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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 15:38

"Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Colors;   Fringes;   Instruction;   Obedience;   Ribband;   Token;   Scofield Reference Index - Ribband;   Thompson Chain Reference - Blue;   Fringes;   Remembrance;   Remembrance-Forgetfulness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Garments;   Hyke or Upper Garment;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Purple;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Moses;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Command, Commandment;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Colour;   Hem;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Dress;   Fringes;   Hem of Garment;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Blue;   Fringe;   Hem;   Lace;   Ribband;   Shema;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Dress;   Fringes;   Leviticus;   Synagogue;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Border ;   Boyhood ;   Dress (2);   Synagogue;   Synagogue (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Hem of the Garment;   Ribband of Blue;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Fringes;   Garments;   Jesus christ;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Dress;   Hem of Garment;   Je'sus Christ;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Blue;   Ribband;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Government of the Hebrews;   Phylacteries;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Color;   Cord;   Fringes;   Lace;   Leviticus;   Ribband;   Synagogue;   Tassel;   Worship;   Writing;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Arba' Kanfot;   Ben Zoma;   Color;   Commandments, the 613;   Costume;   Fringes;   ḥanina (Hananiah) B. Antigonus;   ḥanina B. Dosa;   Judah I.;   Korah;   Ma'arib;   Priestly Code;   Shema';   Sidra;   Ṭallit;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 38. Bid them - make them fringes — We learn from Numbers 15:39 that these fringes were emblematical of the various commands of God. That there was any analogy between a fringe and a precept, it would be bold to assert; but when a thing is appointed to represent another, no matter how different, that first object be comes the regular representative or sign of the other. There is no analogy between the term bread and the farinaceous nutritive substance thereby signified; but because this term is used to express and represent that thing, every person thus understands it; and when the word bread is seen or heard, a perfect knowledge, not of the letters which compose that word, but of the thing signified by it, is conveyed to the mind. So the fringes, being appointed by God to represent and bring to mind the commandments of God, Numbers 15:39, the mention or sight of them conveyed the intelligence intended. All the Jews wore these, and so probably did our Lord; see Matthew 9:20, where the word κρασπεον is rather to be understood of the fringe than of the hem of his garment.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-15.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


15:1-19:22 LESSONS AT KADESH

Miscellaneous regulations (15:1-41)

Animal sacrifices that were wholly or partly burnt on the altar had to be accompanied by cereal offerings and drink offerings. The amounts of flour, oil and wine to be offered increased with the size of the animal (15:1-16; for details see notes on Leviticus 2:1-16). Another sort of offering was a cake made from the first lot of grain threshed after harvest. It was an acknowledgment that all grain came from God (17-21).

Should the people as a whole be guilty of sin through carelessness, they could ask God’s forgiveness by offering the required sacrifices (22-26). A similar provision was available for the individual who sinned through carelessness, but no provision was available for the person who sinned deliberately in bold defiance of God (27-31; for details see notes on Leviticus 4:1-5:13).

An example is then given of a person who defied God by deliberately breaking his law. The man was swiftly punished (32-36). Moses told the people that in future they were to wear cords and tassels on the corners of their clothes to remind them to keep God’s law (37-41; cf. Matthew 9:20; Matthew 23:5).


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/numbers-15.html. 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

That they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue - Reader that they add to the fringes of the borders (or corners) a thread of blue (compare the marginal references). These fringes are considered to be of Egypttian origin. The ordinary outer Jewish garment was a quadrangular piece of cloth like a modern plaid, to the corners of which, in conformity with this command, a tassel was attached. Each tassel had a conspicuous thread of deep blue, this color being doubtless symbolic of the heavenly origin of the commandments of which it was to serve as a memento. Tradition determined that the other threads should be white - this color being an emblem of purity (compare Isaiah 1:18). The arrangement of the threads and knots, to which the Jews attached the greatest importance, was so adjusted as to set forth symbolically the 613 precepts of which the Law was believed to consist. In our Lord’s time the Pharisees enlarged their fringes Matthew 23:5 in order to obtain reputation for their piety. In later times howerer, the Jews have worn the fringed garment (tālı̂̄th) of a smaller size and as an under-dress. Its use is still retained, especially at morning prayer in the Synagogue.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/numbers-15.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

38 Speak unto the children of Israel. A little farther on I will explain the object of this precept more fully: although it is plain from the next verse that God had no other object but to exercise the Jews in constant meditation upon the Law. For there was no religion contained in the fringes themselves, nor had that material texture any value in itself; but since men are lazy and forgetful in the cultivation of piety, God would by this aid make a provision for their infirmity. For when He says that they should “look upon it and remember,” He hints that they have need of these coarse rudiments, which may strike even their outward senses; and again, that, unless their memory was kept awake, nothing was more likely than that forgetfulness should steal upon them. But he presently adds, that God has no satisfaction in mere empty knowledge, but that He demands serious affections and practical performance. In the latter part of the verse he points out another requirement, viz., not only that their sluggishness should be stimulated, but also their wantonness restrained; for when he says “that ye seek not after your own heart,” he intimates that, unless God should restrain their wandering senses, they would be too much inclined to all kinds of superstitions and errors. And, first of all, by contrasting “the hearts and eyes” of men with His Law, he shews that He would have His people contented with that one rule which He prescribes, without the admixture of any of their own imaginations; and again, He denounces the vanity of whatever men invent for themselves, and however pleasing any human scheme may appear to them, He still repudiates and condemns it. And this is still more clearly expressed in the last word, when he says that men “go a whoring” whenever they are governed by their own counsels. This declaration is deserving of our especial observation, for whilst they have much self-satisfaction who worship God according to their own will, and whilst they account their zeal to be very good and very right, they do nothing else but pollute themselves by spiritual adultery. For what by the world is considered to be the holiest devotion, God with his own mouth pronounces to be fornication. By the word “eyes” he unquestionably means man’s power of discernment.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/numbers-15.html. 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 15

Now, in chapter fifteen,

The LORD spoke unto Moses saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and When you come into the land ( Numbers 15:1-2 ),

Now this is interesting, right after their failure to enter in. They had just come-it was a point of failure. Kadesh Barnea was a tragedy. They were at the border of entering in and now they're turned away and they're to be shut out for forty years; a year for every day that the spies were in the land, until that whole generation be passed. All of those that were twenty years or older who came out of Egypt, their carcasses are to be buried in the wilderness. And for forty years they're gonna tromp through that wilderness until they've all died. And then the children of whom they were complaining saying, "You know that God has brought us here to wipe out our children". The children will go in and possess the land that their parents failed to do.

Now, they have just failed. They've just been turned away and the next thing God says, "Now when you come into the land" and he gives them orders for the sacrifices that they are to make when they come into the land. The various offerings; the meal offering, the drink offering, the burnt offering and the peace offering and the sin offerings and all. And God gives them the command of these various sacrifices that they are to make when you come into the land.

I think that that's neat of God. He's just said, "All right. You're not going to make it. Your children will and when they come into the land this is what they're to do." He's more or less just confirming the fact that he's gonna keep His word and bring them in. Now He's giving orders; "When you come into the land this is what you're supposed to do, these are the offerings that you are to make."

When you come into the land whether I bring you ( Numbers 15:18 ),

Again in verse eighteen,

and the various sacrifices even for those sins of ignorance ( Numbers 15:24 ).

And it is interesting that it points out in the latter portion of verse twenty-four and so forth the types of offerings that were to be offered for the sins of ignorance, even the sins of ignorance need attending to. You remember Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", ( Luke 23:24 ) sins of ignorance but yet they need forgiveness. How many times we've sinned and didn't even know it? Sins of ignorance. I didn't know what I was doing; it wasn't a deliberate, willful thing, it was just ignorance and yet it needs forgiveness.

So verse thirty-two,

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man who was gathering sticks on the sabbath day ( Numbers 15:32 ).

As a violation of the law they didn't know what to do. They put him in jail to get the mind of the Lord and the Lord said, "stone him". And so the man was put to death.

And then the LORD commanded Moses, telling the people of Israel that they were to sew blue ribbon around the borders of their coats: And that blue ribbon around the borders of their coats was to be on the fringes, as a reminder to keep the commandments of the LORD; that you do not seek after your own heart or your own eye, after which you used to go a whoring: But you'll remember to do the commandments of the LORD ( Numbers 15:37-40 ).

I think that's neat; a blue ribbon around the fringe of your coat. Every time you see it you're reminded hey, don't follow my own lust or my own wish, my own heart; follow and keep the commandments of the Lord. And so, the blue ribbon is sort of a traditional thing. In some of their festive days they have coats still with a blue ribbon and skirts with a blue ribbon around the bottom. And if you see them you know now what they stand for. They're reminders to the people not to follow after your own heart but to keep the commandments of the Lord. Chapter 15

Now, in chapter fifteen,

The LORD spoke unto Moses saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and When you come into the land ( Numbers 15:1-2 ),

Now this is interesting, right after their failure to enter in. They had just come-it was a point of failure. Kadesh Barnea was a tragedy. They were at the border of entering in and now they're turned away and they're to be shut out for forty years; a year for every day that the spies were in the land, until that whole generation be passed. All of those that were twenty years or older who came out of Egypt, their carcasses are to be buried in the wilderness. And for forty years they're gonna tromp through that wilderness until they've all died. And then the children of whom they were complaining saying, "You know that God has brought us here to wipe out our children". The children will go in and possess the land that their parents failed to do.

Now, they have just failed. They've just been turned away and the next thing God says, "Now when you come into the land" and he gives them orders for the sacrifices that they are to make when they come into the land. The various offerings; the meal offering, the drink offering, the burnt offering and the peace offering and the sin offerings and all. And God gives them the command of these various sacrifices that they are to make when you come into the land.

I think that that's neat of God. He's just said, "All right. You're not going to make it. Your children will and when they come into the land this is what they're to do." He's more or less just confirming the fact that he's gonna keep His word and bring them in. Now He's giving orders; "When you come into the land this is what you're supposed to do, these are the offerings that you are to make."

When you come into the land whether I bring you ( Numbers 15:18 ),

Again in verse eighteen,

and the various sacrifices even for those sins of ignorance ( Numbers 15:24 ).

And it is interesting that it points out in the latter portion of verse twenty-four and so forth the types of offerings that were to be offered for the sins of ignorance, even the sins of ignorance need attending to. You remember Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", ( Luke 23:24 ) sins of ignorance but yet they need forgiveness. How many times we've sinned and didn't even know it? Sins of ignorance. I didn't know what I was doing; it wasn't a deliberate, willful thing, it was just ignorance and yet it needs forgiveness.

So verse thirty-two,

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man who was gathering sticks on the sabbath day ( Numbers 15:32 ).

As a violation of the law they didn't know what to do. They put him in jail to get the mind of the Lord and the Lord said, "stone him". And so the man was put to death.

And then the LORD commanded Moses, telling the people of Israel that they were to sew blue ribbon around the borders of their coats: And that blue ribbon around the borders of their coats was to be on the fringes, as a reminder to keep the commandments of the LORD; that you do not seek after your own heart or your own eye, after which you used to go a whoring: But you'll remember to do the commandments of the LORD ( Numbers 15:37-40 ).

I think that's neat; a blue ribbon around the fringe of your coat. Every time you see it you're reminded hey, don't follow my own lust or my own wish, my own heart; follow and keep the commandments of the Lord. And so, the blue ribbon is sort of a traditional thing. In some of their festive days they have coats still with a blue ribbon and skirts with a blue ribbon around the bottom. And if you see them you know now what they stand for. They're reminders to the people not to follow after your own heart but to keep the commandments of the Lord.

"





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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/numbers-15.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Laws given during the 38 years of discipline chs. 15-19

Moses recorded few events during the years of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, but those he did preserve have instructive value. Most important among them is the rebellion of Korah’s group against Moses and Aaron, and God’s confirmation of the Aaronic priesthood that followed (chs. 16-18). The wilderness was part of God’s necessary child-training of His redeemed people, but the wanderings were not necessary. Nevertheless God still used these years to further educate His people.

The section that follows contains more regulations that look back to Kadesh and forward to Canaan. Their revelation is a confirmation that God had not cast off His people but would bring them into the Promised Land eventually.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/numbers-15.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Visual reminders to keep the law 15:37-41

Perhaps God initiated this command in response to the incident of Sabbath-breaking just mentioned. The Israelites were to wear tassels on the four corners of their upper outer garments (Deuteronomy 22:12). The text does not explain the size of the tassels, but old pictures of tassels on garments that ancient Near Easterners wore show that they were about six inches long.

"The tassels were in fact extensions of the hem, as we learn from innumerable illustrations in ancient Near Eastern art.

"To understand the significance of the tassel, we must first understand the significance of the hem. . . . The hem of the outer garment or robe made an important social statement. It was usually the most ornate part of the garment. And the more important the individual, the more elaborate and the more ornate was the embroidery on the hem of his or her outer robe. . . .

"The significance of the hem and of its being cut off is reflected in a famous biblical episode [namely, when David cut off the hem of Saul’s robe; 1 Samuel 24]. . . .

"The requirement of a blue cord . . . in the tassels lends further support to the notion that the tassels signified nobility because the blue dye used to color the threads was extraordinarily expensive. . . .

"The Bible apparently assumed that even the poorest Israelite could afford at least four blue threads, one for each tassel. . . . Thus, weaving a blue thread . . . into the tassel enhances its symbolism as a mark of nobility.

"The tassel with a thread of blue signified more than royalty or nobility, however. It also signified the priesthood." [Note: Jacob Milgrom, "Of Hems and Tassels," Biblical Archaeology Review 9:3 (May-June 1983):61-65.]

The article just quoted also contains reproductions of ancient Near Eastern pictures of people wearing garments with tassels on them. The Israelite was to fasten the tassel to the garment with a blue thread, or it had to contain a blue thread. The blue color, as noted in our study of the tabernacle coverings, probably symbolized heavenly origin and royalty. Thus God apparently wanted the blue thread to remind the Israelites of their holy calling as a kingdom of priests. These tassels reminded the Israelites of their privileged position in the world and their noble and holy calling.

The tassels were clearly a visual aid for the Israelites and probably produced a conditioned response in the minds of pious Jews (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6-9). They did not bring to mind any one commandment but reminded the observer that he should observe all of God’s laws. He was distinct by virtue of his calling, as was the garment he observed. Perhaps God also chose the outer garment because the Israelites were as His outer garment by which the world recognized Him. His people were to be an adornment to Him (cf. Titus 2:10). Thus God specified something that would warn His people before they sinned; He did not just specify punishment after they sinned.

"There is an intentional selection behind the collections of laws found throughout the Pentateuch. The purpose of that selection appears clear enough. In reading through these laws we can readily see that God is concerned about every detail of human life. Nothing is too small or unimportant. It all has to be made available and dedicated to him." [Note: Sailhamer, p. 391.]

This legislation is the basis for the custom of wearing a tallis or prayer shawl that modern observant Jews still wear. It is also the basis for the flag of the modern state of Israel’s blue color.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/numbers-15.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Speak unto the children of Israel,.... Whom it only concerned, and all of them, except women and children; for priests, Levites, Israelites, proselytes, and freed servants, were bound to wear the fringes, but not Gentiles; nor might the Gentiles make them, what were made by them were not to be used z, since it follows:

and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations: the garments on which these fringes were put were such that were made either of linen or of woollen; no other were obliged to them by the law; but according to the Rabbins other garments were also, yet only square garments, which they call the Talith; and if that had not four skirts to it, it was free from them a: on this square garment, and the four corners or skirts of it, were the fringes put; which were a sort of pendants or tassels, which hung down from it, which consisted of eight white woollen threads, sometimes four, sometimes eight or twelve fingers broad b; there were four of them, one at each skirt or corner of the garment: they were, as another writer says c, made of eight threads broad, each of them being knit to the middle with five knots, and of wool spun on purpose for this use; and these were to be wore by them throughout their generations until the Messiah came, and they seem to have been worn by him, Matthew 9:20 however, it is certain they were worn by the Pharisees in his time, Matthew 23:5; at present this four cornered garment is not any where in common use among the Jews, instead of which they wear, under their other garments, a kind of square frock, with the fringes or tassels fastened to it, and this they call Arbah Canfot; and in their schools, and at certain times of prayer, they put on a certain square woollen vestment, with the said pendants fastened at each corner, and this they call Talith d:

and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue; or a blue lace, a piece of blue tape, which bound and kept the fringe tight and close, and being of a different colour, the fringe being white, made it the more conspicuous: the reason why this colour was used, the Jews say e, was, because it was like the sea, and the like the sky, and the sky like the throne of glory: this blue, hyacinth, or purple colour, as the Jews generally take it to be, was of a peculiar dye; the manner of making which is now unknown to them, and therefore they use only the white f.

z Sepher Alphes, par. 1. fol. 439. 2. & 442. 1. Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 14. sect. 1. a Schulchan ib. c. 9. sect. 1. & c. 10. sect. 1. & c. 24. 1. b Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 9. p. 160. c Leo Modena, History of the present Jews, par. 1. c. 5. sect. 7. d lb. sect. 9. e T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 17. 1. f Maimon. in Misn. Menachot, c. 4. sect. 1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-15.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Law Concerning Fringes. B. C. 1490.

      37 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,   38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:   39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:   40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.   41 I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.

      Provision had been just now made by the law for the pardon of sins of ignorance and infirmity; now here is an expedient provided for the preventing of such sins. They are ordered to make fringes upon the borders of their garments, which were to be memorandums to them of their duty, that they might not sin through forgetfulness. 1. The sign appointed is a fringe of silk, or thread, or worsted, or the garment itself ravelled at the bottom, and a blue riband bound on the top of it to keep it tight, Numbers 15:38; Numbers 15:38. The Jews being a peculiar people, they were thus distinguished from their neighbours in their dress, as well as in their diet, and taught by such little instances of singularity not to be conformed to the way of the heathen in greater things. Thus likewise they proclaimed themselves Jews wherever they were, as those that were not ashamed of God and his law. Our Saviour, being made under the law, wore these fringes; hence we read of the hem or border, of his garment, Matthew 9:20. These borders the Pharisees enlarged, that they might be thought more holy and devout than other people. The phylacteries were different things; these were their own invention, the fringes were a divine institution. The Jews at this day wear them, saying, when they put them on, Blessed be he who has sanctified us unto himself, and commanded us to wear fringes. 2. The intention of it was to remind them that they were a peculiar people. They were not appointed for the trimming and adorning of their clothes, but to stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance (2 Peter 3:1), that they might look upon the fringe and remember the commandments. Many look upon their ornaments to feed their pride, but they must look upon these ornaments to awaken their consciences to a sense of their duty, that their religion might constantly beset them, and that they might carry it about with them, as they did their clothes, wherever they went. If they were tempted to sin, the fringe would be a monitor to them not to break God's commandments: If a duty was forgotten to be done in its season, the fringe would remind them of it. This institution, though it is not an imposition upon us, is an instruction to us, always to remember the commandments of the Lord our God, that we may do them, to treasure them up in our memories, and to apply them to particular cases as there is occasion to use them. It was intended particularly to be a preservative from idolatry: that you seek not after your own heart, and your own eyes, in your religious worship. Yet it may extend also to the whole conversation, for nothing is more contrary to God's honour, and our own true interest, than to walk in the way of our heart and in the sight of our eyes; for the imagination of the heart is evil, and so is the lust of the eyes.

      After the repetition of some ceremonial appointments, the chapter closes with that great and fundamental law of religion, Be holy unto your God, purged from sin, and sincerely devoted to his service; and that great reason for all the commandments is again and again inculcated, I am the Lord your God. Did we more firmly believe, and more frequently and seriously consider, that God is the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, we should see ourselves bound in duty, interest, and gratitude, to keep all his commandments.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Numbers 15:38". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/numbers-15.html. 1706.