Numbers 9:15
And on the day that 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) The cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony.—Better, the tabernacle of (or, belonging to) the tent of the testimony. It is stated in Exodus 40:34, after the account of the erection of the Tabernacle, that the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and that the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. There is, therefore, no sufficient ground for the supposition that the cloud rested on that part of the Tabernacle exclusively in which the two tables of the testimony were kept, i.e., the Holy or Holies. On the contrary, it is stated in Exodus 40:35 that Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud abode upon it, where there is no reference to any particular part of the erection. It is true, however, that it was from above the mercy-seat that the presence of Jehovah was specially manifested, and that it was in the most holy place, in which the ark of the testimony was kept, that He met with Moses and communed with him (Exodus 25:21-23). The account of the cloud covering the Tabernacle is repeated in this place, inasmuch as the history which follows relates the removal of the Tabernacle under the guidance of the same cloud which covered it at its erection.

And at even.—The dark side of the cloud afforded a grateful shade by day, and the bright side of the cloud served to supply light by night. Comp. Psalm 78:14 : “In the day-time also He led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire;” and Nehemiah 9:12 : “Thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar, and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go;” also Isaiah 4:5 : “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night.”

9:15-23 This cloud was appointed to be the visible sign and symbol of God's presence with Israel. Thus we are taught to see God always near us, both night and day. As long as the cloud rested on the tabernacle, so long they continued in the same place. There is no time lost, while we are waiting God's time. When the cloud was taken up, they removed, however comfortably they were encamped. We are kept at uncertainty concerning the time of our putting off the earthly house of this tabernacle, that we may be always ready to remove at the command of the Lord. It is very safe and pleasant going when we see God before us, and resting where he appoints us to rest. The leading of this cloud is spoken of as signifying the guidance of the blessed Spirit. We are not now to expect such tokens of the Divine presence and guidance; but the promise is sure to all God's spiritual Israel, that he will guide them by his counsel. Ps 73:24, even unto death, Ps 48:14. All the children of God shall be led by the Spirit of God, Ro 8:14. He will direct the paths of those who in all their ways acknowledge him, Pr 3:6. At the commandment of the Lord, our hearts should always move and rest, saying, Father, thy will be done; dispose of me and mine as thou pleasest. What thou wilt, and where thou wilt; only let me be thine, and always in the way of my duty. In applying general precepts to particular circumstances, there should be good counsel and fervent prayer. When any undertaking is evidently wrong, or doubtfully right, and yet the mind leans that way, in such a case the moving of the cloud, as men sometimes miscall it, is generally no more than a temptation Satan is permitted to propose; and men fancy they are following the Lord, when they are following their own wayward inclinations. The record of his mercy will conduct us with unerring truth, through Christ, to everlasting peace. Follow the pillar of the cloud and of fire. Lay the BIBLE to heart, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.The cloud ... - The phenomenon first appeared at the Exodus itself, Exodus 13:21-22. The cloud did not cover the whole structure, but the "tent of the testimony," i. e. the enclosure which contained the "ark of the testimony" Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:22, and the holy place. The phenomenon is now again described in connection with the journeyings which are to be narrated in the sequel of the book. Nu 9:15-23. A Cloud Guides the Israelites.

15. the cloud covered the tabernacle—The inspired historian here enters on an entirely new subject, which might properly have formed a separate chapter, beginning at this verse and ending at Nu 10:29 [Calmet]. The cloud was a visible token of God's special presence and guardian care of the Israelites (Ex 14:20; Ps 105:39). It was easily distinguishable from all other clouds by its peculiar form and its fixed position; for from the day of the completion of the tabernacle it rested by day as a dark, by night as a fiery, column on that part of the sanctuary which contained the ark of the testimony (Le 16:2).

1490 Of the cloud, see Exodus 13:21. The tabernacle, namely,

the tent of the testimony, or, the tabernacle towards or above the tent of the testimony, i.e. that part of the tabernacle in which was the testimony, or the ark of the testimony; for there the cloudy pillar stood, Leviticus 16:2. This was an evident token of God’s special presence with and providence over them. See Exodus 14:20,24 Psa 105:39. And this cloud was easily distinguished from other clouds, both by its peculiar figure and by its constant residence in that place.

The appearance of fire; that they might better discern it, and direct themselves and their journeys or stations by it.

And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up,.... Which was the first day of the first month in the second year of the people of Israel's coming out of Egypt, Exodus 40:1,

the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony; that part of the tabernacle in which the testimony was, that is, where the ark was, in which the law was put, called the testimony; and this was the most holy place; and over the tent or covering of that was this cloud, which settled upon it, as Ben Gersom thinks, after the seven days of the consecration of Aaron and his sons; on the eighth day, when it was said unto the people of Israel, "today will the Lord appear unto you", Leviticus 9:1; "and the glory of the Lord shall appear unto you", Leviticus 9:6; and here the Targum of Jonathan calls this cloud the cloud of glory, because of the glory of God in it; of which see Exodus 40:34,

and at even there was upon the tabernacle, as it were, the appearance of fire until the morning; the same phenomenon, which looked like a cloud in the daytime, appeared like fire in the same place in the nighttime, throughout the whole of it until morning light, when it was seen as a cloud again: this was a token of the presence of God with the people of Israel, of his protection of them, and being a guide unto them by night and day, while in the wilderness; and was a figure of his being the same to his church and people, in the present state of things; see Isaiah 4:5.

And on the day that 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 {g} appearance of fire, until the morning.

(g) Like a pillar, read Ex 13:21,22.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. it used to be upon the Dwelling] The verbs throughout the rest of the chapter are frequentative, with the exception of ‘they kept’ in Numbers 9:23.

Verse 15. - On the day that the tabernacle was reared up. Here we are sent back again to the great day of Israel's sojourn at Sinai, when God took visible possession of his dwelling in the midst of them (Exodus 40:34). Everything after that was but preparatory to the approaching departure, and therefore is narrated not in any order of time, but either as it referred back to the first day of the first month, or forward to the twentieth day of the second month. The cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony. The testimony was the decalogue written on the two tables of stone, and enshrined within the ark, the moral law which lay at the heart of Judaism. The tent of the testimony was the holy of holies in which the ark dwelt (see on Numbers 10:11; 18:2). The exact meaning of the words מִשְׁכָּז לְאֹהֶל הָעֵדֻח is disputed, or the rather significance of the לְ with which the phrase "tent of the testimony" is appended to the word "tabernacle" (dwelling). Some take it as equivalent in construction to the genitive, "the dwelling of the tent of the testimony;" in which case it would simply mean that the cloud covered the whole tabernacle, the mishcan which enveloped and enclosed the ohel, which again enshrined the ark and the testimony. Others take לְ here in the sense of "at" or "towards," and read, "covered the dwelling, towards the tent of the testimony," i.e., over that part of it in which the testimony was kept. Apart from the strict grammatical question, the comparison of other passages cited (especially Exodus 40:34) seems in favour of the first interpretation, and so apparently the Septuagint and the Targums. Numbers 9:15Numbers 9:15

Signs for Removing and Encamping. - On their way through the desert from the border of Egypt to Sinai, Jehovah Himself had undertaken to guide His people by a cloud, as the visible sign and vehicle of His gracious presence (Exodus 13:21-22). This cloud had come down upon the dwelling when the tabernacle was erected, whilst the glory of the Lord filled the holy of holies (Exodus 40:34-38). In Numbers 9:15 the historian refers to this fact, and then describes more fully what had been already briefly alluded to in Exodus 40:36-37, namely, that when the cloud rose up from the dwelling of the tabernacle it was a sign for removing, and when it came down upon the dwelling, a sign for encamping. In Numbers 9:15, "on the day of the setting up of the dwelling," Exodus 40:34-35, is resumed; and in Numbers 9:15 the appearance of the cloud during the night, from evening till morning, is described in accordance with Exodus 40:38. (On the fact itself, see the exposition of Exodus 13:21-22). העדת לאהל משׁכּן, "the dwelling of the tent of witness" (ל used for the genitive to avoid a double construct state: Ewald, 292, a). In the place of ohel mod, "tent of the meeting of Jehovah with His people," we have here "tent of witness" (or "testimony"), i.e., of the tables with the decalogue which were laid up in the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:16), because the decalogue formed the basis of the covenant of Jehovah with Israel, and the pledge of the gracious presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. In the place of "dwellings of the tent of witness," we have "dwelling of witness" (testimony) in Numbers 10:11, and "tent of witness" in Numbers 18:2; Numbers 17:8, to denote the whole dwelling, as divided into the holy place and the holy of holies, and not the holy of holies alone. This is unmistakeably evident from a comparison of the verse before us with Exodus 40:34, according to which the cloud covered not merely one portion of the tabernacle, but the whole of the tent of meeting (ohel mod). The rendering, "the cloud covered the dwelling at the tent of witness," i.e., at that part of it in which the witness (or "testimony") was kept, viz., the holy of holies, which Rosenmller and Knobel adopt, cannot be sustained, inasmuch as ל has no such meaning, but simply conveys the idea of motion and passage into a place or condition (cf. Ewald, 217, d); and the dwelling or tabernacle was not first made into the tent of witness through the cloud which covered it.

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