Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 15

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Of the measure and quantity of flour, oil, and wine to be offered: the sabbath-breaker stoned, fringes in the borders of the garments.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 1

Numbers 15:1. And the Lord spake unto Moses See note on Numbers 15:23.

Verse 3

Numbers 15:3. An offering by fire Respecting these different offerings, we refer to the notes on Leviticus.

Verse 4

Numbers 15:4. Meat offering This Dr. Waterland renders bread offering throughout the chapter.

Verse 5

Numbers 15:5. Wine It is well remarked by Le Clerc, that as wine and oil are the most excellent liquors which the earth, by the order of Providence, produces for human use, God would have these to be offered to him in all sacrifices, that men might be continually put in mind of him from whom those blessings flowed, and openly acknowledge their great benefactor. Regard too, no doubt, was had, by enjoying the constant use of them, to the great and future realities in the Christian economy, whereof wine and oil were the standing emblems.

Verse 14

Numbers 15:14. If a stranger sojourn with you This evidently means a stranger proselyted to the Jewish religion; and by the wisdom of this law, it is not only provided, that there should be no distinction between the natives and such proselytes, but also that there should be no innovations in the Jewish religion; for had not strangers, who resided within the Jewish territories, been obliged to conform to the same ceremonies of public worship with the Jews, their example might have had a pernicious influence, to corrupt that form of worship which was instituted by God himself.

Verse 19

Numbers 15:19. When ye eat Houbigant has it, when ye shall first eat. The meaning is, that before they began to eat their new bread they should make their offering to the Lord.

Verse 20

Numbers 15:20. As ye do the heave-offering of the threshing floor The precise quantity of this offering is not specified, any more than that of the first fruits; but St. Jerome says, that on account of the avarice of the priests, who were wont to exact upon the people, it was limited to a sixtieth part, or, the sixth part of an ephah of an homer; that is, a sixtieth part, an ephah being the tenth part of an homer: and since it is here required that they should do in this offering of the first of their dough, as in the offering of their first fruits, this seems to intimate that the same quantity was to be offered in both.

REFLECTIONS.—God had spared them at Moses's request, and in the opening of the chapter intimates his fixed purpose of bringing them into the land of Canaan, which even all their rebellions shall not prevent. He here prescribes the offerings hereafter to be made at his altar, as the sacrifices had been enjoined before.

1. Meat offerings and drink offerings must accompany every sacrifice. As the priest's provision was to arise from the altar, they had thus a table furnished richly. Note; They who minister before the Lord deserve a sufficient maintenance.

2. In the things of God, there was to be no difference between an Israelite and a stranger; hereby they were invited to communion with God's altar, and an intimation given, that not the seed of Abraham's loins, so much as the children of his faith, were accepted of God. In Christ Jesus, there is no difference of nation, sex, or person; none who come to him shall be in any wise cast out: every partition-wall is now thrown down, and whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.
3. Though they were now fed with manna, God intended to give them by and by the corn of Canaan; and they are commanded to offer, from the first corn which was threshed and ground, a portion of dough, as an acknowledgment of God's right in all they enjoyed; and this was appropriated for the use of the priest's family. Our daily bread is God's gift, and we may expect, when we break a portion of it to the hungry, that his blessing will be on the remainder.

Verse 23

Numbers 15:23. All that the Lord hath commanded you, &c.— It has been conjectured from this verse, that the laws in the present chapter were delivered towards the end of their peregrinations, and not long before their settlement in Canaan; consequently, at a time when the greater part of the mutinous generation mentioned in the former chapter had been cut off by death. Though this is very uncertain, it is plain, from the second verse, that they were not obliged to the observance of these laws till settled in Canaan; the reason of which, probably, was, that they could not be provided with the matter of their sacrifices in such plenty as was necessary to perform all the ceremonies here required.

Verse 24

Numbers 15:24. Then it shall be, &c.— See Lev 13:21 where the law, as it is generally thought, relates to trespasses of commission, as here to those of omission. See Calmet and Outram de Sacrif.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here the sacrifices for sins of ignorance, 1. Of the whole congregation: 2. Of a private person. Sin must be atoned for, or it would destroy us. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sins, not only from those which we feel and lament, but those also that through our blindness we cannot see. Indeed, who can understand all his errors? Lord, cleanse thou me from my secret faults!

Verses 30-31

Numbers 15:30-31. Doeth ought presumptuously, &c.— In the Hebrew, with an high hand; that is, in a presumptuous and premeditated manner. It signifies the action of a man who knowingly and wilfully breaks the law, and, when admonished, despises the admonition, sets the law at nought, and denies its divine authority. The meaning, therefore, seems to be, that whoever shall in any case, not only knowingly and deliberately, but presumptuously, and in contempt of the law and of the authority of the Divine Lawgiver, against all advice and admonition, run counter to the express commands of God, in his case no atonement shall be admitted. Such a one was to be cut off by death.—But if all presumptuous sins were to be punished with death by the Jewish law, how, it may be asked, is this to be reconciled with other parts of the same law, which exempt from capital punishment some notorious crimes (particularly theft) which may be reckoned presumptuous, as those who commit them must know them to be expressly contrary to the law of God?—Now, in answer to this, Maimonides and other rabbis think, that this law is to be restricted to sins of idolatry, which are most properly a reproaching of Jehovah, and a despising of his word, and therefore were punished by the law of Moses with greater severity than other crimes; indeed, the context shews that Moses is to be understood to speak here, not of offences against our neighbour, but of presumptuous violations of the law in the case of religious worship; which, if not direct idolatry, was at least a degree of apostacy from the true religion. But it is further to be observed, that the presumptuous sin lies not so much in the crime itself as in the manner of committing it, when it is accompanied with such daring circumstances of impiety as amount even to blasphemy, which is here called reproaching the Lord, and despising his word. For instance, though theft in itself was not punishable with death, yet if the thief, when taken, instead of acknowledging his offence and the equity of the law, should insist upon his justification, set the law at nought, and disown it to be of divine authority, he then sinned also presumptuously, and with an high hand, and consequently was to be cut off. See Selden de Jure N. and G. lib. 2: cap. 2: We may further remark, that the opposition in the context between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption, plainly proves, that the manner of committing, rather than the sins themselves, is here referred to.

Verse 32

Numbers 15:32. And while the children of Israel, &c.— The following case of the sabbath-breaker seems evidently to be inserted as an instance of that presumptuous manner of sinning spoken of in the preceding verses: in which view, the passages mutually illustrate each other; and, to mark the connection more strongly, the present verse might be better rendered thus, now, [or accordingly] while the children of Israel were in [that part of] the wilderness, &c. This man's crime was, certainly, not that of merely gathering a few sticks on the sabbath-day, but of doing it in a presumptuous manner, in open contempt of the law of the sabbath, and of his authority who had instituted that law.

Verse 35

Numbers 15:35. The man shall be surely put to death Though Moses very well knew, that those who defiled the sabbath-day, by doing any manner of servile work upon it, should die, (Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2.) yet he doubted by what kind of death, and in what manner, the present offender was to suffer, whether by the immediate hand of heaven, or by ordinary punishment. Consulting the Lord upon this, public stoning was appointed; accordingly, the offender was thus put to death: Num 15:36 not on the sabbath-day, for that was unlawful, but soon after Moses had received the answer from God. It is easy to conceive why the breach of the sabbath was so severely punished among the Jews; for their religion principally depended upon the observance of it. Indeed, all religion greatly depends upon the observance of it. In proportion as the sabbath is regarded or neglected by nations or individuals, their religious characters will be found better or worse in general.

REFLECTIONS.—Every sin is deeply dangerous; but when a hardened heart denies God's truth, quarrels with God's justice mocks at God's threatenings, rejects his government, and casts off his fear, then its state is desperate indeed, and punishment certain and dreadful ensues. Lord, keep thy servant from presumptuous sins!

Verse 38

Numbers 15:38. Bid them that they make them fringes Another remarkable command is given, that every Israelite should wear, at the four comers of the skirts of his outward garment, (Deuteronomy 22:12.) fringes, fastened with blue ribband, fillet, or binding. These fringes or borders were formed with indentations or rays, like those of a flower. See Pole, Synops. The blue colour Le Clerc conjectures to have been chosen, rather than any other, in conformity to the high priest's robe of blue, that so they might be put in mind that they were a kingdom of priests, all of them consecrated to God; Exodus 19:6. The use of this ornament is signified in the 39th verse, that we may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, &c. Thus, as circumcision in their persons, so this ornament in their garb, was designed a badge to distinguish them from other nations; that so, as often as they looked upon this mark, they might be put in mind of their being the worshippers of the true God: a holy people, bound to the service of their Maker by peculiar laws and obligations, and by no means permitted to follow their own fancies and corrupt imaginations; Numbers 15:40. But, though these ornaments were thus well intended, and could not be considered as conveying any real sanctity, many of the Jews were found afterwards too apt to pride themselves in the bare wearing of them, and among other mean devices of hypocrisy, to which the Pharisees in our Saviour's time had recourse, the enlarging the fringes was one, in order to make themselves more observable, and gain them the reputation of greater sanctity than others. See Matthew 23:5. It appears from Virgil, AEneid iv. ver. 137 that the custom of wearing garments, with a blue or purple border or fringe, was not unknown to the Phoenicians:

Sidoniam picto chlamyden circumdata limbo.

We may just observe, that what we render in the 39th verse, for a fringe, Houbigant, after the Arabic signification of the word ציצ tzitz, renders for admonition. See his note.

REFLECTIONS.—The Jews were God's peculiar people; their very dress must be different from that of the nations around them. Note; (1.) When the manners of the world in dress are extravagant or indecent, it becomes the people of God to be singular. (2.) Our clothes, instead of ministering to pride, should ever awaken our thankfulness, and lead us to God.

The conclusion of the chapter furnishes the strongest argument for their exact obedience and conformity to every injunction. Note; When God is our God, we shall not only account all his commandments right and good, but obedience to them will be as much our delight as our duty.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 15". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-15.html. 1801-1803.
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