to keep the charge; of the tabernacle, to watch and observe that no stranger or unclean person enter into it; and this they were capable of when at the age of fifty, and upwards:
and shall do no service; heavy and laborious:
thus thou shall do unto the Levites touching their charge; dismiss them from service when at such an age, or however make their service easier; for this respects ancient men, as Aben Ezra notes; though it may include both their entrance on their work, and their cessation from it.
INTRODUCTION TO Numbers 9
In this chapter the command for keeping the passover is repeated, and it was accordingly kept, Numbers 9:1; but some persons being defiled and disqualified for observing it, Moses inquires of the Lord, on their solicitation, what should be done in such a case, Numbers 9:6; when it was ordered to be kept by such, and those on journeys, on the fourteenth day of the second month, but not by others, who were to observe it according to its first appointment, Numbers 9:9; and an account is given of the appearance of the cloud by day, and fire by night, upon the tabernacle, which directed the children of Israel when to journey, and when to pitch their tents, Numbers 9:15.
in the first month of the second year, after they were come out of the land of Egypt: the following order was given some time in the first month of the second year of Israel's departure out of Egypt; the precise day is not mentioned, it must be in the beginning of the month before the fourteenth day of it, in which the passover is ordered to be kept, according to the first institution of it; very probably immediately after the setting up of the tabernacle, and the consecration of Aaron and his sons; and it must be before the numbering of the people the fixing of their standards, the appointment of the Levites, and the dedication of them; since the order for the numbering of the people was on the first day of the second month, Numbers 1:1, but the account of them was postponed to this time, in order to give a relation of an affair which was not finished until the second month, and therefore the whole is laid together here:
saying, as follows.
at his appointed season; and what that season is is next declared.
at even ye shall keep it, in his appointed season: between the two evenings, Exodus 12:6; and even if it fall on the sabbath day, as Jarchi; and this was a sabbath day, according to the Jewish writers (y):
according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof shall ye keep it; the former of these, according to Jarchi, respects the lamb, and the requisites of it, that it should be without blemish, a male, and of the first year; and the latter, according to him and others, the removal of the leaven, and the seven days of unleavened bread, and the eating of the lamb with bitter herbs: they take in no doubt all that were prescribed by the original law, except the sprinkling of the blood on the doorposts, and also eating the passover in haste, with their loins girt, and shoes on their feet, and staves in their hands; though some think these latter might be observed at this time, when they were unsettled.
(y) Seder Olam Rabba. c. 7.
according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel; which is observed to their honour; though Jarchi gives this as a reason why this book does not begin with this account, as the order of things seems to require, because it was to the reproach of the Israelites, that all the forty years they were in the wilderness they kept but this passover only; the reason of which was, because of the omission of circumcision during that time, through the inconveniences of travelling, and the danger of circumcision in it, without which their children could not eat of the passover, Exodus 12:48.
that they could not keep the passover on that day; as others did, the fourteenth of Nisan, it being, according to the Targum of Jonathan, the seventh day of their defilement:
and they came before Moses, and before Aaron, on that day; on the selfsame day the passover was kept, and they were sensible of their pollution, which disqualified for it; and therefore it should rather seem to be the first day of their pollution than their last; since otherwise they would doubtless have inquired about this matter before the passover came; unless the time of their pollution was so near out, that they thought they might eat it safely, on which they desired advice.
(z) Chaskuni in loc.
we are defiled by the dead body of a man; they had touched it, or had been where it was, or at the funeral of it, and so were defiled: this they knew was their case by a law before mentioned, and which they speak of, not as a sin purposely committed by them, but as what had unhappily befallen them, and they could not avoid; and express their concern, that upon this account they should be deprived of the ordinance of the passover and as this confession shows an ingenuous disposition, so what follows, a pious, religious, and devotional frame of mind:
wherefore are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the Lord in his appointed season among the children of Israel? they speak very honourably of the ordinance of the passover, they call it "an offering of the Lord", the passover lamb being a slain sacrifice; and this offered to the Lord, by way of thanksgiving, for, and in commemoration of, their wonderful deliverance out of Egypt, and done in faith of Christ the passover, to be sacrificed for them; and it gave them much uneasiness that they were debarred by this occasional and unavoidable uncleanness, that was upon them, from keeping it; and what added to it was, that they could not observe it on the day which the Lord had appointed, and when the whole body of the children of Israel were employed in it; for it is no small pleasure to a good man to observe every ordinance of God in the manner and at the time he directs to, and his people in general are attending to the same; and the rather they were urgent in their expostulations, because it is said (a), this was the seventh and last day of their pollution, when they should be clean at evening, and the passover was not to be eaten until the evening, and therefore so earnestly expostulate why they should be kept back from it.
(a) Maimon. in Misn. Pesachim, c. 7. sect. 6.
and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you; as it was a singular case, of which there had been no instance before, Moses would not determine anything about it himself, but would inquire of the Lord his mind and will concerning it; and for that purpose, very probably, went into the most holy place, where the Lord had promised to meet him and commune with him, from off the mercy seat, about any matter of difficulty he should inquire about, Exodus 25:22.
saying; as follows.
if any man of you; or "a man, a man", or any private man; for, according to the Jewish writers, this law only respects private persons, as those were who were the occasion of its being made:
or of your posterity; or "in your generations" (b), or "ages"; which shows that this law respected future times, and not the present case only:
shall be unclean by reason of a dead body; see Numbers 9:6; Maimonides (c) says, this only respects uncleanness by a dead body, and not uncleanness by any creeping thing; for such as were unclean by them might sacrifice, though a private person, and eat the passover at evening with purity, when he had been cleansed: yet he says elsewhere (d), that such that had issues, and menstruous women, and those that lay with them, and women in childbed, were unclean, and were put off to the second passover; and so the Targum of Jonathan here adds,"or that has an issue, or a leprous person:"
or be in a journey afar off; which, according to Ben Gersom, was fifteen miles; so in the Misnah (e), and the commentators on it:
yet he shall keep the passover of the Lord; not the first, but second, according to the directions given in Numbers 9:11.
(b) "generationibus vestris", Pagninus, Montanus; "in aetatibus vestris", Drusius. (c) In Misn. ut supra, (c. 7. sect. 6.) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 93. 2.((d) Hilchot Corban Pesach, c. 6. sect. 1.((e) Pesachim, c. 9. sect. 2. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; in the same manner as the first passover was eaten, Exodus 12:8; only no mention is made of keeping the feast of unleavened bread seven days, which some think those were not obliged unto at this time, only to keep the feast of the passover.
nor break any bone of it; the same was enjoined; see Gill on Exodus 12:46,
according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it: as when observed in its time, excepting the feast of unleavened bread, which followed the first passover, and those rites which were peculiar to the passover, as kept at their first coming out of Egypt; as the sprinkling the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, eating it in haste, &c.
and is not in a journey; in a distant country; for if he was on a journey in his own nation, he ought to return and attend the passover, which all the males from the several parts of the land were obliged unto; wherefore the Vulgate Latin version of Numbers 9:10; is a wrong one; "or in a way afar off in your nation"; for at whatsoever distance they were in their own nation, they were bound to appear:
and forbeareth to keep the passover; the first passover in the first month, the month Nisan, wilfully, through negligence, or not caring to be at the expense and trouble of it, or on any pretence whatsoever: Ben Gersom interprets it of one that will not keep neither the first nor the second passover:
even the same soul shall be cut off from his people; either be excommunicated from them, or cut off by death by the immediate hand of God:
because he brought not the offering of the Lord in his appointed season: this is the ground and reason of the resentment; it was a breach of the divine command, which required this offering; ingratitude to God, being a thank offering for a singular deliverance; and this aggravated by its not being brought at the appointed time, which was the fit ti me for it:
that man shall bear his sin; be chargeable with the guilt of it, and bear the punishment of it; he on himself, as Aben Ezra notes, he, and he only; not his wife and family, for he being the head and master of the family, it lay upon him to provide the passover lamb for himself and his house.
according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do; according to the several rites and ceremonies, whether of the first or second passover, that an Israelite was obliged to observe, the same a proselyte was to observe, and what they were has been already taken notice of:
ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and for him that was born in the land: for a proselyte, and a native of Israel; see Exodus 12:49.
the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony; that part of the tabernacle in which the testimony was, that is, where the ark was, in which the law was put, called the testimony; and this was the most holy place; and over the tent or covering of that was this cloud, which settled upon it, as Ben Gersom thinks, after the seven days of the consecration of Aaron and his sons; on the eighth day, when it was said unto the people of Israel, "today will the Lord appear unto you", Leviticus 9:1; "and the glory of the Lord shall appear unto you", Leviticus 9:6; and here the Targum of Jonathan calls this cloud the cloud of glory, because of the glory of God in it; of which see Exodus 40:34,
and at even there was upon the tabernacle, as it were, the appearance of fire until the morning; the same phenomenon, which looked like a cloud in the daytime, appeared like fire in the same place in the nighttime, throughout the whole of it until morning light, when it was seen as a cloud again: this was a token of the presence of God with the people of Israel, of his protection of them, and being a guide unto them by night and day, while in the wilderness; and was a figure of his being the same to his church and people, in the present state of things; see Isaiah 4:5.
the cloud covered it by day: the phrase, "by day", is not in the text, but is easily and necessarily supplied from Exodus 40:38; and as it is in the Targum of Jonathan, and in the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and which the following clause requires:
and the appearance of fire by night; when as a cloud it could not be because of the darkness of the night; as in the daytime it could not be discerned as a body of fire or light, because of the light of the sun; but being seen under these different forms, was serviceable both by day and night, for the following purposes.
then after that the children of Israel journeyed; as soon as they saw the cloud moving upwards, the Levites took down the tabernacle, and each took their post assigned them in the carriage of it, and the priests blew their trumpets mentioned in Numbers 10:2, and the whole camp moved and marched on in their journey:
and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents; when it stopped and remained without any motion, it was a signal to the children of Israel to stop also, and to set up the tabernacle, and pitch their tents about it by their standards, and according to the order of encampment which had been given them.
and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched; their tents; when the cloud stopped, they understood that as a signal to them, as a token of the will of God that they should stop likewise; it was to them as an authoritative command, which they obeyed:
as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle, they rested in their tents; whether a longer or a shorter time, as is after expressed.
then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not; they not only kept watching when it would move, or set sentinels for that purpose to observe it, but they kept the charge, order, or commandment, which the tarrying of the cloud was a token of, and did not attempt to proceed in their journey until they had an intimation so to do by its motion; and all this while, likewise, the tabernacle being up, they observed all the precepts and ordinances of the Lord in the service of it.
according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents; during these few days, be they a week, or more, or less:
and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed; when it removed from the tabernacle.
and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed;
whether it was by day or night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed; whether at morning or midnight; for sometimes, as Aben Ezra observes, they travelled in the night; whensoever their sentinels gave notice that the cloud was taken up, even though at midnight, they arose and prepared for their journey; and by this it is evident, that the appearance by day and night was the same body called the cloud, though beheld in a different view, in the daytime as a cloud, in the nighttime as fire.
remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not; so that, as the same writer observes, it was not because the children of Israel lost their way in the wilderness and wandered about, not knowing where they were, or which way they should go; hence the Arabians call the wilderness, the wilderness of wandering, nor that they were so long wandering in it as forty years, but because it was the will of God that should stay so long at one place, and so long at another, whereby their stay in it was protracted to such a length of time, according to his sovereign will:
but when it was taken up they journeyed; though they had continued ever so long, and their situation ever so agreeable.
(g) Moreh Nevoch. par. 2. c. 50. p. 512. (h) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 8. p. 24.