Numbers 31:6
And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.
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(6) With the holy instruments, and . . . —Or, with the holy instruments, even, &c. It does not appear whether the ark did or did not accompany the expedition. It has been inferred from Numbers 14:44 that the reference may be to the ark, but it does not appear probable that the ark would be so described. Moreover, Phinehas was not the high priest, and therefore would not have the ephod with the breastplate, which was worn at this time by-Eleazar. The reference may be only to the silver trumpets (see Numbers 10:9), or it may include other sacred instruments. This was emphatically a holy war; and we may learn, from the command given to the Israelites to take with them “the holy instruments,” that they who would engage in the war against sin and Satan must “take to them the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:13).

Numbers 31:6. Them and Phinehas — Who had the charge, not of the army, as general, (an office never committed to a priest in all the Old Testament,) but of the holy instruments, and was sent to encourage and quicken them in their enterprise. The holy instruments — The holy breast plate, wherein was the Urim and Thummim, which was easily carried, and was very useful in war, upon many emergent occasions.

31:1-6 All who, without commission from God, dare to execute private revenge, and who, from ambition, covetousness, or resentment, wage war and desolate kingdoms, must one day answer for it. But if God, instead of sending an earthquake, a pestilence, or a famine, be pleased to authorize and command any people to avenge his cause, such a commission surely is just and right. The Israelites could show such a commission, though no persons now can do so. Their wars were begun and carried on expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer by miracles. Unless it can be proved that the wicked Canaanites did not deserve their doom, objectors only prove their dislike to God, and their love to his enemies. Man makes light of the evil of sin, but God abhors it. This explains the terrible executions of the nations which had filled the measure of their sins.Phinehas - He was marked out as the fitting director of the expedition by his conduct (compare Numbers 25:7-13) in the matter of Zimri and Cozbi.

With the holy instruments, and the trumpets - Or rather, "with the holy instruments, to wit, the trumpets," for the trumpets themselves seem to be the instruments intended.

6. Moses sent … Eleazar the priest, to the war—Although it is not expressly mentioned, it is highly probable that Joshua was the general who conducted this war. The presence of the priest, who was always with the army (De 20:2), was necessary to preside over the Levites, who accompanied the expedition, and to inflame the courage of the combatants by his sacred services and counsels.

holy instruments—As neither the ark nor the Urim and Thummim were carried to the battlefield till a later period in the history of Israel, the "holy instruments" must mean the "trumpets" (Nu 10:9). And this view is agreeable to the text, by simply changing "and" into "even," as the Hebrew particle is frequently rendered.

Phinehas had the charge not of the army, as general, (an office never committed to any priest in all the Old Testament,) but of

the holy instruments, & c. as is here expressed, and was also sent to encourage, and quicken, and confirm them in their good enterprise. It is not here mentioned who was the general, whether Joshua, as some think, because he is not named amongst those who went out to meet the returning host, though that might be for other reasons, or some other prince, nor is it worth while to determine. The holy instruments; either,

1. The ark, with the things belonging to it, which before the building of the temple they did sometimes carry into the war for the encouragement of their army. See Numbers 14:44 Joshua 6:9 1 Samuel 4:4 14:18. But why then is it thus ambiguously expressed, seeing in all the other places it is called by its proper name? Nor is the ark ever so called in Scripture. Or,

2. The trumpets, as it here follows, the words being thus to be read, the holy instruments that is, the trumpets; for and is ofttimes put exegetically for that is, or to wit, as Genesis 13:15 1 Chronicles 21:12, compared with 2 Samuel 24:13 Zechariah 1:4 9:9, &c. Or rather,

3. The holy breastplate, wherein was the Urim and Thummim, which was easily carried and used, and very useful in war upon many emergent occasions. See 1 Samuel 23:9 30:7.

And the trumpets, which were to be used in war as well as in the service of the tabernacle. See Numbers 10:9 2 Chronicles 13:12.

And Moses sent them to the war,.... Being mustered and armed:

a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to the war; which looks as if Phinehas was the general of this army; for Moses went not to the war, and no mention is made of Joshua, nor might it be proper for him, he being the successor of Moses, who was quickly to die; but it seems rather that there was no one person that had the command of the whole, but every captain commanded his own company; since, when Moses met them, and was angry with them for sparing the women, he does not address anyone as the chief commander, but all the officers, Numbers 31:14, however, it was very proper and prudent to send Phinehas with them, both on account of his office as a priest, to encourage the people, and because of his extraordinary zeal against the Midianites for what they had done, as appears by his slaying a prince of Simeon and a Midianitish princess in their uncleanness:

and he went with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand; by "the holy instruments", Aben Ezra understands the ark with what appertained to it, which in later times used to be carried out when the Israelites went to war, Joshua 6:4, and Jarchi interprets them of the ark and plate of gold (z) which was upon the forehead of the high priest; but what had Phinehas to do with this, who was but a common priest? though the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it,"with the Urim and Thummim of holiness, to inquire by them;''and it appears, that sometimes a son of an high priest was intrusted with the ephod, to which the breastplate was fastened, which had the Urim and Thummim on it, and made use thereof to inquire by, as in the times of David, 1 Samuel 23:6, but it is the opinion of some learned men, and they may be in the right, that these instruments are no other than the trumpets, and who suppose the "vau" is not copulative, but explanative, so Ben Gersom, and read the words thus, "with the holy instruments, even", or, "that is, the trumpets" (a), the silver trumpets ordered to be made, Numbers 10:2 one of which was far the journey of the camps, and also to blow an alarm for war, and which was done by the priests; and so the Targum of Jonathan adds here,"to cause the camp of Israel to rest, and to cause it to go;''that is, to direct it when it should stop, and when it should move.

(z) So the Rabbins in Abendana in Miclol Yophi in loc. (a) "erantque tubae", Tigurine version; "id est tubae", Vatablus; "nempe tubae", Piscator; so Ainsworth.

And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and {b} Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.

(b) For his great zeal that he bare for the Lord, Nu 25:13.

6. The war being of a strictly religious character, the soldiers were apparently led not by Moses or Joshua but by Phinehas the priest, who had previously displayed his zeal against the Midianites (Numbers 25:6-8). Eleazar the chief priest is represented as staying behind in the camp, perhaps from fear of pollution by contact with the dead.

the vessels of the sanctuary] The word rendered ‘vessels’ is a general term which may denote any utensils or objects. It has been suggested that the writer had in mind the ephod containing the Urim and Tummim by which Phinehas could enquire of God concerning the conduct of the battle; but it is doubtful whether that right would be ascribed to any but the high priest (cf. Numbers 27:21).

Verse 6. - And Phinehas the son of Eleazar. The high priest himself could not leave the camp and the sanctuary, because of his duties, and because of the risk of being defiled (see verse 19); but his son, who was already marked out as his successor, could act as his representative (see on Numbers 16:37). In after times the Messiah Milchama ("Sacerdos unctus ad bellum," alluded to in Deuteronomy 20:2) who accompanied the army to the field was a recognized member of the Jewish hierarchy. Phinehas was of course specially marked out by his zeal for the present duty, but we may suppose that he would have gone in any case. With the holy instruments, and the trumpets. Septuagint, καὶ τὰ σκεύη τὰ ἅγια καὶ αἱ σάλπιγγες. The word instruments (כְּלֵי) is the same more usually translated "vessel," as in Numbers 3:31, and is apparently to be understood of the sacred furniture of the tabernacle. It is difficult to understand what "holy vessels" could have accompanied an expedition of this sort, unless it were the ark itself. The Israelites were accustomed at all critical times to be preceded by the ark (Numbers 10:33; Joshua 3:14; Joshua 6:8), and the narrative of 1 Samuel 4:3 sq. shows plainly that, long after the settlement at Shiloh, no scruples existed against bringing it forth against the foes of Israel and of God. Indeed there is a resemblance in the circumstances between that ease and this which is all the more striking because of the contrast in the result. Most modern commentators, unwilling to believe that the ark left the camp (but cf. Numbers 14:44), identify the "holy instruments" with "the trumpets;" this, however, is plainly to do violence to the grammar, which is perfectly simple, and is contrary to the Septuagint and the Targums. The Targum of Palestine paraphrases "holy instruments" by Urim and Thummim; these, however, as far as we can gather, seem to have been in the exclusive possession of the high priest. Numbers 31:6To carry out this revenge, Moses had 1000 men of each tribe delivered (ימּסרוּ, see at Numbers 31:16) from the families (alaphim, see Numbers 1:16) of the tribes, and equipped for war; and these he sent to the army (into the war) along with Phinehas the son of Eleazar the high priest, who carried the holy vessels, viz., the alarm-trumpets, in his hand. Phinehas was attached to the army, not as the leader of the soldiers, but as the high priest with the holy trumpets (Numbers 10:9), because the war was a holy war of the congregation against the enemies of themselves and their God. Phinehas had so distinguished himself by the zeal which he had displayed against the idolaters (Numbers 25:7), that it was impossible to find any other man in all the priesthood to attach to the army, who would equal him in holy zeal, or be equally qualified to inspire the army with zeal for the holy conflict. "The holy vessels" cannot mean the ark of the covenant on account of the plural, which would be inapplicable to it; nor the Urim and Thummim, because Phinehas was not yet high priest, and the expression כּלי would also be unsuitable to these. The allusion can only be to the trumpets mentioned immediately afterwards, the ו before חצצרות being the ו explic., "and in fact." Phinehas took these in his hand, because the Lord had assigned them to His congregation, to bring them into remembrance before Him in time of war, and to ensure His aid (Numbers 10:9).
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