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Daily Reading for June 18: Psalm 19-23; Proverbs 18

Study Verse: Numbers 3, 4, and 5

The Sons of Aaron

These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: dNadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, ethe anointed priests, fwhom he ordained to serve as priests. gBut Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father.

Duties of the Levites

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, h"Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, ias they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And jyou shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are kwholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and lthey shall guard their priesthood. But if many outsider comes near, he shall be put to death."

11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 "Behold, nI have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for oall the firstborn are mine. pOn the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord."

14 And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 "List the sons of Levi, by fathers' houses and by clans; qevery male from a month old and upward you shall list." 16 So Moses listed them according to the word of the Lord, as he was commanded. 17 rAnd these were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. 18 And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their clans: sLibni and Shimei. 19 And the sons of Kohath by their clans: tAmram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20 And the sons of Merari by their clans: uMahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers' houses.

21 To Gershon belonged the clan of the Libnites and the clan of the Shimeites; these were the clans of the Gershonites. 22 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was1 7,500. 23 vThe clans of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, 24 with Eliasaph, the son of Lael as chief of the fathers' house of the Gershonites. 25 And the wguard duty of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved xthe tabernacle, ythe tent with zits covering, athe screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting, 26 bthe hangings of the court, cthe screen for the door of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and dits cords-all the service connected with these.

27 To Kohath belonged the clan of the eAmramites and the clan of the Izharites and the clan of the Hebronites and the clan of the Uzzielites; these are the clans of the Kohathites. 28 According to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, there were 8,600, keeping guard over the sanctuary. 29 The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, 30 with fElizaphan the son of Uzziel as chief of the fathers' house of the clans of the Kohathites. 31 And their guard duty involved gthe ark, hthe table, ithe lampstand, jthe altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and kthe screen; all the service connected with these. 32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary.

33 To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. 34 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. 35 And the chief of the fathers' house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 lAnd the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the mframes of the tabernacle, nthe bars, othe pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; 37 also pthe pillars around the court, with their bases and qpegs and rcords.

38 Those who were to camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, sguarding the sanctuary itself, to protect2 the people of Israel. And any outsider who came near was to be put to death. 39 All those listed among the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron listed at the commandment of the Lord, by clans, all the males from a month old and upward, were t22,000.

Redemption of the Firstborn

40 And the Lord said to Moses, "List all the firstborn males of the people of Israel, from a month old and upward, taking the number of their names. 41 uAnd you shall take the Levites for me-I am the Lord-instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the people of Israel." 42 So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. 43 And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.

44 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 v"Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. 46 And was the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, 47 you shall take xfive shekels3 per head; you shall take them according to ythe shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel of twenty gerahs4), 48 and give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for those who are over." 49 So Moses took the redemption money from those who were over and above those redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the people of Israel he took the money, z1,365 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary. 51 And Moses agave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Duties of the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers' houses, bfrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: cthe most holy things. When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down dthe veil of the screen and cover ethe ark of the testimony with it. Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin1 and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its fpoles. And over the gtable of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue and put on it the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering; hthe regular showbread also shall be on it. Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet and cover the same with a covering of goatskin, and shall iput in its poles. And they shall take a cloth of blue and cover jthe lampstand for the light, with its lamps, its tongs, its trays, and all the vessels for oil with which it is supplied. 10 And they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of goatskin and put it on the carrying frame. 11 And over kthe golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue and cover it with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. 12 And they shall take all lthe vessels of the service that are used in the sanctuary and put them in a cloth of blue and cover them with a covering of goatskin and put them on the carrying frame. 13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 And they shall put on it all the utensils of the altar, which are used for the service there, the fire pans, the forks, the shovels, and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. 15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that mthe sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, nbut they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry.

16 "And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of othe oil for the light, the pfragrant incense, qthe regular grain offering, and rthe anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels."

17 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 18 "Let not the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites, 19 but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to sthe most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint them each to his task and to his burden, 20 tbut they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die."

21 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 22 "Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' houses and by their clans. 23 uFrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can vcome to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting. 24 This is the service of the clans of the Gershonites, in serving and bearing burdens: 25 wthey shall carry xthe curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting with yits covering and the covering of goatskin that is on top of it and the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting 26 and the hangings of the court and the screen for the entrance of the gate of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their cords and all the equipment for their service. And they shall do all that needs to be done with regard to them. 27 All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry. 28 This is the service of the clans of the sons of the Gershonites in the tent of meeting, and their guard duty is to be zunder the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

29 "As for the sons of Merari, you shall list them by their clans and their fathers' houses. 30 uFrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, everyone who can come on duty, to do the service of the tent of meeting. 31 And athis is what they are charged to carry, as the whole of their service in the tent of meeting: the frames of the tabernacle, with its bars, pillars, and bases, 32 and the pillars around the court with their bases, pegs, and cords, with all their equipment and all their accessories. And you shall blist by name the objects that they are required to carry. 33 This is the service of the clans of the sons of Merari, the whole of their service in the tent of meeting, cunder the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest."

34 And Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of the congregation listed the sons of the Kohathites, by their clans and their fathers' houses, 35 ufrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty, for service in the tent of meeting; 36 and those listed by clans were 2,750. 37 dThis was the list of the clans of the Kohathites, all who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the Lord by Moses.

38 Those listed of the sons of Gershon, by their clans and their fathers' houses, 39 ufrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty for service in the tent of meeting- 40 those listed by their clans and their fathers' houses were 2,630. 41 eThis was the list of the clans of the sons of Gershon, all who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the Lord.

42 Those listed of the clans of the sons of Merari, by their clans and their fathers' houses, 43 ufrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come on duty, for service in the tent of meeting- 44 those listed by clans were 3,200. 45 fThis was the list of the clans of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron listed according to the commandment of the Lord by Moses.

46 All those who were listed of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of Israel listed, by their clans and their fathers' houses, 47 ufrom thirty years old up to fifty years old, everyone who could come to do the service of ministry and the service of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting, 48 those listed were 8,580. 49 According to the commandment of the Lord through Moses they were listed, geach one with his task of serving or carrying. Thus they were listed by him, has the Lord commanded Moses.

Unclean People

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Command the people of Israel that they iput out of the camp everyone who is leprous1 or has ja discharge and everyone who is kunclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, lin the midst of which I dwell." And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.

Confession and Restitution

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel, mWhen a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, nhe shall confess his sin that he has committed.2 oAnd he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to pthe ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And qevery contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. 10 Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his."

A Test for Adultery

11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 "Speak to the people of Israel, If any man's wife goes astray and breaks faith with him, 13 if a man rlies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, ssince she was not taken in the act, 14 and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself, 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah3 of barley flour. tHe shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, ubringing iniquity to remembrance.

16 "And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 And the priest shall set the woman before the Lord and vunbind the hair of the woman's head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband's authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, 21 then' (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) w‘the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. 22 May this water that brings the curse xpass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.' And the woman shall say, y‘Amen, Amen.'

23 "Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. 25 And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand zand shall wave the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 And the priest ashall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman bshall become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

29 "This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, cthough under her husband's authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. 31 The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman dshall bear her iniquity." [1]

 

Commentary:

Chapter 3

This chapter and the next are concerning the tribe of Levi, which was to be mustered and marshalled by itself, and not in common with the other tribes, intimating the particular honour put upon them and the particular duty and service required from them. The Levites are in this chapter considered, I. As attendants on, and assistants to, the priests in the temple-service. And so we have an account, 1. Of the priests themselves (v. 1-4) and their work (v. 10). 2. Of the gift of the Levites to them (v. 5-9), in order to which they are mustered (v. 14-16), and the sum of them taken (v. 39). Each particular family of them is mustered, has its place assigned and its charge, the Gershonites (v. 17-26), the Kohathites (v. 27-32), the Merarites (v. 33-39). II. As equivalents for the first-born (v. 11-13). 1. The first-born are numbered, and the Levites taken instead of them, as far as the number of the Levites went (v. 40-45). 2. What first-born there were more than the Levites were redeemed (v. 46, etc.).

Verses 1-13

Here, I. The family of Aaron is confirmed in the priests' office, v. 10. They had been called to it before, and consecrated; here they are appointed to wait on their priests' office: the apostle uses this phrase (Rom. 12:7), Let us wait on our ministry. The office of the ministry requires a constant attendance and great diligence; so frequent are the returns of its work, and yet so transient its favourable opportunities, that it must be waited on. Here is repeated what was said before (ch. 1:51): The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death, which forbids the invading of the priest's office by any other person whatsoever; none must come nigh to minister but Aaron and his sons only, all others are strangers. It also lays a charge on the priests, as door-keepers in God's house, to take care that none should come near who were forbidden by the law; they must keep off all intruders, whose approach would be to the profanation of the holy things, telling them that if they came near it was at their peril, they would die by the hand of God, as Uzza did. The Jews say that afterwards there was hung over the door of the temple a golden sword (perhaps alluding to that flaming sword at the entrance of the garden of Eden), on which was engraven, The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.

II. A particular account is given of this family of Aaron; what we have met with before concerning them is here repeated. 1. The consecration of the sons of Aaron, v. 3. They were all anointed to minister before the Lord, though it appeared afterwards, and God knew it, that two of them were wise and two were foolish. 2. The fall of the two elder (v. 4): they offered strange fire, and died for so doing, before the Lord. This is mentioned here in the preamble to the law concerning the priesthood, for a warning to all succeeding priests; let them know, by this example, that God is a jealous God, and will not be mocked; the holy anointing oil was an honour to the obedient, but not a shelter to the disobedient. It is here said, They had no children, Providence so ordering it, for their greater punishment, that none of their descendants should remain to be priests, and so bear up their name who had profaned God's name. 3. The continuance of the two younger: Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the sight of Aaron. It intimates, (1.) The care they took about their ministration not to make any blunders; they kept under their father's eye, and took instruction from him in all they did, because, probably, Nadab and Abihu got out of their father's sight when they offered strange fire. Note, It is good for young people to act under the direction and inspection of those that are aged and experienced. (2.) The comfort Aaron took in it; it pleased him to see his younger sons behave themselves prudently and gravely, when his two elder had miscarried. Note, It is a great satisfaction to parents to see their children walk in the truth, 3 Jn. 4.

III. A grant is made of the Levites to be assistants to the priests in their work: Give the Levites to Aaron, v. 9. Aaron was to have a greater propriety in, and power over, the tribe of Levi than any other of the princes had in and over their respective tribes. There was a great deal of work belonging to the priests' office, and there were now only three pairs of hands to do it all, Aaron's and his two sons'; for it does not appear that they had either of them any children at this time, at least not any that were of age to minister, therefore God appoints the Levites to attend upon them. Note, Those whom God finds work for his will find help for. Here is, 1. The service for which the Levites were designed: they were to minister to the priests in their ministration to the Lord (v. 6), and to keep Aaron's charge (v. 7), as the deacons to the bishops in the evangelical constitution, serving at tables, while the bishops waited on their ministry. The Levites killed the sacrifices, and then the priests needed only to sprinkle the blood and burn the fat: the Levites prepared the incense, the priests burnt it. They were to keep, not only Aaron's charge, but the charge of the whole congregation. Note, It is a great trust that is reposed in ministers, not only for the glory of Christ, but for the good of his church; so that they must not only keep the charge of the great high priest, but must also be faithful to the souls of men, in trust for whom a dispensation is committed to them. 2. the consideration upon which the Levites were demanded; they were taken instead of the first-born. The preservation of the first-born of Israel, when all the first-born of the Egyptians (with whom they were many of them mingled) were destroyed, was looked upon by him who never makes any unreasonable demands as cause sufficient of the appropriating of all the first-born thenceforward to himself (v. 13): All the first-born are mine. That was sufficient to make them his, though he had given no reason for it, for he is the sole fountain and Lord of all beings and powers; but because all obedience must flow from love, and acts of duty must be acts of gratitude, before they were challenged into peculiar services they were crowned with peculiar favours. Note, When he that made us saves us we are thereby laid under further obligations to serve him and live to him. God's right to us by redemption corroborates the right he has to us by creation. Now because the first-born of a family are generally the favourites, and some would think it a disparagement to have their eldest sons servants to the priests, and attending before the door of the tabernacle, God took the tribe of Levi entire for his own, in lieu of the first-born, v. 12. Note, God's institutions put no hardships upon men in any of their just interests or reasonable affections. It was presumed that the Israelites would rather part with the Levites than with the first-born, and therefore God graciously ordered the exchange; yet for us he spared not his own Son.

Verses 14-39

The Levites being granted to Aaron to minister to him, they are here delivered to him by tale, that he might know what he had, and employ them accordingly. Observe,

I. By what rule they were numbered: Every male from a month old and upward, v. 15. The rest of the tribes were numbered only from twenty years old and upwards, and of them those only that were able to go forth to war; but into the number of the Levites they must take in both infants, and infirm; being exempted from the war, it was not insisted upon that they should be of age and strength for the wars. Though it appears afterwards that little more than a third part of the Levites were fit to be employed in the service of the tabernacle (about 8000 out of 22,000, ch. 4:47, 48), yet God would have them all numbered as retainers to his family; that none may think themselves disowned and rejected of God because they are not in a capacity of doing him that service which they see others do him. The Levites of a month old could not honour God and serve the tabernacle, as those that had grown up; yet out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the Levites' praise was perfected. Let not little children be hindered from being enrolled among the disciples of Christ, for such was the tribe of Levi, of such is the kingdom of heaven, that kingdom of priests. The redemption of the first-born was reckoned from a month old (ch. 18:15, 16), therefore from that age the Levites were numbered. They were numbered after the house of their fathers, not their mothers, for, if the daughter of a Levite married one of another tribe, her son was not a Levite; but we read of a spiritual priest to our God who inherited the unfeigned faith which dwelt in his mother and grandmother, 2 Tim. 1:5.

II. How they were distributed into three classes, according to the number of the sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and these subdivided into several families, v. 17-20.

1. Concerning each of these three classes we have an account, (1.) Of their number. The Gershonites were 7500. The Kohathites were 8600. The Merarites were 6200. The rest of the tribes had not their subordinate families numbered by themselves as those of Levi; this honour God put upon his own tribe. (2.) Of their post about the tabernacle on which they were to attend. The Gershonites pitched behind the tabernacle, westward, v. 23. The Kohathites on the right hand, southward, v. 29. The Merarites on the left hand, northward, v. 35. And, to complete the square, Moses and Aaron, with the priests, encamped in the front, eastward, v. 38. Thus was the tabernacle surrounded with its guards; and thus does the angel of the Lord encamp round about those that fear him, those living temples, Ps. 34:7. Every one knew his place, and must therein abide with God. (3.) Of their chief or head. As each class had its own place, so each had its own prince. The commander of the Gershonites was Eliasaph (v. 24); of the Kohathites Elizaphan (v. 30), of whom we read (Lev. 10:4) that he was one of the bearers at the funeral of Nadab and Abihu; of the Merarites Zuriel, v. 35. (4.) Of their charge, when the camp moved. Each class knew their own business; it was requisite they should, for that which is every body's work often proves nobody's work. The Gershonites were charged with the custody and carriage of all the curtains and hangings and coverings of the tabernacle and court (v. 25, 26), the Kohathites of all the furniture of the tabernacle-the ark, altar, table, etc. (v. 31, 32), the Merarites of the heavy carriage, boards, bars, pillars, etc., v. 36, 37.

2. Here we may observe, (1.) That the Kohathites, though they were the second house, yet were preferred before the elder family of the Gershonites. Besides that Aaron and the priests were of that family, they were more numerous, and their post and charge more honourable, which probably was ordered to put an honour upon Moses, who was of that family. Yet, (2.) The posterity of Moses were not at all dignified or privileged, but stood upon the level with other Levites, that it might appear he did not seek the advancement of his own family, nor to entail any honours upon it either in church or state; he that had honour enough himself coveted not to have his name shine by that borrowed light, but rather to have the Levites borrow honour from his name. Let none think contemptibly of the Levites, though inferior to the priests, for Moses himself though it preferment enough for his sons to be Levites. Probably it was because the family of Moses were Levites only that in the title of this chapter, which is concerning that tribe (v. 1), Aaron is put before Moses.

III. The sum total of the numbers of this tribe. They are computed in all 22,000, v. 39. The sum of the particular families amounts to 300 more; if this had been added to the sum total, the Levites, instead of being 273 fewer than the first-born, as they were (v. 43), would have been twenty-seven more, and so the balance would have fallen the other way; but it is supposed that the 300 which were struck off from the account when the exchange was to be made were the first-born of the Levites themselves, born since their coming out of Egypt, which could not be put into the exchange, because they were already sanctified to God. But that which is especially observable here is that the tribe of Levi was by much the least of all the tribes. Note, God's part in the world is too often the smallest part. His chosen are comparatively a little flock.

Verses 40-51

Here is the exchange made of the Levites for the first-born. 1. The first-born were numbered from a month old, v. 42, 43. Those certainly were not reckoned who, though first-born, had become heads of families themselves, but those only that were under age; and the learned bishop Patrick is decidedly of opinion that none were numbered but those only that were born since their coming out of Egypt, when the first-born were sanctified, Ex. 13:2. If there were 22,000 first-born males, we may suppose as many females, and all these brought forth in the first year after they came out of Egypt, we must hence infer that in the last year of their servitude, even when it was in the greatest extremity, there were abundance of marriages made among the Israelites; they were not discouraged by the present distress, but married in faith, expecting that God would shortly visit them with mercy, and that their children, though born in bondage, should live in liberty and honour. And it was a token of good to them, an evidence that they were blessed of the Lord, that they were not only kept alive, but greatly increased, in a barren wilderness. 2. The number of the first-born, and that of the Levites, by a special providence, came pretty near to each other; thus, when he divided the nations, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel, Deu. 32:8. Known unto God are all his works beforehand, and there is an exact proportion between them, and so it will appear when they come to be compared. The Levites' cattle are said to be taken instead of the firstlings of the cattle of the children of Israel, that is, the Levites, with all their possessions, were devoted to God instead of the first-born and all theirs; for, when we give ourselves to God, all we have passes as appurtenances with the premises. 3. The small number of first-born which exceeded the number of the Levites (273 in all) were to be redeemed, at five shekels apiece, and the redemption-money given to Aaron; for it would not do well to have them added to the Levites. It is probable that in the exchange they began with the eldest of the first-born, and so downward, so that those were to be redeemed with money who were the 273 youngest of the first-born; more likely so than either that it was determined by lot or that the money was paid out of the public stock. The church is called the church of the first-born, which is redeemed, not as these were, with silver and gold, but, being devoted by sin to the justice of God, is ransomed with the precious blood of the Son of God.

Chapter 4

In the former chapter an account was taken of the whole tribe of Levi, in this we have an account of those of that tribe who were in the prime of their time for service, betwixt thirty and fifty years old. I. The serviceable men of the Kohathites are ordered to be numbered, and their charges are given them (v. 2-20). II. Of the Gershonites (v. 24-28). III. Of the Merarites (v. 29-33). IV. The numbers of each, and the sum total at last, are recorded (v. 34, etc.).

Verses 1-20

We have here a second muster of the tribe of Levi. As that tribe was taken out of all Israel to be God's peculiar, so the middle-aged men of that tribe were taken from among the rest to be actually employed in the service of the tabernacle. Now observe,

I. Who were to be taken into this number. All the males from thirty years old to fifty. Of the other tribes, those that were numbered to go forth to war were from twenty years old and upward, but of the Levites only from thirty to fifty; for the service of God requires the best of our strength, and the prime of our time, which cannot be better spent than to the honour of him who is the first and best. And a man may make a good soldier much sooner than a good minister. Now,

1. They were not to be employed till they were thirty years old, because till then they were in danger of retaining something childish and youthful and had not gravity enough to do the service, and wear the honour, of a Levite. They were entered as probationers at twenty-five years old, (ch. 8:24), and in David's time, when there was more work to be done, at twenty (1 Chr. 23:24, and so Ezra 3:8); but they must be five years learning and waiting, and so fitting themselves for service; nay, in David's time they were ten years in preparation, from twenty to thirty. John Baptist began his public ministry, and Christ his, at thirty years old. This is not in the letter of it obligatory on gospel ministers now, as if they must either not begin their work till thirty years old or must leave off at fifty; but it gives us two good rules:-(1.) That ministers must not be novices, 1 Tim. 3:6. It is a work that requires ripeness of judgment and great steadiness, and therefore those are very unfit for it who are but babes in knowledge and have not put away childish things. (2.) That they must learn before they teach, serve before they rule, and must first be proved, 1 Tim. 3:10.

2. They were discharged at fifty years old from the toilsome part of the service, particularly that of carrying the tabernacle; for that is the special service to which they are here ordained, and which there was most occasion for while they were in the wilderness. When they began to enter upon old age, they were dismissed, (1.) In favour to them, that they might no be over-toiled when their strength began to decay. Twenty years' good service was thought pretty well for one man. (2.) In honour to the work, that it might not be done by those who, through the infirmities of age, were slow and heavy. The service of God should be done when we are in the most lively active frame. Those do not consider this who put off their repentance to old age, and so leave the best work to be done in the worst time.

II. How their work is described. They are said to enter into the host, or warfare, to do the work in the tabernacle. The ministry is a good work (1 Tim. 3:1): ministers are not ordained to the honour only, but to the labour, not only to have the wages, but to do the work. It is also a good warfare, 1 Tim. 1:18. Those that enter into the ministry must look upon themselves as entered into the host, and approve themselves good soldiers, 2 Tim. 2:3. Now, as to the sons of Kohath in particular, here is,

1. Their service appointed them, in the removes of the tabernacle. Afterwards, when the tabernacle was fixed, they had other work assigned them; but this was the work of the day, which was to be done in its day. Observe, Wherever the camp of Israel went, the tabernacle of the Lord went with them, and care must be taken for the carriage of it. Note, Wherever we go, we must see to it that we take our religion along with us, and not forget that or any part of it. Now the Koliathites were to carry all the holy things of the tabernacle. They were charged with those things before (ch. 3:31), but here they have more particular instructions given them. (1.) Aaron, and his sons the priests, must pack up the things which the Kohathites were to carry, as here directed, v. 5, etc. God had before appointed that none should come into the most holy place, but only Aaron once a year with a cloud of incense (Lev. 16:2); and yet, the necessity of their unsettled state requiring it, that law is here dispensed with; for every time they removed Aaron and his sons went in to take down the ark, and make it up for carriage; for (as the learned bishop Patrick suggests) the shechinah, or display of the divine majesty, which was over the mercy-seat, removed for the present in the pillar of cloud, which was taken up, and then the ark was not dangerous to be approached. (2.) All the holy things must be covered, the ark and table with three coverings, all the rest with two. Even the ashes of the altar, in which the holy fire was carefully preserved and raked up, must have a purple cloth spread over them, v. 13. Even the brazen altar, though in the court of the sanctuary it stood open to the view of all, yet was covered in the carriage of it. All these coverings were designed, [1.] For safety, that these holy things might not be ruffled with the wind, sullied with the rain, nor tarnished with the sun, but that they might be preserved in their beauty; for on all the glory shall be a defence. The coverings of badgers' skins, being thick and strong, would keep out wet; and, while we are in our passage through the wilderness of this world, it concerns us to be fenced for all weathers, Isa. 4:5, 6. [2.] For decency and ornament. Most of these things had a cloth of blue, or purple, or scarlet, spread outmost; and the ark was covered with a cloth wholly of blue (v. 6), an emblem (say some) of the azure skies, which are spread like a curtain between us and the Majesty on high, Job 26:9. Those that are faithful to God should endeavour likewise to appear beautiful before men, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. [3.] For concealment. It signified the darkness of that dispensation. That which is now brought to light by the gospel, and revealed to babes, was then hidden from the wise and prudent. They saw only the coverings, not the holy things themselves (Heb. 10:1); but now Christ has destroyed the face of the covering, Isa. 25:7. (3.) When all the holy things were covered, then the Kohathites were to carry them on their shoulders. These things that had staves were carried by their staves (v. 6, 8, 11, 14); those that had not were carried upon a bar, or bier, or bearing barrow, v. 10, 12. See how the tokens of God's presence in this world are movable things; but we look for a kingdom that cannot be moved.

2. Eleazar, now the eldest son of Aaron, is appointed overseer of the Kohathites in this service (v. 16); he must take care that nothing was forgotten, left behind, or displaced. As a priest he had more honour than the Levites, but then he had more care; and that care was a heavier burden, no doubt, upon his heart, than all the burdens that were laid upon their shoulders. It is much easier to do the work of the tabernacle than to discharge the trusts of it, to obey than to rule.

3. Great care must be taken to preserve the lives of these Levites, by preventing their unseasonable irreverent approach to the most holy things: Cut you not off the Kohathites, v. 18. Note, Those who do not what they can to keep others from sin do what they can to cut them off. [1.] The Kohathites must not see the holy things till the priests had covered them, v. 20. Even those that bore the vessels of the Lord saw not what they bore, so much were even those in the dark concerning the gospel whose office it was to expound the law. And, [2.] When the holy things were covered, they might not touch them, at least not the ark, called here the holy thing, upon pain of death, v. 15. Uzza was struck dead for the breach of this law. Thus were the Lord's ministers themselves then kept in fear, and that was a dispensation of terror, as well as darkness; but now, through Christ, the case is altered; we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handles, the word of life (1 Jn. 1:1), and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Verses 21-33

We have here the charge of the other two families of the Levites, which, though not so honourable as the first, yet was necessary, and was to be done regularly. 1. The Gershonites were charged with all the drapery of the tabernacle, the curtains, and hangings, and the coverings of badgers' skins, v. 22-26. These they were to take down when the cloud removed, and the ark and the rest of the holy things were carried away, to pack up and bring with them, and then to set up again, where the cloud rested. Aaron and his sons allotted to them their respective charge: "You shall take care of such a curtain, and you of such a hanging, that every one may know his work, and there may be no confusion," v. 27. Ithamar particularly was to take the oversight of them, v. 28. 2. The Merarites were charged with the heavy carriage, the boards and bars, the pillars and sockets, the pins and cords, and these were delivered to them by name, v. 31, 32. An inventory was given them of every particular, that it might be forthcoming, and nothing to seek, when the tabernacle was to be set up again. Though these seemed of less importance than the other things pertaining to the sanctuary, yet there was this care taken of them, to teach us with the greatest exactness to preserve pure and entire all divine institutions, and to take care that nothing be lost. It also intimates the care God takes of his church, and every member of it; the good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name, Jn. 10:3. Here were thousands of men employed about these services, though a much less number would have served for the bearing of those burdens; but it was requisite that the tabernacle should be taken down, and set up, with great expedition, and many hands would make quick work, especially when every one knew his work. They had tents of their own to take care of, and to take along with them, but the young men under thirty, and the old men above fifty, might serve for them; nor is there any mention of them, for God's house must always be preferred before our own. Their care was preposterous who built and ceiled their own houses while God's house lay waste, Hag. 1:4, 9. The death of the saints is represented as the taking down of the tabernacle (2 Co. 5:1), and the putting of it off, 2 Pt. 1:14. The immortal soul, like the most holy things, is first covered and taken away, carried by angels, unseen, under the inspection of the Lord Jesus, our Eleazar. Care is also taken of the body-the skin and flesh, which are as the curtains, the bones and sinews which are as the bars and pillars; none of these shall be lost; commandment is given concerning the bones, a covenant made with the dust; these are in safe custody, and shall all be produced in the great day, when this tabernacle shall be set up again, and these vile bodies made like the glorious body of Jesus Christ.

Verses 34-49

We have here a particular account of the numbers of the three families of the Levites respectively, that is, of the effective men, between thirty years old and fifty. Observe, 1. The Kohathites were, in all, 8600 from a month old and upwards; but of these there were but 2750 serviceable men, not a third part. The Gershonites, in all, 7500, and of them but 2630 serviceable men, little more than a third part. Note, Of the many that add to the numbers of the church, there are comparatively but few that contribute to the service of it. So it has been, and so it is; many have a place in the tabernacle that do but little of the work of the tabernacle, Phil. 2:20, 21. 2. That the Merarites were but 6200 in all, and yet of these there were 3200 serviceable men, that is, more than half. The greatest burden lay upon that family, the boards, and pillars, and sockets; and God so ordered it that, though they were the fewest in number, yet they should have the most able men among them; for whatever service God calls men to he will furnish them for it, and give strength in proportion to the work, grace sufficient. 3. The whole number of the able men of the tribe of Levi who entered into God's host to war his warfare was but 8580, whereas the able men of the other tribes that entered into the host of Israel to war their warfare were many more. The least of the tribes had almost four times as many able men as the Levites, and some of them more than eight times as many; for those that are engaged in the service of this world, and war after the flesh, are many more than those that are devoted to the service of God, and fight the good fight of faith.

Chapter 5

In this chapter we have, I. An order, pursuant to the laws already made, for the removing of the unclean out of the camp (v. 1-4). II. A repetition of the laws concerning restitution, in case of wrong done to a neighbour (v. 5-8), and concerning the appropriating of the hallowed things to the priests (v. 9, 10). III. A new law made concerning the trial of a wife suspected of adultery, by the waters of jealousy (v. 11, etc.).

Verses 1-10

Here is, I. A command for the purifying of the camp, by turning out from within its lines all those that were ceremonially unclean, by issues, leprosies, or the touch of dead bodies, until they were cleansed according to the law, v. 2, 3.

1. These orders are executed immediately, v. 4. (1.) The camp was now newly-modelled and put in order, and therefore, to complete the reformation of it, it is next to be cleansed. Note, The purity of the church must be as carefully consulted and preserved as the peace and order of it. It is requisite, not only that every Israelite be confined to his own standard, but that every polluted Israelite be separated from it. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. (2.) God's tabernacle was now fixed in the midst of their camp, and therefore they must be careful to keep it clean. Note, The greater profession of religion any house or family make the more they are obliged to put away iniquity far from their tabernacle, Job 22:23. The person, the place, in the midst of which God dwells, must not be defiled; for, if it be, he will be affronted, offended, and provoked to withdraw, 1 Co. 3:16, 17.

2. This expulsion of the unclean out of the camp was to signify, (1.) What the governors of the church ought to do: they must separate between the precious and the vile, and purge out scandalous persons, as old leaven (1 Co. 5:8, 13), lest others should be infected and defiled, Heb. 12:15. It is for the glory of Christ and the edification of his church that those who are openly and incorrigibly profane and vicious should be put out and kept from Christian communion till they repent. (2.) What God himself will do in the great day: he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. As here the unclean were shut out of the camp, so into the new Jerusalem no unclean thing shall enter, Rev. 21:27.

II. A law concerning restitution, in case of wrong done to a neighbour. It is called a sin that men commit (v. 6), because it is common among men; a sin of man, that is, a sin against man, so it is thought it should be translated and understood. If a man overreach or defraud his brother in any matter, it is to be looked upon as a trespass against the Lord, who is the protector of right, the punisher of wrong, and who strictly charges and commands us to do justly. Now what is to be done when a man's awakened conscience charges him with guilt of this kind, and brings it to his remembrance though done long ago? 1. He must confess his sin, confess it to God, confess it to his neighbour, and so take shame to himself. If he have denied it before, though it go against the grain to own himself in a lie, yet he must do it; because his heart was hardened he denied it, therefore he has no other way of making it appear that his heart is now softened but by confessing it. 2. He must bring a sacrifice, a ram of atonement, v. 8. Satisfaction must be made for the offence done to God, whose law is broken, as well as for the loss sustained by our neighbour; restitution in this case is not sufficient without faith and repentance. 3. Yet the sacrifices would not be accepted till full amends were made to the party wronged, not only the principal, but a fifth part added to it, v. 7. It is certain that while that which is got by injustice is knowingly retained in the hands the guilt of the injustice remains upon the conscience, and is not purged by sacrifice nor offering, prayers not tears, for it is one and the same continued act of sin persisted in. This law we had before (Lev. 6:4), and it is here added that if the party wronged was dead, and he had no near kinsman who was entitled to the debt, or if it was any way uncertain to whom the restitution should be made, this should not serve for an excuse to detain what was unjustly gotten; to whomsoever it pertained, it was certainly none of his that got it by sin, and therefore it must be given to the priest, v. 8. If there were any that could make out a title to it, it must not be given to the priest (God hates robbery for burnt-offerings); but, if there were not, then it lapsed to the great Lord (ob defectum sanguinis-for want of issue), and the priests were his receivers. Note, Some work of piety or charity is a piece of necessary justice to be done by those who are conscience to themselves that they have done wrong, but know not how otherwise to make restitution; what is not our property will never be our profit.

III. A general rule concerning hallowed things given upon this occasion, that, whatever was given to the priest, his it shall be, v. 9, 10. 1. He that gave it was not to receive his gift again upon any pretence whatsoever. This law ratifies and confirms all grants for pious uses, that people might not give things to the priests in a fit of zeal, and then recall them in a fit of vexation. 2. The other priests should not come in sharers with that priest who then officiated, and to whom the hallowed thing, whatever it was, was given. Let him that was most ready and diligent in attending fare the better for it: if he do the work, let him have the pay, and much good may it do him.

Verses 11-31

We have here the law concerning the solemn trial of a wife whose husband was jealous of her. Observe,

I. What was the case supposed: That a man had some reason to suspect his wife to have committed adultery, v. 12-14. Here, 1. The sin of adultery is justly represented as an exceedingly sinful sin; it is going aside from God and virtue, and the good way, Prov. 2:17. It is committing a trespass against the husband, robbing him of his honour, alienating his right, introducing a spurious breed into his family to share with his children in his estate, and violating her covenant with him. It is being defiled; for nothing pollutes the mind and conscience more than this sin does. 2. It is supposed to be a sin which great care is taken by the sinners to conceal, which there is no witness of. The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, Job 24:15. And the adulteress takes her opportunity when the good man is not at home, Prov. 7:19. It would not covet to be secret if it were not shameful; and the devil who draws sinners to this sin teaches them how to cover it. 3. The spirit of jealousy is supposed to come upon the husband, of which Solomon says, It is the rage of a man (Prov. 6:34), and that it is cruel as the grave, Cant. 8:6. 4. "Yet" (say the Jewish writers) "he must make it appear that he has some just cause for the suspicion." The rule they give is, "If the husband have said unto his wife before witnesses, ‘Be not thou in secret with such a man;' and, notwithstanding that admonition, it is afterwards proved that she was in secret with that man, though her father or her brother, then he may compel her to drink the bitter water." But the law here does not tie him to that particular method of proving the just cause of his suspicion; it might be otherwise proved. In case it could be proved that she had committed adultery, she was to be put to death (Lev. 20:10); but, if it was uncertain, then this law took place. Hence, (1.) Let all wives be admonished not to give any the least occasion for the suspicion of their chastity; it is not enough that they abstain from the evil of uncleanness, but they must abstain from all appearance of it, from every thing that looks like it, or leads to it, or may give the least umbrage to jealousy; for how great a matter may a little fire kindle! (2.) Let all husbands be admonished not to entertain any causeless or unjust suspicions of their wives. If charity in general, much more conjugal affection, teaches to think no evil, 1 Co. 13:5. It is the happiness of the virtuous woman that the heart of her husband does safely trust in her, Prov. 31:11.

II. What was the course prescribed in this case, that, if the suspected wife was innocent, she might not continue under the reproach and uneasiness of her husband's jealousy, and, if guilty, her sin might find her out, and others might hear, and fear, and take warning.

1. The process of the trial must be thus:-(1.) Her husband must bring her to the priest, with the witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicion, and desire that she might be put upon her trial. The Jews say that the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth, saying to this purport, "Dear daughter, perhaps thou wast overtaken by drinking wine, or wast carried away by the heat of youth or the examples of bad neighbours; come, confess the truth, for the sake of his great name which is described in the most sacred ceremony, and do not let it be blotted out with the bitter water." If she confessed, saying, "I am defiled," she was not put to death, but was divorced and lost her dowry; if she said, "I am pure," then they proceeded. (2.) He must bring a coarse offering of barley-meal, without oil or frankincense, agreeably to the present afflicted state of his family; for a great affliction it was either to have cause to be jealous or to be jealous without cause. It is an offering of memorial, to signify that what was to be done was intended as a religious appeal to the omniscience and justice of God. (3.) The priest was to prepare the water of jealousy, the holy water out of the laver at which the priests were to wash when they ministered; this must be brought in an earthen vessel, containing (they say) about a pint; and it must be an earthen vessel, because the coarser and plainer every thing was the more agreeable it was to the occasion. Dust must be put into the water, to signify the reproach she lay under, and the shame she ought to take to herself, putting her mouth in the dust; but dust from the floor of the tabernacle, to put an honour upon every thing that pertained to the place God had chosen to put his name there, and to keep up in the people a reverence for it; see Jn. 8:6. (4.) The woman was to be set before the Lord, at the east gate of the temple-court (say the Jews), and her head was to be uncovered, in token of her sorrowful condition; and there she stood for a spectacle to the world, that other women might learn not to do after her lewdness, Eze. 23:48. Only the Jews say, "Her own servants were not to be present, that she might not seem vile in their sight, who were to give honour to her; her husband also must be dismissed." (5.) The priest was to adjure her to tell the truth, and to denounce the curse of God against her if she were guilty, and to declare what would be the effect of her drinking the water of jealousy, v. 19-22. He must assure her that, if she were innocent, the water would do her no harm, v. 19. None need fear the curse of the law if they have not broken the commands of the law. But, if she were guilty, this water would be poison to her, it would make her belly to swell and her thigh to rot, and she should be a curse or abomination among her people, v. 21, 22. To this she must say, Amen, as Israel must do to the curses pronounced on mount Ebal, Deu. 27:15-26. Some think the Amen, being doubled, respects both parts of the adjuration, both that which freed her if innocent and that which condemned her if guilty. No woman, if she were guilty, could say Amen to this adjuration, and drink the water upon it, unless she disbelieved the truth of God or defied his justice, and had come to such a pitch of impudence and hard-heartedness in sin as to challenge God Almighty to do his worst, and choose rather to venture upon his curse than to give him glory by making confession; thus has whoredom taken away the heart. (6.) The priest was to write this curse in a scrip or scroll of parchment, verbatim-word for word, as he had expressed it, and then to wipe or scrape out what he had written into the water (v. 23), to signify that it was that curse which impregnated the water, and gave it its strength to effect what was intended. It signified that, if she were innocent, the curse should be blotted out and never appear against her, as it is written, Isa. 43:25, I am he that blotteth out thy transgression, and Ps. 51:9, Blot out my iniquities; but that, if she were guilty, the curse, as it was written, being infused into the water, would enter into her bowels with the water, even like oil into her bones (Ps. 109:18), as we read of a curse entering into a house, Zec. 5:4. (7.) The woman must then drink the water (v. 24); it is called the bitter water, some think because they put wormwood in it to make it bitter, or rather because it caused the curse. Thus sin is called an evil thing and a bitter for the same reason, because it causeth the curse, Jer. 2:19. If she had been guilty (and otherwise it did not cause the curse), she was made to know that though her stolen waters had been sweet, and her bread eaten in secret pleasant, yet the end was bitter as wormwood, Prov. 9:17, and ch. 5:4. Let all that meddle with forbidden pleasures know that they will be bitterness in the latter end. The Jews say that if, upon denouncing the curse, the woman was so terrified that she durst not drink the water, but confessed she was defiled, the priest flung down the water, and cast her offering among the ashes, and she was divorced without dowry: if she confessed not, and yet would not drink, they forced her to it; and, if she was ready to throw it up again, they hastened her away, that she might not pollute the holy place. (8.) Before she drank the water, the jealousy-offering was waved and offered upon the altar (v. 25, 26); a handful of it was burnt for a memorial, and the remainder of it eaten by the priest, unless the husband was a priest, and then it was scattered among the ashes. This offering in the midst of the transaction signified that the whole was an appeal to God, as a God that knows all things, and from whom no secret is hid. (9.) All things being thus performed according to the law, they were to wait the issue. The water, with a little dust put into it, and the scrapings of a written parchment, had no natural tendency at all to do either good or hurt; but if God was thus appealed to in the way of an instituted ordinance, though otherwise the innocent might have continued under suspicion and the guilty undiscovered, yet God would so far own his own institution as that in a little time, by the miraculous operation of Providence, the innocency of the innocent should be cleared, and the sin of the guilty should find them out. [1.] If the suspected woman was really guilty, the water she drank would be poison to her (v. 27), her belly would swell and her thigh rot by a vile disease for vile deserts, and she would mourn at the last when her flesh and body were consumed, Prov. 5:11. Bishop Patrick says, from some of the Jewish writers, that the effect of these waters appeared immediately, she grew pale, and her eyes ready to start out of her head. Dr. Lightfoot says that sometimes it appeared not for two or three years, but she bore no children, was sickly, languished, and rotted at last; it is probable that some indications appeared immediately. The rabbin say that the adulterer also died in the same day and hour that the adulteress did, and in the same manner too, that his belly swelled, and his secret parts rotted: a disease perhaps not much unlike that which in these latter ages the avenging hand of a righteous God has made the scourge of uncleanness, and with which whores and whoremongers infect, and plague, and ruin one another, since they escape punishment from men. The Jewish doctors add that the waters had this effect upon the adulteress only in case the husband had never offended in the same kind; but that, if he had at any time defiled the marriage-bed, God did not thus right him against his injurious wife; and that therefore in the latter and degenerate ages of the Jewish church, when uncleanness did abound, this way of trial was generally disused and laid aside; men, knowing their own crimes, were content not to know their wives' crimes. And to this perhaps may refer the threatening (Hos. 4:14), I will not punish your spouses when they commit adultery, for you yourselves are separated with whores. [2.] If she were innocent, the water she drank would be physic to her: She shall be free, and shall conceive seed, v. 28. The Jewish writers magnify the good effects of this water to the innocent woman, that, to recompense her for the wrong done to her by the suspicion, she should, after the drinking of these waters, be stronger and look better than ever; if she was sickly, she should become healthful, should bear a man-child, and have easy labour.

2. From the whole we may learn, (1.) That secret sins are known to God, and sometimes are strangely brought to light in this life; however, there is a day coming when God will, by Jesus Christ, as here by the priest, judge the secrets of men according to the gospel, Rom. 2:16. (2.) That, in particular, Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. The violation of conjugal faith and chastity is highly provoking to the God of heaven, and sooner or later it will be reckoned for. Though we have not now the waters of jealousy to be a sensible terror to the unclean, yet we have a word from God which ought to be as great a terror, that if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, 1 Co. 3:17. (3.) That God will find out some way or other to clear the innocency of the innocent, and to bring forth their righteousness as the light. (4.) That to the pure all things are pure, but to the defiled nothing is so, Tit. 1:15. The same word is to some a savour of life unto life, to others a savour of death unto death, like those waters of jealousy, according as they receive it; the same providence is for good to some and for hurt to others, Jer. 24:5, 8, 9. And, whatsoever it is intended for, it shall not return void.[2]



d See Ex. 6:23

e See Lev. 8

f See Ex. 28:41

g ch. 26:61; Lev. 10:1, 2; 1 Chr. 24:2

h ch. 1:50; 8:6; 18:2

i ch. 8:11, 15, 24, 26

j ch. 8:19; 18:6

k ch. 8:16

l ch. 18:7; [Rom. 12:7]

m ver. 38; See ch. 1:51

n ver. 41; ch. 8:16; 18:6

o See Ex. 13:2

p ch. 8:17; Ex. 13:12, 15

q ver. 39; ch. 26:62; [ch. 1:47]

r ch. 26:57; Gen. 46:11; Ex. 6:16; 1 Chr. 6:1, 16; 23:6

s Ex. 6:17; 1 Chr. 6:17; 23:7

t Ex. 6:18; 1 Chr. 6:2, 18; 23:12

u Ex. 6:19; 1 Chr. 6:19; 23:21

1 Hebrew their listing was

v ch. 1:53

w ch. 4:24-26

x Ex. 25:9

y Ex. 26:7; 36:14

z Ex. 26:14

a Ex. 26:36

b Ex. 27:9

c Ex. 27:16

d ver. 37; Ex. 35:18; 39:40

e 1 Chr. 26:23

f [Ex. 6:22; Lev. 10:4]

g Ex. 25:10

h Ex. 25:23

i Ex. 25:31

j Ex. 27:1; 30:1

k Ex. 26:36

l ch. 4:31, 32

m Ex. 26:15

n Ex. 26:26

o Ex. 26:32, 37

p Ex. 27:10

q Ex. 27:19

r ver. 26

s See ch. 1:53

2 Hebrew guard

t [ver. 22, 28, 34; See ver. 46-49]

u ver. 12, 45

v ver. 12, 41

w ch. 18:15, 16; Ex. 13:13

x ch. 18:16; Lev. 27:6

3 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

y See Ex. 30:13

4 A gerah was about 1/50 ounce or 0.6 gram

z ver. 46, 47

a ver. 48

b ver. 23, 30, 35, 39, 43, 47; [ch. 8:24; 1 Chr. 23:3, 24, 27]

c ver. 19

d See Ex. 26:31

e Ex. 25:10, 16

1 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain; compare Exodus 25:5

f Ex. 25:13

g Ex. 25:23, 29, 30; 37:16; Lev. 24:6, 8

h 2 Chr. 2:4

i [Ex. 25:15, 28]

j See Ex. 25:31-39

k Ex. 30:1, 3

l [1 Chr. 9:28, 29]

m ch. 7:9; 10:21; Deut. 31:9

n 2 Sam. 6:6, 7; 1 Chr. 13:9, 10

o Ex. 25:6; 27:20; Lev. 24:2

p Ex. 25:6; 31:11

q Ex. 29:40, 41

r Ex. 31:11; See Ex. 30:23-33

s ver. 4

t [Ex. 19:21; 1 Sam. 6:19]

u ver. 3

v ch. 8:24; [Ex. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22]

w [ch. 3:25, 26]

x See Ex. 26:1-6; 36:8-13

y Ex. 36:14, 19

z ver. 33

u [See ver. 23 above]

a ch. 3:36, 37

b Ex. 38:21

c ver. 28

u [See ver. 23 above]

d ver. 2

u [See ver. 23 above]

e ver. 22

u [See ver. 23 above]

f ver. 29

u [See ver. 23 above]

g ver. 15, 24, 31

h ver. 1, 21, 29

i ch. 12:14; Lev. 13:46

1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

j Lev. 15:2

k ch. 9:6, 10; 19:11, 13; 31:19; Lev. 21:1; [Hag. 2:13]

l See Lev. 26:11, 12

m Lev. 6:2, 3

n Lev. 5:5; 26:40; [Josh. 7:19]

2 Hebrew they shall confess their sin that they have committed

o Lev. 6:5

p Lev. 6:6, 7

q ch. 18:19; Ex. 29:28; Lev. 6:17, 18; 7:6, 7, 9, 10, 14; Deut. 18:3, 4

r Lev. 18:20

s John 8:4

3 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters

t [Lev. 2:1, 15; 5:11]

u 1 Kgs. 17:18; Ezek. 29:16

v [1 Cor. 11:5-7]

w [Jer. 29:22]

x Ps. 109:18

y See Deut. 27:15-26

z [Lev. 8:27]

a Lev. 2:2, 9; 5:12

b Deut. 28:37; Jer. 24:9; 29:18, 22; 42:18; 44:12; Zech. 8:13

c ver. 19, 20

d Lev. 20:17, 19, 20

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Nu 3:1-5:31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 189-192). Peabody: Hendrickson.