Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.X.
(2) Of a whole piece.—Better, of beaten (or, turned) work. (See Notes on Exodus 25:18; Exodus 25:31.) The trumpets here spoken of are supposed to have been straight, like that on the triumphal arch of Titus at Rome and on the old Egyptian monuments. In this respect the hazozerah is supposed to have differed from the cornet or horn, keren or shophar (which is interchanged with keren), which was crooked. (See Joshua 6:5. compared with 6:4, 6, 8, 13.) We find reference to the jubilee trumpet in Leviticus 25:9, from which it has been inferred that the trumpets here mentioned were not first made at this time. It is true, indeed, that the first verse might be rendered: “Now the Lord had spoken unto Moses, saying”; but the word used in Leviticus 25:9 is shophar, not hazozerah, and the latter word occurs in this place for the first time.
And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.(4) With one trumpet.—Or, but once (or, at the same time). (Comp. Job 33:14; Proverbs 28:18; Jeremiah 10:8.) Some suppose that the meaning is that the trumpets were to be blown at the same time with one even or uniform sound, and that not a continuous one.
When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward.(5) When ye blow an alarm.—The word teruah, alarm, is supposed to denote a loud and continuous blast, by which the signal for the moving of the camps was distinguished from those which were used for the summoning of the congregation, or of the princes (Numbers 10:7). In the former of these cases some suppose that both trumpets were blown, and in the latter only one (Numbers 10:4 and Note. Comp. Light-foot’s Temple Service, Numbers 7:5; Numbers 7:2.) The fuller directions respecting the order in which the camps were to break up are given in Numbers 2. Here the order of the eastern and southern camps only is prescribed. In the LXX., however, we read thus: “And ye shall sound a third alarm, and the camps pitched by the sea (i.e., westward), shall move forward; and ye shall sound a fourth alarm, and they that encamp toward the north shall move forward; they shall sound an alarm at their departure.”
But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm.(7) But ye shall not sound an alarm.—A clear and intelligible distinction was to be made between the summons to the princes, or to the congregation, to assemble at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and the signal for the moving of the camps. So the gospel trumpet must at no time give an uncertain sound (1Corinthians 14:8), but must be used faithfully and diligently by the spiritual watchmen, whether it be to warn the ungodly, to arouse the careless, or to speak to the hearts of God’s people.
And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations.(8) And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets.—As Aaron had only two sons at this time, there was need only of two trumpets. In most of the places in which the word hazozerah (trumpet) occurs (as, e.g., Numbers 31:6; 1Chronicles 15:24), this instrument appears to have been used by the priests. There are cases, however, in the later history (as 2Kings 11:14; 1Chronicles 16:42), in which the trumpets appear to have been used by the Levites, and perhaps by those who were neither priests nor Levites. The number of these trumpets was increased in the time of David and Solomon. We read in 1Chronicles 15:24 of seven priests blowing with them before the ark of God, and in 2Chronicles 5:12 of one hundred and twenty priests blowing with them. Josephus says that Solomon made 200,000 trumpets, according to the command of Moses (Antiq., Book 8, chap. 3).
And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.(9) And if ye go to war.—Better, And when ye shall go to war. In Numbers 31:6 we read that in the war against the Midianites, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, had these trumpets of alarm (hazozeroth) in his hand. So also Abijah, in his address to Jeroboam, previously to the battle, lays great stress upon the fact that Judah had on their side the priests with the trumpets of alarm (2Chronicles 13:12; 2Chronicles 13:14). On the other hand, the seven priests who compassed the city of Jericho carried the shophar, or keren—i.e., rams’ horn—not the hazozerah, or silver trumpet.
Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.(10) In the day of your gladness.—As, e.g., at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2Chronicles 5:13), and at the cleansing of the Temple by Hezekiah (2Chronicles 29:27-28). Compare Psalm 98:6.
For a memorial.—Compare Leviticus 23:24.
Before your God: I am the Lord your God.—Or, Before your God, (even) before me, Jehovah, your God. (Comp. Numbers 3:13 and Note.)
And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony.(11) On the twentieth day of the second month.—It appears from Exodus 19:1 that the Israelites encamped before Mount Sinai in the third month of the preceding year, and, as is generally supposed, on the first day of the month. In this case the encampment at the foot of Mount Sinai had lasted eleven months and nineteen days. No day of the month, however, is specified in Exod. xix 1, and no certain reliance can be placed upon the Jewish tradition that the Law was delivered fifty days after the Exodus. There is the same omission of the day of the month in Numbers 9:1; Numbers 20:1.
And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.(12) And the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.—The fact is here mentioned by way of anticipation (see Numbers 10:33). The spot referred to is probably Kibroth-hattaavah, which may have been at the southernmost extremity of the wilderness of Paran. In Deuteronomy 1:19 it is called “that great and terrible wilderness.” This wilderness is supposed to have been bounded by the land of Canaan on the north, by the valley of Arabah on the east, and by the desert of Sinai on the south. Its western boundary appears to have been the wilderness of Shur, or rather the river, or brook, of Egypt (Wady-el-Arish), which divides the wilderness into two parts, of which the western part is sometimes known as the wilderness of Shur. The sojourn of the Israelites was confined to the eastern part. (See Kurtz’s History of the Old Covenant, 3 p. 221.)
And the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle.(17) And the tabernacle was taken down . . . —The order of precedence as regards the twelve tribes which were encamped on the four sides of the Tabernacle is clearly laid down in Numbers 2, where it is ordered that the camp of the Lervites should set forward “in the midst of the camps” (Numbers 10:17). The precise position which the three bodies of Levites were to occupy in the marches is defined in this chapter. The Gershonites, who had the charge of the curtains and hangings of the Tabernacle and the court (Numbers 4:25-26), with their two wagons, and the Merarites, who had the charge of the heavier and more bulky materials (Numbers 4:31-32), with their four wagons, were to set forward after the first or eastern camp, which was composed of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, in order that they might have time to erect the Tabernacle before the arrival of the Kohathites, “bearing the sanctuary” (or sacred things). Next in order after the Gershonites and Merarites followed the southern camp, consisting of the three tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. Then followed the Kohathites in the centre of the procession, “bearing the sanctuary.” After them marched the three tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, who formed the western camp, and as the rereward, the three tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, which formed the northern camp. This arrangement serves to throw light upon Psalm 80:2 : “Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.
Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel according to their armies, when they set forward.(28) When they set forward.—Better, and they set forward.
And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father in law, We are journeying unto the place of which the LORD said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the LORD hath spoken good concerning Israel.(29) Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law.—Raguel is the same as Reuel (Exodus 2:18), and the orthography should be the same in all places. Reuel is commonly supposed to be identical with Jether (Exodus 4:18), or Jethro (Exodus 3:1), who is frequently described as the hothen (in the Authorised Version, “father-in-law”) of Moses (Numbers 18:2; Numbers 18:5-6, &c.). But, according to the ordinary rules of Hebrew syntax, Hobab, not Jethro, is here spoken of as the hothen of Moses; and in Judges 4:11 he is expressly so called. Inasmuch, however, as the cognate noun hathan is used to designate any near relation by marriage—as, e.g., the sons-in-law of Lot (Genesis 19:14)—the word hothen may here and in Judges 4:11 be rendered brother-in-law. Some, however, think that Hobab, whether identical with Jethro or not, was the son of Reuel, and that Zipporah was the daughter of Hobab. But when it is remembered that more than forty years had elapsed since Moses left the land of Egypt and came into that of Midian, and that he was now upwards of eighty years of age, it is much more probable that he should seek the aid of a guide through the wilderness amongst those of the same generation with Zipporah than amongst those of a generation above her. Whether Hobab accompanied Jethro on the occasion of the visit to Moses which is recorded in Exodus 18, whilst the Israelites were encamped at Sinai, and remained with them after Jethro’s departure (Numbers 10:27), or whether the Israelites had already commenced their journey (compare the words of Moses, “We are journeying,” or, setting forward, with the concluding words of Numbers 10:28, and they set forward, and were at this time passing through the territory in which Hobab, as the chief of a nomad tribe, was living, cannot positively be determined.
We are journeying unto the place . . . —These words imply a strong faith in God’s promise on the part of Moses, and a desire, not indeed altogether devoid of reference to mutual advantages, that those with whom he was connected by ties of earthly relationship should be partakers with himself and his people in the peculiar blessings which were promised to the chosen people of God. In any case, the invitation of Moses, when viewed as the mouthpiece of the Jewish Church, may be regarded in the light of an instructive lesson to the Church of Christ in all ages. It is alike the duty and the privilege of all who have heard and obeyed the Gospel invitation themselves to become the instruments of its communication to others. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come” (Revelation 22:17).
And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.(30) And he said unto him, I will not go . . . —It is not expressly stated in the narrative whether Hobab did or did not ultimately accompany the Israelites on their march. It appears most probable, however, that the renewed solicitation of Moses proved effectual. In any case, it is certain from Judges 1:16 that the Kenites, as a body, “went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah,” and that “they went and dwelt among the people.” (See Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11; 1Samuel 15:6; 2Kings 10:15; compared with 1Chronicles 2:55.)
And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.(31) How we are to encamp . . . —It is clear from these words, as well as from many indications of the same nature, that notwithstanding the direct guidance which was vouchsafed from heaven, and the miraculous interpositions of Providence which the Israelites experienced throughout their journeys, Moses did not neglect to take advantage of all the ordinary precautions of which it was incumbent upon him as the leader of his people to avail himself. The line of march and the places of encampment were clearly marked out by the cloud, but many difficulties would arise in the course of the journeys, and at the places of encampment, which Hobab’s familiarity with the desert would enable him to meet.
And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days' journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them.(33) Three days’ journey.—The place at which the first protracted halt was made appears to have been either at Taberah, which means burning, or at Kibroth-hattaavah, the graves of lust. (Comp. Numbers 11:3; Numbers 33:16; see also Note on Numbers 11:34.)
And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them.—It has been inferred from the fact that the Kohathites had the charge of the ark (Numbers 3:31), and that they were to set forward, “bearing the sanctuary,” after the second or southern camp, i.e., in the midst of the host, that the position of the ark during the journeys was in that place, and not in front. The obvious objection to this supposition arising out of the fact that the cloud which directed the march rested upon, or over, the ark may be overcome by the consideration that the cloud appears to have extended over the whole of the host during the journeys, and to have served as a protection from the scorching heat (see Numbers 10:34; also Exodus 13:21; Nehemiah 9:12; Psalm 105:39). On the other hand, the natural interpretation of this verse is that the ark was borne in front of the host, and did not merely serve to direct its line of march as a general, whose station might be in any part of an army. This interpretation is confirmed by Exodus 13:21, Deuteronomy 1:33, and also by the position which the ark occupied at the passage of the Jordan. In the latter case the people were expressly directed to go after the ark (Joshua 3:3); and in Numbers 10:11 the same word is used which occurs in this verse, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.” It will not follow, however, as a necessary inference, that the ark uniformly occupied the same position in all the journeys, and it cannot be denied that Numbers 10:21 presents a difficulty, partly arising from the ambiguity of meaning which is to be attached to the word mikdash, sanctuary, and partly from the omission of any word in the Hebrew corresponding to the words in italics, the other. Ibn Ezra thinks that this three days’ journey was different from all the other journeys in respect of the position of the ark.
And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.(35-36) And it came to pass . . . —It appears from these words that the marches of the Israelites began and ended with prayer, a significant lesson to the Church of all after ages. It is deserving of observation that the prayers were offered by Moses, not by Aaron. The inverted nuns, or parenthetical marks, which are found in a large number of Hebrew manuscripts at the beginning and end of these verses, are thought by some to denote their insertion as a break in the narrative whilst others have ascribed to them a mystical meaning. The words, “Return, O Lord,” Bishop “Wordsworth observes,” pre-announced the blessed time of rest and peace, when God would abide with His Church on earth, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, and will tabernacle for ever with His people in heavenly rest and joy.” (Revelation 7:15; Revelation 21:3.)