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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 29

Verse 1

1And in the seventh month. I have already observed that the festivals are not here (generally) treated of, but only the sacrifices, by which their solemnization was to be graced. In the beginning of the seventh month was the memorial, as it was called, of the blowing of trumpets. Because it was a minor festival, Moses only commands one bullock to be killed; but the number was increased on other grounds, for we have already seen that on the first of every month two bullocks were sacrificed. This day, therefore, had three larger victims, whilst the number of the others was doubled, so that there were two rams and fourteen lambs. Thus, then, God consecrated this day doubly to Himself, so that one celebration diminished nothing of the other; else He might have seemed to have abrogated what He had once commanded. The memorial of trumpets was not, then, an abolition of the new-moon, but they kept both ordinances at the same time.

Verse 7

7.And ye shall have on the tenth day. This was the day of Atonement. For although they never came into God’s presence without supplication for pardon, they then in a special manner confessed their sins, because a fast was appointed in token of their guilt. For thus it is written in Leviticus 23:29,

"Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people."

As to the sacrifices, one bullock only is required; the rest is as before, except that an exception is added, which was omitted in the former cases. For another propitiation is appointed besides the goat, to accord with the fact of their affliction. For the acknowledgment of guilt would have been a dreadful torment to their consciences without the hope of reconciliation. The reason of this sacrifice will be soon explained.

Verse 12

12.And on the fifteenth, day. Amongst their festivals this last was the chief (240) in which they dwelt in tabernacles for seven days; for whereas in the Passover they commemorated the night in which they came forth free from the plagues of Egypt, by dwelling in tabernacles they embraced the whole forty years in which their fathers in the desert experienced the constant and consummate bounty of God. That solemn convention, too, availed for another present purpose, i.e., of thanksgiving to God for the ingathering of the harvest. Hence it was that they offered sacrifices every day and in greater number: on the first day, thirteen bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs; on the second, twelve bullocks; on the third, eleven; on the fourth, ten; on the fifth, nine; on the sixth, eight; finally, on the seventh, seven; and on the eighth, one. Nor is it carelessly that Moses expends so many words on the recital; first, that nothing might be done except at God’s command; secondly, lest it should be disagreeable or onerous to be at such great expense, which they would have gladly avoided. Wherefore, that they might cheerfully obey God’s command, he diligently inculcates what victims God would have daily offered to Him. But why the distribution was so unequal, I confess, is not clear to me, and it is better to confess my ignorance than by too subtle speculations to vanish into mere smoke. (241) This notion, indeed, is neither curious nor to be rejected, i.e., that, by daily diminishing the number, they came at last on the seventh day to the number seven, which is the symbol of perfection; for the eighth was superadded, merely as a conclusion. Finally, Moses subjoins that in the continual sacrifice, as well as these extraordinary ones, they should hold fast to what God prescribes, so that nothing should be altered according to man’s fancy. The sacrifices which depend on the Commandments of the Second Table, I have designedly postponed to their proper place.

(240)La plus authentique .”Fr.

(241) Scott’s conjecture is not without force: “The decrease of the number of the bullocks which were sacrificed on the several days of the feast, until on the last and great day only one was offered, is the most observable circumstance in this law. The reason is not evident, unless it be intimated that the Mosaic institution would gradually wax old, and at length vanish away when the promised Messiah came. (Hebrews 8:7.)” As a specimen of the ancient opinions, I subjoin the following, — “The Hebrews say that the offerings were made for other nations; and, therefore, seventy calves were offered altogether, according to the number of the seventy nations, divided into seventy languages. But fourteen calves were offered on the first day, and on the second day thirteen, thus decreasing one every day to the last inclusive; by which is designated that the dominion of the Gentiles was to be diminished and terminated under King Messiah, to whom all nations are to be subdued,” etc. — De Lyra, in loco.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Numbers 29". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.