Consider helping today!
THE OFFERINGS OF THE PRINCES (Numbers 7:1-89).
On the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle. This expression, "on the day", has given rise to considerable difficulty. Strictly speaking it should mean the first day of the first month of the second year (Exodus 40:17); and so the Targum of Palestine, "It was on the day which begins the month Nisan." It is, however, quite clear from the narrative itself, as well as from its position, that the offerings were not actually made until after the taking of the census and the distribution of their respective duties to the Levitical families, i.e; until the eve of the departure from Sinai. Moreover, since the same phrase, בְּיוֹם, occurs in Numbers 7:10, it is certain that it cannot apply to the actual presentation of the offerings, which was spread over twelve days (Numbers 7:11). The majority, therefore, of the commentators would read בְּיוֹם here as in Genesis 2:4, "at the time." It is, however, impossible to admit that there is any similarity whatever between the two passages. In Genesis 2:4 the context itself, as well as the subject matter, oblige us to understand the phrase in the looser sense; but in a plain historical account such as the present the obligation is all the other way. Either the date here given is a mistake (which, on any supposition, is most improbable), or it must be referred to the intention and inception of the princely offerings, the actual presentation being made at the time indicated in the narrative, i.e; in the first half of the second month. And had anointed it. From Le Genesis 8:10, as compared with Exodus 40:35, it would rather appear that Moses did not anoint the tabernacle on the day it was set up, but on some subsequent day. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that the tabernacle and the holy things were anointed through seven successive days: the statement in Leviticus 8:33-35 refers only to the consecration of the priests. Since the anointing of the tabernacle was connected with the setting of it up, as the last act of one ceremonial, and was only unavoidably postponed, there is nothing remarkable in the two things being spoken of as if they had taken place on one and the same day.
The princes of Israel. These arc the same men, and are called by the same titles, as those Divinely nominated in Numbers 1:4, sq. No doubt they were the heads of the nations according to some established rules of precedence before the exodus. And were over them that were numbered. Hebrew, "stood over." The most natural reference is to the fact of their presiding over the census, and so the Septuagint, οὗτοι οἱ παρεστηκότες ἐπὶ τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς. But it may mean simply that they were the leaders of the numbered hosts, and offered as their natural representatives.
They brought their offering before the Lord, i.e; probably to the entrance of the tabernacle. Six covered wagons. עֶגְלֹת צָב. The meaning of the qualifying word צָב is extremely doubtful. The Targums render it as the A.V. On the other hand, Gesenius and. De Wette render it "litters," as the similar word צַבִּים in Isaiah 66:20. The reading of the Septuagint, ἀμάξας λαμπηνίκας, is equally doubtful. Λαμπήνη, itself probably a foreign word, is explained by the Scholiasts as ἅμαξα βασιλικὴ, or as ἅρμα σκεπαστὸν; and Aquila has here ἅμαξαι σκεπασταὶ, and the Vulgate plaustra tecta. But Euseb. Emis. understands it as meaning "two-wheeled vehicles." It is a matter of little importance, but the nature of the country itself and the small number of oxen to each carriage point to the probability that they had no wheels, and were carried by the oxen, one in front, and one behind, by means of shafts, as is still the case in parts of India.
The Lord spake unto Moses. The Targum of Palestine here inserts the statement that Moses was not willing to receive them. He may very well have doubted whether God would sanction their use, as it had not been commanded; and it may be that some delay, perhaps of several days, occurred before he was able to accept them and to assign them to their future uses. In this, or some similar way, must be explained the apparent discrepancy of time.
Take it of them. It was the first absolutely voluntary offering made for the service of God, and as such altogether acceptable. Former "free-will offerings" had been at the least invited this had not.
Four wagons … he gave unto the sons of Merari. The heavy portions of the fabric, which were intrusted to the Merarites, especially required this means of transport.
Upon their shoulders. For which purpose poles or bearing-frames had been provided, as implying more honour anti care than the use of carriages. The death of Uzzah seems to have been the melancholy consequence of neglecting this rule (2 Samuel 6:3, 2 Samuel 6:7, as compared with 1 Chronicles 15:13).
For dedicating of the altar. The altar was "dedicated" in the sense of being consecrated, by the anointing with the sacred oil and with the blood of the appointed sacrifices (Le Numbers 8:10, Numbers 8:15). But it could still be "dedicated" in another sense by the sacrificial gifts, freely offered for the purpose, of the people. No rules appear to have been made as to dedications, but there is an allusion in Deuteronomy 20:5 to the dedication of houses, which may have been accompanied with religions rites, and we know that as a fact the temple was dedicated by Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:5), and re-dedicated by the Maccabees (1 Macc 4:54, sq.), and the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:27, sq.). The Septuagint has here εἰς τὸν ἐγκαινισμὸν, as in 1 Macc 4:56, and cf. John 10:22. Offered their offering before the altar. This assuredly points to an offering made in common, and made at one time, via, on the day when the altar was anointed. It may be that the twelve princes all came for the purpose of making their offerings on that day, the day they would naturally choose for the purpose; but on account of the great number of other sacrifices, and the fewness of the priests, their offerings were postponed by the Divine command, and were actually received later. Thus in will and in meaning the offerings were made "on the day" of the consecration, but were publicly and solemnly received at some subsequent time.
The Lord said unto Moses. Doubtless in answer to his inquiry (see Numbers 7:89), at the time when the princes desired to make their offerings. Each prince on his day. For more convenience and solemnity, that the sacrifices might not be hurried over, and that none might feel neglected.
Nahshon. The same appointed to act with Moses in the census, and to be captain of the children of Judah (Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3). The names of the other princes are to be found in the same passages, and their order in presenting is their order for the march. This seems to show that their off, rings were actually made after the arrangement of the camps had been settled.
His offering was. And exactly the same was the offering of each of the rest. This was right and good, because it showed an equal zeal and thankfulness and forwardness to give unto the Lord, and it took away all occasion for jealousy or boasting. One silver charger, or dish. Hebrew, kearah, a deep vessel (Exodus 25:9). Septuagint, τρυβλίον (cf. Matthew 26:23). An hundred and thirty shekels—weighing about as much as 325 shillings. One silver bowl. Hebrew, mizrak, from zarak, to scatter; a bowl for pouring; translated bason Exodus 27:3. Septuagint, φιάλη (cf. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 15:7). After the shekel of the sanctuary. According to the standard weight kept in the tabernacle (see Exodus 30:13). It seems to have weighed about as much as half-a-crown. Full of fine flour mingled with oil. This was for a present meat offering to accompany the animal sacrifices, and also to intimate the future use of the vessels—the larger as a measure for the fine flour, the smaller as a measure for the oil.
One spoon, or small cup, with a handle. Hebrew, kaph, as in Exodus 25:29. Septuagint, θυίσκη. Of ten shekels of gold—weighing about as much as eleven and a half sovrans, but the value of the precious metals was much greater then. Full of incense. Both for a present incense offering, and as intimating the use of the cups.
One young bullock, one ram, one lamb. One of each kind that might be offered for a burnt offering (Le Numbers 1:2).
One kid of the goats. Literally, "one shaggy one." Hebrew, sa'eer. Septuagint, χίμαρον (see on Le Numbers 4:23). It is noticeable that while the burnt offerings and peace offerings were multiplied, the sin offering remained a single victim.
For a sacrifice of peace offerings. See Le Numbers 3:1, Numbers 3:6, Numbers 3:12. These were the most multiplied, as befitted an occasion of joy and of thankful communion with the God of Israel.
This was the offering of Nethaneel the son of Zuar. His offering, and that of all the rest, is described in exactly the same words and phrases, with the single minute exception, that in Numbers 7:19 we have, "he offered for his offering," instead of "his offering was." Even the small peculiarity of omitting the word shekels from the statement of the weight of the silver chargers and the golden spoons appears throughout (cf. Genesis 20:16). No doubt the record was copied or enlarged from some document written at the time, and its studied sameness reflects the careful and equal solemnity with which the offerings of the several princes were received.
On the seventh day. This did not necessarily fall on the sabbath; but if the days of offering were consecutive, one of them must have done so, and the order of offering was the same as on other days.
This was the dedication of the altar. The sacrificial gifts for present sacrifice, and for the use of the altar, were its dedication.
Two thousand and four hundred shekels. In weight equal to about L300 of our money.
An hundred and twenty shekels. About L138. These values were not very great, nor was the number of the animals very large, as compared with the lavish, and perhaps extravagant, profusion displayed at the dedication of the temple and altar by Solomon; but we may believe they were at least as acceptable. The verb substantive should be removed from Numbers 7:86-88, which simply continue the totals of the offerings which formed the dedication.
And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation. Rather, "the tent of meeting." Hebrew, ohel moed, where God had promised to meet with him (Exodus 25:22). To speak with him, i.e; with God, as implied in the word "meeting." He heard the voice of one speaking unto him. Rather, "he heard the voice conversing with him," making itself audible to him. מִדַּבֵּר, part. Hithpael, as in Ezekiel 2:2. Here is a distinct statement of the supernatural fact that God spake to Moses with an audible human voice, and (no doubt) in the Hebrew language, from out the empty darkness behind the veil. In the fact, indeed, of God so speaking audibly there was nothing new (see Genesis 3:8; Genesis 17:1, &c.), nor in the fact of his so speaking to Moses (see Exodus 3:4 and Exodus 33:9); but this records the fulfillment of that promise which was part of God's covenant with Israel, that he would at all times converse with Moses as their mediator from above the mercy-seat (see on Exodus 25:20-22, and cf. Deuteronomy 5:23-28). And he spake unto him, i.e; God spake unto Moses: the voice made itself audible, and by the voice God himself spake unto him. It is quite obvious that this statement more properly belongs to an earlier period, viz; to that immediately succeeding the consecration of the tabernacle. On the day it was set up Moses was not able to enter it (Exodus 40:35), but no doubt he did so very soon afterwards, and received from the mouth of the Lord, speaking in the holiest, all the commandments and ordinances recorded in Leviticus and in the beginning of this book. Perhaps the first communication made to him in this way concerned the offerings of the princes when first brought near (verses 4, 11), and for that reason the statement may have been appended to the record of those offerings.
In this chapter we have, spiritually, the free-will offering, acceptable unto God, of what they have and what they are, by his people. Consider, therefore—
I. THAT THE OFFERINGS WERE CONNECTED IN TIME WITH THE DAY OF CONSECRATION, BUT WERE ACTUALLY PRESENTED LATER. Even so all Christian offerings, whether of ourselves or of our substance, date from the day when the altar of the cross was consecrated, and the mercy-seat sprinkled with the precious blood; it is from that day they draw their inward inspiration and their meaning, but they are outwardly dispersed through many days (2 Corinthians 5:14).
II. THAT THE COMMON OFFERING OF THE PRINCES WAS FOR THE EASIER ONWARD MOVEMENT OF THE SANCTUARY, the pattern, center, and microcosm of the Church.
Even so all the faithful are bound to give common help to further the onward progress of the Church in her ceaseless extension and her journey towards her consummation.
III. THAT ALL THE SEVERAL OFFERINGS OF THE PRINCES WERE RECEIVED WITH LIKE FAVOUR AND SOLEMNITY: that of Dan as much as that of Judah. Even so all equal offering or sacrifice on the part of Christian Churches or individuals is equally acceptable with God, and comes into the same remembrance with him. Only this equality is not now a material equality (as then), but is proportioned to advantages and opportunities (Mark 12:43; Luke 12:48; 2 Corinthians 8:12).
IV. THAT THE OFFERINGS WERE IN EACH CASE MINUTELY RECORDED, having evidently been entered in some roll kept in the sanctuary. Even so there is nothing, however trivial, done for God or given to him which shall ever be forgotten (Malachi 3:16; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:40; Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:16).
V. THAT WHILE THE BURNT OFFERINGS AND (STILL MORE) THE PEACE OFFERINGS WERE MULTIPLIED, THE SIN OFFERING REMAINED (IN EACH CASE) BUT ONE. Even so it is open to all good people to multiply their self-oblations and their offerings of thankfulness and praise, but there is for each (and can be) but the one offering for sin, even he who was in himself the Lamb of God, and yet in respect of the sin which be assumed, and the curse he endured, was as it were "the shaggy one of the goats." Note that this word, sa'eer, is translated "devil" (Le Numbers 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15), and "satyr" in Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14, being a most manifest type of Christ.
VI. THAT GOD SPAKE UNTO MOSES ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE, FROM ABOVE THE MERCY-SEAT (ἄνωθεν τοῦ ἱλαστηρίου). Even so the Divine intercourse with man in Christ rests upon the incarnation and the atonement, of which the ark and the mercy-seat were the types. But note that whereas these holy things were but figures, God hath now spoken unto us plainly by his Son, whom he set forth as the propitiation through faith (ὅ προέθετο ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως). And note that then the voice spake out of the darkness behind the veil, but in Christ the veil is taken away, and heaven laid open, and God himself revealed and declared (Matthew 27:51; Joh 1:18; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 9:8).
VII. THAT WHENEVER (AS IT WOULD SEEM) MOSES WENT IN TO SPEAK UNTO GOD HE HEARD THE DIVINE VOICE SPEAKING TO HIM. Even so as often as we go to God in Christ, having somewhat really to say to him, we shall not fail also to hear the Divine voice speaking unto us in answer.
HOMILIES BY W. BINNIE
THE PRINCES AND THEIR PRINCELY OFFERING
Here is perhaps the longest chapter in all the Bible. What is it occupied with? It is, in effect, a List of Subscribers. Certain costly articles were wanted to complete the furnishing of the tabernacle. Twelve men of chief note in their respective tribes came forward, of their own accord, and offered to provide the articles. The offer was accepted; and in this chapter of God's word the Holy Spirit has inscribed, one by one, the names of the donors, together with an inventory of the articles which each of them brought. Some people affect to despise the piety which expresses itself in costly gifts to the Church of Christ, and deem Lists of Subscribers an exhibition of ostentatious vulgarity. But in this chapter there is the best of warrants for these despised features of our modern Christianity.
I. Observe the OCCASION of the gifts here commemorated. The Lord's tabernacle has been constructed, furnished, anointed, and (what is best of all) occupied by the King whose pavilion it was intended for. Yes; and the construction and furniture of this royal tent have been effected by the voluntary gifts of a willing people. The tabernacle and its furniture are completed according to the pattern shown to Moses on the mount. No necessary part is wanting. Still there is room for some supplementary gifts. Take two examples.
1. When the tabernacle was first dedicated there would no doubt he a golden spoon for Aaron's use when he burned incense at the golden altar. One such spoon was all that was strictly necessary. But it would occasionally happen that there would be more than one call to burn incense about the same time, and it was evidently unbecoming that in the palace of the King any worshipper should have to wait till the golden spoon was available. Hence the gift of the twelve golden spoons now presented by the princes.
2. The Levites have been appointed to bear the tabernacle and its furniture. They are able to do it; but not without difficulty, especially during the sojourn in the wilderness, where it is to be emphatically a moving tent. There was room, therefore, for a present of carriages and draught oxen. There are Christian congregations to whom this chapter teaches a much-needed lesson. The roll of their membership includes men of substance, yet they suffer the sanctuary to wear an aspect of threadbare penury and its services to be hunger-bitten. This ought not so to be.
II. THE INVENTORY OF THE GIFTS.
1. Some were for the tabernacle in its wandering state. Six wagons were provided,—they seem to have been small covered chariots,—and a yoke of oxen was attached to each. These wagons were distributed among the Levitical families according to the nature and amount of the burdens which had been assigned them respectively.
2. Others were for the handselling of the tabernacle service. These consisted partly of gold and silver utensils for the stated service; partly of offerings to be presently consumed. The offerings included all the principal kinds in use under the law. There were burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings. The first sort and the last were much the most numerous. It was a time when the congregation might well rejoice before the Lord—freely devoting themselves to him, and expatiating on the blessedness of communion with him. A time of spontaneous bountifulness in God's service is always a time of gladness. Yet even at such times we are not to forget that we are sinners. The sin offering may not be prominent in this chapter of gifts, yet it has a place in every one of the twelve lists of offerings. What has been said about the nature of the gifts will explain the circumstance that the presenting of them was spread over twelve days. The peace offerings far exceeded in number all the rest. While the sin offering in each case consisted of a solitary kid, and the burnt offering consisted of only three animals, a bullock, a ram, and a lamb, the animals included in the peace offering were no fewer than seventeen. Now the specialty of the peace offering was this, that the person who presented it thereafter feasted upon it with his friends before the Lord. It was a becoming arrangement, therefore, that the disposal of this offering should be spread over several days.
III. A word or two about THE MEN by whom the gifts were brought. They were the hereditary princes of the tribes—the princes of the congregation who had taken charge of the census. This deserves to be noted, for it explains a certain feature of the present gifts in which they differ from almost all other gifts recorded in Scripture. The rule laid down in the Bible for all ordinary cases is that every man is to give according as God hath prospered him. Here, on the contrary, the gifts of the princes are identical in number and value—doubtless by prior concert. There would be richer and poorer among the princes, yet they all give alike. It was not so at the erection of the tabernacle. On that occasion there was the utmost diversity: the mite of the poor widow was made as welcome as the rich man's ingot of gold. Although a man could bring no more than a handful of goat's hair, he was not denied the honour of having a share in the work. There are times for both sorts of giving. When a place of worship, where rich and poor are to meet together, is to be built, it would be wrong to exclude any from the subscription list, however poor. When a college of sacred learning is to be built or endowed, it may be the fittest plan to limit the subscription list to twelve or twenty "princes of the congregation" who are able to contribute every man his thousand or his five thousand pounds. It is a good omen for a nation when its "nobles put their necks to the work of the Lord." And it is good for the nobles themselves when they have the heart to do this. They who are honourable should show themselves serviceable. Noblesse oblige. When the nobles forget their duty in this respect, God will not long maintain their nobility.
IV. Does any hearer complain that we have been doing him wrong in preaching today from this chapter of the law—barren and secular (as he thinks)—instead of conducting him into the green pastures of the gospel? Let such a hearer remember how Christ sat over against the treasury and marked what every one cast into it. That scene in the gospel and this chapter in the law—is not the scope of them the very same?—B.
HOMILIES BY E.S. PROUT
THE FREE-WILL OFFERING OF THE PRINCES
The completion of the tabernacle was celebrated by offerings of the princes, as representatives of the tribes. Lessons may be derived from two points noted, viz.—
I. THEIR SPONTANEITY.
II. THEIR UNIFORMITY.
I. 1. The princes had already given offerings towards the erection of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:27, Exodus 35:28), and now they bring further offerings for its conveyance (Numbers 7:3) and for its complete furnishing (Numbers 7:10-17). The power and will to give are a "grace" bestowed (2 Corinthians 8:7), and the more we give the more of the grace of giving we may enjoy (Matthew 13:12).
2. If regarded simply as a duty, it was right that the princes should take the lead, as now it is a duty for men in authority and men of wealth, pastors and officers in Christ's Church, to be "zealous for good works."
3. But the chief excellence of these and similar gifts was the "willing mind" (2 Corinthians 8:12). Under the law of Moses much was left to spontaneity (cf. Exodus 35:5; Le Exodus 1:3, etc.), how much more under the law of Christ (Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 9:7). The absence of willinghood may change the fine gold into base metal in the sight of God.
II. 1. The uniformity of the gifts might possibly have been the result of fashion; Nahshon, of the tribe of Judah, setting the fashion, and the other princes following it. The "fashion" of generous giving may well be set and followed, that the illiberal may be shamed out of their mean devices. But,
2. The uniformity here was probably the result of previous arrangement, and the sign of an honourable emulation. This God approves (Hebrews 10:24), and St. Paul seeks to employ (2 Corinthians 8:1-7 : 2 Corinthians 9:1-5). With this object public benefactions (subscription-lists, etc.)are acceptable to God if the spirit of the precept (Matthew 6:3, Matthew 6:4) is not violated. The details here published for posterity remind us that every particular of our gifts and services is recorded before God. E.g; a coin and its value, absolute and relative (Mark 12:41-44). A jewel, a family heirloom, and how much it cost to give it up (2 Samuel 24:15).
3. The uniformity was a sign that each tribe had an equal share in the altar and its blessings; even as different families, races, and individuals, have in the world-wide redemption of Christ (Romans 10:11-13).—P.
THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE SIN OFFERING
The sin offering was one of the expiatory sacrifices of the law. We meet with it so often and under such varied circumstances that it bears a striking testimony
(1) to the universality of sin, and
(2) to the need of an absolute, world-wide, everlasting atonement.
Classifying the references to the sin offering, we find various illustrations of this truth, fruitful of application to our need of the great offering' for sin at all times, and under the manifold circumstances of private and public life. The sin offering was required, and presented.
1. From one end of the year to the other, on every return of the new moon (Numbers 28:15).
2. On feasts as well as fasts; at the feasts of Pentecost, trumpets, and tabernacles (Le Numbers 23:19; Numbers 29:5, Numbers 29:16), as well as on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34).
3. In connection with voluntary dedication, whether of gifts (Numbers 7:16), or of personal consecration, as of the Nazarite (Numbers 6:14).
4. At the consecration to sacred offices, as e.g. Aaron (Exodus 29:14), or the Levites (Numbers 8:5-12).
5. At the consecration of sacred things, e.g; the altar of incense (Exodus 30:10). A sin offering was presented every year for the sanctuary (Le Numbers 16:15, Numbers 16:16).
6. For sins of all classes of men; e.g; a priest, the whole congregation, a ruler, "one of the common people" (Leviticus 4:1-35). In these offerings there were gradations, according to position and privilege, or according to means (Le Numbers 5:6, Numbers 5:7).
7. For purification from unavoidable defilement, whether of leprosy (Le Numbers 14:22) or childbirth (Le Numbers 12:6-8).
8. These offerings were for sins of omission or of ignorance, but not for presumptuous sins (Leviticus 5:1-19; Numbers 15:22-31; Hebrews 10:26, Hebrews 10:27).—P.
INTERCOURSE WITH GOD
The position of this verse, after Numbers 7:1-88, is significant. But the words refer not to a single occasion, but to a continued privilege. The promise (Exodus 25:17-22) is now fulfilled, and Moses, as mediator, enjoys exceptional privileges even beyond the high priest, his brother (cf. Le Numbers 16:2 with text, and Numbers 12:6-8). We are reminded of a truth respecting all times of intercourse with God in prayer. When we speak to God, we ought to expect God to speak to us.
I. THE SOUL INQUIRING. Our privilege (Hebrews 10:19-22) greater than that of Moses. Every place may be as "a tabernacle" (Genesis 28:17; John 4:23). Yet good to have some special place, consecrated by hallowed associations (Illus. 2 Samuel 7:18; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 6:6; Acts 1:13). Then we go to "speak with" God, words which imply holy boldness and confidence. As Moses brought to God the burdens of his office and his own temptations and sins, so may we (cf. Psalms 27:5; Psalms 73:16, Psalms 73:17; Psalms 77:1; Hebrews 4:16; James 4:8).
II. GOD RESPONDING. "Then," etc.—perhaps sometimes even before Moses began to speak. So at times Isaiah 65:24 fulfilled. See Esther 5:3. If we hear no voice from God at the first moment of approaching him, we ought not to be satisfied unless, while we are speaking to God, God speaks to us (Psalms 28:1; Psalms 35:3; Psalms 143:7, Psalms 143:8). The response we desire and receive will be from the same spot as Moses' answer "from off the mercy-seat." To sinners, God in nature keeps silence: God on the throne of judgment is "a consuming fire;" God on the mercy-seat is "God in Christ," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:19). Such manifestations and voices of God are earnests of further answers, if not immediate, yet certain (e. g. Matthew 7:7; Matthew 26:38-44; Acts 10:3-6; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10).—P.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
THE WAGONS FOR THE LEVITES
This chapter describes two sets of gifts, one of wagons to help the Levites in transporting the tabernacle, the other for the dedication at the anointing of the altar. The first gift, when we look into it, is seen to be peculiarly beautiful and significant.
I. IT WAS VOLUNTARY. Jehovah had made no provision that these wagons should be got. The Levites had the bearing of the tabernacle assigned them, and there was nothing to show but they must use their own backs and hands for the purpose. What was essential had been pointed out. But this did not prevent voluntary additions where such did not contradict commands already given. There were men enough—at least, so it would seem—among the Gershonites and Merarites to have borne the heavy furniture. God had not laid on them a work beyond their skill and strength. We may conclude, therefore, that the gift of the wagons was an act of pure good will from these princes to the Levites. It was a fresh bond in the unity of the nation.
II. IT WAS SUITABLE. Many gifts of good will are mere ornaments. Sometimes they are white elephants. It is a great deal when a gift shows both a loving heart and a sound judgment. These wagons and oxen were just the thing to help. Probably there had been careful estimates, so as to secure a sufficient number. These wagons were well used (see Numbers 33:1-56).
III. IT WAS A UNITED GIFT. Something to express the interest of all Israel in the Levites. The whole nation, in an indirect yet real way, had its part in the service of the tabernacle. It is a good thing to have many joined in a good work. It is better to have a hundred people interested in a hundred good institutions to the extent of a pound a piece, than one man in one institution to the extent of a hundred pounds. God sends down his clouds in the wide-scattering, tiny drops of rain.
IV. IT WAS DULY PROPORTIONATE. Each tribe had its share in the gift and its share in the credit. It was such a kind of gift that each tribe might reasonably give an equal share. It was the gift of all and the gift of each. The niggardliness of the individual should not be bidden away in the munificence of the community.
V. IT WAS ACCEPTED OF GOD. A contrast with the way in which he treated the rashness and presumption of Nadab and Abihu. God is glad to have us lighten burdens and help one another, when it does not lead to a mean shirking of personal duties. It was right for these princes to take care that the strength of the bearers of burdens should not be decayed (Nehemiah 4:10). We see moreover a certain honour put upon the lower creation; it was an honour to be used for sacrifice, an honour to bear the tabernacle furniture.
VI. When accepted, THE GIFT WAS PROPORTIONED BY GOD. The princes gave, but God arranged. It was not fit that brute beasts should carry the vessels of the sanctuary, therefore the Kohathites could not avail themselves of the wagons. The Merarites, we may presume, had more to bear than the Gershonites, and they had more in the way of help. If even among these minute specifications of God's commands to Moses there was this room for voluntary gifts, how much more under the gospel. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, a great deal more liberty in giving than most believers avail themselves of.—Y.
THE SHEKEL OF THE SANCTUARY
Mentioned several times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Was there a different standard for the sanctuary from that used in ordinary trade? or was the sanctuary shekel the standard to which all were supposed to conform? The very uncertainty teaches a lesson. One cannot err in being on the right side and taking the sanctuary shekel as a standard. The mention of this weight may be taken to illustrate the following line of thought. The fixed standard of God as contrasted with the fluctuating standards of men. We should have a fixed standard—
I. IN DEALING WITH GOD. His claims are first. He took the first born and the first fruit. The great exactness that was required in all offerings as to quality and quantity. These sacrifices, perfect after their fashion, were only valuable as symbolizing the entire consecration and genuine penitence of those who brought them. Worship must be according to the shekel of the sanctuary. We must have a full sense of the reality of his existence, and adequate conceptions of all that belongs to his glory and sovereignty over creation. Also correct notions of ourselves as worshippers. Not with the humility of sinless angels who veil their faces, but as the polluted children of men, with their hands on their mouths, and their mouths in the dust. Our praise must be especially for his love, wisdom, and power in our redemption. Our expectations from God must be according to the shekel of the sanctuary. We must not lust for the comforts of Egypt. We must have expectations that correspond with the greatness of our redemption. Our Father in heaven treats us to an exhibition of the good and perfect gifts—be ours the desire for them. To look for temporal comforts is to look for trifles, things not promised, things that come without prayer and seeking, if we would only look for such things as God would have us seek. Ask for God's Spirit—you are then supplicating according to the shekel of the sanctuary. Seek for the kingdom of God and his righteousness—you are then seeking according to the shekel of the sanctuary. The sanctuary measure of expectation is in the Lord's prayer. The daily conduct of life must be according tot he shekel of the sanctuary. Everything in which our voluntary powers are concerned should be done as for God. The world is hard to please, but even when it is pleased, it is with a low standard. We are careful when the eyes of men are upon us, for that means reputation; let us be careful also when no human eye can see, for that means character. Each daily presentation of the living sacrifice should make that sacrifice holier, more acceptable to God.
II. IN DEALING WITH MEN. The Israelites were to do no unrighteousness in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. They were not to have divers weights and measures, great and small. Solomon tells us all the weights of the bag are the Lord's work. Amos spoke of the wickedness of the people who waited for the Sabbath to be gone that they might sell their corn, making the ephah small and the shekel great. The Almighty is just as particular about our work as our worship. Trade customs are no excuse in his sight. The eye that never misses anything or mistakes anything is on the weights and measures of all dishonest traffickers. God is just as angry when a man defrauds his neighbour as when he breaks the Sabbath. How many have been hindered in their religion, lost their peace of mind, and finally backslidden from the ways of God, because all was not right in their daily business. Remember also all the other relations. Commercial relations only a small part of human intercourse. Husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours, rulers and subjects, debtor and creditor, rich and poor, well and sick, young and old, believer and unbeliever: the shekel of the sanctuary has its place in all such intercourse. We need then to live in continual watchfulness and prayer, to have everything agreeable to this standard. One set of principles we should have, and one only, got from the teaching and example of our Divine Master. We must deal with one another as God has dealt with us, he who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son to redeem it. The actions of the Almighty himself are weighed according to the shekel of the sanctuary.—Y.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Numbers 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany