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Verse 2. · When a man shall make a singular vow.'--It is averse to let hereditary property go out of the family, it and always has been customary in different countries, and is not likely that the priests could get much land under under various systems of religion, for persons in peculiar this law. circumstances of prosperity or difficulty, to vow that they 22. ' A field which he hath bought:'-The view taken in will make certain offerings or devote certain properties to the preceding note seems to be corroborated by the present the service of God. To such vows most of this chapter direction. Acquired property in land reverted to the owner refers. This kind of vow is properly called 773 neder ; at the jubilee in the usual way; while the inherited prowhich it is proper to indicate, as the discriminating terms
perty, for the perpetuity of which the law is so careful to employed in the original enable us, in most cases, to under
provide, was then lost. We should have expected the restand what is intended, better than the less marked distinc
verse to have been the case, if the object were not to impose tions of the translation.
on a man a sort of moral obligation to redeem his hereditary - The persons.'- A man might dedicate himself to the land, to prevent its absolute alienation. services of the sanctuary, and became, as it were, a servant
28. • Devoted thing. '-—This is not the neder, or common attached thereto. In the same way, he might vow his child.
vow, such as we have previously considered, but another Samuel was thus devoted by his mother, and remained in and more solemn, called on cherem. The difference seems the service of the sanctuary; for that appropriation being to have depended on the form of the vow, the latter being apparently satisfactory to all parties, he was not redeemed, accompanied with an anathema or execration, by the deaccording to the valuation here fixed for different ages and votee, either on himself or others, if that were not done sexes. The rate of valuation, it will be observed, is low, which he declared. We are most familiar with the operaand might be reduced, at the discretion of the priest, if the tion of this bann in the case of cities and persons being, in person were poor. It would appear that the appropriation | time of war, devoted to utter destruction; and it is thought of the devoted persons who remained unredeemed was at by many, that the 29th verse alludes to such persons dethe discretion of the priest. Their duties were probably of voted solemnly to death. Others, however, understand that the most servile kind, until after the Gibeonites were en remarkable passage to mean no more than that persons thralled and obliged to do the hard work. We see that devoted by the cherem to the service of the sanctuary were Samuel was treated with much consideration by the high to remain till death in that condition, without being repriest.
deemed. It is certain that nothing could, as in the former . 9. A beast.' - That is, a clean beast, such as was usual class of vows, be redeemed that was placed under the opefor sacrifice or food. This could not be redeemed; and the ration of the cherem, but it is difficult to ascertain how firstlings, being already consecrated to God, could not be persons were in all cases affected by it. We are inclined thus devoted.
to combine both alternatives, and to suppose that persons 11. “Unclean beast.'-Probably an ass, camel, or some were either put to death, or else inalienably consecrated to other beast of burden; for it is difficult to understand what the service of the sanctuary, according to the specific object other sort of beast a man was likely to devote. This might of the vow. Perhaps the obscurity of this law arises from be redeemed on paying one-fifth more than the estimated its allusions to consuetudinary practices, which were well value.
| known at the time, but of which we are ignorant. It 16. • Part of a field.' - This refers to inherited property, is to be observed that Moses does not enjoin the vow to which was in ordinary circumstances inalienable. If a which this chapter relates, but only regulates the conman, however, devoted it to the sanctuary, he was at liberty sequences of the act, or rather, perhaps, assigns certain to redeem it on the usual terms-that of giving twenty per consequences to it. cent. beyond the estimated market value of the crops be 32. · Whatsoever passeth under the rod.—This is undertween the time of the transaction and the year of jubilee ; stood to be an allusion to the process which, according to but if then it remained unredeemed, it did not revert to the Jewish writers, was followed in taking the tithe. The the owner, but became the inalienable property of the cattle were placed in an enclosure, with a narrow entrance, sanctuary. This singular exception to the general release through which one only could pass at a time. At this which the jubilee effected, we do not conceive to have been entrance, on the outside, stood a man with a rod marked with any view of accumulating landed property in the with ochre, or other colouring matter; and as the ani. hands of the priests, to which the policy of the Mosaical mals passed out one by one, he counted them, and let his law is evidently averse, but to oblige every man to redeem | rod fall on every tenth without distinction; and what. his property, under the fear of losing it entirely at the ever animal bore the mark thus impressed was taken jubilee. We must also consider that the nearest kinsman for the tithe, whether it were male or female, sound or unhad the right to redeem; and as the Hebrews were strongly | sound,
THE FOURTH BOOK OF MOSES,
The Hebrew title of this book is taken from the word 79797, BE-MIDBAR, 'in the wilderness, which occurs in the first verse: but sometimes they denominate it, as they do the other books of the Pentateuch, from the initial word 797), VAYE-DABBER, and he spake.' The Septuagint calls it APIOMOI, from the enumeration of the people with which it opens and concludes; and from this comes the Vulgate title NUMERI, whence our NUMBERS. That Moses was the author of the book is determined by the considerations which refer the whole Pentateuch to him. The separate or additional points of evidence which take back the authorship to the time of Moses and establish its historical truth, consist of numerous incidental facts and allusions, most of which are indicated in the notes, and need not here be recapitulated. The more carefully they are examined, the more satisfactorily they confute the continental hypothesis, that this, as well as the other books ascribed to Moses, was the work of a much later age, compiled in part from ancient documents. Some of these, such as those contained in ch. xxi., are admitted, even by such sceptical critics as De Wette, to belong to the Mosaical period; but as they are so connected with the history as to be unintelligible without a knowledge of the facts to which they refer, the obvious inference is, that the record of facts in which these fragments are involved belongs to the same age. Some attention has been given to this point in an introduction to the Pentateuch.
The commencement of the book, from ch. i. 1 to x. 10, may be regarded as supplementary to Leviticus, as it contains an important part of the holy constitution, the selection of the Levites to the priesthood. Then begins the history of the march through the wilderness, and the conflict between the new institutions and the evil dispositions of the people. We soon come to the end of this march (ch. xxi. 20), when the contest for the possession of the country commences. Moses opens the campaign successfully, and then prepares for his departure from the scene of action, according to the intimation contained in ch. xxvii., by the transactions and laws which occupy the remainder of the book. The passages which are not narrative, but are inserted between the narratives, are of the greatest importance for the political and statistical information which they afford.
The historical contents of the book extend over a period of about thirty-eight years, reckoning from the first day of the second month after the deliverance from Egypt, during which period the Israelites continued to wander in the wilderness. Most of the transactions described therein happened, however, in the first and last of these years. The date of the events recorded in the middle of the book cannot with any precision be ascertained.
There is not more than one direct quotation from this book in the New Testament, being ch. xvi. 5, quoted in 2 Tim. ii. 9: but the passages in which the writers of the New Testament refer to this book, without formally quoting it, are many. They are the following:-ix. 18 in 1 Cor. x. 1 ; xi. 4 in 1 Cor. x. 3-6; xii. 7 in Heb. iii. 2; xiv. 13 in Jude 5; xiv. 2, 36 in 1 Cor. x. 8; xiv. 36 in Heb. ix. 14; xvi. 1, 31 in Jude 11 ; xix. 3 in Heb. xii. 9; xx. 1 in 1 Cor. x. 3-6; xxi. 4 in 1 Cor. X. 8; xxii. in Jude 11 ; xxv. 1, 9 in 1 Cor. x. 8; xxv. 2 in Rev. ii. 14; xxvi. 16 in Heb. xii. 9; xxvi. 64, 65 in 1 Cor. x. 3-6; xxviii. 9, 10 in Matt. xii. 5; xxxi. 16 in Rev. ii. 14.
There are no separate versions of or commentaries on the book of Numbers; but there are a considerable number of treatises and dissertations on particular parts, particularly on the Brazen Serpent, and on Balaam and his prophecy.
tion together on the first day of the second I God commandeth Moses to number the people. month, and they declared their pedigrees after
5 The princes of the tribes. 17 The number of their families, by the house of their fathers, every tribe. 47 The Levites are exempted for the according to the number of the names, from service of the Lord.
twenty years old and upward, by their polls. ND the LORD | 19 As the LORD commanded Moses, so spake unto he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai. Moses in the | 20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's wilderness of | eldest son, by their generations, after their Sinai, in the families, by the house of their fathers, accordtabernacle of ing to the number of the names, by their polls, the congrega- every male from twenty years old and upward, tion, on the all that were able to go forth to war; first day of the | 21 Those that were numbered of them, second month, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six in the second thousand and five hundred. year after they 22 1 Of the children of Simeon, by their
were come out generations, after their families, by the house of the land of Egypt, saying,
of their fathers, those that were numbered of 2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation them, according to the number of the names, of the children of Israel, after their families, by their polls, every male from twenty years by the house of their fathers, with the number old and upward, all that were able to go forth of their names, every male by their polls; to war ;
3 From twenty years old and upward, all 23 Those that were numbered of them, that are able to go forth to war in Israel: even of the tribe of Simeon, were fifty and nine thou and Aaron shall number them by their thousand and three hundred. armies.
24 Of the children of Gad, by their 4 And with you there shall be a man of generations, after their families, by the house every tribe ; every one head of the house of his of their fathers, according to the number of fathers.
the names, from twenty years old and upward, 5 | And these are the names of the men all that were able to go forth to war; that shall stand with you : of the tribe of 25 Those that were numbered of them, even Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.
of the tribe of Gad, were forty and five thou6 Of Simeon ; Shelumiel the son of Zu- | sand six hundred and fifty. rishaddai.
26 Of the children of Judah, by their 7 Of Judah ; Nahshon the son of Am generations, after their families, by the house minadab.
of their fathers, according to the number of 8 Of Issachar; Nethaneel the son of the names, from twenty years old and upward, Zuar.
all that were able to go forth to war; 9 Of Zebulun ; Eliab the son of Helon. 27 Those that were numbered of them, even
10 Of the children of Joseph : of Ephraim ; of the tribe of Judah, were threescore and Elishama the son of Ammihud : of Manasseh ; fourteen thousand and six hundred. Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
28 1 Of the children of Issachar, by their 11 Of Benjamin; Abidan the son of generations, after their families, by the house Gideoni.
of their fathers, according to the number of 12 Of Dan; Ahiezer the son of Ammi- the names, from twenty years old and upward, shaddai.
all that were able to go forth to war; 13 Of Asher ; Pagiel the son of Ocran. 29 Those that were numbered of them, even 14 Of Gad; Eliasaph the son of Deuel. of the tribe of Issachar, were fifty and four 15 Of Naphtali; Ahira the son of Enan. thousand and four hundred.
16 These were the renowned of the con 30 9 Of the children of Zebulun, by their gregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, generations, after their families, by the house heads of thousands in Israel.
of their fathers, according to the number of 17 [ And Moses and Aaron took these men the names, from twenty years old and upward, which are expressed by their names :
all that were able to go forth to war; 18 And they assembled all the congrega- ! 31 Those that were numbered of them, eren
1 Exod. 30. 12.
of the tribe of Zebulun, were fifty and seven and upward, all that were able to go forth to thousand and four hundred.
war; 32 [ Of the children of Joseph, namely, of 43 Those that were numbered of them, even the children of Ephraim, by their generations, of the tribe of Naphtali, were fifty and three after their families, by the house of their thousand and four hundred. fathers, according to the number of the names, | 44 | These are those that were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, all that which Moses and Aaron numbered, and the were able to go forth to war;
princes of Israel, being twelve men : each one 33 Those that were numbered of them, even was for the house of his fathers. of the tribe of Ephraim, were forty thousand 45 So were all those that were numbered and five hundred.
of the children of Israel, by the house of their 34 Of the children of Manasseh, by their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all generations, after their families, by the house that were able to go forth to war in Israel ; of their fathers, according to the number of 46 Even all they that were numbered were the names, from twenty years old and upward, six hundred thousand and three thousand and all that were able to go forth to war;
five hundred and fifty. 35 Those that were numbered of them, even 47 | But the Levites after the tribe of of the tribe of Manasseh, were thirty and two their fathers were not numbered among them. thousand and two hundred.
48 For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, 36 Of the children of Benjamin, by their saying, generations, after their families, by the house 49 Only thou shalt not number the tribe of of their fathers, according to the number of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the the names, from twenty years old and upward, children of Israel : all that were able to go forth to war;
50 But thou shalt appoint the Levites over 37 Those that were numbered of them, even the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the of the tribe of Benjamin, were thirty and five vessels thereof, and over all things that belong thousand and four hundred.
to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all 38 [ Of the children of Dan, by their the vessels thereof; and they shall 'minister generations, after their families, by the house unto it, and shall encamp round about the of their fathers, according to the number of tabernacle. the names, from twenty years old and upward, 51 And when the tabernacle setteth forall that were able to go forth to war;
39 Those that were numbered of them, even when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the of the tribe of Dan, were threescore and two Levites shall set it up : and the stranger that thousand and seven hundred.
cometh nigh shall be put to death. 40 [ Of the children of Asher, by their 52 And the children of Israel shall pitch generations, after their families, by the house their tents, every man by his own camp, and of their fathers, according to the number of every man by his own standard, throughout the names, from twenty years old and upward, their hosts. all that were able to go forth to war;
53 But the Levites shall pitch round about 41 Those that were numbered of them, even the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no of the tribe of Asher, were forty and one wrath upon the congregation of the children thousand and five hundred.
of Israel : and the Levites shall keep the 42 1 Of the children of Naphtali, through- charge of the tabernacle of testimony. out their generations, after their families, by 54 And the children of Israel did according the house of their fathers, according to the to all that the LORD commanded Moses, 30 number of the names, from twenty years old did they.
Verse 2. • Take ye the sum of all the congregation.'- | rest the point on this circumstance alone, as the result may This is the earliest census on record; but we have no reason be thought to have been derived from subsequent enumerato conclude that it was the first. We have no distinct in- | tion; but it is of importance, when considered in conformation concerning the Egyptian usage in this respect : nection with the circumstance that the first time a census but it appears manifest that the Israelites, while in Egypt, is distinctly mentioned (Exod. xxx. 12), it is not enjoined had been accustomed to enumerations of the population, and as a new thing; but it is pre-supposed, as a matter of course, that they had themselves been previously enumerated, but that Moses would number the people. But if the Israelites whether at their own instance or by their Egyptian tyrants were then acquainted with the practice of periodical or does not appear. Thus we find that, at the time of the occasional enumeration, they must have learnt it in Egypt; Exode, the number of the males above twenty years of age for a census is certainly not a practice of wandering shepwas well known (Exod. xii. 37). We would not indeed l herds, or one of which, untaught, they would have been
likely even to think. It is however interesting to find so average number of inhabitants to each house, or else by an important a measure of national policy in use at this early account deduced from the consumption of a particular time, particularly when we recollect that it is of com- | article of food. Thus, when Mr. Morier wished to ascer. paratively recent adoption in modern Europe. It was only tain the population of the city of Ispahan in Persia, the in the course of the last century that the attention of go- | following process was adopted :-A small duty is paid to vernments began to be turned to the subject; and then the local government on every sheep killed by the butchers, attempts to obtain an accurate census were attended with and the daily amount of this duty being ascertained, the great difficulty, and were in many instances perfectly fruit- | number of sheep slaughtered became known. It then less. It is difficult to determine at what intervals the remained to be guessed how many inhabitants one sheep Hebrew enumerations were made. Four or five are men would serve. The proportion assumed was 300 to one tioned in the Old Testament, but they are all at very un sheep, and this being multiplied by the total number of equal periods; and, judging from this, we might suppose sheep consumed (175), afforded the amount of population. they were occasional only. But the later Jews thought The defects of such a process we need not point out; and the enumeration was intended to be yearly, a construction yet we find the Jews having recourse to a very similar inculcated for the purpose of rendering annual the poll method at a time when they had for many centuries ceased tax of half a shekel mentioned in Exod. xxx. 12. This to have regular enumerations, such as that now before us. tax is not, in Scripture, mentioned in connection with any Josephus relates that the prefect Cestius, being desirous of other census; and it seems to have been only a temporary impressing Nero with a more proper idea of the importance measure to raise funds for the making of the tabernacle. of the Jewish nation than he was known to entertain, applied The later Jews, however, exacted the tax, without making to the priests to know whether they possessed any means the enumeration on which it should have been founded. by which the number might be ascertained. As the PassThere was the poll-tax, but not the census ; even those who over was approaching, when all the adult males were to contended for the annual tribute allowed they had no such | appear at Jerusalem, they proposed to number the lambs census, or indeed any census at all, except so far as that sacrificed on that occasion, and to make the number slain the amount of the tax formed a datum, on which a cal the datum for a calculation of the population; for that culation might have been founded as to the number of the sacrifice might not be eaten alone, and it was known that people. An annual census would indeed have been quite not less than ten persons partook of each lamb. It was unnecessary, and scarcely practicable. On this ground, we accordingly found that the lambs sacrificed amounted to may doubt whether the enumeration in Exod. xxxviii. 26, 256,500, which they multiplied by ten to obtain the reis the result of a different census from that now before us. quired answer, which therefore must have been 2,565,000, A census must always occupy some time in making, and although Josephus, whose numbers are perhaps corrupted, yet we find an interval of only a few months between the says 2,700,200. The defects of this calculation, as an two periods; and if we suppose them different, it is im estimate of the adult male population, are palpable. Only possible to conceive why a second enumeration should so persons ceremonially cleau could eat of the passover; many immediately follow the first. Besides, the amount stated individuals were probably absent; and Josephus himself in both instances is the same, namely 603,550-an identity allows that the number who partook together of one lamb, of numbers scarcely possible even in the interval of a few was often not less than twenty; and indeed we know that months, had the enumerations been different. It would thirteen were present at the passover which Jesus ate with therefore seem that the same enumeration is intended in his disciples. both statements: it was completed doubtless in time to make the poll-tax available for the works of the tabernacle, and
16. • Princes of the tribes of their fathers.'-There are the result is stated incidentally in Exod. xxxviii., in con
several expressions in this chapter which afford us connection with the amount derived from that tax; while in
siderable insight into the early national constitution of the this place we have a more particular account of the same
Hebrews. Its forms were precisely those which we find enumeration in order to shew the relative strength of the
to prevail, with slight modifications, in all nomade nations, different tribes. There was, however, a second census,
and which all the tribes descending from Abraham folwhich took place, apparently, about thirty-eight years sub
lowed, and which subsist among some of them (the Arasequent, on the borders of Canaan, in the next generation ;
bians for instance) to this day. They were, as is well from which, if we are at liberty to infer anything, we may
known, divided into twelve great tribes, all having one suppose it was the intention of Moses that there should be
common ancestor, and yet each having a distinct ancestor a census in every generation. It is, however, doubtful
of its own-after whom it took its name, its members being whether the numbering of the people ever was, or was
called Beni-Reuben, Beni-Levi, etc.. sons of Reuben, sons intended to be, periodical; and it is easy to discover a dis
of Levi;' or the nation, collectively, from the common tinct object in every enumeration which the Scripture
ancestor, Beni-Israel, sons of Israel.'-a principle of dementions. It will of course be observed that the enumera
nomination which the Arabs exhibit to this day, calling tion only extends to males above twenty years of age, and
their tribes Beni-Lam, Beni-Shammar, etc. Each tribe could not therefore be useful for all the purposes to which
had its emir, sheikh, or chief, called here 'prince of the national enumerations, in conjunction with tables of births
tribe ;' and the names of the whole twelve are here given and burials, are now applied. Still, such an enumeration
to us. They were not appointed by Moses; but their exof adult males was highly important, as affording a safe
istence and authority are here recognised as already estacriterion by which the increase or decrease of the national
blished in their respective tribes, and probably represented strength and population might be estimated. It would be
the authority which the patriarch of the tribe transmitted interesting to know in what manner the census was taken.
in the eldest branch of his family. This organization The modern usages of the East afford no analogy; as,
appears to have been carried down into Egypt, and to have except in China and Japan, no enumerations of population
subsisted there; and we probably shall not err in identifyare ever made, or even thought of. The population of
ing these chiefs of tribes with the elders' to whom Moses towns is not known even to those to whom that knowledge
in the first instance communicated his mission when he would seem of importance. The want of at least an occa
arrived in Egypt (Exod. iv. 29). The great tribes were sional census causes the most loose ideas on every subject
again subdivided into certain large divisions called relating to population. We have heard old men, of average intelligence, declare, in all sincerity, their belief that batti aboth, all having their heads or chiefs, who are protowns, in which they have lived for years, contained a bably the same persons called elders' in Deut. xix. 12, million inhabitants, when they could not really have con and xxi. 1-9; Josh. xxiii. and xxiv.; and elsewhere. On tained more than fifty to eighty thousand. When a person what principle these inferior heads were nominated we do in authority really wishes to form some idea of the popula- | not know; but as there is much apparent resemblance tion of a town, it is formed either by a rough calculation between this constitution and that which we find to prevail as to the number of houses, multiplied by the supposed among the nomade tribes (Eelauts) of Persia, perhaps their