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THE BOOK OF NUMBERS.
ually inured to the load which they THE Israelites, at the date of the were called, for so many ages, to bear. opening of this book, had remained Hence their protracted stay at Sinai, about a year in the vicinity of Mount which would naturally tend to break Sinai, whither they had arrived within them in to the service allotted them in little more than a month after their de- their typical capacity—a capacity in parture from Egypt. During this time which it appears from the whole drift of nearly thirteen months they bad of the Epistle to the Hebrews they were erected and furnished the Tabernacle, mainly called to act. For this end it and had received the various laws and was necessary, moreover, that a certain institutions recorded in the preceding external order and organization should books, and had been undergoing a cer- be adopted, whereby the analogous tain preliminary discipline or training arrangements of the ulterior spiritual in the matters of divine worship, which body, of long subsequent development, infinite wisdom saw to be of the utmost should be suitably set forth. Hence it importance for them in the circum- was that a special mustering and enustances in which they were placed. meration of the people, together with a They had but recently been delivered prescribed form of encampment, was orfrom a state of degrading bondage, and dered at the time of the commencement had come forth from under the hand of of the present history, for which we may their oppressors as a somewhat rude in addition suggest a number of collatand uncultivated horde, requiring to eral ends to be answered; as, (1.) That be put through a kind of educational the people might have palpable eviprocess before they would be fit to an- dence how fully the Lord had made swer, in all respects, the ends of their good his promise to Abraham of multimarvellous selection and segregation plying his seed. (2.) That every Israas a peculiar people. These ends were elite might know for himself and be in a great measure typical and represen- able to declare to his posterity, from tative. A “church in the wilderness” what tribe he descended and to what was to be formed that should, in its dis- family he belonged, and this more espetinguishing economy of rites and cere- cially with a view that the genealogy monies, laws and judgments, fitly fore- of the future Messiah might be clearly shadow that future Christian and spir- ascertained. (3.) That in case of an itual Church, in which it was ordained attack from their enemies, they might that all those shadows should be turned know their strength as a military body; into substance. It was indeed a bur- in which character however they are to densome yoke that was to be imposed be looked upon as pre-eminently typiupon them, and it is not difficult to per- cal of a church militant, for nothing ceive that their shoulders must be grad-! can be conceived more abhorrent to the CHAPTER I.
Sinai“, in the tabernacle of the ND the LORD spake unto congregation, on the first day Moses in the wilderness of
a Ex. 19, 1. Num. 10, 12.
divine love and wisdom than wars and sus, therefore, which yielded this fund conquests viewed in any other light. must have been taken previous to the They may be permitted, but never ap- erection of the sacred edifice, and this, proved. (4.) That a more orderly we learn, was finished and set up on method of march in their journey to the first day of the first month of the Canaan might be secured. “It is a second year of the sojourn in the wilrout and a rabble,” says Henry, “not derness. But in the passage before us an army, that is not mustered and put the command to number the people was in order." With these prefatory re- given on the first day of the second marks we enter upon the critical expo- month of the same year, or precisely sition of the text.
one month after the erection of the
sanctuary. Were it not for this very The Mustering of the Tribes.
explicit mention of dates we should be V. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses inclined to Mr. Kitto's opinion, who rein the wilderness of Sinai. The true marks of the present census, that “. rendering of this clause depends upon may doubt whether the enumeration in the determination of the question, Ex. 38:26 is the result of a different whether the census here ordered to be one. A census must always occupy taken is the same with that previously some time in making, and yet we find mentioned, Ex. 30:12. 38: 26, or an en- an interval of only a few months betirely different one-a point about which tween the two periods; and if we supcommentators greatly differ. In the pose them different it is impossible to one case, the present would be the cor- conceive why a second enumeration rect rendering; in the other it would should so immediately follow the first. be, “ The Lord had said.” The iden- Besides, the amount stated in both intity of the two enumerations is favored stances is the same, namely, 603,550— by the identity of the sum total of each, an identity of numbers scarcely possiviz. 603,550, and by the difficulty of ble even in the interval of a few months, conceiving why a second numbering had the enumerations been different. should be ordered within so short a We therefore think that the census is time—not more than a few months— the same: it was completed doubtless after the first. But on the other hand, in time to make the poll-tax available it is disfavored by the express specifi- for the works of the Tabernacle, and cation of dates. The census mentioned the result is stated incidentally in Ex. Ex. 30:12 and 38:26 was evidently 38:26, in connection with the amount; ordered in reference to the poll-tax of while here we have a more particular half a shekel which was to accompany account of the same enumeration in orit, and from which a portion of the der to show the relative strength of the revenue necessary for the work of the different tribe :” This would be a very Tabernacle was to be derived. Indeed, probable view of the matter but for the it is expressly stated Ex. 38:25–27, that difficulty stated above. If the census the silver sockets of the Tabernacle was made in time to be available for were made out of the half shekels con- the work of the Tabernacle, it must fributed on this occasion. The cen- have been made prior to the first day of of the second month, in the sec
out of the land of Egypt, sayond year after they were come ing,
the first month of the second year; but pany who had died in the interval, the that brings it in conflict with the pres- name of some one who had grown up ent, which was not ordered till the first to full age.” (Lect. on Jewish Ant. vol. I. day of the second month. In this emer- p. 313.) Thus too Dr. Chalmers (Script. gency Rosenmuller adopts the sugges- Readings in loc.) :-" Henry speaks of tion of Vater, that the text has been their being numbered before from Ex. tampered with by some one who, sup- 38:25, 26, and remarks on the perfect posing that a new census is here spoken coincidence of the two censuses. But of, took the liberty to affix a false nota- may it not have been one census, even tion of the time. But as we are opposed the present one? We have only to supfrom principle to all such gratuitous ex- pose that the levy, though begun and pedients in the way of solving difficul- proceeded with, was not completed till ties, it remains, if possible, to find some after the enumeration was finished.” solution which shall not impeach the The object of the measure in the presintegrity of the sacred text, and we ent case was not therefore precisely the have satisfied our own mind that in the same that it was before. Then it was command here given as to numbering to obtain a revenue per capita for the the congregation, the previous one was service of the sanctuary. Now it was to be assumed as a basis. As far as the with a view to order and arrangement bare numbers were concerned, the ta- among the different tribes, as well as bles or register already made out would to ascertain, perhaps, their relative answer; and this accounts for the fact strength. But this design will disclose that the sum total is the same in both itself more fully as we unfold the import
Prof. Palfrey here remarks, of terms in what follows. We simply with great probability, that “the sec- remark at present that the difference ond was not so much a distinct count between this and the former numbering ing, as a more formal verification of the we regard as the difference between a first." “When Eleazar and Ithamar,” census and a muster. What that is the he adds,“ had already so recently made reader will soon be able to apprehend. out their enumeration of the people for
-1 In the tabernacle of the congreone purpose, it is altogether unlikely gation. Heb. 79777 3.783 beohel moëd, that their lists would be disregarded, in the tabernacle of appointment, or of and a work so onerous be gone through stated meeting. Gr. “Tent or tabernaa second time de integro. It is safely cle of witness,” doubtless from its conto be presumed, that the list first made taining the book of the law, which is would be put into the hands of the offi- frequently spoken of as the witness of cers who were to superintend the new the covenant established between the enrolment; and that as the number, Lord and his people. See Note on Ex. supposing it to have been accurately 27:21. Tabernacle of witness.'— Covstated in the first instance, could not erdale. “Tent of the congregation.'— have become materially different in so Ainsworth. "Tabernacle of the coveshort a space of time, the main purpose nant.'— Douay. “Public tent.'—Purver. would be to authenticate it, without | There were three places in which the disturbing it any further than to count, Lord gave audience to Moses, and from instead of each individual in any com- : which he spake to him. One was at
2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of
• Ex. 30. 12. c. 26. 2. 63. 2 Sam. 24. 2. 1 Chr. 21. 2.
the door of the Tabernacle, near which erection of the Tabernacle, which was stood the Altar of Burnt-Offerings. Ex. accomplished the first day of the 29:42. “This shall be a continual second year, and in the subsequent days burnt-offering throughout your genera- of the first month the various laws retions at the door of the tabernacle of garding the sacrifices, the distinction the congregation before the LORD: of clean and unclean animals, together where I will meet you, to speak there with all the details of the ritual that unto you.” Another was out of the form the contents of the after part of cloudy pillar. Ps. 99, “He spake to the book of Exodus and of the whole of them in the cloudy pillar.” Comp. Ex. Leviticus, were delivered. But for this 33: 9. Num 12:5. This, however, comparison of dates we should scarcely concurred for the most part with the be aware of the vast amount of action other, inasmuch as the pillar of cloud condensed into so brief a space. It is usually stood at the door of the Taber- clear that the sojourn at the foot of the nacle when the Lord spake thence to sacred mount was no idle vacation to Moses, ch. 11:17. The third was the the chosen people. The intimation is Mercy-seat, the principal seat of the palpable, that in all matters pertaining oracle, Num. 7:89. It was hence that to divine worship a listless and languid the Most High now addressed the com- deportment is sadly out of place, and mand to Moses. -1 In the first day that the utmost activity of mind and of the second month of the second year. heart is called for. Diligent in busiHeb. “In the one (day) to the second ness, fervent in spirit, serving the month.” Gr. ev uią, “In the one.” Lord,” is the true motto. The same phraseology occurs several 2. Take ye the sum of all the congre. times in the Greek of the New Testa- gation of the children of Israel. Heb. ment. Thus Matt. 28:1, “Toward the UX OX 780 seoo eth rösh, lit. take up, first day (Gr. one day) of the week.” lift up, elevate the head. The expresComp. Mark 16:2. John 20:1. Acts 20: sion would not seem to be in itself the 7. Titus 3:10, “After the first (Gr. one) most natural for conveying the idea of and second admonition." Comparing census-taking . We should be inclined, this with Ex. 19:1. 40:2. Num. 22: from the force of the words, to render 11, it appears that the Israelites abode the clause, “elevate the headship,” in the desert of Sinai very nearly a that is, taking “head” as an abstract whole year; for they came into it on equivalent to chief, principal, we would the first day of the third month of the understand it as implying that a special first year, and continued there to the prominence and distinction was to be twentieth day of the second month of given to what might be deemed the the second year. This second month is headship of the congregation composed called in the Hebrew calendar Zif, and of the males of above twenty years of answers to a part of our April. It is so age, but excluding females, children, called from the brightness and beauty of and the infirm and aged. These were the flowers which then make their ap- to be enumerated and registered, which pearance, as this is the import of Zif. was a kind of elevation predicated of this Within this period God published the portion of the people, in contradistincLaw from Mount Sinai, commanded the tion from the others. This construction
Israel, after their families, by the number of their names, the house of their fathers, with every male by their polls;
is favored by the Gr. λαβετε αρχην, were to be exempted, v. 47. -1 After take the principality of all the congre- their families, by the house of their fa. gation, by which we suppose to be thers. Heb. lemishpehothâm, according meant the principal or most distinguish- to their families ; Gr. Kata duygeing part. But however probable this velas autwv, according to their kininterpretation, it is certain that the dreds, Luke 1:61. The precise distincmajority of the versions agree with the tion here designed to be understood rendering of the English. Thus, Chal. between “their families” and “the “ Take the sum, or computation, of the houses of their fathers,” is not entirely congregation of the sons of Israel." obvious. In the summoning together Syr. “Take the sum of the number of of the congregation under Joshua, ch. the heads of the whole assembly.” | 7:14, for the search which resulted in Sam. “Take the sum of the congrega- the detection of Achan, they came by tion,” etc.
Arab. “Take the sum of tribes, by families, and by houses, the sons of Israel.” In this rendering which would seem to imply that famiwe, on the whole, concur, though with lies denoted a wider range of kindred some degree of doubt, and take the than houses. But we find ourselves leading idea to be that of capitation. forced to the conclusion that the phrase “Taking the head” is ascertaining the “house of their fathers” is merely exesum total, and it is obvious that the getical of “families ;” that is to say, summation of a series of numbers is the that the way in which the different bringing them, as it were, into a head. families in any tribe were distinguished, Thus we speak of heading up a row or was by denominating them respectively a column of figures. As in the human from that individual who could properbody all the different parts are devel- ly be termed its father, founder, or oped from the head, and exist in it in head. Otherwise we are at a loss to potency, so the sum total in any nu- conceive how the families could be dismerical count is in like manner a head tinguished. Thus in the account of the to all the different parts of which it is numbering recorded ch. 26:5–7, we composed, and into which it may be re- seem to be furnished with a clew to the solved. So the word capital, from ca- diction before us ; “Take the sum of put, head, is familiar with us to denote the people, from twenty years old and the amount of wealth belonging to an upward; as the LORD commanded Moindividual or a company. The parallel ses and the children of Israel, which usage of the Scriptures in regard to this went forth out of the land of Egypt. word is worthy of note, Ps. 139:17, Reuben, the eldest son of Israel : the How precious are thy thoughts unto children of Reuben; Hanoch, of whom me, O God, how great is the sum of cometh the family of the Hanochites. them (Heb. roshëhem, their head).” Ps. of Pallu, the family of the Palluites : 119: 160, “Thy word is true from the of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites : beginning ;” rather, “ The sum total of Carmi, the family of the Carmites. (Heb. rösh, head) of thy word is truth.” These are the families of the ReubenFrom this general order it is evident ites : and they that were numbered of from what follows that the Levites them were forty and three thousand