(Verses 1 through 4) And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.
Here the LORD commanded Moses to take a census of the children of Israel. They were to be listed according to “their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names.” This census was somewhat different from those that our government periodically takes of the people of our country. None were included under the age of twenty years old, and no females were included. They were to be numbered “from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war.” Moses and Aaron were to do the numbering, but they were to have a representative from each tribe to be with them when they did the numbering. All these representatives were to be heads of the “house of their fathers.”
(Verses 5 through 16) And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur. Of Simeon; Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. Of Judah; Nahshon the son of Amminadab. Of Issachar; Nethaneel the son of Zuar. Of Zebulun; Eliab the son of Helon. Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim; Elishama the son of Ammihud: of Manasseh; Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. Of Benjamin; Abidan the son of Gideoni. Of Dan: Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. Of Asher; Pagiel the son of Ocran. Of Gad; Eliasaph the son of Deuel. Of Naphtali; Ahira the son of Enan. These were renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.
Moses and Aaron were not permitted to select the men who would stand with them while they were numbering the children of Israel. The Lord Himself made the selection of whom He would, just as He does in all matters to which He calls, or appoints men. These representatives were men well known in Israel, and were princes of their tribes.
(Verses 17 through 19) And Moses and Aaron took these men which are expressed by their names: and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls. As the LORD commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.
On the first day of the second month, all the congregation of Israel were called together, and the census began. Verses 20 through 43 give the number of those counted in each tribe, and in verse 46 is given the total number of the children of Israel counted in this census. These were “from 20 years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel.” The total number is six hundred three thousand, five hundred, and fifty.
(Verses 47 through 53) But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying, Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel: but thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle. And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.
Thus the Levites were exempt from the census, because the LORD had appointed to them the service of the tabernacle of testimony. They therefore were not to even be expected to go to war, but were thus separated from their brethren for the service of the LORD. They were even appointed to set up their tents round about the tabernacle, as well as to be the ones to take down the tabernacle when it was to be moved; and to set it up when they reached a camping place. No stranger could even come near the tabernacle, on pain of death. The remainder of the children of Israel were to pitch their tents at the places assigned them, each by his own camp, and by his own standard. In the next chapter we shall see where each tribe was appointed to encamp.
(Verse 54) And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.
(Verses 1 through 9) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, saying, Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house.: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch. And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies: and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be captain of the children of Judah. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred. And those that do pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar: and Nethaneel the son of Zuar shall be captain of the children of Issachar. And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred. Then the tribe of Zebulun: and Eliab the son of Helon shall be captain of the children of Zebulun. And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred. All that were numbered in the camp of Judah were an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred, throughout their armies. These shall first set forth.
Thus begins the order of the positioning of the various tribes around the Tabernacle when they are encamped, and the order in which they shall march when setting forth on their journey. All these tribes shall be farther from the tabernacle than the Levites, but of these tribes, three shall be encamped on the east side, with the tribe of Judah closest of the three to the tabernacle. And this encampment will be called the camp of Judah. And when the children of Israel are to set forth on their journey This group shall march first. The number of all three of these tribes together is one hundred eighty six thousand, and four hundred.
(Verses 10 through 16) On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their armies: and the captain of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur. And his host, and those that were numbered thereof, were forty and six thousand and five hundred. And those which pitch by him shall be the tribe of Simeon: and the captain of the children of Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. And his host, and Those that were numbered of them were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred. Then the tribe of Gad: and those that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and six hundred and fifty.. All that were numbered of the camp of Reuben were an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty, throughout their armies. And they shall set forth in the second rank.
This sets up the camp of Reuben, which also includes the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. They will encamp on the south side of the tabernacle, and will march in the second rank in their journey. This entire camp is numbered at one hundred fifty thousand, four hundred, and fifty.
(Verse 17) Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.
When the Israelites set forth on their journey, The tribes that have been encamped on the east and south sides of the tabernacle shall be in the lead. Then shall come the tribe of Levi, with the tabernacle in the midst of them. Then they shall be followed by the other tribes, according to the arrangement that is given in the remainder of this chapter.
(Verses 18 through 24) On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their armies: and the captain of the sons of Ephraim shall be Elishama the son of Ammihud. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty thousand and five hundred. And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh: and the captain of the host of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred. Then the tribe of Benjamin: and the captain of the sons of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred. All that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim were an hundred thousand and eight thousand and an hundred, throughout their armies. And they shall go forward in the third rank.
In the camp of Ephraim shall be also those of Manasseh and Benjamin. They shall be encamped on the west side of the tabernacle, and shall march in the third rank, or immediately behind the Levites and the tabernacle. In this group will be one hundred eight thousand, one hundred of those numbered as able to go out to war.
(Verses 25 through 31) The standard of the camp of Dan shall be on the north side by their armies: and the captain of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred. And those that camp by him shall be the tribe of Asher: and the captain of the children of Asher shall be Pagiel the son of Ocran. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were forty and one thousand and five hundred. Then the tribe of Naphtali: and the captain of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan. And his host, and those that were numbered of them, were fifty three thousand and four hundred. All they that were numbered in the camp of Dan were an hundred thousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred, They shall go hindmost with their standards.
This group of one hundred fifty seven thousand and six hundred were to encamp on the north side of the tabernacle, and also made up the rear guard when the children of Israel were on the march.
Verses 32 through 34 sum up all that has been set forth in this chapter, and we quote them without comment, since they are of themselves clear enough. “These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers ; all those that were numbered of the camps throughout their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty. But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses. And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers.”
(Verses 1 through 4) These are also the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the LORD spake with Moses in mount Sinai. And these are the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office. And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of their father.
Since the census of the children of Israelites, with the exception of the tribe of Levi, has been finished, our attention is now turned to the Levites, the tribe from which came Moses and Aaron. First we are given the names of the sons of Aaron, of which there were four. But two of them, after having been ordained priests, took “strange fire” in their censers to offer before the LORD: and for this the LORD punished them with death. (See Leviticus 10:1-3.) They were Nadab and Abihu. So Aaron’s two remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, ministered in the priest’s office with their father Aaron who was high priest.
(Verses 5 through 10) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle. And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: They are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel. And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on the priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
This is what we might call the general order that gives the whole tribe of Levi to the priests to take charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and of all the instruments thereof. And no stranger, that is, no one not of this tribe, was allowed to take any part in this, or even approach this position. If he did, he was to be put to death.
(Verses 11 through 13) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be Mine; because all the firstborn are Mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto Me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: Mine shall they be: I am the LORD.
Here the LORD declares that He is taking as His own all the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. He had previously said that all the firstborn of man and beast were His, and that those of man were to be redeemed. He now says that instead of the firstborn of the children, He is taking the Levites, that they may be the caretakers of the tabernacle and all its instruments.
(Verses 14 through 20) And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them. And Moses numbered them according to the word of the LORD, as he was commanded. And these were the sons of Levi by their names; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari. And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families; Libni, and Shimei. And the sons of Kohath by their families; Amram, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel. And the sons of Merari by their families; Mahli, and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to the house of their fathers.
This brings us down to the grandchildren of Levi in our following of the lineage of the Levites. The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The sons of Gershon were Libni and Shimei, those of Kohath were Amram, Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel, and those of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. (In Exodus 6:18 we find that Amram was the father of Moses and Aaron.)
(Verses 21 through 26) Of Gershon was the family of the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites; these are the families of the Gershonites. Those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all males, from a month old and upward, even those that were numbered of them were seven thousand and five hundred. The families of the Gershonites shall pitch behind the tabernacle westward. And the chief of the house of the father of the Gershonites shall be Eliasaph the son of Lael. And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation shall be the tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the tabernacle, and the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof.
Thus the LORD assigns to the Gershonites their place of encampment, and the particular items of the tabernacle of which they were to take charge. Of this group there were counted seven thousand and five hundred. Their position of encampment was to be on the west side of the tabernacle of the congregation
(Verses 27 through 32) And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites. In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the sanctuary. The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle southward. And the chief of the house of the father of the families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. And their charge shall be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the service thereof. And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be chief of the Levites, and have oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary.
This is the assignment for the Kohathites, of whom there were numbered eight thousand and six hundred. There place of encampment was to be south of the tabernacle.
(Verses 33 through 37) Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites, and the family Mushites: these are the families of Merari. And those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward, were six thousand and two hundred. And the chief of the house of the father of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle northward. And under the custody and charge of the sons of Merari shall be the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto, and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords.
This locates the campsite for the family of Merari, of whom were counted six thousand and two hundred, and specifies the items assigned to their charge.
(Verses 38 and 39) But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. And all that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward were twenty and two thousand.
Although Both Moses and Aaron were Levites, since Moses was the man God had called to bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, and Aaron and his sons were called of God as the priests, The LORD assigns them a place on the east side, in front of the tabernacle, Their charge was the priesthood. The entire number of the Levites who were numbered was twenty two thousand.
(Verses 40 through 43) And the LORD said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names. And thou shalt take the Levites for Me (I am the LORD) instead of all the firstborn of all the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel. And Moses numbered, as the LORD commanded him, all the firstborn among the children pf Israel. All the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen.
The LORD had told the Israelites that every firstborn male of the children of Israel, together with all the firstborn of their livestock were to be counted as holy unto Him: but he has here revised that so that all the Levites, and all the livestock of the Levites are to be his instead of the firstborn of all Israel. He has already had Moses to number all the males of the Levites from a month old and upward, not just the firstborn. So now He has Moses number all the firstborn males of the other eleven tribes from a month old and upward, in preparation of comparing them to the number of all the males of the Levites from a month old and upward. And the number of these was twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy three.
(Verses 44 through 48) And the LORD, spake unto Moses, saying, Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be Mine: I am the LORD. And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites; thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:) and thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.
The Lord told Moses that, since there were two hundred seventy three more of the firstborn of the Israelites than there were of the Levites, this overplus must be redeemed. And the price that must be paid was to be five shekels apiece for all the two hundred seventy three. The redemption money was to be given to Aaron and his sons, since they were the LORD’S priests.
(49 through 51) And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites: of the firstborn of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: and Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Thus was this matter finished. Moses took the redemption money, and gave it to Aaron and his sons, just as the LORD had commanded him.
(Verses 1 through 16) And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things: and when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering of the veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it: And shall put thereon the covering of badgers’ skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof. And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes , and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: and they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof. And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister unto it: and they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it upon a bar. And upon the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof: and they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put them on a bar: and they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon: And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the fleshhooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.
This text begins with instructions concerning the age limits upon those of the sons of Kohath who shall be active in their work. To them will be assigned the transporting of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the holy things thereof. Then, in verses 5 through 14, are instructions to Aaron and his sons concerning how they must prepare everything in the tabernacle of the congregation before the sons of Kohath may come in to begin their work. In verse 15 we are told that after Aaron and his sons have completed their preparation of all things for moving, “the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.” They then are to carry all these things, but without unwrapping them, or actually touching them.
(Verse 16) And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.
Thus the LORD appoints Eleazar to be in charge of the oil for the light, the sweet incense, the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, and to take the oversight of all the tabernacle, and everything therein.
(Verses 17 through 20) And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites: but thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy thongs: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden: but they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they die.
Even the Kohathites who were assigned the work of transporting the tabernacle and those things pertaining to it were not to be allowed to go in and watch when Aaron and his sons were covering all of those things. The penalty of violating this commandment was death.
(Verses 21 through 28) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, throughout the houses of their fathers, by their families; from thirty years old and upwards until fifty years old shalt thou number them; all that enter in to perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, to serve, and for burdens: And they shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, and the tabernacle of the congregation, his covering, and the covering of the badgers’ skins that is above upon it, and the hanging for door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the hangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, which is by the tabernacle and by the altar round about, and their cords, and all the instruments of their service, and all that is made for them: so shall they serve. At the appointment of Aaron and his sons shall be all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, in all their burdens, and in all their service: and ye shall appoint unto them in charge all their burdens. This is the service of all the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation: and their charge shall be under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
Just as was for the Kohathites, so was the complete scope of the service of the Gershonites appointed: and the Gershonites were put under the supervision of Ithamar the son of Aaron. This tells us what items were to be taken care of by them; but the specific work of each man was to be appointed him by Ithamar.
(Verses 29 through 33) As for the sons of Merari, thou shalt number them after their families, by the house of their fathers; from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every one that entereth into the service, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation. And this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the tabernacle of the congregation; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof, and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden. This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service, in the tabernacle of the congregation, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
Thus were the items of the tabernacle that were to be the charge of the sons of Merari assigned, and Ithamar the son of Aaron was appointed in charge of them to appoint to each man his particular work. And thus were all the assignments of the work of the transportation of the tabernacle of the congregation established, so that there should be no wondering about what each man was to do.
(Verses 34 through 37) And Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites after their families, and after the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation: and those that were numbered of them by their families were two thousand seven hundred and fifty. These were they that were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all that might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, which Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
Of the sons of Kohath there were only two thousand seven hundred and fifty numbered of those of an age allowed to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. None under thirty years of age, and none older than fifty years was included.
(Verses 38 through 41) And those that were numbered of the sons of Gershon, throughout their families, and by the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation, even those that were numbered of them, throughout their families, by the house of their fathers, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty. These are they that were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, of all that might do service in the tabernacle of the congregation, whom Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the LORD.
The sons of Gershon that were numbered for the service in the tabernacle, were three thousand and two hundred. This is, of course, of the same age bracket as that of the Kohathites from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old.
(Verses 42 through 45) And those that were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, throughout their families, by the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old., every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the tabernacle of the congregation, even those that were numbered of them after their families were three thousand and two hundred. These be those that were numbered of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
Only the descendants of Merari were numbered that were in the same age group as those of the descendants of Kohath and Gershon that had been numbered. So it seems that only those who are in this age bracket are to be permitted to serve in the tabernacle of the congregation. This probably will not be a requirement for priests; for Aaron was at this time more than eighty years of age, for he was older than Moses.
(Verses 46 through 49) All those numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chief of Israel numbered, after their families, and after the house of their fathers, from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of burden in the tabernacle of the congregation, even those that were numbered of them, were eight thousand and five hundred and four score. According to the commandment of the LORD they were numbered by the hand of Moses, every one according to his service, and according to his burden: thus were they numbered of him, as the LORD commanded Moses.
This seems to be without need of explanation or comment.
(Verses 1 through 4) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead. Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: as the LORD spake unto Moses, so did they.
Earlier the LORD had given Moses the laws requiring anyone who was unclean by any of these things to be put out of the camp as long as his uncleanness continued. Now He requires that this commandment be executed. So the children of Israel obeyed His commandment.
(Verses 5 through 10) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or a woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the LORD, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him. And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. And every man’s hallowed things shall be his : whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.
Apparently, the trespass dealt with here is either the taking of something that belongs to another, or doing something that causes some damage to another. In such case the one who has trespassed is, in addition to the trespass offering he is to bring, also to bring the value of that he has taken, or damaged, add one fifth to it, and give it to the one against whom the trespass has been committed. In the event the one against whom he has committed the trespass has died, he is to make the payment to a near kinsman of the one who has been damaged. If there is no near kinsman to whom the payment can be made, the recompense, including the fifth part that has been added thereunto is to be given to the priest who makes his offering for him. And whatever any one shall give to the priest as a hallowed thing shall belong to the priest.
The remainder of this chapter deals with the case of a man who becomes jealous of his wife, and thinks she has gone aside and committed adultery with some other man. It provides a test by which to determine if the woman is guilty or not. It provides that the man shall bring his wife unto the priest with a jealousy offering for her. The description of the trial and the offering is quite lengthy, but it seems to be clearly enough set forth that it should need no explanation. Of course, if the woman is found guilty, no doubt, the penalty required by the law would be executed upon her, though nothing is mentioned of that. If she is declared innocent she is set free, but there is no mention made of any penalty upon her husband for his false accusation against her.
(Verses 1 through 12) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day he shall shave it. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day. And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
All this has to do with one’s taking the vow of a Nazarite. This is a vow that could be taken for a limited, or specified time, or it could be taken for life. During the entire time one was under this vow, he, or she, could not drink wine or strong drink of any sort, and could not eat or drink anything that was derived from the vine, including either fresh or dried grapes. Also during the whole time of his separation as a Nazarite, he could not cut his hair. Also for the duration of the vow he, or she, could not touch anything that was ceremonially unclean, even if it were the dead body of father, mother, brother, sister, or child. Even an accidental defilement, such as a person’s dying suddenly while so close to him that the dead accidentally touched him, rendered his separation as a Nazarite void, so that he must undergo a seven day ritual of cleansing, shave off all his hair on the eighth day, and bring an offering of two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, one of which shall be offered as a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering to make an atonement for his being defiled by the dead. Then he shall re-dedicate himself to his vow before the LORD, and offer a lamb of the first year as a trespass offering. The days he had observed his vow before his defilement by the dead, shall not be counted, and he must begin his separation again.
(Verses 13 through 21) And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings, and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes made of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings. And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering: and he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of his head of separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings. And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven: and the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and the heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that which his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.
This is quite lengthy, but it is clearly set forth, and should need no explanation, or comment.
(Verses 22 through 27) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying into them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee. The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
Probably the most noteworthy thing about this text is that it shows very clearly that not even the priests of the LORD were given the power of blessing the people in their own name. All three of these blessings, call upon the LORD to bless the people. And only He can do so. The first blessing, “The LORD bless thee and keep thee,” indicates that He only can do this. David was fully aware of this fact when he said, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me to dwell in safety.” (Ps. 4:8) The second blessing is, “The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” This is also a prayer that the LORD, not man, will do this. And the final one is no doubt the greatest of all, “The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Again it asks the LORD to do that which only He can do. When He does this, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or even war itself may be raging all around us, but in our hearts will be such peace as the world will never know. And the LORD’S promise is that He will honor such blessings as this. He says, “And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
(Verses 1 through 11) And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them; that the princes of Israel heads of the house of their fathers, who were princes of the tribes, and were over them that numbered, offered: and they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites. To every man according to his service. And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites. Two wagons and four oxen he gave unto the sons of Gershon, according to their service: and four wagons and eight oxen he gave unto the sons of Merari, according unto their service, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders. And the princes offered for dedicating of the altar in the day that it was anointed, even the princes offered their offerings before the altar. And the LORD said unto Moses, They shall offer their offerings, each prince on his day, for dedicating the altar.
When the tabernacle of the congregation had been set up completely, with all its furnishings and instruments, and all had been anointed and sanctified, so that it was ready for the people to begin to make their offerings, the twelve princes of Israel came first to make their offerings. The first things they brought were six wagons and twelve oxen, one wagon for each two princes, and one ox for each prince. These had not been previously mentioned, but the LORD commanded Moses to receive them, and give them to the Levites to use in their work of transporting the things of the tabernacle that were assigned to them. So Moses gave two of the wagons and four oxen to the sons of Gershon, and four of the wagons and eight oxen to the sons of Merari. Since all that the Kohathites were assigned to carry had to be carried upon their shoulders, they were given no wagons. After this was taken care of, the princes were ready to make their offerings. So the LORD commanded Moses to have them make their offerings in order, one prince each day for twelve days.
(Verses 12 through 17) And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah: and his offering was one silver charger, the weight thereof was an hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering: one spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense: one young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering: one kid of the goats for a sin offering: and for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year: this was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab.
This is the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab, prince of Judah. Since each item of the offering is clearly described, there seems to be no need for further comment. And in verses 18 through 83 the offerings of the other eleven princes are described. And since each is exactly as this one, it seems unnecessary to quote the entire list and description. So we shall pass over that portion.
(Verses 84 through 88) This was the dedication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, by the princes of Israel: twelve chargers of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold: each charger of silver weighing an hundred and thirty shekels, each bowl seventy: all the silver vessels weighed two thousand and four hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: The golden spoons were twelve, full of incense, weighing ten shekels apiece, after the shekel of the sanctuary: all the gold of the spoons was an hundred and twenty shekels. All the oxen for burnt offering were twelve bullocks, the rams twelve, the lambs of the first year twelve, with their meat offering: and the kids of the goats for the sin offering twelve. And all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace offerings were twenty and four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he goats sixty, the lambs of the first year sixty. This was the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.
This is the summary of all things offered during this twelve day dedication of the altar.
(Verse 89) And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak to Him, then he heard the voice of One speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the cherubims: and He spake unto him.
After this offering was finished Moses went into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with the LORD. And he heard the voice of the LORD speaking to him from the mercy seat.
(Verses 1 through 4) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick. And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses. And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof was of beaten work: according unto the pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick.
After the offerings were finished, it was time for the lamps of the candlestick to be lighted. So the LORD commanded Moses to tell Aaron to light them, which he did. This made the work of the candlestick to show up, and the pattern of it is mentioned.
(Verses 5 through 14) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: and thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: and Aaron shall offer them before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD. And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites. And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD. Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be Mine.
The LORD told Moses to bring the Levites together and purify them according to the ritual He gave him, thus making them ceremonially clean. Then they were to bring forth such offerings as He prescribed, and Moses was to bring them before the tabernacle of the congregation, with the whole assembly of the children of Israel gathered together there. Then, there before the LORD the whole assembly of the children of Israel were to lay their hands upon the Levites. The laying on of hands signifies the transferring of power, or responsibility, or in some cases, such as the laying on of the hands on the scapegoat, even the transferring of sins. And since in this case the Levites were being offered unto the LORD, it seems to signify that the congregation are transferring to them the right to do all the service of the tabernacle and the holy things that are assigned to them. After the laying on of the hands, Aaron was to “offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD.” So after the Levites have been thus offered unto the LORD, they shall lay their hands upon the bullocks, one of which is to be offered as a sin offering, and the other as a burnt offering to make an atonement for the Levites. Then the Levites are to be set before Aaron, and before his sons, and presented as an offering unto the LORD. And thus shall the Levites be separated from the remainder of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD.
(Verses 15 through 19) And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. For they are wholly given unto Me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto Me. For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary.
Now the Levites are ready for their service in the tabernacle of the congregation. They are wholly given unto the LORD: and He has given them as a gift to Aaron and his sons from the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel.
(Verses 20 through 22) And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the children of Israel unto them. And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.
Thus we find that Moses, Aaron, and the children of Israel followed the LORD’S commands, and did all that He had told them to do unto the Levites.
(Verses 23 through 26) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and from the age of fifty years they shall cease from waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: but shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge,
This certainly is clearly enough stated that none should have any trouble understanding it. But, as will be noticed, there is here given a change of the age at which one is permitted to begin his service in the tabernacle of the congregation. Heretofore it has been from thirty years old and upward. But here it is changed to twenty five years old and upward.. But since no reason is given for this change, it is not ours to inquire.
(Verses 1 through 5) And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the Passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel.
In the evening of the night in which the children of Israel began their journey out of the land of Egypt, they, according to the commandment of the LORD, kept the Passover. But since that time there is no mention of their being commanded to observe it. In the first month of the second year of their journey, the LORD commanded Moses to have them observe this ordinance according to all the commandments given earlier concerning it. We are not told upon which day of the month the LORD gave Moses this commandment; but surely it was early enough that they could make the proper preparations for it. So, on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening, they observed the Passover according to all of its rites and ceremonies.
(Verses 6 through 14) And there were certain men who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the Passover on that day: and they came to Moses and Aaron on that day: and those men said, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore should we be kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the LORD in His appointed season among the children of Israel? And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the LORD will command concerning you. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the Passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the Passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the Passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.
Thus the LORD clarifies who can, and who cannot partake of the Passover. The ceremonial uncleanness of having touched a dead body does not excuse one from keeping the Passover, and neither does his being afar off on a journey. At the same time even the stranger who dwells among the children of Israel is permitted to keep the Passover, if he keeps it according to all the ordinances thereof. This would, of course require that all the males of his family be circumcised: for this is the law given in Exodus 12:48.
(Verses 15 through 23) And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not. And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed. And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed, whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
Thus the LORD governed the children of Israel in all their journeys. He set up a cloud as a cover for the tabernacle of the congregation. It abode on the tabernacle by day; and at night it had the appearance of fire. As long as it remained stationary over the tabernacle, the children of Israel remained encamped around the tabernacle as the LORD had appointed them. When it lifted up from the tabernacle, whether day or night, the Israelites prepared to begin their journey. The length of time it would remain in place was altogether at the discretion of the LORD. It might remain overnight, or a year, or any time in between,; but they prepared to move when it arose. Thus they always moved according to the command of the LORD.
(Verses 1 through 10) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee. When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward. When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys. But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with trumpets and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.
The LORD commanded Moses to make two silver trumpets, and gave him instructions for their use. All these instructions are very clearly set forth.
(Verses 11 through 13) And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
This is the general declaration of the first journey the children of Israel made after the LORD had assigned their order of traveling. When the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony, they made their preparations to travel according to the order assigned to them. And this journey was from the wilderness of Sinai to the wilderness of Paran.
Verses 14 through 28 give the order in which all the children of Israel were arranged as they journeyed. And since this order is the same as the LORD had earlier commanded Moses, and is set forth in such detail, there seems to be no call for comment concerning it.
(Verses 29 through 32) And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel. And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred. And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes. And it shall be, that what goodness the LORD shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.
At the time of the departure of the children of Israel from Mt. Sinai, where the LORD had assigned to them their order of marching, Moses’ brother in law was with them, and Moses invited him to go with them to the land the LORD had promised to give them. But he refused; and although Moses attempted to persuade him to go with them, there is no record of whether he did go with them, or whether he went to his own land, as he had said.
(Verses 33 through 36) And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of camp. And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.
This seems clear enough without any explanation. But one should consider what wonderful blessings Moses asked of the LORD, both upon the beginning of a journey, and upon coming to a resting place.
(Verses 1 through 3) And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and His anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of that place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
As is always true of any large gathering of people, some among the children of Israel began to complain. And the LORD was displeased with their complaints. In His anger, He sent a fire among them, which consumed some of them. When this took place, the people began to cry unto Moses, just as we always, when we have brought trouble upon ourselves, try to get someone else to do something for us. We today have a tendency to try to get the government to give us relief from whatever we have brought upon ourselves; and, I suppose, to them Moses represented the government. At this time Moses prayed unto the LORD, and He quenched the fire. So, because of the fire, Moses called the name of that place, Taberah, which means “consuming, or burning.”
(Verses 4 through 9) And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp at night, the manna fell upon it.
This is a picture, not only of the children of Israel, but of us also; for human nature is such that, if we are getting along well, and being well taken care of, but have to continue for a longer time with food that, no matter how good it is, we will grow tired of it, and begin to remember something we used to have, that to us will seem much better than what we have, we begin to complain for lack of something we formerly had, although it may not have been nearly so good as we remember it as being. Although the LORD had given the children of Israel manna that they could gather daily to eat, He also had told them of certain animals that they could eat also. Yet all they could think of was, not what they had that they could eat, but what they did not have. So they complained that the manna was the only food they had. And they tried various ways of preparing it. But still they complained, just as we do.
(Verses 10 through 15) Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted Thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favour in Thy sight, that Thou layest the burden of this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that Thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which Thou swarest unto their fathers? Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? For they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight, and let me not see my wretchedness.
The complaining of the people caused Moses so great depression that he prayed to the LORD, asking Him why this great burden was put upon him, and praying that the LORD would kill him, rather than to let him see this terrible sorrow of his people.
(Verses 16 through 20) And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto Me seventy men of the of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD Which is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
After Moses’ prayer, the LORD commanded him to choose seventy men whom he knew to be elders among the children of Israel, and gather them together at the tabernacle of the congregation. And as they stand there the LORD will take of the Spirit that He has put upon Moses and put it upon the seventy, that they may share with Moses the burden of the children of Israel. He also gives Moses a message to give to the Israelites. That is that He will provide for them flesh to eat, in such quantity that they will even get to the point of hating flesh. He will do this because they have despised Him, and questioned His ability to feed them; and because they have even begun to question why they listened to Him in the first place to come out of Egypt. Today people will sometimes question why they ever tried to serve the LORD. And this they have done from time to time through the ages. In Psalms 73, Asaph began to ask the same question; but when he entered into the sanctuary of the LORD, he was made to see how foolish such questions were.
(Verses 21 through 23) And Moses said, The people among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and Thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them? And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not.
Moses was so surprised at the promise of the LORD that his faith seemed to be a little weak. And he questioned how such a thing as the LORD had promised could come to pass. But the LORD asked, “Is the LORD’S hand waxed short?” When we hear someone today either question whether or not what the LORD has said can come to pass, we should remember this question. If we believe that God did in the beginning create this world and all things therein, why should we doubt that anything He has spoken shall come to pass?
(Verses 24 through 30) And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out to the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them! And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
Moses went out, and gave the LORD’S message to the people, and called for all the elders to come together, as the LORD had commanded him. All the elders except two, Eldad and Medad, came to the tabernacle. But these two remained in the camp. When Moses and those with him were standing around the tabernacle, the LORD came down in a cloud, and spoke to Moses. And He took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy, not only upon the sixty eight, who came out to the tabernacle, but upon Eldad and Medad also. Whereupon all those upon whom the Spirit had been put prophesied. Then a messenger came from the camp, and told Moses that Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp. Joshua, one of the young men that served Moses, wanted Moses to forbid them; but Moses declared that he wished that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them.
(Verses 31 through 35) And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth . And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least had ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted. And the people journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.
So before those who had been lusting so for the things of their former life in Egypt had done much more than begin to eat, the LORD struck them with a great plague, and killed many of them. So they called that place Kibroth-hattaavah, which means, “graves of lust.” Then they moved to Hazeroth, which means “villages.” There they remained for a while.
(Verses 1 through 3) And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath He not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
We do not know whether Moses’ first wife had died, or whether he had taken a second wife. But at any rate, he had taken an Ethiopian woman as his wife. And as is often the case, this had upset his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam. And, evidently they had begun to be a little jealous of Moses. So they asked, “Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses, or has He not also spoken by us?” But Moses, being such a very meek man, apparently made no reply to them concerning this. However, the LORD heard it, and was apparently displeased with such criticism of His servant Moses.
(Verses 4 through 9) And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came. And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And He said, Hear now My words: if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant Moses? And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and He departed.
From this we should all learn that the LORD is not one to take the criticism of Himself or of His servants lightly. He called Moses. Aaron, and Miriam out to the tabernacle of the congregation to speak unto them alone. He then came down in the pillar of cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle. Then He called Aaron and Miriam closer to Him, and spoke directly to them. He told them to heed (hear) His words. This was not to be something for them to forget. He declared to them that his manner of speaking with Moses was different from His way of speaking with any other man, though a prophet. He would communicate with any other prophet through dreams and visions, but with Moses His communication would be direct, as would be one speaking to another in ordinary conversation. Then He asked them why they were not afraid to speak against Moses. His anger was aroused against them; and He departed.
(Verses 10 through 13) And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not this sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb. And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee.
Not only did the LORD reprimand Aaron and Miriam for their speaking against His faithful servant Moses, but He also laid a penalty upon Miriam, the plague of leprosy. Aaron was greatly upset for this, and he apologized to Moses, and asked him to not lay this sin upon them, but to heal Miriam. Whereupon Moses prayed unto the LORD that He would heal her immediately.
(Verses 14 through 16) And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again. And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.
Although the LORD may forgive one’s sin, He may not completely remove the penalty for it. Therefore we should always be very careful about speaking against the LORD or His servants.
(Verses 1 through 3) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search out the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man , every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.
The LORD commanded Moses to send out spies to search out the land of Canaan. For this project he was to select one man from each tribe of the Israelites. And each man was to be ruler, or leader, of his tribe. So Moses chose out these men, and sent them forth from the wilderness of Paran. Verses 4 through 16 give us the names of these men, and the tribes from whence they were.
(Verses 17 through 20) And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: and see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; and what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And ye be of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now is the time of the firstripe grapes.
Thus Moses commanded them to go and search out the land, to determine every thing about it that they needed to know, as well as to see what sort of people lived therein, and how well fortified were their dwelling places. He reminded them that this was the time for grapes to be getting ripe, and he commanded them to bring back some of the fruits of the land.
(Verses 21 through 25) So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.
These spies spent forty days in their search. So they should have had a very good mental picture of the situation. They also brought back grapes, pomegranates, and figs. The cluster of grapes was so large that they put it upon a pole, and had two men carry it. They named the place from which they took the cluster of grapes, “Eshcol,” which means “a bunch of grapes.”
(Verses 26 through 29) And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
This is the initial report that the spies gave on the land and the people. They said that the land was all that the LORD had promised that it would be; “a land that flows with milk and honey.” But the inhabitants of the land were the drawback. They were great and powerful, and they had walled cities for protection.
(Verses 30 through 33) And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against this people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight.
Notice what a terrible change came over the majority of the spies that had gone to search out the land. Although Caleb tried to calm down the people, and called them to go and take possession of the land of Canaan, the majority of them, in fact all of them beside Caleb and Joshua completely changed their story about the land. Not only did they claim that the inhabitants of the country were too strong for them, but they even claimed that the land was destroying the inhabitants thereof, and was therefore an evil land. Their whole trouble was that they were afraid to go to war against the people of the land. They had no faith in the power of the LORD to cause them to overcome their enemies.
(Verses 1 through 5) And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God that we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, and that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return to Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the congregation of the children of Israel.
Those who gave such a false report of the land of Canaan, caused the remainder of the children of Israel to completely give up. So the whole body lost sight of all the good the LORD had already done for them, and began to complain against Moses and Aaron for having brought them out of the land of Egypt., They even began to make wishes that they certainly did not want to come to pass. They wished that they had died in the land of Egypt, or in the wilderness. Instead of remembering what wonderful things the LORD had already done for them, they focused their thoughts upon what they imagined He was going to allow to happen to them, all of which was very bad. This shows us exactly what our lack of faith can do to us, and often does. When we forget what the LORD has done for us. In such times we badly need to “call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” (Heb. 10:32) If we will but remember how the LORD has strengthened us to fight such a great fight in former days, it will strengthen us in whatever trial we are facing. But when we give up as did the children of Israel, we will certainly have to pay the consequences just as did they. They even wanted to make unto themselves a captain, and return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron fell down before them with their faces to the ground, to beg them not thus expose themselves to the wrath of God.
(Verses 6 through 10) And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched out the land rent their clothes: and they spake unto all the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
Of all those who had gone to spy out the land only two were willing to take the LORD at His word, and go in to possess the land. They were Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of whom we shall hear more from time to time. They were so upset by the lack of faith of the congregation of the children of Israel, that they tore their clothes, and started rebuking the congregation. They not only declared the land of Canaan to be a very good land, but also told the people that the LORD was with them, and they would have no trouble defeating the inhabitants of the land. And they exhorted the congregation to not rebel against the LORD by refusing to go in and take over the land. But the children of Israel would not listen to them. The whole congregation were getting ready to stone them. At this point, “the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before the children of Israel.” As we shall see this was not as a sign of approval of them for what they had done.
(Verses 11 and 12) And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with a pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
When the LORD had gotten the attention of the people by causing His glory to appear in the tabernacle of the congregation, He spoke to Moses. It is not made clear whether or not the people were permitted to hear what He said. But He, not as asking for information, but to call attention to the disobedience of the children of Israel, asked, “How long will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?” This is the equivalent of saying, “They will never learn.” Then He threatens to destroy them, and start a new nation of Moses and his descendants.
(Verses 13 through 19) And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for Thou broughtest up this peo0ple in Thy might from among them;) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that Thou LORD art among the people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that Thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if Thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of Thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which He sware unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness. And now, I beseech Thee, let the power of my LORD be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying, The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy mercy, and as Thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now.
Thus Moses prayed that the LORD would forgive the iniquity of this people, not because of any merit they had, but for His own name’s sake, lest the Egyptians, and the other nations in the area should hear of His destroying the people, and say that He did it because He was not able to deliver them into the land He had sworn to give them. Thus they would blaspheme the name of the great God of the world. Moses prays that, since the LORD has pardoned the iniquity of the children of Israel ever since He led them out from the land of Egypt, He will forgive them once more.
(Verses 20 through 25) And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. Because all those men which have seen My glory, and My miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice; surely they shall not see the land which I aware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked Me see it: but My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed Me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the Red sea.
So the LORD told Moses that He had pardoned the congregation as Moses had asked. But He would not permit those who had rebelled against Him to enter into the land He had sworn to give unto their fathers. He then commanded Moses to have them turn back into the wilderness the next day. And there they would wander until all those that had rebelled against Him had perished. He declares that since Caleb has followed Him completely, he will be allowed to enter into the land, into which he had gone, and his descendants would possess it.
(Verses 26 through 35) And the LORD spake unto Moses, and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against Me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you: your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against Me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein , save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know My breach of promise. I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness shall they be consumed, and there they shall die.
The LORD has been very precise in what He has here said concerning the children of Israel, and what He is going to bring upon them. The great lesson for us in this is, as is summed up in a saying we have all many times heard: “Be careful what you wish for: for you might get it.” The whole congregation had been murmuring against the LORD, and wishing that they had died in the wilderness. And that is exactly the sentence the LORD lays upon them. The only ones who were “twenty years old and upward,” at the time of the numbering, that would be permitted to enter the Promised Land, were Caleb and Joshua. They had followed the LORD, even against the whole congregation. They maintained a good report of the land, and believed that the LORD would bless them to overcome the inhabitants thereof. But all the rest would fall in the wilderness. And the LORD had already told them, in verse25, that they were to turn back into the wilderness the next day. Now He declares that there they shall wander until all these rebels are consumed.
(Verses 36 through 39) And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.
Apparently the LORD immediately sent a plague upon the men who had gone to spy out the land, and had brought back an evil report concerning it. But since Joshua and Caleb had been faithful to the LORD in this matter, they were spared, and still lived. Then Moses reported to the whole congregation what the LORD had told him. Upon hearing this, the people all mourned greatly. But as we shall soon see that even this did not make them obedient to the commands of the LORD.
(Verses 40 through 43) And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you: that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
As mentioned before, the sorrow of the children of Israel for the things that had come upon them for their rebellion against the LORD had not made them any more obedient to the commandments of the LORD. Although Moses told them to not go into battle, and declared to them that because of their sin the LORD was not among them: and they would therefore be smitten before their enemies, they went up into the mountain contrary to his commandment. They, evidently, thought that they could claim the promise of the LORD by their own works, as do so many today.
(Verses 44 and 45) But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.
Thus the children of Israel learned that disobedience to the commandments of the LORD is not the way to win the battle against our enemies.
(Verses 1 through 12) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give unto you, and will make an offering by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice in performing a vow, or a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, to make a sweet savour unto the LORD, of the herd, or of the flock: then shall he that offereth his offering unto the LORD bring a meat offering of a tenth deal of flour mingled with the fourth part of an hin of oil. And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb. Or for a ram, thou shalt prepare for a meat offering two tenth deals of flour mingled with the third part of an hin of oil. And for a drink offering thou shalt offer the third part of an hin of wine, for a sweet savour unto the LORD. And when thou preparest a bullock for a burnt offering, or for a sacrifice in performing a vow, or peace offerings unto the LORD: then shall he bring with a bullock a meat offering of three tenth deals of flour mingled with half an hin of oil. And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. Thus shall it be done for one bullock, or for one ram, or for a lamb, or a kid. According to the number that ye shall prepare, so shall ye do to every one according to their number.
These are instructions the LORD gave Moses concerning certain offerings that the children of Israel were to make unto the LORD after they had been settled in the land of Canaan. He very meticulously describes what animals are to be used for these offerings, what shall be offered with them as a “meat offering,” and what as a drink offering. In closing these instructions, the LORD told Moses that each set of instructions was for a single animal that was to be offered; and was to be multiplied by the number of animals offered.
(Verses 13 through16) And all that are born of the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD. And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.
Here the LORD commands Israel that not only shall they keep these laws and ordinances throughout their generations, but so also shall any stranger that may sojourn among them. The native born and the stranger shall be under the same law, with no partiality shown to either.
(Verses 17 through 21) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land whither I bring you, then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the LORD. Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor, so shall ye heave it. Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the LORD an heave offering in your generations.
This is a special offering that is to be offered unto the LORD, just as soon as they have gathered and processed enough of the grain of the land of Canaan to make bread. This is not to be after they have sown seed, raised a crop, and harvested it, but when they shall have taken possession of the land, and have begun to reap the crops that have belonged to the inhabitants of the land. They are to make a cake of the first of the dough made from such crops, and offer it to the LORD, as here commanded. Then throughout their generations they are to make a similar offering of the first of their dough when they harvest their own grain.
(Verses 22 through 26) And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the LORD hath spoken unto Moses, even all that the LORD hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the LORD commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; then it shall be, if aught be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the LORD, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their ignorance: and it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance.
This is the law of the sacrifice that the whole congregation must offer if they have all, through ignorance, not willfully, committed some trespass against any of the commandments the LORD has given by Moses. And the same law shall govern the Israelites and the stranger who sojourns among them.
(Verses 30 and 31) But the soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
Although an offering unto the LORD was acceptable in the case of one (or more) who had sinned because of ignorance of the laws of God, he that sinned presumptuously, knowing that he was breaking the commandment, had no remedy. He was to be utterly cut off from among his people. That is, he was to be put to death. This is, no doubt, the law to which the apostle refers in Hebrews 10:26-27, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of the judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
(Verses 32 through 36) And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Although the commandment had been given that none was to do any kind of work on the sabbath day, the penalty for its violation had not been declared. So when the children of Israel found a man violating this commandment by gathering sticks on the sabbath day, they did not know what was to be his punishment. So they brought him into camp, and held him prisoner until the LORD should pronounce his sentence. Then the LORD declared to Moses that this man must die. The whole congregation must stone him to death. So they brought him outside the camp and executed upon him the sentence the LORD had pronounced.
(Verses 37 through 41) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 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 a ribband of blue: 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: that ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. 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.
Here the LORD commands that the children of Israel make a special decoration of the borders of their garments, a fringe with a ribband of blue upon it. (Since this is the only occurrence of “ribband” in the scriptures, and it is not in the dictionary, we may be at a loss to determine exactly what it is. But probably it is the same as “riband,” which the dictionary tells us is a narrow band of cloth, or a web, which is used to join two parts of a garment. So, probably, it is what we today call a ribbon.) This is the border to which our Lord Jesus referred in Matthew 23:5, when He said, “They make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments.” As will be noticed, when one reads the context of that quotation, our Lord was not criticizing the leaders of the Jews for having this border on their garments, since it was commanded of the LORD, but His criticism was that they enlarged this border to draw the attention of men to it, while not doing the commandments of the LORD, which these borders were to remind them to keep. For verse 39 of the present text says, “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.” So Jesus condemned them not for wearing these fringes, but for not keeping the commandments of the LORD. They were not to follow their own hearts, but remember to keep all the commandments of the LORD, and “be holy unto your God.” As He has so often done, the LORD again says, “I am the LORD your God, Which brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”
(Verses 1 through 3) Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?
Back in Chapter 12, Aaron and Miriam tried to rebel against Moses, and declare themselves just as great as was he. The LORD punished this uprising by causing Miriam to be a leper, and be shut out from the camp for seven days. One would think this to be enough to settle down the spirit of rebellion among the Israelites. But, human nature being what it is, people seem to never learn. Now other rebels rise up. They are Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On. And they gather unto themselves a group of two hundred and fifty men, and accuse Moses and Aaron of trying to rule over them, and raise themselves up too high above the whole congregation, which, of course, we know is false. The LORD called Moses and Aaron and, laid upon them the responsibility of leading the children of Israel. It was His appointment, and not something that Moses had sought. As we continue on, we shall see how the LORD deals with rebels.
(Verses 4 through 11) And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: and he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the LORD will shew who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him: even him whom He hath chosen will he cause to come near unto Him. This do; take you censers, Korah, and all his company: and put fire therein, and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow: and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi. And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And He hath brought thee near to Him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also? For which cause both thou and all thy company are gathered together against the LORD: what is Aaron that ye murmur against him?
When it is said that Moses “fell upon his face,” it is not to be thought that he remained in this position while talking to Korah and his company. But this was the ancient manner of conducting oneself when meeting a company, or even when meeting an individual. The alternate manner of meeting one was to kiss the guest. In this instance Moses bowed himself to the ground, and arose to make his address to Korah and his company. From the words He used, it is apparent that Moses did not remain in the prostrated posture during his speech. He gave Korah orders as to what he was to do on the next day. And declared to Him that the LORD would show whom He had chosen. He rebuked Korah for presuming that he could obtain the priesthood by force.
(Verses 12 through 17) And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab: which said, We will not come up: is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards: wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up. And Moses was very wroth, and said unto the LORD, Respect not Thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them. And Moses said unto Korah, Be thou and all thy company before the LORD, thou and they, and Aaron tomorrow: and take every man his censer, and put incense in them, and bring ye before the LORD every man his censer, two hundred and fifty censers; thou also, and Aaron, each of you his censer.
After hearing the complaint of Dathan and Abiram, Moses was very much angered, in fact, so much that he even prayed the LORD that He would not even accept an offering from them. And he protested his innocence concerning any damage that they might claim against him. Then he gave orders to Korah and his company, that they would assemble before the LORD on the next day; with each man having his censer filled with incense. Aaron would also assemble with them, and would also have his censer with incense therein. Thus they would hold a trial before the LORD, and the LORD would show whom He had chosen.
(Verses 18 through 22) And they took every man his censer, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood in the door of the tabernacle of the congregation with Moses and Aaron. And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?
We have already seen that Dathan and Abiram refused to come together with their fellow conspirators when Moses called them: but Korah gathered all the remainder of the congregation to come with him before the door of the tabernacle where Moses and Aaron stood. And every man of the congregation had his censer with fire in it, and incense upon the fire. Then the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation, not as a sign of approval for what they had done, but to show them that He was present at that confrontation. And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron. No doubt, the congregation heard what was said, but it was not addressed to them. The LORD told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation, that is, physically. They were to leave the congregation, that the LORD would have no hindrance from destroying the whole congregation. Whereupon, both Moses and Aaron fell upon their faces before the LORD, and made supplication to Him for the people. They said unto the LORD, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with the whole congregation?” Some may think that the LORD had determined to destroy the people, and this prayer changed His mind. Such is not the case. He had threatened to destroy them that the faithfulness of Moses and Aaron might be demonstrated in their prayer for the people. Job 23:13 says, ”But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth.”
(Verses 24 through 30) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said, Hereby shall ye know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitations of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.
Upon the commandment of the LORD, Moses had all the congregation of the children of Israel to remove themselves away from the tents of the rebels. Then Dathan and Abiram, with their families, came to the doors of their tents, and stood there, as if to watch the proceedings. Then Moses told the people how that they might be absolutely sure whether or not, the LORD had sent Him to do all these works. If these men should die in any of the ordinary manners of the deaths of men, the LORD had not sent him. But if the LORD took them away by causing the earth to open up, and swallow them down alive into the pit, (grave,) they would know that it was of the LORD, and not of Moses. It would prove that these men had provoked the LORD.
(Verses 31 through 35) And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained to Korah, and all their goods. They and all that appertained to them, went down quick into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.
Just as Moses finished his speech to the congregation, the LORD caused the earth to open up where the rebels were, and they all went down alive (quick) into the pit. Then the earth closed itself upon them, and they were no more. This so frightened the remainder of the congregation that they fled away from that place as fast as possible, lest they also be swallowed up. Then the LORD sent forth a fire that consumed the two hundred fifty men of Korah’s company, who, apparently, had not gone with the others to the camp where Dathan and Abiram were. So thus the LORD destroyed all those who had rebelled against Him.
(Verses 36 through 40) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed, The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: to be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.
Thus the LORD commanded that the censers of those who were burned for attempting to offer incense without having been thus commanded of the LORD, be gathered up, and made into broad plates as a covering for the altar. These would also serve as a memorial to warn that no unauthorized person might attempt to offer incense before the LORD, lest he also suffer the same penalty as Korah and his company.
(Verses 41 through 43) But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD. And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
Instead of learning from what had taken place on that day, and realizing that Moses and Aaron were only the servants God had called to lead and direct them, the whole congregation began to complain against Moses and Aaron the very next day, and accuse them of killing the people of the LORD. When the people thus gathered against Moses and Aaron, who, no doubt, were near the tabernacle, they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation; and the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle, that is, between the tabernacle and the congregation.
(Verses 44 through 50) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed. Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.
Human nature is always the same, and people seem to never learn that What the LORD purposes shall be done: and the only profitable course for us is that which Solomon has set before us, in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” So, once again, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the congregation of the children of Israel, and upon the intercession of Moses and Aaron the majority of the Israelites were spared. But fourteen thousand, seven hundred of them perished by the plague that the LORD sent among them.
(Verses 1 through 5) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass, that the man’s rod whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.
Here the LORD told Moses that He would give the congregation of the children of Israel a sign that would cut off their murmuring. He commanded Moses to tell the children of Israel to provide rods, one for each tribe, and on each rod they were to write the name of the head of the tribe it represented, while Aaron’s name would be written on the rod of the tribe of Levi. They were to bring these rods to him at the tabernacle of the congregation. He would then “lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony,” the place where the LORD would meet with Moses. The Lord declared that He would cause the rod of the man whom He would choose to bloom while it was laid up there, thus proving to the Israelites who is acceptable to him. Thus they should be brought to cease from their murmurings.
(Verses 6 through 9) And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers’ houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.
Thus was the experiment concluded. And Moses returned the rods to their respective owners. The LORD had not only fulfilled His promise, but He had even gone further than He had said. Not only did Aaron’s rod bud, and put forth blooms; but it even yielded almonds also.
(Verses 10 through 13) And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron’s rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from Me, that they die not. And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he. And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?
The LORD commanded Moses to bring Aaron’s rod back into the tabernacle, and keep it before the testimony as a token to put the rebels to silence at any time they might want to stir up trouble. There had been so much destruction because of the rebellion of the people that all of them became very much afraid that if anyone came near the tabernacle of the congregation he would die. So they complained to Moses about this. So we see that sinful nature was “still going strong” in them, just as it always is in us. People today are the same as they were then. They overlooked the lesson that was set before them, just as we often do. The real lesson is that the LORD makes choice of who shall approach Him, and who shall not.
(Verses 1 through 7) And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father’s house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness, And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die. And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you. And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar, that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel. And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest’s office for every thing of the altar, and within the veil; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest’s office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
Here the LORD instructs Aaron concerning the office of priest to which Aaron and his sons have been appointed, and the service of the Levites that has been assigned to them. In verse 1, the phrases, “the iniquity of the sanctuary,” and “the iniquity of your priesthood,” are not to be construed as that the sanctuary or the priesthood has any sin attached to it, but the authority of each is under consideration. Since the LORD has appointed Aaron and his sons to the office of priests, they, and they only have authority to exercise these offices. Also the LORD has given the Levites charge, under the supervision of the priests, of the service of the tabernacle. But even the Levites shall not intrude into any part of the ministry of the priesthood. And no stranger, that is, no person not so authorized, shall be permitted to even attempt to serve in either office. Anyone who does so must die, as must he who permits such.
(Verses 8 through 14) And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee charge of Mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever. This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, and every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto Me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee. And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it. All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee. And whatsoever is firstripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it. Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.
In this text the LORD continues to give a message to Aaron for him and his sons concerning the portions of the offerings of the children of Israel that He has given unto them as their own, and how they shall make use of them. He tells them who shall, and who shall not be partakers of the food that is thus given to them. Verse 14 gives a very concise statement concerning what is to be given to Aaron and his sons after him. “Every devoted thing in Israel shall be thine.”
(Verses 15 through 19) Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or of beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem. And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD. And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine. All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.
This is a continuation of the instructions concerning what is holy unto the LORD, and what He has given unto Aaron and his sons after him. Everything in this seems completely clear without any further comment. It is to be kept in mind that all these regulations are to be honored by all future generations of the Aaronic priesthood. None of them is subject to change according to the whims of men.
(Verses 20 through 24) And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
Here the LORD declares that He will give the Levites no inheritance of lands among the children of Israel, but instead, He has given to them the tithe, or tenth, of the increase of the herds, flocks, and harvests, of the children of Israel. And for this they shall do all the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, just as He has previously assigned to them.
(Verses 25 through 32) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus shall ye offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.
Notice that hitherto in this chapter the LORD has been speaking to Aaron. But in this text He speaks to Moses, and tells him what to tell the Levites. The instructions he is to give them covers what they shall do, and how they shall provide offerings for the LORD, since they are not given any lands for their possession among the children of Israel, and without lands, they can not raise crops, flocks, and herds, as do the other Israelites; and thus they have no source of sacrifices for the LORD. So they are instructed to make their offerings from that which they are to collect as tithes from the other Israelites. Since complete instructions are given it seems unnecessary to make further comment upon them.
(Verses 1 through 10)And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, This is the ordinance of law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: and ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: and Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: and one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for a statute for sin. And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
Here the LORD gives Moses and Aaron the law of the water of separation, and the manner of preparing it. All the instructions given here are clear enough; but nothing is said about any water being applied to the ashes of the red heifer, although in verse 9 we are told, “and it shall be kept for the congregation of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.” A little later we shall see how the water was to be added to these ashes. An exact ritual is described for the priest, the one who burned the heifer, and the one who gathered up the ashes of the heifer. Each was to do exactly as commanded, in order that he be clean. As with all other commandments of the LORD concerning the offerings, sacrifices, etc., that He ordered, this was for a perpetual statute throughout the generations of the children of Israel.
(Verses 11 through 16) He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean. And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
This sets forth circumstances by which, not only a person, but even inanimate objects may become unclean. And it prescribes the remedy for this uncleanness.
(Verses 17 through 22) And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
In verse 17 we are told that, for this ritual of purification, the priest is not required. Any “clean” person may execute this ritual. The first thing to be done is to take some of the ashes of the red heifer, put them in a vessel, and add water to them. Thus we have “the water of separation.” The remainder of this text sets forth the ritual for making application of this water, and to what it is to be applied. And verse 22 establishes the fact that, although for that which is holy to touch anything that is not holy does not make the unholy thing holy, “whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean.” In addition, he that touches anything thus made unclean, shall also be unclean until the evening.
(Verses 1 through 6) Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates: neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
The children of Israel had traveled until they came into the wilderness of Zin. And there they encamped for a while. While they were there encamped, Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron died, and was buried. Then the children of Israel began to complain to Moses and Aaron because there was no water in this place. One has to think that since they have been there for some tome, whether long or short, there must have been at least some water there when they arrived, but the supply has grown short. And, as usual, they began to complain, and wish they had never come out of Egypt, or even that they had died when the LORD destroyed so many of their brethren for their rebellion. How like people of today! We can never be satisfied. Because of all their complaining, Moses and Aaron left from their presence, and went to the tabernacle of the congregation. And there prostrated themselves before the LORD. And His glory appeared unto them.
(Verses 7 through 13) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and He was sanctified in them.
This is a very important text, not only for the children of Israel, but also for us, even today. Heretofore Moses had followed the commandments of the LORD in all things. But, on this occasion, because of his anger toward the children of Israel for their complaining, he failed to follow the literal command of the LORD. The LORD had specifically told him to speak to the rock, and upon his doing so, it would give forth water. Instead of following orders, he smote the rock with his rod. On a previous occasion the LORD had commanded him to smite the rock, which he did, and water sprang forth from it, and watered the congregation and all their livestock. But this time he was to speak to the rock, not strike it. Nevertheless Moses struck the rock, not once, but twice, instead of speaking to it as he was commanded. One might think, “It worked before, so it ought to work now also.” And, indeed the LORD did cause the water to come forth in sufficient quantity for the needs of the people and their cattle. But even this disobedience, which the LORD declared to be a lack of faith, cost both Moses and Aaron the privilege of going into the Promised land. Moses was permitted to see it from the top of a mountain, but even he could not enter. And as we shall soon see, Aaron was shortly to be taken away. The real lesson in this for us is that we must do what the LORD says, and do it the way He says, instead of following our own ideas.
(Verses 14 through 21) And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: and when we cried unto the LORD, He heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then will I pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
It will be remembered that Edom is another name for Esau, who was a twin brother to Israel. But when the children of Israel desired to pass through the land of Edom, the Edomites refused them passage, and turned them away with the threat of war.
(Verses 22 through 29) And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up into mount Hor: and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.
There seems to be little need for comment on this text. Because of his and Moses’ unbelief at the water of Meribah, the LORD took Aaron away before the children of Israel even came into sight of the Promised Land. The office of high priest was passed on to Eleazar his son.
(Verses 1 through 3) And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners. And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If Thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then will I utterly destroy their cities. And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and He called the name of the place Hormah.
King Arad , no doubt, because he had heard from the Edomites that the children of Israel were passing through the area, set spies to report their activities. And when they reached what he considered his territory, he and his people attacked them, and even took some of them as prisoners. When this was done, the Israelites prayed to the LORD, and vowed before Him that if He would give them the victory over Arad and his people, they would completely destroy the cities of the Canaanites. The LORD delivered the Canaanites into their hands, and true to their vow, they destroyed them all together with their cities. Today, we frown very heavily against genocide; but in that day, it was very common. Then the LORD named this place Hormah, which means, “devoted or consecrated to God; utter destruction; anathema.”
(Verses 4 through 6) And they journeyed from mount Hor by way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom; and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither any water; and our soul hateth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people died.
No doubt, the people were highly elated by the victory the LORD had given them over the Canaanites. But hardly had they started on their journey when they began to complain that there was no water for them to drink, and no food except manna (“this light bread.”) They were not only complaining against Moses, but against God also for bringing them out of Egypt. They had forgotten what hard service they had endured in Egypt, as well as all the mighty works God had wrought for them. Remember that this is not only a description of Israel, but of us even today. We soon forget His mighty works on our behalf, and begin complaining that He has not made things for us the way we like them. And if we go too far with such complaints, we may receive a chastisement similar to that they received. So “the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people died.” The serpents the LORD sent among them were not fire breathing serpents, but serpents whose bite caused a burning sensation as does fire. And it was, in many cases deadly. So many of the people died. This should teach us that it is never safe to criticize God, or His works.
(Verses 7 through 9) Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and put it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
This incident, although of great importance to the children of Israel, has a greater significance for us in that of which it is a type, than in the literal event. In John 3:14-15, our Lord Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” And the Apostle Paul tells us “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” In this work wrought by Moses we find the type of the work of God in our salvation. Just as the serpent of brass was made in the image of the fiery serpents, but without the venom that they had, so was Jesus “made sin for us,” in that he was condemned to the same punishment as were the evildoers who were crucified with Him. Although He had no sin of His own, He took our sins, and made them His own, that we might be set free by His death. When we are enabled to look upon Him by faith, and believe in Him, we are freed from sin, just as the children of Israel were healed of the bites of the serpents when they looked upon the brasen serpent. Jesus said, (John 6:40) “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
(Verses 10 through 16) And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth. And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising. From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared. From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What He did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab. And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.
This is only the account of what seems to be a very uneventful passage of the children of Israel from the wilderness, where Moses made the brasen serpent, back to the well, where the LORD had told Moses to gather the Israelites together, that He might give them water. It may, possibly, not have been so uneventful as it seems, since we are told that something is said about it in the “book of the wars of the LORD;” but no great events are here recorded.
(Verses 17 through 20) Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it: the princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah: and from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth: and from Bamoth in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.
This seems to have been another journey in which there were no notable events, except the singing of the song that the Israelites sang at the well.
(Verses 21 through 30) And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king’s high way, until we be past thy borders. And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong. And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and all the villages thereof. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon. Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared: for there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. Woe to thee, Moab! Thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites. We have shot at them; Heshbon has perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.
Israel proposed to Sihon king of the Amorites that if he would give them passage through his territory, they would do no harm to anything in his country, not even drink water from his well: but instead of giving them passage, he called forth all his people. and made war upon them. But the LORD gave Israel such a victory that they took all Sihon’s cities and villages from him, and dwelt therein. Verses 27 through 29 set forth a proverb concerning the greatness of Sihon as he had taken all this land from the former king of Moab. And verse 30 praises Israel for bringing destruction upon all these cities that Sihon had taken from the Moabites.
(Verses 31 and 32) Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites. And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.
While the children of Israel were dwelling in the land of the Amorites Moses had them spy out the city of Jaazer, which they also took,. together with its villages, and drove out all the Amorites that had been living there.
(Verses 33 through 35) And they turned and went up by way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to battle at Edrei. And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.
Thus the LORD took all the land of both Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan from them, and gave it to Israel. This is one of the great evidences of the sovereignty of God, and His election of His people. Ever since the LORD had brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, they had been disobedient, and rebellious, and several times He had threatened to completely destroy them, but because of His election of them as his chosen people He had, at this point begun to take away the territory of the nations, and give it to the children of Israel, as He had promised.
(Verse 1) And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
Now the Israelites had left the land of the Amorites, and gone to the plain of Moab where they stopped again.
(Verses 2 through 6) And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass in the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the earth, and they abide over against me: come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and whom thou cursest is cursed.
When the Israelites encamped in the plain of Moab, Balak the king of the Moabites became extremely fearful. He had heard what they had done to the Amorites, and he knew that they were too powerful for him, unless he could get some sort of help. And, likely there was no one that he could count on to come to his aid. But there was a man named Balaam, who had a reputation of being able to place a curse upon anyone, and by that curse rendering him weak enough that he could be easily overcome. So he sent messengers to Balaam, to call him to come and curse the children of Israel so that he might overcome them, and drive them out of the land.
(Verses 7 through 14) And the elders of Moab departed with rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you. And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us.
So far this appears to be a very simple matter. Balak sent his messengers to Balaam with what Balak considered suitable rewards for a soothsayer to place a curse upon this people whom he feared. Balak could not give the messengers any answer until he discussed the matter with the LORD. So he had the messengers tarry with him all night. During the night, the LORD came to him, and questioned who these men were that had come to Balaam, not that He did not know, but to have Balaam confess the matter to Him. When Balaam declared who they were, and what they had come for, the LORD told Him to not go with them, for he could not curse this people, since they were already blessed of Him. The next morning Balaam sent the messengers back to Balak with his refusal to go with them. Up to this point Balaam seems to be a servant of the LORD, and willing to do what He instructs him to do.
(Verses 15 through 21) And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said unto him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: for I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more. And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men call thee, rise up and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.
This time Balak sent more, and more honorable messengers to Balaam, with, probably greater presents, and certainly greater promises, and a more urgent message for him to come immediately. But Balaam still told them that he could not go beyond what the LORD told him to do. So they stayed with Balaam another night for him to find out what the LORD would tell him. This time the Lord told him, “If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that thou shalt do.” Notice should be taken that there is a condition that must be met before Balaam has permission to go: “If the men come to call thee.” But Balaam did not wait for the men to come and call him. Instead he voluntarily rose up, saddled his ass, and went with them. And this action was completely in violation of the commandment of the LORD.
(Verses 22 through 29) And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself into the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with the staff. And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in my hand, for now would I kill thee.
This seems rather lengthy, but it is all clearly enough written that none should have any difficulty in understanding it. The LORD was displeased with Balaam because Balaam had disobeyed His commandment to him. He had voluntarily gone with the messengers without waiting for them to call him.. So He sent His angel to kill Balaam. But He enabled the ass to see the angel. So she turned aside to get out of the way of the angel twice, but the third time there was no place to go: so she fell down. Each time she tried to avoid the angel, Balaam hit her with his staff, and when she fell down, he struck her again, for he was very angry against her. He had not been able to see the angel. The third time Balaam struck her, the LORD enabled her to speak with human voice, and ask Balaam why he had struck her three times. He still could not see the danger in which he had been, and he was still very angry. So he wished for a sword, that he might kill her.
(Verses 30 through 35) And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee. And he said, Nay. Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? Behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: and the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also had I slain thee, and saved her alive. And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
So Balaam’s ass questioned him concerning her own actions during all the time that Balaam had owned her, and he confessed that she had never before acted as she did on this occasion. Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes that he might see the angel of the LORD with his sword drawn to slay Balaam, whereupon Balaam fell prostrate upon the earth with his face to the ground. Then the angel of the LORD rebuked him for striking the ass as he had, and explained to him that she had saved his life by turning aside. If she had not turned away, he would have slain Balaam with his sword. Then Balaam confessed that he had sinned in beating his animal, and gave the lame excuse that he had not seen the angel. But he never said a word about his sin in voluntarily going with Balak’s messengers. However he did tell the angel that if his going displeased the angel, he would return back to his place. Then the angel told him to go with the messengers, but the only word he could speak to Balak would be exactly what the angel would tell him. He was not given the privilege of following his own mind. But he did go on with the princes of Balak. Some may get the impression that Balaam was a true servant of the LORD, but had only made a mistake in doing as he had. And indeed that is not ours to judge; but after we shall pass on beyond the present account of him, we find him mentioned eight more times in the scriptures, and none of them ever mention him favorably. In one place, Joshua 13:22, he is called a soothsayer, which is only another name for a fortune teller; and the LORD specifically commanded the children of Israel that such were condemned, and were to be put to death.
(Verses 36 through 41) And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is the utmost coast. And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? Wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able to promote thee to honour? And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power to say any thing? The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak. And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjath-huzoth. And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and the princes that were with him. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
So when Balaam arrived in Balak’s country, Balak went out to meet him. And the first thing he did was to scold Balaam for not coming at his first summons. However Balaam told him that, although he had come, he still could not say any thing more than the LORD gave him leave. They then went together to Kirjath-huzoth, where Balak offered up sacrifices of sheep and oxen. Then they went up to the high places of Baal, from whence Balaam could see “the utmost part of the people.” Balak was doing everything he could to persuade Balaam to be ready to curse the Israelites.
(Verses 1 through 10) And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me seven oxen and seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram. And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever He sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. And God met Balaam: and he said unto Him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. And the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak. And he returned unto him, and lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he and all the princes of Moab. And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? Or how shall I defy whom the LORD hath not defied? From the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!
This certainly is in no need of explanation. But we should notice that in spite of all the preparations Balaam and Balak made in the hope that God would allow Balaam to curse Israel, he could not do so. Instead he declared a great blessing upon Israel, and even wished that his final end might be like that of Jacob.
(Verses 11 through 13) And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth? And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence.
The blessing Balaam pronounced upon the children of Israel greatly angered Balak. And he rebuked Balaam for that; but Balaam told him there was nothing he could do about that: he had to speak only what the LORD would let him say. One would think that this should have brought the whole matter to a halt. But Balak was so set on getting Balaam to curse the Israelites that he wanted to try again to get Balaam to pronounce a curse upon them. He seemed to think that if Balaam could only see a small part of the congregation of the children of Israel while speaking of them, maybe, he would curse them. He apparently could not understand that no man, not even Balaam, could go beyond the limits God had set upon him. And, apparently, Balaam was hoping to change the mind of the LORD, which, of itself shows that he was not aware of the immutability of the LORD.
(Verses 14 through 17) And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. And he said unto Balak, stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder. And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken?
Apparently, Balaam was still hoping that all the offerings he was making would change the mind of the LORD. So he had Balak to make seven new altars, and offer upon each of them a bullock and a ram. So while Balak was standing beside his burnt offering, Balaam went away from him for a little while, and the LORD met him, and gave him a message to Balak. So he came back to where Balak was making his burnt offering. When he arrived, Balak asked him, “What hath the LORD spoken?”
(Verses 18 through 24) And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! Behold the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.
Of course, this is exactly the opposite from what Balak wanted to hear. But the LORD had laid such restrictions upon Balaam that he could not say anything more, or less, than what the LORD had told him to say. What he has said is clear enough that none should misunderstand it. God has blessed Israel, and there is none who can do anything against them. No enchantment and no divination can be successfully used against them. And that is exactly what Balak has been trying to do. Since Balaam is a soothsayer, Balak has been trying to get him to use his powers against Israel. But the LORD will not permit such. Instead, He causes Balaam to pronounce the greatest of blessings upon Israel, much to the anger of Balak.
(Verses 25 and 26) And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do?
This has brought Balak to the point that He wants Balaam to just be quiet, and neither curse nor bless Israel. But Balaam declares that he must speak forth all that the LORD has laid upon him.
(Verses 27 through 30) And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence. And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon. And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams. And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.
(Verses 1 through 2) And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in tents according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
It took a great deal of convincing, but finally Balaam saw that the LORD had set His mind to bless Israel, and would not permit him to use any of his enchantments against them. And when he was fully convinced of this, he did not bother to go out to seek enchantments against them, but turned his face toward the wilderness, and looked upon the tents of Israel. Then the Spirit of the LORD laid hold upon him. Notice that at this time the LORD did not speak to him, and tell him to deliver a message to Balak. Instead, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, that is, the Spirit laid hold upon him to cause him to speak exactly as the LORD gave him the words.
(Verses 3 through 9) And he (Balaam) took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: he hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.
This is the greatest blessing Balaam has been made to pronounce upon Israel up to this point. Although he came to Balak for the purpose of cursing Israel, the LORD has turned every attempt to curse them into a blessing. In this one he even quotes one that God made to Abram, “Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.” And that blessing is still in effect today. Although for their unfaithfulness to Him, the LORD has , almost two thousand years ago, permitted their enemies to destroy their temple and their city, and scatter them throughout the world, He has promised to restore them in His appointed time, and that He will do.
(Verses 10 through 14) And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour. And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak? And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.
One could hardly expect anything different in the present situation. Balak had gone to the trouble of sending twice for Balaam to come to him, and curse the children of Israel. Balaam had come, and had caused Balak to go to the expense of building twenty one new altars, and offering as burnt offerings thereon twenty one bullocks and twenty one rams, all in the hope of getting a favorable response from the LORD which would let the curse be pronounced against Israel. But in spite of the efforts of both Balak and Balaam, every attempt to curse them was turned into a blessing upon Israel, with, actually, each one being greater than the previous one. So Balak is ready to send Balaam home with no reward at all. But the LORD is not yet through with the matter. He has so laid His Spirit upon Balaam that Balaam is not able to leave without declaring to Balak what Israel will do to Balak’s people in the latter days.
(Verse 15 through 19) And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: he hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall He come that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
As Balaam speaks of himself as he, “which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open,” he is showing the difference between himself and other soothsayers who were not moved by the Spirit of God when making their predictions. It was their habit to close their eyes, and pretend that thus they could see all the wonderful things they would predict. But Balaam was not doing this; his eyes were open, but he was still in a trance by reason of the Spirit of God, Which had come upon him. So what he saw was the truth, and not something he had dreamed up of himself. The remainder of this text is a prophecy of the coming of the Christ, but not of His first advent. It is of Him when He returns during the day of the great battle described by Zechariah in the fourteenth chapter of his prophecy. In that day He shall have dominion over all nations, and shall destroy all these upon whom Balaam declares destruction.
(Verses 20 through 22) And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his later end shall be that he perish for ever. And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive.
This is also looking to the times which were far in the future. There will be no more Amalekites, and the Kenites, another tribe of the Arabs, shall be taken captive by Asshur, which is another name for Assyria. So this prophecy has to do with the times of the height of the glory of Assyria
(Verses 23 through 25) And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this! And ships shall come from the coasts of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish forever. And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.
Balaam was greatly concerned that when the LORD brings this great judgment upon the world, and especially upon the enemies of Israel, there will be only few left. Even Assyria and Eber shall perish forever But we do not have to worry about this. Nevertheless we should follow our Lord’s command, as he answered the one who asked him (in Luke 13:23) “Lord are there few that be saved.” His answer was, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know ye not whence ye are.” After delivering this prophecy, Balaam left, and went back to his own place, while Balak also went his way.
(Verses 1 through 5) And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. And the LORD said unto Moses, take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.
Although nothing has been said concerning Balaam’s teaching Balak to entice the children of Israel to commit adultery with the women of Moab, and to engage with them in worshipping the idols of the Moabites, We are later told that that is exactly what had happened. So the Israelites committed adultery with the women of Moab, and took part in the worship of their idols. Thereby was the anger of the LORD kindled against Israel. Then He gave Moses a commandment to hang all those who were the heads of the tribes of Israel. So Moses called upon the judges of Israel to slay the men that were in this Baal-peor incident. From this we can see just how detestable this whole affair was to the LORD.
(Verses 6 through 9) And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazer the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went in after the man of Israel into his tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman, through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.
This is certainly in no need of explanation. But one can hardly help being amazed at the brazenness of the man and woman who came into the camp in plain sight of Moses and all the congregation while they were gathered before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation weeping for the terrible penalty the Lord had already declared against them. However, Phinehas was given of the LORD courage to clear this matter up very shortly, by killing both the man and the woman who had done this. Although nothing had been previously said about a plague among the Israelites for this, apparently one had been raging among them; for twenty-four thousand of them were killed by the plague. But at the death of this man and woman it was stopped.
(Verses 10 through 15) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazer the priest hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say, I give unto him My covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. Now the name of the Israelite that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites. And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.
Because of his deed of slaying the man and woman engaged in adultery, Phinehas was rewarded by the LORD with the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, and a covenant of peace for him and his seed after him. Then we are given the names of both the Israelitish man and the Midianitish woman who were killed.
(Verses 16 through 18) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Vex the Midianites, and smite them: for they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.
After the plague had been stopped, the LORD commanded Moses to have the children of Israel “vex the Midianites, and smite them.” This was for punishment upon the Midianites for the matter of the adultery and idolatry into which the Midianites had led them.