Numbers 9
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

The Little Passover for Rehabilitating those that had been Unclean for the Camp. The Stranger as a Convert

CHAPTER 9:1–14

1AND the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the 2children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth 3day of this month,1 at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the 2rites of it, and according to all the 3ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. 4And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passoNum 9:5And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month1 at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel.

6And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day. 7And those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore 4are we kept back, that we may not offer an 5offering of the LORD in his appointed season among the children of Israel? 8And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the LORD will command concerning you.

9And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, 6yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. 11The fourteenth day of the second month1 at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the 7ordinances of the passover they shall keep it. 13But the man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the doffering of the LORD in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin. 14And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the fordinance of the passover, and according to the bmanner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.


[Num 9:6. וַיְהִי אנשׁים. “Many codices have וַיִּהְיוּא; yet comp. Gen. 1:14.” MAURER.

Num 9:10. רְחֹקָהֹ is one of the words marked as suspicious by puncta extraordinaria. KEIL says: “probably first of all simply on the ground that the more exact definition is not found in Num 9:13. The Rabbins suppose the marks to indicate that רחקה is not to be taken here in its literal sense, but denotes merely distance from Jerusalem, or from the threshold of the outer court of the temple.” LANGE’S remark is: “the expression רחקה only occasions critical considerations; it is immaterial whether the man is on a distant way, or at a distance on his way.”—וְעָשָׂה is to be rendered as in Num 9:14. The latter case implies the liberty of omitting the celebration of the Passover as something not obligatory on a stranger; comp. Exod. 12:48. Similarly it was not obligatory on an Israelite to observe the Passover, if he was Levitically disqualified at the period of its observance.

Num 9:14b. “יִהְיֶה stands for תִּהְיֶה, as in Exod. 12:49; comp. EWALD, § 295, d.” KEIL. But as הָיָה לָכֶם is the same as ye have, the object possessed may be regarded as in the accusative; there shall be to you, that is, ye shall have one statute. The disagreement in number and gender between the seeming subject and the verb הָיָה in similar expressions to the present is in favor of this construction. See NAEGELSBACH, §100, 4, rem. 1.—TR.]


1. The present section gives us very plain evidence that all the representations of the book of Numbers up to this point are devoted to the equipment of the army of God for its military expedition. For instance, in respect to time, this regulation concerning the celebration of the Passover by such as were become unclean reaches very far back beyond the fourteenth day of the first month. But it is placed in this connection because here it treats of the completeness of the celebration of the Passover by the entire army of God, and because those who were unclean and those on journeys would be absent at the legal period. This gap must also at length be filled up. The chief stress is thus on the Little Passover. As KNOBEL neglects the fundamental idea of the whole section, it is, of course, no wonder that he writes: “It is not explained why the author gives this regulation only here, and not before chapters 1–4.” Midnight darkness! [On the Little Passover see SMITH’S Bib. Dict. article PASSOVER.—TR.]

2. Num 9:1–5. The celebration of the Passover. The text here makes a striking return to the institution of the Passover (Exod. 12). Yet it can hardly be for the purpose of obviating a misunderstanding that the Israelites might have had concerning Exod. 12:24, 25, viz., that they were not to resume the celebration of the Passover until they entered Palestine. But it was for the purpose of establishing the regulation for the complete celebration of the Passover. KEIL correctly supposes that the blood of the Passover, now that the altar was set up, was sprinkled on the altar, as was the blood of all slaughtered animals (Lev. 17:3–6). Difficulty is made by some (KURTZ) in reference to sprinkling so much blood of so many lambs as something beyond the ability of the priests [who were so few, viz., Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, as Nadab and Abihu were now dead] to do. On this subject KEIL treats [showing that the difficulty is exaggerated, (1) in reference to the number of lambs killed, (2) in reference to the necessity of slaughtering them in the court of the Tabernacle.—TR.]

3. Num 9:6–14. The Little Passover. The men that approach Moses and Aaron with their inquiry appear to have been disquieted by the fear of a collision of duties. They see themselves legally prevented from taking part on the 14th of Nisan in the celebration of the oblation for Jehovah, which certainly consisted in the atoning blood. This was in consequence of the law Lev. 7:21 regarding any one denied by contact with a dead body (נֶפֶשׁ אָדָם). Yet the law required the celebration to be on that day. [The inquiry seemed prompted by the desire of sharing a privilege rather than by the fear of coming short in duty; see Text. and Gram. on Num 9:10. Certain men. “Probably (comp. BLUNT’S Script. Coincidences, pp. 62–65) Mishael and Elizaphan, who buried their cousins, Nadab and Abihu, within a week of this Passover (Lev. 10:4, 5). None would be more likely to make this inquiry of Moses than his kinsmen, who had denied themselves by his express direction. ‘The Bib. Com.’ ”—TR.]. That Moses even here does not immediately give his decision, but desires first to inquire of the Lord, accords with the great fidelity and prudence of the prophet. Moreover the decision appears in every respect an illumination. With the unclean are associated also those that are delayed by a journey.

But the period for the Little Passover is exactly determined; it must be one month later. But because with this permission there might easily be joined arbitrary license, the exact observance of the rite, in the first place, is insisted on, and, secondly, the abuse of this regulation for a more convenient celebration in the second month, the feigned hindrance as a neglect of the Passover, is made punishable even with death. For the celebration of the Passover is, next to circumcision, the sign of Israelitish fidelity. This ordinance is also extended to the stranger, so far as he desires to be an Israelite (Exod. 12:48).


Num 9:1–14. The Little, Passover a proof of the imperfection of the law of the letter, which occasions an apparent conflict of duties (keeping the Passover at the time legally appointed, and avoiding the Passover on account of uncleanness), but also a proof of the spiritual germ in the legislation.—Better not celebrate the Passover, than celebrate it in a state of uncleanness. Application to the communion. The false application, that thinks it is necessary to feel free from sin, is reproved by the formulas of preparation. The Little Passover a type of private communion and of the communing of the sick.



The Cloud as the Symbolic Leader of the Army of God

CHAPTER 9:15–23

15And on the day 8that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17And when the cloud was taken up from the 9tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel 10pitched their tents. 18At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they cpitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they crested in their tents. 19And when the cloud 11tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and 20journeyed not. And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they cabode in their tents, and according 21to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed. And 12 so it was, when the cloud 13abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud 22was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or 14a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23At the commandment of the LORD they erested in their tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.


[Num 9:15. יִהְיֶה, here and in following verse the future or imperfect denoting repeated action; see GREEN, § 263, 4.—מִשְׁכָּן לְאֹהֶל הָעֵדָת, “the dwelling of the tent of witness” (לְ used for the genitive to avoid a double construct state: EWALD, § 292, a) KEIL.

Num 9:17. לְפִי הֵעָלוֹת הֶעָנָן; the infinitive constr. used genitively after a substantive in the construct state; but represents a direct sentence, = “as often as the cloud arose.”

Num 9:20. יָמִים מִסְפָּר; an instance of the absolute state of the substantive where we would expect the construct state, e. g., יְמֵי מִסְפָּר. The substantive is co-ordinated with its attribute, and the latter gives the impression of being used as a substitute for an adjective that is wanting, or as an intensified adjective notion. Comp. EWALD, § 287, h.TR.].


We have finally a statement of the guidance of the divine army in a symbolical form, yet in very definite traits. Two considerations make it plain that the cloud over the Tabernacle did not lead the expedition in a literal sense. When they began their march the banner of Judah took position in the van, and joined to Judah were Issachar and Zebulun. Not till after these did the Levites come with the Tabernacle. And this was agreeably to military usage; the Tabernacle with its sacred treasures ought not to be exposed to hostile attack. Thus it could not be the guiding head of the army in a literal sense. Moreover it is said in Num 9:18: “at the commandment (mouth) of the Lord the children of Israel camped.” Therefore the opinion of KNOBEL and ZUNZ accords poorly with Biblical theology, when they explain that the Israelites read the meaning of God in the motion of the cloud. The departure takes place here, as did the departure out of Egypt, according to the word of the Lord to Moses (10:13). What the Lord said to Moses is immediately illustrated, for the religious view of the people, by the cloud and pillar of fire which is now joined to the Tabernacle. KEIL seems to conceive of the matter as a wholly material, standing miraculous sign; that the cloud appears lifted up, to indicate an advance, and then stands again over the Tent when the procession should rest. So, too, he assumes that the glory of the Lord, in an outward fashion, continually filled the Holiest of all, appealing to Exod. 40:34–38. But the glory of the Lord as the manifested divine splendor of the God who reveals Himself, presupposes eyes of faith that are looking on, and they showed themselves, e.g., when the high-priest went into the Holiest of all. According to a fundamental law of the patriarchal and prophetic sphere, the word of God precedes, then follows the visible sign; within the sphere of the legal discipline of the people, this order is reversed, e. g., the celebration of the Passover. Thus God’s word in the mouth of the prophet led Israel, and the cloud led them as a sign of this. But the divine illumination of Moses did not once disdain to co-operate with the knowledge of the desert of his brother-in-law Hobab: “Leave me not,” he said to him, “forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness” (10:31). In like manner, too, he had earlier taken human counsel with his father-in-law Jethro (Exod. 18). KEIL justly remarks: the explanation cannot be justified: “the cloud covered the dwelling of the Tent of Testimony,” i.e., at the compartment in which the Testimony was, the Holiest of all (ROSENMULLER, KNOBEL [BUSH, The Bible Comm.TR.]). [The controlling statement in reference to this matter is Exod. 40:34, which expressly affirms that the cloud covered the whole Tent of Meeting. Accordingly (Num 9:15) the addition of the phrase Tent of Testimony must not be taken as nearer specification of the locality; for which moreover the לְ does not suit, (see Text. and Gram.). It is intended to describe the whole Tabernacle with reference to a particular fact that was important with respect to what is stated about the cloud. The testimony was the tables of the decalogue that were in the ark of the covenant (Exod. 25:16). These formed the basis of Jehovah’s covenant with Israel and the pledge of His presence in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle (or dwelling) of the tent of the testimony therefore names the whole Tabernacle with reference to that which explains why the cloud should rest on it. See KEIL in loc.TR.].


Num 9:15–23. The pillar of cloud and of fire on the Tabernacle. Over the Christian house of God. The guidance of Israel by the pillar of cloud and of fire. The guidance of the Christian Church by faith’s gleam of light and of life. The fidelity of the Church towards the guidance of God. God’s guiding sign in every Christian’s path in life.

The great word: according to the mouth of the Lord they encamped; and according to the mouth of the Lord they marched forth. God’s protection is conditioned by His word. The purer, richer, riper the word of the Lord in the mouths of men, the more certain and the greater the protection of the Lord.


1Heb. between the evenings.



4should we be excluded.


6[and will keep.—TR.]


8that he set up the tabernacle.



11Heb. prolonged.

12did it happen that the cloud, etc.

13Heb. was.

14longer time.

And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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