Numbers 10
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The two silver Clarions

Numbers 10:2 a. Their workmanship; Numbers 10:2 b – Num 10:8, their three-fold use during the wanderings; Numbers 10:9-10, their two-fold use in Canaan.

Second Division: chs. Numbers 10:11 to Numbers 22:1. Journeys between Sinai and Moab

Chapters Numbers 10:11 to Numbers 22:1 form the second main division of the book, comprising the journeyings between the departure from Sinai and the arrival at the steppes of Moab opposite Jericho. The first division is entirely from P , but at this point the compiler begins to insert into P narratives from the earlier writings J and E .

The contents of the second division are briefly as follows:

(a) Numbers 10:11 to Numbers 12:16. Events in the journey from Sinai to the Wilderness of Paran.

(b) Numbers 13, 14. The narrative of the spies; the Israelites are condemned to wander for forty years.

(c) Numbers 15–19. A Priestly section containing a variety of laws on ritual and offerings, and (Num 16:1–17:11) the narrative of Korah combined with the narrative (from J E ) of Dathan and Abiram.

(d) Numbers 20:1–22:1. Events in the journeys until the arrival at Moab.

It will be seen that this is not a history of the wanderings, but only of a few incidents at the beginning and at the end of them. See the preliminary note on ch. 20.

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.
2. trumpets] or Clarions (ḥaẓôẓerôth). This rendering serves to distinguish the word from (a) the ‘ram’s horn’ (yôbhçl), used at Sinai (Exodus 19:13), at Jericho (Joshua 6:5), and to usher in the year of yôbhçl, i.e. the ‘Jubile’—(b) the ‘trumpet’ (shôphâr), which was the instrument ordinarily employed for secular purposes. The clarion is a secular instrument only in Hosea 5:8 (R.V. ‘cornet’), 2 Kings 11:14 = 2 Chronicles 23:13 (R.V. ‘trumpet’). It is a sacred instrument in Psalm 98:6 and frequently in P and Chr.-Ezr.-Neh. Its shape was that of a straight slender tube with an expanding mouth. See the illustrations in Driver’s Amos, p. 145.

2b–8. During the journeyings the clarions are to be used for summoning an assembly of the congregation (Numbers 10:3), or a council of the princes (Numbers 10:4), or for a signal to start on the march (Numbers 10:5-6).

And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
3. when they shall blow] See on Numbers 10:5.

with them] i.e. with both of them together, in contrast with the use of one alone in Numbers 10:4.

And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.
When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward.
5. blow an alarm] A signal quite different from the simple ‘blow’ in Numbers 10:3-4. But it is not known in what the difference consisted. Some think that ‘to blow’ means to produce a single long blast, while ‘to blow an alarm’ was to produce several short sharp notes—a ‘fanfare’ (Heb. terû‛âh). But the converse is equally likely.

When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys.
6. they shall blow an alarm for their journeys] i.e. for their startings. This is apparently intended as a brief way of saying that for each of the four groups of tribes a separate alarm shall be blown as a signal to start. It might be expected that the priestly writer, with his love of repetition, would continue his statement in similar language for the other three groups. In the LXX. this is actually done, the order being East, South, West, North. This statement has very possibly dropped out of the Heb. text. In the Vulg. there is the short sentence ‘and according to this manner shall the rest do.’

But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm.
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.
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. 2 Chronicles 13:12-16 relates an occasion on which the clarions brought success in battle.

9, 10. In Canaan the clarions are to be used in war (Numbers 10:9) and in peace (Numbers 10:10); and their purpose, in both, is to remind Jehovah of His people; see Numbers 5:26.

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. the day of your gladness] Any special public festival of joy or thanksgiving, e.g. after a victory.

your set feasts] your fixed solemnities, whether festival or fast. They are enumerated in the priestly calendar (ch. 28 f., Leviticus 23)—the Passover, the three Annual Festivals (viz. Feast of Unleavened Cakes; F. of Weeks; F. of Booths), the Day of Atonement, and the F. of Trumpet-blowing.

in the beginnings of your months] Every new moon, i.e. the 1st day of the month. The F. of Trumpet-blowing was the greatest of these—the 1st day of the sacred seventh month (Numbers 29:1). See Psalm 81:3 f.

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. The date Isaiah 19 days later than that in Numbers 1:1; Numbers 1:10 months 19 days after the arrival at Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:1; Exodus 40:17).

the cloud was taken up] It had remained for one month and 19 days, and now was lifted as a signal for departure, as explained in Numbers 9:17-22.

the tabernacle of the testimony] See on Numbers 1:50.

Numbers 10:11-34The departure from Sinai

The section consists of two well-defined narratives: Numbers 10:11-28 (P ) and Numbers 10:29-33 (J ). The latter is obviously parallel to the former, and not a continuation of it; Moses’ request to Ḥobab was made immediately before the departure, Numbers 10:34 is P’s continuation of Numbers 10:28.

And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.
12. their journeys] their stages; cf. Numbers 33:1 f., Exodus 17:1.

the cloud abode] The verb is that to which mishkân ‘dwelling’ corresponds. The cloud settled down and abode upon the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Paran, as a sign that they were to halt there. See the opening note on ch. 11.

Paran] This wilderness lay to the north of the Sinaitic peninsula. Its eastern border would be roughly a line drawn from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba. It is closely connected with Edom in Deuteronomy 33:2, Habakkuk 3:3. See the writer’s Exodus, p. ciii. It lay between Midian and Egypt (1 Kings 11:18); and was Ishmael’s dwelling-place (Genesis 21:21 E ). It apparently corresponded to the modern desert of Et-tih.

And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
In the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah according to their armies: and over his host was Nahshon the son of Amminadab.
14–27. The group of tribes on the east of the Tabernacle having marched first, the hangings and structure of the Tent and the court were then carried by the Gershonites and Merarites. They were followed by the tribes on the south side; and then the sacred furniture and utensils were carried by the Kohathites. Next came the tribes on the west side, and those on the north side brought up the rear.

And over the host of the tribe of the children of Issachar was Nethaneel the son of Zuar.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.
And the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle.
17. The verbs in this and the following verse, and in 21 f., 25, are perfects with Vav. This use, to describe consecutive actions in the past, though not unexampled in late literature, is rare. And it is probable that the writer intended them to be frequentative. The order of the host in the first march was that which was observed throughout the journeys.

And the standard of the camp of Reuben set forward according to their armies: and over his host was Elizur the son of Shedeur.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: and the other did set up the tabernacle against they came.
21. the sanctuary] But the sacred structure is already in the hands of the Gershonites and Merarites. The required meaning is the holy things, and Ḳôdesh is probably the true reading, as in Numbers 4:15 (see note there).

the other did set up] Heb. has loosely ‘and they [used to] set up,’ which is equivalent to the passive verb ‘and the Tabernacle used to be set up,’ i.e. by the other Levites.

29–33 J . This earlier account of the departure from Sinai relates that Moses asked Ḥobab to be their guide, because he would be well acquainted with the places of encampment en route.

And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set forward according to their armies: and over his host was Elishama the son of Ammihud.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.
And the standard of the camp of the children of Dan set forward, which was the rereward of all the camps throughout their hosts: and over his host was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ocran.
And over the host of the tribe of the children of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan.
Thus were the journeyings of the children of Israel according to their armies, when 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 Reuel … Moses’ father in law] These words do not make it clear whether Moses’ father-in-law is Ḥobab or Reuel. In Exodus 2:18 he is Reuel; and accordingly in Jdg 4:11 Ḥobab is described (in R.V. ) as ‘the brother-in-law of Moses’ (and cf. Jdg 1:16). But ‘brother-in-law’ and ‘father-in-law’ are renderings of the same Heb. word ḥôthçn; and it would be strange to find the father and the brother of the same man’s wife described by the same term. Moreover Exodus 2:16 appears to imply that Moses’ father-in-law had no sons. It seems probable that ‘Reuel’ is a late insertion in Exodus 2:18 by some one who misunderstood the present passage, and that Ḥobab was really the name of Moses’ father-in-law in J . In E the name Jethro is used (Exodus 3:1; Exodus 4:18; Exodus 18:1-2; Exodus 18:5-6; Exodus 18:9-11). The form Raguel (A.V. from the Vulg. ) for Reuel is due to the LXX. Ῥαγουήλ, where the γ represents the guttural ‛ayin in the Heb. word.

The narrative of the incident is only fragmentary, for the account of Ḥobab’s arrival at Sinai (to which the parallel in E is found in Exodus 18) is omitted, and also the answer which he made to Moses’ intreaty. It may be gathered, however, from Jdg 1:16; Jdg 4:11 that he yielded and went with them.

And he said unto him, I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.
30. Ḥobab’s words shew that the route from Sinai to his home in Midian (which was on the east of the Golf of Akaba) was in a different direction from the route to Canaan. This is one of the many indications that Sinai did not lie in the position traditionally assigned to it, and found in modern maps, at the south of the peninsula; otherwise the route of the Israelites would have coincided with that of Ḥobab for a large part of the distance. The site of Sinai seems to have been further north, in the region of Ḳadesh. See the writer’s Exodus, pp. xcviii–cvi1 [Note: Driver (Exodus in this series, pp. 177–191) inclines to the traditional site.] .

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. instead of eyes] his presence would obviate the necessity of searching for halting places.

And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the LORD shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.
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] A characteristic expression of J ; cf. Genesis 30:36, Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:27.

33b. the ark of the covenant of Jehovah] This description of the ark, as containing the tablets of the covenant (i.e. the decalogue), is Deuteronomic; cf. Numbers 14:44, Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:25, Joshua 4:7; Joshua 4:18; Joshua 6:8 &c.

went before them three days’ journey] It is very doubtful if the text can be right. The ark would be useless as a guide if it were three days’ journey in advance. In Joshua 3:4 (P ) it went 2000 cubits (c. 1000 yards) in front. The words ‘three days’ journey’ may have been accidentally repeated from the former half of the verse, and should perhaps be omitted.

And the cloud of the LORD was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.
34. the cloud of Jehovah was over them] This appears to mean ‘over the Tabernacle’ as it was carried in the line of march, in which case the passage is from P and is the continuation of Numbers 10:28. The expression ‘cloud of Jehovah’ occurs elsewhere only in Exodus 40:38 (P ), but that is perhaps a wrong reading for ‘the cloud was’ (יִהְיֶה). See below on Numbers 14:14.

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.
Numbers 10:35-36. J

Prayers connected with the movements of the Ark

The two prayers have no real connexion with the journeyings. They appear to belong to a time when the Israelites had reached Canaan, and used to take the Ark with them into battle. The first prayer speaks of victory over enemies; and the second implies that the Ark returns to its sanctuary after the battle. In the desert it never returned to the people, but waited in advance until they came up to it.

35. The prayer is quoted in Psalm 68:1.

36. unto the myriads of the thousands] i.e. of the clans of Israel. See on Numbers 1:16; Numbers 1:46.

And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.
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