Numbers 11:16
And the LORD said to Moses, Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with you.
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(16) Seventy men of the elders of Israel . . . —We find mention made of elders of the people in Exodus 3:16, and of officers (shoterim) in Exodus 5:16;

also of seventy elders in Exodus 24:1. Frequent mention is made in Scripture of the number seventy—a number which is composed of the two sacred numbers seven and ten—the former being the seal of the covenant, and the latter probably denoting perfection. The seventy who were chosen on the present occasion may have consisted of some of those who were appointed as judges at the suggestion of Jethro, but there is no evidence of their identity with any persons previously selected.

Numbers 11:16. To be elders — Whom thou by experience discernest to be elders, not only in years and name, but also in wisdom and authority with the people. And according to this constitution, the sanhedrim, or great council of the Jews, which in after ages sat at Jerusalem, and was the highest court of judgment among them, consisted of seventy men.11:16-23 Moses is to choose such as he knew to be elders, that is, wise and experienced men. God promises to qualify them. If they were not found fit for the employ, they should be made fit. Even the discontented people shall be gratified too, that every mouth may be stopped. See here, I. The vanity of all the delights of sense; they will cloy, but they will not satisfy. Spiritual pleasures alone will satisfy and last. As the world passes away, so do the lusts of it. 2. What brutish sins gluttony and drunkenness are! they make that to hurt the body which should be its health. Moses objects. Even true and great believers sometimes find it hard to trust God under the discouragements of second causes, and against hope to believe in hope. God here brings Moses to this point, The Lord God is Almighty; and puts the proof upon the issue, Thou shalt see whether my word shall come to pass or not. If he speaks, it is done.Seventy men of the elders of Israel - Seventy elders had also gone up with Moses to the Lord in the mount Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:9. Seventy is accordingly the number of colleagues assigned to Moses to share his burden with him. To it, the Jews trace the origin of the Sanhedrim. Subsequent notices Numbers 16:25; Joshua 7:6; Joshua 8:10, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 9:11; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1, Joshua 24:31 so connect the elders with the government of Israel as to point to the fact that the appointment now made was not a merely temporary one, though it would seem to have soon fallen into desuetude. We find no traces of it in the days of the Judges and the Kings.

Elders of the people, and officers over them - In English idiom, "elders and officers of the people." Both elders and officers appear in Egypt (Exodus 3:16; Exodus 5:6 ff): the former had headed the nation in its efforts after freedom; the latter were the subordinate, though unwilling, agents of Egyptian tyranny. The two classes no doubt were working together; and from those who belonged to either, perhaps from those who were both eiders and officers, the council of Seventy was to be selected.

16, 17. the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders—(Ex 3:16; 5:6; 24:9; 18:21, 24; Le 4:15). An order of seventy was to be created, either by a selection from the existing staff of elders or by the appointment of new ones, empowered to assist him by their collective wisdom and experience in the onerous cares of government. The Jewish writers say that this was the origin of the Sanhedrin, or supreme appellate court of their nation. But there is every reason to believe that it was only a temporary expedient, adopted to meet a trying exigency. Of whom see Exodus 3:16 5:6 Leviticus 4:15 Deu 16:18.

Whom thou knowest to be the elders; whom thou by experience discernest to be elders not only in years, and name, and place, but also in wisdom, and gravity, and authority with the people. And the Lord said unto Moses,.... Without making any reflection upon him, or upbraiding him with his unbecoming speeches to him, but in a kind and tender manner directs for his assistance and case:

gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel; out from among them, such as were not only men in years, but men of gravity, prudence, and wisdom; elders there were among the people in Egypt, Exodus 3:16; and it was from among such as those the seventy men were to be taken; we read of seventy elders before this time, that went up to the mount with Moses, Exodus 24:1; but they are supposed only to be selected for that purpose at that time, and did not continue as a separate body, or in any office: according to this number seventy, the great sanhedrim, or court of judicature the sat at Jerusalem in later times, consisted of seventy persons, with a prince or president at the head of them, as Moses was at the head of those: and so our Lord, besides his twelve apostles, sent out seventy disciples to be assisting in his work and service, Luke 10:1,

whom thou knowest to be elders of the people; either in age, or in some sort of office and authority among them, or, however, to be good and just men, and had a considerable share of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom:

and officers over them; such as Jethro advised to constitute, Exodus 18:21; and it is not improbable that these seventy were chosen out of them:

and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee; and be seen by all the people what honour was done them, what authority was conferred upon them, and what gifts were bestowed on them, qualifying them for their office, in which they were to be treated with respect by them.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
16. the elders of the people and their officers] The institution of these officials, with an authority inferior to that of Moses, is related in Exodus 18, which originally stood after the account of the giving of the law at Sinai (see Driver, Exodus, p. 162), and therefore in close juxtaposition to the present narrative.

17a. come down and talk with thee there] Cf. Exodus 33:9; Exodus 33:11.

take of the spirit which is upon thee] This expresses the primitive notion that ‘spirit’ (in the sense of an inspiration which imparts wisdom or intellectual ability) came upon a person from without, and could be thought of quantitatively. Moses was endued with such a large share of it that some could be taken from him and put upon others. Cf. 2 Kings 2:9.

17b. and they shall bear &c.] This half-verse was probably not part of the original narrative. It seems to have been added by a later writer who thought that the inspiration of the elders was the answer to Moses’ complaint of the burden of the people. See above.

(I) 18–24a. The Quails. The continuation of Numbers 11:13.Verse 16. - And the Lord said unto Moses. The Divine dignity and goodness of this answer, if not an absolutely conclusive testimony, are at least a very strong one, to the genuineness of this record. Of what god, except the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was it ever witnessed, or could it have been ever imagined, that he should answer the passionate injustice of his servant with such forbearance and kindness? The one thing in Moses' prayer which was reasonable he allowed at once; the rest he passed over without answer or reproof, as though it had never been uttered. Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel. That the number seventy has a symbolic significance in Scripture will hardly be denied (cf. Exodus 1:5; Daniel 9:2, 24; Luke 10:1), although it is probably futile to affix any precise meaning to it. Perhaps the leading idea of seventy is fullness, as that of twelve is symmetry (see on Exodus 15:27). The later Jews believed that there were seventy nations in the world. There is no reason, except a reckless desire to confound the sacred narrative, to identify this appointment with that narrated in Exodus 18:21, sq. and Deuteronomy 1:9, sq. The circumstances and the purposes appear quite distinct: those were appointed to assist Moses in purely secular matters, to share his burden as a judge; these to assist him in religious matters, to support him as a mediator; those used the ordinary gifts of wisdom, discretion, and personal authority; these the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. It is more reasonable to suppose that these seventy were the same men that went up into Mount Sinai with Moses, and saw the God of Israel, and ate of the consecrated meal of the covenant, about a year before. Unless there was some decisive reason against it, an elder who had been chosen for that high religious privilege could hardly fail to be chosen on this occasion also; an interview with God himself, so mysteriously and awfully significant, must surely have left an ineffaceable stamp of sanctity on any soul at all worthy of it. It would be natural to suppose that while the present selection was made de novo, the individuals selected were personally the same. Compare note on chapter Numbers 1:5, and for "the elders of Israel" see on Exodus 3:16. Whom thou knowest to be elders of the people, and officers over them. On the officers (Hebrew, shoterim), an ancient order in the national organization of Israel, continued from the days of bondage, see Exodus 5:6. The Targ. Pal. paraphrases the word shoterim by "who were set over them in Mizraim." The Septuagint has here πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ γρυμματεῖς αὐτῶν, words so familiar to the reader of the Greek Gospels. The later Jews traced back their Sanhedrim, or grand council of seventy, to this appointment, and found their eiders and scribes in this verse. There was, however, no further historical connection between the two bodies than this - that when the monarchy failed and prophecy died out, the ecclesiastical leaders of the Jews modeled their institutions upon, and adapted their titles to, this Divinely-ordered original. When Moses heard the people weep, "according to their families, every one before the door of his tent," i.e., heard complaining in all the families in front of every tent, so that the weeping had become universal throughout the whole nation (cf. Zechariah 12:12.), and the wrath of the Lord burned on account of it, and the thing displeased Moses also, he brought his complaint to the Lord. The words "Moses also was displeased," are introduced as a circumstantial clause, to explain the matter more clearly, and show the reason for the complaint which Moses poured out before the Lord, and do not refer exclusively either to the murmuring of the people or to the wrath of Jehovah, but to both together. This follows evidently from the position in which the clause stands between the two antecedent clauses in Numbers 11:10 and the apodosis in Numbers 11:11, and still more evidently from the complaint of Moses which follows. For "the whole attitude of Moses shows that his displeasure was excited not merely by the unrestrained rebellion of the people against Jehovah, but also by the unrestrained wrath of Jehovah against the nation" (Kurtz). But in what was the wrath of Jehovah manifested? It broke out against the people first of all when they had been satiated with flesh (Numbers 11:33). There is no mention of any earlier manifestation. Hence Moses can only have discovered a sign of the burning wrath of Jehovah in the fact that, although the discontent of the people burst forth in loud cries, God did not help, but withdrew with His help, and let the whole storm of the infuriated people burst upon him.
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