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3. The departure from Sinai ch. 10
The two silver trumpets 10:1-10
God ordered that priests should announce His movement of the people by blowing two silver trumpets because the Israelites would not watch the cloud continuously. The blasts from the trumpets would reach the farthest tents in the camp (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
"Whereas the cloud in Numbers 9:15-23 represents the divine initiative in leadership the trumpets constitute the response of the human leadership as it summons the congregation to gather at the tent, and signals the moment of advance for each tribal group." [Note: Budd, p. 107.]
The size and shape of these trumpets were probably similar to those that appear on a panel on the Arch of Titus that still stands in Rome. If so, they were long and straight. The Israelites may have fashioned them after Egyptian models, pictures of which appear on several old Egyptian monuments. The priests also used these trumpets in times of war in Canaan. They used them to call the people to arms and to remind them to seek God’s help so He would deliver them (Numbers 10:9). They also announced the feasts of Israel and the first day of each new month to remind the people to remember their God (Numbers 10:10).
In this chapter we have the first reference to the new moon celebration (Numbers 10:10). The appearance of the new moon signaled the beginning of a new month. The Jews viewed the first day of each new month as consecrated to God in a way similar to the Sabbath (cf. Isaiah 1:13). They marked this fresh beginning with special sacrifices (Numbers 28:11-15) over which the priests blew the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:10; Psalms 81:3). On the new moon of the seventh month, the Feast of Trumpets, the people did no work (Leviticus 23:25-25; Numbers 29:1-6; 2 Kings 4:23). In Israel’s later history the priests blew these trumpets on other festal occasions as well (Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:35; Nehemiah 12:41; 1 Chronicles 15:24; 1 Chronicles 16:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 29:27).
"The impression that this narrative intends to give is that of an orderly and obedient departure from Sinai. The picture is a far cry from the scene which Moses saw when he first returned from the mountain and found the nation celebrating before the golden calf: ’the people were running wild and Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies’ (Exodus 32:25). In other words, the author is trying to make a point with this narrative. He shows that after the incident of the golden calf the Mosaic Law was able to bring order and obedience to the nation. The Law, necessitated by the disobedience of the people, was having its effect on them." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 381.]
The journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea 10:11-36
The Israelites had been at Mt. Sinai for almost one year (Exodus 19:1; Numbers 10:11). All that Moses recorded as occurring between Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11 took place during those twelve months.
Even though this region contains several oases and some grazing land, these could not have provided for the two million or so Israelites plus their animals during their stay there. Merrill believed Israel’s population was more than two and a half million. [Note: Merrill, "Numbers," in The Old . . ., p. 101.] Allen argued for it being about 250,000 to 300,000. [Note: Allen, p. 689] As the text of Scripture implies and sometimes states, God provided for the needs of His people from Egypt to Canaan by giving them an unbroken series of miraculous provisions.
The trip from Sinai to Kadesh on Canaan’s southern border was normally a journey of only 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2). Numbers 10:11-12 summarize the whole journey from Sinai to Kadesh that the writer described in more detail in Numbers 10:13 to Numbers 12:16. The wilderness of Paran (Numbers 10:12) was an area between Sinai and Kadesh.
"The Desert of Paran is a large plateau in the northeastern Sinai, south of what later would be called the Negev of Judah, and west of the Arabah. This forms the southernmost portion of the Promised Land, the presumed staging area for the assault on the land itself. The principal lines of assault on the land of Canaan are from the southwest, following the Way of the Sea from Egypt, and from the northwest, following the Way of the Sea from Phoenicia. Israel’s staging for attack in the Desert of Paran was a brilliant strategy. In this way they would avoid the fortified routes to the west, presumably under the control of Egypt. This unusual line of attack from the south would stun the inhabitants of the land. They would come like a sirocco blast from the desert, and the land would be theirs, under the hand of God." [Note: Ibid., p. 781.]
The Israelites broke camp and proceeded to march as the Lord had commanded them (Numbers 10:13-28; cf. ch. 2). The tabernacle receives special attention in this description in keeping with its central importance in the nation.
"A major component of the covenant promise to the fathers and to Israel the nation was . . . the inheritance and occupation of a land. This land was representative of the whole earth. As man was placed in the Garden of Eden to keep and rule it, so Israel would be placed in Canaan to keep and rule it as a fiefdom from the Great King. At last, when the saving purposes of the Lord will have been accomplished, all the earth-indeed all creation-will fall under the rule of mankind, who will ’have dominion over all things.’" [Note: Merrill, "A Theology . . .," pp. 59-60.]
Numbers 10:29-32 record an incident that took place before the Israelites left Sinai. This section is a flashback of secondary importance to the departure from Sinai. Moses’ brother-in-law Hobab had come to live among or visit the Israelites at Sinai. He evidently agreed to Moses’ suggestion that he act as a scout for the nation (cf. Judges 1:16).
"Moses continued to urge Hobab to join Israel. In a sense this is an act of evangelism. Hobab did not come easily. But subsequent biblical texts indicate that he did come. As such, he is like Ruth who joins Naomi en route to the Land of Promise, leaving all behind, with a promise of something ahead that is of more value than anything left at home." [Note: Allen, p. 783.]
Other scholars believed Moses erred in extending this invitation. [Note: E.g., Noordtzij, p. 96.] Even though God led Israel with the cloud, Hobab would have been useful since he knew the wilderness and could advise Moses concerning its terrain, oases, and other features. The name of Moses’ father-in-law is Reuel here (Numbers 10:29). He was Zipporah’s father (cf. Exodus 2:18).
The Israelites apparently carried the ark in front of the whole nation as they marched (Numbers 10:33). The cloud was evidently over it but not necessarily over the whole nation (Numbers 10:34). The cloud stood over the ark and led those carrying it and the nation as the Israelites moved forward.
"It [the ark] is something like a wedding ring: the visible sign of the bond between the Lord and his people." [Note: Maarsingh, p. 37.]
Moses’ prayers whenever the cloud moved (Numbers 10:35) and stopped (Numbers 10:36) give us a glimpse into his intercessory ministry for Israel. They show his prayerful concern for the people he was responsible to lead. Israel’s enemies (Numbers 10:35) were those that might seek to turn them back from the Promised Land along the way, as well as the Canaanites whom Israel would fight in the land.
"The theme of this passage is Israel’s glorious leadership by Yahweh as the people depart from the Mountain of God for an immediate conquest of Canaan. There is no sense here of the impending doom that awaits Israel’s rebellion in the wilderness." [Note: Ashley, p. 200.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19