And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision…
The best commentary on these verses is supplied by the comparison instituted between Moses and our blessed Lord in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1-6). The Hebrews are reminded that of all the servants whom the Lord raised up to minister in the ancient Church, there was not one who approached Moses, in respect either to the greatness and variety of the services performed by him, or the greatness of the honours bestowed upon him. Moses was set over all God's house, and in this eminent station he was conspicuously faithful. In these respects Moses was the most perfect figure of Christ. Christ's priesthood was foreshadowed by Melchisedec, his royalty by David and Solomon, his prophetical office by Samuel and the goodly company of prophets who followed him. But in Moses all the three offices were foreshadowed at once. Of these two men, Moses and Christ, and of no other since the world began, could it be affirmed that they were "faithful in all the Lord's house." No doubt there was disparity as well as a resemblance. Both were servants. But Moses was a servant in a house which belonged to another, in a household of which he was only a member, whereas Christ is such a servant as is also a son, and serves in a household of which he is the Maker and Heir. This is true. Nevertheless it is profitable to forget occasionally the disparity of the two great mediators, and to fix attention on the resemblance between them, the points in which the honour of Christ the Great Prophet was prefigured by the singular honour of Moses. Hence the interest and value of this text in Numbers.
I. AS A FOIL TO BRING OUT THE SINGULAR HONOUR OF MOSES, THE LORD PUTS ALONGSIDE OF IT THE HONOUR BESTOWED ON OTHER PROPHETS. a Consider the prophets that have been or yet are among you. How has my will been made known to them?" Two ways are specified.
1. "In a vision." There was a memorable example of this in the case of Abraham (Genesis 15). Visions continued to be the vehicles of revelation during the whole course of the Old Testament history. Isaiah (6, 13, &c.), Jeremiah (50, &e.), Ezekiel and Daniel (everywhere). Peter's vision at Joppa is a familiar example of the same kind under the New Testament.
2. "In a dream." This was a lower way of revelation. The stories of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar remind us that the dreams (I do not say the interpretations of them) were not seldom vouchsafed to men who were strangers to God. We shall see immediately that these ways of making himself known to men through the prophets, were inferior to the ways in which the Lord was wont to reveal himself through Moses. But let us not so fix our attention on the points of difference as to lose sight of or forget the bright and glorious feature which they have in common. "I, the Lord, do make myself known in a vision, and do speak in a dream." For reasons we can only guess at, the Lord was pleased to suffer the nations to walk in their own ways. But in Israel he revealed himself. At sundry times and in divers manners he was pleased to speak to the fathers by the prophets. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are oracular. In them we inherit the most precious part of the patrimony of the ancient Church. For this was the chief advantage which the Jews had above the Gentiles, that "unto them were committed the oracles of God." It is our own fault if, in reading the Old Testament, we fail to hear everywhere the voice of God.
II. OVER AGAINST THE HONOUR VOUCHSAFED TO ALL THE PROPHETS, THE LORD SETS FORTH THE SINGULAR HONOUR OF MOSES. It is denoted by the loving title by which the Lord here and elsewhere names him: "My servant Moses." "Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? "(verses 7, 8; cf. Joshua 1:2; also Deuteronomy 34:5). The word here translated "servant" is a word of honourable import; and in the singular and emphatic way in which it is applied by the Lord to Moses, it is applied by him to no other till we come to Christ himself (see Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11, &c.). The singular honour of Moses is indicated, moreover, by this, that he was called and enabled to do faithful service "in all God's house." Aaron served as a priest, Miriam as a prophetess, Joshua as a commander, each being intrusted with one department of service; Moses was employed in all. More particularly, Moses was singularly honoured in regard to the manner of the Divine communications granted to him. With him the Lord spoke "mouth to mouth," even apparently, i.e., visibly, and not in dark speeches, and he beheld the similitude of the Lord.
1. When prophets received communications in dreams and visions they were very much in a passive state, simply beholding and hearing, often unable to make out the meaning of what they saw and heard. Moses, on the contrary, was admitted as it were into the audience chamber, and the Lord spoke to him as a man speaks with his friend (cf. Numbers 7:89).
2. A few of the prophets, specially honoured, had visions of the Divine glory (Isaiah 6, &c. ). But in this respect Moses was honoured above all the rest (Exodus 33, 34). In these respects he prefigured the great Prophet, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, knows the Father even as the Father knows him, and has fully declared him. It has seemed to some learned men a thing unlikely, a thing incredible, that the vast body of doctrine and law and divinely-inspired history contained in the last four books of the Pentateuch should have been delivered to the Church within one age, and chiefly by one man. But the thing will not seem strange to one who believes and duly considers the singular honour of Moses as described in this text, especially if it is read in connection with the similar testimony borne elsewhere to Christ. Moses, and the Prophet like unto Moses, stand by themselves in the history of Divine revelation in this respect, that each served "in all God's house;" each was commissioned to introduce the Church into a new dispensation, to deliver to the Church a system of doctrine and institutions. In harmony with this is the patent fact that, as at the bringing in of the gospel dispensation the stream of Holy Scripture expands into the four gospels, even so at the bringing in of the ancient dispensation the stream of Holy Scripture originated in the Books of the Law. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.