God, O Israel, Amos iv. 12.890Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)1. God promises (shall I say?)—he threatens rather, that they shall have their fill of flesh, thatfor a month together they shall not only be fed, but feasted, with flesh, besides their daily manna;and, if they have not a better government of their appetites than now it appears they have they shallbe surfeited with it (v. 19, 20): You shall eat till it come out at your nostrils, and become loathsometo you. See here, (1.) The vanity of all the delights of sense; they will cloy, but not satisfy: spiritualpleasures are the contrary. As the world passes away, so do the lusts of it, 1 John ii. 17. What wasgreedily coveted in a little time comes to be nauseated. (2.) What brutish sins (and worse thanbrutish) gluttony and drunkenness are; they put a force upon nature, and make that the sickness ofthe body which should be its health; they are sins that are their own punishments, and yet not theworst that attend them. (3.) What a righteous thing it is with God to make that loathsome to menwhich they have inordinately lusted after. God could make them despise flesh as much as they haddespised manna.2. Moses objects the improbability of making good this word, v. 21, 22. It is an objection likethat which the disciples made, Mark viii. 4, Whence can a man satisfy these men? Some excuseMoses here, and construe what he says as only a modest enquiry which way the supply must beexpected; but it savours too much of diffidence and distrust of God to be justified. He objects thenumber of the people, as if he that provided bread for them all could not, by the same unlimitedpower, provide flesh too. He reckons it must be the flesh either of beasts or fishes, because theyare the most bulky animals, little thinking that the flesh of birds, little birds, should serve the purpose.God sees not as man sees, but his thoughts are above ours. He objects the greediness of the people'sdesires in that word, to suffice them. Note, Even true and great believers sometimes find it hard totrust God under the discouragements of second causes, and against hope to believe in hope. Moseshimself could scarcely forbear saying, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? when this hadbecome the common cry. No doubt this was his infirmity.3. God gives a short but sufficient answer to the objection in that question, Has the Lord's handwaxed short? v. 23. If Moses had remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High, hewould not have started all these difficulties; therefore God reminds him of them, intimating thatthis objection reflected upon the divine power, of which he himself had been so often, not only thewitness, but the instrument. Had he forgotten what wonders the divine power had wrought for thatpeople, when it inflicted the plagues of Egypt, divided the sea, broached the rock, and rained breadfrom heaven? Had that power abated? Was God weaker than he used to be? Or was he tired withwhat he had done? Whatever our unbelieving hearts may suggest to the contrary, it is certain, (1.)That God's hand is not short; his power cannot be restrained in the exerting of itself by any thingbut his own will; with him nothing is impossible. That hand is not short which measures the waters,metes out the heavens (Isa. xl. 12), and grasps the winds, Prov. xxx. 4. (2.) That it has not waxedshort. He is as strong as ever he was, fainteth not, neither is weary. And this is sufficient to silenceall our distrusts when means fail us, Is any thing too hard for the Lord? God here brings Moses tothis first principle, sets him back in his lesson, to learn the ancient name of God, The Lord GodAlmighty, and puts the proof upon the issue: Thou shalt see whether my word shall come to passor not. This magnifies God's word above all his name, that his works never come short of it. If hespeaks, it is done.God Promises the People Flesh; The Case of Eldad and Medad. (b. c. 1490.)891Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gatheredthe seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spiritthat was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that,when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. 26 But thereremained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the nameof the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that werewritten, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. 27And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesyin the camp. 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his youngmen, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. 29 And Moses said untohim, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets,and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! 30 And Moses gat him into thecamp, he and the elders of Israel.We have here the performance of God's word to Moses, that he should have help in thegovernment of Israel.I. Here is the case of the seventy privy-counsellors in general. Moses, though a little disturbedby the tumult of the people, yet was thoroughly composed by the communion he had with God,and soon came to himself again. And according as the matter was concerted, 1. He did his part; hepresented the seventy elders before the Lord, round the tabernacle (v. 24), that they might therestand ready to receive the grace of God, in the place where he manifested himself, and that thepeople also might be witnesses of their solemn call. Note, Those that expect favour from God musthumbly offer themselves and their service to him. 2. God was not wanting to do his part. He gaveof his Spirit to the seventy elders (v. 25), which enabled those whose capacities and education setthem but on a level with their neighbours of a sudden to say and do that which was extraordinary,and which proved them to be actuated by divine inspiration: they prophesied, and did not cease allthat day, and (some think) only that day. They discoursed to the people of the things of God, andperhaps commented upon the law they had lately received with admirable clearness, and fulness,and readiness, and aptness of expression, so that all who heard them might see and say that Godwas with them of a truth; see 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25. Thus, long afterwards, Saul was marked for thegovernment by the gift of prophecy, which came upon him for a day and a night, 1 Sam. x. 6, 11.When Moses was to fetch Israel out of Egypt, Aaron was appointed to be his prophet, Exod. vii.1. But, now that God had called Aaron to other work, in his room Moses has seventy prophets toattend him. Note, Those are fittest to rule in God's Israel that are well acquainted with divine thingsand are apt to teach to edification.II. Here is the particular case of two of them, Eldad and Medad, probably two brothers.1. They were nominated by Moses to be assistants in the government, but they went not outunto the tabernacle as the rest did, v. 26. Calvin conjectures that the summons was sent them, butthat it did not find them, they being somewhere out of the way; so that, though they were written,yet they were not called. Most think that they declined coming to the tabernacle out of an excessof modesty and humility; being sensible of their own weakness and unworthiness, they desired to892Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)be excused from coming into the government. Their principle was their praise, but their practicein not obeying orders was their fault.2. The Spirit of God found them out in the camp, where they were hidden among the stuff, andthere they prophesied, that is, they exercised their gift of praying, preaching, and praising God, insome private tent. Note, The Spirit of God is not tied to the tabernacle, but, like the wind, blowswhere he listeth, John iii. 8. Whither can we go from that Spirit? There was a special providencein it that these two should be absent, for thus it appeared that it was indeed a divine Spirit whichthe elders were actuated by, and that Moses gave them not that Spirit, but God himself. Theymodestly declined preferment, but God forced it upon them; nay, they have the honour of beingnamed, which the rest have not: for those that humble themselves shall be exalted, and those aremost fit for government who are least ambitious of it.3. Information of this was given to Moses (v. 27): "Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp;there is a conventicle in such a tent, and Eldad and Medad are holding forth there, from under theinspection and presidency of Moses, and out of the communion of the rest of the elders." Whoeverthe person was that brought the tidings, he seems to have looked upon it as an irregularity.4. Joshua moved to have them silenced: My lord Moses, forbid them, v. 28. It is probable thatJoshua himself was one of the seventy, which made him the more jealous for the honour of theirorder. He takes it for granted that they were not under any necessitating impulse, for the spirit ofthe prophets is subject to the prophets, and therefore he would have them either not to prophesy atall or to come to the tabernacle and prophesy in concert with the rest. He does not desire that theyshould be punished for what they had done, but only restrained for the future. This motion he madefrom a good principle, not out of any personal dislike to Eldad and Medad, but out of an honestzeal for that which he apprehended to be the unity of the church, and concern for the honour ofGod and Moses.5. Moses rejected the motion, and reproved him that made it (v. 29): "Enviest thou for my sake?Thou knowest not what manner of spirit thou art of." Though Joshua was Moses's particular friendand confidant, though he said this out of a respect to Moses, whose honour he was very loth to seelessened by the call of those elders, yet Moses reproves him, and in him all that show such a spirit.(1.) We must not secretly grieve at the gifts, graces, and usefulness of others. It was the fault ofJohn's disciples that they envied Christ's honour because it shaded their master's, John iii. 26, &c.(2.) We must not be transported into heats against the weaknesses and infirmities of others. Grantingthat Eldad and Medad were guilty of an irregularity, yet Joshua was too quick and too warm uponthem. Our zeal must always be tempered with the meekness of wisdom: the righteousness of Godneeds not the wrath of man, Jam. i. 20. (3.) We must not make even the best and most useful menheads of a party. Paul would not have his name made use of to patronise a faction, 1 Cor. i. 12, 13.(4.) We must not be forward to condemn and silence those that differ from us, as if they did notfollow Christ because they do not follow him with us, Mark ix. 38. Shall we reject those whomChrist has owned, or restrain any from doing good because they are not in every thing of our mind?Moses was of another spirit; so far from silencing these two, and quenching the Spirit in them, hewished all the Lord's people were prophets, that is, that he would put his Spirit upon them. Not thathe would have any set up for prophets that were not duly qualified, or that he expected that theSpirit of prophecy should be made thus common; but thus he expresses the love and esteem he hadfor all the Lord's people, the complacency he took in the gifts of others, and how far he was frombeing displeased at Eldad and Medad's prophesying from under his eye. Such an excellent spirit as893Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)this blessed Paul was of, rejoicing that Christ was preached, though it was by those who thereinintended to add affliction to his bonds, Phil. i. 16. We ought to be pleased that God is served andglorified, and good done, though to the lessening of our credit and the credit of our way.6. The elders, now newly ordained, immediately entered upon their administration (v. 30);when their call was sufficiently attested by their prophesying, they went with Moses to the camp,and applied themselves to business. Having received the gift, they ministered the same as goodstewards. And now Moses was pleased that he had so many to share with him in his work andhonour. And, (1.) Let the testimony of Moses be credited by those who desire to be in power, thatgovernment is a burden. It is a burden of care and trouble to those who make conscience of theduty of it; and to those who do not it will prove a heavier burden in the day of account, when theyfall under the doom of the unprofitable servant that buried his talent. (2.) Let the example of Mosesbe imitated by those that are in power; let them not despise the advice and assistance of others, butdesire it, and be thankful for it, not coveting to monopolize wisdom and power. In the multitudeof counsellors there is safety.The Quails. (b. c. 1490.)31 And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea,and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it werea day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubitshigh upon the face of the earth. 32 And the people stood up all that day, and allthat night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered leastgathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round aboutthe camp. 33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed,the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the peoplewith a very great plague. 34 And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah:because there they buried the people that lusted. 35 And the people journeyed fromKibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.God, having performed his promise to Moses by giving him assessors in the government,thereby proving the power he has over the spirits of men by his Spirit, he here performs his promiseto the people by giving them flesh, proving thereby his power over the inferior creatures and hisdominion in the kingdom of nature. Observe, 1. How the people were gratified with flesh inabundance: A wind (a south-east wind, as appears, Ps. lxxviii. 26) brought quails, v. 31. It is uncertainwhat sort of animals they were; the psalmist calls them feathered fowl, or fowl of wing. The learnedbishop Patrick inclines to agree with some modern writers, who think they were locusts, a delicioussort of food well known in those parts, the rather because they were brought with a wind, lay inheaps, and were dried in the sun for use. Whatever they were, they answered the intention, theyserved for a month's feast for Israel, such an indulgent Father was God to his froward family.Locusts, that had been a plague to fruitful Egypt, feeding upon the fruits, were a blessing to a barrenwilderness, being themselves fed upon. 2. How greedy they were of this flesh that God sent them.They flew upon the spoil with an unsatiable appetite, not regarding what Moses had told them fromGod, that they would surfeit upon it, v. 32. Two days and a night they were at it, gathering flesh,till every master of a family had brought home ten homers (that is, ten ass-loads) at least. David894Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)longed for the water of the well of Bethlehem, but would not drink it when he had it, because itwas obtained by venturing; much more reason these Israelites had to refuse this flesh, which wasobtained by murmuring, and which, they might easily perceive, by what Moses said, was giventhem in anger; but those that are under the power of a carnal mind will have their lusts fulfilled,though it be to the certain damage and ruin of their precious souls. 3. How dearly they paid for theirfeasts, when it came into the reckoning: The Lord smote them with a very great plague (v. 33),some bodily disease, which probably was the effect of their surfeit, and was the death of many ofthem, and those, it is likely, the ringleaders in the mutiny. Note, God often grants the desires of hisown people in love. He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul, Ps. xvi. 15. Byall that was said to them they were not estranged from their lusts, and therefore, while the meatwas in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, Ps. lxxviii. 30, 31. What we inordinatelydesire, if we obtain it (we have reason to fear), will be some way or other a grief and cross to us.God satiated them first, and then plagued them, (1.) To save the reputation of his own power, thatit might not be said, "He would not have cut them off had he been able to supply them." And, (2.)To show us the meaning of the prosperity of sinners; it is their preparation for ruin, they are fed asan ox for the slaughter. Lastly, The remembrance of this is preserved in the name given to the place,v. 34. Moses called it Kibroth-hattaavah, the graves of lusters or of lust. And well it had been ifthese graves of Israel's lusters had proved the graves of Israel's lust: the warning was designed tobe so, but it had not its due effect, for it follows (Ps. lxxviii. 32), For all this, they sinned still.N U M B E R SCHAP. XII.In the foregoing chapter we had the vexation which the people gave to Moses; in this we havehis patience tried by his own relations. I. Miriam and Aaron, his own brother and sister, affrontedhim, ver. 1-3. II. God called them to an account for it, ver. 4-9. III. Miriam was smitten with aleprosy for it, ver. 10. IV. Aaron submits, and Moses meekly intercedes for Miriam, ver. 11-13. V.She is healed, but put to shame for seven days, ver. 14-16. And this is recorded to show that thebest persons and families have both their follies and their crosses.Murmuring of Miriam and Aaron. (b. c. 1490.)1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian womanwhom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 And they said,Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? Andthe Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men whichwere upon the face of the earth.)Here is, I. The unbecoming passion of Aaron and Miriam: they spoke against Moses, v. 1. IfMoses, that received so much honour from God, yet received so many slights and affronts frommen, shall any of us think such trials either strange or hard, and be either provoked or discouragedby them? But who would have thought that disturbance should be created to Moses, 1. From those895Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)that were themselves serious and good; nay, that were eminent in religion, Miriam a prophetess,Aaron the high priest, both of them joint-commissioners with Moses for the deliverance of Israel?Mic. vi. 4, I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 2. From those that were his nearest relations,his own brother and sister, who shone so much by rays borrowed from him? Thus the spousecomplains (Cant. i. 6), My mother's children were angry with me; and quarrels among relations arein a special manner grievous. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. Yet thishelps to confirm the call of Moses, and shows that his advancement was purely by the divine favour,and not by any compact or collusion with his kindred, who themselves grudged his advancement.Neither did many of our Saviour's kindred believe on him, John vii. 5. It should seem that Miriambegan the quarrel, and Aaron, not having been employed or consulted in the choice of the seventyelders, was for the present somewhat disgusted, and so was the sooner drawn in to take his sister'spart. It would grieve one to see the hand of Aaron in so many trespasses, but it shows that the lawmade men priests who had infirmity. Satan prevailed first with Eve, and by her with Adam; seewhat need we have to take heed of being drawn into quarrels by our relations, for we know nothow great a matter a little fire may kindle. Aaron ought to have remembered how Moses stood hisfriend when God was angry with him for making the golden calf (Deut. ix. 20), and not to haverendered him evil for good. Two things they quarrelled with Moses about:—(1.) About his marriage:some think a late marriage with a Cushite or Arabian; others because of Zipporah, whom on thisoccasion they called, in scorn, an Ethiopian woman, and who, they insinuated, had too great aninfluence upon Moses in the choice of these seventy elders. Perhaps there was some private fallingout between Zipporah and Miriam, which occasioned some hot words, and one peevish reflectionintroduced another, till Moses and Aaron came to be interested. (2.) About his government; not themismanagement of it, but the monopolizing of it (v. 2): "Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses?Must he alone have the choice of the persons on whom the spirit of prophecy shall come? Hath henot spoken also by us? Might not we have had a hand in that affair, and preferred our friends, aswell as Moses his?" They could not deny that God had spoken by Moses, but it was plain he hadsometimes spoken also by them; and that which they intended was to make themselves equal withhim, though God had so many ways distinguished him. Note, Striving to be greatest is a sin whicheasily besets disciples themselves, and it is exceedingly sinful. Even those that are well preferredare seldom pleased if others be better preferred. Those that excel are commonly envied.II. The wonderful patience of Moses under this provocation. The Lord heard it (v. 2), but Moseshimself took no notice of it, for (v. 3) he was very meek. He had a great deal of reason to resentthe affront; it was ill-natured and ill-timed, when the people were disposed to mutiny, and had latelygiven him a great deal of vexation with their murmurings, which would be in danger of breakingout again when thus headed and countenanced by Aaron and Miriam; but he, as a deaf man, heardnot. When God's honour was concerned, as in the case of the golden calf, no man more zealousthan Moses; but, when his own honour was touched, no man more meek: as bold as a lion in thecause of God, but as mild as a lamb in his own cause. God's people are the meek of the earth (Zeph.ii. 3), but some are more remarkable than others for this grace, as Moses, who was thus fitted forthe work he was called to, which required all the meekness he had and sometimes more. Andsometimes the unkindness of our friends is a greater trial of our meekness than the malice of ourenemies. Christ himself records his own meekness (Matt. xi. 29, I am meek and lowly in heart),and the copy of meekness which Christ has set was without a blot, but that of Moses was not.896Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)4 And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam,Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three cameout. 5 And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door ofthe tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. 6 And hesaid, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will makemyself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7 Myservant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8 With him will I speakmouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude ofthe Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against myservant Moses? 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and hedeparted.Moses did not resent the injury done him, nor complain of it to God, nor make any appeal tohim; but God resented it. He hears all we say in our passion, and is a swift witness of our hastyspeeches, which is a reason why we should resolutely bridle our tongues, that we speak not ill ofothers, and why we should patiently stop our ears, and not take notice of it, if others speak ill ofus. I heard not, for thou wilt hear, Ps. xxxviii. 13-15. The more silent we are in our own cause themore is God engaged to plead it. The accused innocent needs to say little if he knows the judgehimself will be his advocate.I. The cause is called, and the parties are summoned forthwith to attend at the door of thetabernacle, v. 4, 5. Moses had often shown himself jealous for God's honour, and now God showedhimself jealous for his reputation; for those that honour God he will honour, nor will he ever bebehind-hand with any that appear for him. Judges of old sat in the gate of the city to try causes, andso on this occasion the shechinah in the cloud of glory stood at the door of the tabernacle, andAaron and Miriam, as delinquents, were called to the bar.II. Aaron and Miriam were made to know that great as they were they must not pretend to beequal to Moses, nor set up as rivals with him, v. 6-8. Were they prophets of the Lord? Of Moses itmight be truly said, He more. 1. It was true that God put a great deal of honour upon the prophets.However men mocked them and misused them, they were the favourites and intimates of heaven.God made himself known to them, either by dreams when they were asleep or by visions when theywere awake, and by them made himself known to others. And those are happy, those are great,truly great, truly happy, to whom God makes himself known, Now he does it not by dreams andvisions, as of old, but by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who makes known those things tobabes which prophets and kings desired to see and might not. Hence in the last days, the days ofthe Messiah, the sons and daughters are said to prophesy (Joel ii. 28), because they shall be betteracquainted with the mysteries of the kingdom of grace than even the prophets themselves were;see Heb. i. 1, 2. 2. Yet the honour put upon Moses was far greater (v. 7): My servant Moses is notso, he excels them all. To recompense Moses for his meekly and patiently bearing the affrontswhich Miriam and Aaron gave him, God not only cleared him, but praised him; and took thatoccasion to give him an encomium which remains upon record to his immortal honour; and thusshall those that are reviled and persecuted for righteousness' sake have a great reward in heaven,Christ will confess them before his Father and the holy angels. (1.) Moses was a man of greatintegrity and tried fidelity. He is faithful in all my house. This is put first in his character, because897Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)grace excels gifts, love excels knowledge, and sincerity in the service of God puts a greater honourupon a man and recommends him to the divine favour more than learning, abstruse speculations,and an ability to speak with tongues. This is that part of Moses's character which the apostle quoteswhen he would show that Christ was greater than Moses, making it out that he was so in this chiefinstance of his greatness; for Moses was faithful only as a servant, but Christ as a son, Heb. iii. 2,5, 6. God entrusted Moses to deliver his mind in all things to Israel; Israel entrusted him to treatfor them with God; and he was faithful to both. He said and did every thing in the management ofthat great affair as became an honest good man, that aimed at nothing else but the honour of Godand the welfare of Israel. (2.) Moses was therefore honoured with clearer discoveries of God's mind,and a more intimate communion with God, than any other prophet whatsoever. He shall, [1.] Hearmore from God than any other prophet, more clearly and distinctly: With him will I speak mouthto mouth, or face to face (Exod. xxx. 11), as a man speaks to his friend, whom he discourses withfreely and familiarly, and without any confusion or consternation, such as sometimes other prophetswere under; as Ezekiel, and John himself, when God spoke to them. By other prophets God sentto his people reproofs, and predictions of good or evil, which were properly enough delivered indark speeches, figures, types, and parables; but by Moses he gave laws to his people, and theinstitution of holy ordinances, which could by no means be delivered by dark speeches, but mustbe expressed in the plainest and most intelligible manner. [2.] He shall see more of God than anyother prophet: The similitude of the Lord shall behold, as he hath seen it in Horeb, when Godproclaimed his name before him. Yet he saw only the similitude of the Lord, angels and glorifiedsaints always behold the face of our Father. Moses had the spirit of prophecy in a way peculiar tohimself, and which set him far above all other prophets; yet he that is least in the kingdom of heavenis greater than he, much more does our Lord Jesus infinitely excel him, Heb. iii. 1, &c.Now let Miriam and Aaron consider who it was that they insulted: Were you not afraid tospeak against my servant Moses? Against my servant, against Moses? so it runs in the original."How dare you abuse any servant of mine, especially such a servant as Moses, who is a friend, aconfidant, and steward of the house?" How durst they speak to the grief and reproach of one whomGod had so much to say in commendation of? Might they not expect that God would resent it, andtake it as an affront to himself? Note, We have reason to be afraid of saying or doing any thingagainst the servants of God; it is at our peril if we do, for God will plead their cause, and reckonthat what touches them touches the apple of his eye. It is a dangerous thing to offend Christ's littleones, Matt. xviii. 6. Those are presumptuous indeed that are not afraid to speak evil of dignities,2 Pet. ii. 10.III. God, having thus shown them their fault and folly, next shows them his displeasure (v. 9):The anger of the Lord was kindled against them, of which perhaps some sensible indications weregiven in the change of the colour of the cloud, or some flashes of lightning from it. But indeed itwas indication enough of his displeasure that he departed, and would not so much as hear theirexcuse, for he needed not, understanding their thoughts afar off; and thus he would show that hewas displeased. Note, The removal of God's presence from us is the surest and saddest token ofGod's displeasure against us. Woe unto us if he depart; and he never departs till we by our sin andfolly drive him from us.Miriam Smitten with Leprosy. (b. c. 1490.)898Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)10 And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam becameleprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.11 And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin uponus, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. 12 Let her notbe as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of hismother's womb. 13 And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God,I beseech thee. 14 And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in herface, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp sevendays, and after that let her be received in again. 15 And Miriam was shut out fromthe camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.16 And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wildernessof Paran.Here is, I. God's judgment upon Miriam (v. 10): The cloud departed from off that part of thetabernacle, in token of God's displeasure, and presently Miriam became leprous; when God goes,evil comes; expect no good when God departs. The leprosy was a disease often inflicted by theimmediate hand of God as the punishment of some particular sin, as on Gehazi for lying, on Uzziahfor invading the priest's office, and here on Miriam for scolding and making mischief amongrelations. The plague of the leprosy, it is likely, appeared in her face, so that it appeared to all thatsaw her that she was struck with it, with the worst of it, she was leprous as snow; not only so white,but so soft, the solid flesh losing its consistency, as that which putrefies does. Her foul tongue (saysbishop Hall) is justly punished with a foul face, and her folly in pretending to be a rival with Mosesis made manifest to all men, for every one sees his face to be glorious, and hers to be leprous. WhileMoses needs a veil to hide his glory, Miriam needs one to hide her shame. Note, Those distemperswhich any way deform us ought to be construed as a rebuke to our pride, and improved for the cureof it, and under such humbling providences we ought to be very humble. It is a sign that the heartis hard indeed if the flesh be mortified, and yet the lusts of the flesh remain unmortified. It shouldseem that this plague upon Miriam was designed for an exposition of the law concerning the leprosy(Lev. xiii.), for it is referred to upon the rehearsal of that law, Deut. xxiv. 8, 9. Miriam was struckwith a leprosy, but not Aaron, because she was first in the transgression, and God would put adifference between those that mislead and those that are misled. Aaron's office, though it savedhim not from God's displeasure, yet helped to secure him from this token of his displeasure, whichwould not only have suspended him for the present from officiating, when (there being no priestsbut himself and his two sons) he could ill be spared, but it would have rendered him and his officemean, and would have been a lasting blot upon his family. Aaron as priest was to be the judge ofthe leprosy, and his performing that part of his office upon this occasion, when he looked uponMiriam, and behold she was leprous, was a sufficient mortification to him. He was struck throughher side, and could not pronounce her leprous without blushing and trembling, knowing himself tobe equally obnoxious. This judgment upon Miriam is improvable by us as a warning to take heedof putting any affront upon our Lord Jesus. If she was thus chastised for speaking against Moses,what will become of those that sin against Christ?II. Aaron's submission hereupon (v. 11, 12); he humbles himself to Moses, confesses his fault,and begs pardon. He that but just now joined with his sister in speaking against Moses is here forced899Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)for himself and his sister to make a penitent address to him, and in the highest degree to magnifyhim (as if he had the power of God to forgive and heal) whom he had so lately vilified. Note, Thosethat trample upon the saints and servants of God will one day be glad to make court to them; atfurthest, in the other world, as the foolish virgins to the wise for a little oil, and the rich man toLazarus for a little water; and perhaps in this world, as Job's friend to him for his prayers, and hereAaron to Moses. Rev. iii. 9. In his submission, 1. He confesses his own and his sister's sin, v. 11.He speaks respectfully to Moses, of whom he had spoken slightly, calls him his lord, and now turnsthe reproach upon himself, speaks as one ashamed of what he had said: We have sinned, we havedone foolishly. Those sin, and do foolishly, who revile and speak evil of any, especially of goodpeople or of those in authority. Repentance is the unsaying of that which we have said amiss, andit had better be unsaid than that we be undone by it. 2. He begs Moses's pardon: Lay not this sinupon us. Aaron was to bring his gift to the altar, but, knowing that his brother had something againsthim, he of all men was concerned to reconcile himself to his brother, that he might be qualified tooffer his gift. Some think that this speedy submission which God saw him ready to make was thatwhich prevented his being struck with a leprosy as his sister was. 3. He recommends the deplorablecondition of his sister to Moses's compassionate consideration (v. 12): Let her not be as one dead,that is, "Let her not continue so separated from conversation, defiling all she touches, and even toputrefy above ground as one dead." He eloquently describes the misery of her case, to move hispity.III. The intercession made for Miriam (v. 13): He cried unto the Lord with a loud voice, becausethe cloud, the symbol of his presence, was removed and stood at some distance, and to express hisfervency in this request, Heal her now, O Lord, I beseech thee. By this he made it to appear thathe did heartily forgive her the injury she had one him, that he had not accused her to God, nor calledfor justice against her; so far from this that, when God in tenderness to his honour had chastisedher insolence, he was the first that moved for reversing the judgment. By this example we are taughtto pray for those that despitefully use us; and not to take pleasure in the most righteous punishmentinflicted either by God or man on those that have been injurious to us. Jeroboam's withered handwas restored at the special instance and request of the prophet against whom it had been stretchedout, 1 Kings xiii. 6. So Miriam here was healed by the prayer of Moses, whom she had abused, andAbimelech by the prayer of Abraham, Gen. xx. 17. Moses might have stood off, and have said,"She is served well enough, let her govern her tongue better next time;" but, not content with beingable to say that he had not prayed for the inflicting of the judgment, he prays earnestly for theremoval of it. This pattern of Moses, and that of our Saviour, Father, forgive them, we must studyto conform to.IV. The accommodating of this matter so as that mercy and justice might meet together. 1.Mercy takes place so far as that Miriam shall be healed; Moses forgives her, and God will. See 2Cor. ii. 10. But, 2. Justice takes place so far as that Miriam shall be humbled (v. 14): Let her beshut out from the camp seven days, that she herself might be made more sensible of her fault andpenitent for it, and that her punishment might be the more public, and all Israel might take noticeof it and take warning by it not to mutiny. If Miriam the prophetess be put under such marks ofhumiliation for one hasty word spoken against Moses, what may we expect for our murmurings?If this be done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? See how people debase and diminishthemselves by sin, stain their glory, and lay their honour in the dust. When Miriam praised God,we find her at the head of the congregation and one of the brightest ornaments of it, Exod. xv. 20.900Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Now that she quarrelled with God we find her expelled as the filth and off-scouring of it. A reasonis given for her being put out of the camp for seven days, because thus she ought to accept of thepunishment of her iniquity. If her father, her earthly father, had but spit in her face, and so signifiedhis displeasure against her, would she not be so troubled and concerned at it, and so sorry that shehad deserved it, as to shut herself up for some time in her room, and not come into his presence,or show her face in the family, being ashamed of her own folly and unhappiness? If such reverenceas this be owing to the fathers of our flesh, when they correct us, much more ought we to humbleourselves under the mighty hand of the Father of spirits, Heb. xii. 9. Note, When we are under thetokens of God's displeasure for sin, it becomes us to take shame to ourselves, and to lie down inthat shame, owning that to us belongs confusion of face. If by our own fault and folly we exposeourselves to the reproach and contempt of men, the just censures of the church, or the rebukes ofthe divine Providence, we must confess that our Father justly spits in our face, and be ashamed.V. The hindrance that this gave to the people's progress: The people journeyed not till Miriamwas brought in again, v. 15. God did not remove the cloud, and therefore they did not remove theircamp. This was intended, 1. As a rebuke to the people, who were conscious to themselves of havingsinned after the similitude of Miriam's transgression, in speaking against Moses: thus far thereforethey shall share in her punishment, that it shall retard their march forward towards Canaan. Manythings oppose us, but nothing hinders us in the way to heaven as sin does. 2. As a mark of respectto Miriam. If the camp had removed during the days of her suspension, her trouble and shame hadbeen the greater; therefore, in compassion to her, they shall stay till her excommunication be takenoff, and she taken in again, it is probable with the usual ceremonies of the cleansing of lepers. Note,Those that are under censure and rebuke for sin ought to be treated with a great deal of tenderness,and not be over-loaded, no, not with the shame they have deserved, not counted as enemies (2Thess. iii. 15), but forgiven and comforted, 2 Cor. ii. 7. Sinners must be cast out with grief, andpenitents taken in with joy. When Miriam was absolved and re-admitted, the people went forwardinto the wilderness of Paran, which joined up to the south border of Canaan, and thither their nextremove would have been if they had not put a bar in their own way.N U M B E R SCHAP. XIII.It is a memorable and very melancholy story which is related in this and the following chapter,of the turning back of Israel from the borders of Canaan, when they were just ready to set foot init, and the sentencing of them to wander and perish in the wilderness for their unbelief andmurmuring. It is referred to Ps. xcv. 7, &c., and improved for warning to Christians, Heb. iii. 7,&c. In this chapter we have, I. The sending of twelve spies before them into Canaan, ver. 1-16. II.The instructions given to these spies, ver. 17-20. III. Their executing their commission accordingto their instructions, and their return from the search, ver. 21-25. IV. The report they brought backto the camp of Israel, ver. 26, &c.901Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Missions of the Twelve Spies. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Send thou men, that they maysearch the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe oftheir fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. 3 And Moses bythe commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all thosemen were heads of the children of Israel. 4 And these were their names: of the tribeof Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur. 5 Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the sonof Hori. 6 Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 7 Of the tribe ofIssachar, Igal the son of Joseph. 8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.9 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu. 10 Of the tribe of Zebulun,Gaddiel the son of Sodi. 11 Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh,Gaddi the son of Susi. 12 Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli. 13 Ofthe tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael. 14 Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbithe son of Vophsi. 15 Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These arethe names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Osheathe son of Nun Jehoshua. 17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan,and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:18 And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether theybe strong or weak, few or many; 19 And what the land is that they dwell in, whetherit be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or instrong holds; 20 And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there bewood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.Here we have, I. Orders given to send spies to search out the land of Canaan. It is here said,God directed Moses to send them (v. 1, 2), but it appears by the repetition of the story afterwards(Deut. i. 22) that the motion came originally from the people; they came to Moses, and said, Wewill send men before us; and it was the fruit of their unbelief. They would not take God's word thatit was a good land, and that he would, without fail, put them in possession of it. They could nottrust the pillar of cloud and fire to show them the way to it, but had a better opinion of their ownpolitics than of God's wisdom. How absurd was it for them to send to spy out a land which Godhimself had spied out for them, to enquire the way into it when God himself had undertaken toshow them the way! But thus we ruin ourselves by giving more credit to the reports andrepresentations of sense than to divine revelation; we walk by sight, not by faith; whereas, if wewill receive the witness of men, without doubt the witness of God is greater. The people makingthis motion to Moses, he (perhaps not aware of the unbelief at the bottom of it) consulted God inthe case, who bade him gratify the people in this matter, and send spies before them: "Let themwalk in their own counsels." Yet God was no way accessory to the sin that followed, for the sendingof these spies was so far from being the cause of the sin that if the spies had done their duty, andthe people theirs, it might have been the confirmation of their faith, and of good service to them.902Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)II. The persons nominated that were to be employed in this service (v. 4, &c.), one of eachtribe, that it might appear to be the act of the people in general; and rulers, person of figure in theirrespective tribes, some of the rulers of thousands or hundreds, to put the greater credit upon theirembassy. This was designed for the best, but it proved to have this ill effect that the quality of thepersons occasioned the evil report they brought up to be the more credited and the people to be themore influenced by it. Some think that they are all named for the sake of two good ones that wereamong them, Caleb and Joshua. Notice is taken of the change of Joshua's name upon this occasion,v. 16. He was Moses's minister, but had been employed, though of the tribe of Ephraim, as generalof the forces that were sent out against Amalek. The name by which he was generally called andknown in his own tribe was Oshea, but Moses called him Joshua, in token of his affection to himand power over him; and now, it should seem, he ordered others to call him so, and fixed that tobe his name henceforward. Oshea signifies a prayer for salvation, Save thou; Joshua signifies apromise of salvation, He will save, in answer to that prayer: so near is the relation between prayersand promises. Prayers prevail for promises, and promises direct and encourage prayers. Some thinkthat Moses designed, by taking the first syllable of the name Jehovah and prefixing it to his name,which turned Hoshea into Jehoshua, to put an honour upon him, and to encourage him in this andall his future services with the assurances of God's presence. Yet after this he is called Hoshea,Deut. xxxii. 44. Jesus is the same name with Joshua, and it is the name of our Lord Christ, of whomJoshua was a type as successor to Moses, Israel's captain, and conqueror of Canaan. There wasanother of the same name, who was also a type of Christ, Zech. vi. 11. Joshua was the saviour ofGod's people from the powers of Canaan, but Christ is their Saviour from the powers of hell.III. The instructions given to those spies. They were sent into the land of Canaan the nearestway, to traverse the country, and to take account of its present state, v. 17. Two heads of enquirywere given them in charge, 1. Concerning the land itself: See what that is (v. 18, and again, v. 19),see whether it be good or bad, and (v. 20) whether it be fat or lean. All parts of the earth do notshare alike in the blessing of fruitfulness; some countries are blessed with a richer soil than others.Moses himself was well satisfied that Canaan was a very good land, but he sent these spies to bringan account of it for the satisfaction of the people; as John Baptist sent to Jesus, to ask whether hewas the Christ, not to inform himself, but to inform those he sent. They must take notice whetherthe air was healthful or no, what the soil was, and what the productions; and, for the better satisfactionof the people, they must bring with them some of the fruits. 2. Concerning the inhabitants—theirnumber, few or many—their size and stature, whether strong able-bodied men or weak,—theirhabitations, whether they lived in tents or houses, whether in open villages or in walledtowns,—whether the woods were standing as in those countries that are uncultivated, through theunskillfulness and slothfulness of the inhabitants, or whether the woods were cut down, and thecountry made champaign, for the convenience of tillage. These were the things they were to enquireabout. Perhaps there had not been of late years such commerce between Egypt and Canaan as therewas in Jacob's time, else they might have informed themselves of these things without sending menon purpose to search. See the advantage we may derive from books and learning, which acquaintthose that are curious and inquisitive with the state of foreign countries, at a much greater distancethan Canaan was now from Israel, without this trouble and expense.IV. Moses dismisses the spies with this charge, Be of good courage, intimating, not only thatthey should be themselves encouraged against the difficulties of this expedition, but that they shouldbring an encouraging account to the people and make the best of every thing. It was not only a great903Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)undertaking they were put upon, which required good management and resolution, but it was agreat trust that was reposed in them, which required that they should be faithful.21 So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob,as men come to Hamath. 22 And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron;where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron wasbuilt seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol,and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare itbetween two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.24 The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes whichthe children of Israel cut down from thence. 25 And they returned from searchingof the land after forty days.We have here a short account of the survey which the spies made of the promised land. 1. Theywent quite through it, from Zin in the south, to Rehob, near Hamath, in the north, v. 21. See ch.xxxiv. 3, 8. It is probable that they did not go altogether in a body, lest they should be suspectedand taken up, which there would be the more danger of if the Canaanites knew (and one wouldthink they could not but know) how near the Israelites were to them; but they divided themselvesinto several companies, and so passed unsuspected, as way-faring men. 2. They took particularnotice of Hebron (v. 22), probably because near there was the field of Machpelah, where thepatriarchs were buried (Gen. xxiii. 2), whose dead bodies did, as it were, keep possession of thatland for their posterity. To this sepulchre they made a particular visit, and found the adjoining cityin the possession of the sons of Anak, who are here named. In that place where they expected thegreatest encouragements they met with the greatest discouragements. Where the bodies of theirancestors kept possession for them the giants kept possession against them. They ascended by thesouth, and came to Hebron, that is, "Caleb," say the Jews, "in particular," for to his being there wefind express reference, Josh. xiv. 9, 12, 13. But that others of the spies were there too appears bytheir description of the Anakim, v. 33. 3. They brought a bunch of grapes with them, and someother of the fruits of the land, as a proof of the extraordinary goodness of the country. Probablythey furnished themselves with these fruits when they were leaving the country and returning. Thecluster of grapes was so large and so heavy that they hung it upon a bar, and carried it between twoof them, v. 23, 24. The place whence they took it was, from this circumstance, called the valley ofthe cluster, that famous cluster which was to Israel both the earnest and the specimen of all thefruits of Canaan. Such are the present comforts which we have in communion with God, foretastesof the fulness of joy we expect in the heavenly Canaan. We may see by them what heaven is.26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregationof the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought backword unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of theland. 27 And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentestus, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled,and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekitesdwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites,904Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast ofJordan. 30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up atonce, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that wentup with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are strongerthan we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searchedunto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to searchit, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw init are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak,which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so wewere in their sight.It is a wonder how the people of Israel had patience to stay forty days for the return of theirspies, when they were just ready to enter Canaan, under all the assurances of success they couldhave from the divine power, and a constant series of miracles that had hitherto attended them; butthey distrusted God's power and promise, and were willing to be held in suspense by their owncounsels, rather than be brought to a certainty by God's covenant. How much do we stand in ourown light by our unbelief! Well, at length the messengers return, but they agree not in their report.I. The major part discourage the people from going forward to Canaan; and justly are theIsraelites left to this temptation, for putting so much confidence in the judgment of men, when theyhad the word of God to trust to. It is a righteous thing with God to give those up to strong delusionswho will not receive his truth in the love of it.1. Observe their report. (1.) They could not deny but that the land of Canaan was a very fruitfulland; the bunch of grapes they brought with them was an ocular demonstration of it, v. 27. Godhad promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, and the evil spies themselves own that itis such a land. Thus even out of the mouth of adversaries will God be glorified and the truth of hispromise attested. And yet afterwards they contradict themselves, when they say (v. 32), It is a landthat eateth up the inhabitants thereof; as if, though it had milk, and honey, and grapes, yet it wantedother necessary provision; some think that there was a great plague in the country at the time theysurveyed it, which they ought to have imputed to the wisdom of the divine Providence, which thuslessened the numbers of their enemies, to facilitate their conquests; but they invidiously imputedit to the unwholesomeness of the air, and thence took occasion to disparage the country. For thisunreasonable fear of a plague in Canaan, they were justly cut off immediately by a plague in thewilderness, ch. xiv. 37. But, (2.) They represented the conquest of it as altogether impracticable,and that it was to no purpose to attempt it. The people are strong (v. 28), men of a great stature (v.32), stronger than we, v. 31. The cities are represented as impregnable fortresses: they are walledand very great, v. 28. But nothing served their ill purpose more than a description of the giants, onwhom they lay a great stress: We saw the children of Anak there (v. 28), and again, we saw thegiants, those men of a prodigious size, the sons of Anak, who come of the giants, v. 33. They spokeas if they were ready to tremble at the mention of them, as they had done at the sight of them. "Othese tremendous giants! when we were near them, we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, notonly little and weak, but trembling and daunted." Compare Job xxxix. 20, Canst thou make himafraid as a grasshopper? "Nay, and so we were in their sight; they looked upon us with as muchscorn and disdain as we did upon them with fear and trembling." So that upon the whole matter905Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)they gave it in as their judgment, We are not able to go up against them (v. 31), and therefore mustthink of taking some other course.2. Now, even if they had been to judge only by human probabilities, they could not have beenexcused from the imputation of cowardice. Were not the hosts of Israel very numerous? 600,000effective men, well marshalled and modelled, closely embodied, and entirely united in interest andaffection, constituted as formidable an army as perhaps was ever brought into the field; many aless has done more than perhaps the conquering of Canaan was, witness Alexander's army. Moses,their commander-in-chief, was wise and brave; and if the people had put on resolution, and behavedthemselves valiantly, what could have stood before them? It is true the Canaanites were strong, butthey were dispersed (v. 29): Some dwell in the south and others in the mountains; so that by reasonof their distance they could not soon get together, and by reason of their divided interests they couldnot long keep together, to oppose Israel. The country being plentiful would subsist an army, and,though the cities were walled, if they could beat them in the field the strong-holds would fall ofcourse into their hands. And, lastly, as for the giants, their overgrown stature would but make themthe better mark, and the bulkiest men have not always the best mettle.3. But, though they deserved to be posted for cowards, this was not the worst, the scripturebrands them for unbelievers. It was not any human probabilities they were required to depend upon,but, (1.) They had the manifest and sensible tokens of God's presence with them, and the engagementof his power for them. The Canaanites were stronger than Israel; suppose they were, but were theystronger than the God of Israel? We are not able to deal with them, but is not God Almighty able?Have we not him in the midst of us? Does not he go before us? And is any thing too hard for him?Were we as grasshoppers before the giants, and are not they less than grasshoppers before God?Their cities are walled against us, but can they be walled against heaven? Besides this, (2.) Theyhad had very great experience of the length and strength of God's arm, lifted up and made bare ontheir behalf. Were not the Egyptians as much stronger than they as the Canaanites were? And yet,without a sword drawn by Israel or a stroke struck, the chariots and horsemen of Egypt were quiterouted and ruined; the Amalekites took them at great disadvantages, and yet they were discomfited.Miracles were at this time their daily bread; were there nothing else, an army so well victualled astheirs was, so constantly, so plentifully, and all on free cost, would have a might advantage againstany other force. Nay, (3.) They had particular promises made them of victory and success in theirwars against the Canaanites. God had given Abraham all possible assurances that he would put hisseed into possession of that land, Gen. xv. 18; xvii. 8. He had expressly promised them by Mosesthat he would drive out the Canaanites from before them (Exod. xxxiii. 2), and that he would doit by little and little, Exod. xxiii. 30. And, after all this, for them to say, We are not able to go upagainst them, was in effect to say, "God himself is not able to make his words good." It was ineffect to give him the lie, and to tell him he had undertaken more than he could perform. We havea short account of their sin, with which they infected the whole congregation, Ps. cvi. 24. Theydespised the land, they believed not his word. Though, upon search, they had found it as good ashe had said, a land flowing with milk and honey, yet they would not believe it as sure as he hadsaid, but despaired of having it, though eternal truth itself had engaged it to them. And now this isthe representation of the evil spies.II. Caleb encouraged them to go forward, though he was seconded by Joshua only (v. 30):Caleb stilled the people, whom he saw already put into a ferment even before Moses himself, whoseshining face could not daunt them, when they began to grow unruly. Caleb signifies all heart, and906Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)he answered his name, was hearty himself, and would have made the people so if they would havehearkened to him. If Joshua had begun to stem the tide, he would have been suspected of partialityto Moses, whose minister he was; and therefore he prudently left it to Caleb's management at first,who was of the tribe of Judah, the leading tribe, and therefore the fittest to be heard. Caleb had seenand observed the strength of the inhabitants as much as his fellows, and upon the whole matter, 1.He speaks very confidently of success: We are well able to overcome them, as strong as they are.2. He animates the people to go on, and, his lot lying in the van, he speaks as one resolved to leadthem on with bravery: "Let us go up at once, one bold step, one bold stroke more, will do ourbusiness; it is all our own if we have but courage to make it so: Let us go up and possess it." Hedoes not say, "Let us go up and conquer it;" he looks upon that to be as good as done already; but,"Let us go up and possess it; there is nothing to be done but to enter, and take the possession whichGod our great Lord is ready to give us." Note, The righteous are bold as a lion. Difficulties thatlie in the way of salvation dwindle and vanish before a lively active faith in the power and promiseof God. All things are possible, if they be but promised, to him that believes.N U M B E R SCHAP. XIV.This chapter gives us an account of that fatal quarrel between God and Israel upon which, fortheir murmuring and unbelief, he swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. Hereis, I. The mutiny and rebellion of Israel against God, upon the report of the evil spies, ver. 1-4. II.The fruitless endeavour of Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, to still the tumult, ver. 5-10. III.Their utter ruin justly threatened by an offended God, ver. 11, 12. IV. The humble intercession ofMoses for them, ver. 13-19. V. A mitigation of the sentence in answer to the prayer of Moses; theyshall not all be cut off, but the decree goes forth ratified with an oath, published to the people, againand again repeated, that this whole congregation should perish in the wilderness, and none of thementer Canaan but Caleb and Joshua only, ver. 20-35. VI. The present death of the evil spies, ver.36-39. VII. The rebuke given to those who attempted to go forward notwithstanding, ver. 40-45.And this is written for our admonition, that we "fall not after the same example of unbelief."The Murmuring of the Israelites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people weptthat night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and againstAaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died inthe land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And whereforehath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and ourchildren should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? 4 And theysaid one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.907Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Here we see what mischief the evil spies made by their unfair representation. We may supposethat these twelve that were impanelled to enquire concerning Canaan had talked it over amongthemselves before they brought in their report in public; and Caleb and Joshua, it is likely, had donetheir utmost to bring the rest over to be of their mind, and if they would but have agreed that Caleb,according to his pose, should have spoken for them all, as their foreman, all had been well; but theevil spies, it should seem, wilfully designed to raise this mutiny, purely in opposition to Moses andAaron, though they could not propose any advantage to themselves by it, unless they hoped to becaptains and commanders of the retreat into Egypt they were now meditating. But what came ofit? Here in these verses we find those whom they studied to humour put into a vexation, and, beforethe end of the chapter, brought to ruin. Observe,I. How the people fretted themselves: They lifted up their voices and cried (v. 1); giving creditto the report of the spies rather than to the word of God, and imagining their condition desperate,they laid the reins on the neck of their passions, and could keep no manner of temper. Like foolishfroward children, they fall a crying, yet know not what they cry for. It would have been time enoughto cry out when the enemy had beaten up their quarters, and they had seen the sons of Anak at thegate of their camp; but those that cried when nothing hurt them deserved to have something giventhem to cry for. And, as if all had been already gone, they sat down and wept that night. Note,Unbelief, or distrust of God, is a sin that is its own punishment. Those that do not trust God arecontinually vexing themselves. The world's mourners are more than God's, and the sorrow of theworld worketh death.II. How they flew in the face of their governors—murmured against Moses and Aaron, and inthem reproached the Lord, v. 2, 3. The congregation of elders began the discontent (v. 1), but thecontagion soon spread through the whole camp, for the children of Israel murmured. Jealousiesand discontents spread like wildfire among the unthinking multitude, who are easily taught todespise dominions, and to speak evil of dignities. 1. They look back with a causeless discontent.They wish that they had died in Egypt with the first-born that were slain there, or in the wildernesswith those that lately died of the plague for lusting. See the prodigious madness of unbridledpassions, which make men prodigal even of that which nature accounts most dear, life itself. Neverwere so many months spent so pleasantly as these which they had spent since they came out ofEgypt, loaded with honours, compassed with favours, and continually entertained with somethingor other that was surprising; and yet, as if all these things had not made it worth their while to live,they wished they had died in Egypt. And such a light opinion they had of God's tremendousjudgments executed on their neighbours for their sin that they wished they had shared with themin their plagues, rather than run the hazard of making a descent upon Canaan. They wish rather todie criminals under God's justice than live conquerors in his favour. Some read it, O that we haddied in Egypt, or in the wilderness! O that we might die! They wish to die, for fear of dying; andhave not sense enough to reason as the poor lepers, when rather than die upon the spot they venturedinto an enemy's camp, If they kill us, we shall but die, 2 Kings vii. 4. How base were the spirits ofthese degenerate Israelites, who, rather than die (if it come to the worst) like soldiers on the bed ofhonour, with their swords in their hands, desire to die like rotten sheep in the wilderness. 2. Theylook forward with a groundless despair, taking it for granted (v. 3) that if they went on they mustfall by the sword, and pretend to lay the cause of their fear upon the great care they had for theirwives and children, who, they conclude, will be a prey to the Canaanites. And here is a most wickedblasphemous reflection upon God himself, as if he had brought them hither on purpose that they908Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)might fall by the sword, and that their wives and children, those poor innocents, should be a prey.Thus do they, in effect, charge that God who is love itself with the worst of malice, and eternalTruth with the basest hypocrisy, suggesting that all the kind things he had said to them, and donefor them, hitherto, were intended only to decoy them into a snare, and to cover a secret designcarried on all along to ruin them. Daring impudence! But what will not that tongue speak againstheaven that is set on fire of hell? The devil keeps up his interest in the hearts of men by insinuatingto them ill thoughts of God, as if he desired the death of sinners, and delighted in the hardships andsufferings of his own servants, whereas he knows his thoughts to us-ward (whether we know themso or no) to be thoughts of good, and not of evil, Jer. xxix. 11.III. How they came at last to this desperate resolve, that, instead of going forward to Canaan,they would go back again to Egypt. The motion is first made by way of query only (v. 3): Were itnot better for us to return into Egypt? But the ferment being high, and the spirits of the peoplebeing disposed to entertain any thing that was perverse, it soon ripened to a resolution, without adebate (v. 4): Let us make a captain and return to Egypt; and it is lamented long after (Neh. ix. 17)that in their rebellion they appointed a captain to return to their bondage; for they knew Moseswould not be their captain in this retreat. Now, 1. It was the greatest folly in the world to wishthemselves in Egypt, or to think that if they were there it would be better with them than it was. Ifthey durst not go forward to Canaan, yet better be as they were than go back to Egypt. What didthey want? What had they to complain of? They had plenty, and peace, and rest, were under a goodgovernment, had good company, had the tokens of God's presence with them, and enough to makethem easy even in the wilderness, if they had but hearts to be content. But whither were they thuseager to go to better themselves? To Egypt! Had they so soon forgotten the sore bondage they werein there? Would they be again under the tyranny of their taskmasters, and at the drudgery of makingbrick? And, after all the plagues which Egypt had suffered for their sakes, could they expect anybetter treatment there than they had formerly, and not rather much worse? In how little time (nota year and a half) have they forgotten all the sighs of their bondage, and all the songs of theirdeliverance! Like brute-beasts, they mind only what is present, and their memories, with the otherpowers of reason, are sacrificed to their passions. See Ps. cvi. 7. We find it threatened (Deut. xxviii.68), as the completing of their misery, that they should be brought into Egypt again, and yet thisis what they here wish for. Sinners are enemies to themselves; and those that walk not in God'scounsels consult their own mischief and ruin. 2. It was a most senseless ridiculous thing to talk ofreturning thither through the wilderness. Could they expect that God's cloud would lead them orhis manna attend them? And, if they did not, the thousands of Israel must unavoidably be lost andperish in the wilderness. Suppose the difficulties of conquering Canaan were as great as theyimagined, those of returning to Egypt were much greater. In this let us see, (1.) The folly of discontentand impatience under the crosses of our outward condition. We are uneasy at that which is, complainof our place and lot, and we would shift; but is there any place or condition in this world that hasnot something in it to make us uneasy if we are disposed to be so? The way to better our conditionis to get our spirits into a better frame; and instead of asking, "Were it not better to go to Egypt?"ask, "Were it not better to be content, and make the best of that which is?" (2.) The folly of apostasyfrom the ways of God. Heaven is the Canaan set before us, a land flowing with milk and honey;those that bring up ever so ill a report of it cannot but say that it is indeed a good land, only it ishard to get to it. Strict and serious godliness is looked upon as an impracticable thing, and thisdeters many who began well from going on; rather than undergo the imaginary hardships of a909Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)religious life, they run themselves upon the certain fatal consequences of a sinful course; and sothey transcribe the folly of Israel, who, when they were within a step of Canaan, would make acaptain, and return to Egypt.The Expostulation of Joshua and Caleb. (b. c. 1490.)5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of thecongregation of the children of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb theson of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land,which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the Lorddelight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which flowethwith milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the peopleof the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and theLord is with us: fear them not. 10 But all the congregation bade stone them withstones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregationbefore all the children of Israel.The friends of Israel here interpose to save them if possible from ruining themselves, but invain. The physicians of their state would have healed them, but they would not be healed; theirwatchmen gave them warning, but they would not take warning, and so their blood is upon theirown heads.I. The best endeavours were used to still the tumult, and, if now at last they would haveunderstood the things that belonged to their peace, all the following mischief would have beenprevented.1. Moses and Aaron did their part, v. 5. Though it was against them that they murmured (v.2), yet they bravely overlooked the affront and injury done them, and approved themselves faithfulfriends to those who were outrageous enemies to them. The clamour and noise of the people wereso great that Moses and Aaron could not be heard; should they order any of their servants to proclaimsilence, the angry multitude would perhaps be the more clamorous; and therefore, to gain audiencein the sight of all the assembly, they fell on their faces, thus expressing, (1.) Their humble prayersto God to still the noise of this sea, the noise of its waves, even the tumult of the people. (2.) Thegreat trouble and concern of their own spirits. They fell down as men astonished and eventhunder-struck, amazed to see a people throw away their own mercies: to see those so ill-humouredwho were so well taught. And, (3.) Their great earnestness with the people to cease their murmurings;they hoped to work upon them by this humble posture, and to prevail with them not to persist intheir rebellion; Moses and Aaron beseech them, as though by them God himself did beseech them,to be reconciled unto God. What they said to the people Moses relates in the repetition of this story.Deut. i. 29, 30, Be not afraid; the Lord your God shall fight for you. Note, Those that are zealousfriends to precious souls will stoop to any thing for their salvation. Moses and Aaron, notwithstandingthe posts of honour they are in, prostrate themselves to the people to beg of them not to ruinthemselves.2. Caleb and Joshua did their part: they rent their clothes in a holy indignation at the sin of thepeople, and a holy dread of the wrath of God, which they saw ready to break out against them. it910Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)was the greater trouble to these good men because the tumult was occasioned by those spies withwhom they had been joined in commission; and therefore they thought themselves obliged to dowhat they could to still the storm which their fellows had raised. No reasoning could be morepertinent and pathetic than theirs was (v. 7-9), and they spoke as with authority.(1.) They assured them of the goodness of the land they had surveyed, and that it was reallyworth venturing for, and not a land that ate up the inhabitants, as the evil spies had represented it.It is an exceedingly good land (v. 7); it is very, very good, so the word is; so that they had no reasonto despise this pleasant land. Note, If men were but thoroughly convinced of the desirableness ofthe gains of religion, they would not stick at the services of it.(2.) They made nothing of the difficulties that seemed to lie in the way of their gaining thepossession of it: "Fear not the people of the land, v. 9. Whatever formidable ideas have been givenyou of them, the lion is not so fierce as he is painted. They are bread for us," that is, "they are setbefore us rather to be fed upon than to be fought with, so easily, so pleasantly, and with so muchadvantage to ourselves shall we master them." Pharaoh is said to have been given them for meat(Ps. lxxiv. 14), and the Canaanites will be so too. They show that, whatever was suggested to thecontrary, the advantage was clear on Israel's side. For, [1.] Though the Canaanites dwell in walledcities, they are naked: Their defence has departed from them; that common providence whichpreserves the rights of nations has abandoned them, and will be no shelter nor protection to them.The other spies took notice of their strength, but these of their wickedness, and thence inferred thatGod had forsaken them, and therefore their defence had departed. No people can be safe whenthey have provoked God to leave them. [2.] Though Israel dwell in tents they are fortified: TheLord is with us, and his name is a strong tower; fear them not. Note, While we have the presenceof God with us, we need not fear the most powerful force against us.(3.) They showed them plainly that all the danger they were in was from their own discontents,and that they would succeed against all their enemies if they did not make God their enemy. Onthis point alone the cause would turn (v. 8): "If the Lord delight in us, as certainly he does, and willif we do not provoke him, he will bring us into this good land; we shall without fail get it inpossession by his favour, and the light of his countenance (Ps. xliv. 3), if we do not forfeit his favourand by our own follies turn away our own mercies." It has come to this issue (v. 9): Only rebel notyou against the Lord. Note, Nothing can ruin sinners but their own rebellion. If God leave them,it is because they drive him from them; and they die because they will die. None are excluded theheavenly Canaan but those that exclude themselves. And, now, could the case have been mademore plain? could it have been urged more closely? But what was the effect?II. It was all to no purpose; they were deaf to this fair reasoning; nay, they were exasperatedby it, and grew more outrageous: All the congregation bade stone them with stones, v. 10. Therulers of the congregation, and the great men (so bishop Patrick), ordered the common people tofall upon them, and knock their brains out. Their case was sad indeed when their leaders thus causedthem to err. Note, It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil to rage atthose who give them good counsel. Those who hate to be reformed hate those that would reformthem, and count them their enemies because they tell them the truth. Thus early did Israel begin tomisuse the prophets, and stone those that were sent to them, and it was this that filled the measureof their sin, Matt. xxiii. 37. Stone them with stones! Why, what evil have they done? No crime canbe laid to their charge; but the truth is these two witnesses tormented those that were obstinate intheir infidelity, Rev. xi. 10. Caleb and Joshua had but just said, The Lord is with us; fear them not911Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)(v. 9): and, if Israel will not apply those encouraging words to their own fears, those that utteredthem know how to encourage themselves with them against this enraged multitude that spoke ofstoning them, as David in a like cause, 1 Sam. xxx. 6. Those that cannot prevail to edify others withtheir counsels and comforts should endeavour at least to edify themselves. Caleb and Joshua knewthey appeared for God and his glory, and therefore doubted not but God would appear for themand their safety. And they were not disappointed, for immediately the glory of the Lord appeared,to the terror and confusion of those that were for stoning the servants of God. When they reflectedupon God (v. 3), his glory appeared not to silence their blasphemies; but, when they threatenedCaleb and Joshua, they touched the apple of his eye, and his glory appeared immediately. Note,Those who faithfully expose themselves for God are sure to be taken under his special protection,and shall be hidden from the rage of men, either under heaven or in heaven.The Intercession of Moses. (b. c. 1490.)11 And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? andhow long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed amongthem? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will makeof thee a greater nation and mightier than they. 13 And Moses said unto the Lord,Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy mightfrom among them;) 14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for theyhave heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face,and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day timein a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if thou shalt kill allthis people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee willspeak, saying, 16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the landwhich he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. 17 Andnow, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hastspoken, saying, 18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquityand transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of thefathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseechthee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and asthou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.Here is, I. The righteous sentence which God gave against Israel for their murmuring andunbelief, which, though afterwards mitigated, showed what was the desert of their sin and thedemand of injured justice, and what would have been done if Moses had not interposed. When theglory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle we may suppose that Moses took it for a call to himimmediately to come and attend there, as before the tabernacle was erected he went up to the mountin a similar case, Exod. xxxii. 30. Thus, while the people were studying to disgrace him, Godpublicly put honour upon him, as the man of his counsel. Now here we are told what God said tohim there.1. He showed him the great evil of the people's sin, v. 11. What passed between God and Israelwent through the hands of Moses: when they were displeased with God they told Moses of it (v.912Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)2); when God was displeased with them he told Moses too, revealing his secret to his servant theprophet, Amos iii. 7. Two things God justly complains of to Moses:—(1.) Their sin. They provokeme, or (as the word signifies) they reject, reproach, despise me, for they will not believe me. Thiswas the bitter root which bore the gall and wormwood. It was their unbelief that made this a dayof provocation in the wilderness, Heb. iii. 8. Note, Distrust of God, of his power and promise, isitself a very great provocation, and at the bottom of many other provocations. Unbelief is a greatsin (1 John v. 10), and a root sin, Heb. iii. 12. (2.) Their continuance in it: How long will they doso? Note, The God of heaven keeps an account how long sinners persist in their provocations; andthe longer they persist the more he is displeased. The aggravations of their sin were, [1.] Theirrelation to God: This people, a peculiar people, a professing people. The nearer any are to God inname and profession, the more he is provoked by their sins, especially their unbelief. [2.] Theexperience they had had of God's power and goodness, in all the signs which he had shown amongthem, by which, one would think, he had effectually obliged them to trust him and follow him. Themore God has done for us the greater is the provocation if we distrust him.2. He showed him the sentence which justice passed upon them for it, v. 12. "What remainsnow but that I should make a full end of them? It will soon be done. I will smite them with thepestilence, not leave a man of them alive, but wholly blot out their name and race, and so disinheritthem, and be no more troubled with them. Ah, I will ease me of my adversaries. They wish to die;and let them die, and neither root nor branch be left of them. Such rebellious children deserve tobe disinherited." And if it be asked, "What will become of God's covenant with Abraham then?"here is an answer, "I shall be preserved in the family of Moses: I will make of thee a greater nation."Thus, (1.) God would try Moses, whether he still continued that affection for Israel which heformerly expressed upon a like occasion, in preferring their interests before the advancement ofhis own family; and it is proved that Moses was still of the same public spirit, and could not bearthe thought of raising his own name upon the ruin of the name of Israel. (2.) God would teach usthat he will not be a loser by the ruin of sinners. If Adam and Eve had been cut off and disinherited,he could have made another Adam and another Eve, and have glorified his mercy in them, as herehe could have glorified his mercy in Moses, though Israel had been ruined.II. The humble intercession Moses made for them. Their sin had made a fatal breach in thewall of their defence, at which destruction would certainly have entered if Moses had not seasonablystepped in and made it good. Here he was a type of Christ, who interceded for his persecutors, andprayed for those that despitefully used him, leaving us an example to his own rule, Matt. v. 44.1. The prayer of his petition is, in one word, Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people(v. 19), that is, "Do not bring upon them the ruin they deserve." This was Christ's prayer for thosethat crucified him, Father forgive them. The pardon of a national sin, as such, consists in the turningaway of the national punishment; and that is it for which Moses is here so earnest.2. The pleas are many, and strongly urged.(1.) He insists most upon the plea that is taken from the glory of God, v. 13-16. With this hebegins, and somewhat abruptly, taking occasion from that dreadful word, I will disinherit them.Lord (says he), then the Egyptians shall hear it. God's honour lay nearer to his heart than anyinterests of his own. Observe how he orders this cause before God. He pleads, [1.] That the eyesboth of Egypt and Canaan were upon them, and great expectations were raised concerning them.They could not but have heard that thou, Lord, art among this people, v. 14. The neighbouringcountries rang of it, how much this people were the particular care of heaven, so as never any people913Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)under the sun were. [2.] That if they should be cut off great notice would be taken of it. "TheEgyptians will hear it (v. 13), for they have their spies among us, and they will tell it to theinhabitants of the land" (v. 14); for there was great correspondence between Egypt and Canaan,although not by the way of this wilderness. "If this people that have made so great a noise be allconsumed, if their mighty pretensions come to nothing, and their light go out in a snuff, it will betold with pleasure in Gath, and published in the streets of Askelon; and what construction will theheathen put upon it? It will be impossible to make them understand it as an act of God's justice,and as such redounding to God's honour; brutish men know not this (Ps. xcii. 6): but they willimpute it to the failing of God's power, and so turn it to his reproach, v. 16. They will say, He slewthem in the wilderness because he was not able to bring them to Canaan, his arm being shortened,and his stock of miracles being spent. Now, Lord, let not one attribute be glorified at the expenseof another; rather let mercy rejoice against judgment than that almighty power should be impeached."Note, The best pleas in prayer are those that are taken from God's honour; for they agree with thefirst petition of the Lord's Prayer, Hallowed be thy name. Do not disgrace the throne of thy glory.God pleads it with himself (Deut. xxxii. 27), I feareth the wrath of the enemy; and we should useit as an argument with ourselves to walk so in every thing as to give no occasion to the enemies ofthe Lord to blaspheme, 1 Tim. vi. 1.(2.) He pleads God's proclamation of his name at Horeb (v. 17, 18): Let the power of the Lordbe great. Power is here put for pardoning mercy; it is his power over his own anger. If he shoulddestroy them, God's power would be questioned; if he should continue and complete their salvation,notwithstanding the difficulties that arose, not only from the strength of their enemies, but fromtheir own provocations, this would greatly magnify the divine power: what cannot he do who couldmake so weak a people conquerors and such an unworthy people favourites? The more danger thereis of others reproaching God's power the more desirous we should be to see it glorified. To enforcethis petition, he refers to the word which God had spoken: The Lord is long-suffering and of greatmercy. God's goodness had there been spoken of as his glory; God gloried in it, Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7.Now here he prays that upon this occasion he would glorify it. Note, We must take ourencouragement in prayer from the word of God, upon which he has caused us to hope, Ps. cxix.49. "Lord, be and do according as thou hast spoken; for hast thou spoken, and wilt thou not makeit good?" Three things God had solemnly made a declaration of, which Moses here fastens upon,and improves for the enforcing of his petition:—[1.] The goodness of God's nature in general, thathe is long-suffering, or slow to anger, and of great mercy; not soon provoked, but tender andcompassionate towards offenders. [2.] His readiness in particular to pardon sin: Forgiving iniquityand transgression, sins of all sorts. [3.] His unwillingness to proceed to extremity, even when hedoes punish. For in this sense the following words may be read: That will by no means make quitedesolate, in visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. God had indeed said in the secondcommandment that he would thus visit, but here he promises not to make a full end of families,churches, and nations, at once; and so it is very applicable to this occasion, for Moses cannot begthat God would not at all punish this sin (it would be too great an encouragement to rebellion if heshould set no mark of his displeasure upon it), but that he would not kill all this people as one man,v. 15. He does not ask that they may not be corrected, but that they may not be disinherited. Andthis proclamation of God's name was the more apposite to his purpose because it was made uponoccasion of the pardoning of their sin in making the golden calf. This sin which they had now falleninto was bad enough, but it was not idolatry.914Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)(3.) He pleads past experience: As thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt, v. 19. This seemedto make against him. Why should those be forgiven any more who, after they had been so oftenforgiven, revolted yet more and more, and seemed hardened and encouraged in their rebellion bythe lenity and patience of their God, and the frequent pardons they had obtained? Among men itwould have been thought impolitic to take notice of such a circumstance in a request of this nature,as it might operate to the prejudice of the petitioner: but, as in other things so in pardoning sin,God's thoughts and ways are infinitely above ours, Isa. lv. 9. Moses looks upon it as a good plea,Lord, forgive, as thou hast forgiven. It will be no more a reproach to thy justice, nor any less thepraise of thy mercy, to forgive now, than it has been formerly. Therefore the sons of Jacob are notconsumed, because they have to do with a God that changes not, Mal. iii. 6.God's Answer to Moses; The Israelites Threatened. (b. c. 1490.)20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: 21 But as trulyas I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22 Because all thosemen which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in thewilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened tomy voice; 23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers,neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24 But my servant Caleb, becausehe had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into theland whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. 25 (Now the Amalekites andthe Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into thewilderness by the way of the Red sea. 26 And the Lord spake unto Moses and untoAaron, saying, 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmuragainst me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmuragainst me. 28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spokenin mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; andall that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty yearsold and upward, which have murmured against me, 30 Doubtless ye shall not comeinto the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb theson of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which yesaid should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which yehave despised. 32 But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.33 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear yourwhoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. 34 After the numberof the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shallye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.35 I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that aregathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and therethey shall die.915Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)We have here God's answer to the prayer of Moses, which sings both of mercy and judgment.It is given privately to Moses (v. 20-25), and then directed to be made public to the people, v. 26-35.The frequent repetitions of the same things in it speak these resolves to be unalterable. Let us seethe particulars.I. The extremity of the sentence is receded from (v. 20): "I have pardoned, so as not to cutthem all off at once, and disinherit them." See the power of prayer, and the delight God takes inputting an honour upon it. He designed a pardon, but Moses shall have the praise of obtaining itby prayer: it shall be done according to thy word; thus, as a prince, he has power with God, andprevails. See what countenance and encouragement God gives to our intercessions for others, thatwe may be public-spirited in prayer. Here is a whole nation rescued from ruin by the effectualfervent prayer of one righteous man. See how ready God is to forgive sin, and how easy to beentreated: Pardon, says Moses (v. 19); I have pardoned, says God, v. 20. David found him thusswift to show mercy, Ps. xxxii. 5. He deals not with us after our sins, Ps. ciii. 10.II. The glorifying of God's name is, in the general, resolved upon, v. 21. It is said, it is sworn,All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Moses in his prayer had shown a great concernfor the glory of God. "Let me alone," says God, "to secure that effectually, and to advance it, bythis dispensation." All the world shall see how God hates sin even in his own people, and willreckon for it, and yet how gracious and merciful he is, and how slow to anger. Thus when ourSaviour prayed, Father, glorify thy name, he was immediately answered, I have glorified it, andwill glorify it yet again, John xii. 28. Note, Those that sincerely seek God's glory may be sure ofwhat they seek. God having turned this prayer for the glorifying of himself into a promise, we mayturn it into praise, in concert with the angels, Isa. vi. 3, The earth is full of his glory.III. The sin of this people which provoked God to proceed against them is here aggravated, v.22, 27. It is not made worse than really it was, but is shown to be exceedingly sinful. It was an evilcongregation, each bad, but altogether in congregation, very bad. 1. They tempted God—temptedhis power, whether he could help them in their straits—his goodness, whether he would—and hisfaithfulness, whether his promise would be performed. They tempted his justice, whether he wouldresent their provocations and punish them or no. They dared him, and in effect challenged him, asGod does the idols (Isa. xli. 23), to do good, or do evil. 2. They murmured against him. This ismuch insisted on, v. 27. As they questioned what he would do, so they quarrelled with him forevery thing he did or had done, continually fretting and finding fault. It does not appear that theymurmured at any of the laws or ordinances that God gave them (though they proved a heavy yoke),but they murmured at the conduct they were under, and the provision made for them. Note, It ismuch easier to bring ourselves to the external services of religion, and observe all the formalitiesof devotion, than to live a life of dependence upon, and submission to, the divine Providence in thecourse of our conversation. 3. They did this after they had seen God's miracles in Egypt and in thewilderness, v. 2. They would not believe their own eyes, which were witnesses for God that he wasin the midst of them of a truth. 4. They had repeated the provocations ten times, that is, very often:the Jewish writers reckon this exactly the tenth time that the body of the congregation had provokedGod. First, at the Red Sea, Exod. xiv. 11. In Marah, Exod. xv. 23, 24. In the wilderness of Sin,Exod. xvi. 2. At Rephidim, Exod. xvii. 1, 2. The golden calf, Exod. xxxii. Then at Taberah. Thenat Kibroth-Hattaavah, ch. xi. And so this was the tenth. Note, God keeps an account how often werepeat our provocations, and will sooner or later set them in order before us. 5. They had nothearkened to his voice, though he had again and again admonished them of their sin.916Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)IV. The sentence passed upon them for this sin. 1. That they should not see the promised land(v. 23), nor come into it, v. 30. He swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest, Ps.xcv. 11. Note, Disbelief of the promise is a forfeiture of the benefit of it. Those that despise thepleasant land shall be shut out of it. The promise of God should be fulfilled to their posterity, butnot to them. 2. That they should immediately turn back into the wilderness, v. 25. Their next removeshould be a retreat. They must face about, and instead of going forward to Canaan, on the veryborders of which they now were, they must withdraw towards the Red Sea again. To-morrow turnyou; that is, "Very shortly you shall be brought back to that vast howling wilderness which you areso weary of. And it is time to shift for your own safety, for the Amalekites lie in wait in the valley,ready to attack you if you march forward." Of them they had been distrustfully afraid (ch. xiii. 29),and now with them God justly frightened them. The fear of the wicked shall come upon him. 3.That all those who had now grown up to men's estate should die in the wilderness, not all at once,but by degrees. They wished that they might die in the wilderness, and God said Amen to theirpassionate wish, and made their sin their ruin, snared them in the words of their mouth, and causedtheir own tongue to fall upon them, took them at their word, and determined that their carcasesshould fall in the wilderness, v. 28, 29, and again, v. 32, 35. See with what contempt they are spokenof, now that they had by their sin made themselves vile; the mighty men of valour were but carcases,when the Spirit of the Lord had departed from them. They were all as dead men. Their fathers hadsuch a value for Canaan that they desired to have their dead bodies carried thither to be buried, intoken of their dependence upon God's promise that they should have that land for a possession: butthese, having despised that good land and disbelieved the promise of it, shall not have the honourto be buried in it, but shall have their graves in the wilderness. 4. That in pursuance of this sentencethey should wander to and fro in the wilderness, like travellers that have lost themselves, for fortyyears; that is, so long as to make it full forty years from their coming out of Egypt to their entranceinto Canaan, v. 33, 34. Thus long they were kept wandering, (1.) To answer the number of the daysin which the spies were searching the land. They were content to wait forty days for the testimonyof men, because they could not take God's word; and therefore justly are they kept forty yearswaiting for the performance of God's promise. (2.) That hereby they might be brought to repentance,and find mercy with God in the other world, whatever became of them in this. Now they had timeto bethink themselves, and to consider their ways; and the inconveniences of the wilderness wouldhelp to humble them and prove them, and show them what was in their heart, Deut. viii. 2. Thuslong they bore their iniquities, feeling the weight of God's wrath in the punishment. They weremade to groan under the burden of their own sin that brought it upon them, which was too heavyfor them to bear. (3.) That they might sensibly feel what a dangerous thing it is for God'scovenant-people to break with him: "You shall know my breach of promise, both the causes of it,that it is procured by your sin" (for God never leaves any till they first leave him), "and theconsequences of it, that it will produce your ruin; you are quite undone when you are thrown outof covenant." (4.) That a new generation might in this time be raised up, which could not be doneall of a sudden. And the children, being brought up under the tokens of God's displeasure againsttheir fathers, and so bearing their whoredoms (that is, the punishment of their sins, especially theiridolatry about the golden calf, which God now remembered against them), might take warning notto tread in the steps of their fathers' disobedience. And their wandering so long in the wildernesswould make Canaan at last the more welcome to them. It should seem that upon occasion of thissentence Moses penned the ninetieth Psalm, which is very apposite to the present state of Israel,917Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)and wherein they are taught to pray that since this sentence could not be reversed it might besanctified, and they might learn to apply their hearts unto wisdom.V. The mercy that was mixed with this severe sentence.1. Mercy to Caleb and Joshua, that though they should wander with the rest in the wilderness,yet they, and only they of all that were now above twenty years old, should survive the years ofbanishment, and live to enter Canaan. Caleb only is spoken of (v. 24), and a particular mark ofhonour put upon him, both, (1.) In the character given of him: he had another spirit, different fromthe rest of the spies, an after-spirit, which furnished him with second thoughts, and he followed theLord fully, kept close to his duty, and went through with it, though deserted and threatened; and,(2.) In the recompence promised to him: Him will I bring in due time into the land whereinto hewent. Note, [1.] It ought to be the great care and endeavour of every one of us to follow the Lordfully. We must, in a course of obedience to God's will and of service to his honour, follow himuniversally, without dividing,—uprightly, without dissembling,—cheerfully, without disputing,—andconstantly, without declining; and this is following him fully. [2.] Those that would follow Godfully must have another spirit, another from the spirit of the world, and another from what theirown spirit has been. They must have the spirit of Caleb. [3.] Those that follow God fully in timesof general apostasy God will own and honour by singular preservations in times of general calamity.The heavenly Canaan shall be the everlasting inheritance of those that follow the Lord fully. WhenCaleb is again mentioned (v. 30) Joshua stands with him, compassed with the same favours andcrowned with the same honours, having stood with him in the same services.2. Mercy to the children even of these rebels. They should have a seed preserved, and Canaansecured to that seed: Your little ones, now under twenty years old, which you, in your unbelief, saidshould be a prey, them will I bring in, v. 31. They had invidiously charged God with a design toruin their children, v. 3. But God will let them know that he can put a difference between the guiltyand the innocent, and cut them off without touching their children. Thus the promise made toAbraham, though it seemed to fail for a time, was kept from failing for evermore; and, though Godchastened their transgressions with a rod, yet his loving kindness he would not utterly take away.Death of the Evil Spies. (b. c. 1490.)36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and madeall the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by theplague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son ofJephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. 39 AndMoses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mournedgreatly. 40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top ofthe mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lordhath promised: for we have sinned. 41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do yetransgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. 42 Go not up,for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. 43 Forthe Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by thesword: because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be918Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)with you. 44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark ofthe covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. 45 Then theAmalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them,and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.Here is, I. The sudden death of the ten evil spies. While the sentence was passing upon thepeople, before it was published, they died of the plague before the Lord, v. 36, 37. Now,1. God hereby showed his particular displeasure against those who sinned and made Israel tosin. (1.) They sinned themselves, in bringing up a slander upon the land of promise. Note, Thosegreatly provoke God who misrepresent religion, cast reproach upon it, and raise prejudices in men'sminds against it, or give occasion to those to do so who seek occasion. Those that represent theservice of God as mean and despicable, melancholy and uncomfortable, hard and impracticable,needless and unprofitable, bring up an evil report upon the good land, pervert the right ways of theLord, and in effect give him the lie. (2.) They made Israel to sin. They designedly made all thecongregation murmur against God. Note, Ring-leaders in sin may expect to fall under particularmarks of the wrath of God, who will severely reckon for the blood of souls, which is thus spilt.2. God hereby showed what he could have done with the whole congregation, and gave anearnest of the execution of the sentence now passed upon them. He that thus cut off one of a tribecould have cut off their whole tribes suddenly, and would do it gradually. Note, The remarkabledeaths of notorious sinners are earnests of the final perdition of ungodly men, 2 Pet. ii. 5, 6. Thusthe wrath of God is revealed, that sinners may hear and fear.II. The special preservation of Caleb and Joshua: They lived still, v. 38. It is probable that allthe twelve spies stood together, for the eyes of all Israel were now upon them; and therefore it istaken notice of as very remarkable, and which could not but be affecting to the whole congregation,that when the ten evil spies fell down dead of the plague, a malignant infectious distemper, yetthese two that stood among them lived, and were well. God hereby confirmed their testimony, andput those to confusion that spoke of stoning them. He likewise gave them an assurance of theircontinued preservation in the wilderness, when thousands should fall on their right hand and ontheir left, Ps. xci. 7. Death never misses his mark, nor takes any by oversight that were designedfor life, though in the midst of those that were to die.III. The publication of the sentence to all the people, v. 36. He told them all what the decreewas which had gone forth concerning them, and which could not be reversed, that they must alldie in the wilderness, and Canaan must be reserved for the next generation. It was a very greatdisappointment, we may well think, to Moses himself, who longed to be in Canaan, as well as toall the people; yet he acquiesced, but they wept and mourned greatly. The assurance which Moseshad of God's being glorified by this sentence gave him satisfaction, while the consciousness of theirown guilt, and their having procured it to themselves, gave them the greatest vexation. They weptfor nothing (v. 1), and now they have cause given them to weep; so justly are murmurers mademourners. If they had mourned for the sin when they were faithfully reproved for it (v. 9), thesentence would have been prevented; but now that they mourned for the judgment only their griefcame too late, and did them no service; they found no place for repentance, though they sought itcarefully with tears, Heb. xii. 17. Such mourning as this there is in hell, but the tears will not quenchthe flames, no, nor cool the tongue.919Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)IV. The foolish fruitless attempts of some of the Israelites to enter Canaan, notwithstandingthe sentence.1. They were now eager to go forward towards Canaan, v. 40. They were up early, musteredall their force, got together in a body, and begged of Moses to lead them on against the enemy, andnow there is no more talk among them of making a captain to return into Egypt. They confess theirfault: We have sinned; they profess reformation: Lo, we be here, and will go up. They now desirethe land which they had despised, and put a confidence in the promise which they had distrusted.Thus when God judges he will overcome, and, first or last, will convince sinners of the evil of alltheir ungodly deeds, and hard speeches, and force them to recall their own words. But, though Godwas glorified by this recantation of theirs, they were not benefited by it, because it came too late.The decree had gone forth, the consumption was determined; they did not seek the Lord while hemight be found, and now he would not be found. O, if men would but be as earnest for heavenwhile their day of grace lasts as they will be when it is over, would be as solicitous to providethemselves with oil while the bridegroom tarries as they will be when the bridegroom comes, howwell were it for them!2. Moses utterly disallows their motion, and forbids the expedition they were meditating: Gonot up, v. 41-43. (1.) He gives them warning of the sin; it is transgressing the commandment of theLord, who had expressly ordered them, when they did move, to move back towards the Red Sea.Note, That which has been duty, in its season, when it comes to be mistimed may be turned intosin. It is true the command he refers to was in the nature of a punishment, but he that has not obeyedthe law is obliged to submit to the penalty, for the Lord is our Judge as well as Lawgiver. (2.) Hegives them this warning of the danger: "It shall not prosper, never expect it." Note, It is folly topromise ourselves success in that which we undertake contrary to the mind of God. "The Canaanitesare before you to attack you, and the Lord is not among you to protect you and fight for you, andtherefore look to yourselves that you be not smitten before your enemies." Those that are out of theway of their duty are from under God's protection, and go at their peril. It is dangerous going wherewe cannot expect God should go along with us. Nay, he plainly foresees and foretels their defeat:You shall fall by the sword of the Amalekites and Canaanites (who were to have fallen by theirsword); Because you are turned away from the Lord, from following the guidance of his preceptand promise, therefore the Lord will not be with you. Note, God will certainly leave those that leavehim; and those that are left of him lie exposed to all misery.3. They venture notwithstanding. Never was people so perverse and so desperately resolvedin every thing to walk contrary to God. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them,and they would. Thus is the carnal mind enmity to God: They presumed to go up unto the hill-top,v. 44. Here, (1.) They struggled against the sentence of divine justice, and would press on in defianceof it. (2.) They slighted the tokens of God's presence, for they would go though they left Mosesand the ark of the covenant behind them. They had distrusted God's strength, and now they presumeupon their own without his.4. The expedition speeds accordingly, v. 45. The enemy had posted themselves upon the topof the hill, to make good that pass against the invaders, and, being informed by their scouts of theirapproach, sallied out upon them, and defeated them, and it is probable that many of the Israeliteswere killed. Now the sentence began to be executed that their carcases should fall in the wilderness.Note, That affair can never end well that begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends,and success against our enemies, is to make God our friend, and keep ourselves in his love. The920Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Jews, like these their ancestors, when they had rejected Christ's righteousness, attempted to establishtheir own, and it sped as this.N U M B E R SCHAP. XV.This chapter, which is mostly concerning sacrifice and offering, comes in between the storyof two rebellions (one ch. xiv. the other ch. xvi.), to signify that these legal institutions were typicalof the gifts which Christ was to receive even for the rebellious, Ps. lxviii. 18. In the foregoingchapter, upon Israel's provocation, God had determined to destroy them, and in token of his wrathhad sentenced them to perish in the wilderness. But, upon Moses' intercession, he said, "I havepardoned;" and, in token of that mercy, in this chapter he repeats and explains some of the lawsconcerning offerings, to show that he was reconciled to them, notwithstanding the severe dispensationthey wee under, and would not unchurch them. Here is, I. The law concerning the meat-offeringsand drink-offerings (ver. 1-12) both for Israelites and for strangers (ver. 13-16), and a law concerningthe heave-offerings of the first of their dough, ver. 17-21. II. The law concerning sacrifices for sinsof ignorance, ver. 22-29. III. The punishment of presumptuous sins (ver. 30, 31), and an instancegiven in the sabbath-breaker, ver. 32-36. IV. A law concerning fringes, for memorandums, uponthe borders of their garments, ver. 37, &c.Laws Concerning Sacrifices. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel,and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I giveunto you, 3 And will make an offering by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, or asacrifice in performing a vow, or in a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, tomake a sweet savour unto the Lord, of the herd, or of the flock: 4 Then shall hethat offereth his offering unto the Lord bring a meat offering of a tenth deal of flourmingled with the fourth part of an hin of oil. 5 And the fourth part of an hin ofwine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, forone lamb. 6 Or for a ram, thou shalt prepare for a meat offering two tenth deals offlour mingled with the third part of an hin of oil. 7 And for a drink offering thoushalt offer the third part of an hin of wine, for a sweet savour unto the Lord. 8 Andwhen thou preparest a bullock for a burnt offering, or for a sacrifice in performinga vow, or peace offerings unto the Lord: 9 Then shall he bring with a bullock ameat offering of three tenth deals of flour mingled with half an hin of oil. 10 Andthou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made byfire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. 11 Thus shall it be done for one bullock, or921Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)for one ram, or for a lamb, or a kid. 12 According to the number that ye shallprepare, so shall ye do to every one according to their number. 13 All that are bornof the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering madeby fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. 14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, orwhosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made byfire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord; as ye do, so he shall do. 15 One ordinanceshall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojournethwith you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the strangerbe before the Lord. 16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the strangerthat sojourneth with you. 17 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 18 Speakunto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land whitherI bring you, 19 Then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shalloffer up an heave offering unto the Lord. 20 Ye shall offer up a cake of the first ofyour dough for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor,so shall ye heave it. 21 Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the Lord anheave offering in your generations.Here we have,I. Full instructions given concerning the meat-offerings and drink-offerings, which wereappendages to all the sacrifices of animals. The beginning of this law is very encouraging: Whenyou come into the land of your habitation which I give unto you, they you shall do so and so, v. 2.This was a plain intimation, not only that God was reconciled to them notwithstanding the sentencehe had passed upon them, but that he would secure the promised land to their seed notwithstandingtheir proneness to rebel against him. They might think some time or other they should be guilty ofa misdemeanour that would be fatal to them, and would exclude them for ever, as the last had donefor one generation; but this intimates an assurance that they should be kept from provoking Godto such a degree as would amount to a forfeiture; for this statute takes it for granted that there weresome of them that should in due time come into Canaan. The meat-offerings were of two sorts;some were offered alone, and we have the law concerning those, Lev. ii. 1, &c. Others were addedto the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and constantly attended them, and about these directionis here given. It was requisite, since the sacrifices of acknowledgment (specified in v. 3) wereintended as the food of God's table, that there should be a constant provision of bread, oil, and wine,whatever the flesh-meat was. The caterers or purveyors for Solomon's temple provided fine flour,1 Kings iv. 22. And it was fit that God should keep a good house, that his table should be furnishedwith bread as well as flesh, and that his cup should run over. In my Father's house there is breadenough. Now the intent of this law is to direct what proportion the meat-offering and drink-offeringshould bear to several sacrifices to which they were annexed. If the sacrifice was a lamb or a kid,then the meat-offering must be a tenth-deal of flour, that is, an omer, which contained about fivepints; this must be mingled with oil, the fourth part of a hin (a hin contained about five quarts), andthe drink-offering must be the same quantity of wine, about a quart and half a pint, v. 3-5. If it wasa ram, the meat-offering was doubled, two tenth-deals of flour, about five quarts, and a third partof a hin of oil (which was to them as butter is to us) mingled with it; and the same quantity of wine922Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)for a drink-offering, v. 6, 7. If the sacrifice was a bullock, the meat-offering was to be trebled, threeomers, with five pints of oil, and the same quantity of wine for a drink-offering, v. 8-10. And thusfor each sacrifice, whether offered by a particular person or at the common charge. Note, Ourreligious services should be governed, as by other rules, so by the rule of proportion.II. Natives and strangers are here set upon a level, in this as in other matters (v. 13-16): "Onelaw shall be for you and for the stranger that is proselyted to the Jewish religion." Now, 1. Thiswas an invitation to the Gentiles to become proselytes, and to embrace the faith and worship of thetrue God. In civil things there was a difference between strangers and true-born Israelites, but notin the things of God; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord, for with him there is norespect of persons. See Isa. lvi. 3. 2. This was an obligation upon the Jews to be kind to strangers,and not to oppress them, because they saw them owned and accepted of God. Communion in religionis a great engagement to mutual affection, and should slay all enmities. 3. It was a mortification tothe pride of the Jews, who are apt to be puffed up with their birthright privileges. "We are Abraham'sseed." God let them know that the sons of the stranger were as welcome to him as the sons of Jacob;no man's birth or parentage shall turn either to his advantage or his prejudice in his acceptance withGod. This likewise intimated that, as believing strangers should be accounted Israelites, sounbelieving Israelites should be accounted strangers. 4. It was a happy presage of the calling of theGentiles, and of their admission into the church. If the law made so little difference between Jewand Gentile, much less would the gospel make, which broke down the partition-wall, and reconciledboth to God in one sacrifice, without the observance of the legal ceremonies.III. A law for the offering of the first of their dough unto the Lord. This, as the former, goesupon the comfortable supposition of their having come into the promised land, v. 18. Now that theylived upon manna they needed not such an express acknowledgment of God's title to their dailybread, and their dependence upon him for it, the thing spoke for itself; but in Canaan, where theyshould eat the fruit of their own industry, God required that he should be owned as their landlordand their great benefactor. They must not only offer him the first-fruits and tenths of the corn intheir fields (these had already been reserved); but when they had it in their houses, in their kneadingtrough, when it was almost ready to be set upon their tables, God must have a further tribute ofacknowledgment, part of their dough (the Jews say a fortieth part, at least, of the whole lump) mustbe heaved or offered up to God (v. 20, 21), and the priest must have it for the use of his family.Thus they must own their dependence upon God for their daily bread, even when they had it in thehouse with them; they must then wait on God for the comfortable use of it; for we read of thatwhich was brought home, and yet God did blow upon it, and it came to little, Hag. i. 9. Christ hastaught us to pray not, Give us this year our yearly harvest, but Give us this day our daily bread.God by this law said to the people, as the prophet long afterwards said to the widow of Sarepta (1Kings xvii. 13), Only make me thereof a little cake first. This offering was expressly kept up bythe laws of Ezekiel's visionary temple, and it is a commandment with promise of family-mercies(Ezek. xliv. 30): You shall give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessingto rest in thy house; for, when God has had his dues out of our estates, we may expect the comfortof what falls to our share.Sacrifices for Sins of Ignorance. (b. c. 1490.)22 And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which theLord hath spoken unto Moses, 23 Even all that the Lord hath commanded you by923Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the hand of Moses, from the day that the Lord commanded Moses, and henceforwardamong your generations; 24 Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorancewithout the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer oneyoung bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the Lord, with his meatoffering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goatsfor a sin offering. 25 And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregationof the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and theyshall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and their sin offeringbefore the Lord, for their ignorance: 26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregationof the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all thepeople were in ignorance. 27 And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shallbring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering. 28 And the priest shall make anatonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance beforethe Lord, to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. 29 Ye shallhave one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born amongthe children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.We have here the laws concerning sacrifices for sins of ignorance; the Jews understand it ofidolatry, or false worship, through the error of their teachers. The case here supposed is that theyhad not observed all these commandments, v. 22, 23. If they had failed in the offerings of theiracknowledgment, and had not brought them according to the law, then they must bring an offeringof atonement, yea, though the omission had been through forgetfulness or mistake. If they failedin one part of the ceremony, they must make it up by the observance of another part, which was inthe nature of a remedial law. 1. The case is put of a national sin, committed through ignorance, andbecome customary through a vulgar error (v. 24)—the congregation, that is, the body of the people,for so it is explained (v. 25): All the congregation of the children of Israel. The ceremonialobservances were so numerous, and so various, that, it might easily be supposed, some of them bydegrees would be forgotten and disused, as particularly that immediately before concerning theheave-offering of their dough: now if, in process of time, upon consulting the law, there shouldappear to have been a general neglect of that or any other appointment, then a sacrifice must beoffered for the whole congregation, and the oversight shall be forgiven (v. 25, 26) and not punished,as it deserved, with some national judgment. The offering of the sacrifice according to the manner,or ordinance, plainly refers to a former statute, of which this is the repetition; and the same bullockwhich is there called a sin-offering (Lev. iv. 13, 21) is here called a burnt-offering (v. 24), becauseit was wholly burnt, though not upon the altar, yet without the camp. And here is the addition of akid of the goats for a sin-offering. According to this law, we find that Hezekiah made atonementfor the errors of his father's reign, by seven bullocks, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats,which he offered as a sin-offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah (2 Chron.xxix. 21), and for all Israel, v. 24. And we find the like done after the return out of captivity, Ezraviii. 35. 2. It is likewise supposed to be the case of a particular person: If any soul sin throughignorance (v. 27), neglecting any part of his duty, he must bring his offering, as was appointed,Lev. iv. 27, &c. Thus atonement shall be made for the soul that sins, when he sins through ignorance,924Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)v. 28. Observe, (1.) Sins committed ignorantly need to have atonement made for them; for, thoughignorance will in a degree excuse, it will not justify those that might have known their Lord's willand did it not. David prayed to be cleansed from his secret faults, that is, those sins which he himselfwas not aware of, the errors he did not understand, Ps. xix. 12. (2.) Sins committed ignorantly shallbe forgiven, through Christ the great sacrifice, who, when he offered up himself once for all uponthe cross, seemed to explain the intention of his offering in that prayer, Father, forgive them, forthey know not what they do. And Paul seems to allude to this law concerning sins of ignorance (1Tim. i. 13), I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief. And it looked favourableupon the Gentiles that this law of atoning for sins of ignorance is expressly made to extend to thosewho were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel (v. 29), but supposed to be proselytes ofrighteousness. Thus the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles.Doom of Presumptuous Sinners. (b. c. 1490.)30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land,or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off fromamong his people. 31 Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hathbroken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall beupon him. 32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they founda man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33 And they that found himgathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done tohim. 35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: allthe congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all thecongregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and hedied; as the Lord commanded Moses.Here is, I. The general doom passed upon presumptuous sinners. 1. Those are to be reckonedpresumptuous sinners that sin with a high hand, as the original phrase is (v. 30), that is, that avowedlyconfront God's authority, and set up their own lust in competition with it, that sin for sinning-sake,in contradiction to the precept of the law, and in defiance of the penalty, that fight against God,and dare him to do his worst; see Job xv. 25. It is not only to sin against knowledge, but to sindesignedly against God's will and glory. 2. Sins thus committed are exceedingly sinful. He thatthus breaks the commandment, (1.) Reproaches the Lord (v. 30); he says the worst he can of him,and most unjustly. The language of presumptuous sin is, "Eternal truth is not fit to be believed, theLord of all not fit to be obeyed, and almighty power not fit to be either feared or trusted." It imputesfolly to Infinite Wisdom, and iniquity to the righteous Judge of heaven and earth; such is themalignity of wilful sin. (2.) He despises the word of the Lord, v. 31. There are those who, in manyinstances, come short of fulfilling the word, and yet have a great value for it, and count the lawhonourable; but presumptuous sinners despise it, thinking themselves too great, too good, and toowise, to be ruled by it. What is the Almighty that we should serve him? Whatever the sin itself is,it is contumacy that incurs the anathema. It is rebellion added to the sin that is as witch-craft, andstubbornness as idolatry. 3. The sentence passed on such is dreadful. There remains no sacrificefor those sins; the law provided none: That soul shall be cut off from among his people (v. 30),925Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)utterly cut off (v. 31); and that God may be for ever justified, and the sinner for ever confounded,his iniquity shall be upon him, and there needs no more to sink him to the lowest hell. Thus theJewish doctors understand it, that the iniquity shall cleave to the soul, after it is cut off, and thatman shall give an account of his sin at the great day of judgment. Perhaps the kind of offence mightbe such as did not expose the offender to the censure of the civil magistrate, but, if it was donepresumptuously, God himself would take the punishment of it into his own hands, and into themit is a fearful thing to fall. In the New Testament we find the like sentence of exclusion from allbenefit by the great sacrifice passed upon the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and a total apostasyfrom Christianity.II. A particular instance of presumption in the sin of sabbath-breaking. 1. The offence was thegathering of sticks on the sabbath day (v. 32), which, it is probable, were designed to make a fireof, whereas they were commanded to bake and seeth what they had occasion for the day before,Exod. xvi. 23. This seemed but a small offence, but it was a violation of the law of the sabbath,and so was a tacit contempt of the Creator, to whose honour the sabbath was dedicated, and anincursion upon the whole law, which the sabbath was intended as a hedge about. And it appearsby the context to have been done presumptuously, and in affront both of the law and to theLaw-maker. 2. The offender was secured, v. 33, 34. Those that found him gathering sticks, in theirzeal for the honour of the sabbath, brought him to Moses and Aaron, and all the congregation,which intimates that being the sabbath day the congregation was at that time gathered to Mosesand Aaron, to receive instruction from them, and to join with them in religious worship. It seems,even common Israelites, though there was much amiss among them, yet would not contentedly seethe sabbath profaned, which was a good sign that they had not quite forsaken God, nor were utterlyforsaken of him. 3. God was consulted, because it was not declared what should be done to him.The law had already made the profanation of the sabbath a capital crime (Exod. xxxi. 14, ch. xxxv.2); but they were in doubt, either concerning the offence (whether this that he had done should bedeemed a profanation or no) or concerning the punishment, which death he should die. God wasthe Judge, and before him they brought this cause. 4. Sentence was passed; the prisoner was adjudgeda sabbath-breaker, according to the intent of that law, and as such he must be put to death; and toshow how great the crime was, and how displeasing to God, and that others might hear and fearand not do in like manner presumptuously, that death is appointed him which was looked upon asmost terrible: He must be stoned with stones, v. 35. Note, God is jealous for the honour of hissabbaths, and will not hold those guiltless, whatever men do, that profane them. 5. Execution wasdone pursuant to the sentence, v. 36. He was stoned to death by the congregation. As many as couldwere employed in the execution, that those, at least, might be afraid of breaking the sabbath, whohad thrown a stone at this sabbath-breaker. This intimates that the open profanation of the sabbathis a sin which ought to be punished and restrained by the civil magistrate, who, as far as overt actsgo, is keeper of both tables. See Neh. xiii. 17. One would think there could be no great harm ingathering a few sticks, on what day soever it was, but God intended the exemplary punishment ofhim that did so for a standing warning to us all, to make conscience of keeping holy the sabbath.The Law Concerning Fringes. (b. c. 1490.)37 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 38 Speak unto the children of Israel,and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughouttheir generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:926Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and rememberall the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your ownheart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: 40 That ye mayremember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41 I am theLord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I amthe Lord your God.Provision had been just now made by the law for the pardon of sins of ignorance and infirmity;now here is an expedient provided for the preventing of such sins. They are ordered to make fringesupon the borders of their garments, which were to be memorandums to them of their duty, that theymight not sin through forgetfulness. 1. The sign appointed is a fringe of silk, or thread, or worsted,or the garment itself ravelled at the bottom, and a blue riband bound on the top of it to keep it tight,v. 38. The Jews being a peculiar people, they were thus distinguished from their neighbours in theirdress, as well as in their diet, and taught by such little instances of singularity not to be conformedto the way of the heathen in greater things. Thus likewise they proclaimed themselves Jews whereverthey were, as those that were not ashamed of God and his law. Our Saviour, being made under thelaw, wore these fringes; hence we read of the hem or border, of his garment, Matt. ix. 20. Theseborders the Pharisees enlarged, that they might be thought more holy and devout than other people.The phylacteries were different things; these were their own invention, the fringes were a divineinstitution. The Jews at this day wear them, saying, when they put them on, Blessed be he who hassanctified us unto himself, and commanded us to wear fringes. 2. The intention of it was to remindthem that they were a peculiar people. They were not appointed for the trimming and adorning oftheir clothes, but to stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance (2 Pet. iii. 1), that they mightlook upon the fringe and remember the commandments. Many look upon their ornaments to feedtheir pride, but they must look upon these ornaments to awaken their consciences to a sense of theirduty, that their religion might constantly beset them, and that they might carry it about with them,as they did their clothes, wherever they went. If they were tempted to sin, the fringe would be amonitor to them not to break God's commandments: If a duty was forgotten to be done in its season,the fringe would remind them of it. This institution, though it is not an imposition upon us, is aninstruction to us, always to remember the commandments of the Lord our God, that we may dothem, to treasure them up in our memories, and to apply them to particular cases as there is occasionto use them. It was intended particularly to be a preservative from idolatry: that you seek not afteryour own heart, and your own eyes, in your religious worship. Yet it may extend also to the wholeconversation, for nothing is more contrary to God's honour, and our own true interest, than to walkin the way of our heart and in the sight of our eyes; for the imagination of the heart is evil, and sois the lust of the eyes.After the repetition of some ceremonial appointments, the chapter closes with that great andfundamental law of religion, Be holy unto your God, purged from sin, and sincerely devoted to hisservice; and that great reason for all the commandments is again and again inculcated, I am theLord your God. Did we more firmly believe, and more frequently and seriously consider, that Godis the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, we should see ourselves bound in duty, interest, andgratitude, to keep all his commandments.927Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)N U M B E R SCHAP. XVI.The date of the history contained in this chapter is altogether uncertain. Probably these mutinieshappened after their removal back again from Kadesh-barnea, when they were fixed (if I may sospeak) for their wandering in the wilderness, and began to look upon that as their settlement.Presently after new laws given follows the story of a new rebellion, as if sin took occasion fromthe commandment to become more exceedingly sinful. Here is, I. A daring and dangerous rebellionraised against Moses and Aaron, by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, ver. 1-15. 1. Korah and hisaccomplices contend for the priesthood against Aaron, ver. 3. Moses reasons with them, and appealsto God for a decision of the controversy, ver. 4-11. 2. Dathan and Abiram quarrel with Moses, andrefuse to obey his summons, which greatly grieves him, ver. 12-15. II. A solemn appearance of thepretenders to the priesthood before God, according to order, and a public appearance of the gloryof the Lord, which would have consumed the whole congregation if Moses and Aaron had notinterceded, ver. 16-22. III. The deciding of the controversy, and the crushing of the rebellion, bythe cutting off of the rebels. 1. Those in their tents were buried alive, ver. 23-34. 2. Those at thedoor of the tabernacle were consumed by fire (ver. 35), and their censers preserved for a memorial,ver. 37-40. IV. A new insurrection of the people, ver. 41-43. 1. God stayed in the insurrection bya plague, ver. 45. 2. Aaron stayed the plague by offering incense, ver. 46-50. The manner andmethod of recording this story plainly show the ferment to have been very great.Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. (b. c. 1490.)1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathanand Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundredand fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: 3And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and saidunto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves abovethe congregation of the Lord? 4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow theLord will show who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near untohim: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. 6 Thisdo; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; 7 And put fire therein, and putincense in them before the Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom theLord doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.8 And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: 9 Seemeth it buta small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from thecongregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle928Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? 10 Andhe hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee:and seek ye the priesthood also? 11 For which cause both thou and all thy companyare gathered together against the Lord: and what is Aaron, that ye murmur againsthim?Here is, I. An account of the rebels, who and what they were, not, as formerly, the mixedmultitude and the dregs of the people, who are therefore never named, but men of distinction andquality, that made a figure. Korah was the ring-leader: he formed and headed the faction; thereforeit is called the gainsaying of Korah, Jude 11. He was cousin-german to Moses, they were brothers'children, yet the nearness of the relation could not restrain him from being insolent and rude toMoses. Think it not strange if a man's foes be those of his own house. With him joined Dathan andAbiram, chief men of the tribe of Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob. Probably Korah was disgustedboth at the preferment of Aaron to the priesthood and the constituting of Elizaphan to the head ofthe Kohathites (ch. iii. 30); and perhaps the Reubenites were angry that the tribe of Judah had thefirst post of honour in the camp. On is mentioned (v. 1) as one of the heads of the faction, but neverafter in the whole story, either because, as some think, he repented and left them, or because he didnot make himself so remarkable as Dathan and Abiram did. The Kohathites encamped on the sameside of the tabernacle that the Reubenites did, which perhaps gave Korah an opportunity of drawingthem in, whence the Jews say, Woe to the wicked man, and woe to his neighbour, who is in dangerof being infected by him. And, these being themselves men of renown, they seduced into theconspiracy two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly (v. 2); probably they were first-born, orat least heads of families, who, before the elevation of Aaron, had themselves ministered in holythings. Note, The pride, ambition, and emulation, of great men, have always been the occasion ofa great deal of mischief both in churches and states. God by his grace make great men humble, andso give peace in our time, O Lord! Famous men, and men of renown, as these are described to be,were the great sinners of the old world, Gen. vi. 4. The fame and renown which they had did notcontent them; they were high, but would be higher, and thus the famous men became infamous.II. The rebels' remonstrance, v. 3. That which they quarrel with is the settlement of thepriesthood upon Aaron and his family, which they think an honour too great for Moses to give andAaron to accept, and so they are both charged with usurpation: You take too much upon you; or,"Let it suffice you to have domineered thus long, and now think of resigning your places to thosewho have as good a title to them and are as well able to manage them." 1. They proudly boast ofthe holiness of the congregation, and the presence of God in it. "They are holy, every one of them,and as fit to be employed in offering sacrifice as Aaron is, and as masters of families formerly were,and the Lord is among them, to direct and own them." Small reason they had to boast of the people'spurity, or of God's favour, as the people had been so frequently and so lately polluted with sin, andwere now under the marks of God's displeasure, which should have made them thankful for prieststo mediate between them and God; but, instead of that, they envy them. 2. They unjustly chargeMoses and Aaron with taking the honour they had to themselves, whereas it was evident, beyondcontradiction, that they were called of God to it, Heb. v. 4. So that they would either have no priestsat all, nor any government, none to preside either in civil or sacred things, none over thecongregation, none above it, or they would not acquiesce in that constitution of the governmentwhich God had appointed. See here, (1.) What spirit levellers are of, and those that despise929Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)dominions, and resist the powers that God has set over them; they are proud, envious, ambitious,turbulent, wicked, and unreasonable men. (2.) What usage even the best and most useful men mayexpect, even from those they have been serviceable to. If those be represented as usurpers that havethe best titles, and those as tyrants that govern best, let them recollect that Moses and Aaron werethus abused.III. Moses's conduct when their remonstrance was published against him. How did he take it?1. He fell on his face (v. 4), as before, ch. xiv. 5. Thus he showed how willing he would havebeen to yield to them, and how gladly he would have resigned his government, if it would haveconsisted with his duty to God and his fidelity to the trust reposed in him. Thus also he applied toGod, by prayer, for direction what to say and to do upon this sad occasion. He would not speak tothem till he had thus humbled and composed his own spirit (which could not but begin to be heated),and had received instruction from God. The heart of the wise in such a case studies to answer, andasks counsel at God's mouth.2. He agrees to refer the case to God, and leave it to him to decide it, as one well assured ofthe goodness of his title, and yet well content to resign, if God thought fit, to gratify this discontentedpeople with another nomination. An honest cause fears not a speedy trial; even to-morrow let it bebrought on, v. 5-7. Let Korah and his partisans bring their censers, and offer incense before theLord, and, if he testify his acceptance of them, well and good; Moses is now as willing that all theLord's people should be priests, if God so pleased, as before that they should all be prophets, ch.xi. 29. But if God, upon an appeal to him, determine (as no doubt he would) for Aaron, they wouldfind it highly dangerous to make the experiment: and therefore he puts it off till to-morrow, to trywhether, when they had slept upon it, they would desist, and let fall their pretensions.3. He argues the case fairly with them, to still the mutiny with fair reasoning, if possible, beforethe appeal came to God's tribunal, for then he knew it would end in the confusion of thecomplainants.(1.) He calls them the sons of Levi, v. 7, and again v. 8. They were of his own tribe, nay, theywere of God's tribe; it was therefore the worse in them thus to mutiny both against God and againsthim. It was not long since the sons of Levi had bravely appeared on God's side, in the matter of thegolden calf, and got immortal honour by it; and shall those that were then the only innocents nowbe the leading criminals, and lose all the honour they had won? Could there be such chaff on God'sfloor? Levites, and yet rebels?(2.) He retorts their charge upon themselves. They had unjustly charged Moses and Aaron withtaking too much upon them, though they had done no more than what God put upon them; nay,says Moses, You take too much upon you, you sons of Levi. Note, Those that take upon them tocontrol and contradict God's appointment take too much upon them. It is enough for us to submit;it is too much to prescribe.(3.) He shows them the privilege they had as Levites, which was sufficient for them, theyneeded not to aspire to the honour of the priesthood, v. 9, 10. He reminds them how great the honourwas to which they were preferred, as Levites. [1.] They were separated from the congregation ofIsrael, distinguished from them, dignified above them; instead of complaining that Aaron's familywas advanced above theirs, they ought to have been thankful that their tribe was advanced abovethe rest of the tribes, though they had been in all respects upon the level with them. Note, It willhelp to keep us from envying those that are above us duly to consider how many there are belowus. Instead of fretting that any are preferred before us in honour, power, estate, or interest, in gifts,930Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)graces, or usefulness, we have reason to bless God if we, who are less than the least, are not putamong the very last. Many perhaps who deserve better are not preferred so well. [2.] They wereseparated to very great and valuable honours, First, To draw near to God, nearer than the commonIsraelites, though they also were a people near unto him; the nearer any are to God the greater istheir honour. Secondly, To do the service of the tabernacle. It is honour enough to bear the vesselsof the sanctuary, and to be employed in any part of the service of the tabernacle. God's service isnot only perfect freedom, but high preferment. Thirdly, To stand before the congregation to ministerunto them. Note, Those are truly great that serve the public, and it is the honour of God's ministersto be the church's ministers; nay, which adds to the dignity put upon them, [3.] It was the God ofIsrael himself that separated them. It was his act and deed to put them into their place, and thereforethey ought not to have been discontented: and he it was likewise that put Aaron into his place, andtherefore they ought not to have envied him.(4.) He convicts them of the sin of undervaluing those privileges: Seemeth it a small thing untoyou? As if he had said, "It ill becomes you of all men to grudge Aaron the priesthood, when at thesame time that he was advanced to that honour you were designed for another honour dependentupon it, and shine with rays borrowed from him." Note, [1.] The privilege of drawing near to theGod of Israel is not a small thing in itself, and therefore must not appear small to us. To those whoneglect opportunities of drawing near to God, who are careless and formal in it, to whom it is atask and not a pleasure, we may properly put this question: "Seemeth it a small thing to you thatGod has made you a people near unto him?" [2.] Those who aspire after and usurp the honoursforbidden them put a great contempt upon the honours allowed them. We have each of us as gooda share of reputation as God sees fit for us, and sees us fit for, and much better than we deserve;and we ought to rest satisfied with it, and not, as these, exercise ourselves in things too high for us:Seek you the priesthood also? They would not own that they sought it, but Moses saw that theyhad this in their eye; the law had provided very well for those that served at the altar, and thereforethey would put in for the office.(5.) He interprets their mutiny to be a rebellion against God (v. 11); while they pretended toassert the holiness and liberty of the Israel of God, they really took up arms against the God ofIsrael: You are gathered together against the Lord. Note, Those that strive against God's ordinancesand providences, whatever they pretend, and whether they are aware of it or no, do indeed strivewith their Maker. Those resist the prince who resist those that are commissioned by him: for, alas!says Moses, What is Aaron, that you murmur against him? If murmurers and complainers wouldconsider that the instruments they quarrel with are but instruments whom God employs, and thatthey are but what he makes them, and neither more nor less, better nor worse, they would not beso bold and free in their censures and reproaches as they are. Those that found the priesthood, asit was settled, a blessing, must give all the praise to God; but if any found it a burden they must nottherefore quarrel with Aaron, who is but what he is made, and does but as he is bidden. Thus heinterested God in the cause, and so might be sure of speeding well in his appeal.12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, Wewill not come up: 13 Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a landthat floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou makethyself altogether a prince over us? 14 Moreover thou hast not brought us into aland that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards:931Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up. 15 And Moses wasvery wroth, and said unto the Lord, Respect not thou their offering: I have not takenone ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them. 16 And Moses said unto Korah,Be thou and all thy company before the Lord, thou, and they, and Aaron, to morrow:17 And take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye beforethe Lord every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron,each of you his censer. 18 And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them,and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregationwith Moses and Aaron. 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against themunto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the Lord appearedunto all the congregation. 20 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron,saying, 21 Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consumethem in a moment. 22 And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God ofthe spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all thecongregation?Here is, I. The insolence of Dathan and Abiram, and their treasonable remonstrance. Moseshad heard what Korah had to say, and had answered it; now he summons Dathan and Abiram tobring in their complaints (v. 12); but they would not obey his summons, either because they couldnot for shame say that to his face which they were resolved to say, and then it is an instance ofsome remains of modesty in them; or, rather, because they would not so far own his authority, andthen it is an instance of the highest degree of impudence. They spoke the language of Pharaohhimself, who set Moses at defiance, but they forgot how dearly he paid for it. Had not their headsbeen wretchedly heated, and their hearts hardened, they might have considered that, if they regardednot these messengers, Moses could soon in God's name send messengers of death for them. Butthus the God of this world blinds the minds of those that believe not. But by the same messengersthey send their articles of impeachment against Moses; and the charge runs very high. 1. Theycharge him with having done them a great deal of wrong in bringing them out of Egypt, invidiouslycalling that a land flowing with milk and honey, v. 13. Onions, and garlick, and fish, they had indeedplenty of in Egypt, but it never pretended to milk and honey; only they would thus banter thepromise of Canaan. Ungrateful wretches, to represent that as an injury to them which was reallythe greatest favour that ever was bestowed upon any people! 2. They charge him with a designupon their lives, that he intended to kill them in the wilderness, though they were so well providedfor. And, if they were sentenced to die in the wilderness, they must thank themselves. Moses wouldhave healed them, and they would not be healed. 3. They charge him with a design upon theirliberties, that he meant to enslave them, by making himself a prince over them. A prince over them!Was he not a tender father to them? nay, their devoted servant for the Lord's sake? Had they nottheir properties secured, their order preserved, and justice impartially administered? Did they notlive in ease and honour? And yet they complain as if Moses's yoke were heavier than Pharaoh's.And did Moses make himself a prince? Far from it. How gladly would he have declined the officeat first! How gladly would he have resigned it many a time since! And yet he is thus put under theblackest characters of a tyrant and a usurper. 4. They charge him with cheating them, raising their932Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)expectations of a good land, and then defeating them (v. 14): Thou hast not brought us, as thoupromisedst us, into a land that floweth with milk and honey; and pray whose fault was that? Hehad brought them to the borders of it, and was just ready, under God, to put them in possession ofit; but they thrust it away from them, and shut the door against themselves; so that it was purelytheir own fault that they were not now in Canaan, and yet Moses must bear the blame. Thus whenthe foolishness of man perverteth his way his heart fretteth against the Lord, Prov. xix. 3. 5. Theycharge him in the general with unfair dealing, that he put out the eyes of these men, and then meantto lead them blindfold as he pleased. The design of all he did for them was to open their eyes, andyet they insinuate that he intended to put out their eyes, that they might not see themselves imposedupon. Note, The wisest and best cannot please every body, nor gain the good word of all. Thoseoften fall under the heaviest censures who have merited the highest applause. Many a good workMoses had shown them from the Father, and for which of these do they reproach him?II. Moses's just resentment of their insolence, v. 15. Moses, though the meekest man, yet,finding God reproached in him, was very wroth; he could not bear to see a people ruining themselvesfor whose salvation he had done so much. In this discomposure,1. He appeals to God concerning his own integrity; whereas they basely reflected upon him asambitious, covetous, and oppressive, in making himself a prince over them, God was his witness,(1.) That he never got any thing by them: I have not taken one ass from them, not only not by wayof bribery and extortion, but not by way of recompence or gratuity for all the good offices he haddone them; he never took the pay of a general, or the salary of a judge, much less the tribute of aprince. He got more in his estate when he kept Jethro's flock than when he came to be king inJeshurun. (2.) That they never lost any thing by him: Neither have I hurt any one of them, no, notthe least, no, not the worst, no, not those that had been most peevish and provoking to him: he neverabused his power to the support of wrong. Note, Those that have never blemished themselves neednot fear being slurred by others: when men condemn us we may be easy, if our own hearts condemnus not.2. He begs of God to plead his cause, and clear him, by showing his displeasure at the incensewhich Korah and his company were to offer, with whom Dathan and Abiram were in confederacy.Lord, says he, Respect not thou their offering. Herein he seems to refer to the history of Cain, latelywritten by his own hand, of whom it is said that to him and his offering God had not respect, Gen.iv. 5. These that followed the gainsaying of Korah walked in the way of Cain (these are put together,Jude 11), and therefore he prays that they might be frowned upon as Cain was, and put to the sameconfusion.III. Issue joined between Moses and his accusers. 1. Moses challenges them to appear withAaron next morning, at the time of offering up the morning incense, and refer the matter to God'sjudgment, v. 16, 17. Since he could not convince them by his calm and affectionate reasoning, heis ready to enter into bonds to stand God's award, not doubting but that God would appear, to decidethe controversy. This reference he had agreed to before (v. 6, 7), and here adds only one clause,which bespeaks his great condescension to the plaintiffs, that Aaron, against whose advancementthey excepted, though now advanced by the divine institution to the honour of burning incensewithin the tabernacle, yet, upon this trial, should put himself into the place of a probationer, andstand upon the level with Korah, at the door of the tabernacle; nay, and Moses himself would standwith them, so that the complainant shall have all the fair dealing he can desire; and thus every mouthshall be stopped. 2. Korah accepts the challenge, and makes his appearance with Moses and Aaron933Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)at the door of the tabernacle, to make good his pretensions, v. 18, 19. If he had not had a very greatstock of impudence, he could not have carried on the matter thus far. Had not he lately seen Nadaband Abihu, the consecrated priests, struck dead for daring to offer incense with unhallowed fire?and could he and his accomplices expect to fare any better in offering incense with unhallowedhands? Yet, to confront Moses and Aaron, in the height of his pride he thus bids defiance to Heaven,and pretends to demand the divine acceptance without a divine warrant; thus wretchedly is the hearthardened through the deceitfulness of sin. They took every man his censer. Perhaps these weresome of the censers which these heads of families had made use of at their family-altars, beforethis part of religious service was confined to the priesthood and the altar in the tabernacle (and theywould bring them into use and reputation again); or they might be common chafing-dishes, whichwere for their ordinary use. Now to attend the solemn trial, and to be witness of the issue, one wouldhave thought Moses should have gathered the congregation against the rebels, but it seems Korahgathered them against Moses (v. 19), which intimates that a great part of the congregation sidedwith Korah, were at his beck, and wished him success, and that Korah's hopes were very high ofcarrying the point against Aaron; for, had he suspected the event, he would not have coveted tomake the trial thus public: but little did he think that he was now calling the congregation togetherto be the witnesses of his own confusion! Note, Proud and ambitious men, while they are projectingtheir own advancement, often prove to have been hurrying on their own shameful fall.IV. The judgment set, and the Judge taking the tribunal, and threatening to give sentence againstthe whole congregation. 1. The glory of the Lord appeared, v. 19. The same glory that appeared toinstal Aaron in his office at first (Lev. ix. 23) now appeared to confirm him in it, and to confoundthose that oppose him, and set up themselves in competition with him. The Shechinah, or divineMajesty, the glory of the eternal Word, which ordinarily dwelt between the cherubim within theveil, now was publicly seen over the door of the tabernacle, to the terror of the whole congregation;for, though they saw no manner of similitude, yet probably the appearances of the light and firewere such as plainly showed God to be angry with them; as when he appeared, ch. xiv. 10. Nothingis more terrible to those who are conscious of guilt than the appearances of divine glory; for sucha glorious Being must needs be a formidable enemy. 2. God threatened to consume them all in amoment, and, in order to that, bade Moses and Aaron stand from among them, v. 21. God thusshowed what their sin deserved, and how very provoking it was to him. See what a dangerous thingit is to have fellowship with sinners, and in the least to partake with them. Many of the congregation,it is likely, came only for company, following the crowd, or for curiosity, to see the issue, yet notcoming, as they ought to have done, to bear their testimony against the rebels, and openly to declarefor God and Moses, they had like to have been all consumed in a moment. If we follow the herdinto which the devil has entered, it is at our peril.V. The humble intercession of Moses and Aaron for the congregation, v. 22. 1. Their posturewas importuning: they fell on their faces, prostrating themselves before God, as supplicants in goodearnest, that they might prevail for sparing mercy. Though the people had treacherously desertedthem, and struck in with those that were in arms against them, yet they approved themselves faithfulto the trusts reposed in them, as shepherds of Israel, who were to stand in the breach when theysaw the flock in danger. Note, If others fail in their duty to us, this does not discharge us from ourduty to them, nor take off the obligations we lie under to seek their welfare. 2. Their prayer was apleading prayer, and it proved a prevailing one. Now God would have destroyed them if Moseshad not turned away his wrath (Ps. cvi. 23); yet far be it from us to imagine that Moses was more934Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)considerate or more compassionate than God in such a case as this: but God saw fit to show hisjust displeasure against the sin of sinners by the sentence, and at the same time to show his graciouscondescension to the prayers of the saints, by the revocation of the sentence at the intercession ofMoses. Observe in the prayer, (1.) The title they give to God: The God of the spirits of all flesh.See what man is; he is a spirit in flesh, a soul embodied, a creature wonderfully compounded ofheaven and earth. See what God is; he is the God of the spirits of all mankind. He forms the spirit,Zech. xii. 1. He fathers it, Heb. xii. 9. He has an ability to fashion it (Ps. xxxiii. 15), and authorityto dispose of it, for he has said, All souls are mine, Ezek. xviii. 4. They insinuate hereby that though,as the God of the spirits of all flesh, he might in sovereignty consume this congregation in a moment,yet it was to be hoped that he would in mercy spare them, not only because they were the work ofhis own hands, and he had a propriety in them, but because, being the God of spirits, he knew theirframe, and could distinguish between the leaders and the led, between those who sinned maliciouslyand those who were drawn in by their wiles, and would make a difference accordingly in hisjudgments. (2.) The argument they insist on; it is much the same with that which Abraham urgedin his intercession for Sodom (Gen. xviii. 23): Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked?Such is the plea here: Shall one man sin and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation? Not butthat it was the sin of them all to join in this matter, but the great transgression was his that firsthatched the treason. Note, Whatever God may do in sovereignty and strict justice, we have reasonto hope that he will not destroy a congregation for the sin of one, but that, righteousness and peacehaving kissed each other in the undertaking of the Redeemer, mercy shall rejoice against judgment.Moses knew that all the congregation must perish in the wilderness by degrees, yet he is thus earnestin prayer that they might not be consumed at once, and would reckon it a favour to obtain a reprieve.Lord, let it alone this year.23 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the congregation,saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 25And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israelfollowed him. 26 And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you,from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumedin all their sins. 27 So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram,on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents,and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. 28 And Moses said, Herebyye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not donethem of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, or ifthey be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. 30But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow themup, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then yeshall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. 31 And it came to pass,as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunderthat was under them: 32 And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up,and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the935Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. 34 Andall Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest theearth swallow us up also.We have here the determining of the controversy with Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled againstMoses, as in the next paragraph the determining of the controversy with Korah and his company,who would be rivals with Aaron. It should seem that Dathan and Abiram had set up a spacioustabernacle in the midst of the tents of their families, where they kept court, met in council, andhung out their flag of defiance against Moses; it is here called the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan,and Abiram, v. 24, 27. There, as in the place of rendezvous, Dathan and Abiram staid, when Korahand his friends went up to the tabernacle of the Lord, waiting the issue of their trial; but here weare told how they had their business done, before that trial was over. For God will take what methodhe pleases in his judgments.I. Public warning is given to the congregation to withdraw immediately from the tents of therebels. 1. God bids Moses speak to this purport, v. 24. This was in answer to Moses's prayer. Hehad begged that God would not destroy the whole congregation. "Well," says God, "I will not,provided they be so wise as to shift for their own safety, and get out of the way of danger. If theywill quit the rebels, well and good, they shall not perish with them; otherwise, let them take whatfollows." Note, We cannot expect to reap benefit by the prayers of our friends for our salvation,unless we ourselves be diligent and faithful in making use of the means of salvation; for God neverpromised to save by miracles those that would not save themselves by means. Moses that had prayedfor them must preach this to them, and warn them to flee from this wrath to come. 2. Mosesaccordingly repairs to the head-quarters of the rebels, leaving Aaron at the door of the tabernacle,v. 25. Dathan and Abiram had contumaciously refused to come up to him (v. 12), yet he humblycondescends to go down to them, to try if he could yet convince and reclaim them. Ministers mustthus with meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, and not think it below them to stoop tothose that are most stubborn, for their good. Christ himself stretches out his hand to a rebelliousand gainsaying people. The seventy elders of Israel attend Moses and his guard, to secure him fromthe insolence of the rabble, and by their presence to put an honour upon him, and if possible tostrike an awe upon the rebels. It is our duty to contribute all we can to the countenance and supportof injured innocency and honour. 3. Proclamation is made that all manner of persons, as theytendered their own safety, should forthwith depart from the tents of these wicked men (v. 26), andthus should signify that they deserted their cause and interest, detested their crimes and counsels,and dreaded the punishment coming upon them. Note, Those that would not perish with sinnersmust come out from among them, and be separate. In vain do we pray, Gather not our souls withsinners, if we save not ourselves from the untoward generation. God's people are called out ofBabylon, lest they share both in her sins and in her plagues, Rev. xviii. 4.II. The congregation takes the warning, but the rebels themselves continue obstinate, v. 27. 1.God, in mercy, inclined the people to forsake the rebels: They got up from the tabernacle of Korah,Dathan, and Abiram, both those whose lot it was to pitch near them (who doubtless with themselvesremoved their families, and all their effects) and those also who had come from all parts of theircamp to see the issue. It was in answer to the prayer of Moses that God thus stirred up the heartsof the congregation to shift for their own preservation. Note, To those whom God will save he givesrepentance, that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. Grace to separate from936Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)evil doers is one of the things that accompany salvation. 2. God, in justice, left the rebels to theobstinacy and hardness of their own hearts. Though they saw themselves abandoned by all theirneighbours, and set up as a mark to the arrows of God's justice, yet instead of falling down andhumbling themselves before God and Moses, owning their crime and begging pardon, instead offleeing and dispersing themselves to seek for shelter in the crowd, they impudently stood in thedoors of their tents, as if they would out-face God himself, and dare him to his worst. Thus weretheir hearts hardened to their own destruction, and they were fearless when their case was mostfearful. But what a pity was it that their little children, who were not capable of guilt or fear, shouldby the presumption of their parents be put in this audacious posture! Happy they who are taughtbetimes to bow before God, and not as those unhappy little ones to stand it out against him!III. Sentence is solemnly pronounced upon them by Moses in the name of the Lord, and thedecision of the controversy is put upon the execution of that sentence by the almighty power ofGod. Moses, by divine instinct and direction, when the eyes of all Israel were fastened upon him,waiting the event, moved with a just and holy indignation at the impudence of the rebels, boldlyputs the whole matter to a surprising issue, v. 28-30. 1. If the rebels die a common death, he willbe content to be called and counted an impostor; not only if they die a natural death, but if they dieby any sort of judgment that has formerly been executed on other malefactors. "If they die by theplague, or by fire from heaven, or by the sword, then say, God has disowned Moses;" but, 2. "Ifthe earth open and swallow them up" (a punishment without precedent), "then let all the house ofIsrael know assuredly that I am God's servant, sent by him, and employed for him, and that thosethat fight against me fight against him." The judgment itself would have been proof enough ofGod's displeasure against the rebels, and would have given all men to understand that they hadprovoked the Lord; but when it was thus solemnly foretold and appealed to by Moses beforehand,when there was not the least previous indication of it from without, the convincing evidence of itwas much the stronger, and it was put beyond dispute that he was not only a servant but a favouriteof Heaven, who was so intimately acquainted with the divine counsels, and could obtain suchextraordinary appearances of the divine power in his vindication.IV. Execution is immediately done. It appeared that God and his servant Moses understoodone another very well; for, as soon as ever Moses had spoken the word, God did the work, the earthclave asunder (v. 31), opened her mouth, and swallowed them all up, them and theirs (v. 32), andthen closed upon them, v. 33. This judgment was, 1. Unparalleled. God, in it, created a new thing,did what he never did before; for he has many arrows in his quiver; and there are diversities ofoperations in wrath as well as mercy. Dathan and Abiram thought themselves safe because theywere at a distance from the shechinah, whence the fire of the Lord had sometimes issued, qui proculà Jove (they say) procul à fulmine—he who is far from Jove is far from the thunderbolt. But Godmade them to know that he was not tied up to one way of punishing; the earth, when he pleases,shall serve his justice as effectually as the fire. 2. It was very terrible to the sinners themselves togo down alive into their own graves, to be dead and buried in an instant, to go down thus to thebars of the pit when they were in their full strength wholly at ease and quiet. 3. It was severe upontheir poor children, who, for the greater terror of the judgment, and fuller indication of the divinewrath, perished as parts of their parents, in which, though we cannot particularly tell how bad theymight be to deserve it or how good God might be otherwise to them to compensate it, yet of thiswe are sure in the general, that Infinite Justice did them no wrong. Far be it from God that he shoulddo iniquity. 4. It was altogether miraculous. The cleaving of the earth was as wonderful, and as937Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)much above the power of nature, as the cleaving of the sea, and the closing of the earth again moreso than the closing of the waters. God has all the creatures at his command, and can make any ofthem, when he pleases, instruments of his justice; nor will any of them be our friends if he be ourenemy. God now confirmed to Israel what Moses had lately taught them in that prayer of his, Ps.xc. 11, Who knows the power of thy anger? He has, when he pleases, strange punishments for theworkers of iniquity, Job xxxi. 3. Let us therefore conclude, Who is able to stand before this holyLord God? 5. It was very significant. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their throatwas an open sepulchre; justly therefore does the earth open her mouth upon them and swallowthem up. They made a rent in the congregation; justly therefore is the earth rent under them.Presumptuous sinners, that hate to be reformed, are a burden to the earth, the whole creation groansunder them, which here was signified by this, that the earth sunk under these rebels, as weary ofbearing them and being under them. And, considering how the earth is still in like manner loadedwith the weight of iniquity, we have reason to wonder that this was the only time it ever sunk underits load. 6. It was typical of the eternal ruin of sinners who die impenitent, who, perhaps in allusionto this, are said to sink down into the pit (Ps. ix. 15) and to go down quickly into hell, Ps. lv. 15.But David, even when he sinks in deep mire, yet prays in faith, Let not the pit shut her mouth uponme, as it does on the damned, between whom and life there is a gulf fixed, Ps. lxix. 2-15. His casewas bad, but not, like this, desperate.V. All Israel is alarmed at the judgment: They fled at the cry of them, v. 34. They cried for helpwhen it was too late. Their doleful shrieks, instead of fetching their neighbours in to their relief,drove them so much the further off; for knowing their own guilt, and one another's, they hastenedone another, saying, Lest the earth swallow us up also. Note, Others' ruins should be our warnings.Could we by faith hear the outcries of those that have gone down to the bottomless pit, we shouldgive more diligence than we do to escape for our lives, lest we also come into that condemnation.35 And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred andfifty men that offered incense. 36 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 37Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out ofthe burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. 38 The censersof these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for acovering of the altar: for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they arehallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. 39 And Eleazar thepriest took the brazen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and theywere made broad plates for a covering of the altar: 40 To be a memorial unto thechildren of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near tooffer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as theLord said to him by the hand of Moses.We must now look back to the door of the tabernacle, where we left the pretenders to thepriesthood with their censers in their hands ready to offer incense; and here we find,I. Vengeance taken on them, v. 35. It is probable that when the earth opened in the camp toswallow up Dathan and Abiram a fire went out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men thatoffered incense, while Aaron that stood with them was preserved alive. This punishment was notindeed so new a thing as the former, for Nadab and Abihu thus died; but it was not less strange or938Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)dreadful, and in it it appeared, 1. That our God is a consuming fire. Is thunder a sensible indicationof the terror of his voice? Lightning is also the power of his hand. We must see in this his fieryindignation which devours the adversaries, and infer from it what a fearful thing it is to fall intothe hands of the living God, Heb. x. 27-31. 2. That it is at our peril if we meddle with that whichdoes not belong to us. God is jealous of the honour of his own institutions, and will not have theminvaded. It is most probable that Korah himself was consumed with those 250 that presumed tooffer incense; for the priesthood was the thing he aimed at, and therefore we have reason to thinkthat he would not quit his post at the door of the tabernacle. But, behold, those are made sacrificesto the justice of God who flattered themselves with the hopes of being priests. Had they been contentwith their office as Levites, which was sacred and honourable, and better than they deserved, theymight have lived and died with joy and reputation; but, like the angels that sinned, leaving theirfirst estate, and aiming at the honours that were not appointed them, they were thrust down toHades, their censers struck out of their hands, and their breath out of their bodies, by a burningwhich typified the vengeance of eternal fire.II. Care is taken to perpetuate the remembrance of this vengeance. No mention is made of thetaking up of their carcases: the scripture leaves them as dung upon the face of the earth; but ordersare given about their censers, 1. That they be secured, because they are hallowed. Eleazar is chargedwith this, v. 37. Those invaders of the priesthood had proceeded so far, by the divine patience andsubmission, as to kindle their incense with fire from off the altar, which they were suffered to useby way of experiment: but, as soon as they had kindled their fire, God kindled another, which puta fatal final period to their pretensions; now Eleazar is ordered to scatter the fire, with the incensethat was kindled with it, in some unclean place without the camp, to signify God's abhorrence oftheir offering as a polluted thing: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. But heis to gather up the censers out of the mingled burning, God's fire and theirs, because they arehallowed. Having been once put to a holy use, and that by God's own order (though only for trial),they must not return to common service; so some understand it: rather, they are devoted, they arean anathema; and therefore, as all devoted things, they must be made some way or other serviceableto the glory of God. 2. That they be used in the service of the sanctuary, not as censers, which wouldrather have put honour upon the usurpers whose disgrace was intended; nor was there occasion forbrazen censers, the golden altar was served with golden ones; but they must be beaten into broadplates for a covering of the brazen altar, v. 38-40. These pretenders thought to have ruined thealtar, by laying the priesthood in common again; but to show that Aaron's office was so far frombeing shaken by their impotent malice that it was rather confirmed by it, their censers, which offeredto rival his, were used both for the adorning and for the preserving of the altar at which he ministered.Yet this was not all; this covering of the altar must be a memorial to the children of Israel, throughouttheir generations, of this great event. Though there was so much in it astonishing, and though Moseswas to record it in his history, yet there was danger of its being forgotten in process of time;impressions that seem deep are not always durable; therefore it was necessary to appoint this recordof the judgment, that the Levites who attended this altar, and had their inferior services appointedthem, might learn to keep within their bounds, and be afraid of transgressing them, lest they shouldbe made like Korah and his company, who were Levites, and would have been priests. These censerswere preserved in terrorem, that others might hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously. ThusGod has provided that his wonderful works, both in mercy and judgment, should be had in everlasting939Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)remembrance, that the end of them may be answered, and they may serve for instruction andadmonition to those on whom the ends of the world are come.41 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmuredagainst Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord.42 And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses andagainst Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and,behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 And Mosesand Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. 44 And the Lord spakeunto Moses, saying, 45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I mayconsume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. 46 And Moses saidunto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense,and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for thereis wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. 47 And Aaron took as Mosescommanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague wasbegun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for thepeople. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.49 Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred,beside them that died about the matter of Korah. 50 And Aaron returned unto Mosesunto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.Here is, I. A new rebellion raised the very next day against Moses and Aaron. Be astonished,O heavens, at this, and wonder, O earth! Was there ever such an instance of the incurable corruptionof sinners? On the morrow (v. 41) the body of the people mutinied. 1. Though they were so latelyterrified by the sight of the punishment of the rebels. The shrieks of those sinking sinners, thosesinners against their own souls, were yet sounding in their ears, the smell of the fire yet remained,and the gaping earth was scarcely thoroughly closed, and yet the same sins were re-acted and allthese warnings slighted. 2. Though they were so lately saved from sharing in the same punishment,and the survivors were as brands plucked out of the burning, yet they fly in the face of Moses andAaron, to whose intercession they owed their preservation. Their charge runs very high: You havekilled the people of the Lord. Could any thing have been said more unjustly and maliciously? Theycanonize the rebels, calling those the people of the Lord who died in arms against him. Theystigmatize divine justice itself. It was plain enough that Moses and Aaron had no hand in their death(they did what they could to save them), so that in charging them with murder they did in effectcharge God himself with it. The continued obstinacy of this people, notwithstanding the terrors ofGod's law as it was given on Mount Sinai, and the terrors of his judgments as they were hereexecuted on the disobedient, shows how necessary the grace of God is to the effectual change ofmen's hearts and lives, without which the most likely means will never attain the end. Love willdo what fear could not.II. God's speedy appearance against the rebels. When they had gathered against Moses andAaron, perhaps with a design to depose or murder them, they looked towards the tabernacle, as iftheir misgiving consciences expected some frowns thence, and, behold, the glory of the Lordappeared (v. 42), for the protection of his servants, and the confusion of his and their accusers and940Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)adversaries. Moses and Aaron thereupon came before the tabernacle, partly for their own safety(there they took sanctuary from the strife of tongues, Ps. xxvii. 5; xxxi. 20), and partly for advice,to know what was the mind of God upon this occasion, v. 43. Justice hereupon declares that theydeserve to be consumed in a moment, v. 45. Why should those live an other day who hate to bereformed, and whose rebellions are their daily practices? Let just vengeance take place and do itswork, and the trouble will soon be over; only Moses and Aaron must first be secured.III. The intercession which Moses and Aaron made for them. Though they had as much reason,one would think, as Elias had to make intercession against Israel (Rom. xi. 2), yet they forgive andforget the indignities offered them, and are the best friends their enemies have. 1. They both fellon their faces, humbly to intercede with God for mercy, knowing how great the provocation was.This they had done several times before, upon similar occasions; and, though the people had baselyrequited them for it, yet, God having graciously accepted them, they still have recourse to the samemethod. This is praying always. 2. Moses, perceiving that the plague had begun in the congregationof the rebels (that is, that body of them which was gathered against Moses), sent Aaron by an actof his priestly office to make atonement for them, v. 46. And Aaron readily went and burned incensebetween the living and the dead, not to purify the infected air, but to pacify an offended God, andso stayed the progress of the judgment. By this it appeared, (1.) That Aaron was a very good man,and a man that had a true love for the children of his people, though they hated and envied him.Though God was now avenging his quarrel and pleading the cause of his priesthood, yet he interposesto turn away God's wrath. Nay, forgetting his age and gravity, he ran into the midst of thecongregation to help them. He did not say, "Let them smart awhile, and then, when I come, I shallbe the more welcome;" but, as one tender of the life of every Israelite, he makes all possible speedinto the gap at which death was entering. Moses and Aaron, who had been charged with killing thepeople of the Lord, might justly have upbraided them now; could they expect those to be theirsaviours whom they had so invidiously called their murderers? But those good men have taught ushere by their example not to be sullen towards those that are peevish with us, nor to take theadvantage which men give us by their provoking language to deny them any real kindness whichit is in the power of our hands to do them. We must render good for evil. (2.) That Aaron was avery bold man—bold to venture into the midst of an enraged rabble that were gathered togetheragainst him, and who, for aught he knew, might be the more exasperated by the plague that hadbegun—bold to venture into the midst of the infection, where the arrows of death flew thickest,and hundreds, nay thousands, were falling on the right hand and on the left. To save their lives heput his own into his hand, not counting it dear to him, so that he might but fulfil his ministry. (3.)That Aaron was a man of God, and ordained for men, in things pertaining to God. His call to thepriesthood was hereby abundantly confirmed and set above all contradiction; God had not onlysaved his life when the intruders were cut off, but now made him an instrument for saving Israel.Compare the censer of Aaron here with the censers of those sinners against their own souls. Thoseprovoked God's anger, this pacified it; those destroyed men's lives, this saved them; no roomtherefore is left to doubt of Aaron's call to the priesthood. Note, Those make out the best title topublic honours that lay out themselves the most for public good and obtain mercy of the Lord tobe faithful and useful. If any man will be great, let him make himself the servant of all. (4.) ThatAaron was a type of Christ, who came into the world to make an atonement for sin and to turn awaythe wrath of God from us, and who, by his mediation and intercession, stands between the living941Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)and the dead, to secure his chosen Israel to himself, and save them out of the midst of a worldinfected with sin and the curse.IV. The result and issue of the whole matter. 1. God's justice was glorified in the death of some.Great execution the sword of the Lord did in a very little time. Though Aaron made all the hastehe could, yet, before he could reach his post of service, there were 14,700 men laid dead upon thespot, v. 49. There were but few comparatively that died about the matter of Korah, the ring-leadersonly were made examples; but, the people not being led to repentance by the patience and forbearanceof God with them, justice is not now so sparing of the blood of Israelites. They complained of thedeath of a few hundreds as an unmerciful slaughter made among the people of the Lord, but hereGod silences that complaint by the slaughter of many thousands. Note, Those that quarrel with lessjudgments prepare greater for themselves; for when God judges he will overcome. 2. His mercywas glorified in the preservation of the rest. God showed them what he could do by his power, andwhat he might do in justice, but then showed them what he would do in his love and pity: he would,notwithstanding all this, preserve them a people to himself in and by a mediator. The cloud ofAaron's incense coming from his hand stayed the plague. Note, It is much for the glory of God'sgoodness that many a time even in wrath he remembers mercy. And, even when judgments havebeen begun, prayer puts a stop to them; so ready is he to forgive, and so little pleasure does he takein the death of sinners.N U M B E R SCHAP. XVII.Enough had been done in the chapter before to quash all pretensions of the families of the tribeof Levi that would set up in competition with Aaron, and to make it appear that Aaron was the headof the tribe; but it seems, when that matter was settled, the princes of the rest of the tribes began tomurmur. If the head of a tribe must be a priest, why not the head of some other tribe than that ofLevi? He that searches the heart knew this thought to be in the breast of some of them, and beforeit broke out into any overt act graciously anticipated it, to prevent bloodshed; and it is done bymiracle in this chapter, not a miracle of wrath, as before, but of grace. I. The matter is put upontrial by the bringing of twelve rods, one for each prince, before the Lord, ver. 1-7. II. Upon trial,the matter is determined by the miraculous blossoming of Aaron's rod, ver. 8, 9. III. The decisionof the controversy is registered by the preservation of the rod, ver. 10, 11. IV. The people acquiescein it with some reluctance, ver. 12, 13.The Blossoming of Aaron's Rod. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel,and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of alltheir princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou everyman's name upon his rod. 3 And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod ofLevi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. 4 And thou942Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, whereI will meet with you. 5 And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shallchoose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of thechildren of Israel, whereby they murmur against you. 6 And Moses spake unto thechildren of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for eachprince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaronwas among their rods. 7 And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tabernacleof witness.Here we have, I. Orders given for the bringing in of a rod for every tribe (which was peculiarlysignificant, for the word here used for a rod sometimes signifies a tribe, as particularly ch. xxxiv.13), that God by a miracle, wrought on purpose, might make it known on whom he had conferredthe honour of the priesthood. 1. It seems then the priesthood was a preferment worth seeking andstriving for, even by the princes of the tribes. It is an honour to the greatest of men to be employedin the service of God. Yet perhaps these contended for it rather for the sake of the profit and powerthat attended the office than for the sake of that in it which was divine and sacred. 2. It seemslikewise, after all that had been done to settle this matter, there were those who would be readyupon any occasion to contest it. They would not acquiesce in the divine appointment, but wouldmake an interest in opposition to it. They strive with God for the dominion; and the question iswhose will shall stand. God will rule, but Israel will not be ruled; and this is the quarrel. 3. It is aninstance of the grace of God that, having wrought divers miracles to punish sin, he would workone more on purpose to prevent it. God has effectually provided that the obstinate shall be leftinexcusable, and every mouth shall be stopped. Israel were very prone to murmur both against Godand against their governors. "Now," said God, "I will make to cease from me the murmurings ofthe children of Israel, v. 5. If any thing will convince them, they shall be convinced; and, if thiswill not convince them, nothing will." This was to be to them, as Christ said the sign of the prophetJonas (that is, his own resurrection) should be to the men of that generation, the highest proof ofhis mission that should be given them. The directions are, (1.) That twelve rods or staves shouldbe brought in. It is probable that they were not now fresh cut out of a tree, for then the miraclewould not have been so great; but that they were the staves which the princes ordinarily used asensigns of their authority (of which we read ch. xxi. 18), old dry staves, that had no sap in them,and it is probable that they were all made of the almond-tree. It should seem they were but twelvein all, with Aaron's, for, when Levi comes into the account, Ephraim and Manasseh make but one,under the name of Joseph. (2.) That the name of each prince should be written upon his rod, thatevery man might know his own, and to prevent contests. Writing is often a good preservative againststrife, for what is written may be appealed to. (3.) That they should be laid up in the tabernacle, forone night, before the testimony, that is, before the ark, which, with its mercy seat, was a symbol,token, or testimony, of God's presence with them. (4.) They were to expect, being told it before,that the rod of the tribe, or prince, whom God chose to the priesthood, should bud and blossom, v.5. It was requisite that they should be told of it, that it might appear not to be casual, but accordingto the counsel and will of God.II. The preparing of the rods accordingly. The princes brought them in, some of them perhapsfondly expecting that the choice would fall upon them, and all of them thinking it honour enough943Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to be competitors with Aaron, and to stand candidates, even for the priesthood (v. 7); and Moseslaid them up before the Lord. He did not object that the matter was sufficiently settled already, andenough done to convince those that were not invincibly hardened in their prejudices. He did notundertake to determine the controversy himself, though it might easily have been done; nor did hesuggest that it would be to no purpose to offer satisfaction to a people that were willingly blind.But, since God will have it so, he did his part, and lodged the case before the Lord, to whom theappeal was made by consent, and left it with him.8 And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle ofwitness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and broughtforth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. 9 And Moses broughtout all the rods from before the Lord unto all the children of Israel: and they looked,and took every man his rod. 10 And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rodagain before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shaltquite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. 11 And Moses didso: as the Lord commanded him, so did he. 12 And the children of Israel spakeunto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. 13 Whosoever comethany thing near unto the tabernacle of the Lord shall die: shall we be consumed withdying?Here is, I. The final determination of the controversy concerning the priesthood by a miracle,v. 8, 9. The rods or staves were brought out from the most holy place where they were laid up, andpublicly produced before the people; and, while all the rest of the rods remained as they were,Aaron's rod only, of a dry stick, became a living branch, budded, and blossomed, and yieldedalmonds. In some places there were buds, in others blossoms, in others fruit, at the same time. Thiswas miraculous, and took away all suspicion of a fraud, as if in the night Moses had taken awayAaron's rod, and put a living branch of an almond tree in the room of it; for no ordinary branchwould have buds, blossoms, and fruits upon it, all at once. Now,1. This was a plain indication to the people that Aaron was chosen to the priesthood, and notany other of the princes of the tribes. Thus he was distinguished from them and manifested to beunder the special blessing of heaven, which sometimes yields increase where there is neither plantingnor watering by the hand of man. Bishop Hall here observes that fruitfulness is the best evidenceof a divine call, and that the plants of God's setting, and the boughs cut off from them, will flourish.See Ps. xcii. 12-14. The trees of the Lord, though they seem dry trees, are full of sap.2. It was a very proper sign to represent the priesthood itself, which was hereby confirmed toAaron. (1.) That it should be fruitful and serviceable to the church of God. It produced not onlyblossoms, but almonds; for the priesthood was designed, not only for an honour to Aaron, but fora blessing to Israel. Thus Christ ordained his apostles and ministers that they should go and bringforth fruit, and that their fruit should remain, John xv. 16. (2.) That there should be a successionof priests. Here were not only almonds for the present, but buds and blossoms promising morehereafter. Thus has Christ provided in his church that a seed should serve him from generation togeneration. (3.) That yet this priesthood should not be perpetual, but in process of time, like thebranches and blossoms of a tree, should fail and wither. The flourishing of the almond-tree is944Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)mentioned as one of the signs of old age, Eccl. xii. 5. This character was betimes put upon theMosaic priesthood, which soon became old and ready to vanish away, Heb. viii. 13.3. It was a type and figure of Christ and his priesthood: for he is the man, the branch, that isto be a priest upon his throne, as it follows (Zech. vi. 12); and he was to grow up before God, asthis before the ark, like a tender plant, and a root out of a dry ground, Isa. liii. 2.II. The record of this determination, by the preserving of the rod before the testimony, inperpetuam rei memoriam—that it might be had in perpetual remembrance, v. 10, 11. It is probablethat the buds, and blossoms, and fruit, continued fresh; the same divine power that produced themin a night preserved them for ages, at least so long as it was necessary for a token against the rebels.So it was a standing miracle, and the continuance of it was an undeniable proof of the truth of it.Even the leaf of God's trees shall not wither, Ps. i. 3. This rod was preserved, as the censers were,to take away their murmurings, that they die not. Note, 1. The design of God in all his providences,both mercies and judgments, and in the memorials of them, is to take away sin, and to prevent it.These things are done, these things written, that we sin not, 1 John ii. 1. Christ was manifested totake away sin. 2. What God does for the taking away of sin is done in real kindness to us, that wedie not. All the bitter potions he gives, and all the sharp methods he uses with us, are for the cureof a disease which otherwise would certainly be fatal. Bishop Hall observes here that the tables ofthe law, the pot of manna, and Aaron's rod, were preserved together in or about the ark (the apostletakes notice of them all three together, Heb. ix. 4), to show to after-ages how the ancient churchwas taught, and fed, and ruled; and he infers how precious the doctrine, sacraments, and government,of the church are to God and should be to us. The rod of Moses was used in working many miracles,yet we do not find that this was preserved, for the keeping of it would serve only to gratify men'scuriosity; but the rod of Aaron, which carried its miracle along with it, was carefully preserved,because that would be of standing use to convince men's consciences, to silence all disputes aboutthe priesthood, and to confirm the faith of God's Israel in his institutions. Such is the differencebetween the sacraments which Christ has appointed for edification and the relics which men havedevised for superstition.III. The outcry of the people hereupon (v. 12, 13): Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.Shall we be consumed with dying? This may be considered as the language either, 1. Of a repiningpeople quarrelling with the judgments of God, which, by their own pride and obstinacy, they hadbrought upon themselves. They seem to speak despairingly, as if God was a hard Master, that soughtadvantage against them, and took all occasions to pick quarrels with them, so that if they trod everyso little awry, if they stepped ever so little beyond their bounds, they must die, they must perish,they must all perish, basely insinuating that God would never be satisfied with their blood and ruin,till he had made an end of them all and they were consumed with dying. Thus they seem to be likea wild bull in a net, full of the fury of the Lord (Isa. li. 20), fretting that God was too hard for themand that they were forced to submit, which they did only because they could not help it. Note, It isa very wicked thing to fret against God when we are in affliction, and in our distress thus to trespassyet more. If we die, if we perish, it is owing to ourselves, and the blame will lie upon our ownheads. Or, 2. Of a repenting people. Many interpreters take it as expressing their submission: "Nowwe see that it is the will of God we should keep our distance, and that it is at our peril if we drawnearer than is appointed. We submit to the divine will in this appointment; we will not contend anymore, lest we all perish:" and they engage Moses to intercede for them, that they may not be allconsumed with dying. Thus the point was gained, and in this matter God quite took away their945Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)murmurings, and henceforward they acquiesced. Note, When God judges he will over come, and,one way or other, will oblige the most obstinate gainsayers to confess their folly sooner or later,and that wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. Vicisti Galilæe—O Galilæan, thou hastconquered!N U M B E R SCHAP. XVIII.Aaron being now fully established in the priesthood abundantly to his own satisfaction, andto the satisfaction of the people (which was the good that God brought out of the evil oppositionmade to him), in this chapter God gives him full instructions concerning his office or rather repeatsthose which he had before given him. He tells him, I. What must be his work and the care andcharge committed to him, and what assistance he should have the Levites in that work, ver. 1-7. II.What should be his and the Levites' wages for this work. 1. The perquisites or fees peculiar to thepriests, ver. 8-19. 2. The settled maintenance of the Levites, ver. 20-24. III. The portion which mustbe paid to the priests out of the Levites' maintenance, ver. 25-32. Thus every one knew what hehad to do, and what he had to live upon.The Service of the Priests and Levites. (b. c. 1490.)1 And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house withthee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shallbear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2 And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi,the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, andminister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacleof witness. 3 And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle:only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neitherthey, nor ye also, die. 4 And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge ofthe tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a strangershall not come nigh unto you. 5 And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, andthe charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel.6 And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the childrenof Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the Lord, to do the service of thetabernacle of the congregation. 7 Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keepyour priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve:I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger thatcometh nigh shall be put to death.The coherence of this chapter with that foregoing is very observable.946Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)I. The people, in the close of that chapter, had complained of the difficulty and peril that therewere in drawing near to God, which put them under some dreadful apprehensions that the tabernaclein the midst of them, which they hoped would have been their joy and glory, would rather be theirterror and ruin. Now, in answer to this complaint, God here gives them to understand by Aaronthat the priests should come near for them as their representatives; so that, though the people wereobliged to keep their distance, yet that should not at all redound to their disgrace or prejudice, buttheir comfortable communion with God should be kept up by the interposition of the priests.II. A great deal of honour God had now lately put upon Aaron; his rod had budded andblossomed, when the rods of the rest of the princes remained dry, and destitute both of fruit andornament. Now lest Aaron should be puffed up with the abundance of the favours that were donehim, and the miracles that were wrought for the support of him in his high station, God comes tohim to remind him of the burden that was laid upon him, and the duty required from him as a priest.He would see reason not to be proud of his preferment, but to receive the honours of his office withreverence and holy trembling, when he considered how great was the charge committed to him,and how hard it would be for him to give a good account of it. Be not high-minded, but fear.1. God tells him of the danger that attended his dignity, v. 1. (1.) That both the priests andLevites (thou, and thy sons, and thy father's house) should bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; thatis, if the sanctuary were profaned by the intrusion of strangers, or persons in their uncleanness, theblame should lie upon the Levites and priests, who ought to have kept them off. Though the sinnerthat thrust in presumptuously should die in his iniquity, yet his blood should be required at thehands of the watchmen. Or it may be taken more generally: "If any of the duties or offices of thesanctuary be neglected, if any service be not done in its season or not according to the law, if anything be lost or misplaced in the removal of the sanctuary, you shall be accountable for it, andanswer it at your peril." (2.) That the priests should themselves bear the iniquity of the priesthood;that is, if they either neglected any part of their work or permitted any other persons to invade theiroffice, and take their work out of their hands, they should bear the blame of it. Note, The greaterthe trust is of work and power that is committed to us the greater is our danger of contracting guilt,by falsifying and betraying that trust. This is a good reason why we should neither be envious atothers' honours nor ambitious ourselves of high places, because great dignity exposes us to greatiniquity. Those that are entrusted with the charge of the sanctuary will have a great deal to answerfor. Who would covet the care of souls who considers the account that must be given of that care?2. He tells him of the duty that attended his dignity. (1.) That he and his sons must ministerbefore the tabernacle of witness (v. 2); that is (as bishop Patrick explains it), before the most holyplace, in which the ark was, on the outside of the veil of that tabernacle, but within the door of thetabernacle, of the congregation. They were to attend the golden altar, the table, and candlestick,which no Levite might approach to. You shall serve, v. 7. Not, "You shall rule" (it was neverintended that they should lord it over God's heritage), but "You shall serve God and thecongregation." Note, The priesthood is a service. If any desire the office of a bishop he desires agood work. Ministers must remember that they are ministers, that is, servants, of whom it is requiredthat they be humble, diligent, and faithful. (2.) That the Levites must assist him and his sons, andminister to them in all the service of the tabernacle (v. 2-4), though they must by no means comenigh the vessels of the sanctuary, nor at the altar meddle with the great services of burning the fatand sprinkling the blood. Aaron's family was very small, and, as it increased, the rest of the familiesof Israel would increase likewise, so that the hands of the priests neither were now nor were likely947Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to be sufficient for all the service of the tabernacle; therefore (says God) the Levites shall be joinedto thee, v. 2, and again v. 4, where there seems to be an allusion to the name of Levi, which signifiesjoined. Many of the Levites had of late set themselves against Aaron, but henceforward God promisesthat they should be heartily joined to him in interest and affection, and should no more contest withhim. It was a good sign to Aaron that God owned him when he inclined the hearts of those concernedto own him too. The Levites are said to be given as a gift to the priests, v. 6. Note, We are to valueit as a great gift of the divine bounty to have those joined to us that will be helpful and serviceableto us in the service of God. (3.) That both priests and Levites must carefully watch against theprofanation of sacred things. The Levites must keep the charge of the tabernacle, that no stranger(that is, none who upon any account was forbidden to come) might come nigh (v. 4), and that uponpain of death, v. 7. And the priests must keep the charge of the sanctuary (v. 5), must instruct thepeople, and admonish them concerning the due distance they were to keep, and not suffer them tobreak the bounds set them, as Korah's company had done, that there be no wrath any more uponthe children of Israel. Note, The preventing of sin is the preventing of wrath; and the mischief sinhas done should be a warning to us for the future to watch against it both in ourselves and others.8 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge ofmine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto theehave I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance forever. 9 This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: everyoblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, andevery trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holyfor thee and for thy sons. 10 In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every maleshall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee. 11 And this is thine; the heave offering oftheir gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given themunto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: everyone that is clean in thy house shall eat of it. 12 All the best of the oil, and all thebest of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer untothe Lord, them have I given thee. 13 And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, whichthey shall bring unto the Lord, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine houseshall eat of it. 14 Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine. 15 Every thing thatopeneth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the Lord, whether it be of menor beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem,and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem. 16 And those that are to beredeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, forthe money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.17 But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat,thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar,and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto theLord. 18 And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right948Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)shoulder are thine. 19 All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the childrenof Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters withthee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto theeand to thy seed with thee.The priest's service is called a warfare; and who goes a warfare at his own charges? As theywere well employed, so they were well provided for, and well paid. None shall serve God fornought. All believers are spiritual priests, and God has promised to take care of them; they shalldwell in the land, and verily they shall be fed, and shall not want any good thing. Godliness has thepromise of the life that now is. And from this plentiful provision here made for the priests the apostleinfers that it is the duty of Christian churches to maintain their ministers; those that served at thealtar lived upon the altar. So those that preach the gospel should live upon the gospel, and livecomfortably, 1 Cor. ix. 13, 14. Scandalous maintenance makes scandalous ministers. Now observe,1. That much of the provision that was made for them arose out of the sacrifices which theythemselves were employed to offer. They had the skins of almost all the sacrifices, which theymight sell, and they had a considerable share out of the meat-offerings, sin-offerings, &c. Thosethat had the charge of the offerings had the benefit, v. 8. Note, God's work is its own wages, andhis service carries its recompence along with it. Even in keeping God's commandments there isgreat reward. The present pleasures of religion are part of its pay. 2. That they had not only a goodtable kept for them, but money likewise in their pockets for the redemption of the first-born, andthose firstlings of cattle which might not be offered in sacrifice. Thus their maintenance was suchas left them altogether disentangled from the affairs of this life; they had no grounds to occupy, noland to till, no vineyards to dress, no cattle to tend, no visible estate to take care of, and yet had amore plentiful income than any other families whatsoever. Thus God ordered it that they might bethe more entirely addicted to their ministry, and not diverted from it, nor disturbed in it, by anyworldly care or business (the ministry requires a whole man); and that they might be examples ofliving by faith, not only in God's providence, but in his ordinance. They lived from hand to mouth,that they might learn to take no thought for the morrow; sufficient for the day would be the provisionthereof: and they had no estates to leave their children, that they might by faith leave their children,that they might by faith leave them to the care of that God who had fed them all their lives long. 3.Of the provision that was made for their tables some is said to be most holy (v. 9, 10), which wasto be eaten by the priests themselves, and in the court of the tabernacle only; but other perquisiteswere less holy, of which their families might eat, at their own houses, provided they were clean,v. 11-13. See Lev. xxi. 10, &c. 4. It is commanded that the best of the oil, and the best of the wineand wheat, should be offered for the first-fruits unto the Lord, which the priest were to have, v. 12.Note, We must always serve and honour God with the best we have, for he is the best, and bestdeserves it; he is the first, and therefore must have the first ripe. Those that think to save chargesby putting God off with the refuse do but deceive themselves, for God is not mocked. 5. All this isgiven to the priests by reason of the anointing, v. 8. It was not for the sake of their personal meritsabove other Israelites that they had these tributes paid to them, be it known unto them; but purelyfor the sake of the office to which they were anointed. Thus all the comforts that are given to theLord's people are given them by reason of the anointing which they have received. It is said to begiven them by an ordinance for ever (v. 8), and it is a covenant of salt for ever, v. 19. As long asthe priesthood should continue this should continue to be the maintenance of it, that this lamp might949Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)not go out for want of oil to keep it burning. Thus provision is made that a gospel ministry shouldcontinue till Christ comes, by an ordinance for ever. Lo, I am with you (that is their maintenanceand support) always, even to the end of the world. Thanks be to the Redeemer, it is the word whichhe has commanded to a thousand generations.The Priests and Levites Provided For. (b. c. 1490.)20 And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land,neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritanceamong the children of Israel. 21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi allthe tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even theservice of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22 Neither must the children of Israelhenceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, andthey shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations,that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24 But the tithes of thechildren of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have givento the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children ofIsrael they shall have no inheritance. 25 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the childrenof Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then yeshall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. 27And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the cornof the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. 28 Thus ye also shalloffer an heave offering unto the Lord of all your tithes, which ye receive of thechildren of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave offering to Aaron thepriest. 29 Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the Lord, ofall the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. 30 Therefore thou shaltsay unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be countedunto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of thewinepress. 31 And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it isyour reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. 32 And ye shallbear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shallye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.Here is a further account of the provision that was made both for the Levites and for the priests,out of the country.I. They must have no inheritance in the land; only cities to dwell in were afterwards allowedthem, but no ground to occupy: Thou shalt not have any part among them, v. 20. It is repeated againv. 23, and again v. 24, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance, either by purchaseor descent. God would have them comfortably provided for, but would not have their families950Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)over-rich, lest they should think themselves above that work which their wages supposed andobliged them constantly to attend upon. As Israel was a peculiar people, and not to be numberedamong the nations, so Levi was a peculiar tribe, and not to be settled as the rest of the tribes, butin all respects distinguished from them. A good reason is given why they must have no inheritancein the land, for, says God, I am thy part, and thy inheritance. Note, Those that have God for theirinheritance and their portion for ever ought to look with a holy contempt and indifference upon theinheritances of this world, and not covet their portion in it. "The Lord is my portion, therefore willI hope in him, and not depend upon any thing I have on this earth," Lam. iii. 24. The Levites shallhave no inheritance, and yet they shall live very comfortably and plentifully—to teach us thatProvidence has various ways of supporting those that live in a dependence upon it; the fowls reapnot, and yet are fed, the lilies spin not, and yet are clothed, the Levites have no inheritance in Israel,and yet live better than any other tribe. The repetition of that caution, that no Israelite shouldapproach the tabernacle, comes in suitable, though somewhat abruptly, v. 22. It seems set inopposition to that order concerning the priests and Levites that they should have no inheritance inIsrael, to show how God dispenses his favours variously. The Levites have the honour of attendingthe tabernacle, which is denied the Israelites; but then the Israelites have the honour of inheritancesin Canaan, which is denied the Levites; thus each is kept from either envying or despising the other,and both have reason to rejoice in their lot. The Israelites must not come nigh the tabernacle, butthen the Levites must have no inheritance in the land; if ministers expect that people should keepin their sphere, and not intermeddle with sacred offices, let them keep in theirs, and not entanglethemselves in secular affairs.II. But they must both have tithes of the land. Besides the first-fruits which were appropriatedto the priests, which, the Jews say, were to be a fiftieth part, or at least a sixtieth, the tithe also wasappropriated. 1. The Levites had the tithes of the people's increase (v. 21): I have given (whose thewhole is) all the tenths in Israel, of all the productions of the land, to the children of Levi, to bedivided among them in just proportions, for their service which they serve. The Levites were thesmallest tribe of the twelve, and yet, besides all other advantages, they had a tenth part of the yearlyprofits, without the trouble and expense of ploughing and sowing; such care did God take of thosethat were devoted to his service; not only that they might be well maintained, but that they mightbe honoured with a national acknowledgment of the good services they did to the public, and ownedas God's agents and receivers; for that which was a heave-offering, or an offering lifted heavenwardunto the Lord, was by him consigned to the Levites. 2. The priests had the tenths of the Levites'tithes settled upon them. The order for this Moses is directed to give to the Levites, whom Godwould have to pay it with cheerfulness, rather than the priests to demand it with authority: Speakto the Levites that it be offered by them, rather than levied upon them. Now observe, (1.) The Leviteswere to give God his dues out of their tithes, as well as the Israelites out of their increase. Theywere God's tenants, and rent was expected from them, nor were they exempted by their office. Thusnow, ministers must be charitable out of what they receive; and the more freely they have receivedthe more freely they must give, and be examples of liberality. You shall offer a heave-offering tothe Lord, v. 26. Those that are employed to assist the devotions of others must be sure to pay theirown, as a heave-offering to the Lord. Prayers and praises lifted up to God, or rather the heart liftedup in them, are now our heave-offerings. This (says God) shall be reckoned to you as though itwere the corn of the threshing-floor; that is, though it was not the fruit of their ground, nor of theirown labour, as the tithes of other Israelites were, yet being of such as they had it should be accepted,951Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to the sanctifying of all the rest. (2.) This was to be given to Aaron the priest (v. 28), and to hissuccessors the high priests, to be divided and disposed of in such proportions as they should thinkfit among the inferior priests. Most of the profits of the priests' office, which were appointed in theformer part of the chapter, arising from the sacrifices, those priests had the benefit of who constantlyattended at the altar; but, forasmuch as there were many priests employed in the country to teachand rule, those tithes taken by the Levites, it is probable, were directed by the high priest for theirmaintenance. It is the probable conjecture of the learned bishop Patrick that the tenth of this lasttenth was reserved for the high priest himself, to support his state and dignity; for otherwise weread not of any peculiar provision made for him. (3.) When the Levites had thus paid the tenth oftheir income, as a heave-offering to the Lord, they had themselves the comfortable enjoyment ofthe other nine parts (v. 30): "When you have thus heaved the best from it (for still God's part mustbe the best) then you shall eat the rest, not as a holy thing, but with the same freedom that the otherIsraelites eat their part with, in every place, you and your households," v. 31. See here what is theway to have the comfort of all our worldly possessions so as to bear no sin by reason of them, asit follows, v. 32. [1.] We must be sure that what we have be got honestly and in the service of God.It is your reward for your service; that meat is the best eating that is first earned; but, if any willnot work, neither shall he eat, 2 Thess. iii. 10. And that seems to be spoken of as having a particularcomfort and satisfaction in it which is the reward of faithful service done in the tabernacle of thecongregation. [2.] We must be sure that God has his dues out of it. Then we have the comfort ofour substance when we have honoured the Lord with it. The you shall bear no sin by reason of it,when you have heaved the best from it. This intimates that we must never feed ourselves withoutfear, lest our table become a snare, and we bear sin by reason of it; and that therefore we areconcerned to give alms of such things as we have, that all may be clean and comfortable to us.N U M B E R SCHAP. XIX.This chapter is only concerning the preparing and using of the ashes which were to impregnatethe water of purification. The people had complained of the strictness of the law, which forbadetheir near approach to the tabernacle, ch. xvii. 13. In answer to this complaint, they are here directedto purify themselves, so as that they might come as far as they had occasion without fear. Here is,I. The method of preparing these ashes, by the burning of a red heifer, with a great deal of ceremony,ver. 1-10. II. The way of using them. 1. They were designed to purify persons from the pollutioncontracted by a dead body, ver. 11-16. 2. They were to be put into running water (a small quantityof them), with which the person to be cleansed must be purified, ver. 17-22. And that this ceremonialpurification was a type and figure of the cleansing of the consciences of believers from the pollutionsof sin appears by the apostle's discourse, Heb. ix. 13, 14, where he compares the efficacy of theblood of Christ with the sanctifying virtue that was in "the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean."The Ashes of Purification. (b. c. 1471.)952Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2 This is the ordinanceof the law which the Lord hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children ofIsrael, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, andupon which never came yoke: 3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, thathe may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: 4And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of herblood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: 5 And oneshall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with herdung, shall he burn: 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet,and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall washhis clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come intothe camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. 8 And he that burneth hershall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be uncleanuntil the even. 9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, andlay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for thecongregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purificationfor sin. 10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, andbe unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto thestranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.We have here the divine appointment concerning the solemn burning of a red heifer to ashes,and the preserving of the ashes, that of them might be made, not a beautifying, but a purifying,water, for that was the utmost the law reached to; it offered not to adorn as the gospel does, but tocleanse only. This burning of the heifer, though it was not properly a sacrifice of expiation, beingnot performed at the altar, yet was typical of the death and sufferings of Christ, by which he intended,not only to satisfy God's justice, but to purify and pacify our consciences, that we may have peacewith God and also peace in our own bosoms, to prepare for which Christ died, not only like thebulls and goats at the altar, but like the heifer without the camp.I. There was a great deal of care employed in the choice of the heifer that was to be burnt,much more than in the choice of any other offering, v. 2. It must not only be without blemish,typifying the spotless purity and sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus, but it must a red heifer, becauseof the rarity of the colour, that it might be the more remarkable: the Jews say, "If but two hairs wereblack or white, it was unlawful." Christ, as man, was the Son of Adam, red earth, and we find himred in his apparel, red with his own blood, and red with the blood of his enemies. And it must beone on which never came yoke, which was not insisted on in other sacrifices, but thus was typifiedthe voluntary offer of the Lord Jesus, when he said, Lo, I come, He was bound and held with noother cords than those of his own love. This heifer was to be provided at the expense of thecongregation, because they were all to have a joint interest in it; and so all believers have in Christ.II. There was to be a great deal of ceremony in the burning of it. The care of doing it wascommitted to Eleazar, not to Aaron himself, because it was not fit that he should do any thing torender himself ceremonially unclean, no, not so much as till the evening (v. 8); yet it being an affair953Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of great concern especially in the significancy of it, it was to be performed by him that was next toAaron in dignity. The chief priests of that time had the principal hand in the death of Christ. Now,1. The heifer was to be slain without the camp, as an impure thing, which bespeaks theinsufficiency of the methods prescribed by the ceremonial law to take away sin. So far were theyfrom cleansing effectually that they were themselves unclean; as if the pollution that was laid uponthem continued to cleave to them. Yet, to answer this type, our Lord Jesus, being made sin and acurse for us, suffered without the gate, Heb. xiii. 12.2. Eleazar was to sprinkle the blood directly before the door of the tabernacle, and lookingsteadfastly towards it, v. 4. This made it in some sort an expiation; for the sprinkling of the bloodbefore the Lord was the chief solemnity in all the sacrifices of atonement; therefore, though thiswas not done at the altar, yet, being done towards the sanctuary, it was intimated that the virtueand validity of it depended upon the sanctuary, and were derived from it. This signified thesatisfaction that was made to God by the death of Christ, our great high priest, who by the eternalSpirit (and the Spirit is called the finger of God, as Ainsworth observes, Luke xi. 20) offered himselfwithout spot unto God; directly before the sanctuary, when he said, Father, into thy hands I commitmy spirit. It also signifies how necessary it was to the purifying of our hearts that satisfaction shouldbe made to divine justice. This sprinkling of the blood put virtue into the ashes.3. The heifer was to be wholly burnt, v. 5. This typified the extreme sufferings of our LordJesus, both in soul and body, as a sacrifice made by fire. The priest was to cast into the fire, whileit was burning, cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet, which were used in the cleansing of lepers (Lev.xiv. 6, 7), that the ashes of these might be mingled with the ashes of the heifer, because they weredesigned for purification.4. The ashes of the heifer (separated as well as they could from the ashes of the wood wherewithit was burnt) were to be carefully gathered up by the hand of a clean person, and (as the Jews say)pounded and sifted, and so laid up for the use of the congregation, as there was occasion (v. 9), notonly for that generation, but for posterity; for the ashes of this one heifer were sufficient to seasonas many vessels of water as the people of Israel would need for many ages. The Jews say that thisone served till the captivity, nearly 1000 years, and that there was never another heifer burnt tillEzra's time, after their return, to which tradition of theirs, grounded (I suppose) only upon thesilence of their old records, I see no reason we have to give credit, since in the later times of theirchurch, of which they had more full records, they find eight burnt between Ezra's time and thedestruction of the second temple, which was about 500 years, These ashes are said to be laid uphere as a purification for sin, because, though they were intended to purify only from ceremonialuncleanness, yet they were a type of that purification for sin which our Lord Jesus made by hisdeath. Ashes mixed with water are used in scouring, but these had their virtue purely from thedivine institution, and their accomplishment and perfection in Christ, who is the end of this law forrighteousness. Now observe, (1.) That the water of purification was made so by the ashes of aheifer, whose blood was sprinkled before the sanctuary; so that which cleanses our consciences isthe abiding virtue of the death of Christ; it is his blood that cleanses from all sin, 1 John i. 7. (2.)That the ashes were sufficient for all the people. There needed not to be a fresh heifer slain forevery person or family that had occasion to be purified, but this one was enough for all, even forthe strangers that sojourned among them (v. 10); so there is virtue enough in the blood of Christfor all that repent and believe the gospel, for every Israelite, and not for their sins only, but for thesins of the whole world, 1 John ii. 2. (3.) That these ashes were capable of being preserved without954Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)waste to many ages. No bodily substance is so incorruptible as ashes are, which (says bishop Patrick)made these a very fit emblem of the everlasting efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. He is able tosave, and, in order to that, able to cleanse, to the uttermost, both of person and times. (4.) Theseashes were laid up as a stock or treasure, for the constant purification of Israel from their pollutions;so the blood of Christ is laid up for us in the word and sacraments, as an inexhaustible fountain ofmerit, to which by faith we may have recourse daily for the purging of our consciences; see Zech.xiii. 1.5. All those that were employed in this service were made ceremonially unclean by it; evenEleazar himself, though he did but sprinkle the blood, v. 7. He that burned the heifer was unclean(v. 8), and he that gathered up the ashes (v. 10); so all that had a hand in putting Christ to deathcontracted guilt by it: his betrayer, his prosecutors, his judge, his executioner, all did what they didwith wicked hands, though it was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts ii.23); yet some of them were, and all might have been cleansed by the virtue of that same bloodwhich they had brought themselves under the guilt of. Some make this to signify the imperfectionof the legal services, and their insufficiency to take away sin, inasmuch as those who prepared forthe purifying of others were themselves polluted by the preparation. The Jews say, This is a mysterywhich Solomon himself did not understand, that the same thing should pollute those that were cleanand purify those that were unclean. But (says bishop Patrick) it is not strange to those who considerthat all the sacrifices which were offered for sin were therefore looked upon as impure, becausethe sins of men were laid upon them, as all our sins were upon Christ, who therefore is said to bemade sin for us, 2 Cor. v. 21.11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. 12He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall beclean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not beclean. 13 Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifiethnot himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off fromIsrael: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall beunclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. 14 This is the law, when a man dieth ina tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean sevendays. 15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.16 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or adead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 And foran unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification forsin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: 18 And a clean person shalltake hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all thevessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, orone slain, or one dead, or a grave: 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon theunclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shallpurify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be cleanat even. 20 But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that955Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled thesanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; heis unclean. 21 And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleththe water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water ofseparation shall be unclean until even. 22 And whatsoever the unclean persontoucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.Directions are here given concerning the use and application of the ashes which were preparedfor purification. they were laid up to be laid out; and therefore, though now one place would serveto keep them in, while all Israel lay so closely encamped, yet it is probable that afterwards, whenthey came to Canaan, some of these ashes were kept in every town, for there would be daily usefor them. Observe,I. In what cases there needed a purification with these ashes. No other is mentioned here thanthe ceremonial uncleanness that was contracted by the touch of a dead body, or of the bone or graveof a dead man, or being in the tent or house where a dead body lay, v. 11, 14-16. This I look uponto have been one of the greatest burdens of the ceremonial law, and one of the most unaccountable.He that touched the carcase of an unclean beast, or any living man under the greatest ceremonialuncleanness, was made unclean by it only till the evening, and needed only common water to purifyhimself with; but he that came near the dead body of man, woman, or child, much bear the reproachof his uncleanness seven days, must twice be purified with the water of separation, which he couldnot obtain without trouble and charge, and till he was purified must not come near the sanctuaryupon pain of death.1. This was strange, considering, (1.) that whenever any died (and we are in deaths oft) severalpersons must unavoidable contract this pollution, the body must be stripped, washed, wound up,carried out, and buried, and this could not be done without many hands, and yet all defiled, whichsignifies that in our corrupt and fallen state there is none that lives and sins not; we cannot avoidbeing polluted by the defiling world we pass through, and we offend daily, yet the impossibility ofour being sinless does not make sin the less polluting. (2.) that taking care of the dead, to see themdecently buried, is not only necessary, but a very good office, and an act of kindness, both to thehonour of the dead and the comfort of the living, and yet uncleanness was contracted by it, whichintimates that the pollutions of sin mix with and cleave to our best services. There is not a just manupon earth that doeth good and sinneth not; we are apt some way or other to do amiss even in ourdoing good. (3.) That this pollution was contracted by what was done privately in their own houses,which intimates (as bishop Patrick observes) that God sees what is done in secret, and nothing canbe concealed from the divine Majesty. (4.) This pollution might be contracted, and yet a man mightnever know it, as by the touch of a grave which appeared not, of which our Saviour says, Thosethat walk over it are not aware of it (Luke xi. 44), which intimates the defilement of the conscienceby sins of ignorance, and the cause we have to cry out, "Who can understand his errors?" and topray, "Cleanse us from secret faults, faults which we ourselves do not see ourselves guilty of."2. But why did the law make a dead corpse such a defiling thing? (1.) Because death is thewages of sin, entered into the world by it, and reigns by the power of it. Death to mankind is anotherthing from what it is to other creatures: it is a curse, it is the execution of the law, and therefore thedefilement of death signifies the defilement of sin. (2.) Because the law could not conquer death,nor abolish it and alter the property of it, as the gospel does by bringing life and immortality to956Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)light, and so introducing a better hope. Since our Redeemer was dead and buried, death is no moredestroying to the Israel of God, and therefore dead bodies are no more defiling; but while the churchwas under the law, to show that it made not the comers thereunto perfect, the pollution contractedby dead bodies could not but form in their minds melancholy and uncomfortable notions concerningdeath, while believers now through Christ can triumph over it. O grave! where is thy victory? Whereis thy pollution?II. How the ashes were to be used and applied in these cases. 1. A small quantity of the ashesmust be put into a cup of spring water, and mixed with the water, which thereby was made, as it ishere called, a water of separation, because it was to be sprinkled on those who were separated orremoved from the sanctuary by their uncleanness. As the ashes of the heifer signified the merit ofChrist, so the running water signified the power and grace of the blessed Spirit, who is comparedto rivers of living water; and it is by his operation that the righteousness of Christ is applied to usfor our cleansing. Hence we are said to be washed, that is, sanctified and justified, not only in thename of the Lord Jesus, but by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. vi. 11; 1 Pet. i. 2. Those that promisethemselves benefit by the righteousness of Christ, while they submit not to the grace and influenceof the Spirit, do but deceive themselves, for we cannot put asunder what God has joined, nor bepurified by the ashes otherwise than in the running water. 2. This water must be applied by a bunchof hyssop dipped in it, with which the person or thing to be cleansed must be sprinkled (v. 18), inallusion to which David prays, Purge me with hyssop. Faith is the bunch of hyssop wherewith theconscience is sprinkled and the heart purified. Many might be sprinkled at once, and the water withwhich the ashes were mingled might serve for many sprinklings, till it was all spent; and a verylittle lighting upon a man served to purify him, if done with that intention. In allusion to thisapplication of the water of separation by sprinkling, the blood of Christ is said to be the blood ofsprinkling (Heb. xii. 24), and with it were are said to be sprinkled from an evil conscience (Heb.x. 22), that is, we are freed from the uneasiness that arises from a sense of our guilt. And it is foretoldthat Christ, by his baptism, shall sprinkle many nations, Isa. lii. 15. 3. The unclean person must besprinkled with this water on the third day after his pollution, and on the seventh day, v. 12-19. Thedays were reckoned (we may suppose) from the last time of his touching or coming near the deadbody; for he would not begin the days of his cleansing while he was still under a necessity ofrepeating the pollution; but when the dead body was buried, so that there was no further occasionof meddling with it, then he began to reckon his days. Then, and then only, we may with comfortapply Christ's merit to our souls, when we have forsaken sin, and cease all fellowship with theunfruitful works of death and darkness. The repetition of the sprinkling teaches us often to renewthe actings of repentance and faith, wash as Naaman, seven times; we need to do that often whichis so necessary to be well done. 4. Though the pollution contracted was only ceremonial, yet theneglect of the purification prescribed would turn into moral guilt: He that shall be unclean andshall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off, v. 20. Note, It is a dangerous thing to contemndivine institutions, though they may seem minute. A slight wound, if neglected, may prove fatal;a sin we call little, if not repented of, will be our ruin, when great sinners that repent shall findmercy. Our uncleanness separates us from God, but it is our being unclean and not purifyingourselves that will separate us for ever from him: it is not the wound that is fatal, so much as thecontempt of the remedy. 5. Even he that sprinkled the water of separation, or touched it, or touchedthe unclean person, must be unclean till the evening, that is, must not come near the sanctuary onthat day, v. 21, 22. Thus God would show them the imperfection of those services, and their957Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)insufficiency to purify the conscience, that they might look for the Messiah, who in the fulness oftime should by the eternal Spirit offer himself without spot unto God, and so purge our consciencesfrom dead works (that is, from sin, which defiles like a dead body, and is therefore called a bodyof death), that we may have liberty of access to the sanctuary, to serve the living God with livingsacrifices.N U M B E R SCHAP. XX.At this chapter begins the history of the fortieth year (which was the last year) of the Israelites'wandering in the wilderness. And since the beginning of their second year, when they were sentencedto perform their quarantine in the desert, there to wear away the tedious revolution of forty years,there is little recorded concerning them till this last year, which brought them to the borders ofCanaan, and the history of this year is almost as large as the history of the first year. This chaptergives an account of, I. The death of Miriam, ver. 1. II. The fetching of water out of the rock, inwhich observe, 1. The distress Israel was in, for want of water, ver. 2. 2. Their discontent andmurmuring in that distress, ver. 3-5. 3. God's pity and power engaged for their supply with waterout of the rock, ver. 6-9. 4. The infirmity of Moses and Aaron upon this occasion, ver. 10, 11. 5.God's displeasure against them, ver. 12, 13. III. The negotiation with the Edomites. Israel's request(ver. 14-17), and the repulse the Edomites gave them, ver. 18-21. IV. The death of Aaron the highpriest upon Mount Hor, the instalment of Eleazar in his room, and the people's mourning for him,ver. 22, &c.The Death of Miriam; The Water of Meribah; Moses and Aaron Reproved. (b. c. 1453.)1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desertof Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there,and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation: and theygathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the peoplechode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethrendied before the Lord! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lordinto this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And wherefore haveye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no placeof seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water todrink. 6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto thedoor of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and theglory of the Lord appeared unto them. 7 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother,and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and958Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give thecongregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before theLord, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregationtogether before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetchyou water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod hesmote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregationdrank, and their beasts also. 12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Becauseye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore yeshall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This isthe water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and hewas sanctified in them.After thirty-eight years' tedious marches, or rather tedious rests, in the wilderness, backwardtowards the Red Sea, the armies of Israel now at length set their faces towards Canaan again, andhad come not far off from the place where they were when, by the righteous sentence of divineJustice, they were made to begin their wanderings. Hitherto they had been led about as in a mazeor labyrinth, while execution was doing upon the rebels that were sentenced; but they were nowbrought into the right way again: they abode in Kadesh (v. 1), not Kadesh-barnea, which was nearthe borders of Canaan, but another Kadesh on the confines of Edom, further off from the land ofpromise, yet in the way to it from the Red Sea, to which they had been hurried back. Now,I. Here dies Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and as it should seem older than either ofthem. She must have been so if she was that sister that was set to watch Moses when he was putinto the ark of bulrushes, Exod. ii. 4. Miriam died there, v. 1. She was a prophetess, and had beenan instrument of much good to Israel, Mic. vi. 4. When Moses and Aaron with their rod went beforethem, to work wonders for them, Miriam with her timbrel went before them in praising God forthese wondrous works (Exod. xv. 20), and therein did them real service; yet she had once been amurmurer (ch. xii. 1), and must not enter Canaan.II. Here there is another Meribah. one place we met with before of that name, in the beginningof their march through the wilderness, which was so called because of the chiding of the childrenof Israel, Exod. xvii. 7. And now we have another place, at the latter end of their march, whichbears the same name for the same reason: This is the water of Meribah, v. 13. What was there donewas here re-acted.1. There was no water for the congregation, v. 2. The water out of the rock of Rephidim hadfollowed them while there was need of it; but it is probable that for some time they had been in acountry where they were supplied in an ordinary way, and when common providence suppliedthem it was fit that the miracle should cease. But in this place it fell out that there was no water, ornot sufficient for the congregation. Note, We live in a wanting world, and, wherever we are, mustexpect to meet with some inconvenience or other. It is a great mercy to have plenty of water, amercy which if we found the want of we should own the worth of.2. Hereupon they murmured, mutinied (v. 2), gathered themselves together, and took up armsagainst Moses and Aaron. They chid with them (v. 3), spoke the same absurd and brutish languagethat their fathers had done before them. (1.) They wished they had died as malefactors by the handsof divine justice, rather than thus seem for a while neglected by the divine mercy: Would God that959Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Instead of giving God thanks, as they oughtto have done, for sparing them, they not only despise the mercy of their reprieve, but quarrel withit, as if God had done them a great deal of wrong in giving them their lives for a prey, and snatchingthem as brands out of the burning. But they need not wish that they had died with their brethren,they are here taking the ready way to die like their brethren in a little while. Woe unto those thatdesire the day of the Lord, Amos v. 18. (2.) They were angry that they were brought out of Egypt,and led through this wilderness, v. 4, 5. They quarrelled with Moses for that which they knew wasthe Lord's doing; they represented that as an injury which was the greatest favour that ever wasdone to any people. They prefer slavery before liberty, the house of bondage before the land ofpromise; and though, the present want was of water only, yet, now that they are disposed to findfault, it shall be looked upon as an insufferable hardship put upon them that they have not vinesand figs. It was an aggravation of their crime, [1.] that they had smarted so long for the discontentsand distrusts of their fathers. They had borne their whoredoms now almost forty years in thewilderness (ch. xiv. 33); and yet they ventured in the same steps, and, as is charged upon Belshazzar,humbled not their hearts, though they knew all this, Dan. v. 22. [2.] That they had had such longand constant experience of God's goodness to them, and of the tenderness and faithfulness of Mosesand Aaron. [3.] That Miriam was now lately dead; and, having lost one of their leaders, they oughtto have been more respectful to those that were left; but, as if they were resolved to provoke Godto leave them as sheep without any shepherd, they grow outrageous against them: instead ofcondoling with Moses and Aaron for the death of their sister, they add affliction to their grief.3. Moses and Aaron made them no reply, but retired to the door of the tabernacle to knowGod's mind in this case, v. 6. There they fell on their faces, as formerly on the like occasion, todeprecate the wrath of God and to entreat direction from him. Here is no mention of any thing theysaid; they knew that God heard the murmurings of the people, and before him they humbly prostratethemselves, making intercessions with groanings that cannot be uttered. There they lay waitingfor orders Speak, Lord, for thy servants hear.4. God appeared, to determine the matter; not on his tribunal of justice, to sentence the rebelsaccording to their deserts; no, he will not return to destroy Ephraim (Hosea xi. 9), will not alwayschide; see Gen. viii. 21. But he appeared, (1.) On his throne of glory, to silence their unjustmurmuring (v. 6): The glory of the Lord appeared, to still the tumult of the people, by striking anawe upon them. Note, A believing sight of the glory of the Lord would be an effectual check toour lusts and passions, and would keep our mouths as with a bridle. (2.) On his throne of grace, tosatisfy their just desires. It was requisite that they should have water, and therefore, thought themanner of their petitioning for it was irregular and disorderly, yet God did not take that advantageagainst them to deny it to them, but gave immediate orders for their supply, v. 8. Moses must asecond time in God's name command water out of a rock for them, to show that God is as able asever to supply his people with good things, even in their greatest straits an in the utmost failure ofsecond causes. Almighty power can bring water out of a rock, has done it, and can again, for hisarm is not shortened. Lest it should be thought that there was some thing peculiar in the formerrock itself, some secret spring which nature hid before in it, God here bids him broach another, anddoes not, as then, direct him which he must apply to, but lets him make use of which he pleased,or the first he came to; all alike to Omnipotence. [1.] God bids him take the rod, that famous rodwith which he summoned the plagues of Egypt, and divided the sea, that, having that in his hand,both he and the people might be reminded of the great things God had formerly done for them, and960Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)might be encouraged to trust in him now. This rod, it seems, was kept in the tabernacle (v. 9), forit was the rod of God, the rod of his strength, as the gospel is called (Ps. cx. 2), perhaps in allusionto it. [2.] God bids him gather the assembly, not the elders only, but the people, to be witnesses ofwhat was done, that by their own eyes they might be convinced and made ashamed of their unbelief.There is no fallacy in God's works of wonder, and therefore they shun not the light, nor the inspectionand enquiry of many witnesses. [3.] He bids him speak to the rock, which would do as it was bidden,to shame the people who had been so often spoken to, and would not hear nor obey. Their heartswere harder than this rock, not so tender, not so yielding, not so obedient. [4.] He promises that therock should give forth water (v. 8), and it did so (v. 11): The water came out abundantly. This isan instance, not only of the power of God, that he could thus fetch honey out of the rock, and oilout of the flinty rock, but of his mercy and grace, that he would do it for such a provoking people.This was a new generation (most of the old stock were by this time worn off), yet they were as badas those that went before them; murmuring ran in the blood, yet the entail of the divine favour wasnot cut off, but in this instance of it the divine patience shines as brightly as the divine power. Heis God and not man, in sparing and pardoning; nay, he not only here gave them the drink whichthey drank of in common with their beasts (v. 8, 11), but in it he made them to drink spiritual drink,which typified spiritual blessings, for that rock was Christ.5. Moses and Aaron acted improperly in the management of this matter, so much so that Godin displeasure told them immediately that they should not have the honour of bringing Israel intoCanaan, v. 10-12.(1.) This is a strange passage of story, yet very instructive. [1.] It is certain that God was greatlyoffended, and justly, for he is never angry without cause. Though they were his servants, and hadobtained mercy to be faithful, though they were his favourites, and such as he had highly honoured,yet for something they thought, or said, or did, upon this occasion, he put them under the disgraceand mortification of dying, as other unbelieving Israelites did, short of Canaan. And no doubt thecrime deserved the punishment. [2.] Yet it is uncertain what it was in this management that was soprovoking to God. The fault was complicated. First, They did not punctually observe their orders,but in some things varied from their commission; God bade them speak to the rock, and they spoketo the people, and smote the rock, which at this time they were not ordered to do, but they thoughtspeaking would not do. When, in distrust of the power of the word, we have recourse to the secularpower in matters of pure conscience, we do, as Moses here, smite the rock to which we should onlyspeak, Secondly, They assumed too much of the glory of this work of wonder to themselves: Mustwe fetch water? as if it were done by some power or worthiness of theirs. Therefore it is chargedupon them (v. 12) that they did not sanctify God, that is, they did not give him that glory of thismiracle which was due unto his name. Thirdly, Unbelief was the great transgression (v. 12): Youbelieved me not; nay, it is called rebelling against God's commandment, ch. xxvii. 14. The commandwas to bring water out of the rock, but they rebelled against this command, by distrusting it, anddoubting whether it would take effect or no. They speak doubtfully: Must we fetch water? Andprobably they did in some other ways discover an uncertainty in their own minds whether waterwould come or no for such a rebellious generation as this was. And perhaps they the rather questionedit, though God had promised it, because the glory of the Lord did not appear before them upon thisrock, as it had done upon the rock in Rephidim, Exod. xvii. 6. They would not take God's wordwithout a sign. Dr. Lightfoot's notion of their unbelief is that they doubted whether now at last,when the forty years had expired, they should enter Canaan, and whether they must not for the961Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)murmurings of the people be condemned to another period of toil, because a new rock was nowopened for their supply, which they took for an indication of their longer stay. And, if so, justlywere they kept out of Canaan themselves, while the people entered at the time appointed. Fourthly,They said and did all in heat and passion; this is the account given of the sin (Ps. cvi. 33): Theyprovoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. It was in his passion that he calledthem rebels. It is true they were so; God had called them so; and Moses afterwards, in the way ofa just reproof (Deut. ix. 24), calls them so without offence; but now it came from a provoked spirit,and was spoken unadvisedly: it was too much like Raca, and Thou fool. His smiting the rock twice(it should seem, not waiting at all for the eruption of the water upon the first stroke) shows that hewas in a heat. The same thing said and done with meekness may be justifiable which when saidand done in anger may be highly culpable; see Jam. i. 20. Fifthly, That which aggravated all therest, and made it the more provoking, was that it was public, before the eyes of the children ofIsrael, to whom they should have been examples of faith, and hope, and meekness. We find Mosesguilty of sinful distrust, ch. xi. 22, 23. That was private between God and him, and therefore wasonly checked. But his was public; it dishonoured God before Israel, as if he grudged them hisfavours, and discouraged the people's hope in God, and therefore this was severely punished, andthe more because of the dignity and eminency of those that offended.(2.) From the whole we may learn, [1.] That the best of men have their failings, even in thosegraces that they are most eminent for. The man Moses was very meek, and yet here he sinned inpassion; wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. [2.] That God judges not asman judges concerning sins; we might think that there was not much amiss in what Moses said anddid, yet God saw cause to animadvert severely upon it. He knows the frame of men's spirits, whattemper they are of, and what temper they are in upon particular occasions, and from what thoughtsand intents words and actions do proceed; and we are sure that therefore his judgment is accordingto truth, when it agrees not with ours. [3.] that God not only takes notice of, and is displeased with,the sins of his people, but that the nearer any are to him the more offensive are their sins, Amos iii.2. It should seem, the Psalmist refers to this sin of Moses and Aaron (Ps. xcix. 8): Thou wast a Godthat forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance on their inventions. As many are spared in thislife and punished in the other, so many are punished in this life and saved in the other. [4.] That,when our heart is hot within us, we are concerned to take heed that we offend not with our tongue.Yet, [5.] It is an evidence of the sincerity of Moses, and his impartiality in writing, that he himselfleft this upon record concerning himself, and drew not a veil over his own infirmity, by which itappeared that in what he wrote, as well as what he did, he sought God's glory more than his own.Lastly, The place is hereupon called Meribah, v. 13. It is called Meribah-Kadesh (Deut. xxxii.51), to distinguish it from the other Meribah. It is the water of strife; to perpetuate the remembranceof the people's sin, and Moses's, and yet of God's mercy, who supplied them with water, and ownedand honoured Moses notwithstanding. Thus he was sanctified in the, as the Holy One of Israel, sohe is called when his mercy rejoices against judgment, Hos. xi. 9. Moses and Aaron did not sanctifyGod as they ought in the eyes of Israel (v. 12), but God was sanctified in them; for he will not bea loser in his honour by any man. If he be not glorified by us, he will be glorified upon us.Ambassadors Sent to Edom. (b. c. 1452.)14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saiththy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: 15 How our962Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and theEgyptians vexed us, and our fathers: 16 And when we cried unto the Lord, he heardour voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold,we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: 17 Let us pass, I pray thee,through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards,neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way,we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out againstthee with the sword. 19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go bythe high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I willonly, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. 20 And he said, Thoushalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and witha strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border:wherefore Israel turned away from him.We have here the application made by Israel to the Edomites. The nearest way to Canaan fromthe place where Israel now lay encamped was through the country of Edom. Now,I. Moses sends ambassadors to treat with the king of Edom for leave to pass through his country,and gives them instructions what to say, v. 14-17. 1. They are to claim kindred with the Edomites:Thus saith thy brother Israel. Both nations descended from Abraham and Isaac, their commonancestors; Esau and Jacob, the two fathers of their respective nations, were twin-brothers; andtherefore, for relation-sake, they might reasonably expect this kindness from them; nor needed theEdomites to fear that their brother Israel had any ill design upon them, or would take any advantagesagainst them. 2. They are to give a short account of the history and present state of Israel, which,they take it for granted, the Edomites were no strangers to. And in this there was a double plea:—(1.)Israel had been abused by the Egyptians, and therefore ought to be pitied and succoured by theirrelations: "The Egyptians vexed us and our fathers, but we may hope our brethren the Edomiteswill not be so vexatious." (2.) Israel had been wonderfully saved by the Lord, and therefore oughtto be countenanced and favoured (v. 16): "We cried unto the Lord, and he sent an angel, the angelof his presence, the angel of the covenant, the eternal Word, who had brought us forth out of Egypt,and led us hither." It was therefore the interest of the Edomites to ingratiate themselves with apeople that had so great an interest in heaven and were so much its favourites, and it was at theirperil if they offered them any injury. It is our wisdom and duty to be kind to those whom God ispleased to own, and to take his people for our people. Come in, thou blessed of the Lord. 3. Theyare humbly to beg a passport through their country. Though God himself, in the pillar of cloud andfire, was Israel's guide, in following which they might have justified their passing through anyman's ground against all the world, yet God would have this respect paid to the Edomites, to showthat no man's property ought to be invaded under colour of religion. Dominion is founded inprovidence, not in grace. Thus when Christ was to pass through a village of the Samaritans, towhom his coming was likely to be offensive, he sent messengers before his face to ask leave, Lukeix. 52. Those that would receive kindness must not disdain to request it. 4. They are to give securityfor the good behaviour of the Israelites in this march, that they would keep in the king's high road,963Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)that they would commit no trespass upon any man's property, either in ground or water, that theywould not so much as make use of a well without paying for it, and that they would make allconvenient speed, as fast as they could well go on their feet, v. 17, 19. Nothing could be offeredmore fair and neighbourly.II. The ambassadors returned with a denial, v. 18. Edom, that is, the king of Edom, as protectorof his country, said, Thou shalt not pass by me; and, when the ambassadors urged it further, herepeated the denial (v. 20) and threatened, if they offered to enter his country, it should be at theirperil; he raised his trained bands to oppose them. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage. Thiswas owing, 1. To their jealousy of the Israelites; they feared they should receive promises. Andtruly, had this numerous army been under any other discipline and command than that of therighteous God himself, who would no more suffer them to do wrong than to take wrong, theremight have been cause for this jealousy; but what could they fear from a nation that had statutesand judgments so righteous? 2. It was owing to the old enmity which Esau bore to Israel. If theyhad no reason to fear damage by them, yet they were not willing to show so much kindness to them.Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing, and now the hatred revived, when the blessing was readyto be inherited. God would hereby discover the ill-nature of the Edomites to their shame, and trythe good-nature of the Israelites to their honour: they turned away from him, and did not take thisoccasion to quarrel with him. Note, We must not think it strange if the most reasonable requestsbe denied by unreasonable men, and if those be affronted by men whom God favours. I as a deafman heard not. After this indignity which the Edomites offered to Israel God gave them a particularcaution not to abhor an Edomite (Deut. xxiii. 7), though the Edomites had shown such an abhorrenceof them, to teach us in such cases not to meditate revenge.The Edomites Refuse a Passage to Israel; The Death of Aaron. (b. c. 1452.)22 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed fromKadesh, and came unto mount Hor. 23 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaronin mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, 24 Aaron shall be gatheredunto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto thechildren of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: 26 Andstrip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall begathered unto his people, and shall die there. 27 And Moses did as the Lordcommanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son;and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came downfrom the mount. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, theymourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.The chapter began with the funeral of Miriam, and it ends with the funeral of her brother Aaron.When death comes into a family, it often strikes double. Israel had not improved the former afflictionthey were under, by the death of the prophetess, and therefore, soon after, God took away theirpriest, to try if they would lay that to heart. This happened at the very next stage, when they removed964Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to Mount Hor, fetching a compass round the Edomites' country, leaving it on their left hand.Wherever we go, death attends us, and the graves are ready for us.I. God bids Aaron die, v. 24. God takes Moses and Aaron aside, and tells them, Aaron shallbe gathered to his people. These two dear brothers are told that they must part. Aaron the eldermust die first, but Moses is not likely to be long after him; so that it is but for a while, a little while,that they are parted. 1. There is something of displeasure in these orders. Aaron must not enterCanaan, because he had failed in his duty at the waters of strife. The mention of this, no doubt,went to the heart of Moses, who knew himself, perhaps, at that time, to be the guiltier of the two.2. There is much of mercy in them. Aaron, though he dies for his transgression, is not put to deathas a malefactor, by a plague, or fire from heaven, but dies with ease and in honour. He is not cutoff from his people, as the expression usually is concerning those that die by the hand of divinejustice, but he is gathered to his people, as one that died in the arms of divine grace. 3. There ismuch of type and significancy in them. Aaron must not enter Canaan, to show that the Leviticalpriesthood could make nothing perfect: that must be done by the bringing in of a better hope. Thosepriests could not continue by reason of sin and death, but the priesthood of Christ, being undefiled,is unchangeable, and to this, which abides for ever, Aaron must resign all his honour, Heb. vii.23-25.II. Aaron submits, and dies in the method and manner appointed, and, for aught that appears,with as much cheerfulness as if he had been going to bed.1. He puts on his holy garments to take his leave of them, and goes up with his brother andson to the top of Mount Hor, and probably some of the elders of Israel with him, v. 27. They wentup in the sight of all the congregation, who, it is likely, were told on what errand they went up; bythis solemn procession Aaron lets Israel know that he is neither afraid nor ashamed to die, but,when the bridegroom comes, can trim his lamp and go forth to meet him. His going up the hill todie signified that the death of saints (and Aaron is called the saint of the Lord) is their ascension;they rather go up than go down to death.2. Moses, whose hands had first clothed Aaron with his priestly garments, now strips him ofthem; for, in reverence to the priesthood, it was not fit that he should die in them. Note, Death willstrip us; naked we came into the world, and naked we must go out. We shall see little reason to beproud of our clothes, our ornaments, or marks of honour, if we consider how soon death will stripus of our glory, divest us of all our offices and honours, and take the crown off from our head.3. Moses immediately puts the priestly garments upon Eleazar his son, clothes him with hisfather's robe, and strengthens him with his girdle, Isa. xxii. 21. Now, (1.) This was a great comfortto Moses, by whose hand the law of the priesthood was given to see that it should be kept up in asuccession, and that a lamp was ordained for the anointed, which should not be extinguished bydeath itself. This was a happy earnest and indication to the church of the care God would take thatas one generation of ministers and Christians (spiritual priests) passes away another generationshould come up instead of it. (2.) It was a great satisfaction to Aaron to see his son, who was dearto him, thus preferred, and his office, which was dearer, thus preserved and secured, and especiallyto see in this a figure of Christ's everlasting priesthood, in which alone his would be perpetuated.Now, Lord, might Aaron say, let thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen thy salvation.(3.) It was a great kindness to the people. The installing of Eleazar before Aaron was dead wouldprevent those who bore ill-will to Aaron's family from attempting to set up another upon his death,in competition with his son. What could they do when the matter was already settled? It would965Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)likewise encourage those among them that feared God, and be a token for good to them, that hewould not leave them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.4. Aaron died there. Quickly after he was stripped of his priestly garments, he laid himselfdown and died contentedly; for a good man would desire, if it were the will of God, not to outlivehis usefulness. Why should we covet to continue any longer in this world than while we may doGod and our generation some service in it?5. Moses and Eleazar, with those that attended them, buried Aaron where he died, as appearsby Deut. x. 6, and then came down from the mount. And now, when they came down, and had leftAaron behind, it might be proper for them to think that he had rather gone up to the better worldand had left them behind.6. All the congregation mourned for Aaron thirty days, v. 29. Though the loss was well madeup in Eleazar, who, being in the prime of life, was fitter from public service that Aaron would havebeen if he had lived, yet it was a debt owing to their deceased high priest to mourn for him. Whilehe lived, they were murmuring at him upon all occasions, but now that he was dead they mournedfor him. Thus many are taught to lament the loss of those mercies which they would not learn tobe thankful for the enjoyment of. Many good men have had more honour done to their memoriesthan ever they had to their persons, witness those that were persecuted while they lived, but whenthey were dead had their sepulchres garnished.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXI.The armies of Israel now begin to emerge out of the wilderness, and to come into a landinhabited, to enter upon action, and take possession of the frontiers of the land of promise. A gloriouscampaign this chapter gives us the history of, especially in the latter part of it. Here is, I. The defeatof Arad the Canaanite, ver. 1-3. II. The chastisement of the people with fiery serpents for theirmurmurings, and the relief granted them upon their submission by a brazen serpent, ver. 4-9. III.Several marches forward, and some occurrences by the way, ver. 10-20. IV. The celebrated conquestof Sihon king of the Amorites (ver. 21-32), and of Og king of Bashan (ver. 33-35), and possessiontaken of their land.Arad Subdued. (b. c. 1452.)1 And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell thatIsrael came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some ofthem prisoners. 2 And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wiltindeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. 3And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; andthey utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the placeHormah.966Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Here is, 1. The descent which Arad the Canaanite made upon the camp of Israel, hearing thatthey came by the way of the spies; for, though the spies which Moses had sent thirty-eight yearsbefore then passed and repassed unobserved, yet their coming, and their errand, it is likely, wereafterwards known to the Canaanites, gave them an alarm, and induced them to keep an eye uponIsrael and get intelligence of all their motions. Now, when they understood that they were facingabout towards Canaan, this Arad, thinking it policy to keep the war at a distance, made an onsetupon them and fought with them. But it proved that he meddled to his own hurt; had he sat still,his people might have been last destroyed of all the Canaanites, but now they were the first. Thusthose that are overmuch wicked die before their time, Eccl. vii. 17. 2. His success at first in thisattempt. His advance-guards picked up some straggling Israelites, and took them prisoners, v. 1.This, no doubt, puffed him up, and he began to thin that he should have the honour of crushing thisformidable body, and saving his country from the ruin which it threatened. It was likewise a trialto the faith of the Israelites and a check to them for their distrusts and discontents. 3. Israel's humbleaddress to God upon this occasion, v. 2. It was a temptation to them to murmur as their fathers did,and to despair of getting possession of Canaan; but God, who thus tried them by his providence,enabled them by his grace to quit themselves well in the trial, and to trust in him for relief againstthis fierce and powerful assailant. They, by their elders, in prayer for success, vowed a vow. Noe,When we are desiring and expecting mercy from God we should bind our souls with a bond thatwe will faithfully do our duty to him, particularly that we will honour him with the mercy we arein the pursuit of. Thus Israel here promised to destroy the cities of these Canaanites, as devoted toGod, and not to take the spoil of them to their own use. If God would give them victory, he shouldhave all the praise, and they would not make a gain of it to themselves. When we are in this framewe are prepared to receive mercy. 4. The victory which the Israelites obtained over the Canaanites,v. 3. A strong party was sent out, probably under the command of Joshua, which not only droveback these Canaanites, but followed them to their cities, which probably lay on the edge of thewilderness, and utterly destroyed them, and so returned to the camp. Vincimur in prælie, sed nonin bello—We lose a battle, but we finally triumph. What is said of the tribe of God is true of allGod's Israel, a troop may overcome them, but they shall overcome at the last. The place was calledHormah, as a memorial of the destruction, for the terror of the Canaanites, and probably for warningto posterity not to attempt the rebuilding of these cities, which were destroyed as devoted to Godand sacrifices to divine justice. And it appears from the instance of Jericho that the law concerningsuch cities was that they should never be rebuilt. There seems to be an allusion to this name in theprophecy of the fall of the New Testament Babylon (Rev. xvi. 16), where its forces are said to begathered together to a place called Armageddon—the destruction of a troop.The Brazen Serpent. (b. c. 1452.)4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compassthe land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of theway. 5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have yebrought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither isthere any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the Lord sent fieryserpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have967Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away theserpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said untoMoses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass,that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses madea serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent hadbitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.Here is, I. The fatigue of Israel by a long march round the land of Edom, because they couldnot obtain passage through it the nearest way: The soul of the people was much discouraged becauseof the way, v. 4. Perhaps the way was rough and uneven, or foul and dirty; or it fretted them to gofar about, and that they were not permitted to force their passage through the Edomites' country.Those that are of a fretful discontented spirit will always find something or other to make themuneasy.II. Their unbelief and murmuring upon this occasion, v. 5. Though they had just now obtaineda glorious victory over the Canaanites, and were going on conquering and to conquer, yet theyspeak very discontentedly of what God had done for them and distrustfully of what he would do,vexed that they were brought out of Egypt, that they had not bread and water as other people hadby their own care and industry, but by miracle, they knew not how. They have bread enough andto spare; and yet they complain there is no bread, because, though they eat angels' food, yet theyare weary of it; manna itself is loathed, and called light bread, fit for children, not for men andsoldiers. What will those be pleased with whom manna will not please? Those that are disposed toquarrel will find fault where there is no fault to be found. Thus those who have long enjoyed themeans of grace are apt to surfeit even on the heavenly manna, and to call it light bread. But let notthe contempt which some cast upon the word of God cause us to value it the less: it is the bread oflife, substantial bread, and will nourish those who by faith feed upon it to eternal life, whoever callsit light bread.III. The righteous judgment which God brought upon them for their murmuring, v. 6. He sentfiery serpents among them, which bit or stung many of them to death. The wilderness through whichthey had passed was all along infested with those fiery serpents, as appears, Deut. viii. 15. Buthitherto God had wonderfully preserved his people from receiving hurt by them, till now that theymurmured, to chastise them for which these animals, which hitherto had shunned their camp, nowinvade it. Justly are those made to feel God's judgments that are not thankful for his mercies. Theseserpents are called fiery, from their colour, or from their rage, or from the effects of their bitings,inflaming the body, putting it immediately into a high fever, scorching it with an insatiable thirst.They had unjustly complained for want of water (v. 5), to chastise them for which God sends uponthem this thirst, which no water would quench. Those that cry without cause have justly cause giventhem to cry out. They distrustfully concluded that they must die in the wilderness, and God tookthem at their word, chose their delusions, and brought their unbelieving fears upon them; many ofthem did die. They had impudently flown in the face of God himself, and the poison of asps wasunder their lips, and now these fiery serpents (which, it should seem, were flying serpents, Isa. xiv.29) flew in their faces and poisoned them. They in their pride had lifted themselves up against Godand Moses, and now God humbled and mortified them, by making these despicable animals aplague to them. That artillery is now turned against them which had formerly been made use of intheir defence against the Egyptians. He that brought quails to feast them let them know that he968Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)could bring serpents to bite them; the whole creation is at war with those that are in arms againstGod.IV. Their repentance and supplication to God under this judgment, v. 7. They confess theirfault: We have sinned. They are particular in their confession: We have spoken against the Lord,and against thee. It is to be feared that they would not have owned the sin if they had not felt thesmart; but they relent under the rod; when he slew them, then they sought him. They beg the prayersof Moses for them, as conscious to themselves of their own unworthiness to be heard, and convincedof the great interest which Moses had in heaven. How soon is their tone altered! Those who hadjust before quarrelled with him as their worst enemy now make their court to him as their bestfriend, and choose him for their advocate with God. Afflictions often change men's sentimentsconcerning God's people, and teach them to value those prayers which, at a former period, theyhad scorned. Moses, to show that he had heartily forgiven them, blesses those who had cursed him,and prays for those who had despitefully used him Herein he was a type of Christ, who intercededfor his persecutors, and a pattern to us to go and do likewise, and thus to show that we love ourenemies.V. The wonderful provision which God made for their relief. He did not employ Moses insummoning the judgment, but, that he might recommend him to the good affection of the people,he made him instrumental in their relief, v. 8, 9. God ordered Moses to make the representation ofa fiery serpent, which he did, in brass, and set it up on a very long pole, so that it might be seenfrom all parts of the camp, and every one that was stung with a fiery serpent was healed by lookingup to this serpent of brass. The people prayed that God would take away the serpents from them(v. 7), but God saw fit not to do this: for he gives effectual relief in the best way, though not in ourway. Thus those who did not die for their murmuring were yet made to smart for it, that they mightthe more feelingly repent and humble themselves for it; they were likewise made to receive theircure from God, by the hand of Moses, that they might be taught, if possible, never again to speakagainst God and Moses. This method of cure was altogether miraculous, and the more wonderfulif what some naturalists say be true, that looking upon bright and burnished brass is hurtful to thosethat are stung with fiery serpents. God can bring about his purposes by contrary means. The Jewsthemselves say that it was not the sight of the brazen serpent that cured them, but, in looking up toit, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them. But there was much of gospel in thisappointment. Our Saviour has told us so (John iii. 14, 15), that as Moses lifted up the serpent inthe wilderness so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should notperish. Observe then a resemblance,1. Between their disease and ours. The devil is the old serpent, a fiery serpent, hence he appears(Rev. xii. 3) as a great red dragon. Sin is the biting of this fiery serpent; it is painful to the startledconscience, and poisonous to the seared conscience. Satan's temptations are called his fiery darts,Eph. vi. 16. Lust and passion inflame the soul, so do the terrors of the Almighty, when they setthemselves in array. At the last, sin bites like a serpent and stings like an adder; and even its sweetsare turned into the gall of asps.2. Between their remedy and ours. (1.) It was God himself that devised and prescribed thisantidote against the fiery serpents; so our salvation by Christ was the contrivance of Infinite Wisdom;God himself has found the ransom. (2.) It was a very unlikely method of cure; so our salvation bythe death of Christ is to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness. It was Mosesthat lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and969Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Moses wrote of him, John v. 4-6. Christ was lifted up by the rulers of the Jews, who were thesuccessors of Moses. (3.) That which cured was shaped in the likeness of that which wounded. SoChrist, though perfectly free from sin himself, yet was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom.viii. 3), so like that it was taken for granted that this man was a sinner, John ix. 24. (4.) The brazenserpent was lifted up; so was Christ. He was lifted up upon the cross (John xii. 33, 34), for his wasmade a spectacle to the world. He was lifted up by the preaching of the gospel. The word here usedfor a pole signifies a banner, or ensign, for Christ crucified stands for an ensign of the people, Isa.xi. 10. Some make the lifting up of the serpent to be a figure of Christ's triumphing over Satan, theold serpent, whose head he bruised, when in his cross he made an open show of the principalitiesand powers which he had spoiled and destroyed, Col. ii. 15.3. Between the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if webelieve, shall not perish; it is by faith that we look unto Jesus, Heb. xii. 2. Look unto me, and beyou saved, Isa. xlv. 22. We must be sensible of our wound and of our danger by it, receive therecord which God has given concerning his Son, and rely upon the assurance he has given us thatwe shall be healed and saved by him if we resign ourselves to his direction. The brazen serpent'sbeing lifted up would not cure if it was not looked upon. If any pored on their wound, and wouldnot look up to the brazen serpent, they inevitably died. If they slighted this method of cure, andhad recourse to natural medicines, and trusted to them, they justly perished; so if sinners eitherdespise Christ's righteousness or despair of benefit by it their wound will, without doubt, be fatal.But whoever looked up to this healing sign, though from the outmost part of the camp, though witha weak and weeping eye, was certainly healed; so whosoever believes in Christ, though as yet butweak in faith, shall not perish. There are weak brethren for whom Christ died. Perhaps for sometime after the serpent was set up the camp of Israel was molested by the fiery serpents; and it is theprobable conjecture of some that they carried this brazen serpent along with them through the restof their journey, and set it up wherever they encamped, and, when they settled in Canaan, fixed itsomewhere within the borders of the land; for it is not likely that the children of Israel went so faroff as this was into the wilderness to burn incense to it, as we find they did, 2 Kings xviii. 4. Eventhose that are delivered from the eternal death which is the wages of sin must expect to feel thepain and smart of it as long as they are here in this world; but, if it be not our own fault, we mayhave the brazen serpent to accompany us, to be still looked up to upon all occasions, by bearingabout with us continually the dying of the Lord Jesus.The Removal of the Camp. (b. c. 1452.)10 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth. 11 And theyjourneyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ije-abarim, in the wilderness which is beforeMoab, toward the sunrising. 12 From thence they removed, and pitched in thevalley of Zared. 13 From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side ofArnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: forArnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 Wherefore it issaid in the book of the wars of the Lord, What he did in the Red sea, and in thebrooks of Arnon, 15 And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwellingof Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab. 16 And from thence they went to Beer:970Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)that is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, andI will give them water. 17 Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing yeunto it: 18 The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by thedirection of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went toMattanah: 19 And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth: 20And from Bamoth in the valley, that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah,which looketh toward Jeshimon.We have here an account of the several stages and removals of the children of Israel, till theycame into the plains of Moab, out of which they at length passed over Jordan into Canaan, as weread in the beginning of Joshua. Natural motions are quicker the nearer they are to their centre. TheIsraelites were now drawing near to the promised rest, and now they set forward, as the expressionis, v. 10. It were well if we would do thus in our way to heaven, rid ground in the latter end of ourjourney, and the nearer we come to heaven be so much the more active and abundant in the workof the Lord. Two things especially are observable in the brief account here given of these removals:—1. The wonderful success which God blessed his people with, near the brooks of Arnon, v.13-15. They had now compassed the land of Edom (which they were not to invade, nor so muchas to disturb, Deut. ii. 4, 5), and had come to the border of Moab. It is well that there are more waysthan one to Canaan. The enemies of God's people may retard their passage, but cannot prevent theirentrance into the promised rest. Care is taken to let us know that the Israelites in their marchreligiously observed the orders which God gave them to use no hostility against the Moabites (Deut.ii. 9), because they were the posterity of righteous Lot; therefore they pitched on the other side ofArnon (v. 13), that side which was now in the possession of the Amorites, one of the devotednations, though formerly it had belonged to Moab, as appears here, v. 26, 27. This care of theirsnot to offer violence to the Moabites is pleaded by Jephtha long afterwards, in his remonstranceagainst the Ammonites (Judg. xi. 15, &c.), and turned to them for a testimony. What theirachievements were, now that they pitched on the banks of the river Arnon, we are not particularlytold, but are referred to the book of the wars of the Lord, perhaps that book which was begun withthe history of the war with the Amalekites, Exod. xvii. 14. Write it (said God) for a memorial in abook, to which were added all the other battles which Israel fought, in order, and, among the rest,their actions on the river Arnon, at Vaheb in Suphah (as our margin reads it) and other places onthat river. Or, it shall be said (as some read it) in the rehearsal, or commemoration, of the wars ofthe Lord, what he did in the Red Sea, when he brought Israel out of Egypt, and what he did in thebrooks of Arnon, just before he brought them into Canaan. Note, In celebrating the memorials ofGod's favours to us, it is good to observe the series of them, and how divine goodness and mercyhave constantly followed us, even from the Red Sea to the brooks of Arnon. In every stage of ourlives, nay, in every step, we should take notice of what God has wrought for us; what he did at sucha time, and what in such a place, ought to be distinctly remembered.2. The wonderful supply which God blessed his people with at Beer (v. 16), which signifiesthe well or fountain. It is said (v. 10) they pitched in Oboth, which signifies bottles, so called perhapsbecause there they filled their bottles with water, which should last them for some time; but by thistime, we may suppose, it was with them as it was with Hagar (Gen. xxi. 15), The water was spentin the bottle; yet we do not find that they murmured, and therefore God, in compassion to them,971Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)brought them to a well of water, to encourage them to wait on him in humble silence and expectationand to believe that he would graciously take cognizance of their wants, though they did not complainof them. In this world, we do at the best but pitch in Oboth, where our comforts lie in close andscanty vessels; when we come to heaven we shall remove to Beer, the well of life, the fountain ofliving waters. Hitherto we have found, when they were supplied with water, they asked it in unjustdiscontent, and God gave it in just displeasure; but here we find, (1.) That God gave it in love (v.16): Gather the people together, to be witnesses of the wonder, and joint-sharers in the favour, andI will give them water. Before they prayed, God granted, and anticipated them with the blessingsof his goodness. (2.) That they received it with joy and thankfulness, which made the mercy doublysweet to them, v. 17. Then they sang this song, to the glory of God and the encouragement of oneanother, Spring up, O well! Thus they pray that it may spring up, for promised mercies must befetched in by prayer; they triumph alive

      oes spring up, and meet it with their joyful acclamations.With joy must we draw water out of the wells of salvation, Isa. xi. 3. As the brazen serpent was afigure of Christ, who is lifted up for our cure, so is this well a figure of the Spirit, who is pouredforth for our comfort, and from whom flow to us rivers of living waters, John vii. 38. Does thiswell spring up in our souls? We should sing to it; take the comfort to ourselves, and give the gloryto God; stir up this gift, sing to it, Spring up, O well! thou fountain of gardens, to water my soul(Cant. iv. 15), plead the promise, which perhaps alludes to this story (Isa. xli. 17, 18), I will makethe wilderness wells of water. (3.) That whereas before the remembrance of the miracle wasperpetuated in the names given to the places, which signified the people's strife and murmuring,now it was perpetuated in a song of praise, which preserved on record the manner in which it wasdone (v. 18): The princes digged the well, the seventy elders, it is probable, by direction of thelawgiver (that is, Moses, under God) with their staves; that is, with their staves they made holes inthe soft and sandy ground, and God caused the water miraculously to spring up in the holes whichthey made. Thus the pious Israelites long afterwards, passing through the valley of Baca, a dry andthirsty place, made wells, and God by rain from heaven filled the pools, Ps. lxxxiv. 6. Observe, [1.]God promised to give them water, but the must open the ground to receive it, and give it vent. God'sfavours must be expected in the use of such means as lie within our power, but still the excellencyof the power is of God. [2.] The nobles of Israel were forward to set their hands to this work, andused their staves, probable those that were the ensigns of their honour and power, for the publicservice, and it is upon record to their honour. And we may suppose that it was a great confirmationto them in their offices, and a great comfort to the people, that they were made use of by the divinepower as instruments to this miraculous supply. By this it appeared that the spirit of Moses, whomust shortly die, rested in some measure upon the nobles of Israel. Moses did not strike the groundhimself, as formerly the rock, but gave them direction to do it, that their staves might share in thehonour of his rod, and they might comfortably hope that when he should leave them yet God wouldnot, but that they also in their generation should be public blessings, and might expect the divinepresence with them as long as they acted by the direction of the lawgiver. For comfort must belooked for only in the way of duty; and, if we would share in divine joys, we must carefully followthe divine direction.Sihon and Og Overthrown. (b. c. 1452.)21 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22 Letme pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we972Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way,until we be past thy borders. 23 And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass throughhis border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israelinto the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. 24 And Israelsmote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon untoJabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammonwas strong. 25 And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities ofthe Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof. 26 For Heshbon was thecity of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king ofMoab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon. 27 Wherefore theythat speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built andprepared: 28 For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon:it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. 29 Woeto thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons thatescaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites. 30 Wehave shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid themwaste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba. 31 Thus Israel dwelt inthe land of the Amorites. 32 And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took thevillages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there. 33 And they turnedand went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out againstthem, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei. 34 And the Lord said unto Moses,Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land;and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dweltat Heshbon. 35 So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there wasnone left him alive: and they possessed his land.We have here an account of the victories obtained by Israel over Sihon and Og, which mustbe distinctly considered, not only because they are here distinctly related, but because long afterwardsthe memorial of them is distinctly celebrated, and they are severally assigned as instances ofeverlasting mercy. He slew Sihon king of the Amorites, for his mercy endureth for ever, and Ogthe king of Bashan, for his mercy endureth for ever, Ps. cxxxvi. 19, 20.I. Israel sent a peaceable message to Sihon king of the Amorites (v. 21), but received anunpeaceable return, worse than that of the Edomites to the like message, ch. xx. 18, 20. For theEdomites only refused them a passage, and stood upon their own defence to keep them out; butSihon went out with his forces against Israel in the wilderness, out of his own borders, withoutany provocation given him (v. 23), and so ran himself upon his own ruin. Jephtha intimates that hewas prompted by his politics to do this (Judg. xi. 20), Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through hiscoast; but his politics deceived him, for Moses says, God hardened his spirit and made his heartobstinate, that he might deliver him into the hand of Israel, Deut. ii. 30. The enemies of God'schurch are often infatuated in those very counsels which they think most wisely taken. Sihon's army973Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)was routed, and not only so, but all his country came into the possession of Israel, v. 24, 25. Thisseizure is justified, 1. Against the Amorites themselves, for they were the aggressors, and provokedthe Israelites to battle; and yet, perhaps, that would not have been sufficient to entitle Israel to theirland, but that God himself, the King of nations, the Lord of the whole earth, had given them a grantof it. The Amorites formed one of the devoted nations whose land God had promised to Abrahamand his seed, which promise should be performed when the iniquity of the Amorites should be full,Gen. xv. 16. Jephtha insists upon this grant as their title, Judg. xi. 23, 24. The victory which Godgave them over the Amorites put them in possession, and then, the promise made to their fathershaving given them a right, by virtue of that they kept possession. 2. Against the Moabites, who hadformerly been the lords-proprietors of this country. If they should ever lay claim to it, and shouldplead that God himself had provided that none of their land should be given to Israel for a possession(Deut. ii. 9), Moses here furnishes posterity with a replication to their plea, and Jephtha makes useof it against the Amorites 260 years afterwards, when Israel's title to this country was questioned.(1.) The justification itself is that though it was true this country had belonged to the Moabites, yetthe Amorites had taken it from them some time before, and were now in full and quiet possessionof it, v. 26. The Israelites did not take it out of the hands of the Moabites, they had before lost it tothe Amorites, and were constrained to give up their pretensions to it; and, when Israel had taken itfrom the Amorites, they were under no obligation to restore it to the Moabites, whose title to it waslong since extinguished. See here the uncertainty of worldly possessions, how often they changetheir owners, and how soon we may be deprived of them, even when we think ourselves most sureof them; they make themselves wings. It is our wisdom therefore to secure the good part whichcannot be taken away from us. See also the wisdom of the divine Providence and its perfect foresight,by which preparation is made long before for the accomplishment of all God's purposes in theirseason. This country being designed in due time for Israel, it is beforehand put into the hand of theAmorites, who little think that they have it but as trustees till Israel come of age, and then mustsurrender it. We understand not the vast reaches of Providence, but known unto God are all hisworks, as appears in this instance, that he set the bounds of the people according to the number ofthe children of Israel, Deut. xxxii. 8. All that land which he intended for his chosen people he putinto the possession of the devoted nations, that were to be driven out. (2.) For proof of the allegation,he refers to the authentic records of the country, for so their proverbs or songs were, one of whichhe quotes some passages out of (v. 27-30), which sufficiently proves what is vouched for, namely,[1.] That such and such places that are here named, though they had been in the possession of theMoabites, had by right of war become the dominion of Sihon king of the Amorites. Heshbon hadbecome his city, and he obtained such a quiet possession of it that it was built and prepared for him(v. 27), and the country to Dibon and Nophah was likewise subdued, and annexed to the kingdomof the Amorites, v. 30. [2.] That the Moabites were utterly disabled ever to regain the possession.Even Ar of Moab, though not taken or attempted by Sihon, but still remaining the metropolis ofMoab, yet was so wasted by this loss that is would never be able to make head, v. 28. The Moabiteswere undone, and even Chemosh their god had given them up, as unable to rescue them out of thehands of Sihon, v. 29. By all this it appears that the Moabites' claim to this country was barred forever. There may be a further reason for inserting this Amorite poem, namely, to show that thetriumphing of the wicked is short. Those that had conquered the Moabites, and insulted over them,were now themselves conquered and insulted over by the Israel of God. It is very probable that thesame Sihon, king of the Amorites, that had got this country from the Moabites, now lost it to the974Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Israelites; for, though it is said to be taken from a former king of Moab (v. 26), yet not by a formerking of the Amorites; and then it shows how sometimes justice makes men to see the loss of thatwhich they got by violence, and were puffed up with the gain of. They are exalted but for a littlewhile, Job xxiv. 24.II. Og king of Bashan, instead of being warned by the fate of his neighbours to make peacewith Israel, is instigated by it to make war with them, which proves in like manner to be hisdestruction. Og was also an Amorite, and therefore perhaps thought himself better able to deal withIsrael than his neighbours were, and more likely to prevail, because of his own gigantic strengthand stature, which Moses takes notice of, Deut. iii. 11, where he gives a more full account of thisstory. Here observe, 1. That the Amorite begins the war (v. 33): He went out to battle against Israel.His country was very rich and pleasant. Bashan was famous for the best timber (witness the oaksof Bashan), and the best breed of cattle, witness the bulls and kine of Bashan, and the lambs andrams of that country, which are celebrated, Deut. xxxii. 14. Wicked men do their utmost to securethemselves and their possessions against the judgments of God, but all in vain, when their daycomes, on which they must fall. 2. That God interests himself in the cause, bids Israel not to fearthis threatening force, and promises a complete victory: "I have delivered him into thy hand (v.34); the thing is as good as done already, it is all thy own, enter and take possession." Giants arebut worms before God's power. 3. That Israel is more than a conqueror, not only routs the enemies'army, but gains the enemies' country, which afterwards was part of the inheritance of the two tribesand a half that were first seated on the other side Jordan. God gave Israel these successes, whileMoses was yet with them, both for his comfort (that he might see the beginning of that gloriouswork, which he must not live to see the finishing of) and for the encouragement of the people inthe war of Canaan under Joshua. Though this was to them in comparison but as the day of smallthings, yet it was an earnest of great things.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXII.At this chapter begins the famous story of Balak and Balaam, their attempt to curse Israel, andthe baffling of that attempt; God's people are long afterwards told to remember what Balak the kingof Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, that they might know therighteousness of the Lord, Mic. vi. 5. In this chapter we have, I. Balak's fear of Israel, and the plothe had to get them cursed, ver. 1-4. II. The embassy he sent to Balaam, a conjurer, to fetch him forthat purpose, and the disappointment he met with in the first embassy, ver. 5-14. III. Balaam'scoming to him upon his second message, ver. 15-21. IV. The opposition Balaam met with by theway, ver. 22-35. V. The interview at length between Balak and Balaam, ver. 36, &c.Balak Sends for Balaam. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab onthis side Jordan by Jericho. 2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had975Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)done to the Amorites. 3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because theywere many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. 4 And Moabsaid unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are roundabout us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zipporwas king of the Moabites at that time. 5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaamthe son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of hispeople, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold,they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: 6 Come nowtherefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me:peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them outof the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thoucursest is cursed. 7 And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed withthe rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake untohim the words of Balak. 8 And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I willbring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moababode with Balaam. 9 And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are thesewith thee? 10 And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab,hath sent unto me, saying, 11 Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, whichcovereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall beable to overcome them, and drive them out. 12 And God said unto Balaam, Thoushalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. 13And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get youinto your land: for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you. 14 And theprinces of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth tocome with us.The children of Israel have at length finished their wanderings in the wilderness, out of whichthey went up (ch. xxi. 18), and are now encamped in the plains of Moab near Jordan, where theycontinued till they passed through Jordan under Joshua, after the death of Moses. Now we havehere,I. The fright which the Moabites were in upon the approach of Israel, v. 2-4. They needed notto fear any harm from them if they knew (and it is probable that Moses let them know) the ordersGod had given to Israel not to contend with the Moabites, nor to use any hostility against them,Deut. ii. 9. But, if they had any notice of this, they were jealous that it was but a sham, to makethem secure, that they might be the more easily conquered. Notwithstanding the old friendshipbetween Abraham and Lot, the Moabites resolved to ruin Israel if they could, and therefore theywill take it for granted, without any ground for the suspicion, that Israel resolves to ruin them. Thusit is common for those that design mischief to pretend that mischief is designed against them; andtheir groundless jealousies must be the colour of their causeless malice. They hear of their triumphsover the Amorites (v. 2), and think that their own house is in danger when their neighbour's is on976Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)fire. They observe their multitudes (v. 3): They were many; and hence infer how easily they wouldconquer their country, and all about them if some speedy and effectual course were not taken tostop the progress of their victorious arms: "They shall lick up or devour us, and all that are roundabout us, as speedily and irresistibly as the ox eats up the grass" (v. 4), owning themselves to bean unequal match for so formidable an enemy. Therefore they were sorely afraid and distressedthemselves; thus were the wicked in great fear where no fear was, Ps. liii. 5. These fears theycommunicated to their neighbours, the elders of Midian, that some measures might be concertedbetween them for their common safety; for, if the kingdom of Moab fall, the republic of Midiancannot stand long. The Moabites, if they had pleased, might have made a good use of the advancesof Israel, and their successes against the Amorites. They had reason to rejoice, and give God andIsrael thanks for freeing them from the threatening power of Sihon king of the Amorites, who hadtaken from them part of their country, and was likely to overrun the rest. They had reason likewiseto court Israel's friendship, and to come in to their assistance; but having forsaken the religion oftheir father Lot, and being sunk into idolatry, they hated the people of the God of Abraham, andwere justly infatuated in their counsels and given up to distress.II. The project which the king of Moab formed to get the people of Israel cursed, that is, to setGod against them, who, he perceived, hitherto fought for them. He trusted more to his arts than tohis arms, and had a notion that if he could but get some prophet or other, with his powerful charms,to imprecate evil upon them, and to pronounce a blessing upon himself and his forces, then, thoughotherwise too weak, he should be able to deal with them. This notion arose, 1. Out of the remainsof some religion; for it owns a dependence upon some visible sovereign powers that rule in theaffairs of the children of men and determine them, and an obligation upon us to make applicationto these powers. 2. Out of the ruins of the true religion; for if the Midianites and Moabites had notwretchedly degenerated from the faith and worship of their pious ancestors, Abraham and Lot, theycould not have imagined it possible to do any mischief with their curses to a people who aloneadhered to the service of the true God, from whose service they had themselves revolted.III. The court which he made to Balaam the son of Beor, a famous conjurer, to engage him tocurse Israel. The Balaam lived a great way off, in that country whence Abraham came, and whereLaban lived; but, though it was probable that there were many nearer home that were pretendersto divination, yet none had so great a reputation for success as Balaam, and Balak will employ thebest he can hear of, though he send a great way for him, so much is his heart upon this project. Andto gain him, 1. He makes him his friend, complaining to him, as his confidant, of the danger he wasin from the numbers and neighbourhood of the camp of Israel: They cover the face of the earth,and they abide over against me, v. 5. 2. In effect he makes him his god, by the great power heattributes to his word: He whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed, v. 6.The learned bishop Patrick inclines to think, with many of the Jewish writers, that Balaam had beena great prophet, who, for the accomplishment of his predictions and the answers of his prayers,both for good and evil, had been looked upon justly as a man of great interest with God; but that,growing proud and covetous, God departed from him, and then, to support his sinking credit, hebetook himself to diabolical arts. He is called a prophet (2 Pet. ii. 16,) because he had been one, orperhaps he had raised his reputation from the first by his magical charms, as Simon Magus, whobewitched the people so far that he was called the great power of God, Acts viii. 10. Cursespronounced by God's prophets in the name of the Lord have wonderful effects, as Noah's (Gen. ix.25), and Elisha's, 2 Kings ii. 24. But the curse causeless shall not come (Prov. xxvi. 2), no more977Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)than Goliath's, when he cursed David by his gods, 1 Sam. xvii. 43. Let us desire to have the prayersof God's ministers and people for us, and dread having them against us; for they are greatly regardedby him who blesseth indeed and curseth indeed. But Balak cannot rely upon these compliments assufficient to prevail with Balaam, the main inducement is yet behind (v. 7): they took the rewardsof divination in their hand, the wages of unrighteousness, which he loved, 2 Pet. ii. 15.IV. The restraint God lays upon Balaam, forbidding him to curse Israel. It is very probablethat Balaam, being a curious inquisitive man, was no stranger to Israel's case and character, buthad heard that God was with them of a truth, so that he ought to have given the messengers theiranswer immediately, that he would never curse a people whom God had blessed; but he lodges themessengers, and takes a night's time to consider what he shall do, and to receive instructions fromGod, v. 8. When we enter into a parley with temptations we are in great danger of being overcomeby them. In the night God comes to him, probably in a dream, and enquires what business thosestrangers had with him. He knows it, but he will know it from him. Balaam gives him an accountof their errand (v. 9-11), and God thereupon charges him not to go with them, or attempt to cursethat blessed people, v. 12. Thus God sometimes, for the preservation of his people, was pleased tospeak to bad men, as to Abimelech (Gen. xx. 3), and to Laban, Gen. xxxi. 24. And we read of somethat were workers of iniquity, and yet in Christ's name prophesied, and did many wondrous works.Balaam is charged not only not to go to Balak, but not to offer to curse this people, which he mighthave attempted at a distance; and the reason is given: They are blessed. This was part of the blessingof Abraham (Gen. xii. 3), I will curse him that curseth thee; so that an attempt to curse them wouldbe not only fruitless, but perilous. Israel had often provoked God in the wilderness, yet he will notsuffer their enemies to curse them, for he rewards them not according to their iniquities. Theblessedness of those whose sin is covered comes upon them, Rom. iv. 6, 7.V. The return of the messengers without Balaam. 1. Balaam is not faithful in returning God'sanswer to the messengers, v. 13. He only tells them, the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go withyou. He did not tell them, as he ought to have done, that Israel was a blessed people, and must byno means be cursed; for then the design would have been crushed, and the temptation would nothave been renewed: but he, in effect, desired them to give his humble service to Balak, and let himknow that he applauded his project, and would have been very glad to gratify him, but that trulyhe had the character of a prophet, and must not go without leave from God, which he had not yetobtained, and therefore for the present he must be excused. Note, Those are a fair mark for Satan'stemptation that speak diminishingly of divine prohibitions, as if they amounted to no more thanthe denial of a permission, and as if to go against God's law were only to go without his leave. 2.The messengers are not faithful in returning Balaam's answer to Balak. All the account they giveof it is, Balaam refuseth to come with us (v. 14), intimating that he only wanted more courtshipand higher proffers; but they are not willing Balak should know that God had signified hisdisallowance of the attempt. Thus are great men wretchedly abused by the flatteries of those aboutthem, who do all they can to prevent their seeing their own faults and follies.Balak's Second Message to Balaam. (b. c. 1452.)15 And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. 16And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Letnothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: 17 For I will promote thee978Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore,I pray thee, curse me this people. 18 And Balaam answered and said unto theservants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannotgo beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 19 Now therefore, Ipray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the Lord will say untome more. 20 And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the mencome to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say untothee, that shalt thou do. 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled hisass, and went with the princes of Moab.We have here a second embassy sent to Balaam, to fetch him over to curse Israel. It were wellfor us if we were as earnest and constant in prosecuting a good work, notwithstandingdisappointments, as Balak was in pursuing this ill design. The enemies of the church are restlessand unwearied in their attempts against it; but he that sits in heaven laughs at them. Observe,I. The temptation Balak laid before Balaam. He contrived to make this assault more vigorousthan the former. It is very probable that he sent double money in the hands of his messengers; but,besides that, now he tempted him with honours, laid a bait not only for his covetousness, but forhis pride and ambition. How earnestly should we beg of God daily to mortify in us these two limbsof the old man! Those that know how to look with a holy contempt upon worldly wealth andpreferment will find it not so hard a matter as most men do to keep a good conscience. See howartfully Balak managed the temptation. 1. The messengers he sent were more, and more honourable,v. 15. He sent to this conjurer with as great respect and deference to his quality as if he had beena sovereign prince, apprehending perhaps that Balaam had thought himself slighted in the fewnessand meanness of the former messengers. 2. The request was very urgent. This powerful princebecomes a suitor to him: "Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee (v. 16), no, not God, nor conscience,nor any fear either of sin or shame." 3. The proffers were high: "I will promote thee to very greathonour among the princes of Moab;" nay, he gives him a blank, and he shall write his own terms:I will do whatsoever thou sayest, that is, "I will give thee whatever thou desirest, and observewhatever thou orderest; thy word shall be a law to me," v. 17. Thus sinners stick at no pains, spareno cost, and care not how low they stoop, for the gratifying either of their luxury or of their malice;shall we then be stiff and strait-handed in our compliance with the laws of virtue? God forbid.II. Balaam's seeming resistance of, but real yielding to, this temptation. We may here discernin Balaam a struggle between his convictions and his corruptions. 1. His convictions charged himto adhere to the command of God, and he spoke their language, v. 18. Nor could any man have saidbetter: "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, and that is more than he can giveor I can ask, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God." See how honourably he speaks ofGod; he is Jehovah, my God. Note, Many call God theirs that are not his, not truly because not onlyhis; they swear by the Lord, and by Malcham. See how respectfully he speaks of the word of God,as one resolved to stick to it, and in nothing to vary from it, and how slightly of the wealth of thisworld, as if gold and silver were nothing to him in comparison with the favour of God; and yet, atthe same time, the searcher of hearts knew that he loved the wages of unrighteousness. Note, It isan easy thing for bad men to speak very good words, and with their mouth to make a show of piety.There is no judging of men by their words. God knows the heart. 2. His corruptions at the same979Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)time strongly inclined him to go contrary to the command. He seemed to refuse the temptation, v.18. But even then he expressed no abhorrence of it, as Christ did when he had the kingdoms of theworld offered him (Get thee hence Satan), and as Peter did when Simon Magus offered him money:Thy money perish with thee. But it appears (v. 19) that he had a strong inclination to accept theproffer; for he would further attend, to know what God would say to him, hoping that he mightalter his mind and give him leave to go. This was a vile reflection upon God Almighty, as if hecould change his mind, and now at last suffer those to be cursed whom he had pronounced blessed,and as if he would be brought to allow what he had already declared to be evil. Surely he thoughtGod altogether such a one as himself. He had already been told what the will of God was, in whichhe ought to have acquiesced, and not to have desired a re-hearing of that cause which was alreadyso plainly determined. Note, It is a very great affront to God, and a certain evidence of the dominionof corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin.III. The permission God gave him to go, v. 20. God came to him, probably by an anger, andtold him he might, if he pleased, go with Balak's messengers. So he gave him up to his own heart'slust. "Since thou hast such a mind to go, even go, yet know that the journey thou undertakest shallnot be for thy honour; for, though thou hast leave to go, thou shalt not, as thou hopest, have leaveto curse, for the word which I shall say unto thee, that thou shalt do." Note, God has wicked menin a chain; hitherto they shall come by his permission, but no further that he does permit them. Thushe makes the wrath of man to praise him, yet, at the same time, restrains the remainder of it. It wasin anger that God said to Balaam, "Go with them," and we have reason to think that Balaam himselfso understood it, for we do not find him pleading this allowance when God reproved him for going.Note, As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desiresof the wicked in wrath.IV. His setting out in the journey, v. 21. God gave him leave to go if the men called him, buthe was so fond of the journey that we do not find he staid for their calling him, but he himself roseup in the morning, got every thing ready with all speed, and went with the princes of Moab, whowere proud enough that they had carried their point. The apostle describes Balaam's sin here to bethat he ran greedily into an error for reward, Jude 11. The love of money is the root of all evil.God's Displeasure against Balaam; Remonstrance of Balaam's Ass; The Angel Appears to Balaam. (b. c. 1452.)22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lordstood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, andhis two servants were with him. 23 And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standingin the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way,and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. 24 Butthe angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, anda wall on that side. 25 And when the ass saw the angel of the Lord, she thrust herselfunto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.26 And the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place, where wasno way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the ass saw theangel of the Lord, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled,and he smote the ass with a staff. 28 And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass,980Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten methese three times? 29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mockedme: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 30 Andthe ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever sinceI was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lordstanding in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head,and fell flat on his face. 32 And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Whereforehast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee,because thy way is perverse before me: 33 And the ass saw me, and turned fromme these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slainthee, and saved her alive. 34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I havesinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if itdisplease thee, I will get me back again. 35 And the angel of the Lord said untoBalaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thoushalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.We have here an account of the opposition God gave to Balaam in his journey towards Moab;probably the princes had gone before, or gone some other way, and Balaam had pointed out wherehe would meet them, or where they should stay for him, for we read nothing of them in this partof our narrative, only that Balaam, like a person of some quality, was attended with his twomen-honour enough, one would think, for such a man, he needed not be beholden to Balak forpromotion.I. Here is God's displeasure against Balaam for undertaking this journey: God's anger waskindled because he went, v. 22. Note, 1. The sin of sinners is not to be thought the less provokingto God because he permits it. We must not think that, because God does not by his providencerestrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is therefore not hateful to him; he sufferssin, and yet is angry at it. 2. Nothing is more displeasing to God than malicious designs against hispeople; he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.II. The way God took to let Balaam know his displeasure against him: An angel stood in theway for an adversary. Now God fulfilled his promise to Israel (Exod. xxiii. 22), I will be an enemyto thy enemies. The holy angels are adversaries to sin, and perhaps are employed more than we areaware of in preventing it, particularly in opposing those that have any ill designs against God'schurch and people, for whom Michael our prince stands up, Dan. xii. 1; x. 21. What a comfort isthis to all that wish well to the Israel of God, that he never suffers wicked men to form an attemptagainst them, without sending his holy angels forth to break the attempt and secure his little ones!When the prophet saw the four horns that scattered Judah, at the same time he saw four carpentersthat were to fray those horns, Zech. i. 18, &c. When the enemy comes in like a flood the Spirit ofthe Lord will lift up a standard against him. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaamcounted him his adversary; otherwise those are really our best friends, and we are so to reckonthem, that stop our progress in a sinful way. The angel stood with his sword drawn (v. 23), a flamingsword, like that in the hands of the cherubim (Gen. iii. 24), turning every way. Note, The holy981Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)angels are at war with those with whom God is angry, for they are the ministers of his justice.Observe,1. Balaam had notice given him of God's displeasure, by the ass, and this did not startle him.The ass saw the angel, v. 23. How vainly did Balaam boast that he was a man whose eyes wereopen, and that he saw the visions of the Almighty (ch. xxiv. 3, 4), when the ass he rode on saw morethan he did, his eyes being blinded with covetousness and ambition and dazzled with the rewardsof divination! Note, Many have God against them, and his holy angels, but are not aware of it. Theass knows his owner, sees his danger, but Balaam does not know, does not consider, Isa. i. 3. Lord,when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see, Isa. xxvi. 11. Let none be puffed up with a conceit ofvisions and revelations, when even an ass saw an angel; yet let those be ashamed of their ownsottishness, worse than that of the beasts that perish, who, when they are told of the sword of God'swrath drawn against them, while they persist in wicked ways, yet will go on: the ass understoodthe law of self-preservation better than so; for, to save both herself and her senseless rider, (1.) Sheturned aside out of the way, v. 23. Balaam should have taken the hint of this, and considered whetherhe was not out of the way of his duty; but, instead of this, he beat her into the way again. Thusthose who by wilful sin are running headlong into perdition are angry at those that would preventtheir ruin. (2.) She had not gone much further before she saw the angel again, and the, to avoidhim, ran up to a wall, and crushed her rider's foot, v. 24, 25. How many ill accidents are we liableto in travelling upon the road, from which if we are preserved we must own our obligations to thedivine Providence, which by the ministry of angels keeps us in all our ways, lest we dash our footagainst a stone; but, if we at any time meet with a disaster, it should put us upon enquiring whetherour way be right in the sight of God or no. The crushing of Balaam's foot, though it was the savingof his life, provoked him so much that he smote his ass the second time, so angry are we apt to beat that which, though a present uneasiness, yet is a real kindness. (3.) Upon the next encounter withthe angel, the ass fell down under Balaam, v. 26, 27. He ought to have considered that there wascertainly something extraordinary in this; for his ass was not restive, nor did she use to serve himthus: but it is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil to push on violently,and break through all the difficulties which Providence lays in their way to give check to them andto stop them in their career. Balaam the third time smote his ass, though she had now done him thebest piece of service that ever she did him, saving him from the sword of the angel, and by herfalling down teaching him to do likewise. (4.) When all this would not work upon him, God openedthe mouth of the ass, and she spoke to him once and again; and yet neither did this move him: TheLord opened the mouth of the ass, v. 28. This was a great miracle, quite above the power of nature,and wrought by the power of the God of nature, who made man's mouth, and taught him to speak,for otherwise (since we learn to speak purely by imitation, and therefore those that are born deafare consequently dumb) the first man would never have spoken, nor any of his seed. He that mademan speak could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man's voice, 2 Pet. ii. 16. Here Mr.Ainsworth observes that the devil, when he tempted our first parents to sin, employed a subtleserpent, but that God, when he would convince Balaam, employed a silly ass, a creature dull andsottish to a proverb; for Satan corrupts men's minds by the craftiness of those that lie in wait todeceive, but Christ has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. By a dumb assGod rebukes the madness of the prophet, for he will never want reprovers, but when he pleases canmake the stones cry out as witnesses to him, Luke xix. 40; Hab. ii. 11. [1.] The ass complained ofBalaam's cruelty (v. 28): What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me? Note, The righteous982Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)God will not see the meanest and weakest abused; but either they shall be enabled to speak in theirown defence or he will some way or other speak for them. If God would not suffer a beast to bewronged, much less a man, a Christian, a child of his own. We cannot open the mouth of the dumb,as God did here, but we may and must open our mouth for the dumb, Prov. xxxi. 8; Job xxxi. 13.The ass's complaint was just: What have I done? Note, When we are prompted to smite any withhand or tongue, we should consider what they have done unto us, and what provocation they havegiven us. We hear it not, but thus the whole creation groans, being burdened, Rom. viii. 22. It wasmuch that Balaam was not astonished to hear his ass speak, and put to confusion: but some thinkthat it was no new thing to him (being a conjurer) to be thus spoken to by his familiars; others ratherthink that his brutish head-strong passion so blinded him that he could not observe or consider thestrangeness of the thing. Nothing besots men worse than unbridled anger. Balaam in his fury wishedhe had a sword to kill his ass with, v. 29. See his impotency; can he think by his curses to domischief to Israel that has it not in his power to kill his own ass? This he cannot do, yet he fainwould; and what would he get by that, but make himself so much the poorer (as many do), to gratifyhis passion and revenge? Such was the madness of this false prophet. Here bishop Hall observes,It is ill falling into the hands of those whom the brute-creatures find unmerciful; for a good manregardeth the life of his beast. [2.] The ass reasoned with him, v. 30. God enabled not only a dumbcreature to speak, but a dull creature to speak to the purpose. Three things she argues with himfrom:—First, His propriety in her: Am not I thy ass? Note, 1. God has given to man a dominionover the creatures: they are delivered into his hand to be used, and put under his feet to be ruled.2. Even wicked people have a title to the possessions God gives to them, which they are not to bewronged of. 3. The dominion God has given us over the creatures is a good reason why we shouldnot abuse them. We are their lords, and therefore must not be tyrants. Secondly, Her serviceablenessto him: On which thou hast ridden. Note, It is good for us often to consider how useful the inferiorcreatures are, and have been, to us, that we may be thankful to God, and tender of them. Thirdly,That she was not wont to do so by him, and had never before crushed his foot, nor fallen downunder him; he might therefore conclude there was something more than ordinary that made her doso now. Note, 1. The rare occurrence of an offence should moderate our displeasure against anoffender. 2. When the creatures depart from their wonted obedience to us, we should enquire thecause within ourselves, and be humbled for our sin.2. Balaam at length had notice of God's displeasure by the angel, and this did startle him. WhenGod opened his eyes he saw the angel (v. 31), and then he himself fell flat upon his face, in reverenceof that glorious messenger, and in fear of the sword he saw in his hand. God has many ways ofbreading and bringing down the hard and unhumbled heart. (1.) The angel reproved him for hisoutrageousness (v. 32, 33): Wherefore hast thou smitten thy ass? Whether we consider it or no, itis certain that God will call us to account for the abuses done to his creatures. Nay, he shows himhow much more reason he had to smite upon his breast, and to condemn himself, than to fly outthus against his ass ("Thy way is perverse before me, and then how canst thou expect to prosper?"),and how much wiser his ass was than himself, and how much beholden he was to her that she turnedaside; it was for his safety, and not for her own, for had she gone on he had been slain, and she hadbeen saved alive. Note, When our eyes are opened we shall see what danger we are in in a sinfulway, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed in it, and what fools we were to quarrelwith our crosses which helped to save our lives. (2.) Balaam then seemed to relent (v. 34): "I havesinned, sinned in undertaking this journey, sinned in pushing on so violently;" but he excused it983Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)with this, that he saw not the angel; yet, now that he did see him, he was willing to go back again.That which was displeasing to God was not so much his going as his going with a malicious designagainst Israel, and a secret hope that notwithstanding the proviso with which his permission wasclogged he might prevail to curse them, and so gratify Balak, and get preferment under him. It doesnot appear that he was sensible of this wickedness of his heart, or willing to own it, but, when hefinds he cannot go forward, he will be content (since there is no remedy) to go back. Here is nosign that his heart is turned, but, if his hands are tied, he cannot help it. Thus many leave their sinsonly because their sins have left them. There seems to be a reformation of the life, but what willthis avail if there be no renovation of the heart? (3.) The angel however continued his permission:"Go with the men, v. 35. Go, if thou hast a mind to be made a fool of, and to be shamed beforeBalak, and all the princes of Moab. Go, only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shaltspeak, whether thou wilt or no," for this seems not to be a precept, but a prediction of the event,that he should not only not be able to curse Israel, but should be forced to bless them, which wouldbe more for the glory of God and his own confusion than if he had turned back. Thus God gavehim fair warning, but he would not take it; he went with the princes of Balak. For the iniquity ofBalaam's covetousness God was wroth, and smote him, but he went on frowardly, Isa. lvii. 17.Meeting between Balak and Balaam. (b. c. 1452.)36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him untoa city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast. 37And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee?wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?38 And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any powerat all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth. 40 And Balakoffered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.41 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought himup into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.We have here the meeting between Balak and Balaam, confederate enemies to God's Israel;but here they seem to differ in their expectations of the success. 1. Balak speaks of it with confidence,not doubting but to gain his point now that Balaam had come. In expectation of this, he went outto meet him, even to the utmost border of his country (v. 36), partly to gratify his own impatientdesire to see one he had such great expectations from, and partly to do honour to Balaam, and soto engage him with his utmost power to serve him. See what respect heathen princes paid to thosethat had but the name and face of prophets, and pretended to have any interest in heaven; and howwelcome one was that came with his mouth full of curses. What a shame is it then that theambassadors of Christ are so little respected by most, so much despised by some, and that thoseare so coldly entertained who bring tidings of peace and a blessing! Balak has now nothing tocomplain of but that Balaam did not come sooner, v. 37. And he thinks that he should haveconsidered the importunity Balak had used, Did I not earnestly send to thee? (and the importunityof people inferior to kings has prevailed with many against their inclinations), and that he shouldalso have considered Balak's intentions concerning him: Am not I able to promote thee to honour?984Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Balak, as king, was in his own kingdom the fountain of honour, and Balaam should have his choiceof all the preferments that were in his gift; he therefore thinks himself affronted by Balaam's delays,which looked as if he thought the honours he prepared not worthy his acceptance. Note, Promotionto honour is a very tempting bait to many people; and it were well if we would be drawn into theservice of God by the honour he sets before us. Why do we delay to come unto him? Is not he ableto promote us to honour? 2. Balaam speaks doubtfully of the issue, and bids Balak not depend tomuch upon him (v. 38): "Have I now any power at all to say any thing? I have come, but what thenearer am I? Gladly would I curse Israel; but I must not, I cannot, God will not suffer me." Heseems to speak with vexation at the hook in his nose and the bridle in his jaws, such as Sennacheribwas tied up with, Isa. xxxvii. 29. 3. They address themselves with all speed to the business. Balaamis nobly entertained over night, a sacrifice of thanksgiving is offered to the gods of Moab, for thesafe arrival of this welcome guest, and his is treated with a feast upon the sacrifice, v. 40. And thenext morning, that no time might be lost, Balak takes Balaam in his chariot to the high places ofhis kingdom, not only because their holiness (such as it was), he thought, might give some advantageto his divinations, but their height might give him a convenient prospect of the camp of Israel,which was to be the butt or mark at which he must shoot his envenomed arrows. And now Balaamis really as solicitous to please Balak as ever he had pretended to be to please God. See what needwe have to pray every day, Our Father in heaven, lead us not into temptation.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXIII.In this chapter we have Balak and Balaam busy at work to do Israel a mischief, and, for oughtthat appears, neither Moses nor the elders of Israel know any thing of the matter, nor are in a capacityto break the snare; but God, who keeps Israel, and neither slumbers nor sleeps, baffles the attempt,without any intercession or contrivance of theirs. Here is, I. The first attempt to curse Israel. 1. Thepreparation made for it by sacrifice, ver. 1-3. 2. The contrary instruction God gave Balaam, ver. 4,5. 3. The blessing Balaam was compelled to pronounce upon Israel, instead of a curse, ver. 7-10.4. The great disappointment of Balak, ver. 11, 12. II. The second attempt, in the same manner made,and in the same manner frustrated, ver. 13-26. III. Preparations made for a third attempt (ver. 27-30),the issue of which we have in the next chapter.Balaam Constrained to Bless Israel; The Blessing Pronounced on Israel. (b. c. 1452.)1 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me hereseven oxen and seven rams. 2 And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak andBalaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. 3 And Balaam said unto Balak,Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the Lord will come to meetme: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. 4And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have985Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. 5 And the Lord put a word in Balaam'smouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. 6 And he returnedunto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab. 7And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me fromAram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come,defy Israel. 8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy,whom the Lord hath not defied? 9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, and fromthe hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckonedamong the nations. 10 Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourthpart of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!11 And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to cursemine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. 12 And he answeredand said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?Here is, I. Great preparation made for the cursing of Israel. That which was aimed at was toengage the God of Israel to forsake them, and either to be on Moab's side or to stand neuter. O thesottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at men's beck! Balaam and Balak think tobribe him with altars and sacrifices, offered without any warrant or institution of his: as if he wouldeat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats. Ridiculous nonsense, to think that these wouldplease God, and gain his favour, when there could be in them no exercise either of faith or obedience!Yet, it should seem, they offered these sacrifices to the God of heaven the supreme Numen—Divinity,and not to any of their local deities. But the multiplying of altars was an instance of their degeneracyfrom the religion of their ancestors, and their apostasy to idolatry; for those that multiplied altarsmultiplied gods. Ephraim made many altars to sin, Hos. viii. 11. Thus they liked not to retain Godin their knowledge, but became vain in their imaginations; and yet presumptuously expected herebyto gain God over to them from Israel, who had his sanctuary among them, and his anointed altar.Observe here, 1. How very imperious Balaam was, proud to have the command of a king and togive law to princes. Such is the spirit of that wicked one who exalts himself above all that is calledGod, or that is worshipped. With what authority does Balaam give orders! Build me here (in theplace I have pitched upon) seven altars, of stone or turf. Thus he covers his malice against Israelwith a show of devotion, but his sacrifice was an abomination, being brought with such a wickedmind, Prov. xxi. 27. That which he aimed at was not to honour God with the sacrifices ofrighteousness, but to enrich himself with the wages of unrighteousness. 2. How very obsequiousBalak was. The altars were presently built, and the sacrifices prepared, the best of the sort, sevenbullocks and seven rams. Balak makes no objection to the charge, nor does he snuff at it, or thinkit either a weariness or a disparagement to stand by his burnt-offering as Balaam ordered him.II. The turning of the curse into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel,which is the account Moses gives of it, Deut. xxiii. 5.1. God puts the blessing into the mouth of Balaam. While the sacrifices were burning, Balaamretired; he went solitary, into some dark grove on the top of the high place, v. 3, marg. Thus muchhe knew, that solitude gives a good opportunity for communion with God; those that would meetwith him must retire from the world, and the business and conversation of it, and love to be private,986Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)reckoning themselves never less alone than when alone, because the Father is with them. Entertherefore into thy closet, and shut the door, and be assured that God will meet thee if thou seek himin the due order. But Balaam retired with a peradventure only, having some thoughts that Godmight meet him; but being conscious to himself of guilt, and knowing that God had lately met himin anger, he had reason to speak doubtfully: Peradventure the Lord will come to meet me, v. 3. Butlet not such a man think that he shall receive any favour from God. Nay, it should seem, thoughhe pretended to go and meet with God, he really designed to use enchantments; see ch. xxiv. 1.But, whatever he intended. God designed to serve his own glory by him, and therefore met Balaam,v. 4. What communion has light with darkness? No friendly communion, we may be sure. Balaam'sway was still perverse, and God was still an adversary to him; but, Balak having chosen him forhis oracle, God would constrain him to utter such a confession, to the honour of god and Israel, asshould render those for ever inexcusable who should appear in arms against them. When Balaamwas aware that God met him, probably by an angel, he boasted of his performances: I have preparedseven altars, and offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. How had he done it? It cost himnothing; it was done at Balak's expense; yet, (1.) He boasts of it, as if he had done some mightything. The acts of devotion which are done in hypocrisy are commonly reflected upon with prideand vain glory. Thus the Pharisee went up to the temple to boast of his religion, Luke xviii. 11, 12.(2.) He insists upon it as a reason why God should gratify him in his desire to curse Israel, as ifnow he had made God his debtor, and might draw upon him for what he pleased. He thinks Godis so much beholden to him for these sacrifices that the least he can do in recompense for them isto sacrifice his Israel to the malice of the king of Moab. Note, It is a common cheat that wickedpeople put upon themselves, to think that by the shows of piety they may prevail with God tocountenance them, and connive at them, in their greatest immoralities, especially in persecution,Isa. lxvi. 5. However, thought the sacrifice was an abomination, God took the occasion of Balaam'sexpectation to put a word into his mouth (v. 5); for the answer of the tongue if from the Lord, andthus he would show how much those are mistaken who say, With our tongue we will prevail, ourlips are our own, Ps. xii. 4. He that made man's mouth knows how to manage it, and to serve hisown purposes by it. This speaks terror to daring sinners, that set their mouth against the heavens.God can make their own tongues to fall upon them, Ps. lxiv. 8. And it speaks comfort to God'switnesses, whom at any time he calls out to appear for him; if God put a word into the mouth ofBalaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desireto glorify God and edify his people by their testimony, but it shall be given them in that same hourwhat they should speak.2. Balaam pronounces the blessing in the ears of Balak. He found him standing by hisburnt-sacrifice (v. 6), closely attending it, and earnestly expecting the success. Those that woldhave an answer of peace from God must abide by the sacrifice, and attend on the Lord withoutdistraction, not weary in well doing. Balaam, having fixed himself in the place appointed for hisdenouncing curses against Israel, which perhaps he had drawn up in form ready to deliver, takesup his parable, and it proves a blessing, v. 7. He pronounces Israel safe and happy, and so blessesthem.(1.) He pronounces them safe, and out of the reach of his envenomed darts. [1.] He owns thatthe design was to curse them, that Balak sent for him out of his own country, and that he came,with that intent, v. 7. The message sent to him was, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.Balak intended to make war upon them, and he would have Balaam to bless his arms, and to prophesy987Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)and pray for the ruin of Israel. [2.] He owns the design defeated, and his own inability to accomplishit. He could not so much as give them an ill word or an ill wish: How shall I curse those whom Godhas not cursed? v. 8. Not that therefore he would not do it, but therefore he could not do it. This isa fair confession, First, Of the weakness and impotency of his own magic skill, for which othersvalued him so much, and doubtless he valued himself no less. He was the most celebrated man ofthat profession, and yet owns himself baffled. God had warned the Israelites not to use divination(Lev. xix. 31), and this providence gave them a reason for that law, by showing them the weaknessand folly of it. As they had seen the magicians of Egypt befooled, so, here, the great conjurer ofthe east. See Isa. xlvii. 12-14. Secondly, It is a confession of the sovereignty and dominion of thedivine power. He owns that he could do no more than God would suffer him to do, for God couldoverrule all his purposes, and turn his counsels headlong. Thirdly, It is a confession of the inviolablesecurity of the people of God. Note, 1. God's Israel are owned and blessed of him. He has not cursedthem, for they are delivered from the curse of the law; he has not defied them, nor rejected orabandoned them, though mean and vile. 2. Those that have the good-will of Heaven have the ill-willof hell; the serpent and this seed have an enmity to them. 3. Though the enemies of God's peoplemay prevail far against them, yet they cannot curse them; that is, they cannot do them any realmischief, much less a ruining mischief, for they cannot separate them from the love of God, Rom.viii. 39.(2.) He pronounces them happy in three things:—[1.] Happy in their peculiarity, and distinction from the rest of the nations: From the top of therock I see him, v. 9. And it seems to have been a great surprise to him that whereas, it is probable,they were represented to him as a rude and disorderly rabble, that infested the countries round aboutin rambling parties, he was them a regular incorporated camp, in which appeared all the marks ofdiscipline and good order; he saw them a people dwelling alone, and foresaw they would continueso, and their singularity would be their unspeakable honour. Persons of quality we call person ofdistinction; this was Israel's praise, though their enemies turned it to their reproach, that they differedfrom all the neighbouring nations, not only in their religion and sacred rites, but in their diet, anddress, and common usages, as a people called out of the world, and not to be conformed to it. Theynever lost their reputation till they mingled among the heathen, Ps. cvi. 35. Note, It is the duty andhonour of those that are dedicated to God to be separated from the world, and not to walk accordingto the course and custom of it. Those who make conscience of peculiar duties may take the comfortof peculiar privileges, which it is probable Balaam has an eye to here. God's Israel shall not standupon a level with other nations, but be dignified above them all, as a people near to God, and setapart for him.[2.] Happy in their numbers, not so few and despicable as they were represented to him, butan innumerable company, which made them both honourable and formidable (v. 10): Who cancount the dust of Jacob? The number of the people was the thing that Balak was vexed at (ch. xxii.3): Moab was afraid of them, because they were many; and God does here by Balaam promote thatfear and vexation, foretelling their further increase. Balak would have him see the utmost part ofthe people (ch. xxii. 41), hoping the more he saw of them the more he would be exasperated againstthem, and throw about his curses with the more keenness and rage; but it proved quite contrary:instead of being angry at their numbers, he admired them. The better acquainted we are with God'speople the better opinion we have of them. He takes notice of the number, First, Of the dust ofJacob; that is, the people of Jacob, concerning whom it was foretold that they should be as the dust988Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)for number, Gen. xxviii. 14. Thus he owns the fulfilling of the promise made to the fathers, andexpects that it should be yet further accomplished. Perhaps it was part of David's fault in numberingthe people that he offered to count the dust of Jacob, which God had said should be innumerable.Secondly, Of the fourth part of Israel, alluding to the form of their camp, which was cast into foursquadrons, under four standards. Note, God's Israel are a very great body, his spiritual Israel areso, and they will appear to be so when they shall all be gathered together unto him in the great day,Rev. vii. 9.[3.] Happy in their end: Let me die the death of the righteous Israelites, that are in covenantwith God, and let my last end, or future state, be like theirs, or my recompence, namely, in theother world. Here, First, It is taken for granted that death is the end of all men; the righteousthemselves must die: and it is good for us to think of this with application, as Balaam himself doeshere, speaking of his own death. Secondly, he goes upon the supposition of the soul's immortality,and a different state on the other side death, to which this is a noble testimony, and an evidence ofits being anciently known and believed. For how could the death of the righteous be more desirablethan the death of the wicked upon any other account than as it involved happiness in another world,since in the manner and circumstances of dying we see all things come alike to all? Thirdly, Hepronounces the righteous truly blessed, not only while they live, but when they die, which makestheir death not only more desirable than the death of others, but even more desirable than life itself;for in that sense his wish may be taken. Not only, "When I do die, let me die the death of therighteous;" but, "I could even now be willing to die, on condition that I might die the death of therighteous, and reach my end this moment, provided it might be like his." Very near the place whereBalaam now was, on one of the mountains of Moab, not long after this, Moses died, and to thatperhaps God, who put this word into his mouth, designed it should have a reference, that by itMoses might be encouraged to go up and die such a death as Balaam himself wished to die. Fourthly,He shows his opinion of religion to be better than his resolution; there are many who desire to diethe death of the righteous, but do not endeavour to live the life of the righteous. Gladly would theyhave their end like theirs, but not their way. They would be saints in heaven, but not saints on earth.This is the desire of the slothful, which kills him, because his hands refuse to labour. This ofBalaam's is only a wish, not a prayer, and it is a vain wish, being only a wish for the end, withoutany care for the means. Thus far this blessing goes, even to death, and beyond it, as far as the lastend. Now,III. We are told, 1. How Balak fretted at it, v. 11. He pretended to honour the Lord with hissacrifices, and to wait for the answer God would send him; and yet, when it did not prove accordingto his mind, he forgot God, and flew into a great passion against Balaam, as if it had been purelyhis doing: "What hast thou done unto me! How hast thou disappointed me!" Sometimes God makesthe enemies of his church a vexation one to another, while he that sits in heaven laughs at them,and the efforts of their impotent malice. 2. How Balaam was forced to acquiesce in it. He submitsbecause he cannot help it, and yet humours the thing with no small address, as if he had beenpeculiarly conscientious, answering Balak with the gravity of a prophet: Must I not take heed tospeak that which the Lord has put in my mouth? v. 12. Thus a confession of God's overruling poweris extorted from a wicked prophet, to the further confusion of a wicked prince.Balaam Again Blesses Israel. (b. c. 1452.)989Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)13 And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, fromwhence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shaltnot see them all: and curse me them from thence. 14 And he brought him into thefield of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullockand a ram on every altar. 15 And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering,while I meet the Lord yonder. 16 And the Lord met Balaam, and put a word in hismouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. 17 And when he came to him,behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balaksaid unto him, What hath the Lord spoken? 18 And he took up his parable, and said,Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: 19 God is not a man,that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, andshall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? 20 Behold, Ihave received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel:the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. 22 God broughtthem out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. 23 Surely there isno enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: accordingto this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! 24 Behold,the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shallnot lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. 25 And Balaksaid unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. 26 But Balaamanswered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the Lord speaketh,that I must do? 27 And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring theeunto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me themfrom thence. 28 And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh towardJeshimon. 29 And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepareme here seven bullocks and seven rams. 30 And Balak did as Balaam had said, andoffered a bullock and a ram on every altar.Here is, I. Preparation made the second time, as before, for the cursing of Israel. 1. The placeis changed, v. 13. Balak fancied that Balaam, having so full a prospect of the whole camp of Israel,from the top of the rocks (v. 9), was either so enamoured with the beauty of it that he would notcurse them or so affrighted with the terror of it that he durst not; and therefore he would bring himto another place, form which he might see only some part of them, which would appear moredespicable, and that part at least which would lie in view he hoped he might obtain leave to curse,and so by degrees he should get ground against them, intending, no doubt, if he had gained thispoint, to make his attack on that part of the camp of Israel which Balaam now had in his eye, andinto which he was to throw the fireballs of his curses. See how restless and unwearied the church'senemies are in their malicious attempts to ruin it; they leave no stone unturned, no project untried,to compass it. O that we were as full of contrivance and resolution in prosecuting good designs for990Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the glory of God! 2. The sacrifices are repeated, new altars are built, a bullock and a ram offeredon every altar, and Balak attends his sacrifice as closely as ever, v. 14, 15. Were we thus earnestto obtain the blessing as Balak was to procure a curse (designedly upon Israel, but really uponhimself and his people), we should not grudge the return both of the charge and of the labour ofreligious exercises. 3. Balaam renews his attendance on God, and God meets him the second time,and puts another word into his mouth, not to reverse the former, but to ratify it, v. 16, 17. If Godsaid not to Balaam, Seek in vain, much less will he say so to any of the seed of Jacob, who shallsurely find him, not only as Balaam, their instructor and oracle, but their bountiful rewarder. WhenBalaam returned Balak was impatient to know what message he had: "What hath the Lord spoken?Are there any better tidings yet, any hopes of speeding?" This should be our enquiry when we cometo hear the word of God. See Jer. xxiii. 35.II. A second conversion of the curse into a blessing by the overruling power of God; and thisblessing is both larger and stronger than the former, and quite cuts off all hopes of altering it. Balakhaving been so forward to ask what the Lord had spoken (v. 17), Balaam now addresses himselfparticularly to him (v. 18): Rise up, Balak, and hear. It was a message from God that he had todeliver, and it is required of Balak, though a king, that he attend (hear and hearken, with a closeapplication of mind, let not a word slip), and also that he attend with reverence: Rise up, and hear.His successor Eglon, when he was to receive a message from God, rose out of his seat, Judg. iii.20.1. Two things Balaam in this discourse informs Balak of, sorely to his grief anddisappointment:—(1.) That he had no reason to hope that he should ruin Israel.[1.] It would be to no purpose to attempt to ruin them, and he would deceive himself if heexpected it, for three reasons:—First, Because God is unchangeable: God is not a man that he should lie, v. 19. Men changetheir minds, and therefore break their words; they lie, because they repent. But God does neither.He never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his promise. Balaam had owned (v. 8) thathe could not alter God's counsel, and thence he infers here that God himself would not alter it; suchis the imperfection of man, and such the perfection of God. It is impossible for God to lie, Heb. vi.18. And, when in scripture he is said to repent, it is not meant of any change of his mind (for he isin one mind, and who can turn him?) but only of the change of his way. This is a great truth, thatwith God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Now here, 1. He appeals to Balak himselfconcerning it: "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Said it in his own purpose, and shall he notperform it in his providence, according to the counsel of his will? Hath he spoken in his word, inhis promise, and shall he not make it good? Can we think otherwise of God than that he isunchangeably one with himself and true to his word? All his decrees are unalterable, and all hispromises inviolable." 2. He applies this general truth to the case in hand (v. 20): He hath blessedand I cannot reverse it, that is, "I cannot prevail with him to reverse it." Israel were of old a blessedpeople, a seed that the Lord had blessed; the blessing of Abraham came upon them; they were bornunder the blessing of the covenant, and born to the blessing of Canaan, and therefore they couldnot be cursed, unless you could suppose that the God of eternal truth should break his word, andbecome false to himself and his people.Secondly, Because Israel are at present unblamable: he has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, v. 21.Not but that there was iniquity in Jacob, and God saw it; but, 1. There was not such a degree of991Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)iniquity as might provoke God to abandon them and give them up to ruin. As bad as they were,they were not so bad as this. 2. There was no idolatry among them, which is in a particular mannercalled iniquity and perverseness; we have found nothing of that kind in Israel since the golden calf,and therefore, though they were in other instances very provoking, yet God would not cast themoff. Balaam knew that nothing would separate between them and God but sin. While God saw noreigning sin among them, he would send no destroying curse among them; and therefore, as longas they kept in with God, he despaired of ever doing them any mischief. Note, While we keep fromsin we keep from harm. Some give another sense of those words; they read it thus: He has notbeheld wrong offered to Jacob, nor will he see any grievance done to Israel, that is, "He has notnor will he permit it, or allow it; he will not see Israel injured, but he will right them, and avengetheir quarrel." Note, God will not bear to see any injury done to his church and people; for what isdone against them he takes as done against himself, and will reckon for it accordingly.Thirdly, Because the power of both was irresistible. He shows Balak that there was nocontending with them, it was to no purpose to attempt it; for, 1. They had the presence of God withthem: "The Lord his God is with him in a particular manner, and not provoked to withdraw fromhim." 2. They had the joy of that presence, and were always made to triumph in it: The shout oralarm of a king is among them. They shout against their enemies, as sure of victory and success,glorying continually in God as their King and conqueror for them. 3. They had had the experienceof the benefit of God's presence with them, and his power engaged for them; for God brought themout of Egypt, v. 22. The power which had done that could never be restrained, never resisted; and,having begun so gloriously, he would no doubt finish gloriously. 4. While they had God's presencewith them they had the strength of a unicorn, able to make head against all that opposed them. Seech. xxiv. 8. Such is the strength which the God of Israel gives unto his people.[2.] From all this he infers that it was to no purpose for him to think of doing them a mischiefby all the arts he could use, v. 23. First, He owns himself baffled. Surely there is no enchantmentagainst Jacob so as to prevail. The curses of hell can never take place against the blessings ofheaven. Not but that attempts of this kind would be made, but they would certainly be fruitless andineffectual. Some observe that Jacob denotes the church low and afflicted, Israel denotes itprosperous and advanced; but be the church high or low, be her friends few or many, let secondcauses smile or frown, it comes all to one: no weapon formed against it shall prosper. Note, Godeasily can, and certainly will, baffle and disappoint all the devices and designs of the powers ofdarkness against his church, so that they shall not prevail to destroy it. Secondly, He foresees thatthis would be remembered in time to come. According to this time, that is, with reference to thiswe are now about, it shall be said concerning Jacob and Israel, and said by them, What hath Godwrought! What great things hath God done for his people! It shall be said with wonder, joy, andthankfulness, and a challenge to the neighbouring nations to produce any similar instances of thecare of their gods for them. Note, The defeating of the designs of the church's enemies ought to behad in everlasting remembrance to the glory of God. There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.What Balaam says here concerning the pre-eminence of the God of Israel above all the gods of theGentiles perhaps Moses refers to when he says (Deut. xxxii. 31), Their rock is not as our rock, evenour enemies themselves being judges, Balaam particularly. Balak therefore has no hopes of ruiningIsrael. But,(2.) Balaam shows him that he had more reason to fear being ruined by them, for they werelikely to make bloody work among his neighbours; and, if he and his country escaped, it was not992Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)because he was too great for them to meddle with, but because he fell not within their commissionv. 24. Behold, and tremble; the people that now have lain for some time closely encamped do butrepose themselves for a while like a lion couchant, but shortly they shall rise up as a great lion, alion rampant, that shall not lie down till he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. Thisseems to point at the victories he foresaw they would obtain over the Canaanites, that they wouldnever lay down their arms till they had made a complete conquest of the land they had now in view;and, when his neighbour's house was on fire, he had reason to think his own in danger.2. Now what was the issue of this disappointment?(1.) Balak and Balaam were both of them sick of the cause. [1.] Balak is now willing to havehis conjurer silenced. Since he cannot say what he would have him, he wishes him to say nothing:"Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all, v. 25. If thou canst not curse them, I beseech theenot to bless them. If thou canst no assist and encourage my forces, yet do not oppose and dispiritthem" Note, God can make those that depart from him weary of the multitude of their counsels,Isa. xlvii. 13; lvii. 10. [2.] Balaam is still willing to own himself overruled, and appeals to what hehad said in the beginning of this enterprise (ch. xxii. 38): All that the Lord speaketh, that I mustdo, v. 26. This sows, First, In general, that the way of man is not in himself; there are many devicesin man's heart, but God's counsels shall stand. Secondly, In particular, that, as no weapon formedagainst the church shall prosper, so every tongue that rises against her in judgment god will controland condemn, Isa. liv. 17.(2.) Yet they resolve to make another attempt. They think it scorn to be baffled, and thereforepursue the design, though it be only to their further confusion. And now the third time, [1.] Theychange the place. Balak is at last convinced that it is not Balaam's fault, on whom, before, he hadlaid the blame, but that really he was under a divine check, and therefore now he hopes to bringhim to a place whence God might at least permit him to curse them, v. 27. Probably he and Balaamwere the more encouraged thus to repeat their attempt because God had the second time allowedBalaam to go, though he had forbidden him the first time. Since by repeated trials they had carriedthat point, they hope in like manner to carry this. Thus because sinners are borne with, and sentenceagainst their evil works is not executed speedily, their hearts are the more fully set in them to doevil. The place to which Balak now took Balaam was the top of Peor, the most eminent high placein all his country, where, it is probable, Baal was worshipped, and it was thence called Baal-peor.He chose this place with a hope, either, First, That it being the residence (as he fancied) of Baal,the god of Moab, Jehovah the God of Israel would not, or could not, come hither to hinder theoperation; or, Secondly, That, it being a place acceptable to his god, it would be so to the Lord, andthere he would be brought into a good humour. Such idle conceits have foolish men of God, andso vain are their imaginations concerning him. Thus the Syrians fancied the Lord to be God of thehills, but not of the valleys (1 Kings xx. 28), as if he were more powerful in one place than he isin every place. [2.] They repeat their sacrifice, seven bullocks and seven rams, upon seven altars,v. 29, 30. Thus do they persevere in their expensive oblations, though they had no promise on whichto build their hopes of speeding. Let not us therefore, who have a promise that the vision at the endshall speak and not lie, be discouraged by delays, but continue instant in prayer, and not faint, Lukexviii. 1.993Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)N U M B E R SCHAP. XXIV.This chapter continues and concludes the history of the defeat of the counsels of Balak andBalaam against Israel, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts; and asgreat an instance it is of God's power over the children of men, and his favour towards his ownchildren, as any of the victories recorded in the book of the wars of the Lord. What preparation wasmade the third time for the cursing of Israel we read of in the close of the foregoing chapter. In thischapter we are told, I. What the blessing was into which that intended curse was turned, ver. 1-9.II. How Balak dismissed Balaam from his service thereupon, ver. 10-13. III. The predictions Balaamleft behind him concerning Israel, and some of the neighbouring nations, ver. 14, &c.Balaam Blesses Israel a Third Time. (b. c. 1452.)1 And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, asat other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.2 And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according totheir tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. 3 And he took up his parable, andsaid, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said:4 He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty,falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: 5 How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,and thy tabernacles, O Israel! 6 As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens bythe river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedartrees beside the waters. 7 He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seedshall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdomshall be exalted. 8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strengthof an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones,and pierce them through with his arrows. 9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, andas a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed ishe that curseth thee.The blessing itself which Balaam here pronounces upon Israel is much the same with the twowe had in the foregoing chapter; but the introduction to it is different.I. The method of proceeding here varies much in several instances. 1. Balaam laid aside theenchantments which he had hitherto depended on, used no spells, or charms, or magic arts, findingthey did him no service; it was to no purpose to deal with the devil for a curse, when it was plainthat God was determined immovably to bless, v. 1. Sooner or later God will convince men of theirfolly in seeking after lying vanities, which cannot profit. To what purpose should he seek forenchantment? He knew that God was out of the reach of them. 2. He did not now retire into asolitary place as before, but set his face directly towards the wilderness where Israel lay encamped;and, since there is no remedy, but they must be blessed, he will design nothing else, but will submit994Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)by compulsion. 3. Now the Spirit of God came upon him, that is, the Spirit of prophecy, as uponSaul to prevent him from taking David, 1 Sam. xix. 23. He spoke not his own sense, but the languageof the Spirit that came upon him. 4. He used a different preface now from what he had used before(v. 3, 4), much like that of David (2 Sam. xxiii. 1-3), yet savouring very much (as some think) ofpride and vain-glory, taking all the praise of this prophecy to himself, and magnifying himself asone of the cabinet-council of heaven. Two things he boasts of:—(1.) The favour God did him inmaking known himself to him. He heard the words of God, and saw the vision of the Almighty.God himself had met him and spoken to him (ch. xxiii. 16), and with this he was greatly puffed up.Paul speaks with humility of his visions and revelations (2 Cor. xii. 1), but Balaam speaks of hiswith pride. (2.) His own power to receive and bear those revelations. He fell into a trance indeed,as other prophets did, but he had his eyes open. This he mentions twice; but the words in the originalare not the same. The man whose eyes were shut, some think it may be read so (v. 3-9), but nowhaving his eyes open, v. 4. When he attempted to curse Israel, he owns, he was in a mistake, butnow he began to see his error, and yet still he remained blinded by covetousness and ambition,those foolish and hurtful lusts. Note, [1.] Those that oppose God and his people will sooner or laterbe made to see themselves wretchedly deceived. [2.] Many have their eyes open that have not theirhearts open, are enlightened, but not sanctified; and that knowledge which puffs men up with pridewill but serve to light them to hell, whither many go with their eyes open.II. Yet the blessing is for substance the same with those before. Several things he admires inIsrael:—1. Their beauty (v. 5): How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! Though they dwelt not in statelypalaces, but in coarse and homely tents, and these, no doubt, sadly weather-beaten, yet Balaam seesa beauty in those tents, because of their admirable order, according to their tribes, v. 2. Nothingrecommends religion more to the good opinion of those that look upon it at a distance than theunity and harmony of its professors, Ps. cxxxiii. 1. The amiableness of this people, and the greatreputation they should gain among their neighbours, are compared (v. 6) to the beauty and sweetnessof fruitful valleys and fine gardens, flourishing trees and fragrant spices. Note, Those whose eyesare open see the saints on the earth to be excellent ones, and their delight is accordingly in them.The righteous, doubtless, is more excellent than his neighbour. They are trees which the Lord hasplanted; that is their excellency. The branches of righteousness are the planting of the Lord. SeeHos. xiv. 5-7.2. Their fruitfulness and increase. This may be intended by those similitudes (v. 6) of thevalleys, gardens, and trees, as well as by those expressions (v. 7), He shall pour the water out ofhis buckets; that is, God shall water them with his blessing like rain from heaven, and then his seedshall be in many waters. Compare Hos. ii. 23, I will sow her unto me in the earth. And waters arein scripture put for peoples, and multitudes, and nations. This has been fulfilled in the wonderfulincrease of that nation and their vast multitude even in their dispersion.3. Their honour and advancement. As the multitude of the people is the honour of the prince,so the magnificence of the prince is the honour of the people; Balaam therefore foretells that theirking shall be higher than Agag. Agag, it is probable, was the most potent monarch in those parts;Balaam knew of none more considerable than he was; he rose above the rest of his neighbours. ButBalaam foretells that Israel's chief commander, who, after Moses, was Joshua, should be more greatand honourable than ever Agag was, and make a far better figure in history. Saul, their first king,triumphed over Agag, though, it is said, he came delicately.995Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)4. Their power and victory, v. 8. (1.) He looks back upon what they had done, or rather whathad been done for them: God brought them forth out of Egypt; this he had spoken of before, ch.xxiii. 22. The wonders that attended their deliverance out of Egypt contributed more to their honour,and the terror of their adversaries, than any thing else, Josh. ii. 10. He that brought them out ofEgypt will not fail to bring them into Canaan, for, as for God, his work is perfect. (2.) He looksdown upon their present strength. Israel hath, as it were, the strength of a unicorn, of which creatureit is said (Job xxxix. 9, 10), Will he be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bindhim with his band in the furrow? "No, Israel is too powerful to be checked or held in by my cursesor thy armies." (3.) He looks forward to their future conquests: He shall eat up the nations hisenemies; that is, "he shall not only destroy and devour them as easily and irresistibly as a lion doeshis prey, but he shall himself be strengthened, and fattened, and enriched, by their spoils."5. Their courage and security: He lay down as a lion, as a great lion, v. 9. Now he does so inthe plains of Moab, and asks no leave of the king of Moab, nor is he in fear of him; shortly will hedo so in Canaan. When he has torn his prey, he will take his repose, quiet from the fear of evil, andbid defiance to all his neighbours; for who shall stir up a sleeping lion? It is observed of lions (asthe learned bishop Patrick takes notice here) that they do not retire into places of shelter to sleep,but lie down any where, knowing that none dares meddle with them: thus secure were Israel inCanaan, chiefly in the days of David and Solomon; and thus is the righteous bold as a lion (Prov.xxviii. 1), not to assault others, but to repose themselves, because God maketh them to dwell insafety, Ps. iv. 8.6. Their interest, and influence upon their neighbours. Their friends, and those in alliance withthem, were happy: Blessed is he that blesseth thee; those that do them any kindness will certainlyfare the better for it. But their enemies, and those in arms against them, were certainly miserable:Cursed is he that curseth thee; those that do them any injury do it at their peril; for God takes whatis done to them, whether good or evil, as done to himself. Thus he confirms the blessing of Abraham(Gen. xii. 3), and speaks as if therefore he did at this time bless Israel, and not curse them, becausehe desired to share in the blessing of Israel's friends and dreaded the curse on Israel's enemies.Balak's Remonstrance. (b. c. 1452.)10 And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his handstogether: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and,behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. 11 Therefore now fleethou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the Lord hathkept thee back from honour. 12 And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also tothy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, 13 If Balak would give me hishouse full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, todo either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?14 And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise theewhat this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.We have here the conclusion of this vain attempt to curse Israel, and the total abandonment ofit. 1. Balak made the worst of it. He broke out into a rage against Balaam (v. 10), expressed bothin words and gesture the highest degree of vexation at the disappointment; he smote his hands996Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)together, for indignation, to see all his measures thus broken, and his project baffled. He chargedBalaam with putting upon him the basest affront and cheat imaginable: "I called thee to curse myenemies, and thou hast shown thyself in league with them, and in their interests, for thou hast blessedthem these three times, though, by appointing the altars to be built and sacrifices to be offered, thoumadest be believe thou wouldest certainly curse them." Hereupon he forbade him his presence,expelled him his country, upbraided him with the preferments he had designed to bestow upon him,but now would not (v. 11): "The Lord hath kept thee back from honour. See what thou gettest bypleasing the Lord, instead of pleasing me; thou has hindered thy preferment by it." Thus those whoare any way losers by their duty are commonly upbraided with it, as fools, for preferring it beforetheir interest in the world. Whereas, if Balaam had been voluntary and sincere in his adherence tothe word of the Lord, though he lost the honour Balak designed him by it, God would have madethat loss up to him abundantly to his advantage. 2. Balaam made the best if it. (1.) He endeavoursto excuse the disappointment. And a very good excuse he has for it, that God restrained him fromsaying what he would have said, and constrained him to say what he would not; and that this waswhat Balak ought not to be displeased at, not only because he could not help it, but because he hadtold Balak before what he must depend upon, v. 12, 13. Balak could not say that he had cheatedhim, since he had given him fair notice of the check he found himself under. (2.) He endeavoursto atone for it, v. 14. Though he cannot do what Balak would have him do, yet, [1.] He will gratifyhis curiosity with some predictions concerning the nations about him. It is natural to us to be pleasedwith prophecy, and with this he hopes to pacify the angry prince. [2.] He will satisfy him with anassurance that, whatever this formidable people should do to his people, it should not be till thelatter days; so that he, for his part, needed not to fear any mischief or molestation from them; thevision was for a great while to come, but in his days there should be peace. [3.] He will put himinto a method of doing Israel a mischief without the ceremonies of enchantment and execration.This seems to be implied in that word: I will advertise thee; for it properly signifies, I will counselthee. What the counsel was is not set down here, because it was given privately, but we are toldafterwards what it was, ch. xxxi. 16. He counselled him to entice the Israelites to idolatry, Rev. ii.14. Since he could not have leave from God to curse them, he puts him in a way of getting helpfrom the devil to tempt them. Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo—If I cannot moveheaven, I will solicit hell.Balaam's Prophecy. (b. c. 1452.)15 And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, andthe man whose eyes are open hath said: 16 He hath said, which heard the words ofGod, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of theAlmighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: 17 I shall see him, but notnow: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and aSceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy allthe children of Sheth. 18 And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be apossession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob shall comehe that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. 20And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the997Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. 21 And helooked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace,and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. 22 Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, untilAsshur shall carry thee away captive. 23 And he took up his parable, and said, Alas,who shall live when God doeth this! 24 And ships shall come from the coast ofChittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish forever. 25 And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak alsowent his way.The office of prophets was both to bless and to prophesy in the name of the Lord. Balaam, asa prophet, per force had blessed Israel; here he foretels future events.I. His preface is much the same as that, v. 3, 4. He personates a true prophet admirably well,God permitting and directing him to do so, because, whatever he was, the prophecy itself was atrue prophecy. He boasts, 1. That his eyes are open (v. 15), for prophets were in old time calledseers (1 Sam. ix. 9), because they must speak what they had seen, and therefore, before they openedtheir lips, it was necessary that they should have their eyes open. 2. That he has heard the wordsof God, which many do that do not heed them, nor hear God in them. 3. That he knew the knowledgeof the Most High; this is added here. A man may be full of the knowledge of God and yet utterlydestitute of the grace of God, may receive the truth in the light of it and yet be a stranger to the loveof it. 4. That he saw the vision of the Almighty, but not so as to be changed into the same image.He calls God the Most High, and the Almighty; no man could speak more honourably of him, norseem to put a greater value upon his acquaintance with him, and yet he had no true fear of him,love to him, or faith in him, so far may a man go towards heaven, and yet come short.II. Here is his prophecy concerning him that should be the crown and glory of his people Israel,who is, 1. David in the type, who not now, not quickly, but in process of time, should smite thecorners of Moab. (v. 17), and take possession of Mount Seir, and under whom the forces of Israelshould do valiantly, v. 18. This was fulfilled when David smote Moab, and measured them with aline, so that the Moabites became David' servants, 2 Sam. viii. 2. And at the same time the Edomiteslikewise were brought into obedience to Israel, v. 14. But, 2. Our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah,is chiefly pointed at in the antitype, and of him it is an illustrious prophecy; it was the will of Godthat notice should thus be given of his coming, a great while before, not only to the people of theJews, but to other nations, because his gospel and kingdom were to extend themselves so far beyondthe borders of the land of Israel. It is here foretold, (1.) That while: "I shall see him, but not now;I do see him in vision, but at a very great distance, through the interposing space of 1500 years atleast." Or understand it thus:—Balaam, a wicked man, shall see Christ, but shall not see him nigh,nor see him as Job, who saw him as his Redeemer, and saw him for himself, Job xix. 25, 27. Whenhe comes in the clouds every eye shall see him, but many will see him (as the rich man in hell sawAbraham) afar off. (2.) That he shall come out of Jacob, and Israel, as a star and a sceptre, theformer denoting his glory and lustre, and the bright and morning star, the latter his power andauthority; it is he that shall have dominion. Perhaps this prophecy of Balaam (one of the childrenof the east) concerning a star that should arise out of Jacob, as the indication of a sceptre arising inIsrael, being preserved by a tradition of that country, gave occasion to the wise men, who were ofthe east too, upon the sight of an unusual star over the land of Judea, to enquire for him that was998Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)born king of the Jews, Matt. ii. 2. (3.) That his kingdom shall be universal, and victorious over allopposition, which was typified by David's victories over Moab and Edom. But the Messiah shalldestroy, or, as some read it, shall rule over, all the children of Seth. (v. 17), that is, all the childrenof men, who descend from Seth, the son of Adam, the descendants of the rest of Adam's sons beingcut off by the deluge. Christ shall be king, not only of Jacob and Israel, but of all the world; so thatall the children of Seth shall be either governed by his golden sceptre or dashed in pieces by hisiron rod. He shall set up a universal rule, authority, and power, of his own, and shall put down allopposing rule, 1 Cor. xv. 24. He shall unwall all the children of Seth; so some read it. He shall takedown all their defences and carnal confidences, so that they shall either admit his government orlie open to his judgments. (4.) That his Israel shall do valiantly; the subjects of Christ, animated byhis might, shall maintain a spiritual was with the powers of darkness, and be more than conquerors.The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits, Dan. xi. 32.III. Here is his prophecy concerning the Amalekites and Kenites, part of whose country, it isprobable, he had now in view. 1. The Amalekites were now the chief of the nations (v. 20), thereforeAgag was spoken of (v. 7) as an eminent prince, and they were the first that engaged Israel whenthey came out of Egypt; but the time will come when that nation, as great as it looks now, will betotally ruined and rooted out: His latter end shall be that he perish for ever. Here Balaam confirmsthat doom of Amalek which Moses had read (Exod. xv. 14, 16), where God had sworn that hewould have perpetual war with Amalek. Note, Those whom God is at war with will certainly perishfor ever; for when God judges he will overcome. 2. The Kenites were now the securest of thenations; their situation was such as that nature was their engineer, and had strongly fortified them:"Thou puttest thy nest (like the eagle) in a rock, v. 21. Thou thinkest thyself safe, and yet the Kenitesshall be wasted (v. 22) and gradually brought to decay, till they be carried away captive by theAssyrians," which was done at the captivity of the ten tribes. Note, Bodies politic, like naturalbodies, though of the strongest constitutions, will gradually decay, and come to ruin at last; evena nest in a rock will be no perpetual security.IV. Here is a prophecy that looks as far forward as the Greeks and Romans, for theirs is supposedto be meant by the coast of Chittim, v. 24.1. The introduction to this parable; this article of his prophecy is very observable (v. 23): Alas!who shall live when God doeth this? Here he acknowledges all the revolutions of states and kingdomsto be the Lord's doing: God doeth this; whoever are the instruments, he is the supreme director.But he speaks mournfully concerning them, and has a very melancholy prospect of these events:Who shall live? Either, (1.) These events are so distant, and so far off to come, that it is hard to saywho shall live till they come; but, whoever shall live to see them, there will be amazing turns. Or,(2.) They will be so dismal, and make such desolations, that scarcely any will escape or be leftalive; who shall live when death rides in triumph? Rev. vi. 8. Those that live then will be as brandsplucked out of the fire, and will have their lives given them as a prey. God fit us for the worst oftimes!2. The prophecy itself is observable. Both Greece and Italy lie much upon the sea, and thereforetheir armies were sent forth mostly in ships. Now he seems here to foretell, (1.) That the forces ofthe Grecians should humble and bring down the Assyrians, who were united with the Persians,which was fulfilled when the eastern country was overcome, or overrun rather, by Alexander. (2.)That theirs and the Roman forces should afflict the Hebrews, or Jews, who were called the childrenof Eber; this was fulfilled in part when the Grecian empire was oppressive to the Jewish nation,999Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)but chiefly when the Roman empire ruined it and put a period to it. But, (3.) That Chittim, that is,the Roman empire, in which the Grecian was at length swallowed up, should itself perish for ever,when the stone cut out of the mountain without hands shall consume all these kingdoms, andparticularly the feet of iron and clay, Dan. ii. 34. Thus (says Dr. Lightfoot) Balaam, instead ofcursing the church, curses Amalek the first, and Rome the last, enemy of the church. And so let allthy enemies perish, O Lord!N U M B E R SCHAP. XXV.Israel, having escaped the curse of Balaam, here sustains a great deal of damage and reproachby the counsel of Balaam, who, it seems, before he left Balak, put him into a more effectual waythan that which Balak thought of to separate between the Israelites and their God. "The Lord willnot be prevailed with by Balaam's charms to ruin them; try if they will not be prevailed with by thecharms of the daughters of Moab to ruin themselves." None are more fatally bewitched than thosethat are bewitched by their own lusts. Here is, I. The sin of Israel; they were enticed by the daughtersof Moab both to whoredom and to idolatry, ver. 1-3. II. The punishment of this sin by the hand ofthe magistrate (ver. 4, 5) and by the immediate hand of God, ver. 9. III. The pious zeal of Phinehasin slaying Zimri and Cozbi, two impudent sinners, ver. 6, 8, 14, 15. IV. God's commendation ofthe zeal of Phinehas, ver. 10-13. V. Enmity put between the Israelites and the Midianites, theirtempters, as at first between the woman and the serpent, ver. 16, &c.The Sin of Israel. (b. c. 1452.)1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom withthe daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of theirgods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joinedhimself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. 4And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them upbefore the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned awayfrom Israel. 5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his menthat were joined unto Baal-peor.Here is, I. The sin of Israel, to which they were enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian;they were guilty both of corporal and spiritual whoredoms, for Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor,v. 3. Not all, nor the most, but very many, were taken in this snare. Now concerning this observe,1. That Balak, by the advice of Balaam, cast this stumbling-block before the children of Israel,Rev. ii. 14. Note, Those are our worst enemies that draw us to sin, for that is the greatest mischiefany man can do us. If Balak had drawn out his armed men against them to fight them, Israel hadbravely resisted, and no doubt had been more than conquerors; but now that he sends his beautifulwomen among them, and invites them to his idolatrous feasts, the Israelites basely yield, and are1000Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)shamefully overcome: those are smitten with this harlots that could not be smitten with his sword.Note, We are more endangered by the charms of a smiling world than by the terrors of a frowningworld. 2. That the daughters of Moab were their tempters and conquerors. Ever since Eve was firstin the transgression the fairer sex, though the weaker, has been a snare to many; yea strong menhave been wounded and slain by the lips of the strange woman (Prov. vii. 26), witness Solomon,whose wives were shares and nets to him Eccl. vii. 26. 3. That whoredom and idolatry went together.They first defiled and debauched their consciences, by committing lewdness with the women, andthen were easily drawn, in complaisance to them, and in contempt of the God of Israel, to bowdown to their idols. And they were more likely to do so if, as it is commonly supposed, and seemsprobable by the joining of them together, the uncleanness committed was a part of the worship andservice performed to Baal-peor. Those that have broken the fences of modesty will never be heldby the bonds of piety, and those that have dishonoured themselves by fleshly lusts will not scrupleto dishonour God by idolatrous worships, and for this they are justly given up yet further to vileaffections. 4. That by eating of the idolatrous sacrifices they joined themselves to Baal-peor towhom they were offered, which the apostle urges as a reason why Christians should not eat thingsoffered to idols, because thereby they had fellowship with the devils to whom they were offered,1 Cor. x. 20. It is called eating the sacrifices of the dead (Ps. cvi. 28), not only because the idolitself was a dead thing, but because the person represented by it was some great hero, who sincehis death was deified, as saints in the Roman church are canonized. 5. It was great aggravation ofthe sin that Israel abode in Shittim, where they had the land of Canaan in view, and were just readyto enter and take possession of it. It was the highest degree of treachery and ingratitude to be falseto their God, whom they had found so faithful to them, and to eat of idol-sacrifices when they wereready to be feasted so richly on God's favours.II. God's just displeasure against them for this sin. Israel's whoredoms did that which allBalaam's enchantments could not do, they set God against them; now he was turned to be theirenemy, and fought against them. So many of the people, nay, so many of the princes, were guilty,that the sin became national, and for it God was wroth with the whole congregation. 1. A plagueimmediately broke out, for we read of the staying of it (v. 8), and of the number that died of it (v.9), but no mention of the beginning of it, which therefore must be implied in those words (v. 3),The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. It is said expressly (Ps. cvi. 29), The plague brokein. Note, Epidemical diseases are the fruits of God's anger, and the just punishments of epidemicalsins; one infection follows the other. The plague, no doubt, fastened on those that were most guilty,who were soon made to pay dearly for their forbidden pleasures; and though now God does notalways plague such sinners, as he did here, yet that word of God will be fulfilled, If any man defilethe temple of God, him shall God destroy, 1 Cor. iii. 17. 2. The ringleaders are ordered to be put todeath by the hand of public justice, which will be the only way to stay the plague (v. 4): Take theheads of the people (that is, of that part of the people that went out of the camp of Israel into thecountry of Moab, to join in their idolatries)—take them and hang them up before the sun, as sacrificesto God's justice, and for a terror to the rest of the people. The judges must first order them to beslain with the sword (v. 5), and their dead bodies must be hanged up, that the stupid Israelites,seeing their leaders and princes so severely punished for their whoredom and idolatry, without anyregard to their quality, might be possessed with a sense of the evil of the sin and the terror of God'swrath against them. Ringleaders in sin ought to be made examples of justice.1001Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)The Zeal of Phinehas. (b. c. 1452.)6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethrena Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregationof the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of thecongregation. 7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest,saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through,the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed fromthe children of Israel. 9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and fourthousand. 10 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 11 Phinehas, the son ofEleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the childrenof Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not thechildren of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him mycovenant of peace: 13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenantof an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made anatonement for the children of Israel. 14 Now the name of the Israelite that wasslain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu,a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianitishwoman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people,and of a chief house in Midian.Here is a remarkable contest between wickedness and righteousness, which shall be most boldand resolute; and righteousness carries the day, as no doubt it will at last.I. Never was vice more daring than it was in Zimri, a prince of a chief house in the tribe ofSimeon. Such a degree of impudence in wickedness had he arrived at that he publicly appearedleading a Midianitish harlot (and a harlot of quality too like himself, a daughter of a chief housein Midian) in the sight of Moses, and all the good people of Israel. He did not think it enough togo out with his harlot to worship the gods of Moab, but, when he had done that, he brought herwith him to dishonour the God of Israel. He not only owned her publicly as his friend, and higherin his favour then any of the daughters of Israel, but openly went with her into the tent, v. 8. Theword signifies such a booth or place of retirement as was designed and fitted up for lewdness. Thushe declared his sin as Sodom, as was so far from blushing for it that he rather prided himself in it,and gloried in his shame. All the circumstances concurred to make it exceedingly sinful, exceedinglyshameful. 1. It was an affront to the justice of the nation, and bade defiance to that. The judgeswere ordered to put the criminals to death, but he thought himself too great for them to meddlewith, and, in effect, bade them touch him if they durst. He had certainly cast off all fear of Godwho stood in no awe of the powers which he had ordained to be a terror to evil-doers. 2. It was anaffront to the religion of the nation, and put a contempt upon that. Moses, and the main body of thecongregation, who kept their integrity, were weeping at the door of the tabernacle, lamenting thesin committed and deprecating the plague begun; they were sanctifying a fast in a solemn assembly,weeping between the porch and the altar, to turn away the wrath of God from the congregation.1002Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Then comes Zimri among them, with his harlot in his hand, to banter them, and, in effect, to tellthem that he was resolved to fill the measure of sin as fast as they emptied it.II. Never was virtue more daring than it was in Phinehas. Being aware of the insolence ofZimri, which it is probable, all the congregation took notice of, in a holy indignation at the offendershe rises up from his prayers, takes his sword or half-pike, follows those impudent sinners into theirtent, and stabs them both, v. 7, 8. It is not at all difficult to justify Phinehas in what he did; for,being now heir-apparent to the high-priesthood, no doubt he was one of those judges of Israel whomMoses had ordered, by the divine appointment, to slay all those whom they knew to have joinedthemselves to Baal-peor, so that this gives no countenance at all to private persons, under pretenceof zeal against sin, to put offenders to death, who ought to be prosecuted by due course of law. Thecivil magistrate is the avenger, to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil, and no private personmay take his work out of his hand. Two ways God testified his acceptance of the pious zeal ofPhinehas:—1. He immediately put a stop to the plague, v. 8. Their weeping and praying prevailednot till this piece of necessary justice was done. If magistrates do not take care to punish sin, Godwill; but their justice will be the best prevention of his judgment, as in the case of Achan, Josh. vii.13. 2. He put an honour upon Phinehas. Though he did no more than it was his duty to do as ajudge, yet because he did it with extraordinary zeal against sin, and for the honour of God andIsrael, and did it when the other judges, out of respect to Zimri's character as a prince, were afraid,and declined doing it, therefore God showed himself particularly well pleased with him, and it wascounted to him for righteousness, Ps. cvi. 31. There is nothing lost by venturing for God. If Zimri'srelations bore him a grudge for it, and his friends might censure him as indiscreet in this violentand hasty execution, what needed he care, while God accepted him? In a good thing we should bezealously affected. (1.) Phinehas, upon this occasion, though a young man, is pronounced hiscountry's patriot and best friend, v. 11. He has turned away my wrath from the children of Israel.So much does God delight in showing mercy that he is well pleased with those that are instrumentalin turning away his wrath. This is the best service we can do to our people; and we may contributesomething towards it by our prayers, and by our endeavours in our places to bring the wickednessof the wicked to an end. (2.) The priesthood is entailed by covenant upon his family. It was designedhim before, but now it was confirmed to him, and, which added much to the comfort and honourof it, it was made the recompence of his pious zeal, v. 12, 13. It is here called an everlastingpriesthood, because it should continue to the period of the Old-Testament dispensation, and shouldthen have its perfection and perpetuity in the unchangeable priesthood of Christ, who is consecratedfor evermore. By the covenant of peace given him, some understand in general a promise of longlife and prosperity, and all good; it seems rather to be meant particularly of the covenant ofpriesthood, for that is called the covenant of life and peace (Mal. ii. 5), and was made for thepreservation of peace between God and his people. Observe how the reward answered the service.By executing justice he had made an atonement for the children of Israel (v. 13), and therefore heand his shall henceforward be employed in making atonement by sacrifice. He was zealous for hisGod, and therefore he shall have the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Note, It is requisitethat ministers should be not only for God, but zealous for God. It is required of them that they domore than others for the support and advancement of the interests of God's kingdom among men.16 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 17 Vex the Midianites, and smitethem: 18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in1003Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian,their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake.God had punished the Israelites for their sin with a plague; as a Father he corrected his ownchildren with a rod. But we read not that any of the Midianites died of the plague; God took anothercourse with them, and punished them with the sword of an enemy, not with the rod of a father. 1.Moses, though the meekest man, and far from a spirit of revenge, is ordered to vex the Midianitesand smite them, v. 17. Note, We must set ourselves against that, whatever it is, which is an occasionof sin to us, though it be a right eye or a right hand that thus offends us, Matt. v. 29, 30. This is thatholy indignation and revenge which godly sorrow worketh, 2 Cor. vii. 11. 2. The reason given forthe meditating of this revenge is because they vex you with their wiles, v. 18. Note, Whatever drawsus to sin should be a vexation to us, as a thorn in the flesh. The mischief which the Midianites didto Israel by enticing them to whoredom must be remembered and punished with as much severityas that which the Amalekites did in fighting with them when they came out of Egypt, Exod. xvii.14. God will certainly reckon with those that do the devil's work in tempting men to sin. See furtherorders given in this matter, ch. xxxi. 2.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXVI.This book is called Numbers, from the numberings of the children of Israel, of which it givesan account. Once they were numbered at Mount Sinai, in the first year after they came out of Egypt,which we had an account of, ch. i. and ii.. And now a second time they were numbered in the plainsof Moab, just before they entered Canaan, and of this we have an account in this chapter. We have,I. Orders given for the doing of it, ver. 1-4. II. A register of the families and numbers of each tribe(ver. 5-50), and the sum total, ver. 51. III. Direction given to divide the land among them, ver.52-56. IV. The families and numbers of the Levites by themselves, ver. 57-62. V. Notice taken ofthe fulfilling of the threatening in the death of all those that were first numbered, ver. 63-65), andto this there seems to have been a special regard in the taking and keeping of this account.The Numbering of the People. (b. c. 1452.)1 And it came to pass after the plague, that the Lord spake unto Moses and untoEleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying, 2 Take the sum of all the congregationof the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers'house, all that are able to go to war in Israel. 3 And Moses and Eleazar the priestspake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, 4 Take thesum of the people, from twenty years old and upward; as the Lord commanded Mosesand the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt.Observe here, 1. That Moses did not number the people but when God commanded him. Davidin his time did it without a command, and paid dearly for it. God was Israel's king, and he would1004Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)not have this act of authority done but by his express orders. Moses, perhaps, by this time, hadheard of the blessing with which Balaam was constrained, sorely against his will, to bless Israel,and particularly the notice he took of their numbers; and he was sufficiently pleased with thatgeneral testimony borne to this instance of their strength and honour by an adversary, though heknew not their numbers exactly, till God now appointed him to take the sum of them. 2. Eleazarwas joined in commission with him, as Aaron had been before, by which God honoured Eleazarbefore the elders of his people, and confirmed his succession. 3. It was presently after the plaguethat this account was ordered to be taken, to show that though God had in justice contended withthem by that sweeping pestilence, yet he had not made a full end, nor would he utterly cast themoff. God's Israel shall not be ruined, though it be severely rebuked. 4. They were now to go by thesame rule that they had gone by in the former numbering, counting those only that were able to goforth to war, for this was the service now before them.5 Reuben, the eldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben; Hanoch, of whomcometh the family of the Hanochites: of Pallu, the family of the Palluites: 6 OfHezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi, the family of the Carmites. 7 Theseare the families of the Reubenites: and they that were numbered of them were fortyand three thousand and seven hundred and thirty. 8 And the sons of Pallu; Eliab.9 And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. This is that Dathan andAbiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses andagainst Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the Lord: 10 Andthe earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when thatcompany died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and theybecame a sign. 11 Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not. 12 The sonsof Simeon after their families: of Nemuel, the family of the Nemuelites: of Jamin,the family of the Jaminites: of Jachin, the family of the Jachinites: 13 Of Zerah,the family of the Zarhites: of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites. 14 These are thefamilies of the Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred. 15 Thechildren of Gad after their families: of Zephon, the family of the Zephonites: ofHaggi, the family of the Haggites: of Shuni, the family of the Shunites: 16 Of Ozni,the family of the Oznites: of Eri, the family of the Erites: 17 Of Arod, the familyof the Arodites: of Areli, the family of the Arelites. 18 These are the families ofthe children of Gad according to those that were numbered of them, forty thousandand five hundred. 19 The sons of Judah were Er and Onan: and Er and Onan diedin the land of Canaan. 20 And the sons of Judah after their families were; of Shelah,the family of the Shelanites: of Pharez, the family of the Pharzites: of Zerah, thefamily of the Zarhites. 21 And the sons of Pharez were; of Hezron, the family ofthe Hezronites: of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites. 22 These are the familiesof Judah according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and sixteenthousand and five hundred. 23 Of the sons of Issachar after their families: of Tola,1005Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the family of the Tolaites: of Pua, the family of the Punites: 24 Of Jashub, thefamily of the Jashubites: of Shimron, the family of the Shimronites. 25 These arethe families of Issachar according to those that were numbered of them, threescoreand four thousand and three hundred. 26 Of the sons of Zebulun after their families:of Sered, the family of the Sardites: of Elon, the family of the Elonites: of Jahleel,the family of the Jahleelites. 27 These are the families of the Zebulunites accordingto those that were numbered of them, threescore thousand and five hundred. 28The sons of Joseph after their families were Manasseh and Ephraim. 29 Of the sonsof Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites: and Machir begat Gilead: ofGilead come the family of the Gileadites. 30 These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer,the family of the Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites: 31 And of Asriel,the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites: 32And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the family of theHepherites. 33 And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: andthe names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah,and Tirzah. 34 These are the families of Manasseh, and those that were numberedof them, fifty and two thousand and seven hundred. 35 These are the sons ofEphraim after their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites: of Becher,the family of the Bachrites: of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites. 36 And theseare the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of the Eranites. 37 These are thefamilies of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of them,thirty and two thousand and five hundred. These are the sons of Joseph after theirfamilies. 38 The sons of Benjamin after their families: of Bela, the family of theBelaites: of Ashbel, the family of the Ashbelites: of Ahiram, the family of theAhiramites: 39 Of Shupham, the family of the Shuphamites: of Hupham, the familyof the Huphamites. 40 And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, thefamily of the Ardites: and of Naaman, the family of the Naamites. 41 These arethe sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of them wereforty and five thousand and six hundred. 42 These are the sons of Dan after theirfamilies: of Shuham, the family of the Shuhamites. These are the families of Danafter their families. 43 All the families of the Shuhamites, according to those thatwere numbered of them, were threescore and four thousand and four hundred. 44Of the children of Asher after their families: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites: ofJesui, the family of the Jesuites: of Beriah, the family of the Beriites. 45 Of thesons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites: of Malchiel, the family of theMalchielites. 46 And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah. 47 These arethe families of the sons of Asher according to those that were numbered of them;1006Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)who were fifty and three thousand and four hundred. 48 Of the sons of Naphtaliafter their families: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites: of Guni, the family ofthe Gunites: 49 Of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites: of Shillem, the family of theShillemites. 50 These are the families of Naphtali according to their families: andthey that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and four hundred.51 These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and athousand seven hundred and thirty.This is the register of the tribes as they were now enrolled, in the same order that they werenumbered in ch. i. Observe,I. The account that is here kept of the families of each tribe, which must not be understood ofsuch as we call families, those that live in a house together, but such as were the descendants ofthe several sons of the patriarchs, by whose names, in honour of them, their posterity distinguishedthemselves and one another. The families of the twelve tribes are thus numbered:—Of Dan butone, for Dan had but one son, and yet that tribe was the most numerous of all except Judah, v. 42,43. Its beginning was small, but its latter end greatly increased. Zebulun was divided into threefamilies, Ephraim into four, Issachar into four, Naphtali into four, and Reuben into four; Judah,Simeon, and Asher, had five families apiece, Gad and Benjamin seven apiece, and Manasseh eight.Benjamin brought ten sons into Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 21), but three of them, it seems either died childlessor their families were extinct, for here we find seven only of those names preserved, and that wholetribe none of the most numerous; for Providence, in the building up of families and nations, doesnot tie itself to probabilities. The barren hath borne seven, and she that hath many children haswaxed feeble, 1 Sam. ii. 5.II. The numbers of each tribe. And here our best entertainment will be to compare these numberswith those when they were numbered at Mount Sinai. The sum total was nearly the same; they werenow 1820 fewer than they were then; yet seven of the tribes had increased in number. Judah hadincreased 1900, Issachar 9900, Zebulun 3100, Manasseh 20, 500, Benjamin 10,200, Dan 1700, andAsher 11,900. But the other five had decreased more than to balance that increase. Reuben haddecreased 2770, Simeon 37,100, Gad 5150, Ephraim 8000, and Naphtali 8000. In this account wemay observe, 1. That all the three tribes that were encamped under the standard of Judah, who wasthe ancestor of Christ, had increased, for his church shall be edified and multiplied. 2. That noneof the tribes had increased so much as that of Manasseh, which in the former account was thesmallest of all the tribes, only 32,200, while here it is one of the most considerable; and that of hisbrother Ephraim, which there was numerous, is here one of the least. Jacob had crossed hands upontheir heads, and had preferred Ephraim before Manasseh, which perhaps the Ephraimites had pridedthemselves too much in, and had trampled upon their brethren the Manassites; but, when the Lordsaw that Manasseh was despised, he thus multiplied him exceedingly, for it is his glory to help theweakest, and raise up those that are cast down. 3. That none of the tribes decreased so much asSimeon did; from 59,300, it such to 22,200, little more than a third part of what it was. One wholefamily of that tribe (namely Ohad, mentioned Exod. vi. 15) was extinct in the wilderness. HenceSimeon is not mentioned in Moses's blessing (Deut. xxxiii.), and the lot of that tribe in Canaan wasinconsiderable, only a canton out of Judah's lot, Josh. xix. 9. Some conjecture that most of those24,000 who were cut off by the plague for the iniquity of Peor were of that tribe; for Zimri, who1007Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)was a ringleader in that iniquity, was a prince of that tribe, many of whom therefore were influencedby his example to follow his pernicious ways.III. In the account of the tribe of Reuben mention is made of the rebellion of Dathan andAbiram, who were of that tribe, in confederacy with Korah a Levite, v. 9-11. Though the story hadbeen largely related but a few chapters before, yet here it comes in again, as fit to be had inremembrance and thought of by posterity, whenever they looked into their pedigree and pleasedthemselves with the antiquity of their families and the glory of their ancestors, that they might callthemselves a seed of evil doers. Two things are here said of them:—1. That they had been famousin the congregation, v. 9. Probably they were remarkable for their ingenuity, activity, and fitnessfor business:—That Dathan and Abiram that might have been advanced in due time under Godand Moses; but their ambitious spirits put them upon striving against God and Moses, and whenthey quarrelled with the one they quarrelled with the other. And what was the issue? 2. Those thatmight have been famous were made infamous: they became a sign, v. 10. They were mademonuments of divine justice; God, in their ruin, showed himself glorious in holiness, and so theywere set up for a warning to all others, in all ages, to take heed of treading in the steps of their prideand rebellion. Notice is here taken of the preservation of the children of Korah (v. 11); they diednot, as the children of Dathan and Abiram did, doubtless because they kept themselves pure fromthe infection, and would not join, no, not with their own father, in rebellion. If we partake not ofthe sins of sinners, we shall not partake of their plagues. These sons of Korah were afterwards, intheir posterity, eminently serviceable to the church, being employed by David as singers in thehouse of the Lord; hence many psalms are said to be for the sons of Korah: and perhaps they weremade to bear his name so long after, rather than the name of any other of their ancestors, for warningto themselves, and as an instance of the power of God, which brought those choice fruits even outof that bitter root. The children of families that have been stigmatized should endeavour, by theireminent virtues, to roll away the reproach of their fathers.52 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 53 Unto these the land shall bedivided for an inheritance according to the number of names. 54 To many thoushalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance: toevery one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered ofhim. 55 Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the namesof the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. 56 According to the lot shall thepossession thereof be divided between many and few.If any ask why such a particular account is kept of the tribes, and families, and numbers, ofthe people of Israel, here is an answer for them; as they were multiplied, so they were portioned,not by common providence, but by promise; and, for the support of the honour of divine revelation,God will have the fulfilling of the promise taken notice of both in their increase and in theirinheritance. When Moses had numbered the people God did not say, By these shall the land beconquered; but, taking that for granted, he tells him, Unto these shall the land be divided. "Thesethat are now registered as the sons of Israel shall be admitted (as it were by copy of court-roll) heirsof the land of Canaan." Now, in the distributing, or quartering, of these tribes, 1. The general ruleof equity is here prescribed to Moses, that to many he should give more, and to few he should giveless (v. 54); yet, alas! he was so far from giving any to others that he must not have any himself,1008Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)but this direction given to him was intended for Joshua his successor. 2. The application of thisgeneral rule was to be determined by lot (v. 55); notwithstanding it seems thus to be left to theprudence of their prince, yet the matter must be finally reserved to the providence of their God, inwhich they must all acquiesce, how much soever it contradicted their policies or inclination:According to the lot shall the possession be divided. As the God of nations, so the God of Israel inparticular, reserves it to himself to appoint the bounds of our habitation. And thus Christ, ourJoshua, when he was urged to appoint one of his disciples to his right hand, another to his left inhis kingdom, acknowledged the sovereignty of his Father in the disposal: It is not mine to give.Joshua must not dispose of inheritances in Canaan according to his own mind. But it shall be givento those for whom it is prepared of my Father.57 And these are they that were numbered of the Levites after their families: ofGershon, the family of the Gershonites: of Kohath, the family of the Kohathites: ofMerari, the family of the Merarites. 58 These are the families of the Levites: thefamily of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, thefamily of the Mushites, the family of the Korathites. And Kohath begat Amram.59 And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom hermother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, andMiriam their sister. 60 And unto Aaron was born Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, andIthamar. 61 And Nadab and Abihu died, when they offered strange fire before theLord. 62 And those that were numbered of them were twenty and three thousand,all males from a month old and upward: for they were not numbered among thechildren of Israel, because there was no inheritance given them among the childrenof Israel.Levi was God's tribe, a tribe that was to have no inheritance with the rest in the land of Canaan,and therefore was not numbered with the rest, but by itself; so it had been numbered in the beginningof this book at Mount Sinai, and therefore came not under the sentence passed upon all that werethen numbered, that none of them should enter Canaan but Caleb and Joshua; for of the Levitesthat were not numbered with them, nor were to go forth to war, Eleazar and Ithamar, and perhapsothers who were above twenty years old then (as appears, ch. iv. 16, 28), entered Canaan; and yetthis tribe, now at its second numbering, had increased but 1000, and was still one of the smallesttribes. Mention is made here of the death of Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire, as beforeof the sin and punishment of Korah, because these things happened to them for ensamples.63 These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, whonumbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 64But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priestnumbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.65 For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And therewas not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son ofNun.1009Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)That which is observable in this conclusion of the account is the execution of the sentencepassed upon the murmurers (ch. xiv. 29), that not one of those who were numbered from twentyyears old and upwards (and that the Levites were not, but either from a month old or from thirtyyears old to fifty) should enter Canaan, except Caleb and Joshua. In the muster now made particulardirections, no doubt, were given to those of each tribe that were employed in taking the account,to compare these rolls with the former, and to observe whether there were any now left of thosethat were numbered at Mount Sinai, and it appeared that there was not one man numbered now thatwas numbered then except Caleb and Joshua, v. 64, 65. Herein appeared, 1. The righteousness ofGod, and his faithfulness to his threatenings, when once the decree has gone forth. He swore in hiswrath, and what he had sworn he performed. Better all those carcasses, had they been ten times asmany, should fall to the ground, than the word of God. Though the rising generation was mixedwith the, and many of the guilty and condemned criminals long survived the sentence, even to thelast year of the forty, yet they were cut off by some means or other before this muster was made.Those whom God has condemned cannot escape either by losing themselves in a crowd or by thedelay of execution. 2. The goodness of God to this people, notwithstanding their provocations.Though that murmuring race was cut off, yet God raised up another generation, which was asnumerous as they, that, though they perished, yet the name of Israel might not be cut off, lest theinheritance of the promise should be lost for want of heirs. And, though the number fell a littleshort what it was at Mount Sinai, yet those now numbered had this advantage, that they were allmiddle-aged men, between twenty and sixty, in the prime of their time for service; and during thethirty-eight years of their wandering and wasting in the wilderness they had an opportunity ofacquainting themselves with the laws and ordinances of God, having no business, civil or military,to divert them from those sacred studies, and having Moses and Aaron to instruct them, and God'sgood Spirit, Neh. ix. 20. 3. The truth of God, in performing his promise made to Caleb and Joshua.They were to be preserved from falling in this common ruin, and they were so. The arrows of death,though they fly in the dark, do not fly at random, even when they fly thickest, but are directed tothe mark intended, and no other. All that are written among the living shall have their lives giventhem for a prey, in the most dangerous times. Thousands may fall on their right hand, and tenthousands on their left, but they shall escape.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXVII.Here is, I. The case of Zelophehad's daughters determined, ver. 1-11. II. Notice given to Mosesof his death approaching, ver. 12-14. III. Provision made of a successor in the government, 1. Bythe prayer of Moses, ver. 15-17. 2. By the appointment of God, ver. 18, &c.The Daughters of Zelophehad. (b. c. 1452.)1 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 of1010Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, andMilcah, and Tirzah. 2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest,and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of thecongregation, saying, 3 Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in thecompany of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the companyof Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. 4 Why should the name of ourfather be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto ustherefore a possession among the brethren of our father. 5 And Moses brought theircause before the Lord. 6 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 7 The daughtersof Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritanceamong their father's brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father topass unto them. 8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a mandie, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father'sbrethren. 11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritanceunto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shallbe unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.Mention is made of the case of these daughters of Zelophehad in the chapter before, v. 33. Itshould seem, by the particular notice taken of it, that it was a singular case, and that the like didnot at this time occur in all Israel, that the head of a family had no sons, but daughters only. Theircase is again debated (ch. xxxvi.) upon another article of it; and, according to the judgments givenin their case, we find them put in possession, Josh. xvii. 3, 4. One would suppose that their personalcharacter was such as added weight to their case, and caused it to be so often taken notice of.Here is, I. Their case stated by themselves, and their petition upon it presented to the highestcourt of judicature, which consisted of Moses as king, the princes as lords, and the congregation,or elders of the people who were chose their representatives, as the commons, v. 2. This augustassembly sat near the door of the tabernacle, that in difficult cases they might consult the oracle.To them these young ladies made their application; for it is the duty of magistrates to defend thefatherless, Ps. lxxxii. 3. We find not that the had any advocate to speak for them, but they managedtheir own cause ingeniously enough, which they could do the better because it was plain and honest,and spoke for itself. Now observe,1. What it is they petition for: That they might have a possession in the land of Canaan, amongthe brethren of their father, v. 4. What God had said to Moses (ch. xxvi. 53) he had faithfully madeknown to the people, that the land of Canaan was to be divided among those that were nownumbered; these daughters knew that they were not numbered, and therefore by this rule mustexpect no inheritance, and the family of their father must be looked upon as extinct, and writtenchildless, though he had all these daughters: this they thought hard, and therefore prayed to beadmitted heirs to their father, and to have an inheritance in his right. If they had had a brother, theywould not have applied to Moses (as one did to Christ, Luke xii. 13) for an order to inherit withhim. But, having no brother, they beg for a possession. Herein they discovered, (1.) A strong faith1011Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)in the power and promise of God concerning the giving of the land of Canaan to Israel. Though itwas yet unconquered, untouched, and in the full possession of the natives, yet they petition for theirshare in it as if it were all their own already. See Ps. lx. 6, 7, God has spoken in his holiness, andthe Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mane. (2.) An earnest desire of a place and name in the land ofpromise, which was a type of heaven; and if they had, as some think, an eye to that, and by thisclaim laid hold on eternal life, they were five wise virgins indeed; and their example should quickenus with all possible diligence to make sure our title to the heavenly inheritance, in the disposal ofwhich, by the covenant of grace, no difference is made between male and female, Gal. iii. 28. (3.)A true respect and honour for their father, whose name was dear and precious to them now that hewas gone, and they were therefore solicitous that it should not be done away from among his family.There is a debt which children owe to the memory of their parents, required by the fifthcommandment: Honour thy father and mother.2. What their plea is: That their father did not die under any attainder which might be thoughtto have corrupted his blood and forfeited his estate, but he died in his own sin (v. 3), not engagedin any mutiny or rebellion against Moses, particularly not in that of Korah and his company, norin any way concerned in the sins of others, but chargeable only with the common iniquities ofmankind, for which to his own Master he was to stand or fall, but laid not himself open to anyjudicial process before Moses and the princes. He was never convicted of any thing that might bea bar to his children's claim. It is a comfort to parents, when they come to die, if, though they smartthemselves for their own sin, yet they are not conscious to themselves of any of those iniquitieswhich God visits upon the children.II. Their case determined by the divine oracle. Moses did not presume to give judgment himself,because, though their pretensions seemed just and reasonable, yet his express orders were to dividethe land among those that were numbered, who were the males only; he therefore brings their causebefore the Lord, and waits for his decision (v. 5), and God himself gives the judgment upon it. Hetakes cognizance of the affairs, not only of nations, but of private families, and orders them injudgment, according to the counsel of his own will. 1. The petition is granted (v. 7): They speakright, give them a possession. Those that seek an inheritance in the land of promise shall have whatthey seek, and other things shall be added to them. These are claims which God will countenanceand crown. 2. The point is settled for all future occasions. These daughters of Zelophehad consulted,not only their own comfort and the credit of their family, but the honour and happiness of their sexlikewise; for on this particular occasion a general law was made that, in case a man had no son, hisestate should go to his daughters (v. 8); not to the eldest, as the eldest son, but to them all incopartnership, share and share alike. Those that in such a case deprive their daughters of their right,purely to keep up the name of their family, unless a valuable consideration be allowed them, maymake the entail of their lands surer than the entail of a blessing with them. Further directions aregiven for the disposal of inheritances, v. 9-11. "If a man have no issue at all, his estate shall go tohis brethren; if no brethren, then to his father's brethren; and, if there be no such, then to his nextkinsman." With this the rules of our law exactly agree: and though the Jewish doctors here willhave it understood that if a man have no children his estate shall go to his father, if living, beforehis brethren, yet there is nothing of that in the law, and our common law has an express rule againstit, That an estate cannot ascend lineally; so that if a person purchase lands in fee-simple, and diewithout issue in the life-time of his father, his father cannot be his heir. See how God makes heirs,and in his disposal we must acquiesce.1012Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Moses Warned of His Death. (b. c. 1452.)12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and seethe land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hastseen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother wasgathered. 14 For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in thestrife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is thewater of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.Here, 1. God tells Moses of his fault, his speaking unadvisedly with his lips at the waters ofstrife, where he did not express, so carefully as he ought to have done, a regard to the honour bothof God and Israel, v. 14. Though Moses was a servant of the Lord, a faithful servant, yet once herebelled against God's commandment, and failed in his duty; and though a very honourable servant,and highly favoured, yet he shall hear of his miscarriage, and all the world shall hear of it too, againand again; for God will show his displeasure against sin, even in those that are nearest and dearestto him. Those that are in reputation for wisdom and honour have need to be constantly careful oftheir words and ways, lest at any time they say or do that which may be a diminution to theircomfort, or to their credit, or both, a great while after. 2. He tells Moses of his death. His death wasthe punishment of his sin, and yet notice is given him of it in such a manner as might best serve tosweeten and mollify the sentence, and reconcile him to it. (1.) Moses must die, but he shall firsthave the satisfaction of seeing the land of promise, v. 12. God did not intend with this sight ofCanaan to tantalize him, or upbraid him with his folly in doing that which cut him short of it, norhad it any impression of that kind upon him, but God appointed it and Moses accepted it as a favour,his sight (we have reason to think) being wonderfully strengthened and enlarged to take such a fulland distinct view of it as did abundantly gratify his innocent curiosity. This sight of Canaan signifiedhis believing prospect of the better country, that is, the heavenly, which is very comfortable todying saints. (2.) Moses must die, but death does not cut him off; it only gathers him to his people,brings him to rest with the holy patriarchs that had gone before him. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,were his people, the people of his choice and love, and to them death gathered him. (3.) Mosesmust die, but only as Aaron died before him, v. 13. And Moses had seen how easily and cheerfullyAaron had put off the priesthood first and then the body; let not Moses therefore be afraid of dying;it was but to be gathered to his people, as Aaron was gathered. Thus the death of our near and dearrelations should be improved by us, [1.] As an engagement to us to think often of dying. We arenot better than our fathers or brethren; if they are gone, we are going; if they are gathered already,we must be gathered very shortly. [2.] As an encouragement to us to think of death without terror,and even to please ourselves with the thoughts of it. It is but to die as such and such died, if we liveas they lived; and their end was peace, they finished their course with joy; why then should we fearany evil in that melancholy valley?Joshua Named as Moses's Successor. (b. c. 1452.)15 And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, 16 Let the Lord, the God of thespirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 Which may go out beforethem, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and whichmay bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no1013Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)shepherd. 18 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, aman in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; 19 And set him beforeEleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in theirsight. 20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregationof the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 And he shall stand before Eleazar thepriest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord:at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and allthe children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. 22 And Moses did as theLord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest,and before all the congregation: 23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave hima charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.Here, I. Moses prays for a successor. When God had told him that he must die, though it appearselsewhere that he solicited for a reprieve for himself (Deut. iii. 24, 25), yet, when this could not beobtained, he begged earnestly that the work of God might be carried on, though he might not havethe honour of finishing it. Envious spirits do not love their successors, but Moses was not one ofthese. We should concern ourselves, both in our prayers and in our endeavours, for the risinggeneration, that religion may flourish, and the interests of God's kingdom among men may bemaintained and advanced, when we are in our graves. In this prayer Moses expresses, 1. A tenderconcern for the people of Israel: That the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have noshepherd. Our Saviour uses this comparison in his compassions for the people when they wantedgood ministers, Matt. ix. 36. Magistrates and ministers are the shepherds of a people; if these bewanting, or be not as they should be, people are apt to wander and be scattered abroad, are exposedto enemies, and in danger of wanting food and of hurting one another, as sheep having no shepherd.2. A believing dependence upon God, as the God of the spirits of all flesh. He is both the formerand the searcher of spirits, and therefore can either find men fit or make them fit to serve hispurposes, for the good of his church. Moses prays to God, not to send an angel, but to set a manover the congregation, that is, to nominate and appoint one whom he would qualify and own asruler of his people Israel. Before God gave this blessing to Israel, he stirred up Moses to pray forit: thus Christ, before he sent forth his apostles, called to those about him to pray the Lord of theharvest that he would send forth labourers into his harvest, Matt. ix. 38.II. God, in answer to his prayer, appoints him a successor, even Joshua, who had long sincesignalized himself by his courage in fighting Amalek, his humility in ministering to Moses, andhis faith and sincerity in witnessing against the report of the evil spies; this is the man whom Godpitches upon to succeed Moses: A man in whom is the Spirit, the Spirit of grace (he is a good man,fearing God and hating covetousness, and acting from principle), the spirit of government (he is fitto do the work and discharge the trusts of his place), a spirit of conduct and courage; and he hadalso the spirit of prophecy, for the Lord often spoke unto him, Josh. iv. 1; vi. 2; vii. 10. Now here,1. God directs Moses how to secure the succession to Joshua. (1.) He must ordain him: Laythy hand upon him, v. 18. This was done in token of Moses' transferring the government to him,as the laying of hands on the sacrifice put the offering in the place and stead of the offerer; also intoken of God's conferring the blessing of the Spirit upon him, which Moses obtained by prayer. Itis said (Deut. xxxiv. 9), Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on1014Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)him. This rite of imposing hands we find used in the New Testament in the setting apart of gospelministers, denoting a solemn designation of them to the office and an earnest desire that God wouldqualify them for it and own them in it. It is the offering of them to Christ and his church for livingsacrifices. (2.) He must present him to Eleazar and the people, set him before them, that they mightknow him to be designed of God for this great trust and consent to that designation. (3.) He mustgive him a charge, v. 19. He must be charged with the people of Israel, who were delivered intohis hand as sheep into the hand of a shepherd, and for whom he must be accountable. He must bestrictly charged to do his duty to them; though they were under his command, he was under God'scommand, and from him must receive charge. The highest must know that there is a higher thanthey. This charge must be given him in their sight, that it might be the more affecting to Joshua,and that the people, seeing the work and care of their prince, might be the more engaged to assistand encourage him. (4.) He must put some of his honour upon him, v. 20. Joshua at the most hadbut some of the honour of Moses, and in many instances came short of him; but this seems to bemeant of his taking him now, while he lived, into partnership with him in the government andadmitting him to act with authority as his assistant. It is an honour to be employed for God and hischurch; some of this honour must be put upon Joshua, that the people, being used to obey him whileMoses lived, might the more cheerfully do it afterwards. (5.) He must appoint Eleazar the highpriest, with this breast-plate of judgment, to be his privy-council (v. 21): He shall stand beforeEleazar, by him to consult the oracle, ready to receive and observe all the instructions that shouldbe given him by it. This was a direction to Joshua. Though he was full of the Spirit, and had all thishonour put upon him, yet he must do nothing without asking counsel of God, not leaning to hisown understanding. It was also a great encouragement to him. To govern Israel, and to conquerCanaan, were two hard tasks, but God assures him that in both he should be under a divine conduct;and in every difficult case God would advise him to that which should be for the best. Moses hadrecourse to the oracle of God himself, but Joshua and the succeeding judges must use the ministryof the high priest, and consult the judgment of urim, which, the Jews say, might not be enquiredof but by the king or the head of the sanhedrim, or by the agent or representative of the people, forthem, and in their name. Thus the government of Israel was now purely divine, for both thedesignation and direction of their princes were entirely so. At the word of the priest, according tothe judgment of urim, Joshua and all Israel must go out and come in; and no doubt God, who thusguided, would preserve both their going out and their coming in. Those are safe, and may be easy,that follow God, and in all their ways acknowledge him.2. Moses does according to these directions, v. 22, 23. He cheerfully ordained Joshua, (1.)Though it was a present lessening to himself, and amounted almost to a resignation of thegovernment. He was very willing that the people should look off from him, and gaze on the risingsun. (2.) Though it might appear a perpetual slur upon his family. It would not have been so muchhis praise if he had thus resigned his honour to a son of his own; but with his own hands first toordain Eleazar high priest, and then Joshua, one of another tribe, chief ruler, while his own childrenhad no preferment at all, but were left in the rank of common Levites, this was such an instance ofself-denial and submission to the will of God as was more his glory than the highest advancementof his family could have been; for it confirms his character as the meekest man upon earth, andfaithful to him that appointed him in all his house. This (says the excellent bishop Patrick) showshim to have had a principle which raised him above all other lawgivers, who always took care to1015Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)establish their families in some share of that greatness which they themselves possessed; but herebyit appeared that Moses acted not from himself, because he acted not for himself.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXVIII.Now that the people were numbered, orders given for the dividing of the land, and a generalof the forces nominated and commissioned, one would have expected that the next chapter shouldbegin the history of the campaign, or at least should give us an account of the ordinances of war;no, it contains the ordinances of worship, and provides that now, as they were on the point ofentering Canaan, they should be sure to take their religion along with them, and not forget this, inthe prosecution of their wars, ver. 1, 2. The laws are here repeated and summed up concerning thesacrifices that were to be offered, I. Daily, ver. 3-8. II. Weekly, ver. 9, 10. III. Monthly, ver. 11-15.IV. Yearly. 1. At the passover, ver. 16-25. 2. At pentecost, ver. 26-31. And the next chapter isconcerning the annual solemnities of the seventh month.Laws Concerning Sacrifices. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Command the children of Israel,and say unto them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, fora sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season. 3And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offerunto the Lord; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continualburnt offering. 4 The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lambshalt thou offer at even; 5 And a tenth part of an ephah of flour for a meat offering,mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a continual burnt offering,which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire untothe Lord. 7 And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for theone lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto theLord for a drink offering. 8 And the other lamb shalt thou offer at even: as the meatoffering of the morning, and as the drink offering thereof, thou shalt offer it, asacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.Here is, I. A general order given concerning the offerings of the Lord, which were to be broughtin their season, v. 2. These laws are here given afresh, not because the observance of them waswholly disused during their thirty-eight years' wandering in the wilderness (we cannot think thatthey were so long without any public worship, but that at least the daily lamb was offered morningand evening, and doubled on the sabbath day; so bishop Patrick conjectures); but that many of thesacrifices were then omitted is plainly intimated, Amos v. 25, quoted by Stephen, Acts vii. 42. Didyou offer unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? It is1016Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)implied, "No, you did not." But, whether the course of sacrifices had been interrupted or no, Godsaw fit now to repeat the law of sacrifices, 1. Because this was a new generation of men, that weremost of them unborn when the former laws were given; therefore, that they might be left withoutexcuse, they have not only these laws written, to be read to them, but again repeated from Godhimself, and put into a less compass and a plainer method. 2. Because they were now entering uponwar, and might be tempted to think that while they were engaged in that they should be excusedfrom offering sacrifices. Inter arma silent leges—law is little regarded amidst the clash of arms.No, says God, my bread for my sacrifices even now shall you observe to offer, and that in the dueseason. They were peculiarly concerned to keep their peace with God when they were at war withtheir enemies. In the wilderness they were solitary, and quite separate from all other people, andtherefore there they needed not so much their distinguishing badges, nor would their omission ofsacrifices be so scandalous as when they came into Canaan, when they mingled with other people.3. Because possession was now to be given them of the land of promise, that land flowing withmilk and honey, where they would have plenty of all good things. "Now" (says God), "When youare feasting yourselves, forget not to offer the bread of your God." Canaan was given to them uponthis condition, that they should observe God's statutes, Ps. cv. 44, 45.II. The particular law of the daily sacrifice, a lamb in the morning and a lamb in the evening,which, for the constancy of it as duly as the day came, is called a continual burnt-offering (v. 3),which intimates that when we are bidden to pray always, and to pray without ceasing, it is intendedthat at least every morning and every evening we offer up our solemn prayers and praises to God.This is said to be ordained in Mount Sinai (v. 6), when the other laws were given. The institutionof it we have, Exod. xxix. 38. Nothing is here added in the repetition of the law, but that the wineto be poured out in the drink-offering is ordered to be strong wine (v. 7), the riches and mostgenerous and best-bodied wine they could get. Though it was to be poured out upon the altar, andnot drunk (they therefore might be ready to think the worst would serve to be so thrown away), yetGod requires the strongest, to teach us to serve God with the best we have. The wine must be strong(says Ainsworth) because it was a figure of the blood of Christ, the memorial of which is still leftto the church in wine, and of the blood of the martyrs, which was poured out as a drink-offeringupon the sacrifice and service of our faith, Phil. ii. 17.9 And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenthdeals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof:10 This is the burnt offering of every sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering,and his drink offering. 11 And in the beginnings of your months ye shall offer aburnt offering unto the Lord; two young bullocks, and one ram, seven lambs of thefirst year without spot; 12 And three tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingledwith oil, for one bullock; and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingledwith oil, for one ram; 13 And a several tenth deal of flour mingled with oil for ameat offering unto one lamb; for a burnt offering of a sweet savour, a sacrifice madeby fire unto the Lord. 14 And their drink offerings shall be half an hin of wine untoa bullock, and the third part of an hin unto a ram, and a fourth part of an hin untoa lamb: this is the burnt offering of every month throughout the months of the year.1017Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)15 And one kid of the goats for a sin offering unto the Lord shall be offered, besidethe continual burnt offering, and his drink offering.The new moons and the sabbaths are often spoken of together, as great solemnities in theJewish church, very comfortable to the saints then, and typical of gospel grace. Now we have herethe sacrifices appointed, 1. For the sabbaths. Every sabbath day the offering must be doubled;besides the two lambs offered for the daily burnt-offering, there must be two more offered, one (itis probable) added to the morning sacrifice, and the other to the evening, v. 9, 10. This teaches usto double our devotions on sabbath days, for so the duty of the day requires. The sabbath rest is tobe observed, in order to a more close application to the sabbath work, which ought to fill up sabbathtime. In Ezekiel's temple-service, which points at gospel times, the sabbath offerings were to besix lambs and a ram, with their meat-offerings, and drink-offerings (Ezek. xlvi. 4, 5), to intimatenot only the continuance, but the advancement, of sabbath sanctification in the days of the Messiah.This is the burnt-offering of the sabbath in his sabbath, so it is in the original, v. 10. We must doevery sabbath day's work in its day, studying to redeem every minute of sabbath time as those thatbelieve it precious; and not thinking to put off one sabbath's work to another, for sufficient to everysabbath is the service thereof. 2. For the new moons. Some suggest that, as the sabbath was keptwith an eye to the creation of the world, so the new moons were sanctified with an eye to the divineprovidence, which appoints the moon for seasons, guiding the revolutions of time by its changes,and governing sublunary bodies (as many think) by its influences. Though we observe not any feastof new moons, yet we must not forget to give God the glory of all the precious things put forth bythe moon which he has established for ever, a faithful witness in heaven, Ps. lxxxix. 37. The offeringsin the new moons were very considerable, two bullocks, a ram, and seven lambs, with themeat-offerings and drink-offerings that were to attend them (v. 11, &c.), besides a sin-offering, v.15. For, when we give glory to God by confessing his mercies, we must give glory to him likewiseby confessing our own sins; and, when we rejoice in the gifts of common providence, we mustmake the sacrifice of Christ, that great gift of special grace, the fountain and spring-head of ourjoy. Some have questioned whether the new moons were to be reckoned among their feasts; butwhy should they not, when, besides the special sacrifices which were then to be offered, they restedfrom servile works (Amos viii. 5), blew the trumpets (ch. x. 10), and went to the prophets to hearthe word? 2 Kings iv. 23. And the worship performed in the new moons is made typical of gospelsolemnities, Isa. lxvi. 23.16 And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the Lord. 17And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened breadbe eaten. 18 In the first day shall be an holy convocation; ye shall do no mannerof servile work therein: 19 But ye shall offer a sacrifice made by fire for a burntoffering unto the Lord; two young bullocks, and one ram, and seven lambs of thefirst year: they shall be unto you without blemish: 20 And their meat offering shallbe of flour mingled with oil: three tenth deals shall ye offer for a bullock, and twotenth deals for a ram; 21 A several tenth deal shalt thou offer for every lamb,throughout the seven lambs: 22 And one goat for a sin offering, to make anatonement for you. 23 Ye shall offer these beside the burnt offering in the morning,1018Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)which is for a continual burnt offering. 24 After this manner ye shall offer daily,throughout the seven days, the meat of the sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savourunto the Lord: it shall be offered beside the continual burnt offering, and his drinkoffering. 25 And on the seventh day ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shalldo no servile work. 26 Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meatoffering unto the Lord, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation;ye shall do no servile work: 27 But ye shall offer the burnt offering for a sweetsavour unto the Lord; two young bullocks, one ram, seven lambs of the first year;28 And their meat offering of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals unto onebullock, two tenth deals unto one ram, 29 A several tenth deal unto one lamb,throughout the seven lambs; 30 And one kid of the goats, to make an atonementfor you. 31 Ye shall offer them beside the continual burnt offering, and his meatoffering, (they shall be unto you without blemish) and their drink offerings.Here is, I. The appointment of the pass-over sacrifices; not that which was the chief, the paschallamb (sufficient instructions had formerly been given concerning that), but those which were to beoffered upon the seven days of unleavened bread, which followed it, v. 17-25. The first and last ofthose seven days were to be sanctified as sabbaths, by a holy rest and a holy convocation, and oneach of the seven days they were to be liberal in their sacrifices, in token of their great and constantthankfulness for their deliverance out of Egypt: Two bullocks, a ram, and seven lambs. A gospelconversation, in gratitude for Christ our passover who was sacrificed, is called the keeping of thisfeast (1 Cor. v. 8); for it is not enough that we purge out the leavened bread of malice andwickedness, but we must offer the bread of our God, even the sacrifice of praise, continually, andcontinue herein unto the end. 2. The sacrifices are likewise appointed which were to be offered atthe feast of pentecost, here called the day of the first-fruits, v. 26. In the feast of unleavened breadthey offered a sheaf of their first-fruits of barley (which with them was first ripe) to the priest (Lev.xxiii. 10), as an introduction to the harvest; but now, about seven weeks after, they were to bringa new meat-offering to the Lord, at the end of harvest, in thankfulness to God, who had not onlygiven, but preserved to their use, the kindly fruits of the earth, so as that in due time they did enjoythem. It was at this feast that the Spirit was poured out (Acts ii. 1, &c.), and thousands were convertedby the preaching of the apostles, and were presented to Christ, to be a kind of first-fruits of hiscreatures. The sacrifice that was to be offered with the loaves of the first-fruits was appointed, Lev.xxiii. 18. But over and above, besides that and besides the daily offerings, they were to offer twobullocks, one ram, and seven lambs, with a kid for a sin-offering, v. 27-30. When God sowsplentifully upon us he expects to reap accordingly from us. Bishop Patrick observes that nopeace-offerings are appointed in this chapter, which were chiefly for the benefit of the offerers,and therefore in them they were left more to themselves; but burnt-offerings were purely for thehonour of God, were confessions of his dominion, and typified evangelical piety and devotion, bywhich the soul is wholly offered up to God in the flames of holy love; and sin-offerings were typicalof Christ's sacrifice of himself, by which we and our services are perfected and sanctified.1019Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)N U M B E R SCHAP. XXIX.This chapter appoints the offerings that were to be made by fire unto the Lord in the three greatsolemnities of the seventh month. I. In the feast of trumpets on the first day of that month, ver. 1-6.II. In the day of atonement on the tenth day, ver. 7-11. III. In the feast of tabernacles on the fifteenthday and the seven days following, ver. 12-38. And then the conclusion of these ordinances, ver.39, 40.Solemnities of the Seventh Month. (b. c. 1452.)1 And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holyconvocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets untoyou. 2 And ye shall offer a burnt offering for a sweet savour unto the Lord; oneyoung bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year without blemish: 3 Andtheir meat offering shall be of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals for a bullock,and two tenth deals for a ram, 4 And one tenth deal for one lamb, throughout theseven lambs: 5 And one kid of the goats for a sin offering, to make an atonementfor you: 6 Beside the burnt offering of the month, and his meat offering, and thedaily burnt offering, and his meat offering, and their drink offerings, according untotheir manner, for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord. 7 And yeshall have on the tenth day of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shallafflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein: 8 But ye shall offer a burntoffering unto the Lord for a sweet savour; one young bullock, one ram, and sevenlambs of the first year; they shall be unto you without blemish: 9 And their meatoffering shall be of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals to a bullock, and twotenth deals to one ram, 10 A several tenth deal for one lamb, throughout the sevenlambs: 11 One kid of the goats for a sin offering; beside the sin offering ofatonement, and the continual burnt offering, and the meat offering of it, and theirdrink offerings.There were more sacred solemnities in the seventh month than in any other month of the year,not only because it had been the first month till the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (which, fallingin the month Abib, occasioned that to be thenceforth made the beginning of the months in allecclesiastical computations), but because still it continued the first month in the civil reckoningsof the jubilees and years of release, and also because it was the time of vacation between harvestand seedtime, when they had most leisure to attend the sanctuary, which intimates that, though Godwill dispense with sacrifices in consideration of works of necessity and mercy, yet the more leisurewe have from the pressing occasions of this life the more time we should spend in the immediateservice of God. 1. We have here the appointment of the sacrifices that were to be offered on thefirst day of the month, the day of blowing the trumpets, which was a preparative for the two great1020Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)solemnities of holy mourning on the day of atonement and of holy joy in the feast of tabernacles.The intention of divine institutions is well answered when one religious service helps to fit us foranother and all for heaven. The blowing of the trumpets was appointed, Lev. xxiii. 24. Here thepeople are directed what sacrifices to offer on that day, of which there was not then any mentionmade. Note, Those who would know the mind of God in the scripture must compare one part ofthe scripture with another, and put those parts together that have reference to the same thing, forthe latter discoveries of divine light explain what was dark and supply what was defective in theformer, that the man of God may be perfect. The sacrifices then to be offered are particularly orderedhere (v. 2-6), and care taken that these should not supersede the daily oblation and that of the newmoon. It is hereby intimated that we must not seek occasions to abate our zeal in God's service,nor be glad of an excuse to omit a good duty, but rather rejoice in an opportunity of accumulatingand doing more than ordinary in religion. If we perform family-worship, we must not think thatthis will excuse us from our secret devotions; nor that on the days we go to church we need notworship God alone and with our families; but we should always abound in the work of the Lord.2. On the day of atonement. Besides all the services of that day, which we had the institution of,Lev. xvi., and which, one would think, required trouble and charge enough, here are burnt-offeringsordered to be offered, v. 8-10. For in our faith and repentance, those two great gospel graces whichwere signified by that day's performances, we must have an eye to the glory and honour of God,which was purely intended in the burnt-offerings; there was likewise to be a kid of the goats for asin-offering, besides the great sin-offering of atonement (v. 11), which intimates that there are somany defects and faults, even in the exercises and expressions of our repentance, that we have needof an interest in a sacrifice to expiate the guilt even of that part of our holy things. Though we mustnot repent that we have repented, yet we must repent that we have not repented better. It likewiseintimated the imperfection of the legal sacrifices, and their insufficiency to take away sin, that onthe very day the sin-offering of atonement was offered, yet there must be another sin-offering. Butwhat the law could not do, in that it was weak, that Christ has done.12 And on the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have an holyconvocation; ye shall do no servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto the Lordseven days: 13 And ye shall offer a burnt offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of asweet savour unto the Lord; thirteen young bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambsof the first year; they shall be without blemish: 14 And their meat offering shallbe of flour mingled with oil, three tenth deals unto every bullock of the thirteenbullocks, two tenth deals to each ram of the two rams, 15 And a several tenth dealto each lamb of the fourteen lambs: 16 And one kid of the goats for a sin offering;beside the continual burnt offering, his meat offering, and his drink offering. 17And on the second day ye shall offer twelve young bullocks, two rams, fourteenlambs of the first year without spot: 18 And their meat offering and their drinkofferings for the bullocks, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be according to theirnumber, after the manner: 19 And one kid of the goats for a sin offering; besidethe continual burnt offering, and the meat offering thereof, and their drink offerings.20 And on the third day eleven bullocks, two rams, fourteen lambs of the first year1021Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)without blemish; 21 And their meat offering and their drink offerings for thebullocks, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be according to their number, afterthe manner: 22 And one goat for a sin offering; beside the continual burnt offering,and his meat offering, and his drink offering. 23 And on the fourth day ten bullocks,two rams, and fourteen lambs of the first year without blemish: 24 Their meatoffering and their drink offerings for the bullocks, for the rams, and for the lambs,shall be according to their number, after the manner: 25 And one kid of the goatsfor a sin offering; beside the continual burnt offering, his meat offering, and hisdrink offering. 26 And on the fifth day nine bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambsof the first year without spot: 27 And their meat offering and their drink offeringsfor the bullocks, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be according to their number,after the manner: 28 And one goat for a sin offering; beside the continual burntoffering, and his meat offering, and his drink offering. 29 And on the sixth dayeight bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs of the first year without blemish: 30And their meat offering and their drink offerings for the bullocks, for the rams, andfor the lambs, shall be according to their number, after the manner: 31 And onegoat for a sin offering; beside the continual burnt offering, his meat offering, andhis drink offering. 32 And on the seventh day seven bullocks, two rams, and fourteenlambs of the first year without blemish: 33 And their meat offering and their drinkofferings for the bullocks, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be according to theirnumber, after the manner: 34 And one goat for a sin offering; beside the continualburnt offering, his meat offering, and his drink offering. 35 On the eighth day yeshall have a solemn assembly: ye shall do no servile work therein: 36 But ye shalloffer a burnt offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord: onebullock, one ram, seven lambs of the first year without blemish: 37 Their meatoffering and their drink offerings for the bullock, for the ram, and for the lambs,shall be according to their number, after the manner: 38 And one goat for a sinoffering; beside the continual burnt offering, and his meat offering, and his drinkoffering. 39 These things ye shall do unto the Lord in your set feasts, beside yourvows, and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your meatofferings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings. 40 And Mosestold the children of Israel according to all that the Lord commanded Moses.Soon after the day of atonement, that day in which men were to afflict their souls, followedthe feast of tabernacles, in which they were to rejoice before the Lord; for those that sow in tearsshall soon reap in joy. To the former laws about this feast, which we had, Lev. xxiii. 34, &c., hereare added directions about the offerings by fire, which they were to offer unto the Lord during theseven days of that feast, Lev. xxiii. 36. Observe here, 1. Their days of rejoicing were to be days ofsacrifices. A disposition to be cheerful does us no harm, nor is any bad symptom, when it is so far1022Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)from unfitting us for the duties of God's immediate service that it encourages and enlarges ourhearts in them. 2. All the days of their dwelling in booths they must offer sacrifices. While we arehere in a tabernacle-state, it is our interest as well as duty constantly to keep up communion withGod; nor will the unsettledness of our outward condition excuse us in our neglect of the duties ofGod's worship. 3. The sacrifices for each of the seven days, though differing in nothing but thenumber of the bullocks, are severally and particularly appointed, which yet is no vain repetition;for God would thus teach them to be very exact in those observances, and to keep an eye of faithfixed upon the institution in every day's work. It likewise intimates that the repetition of the sameservices, if performed with an upright heart, and with a continued fire of pious and devout affection,is no weariness to God, and therefore we ought not to snuff at it, or to say, Behold, what a wearinessit is to us! 4. The number of bullocks (which were the most costly part of the sacrifice) decreasedevery day. On the first day of the feast they were to offer thirteen, on the second day but twelve,on the third day eleven, &c. So that on the seventh they offered seven; and the last day, though itwas the great day of the feast, and celebrated with a holy convocation, yet they were to offer butone bullock; and, whereas on all the other days they offered two rams and fourteen lambs, on thisthey offered but one ram and seven lambs. Such was the will of the Law-maker, and that is reasonenough for the law. Some suggest that God herein considered the infirmity of the flesh, which isapt to grudge the charge and expense of religion; it is therefore ordered to grow less and less, thatthey might not complain as if God had made them to serve with an offering, Isa. xliii. 23. Or it ishereby intimated to them that the legal dispensation should wax old, and vanish away at last; andthe multitude of their sacrifices should end in one great sacrifice, infinitely more worthy than allof them. It was on the last day of the feast, after all these sacrifices had been ordered, that our LordJesus stood and cried to those who still thirsted after righteousness (being sensible of the insufficiencyof these sacrifices to justify them) to come unto him and drink, John vii. 37. 5. The meat-offeringsand drink-offerings attended all the sacrifices, according to their number, after the manner. Bethere ever so much flesh, it is no feast without bread and drink, therefore these must never beomitted at God's altar, which was his table. We must not think that doing much in religion will beaccepted if we do not do it well, and after the manner that God has appointed. 6. Every day theremust be a sin-offering presented, as we observed in the other feasts. Our burnt-offerings of praisecannot be accepted of God unless we have an interest in the great sacrifice of propitiation whichChrist offered when for us he made himself a sin-offering. 7. Even when all these sacrifices wereoffered, yet the continual burnt-offering must not be omitted either morning or evening, but eachday this must be offered first in the morning and last in the evening. No extraordinary servicesshould jostle out our stated devotions. 8. Though all these sacrifices were required to be presentedby the body of the congregation, at the common charge, yet, besides these, particular persons wereto glorify God with their vows and their free-will offerings, v. 39. When God commanded that thisthey must do, he left room for the generosity of their devotion, a great deal more they might do, notinventing other worships, but abounding in these, as 2 Chron. xxx. 23, 24. Large directions hadbeen given in Leviticus concerning the offerings of all sorts that should be brought by particularpersons according to the providences of God concerning them and the graces of God in them.Though every Israelite had an interest in these common sacrifices, yet he must not think that thesewill serve instead of his vows and his free-will offerings. Thus our ministers' praying with us andfor us will not excuse us from praying for ourselves.1023Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)N U M B E R SCHAP. XXX.In this chapter we have a law concerning vows, which had been mentioned in the close of theforegoing chapter. I. Here is a general rule laid down that all vows must be carefully performed,ver. 1, 2. II. Some particular exceptions to this rule. 1. That the vows of daughters should not bebinding unless allowed by the father, ver. 3-5. Nor, 2. The vows of wives unless allowed by thehusband, ver. 6, &c.Concerning Vows. (b. c. 1452.)1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel,saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded. 2 If a man vow a vowunto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break hisword, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.This law was delivered to the heads of the tribes that they might instruct those who were undertheir charge, explain the law to them, give then necessary cautions, and call them to account, ifthere were occasion, for the breach of their vows. Perhaps the heads of the tribes had, upon someemergency of this kind, consulted Moses, and desired by him to know the mind of God, and herethey are told it: This is the thing which the Lord has commanded concerning vows, and it is acommand still in force.1. The case supposed is that a person vows a vow unto the Lord, making God a party to thepromise, and designing his honour and glory in it. The matter of the vow is supposed to be somethinglawful: no man can be by his own promise bound to do that which he is already by the divine preceptprohibited from doing. Yet it is supposed to be something which, in such and such measures anddegrees, was not a necessary duty antecedent to the vow. A person might vow to bring such andsuch sacrifices at certain times, to give such and such a sum or such a proportion in alms, to forbearsuch meats and drinks which the law allowed, to fast and afflict the soul (which is specified v. 13)at other times besides the day of atonement. And many similar vows might be made in anextraordinary heat of holy zeal, in humiliation for some sin committed or for the prevention of sin,in the pursuit of some mercy desired or in gratitude for some mercy received. It is of great use tomake such vows as these, provided they be made in sincerity with due caution. Vows (say theJewish doctors) are the hedge of separation, that is, a fence to religion. He that vows is here saidto bind his soul with a bond. It is a vow to God, who is a spirit, and to him the soul, with all itspowers, must be bound. A promise to man is a bond upon the estate, but a promise to God is a bondupon the soul. Our sacramental vows, by which we are bound to no more than what was before ourduty, and which neither father nor husband can disannul, are bonds upon the soul, and by them wemust feel ourselves bound out from all sin and bound up to the whole will of God. Our occasionalvows concerning that which before was in our own power (Acts v. 4), when they are made, arebonds upon the soul likewise. 2. The command given is that these vows be conscientiouslyperformed: He shall not break his word, though afterwards he may change his mind, but he shalldo according to what he has said. Margin, He shall not profane his word. Vowing is an ordinance1024

      Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)

      of God; if we vow in hypocrisy we profane that ordinance: it is plainly determined, Better not vowthan vow and not pay, Eccl. v. 5. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. His promises to us are yeaand amen, let not ours to him be yea and nay.3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, beingin her father's house in her youth; 4 And her father hear her vow, and her bondwherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: thenall her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shallstand. 5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of hervows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lordshall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. 6 And if she had at all anhusband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she boundher soul; 7 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that heheard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soulshall stand. 8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; thenhe shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips,wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the Lord shall forgive her. 9 Butevery vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound theirsouls, shall stand against her. 10 And if she vowed in her husband's house, or boundher soul by a bond with an oath; 11 And her husband heard it, and held his peaceat her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bondwherewith she bound her soul shall stand. 12 But if her husband hath utterly madethem void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lipsconcerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husbandhath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive her. 13 Every vow, and everybinding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband maymake it void. 14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day today; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: heconfirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then heshall bear her iniquity. 16 These are the statutes, which the Lord commandedMoses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yetin her youth in her father's house.It is here taken for granted that all such persons as are sui juris—at their own disposal, and arelikewise of sound understanding and memory, are bound to perform whatever they vow that islawful and possible; but, if the person vowing be under the dominion and at the disposal of another,the case is different. Two cases much alike are here put and determined:—I. The case of a daughter in her father's house: and some think, probably enough, that it extendsto a son likewise, while he is at home with his father, and under tutors and governors. Whether theexception may thus be stretched I cannot say. Non est distinguendum, ubi lex non distinguit—We1025Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)are not allowed to make distinctions which the law does not. The rule is general, If a man vow, hemust pay. But for a daughter it is express: her vow is nugatory or in suspense till her father knowsit, and (it is supposed) knows it from her; for, when it comes to his knowledge, it is in his powereither to ratify or nullify it. But in favour of the vow, 1. Even his silence shall suffice to ratify it:If he hold his peace, her vows shall stand, v. 4. Qui tacet, consentire videtur—Silence gives consent.Hereby he allows his daughter the liberty she has assumed, and, as long as he says nothing againsther vow, she shall be bound by it. But, 2. His protestation against it shall perfectly disannul it,because it is possible that such vow may by prejudicial to the affairs of the family, break the father'smeasures, perplex the provision made for his table if the vow related to meats, or lessen the provisionmade for his children if the vow would be more expensive than his estate would bear; however, itwas certain that it was an infringement of his authority over his child, and therefore, if he disallowit, she is discharged, and the Lord shall forgive her, that is, she shall not be charged with the guiltof violating her vow; she showed her good-will in making the vow, and, if her intentions thereinwere sincere, she shall be accounted better than sacrifice. This shows how great a deference childrenowe to their parents, and how much they ought to honour them and be obedient to them. It is forthe interest of the public that the paternal authority be supported; for, when children are countenancedin their disobedience to their parents (as they were by the tradition of the elders, Matt. xv. 5, 6),they soon become in other things children of Belial. If this law be not to be extended to children'smarrying without their parents' consent so far as to put it in parents' power to annul the marriageand dissolve the obligation (as some have thought it does), yet certainly it proves the sinfulness ofit, and obliges the children that have thus done foolishly to repent and humble themselves beforeGod and their parents.II. The case of a wife is much the same. As for a woman that is a widow or divorced, she hasneither father nor husband to control her, so that, whatever vows she binds her soul with, they shallstand against her (v. 9), it is at her peril if she run back; but a wife, who has nothing that she canstrictly call her own, but with her husband's allowance, cannot, without that, make any such vow.1. The law is plain in case of a wife that continues so long after the vow. If her husband allow hervow, though only by silence, it must stand, v. 6, 7. If he disallow it, since her obligation to thatwhich she had vowed arose purely from her own act, and not from any prior command of God, herobligation to her husband shall take place of it, for to him she ought to be in subjection as unto theLord; and now it is so far from being her duty to fulfil her vow that it would be her sin to disobeyher husband, whose consent perhaps she ought to have asked before she made the vow; thereforeshe needs forgiveness, v. 8. 2. The law is the same in case of a wife that soon after becomes awidow, or is put away. Though, if she return to her father's house, she does not therefore so comeagain under his authority as that he has power to disannul hew vows (v. 9), yet if the vow was madewhile she was in the house of her husband, and her husband disallowed it, it was made void and ofno effect for ever, and she does not return under the law of her vow when she is loosed from thelaw of her husband. This seems to be the distinct meaning of v. 10-14, which otherwise would bebut a repetition of v. 6-8. But it is added (v. 15) that, if the husband make void the vows of his wife,he shall bear her iniquity; that is, if the thing she had vowed was really good, for the honour ofGod and the prosperity of her own soul, and the husband disallowed it out of covetousness, orhumour, or to show his authority, though she be discharged from the obligation of her vow, yet hewill have a great deal to answer for. Now here it is very observable how carefully the divine lawconsults the good order of families, and preserves the power of superior relations, and the duty and1026Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)reverence of inferiors. It is fit that every man should bear rule in his own house, and have his wifeand children in subjection with all gravity; and rather than this great rule should be broken, or anyencouragement given to inferior relations to break those bonds asunder, God himself would quithis right, and release the obligations even of a solemn vow; so much does religion strengthen theties of all relations, and secure the welfare of all societiesd, that in it the families of the earth areblessed.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXI.This chapter belongs to "the book of the wars of the Lord," in which it is probable it wasinserted. It is the history of a holy war, a war with Midian. Here is, I. A divine command for thewar, ver. 1, 2. II. The undertaking of the war, ver. 3-6. III. The glorious success of it, ver. 7-12. IV.Their triumphant return from the war. 1. The respect Moses paid to the soldiers, ver. 13. 2. Therebuke he gave them for sparing the women, ver. 14-18. 3. The directions he gave them for thepurifying of themselves and their effects, ver. 19-24. 4. The distribution of the spoil they had taken,one half to the soldiers, the other to the congregation, and a tribute to the Lord out of each, ver.25-47. 5. The free-will offering of the officers, ver. 48, &c.The Slaughter of the Midianites. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Avenge the children of Israel ofthe Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. 3 And Mosesspake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let themgo against the Midianites, and avenge the Lord of Midian. 4 Of every tribe athousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war. 5 So therewere delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelvethousand armed for war. 6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of everytribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holyinstruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.Here, I. The Lord of hosts gives orders to Moses to make war upon the Midianites, and hiscommission no doubt justified this war, though it will not serve to justify the like without suchcommission. The Midianites were the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, Gen. xxv. 2. Some of themsettled south of Canaan, among whom Jethro lived, and they retained the worship of the true God;but these were settled east of Canaan, and had fallen into idolatry, neighbours to, and in confederacywith, the Moabites. Their land was not designed to be given to Israel, nor would Israel have meddledwith them if they had not made themselves obnoxious to their resentment by sending their badwomen among them to draw them to whoredom and idolatry. This was the provocation, this wasthe quarrel. For this (says God) avenge Israel of the Midianites, v. 2. 1. God would have theMidianites chastised, an inroad made upon that part of their country which lay next to the camp of1027Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Israel, and which was probably more concerned in that mischief than the Moabites, who thereforewere let alone. God will have us to reckon those our worst enemies that draw us to sin, and to avoidthem; and since every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts, and these are theMidianites which ensnare us with their wiles, on them we should avenge ourselves, not only makeno league with them, but make war upon them by living a life of mortification. God had takenvengeance on his own people for yielding to the Midianites' temptations; now the Midianites, thatgave the temptation, must be reckoned with, for the deceived and the deceiver are his (Job xii. 16),both accountable to his tribunal; and, though judgment begin at the house of God, it shall not endthere, 1 Pet. iv. 17. There is a day coming when vengeance will be taken on those that haveintroduced errors and corruptions into the church, and the devil that deceived men will be cast intothe lake of fire. Israel's quarrel with Amalek, that fought against them, was not avenged till longafter: but their quarrel with Midian, that debauched them, was speedily avenged, for they werelooked upon as much more the dangerous and malicious enemies. 2. God would have it done byMoses, in his life-time, that he who had so deeply resented that injury might have the satisfactionof seeing it avenged. "See this execution done upon the enemies of God and Israel, and afterwardsthou shalt be gathered to thy people." This was the only piece of service of this kind that Mosesmust further do, and then he has accomplished, as a hireling, his day, and shall have hisquietus—enter into rest: hitherto his usefulness must come, and no further; the wars of Canaanmust be carried on by another hand. Note, God sometimes removes useful men when we think theycan be ill spared; but this ought to satisfy us, that they are never removed till they have done thework which was appointed them.II. Moses gives orders to the people to prepare for this expedition, v. 3. He would not have thewhole body of the camp to stir, but they must arm some of themselves to the war, such as wereeither most fit or most forward, and avenge the Lord of Midian. God said, Avenge Israel; Mosessays, Avenge the Lord; for the interests of God and Israel are united, and the cause of both is oneand the same. And if God, in what he does, shows himself jealous for the honour of Israel, surelyIsrael, in what they do, ought to show themselves jealous for the glory of God. Then only we canjustify the avenging of ourselves when it is the vengeance of the Lord that we engage in. Nay, forthis reason we are forbidden to avenge ourselves, because God has said, Vengeance is mine, I willrepay.III. A detachment is drawn out accordingly for this service, 1000 out of every tribe, 12,000 inall, a small number in comparison with what they could have sent, and it is probable small incomparison with the number of the enemies they were sent against. But God would teach them thatit is all one to him to save by many or by few, 1 Sam. xiv. 6.IV. Phinehas the son of Eleazar is sent along with them. It is strange that no mention is madeof Joshua in this great action. If he was general of these forces, who do we not find him leadingthem out? If he tarried at home, why do we not find him meeting them with Moses at their return?It is probable, each tribe having a captain of its own thousand, there was no general, but theyproceeded in the order of their march through the wilderness, Judah first, and the rest in their posts,under the command of their respective captains, spoken of v. 48. But, the war being a holy war,Phinehas was their common head, not to supply the place of a general, but, by the oracle of God,to determine the resolves of their counsels of war, in which the captains of thousands would allacquiesce, and according to which they would act in conjunction. He therefore took with him theholy instruments or vessels, probably the breast-plate of judgment, by which God might he consulted1028Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)in any emergency. Though he was not yet the high priest, yet he might be delegated pro hac vice—forthis particular occasion, to bear the urim and thummim, as 1 Sam. xxiii. 6. And there was a particularreason for sending Phinehas to preside in this expedition; he has already signalized himself for hiszeal against the Midianites and their cursed arts to ensnare Israel when he slew Cozbi, a daughterof a chief house in Midian, for her impudence in the matter of Peor, ch. xxv. 15. He that had sowell used the sword of justice against a particular criminal was best qualified to guide the swordof war against the whole nation. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee rulerover many things.7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; andthey slew all the males. 8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest ofthem that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, fivekings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. 9 And thechildren of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, andtook the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. 10 Andthey burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.11 And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts. 12 Andthey brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar thepriest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plainsof Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.Here is, 1. The descent which this little army of Israelites made, under the divine commission,conduct, and command, upon the country of Midian. They warred against the Midianites. It is veryprobable that they first published their manifesto, showing the reasons of the war, and requiringthem to give up the ringleaders of the mischief to justice; for such afterwards was the law (Deut.xx. 10), and such the practice, Judg. xx. 12, 13. But the Midianites justifying what they had done,and standing by those that had done it, the Israelites attacked them with fire and sword, and all thepious fury with which their zeal for God and their people inspired them. 2. The execution (themilitary execution) they did in this descent. (1.) They slew all the males (v. 7), that is, all they metwith as far as they went; they put them all to the sword, and gave no quarter. But that they did notslay all the males of the nation is certain, for we find the Midianites a powerful and formidableenemy to Israel in the days of Gideon; and they were the Midianites of this country, for they arereckoned with the children of the east, Judg. vi. 3. (2.) They slew the kings of Midian the same thatare called elders of Midian (ch. xxii. 4), and the dukes of Sihon, Josh. xiii. 21. Five of these princesare here named, one of whom is Zur, probably the same Zur whose daughter Cosbi was, ch. xxv.15. (3.) They slew Balaam. Many conjectures there are as to what brought Balaam among theMidianites at this time; it is probable that the Midianites, having intelligence of the march of thisarmy of Israelites against them, hired Balaam to come and assist them with his enchantments, thatif he could not prevail to act offensively in their favour, by cursing the armies of Israel, yet he mightact defensively, by blessing the country of Midian. Whatever was the occasion of his being there,God's overruling providence brought him thither, and there his just vengeance found him. Had hehimself believed what he said of the happy state of Israel, he would not have herded thus with theenemies of Israel; but justly does he die the death of the wicked (though he pretended to desire thatof the righteous), and go down slain to the pit with the uncircumcised, who rebelled thus against1029Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the convictions of his own conscience. The Midianites' wiles were Balaam's projects, it was thereforejust that he should perish with them, Hos. iv. 5. Now was his folly made manifest to all men, whoforetold the fate of others, but foresaw not his own. (4.) They took all the women and childrencaptives, v. 9. (5.) They burnt their cities and goodly castles (v. 10), not designing to inhabit themthemselves (that country was out of their line), but they thus prevented those who had made theirescape from sheltering themselves in their own country and settling there again. Some understandit of their idol-temples; it was fit that they should share in this vengeance. (6.) They plundered thecountry, and carried off all the cattle and valuable goods, and so returned to the camp of Israelladen with a very rich booty, v. 9, 11, 12. Thus (as when they came out of Egypt) they were enrichedwith the spoils of their enemies, and furnished with stock for the good land into which God wasbringing them.13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation,went forth to meet them without the camp. 14 And Moses was wroth with theofficers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds,which came from the battle. 15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all thewomen alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counselof Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there wasa plague among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore kill every maleamong the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keepalive for yourselves. 19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoeverhath killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both yourselvesand your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day. 20 And purify all yourraiment, and all that is made of skins, and all work of goats' hair, and all things madeof wood. 21 And Eleazar the priest said unto the men of war which went to thebattle, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses; 22 Onlythe gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 Every thingthat may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean:nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth notthe fire ye shall make go through the water. 24 And ye shall wash your clothes onthe seventh day, and ye shall be clean, and afterward ye shall come into the camp.We have here the triumphant return of the army of Israel from the war with Midian, and here,I. They were met with great respect, v. 13. Moses himself, notwithstanding his age and gravity,walked out of the camp to congratulate them on their victory, and to grace the solemnity of theirtriumphs. Public successes should be publicly acknowledged, to the glory of God, and theencouragement of those that have jeoparded their lives in their country's cause.II. They were severely reproved for saving the women alive. It is very probable that Moseshad commanded them to kill the women, at least this was implied in the general order to avengeIsrael of the Midianites; the execution having reference to that crime, their drawing them in to theworship of Peor, it was easy to conclude that the women, who were the principal criminals, must1030Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)not be spared. What! says Moses, have you saved the women alive? v. 15. He was moved with aholy indignation at the sight of them. These were those that caused the children of Israel to committhis trespass; and therefore, 1. It is just that they should die. The law in case of whoredom was,The adulterer and adulteress should surely be put to death. God had put to death the adulterers ofIsrael by the plague, and now it was fit that the adulteresses of Midian, especially since they hadbeen the tempters, should be put to death by the sword. 2. "It is dangerous to let them live; theywill be still tempting the Israelites to uncleanness, and so your captives will be your conquerorsand a second time your destroyers." Severe orders are therefore given that all the grown womenshould be slain in cold blood, and only the female children spared.III. They were obliged to purify themselves, according to the ceremony of the law, and to abidewithout the camp seven days, till their purification was accomplished. For, 1. They had imbruedtheir hands in blood, by which though they had not contracted any moral guilt, the war being justand lawful, yet they were brought under a ceremonial uncleanness, which rendered them unfit tocome near the tabernacle till they were purified. Thus God would preserve in their minds a dreadand detestation of murder. David must not build the temple because he had been a man of war, andhad shed blood, 1 Chron. xxviii. 3. 2. They could not but have touched dead bodies, by which theywere polluted, and that required they should be purified with the water of separation, v. 19, 20, 24.IV. They must likewise purify the spoil they had taken, the captives (v. 19) and all the goods,v. 21-23. What would bear the fire must pass through the fire, and what would not must be washedwith water. These things had been use by Midianites, and, having now come into the possessionof Israelites, it was fit that they should be sanctified to the service of that holy nation and the honourof their holy God. To us now every thing is sanctified by the word and prayer, if we are sanctifiedby the Spirit, who is compared both to fire and water. To the pure all things are pure.Distribution of the Spoil. (b. c. 1452.)25 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 26 Take the sum of the prey thatwas taken, both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chieffathers of the congregation: 27 And divide the prey into two parts; between themthat took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:28 And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle:one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses,and of the sheep: 29 Take it of their half, and give it unto Eleazar the priest, for anheave offering of the Lord. 30 And of the children of Israel's half, thou shalt takeone portion of fifty, of the persons, of the beeves, of the asses, and of the flocks, ofall manner of beasts, and give them unto the Levites, which keep the charge of thetabernacle of the Lord. 31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lordcommanded Moses. 32 And the booty, being the rest of the prey which the men ofwar had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and five thousandsheep, 33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves, 34 And threescore and onethousand asses, 35 And thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that hadnot known man by lying with him. 36 And the half, which was the portion of them1031Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)that went out to war, was in number three hundred thousand and seven and thirtythousand and five hundred sheep: 37 And the Lord's tribute of the sheep was sixhundred and threescore and fifteen. 38 And the beeves were thirty and six thousand;of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and twelve. 39 And the asses were thirtythousand and five hundred; of which the Lord's tribute was threescore and one. 40And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the Lord's tribute was thirty andtwo persons. 41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord's heave offering,unto Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses. 42 And of the children ofIsrael's half, which Moses divided from the men that warred, 43 (Now the half thatpertained unto the congregation was three hundred thousand and thirty thousandand seven thousand and five hundred sheep, 44 And thirty and six thousand beeves,45 And thirty thousand asses and five hundred, 46 And sixteen thousand persons;)47 Even of the children of Israel's half, Moses took one portion of fifty, both ofman and of beast, and gave them unto the Levites, which kept the charge of thetabernacle of the Lord; as the Lord commanded Moses.We have here the distribution of the spoil which was taken in this expedition against Midian.God himself directed how it should be distributed, and Moses and Eleazar did according to thedirections, and thus unhappy contests among themselves were prevented and the victory was madeto turn to the common benefit. It was fit that he who gave them the prey should order the disposalof it. All we have is from God, and therefore must be subject to his will.I. The prey is ordered to be divided into two parts, one for the 12,000 men that undertook thewar, and the other for the congregation. The prey that was divided seems to have been only thecaptives and the cattle; as for the plate, and jewels, and other goods, every man kept what he took,as is intimated, v. 50-53. That only was distributed which would be of use for the stocking of thatgood land into which they were going. Now observe, 1. That the one half of the prey was given tothe whole congregation, Moses allotting to each tribe its share, and then leaving it to the heads ofthe tribes to divide their respective shares among themselves, according to their families. The warwas undertaken on the behalf of the whole congregation; they would all have been ready to go tothe help of the Lord against the mighty, if they had been so ordered, and they did help, it is likely,by their prayers; and therefore God appoints that those that tarried at home should divide the spoil,Ps. lxviii. 12. David, in his time, made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel, that, as his part isthat goes down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff, 1 Sam. xxx. 24, 25. Thosethat are employed in public trusts must not think to benefit themselves only by their toils andhazards, but must aim at the advantage of the community. 2. That yet the 12,000 that went to thebattle had as much for their share as the whole congregation (which were fifty times as many) hadfor theirs; so that the particular persons of the soldiery had a much better share than any of theirbrethren that tarried at home: and good reason they should. The greater pains we take, and thegreater hazards we run, in the service of God and our generation, the greater will our recompencebe at last; for God is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love.II. God was to have a tribute out of it, as an acknowledgment of his sovereignty over them ingeneral, and that he was their king to whom tribute was due, and particularly of his interest in this1032Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)war and the gains of it, he having given them their success; and that the priests, the Lord's receivers,might have something added to the provision made for their maintenance. Note, Whatever we have,God must have his dues out of it. And here (as before) the soldiers are favoured above the rest ofthe congregation, for out of the people's share God required one in fifty, but out of the soldier'sshare only one in 500, because the people got theirs easily, without any peril or fatigue. The lessopportunity we have of honouring God with our personal services the more it is expected we shouldhonour him with our substance. The tribute out of the soldiers' half was given to the priests (v. 29),that out of the people's half was given to the Levites, v. 30. For the priests were taken from amongthe Levites, as these soldiers from among the people, for special and hazardous service, and theirpay was proportioned accordingly.48 And the officers which were over thousands of the host, the captains ofthousands, and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses: 49 And they said untoMoses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under ourcharge, and there lacketh not one man of us. 50 We have therefore brought anoblation for the Lord, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, andbracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before theLord. 51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wroughtjewels. 52 And all the gold of the offering that they offered up to the Lord, of thecaptains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand sevenhundred and fifty shekels. 53 (For the men of war had taken spoil, every man forhimself.) 54 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains ofthousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tabernacle of the congregation,for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord.Here is a great example of piety and devotion in the officers of the army, the colonels, that arecalled captains of thousands, and the inferior officers that were captains of hundreds; they cameto Moses as their general and commander-in-chief, and, though he was now going off the stagethey very humbly and respectfully addressed themselves to him, calling themselves his servants;the honours they had won did not puff them up, so as to make them forget their duty to him. Observein their address to them, 1. The pious notice they take of God's wonderful goodness to them in thislate expedition, in preserving not only their own lives, but the lives of all the men of war that theyhad under their charge; so that, upon the review of their muster-roll, it appeared there was not onemissing, v. 49. This was very extraordinary, and perhaps cannot be paralleled in any history. Somany thousands of lives jeoparded in the high places of the field, and not one lost, either by thesword of the enemy or by any disease or disaster. This was the Lord's doing, and cannot but bemarvellous in the eyes of those that consider how the lives of all men, especially soldiers, arecontinually in their hands. It is an evidence of the tender feeling which these commanders had fortheir soldiers, and that their lives were very precious to them, that they looked upon it as a mercyto themselves that none of those under their charge miscarried. Of all that were given them theyhad lost none; so precious also is the blood of Christ's subjects and soldiers to him, Ps. lxxii. 14.2. The pious acknowledgment they make for this favour: Therefore we have brought an oblationto the Lord, v. 50. The oblation they brought was out of that which every man had gotten, and it1033Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)was gotten honestly by a divine warrant. Thus every man should lay by according as God hasprospered him, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. For where God sows plentifully in the gifts of his bounty he expectsto reap accordingly in the fruits of our piety and charity. The tabernacle first, and the templeafterwards, were beautified and enriched with the spoils taken from the enemies of Israel; as byDavid (2 Sam. viii. 11, 12), and his captains, 1 Chron. xxvi. 26, 27. We should never take any thingto ourselves, in war or trade, which we cannot in faith consecrate a part of to God, who hatesrobbery for burnt-offerings; but, when God has remarkably preserved and prospered us, he expectsthat we should make some particular return of gratitude to him. As to this oblation, (1.) The captainsoffered it to make an atonement for their souls, v. 50. Instead of coming to Moses to demand arecompence for the good service they had done in avenging the Lord of Midian, or to set up trophiesof their victory for the immortalizing of their own names, they bring an oblation to make atonementfor their souls, being conscious to themselves, as the best men must be even in their best services,that they had been defective in their duty, not only in that instance for which they were reproved(v. 14), but in many others; for there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinnethnot. (2.) Moses accepted it, and laid it up in the tabernacle as a memorial for the children of Israel(v. 54), that is, a monument of God's goodness to them, that they might be encouraged to trust inhim in their further wars, and a monument of their gratitude to God (sacrifices are said to bememorials), that he, being well pleased with this thankful acknowledgment of favours bestowed,might continue and repeat his mercies to them.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXII.In this chapter we have, I. The humble request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for an inheritanceon that side Jordan where Israel now lay encamped, ver. 1-5. II. Moses's misinterpretation of theirrequest, ver. 6-15. III. Their explication of it, and stating it aright, ver. 16-19. IV. The grant of theirpetition under the provisos and limitations which they themselves proposed, ver. 20, &c.The Request of the Reubenites. (b. c. 1452.)1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitudeof cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold,the place was a place for cattle; 2 The children of Gad and the children of Reubencame and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of thecongregation, saying, 3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon,and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon, 4 Even the country which the Lordsmote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants havecattle: 5 Wherefore, said they, if we have found grace in thy sight, let this land begiven unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. 6 And Mosessaid unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go1034Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to war, and shall ye sit here? 7 And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the childrenof Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them? 8 Thusdid your fathers, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. 9 For whenthey went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the land, they discouraged the heartof the children of Israel, that they should not go into the land which the Lord hadgiven them. 10 And the Lord's anger was kindled the same time, and he sware,saying, 11 Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty yearsold and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, andunto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me: 12 Save Caleb the son ofJephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followedthe Lord. 13 And the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made themwander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil inthe sight of the Lord, was consumed. 14 And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers'stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord towardIsrael. 15 For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in thewilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.Israel's tents were now pitched in the plains of Moab, where they continued many months,looking back upon the conquests they had already made of the land of Sihon and Og, and lookingforward to Canaan, which they hoped in a little while to make themselves masters of. While theymade this stand, and were at a pause, this great affair of the disposal of the conquests they hadalready made was here concerted and settled, not by any particular order or appointment of God,but at the special instance and request of two of the tribes, to which Moses, after a long debate thatarose upon it, consented. For even then, when so much was done by the extraordinary appearancesof divine Providence, many things were left to the direction of human prudence; for God, ingoverning both the world and the church, makes use of the reason of men, and serves his ownpurposes by it.I. Here is a motion made by the Reubenites and the Gadites, that the land which they had latelypossessed themselves of, and which in the right of conquest belonged to Israel in common, mightbe assigned to them in particular for their inheritance: upon the general idea they had of the landof promise, they supposed this would be about their proportion. Reuben and Gad were encampedunder the same standard, and so had the better opportunity of comparing notes, and settling thismatter between themselves. In the first verse the children of Reuben are named first, but afterwardsthe children of Gad (v. 2, 25, 31), either because the Gadites made the first motion and were mostforward for it, or because they were the better spokesmen and had more of the art of management,Reuben's tribe still lying under Jacob's sentence, he shall not excel. Two things common in theworld induced these tribes to make this choice and this motion upon it, the lust of the eye and thepride of life, 1 John ii. 16. 1. The lust of the eye. This land which they coveted was not only beautifulfor situation, and pleasant to the eye, but it was good for food, food for cattle; and they had a greatmultitude of cattle, above the rest of the tribes, it is supposed because they brought more out ofEgypt, than the rest did; but that was forty years before, and stocks of cattle increase and decreasein less time than that; therefore I rather think they had been better husbands of their cattle in the1035Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)wilderness, had tended them better, had taken more care of the breed, and not been so profuse astheir neighbours in eating the lambs out of the flock and the calves out of the midst of the stall. Nowthey, having these large stocks, coveted land proportionable. Many scriptures speak of Bashan andGilead as places famous for cattle; they had been so already, and therefore these tribes hoped theywould be so to them, and whatever comes of it here they desire to take their lot. The judiciousCalvin thinks there was much amiss in the principle they went upon, and that they consulted theirown private convenience more than the public good, that they had not such regard to the honourand interest of Israel, and the promise made to Abraham of the land of Canaan (strictly so called),as they ought to have had. And still it is too true that many seek their own things more than thethings of Jesus Christ (Phil. ii. 21), and that many are influenced by their secular interest andadvantage to take up short of the heavenly Canaan. Their spirits agree too well with this world, andwith the things that are seen, that are temporal; and they say, "It is good to be here," and so losewhat is hereafter for want of seeking it. Lot thus chose by the sight of the eye, and smarted for hischoice. Would we choose our portion aright we must look above the things that are seen. 2. Perhapsthere was something of the pride of life in it. Reuben was the first-born of Israel, but he had losthis birthright. Several of the tribes, and Judah especially, had risen above him, so that he could notexpect the best lot in Canaan; and therefore, to save the shadow of a birthright, when he had forfeitedthe substance, he here catches at the first lot, though it was out of Canaan, and far off from thetabernacle. Thus Esau sold his birthright, and yet got to be served first with an inheritance in MountSeir. The tribe of Gad descended from the first-born of Zilpah, and were like pretenders with theReubenites; and Manasseh too was a first-born, but knew he must be eclipsed by Ephraim hisyounger brother, and therefore he also coveted to get precedency.II. Moses's dislike of this motion, and the severe rebuke he gives to it, as a faithful prince andprophet.1. It must be confessed that prima facie—at first sight, the thing looked ill, especially theclosing words of their petition: Bring us not over Jordan, v. 5. (1.) It seems to proceed from a badprinciple, a contempt of the land of promise, which Moses himself was so desirous of a sight of, adistrust too of the power of God to dispossess the Canaanites, as if a lot in a land which they knew,and which was already conquered, was more desirable than a lot in a land they knew not, and whichwas yet to be conquered: one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There seemed also to becovetousness in it; for that which they insisted on was that it was convenient for their cattle. Itargued likewise a neglect of their brethren, as if they cared not what became of Israel, while theythemselves were well provided for. (2.) It might have been of bad consequence. The people mighthave taken improper hints from it, and have suggested that they were few enough, when they hadtheir whole number, to deal with the Canaanites, but how unequal would the match be if they shoulddrop two tribes and a half (above a fifth part of their strength) on this side Jordan. It would likewisebe a bad precedent; if they must have the land thus granted them as soon as it was conquered, othertribes might make the same pretensions and claims, and so the regular disposition of the land bylot would be anticipated.2. Moses is therefore very warm upon them, which is to be imputed to his pious zeal againstsin, and not to any peevishness, the effect of old age, for his meekness abated not, any more thanhis natural force. (1.) He shows them what he apprehended to be evil in this motion, that it woulddischarge the heart of their brethren, v. 6, 7. "What!" (says he, with a holy indignation at theirselfishness) "shall your brethren go to war, and expose themselves to all the hardships and hazards1036Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of the field, and shall you sit here at your ease? No, do not deceive yourselves, you shall never beindulged by me in this sloth and cowardice." It ill becomes any of God's Israel to sit downunconcerned in the difficult and perilous concernments of their brethren, whether public or personal.(2.) He reminds them of the fatal consequences of the unbelief and faint-heartedness of their fathers,when they were just ready to enter Canaan, as they themselves now were. He recites the story veryparticularly (v. 8-13): "Thus did your fathers, whose punishment should be a warning to you totake heed of sinning after the similitude of their transgression." (3.) He gives them fair warning ofthe mischief that would be likely to follow upon this separation which they were about to makefrom the camp of Israel; they would be in danger of bringing wrath upon the whole congregation,and hurrying them all back again into the wilderness (v. 14, 15): "You have risen up in your fathers'stead to despise the pleasant land and reject it as they did, when we hoped you had risen up in theirstead to possess it." It was an encouragement to Moses to see what an increase of men there wasin these tribes, but a discouragement to see that it was withal an increase of sinful men, treading inthe steps of their fathers' impiety. It is sad to see the rising generation in families and countries notonly no better, but worse than that which went before it; and what comes of it? Why, it augmentsthe fierce anger of the Lord; not only continues that fire, but increases it, and fills the measure,often till it overflows in a deluge of desolation. Note, If men did but consider as they ought, whatwould be the end of sin, they would be afraid of the beginnings of it.16 And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for ourcattle, and cities for our little ones: 17 But we ourselves will go ready armed beforethe children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our littleones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 Wewill not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every manhis inheritance. 19 For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, orforward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward. 20And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before theLord to war, 21 And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord, until hehath driven out his enemies from before him, 22 And the land be subdued beforethe Lord: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the Lord, and beforeIsrael; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. 23 But if ye will notdo so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find youout. 24 Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do thatwhich hath proceeded out of your mouth. 25 And the children of Gad and thechildren of Reuben spake unto Moses, saying, Thy servants will do as my lordcommandeth. 26 Our little ones, our wives, our flocks, and all our cattle, shall bethere in the cities of Gilead: 27 But thy servants will pass over, every man armedfor war, before the Lord to battle, as my lord saith.We have here the accommodating of the matter between Moses and the two tribes, about theirsettlement on this side Jordan. Probably the petitioners withdrew, and considered with themselveswhat answer they should return to the severe reproof Moses had given them; and, after some1037Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)consultation, they return with this proposal, that their men of war should go and assist their brethrenin the conquest of Canaan, and they would leave their families and flocks behind them in this land:and thus they might have their request, and no harm would be done. Now it is uncertain whetherthey designed this at first when they brought their petition or no. If they did, it is an instance howoften that which is honestly meant is unhappily misinterpreted; yet Moses herein was excusable,for he had reason to suspect the worst of them, and the rebuke he gave them was from the abundanceof his care to prevent sin. But, if they did not, it is an instance of the good effect of plain dealing;Moses, by showing them their sin, and the danger of it, brought them to their duty without murmuringor disputing. They object not that their brethren were able to contend with the Canaanites withouttheir help, especially since they were sure of God's fighting for them; but engage themselves tostand by them.I. Their proposal is very fair and generous, and such as, instead of disheartening, would ratherencourage their brethren. 1. That their men of war, who were fit for service, would go ready armedbefore the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. So far would they be from deserting themthat, if it were thought fit, they would lead them on, and be foremost is all dangerous enterprises.So far were they from either distrusting or despising the conquest of Canaan that they would assistin it with the utmost readiness and resolution. 2. That they would leave behind them their familiesand cattle (which would otherwise be but the incumbrance of their camp), and so they would bethe more serviceable to their brethren, v. 16. 3. That they would not return to their possessions tillthe conquest of Canaan was completed, v. 18. Their brethren should have their best help as longas they needed it. 4. That yet they would not expect any share of the land that was yet to be conquered(v. 19): "We will not desire to inherit with them, nor, under colour of assisting them in the war, putin for a share with them in the land; no, we will be content with our inheritance on this side Jordan,and there will be so much the more on yonder side for them."II. Moses thereupon grants their request, upon consideration that they would adhere to theirproposals. 1. He insists much upon it that they should never lay down their arms till their brethrenlaid down theirs. They promised to go armed before the children of Israel, v. 17. "Nay," says Moses,"you shall go armed before the Lord, v. 20, 21. It is God's cause more than your brethren's, and tohim you must have an eye, and not to them only." Before the Lord, that is, before the ark of theLord, the token of his presence, which, it should seem, they carried about with them in the wars ofCanaan, and immediately before which these two tribes were posted, as we find in the order of theirmarch, ch. ii. 10, 17. 2. Upon this condition he grants them this land for their possession, and tellsthem they shall be guiltless before the Lord and before Israel, v. 22. They should have the land,and neither sin nor blame should cleave to it, neither sin before God nor blame before Israel; and,whatever possessions we have, it is desirable thus to come guiltless to them. But, 3. He warns themof the danger of breaking their word: "If you fail, you sin against the Lord (v. 23), and not againstyour brethren only, and be sure your sin will find you out;" that is, "God will certainly reckon withyou for it, though you may make a light matter of it." Note, Sin will, without doubt, find out thesinner sooner or later. It concerns us therefore to find our sins out, that we may repent of them andforsake them, lest our sins find us out to our ruin and confusion.III. They unanimously agree to the provisos and conditions of the grant, and do, as it were,give bond for performance, by a solemn promise: Thy servants will do as my lord commandeth, v.25. Their brethren had all contributed their assistance to the conquest of this country, which theydesired for a possession, and therefore they owned themselves obliged in justice to help them in1038Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)the conquest of that which was to be their possession. Having received kindness, we ought to returnit, though it was not so conditioned when we received it. We may suppose that this promise wasunderstood, on both sides, so as not to oblige all that were numbered of these tribes to go overarmed, but those only that were fittest for the expedition, who would be most serviceable, while itwas necessary that some should be left to till the ground and guard the country; and accordinglywe find that about 40,000 of the two tribes and a half went over armed (Josh. iv. 13), whereas theirwhole number was about 100,000.Inheritance of the Reubenites. (b. c. 1452.)28 So concerning them Moses commanded Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the sonof Nun, and the chief fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel: 29 And Mosessaid unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with youover Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the Lord, and the land shall be subduedbefore you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession: 30 But ifthey will not pass over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you inthe land of Canaan. 31 And the children of Gad and the children of Reubenanswered, saying, As the Lord hath said unto thy servants, so will we do. 32 Wewill pass over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, that the possession ofour inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours. 33 And Moses gave unto them,even to the children of Gad, and to the children of Reuben, and unto half the tribeof Manasseh the son of Joseph, the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, and thekingdom of Og king of Bashan, the land, with the cities thereof in the coasts, eventhe cities of the country round about. 34 And the children of Gad built Dibon, andAtaroth, and Aroer, 35 And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer, and Jogbehah, 36 AndBeth-nimrah, and Beth-haran, fenced cities: and folds for sheep. 37 And the childrenof Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kirjathaim, 38 And Nebo, andBaal-meon, (their names being changed,) and Shibmah: and gave other names untothe cities which they builded. 39 And the children of Machir the son of Manassehwent to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it. 40 AndMoses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein. 41 AndJair the son of Manasseh went and took the small towns thereof, and called themHavoth-jair. 42 And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, andcalled it Nobah, after his own name.Here, 1. Moses settles this matter with Eleazar, and with Joshua who was to be his successor,knowing that he himself must not live to see it perfected, v. 28-30. He gives them an estate uponcondition, leaving it to Joshua, if they fulfilled the condition, to declare the estate absolute: "If theywill not go over with you," he does not say "you shall give them no inheritance at all," but "youshall not give them this inheritance which they covet. If their militia will not come over with you,compel the whole tribes to come over, and let them take their lot with their brethren, and fare asthey fare; they shall have possessions in Canaan, and let them not expect that the lot will favour1039Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)them." Hereupon they repeat their promise to adhere to their brethren, v. 31, 32. 2. Moses settlesthem in the land they desired. He gave it to them for a possession, v. 33. Here is the first mentionof the half tribe of Manasseh coming in with them for a share; probably they had not joined withthem in the petition, but, the land when it came to be apportioned proving to be too much for them,this half tribe had a lot among them, perhaps at their request, or by divine direction, or becausethey had signalized themselves in the conquest of this country: for the children of Machir, a stoutand warlike family, had taken Gilead and dispossessed the Amorites, v. 39. "Let them win it andwear it, get it and take it." And, they being celebrated for their courage and bravery, it was for thecommon safety to put them in this frontier-country. Concerning the settlement of these tribesobserve, (1.) They built the cities, that is, repaired them, because either they had been damaged bythe war or the Amorites had suffered them to go to decay. (2.) They changed the names of them(v. 38), either to show their authority, that the change of the names might signify the change oftheir owners, or because their names were idolatrous, and carried in them a respect to thedunghill-deities that were there worshipped. Nebo and Baal were names of their gods, which theywere forbidden to make mention of (Exod. xxiii. 13), and which, by changing the names of thesecities, they endeavoured to bury in oblivion; and God promises to take away the names of Baalimout of the mouths of his people, Hos. ii. 17.Lastly, It is observable that, as these tribes were now first placed before the other tribes, so,long afterwards, they were displaced before the other tribes. We find that they were carried captiveinto Assyria some years before the other tribes, 2 Kings xv. 29. Such a proportion does Providencesometimes observe in balancing prosperity and adversity; he sets the one over-against the other.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXIII.In this chapter we have, I. A particular account of the removals and encampments of the childrenof Israel, from their escape out of Egypt to their entrance into Canaan, forty-two in all, with someremarkable events that happened at some of those places, ver. 1-49. II. A strict command giventhem to drive out all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, which they were not going to conquerand take possession of, ver. 50-56. So that the former part of the chapter looks back upon theirmarch through the wilderness, the latter looks forward to their settlement in Canaan.Encampments of the Israelites. (b. c. 1452.)1 These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of theland of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. 2 And Moseswrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord:and these are their journeys according to their goings out. 3 And they departedfrom Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on themorrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the1040Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)sight of all the Egyptians. 4 For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which theLord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.5 And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth. 6And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of thewilderness. 7 And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pi-hahiroth,which is before Baal-zephon: and they pitched before Migdol. 8 And they departedfrom before Pi-hahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness,and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah. 9And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelvefountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there. 10And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea. 11 And they removedfrom the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin. 12 And they took theirjourney out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah. 13 And theydeparted from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush. 14 And they removed from Alush,and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink. 15 Andthey departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai. 16 And theyremoved from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at Kibroth-hattaavah. 17 And theydeparted from Kibroth-hattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth. 18 And they departedfrom Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah. 19 And they departed from Rithmah, andpitched at Rimmon-parez. 20 And they departed from Rimmon-parez, and pitchedin Libnah. 21 And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah. 22 And theyjourneyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah. 23 And they went fromKehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher. 24 And they removed from mountShapher, and encamped in Haradah. 25 And they removed from Haradah, andpitched in Makheloth. 26 And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped atTahath. 27 And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah. 28 And theyremoved from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah. 29 And they went from Mithcah,and pitched in Hashmonah. 30 And they departed from Hashmonah, and encampedat Moseroth. 31 And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan.32 And they removed from Bene-jaakan, and encamped at Hor-hagidgad. 33 Andthey went from Hor-hagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah. 34 And they removedfrom Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah. 35 And they departed from Ebronah,and encamped at Ezion-gaber. 36 And they removed from Ezion-gaber, and pitchedin the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. 37 And they removed from Kadesh, andpitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. 38 And Aaron the priestwent up into mount Hor at the commandment of the Lord, and died there, in thefortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the1041Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)first day of the fifth month. 39 And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and threeyears old when he died in mount Hor. 40 And king Arad the Canaanite, whichdwelt in the south in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children ofIsrael. 41 And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah. 42 Andthey departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon. 43 And they departed fromPunon, and pitched in Oboth. 44 And they departed from Oboth, and pitched inIje-abarim, in the border of Moab. 45 And they departed from Iim, and pitched inDibon-gad. 46 And they removed from Dibon-gad, and encamped inAlmon-diblathaim. 47 And they removed from Almon-diblathaim, and pitched inthe mountains of Abarim, before Nebo. 48 And they departed from the mountainsof Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 49 And theypitched by Jordan, from Beth-jesimoth even unto Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.This is a review and brief rehearsal of the travels of the children of Israel through the wilderness.It was a memorable history and well worthy to be thus abridged, and the abridgment thus preserved,to the honour of God that led them and for the encouragement of the generations that followed.Observe here,I. How the account was kept: Moses wrote their goings out, v. 2. When they began this tediousmarch, God ordered him to keep a journal or diary, and to insert in it all the remarkable occurrencesof their way, that it might be a satisfaction to himself in the review and an instruction to otherswhen it should be published. It may be of good use to private Christians, but especially to those inpublic stations, to preserve in writing an account of the providences of God concerning them, theconstant series of mercies they have experienced, especially those turns and changes which havemade some days of their lives more remarkable. Our memories are deceitful and need this help,that we may remember all the way which the Lord our God has led us in this wilderness, Deut. viii.2.

      II. What the account itself was. It began with their departure out of Egypt, continued with theirmarch through the wilderness, and ended in the plains of Moab, where they now lay encamped.1. Some things are observed here concerning their departure out of Egypt, which they arereminded of upon all occasions, as a work of wonder never to be forgotten. (1.) That they wentforth with their armies (v. 1), rank and file, as an army with banners. (2.) Under the hand of Mosesand Aaron, their guides, overseers, and rulers, under God. (3.) With a high hand, because God'shand was high that wrought for them, and in the sight of all the Egyptians, v. 3. They did not stealaway clandestinely (Isa. lii. 12), but in defiance of their enemies, to whom God had made themsuch a burdensome stone that they neither could, nor would, nor durst, oppose them. (4.) They wentforth while the Egyptians were burying, or at least preparing to bury, their first-born, v. 4. Theyhad a mind good enough, or rather bad enough, still to have detained the Israelites their prisoners,but God found them other work to do. They would have God's first-born buried alive, but God setthem a burying their own first-born. (5.) To all the plagues of Egypt it is added here that on theirgods also the Lord executed judgments. Their idols which they worshipped, it is probable, werebroken down, as Dagon afterwards before the ark, so that they could not consult them about thisgreat affair. To this perhaps there is reference, Isa. xix. 1, The idols of Egypt shall be moved at hispresence.1042Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)2. Concerning their travels towards Canaan. Observe, (1.) They were continually upon theremove. When they had pitched a little while in one place they departed from that to another. Suchis our state in this world; we have here no continuing city. (2.) Most of their way lay through awilderness, uninhabited, untracked, unfurnished even with the necessaries of human life, whichmagnifies the wisdom and power of God, by whose wonderful conduct and bounty the thousandsof Israel not only subsisted for forty years in that desolate place, but came out at least as numerousand vigorous as they went in. At first they pitched in the edge of the wilderness (v. 6), but afterwardsin the heart of it; by less difficulties God prepares his people for greater. We find them in thewilderness of Etham (v. 8), of Sin (v. 11), of Sinai, v. 15. Our removals in this world are but fromone wilderness to another. (3.) They were led to and fro, forward and backward, as in a maze orlabyrinth, and yet were all the while under the direction of the pillar of cloud and fire. He led themabout (Deut. xxxii. 10), and yet led them the right way, Ps. cvii. 7. The way which God takes inbringing his people to himself is always the best way, though it does not always seem to us thenearest way. (4.) Some events are mentioned in this journal, as their want of water at Rephidim (v.14), the death of Aaron (v. 38, 39), the insult of Arad (v. 40); and the very name ofKibroth-hattaavah—the graves of lusts (v. 16), has a story depending upon it. Thus we ought tokeep in mind the providences of God concerning us and our families, us and our land, and the manyinstances of that divine care which has led us, and fed us, and kept us, all our days hitherto. Shittim,the place where the people sinned in the matter of Peor (ch. xxv. 1), is here called Abel-shittim.Abel signifies mourning (as Gen. l. 11), and probably this place was so called from the mourningof the good people of Israel on account of that sin and of God's wrath against them for it. It was sogreat a mourning that it gave a name to the place.The Canaanites Doomed. (b. c. 1452.)50 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho,saying, 51 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passedover Jordan into the land of Canaan; 52 Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitantsof the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their moltenimages, and quite pluck down all their high places: 53 And ye shall dispossess theinhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possessit. 54 And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families:and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall givethe less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth;according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit. 55 But if ye will not driveout the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that thosewhich ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides,and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. 56 Moreover it shall come to pass,that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.While the children of Israel were in the wilderness their total separation from all other peoplekept them out of the way of temptation to idolatry, and perhaps this was one thing intended by theirlong confinement in the wilderness, that thereby the idols of Egypt might be forgotten, and thepeople aired (as it were) and purified from that infection, and the generation that entered Canaan1043Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)might be such as never knew those depths of Satan. But now that they were to pass over Jordanthey were entering again into that temptation, and therefore, 1. They are here strictly charged utterlyto destroy all remnants of idolatry. They must not only drive out the inhabitants of the land, thatthey may possess their country, but they must deface all their idolatrous pictures and images, andpull down all their high places, v. 52. They must not preserve any of them, no, not as monumentsof antiquity to gratify the curious, nor as ornaments of their houses, nor toys for their children toplay with, but they must destroy all, both in token of their abhorrence and detestation of idolatryand to prevent their being tempted to worship those images, and the false gods represented by them,or to worship the God of Israel by such images or representations. 2. They were assured that, ifthey did so, God would by degrees put them in full possession of the land of promise, v. 53, 54. Ifthey would keep themselves pure from the idols of Canaan, God would enrich them with the wealthof Canaan. Learn not their way, and then fear not their power. 3. They were threatened that, if theyspared either the idols or the idolaters, they should be beaten with their own rod and their sin wouldcertainly be their punishment. (1.) They would foster snakes in their own bosoms, v. 55. The remnantof the Canaanites, if they made any league with them, though it were but a cessation of arms, wouldbe pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, that is, they would be upon all occasions vexatiousto them, insulting them, robbing them, and, to the utmost of their power, making mischief amongthem. We must expect trouble and affliction from that, whatever it is, which we sinfully indulge;that which we are willing should tempt us we shall find will vex us. (2.) The righteous God wouldturn that wheel upon the Israelites which was to have crushed the Canaanites: I shall do to you asI thought to do unto them, v. 56. It was intended that the Canaanites should be dispossessed; but ifthe Israelites fell in with them, and learned their way, they should be dispossessed, for God'sdispleasure would justly be greater against them than against the Canaanites themselves. Let ushear this, and fear. If we do not drive sin out, sin will drive us out; if we be not the death of ourlusts, our lusts will be the death of our souls.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXIV.In this chapter God directs Moses, and he is to direct Israel, I. Concerning the bounds andborders of the land of Canaan, ver. 1-15. II. Concerning the division and distribution of it to thetribes of Israel, ver. 16, &c.The Boundaries of Canaan. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Command the children of Israel,and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shallfall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)3 Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast ofEdom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward:1044Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)4 And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass onto Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadesh-barnea, andshall go on to Hazar-addar, and pass on to Azmon: 5 And the border shall fetch acompass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be atthe sea. 6 And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for aborder: this shall be your west border. 7 And this shall be your north border: fromthe great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: 8 From mount Hor ye shallpoint out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the bordershall be to Zedad: 9 And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out ofit shall be at Hazar-enan: this shall be your north border. 10 And ye shall point outyour east border from Hazar-enan to Shepham: 11 And the coast shall go downfrom Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, andshall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward: 12 And the border shallgo down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be yourland with the coasts thereof round about. 13 And Moses commanded the childrenof Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the Lordcommanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe: 14 For the tribe ofthe children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of thechildren of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received theirinheritance; and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance: 15 Thetwo tribes and the half tribe have received their inheritance on this side Jordan nearJericho eastward, toward the sunrising.We have here a particular draught of the line by which the land of Canaan was meted, andbounded, on all sides. God directs Moses to settle it here, not as a geographer in his map, merelyto please the curious, but as a prince in his grant, that it may be certainly known what passes, andis conveyed, by the grant. There was a much larger possession promised them, which in due timethey would have possessed if they had been obedient, reaching even to the river Euphrates, Deut.xi. 24. And even so far the dominion of Israel did extend in David's time and Solomon's, 2 Chron.ix. 26. But this which is here described is Canaan only, which was the lot of the nine tribes and ahalf, for the other two and a half were already settled, v. 14, 15. Now concerning the limits ofCanaan observe,I. That it was limited within certain bounds: for God appoints the bounds of our habitation,Acts xvii. 26. The borders are set them, 1. That they might know whom they were to dispossess,and how far the commission which was given them extended (ch. xxxiii. 53), that they should driveout the inhabitants. Those that lay within these borders, and those only, they must destroy; hithertotheir bloody sword must go, and no further. 2. That they might know what to expect the possessionof themselves. God would not have his people to enlarge their desire of worldly possessions, butto know when they have enough, and to rest satisfied with it. The Israelites themselves must notbe placed alone in the midst of the earth, but must leave room for their neighbours to live by them.God sets bounds to our lot; let us then set bounds to our desires, and bring our mind to our condition.1045Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)II. That it lay comparatively in a very little compass: as it is here bounded, it is reckoned to bebut about 160 miles in length and about fifty in breadth; perhaps it did not contain more than halfas much ground as England, and yet this is the country which was promised to the father of thefaithful and was the possession of the seed of Israel. This was that little spot of ground in whichonly, for many ages, God was known, and his name was great, Ps. lxxvi. 1. This was the vineyardof the Lord, the garden enclosed; but, as it is with gardens and vineyards, the narrowness of theextent was abundantly compensated by the extraordinary fruitfulness of the soil, otherwise it couldnot have subsisted so numerous a nation as did inhabit it. See here then, 1. How small a part of theworld God has for himself. Though the earth is his, and the fullness thereof, yet few have theknowledge of him and serve him; but those few are happy, very happy, because fruitful to God. 2.How small a share of the world God often gives to his own people. Those that have their portionin heaven have reason to be content with a small pittance of this earth; but, as here, what is wantingin quantity is made up in quality; a little that a righteous man has, having it from the love of Godand with his blessing, is far better and more comfortable than the riches of many wicked, Ps. xxxvii.16.III. It is observable what the bounds and limits of it were. 1. Canaan was itself a pleasant land(so it is called Dan. viii. 9), and yet it bordered upon wilderness and seas, and was surrounded withdivers melancholy prospects. Thus the vineyard of the church is compassed on all hands with thedesert of this world, which serves as a foil to it, to make it appear the more beautiful for situation.2. Many of its borders were its defences and natural fortifications, to render the access of enemiesthe more difficult, and to intimate to Israel that the God of nature was their protector, and with hisfavour would compass them as with a shield. 3. The border reached to the river of Egypt (v. 5), thatthe sight of that country which they could look into out of their own might remind them of theirbondage there, and their wonderful deliverance thence. 4. Their border is here made to begin at theSalt Sea (v. 3), and there it ends, v. 12. This was the remaining lasting monument of the destructionof Sodom and Gomorrah. That pleasant fruitful vale in which these cities stood became a lake,which was never stirred by any wind, bore no vessels, was replenished with no fish, no livingcreature of any sort being found in it, therefore called the Dead Sea. This was part of their border,that it might be a constant warning to them to take heed of those sins which had been the ruin ofSodom; yet the iniquity of Sodom was afterwards found in Israel (Ezek. xvi. 49), for which Canaanwas made, though not a salt sea as Sodom, yet a barren soil, and continues so to this day. 5. Theirwestern border was the Great Sea (v. 6), which is now called the Mediterranean. Some considerthis sea itself to have been a part of their possession, and that by virtue of this grant, they had thedominion of it, and, if they had not forfeited it by sin, might have rode masters of it.16 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 17 These are the names of the menwhich shall divide the land unto you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.18 And ye shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance.19 And the names of the men are these: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son ofJephunneh. 20 And of the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son ofAmmihud. 21 Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon. 22 And theprince of the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli. 23 The prince ofthe children of Joseph, for the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of1046Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Ephod. 24 And the prince of the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the sonof Shiphtan. 25 And the prince of the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphanthe son of Parnach. 26 And the prince of the tribe of the children of Issachar, Paltielthe son of Azzan. 27 And the prince of the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihudthe son of Shelomi. 28 And the prince of the tribe of the children of Naphtali,Pedahel the son of Ammihud. 29 These are they whom the Lord commanded todivide the inheritance unto the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.God here appoints commissioners for the dividing of the land to them. The conquest of it istaken for granted, though as yet there was never a stroke struck towards it. Here is no nominationof the generals and commanders-in-chief that should carry on the war; for they were to get the landin possession, not by their own sword or bow, but by the power and favour of God; and so confidentmust they be of victory and success while God fought for them that the persons must now be namedwho should be entrusted with the dividing of the land, that is, who should preside in casting thelots, and determine controversies that might arise, and see that all was done fairly. 1. The principalcommissioners, who were of the quorum, were Eleazar and Joshua (v. 17), typifying Christ, who,as priest and king, divides the heavenly Canaan to the spiritual Israel; yet, as they were to go bythe lot, so Christ acknowledges the disposal must be by the will of the Father, Matt. xx. 23. Compare,Eph. i. 11. 2. Besides these, that there might be no suspicion of partiality, a prince of each tribewas appointed to inspect this matter, and to see that the tribe he served for was in no respect injured.Public affairs should be so managed as not only to give their right to all, but, if possible, to givesatisfaction to all that they have justice done them., It is a happiness to a land to have the princesof their people meet together, some out of every tribe, to concert the affairs that are of commonconcern, a constitution which is the abundant honour, ease, and safety, of the nation that is blessedwith it. 3. Some observe that the order of the tribes here very much differs from that in which theyhitherto, upon all occasions, been named, and agrees with the neighbourhood of their lots in thedivision of the land. Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, the first three here named, lay close together;the inheritance of Dan lay next them on one side, that of Ephraim and Manasseh on another side;Zebulun and Issachar lay abreast more northerly, and, lastly, Asher and Naphtali most northwardof all, as is easy to observe in looking over a map of Canaan; this (says bishop Patrick) is an evidencethat Moses was guided by a divine Spirit in his writings. Known unto God are all his worksbeforehand, and what is new and surprising to us he perfectly foresaw, without any confusion oruncertainty.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXV.Orders having been given before for the dividing of the land of Canaan among the lay-tribes(as I may call them), care is here taken for a competent provision for the clergy, the tribe of Levi,which ministered in holy things. I. Forty-eight cities were to be assigned them, with their suburbs,1047Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)some in every tribe, ver. 1-8. II. Six cities out of these were to be for cities of refuge, for any manthat killed another unawares, ver. 9-15. In the law concerning these observe, 1. In what case sanctuarywas not allowed, namely, that of wilful murder, ver. 16-21. 2. In what cases it was allowed, ver.22-24. 3. What was the law concerning those that took shelter in these cities of refuge, ver. 25, &c.The Cities of the Levites. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho,saying, 2 Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of theinheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto theLevites suburbs for the cities round about them. 3 And the cities shall they haveto dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, andfor all their beasts. 4 And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto theLevites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits roundabout. 5 And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousandcubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousandcubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst:this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities. 6 And among the cities which yeshall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appointfor the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and twocities. 7 So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eightcities: them shall ye give with their suburbs. 8 And the cities which ye shall giveshall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many yeshall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall giveof his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.The laws about the tithes and offerings had provided very plentifully for the maintenance ofthe Levites, but it was not to be thought, nor indeed was it for the public good, that when they cameto Canaan they should all live about the tabernacle, as they had done in the wilderness, and thereforecare must be taken to provide habitations for them, in which they might live comfortably andusefully. It is this which is here taken care of.I. Cities were allotted them, with their suburbs, v. 2. They were not to have any ground fortillage; they needed not to sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, for their heavenly Father fed themwith the tithe of the increase of other people's labours, that they might the more closely attend tothe study of the law, and might have more leisure to teach the people; for they were not fed thuseasily that they might live in idleness, but that they might give themselves wholly to the businessof their profession, and not be entangled in the affairs of this life. 1. Cities were allotted them, thatthey might live near together, and converse with one another about the law, to their mutualedification; and that in doubtful cases they might consult one another, and in all cases strengthenone another's hands. 2. These cities had suburbs annexed to them for their cattle (v. 3), a thousandcubits from the wall was allowed them for out-houses to keep their cattle in, and then two thousandmore for fields to graze their cattle in, v. 4, 5. Thus was care taken that they should not only live,1048Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)but live plentifully, and have all desirable conveniences about them, that they might not be lookedupon with contempt by their neighbours.II. These cities were to be assigned them out of the possessions of each tribe, v. 8. 1. That eachtribe might thus make a grateful acknowledgment to God out of their real as well as out of theirpersonal estates (for what was given to the Levites was accepted as given to the Lord) and thustheir possessions were sanctified to them. 2. That each tribe might have the benefit of the Levites'dwelling among them, to teach them the good knowledge of the Lord; thus that light was diffusedthrough all parts of the country, and none were left to sit in darkness, Deut. xxxiii. 10, They shallteach Jacob thy judgments. Jacob's curse on Levi's anger was, I will scatter them in Israel, Gen.xlix. 7. But that curse was turned into a blessing, and the Levites, by being thus scattered, were putinto a capacity of doing so much the more good. It is a great mercy to a country to be replenishedin all parts with faithful ministers.III. The number allotted them was forty-eight in all, four out of each of the twelve tribes, onewith another. Out of the united tribes of Simeon and Judah nine, out of Naphtali three, and fourapiece out of the rest, as appears, Josh. xxi. Thus were they blessed with a good ministry, and thatministry with a comfortable maintenance, not only in tithes, but in glebe-lands. And, though thegospel is not so particular as the law was in this matter, yet it expressly provides that he that istaught in the word should communicate unto him that teaches in all good things, Gal. vi. 6.The Cities of Refuge. (b. c. 1452.)9 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel,and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; 11 Thenye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may fleethither, which killeth any person at unawares. 12 And they shall be unto you citiesfor refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before thecongregation in judgment. 13 And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shallye have for refuge. 14 Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three citiesshall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge. 15 These sixcities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and forthe sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may fleethither. 16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is amurderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. 17 And if he smite him withthrowing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderershall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood,wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be putto death. 19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meetethhim, he shall slay him. 20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by layingof wait, that he die; 21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he thatsmote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of bloodshall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him. 22 But if he thrust him suddenly1049Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, 23 Or withany stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that hedie, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: 24 Then the congregationshall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to thesejudgments: 25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of therevenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge,whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, whichwas anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the slayer shall at any time come withoutthe border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; 27 And the revenger ofblood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger ofblood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: 28 Because he should haveremained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the deathof the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession. 29 So thesethings shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in allyour dwellings. 30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to deathby the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person tocause him to die. 31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer,which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. 32 And ye shall takeno satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come againto dwell in the land, until the death of the priest. 33 So ye shall not pollute the landwherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of theblood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34 Defile nottherefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell amongthe children of Israel.We have here the orders given concerning the cities of refuge, fitly annexed to what goesbefore, because they were all Levites' cities. In this part of the constitution there is a great deal bothof good law and pure gospel.I. Here is a great deal of good law, in the case of murder and manslaughter, a case of whichthe laws of all nations have taken particular cognizance. It is here enacted and provided, consonantto natural equity,1. That wilful murder should be punished with death, and in that case no sanctuary should beallowed, no ransom taken, nor any commutation of the punishment accepted: The murderer shallsurely be put to death, v. 16. It is supposed to be done of hatred (v. 20), or in enmity (v. 21), upona sudden provocation (for our Saviour makes rash anger, as well as malice prepense, to be murder,Matt. v. 21, 22), whether the person be murdered with an instrument of iron (v. 16) or wood (v.18), or with a stone thrown at him (v. 17, 20); nay, if he smite him with his hand in enmity, anddeath ensue, it is murder (v. 21); and it was an ancient law, consonant to the law of nature, thatwhoso sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed, Gen. ix. 6. Where wrong has been donerestitution must be made; and, since the murderer cannot restore the life he has wrongfully taken1050Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)away, his own must be exacted from him in lieu of it, not (as some have fancied) to satisfy themanes or ghost of the person slain, but to satisfy the law and the justice of a nation; and to be awarning to all others not to do likewise. It is here said, and it is well worthy the consideration ofall princes and states, that blood defiles not only the conscience of the murderer, who is therebyproved not to have eternal life abiding in him (1 John iii. 15), but also the land in which it is shed;so very offensive is it to God and all good men, and the worst of nuisances. And it is added thatthe land cannot be cleansed from the blood of the murdered, but by the blood of the murderer, v.33. If murderers escape punishment from men, those that suffer them to escape will have a greatdeal to answer for, and God will nevertheless not suffer them to escape his righteous judgments.Upon the same principle it is provided that no satisfaction should be taken for the life of a murderer(v. 31): If a man would give all the substance of his house to the judges, to the country, or to theavenger of blood, to atone for his crime, it must utterly be contemned. The redemption of the lifeis so precious that it cannot be obtained by the multitude of riches (Ps. xlix. 6-8), which perhapsmay allude to this law. A rule of law comes in here (which is a rule of our law in cases of treasononly) that no man shall be put to death upon the testimony of one witness, but it was necessarythere should be two (v. 30); this law is settled in all capital cases, Deut. xvii. 6; xix. 15. And, lastly,not only the prosecution, but the execution, of the murderer, is committed to the next of kin, who,as he was to be the redeemer of his kinsman's estate if it were mortgaged, so he was to be theavenger of his blood if he were murdered (v. 19): The avenger of blood himself shall slay themurderer, if he be convicted by the notorious evidence of the fact, and he needed not to haverecourse by a judicial process to the court of judgment. But if it were uncertain who the murdererwas, and the proof doubtful, we cannot think that his bare suspicion, or surmise, would empowerhim to do that which the judges themselves could not do but upon the testimony of two witnesses.Only if the fact were plain then the next heir of the person slain might himself, in a just indignation,slay the murderer wherever he met him. Some think this must be understood to be after the lawfuljudgment of the magistrate, and so the Chaldee says, "He shall slay him, when he shall be condemnedunto him by judgment;" but it should seem, by v. 24, that the judges interposed only in a doubtfulcase, and that if the person on whom he took vengeance was indeed the murderer, and a wilfulmurderer, the avenger was innocent (v. 27), only, if it proved otherwise, it was at his peril. Our lawallows an appeal to be brought against a murderer by the widow, or next heir, of the person murdered,yea, though the murderer have been acquitted upon an indictment; and, if the murderer be foundguilty upon that appeal, execution shall be awarded at the suit of the appellant, who may properlybe called the avenger of blood.2. But if the homicide was not voluntary, nor done designedly, if it was without enmity, orlying in wait (v. 22), not seeing the person or not seeking his harm (v. 23), which our law callschance-medley, or homicide per infortunium—through misfortune, in this case there were cities ofrefuge appointed for the manslayer to flee to. By our law this incurs a forfeiture of goods, but apardon is granted of course upon the special matter found. Concerning the cities of refuge the lawwas, (1.) That, if a man killed another, in these cities he was safe, and under the protection of thelaw, till he had his trial before the congregation, that is, before the judges in open court. If heneglected thus to surrender himself, it was at his peril; if the avenger of blood met him elsewhere,or overtook him loitering in his way to the city of refuge, and slew him, his blood was upon hisown head, because he did not make use of the security which God had provided for him. (2.) If,upon trial, it were found to be willful murder, the city of refuge should no longer be a protection1051Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)to him; it was already determined: Thou shalt take him from my altar, that he may die, Exod. xxi.14. (3.) But if it were found to be by error or accident, and that the stroke was given without anydesign upon the life of the person slain or any other, then the man-slayer should continue safe inthe city of refuge, and the avenger of blood might not meddle with him, v. 25. There he was toremain in banishment from his own house and patrimony till the death of the high priest; and, if atany time he went out of that city or the suburbs of it, he put himself out of the protection of thelaw, and the avenger of blood, if he met him, might slay him, v. 26-28. Now, [1.] By the preservationof the life of the man-slayer God would teach us that men ought not to suffer for that which is rathertheir unhappiness than their crime, rather the act of Providence than their own act, for God deliveredhim into his hand, Exod. xxi. 13. [2.] By the banishment of the man-slayer from his own city, andhis confinement to the city of refuge, where he was in a manner a prisoner, God would teach us toconceive a dread and horror of the guilt of blood, and to be very careful of life, and always afraidlest by oversight or negligence we occasion the death of any. [3.] By the limiting of the time of theoffender's banishment to the death of the high priest, an honour was put upon that sacred office.The high priest was to be looked upon as so great a blessing to his country that when he died theirsorrow upon that occasion should swallow up all other resentments. The cities of refuge being allof them Levites' cities, and the high priest being the head of that tribe, and consequently having apeculiar dominion over these cites, those that were confined to them might properly be looked uponas his prisoners, and so his death must be their discharge; it was, as it were, at his suit that thedelinquent was imprisoned, and therefore at his death it fell. Actio moritur cum persona—The suitexpires with the party. Anisworth has another notion of it, That as the high priests, while they lived,by their service and sacrificing made atonement for sin, wherein they prefigured Christ's satisfaction,so, at their death, those were released that had been exiled for casual murder, which typifiedredemption in Israel. [4.] By the abandoning of the prisoner to the avenger of blood, in case he atany time went out of the limits of the city of refuge, they were taught to adhere to the methodswhich Infinite Wisdom prescribed for their security. It was for the honour of a remedial law that itshould be so strictly observed. How can we expect to be saved if we neglect the salvation, whichis indeed a great salvation!II. Here is a great deal of good gospel couched under the type and figure of the cities of refuge;and to them the apostle seems to allude when he speaks of our fleeing for refuge to the hope setbefore is (Heb. vi. 18), and being found in Christ, Phil. iii. 9. We never read in the history of theOld Testament of any use made of these cities of refuge, any more than of other such institutions,which yet, no doubt, were made use of upon the occasions intended; only we read of those that, indangerous cases, took hold of the horns of the altar (1 Kings i. 50; ii. 28); for the altar, whereverthat stood, was, as it were the capital city of refuge. But the law concerning these cities was designedboth to raise and to encourage the expectations of those who looked for redemption in Israel, whichshould be to those who were convinced of sin, and in terror by reason of it, as the cities of refugewere to the man-slayer. Observe, 1. There were several cities of refuge, and they were so appointedin several parts of the country that the man-slayer, wherever he dwelt in the land of Israel, mightin half a day reach one or other of them; so, though there is but one Christ appointed for our refuge,yet, wherever we are, he is a refuge at hand, a very present help, for the word is nigh us and Christin the word. 2. The man-slayer was safe in any of these cities; so in Christ believers that flee tohim, and rest in him, are protected from the wrath of God and the curse of the law. There is nocondemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, Rom. viii. 1. Who shall condemn those that are1052Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)thus sheltered? 3. They were all Levites' cities; it was a kindness to the poor prisoner that thoughhe might not go up to the place where the ark was, yet he was in the midst of Levites, who wouldteach him the good knowledge of the Lord, and instruct him how to improve the providence he wasnow under. It might also be expected that the Levites would comfort and encourage him, and bidhim welcome; so it is the work of gospel ministers to bid poor sinners welcome to Christ, and toassist and counsel those that through grace are in him. 4. Even strangers and sojourners, thoughthey were not native Israelites, might take the benefit of these cities of refuge, v. 15. So in ChristJesus no difference in made between Greek and Jew; even the sons of the stranger that by faithflee to Christ shall be safe in him. 5. Even the suburbs or borders of the city were a sufficientsecurity to the offender, v. 26, 27. So there is virtue even in the hem of Christ's garment for thehealing and saving of poor sinners. If we cannot reach to a full assurance, we may comfort ourselvesin a good hope through grace. 6. The protection which the man-slayer found in the city of refugewas not owing to the strength of its walls, or gates, or bars, but purely to the divine appointment;so it is the word of the gospel that gives souls safety in Christ, for him hath God the Father sealed.7. If the offender was ever caught struggling out of the borders of his city of refuge, or stealinghome to his house again, he lost the benefit of his protection, and lay exposed to the avenger ofblood; so those that are in Christ must abide in Christ, for it is at their peril if they forsake him andwander from him. Drawing back is to perdition.N U M B E R SCHAP. XXXVI.We have in this chapter the determination of another question that arose upon the case of thedaughters of Zelophehad. God had appointed that they should inherit, ch. xxvii. 7. Now here, I. Aninconvenience is suggested, in case they should marry into any other tribe, ver. 1-4. II. It is preventedby a divine appointment that they should marry in their own tribe and family (ver. 5-7), and this issettled for a rule in like cases (ver. 8, 9); and they did marry accordingly to some of their ownrelations (ver. 10-12), and with this the book concludes, ver. 13.The Law of Inheritance. (b. c. 1452.)1 And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir,the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spakebefore Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: 2And they said, The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance bylot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give theinheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. 3 And if they be marriedto any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall theirinheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to theinheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot1053Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)of our inheritance. 4 And when the jubilee of the children of Israel shall be, thenshall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they arereceived: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribeof our fathers.We have here the humble address which the heads of the tribe of Manasseh made to Mosesand the princes, on occasion of the order lately made concerning the daughters of Zelophehad. Thefamily they belonged to was part of that half of the tribe of Manasseh which we yet to have theirlot within Jordan, not that half that was already settled; and yet they speak of the land of theirpossession, and the inheritance of their fathers, with as great assurance as if they had it already intheir hands, knowing whom they had trusted. In their appeal observe, 1. They fairly recite the formerorder made in this case, and do not move to have that set aside, but are very willing to acquiescein it (v. 2): The Lord commanded to give the inheritance of Zelophehad to his daughters; and theyare very well pleased that it should be so, none of them knowing but that hereafter it might be thecase of their own families, and then their daughters would have the benefit of this law. 2. Theyrepresent the inconvenience which might, possibly, follow hereupon, if the daughters of Zelophehadshould see cause to marry into any other tribes, v. 3. And it is probable that this was not a baresurmise, or supposition, but that they knew, at this time, great court was made to them by someyoung gentlemen of other tribes, because they were heiresses, that they might get footing in thistribe, and so enlarge their own inheritance. This truly is often aimed at more than it should be inmaking marriages, not the meetness of the person, but the convenience of the estate, to lay houseto house, and field to field. Wisdom indeed is good with an inheritance; but what is an inheritancegood for in that relation without wisdom? But here, we may presume, the personal merit of thesedaughters recommended them as well as their fortunes; however, the heads of their tribe foresawthe mischief that would follow, and brought the case to Moses, that he might consult the oracle ofGod concerning it. The difficulty they start God could have obviated and provided against in theformer order given in this case; but to teach us that we must, in our affairs, not only attend God'sprovidence, but make use of our own prudence, God did not direct in it till the themselves that wereconcerned wisely foresaw the inconvenience, and piously applied to Moses for a rule in it. Forthough they were chief fathers in their families, and might have assumed a power to overrule thesedaughters of Zelophehad in disposing of themselves, especially their father being dead and thecommon interest of their tribe being concerned in it, yet they chose rather to refer the matter toMoses, and it issued well. We should not covet to be judges in our own case, for it is difficult tobe so without being partial. It is easier in many cases to take good advice than to give it, and it isa satisfaction to be under direction. Two things they aimed at in their representation:—(1.) Topreserve the divine appointment of inheritances. They urged the command (v. 2), that the landshould be given by lot to the respective tribes, and urged that it would break in upon the divineappointment if such a considerable part of the lot of Manasseh should, by their marriage, betransferred to any other tribe; for the issue would be denominated from the father's tribe, not themother's. This indeed would not lessen the lot of the particular persons of that tribe (they wouldhave their own still), but it would lessen the lot of the tribe in general, and render it less strong andconsiderable; they therefore thought themselves concerned for the reputation of their tribe, andperhaps were the more jealous for it because it was already very much weakened by the sittingdown of the one half of it on this side Jordan. (2.) To prevent contests and quarrels among posterity.1054Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)If those of other tribes should come among them perhaps it might occasion some contests. Theywould be apt to give and receive disturbance, and their title might, in process of time, come to bequestioned; and how great a matter would this fire kindle! It is the wisdom and duty of those thathave estates in the world to settle them, and dispose of them, so as that no strife and contentionmay arise about them among posterity.5 And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of theLord, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well. 6 This is the thingwhich the Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Letthem marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their fathershall they marry. 7 So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel removefrom tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to theinheritance of the tribe of his fathers. 8 And every daughter, that possesseth aninheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the familyof the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man theinheritance of his fathers. 9 Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe toanother tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himselfto his own inheritance. 10 Even as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughtersof Zelophehad: 11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, thedaughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father's brothers' sons: 12 Andthey were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, andtheir inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father. 13 These arethe commandments and the judgments, which the Lord commanded by the hand ofMoses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.Here is, I. The matter settled by express order from God between the daughters of Zelophehadand the rest of the tribe of Manasseh. The petition is assented to, and care taken to prevent theinconvenience feared: The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well, v. 5. Thus those that consultthe oracles of God concerning the making of their heavenly inheritance sure shall not only bedirected what to do, but their enquiries shall be graciously accepted, and they shall have not onlytheir well done, but their well said, good and faithful servant. Now the matter is thus accommodated:these heiresses must be obliged to marry, not only within their own tribe of Manasseh, but withinthe particular family of the Hepherites, to which they did belong. 1. They are not determined toany particular persons; there was choice enough in the family of their father: Let them marry towhom they think best. As children must preserve the authority of their parents, and not marry againsttheir minds, so parents must consult the affections of their children in disposing of them, and notcompel them to marry such as they cannot love. Forced marriages are not likely to prove blessings.2. Yet they are confined to their own relations, that their inheritance may not go to another family.God would have them know that the land being to be divided by lot, the disposal whereof was ofthe Lord, they could not mend, and therefore should not alter, his appointment. The inheritancesmust not remove from tribe to tribe (v. 7), lest there should be confusion among them, their estatesentangled, and their genealogies perplexed. God would not have one tribe to be enriched by thestraitening and impoverishing of another, since they were all alike the seed of Abraham his friend.1055Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)II. The law, in this particular case, was made perpetual, and to be observed whenever hereafterthe like case should happen, v. 8. Those that were not heiresses might marry into what tribe theypleased (though we may suppose that, ordinarily, they kept within their own tribe), but those thatwere must either quit their claim to the inheritance or marry one of their own family, that each ofthe tribes might keep to its own inheritance, and one tribe might not encroach upon another, butthroughout their generations there might remain immovable the ancient landmarks, set, not by theirfathers, but by the God of their fathers.III. The submission of the daughters of Zelophehad to this appointment. How could they butmarry well, and to their satisfaction, when God himself directed them? They married their father'sbrothers' sons, v. 10-12. By this it appears, 1. That the marriage of cousin-germans is not in itselfunlawful, nor within the degrees prohibited, for then God would not have countenanced thesemarriages. But, 2. That ordinarily it is not advisable; for, if there had not been a particular reasonfor it (which cannot hold in any case now, inheritances being not disposed of as then by the specialdesignation of Heaven), they would not have married such near relations. The world is wide, andhe that walks uprightly will endeavour to walk surely.IV. The conclusion of this whole book, referring to the latter part of it: These are the judgmentswhich the Lord commanded in the plains of Moab (v. 13), these foregoing, ever since ch. xxvi.,most of which related to their settlement in Canaan, into which they were now entering. Whatevernew condition God is by his providence bringing us into, we must beg of him to teach us the dutyof it, and to enable us to do it, that we may do the work of the day in its day, of the place in itsplace.1056Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume I (Genesis to Matthew HenryDeuteronomy)Deuteronomy


    Cambridge Bible Commentary, Comprehensive;

    Jamieson, Fausset & Brown: Edited, Annotated by NewtonStein;

    "NUMBERS 1"


    Commentary by Robert Jamieson



        Numbers 1:1-54. Moses Numbering the Men of War.

        1, 2. on the first day of the second month, &c.—Thirteen months had elapsed since the exodus.About one month had been occupied in the journey; and the rest of the period had been passed inencampment among the recesses of Sinai, where the transactions took place, and the laws, religiousand civil, were promulgated, which are contained in the two preceding books. As the tabernaclewas erected on the first day of the first month, and the order here mentioned was given on the firstday of the second, some think the laws in Leviticus were all given in one month. The Israelites211

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        having been formed into a separate nation, under the special government of God as their King, itwas necessary, before resuming their march towards the promised land, to put them into good order.And accordingly Moses was commissioned, along with Aaron, to take a census of the people. Thiscensus was incidentally noticed (Exodus 38:26), in reference to the poll tax for the works of thetabernacle; but it is here described in detail, in order to show the relative increase and militarystrength of the different tribes. The enumeration was confined to those capable of bearing arms[Numbers 1:3], and it was to be made with a careful distinction of the tribe, family, and household towhich every individual belonged. By this rule of summation many important advantages weresecured: an exact genealogical register was formed, the relative strength of each tribe was ascertained,and the reason found for arranging the order of precedence in march as well as disposing the differenttribes in camp around the tabernacle. The promise of God to Abraham [Genesis 22:17] was seen to befulfilled in the extraordinary increase of his posterity, and provision made for tracing the regulardescent of the Messiah.3. Aaron shall number them by their armies—or companies. In their departure from Egyptthey were divided into five grand companies (Exodus 13:18), but from the sojourn in the wilderness tothe passage of the Jordan, they were formed into four great divisions. The latter is here referred to.4-16. with you there shall be a man of every tribe, &c.—The social condition of the Israelitesin the wilderness bore a close resemblance to that of the nomad tribes of the East in the presentday. The head of the tribe was a hereditary dignity, vested in the oldest son or some other to whomthe right of primogeniture was transferred, and under whom were other inferior heads, also hereditary,among the different branches of the tribe. The Israelites being divided into twelve tribes, there weretwelve chiefs appointed to assist in taking the census of the people.5. these are the names of the men that shall stand with you, &c.—Each is designated byadding the name of the ancestors of his tribe, the people of which were called "Beni-Reuben,""Beni-Levi," sons of Reuben, sons of Levi, according to the custom of the Arabs still, as well asother nations which are divided into clans, as the Macs of Scotland, the Aps of Wales, and the O'sand the Fitzes of Ireland [Chalmers].16-18. These were the renowned—literally, "the called" of the congregation, summoned byname; and they entered upon the survey the very day the order was given.18. by their polls—individually, one by one.19. As the Lord commanded Moses, &c.—The numbering of the people was not an act sinfulin itself, as Moses did it by divine appointment; but David incurred guilt by doing it without theauthority of God. (See on 2 Samuel 24:10).20-44. These are those that were numbered—In this registration the tribe of Judah appearsthe most numerous; and accordingly, as the pre-eminence had been assigned to it by Jacob [Genesis49:8-12], it got the precedence in all the encampments of Israel. Of the two half-tribes of Joseph,who is seen to be "a fruitful bough" [Genesis 49:22], that of Ephraim was the larger, as had been predicted.The relative increase of all, as in the two just mentioned, was owing to the special blessing of God,conformably to the prophetic declaration of the dying patriarch. But the divine blessing is usuallyconveyed through the influence of secondary causes; and there is reason to believe that the relativepopulousness of the tribes would, under God, depend upon the productiveness of the respectivelocalities assigned to them. [For tabular chart, see on Numbers 26:64.]45, 46. all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand, &c.—What an astonishingincrease from seventy-five persons who went down to Egypt about two hundred fifteen years before212

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        [see on Genesis 46:8], and who were subjected to the greatest privations and hardships! And yet thisenumeration was restricted to men from twenty years and upwards [Numbers 1:3]. Including women,children, and old men, together with the Levites, the whole population of Israel, on the ordinaryprinciples of computation, amounted to about 2,400,000.47-54. But the Levites … were not numbered among them—They were obliged to keep aregister of their own. They were consecrated to the priestly office, which in all countries has beenexempted customarily, and in Israel by the express authority of God, from military service. Thecustody of the things devoted to the divine service was assigned to them so exclusively, that "nostranger"—that is, no person, not even an Israelite of any other tribe, was allowed, under penaltyof death, to approach these [Numbers 16:40]. Hence they encamped round the tabernacle in order thatthere should be no manifestation of the divine displeasure among the people. Thus the numberingof the people was subservient to the separation of the Levites from those Israelites who were fit formilitary service, and to the practical introduction of the law respecting the first-born, for whom thetribe of Levi became a substitute [Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:12].


        2Numbers 2:1-34. The Order of the Tribes in Their Tents.2. Every man … shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father'shouse—Standards were visible signs of a certain recognized form for directing the movements oflarge bodies of people. As the Israelites were commanded to encamp "each by his own standard,with the ensign of their father's house," the direction has been considered as implying that theypossessed three varieties: (1) the great tribal standards, which served as rallying points for thetwelve large clans of the people; (2) the standards of the subdivided portions; and, (3) those offamilies or houses. The latter must have been absolutely necessary, as one ensign only for a tribewould not have been visible at the extremities of so large a body. We possess no authenticinformation as to their forms, material, colors, and devices. But it is probable that they might bearsome resemblance to those of Egypt, only stripped of any idolatrous symbols. These were of anumbrella or a fanlike form, made of ostrich feathers, shawls, &c., lifted on the points of long poles,which were borne, either like the sacred central one, on a car, or on men's shoulders, while othersmight be like the beacon lights which are set on poles by Eastern pilgrims at night. Jewish writerssay that the standards of the Hebrew tribes were symbols borrowed from the prophetic blessing ofJacob—Judah's being a lion, Benjamin's a wolf, &c. [Genesis 49:3-24]; and that the ensigns or bannerswere distinguished by their colors—the colors of each tribe being the same as that of the preciousstone representing that tribe in the breastplate of the high priest [Exodus 28:17-21].far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch—that is, "over against," ata reverential distance. The place of every tribe is successively and specifically described becauseeach had a certain part assigned both in the order of march and the disposition of the encampment.3. on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp ofJudah pitch throughout their armies—Judah, placed at the head of a camp composed of threetribes rallying under its standard, was said to have combined the united colors in the high priest'sbreastplate, but called by the name of Judah. They were appointed to occupy the east side and totake the lead in the march, which, for the most part, was in an easterly direction.213

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        Nahshon—or Naasson (Matthew 1:4; Luke 3:32, 33).shall be captain—It appears that the twelve men who were called to superintend the censuswere also appointed to be the captains of their respective tribes—a dignity which they owed probablyto the circumstances, formerly noticed, of their holding the hereditary office of head or "prince."5. those that pitch next unto him—that is, on the one side.7. Then the tribe of Zebulun—on the other side. While Judah's tribe was the most numerous,those of Issachar and Zebulun were also very numerous; so that the association of those three tribesformed a strong and imposing van.10-31. On the south side the standard of the camp of Reuben—The description given of theposition of Reuben and his attendant tribes on the south, of Ephraim and his associates on the west,of Daniel and his confederates on the north, with that of Judah on the east, suggests the idea of asquare or quadrangle, which, allowing one square cubit to each soldier while remaining close inthe ranks, has been computed to extend over an area of somewhat more than twelve square miles.But into our calculations of the occupied space must be taken not only the fighting men, whosenumbers are here given, but also the families, tents, and baggage. The tabernacle or sacred tent oftheir Divine King, with the camp of the Levites around it (see on Numbers 3:38), formed the center, asdoes the chief's in the encampment of all nomad people. In marching, this order was adhered to,with some necessary variations. Judah led the way, followed, it is most probable, by Issachar andZebulun [Numbers 10:14-16]. Reuben, Simeon, and Gad formed the second great division [Numbers 10:18-20].They were followed by the central company, composed of the Levites, bearing the tabernacle [Numbers10:21]. Then the third and posterior squadron consisted of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin [Numbers10:22-24], while the hindmost place was assigned to Daniel, Asher, and Naphtali [Numbers 10:25-27]. ThusJudah's, which was the most numerous, formed the van: and Daniel's, which was the next in force,brought up the rear; while Reuben's and Ephraim's, with the tribes associated with them respectively,being the smallest and weakest, were placed in the center. (See on Numbers 10:13).


        3Numbers 3:1-51. The Levites' Service.1. These … are the generations of Aaron and Moses, &c.—This chapter contains an accountof their families; and although that of Moses is not detailed like his brother's, his children areincluded under the general designation of the Amramites (Numbers 3:27), a term which comprehends allthe descendants of their common father Amram. The reason why the family of Moses was soundistinguished in this record is that they were in the private ranks of the Levites, the dignity ofthe priesthood being conferred exclusively on the posterity of Aaron; and hence, as the sacerdotalorder is the subject of this chapter, Aaron, contrary to the usual style of the sacred history, ismentioned before the day that the Lord spake with Moses in mount Sinai—This is added, because at thedate of the following record the family of Aaron was unbroken.2-4. And these are the names of the sons of Aaron—All the sons of Aaron, four in number,were consecrated to minister in the priest's office. The two oldest enjoyed but a brief term of office(Leviticus 10:1, 2; Numbers 3:4; 26:61); but Eleazar and Ithamar, the other two, were dutiful, and performedthe sacred service during the lifetime of their father, as his assistants, and under his superintendence.214

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        5-10. Bring the tribe of Levi near—The Hebrew word "bring near" is a sacrificial term,denoting the presentation of an offering to God; and the use of the word, therefore, in connectionwith the Levites, signifies that they were devoted as an offering to the sanctuary, no longer to beemployed in any common offices. They were subordinate to the priests, who alone enjoyed theprivilege of entering the holy place; but they were employed in discharging many of the humblerduties which belonged to the sanctuary, as well as in various offices of great utility and importanceto the religion and morals of the people.9. they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel, &c.—The priests hold theplace of God, and the Levites are the servants of God in the obedience they render to the priests.11-13. I have taken the Levites, &c.—The consecration of this tribe did not originate in thelegislative wisdom of Moses, but in the special appointment of God, who chose them as substitutesfor the first-born. By an appointment made in memory of the last solemn judgment on Egypt (fromwhich the Israelitish households were miraculously exempt) all the first-born were consecrated toGod (Exodus 13:12; 22:29), who thus, under peculiar circumstances, seemed to adopt the patriarchalusage of appointing the oldest to act as the priest of the family. But the privilege of redemption thatwas allowed the first-born opened the way for a change; and accordingly, on the full organizationof the Mosaic economy, the administration of sacred things formerly committed to the first-bornwas transferred from them to the Levites, who received that honor partly as a tribute to Moses andAaron, partly because this tribe had distinguished themselves by their zeal in the affair of the goldencalf (Exodus 32:29), and also because, being the smallest of the tribes, they could ill find suitableemployment and support in the work. (See on Deuteronomy 33:8). The designation of a special class for thesacred offices of religion was a wise arrangement; for, on their settlement in Canaan, the peoplewould be so occupied that they might not be at leisure to wait on the service of the sanctuary, andsacred things might, from various causes, fall into neglect. But the appointment of an entire tribeto the divine service ensured the regular performance of the rites of religion. The subsequent portionof the chapter relates to the formal substitution of this tribe.I am the Lord—that is, I decree it to be so; and being possessed of sovereign authority, I expectfull obedience.14-31. Number the children of Levi—They were numbered as well as the other tribes; butthe enumeration was made on a different principle—for while in the other tribes the number ofmales was calculated from twenty years and upward [Numbers 1:3], in that of Levi they were counted"from a month old and upward." The reason for the distinction is obvious. In the other tribes thesurvey was made for purposes of war [Numbers 1:3], from which the Levites were totally exempt. Butthe Levites were appointed to a work on which they entered as soon as they were capable ofinstruction. They are mentioned under the names of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, sons of Levi,and chiefs or ancestral heads of three subdivisions into which this tribe was distributed. Their dutieswere to assist in the conveyance of the tabernacle when the people were removing the variousencampments, and to form its guard while stationary—the Gershonites being stationed on the west,the Kohathites on the south, and the families of Merari on the north. The Kohathites had the principalplace about the tabernacle, and charge of the most precious and sacred things—a distinction withwhich they were honored, probably, because the Aaronic family belonged to this division of theLevitical tribe. The Gershonites, being the oldest, had the next honorable post assigned them, whilethe burden of the drudgery was thrown on the division of Merari.215

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        32. chief—rather, "chiefs" of the Levites. Three persons are mentioned as chiefs of theserespective divisions [Numbers 3:24, 30, 35]. And Eleazar presided over them; whence he is called "thesecond priest" (2 Kings 25:18); and in the case of the high priest's absence from illness or other necessaryoccasions, he performed the duties (1 Kings 4:4).38. those that encamp, &c.—That being the entrance side, it was the post of honor, andconsequently reserved to Moses and the priestly family. But the sons of Moses had no station here.39. twenty and two thousand—The result of this census, though made on conditions mostadvantageous to Levi, proved it to be by far the smallest in Israel. The separate numbers stated inNumbers 3:22, 28, 34, when added together, amount to twenty-two thousand three hundred. The omissionof the three hundred is variously accounted for—by some, because they might be first-born whowere already devoted to God and could not be counted as substitutes; and by others, because inScripture style, the sum is reckoned in round numbers. The most probable conjecture is, that asHebrew letters are employed for figures, one letter was, in the course of transcription, taken foranother of like form but smaller value.40-51. Number all the first-born of the males of the children of Israel, &c.—The principleon which the enumeration of the Levites had been made was now to be applied to the other tribes.The number of their male children, from a month old and upward, was to be reckoned, in order thata comparison might be instituted with that of the Levites, for the formal adoption of the latter assubstitutes for the first-born. The Levites, amounting to twenty-two thousand, were given in exchangefor an equal number of the first-born from the other tribes, leaving an excess of two hundredseventy-three; and as there were no substitutes for these, they were redeemed at the rate of fiveshekels for each (Numbers 18:15, 16). Every Israelite would naturally wish that his son might be redeemedby a Levite without the payment of this tax, and yet some would have to incur the expense, forthere were not Levites enough to make an equal exchange. Jewish writers say the matter wasdetermined by lot, in this manner: Moses put into an urn twenty-two thousand pieces of parchment,on each of which he wrote "a son of Levi," and two hundred seventy-three more, containing thewords, "five shekels." These being shaken, he ordered each of the first-born to put in his hand andtake out a slip. If it contained the first inscription, the boy was redeemed by a Levite; if the latter,the parent had to pay. The ransom-money, which, reckoning the shekel at half a crown, wouldamount to 12s. 6d. each, was appropriated to the use of the sanctuary. The excess of the generalover the Levitical first-born is so small, that the only way of accounting for it is, by supposing thosefirst-born only were counted as were males remaining in their parents' household, or that thosefirst-born only were numbered which had been born since the departure from Egypt, when Godclaimed all the first-born as his special property.41. the cattle of the Levites—These, which they kept to graze on the glebes and meadows inthe suburbs of their cities, to supply their families with dairy produce and animal food, were alsotaken as an equivalent for all the firstlings of the cattle which the Israelites at that time possessed.In consequence of this exchange the firstlings were not brought then, as afterwards, to the altar andthe priests.


        4Numbers 4:1-49. Of the Levites' Service.216

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        2, 3. sons of Kohath, from thirty years old and upward—This age was specifically fixed(see on Numbers 8:24) as the full maturity of bodily energy to perform the laborious duties assigned themin the wilderness, as well as of mental activity to assist in the management of the sacred services.And it was the period of life at which John the Baptist and Christ entered on their respectiveministries.even unto fifty—The term prescribed for active duty was a period of twenty years, at the endof which they were exempted from the physical labors of the office, though still expected to attendin the tabernacle (Numbers 8:26).all that enter into the host—so called from their number, the order and discipline maintainedthrough their ranks, and their special duty as guards of the tabernacle. The Hebrew word, however,signifies also a station or office; and hence the passage may be rendered, "All that enter into thesacerdotal office" (Numbers 4:23).4-15. This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath, &c.—They are mentioned first, fromtheir close connection with Aaron; and the special department of duty assigned to them during thejourneyings of Israel accorded with the charge they had received of the precious contents of thetabernacle. But these were to be previously covered by the common priests, who, as well as thehigh priest, were admitted on such necessary occasions into the holy place. This was an exceptionto the general rule, which prohibited the entrance of any but the high priest. But when the cloudremoved from the tabernacle, the sanctuary might be entered by the common priests, as to themwas reserved the exclusive privilege of packing the sacred utensils; and it was not till the holythings were thus ready for carriage, that the Kohathites were allowed to approach.5. covering veil—the inner veil, which separated the holy from the most holy place. (See onExodus 36:35).6. covering of badgers' skins—(See on Exodus 25:5). The covering, however, referred to was notthat of the tabernacle, but one made for the special purpose of protecting the ark.put in the staves—These golden staves were now taken out. (See on Exodus 25:15, compared with1 Kings 8:8). The Hebrew word rendered "put in," signifies also "dispose," and probably refers here totheir insertion through the openings in the coverings made for receiving them, to preserve themfrom the touch of the carriers as well as from the influence of the weather. It is worthy of noticethat the coverings did not consist of canvas or coarse tarpaulin, but of a kind which united beautywith decency.7. continual showbread—Though the people were in the wilderness fed upon manna, thesacred loaves were constantly made of corn, which was probably raised in small quantities fromthe verdant patches of the desert.10. a bar—or bier, formed of two poles fastened by two cross pieces and borne by two men,after the fashion of a sedan chair.12. instruments of ministry—the official dress of the priests (Exodus 31:10).13. shall take away the ashes from the altar, &c.—The necessity of removing ashes from thealtar plainly implies that sacrifices were offered in the wilderness (compare Exodus 18:12; 24:4), thoughthat rebellious race seems frequently to have neglected the duty (Am 5:25). No mention is madeof the sacred fire; but as, by divine command, it was to be kept constantly burning, it must havebeen transferred to some pan or brazier under the covering, and borne by the appointed carriers.15. the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it, but they shall not touch any holy thing, lestthey die—The mode of transport was upon the shoulders of the Levites (see on Numbers 7:9), although217

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        afterwards wheeled vehicles were employed (2 Samuel 6:3; 1 Chronicles 15:12). And it was allowed to touch thecovering, but not the things covered, on the penalty of death, which was inflicted more than once(1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:6, 7). This stern denunciation was designed to inspire a sentiment of deep andhabitual reverence in the minds of those who were officially engaged about holy things.16. to the office of Eleazar … pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, &c.—Hewas charged with the special duty of superintending the squadron who were employed in the carryingof the sacred furniture; besides, to his personal care were committed the materials requisite for thedaily service, and which it was necessary he should have easily at his command (Exodus 29:38).17-20. Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites,&c.—a solemn admonition to Moses and Aaron to beware, lest, by any negligence on their part,disorder and improprieties should creep in, and to take the greatest care that all the parts of thisimportant service be apportioned to the proper parties, lest the Kohathites should be disqualifiedfor their high and honorable duties. The guilt of their death would be incurred by the superintendingpriest, if he failed to give proper directions or allowed any irreverent familiarity with sacred things.24-28. This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, &c.—They were appointed tocarry "the curtains of the tabernacle"—that is, the goats' hair covering of the tent—the ten curiouscurtains and embroidered hangings at the entrance, with their red morocco covering, &c.28. their charge shall be under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron, &c.—The Leviteswere generally subject to the official command of the priests in doing the ordinary work of thetabernacle. But during the journeyings Eleazar, who was next in succession to his father, took thespecial charge of the Kohathites [Numbers 4:16], while his brother Ithamar had the superintendence ofthe Gershonites and Merarites [Numbers 4:33].29-33. As for the sons of Merari—They carried the coarser and heavier appurtenances, which,however, were so important and necessary, that an inventory was kept of them—not only on accountof their number and variety, but of their comparative commonness and smallness, which mighthave led to their being lost or missing through carelessness, inadvertency, or neglect. It was a usefullesson, showing that God disregards nothing pertaining to His service, and that even in the leastand most trivial matters, He requires the duty of faithful obedience.34-49. Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation numbered the sons of theKohathites, &c.—This enumeration was made on a different principle from that which is recordedin the preceding chapter [Numbers 3:15]. That was confined to the males from a month old and upward,while this was extended to all capable of service in the three classes of the Levitical tribe. Inconsidering their relative numbers, the wisdom of Divine Providence appears in arranging that,whereas in the Kohathites and Gershonites, whose burdens were few and easier, there were butabout a third part of them which were fit for service; the Merarites, whose burdens were more andheavier, had above one half of them fit for this work [Poole]. The small population of this tribe, soinferior to that of the other tribes, is attempted to be explained (see on Numbers 3:39).


        5Numbers 5:1-4. The Unclean to Be Removed out of the Camp.2. Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper—The exclusionof leprous persons from the camp in the wilderness, as from cities and villages afterwards, was a218

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        sanitary measure taken according to prescribed rules (Leviticus 13:1-14:57). This exclusion of lepers fromsociety has been acted upon ever since; and it affords almost the only instance in which any kindof attention is paid in the East to the prevention of contagion. The usage still more or less prevailsin the East among people who do not think the least precaution against the plague or choleranecessary; but judging from personal observation, we think that in Asia the leprosy has now muchabated in frequency and virulence. It usually appears in a comparatively mild form in Egypt,Philestina-Canaan Land, and other countries where the disorder is, or was, endemic. Small societies of excludedlepers live miserably in paltry huts. Many of them are beggars, going out into the roads to solicitalms, which they receive in a wooden bowl; charitable people also sometimes bring different articlesof food, which they leave on the ground at a short distance from the hut of the lepers, for whom itis intended. They are generally obliged to wear a distinctive badge that people may know them atfirst sight and be warned to avoid them. Other means were adopted among the ancient Jews byputting their hand on their mouth and crying, "Unclean, unclean" [Leviticus 13:45]. But their generaltreatment, as to exclusion from society, was the same as now described. The association of thelepers, however, in this passage, with those who were subject only to ceremonial uncleanness,shows that one important design in the temporary exile of such persons was to remove all impuritiesthat reflected dishonor on the character and residence of Israel's King. And this vigilant care tomaintain external cleanliness in the people was typically designed to teach them the practice ofmoral purity, or cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. The regulationsmade for ensuring cleanliness in the camp suggest the adoption of similar means for maintainingpurity in the church. And although, in large communities of Christians, it may be often difficult ordelicate to do this, the suspension or, in flagrant cases of sin, the total excommunication of theoffender from the privileges and communion of the church is an imperative duty, as necessary tothe moral purity of the Christian as the exclusion of the leper from the camp was to physical healthand ceremonial purity in the Jewish church.Numbers 5:5-10. Restitution Enjoined.6-8. When a man or a woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespassagainst the Lord—This is a wrong or injury done by one man to the property of another, and asit is called "a trespass against the Lord," it is implied, in the case supposed, that the offense hasbeen aggravated by prevaricating—by a false oath, or a fraudulent lie in denying it, which is a"trespass" committed against God, who is the sole judge of what is falsely sworn or spoken (Acts5:3, 4).and that person be guilty—that is, from the obvious tenor of the passage, conscience-smitten,or brought to a sense and conviction of his evil conduct. (See on Leviticus 6:2). In that case, there mustbe: first, confession, a penitential acknowledgment of sin; secondly, restitution of the property, orthe giving of an equivalent, with the additional fine of a fifth part, both as a compensation to theperson defrauded, and as a penalty inflicted on the injurer, to deter others from the commission ofsimilar trespasses. (See on Exodus 22:1). The difference between the law recorded in that passage andthis is that the one was enacted against flagrant and determined thieves, the other against thosewhose necessities might have urged them into fraud, and whose consciences were distressed bytheir sin. This law also supposes the injured party to be dead, in which case, the compensation dueto his representatives was to be paid to the priest, who, as God's deputy, received the requiredsatisfaction.219

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        9, 10. every offering … shall be his—Whatever was given in this way, or otherwise, as byfreewill offerings, irrevocably belonged to the priest.Numbers 5:11-31. The Trial of Jealousy.12-15. if any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him—This law was givenboth as a strong discouragement to conjugal infidelity on the part of a wife, and a sufficient protectionof her from the consequences of a hasty and groundless suspicion on the part of the husband. Hissuspicions, however, were sufficient in the absence of witnesses (Leviticus 20:10) to warrant the trialdescribed; and the course of proceeding to be followed was for the jealous husband to bring hiswife unto the priest with an offering of barley meal, because none were allowed to approach thesanctuary empty handed (Exodus 23:15). On other occasions, there were mingled with the offering, oilwhich signified joy, and frankincense which denoted acceptance (Psalms 141:2). But on the occasionreferred to, both these ingredients were to be excluded, partly because it was a solemn appeal toGod in distressing circumstances, and partly because it was a sin offering on the part of the wife,who came before God in the character of a real or suspected offender.17, 18. the priest shall take holy water—Water from the laver, which was to be mixed withdust—an emblem of vileness and misery (Genesis 3:14; Psalms 22:15).in an earthen vessel—This fragile ware was chosen because, after being used, it was brokenin pieces (Leviticus 6:28; 11:33). All the circumstances of this awful ceremony—her being placed withher face toward the ark—her uncovered head, a sign of her being deprived of the protection of herhusband (1 Corinthians 11:7)—the bitter potion being put into her hands preparatory to an appeal to God—thesolemn adjuration of the priest (Numbers 5:19-22), all were calculated in no common degree to exciteand appall the imagination of a person conscious of guilt.21. The Lord make thee a curse, &c.—a usual form of imprecation (Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 29:22).22. the woman shall say, Amen, Amen—The Israelites were accustomed, instead of formallyrepeating the words of an oath merely to say, "Amen," a "so be it" to the imprecations it contained.The reduplication of the word was designed as an evidence of the woman's innocence, and awillingness that God would do to her according to her desert.23, 24. write these curses in a book—The imprecations, along with her name, were inscribedin some kind of record—on parchment, or more probably on a wooden tablet.blot them out with the bitter water—If she were innocent, they could be easily erased, andwere perfectly harmless; but if guilty, she would experience the fatal effects of the water she haddrunk.29. This is the law of jealousies—Adultery discovered and proved was punished with death.But strongly suspected cases would occur, and this law made provision for the conviction of theguilty person. It was, however, not a trial conducted according to the forms of judicial process, butan ordeal through which a suspected adulteress was made to go—the ceremony being of thatterrifying nature, that, on the known principles of human nature, guilt or innocence could not failto appear. From the earliest times, the jealousy of Eastern people has established ordeals for thedetection and punishment of suspected unchastity in wives. The practice was deep-rooted as wellas universal. And it has been thought, that the Israelites being strongly biassed in favor of suchusages, this law of jealousies "was incorporated among the other institutions of the Mosaic economy,in order to free it from the idolatrous rites which the heathens had blended with it." Viewed in thislight, its sanction by divine authority in a corrected and improved form exhibits a proof at once ofthe wisdom and condescension of God.220

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          6Numbers 6:1-22. The Law of the Nazarite in His Separation.2-8. When either man or woman … shall vow a vow of a Nazarite—that is, "a separatedone," from a Hebrew word, "to separate." It was used to designate a class of persons who, underthe impulse of extraordinary piety and with a view to higher degrees of religious improvement,voluntarily renounced the occupations and pleasures of the world to dedicate themselves unreservedlyto the divine service. The vow might be taken by either sex, provided they had the disposal ofthemselves (Numbers 30:4), and for a limited period—usually a month or a lifetime (Jud 13:5; 16:17).We do not know, perhaps, the whole extent of abstinence they practised. But they separatedthemselves from three things in particular—namely, from wine, and all the varieties of vinousproduce; from the application of a razor to their head, allowing their hair to grow; and from pollutionby a dead body. The reasons of the self-restrictions are obvious. The use of wine tended to inflamethe passions, intoxicate the brain, and create a taste for luxurious indulgence. The cutting off thehair being a recognized sign of uncleanness (Leviticus 14:8, 9), its unpolled luxuriance was a symbol ofthe purity he professed. Besides, its extraordinary length kept him in constant remembrance of hisvow, as well as stimulated others to imitate his pious example. Moreover, contact with a dead body,disqualifying for the divine service, the Nazarite carefully avoided such a cause of unfitness, and,like the high priest, did not assist at the funeral rites of his nearest relatives, preferring his duty toGod to the indulgence of his strongest natural affections.9-12. If any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of hisconsecration—Cases of sudden death might occur to make him contract pollution; and in suchcircumstances he was required, after shaving his head, to make the prescribed offerings necessaryfor the removal of ceremonial defilement (Leviticus 15:13; Numbers 19:11). But by the terms of this law anaccidental defilement vitiated the whole of his previous observances, and he was required to beginthe period of his Nazaritism afresh. But even this full completion did not supersede the necessityof a sin offering at the close. Sin mingles with our best and holiest performances, and the blood ofsprinkling is necessary to procure acceptance to us and our services.13-20. when the days of his separation are fulfilled, &c.—On the accomplishment of a limitedvow of Nazaritism, Nazarites might cut their hair wherever they happened to be (Acts 18:18); butthe hair was to be carefully kept and brought to the door of the sanctuary. Then after the presentationof sin offerings and burnt offerings, it was put under the vessel in which the peace offerings wereboiled; and the priest, taking the shoulder (Leviticus 7:32), when boiled, and a cake and wafer of the meatoffering, put them on the hands of the Nazarites to wave before the Lord, as a token of thanksgiving,and thus released them from their vow.Numbers 6:23-27. The Form of Blessing the People.23-27. Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless thecongregation of Israel, &c.—This passage records the solemn benediction which God appointedfor dismissing the people at the close of the daily service. The repetition of the name "Lord" or"Jehovah" three times, expresses the great mystery of the Godhead—three persons, and yet oneGod. The expressions in the separate clauses correspond to the respective offices of the Father, to"bless and keep us"; of the Son, to be "gracious to us"; and of the Holy Ghost, to "give us peace."And because the benediction, though pronounced by the lips of a fellow man, derived its virtue,not from the priest but from God, the encouraging assurance was added, "I the Lord will blessthem."221

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            7Numbers 7:1-89. The Princes' Offerings.1. the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle—Those who take the word "day" asliterally pointing to the exact date of the completion of the tabernacle, are under a necessity ofconsidering the sacred narrative as disjointed, and this portion of the history from the seventh tothe eleventh chapters as out of its place—the chronology requiring that it should have immediatelyfollowed the fortieth chapter of Exodus, which relates that the tabernacle was reared on the firstday of the first month of the second year [Exodus 40:17]. But that the term "day" is used in a loose andindeterminate sense, as synonymous with time, is evident from the fact that not one day but severaldays were occupied with the transactions about to be described. So that this chapter stands in itsproper place in the order of the history; after the tabernacle and its instruments (the altar and itsvessels) had been anointed (Leviticus 8:10), the Levites separated to the sacred service—the numberingof the people, and the disposal of the tribes about the tabernacle, in a certain order, which wasobserved by the princes in the presentation of their offerings. This would fix the period of theimposing ceremonial described in this chapter about a month after the completion of the tabernacle.2, 3. the princes of Israel … brought their offering before the Lord—The finishing of thesacred edifice would, it may well be imagined, be hailed as an auspicious occasion, diffusing greatjoy and thankfulness throughout the whole population of Israel. But the leading men, not contentwith participating in the general expression of satisfaction, distinguished themselves by a movement,which, while purely spontaneous, was at the same time so appropriate in the circumstances and soequal in character, as indicates it to have been the result of concerted and previous arrangement. Itwas an offer of the means of carriage, suitable to the migratory state of the nation in the wilderness,for transporting the tabernacle from place to place. In the pattern of that sacred tent exhibited onthe mount, and to which its symbolic and typical character required a faithful adherence, no provisionhad been made for its removal in the frequent journeyings of the Israelites. That not being essentialto the plan of the divine architect, it was left to be accomplished by voluntary liberality; and whetherwe look to the judicious character of the gifts, or to the public manner in which they were presented,we have unmistakable evidence of the pious and patriotic feelings from which they emanated andthe extensive interest the occasion produced. The offerers were "the princes of Israel, heads of thehouse of their fathers," and the offering consisted of six covered wagons or little cars, and twelveoxen, two of the princes being partners in a wagon, and each furnishing an ox.4, 5. The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take it of them, that they may be to do the serviceof the tabernacle of the congregation—They exhibited a beautiful example to all who are greatin dignity and in wealth, to be foremost in contributing to the support and in promoting the interestsof religion. The strictness of the injunctions Moses had received to adhere with scrupulous fidelityto the divine model of the tabernacle probably led him to doubt whether he was at liberty to act inthis matter without orders. God, however, relieved him by declaring His acceptance of the freewillofferings, as well as by giving instructions as to the mode of their distribution among the Levites.It is probable that in doing so, He merely sanctioned the object for which they were offered, andthat the practical wisdom of the offerers had previously determined that they should be distributed"unto the Levites, to every man according to his service"—that is, more or fewer were assigned toeach of the Levitical divisions, as their department of duty seemed to require. This divine sanctionit is of great importance to notice, as establishing the principle, that while in the great matters ofdivine worship and church government we are to adhere faithfully to the revealed rule of faith and222

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            duty, minor arrangements respecting them may be lawfully made, according to the means andconvenience of God's people in different places. "There is a great deal left to humanregulation—appendages of undoubted convenience, and which it were as absurd to resist on theground that an express warrant cannot be produced for them, as to protest against the conveningof the people to divine service, because there is no Scripture for the erection and ringing of a churchbell" [Chalmers].6-9. Moses took the wagons and the oxen—The Hebrew word seems to be fairly rendered bythe word "wagons." Wheel carriages of some kind are certainly intended; and as they were covered,the best idea we can form of them is, that they bore some resemblance to our covered wagons. Thatwheel carriages were anciently used in Egypt, and in what is now Asiatic Turkey, is attested, notonly by history, but by existing sculptures and paintings. Some of these the Israelites might havebrought with them at their departure; and others, the skilful artisans, who did the mechanical workof the tabernacle, could easily have constructed, according to models with which they had beenfamiliar. Each wagon was drawn by two oxen, and a greater number does not seem to have beenemployed on any of the different occasions mentioned in Scripture. Oxen seem to have beengenerally used for draught in ancient times among other nations as well as the Hebrews; and theycontinue still to be employed in dragging the few carts which are in use in some parts of WesternAsia [Kitto].gave them unto the Levites—The principle of distribution was natural and judicious. TheMerarites had twice the number of wagons and oxen appropriated to them that the Gershonites had,obviously because, while the latter had charge only of the coverings and hangings (the light butprecious and richly-embroidered drapery, [Numbers 4:24-26]) the former were appointed to transport allthe heavy and bulky materials (the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets) in short, all the larger articlesof furniture [Numbers 4:31, 32]. Whoever thinks only of the enormous weight of metal, the gold, silver,brass, &c., that were on the bases, chapiters, and pillars, &c., will probably come to the conclusionthat four wagons and eight oxen were not nearly sufficient for the conveyance of so vast a load.Besides, the Merarites were not very numerous, as they amounted only to thirty-two hundred menfrom thirty years and upward [Numbers 4:44]; and, therefore, there is reason to suppose that a muchgreater number of wagons would afterwards be found necessary, and be furnished, than were givenon this occasion [Calmet]. Others, who consider the full number of wagons and oxen to be stated inthe sacred record, suppose that the Merarites may have carried many of the smaller things in theirhands—the sockets, for instance, which being each a talent weight, was one man's burden (2 Kings5:23). The Kohathites had neither wheeled vehicles nor beasts of burden assigned them, because,being charged with the transport of the furniture belonging to the holy place, the sacred worth andcharacter of the vessels entrusted to them (see on Numbers 4:15) demanded a more honorable mode ofconveyance. These were carried by those Levites shoulder high. Even in this minute arrangementevery reflecting reader will perceive the evidence of divine wisdom and holiness; and a deviationfrom the prescribed rule of duty led, in one recorded instance, to a manifestation of holy displeasure,calculated to make a salutary and solemn impression (2 Samuel 6:6-13).10, 11. the princes offered for dedicating of the altar, &c.—"Altar" is here used in the singularfor the plural; for it is evident, from the kind of offerings, that the altars of burnt offering and incenseare both referred to. This was not the first or proper dedication of those altars, which had beenmade by Moses and Aaron some time before [Leviticus 8:11]. But it might be considered an additional"dedication"—those offerings being the first that were made for particular persons or tribes.223

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            11. They shall offer … each prince on his day, &c.—Eastern princes were accustomedanciently, as they are in Persia still on a certain yearly festival, to sit upon their thrones in greatstate, when the princes and nobles, from all parts of their dominions, appear before them withtributary presents, which form a large proportion of their royal revenue. And in the offering of allgifts or presents to great personages, every article is presented singly and with ostentatious display.The tabernacle being the palace of their great King, as well as the sanctuary of their God, the princesof Israel may be viewed, on the occasion under notice, as presenting their tributary offerings, andin the same manner of successive detail, which accords with the immemorial usages of the East.A day was set apart for each, as much for the imposing solemnity and splendor of the ceremony,as for the prevention of disorder and hurry; and it is observable that, in the order of offering, regardwas paid to priority not of birth, but of rank and dignity as they were ranked in the camp—beginningat the east, proceeding to the south, then to the west, and closing with the north, according to thecourse of the sun.12-17. He that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon … of the tribe of Judah,&c.—Judah having had the precedence assigned to it, the prince or head of that tribe was the firstadmitted to offer as its representative; and his offering, as well as that of the others, is thought,from its costliness, to have been furnished not from his own private means, but from the generalcontributions of each tribe. Some parts of the offering, as the animals for sacrifice, were for theritual service of the day, the peace offerings being by much the most numerous, as the princes andsome of the people joined with the priests afterwards in celebrating the occasion with festiverejoicing. Hence the feast of dedication became afterwards an anniversary festival. Other parts ofthe offering were intended for permanent use, as utensils necessary in the service of the sanctuary;such as an immense platter and bowl (Exodus 25:29). Being of silver, they were to be employed at thealtar of burnt offering, or in the court, not in the holy place, all the furniture of which was of solidor plated gold; and there was a golden spoon, the contents of which show its destination to havebeen the altar of incense. The word rendered "spoon" means a hollow cup, in the shape of a hand,with which the priests on ordinary occasions might lift a quantity from the incense-box to throwon the altar-fire, or into the censers; but on the ceremonial on the day of the annual atonement noinstrument was allowed but the high priest's own hands (Leviticus 16:12).18-83. On the second day Nethaneel … prince of Issachar, did offer—This tribe beingstationed on the right side of Judah, offered next through its representative; then Zebulun, whichwas on the left side; and so on in orderly succession, every tribe making the same kind of offeringand in the same amount, to show that, as each was under equal obligation, each rendered an equaltribute. Although each offering made was the same in quantity as well as quality, a separate noticeis given of each, as a separate day was appointed for the presentation, that equal honor might beconferred on each, and none appear to be overlooked or slighted. And as the sacred books werefrequently read in public, posterity, in each successive age, would feel a livelier interest in thenational worship, from the permanent recognition of the offerings made by the ancestors of therespective tribes. But while this was done in one respect, as subjects offering tribute to their king,it was in another respect, a purely religious act. The vessels offered were for a sacrificial use—theanimals brought were clean and fit for sacrifice, both symbolically denoting, that while God wasto dwell among them as their Sovereign, they were a holy people, who by this offering dedicatedthemselves to God.224

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            48. On the seventh day—Surprise has been expressed by some that this work of presentationwas continued on the Sabbath. But assuming that the seventh day referred to was a Sabbath (whichis uncertain), the work was of a directly religious character, and perfectly in accordance with thedesign of the sacred day.84-88. This was the dedication of the altar—The inspired historian here sums up the separateitems detailed in the preceding narrative, and the aggregate amount is as follows: 12 silver chargers,each weighing 130 shekels equals 1560; 12 silver bowls, each 70 shekels equals 840: total weight.A silver charger at 130 shekels, reduced to troy weight, made 75 ounces, 9 pennyweights, 168.31grains; and a silver bowl at 70 shekels amounts to 40 ounces, 12 pennyweights, 2121.31 grains.The total weight of the 12 chargers is therefore 905 ounces, 16 pennyweights, 33.11 grains; andthat of the 12 bowls 487 ounces, 14 pennyweights, 204.31 grains; making the total weight of silvervessels 1393 ounces, 10 pennyweights, 237.31 grains; which at 5s. per ounce, is equal to £383 1s.8½d. The 12 golden spoons, allowing each to be 5 ounces, 16 pennyweights, 3.31 grains, amountto 69 ounces, 3 pennyweights, 135.31 grains, which, at £4 per ounce, is equal to £320 14s. 10½d.,and added to the amount of the silver, makes a total of £703 16s. 6½d. Besides these the offeringscomprised twelve bullocks, twelve rams, twelve lambs, twenty-four goats, sixty rams, sixty he-goats,sixty lambs—amounting in all to 240. So large a collection of cattle offered for sacrifice on oneoccasion proves both the large flocks of the Israelites and the abundance of pastures which werethen, and still are, found in the valleys that lie between the Sinaitic Mountains. All travellers attestthe luxuriant verdure of those extensive wadies; and that they were equally or still more rich inpasture anciently, is confirmed by the numerous flocks of the Amalekites, as well as of Nabal,which were fed in the wilderness of Paran (1 Samuel 15:9).89. And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak withhim—As a king gives private audience to his minister, so special license was granted to Moses,who, though not a priest, was admitted into the sanctuary to receive instructions from his heavenlyKing as occasion demanded.then he heard the voice of one speaking to him—Though standing on the outer side of theveil, he could distinctly hear it, and the mention of this circumstance is important as the fulfilment,at the dedication of the tabernacle, of a special promise made by the Lord Christ Himself, the Angelof the Covenant, commanding its erection (Exodus 25:22). It was the reward of Moses' zeal andobedience; and, in like manner, to all who love Him and keep His commandments He will manifestHimself (John 14:21).


            8Numbers 8:1-4. How the Lamps Are to Be Lighted.1. the Lord spake unto Moses—The order of this chapter suggests the idea that the followinginstructions were given to Moses while he was within the tabernacle of the congregation, after theprinces had completed their offering. But from the tenor of the instructions, it is more likely thatthey were given immediately after the Levites had been given to the priests (see on Numbers 3:1-4:49),and that the record of these instructions had been postponed till the narrative of other transactionsin the camp had been made [Patrick].225

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            2. Speak unto Aaron, &c.—The candlestick, which was made of one solid, massive piece ofpure gold, with six lamps supported on as many branches, a seventh in the center surmounting theshaft itself (Exodus 25:31; 37:17), and completed according to the pattern shown in the mount, was nowto be lighted, when the other things in the sanctuary began to be applied to religious service. It wasAaron's personal duty, as the servant of God, to light His house, which, being without windows,required the aid of lights (2 Peter 1:19). And the course he was ordered to follow was first to light themiddle lamp from the altar-fire, and then the other lamps from each other—a course symbolical ofall the light of heavenly truth being derived from Christ, and diffused by His ministers throughoutthe world (Re 4:5).the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick—The candlestick stood closeto the boards of the sanctuary, on the south side, in full view of the table of showbread on the north(Exodus 26:35), having one set of its lamps turned towards the east, and another towards the west; sothat all parts of the tabernacle were thus lighted up.Numbers 8:5-22. The Consecration of the Levites.6, 7. Take the Levites … and cleanse them—This passage describes the consecration of theLevites. Although the tribe was to be devoted to the divine service, their hereditary descent alonewas not a sufficient qualification for entering on the duties of the sacred office. They were to beset apart by a special ceremony, which, however, was much simpler than that appointed for thepriests; neither washing nor anointing, nor investiture with official robes, was necessary. Theirpurification consisted, along with the offering of the requisite sacrifices (Leviticus 1:4; 3:2; 4:4), in beingsprinkled by water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19:9), and shaved all over, and theirclothes washed—a combination of symbolical acts which was intended to remind them of themortification of carnal and worldly desires, and the maintenance of that purity in heart and lifewhich became the servants of God.9, 10. thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together, &c.—As itwas plainly impossible that the whole multitude of the Israelites could do this, a select portion ofthem must be meant. This party, who laid their hands upon the Levites, are supposed by some tohave been the first-born, who by that act, transferred their peculiar privilege of acting as God'sministers to the Levitical tribe; and by others, to have been the princes, who thus blessed them. Itappears, from this passage, that the imposition of hands was a ceremony used in consecratingpersons to holy offices in the ancient, as, from the example of our Lord and His apostles, it hasbeen perpetuated in the Christian Church.11-13. And Aaron shall offer the Levites—Hebrew, "as a wave offering"; and it has beenthought probable that the high priest, in bringing the Levites one by one to the altar, directed themto make some simple movements of their persons, analogous to what was done at the presentationof the wave offerings before the Lord. Thus were they first devoted as an offering to God, and byHim surrendered to the priests to be employed in His service. The consecration ceremonial wasrepeated in the case of every Levite who was taken (as was done at a later period) to assist thepriests in the tabernacle and temple. (See on 2Ch 29:34).14. and the Levites shall be mine—that is, exempt from all military duty or secular work—freefrom all pecuniary imposition and wholly devoted to the custody and service of the sanctuary.15. after that, shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of thecongregation—into the court, to assist the priests; and at removal into the tabernacle—that is, intothe door of it—to receive the covered furniture.226

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            19. to make an atonement for the children of Israel, &c.—to aid the priests in that expiatorywork; or, as the words may be rendered, "to make redemption for" the Levites being exchanged orsubstituted for the first-born for this important end, that there might be a sanctified body of menappointed to guard the sanctuary, and the people not allowed to approach or presumptuously meddlewith holy things, which would expose them to the angry judgments of Heaven.24. from twenty and five years old, &c.—(Compare Numbers 4:3). They entered on their work intheir twenty-fifth year, as pupils and probationers, under the superintendence and direction of theirsenior brethren; and at thirty they were admitted to the full discharge of their official functions.25. from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, &c.—thatis, on the laborious and exhausting parts of their work.26. But shall minister with their brethren—in the performance of easier and higher duties,instructing and directing the young, or superintending important trusts. "They also serve who onlywait" [Milton].


            9Numbers 9:1-5. The Passover Enjoined.2-5. Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season, &c.—Thedate of this command to keep the passover in the wilderness was given shortly after the erectionand consecration of the tabernacle and preceded the numbering of the people by a month. (CompareNumbers 9:1 with Numbers 1:1, 2). But it is narrated after that transaction in order to introduce the notice of aparticular case, for which a law was provided to meet the occasion. This was the first observanceof the passover since the exodus; and without a positive injunction, the Israelites were under noobligation to keep it till their settlement in the land of Canaan (Exodus 12:25). The anniversary waskept on the exact day of the year on which they, twelve months before, had departed from Egypt;and it was marked by all the peculiar rites—the he lamb and the unleavened bread. The materialswould be easily procured—the lambs from their numerous flocks and the meal for the unleavenedbread, by the aid of Jethro, from the land of Midian, which was adjoining their camp (Exodus 3:1). Buttheir girded loins, their sandaled feet, and their staff in their hand, being mere circumstancesattending a hurried departure and not essential to the rite, were not repeated. It is supposed to havebeen the only observance of the feast during their forty years' wandering; and Jewish writers saythat, as none could eat the passover except they were circumcised (Exodus 12:43, 44, 48), andcircumcision was not practised in the wilderness [Joshua 5:4-7], there could be no renewal of thepaschal solemnity.Numbers 9:6-14. A Second Passover Allowed.6, 7. there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man—To dischargethe last offices to the remains of deceased relatives was imperative; and yet attendance on a funeralentailed ceremonial defilement, which led to exclusion from all society and from the camp forseven days. Some persons who were in this situation at the arrival of the first paschal anniversary,being painfully perplexed about the course of duty because they were temporarily disqualified atthe proper season, and having no opportunity of supplying their want were liable to a total privationof all their privileges, laid their case before Moses. Jewish writers assert that these men were thepersons who had carried out the dead bodies of Nadab and Abihu [Leviticus 10:4, 5].227

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            8-14. Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will commandconcerning you—A solution of the difficulty was soon obtained, it being enacted, by divineauthority, that to those who might be disqualified by the occurrence of a death in their family circleor unable by distance to keep the passover on the anniversary day, a special license was granted ofobserving it by themselves on the same day and hour of the following month, under a due attendanceto all the solemn formalities. (See on 2Ch 30:2). But the observance was imperative on all who didnot labor under these impediments.14. if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover—Gentile converts,or proselytes, as they were afterwards called, were admitted, if circumcised, to the same privilegesas native Israelites, and were liable to excommunication if they neglected the passover. Butcircumcision was an indispensable condition; and whoever did not submit to that rite, was prohibited,under the sternest penalties, from eating the passover.Numbers 9:15-23. A Cloud Guides the Israelites.15. the cloud covered the tabernacle—The inspired historian here enters on an entirely newsubject, which might properly have formed a separate chapter, beginning at this verse and endingat Numbers 10:29 [Calmet]. The cloud was a visible token of God's special presence and guardian care ofthe Israelites (Exodus 14:20; Psalms 105:39). It was easily distinguishable from all other clouds by its peculiarform and its fixed position; for from the day of the completion of the tabernacle it rested by day asa dark, by night as a fiery, column on that part of the sanctuary which contained the ark of thetestimony (Leviticus 16:2).17. when the cloud was taken up—that is, rose to a higher elevation, so as to be conspicuousat the remotest extremities of the camp. That was a signal for removal; and, accordingly, it isproperly called (Numbers 9:18) "the commandment of the Lord." It was a visible token of the presenceof God; and from it, as a glorious throne, He gave the order. So that its motion regulated thecommencement and termination of all the journeys of the Israelites. (See on Exodus 14:19).19. when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle, … then Israel kept the charge of theLord, and journeyed not—A desert life has its attractions, and constant movements create apassionate love of change. Many incidents show that the Israelites had strongly imbibed this nomadhabit and were desirous of hastening to Canaan. But still the phases of the cloud indicated thecommand of God: and whatsoever irksomeness they might have felt in remaining long stationaryin camp, "when the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle many days, they kept the charge of the Lord,and journeyed not." Happy for them had they always exhibited this spirit of obedience! and happyfor all if, through the wilderness of this world, we implicitly follow the leadings of God's Providenceand the directions of God's Word!


            10Numbers 10:1-36. The Use of the Silver Trumpets.2. Make thee two trumpets of silver—These trumpets were of a long form, in opposition tothat of the Egyptian trumpets, with which the people were convened to the worship of Osiris andwhich were curved like rams' horns. Those which Moses made, as described by Josephus andrepresented on the arch of Titus, were straight, a cubit or more in length, the tubes of the thicknessof a flute. Both extremities bore a close resemblance to those in use among us. They were of solid228

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            silver—so as, from the purity of the metal, to give a shrill, distinct sound; and there were two ofthem, probably because there were only two sons of Aaron; but at a later period the number wasgreatly increased (Joshua 6:8; 2Ch 5:12). And although the camp comprehended 2,500,000 of people,two trumpets would be quite sufficient, for sound is conveyed easily through the pure atmosphereand reverberated strongly among the valleys of the Sinaitic hills.3-7. when they shall blow with them—There seem to have been signals made by a differencein the loudness and variety in the notes, suited for different occasions, and which the Israeliteslearned to distinguish. A simple uniform sound by both trumpets summoned a general assemblyof the people; the blast of a single trumpet convoked the princes to consult on public affairs; notesof some other kind were made to sound an alarm, whether for journeying or for war. One alarmwas the recognized signal for the eastern division of the camp (the tribes of Judah, Issachar, andZebulun) to march; two alarms gave the signal for the southern to move; and, though it is not inour present Hebrew text, the Septuagint has, that on three alarms being sounded, those on the west;while on four blasts, those on the north decamped. Thus the greatest order and discipline wereestablished in the Israelitish camp—no military march could be better regulated.8. the sons of Aaron the priests shall blow with the trumpets, &c.—Neither the Levites norany in the common ranks of the people could be employed in this office of signal giving. In orderto attract greater attention and more faithful observance, it was reserved to the priests alone, as theLord's ministers; and as anciently in Persia and other Eastern countries the alarm trumpets weresounded from the tent of the sovereign, so were they blown from the tabernacle, the visible residenceof Israel's King.9. If ye go to war—In the land of Canaan, either when attacked by foreign invaders or whenthey went to take possession according to the divine promise, "ye [that is, the priests] shall blowan alarm." This advice was accordingly acted upon (Numbers 31:6; 2Ch 13:12); and in the circumstancesit was an act of devout confidence in God. A solemn and religious act on the eve of a battle hasoften animated the hearts of those who felt they were engaged in a good and just cause; and so theblowing of the trumpet, being an ordinance of God, produced that effect on the minds of theIsraelites. But more is meant by the words—namely, that God would, as it were, be aroused by thetrumpet to bless with His presence and aid.10. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days—Festive and thanksgivingoccasions were to be ushered in with the trumpets, as all feasts afterwards were (Psalms 81:3; 2Ch29:27) to intimate the joyous and delighted feelings with which they engaged in the service of God.11. It came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, &c.—TheIsraelites had lain encamped in Wady-Er-Rahah and the neighboring valleys of the Sinaitic rangefor the space of eleven months and twenty-nine days. (Compare Exodus 19:1). Besides the religiouspurposes of the highest importance to which their long sojourn at Sinai was subservient, the Israelites,after the hardships and oppression of the Egyptian servitude, required an interval of repose andrefreshment. They were neither physically nor morally in a condition to enter the lists with thewarlike people they had to encounter before obtaining possession of Canaan. But the wondroustransactions at Sinai—the arm of Jehovah so visibly displayed in their favor—the covenant enteredinto, and the special blessings guaranteed, beginning a course of moral and religious educationwhich moulded the character of this people—made them acquainted with their high destiny andinspired them with those noble principles of divine truth and righteousness which alone make agreat nation.229

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            12. wilderness of Paran—It stretched from the base of the Sinaitic group, or from Et-Tyh,over that extensive plateau to the southwestern borders of Philestina-Canaan Land.13-27. the children of Israel took their journey … by the hand of Moses—It is probablethat Moses, on the breaking up of the encampment, stationed himself on some eminence to see theranks defile in order through the embouchure of the mountains. The marching order is described(Numbers 2:1-34); but, as the vast horde is represented here in actual migration, let us notice theextraordinary care that was taken for ensuring the safe conveyance of the holy things. In the rearof Judah, which, with the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, led the van, followed the Gershonites andMerarites with the heavy and coarser materials of the tabernacle. Next in order were set in motionthe flank divisions of Reuben and Ephraim. Then came the Kohathites, who occupied the centerof the moving mass, bearing the sacred utensils on their shoulder. They were so far behind the otherportions of the Levitical body that these would have time at the new encampment to rear theframework of the tabernacle before the Kohathites arrived. Last of all, Daniel, with the associatedtribes, brought up the rear of the immense caravan. Each tribe was marshalled under its prince orchief and in all their movements rallied around its own standard.29. Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite—called also Reuel (the same as Jethro [Exodus 2:18,Margin]). Hobab, the son of this Midianite chief and brother-in-law to Moses, seems to havesojourned among the Israelites during the whole period of their encampment at Sinai and now ontheir removal proposed returning to his own abode. Moses urged him to remain, both for his ownbenefit from a religious point of view, and for the useful services his nomad habits could enablehim to render.31. Leave us not, I pray thee … and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes—The earnestimportunity of Moses to secure the attendance of this man, when he enjoyed the benefit of thedirecting cloud, has surprised many. But it should be recollected that the guidance of the cloud,though it showed the general route to be taken through the trackless desert, would not be so specialand minute as to point out the places where pasture, shade, and water were to be obtained and whichwere often hid in obscure spots by the shifting sands. Besides, several detachments were sent offfrom the main body; the services of Hobab, not as a single Arab, but as a prince of a powerful clan,would have been exceedingly useful.32. if thou go with us … what goodness the Lord will show unto us, the same will we dounto thee—A strong inducement is here held out; but it seems not to have changed the young man'spurpose, for he departed and settled in his own district. (See on Jud 1:16 and 1 Samuel 15:6).33. they departed … three days' journey—the first day's progress being very small, abouteighteen or twenty miles.ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them—It was carried in the center, and hencesome eminent commentators think the passage should be rendered, "the ark went in their presence,"the cloud above upon it being conspicuous in their eyes. But it is probable that the cloudy pillar,which, while stationary, rested upon the ark, preceded them in the march—as, when in motion atone time (Exodus 14:19) it is expressly said to have shifted its place.35, 36. when the ark set forward that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies bescattered—Moses, as the organ of the people, uttered an appropriate prayer both at thecommencement and the end of each journey. Thus all the journeys were sanctified by devotion;and so should our prayer be, "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not hence" [Exodus 33:15].230

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              11Numbers 11:1-35. Manna Loathed.1. When the people complained it displeased the Lord, &c.—Unaccustomed to the fatiguesof travel and wandering into the depths of a desert, less mountainous but far more gloomy anddesolate than that of Sinai, without any near prospect of the rich country that had been promised,they fell into a state of vehement discontent, which was vented at these irksome and fruitlessjourneyings. The displeasure of God was manifested against the ungrateful complainers by firesent in an extraordinary manner. It is worthy of notice, however, that the discontent seems to havebeen confined to the extremities of the camp, where, in all likelihood, "the mixed multitude" [seeon Exodus 12:38] had their station. At the intercession of Moses, the appalling judgment ceased [Numbers11:2], and the name given to the place, "Taberah" (a burning), remained ever after a monument ofnational sin and punishment. (See on Numbers 11:34).4. the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting—These consisted of Egyptians.[See on Exodus 12:38.] To dream of banquets and plenty of animal food in the desert becomes a diseaseof the imagination; and to this excitement of the appetite no people are more liable than the nativesof Egypt. But the Israelites participated in the same feelings and expressed dissatisfaction with themanna on which they had hitherto been supported, in comparison with the vegetable luxuries withwhich they had been regaled in Egypt.5. We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely—(See on Exodus 7:17). The peopleof Egypt are accustomed to an almost exclusive diet of fish, either fresh or sun-dried, during thehot season in April and May—the very season when the Israelites were travelling in this desert.Lower Egypt, where were the brick-kilns in which they were employed, afforded great facilitiesfor obtaining fish in the Mediterranean, the lakes, and the canals of the Nile.cucumbers—The Egyptian species is smooth, of a cylindrical form, and about a foot in length.It is highly esteemed by the natives and when in season is liberally partaken of, being greatlymellowed by the influence of the sun.melons—The watermelons are meant, which grow on the deep, loamy soil after the subsidenceof the Nile; and as they afford a juicy and cooling fruit, all classes make use of them for food, drink,and medicine.leeks—by some said to be a species of grass cresses, which is much relished as a kind ofseasoning.onions—the same as ours; but instead of being nauseous and affecting the eyes, they are sweetto the taste, good for the stomach, and form to a large extent the aliment of the laboring classes.garlic—is now nearly if not altogether extinct in Egypt although it seems to have grown ancientlyin great abundance. The herbs now mentioned form a diet very grateful in warm countries wherevegetables and other fruits of the season are much used. We can scarcely wonder that both theEgyptian hangers-on and the general body of the Israelites, incited by their clamors, complainedbitterly of the want of the refreshing viands in their toilsome wanderings. But after all theirexperience of the bounty and care of God, their vehement longing for the luxuries of Egypt was animpeachment of the divine arrangements; and if it was the sin that beset them in the desert, it becamethem more strenuously to repress a rebellious spirit, as dishonoring to God and unbecoming theirrelation to Him as a chosen people.6-9. But now … there is nothing … beside this manna—Daily familiarity had disgusted themwith the sight and taste of the monotonous food; and, ungrateful for the heavenly gift, they longed231

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              for a change of fare. It may be noticed that the resemblance of the manna to coriander seed wasnot in the color, but in the size and figure; and from its comparison to bdellium, which is either adrop of white gum or a white pearl, we are enabled to form a better idea of it. Moreover, it is evident,from the process of baking into cakes, that it could not have been the natural manna of the Arabiandesert, for that is too gummy or unctuous to admit of being ground into meal. In taste it is said tohave been like "wafers made with honey" (Exodus 16:31), and here to have the taste of fresh oil. Thediscrepancy in these statements is only apparent; for in the latter the manna is described in its rawstate; in the former, after it was ground and baked. The minute description given here of its natureand use was designed to show the great sinfulness of the people, in being dissatisfied with suchexcellent food, furnished so plentifully and gratuitously.10-15. Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant, &c.—It isimpossible not to sympathize with his feelings although the tone and language of his remonstrancesto God cannot be justified. He was in a most distressing situation—having a mighty multitude underhis care, with no means of satisfying their clamorous demands. Their conduct shows how deeplythey had been debased and demoralized by long oppression: while his reveals a state of mindagonized and almost overwhelmed by a sense of the undivided responsibilities of his office.16, 17. the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders—(Exodus 3:16;5:6; 24:9; 18:21, 24; Leviticus 4:15). An order of seventy was to be created, either by a selection fromthe existing staff of elders or by the appointment of new ones, empowered to assist him by theircollective wisdom and experience in the onerous cares of government. The Jewish writers say thatthis was the origin of the Sanhedrin, or supreme appellate court of their nation. But there is everyreason to believe that it was only a temporary expedient, adopted to meet a trying exigency.17. I will come down—that is, not in a visible manner or by local descent, but by the tokensof the divine presence and operations.and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee—"The spirit" means the gifts and influencesof the Spirit (Numbers 27:18; Joe 2:28; John 7:39; 1 Corinthians 14:12), and by "taking the spirit of Moses, andputting it upon them," is not to be understood that the qualities of the great leader were to be in anydegree impaired but that the elders would be endowed with a portion of the same gifts, especiallyof prophecy (Numbers 11:25)—that is, an extraordinary penetration in discovering hidden and settlingdifficult things.18-20. say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow, and ye shall eatflesh—that is, "prepare yourselves," by repentance and submission, to receive to-morrow the fleshyou clamor for. But it is evident that the tenor of the language implied a severe rebuke and that theblessing promised would prove a curse.21-23. Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand … Shall theflocks and herds be slain for them, to suffice them?—The great leader, struck with a promiseso astonishing as that of suddenly furnishing, in the midst of the desert, more than two millions ofpeople with flesh for a whole month, betrayed an incredulous spirit, surprising in one who hadwitnessed so many stupendous miracles. But it is probable that it was only a feeling of themoment—at all events, the incredulous doubt was uttered only to himself—and not, as afterwards,publicly and to the scandal of the people. (See on Numbers 20:10). It was, therefore, sharply reproved,but not punished.24. Moses … gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, &c.—The tabernaclewas chosen for the convocation, because, as it was there God manifested Himself, there His Spirit232

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              would be directly imparted—there the minds of the elders themselves would be inspired withreverential awe and their office invested with greater respect in the eyes of the people.25. when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease—As those elderswere constituted civil governors, their "prophesying" must be understood as meaning the performanceof their civil and sacred duties by the help of those extraordinary endowments they had received;and by their not "ceasing" we understand, either that they continued to exercise their giftsuninterruptedly the first day (see 1 Samuel 19:24), or that these were permanent gifts, which qualifiedthem in an eminent degree for discharging the duty of public magistrates.26-29. But there remained two of the men in the camp—They did not repair with the rest tothe tabernacle, either from modesty in shrinking from the assumption of a public office, or beingprevented by some ceremonial defilement. They, however, received the gifts of the Spirit as wellas their brethren. And when Moses was urged to forbid their prophesying, his answer displayed anoble disinterestedness as well as zeal for the glory of God akin to that of our Lord (Mark 9:39).31-35. There went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, &c.—Thesemigratory birds (see on Exodus 16:13) were on their journey from Egypt, when "the wind from theLord," an east wind (Psalms 78:26) forcing them to change their course, wafted them over the Red Seato the camp of Israel.let them fall a day's journey—If the journey of an individual is meant, this space might bethirty miles; if the inspired historian referred to the whole host, ten miles would be as far as theycould march in one day in the sandy desert under a vertical sun. Assuming it to be twenty milesthis immense cloud of quails (Psalms 78:27) covered a space of forty miles in diameter. Others reduceit to sixteen. But it is doubtful whether the measurement be from the center or the extremities ofthe camp. It is evident, however, that the language describes the countless number of these it were two cubits high—Some have supposed that they fell on the ground above each otherto that height—a supposition which would leave a vast quantity useless as food to the Israelites,who were forbidden to eat any animal that died of itself or from which the blood was not pouredout. Others think that, being exhausted with a long flight, they could not fly more than three feetabove the earth, and so were easily felled or caught. A more recent explanation applies the phrase,"two cubits high," not to the accumulation of the mass, but to the size of the individual birds. Flocksof large red-legged cranes, three feet high, measuring seven feet from tip to tip, have been frequentlyseen on the western shores of the Gulf of Akaba, or eastern arm of the Red Sea [Stanley; Shubert].32. people stood up—rose up in eager haste—some at one time, others at another; some, perhapsthrough avidity, both day and night.ten homers—ten asses' loads; or, "homers" may be used indefinitely (as in Exodus 8:14; Jud 15:16);and "ten" for many: so that the phrase "ten homers" is equivalent to "great heaps." The collectorswere probably one or two from each family; and, being distrustful of God's goodness, they gatherednot for immediate consumption only, but for future use. In eastern and southern seas, innumerablequails are often seen, which, when weary, fall down, covering every spot on the deck and riggingof vessels; and in Egypt they come in such myriads that the people knock them down with sticks.spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp—salted and dried them forfuture use, by the simple process to which they had been accustomed in Egypt.33. while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed—literally, "cut off"; thatis, before the supply of quails, which lasted a month (Numbers 11:20), was exhausted. The probabilityis, that their stomachs, having been long inured to manna (a light food), were not prepared for so233

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              sudden a change of regimen—a heavy, solid diet of animal food, of which they seem to havepartaken to so intemperate a degree as to produce a general surfeit, and fatal consequences. On aformer occasion their murmurings for flesh were raised (Exodus 16:1-8) because they were in want offood. Here they proceeded, not from necessity, but wanton, lustful desire; and their sin, in therighteous judgment of God, was made to carry its own punishment.34. called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah—literally, "The graves of lust," or "Thosethat lusted"; so that the name of the place proves that the mortality was confined to those who hadindulged inordinately.35. Hazeroth—The extreme southern station of this route was a watering-place in a spaciousplain, now Ain-Haderah.


              12Numbers 12:1-9. Miriam's and Aaron's Sedition.1. an Ethiopian woman—Hebrew, "a Cushite woman"—Arabia was usually called in Scripturethe land of Cush, its inhabitants being descendants of that son of Ham (see on Exodus 2:15) and beingaccounted generally a vile and contemptible race (see on Am 9:7). The occasion of this seditiousoutbreak on the part of Miriam and Aaron against Moses was the great change made in thegovernment by the adoption of the seventy rulers [Numbers 11:16]. Their irritating disparagement of hiswife (who, in all probability, was Zipporah [Exodus 2:21], and not a second wife he had recently married)arose from jealousy of the relatives, through whose influence the innovation had been first made(Exodus 18:13-26), while they were overlooked or neglected. Miriam is mentioned before Aaron asbeing the chief instigator and leader of the sedition.2. Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not also spoken by us?—Theprophetical name and character was bestowed upon Aaron (Exodus 4:15, 16) and Miriam (Exodus 15:20);and, therefore, they considered the conduct of Moses, in exercising an exclusive authority in thismatter, as an encroachment on their rights (Micah 6:4).3. the man Moses was very meek—(Exodus 14:13; 32:12, 13; Numbers 14:13; 21:7; Deuteronomy 9:18). Thisobservation might have been made to account for Moses taking no notice of their angry reproachesand for God's interposing so speedily for the vindication of His servant's cause. The circumstanceof Moses recording an eulogium on a distinguishing excellence of his own character is not withouta parallel among the sacred writers, when forced to it by the insolence and contempt of opponents(2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11, 12). But it is not improbable that, as this verse appears to be a parenthesis, it mayhave been inserted as a gloss by Ezra or some later prophet. Others, instead of "very meek," suggest"very afflicted," as the proper rendering.4. the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam—The divineinterposition was made thus openly and immediately, in order to suppress the sedition and preventits spreading among the people.5. the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood the door of thetabernacle—without gaining admission, as was the usual privilege of Aaron, though it was deniedto all other men and women. This public exclusion was designed to be a token of the divinedispleasure.234

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              6, 7. Hear now my words—A difference of degree is here distinctly expressed in the gifts andauthority even of divinely commissioned prophets. Moses, having been set over all God's house,(that is, His church and people), was consequently invested with supremacy over Miriam and Aaronalso and privileged beyond all others by direct and clear manifestations of the presence and will ofGod.8. with him will I speak mouth to mouth—immediately, not by an interpreter, nor by visionarysymbols presented to his fancy.apparently—plainly and surely.not in dark speeches—parables or similitudes.the similitude of the Lord shall he behold—not the face or essence of God, who is invisible(Exodus 33:20; Colossians 1:15; John 1:18); but some unmistakable evidence of His glorious presence (Exodus 33:2;34:5). The latter clause should have been conjoined with the preceding one, thus: "not in darkspeeches, and in a figure shall he behold the Lord." The slight change in the punctuation removesall appearance of contradiction to Deuteronomy 4:15.Numbers 12:10-16. Miriam's Leprosy.10. the cloud departed from the tabernacle—that is, from the door to resume its permanentposition over the mercy seat.Miriam became leprous—This malady in its most malignant form (Exodus 4:6; 2 Kings 5:27) as itscolor, combined with its sudden appearance, proved, was inflicted as a divine judgment; and shewas made the victim, either because of her extreme violence or because the leprosy on Aaron wouldhave interrupted or dishonored the holy service.11-13. On the humble and penitential submission of Aaron, Moses interceded for both theoffenders, especially for Miriam, who was restored; not, however, till she had been made, by herexclusion, a public example [Numbers 12:14, 15].14. her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?—The Jews,in common with all people in the East, seem to have had an intense abhorrence of spitting, and fora parent to express his displeasure by doing so on the person of one of his children, or even on theground in his presence, separated that child as unclean from society for seven days.15. the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again—Either not to crush her bya sentence of overwhelming severity or not to expose her, being a prophetess, to popular contempt.16. pitched in the wilderness of Paran—The station of encampments seems to have beenRithma (Numbers 33:19).


              13Numbers 13:1-33. The Names of the Men Who Were Sent to Search the Land.1, 2. The Lord spake unto Moses, Send thou men, that they may search the land, ofCanaan—Compare Deuteronomy 1:22, whence it appears, that while the proposal of delegating confidentialmen from each tribe to explore the land of Canaan emanated from the people who petitioned forit, the measure received the special sanction of God, who granted their request at once as a trial,and a punishment of their distrust.3. those men were heads of the children of Israel—Not the princes who are named (Numbers10:14-16, 18-20, 22-27), but chiefs, leading men though not of the first rank.235

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              16. Oshea—that is, "a desire of salvation." Jehoshua, by prefixing the name of God, means"divinely appointed," "head of salvation," "Saviour," the same as Jesus [Matthew 1:21, Margin].17. Get you up this way … , and go up into the mountain—Mount Seir (Deuteronomy 1:2), which laydirectly from Sinai across the wilderness of Paran, in a northeasterly direction into the southernparts of the promised land.20. Now the time was the time of the first grapes—This was in August, when the first clustersare gathered. The second are gathered in September, and the third in October. The spies' absencefor a period of forty days determines the grapes they brought from Eshcol to have been of the secondperiod.21-24. So they … searched the land—They advanced from south to north, reconnoitering thewhole land.the wilderness of Zin—a long level plain, or deep valley of sand, the monotony of which isrelieved by a few tamarisk and rethem trees. Under the names of El Ghor and El Araba, it formsthe continuation of the Jordan valley, extending from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba.Rehob—or, Beth-rehob, was a city and district situated, according to some, eastward of Sidon;and, according to others, it is the same as El Hule, an extensive and fertile champaign country, atthe foot of Anti-libanus, a few leagues below men come to Hamath—or, "the entering in of Hamath" (2 Kings 14:25), now the valley ofBalbeck, a mountain pass or opening in the northern frontier, which formed the extreme limit inthat direction of the inheritance of Israel. From the mention of these places, the route of the scoutsappears to have been along the course of the Jordan in their advance; and their return was by thewestern border through the territories of the Sidonians and Philistines.22. unto Hebron—situated in the heart of the mountains of Judah, in the southern extremityof Philestina-Canaan Land. The town or "cities of Hebron," as it is expressed in the Hebrew, consists of a numberof sheikdoms distinct from each other, standing at the foot of one of those hills that form a bowlround and enclose it. "The children of Anak" mentioned in this verse seem to have been also chiefsof townships; and this coincidence of polity, existing in ages so distant from each other, is remarkable[Vere Monro]. Hebron (Kirjath Arba, Genesis 23:2) was one of the oldest cities in the world.Zoan—(the Tanis of the Greeks) was situated on one of the eastern branches of the Nile, nearthe lake Menzala, and was the early royal residence of the Pharaohs. It boasted a higher antiquitythan any other city in Egypt. Its name, which signifies flat and level, is descriptive of its situationin the low grounds of the Delta.23. they came unto the brook of Eshcol—that is, "the torrent of the cluster." Its location wasa little to the southwest of Hebron. The valley and its sloping hills are still covered with vineyards,the character of whose fruit corresponds to its ancient celebrity.and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes—The grapes reared in thislocality are still as magnificent as formerly—they are said by one to be equal in size to prunes, andcompared by another to a man's thumb. One cluster sometimes weighs ten or twelve pounds. Themode of carrying the cluster cut down by the spies, though not necessary from its weight, wasevidently adopted to preserve it entire as a specimen of the productions of the promised land; andthe impression made by the sight of it would be all the greater because the Israelites were familiaronly with the scanty vines and small grapes of Egypt.26. they came … to Kadesh—an important encampment of the Israelites. But its exact situationis not definitely known, nor is it determined whether it is the same or a different place from236

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              Kadesh-barnea. It is supposed to be identical with Ain-el-Weibeh, a famous spring on the easternside of the desert [Robinson], or also with Petra [Stanley].27, 28. they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surelyit floweth with milk and honey—The report was given publicly in the audience of the people,and it was artfully arranged to begin their narrative with commendations of the natural fertility ofthe country in order that their subsequent slanders might the more readily receive credit.29. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south—Their territory lay between the Dead andthe Red Seas, skirting the borders of Canaan.Hittites … dwell in the mountains—Their settlements were in the southern and mountainouspart of Philestina-Canaan Land (Genesis 23:7).the Canaanites dwell by the sea—The remnant of the original inhabitants, who had beendispossessed by the Philistines, were divided into two nomadic hordes—one settled eastward nearthe Jordan; the other westward, by the Mediterranean.32. a land that eateth up the inhabitants—that is, an unhealthy climate and country. Jewishwriters say that in the course of their travels they saw a great many funerals, vast numbers of theCanaanites being cut off at that time, in the providence of God, by a plague or the hornet (Joshua24:12).men of a great stature—This was evidently a false and exaggerated report, representing, fromtimidity or malicious artifice, what was true of a few as descriptive of the people generally.33. there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak—The name is derived from the son of Arba, agreat man among the Arabians (Joshua 15:14), who probably obtained his appellation from wearing asplendid collar or chain round his neck, as the word imports. The epithet "giant" evidently refershere to stature. (See on Genesis 6:4). And it is probable the Anakims were a distinguished family, orperhaps a select body of warriors, chosen for their extraordinary size.we were in our own sight as grasshoppers—a strong Orientalism, by which the treacherousspies gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan.


              14Numbers 14:1-45. The People Murmur at the Spies' Report.1. all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried—Not literally all, for there were someexceptions.2-4. Would God that we had died in Egypt—Such insolence to their generous leaders, andsuch base ingratitude to God, show the deep degradation of the Israelites, and the absolute necessityof the decree that debarred that generation from entering the promised land [Numbers 14:29-35]. Theywere punished by their wishes being granted to die in that wilderness [Hebrews 3:17; Jude 5]. A leaderto reconduct them to Egypt is spoken of (Ne 9:17) as actually nominated. The sinfulness and insanefolly of their conduct are almost incredible. Their conduct, however, is paralleled by too manyamong us, who shrink from the smallest difficulties and rather remain slaves to sin than resolutelytry to surmount the obstacles that lie in their way to the Canaan above.5. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces—as humble and earnest suppliants—either to thepeople, entreating them to desist from so perverse a design; or rather, to God, as the usual and only237

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              refuge from the violence of that tumultuous and stiff-necked rabble—a hopeful means of softeningand impressing their hearts.6. Joshua … and Caleb, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes—Thetwo honest spies testified their grief and horror, in the strongest manner, at the mutiny againstMoses and the blasphemy against God; while at the same time they endeavored, by a truthfulstatement, to persuade the people of the ease with which they might obtain possession of so desirablea country, provided they did not, by their rebellion and ingratitude, provoke God to abandon them.8. a land flowing with milk and honey—a general expression, descriptive of a rich and fertilecountry. The two articles specified were among the principal products of the Holy Land.9. their defence is departed—Hebrew, "their shadow." The Sultan of Turkey and the Shah ofPersia are called "the shadow of God," "the refuge of the world." So that the meaning of the clause,"their defence is departed from them," is, that the favor of God was now lost to those whose iniquitieswere full (Genesis 15:16), and transferred to the Israelites.10. the glory of the Lord appeared—It was seasonably manifested on this great emergencyto rescue His ambassadors from their perilous situation.12. the Lord said, … I will smite them with the pestilence—not a final decree, but athreatening, suspended, as appeared from the issue, on the intercession of Moses and the repentanceof Israel.17. let the power of my Lord be great—be magnified.21. all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord—This promise, in its full acceptation,remains to be verified by the eventual and universal prevalence of Christianity in the world. Butthe terms were used restrictively in respect to the occasion, to the report which would spread overall the land of the "terrible things in righteousness" [Psalms 65:5] which God would do in the inflictionof the doom described, to which that rebellious race was now consigned.22. ten times—very frequently.24. my servant Caleb—Joshua was also excepted, but he is not named because he was nolonger in the ranks of the people, being a constant attendant on Moses.because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully—Under the influenceof God's Spirit, Caleb was a man of bold, generous, heroic courage, above worldly anxieties andfears.25. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley)—that is, on the other sideof the Idumean mountain, at whose base they were then encamped. Those nomad tribes had at thattime occupied it with a determination to oppose the further progress of the Hebrew people. HenceGod gave the command that they seek a safe and timely retreat into the desert, to escape the pursuitof those resolute enemies, to whom, with their wives and children, they would fall a helpless preybecause they had forfeited the presence and protection of God. This verse forms an important partof the narrative and should be freed from the parenthetical form which our English translators havegiven it.30. save Caleb … and Joshua—These are specially mentioned, as honorable exceptions tothe rest of the scouts, and also as the future leaders of the people. But it appears that some of theold generation did not join in the mutinous murmuring, including in that number the whole orderof the priests (Joshua 14:1).34. ye shall know my breach of promise—that is, in consequence of your violation of thecovenant betwixt you and Me, by breaking the terms of it, it shall be null and void on My part, as238

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              I shall withhold the blessings I promised in that covenant to confer on you on condition of yourobedience.36-38. those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague beforethe Lord—Ten of the spies struck dead on the spot—either by the pestilence or some other judgment.This great and appalling mortality clearly betokened the hand of the Lord.40-45. they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of themountain—Notwithstanding the tidings that Moses communicated and which diffused a generalfeeling of melancholy and grief throughout the camp, the impression was of very brief continuance.They rushed from one extreme of rashness and perversity to another, and the obstinacy of theirrebellious spirit was evinced by their active preparations to ascend the hill, notwithstanding thedivine warning they had received not to undertake that enterprise.for we have sinned—that is, realizing our sin, we now repent of it, and are eager to do as Caleband Joshua exhorted us—or, as some render it, though we have sinned, we trust God will yet giveus the land of promise. The entreaties of their prudent and pious leader, who represented to themthat their enemies, scaling the other side of the valley, would post themselves on the top of the hillbefore them, were disregarded. How strangely perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortlybefore, were afraid that, though their Almighty King was with them, they could not get possessionof the land; and yet now they act still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not withthem, they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts. The consequences were such asmight have been anticipated. The Amalekites and Canaanites, who had been lying in ambuscadeexpecting their movement, rushed down upon them from the heights and became the instrumentsof punishing their guilty rebellion.45. even unto Hormah—The name was afterwards given to that place in memory of theimmense slaughter of the Israelites on this occasion.


              15Numbers 15:1-41. The Law of Sundry Offerings.1, 2. The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel—Some inferfrom Numbers 15:23 that the date of this communication must be fixed towards the close of the wanderingsin the wilderness; and, also, that all the sacrifices prescribed in the law were to be offered only afterthe settlement in Canaan.3. make an offering by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering—It is evident that a peace offeringis referred to because this term is frequently used in such a sense (Exodus 18:12; Leviticus 17:5).4. tenth deal—that is, an omer, the tenth part of an ephah (Exodus 16:36).fourth part of an hin of oil—This element shows it to have been different from such meatofferings as were made by themselves, and not merely accompaniments of other sacrifices.6-12. two tenth deals—The quantity of flour was increased because the sacrifice was of superiorvalue to the former. The accessory sacrifices were always increased in proportion to the greaterworth and magnitude of its principal.13-16. a stranger—one who had become a proselyte. There were scarcely any of the nationalprivileges of the Israelites, in which the Gentile stranger might not, on conforming to certainconditions, fully participate.239

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              19. when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering—The offeringprescribed was to precede the act of eating.unto the Lord—that is, the priests of the Lord (Ezekiel 44:30).20. heave offering of the threshing-floor—meaning the corn on the threshing-floor; that is,after shall ye heave it—to the priests accompanying the ceremony with the same rites.22. if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, &c.—respecting theperformance of divine worship, and the rites and ceremonies that constitute the holy service. Thelaw relates only to any omission and consequently is quite different from that laid down in Leviticus 4:13,which implies a transgression or positive neglect of some observances required. This law relatesto private parties or individual tribes; that to the whole congregation of Israel.24-26. if aught be committed by ignorance—The Mosaic ritual was complicated, and theceremonies to be gone through in the various instances of purification which are specified, wouldexpose a worshipper, through ignorance, to the risk of omitting or neglecting some of them. Thislaw includes the stranger in the number of those for whom the sacrifice was offered for the sin ofgeneral ignorance.27-29. if any soul sin through ignorance—not only in common with the general body of thepeople, but his personal sins were to be expiated in the same manner.30. the soul that doeth aught presumptuously—Hebrew, "with an high" or "upliftedhand"—that is, knowingly, wilfully, obstinately. In this sense the phraseology occurs (Exodus 14:8; Leviticus26:21; Psalms 19:13).the same reproacheth the Lord—sets Him at open defiance and dishonors His majesty.31. his iniquity shall be upon him—The punishment of his sins shall fall on himselfindividually; no guilt shall be incurred by the nation, unless there be a criminal carelessness inoverlooking the offense.32-34. a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day—This incident is evidently narratedas an instance of presumptuous sin. The mere gathering of sticks was not a sinful act and might benecessary for fuel to warm him or to make ready his food. But its being done on the Sabbath alteredthe entire character of the action. The law of the Sabbath being a plain and positive commandment,this transgression of it was a known and wilful sin, and it was marked by several aggravations. Forthe deed was done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divineauthority—in flagrant inconsistency with His religious connection with Israel, as the covenant-peopleof God; and it was an application to improper purposes of time, which God had consecrated toHimself and the solemn duties of religion. The offender was brought before