Matthew Poole's Commentary
THE FOURTH BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED NUMBERS
This Book giveth us a history of almost forty years travel of the children of Israel through the wilderness, where we have an account of their journeys, and what happened to them therein, with their government, and how they were managed thereby; called Numbers by reason of the several numberings of the people, as at the offerings of the princes, and at their several journeys, &c. But especially two: one, Chapter 1, out of which the priests and Levites were excepted, but numbered by themselves, viz. in the second year after they were come out of Egypt, in the first month whereof the passover was instituted; with the order about the tabernacle, both of the Levites and people, and their several marches, encampings, and manner of pitching their tents, the priests' maintenance and establishment, by the miraculous budding of Aaron's rod, with the several impediments in their marches, both among themselves by several murmurings, seditions, and conspiracies; and from their enemies, viz. the Edomites, Canaanites, over whom having obtained a victory, and afterwards murmuring, they were stung with fiery serpents, and cured by the brazen one; Amorites, whose kings, Sihon and Og, they overcame and slew; and Moabites, where by the allurements of Balaam, who was hired by Balak to curse Israel, they joined themselves to Baal-peor, and are plagued for it; that openly opposed them. The other chief numbering is in Chapter 26, where they are found almost as many as at the first, though among them were none of the first numbering, (according to what God had threatened, Chapter 14,) save Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, by reason of their desire to return back into Egypt upon the discouraging report often of those twelve that Moses sent to spy out the land; whereupon they were forced to wander above thirty-eight years in the wilderness; where he gave them several laws, civil, ecclesiastical, and military; as also particular directions about women's inheriting, occasioned by the case of Zelophehad's daughters, and concerning vows; and then brings them back to the borders of Canaan, where, after divers victories obtained against their enemies, they were directed how the land of Canaan was to be divided among the tribes, and what portion the Levites were to have among them, together with six cities of refuge set apart for the manslayer. At length Aaron being dead, and Eleazar placed in his stead, and Moses also having received the sentence of death, doth, by God's appointment, deliver up the people unto the charge and conduct of Joshua.