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Numbers 9:1 . The Lord spake. Better, The Lord had spoken. See Numbers 1:1.
Numbers 9:2 . The passover. This was the second passover, and many have supposed that they used manna instead of unleavened bread. But after the first removal of the camp from the plain before Sinai, they ceased circumcising on account of the journey, not knowing the day on which the cloud would remove; consequently, the third passover was eaten in the land of Canaan after Joshua had circumcised all the males born since the cloud was first taken up.
Numbers 9:7 ; Numbers 9:10 . Defiled by a dead body. In both these places the Hebrew puts nephesh, or soul, for the body of a man, probably because the body was the habitation of the soul, and shall be so again at the resurrection.
Numbers 9:10 . If any man be unclean yet shall he eat. This leniency of the paschal rite extended, no doubt, to uncleanness by war, by disease, and other impurities. This law seems to have influenced king Hezekiah, to permit those to eat of his passover, who had but just been reclaimed from partial idolatry. 2 Chronicles 30:0. It is equally encouraging to christians to approach the Lord’s table, though through business and other causes, they may not be prepared as they would wish.
Numbers 9:15 . The cloud. Porphyrius, a heathen writer, mentions fire as the symbol of the divine presence, and by consequence the crime was capital to let the fire go out. Therefore the heathen priests affected to have those marks of the presence of their gods. See on Exodus 13:21.
Here we find some of the Israelites in trouble. They had defiled themselves with duties and decencies for the dead, and feared to be precluded from eating the passover; therefore they came to enquire of Moses. It is good to have a fear of offending in sacred things. We had better tremble than be presumptuous. This case, undefined by the law, was decided in their favour. The usual impurities being cleansed by washing, and by the evening sacrifice, they were consequently permitted afterwards, in the same evening, to celebrate the passover with their brethren. It is good for serious minds labouring under scruples and fears to come at once to their ministers. It is the best way of getting them removed, and of receiving true comfort and divine peace.
The Hebrews on a journey, whether in their own country or in a distant land, were required to celebrate the passover. They owed this duty in memory of national mercies; and in hope of full redemption by the Lord. This law, in a moral view, requires christians in all their journeys to hallow the sabbath, and to attend the means of grace, if possible, as much as when resident at home. The loose and idle manner in which strangers and travellers often spend that holy day, is a great disgrace to the christian name.
In the day when the tabernacle was set up the cloud rested upon it. God honoured their work, and accepted of a habitation prepared by man, that he might dwell with him for ever. How glorious, how terrible, how sanctifying the dwelling of God in his pavilion! And this cloud, residing on the sanctuary, is a figure of the spiritual presence of Christ with his church to the end of time. Let us rejoice in his arm of high defence: he will never leave, nor forsake his Zion.
But the cloud of his presence governed the wanderings and rests of the host. Israel was a stranger in the desert land. He was undisciplined with the rod and untutored in the paths of righteousness. Therefore his hasty passions needed the imposing hand of omnipotence, and the counsel of a gracious guide. When he humbles and restrains us by afflictions, we must learn submission to his will. We are now called to obedience as children; and in the issue, he will explain to us the wise and gracious motives of his conduct.
The Israelites were also led by the cloud in the way they ought to go. Thus the leader of Israel will guide us also by his providence; for it is not in man to direct his own steps. In moral concerns, he will guide us by the glory of his written word, that we may walk according to his testimonies; and in spiritual attainments, his Holy Spirit shall lead us into the full enjoyment of his perfect love, and into the glorious liberty of his children. Let us then give up our will to his will, and our understanding to the dictates of unerring truth. Of all men they are the best guided who abide in humility, and in all the ordinances of God. This pillary cloud, this shining flame, not only sanctified and guided Israel in the desert, but it struck a terror on all their surrounding foes. The nations, hearing that God was with them, and that he spake with them face to face, were appalled, and scarcely dared to speak against the ransomed of the Lord. And if God be for us, who shall be against us? If he be our light and salvation, whom shall we fear? He will make our enemies to be at peace with us, and cause his people to dwell in safety.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14