Commentary on Numbers


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Literally, "fulfilled to walk behind me. Joshua And his seed shall possess it, i. No mention is made here of any special heritage, nor is it clear from Joshua that Caleb received any definite promise of Hebron. He spoke indeed of a promise made him, probably at this time, by Moses; but that promise was a very general one. He asked for "this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day;" but he may only have referred to the Divine command first to explore and then to occupy "the mountain," as the nearest portion of the promised land.

Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley. To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea. This parenthesis bears on the face of it several difficulties, both as to the meaning of the statement and as to its position in the text. It has been stated just before Numbers that the "Canaanites" dwelt by the sea, and in the Ghor, and it has been proposed by some to understand under this name the Phoenicians, because "Sidon" was the first-born of Canaan, and because they are known to have occupied the coast.

But if "Canaanite" means "Phoenician" in chapter Numbers , it is difficult to maintain that it is here equivalent to "Amorite. It is, however, a straining of the word to assign such a meaning to it. And even if one looking down from above might call an upland plain by this name, yet certainly one looking up from below would not. If so, we must conclude that not only the roving Amalekites, but also the Canaanites, or Amorites, had established themselves in some parts of the Wady. It is scarcely credible that an observation of this sort, which would seem unusual and abrupt in any speech, should have formed a part of God's message to Moses.

It has no apparent connection with the context. It does not as often alleged afford a reason for the command which follows; it was not at all because enemies were already in possession before them that the Israelites had to turn their backs upon the promised land, but because God had withdrawn for the time his promised aid. If the "valley" be the Rakhmah plateau, they had always known that hostile tribes held it, and that they would have to conquer them.

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That the words are an interpolation, as the A. It may be worth while to hazard a conjecture that the interpolated words are really connected with what goes before, viz. Now that promise was fulfilled in the gift of Hebron to Caleb and his seed Joshua Is it not possible that this parenthesis was originally the gloss of one who had a special interest in the heritage of Caleb, and wished to note that at the time it was given to him "the vale" was occupied by two hostile peoples? Into the wilderness, i. By the way of the Red Sea, i.

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This communication is clearly by way of continuation and amplification of the sentence briefly pronounced above. It is markedly distinguished from the latter, as being 1 spoken to Aaron as well as to Moses; 2 addressed through them to the people at large. The one was the Divine answer to the effectual pleading of the mediator; the other the Divine reply to the rebellious cries of the people.

The two are blended together in the narrative of Deuteronomy 1. 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. Literally, "How long this evil congregation, that they murmur against me.


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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,. Numbers , 19, All that had been enrolled as the soldiers of the Lord, to fight his battles and their own, but had refused, and had incurred the guilt of mutiny. 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.

Literally, "lifted up my hand" see on Genesis And Joshua the son of Nun. The exception in favour of his "minister," Joshua, had been taken for granted in the brief answer of God to Moses; in the fuller announcement of his purposes to the congregation it was natural that he too should be mentioned by name. 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.

And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. Literally, "shall pasture. It was not altogether a threat, for it implied that the Lord would be their Shepherd and would provide for their wants in their wanderings.

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Forty years. This period was made up by counting in the year and a half since the exodus. It was one of those many cases in which the word of God was fulfilled in the meaning and substance of it, but not in the letter. The delay which had already occurred was itself practically due to the same spirit of mutiny which had grown to a head at Kadesh; it was therefore strictly equitable to count it as part of the punishment inflicted see on Deuteronomy And bear your whoredoms. That the Jews were guilty of idolatry in the wilderness is distinctly asserted cf.

Acts , 43 ; and these idolatrous practices, carried on no doubt in secret, must have been a sore trial to the generation which grew up amidst them cf. Joshua , 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.

It is said, and truly, that the connection between the two periods was arbitrary, and that the apparent correspondence lay only upon the surface. Exactly for this reason it was the better fitted to fix itself in the mind of a nation incapable of following a deeper and more spiritual analogy of guilt and punishment. It served the purpose which God had in view, viz. If God assigns reasons at all, he assigns such as can be understood by those to whom he speaks.

Ye shall know my breach of promise. Here it must mean "my withdrawal," or "my turning aside, from you. I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. 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.

Through The Bible - Book of Numbers - Bible Study by Zac Poonen

We are not told what death they died, but it was sudden and exceptional enough to mark it as the direct consequence of their sinful conduct. 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. 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.

Wishing to anticipate the retrograde movement commanded by God verse Into the top of the mountain. What summit is here spoken of as the object of their enterprise is quite uncertain. Probably it was some ridge not far distant which seemed to them from below to be the height of land, but was itself commanded by loftier heights beyond. For we have sinned. The prospect of being taken at their own word, and being excluded from the land which lay so near, brought home to them a sense of their folly; but their repentance merely consisted in a frantic effort to avoid the punishment which their sin had incurred.

Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. 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.


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  • This gives the sense very well: they were deaf to all persuasion or command to stay. Thus they added to an evil distrust in the power of God an almost more evil trust in their own power. It does not seem correct to say that "unbelief" was the real cause of both errors - unbelief, firstly in God's promises, and secondly in his threats. It was rather one of those many cases in which men seek to atone for a fault on one side by rushing into as great a fault on the other side.

    They spoke brave words about the "place which the Lord hath promised," as though it were indeed obedience and trust which spurred them on, instead of presumption and selfishness. The ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. The plainest possible token that the Lord was not with them. With Moses remained no doubt all the Levites, and the silver trumpets, and Joshua, and perhaps the bulk of the people.

    Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah. See on Deuteronomy They came down from the summit of the mountain country, and drove the Israelites off the saddle, or lower level, to which they had ascended. Discomfited them. The name Hormah meets us again in Numbers see the notes there , as having been bestowed by the Israelites upon the place where they destroyed the people of King Arad. If this be the same Hormah, it must be so named here by anticipation.

    It is, however, quite possible that it is another place altogether. Again, if the Seir of Deuteronomy be the country usually so called, we must suppose that the Edomites had at this time occupied a part of the Azazimeh, contiguous to the Wady Murreh, and westwards of the Arabah. We should then represent the Israelites to ourselves as being driven off the mountain, and across the Wady Murreh, and cut down in the mountains beyond, as far as a place called Hormah, perhaps from this very slaughter. Others have found Hormah or Zephath, Judges and Seir among the multitudinous names of past or present habitation in the south of Palestine; the perplexing resemblances of which, coupled with the vagueness of the sacred narrative, lead to the rise of as many different theories as there are commentators.

    It must, however, be erroneous to represent this hasty incursion of the Israelites, without their leaders, and without their daily food from heaven, as a campaign in which they advanced for a considerable distance, and were only partially expelled at last. It is clear from this passage, and still more from the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 1 , that the expedition was swiftly and ignominiously repelled and avenged.

    Compare the expression, "chased you as bees do. It is possible that it received this name from the long sojourn of the tabernacle in its neighbourhood Deuteronomy ; but it is more likely that it possessed some character of sanctity from ancient times, a character which would very well harmonize with the fact that justice was administered there. It is evident that in order to obtain any clear and connected idea of the history of Israel between the departure from Sinai and the encampment upon the plains of Moab, it is above all necessary to fix approximately the position of this place, which for one generation was the most important place in the whole world.

    It was no doubt from the neighbourhood of Kadesh that the spies were sent, and it was certainly to Kadesh that they returned from searching the land Numbers From Kadesh the first disastrous attempt was made to invade the country, and from thence again the final journey began which led the nation round the coasts of Edom to the plains of Moab. Thus Kadesh was of all places, next to Mount Sinai, the one associated with the most momentous events of those momentous years, marking at once the terminus of their first journey which should have been their last , the beginning of their tedious wanderings, and the starting point of their final march.

    So far, however, from there being any certainty or agreement as to the site of Kadesh, we find two sites proposed widely separated from one another, each maintained and each assailed by powerful arguments, which divide between them the suffrages of geographers and commentators; and besides these there are others less powerfully supported.

    The view adopted in the notes to this book is that of the travelers Rowland and Williams, and of the great majority of the German commentators: it is fully stated and minutely argued in Kurtz's 'History of the Old Covenant' volume 3 in Clark's 'Foreign Theol. According to these authorities Kadesh is to be recognized in the plain and fountain of Kudes, just within the north-west corner of the mountains of the Azazimeh see note on Numbers This desert plain, some ten miles by six in extent, is screened from ordinary observation by the outer mountain walls of the Azazimat, which shut it off on the west from the desert road from Sinai to Hebron, on the north from the Wady Murreh.

    At the north-east of the plain is a bold and bare rock, a promontory of the northern mountain rampart, from the. Amongst the Wadys which open into the plain is one which bears the name of Redemat see note on Numbers It is uncertain whether there is any easy communication between this plain and the Wady Murreh, but there are several passes on the western side which lead by a slight circuit to the southern table-lands of Palestine.

    The view adopted by the majority of English commentators is that of the traveler Robinson. According to these authorities Kadesh must be sought in the Arabah, the broad depression which runs northward from the head of the Elanitic Gulf until it meets the Ghor below the Dead Sea. By most of those who hold this view the site of Kadesh is placed at Ain-el-Weibeh, ten miles to the north of Mount Hor, and opposite the opening from the east of the Wady el Ghuweir, which affords the only easy passage through Edom to the north-west.

    Others, however, prefer Ain Hash, a few miles further north. The local peculiarities of either place are such as to satisfy the requirements of the narrative, although they would not by themselves have recalled the scenes with which Kadesh is associated. Of other theories none perhaps need to be considered here, because none can reasonably enter into competition with the two already mentioned; they avoid none of the difficulties with which these are beset, while they incur others of their own.

    If, indeed, Rabbinical tradition followed in this case by Jerome were worth anything, it would decide the question in favour of Petra, the Aramaic name of which Rekem uniformly takes the place of Kadesh in the Syriac and Chaldee, and in the Talmud. Kadesh-Barnea in the Targums is Rekem-Geiah. Petra itself of which the ancient name apparently was Selah 2 Kings , the very word used in Numbers , 11 stands in a gorge famous for its giant cliffs, still called the Wady Musa, concerning which the local tradition is that it was cleft by the rod of Moses.

    But apart from these resemblances of name, which are so fallacious, and these legends, which are so worthless, there is absolutely nothing to connect Kadesh with Petra; on the contrary, the position of Petra, far away from Palestine, on the skirts of Mount Hor, and in the heart of Edom, distinguish it sharply from the Kadesh of the Bible story. The two can only be identified on the supposition that the sacred narrative, as it stands, is mistaken and misleading.

    In examining briefly the arguments by which the western and eastern sites respectively are maintained and assailed, it will be better to dismiss the evidence such as it is afforded by modern nomenclature, which is always open to grave suspicion, and is at best of very variable value. The Wady Retemat, e.

    In favour of the western site, that of the so-called plain of Kudes, we have the following arguments in addition to the marked natural features which suggested the identification.

    Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Numbers 1

    Previous mentions of Kadesh would certainly dispose us in the absence of any indication that there was more than one place of that name to look for it to the south of Palestine, and rather to the south-west than to the southeast. In Genesis it is mentioned in connection with the "country of the Amalekites," which was apparently between Canaan and Egypt. In the same region we may place with more confidence the well of Hagar Genesis , which is placed between "Kadesh and Bered.

    Gerar, again, which was certainly near to Beersheba, is placed Genesis "between Kadesh and Shut. Subsequent mentions of Kadesh point in the same direction. In chapter Numbers , 5 and Joshua , 4 the southern frontier of Judah, which was also that of Canaan, is traced from the scorpion cliffs at the head of the Ghor to the Mediterranean see note on the first passage.

    On this frontier Kadesh occurs in such a way that we should look for it not at one extremity, but somewhere about the middle of the line. The same is still more clearly the case in Ezekiel , where only three points are given on the southern frontier, of which Kadesh is the middle one. It is, again: very difficult to imagine that this Kadesh could have been in the Arabah. It is a weaker argument, but still of some moment, that Kadesh is pointedly said to have been in the "wilderness of Paran" Numbers ; Numbers , and also to have been in or near the wilderness of Zin chapter ; But the eastern site of Kadesh far up the Arabah does not seem to answer to this double description near]y as well as the western.

    The plain of Kudes is strictly within the limits of that southern desert now called et-Tih, and yet it is quite close to the Wady Murreh, which with its sandy expansions towards the east may well have been the wilderness of Zin see note on Numbers In favour of the eastern site, the only argument of real weight is founded upon the repeated statement that Kadesh was close upon the territory of Edom. In Numbers , e. With this agrees the statement that they came to Kadesh "by the way of Mount Seir" Deuteronomy , and the fact that there is no station mentioned between Kadesh and Mount Her Numbers , although the western site is seventy miles from that mountain.

    The necessity indeed of placing Kadesh on the border of Edom must be conclusive in favour of the eastern site, if the common assumption is correct that the name and territory of Edom were bounded westwards by the Arabah. It is, however, contended, with some show of reason, that the kings of Edom had extended their authority at this time over the country of the Azazimeh as far as the plain of Kudes.

    There is, at any rate, nothing improbable in this, because this great mountain fastness is almost as sharply severed from Canaan as from Mount Seir, properly so called; and in fact it never appears to have been in possession of the Canaanites. Again, when the extreme southern and northern points of Joshua's conquest are mentioned Joshua ; Joshua , the former is "the bald mountain which goeth up Seir" - a natural feature which we look for in vain for it cannot possibly be the low line of the scorpion cliffs , unless it be the northern rampart of the Azazimat.

    We have seen that the Hormah to which the Israelites were repelled on their first invasion is placed Deuteronomy "in Seir," which can hardly be Mount Seir in its ordinary restricted sense. If the name Seir has to be sought anywhere outside of Edom proper, it would seem more natural to find it in the northern part of the wilderness of Paran, where it is said to be still common, than anywhere else. And if this extension of Edom can be established, there appears to be no further objection of any moment to the western site.

    Mount Hor would still be on the coast or edge of the land of Edom, because it would be the meeting-point of the two boundaries, the one striking westwards across the Arabah, the other southwards down the Arabah. The absence of any name between Kadesh and Her is not conclusive, because the people certainly made journeys of several days without any regular halt see note on chapter Numbers Upon the whole the question may fairly be stated thus: - 1. The next step is to choose a monthly or yearly subscription, and then enter your payment information.

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