Numbers 10:36
And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, to the many thousands of Israel.
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Numbers 10:36. Return, O Lord, &c. — Let thy divine presence in the cloud take up its fixed residence over the ark, for the safety of this thy people whom thou hast so greatly multiplied: or, give rest, that is, a safe and quiet place to thy people, free from enemies and dangers.10:33-36 Their going out and coming in, gives an example to us to begin and end every day's journey and every day's work with prayer. Here is Moses's prayer when the ark set forward, Rise up, and let thine enemies be scattered. There are those in the world who are enemies to God and haters of him; secret and open enemies; enemies to his truths, his laws, his ordinances, his people. But for the scattering and defeating of God's enemies, there needs no more than God's arising. Observe also the prayer of Moses when the ark rested, that God would cause his people to rest. The welfare and happiness of the Israel of God, consist in the continual presence of God among them. Their safety is not in their numbers, but in the favour of God, and his gracious return to them, and resting with them. Upon this account, Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people! God will go before them, to find them resting-places by the way. His promise is, and their prayers are, that he will never leave them nor forsake them.Each forward movement and each rest of the ark was made to bear a sacramental character. The one betokened the going forth of God against His enemies; the other, His gathering of His own people to Himself: the one was the pledge of victory, the other the earnest of repose.

Numbers 10:36 may be translated: "Restore" (i. e. to the land which their fathers sojourned in), "O Lord, the ten thousands of the thousands of Israel." (Compare Psalm 85:4, where the verb in the Hebrew is the same.)

35, 36. when the ark set forward that Moses said, Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered—Moses, as the organ of the people, uttered an appropriate prayer both at the commencement and the end of each journey. Thus all the journeys were sanctified by devotion; and so should our prayer be, "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not hence" [Ex 33:15]. Or, give rest, i.e. a safe and quiet place, from enemies and dangers. And when it passed,.... The ark, and the cloud over it:

he said; Moses stood and prayed, as before, according to the above Targums, in the following manner:

return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel; who were six hundred thousand footmen, besides women and children, Numbers 11:21; the import of this petition is, that upon the resting of the ark God would take up his abode with them, grant them his presence, and manifest his love, grace, mercy, and goodness unto them; or, as it may be rendered, that he would "return the many thousands of Israel"; that is, to the land which he had sworn to their fathers, as Ben Gersom interprets it; and who observes that the word "return" is used, because of the holy fathers who dwelt in the land of Israel; or else, as the same writer further observes, the sense of the petition is, that it might be the will of God to turn the thousands of Israel into myriads, or increase and multiply them ten times more than they were; and so the Targum of Jerusalem is,"bless the myriads, and multiply the thousands of the children of Israel.''Perhaps Moses, under a spirit of prophecy, might have a further view, even to the conversion of the Jews in the latter day, when they shall return and seek the true Messiah, and be turned to him, and when all Israel shall be saved.

And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.
Verse 36. - Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands (literally, myriad thousands; see Numbers 1:16) of Israel. שׁוּבָה being construed with the accusative is of somewhat doubtful interpretation. It may be as in the beautiful and familiar rendering of the A.V., than which nothing could be more obviously in harmony with the circumstances, and the feelings which gave rise to the prayer. Or it may be necessary to translate it by a transitive verb, and then it will be either, with many moderns, "Restore, O Lord, the myriad thousands of Israel," i.e., to their promised home; or, with the Septuagint, "Convert, O Lord (ἐπίστρεφε, Κύριε), the thousand myriads of Israel." If the ordinary reading be (as it appears) grammatically defensible, it is unquestionably to be preferred. Only Moses, as he looked upon that huge multitude covering the earth far and wide, could rightly feel how unutterably awful their position would be if on any day the cloud were to rise and melt into the evening sky instead of poising itself above the sanctuary of Israel. The Septuagint transposes verse 34 from its proper place to the end of the chapter, apparently in order to keep together the verses which speak of the movements of the ark. Many Hebrew MSS. mark verses 35, 36 with inverted nuns, נ, but the explanations given are fanciful, and the meaning uncertain.

The conversation in which Moses persuaded Hobab the Midianite, the son of Reguel (see at Exodus 2:16), and his brother-in-law, to go with the Israelites, and being well acquainted with the desert to act as their leader, preceded the departure in order of time; but it is placed between the setting out and the march itself, as being subordinate to the main events. When and why Hobab came into the camp of the Israelites-whether he came with his father Reguel (or Jethro) when Israel first arrived at Horeb, and so remained behind when Jethro left (Exodus 18:27), or whether he did not come till afterwards-was left uncertain, because it was a matter of no consequence in relation to what is narrated here.

(Note: The grounds upon which Knobel affirms that the "Elohist" is not the author of the account in Numbers 10:29-36, and pronounces it a Jehovistic interpolation, are perfectly futile. The assertion that the Elohist had already given a full description of the departure in vv. 11-28, rests upon an oversight of the peculiarities of the Semitic historians. The expression "they set forward" in Numbers 10:28 is an anticipatory remark, as Knobel himself admits in other places (e.g., Genesis 7:12; Genesis 8:3; Exodus 7:6; Exodus 12:50; Exodus 16:34). The other argument, that Moses' brother-in-law is not mentioned anywhere else, involves a petitio principii, and is just as powerless a proof, as such peculiarities of style as "mount of the Lord," "ark of the covenant of the Lord," היטיב to do good (Numbers 10:29), and others of a similar kind, of which the critics have not even attempted to prove that they are at variance with the style of the Elohist, to say nothing of their having actually done so.)

The request addressed to Hobab, that he would go with them to the place which Jehovah had promised to give them, i.e., to Canaan, was supported by the promise that he would do good to them (Hobab and his company), as Jehovah had spoken good concerning Israel, i.e., had promised it prosperity in Canaan. And when Hobab declined the request, and said that he should return into his own land, i.e., to Midian at the south-east of Sinai (see at Exodus 2:15 and Exodus 3:1), and to his kindred, Moses repeated the request, "Leave us not, forasmuch as thou knowest our encamping in the desert," i.e., knowest where we can pitch our tents; "therefore be to us as eyes," i.e., be our leader and guide, - and promised at the same time to do him the good that Jehovah would do to them. Although Jehovah led the march of the Israelites in the pillar of cloud, not only giving the sign for them to break up and to encamp, but showing generally the direction they were to take; yet Hobab, who was well acquainted with the desert, would be able to render very important service to the Israelites, if he only pointed out, in those places where the sign to encamp was given by the cloud, the springs, oases, and plots of pasture which are often buried quite out of sight in the mountains and valleys that overspread the desert. What Hobab ultimately decided to do, we are not told; but "as no further refusal is mentioned, and the departure of Israel is related immediately afterwards, he probably consented" (Knobel). This is raised to a certainty by the fact that, at the commencement of the period of the Judges, the sons of the brother-in-law of Moses went into the desert of Judah to the south of Arad along with the sons of Judah (Judges 1:16), and therefore had entered Canaan with the Israelites, and that they were still living in that neighbourhood in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29).

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