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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Numbers 10

Verse 2

Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.

Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece, [ miqshaah (H4749)] - turned, brought into a round form [Septuagint, elatas poieeseis autas]. These trumpets were of a long form, in opposition to that of the Egyptian trumpets, with which the people were convened to the worship of Osiris, and which were curved like rams' horns. Those which Moses made, as described by Josephus, and represented on the arch of Titus, were straight, a cubit or more in length, the tubes of the thickness of a flute, and both extremities bore a close resemblance to those in use among us. It appears from the representations on the monuments that straight trumpets were used in Egypt in the times of the earliest Pharaohs, whence they were doubtless borrowed by the Hebrews; and it is worthy of notice that this form of trumpet was, both by that people and the Egyptians, exclusively employed in war. (See the notes at Leviticus 25:1-3.25.55: cf. Joshua 6:4, where the crooked trumpet is described as used in sacred ceremonies; Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egypt.,' vol. 1:, p. 297; also vol. 2:, p. 260-262). They were of solid silver-so as, from the purity of the metal, to give a shrill, distinct sound; and there were two of them, probably because there were only two sons of Aaron. And although the camp comprehended 2,500,000 people, two trumpets would be quite sufficient; because sound is conveyed easily through the pure atmosphere, and reverberated strongly among the valleys of the Sinaitic hills.

For the journeying of the camps, [ uwlmaca` (H4550) 'et (H854) hamachªnowt (H4264)] - for the breaking up, the departure of the camps; i:e., the camps of the different tribes (cf. Numbers 10:14-4.10.28).

Verse 3

And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

When they shall blow. There seem to have been signals made by a difference in the loudness and variety in the notes, suited for different occasions, and which experience made the Israelites easily distinguish. A simple uniform sound by both trumpets summoned a general assembly of the people; the blast of a single trumpet convoked the princes to consult on public affairs; notes of some other kind were made to sound an alarm, whether for journeying or for war.

Verse 4

And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward.

When ye blow an alarm, [ tªruw`aah (H8643)] - a loud noise, a broken but prolonged peal [Septuagint, seemasian. One alarm was the recognized signal for the eastern division of the camp-namely, the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun-to march; two alarm notes gave the signal for the southern to move; and, though it is not in our present Hebrew text, the Septuagint has salpieite seemasian triteen, kai ekarousin hai parembolai hai paremballousai para thalassan kai salpieite seemasian tetarteen, kai exarousin hai parembolai hai paremballousai pros borran - i:e., 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 were established in the Israelite camp-no military march could be better regulated.

Verses 6-7

When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

The sons of Aaron ... Neither the Levites nor any in the common ranks of the people could be employed in this office of signal-giving. In order to attract greater attention and more faithful observance, it was reserved to the priests alone, as the Lord's ministers; and as anciently in Persia and other Eastern countries, the alarm trumpets were sounded from the tent of the sovereign, so were they blown from the tabernacle, the visible residence of Israel's King (see the notes at the phrase "ordinance forever," Exodus 12:14; Exodus 12:17; Exodus 12:24; Leviticus 16:34).

Verse 9

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.

If ye go to war - in the land of Canaan, either, when attacked by foreign invaders or when they went to take possession, according to the divine promise, ye - i:e., the priests-shall blow an alarm. This advice was accordingly acted upon (Numbers 31:6; 2 Chronicles 13:12); and in the circumstances it was an act of devout confidence in God. A solemn and religious act on the eve of a battle has often animated the hearts of those who felt they were engaged in a good and just cause; and so the blowing of the trumpet, being an ordinance of God, and performed by his consecrated ministers, produced that effect on the minds of the Israelites. But more is meant by the words-namely, that God would, as it were, be aroused by the trumpet to bless with His more is meant by the words-namely, that God would, as it were, be aroused by the trumpet to bless with His presence and aid.

Verse 10

Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the 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.

Also in the day of your gladness - i:e., festive and thanksgiving occasions were to be ushered in with the trumpets, as all feasts afterward were (Psalms 81:3; 2 Chronicles 29:27), to intimate the joyous and delighted feelings with which they engaged in the service of God. But this verse intimates, what we learn elsewhere (Deuteronomy 14:26; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14: cf. 1 Samuel 1:3-9.1.5; 1 Samuel 1:24-9.1.25; 1 Samuel 2:1-9.2.36:l2-16,19 ), that during public festivals, private sacrifices or free-will offerings were frequently made by individuals, as a matter of convenience, when they were at the established place of worship.

Verse 11

And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.

On the twentieth day ... The Israelites had lain encamped in Wady Er Rahah and the neighbouring valleys of the Sinaitic range, for the space of eleven months twenty-nine days (see the note at Exodus 19:1). Besides the religious purposes 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 and refreshment. They were neither physically nor morally in a condition to enter the lists with the warlike people they had to encounter before obtaining possession of Canaan. But the wondrous transactions at Sinai-the arm of Yahweh so visibly displayed in their favour-the covenant entered into, and the special blessings guaranteed, began a course of moral and religious education which moulded the character of this people-made them acquainted with their high destiny, and inspired them with those noble principles of divine truth and righteousness which alone make a great nation.

Verse 12

And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. Wilderness of Paran. It stretched from the base of the Sinaitic group, or from Et-Tih, over that extensive plateau to the southwestern borders of Palestine (see further the note at Genesis 21:21).

Verses 13-27

And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

They first took their journey ... by the hand of Moses. It is probable that Moses, on the breaking up of the encampment, stationed himself on some eminence to see the ranks defile in order through the embouchure of the mountains. The marching order is described, Numbers 2:1-4.2.34; but as the vast horde are represented here in actual migration, it may be proper to notice the extraordinary care that was taken for ensuring the safe conveyance of the holy things. In the rear of Judah, which, with the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, led the van, followed the Gershonites and Merarites with the heavy and coarser materials of the tabernacle. Next in order were set in motion the flank divisions of Reuben and Ephraim; and then came the Kohathites, who occupied the center of the moving mass, bearing the sacred utensils on their shoulders, and were so far behind the other portions of the Levitical body, that these would have time at the new encampment to erect the framework of the tabernacle before the Kohathites arrived. Last of all Dan, with the associated tribes, brought up the rear of the immense caravan. Each tribe was marshaled under its prince or chief, and in all their movements rallied around its own standard.

Verse 28

Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel according to their armies, when they set forward.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 29

And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in 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 good concerning Israel.

Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite - called also Reuel, the same as Jethro (see the note at Exodus 2:18) [ Rª`uw'eel (H7467); Septuagint, Ragoueel]. The English translators of Exodus followed the Masoretic punctuation, while in this passage of Numbers the text of the Septuagint seems to have been adopted. Hobab, the son of this Midianite chief, and brother-in-law to Moses, seems to have sojourned among the Israelites during the whole period of their encampment at Sinai, and now on their removal proposed returning to his own abode. Moses urged him to remain, both for his own benefit, in a religious point of view, and from the useful services his nomad habits could enable him to render.

Verse 30

And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 31

And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.

Leave us not, I pray thee. The earnest importunity of Moses to secure the attendance of this man, when he enjoyed the benefit of the directing cloud, has surprised many. But it should be recollected that the guidence of the cloud, though it showed the general route to be taken through the trackless desert, would not be so special and minute as to point out the places where pasture, shade, and water were to be obtained, and which were often hidden in obscure spots by the shifting sands. Besides, sever detachments were sent off from 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; and as a guide they must have been as invaluable as they were urgently required; because the journey within two or three days' distance from Sinai leads so constantly over hills of drift sand, that it is irksome and exceedingly bewildering. 'Among these sandhills,' says Robinson ('Biblical Researches,' vol. 1:,

p. 222), 'it required all Tuweileb's sagacity and experience to keep the proper road; and here apparently Burckhardt's guide ('Travels,' p. 498) missed the way, and kept on further down Wady Murrah.'

Another thing may be mentioned which, as Harmer remarks, 'puts the propriety of this request of Moses out of dispute. The sacred history expressly mentions several journeys undertaken by parties of the Israelites while the main body lay still. In Numbers 13:1-4.13.33 we read of a party that was sent out to reconnoitre the land of Canaan; in Numbers 20:1-4.20.29, of messengers sent from Kadesh to the king of Edom; in Numbers 31:1-4.31.54, of an expedition against the idolatrous Midianites; of some little expeditions in the close of Numbers 32:1-4.32.42; and more journeys of the like kind were, without doubt, undertaken, which are not particularly recounted. Now, Moses foreseeing something of this, might well request the company of Hobab, not as a single Arab; but so a prince of their clans, that he might be able to apply to him from time to time for some of his people to be conductors to those whom he might have occasion to send out to different places, while the body or the people and the cloud of the Lord remained stationary, ('Observ.,' vol. 2:, pp. 279-281, Dr. Adam Clarke's edition).

Verse 32

And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the LORD shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.

If thou go with us. A strong inducement is here held out; but it seems not to have changed the young man's purpose, for he departed and settled in his own district. (See the notes at Judges 1:16; 1 Samuel 15:6).

Verse 33

And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them.

They departed ... three days' journey - i:e., (the first day's progress being very small), about 18 or 20 miles.

Ark of covenant ... went before them ... to search out a resting place for them, [ laatuwr (H8446) laahem (H3807a) mªnuwchaah (H4496)] - to search or discover (used here anthropomorphically), a place of rest. It was carried in the center; and hence, some 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 at one time (Exodus 14:19), it is expressly said to have shifted its place.

Verse 34

And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 35-36

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 flee before thee.

When the ark set forward, that Moses said. Moses, as the organ of the people, uttered an appropriate prayer both at the commencement and the end of each journey. Thus, all the journeys were sanctified by devotion; but it is in a poetical form, and was probably the initial words of a hymn or sacred song chorussed by the people on these occasions. It was imitated by David. Psalms 68:1. Modern criticism asserts that the psalm was the original whence the words in this passage of Numbers was borrowed, 'Lord' being changed into 'God' (Ewald, also Hupfeld, quoted by Arnold, 'English Biblical Criticism and the Pentateuch,' p. 53). But for this assertion there is no reason, except what arises from the theory of the late composition of the Pentateuch.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Numbers 10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/numbers-10.html. 1871-8.