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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 9

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-14

The Passover at Sinai and instructions for a supplementary Passover 9:1-14

On the first anniversary of the Passover in Egypt, just after the Israelites had dedicated the tabernacle, they observed this feast as God had commanded (Numbers 9:5). Most of the males were already circumcised (cf. Joshua 5:5). This event took place in the first month of the second year after the Exodus (Numbers 9:1). The census in chapter 1 occurred in the second month of the same year (Numbers 1:1). This fact shows that at least these events described in Numbers are not in chronological order.

God graciously gave an ordinance that people who were unclean or on a journey when the rest of the nation celebrated the Passover could eat it exactly one month later (Numbers 9:10-11). However to preclude negligence in observing the primary Passover in view of this exception God prescribed the death penalty for anyone who did not observe it at the preferred time if he or she could (Numbers 9:13). This regulation applied also to foreigners living among the Israelites who had identified with the Abrahamic Covenant through circumcision (Numbers 9:14; cf. Exodus 12:48-49).

"The purpose of including this segment of narrative was perhaps to show that God’s laws were not arbitrary and unreasonable. The Israelites themselves even played a part in their formulation." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 380.]

Verses 15-23

The covering cloud 9:15-23

The time had come for the Israelites to resume their journey when the people had celebrated the Passover. All that remained for the Israelites to know was how God would lead them. Moses recorded God’s revelation of that in this section.

The cloudy pillar stood over the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-16). It does not appear to have covered the entire camp of Israel.

"Like the Tabernacle, Canaan would be a focal point of Yahweh’s residence among men, the place where His sovereignty would find historical expression through His specially chosen people." [Note: Merrill, "A Theology . . .," p. 60.]

The comparatively lengthy description of God’s direction of Israel with the cloud (Numbers 9:17-23) indicates God’s sovereign and purposeful leadership of His people. The Israelites remained where they were just as long as God wanted them to remain there. Their experiences along the way were not accidental but providential. This description also expressed the "excitement of the occasion." [Note: G. Wenham, pp. 100-101.]

The way the Israelites discovered how God was leading them was to look at the revelation of Himself that He provided in the cloud. He did not explain His movements, but their duty was to follow in faith.

"The writer is intent on showing that at this point in their walk with the Lord, Israel was obedient and followed the Lord’s guidance. The writer’s concern to make this point can be seen in that seven times in this brief narrative, it is said that they ’obeyed the commandment of the Lord’ and thus traveled when the cloud lifted from the tabernacle and moved (Numbers 9:18; Numbers 9:20; Numbers 9:23; cf. Exodus 17:1)." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 381.]

The chapter closes with another reference to the Israelites’ careful and exact obedience to Yahweh’s instructions, an important theme in this book.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/numbers-9.html. 2012.
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