Numbers 9


The Israelites are reminded of the law that required them to

keep the passover at its proper time, and with all its rites,


They kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first

month, 4, 5.

The case of the men who, being unclean through touching a dead

body, could not keep the passover, 6, 7.

Moses inquires at the Lord concerning them, 8;

and the Lord appoints the fourteenth day of the second month

for all those who through any accidental uncleanness, or by

being absent on a journey, could not keep it at the usual time,


Those who neglect to keep this solemn feast to be cut off from

among his people, 13.

The stranger who wishes to keep the passover is at liberty to

do it, 14.

The cloud covers the tabernacle both by day and night, from the

time of its dedication, 15, 16.

This cloud regulates all the encampments and marchings of the

Israelites through the wilderness, 17-22.

Their journeyings and restings were all directed by the

commandment of the Lord, 23.


Verse 1. The Lord spake unto Moses] The fourteen first verses

of this chapter certainly refer to transactions that took place at

the time of those mentioned in the commencement of this book,

before the numbering of the people, and several learned men are of

opinion that these fourteen verses should be referred back to that

place. We have already met with instances where transpositions

have very probably taken place, and it is not difficult to account

for them. As in very early times writing was generally on leaves

of the Egyptian flag papyrus, or on thin laminae of different

substances, facts and transactions thus entered were very liable

to be deranged; so that when afterwards a series was made up into

a book, many transactions might be inserted in wrong places, and

thus the exact chronology of the facts be greatly disturbed. MSS.

written on leaves of trees, having a hole in each, through which a

cord is passed to keep them all in their places, are frequently to

be met with in the cabinets of the curious, and many such are now

before me, especially in Singalese, Pali, and Burman. Should the

cord break, or be accidentally unloosed, it would be exceedingly

difficult to string them all in their proper places; accidents of

this kind I have often met with to my very great perplexity, and

in some cases found it almost impossible to restore each

individual leaf to its own place; for it should be observed that

these separate pieces of oriental writing are not always paged

like the leaves of our printed books; nor are there frequently any

catch-words or signatures at the bottom to connect the series.

This one consideration will account for several transpositions,

especially in the Pentateuch, where they occur more frequently

than in any other part of the sacred writings. Houbigant, who

grants the existence of such transpositions, thinks that this is

no sufficient reason why the present order of narration should be

changed: "It is enough," says he, non ignorare libros eos Mosis

esse acta rerum suo tempore gestarum, non historiam filo perpetuo

elaboratam," "to know that these books contain an account of

things transacted in the days of Moses, though not in their

regular or chronological order.'

Verse 3. According to all the rites of it] See all those rites

and ceremonies largely explained in Clarke's notes on Ex 12:1-51.

Verse 7. We are defiled by the dead body of a man] It is

probable that the defilement mentioned here was occasioned by

assisting at the burial of some person-a work both of necessity

and mercy. This circumstance however gave rise to the ordinance

delivered in Nu 9:10-14, so that on particular occasions the

passover might be twice celebrated: 1. At its regular time, the

14th of the first month; 2. An extra time, the 14th of the second

month. But the man who had no legal hinderance, and did not

celebrate it on one or other of these times, was to be cut off

from the people of God; and the reason given for this cutting off

is, that he brought not the offering of God in his appointed

season-therefore that man shall bear his sin, Nu 9:13. We

have already seen, from the authority of St. Paul, that Christ, our

Passover, is sacrificed for us; and that it was his sacrifice that

was pointed out by the paschal lamb: on this, therefore, we may

observe, that those who do not sooner or later eat the true

Passover, and get the salvation procured by the sprinkling of his

blood, shall be cut off from among those that shall enter into the

rest prepared for the people of God; and for the same reason too;

they bring not the offering of God in its appointed season, and

therefore they shall bear their sin.

Verse 15. The cloud covered the tabernacle] See the whole

account of this supernatural cloud largely explained, Ex 23:21;

and Ex 40:34-38.

Calmet observes that the 15th verse, beginning a new subject,

should begin a new chapter, as it has no connection with what goes

before; and he thinks this chapter, begun with the 15th verse,

should end with the 28th verse of the following.

Verse 21. Whether-by day or by night] As the heat of the day

is very severe in that same desert, the night season is sometimes

chosen for the performance of a journey; though it is very likely

that in the case of the Israelites this was seldom resorted to.

Verse 22. Two days-a month-a year] It was by the Divine

counsel alone that they were directed in all their peregrinations:

and from the above words we see that their times of tarrying at

different stations were very unequal.

Verse 23. Kept the charge of the Lord] When we consider the

strong disposition which this people ever testified to follow

their own will in all things, we may be well surprised to find

them, in these journeyings, so implicitly following the directions

of God. There could be no trick or imposture here. Moses, had he

been the most cunning of men, never could have imitated the

appearances referred to in this chapter. The cloud, and every

thing in its motion, was so evidently supernatural, that the

people had no doubt of its being the symbol of the Divine


GOD chose to keep this people so dependent upon himself, and so

submissive to the decisions of his own will, that he would not

even give them regular times of marching or resting; they were to

do both when and where God saw best. Thus they were ever kept

ready for their march, though perfectly ignorant of the time when

they should commence it. But this was all well; they had the

presence of God with them; the cloud by day and the fire by night

demonstrated that God was amongst them. Reader, thou art here a

tenant at will to God Almighty. How soon, in what place, or in

what circumstances, he may call thee to march into the eternal

world, thou knowest not. But this uncertainty cannot perplex

thee, if thou be properly subject to the will of God, ever willing

to lose thy own in it. But thou canst not be thus subject, unless

thou have the testimony of the presence and approbation of God.

How awful to be obliged to walk into the valley of the shadow of

death without this! Reader, prepare to meet thy God.

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