That the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Numbers 7:2-3. The princes of Israel — The heads or chiefs of the several tribes, mentioned Numbers 1:5-16. Offered — In the manner, and on the days hereafter mentioned. Before the Lord — That is, they were presented to God at the door of the tabernacle, as it follows; six covered wagons — Wagons that were covered above, for the convenience of carrying the heavier parts of the tabernacle, and preserving them from the injuries of the weather. They were probably very rich and sumptuous, since two of the great men joined in the present of one wagon.Genesis 2:4. The presentation of the gifts in fact occupied twelve days, as the sequel shows.
The enactments set forth in the chapters from Leviticus 10 to Numbers 6 inclusive, were doubtless promulgated at various times between the consecration of the tabernacle and the departure from Sinai, but are for convenience set out connectedly. The contents of the present chapter are accordingly placed after them. The order pursued throughout is justly noted as one which would naturally suggest itself to a narrator who was contemporary with the events.
heads of the house of their fathers; of the each of the houses and families the tribes were divided into, and took their name from each of their ancestors, as is next explained:
who were princes of the tribes; the twelve tribes, as before observed, Numbers 1:4,
and were over them that were numbered; over the children of Israel that were numbered, Numbers 1:19; by which it that these princes are the very same persons that are mentioned by name there, as they are here afterwards; and were with Moses and Aaron, and assisting to them when they took the number of them; but according to the Targum of Jonathan, and Jarchi, these were appointed over them in Egypt; but the former is right: these nowThat the princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes, and were over them that were numbered, offered:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. offered] The verb cannot, as in English, stand alone with an absolute force. It is intended to govern ‘their oblation’ in Numbers 7:3; but the remainder of the verse is a parenthesis, and the sentence is then resumed with another verb, ‘and they brought.’
covered wagons] The word zâbh, rendered ‘covered,’ is doubtful. It is the singular of a substantive found only in Isaiah 66:20 (R.V. ‘litters’). The expression may mean litter-wagons, i.e. wagons covered like a litter or palanquin. So LXX. ἁμάξας λαμπηνικάς, ‘wagons like covered chariots.’ But perhaps the text is corrupt.Verse 2. - The princes of Israel. These arc the same men, and are called by the same titles, as those Divinely nominated in Numbers 1:4, sq. No doubt they were the heads of the nations according to some established rules of precedence before the exodus. And were over them that were numbered. Hebrew, "stood over." The most natural reference is to the fact of their presiding over the census, and so the Septuagint, οῦτοι οἱ παρεστηκότες ἐπὶ τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς. But it may mean simply that they were the leaders of the numbered hosts, and offered as their natural representatives. Numbers 6:24), "Jehovah bless thee and keep thee," conveyed the blessing in the most general form, merely describing it as coming from Jehovah, and setting forth preservation from the evil of the world as His work. "The blessing of God is the goodness of God in action, by which a supply of all good pours down to us from His good favour as from their only fountain; then follows, secondly, the prayer that He would keep the people, which signifies that He alone is the defender of the Church, and that it is He who preserves it with His guardian care" (Calvin). - The second (Numbers 6:25), "Jehovah make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee," defined the blessing more closely as the manifestation of the favour and grace of God. The face of God is the personality of God as turned towards man. Fire goes out from Jehovah's face, and consumes the enemy and the rebellious (Leviticus 10:2, cf. Numbers 17:10; Numbers 20:3; Exodus 13:22; Psalm 34:17), and also a sunlight shining with love and full of life and good (Deuteronomy 30:20; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 43:3; Psalm 44:4). If "the light of the sun is sweet, and pleasant for the eyes to behold" (Ecclesiastes 11:7), "the light of the divine countenance, the everlasting light (Psalm 36:10), is the sum of all delight" (Baumg.). This light sends rays of mercy into a heart in need of salvation, and makes it the recipient of grace. - The third (Numbers 6:26), "Jehovah lift up His face to thee, and set (or give) thee peace" (good, salvation), set forth the blessing of God as a manifestation of power, or a work of power upon man, the end of which is peace (shalom), the sum of all the good which God sets, prepares, or establishes for His people. אל פּנים נשׁא, to lift up the face to any one, is equivalent to looking at him, and does not differ from עינים נשׁא or שׂים (Genesis 43:29; Genesis 44:21). When affirmed of God, it denotes His providential work upon man. When God looks at a man, He saves him out of his distresses (Psalm 4:7; Psalm 33:18; Psalm 34:16). - In these three blessings most of the fathers and earlier theologians saw an allusion to the mystery of the Trinity, and rested their conclusion, (a) upon the triple repetition of the name Jehovah; (b) upon the ratio praedicati, that Jehovah, by whom the blessing is desired and imparted, is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and (c) upon the distinctorum benedictionis membrorum consideratio, according to which bis trina beneficia are mentioned (cf. Calovii Bibl. illustr. ad h. l.). There is truth in this, though the grounds assigned seem faulty. As the threefold repetition of a word or sentence serves to express the thought as strongly as possible (cf. Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29), the triple blessing expressed in the most unconditional manner the thought, that God would bestow upon His congregation the whole fulness of the blessing enfolded in His Divine Being which was manifested as Jehovah. But not only does the name Jehovah denote God as the absolute Being, who revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit in the historical development of His purpose of salvation for the redemption of fallen man; but the substance of this blessing, which He caused to be pronounced upon His congregation, unfolded the grace of God in the threefold way in which it is communicated to us through the Father, Son, and Spirit.
(Note: See the admirable elaboration of these points in Luther's exposition of the blessing. Luther refers the first blessing to "bodily life and good." The blessing, he says, desired for the people "that God would give them prosperity and every good, and also guard and preserve them." This is carried out still further, in a manner corresponding to his exposition of the first article. The second blessing he refers to "the spiritual nature and the soul," and observes, "Just as the sun, when it rises and diffuses its rich glory and soft light over all the world, merely lifts up its face upon all the world;...so when God gives His word, He causes His face to shine clearly and joyously upon all minds, and makes them joyful and light, and as it were new hearts and new men. For it brings forgiveness of sins, and shows God as a gracious and merciful Father, who pities and sympathizes with our grief and sorrow. The third also relates to the spiritual nature and the soul, and is a desire for consolation and final victory over the cross, death, the devil, and all the gates of hell, together with the world and the evil desires of the flesh. The desire of this blessing is, that the Lord God will lift up the light of His word upon us, and so keep it over us, that it may shine in our hearts with strength enough to overcome all the opposition of the devil, death, and sin, and all adversity, terror, or despair.")
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