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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Numbers 10

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. X.

Of the silver trumpets, and their use: in what order the camps of the Israelites were to move: Moses requests Hobab to accompany them: the prayer of Moses upon the moving and resting of the ark.

Before Christ 1490.


Verse 2

Numbers 10:2. Make thee two trumpets of silver Two trumpets only are ordered; for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who alone were to blow them, (Numbers 10:8.) were then but two. When the priests were more numerous, the trumpets were increased in proportion: so, in Solomon's time, we read of an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets, 2 Chronicles 5:12. They were to be of silver, which gave them a shriller sound; and each made of one piece, to render the sound more distinct and loud, according to Josephus's description of them, Antiq. lib. 3: cap. 12. They were much after the same form as ours; being a cubit long, and narrow like a pipe, but wider at the bottom. It is observed by antiquaries, that trumpets were anciently used instead of bells; and Eustathius upon Homer says, the Egyptians used a trumpet of ram's horn, (whereof Osiris was the inventor) when they called the people to their sacrifices. The use of these silver trumpets is described with sufficient clearness in the following verses; see Leviticus 23:24. The blowing of the trumpets is generally supposed to have been emblematical of the joyful and blessed sound of the gospel; see Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 58:1. Psalms 89:15.


Verse 6

Numbers 10:6. When ye blow an alarm the second time, &c.— In the LXX we have the following addition, When ye blow a third alarm, the camps that are on the west shall march: and when ye blow a fourth alarm, the camps that are on the north shall march. They shall blow an alarm for their marching. See Wall's critical notes.


Verse 7

Numbers 10:7. When the congregation is to be gathered together Lowman observes, that as there were no legislative powers intrusted any where in this constitution, the national revenue settled, and no soldiery in pay, all holding their estates by military service; there was no reason for new taxes: so that the Hebrew congregation, or parliament, could have no business either to make new laws, or to raise money. The things, therefore, in which the consent and authority of the people were requisite, and for which the congregation was to be convened, were war and peace with neighbouring nations; differences between tribes; and receiving and establishing principal officers and magistrates.


Verse 9

Numbers 10:9. If ye go to war in your land Bishop Patrick observes, that as these trumpets were to be used in summoning the armies of Israel to go forth to battle; so, previously to that, in calling the people together to implore a blessing upon their arms; as the latter part of the verse intimates, and as it is explained by Maimonides and other ancient interpreters: which exposition is confirmed by the prophet Joel, ch. Numbers 2:1; Numbers 2:15 where, at the same time that the alarm of war is ordered to be sounded, a fast is ordered to be proclaimed by blowing the trumpet.

And ye shall be remembered before the Lord Continues the sacred historian: the sounding of the trumpets being a kind of call upon God to assist them, and a sign to the people to implore and rely upon the divine aid:—that they may be to you for a memorial before your God, Numbers 10:10 see Psalms 150:3. In 2 Chronicles 13:14-15 we read, that Judah, seeing themselves beset with dangers before and behind, cried unto the Lord, and the priests sounded with the trumpets; and it is here promised, that if they do so, [no doubt, a true repentance, is implied] they should be saved from their enemies.


Verse 10

Numbers 10:10. In the beginnings of your months See on ch. Numbers 28:11.

REFLECTIONS.—God gives directions here for the making silver trumpets. They must be two, each of beaten silver, and the priests alone must blow in them. The ministers of God must always lift up their voice as a trumpet, boldly and zealously for God, and their word be not only pure as the silver, but musical as the trumpet's swelling note, big with the glad tidings of a free salvation through Jesus, and heard to the ends of the earth.

The use of these trumpets was, 1. If both trumpets were blown in a continued tone, the whole congregation were summoned to the tabernacle; if one, the heads of the tribes only. It is thus by the ministry of the gospel that souls are called to Christ; and in a resurrection-day they will be awakened by the trumpet's voice, to appear before the throne of God. 2. An interrupted blast intimated a march; and by this signal, at intervals, the several camps, first of Judah, then of Reuben, next of Ephraim, and lastly of Dan, were directed in their motions. They who would march aright to heaven, must attend to the word of God spoken by his servants. 3. In times of invasion and war, these martial instruments were to awaken their courage; and when sounded, God promises to fight for them. Though the world is full of enemies against the people of God, we may boldly go forth under the strength-inspiring promises of God's word, and be assured of certain victory through Jesus, the Captain of our salvation. 4. Their solemn assemblies and feasts were enlivened with the joyful sound, intimating, that when we draw near to God in holy duties, it should not be a wearisome service, but the very joy and rejoicing of our hearts.


Verse 12

Numbers 10:12. Journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai, &c.— After having continued near a year (namely, eleven months and twenty days; compare Exodus 19:1 with the foregoing verse of this chapter) in the wilderness of Sinai; the children of Israel now removed from thence, and, after three days march, pitched in the wilderness of Paran. Though Moses mentions this as their first station after decamping from Sinai, we are to observe, that they made two stations before they came thither: the first at Kibroth Hattaavah; the second at Hazeroth: (see ch. Numbers 11:35.) and then their third encampment was in the wilderness of Paran; ch. Numbers 12:16 to which verse we refer the reader for an account of this wilderness.


Verse 13

Numbers 10:13. And they first took their journey See Deuteronomy 1:6-7 which words are found in the Samaritan after the tenth verse of this chapter. Houbigant renders this 13th verse, But this their first march was made according to the command of the Lord by Moses. 14. And in the front of the army marched, &c.


Verse 21

Numbers 10:21. And the other did set up the tabernacle The other is not in the text: Calmet explains it, "that the Kohathites set up the tabernacle against they, i.e. the priests, arrived." Houbigant renders it, and the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sacred things, and the tabernacle was erected while they came. The two families, says he, of the Levites, Gershon and Merari, march after the tribe of Judah; that, the front of the army standing still, and pitching their tents, they might erect, without any delay, the tabernacle, when it was to be erected: that so the Kohathites might find it prepared to receive the holy vessels, when they came after the second part of the army: and this is taken notice of in the first march of the Israelites, as it was to be the rule of all the rest.


Verse 25

Numbers 10:25. Which was the rearward of all the camps The word rendered rearward, signifies properly, gathering. ףּמאס measep, and so should be rendered, gathering to it all the camps; i.e. all the rest of the people, who belonged not to any particular camp, but to all the camps in general; namely, such as were under twenty years old; all unclean persons, who were shut out of the camp, ch. Numbers 5:2 together with the mixed multitude which came with them out of Egypt.

REFLECTIONS.—God, having fully settled their host, calls them to begin their march.

1. The signal is given in the removal of the cloud. They had now been near a year at Sinai, and having received God's institutions, they are, with God in the midst of them, on their journey to be put in possession of his promises. We may comfortably remove, when we have God with us. 2. They marched according to God's order, and under his guidance; and though they were long kept wandering, yet were never bewildered. When we trust ourselves to God, we may be involved in difficulties; but our way is safe, and the issue will be peace. 3. After journeying a few days they rested in the wilderness of Paran. We must expect small rest here, where our best changes are but one wilderness for another. While therefore we are thankful for the mercies by the way, we must look for our abiding resting-place in heaven, whence we shall remove no more. 4. The order of the march, as directed before. Judah led the way, then the Gershonites and Merarites followed with the tabernacle; next Reuben's squadron; after them, the Kohathites with the sacred vessels; Ephraim followed; Dan, with all the attendants on the camp, closed the rear. Behold a type of the church: Christ, the captain, leads the glorious van; his ministers mark his steps with their sacred charges; the faithful, firm-embodied, and true to their colours, follow; while the weaker have a glorious guard of ministering spirits, under the conduct of their Lord.


Verse 29

Numbers 10:29. Moses said unto Hobab See Exodus 2:18. It has been thought by many, that Hobab was only another name for Jethro; see Exodus 18:27. But, upon a more exact survey, I should be rather inclined to believe, that Hobab was Jethro's son; who, after Jethro had left the Israelites, continued with his brother-in-law Moses. Moses presses him very closely still to continue with him, and to partake of the good which the Lord designed for Israel; come thou with us, and we will do thee good: and, in the 31st verse, he urges the great utility whereof he would be to them in their march through this wilderness: To which some have said, What need could there be of such a guide as Hobab, when Moses knew that the cloud of glory was to be their perpetual guide? On this account some of the ancient versions give a different turn to the words of this 31st verse. Thus, the Chaldee paraphrase explains it, thou knowest how we have encamped in the wilderness, and thine eyes have seen the miracles which have been wrought for us. The Samaritan, thou knowest our encampments, and hast been to us instead of eyes: which cannot be the true rendering, as Hobab had not yet followed their camp. The Syriac has it, thou shalt be dear to us as our eyes; the LXX, thou shalt be as a senator amongst us, the counsellors of princes being sometimes called their eyes: but I apprehend that ours is the true translation; and the following remark from the author of the observations will be sufficient to obviate the difficulty respecting the divine guidance.

"When Moses," says that writer, "begged of Hobab not to leave Israel, because they were to encamp in the wilderness, and he might be to them instead of eyes, ch. Numbers 10:31 he doubtless meant, that he might be a guide to them in the difficult journeys they had to take in the wilderness; see Job 29:15. Accordingly, every body at all acquainted with the nature of such desarts as Israel had to pass through, must be sensible of the great importance of having some of the natives of that country for guides, who know where water is to be found, and can lead to places proper on that account for encampments. Without their help, travelling would be much more difficult in these desarts, and indeed often fatal. The importance of having these Arabian guides, appears from such a number of passages in books of travels, that every one, whose reading has turned this way, must have observed it. The application then of Moses to Hobab, the Midianite, that is, to a principal Arab of the tribe of Midian, would have appeared perfectly just, had it not been for this thought, that the cloud of the Divine Presence went before Israel, and directed their marches. Of what consequence, then, it maybe asked, could the journeying of Hobab with them be? A man would take more upon him than he ought, who should affirm, that the attendance of such an one as Hobab was of no use to Israel, in their removing from station to station: Very possibly the guidance of the cloud might not be so minute, as absolutely to render his offices of no value. But I will mention another thing which will put the propriety of this request of Moses quite out of dispute. The sacred history expressly mentions several journies undertaken by parties of the Israelites, while the main body lay still; see chapters Numbers 13:20 : xxxi, xxxii, &c. Now Moses, foreseeing something of this, might well beg the company of Hobab, not as a single Arab, but as a prince of one of their clans, that he might be able to apply to him, from time to time, for some of his people, to be conductors of those whom he should have occasion to send out to different places; while the body of the people, and the cloud of the Lord, continued unmoved. Nor was their assistance wanted only with respect to water, when any party of them was sent out upon an expedition; but the whole congregation must have had frequent need of them for directions where to find fewel. Manna continually, and sometimes water, was given them miraculously; their clothes also were exempted from decay while in the wilderness; but fewel was wanted to warm them some part of the year, and at all times to bake and seethe the manna, (according to Exodus 16:23.) and was never obtained but in a natural way, that we know of. For this, then, they wanted the assistance of such Arabs as were perfectly well acquainted with the desart. So Thevenot, describing his travelling in this very desart, says, that on the night of the 25th of January, they rested in a place where was some broom; for that their guides never brought them to rest any where, if they could help it, but in places where they could find fewel, not only to warm them, but to prepare their coffee, &c. and he complains of the want of fewel upon other occasions. Moses hoped that Hobab would be instead of eyes to the Israelites, both with respect to the guiding their parties to wells and springs in the desart; and the giving the people in general notice where they might find fewel: for though they frequently in this desart make use of camel's dung for fewel, [see Dr. Shaw's preface, p. 12.] yet this could not, we may imagine, wholly supply the wants of the Israelites: and, in fact, we find that they sought about for other firing. See chap. Numbers 15:32-33."


Verse 32

Numbers 10:32. It shall be, if thou go with us, &c.— It seems most probable, from Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11 that Moses prevailed with Hobab, and that he settled with the Israelites in the land of Canaan.

REFLECTIONS.—Hobab, when Israel was now commanded to advance, is for returning home. Hereupon Moses, his brother-in-law, invites him to go with them. They were going under a gracious promise, and with the protection of a great God, and therefore were sure of success. When we are going to heaven ourselves, it cannot but be a grief to see our friends and relations disposed to go another way; and we shall make it our business and labour to persuade them to cast in their lot with us. Hobab resolves at first not to go; his land and kindred were dear attractives to keep him from the journey. How often have lands, and friends, and relations, prevailed upon the heart to renounce the ways of God and glory, for the momentary enjoyments of a perishing world? Let it not be our case. Moses will not be easily put off. Real love to a man's soul will make us importunate to gain him. He urges two reasons, both suited to engage him: 1. The use he might be of to them in their encampments, and with his advice. Note; (1.) That we have it in our power to serve our neighbour, is a strong argument for doing it. (2.) Though we are under the sure guidance of an all-wise God, it becomes us to use all the means which human prudence suggests. 2. The advantages he might hope for himself. They who join God's people will share in their inheritance; and though friends or lands are left behind, they will be amply recompensed.


Verse 33

Numbers 10:33. And the ark—went before them The ark was carried in the midst of the camp; see ch. Numbers 2:17 and the 21st of this chapter. The words before them, in the Hebrew, signify, in their presence; before their face; לפניהם lipneihem, and thus rendered, there is no difficulty or contradiction. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went in their presence in the three days' journey, to explore (or direct them in finding out) a resting-place for them. Calmet renders it, L'arche d'alliance marchoit en leur presence; the ark of the covenant marched in their presence; in the midst of the army, where every one might see it. Historians remark, that the kings of Persia in battles, encampments, and marches, were always in the centre of their army, to be the more secure, and better enabled to issue their orders; to keep their troops to their duty, and more easily to distinguish what was everywhere going forward. Patrick, in justification of our version, observes, that when a general occupies a proper place in his army, we say, without scruple, that he marches at the head. Moses speaks of the ark, as of a general, who goes before to choose out and prepare a camp for his army; and he speaks of the ark instead of the cloud; because the cloud, elevated in the air to guide the Israelites, always continued suspended above the ark.


Verse 35

Numbers 10:35. When the ark set forward,—Moses said, &c.— Whoever reads over the sixty-eighth psalm, will think it no improbable conjecture, that the whole psalm was sung by the Levites, as they marched along with the ark in solemn order.


Verse 36

Numbers 10:36. Return, O Lord, unto, &c.— There being nothing for unto in the Hebrew, some approve the version of the Septuagint; return, O Lord, [i.e. to their rest] the many thousands of Israel. The Chaldee paraphrase has it, return, Lord, dwell with thy glory among the ten thousand thousands of Israel. See Isaiah 30:15. Ainsworth thinks this interpretation the most just; that, as, when the cloud and host removed; Moses prayed God to rise up, and go with them against their enemies; so, when the ark and people rested, he prays God to return, and remain among them; for in his presence their chief joy and safety consisted, Exodus 33:14-16 and he observes, that in Scripture there is often a want of such particles, which are necessary to be supplied. Houbigant, however, renders it, Convert, O Lord, the thousand thousands of Israel: For, return, says he, can never be properly applied to the ark, resting, and never departing from Israel.

REFLECTIONS.—The ark of God went before them, not it seems in front, but the pillar of the cloud over it directed their march; and thus it might be said to lead the way, and search out the most convenient resting-place. When we are under Divine guidance, every situation will be ordered with infinite wisdom, and we must believe so. When the ark moved, Moses prayed, Rise up, Lord, &c. We should begin every day's journey of life with prayer; and need enough have we to pray, beset as we are with spiritual enemies and an opposing world. Our comfort is, whilst Omnipotence is on our side, be they who hate him, and us for our attachment to him, ever so great or numerous, they shall be scattered as easily as morning-mists before the rising sun. At the resting of the ark, Moses renewed his petition for the Divine Presence, and therewith all blessings, in the midst of the thousands of Israel. Evening-calls for returning mercies must never be neglected: mercies on our own souls, that we may rest under the shadow of the Almighty; mercies on the church of God, that its welfare and happiness may abide and abound, till the time of final resting, when, with all God's saints together, we shall dwell in him, and he in us, to a glorious eternity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 10:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/numbers-10.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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