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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 28

Verse 1

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Moses, being about to speak again of the “continual” sacrifice, premises in general that the people should diligently follow in their offerings whatever God has enjoined; for by the word “observe,” ( custodiendi,) not only diligence, but obedience is also expressed. But, in order that they should more earnestly beware of every transgression, God calls either that which was wont daily to be placed on the table, or that which was annexed to the burnt-offerings, His bread, as if He ate of it after the manner of men. It is indeed a hard expression, but the rudeness of His ancient people obliged Him to speak thus grossly, that, on the one hand, they might learn this rite to be acceptable to God, just as food is acceptable to man; and, on the other, that they might study to offer their sacrifices more purely and chastely.

Verse 3

3. And thou shalt say unto them. He repeats what we have seen in Exodus, that they should kill two lambs daily, one in the morning, and the other in the evening; but he speaks more fully of the concomitants of flour and wine, and also refers to the antiquity of this kind of sacrifice as its recommendation, because it began to be offered to God on Mount Sinai, and was a “savor of rest.” (236) The libation of wine, of which mention is made, was also in use among heathen nations; but, inasmuch as it was without the command and promise of God, it could not but be unmeaning ( insipidum ) (237) And it is probable (as we have seen elsewhere) that many of the heathen rites descended from the ancient fathers but as a false and empty imitation; for when they had forgotten the reason of them, all they did could only be a mere theatrical pageantry. But we have said that thus men were reminded always to have God before their eyes in their daily food; and therefore in every way to accustom themselves to cultivate holiness.

(236) A.V., “a sweet savor.” Margin, “Heb., a savor of my rest."

(237) Fr., “ c’a este moins que ripopper, comme on dit;” Ripope, i.e.,bad wine.

Verse 9

9. And on the Sabbath-day. What was omitted in the former passage is here supplied, i.e., that on the Sabbath the continual sacrifice was to be doubled, and two lambs offered instead of one; for it was reasonable that, as the seventh day was peculiarly dedicated to God, it should be exalted above other days by some extraordinary and distinctive mark. He also commands greater sacrifices to be offered at the beginning of the month or new moon, viz., two bullocks and one ram, and a goat for a sin-offering; for we know that the first day of every month was consecrated to God, that the people might more frequently have the remembrance of their religious duties renewed; and the goat for an atonement for sin was added, in order that every month they should present themselves as guilty before God to deprecate His wrath.

Verse 16

16. And in the fourteenth day. It is true that the instruction here given has some connection with the feast of the passover, but since the sacrifices are avowedly treated of, and no mention is made of its other observances, except in this place, I have connected it with the continual sacrifice, as its concomitant or part. Moses cursorily refers, indeed, to what we have already seen, i.e., that the people should abstain from leaven for seven days, and eat unleavened bread; but he afterwards descends to the main point of which he here proposed to treat, viz., that the people should slay two bullocks as a burnt-offering, a ram, and seven lambs, together with a goat for a sin-offering; and that this sacrifice should be repeated through the whole week. In order, then, that the reverence paid to the passover should be increased, this extraordinary sacrifice was added to the continual one, partly that they might thus be more and more stimulated to devote themselves to God; partly that they might acknowledge how familiarly He had embraced them with His favor, inasmuch as He took these offerings from their flocks and herds, and required the sacred feast to be prepared for Him out of their cellars and granaries also; partly, too, that professing themselves to be worthy of eternal death, they should fly to Him to ask for pardon, and at the same time should understand that there was but one way of reconciliation, i.e., when God should be propitiated by sacrifice.

Verse 26

26. Also in the day of thefirst-fruits. Moses delivers the same commandment as to another festival, viz., that on which they offered their first-fruits. Then, also, he instructs them, the continual sacrifice was to be increased by the addition of two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, a goat for a sin-offering, together with the minha and a libation, with the object, of which I have already spoken. A perplexing difficulty here arises, because in Leviticus 23:0, one bullock is mentioned instead of two, and, on the contrary, two rams instead of one. (238) Some think that an option was left to the priests in this matter; but when I consider how precisely God’s commands were given in everything, I question whether such an alternative was left to their discretion. The notion that God had once been content with a single bullock, as some think, because they were not abundant in the desert, appears to me a subterfuge. I confess I do not know how to get out of this difficulty, unless perhaps we say, that inasmuch as sufficiently exact provision had been made, in all other particulars, that nothing should be done without reason, in this respect only they were reminded that God in Himself cares not for greater or less victims. Nor does any reverence prevent us from saying that, as it sometimes happens in minor matters, a wrong number may have crept in from the carelessness of scribes; (239) and this is probably the most natural solution. The more correct reading, in my opinion, is, that they should offer two bullocks and one ram; but since it is elsewhere explained why God appointed this day, he only briefly recites here: “When they bring the fainha with the first-fruits."

(238) “Josephus and Maimonides understand that they were distinct sacrifices. Aben-Ezra and others think that it was left to the priest which he would offer.” — Brightwell on the Pentateuch, in loco.

(239) The conjecture of C. receives no support from the modern collections of various readings; for though the number two is wanting in one of Kennicott’s MSS., the word for bullocks is in the plural in that same MS.; and the two most ancient versions, viz., the LXX. and the Syriac agree with the received text both here and in Leviticus 23:8. — W.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 28". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.