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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 15

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-41

Numbers 15:30 . The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, literally, with a high hand, reproacheth the Lord shall be cut off; or die, as Deuteronomy 17:12. But in Leviticus 6:0., atonement was prescribed for such; and why therefore are they now required to die? The law here respects cases which required judicial process, and witnesses, as in the case of the upright Naboth, affirming that the culprits blasphemed the Lord, or his law. The rabbins quote this passage against the Sadducees, to prove that there is a future state of rewards and punishments. If Moses meant the death of the body only, myriads of men comparatively innocent suffer the same punishment: and if so, what becomes of the discriminative justice of the Supreme Judge?

Numbers 15:35 . The congregation shall stone him. The Indians of North America were formerly known to inflict this kind of punishment on offenders; a presumptive proof that they are the descendants of Shem, having many of their judicial customs.

Numbers 15:38 . Bid them make fringes in the borders of their garments. If the Israelites were here specially commanded to wear fringes, containing precepts of the law in their robe or toga, lest they should be drawn aside to idolatry; it is equally binding on christians always to have the bible at hand. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.


Having left the aged men, in the preseding chapter, under a dreadful malediction, the Lord is here pleased to console the children, by prescribing the services they should yet live to perform in the promised land. The substance of them is, that with every burnt-offering they should bring a meat and a drink-offering. The several quantities of flour, oil and wine are explained in the tables of weights and measures; and the fair proportions are prescribed between a lamb, a ram, and a bullock, to regulate the temperance and decency of religious festivals; and they serve to remind us of the richer festivals which Christ has provided in the gospel.

Presumptuous sins, whether committed against the ceremonial or the moral law, were punished with death. Of both cases we have alarming examples in the sacred writings. The Sabbathbreaker here affords a notorious case. He not only gathered the sticks, but with a view to kindle a fire, both of which were forbidden under the penalty of death. Hence the Lord, to impose reverence for his precepts, commanded him to be stoned. And if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?

In order that the Israelites might neither forget nor neglect the precepts of the Lord, they were ordered to be reminded of them by the fringes of their garments. These are the phylacteries which the pharisees made very broad; and our Saviour reproved them for turning a sacred precept into a vain parade. Matthew 23:5. At the same time the christian world should be reminded, never to forget the precepts and sayings of the Lord. They are the food of the soul, the guardians of our walk, and the foundation of our hope: then shall we be saved, if we keep in memory what has been delivered unto us.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 15". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/numbers-15.html. 1835.
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