And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
It pertained to the full admission of Israel to theocratic privilege, that, the nation as a whole having been admitted into covenant, a formal registration should be made of at least the grown part of the community. Directions were accordingly issued for the taking of a census, which had also in view a more complete military organisation of the nation than as yet existed. The males of the tribes from twenty years old and upwards were to be made to pass before Jehovah, and were to be regularly counted and enrolled as members of the holy commonwealth. This act, however, which involved a near approach to Jehovah, and was on the part of the individual an entrance into the full rights of his citizenship, called for some new recognition of the principle of atonement on which the covenant was built. Hence the ordinance that each individual of those who were numbered should make an offering of half a shekel of silver, as a ransom or atonement for his soul (ver. 15). The silver thus obtained was to go for the service of the tabernacle (ver. 16). On which observe -
1. The money was money of atonement. It was paid in ransom for life. If we seek the principle on which the ransoming proceeds, we must view the half shekel in the light of the practice of commutation. In strictness, atonement could be made only by blood. Here, as in other cases, the animal sacrifice is commuted for money, and the money, in virtue of that for which it is commuted, is admitted as atonement. The purpose to which the silver was to be applied required that the ransom should take this form.
2. All were to be taxed alike. "The rich shall not give more, nor the poor less" (ver. 15). This intimates that, as respects his need of atonement, no man has any advantage over his neighbours. "There is no difference" (Romans 3:22). It intimates, too, the essential equality of men in the eyes of God.
3. The money was to be applied to the work of the tabernacle. The greater part of it was used in making the silver sockets for the dwelling-place (ch. 38:27). Thus
(1) the tabernacle - symbol of God's kingdom in Israel - was founded on the silver of atonement. This, surely, was a profound testimony to the fact that only on the basis of atonement can communion exist between heaven and earth.
(2) Each Israelite was individually represented in Jehovah's sanctuary. His tribute money formed part of it. He had a stake and interest in it. The honour was great: not less so the responsibility. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,