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The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic
ON THE FOURTH BOOK OF MOSES CALLED
CHAPTERS I. to XXXVI.
By the REV. WILLIAM JONES, D.D.
Author of the Commentaries on Ezra and the Psalms
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES,
INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS
THE BOOK OF NUMBERS,
THE word Numbers is a translation of the title given to this book in the LXX, Ἀριθμοί, in the Vulgate Numeri, and was evidently applied to it because it contains the record of the two numberings of the people. The Jews sometimes call it וַיְדַבֵּר, Vayedabber, which is its first word in the Heb.; but more frequently בְּמִדְבַּר Bemidbar, in the desert, which is its fifth word, and more accurately characterises the book.
“The book narrates the history of the Israelites during their sojourn in the wilderness from the completion of the law-giving at Sinai (Leviticus 27:34) to their mustering in the plains of Moab for actual entry into the Land of Promise”—or, from “the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt” (Numbers 1:1) to the end of the tenth month of the fortieth year (Deuteronomy 1:3), or a period of thirty-eight years and nine months. The events of the history are generally given in their chronological order, except in chapters 15–19, inclusive. These “chapters appear to deal with a long period, from which only isolated episodes are given; and of these the dates can only be conjectured.”
From the earliest times the book has been generally regarded as, in substance, as least, the work of Moses. In support of this view, the following reasons are given in the “Speaker’s Commentary:”—“
(1) The catalogue of the stations or encampments during the journeyings is assigned to Moses in Numbers 33:2.
(2) The intermixture in this book of narrative and legislative matter is one of its characteristic features.… This feature is exactly one which belongs to the work of a contemporary annalist.
(3) That the author had an intimate acquaintance with Egypt may be strikingly illustrated from Numbers. Compare Numbers 8:7 sqq.; Numbers 5:11-31; Numbers 19:1-10; Numbers 11:5-6; Numbers 13:22.
(4) The statements of this book abound in evidences that the writer and those with whom he lived were still in the desert. Compare Numbers 19:14; Numbers 2:0; Numbers 9:16 sqq.; Numbers 10:1-28; Numbers 10:35-36.
(5) There are topographical statements in the book which could hardly have been written after the days of Moses. Compare Numbers 21:13 with 32.
(6) The various communications purporting to be from God to Moses are so worded and often of such a nature (cf. e.g. Numbers 14:11-26), that unless we go the length of denying their historical character altogether, we must admit them to have been recorded by the very person who received them.
(7) No other person than Moses has been or can be named with anything like probability, or even plausibility, as the author.… We conclude then, with confidence, that nothing has been as yet alleged which disturbs the generally-accepted views respecting the authorship of this book. It is, in substance, the work of Moses; and whilst many portions of it were probably committed to writing for years before the whole was completed, yet the concluding chapters were not written until towards the close of the fortieth year after the exodus.”
As to our work on this book, very few words are necessary. In accordance with a leading principle of this series of Commentaries, we have endeavoured to present the largest number of things in the smallest number of words. To this principle, literary finish and grace have been subordinated. Some of the records contained in this book are not well adapted to homiletic treatment or fruitful in homiletic suggestion. In dealing with these, we have endeavoured to suggest homiletic methods without any straining of the text or unworthy handling of the Sacred Word; and we venture to hope that we have not been altogether unsuccessful in this respect. The illustrations which are given are (by Mr. Dickinson’s request) numerous. They are drawn from a wide range of literature, and very few of them are taken from “Storehouses,” “Treasuries,” or “Dictionaries of Illustration.” Each one will be found to be well suited to illumine or impress the point to which it is attached. In our work we have consulted the best authors who have written on this book; and are under considerable obligations to “A Commentarie upon the Fourth Booke of Moses, called Numbers, by William Attersoll, Minister of the Word” (1618); “Comfortable Notes upon the Booke of Numbers, by Bishop Gervase Babington” (1637); “Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Pentateuch;” and to the “Speaker’s Commentary.”
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30