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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 9

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The observation of the passover is enjoined: the motion of the camp of Israel is directed by the cloud.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 1

Numbers 9:1. And the Lord spake unto Moses Had spoken. The numbering of the children of Israel, mentioned in the first chapter of this book, was made on the first day of the second month in the second year; so that what is related here happened before that event: "Not that Moses," observes Houbigant, "neglected the order of time; but because those things which were first written in the separate tables of his commentaries, were afterwards digested in the present order. This is no reason why any thing of the present order should be changed: it is sufficient for us to know, that the books of Moses contain the genuine acts of his time, and not a regular and continued history."

Verse 5

Numbers 9:5. And they kept the passover It was the more necessary to repeat the injunction for the observation of the passover, Num 9:2 as they might have concluded, from Exo 12:25 that they were under no obligation to keep it in the wilderness; but, being now in a quiet state, and having rested for almost a whole year, they had that leisure for the observance of it, which, in their future unsettled condition, we do not find they had afterwards; not even circumcising their children, Jos 5:5 who, consequently, could not eat of the passover. Exodus 12:48.

Verse 6

Numbers 9:6. There were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body, &c.— The reader should remember, that the case here mentioned, happened before the law was delivered, that is mentioned chap. Numbers 5:2.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here, 1. The second passover observed after their deliverance from Egypt; and it should seem, they celebrated it no more till they came to Canaan, because of their omission of circumcision, which in their removes might be dangerous. Moses, at God's command, enjoins it, and the people obey him. If they with delight could thus run to celebrate the memorial of their deliverance; with what constancy and gladness should we approach the table of our Lord, to remember his greater deliverance of us from worse than Egyptian bondage, even from the chains of sin, and from the powers of death and hell.

2. A case brought before Moses, Numbers 9:6. Some persons were defiled by a dead body, and therefore could not keep the passover; yet, grieved to be excluded where themselves were without blame, they consult Moses, and Moses carries the matter before the Lord. Hence learn, (1.) If ceremonial defilement at that time debarred from the most sacred ordinance, how much more should moral impurity in our day debar men from the table of the Lord! (2.) Even unforeseen and unavoidable impediments, which detain us from waiting upon God in his ordinances, will be a grief, or at least a trial, to us. (3.) In cases of conscience ministers should be consulted about the path of duty. (4.) Ministers must wait much upon God in prayer and in his word, that they may be directed into all truth themselves, and enabled to direct others also.

3. God resolves the question, and makes an order for future generations. Whoever are unclean, or on a journey afar off, have a month more allowed them, when they may with the same ceremonies keep the feast, and it would be alike accepted: but if it was deferred through neglect or contempt, the sinner must be cut off, either by excommunication from the visible church, or by God's hand in secret judgment. Note; (1.) They who are disappointed unavoidably from attending upon God in his ordinances, will be happy to seize the returning opportunity of approaching his house and table. (2.) Providential hindrances from the means of grace will not, if our hearts be right, deprive us of the grace of the means; God will amply supply our wants some other way. (3.) They who reject God's ordinances, will be rejected by him. Habitual wilful absence from the Lord's table is a strong sign of a lost soul.

4. The circumcised stranger had the same right as the home-born Israelite. In Christ Jesus there is no difference between barbarian, Scythian, bond, or free: whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

Verse 15

Numbers 9:15. And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up Being now come to the decampment of the Israelites from mount Sinai, it was natural for Moses to mention by what direction these decampments were made; and we find it repeated no less than three times in the compass of these few verses, that it was at the commandment of the Lord, signified by the cloud of glory, that they moved or rested. Maimonides says, that the reason for Moses being so particular in repeating so often this circumstance of their marching and resting at the command of God, was to confute the opinion of the Arabians and others, who imagined that the reason of the Israelites staying so long in the wilderness was because they had lost their way: which, he observes, was a very idle conceit; since the way from mount Horeb to Kadesh Barnea, on the borders of Canaan, was a known, beaten road, and not above eleven days journey; so that it was hardly possible for them to miss it, far less to wander in a bewildered condition for forty years. Le Clerc, however, assigns, for the repetition, only the simplicity of the ancient manner of writing. By the hand of Moses, Num 9:23 signifies, by the ministry of Moses, their lawgiver and director under God; who, at every march and encampment, accompanied the divine signal with a solemn prayer; saying, when the ark set forward, Rise up, Lord! let thine enemies be scattered, &c. when it rested, Return, O Lord! unto the many thousands of Israel; see ch. Numbers 10:35-36. They marched sometimes by night, which is the chief time for travelling through these desarts, on account of the heat; see Observations, p. 223. Thus, how tedious and irksome soever their particular travels or stations might be, and however impatiently desirous they were of arriving at the promised land; yet they resigned themselves to the constant direction of this heavenly guide; and never dared to stir, but by the special appointment of God, under the ministry of his servant Moses. It was a glorious advantage to the Jews to be led by the cloud in the wilderness, which was to them a constant symbol of the Divine Presence; but let Christians remember, that in Jesus Christ they have a much more expressive pledge of God's presence and favour; and are much more happy in being guided by the light of the Gospel; which shews them the way wherein they are to walk during their stay in this world, in order to their arrival at the joys of heaven.

Verse 22

Numbers 9:22. Or whether it were two days, &c.— But if the cloud stood, and remained upon the tabernacle for some days, or for a whole month, or for a longer interval, the children of Israel abode in their tents, &c. Houbigant. See his note.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here, the miraculous pillar of the cloud resting on the tabernacle in the day of its erection: God gives them orders how to regulate their marches by the motions and guidance of it.

1. They were to rest as the cloud rested, whether the time were long or short. God's time is the best time: we may not run, till he calls. Faith will beget patient waiting upon God. 2. When the cloud moved by day or night, they were to be always ready, and begin their march. Note; (1.) That we must have our tents struck by death is certain; the time when, uncertain: it becomes us, therefore, to be always prepared, that when God calls us out of the body, we may have nothing to do but to die. (2.) It will be comfortable to every true Israelite to see the cloud remove. This wilderness-state is not our rest; we look for a more abiding mansion in the skies. (3.) They were not to stay or encamp on the march, but by the direction of their guide. We must not desire to choose the place of our own abode; let God fix our habitation, and there contentedly let us pitch our tent.

How great was the favour thus visibly to have the presence of God among them, and to be under such a guardian and guide! Blessed be God, their mercies are our own, as to their substance; God's word and spirit, and providence, lead us in his holy ways, and keep us safely journeying heavenward. And while we yield ourselves up to him without reserve, we may confidently exercise faith in our safe arrival at the promised land of everlasting glory.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-9.html. 1801-1803.
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