|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
15:30-36 Those are to be reckoned presumptuous sinners, who sin designedly against God's will and glory. Sins thus committed are exceedingly sinful. He that thus breaks the commandment reproaches the Lord. He also despises the word of the Lord. Presumptuous sinners despise it, thinking themselves too great, too good, and too wise, to be ruled by it. A particular instance of presumption in the sin of sabbath-breaking is related. The offence was gathering sticks on the sabbath day, to make a fire, whereas the people were to bake and seethe what they had occasion for, the day before, Ex 16:23. This was done as an affront both to the law and to the Lawgiver. God is jealous for the honour of his sabbaths, and will not hold him guiltless who profanes them, whatever men may do. God intended this punishment for a warning to all, to make conscience of keeping holy the sabbath. And we may be assured that no command was ever given for the punishment of sin, which, at the judgment day, shall not prove to have come from perfect love and justice. The right of God to a day of devotion to himself, will be disputed and denied only by such as listen to the pride and unbelief of their hearts, rather than to the teaching of the Spirit of truth and life. Wherein consists the difference between him who was detected gathering sticks in the wilderness on the day of God, and the man who turns his back upon the blessings of sabbath appointments, and the promises of sabbath mercies, to use his time, his cares, and his soul, in heaping up riches; and waste his hours, his property, and his strength in sinful pleasure? Wealth may come by the unhallowed effort, but it will not come alone; it will have its awful reward. Sinful pursuits lead to ruin.
Verse 34. - They put him in ward, (cf. Leviticus 24:12), because it was not declared what should be done to him. This is perplexing, because the punishment of death had been decreed in Exodus 31:14, 15, and Exodus 35:2. It seems an evasion to say that although death had been decreed, the mode of death had not been fixed; for
(1) it was clearly part of the Divine answer that the offence was really capital (see verse 35 a), and
(2) it was understood that in such cases death was to be inflicted by stoning (see Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 24:14; Joshua 7:25; in the last case the command was to bum the delinquents with fire, yet it was rightly taken for granted that they were to be stoned to death first). There are only two explanations which are satisfactory because they are honest.
1. The incident may possibly have occurred between the first institution of the sabbath (Exodus 16:23, 29) and the decree of death to those that broke it. There is nothing in the record as it stands here to contradict such an assumption.
2. It is more likely that it occurred after the departure from Sinai, and that the hesitation in dealing with the criminal was duo not to any real uncertainty as to the law, but to unwillingness to inflict so extreme and so (apparently) disproportioned a punishment for such an offence without a further appeal. If it be said that such unwillingness to carry out a plain command would have been sinful, it is sufficient to answer that Moses and Aaron and the elders were human beings, and must have shrunk from visiting with a cruel death the trivial breach of a purely arbitrary commandment.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they put him in ward,.... In a certain prison in the camp; perhaps the same in which the blasphemer was put, Leviticus 24:12; and for much the same reason:
because it was not declared what should be done to him: that is, what kind of death he should die, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra; it had been before declared that the sabbath breaker should die, but not what death he should die, Exodus 31:15; though some think it was a matter of doubt whether gathering of sticks was a breach of the sabbath, or at least such a breach of it as required death; and the answer of the Lord seems to confirm this sense, as follows.
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