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book, - not because it treats of the ministry of the Levites, strictly so called, (of which we have a fuller account in the book of Numbers) but because it principally contains the laws concerning the religion of the Israelites, which chiefly consisted of various sacrifices; the charge of which was committed to Aaron the Levite (as he is termed Exod. iv. 14.) and to his sons, who alone held the priestly office in the tribe of Levi; which St. Paul therefore calls a Levitical priesthood.” (Heb. vii. 11.) In the Babylonish Talmud it is called the law of the priests, which appellation is retained in the Arabic and Syriac versions.
The author of this book, it is universally admitted, was Moses ; and it is cited as his production in several books of Scripture. By comparing Exod. xl. 17. with Numb. i. 1. we learn that this book contains the history of one month, viz. from the erection of the tabernacle to the numbering of the people who were fit for war, that is, from the beginning of the second year after Israel's departure from Egypt to the beginning of the second month of the same year, which was in the year of the world 2514, and before Christ 1490. The laws prescribed upon other subjects than sacrifices, have no chronological marks by which we can judge of the times when they were given.
II. The general scope of this book is, to make known to the Israelites the Levitical laws, sacrifices, and ordinances, and by those “shadows of good things to come,” to lead the Israelites to the Messiah (Heb. x. 1. with Gal. iii. 24.): and it appears from the argument of St. Paul, that they had some idea of the spiritual meaning of these various institutions. (1 Cor. x. 1–4.) But, more particularly, the Levitical law was designed, (1.) To preserve the Israelites, (who, from their long residence in Egypt, were but too prone to idolatry) a distinct and independent people from the surrounding Gentile nations, by means of such burthensome, costly, and various ceremonies, that nothing but a conviction of their divine original could induce any people to submit to such a yoke. — (2.) By expiatory sacrifices to lead them to Christ, the only true propitiation for our sins, and who alone is able perfectly to purge the conscience, (Heb. ix. x.) -(3.) By eucharistical or thanksgiving sacrifices, to lead them to spiritual thankfulness to God for all his benefits. — (4.) By the institution of the high priesthood, to conduct them to Jesus Christ, the great“ High Priest,” who hath an unchangeable priesthood, and is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. (Heb. vii. 24, 25.) — And lastly, to instruct them, by meats forbidden as unclean, to avoid what God prohibits; and, by various kinds of uncleannesses, with their correspondent expiations, to illustrate the necessity and importance of internal purity and righteousness.
This book is of great use in explaining numerous passages of the New Testament, especially the epistle to the Hebrews, which in fact would be unintelligible without it." In considering, however, the spiritual tendency of Leviticus, care must be taken not to apply the types 100 extensively : the observation of Jerome as to its spiritual import
is undoubtedly very pious and just, but few persons will acquiesce in his remark, that “almost every syllable in this book breathes a spiritual sacrament."
III. Leviticus is divided by the Jews into nine parasches, which in our Bibles form twenty-seven chapters : it consists of four leading topics, comprising PART I. The laws concerning sacrifices, in which the different kinds
of sacrifices are enumerated, together with their concomitant rites ; as, Sect. 1. The burnt-offering, (Lev. i.) which prefigured the full,
perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of Christ, “ to put away sin;" and who by his “one offering hath perfected for ever them that
are sanctified.” (Heb. ix. 26. x. 14. 1 John i. 7.) Sect. 2. The meat-offerings. (Lev. ii.) Sect. 3. The peace-offering. (Lev. iii.) which represented both
Christ's oblation of himself, whereby he became our peace and salvation, (Eph. ii. 14–16. Acts xiii. 47. Heb. v. 9. ix. 28.) and
also our oblation of praise, thanksgiving, and prayer to God. Sect. 4. The offering made for sins of ignorance, (Lev. iv. v.)
which, being consumed without the camp, signified Christ's suffering “ without the gate, that he might sanctify the people with
his own blood.” (Heb. xiii. 11–13.) Sect. 5. The trespass-offering for sins knowingly committed, (Lev.
vi. vii.) in which sacrifice the guilt was considered as being transferred to the animal offered up to Jehovah, and the person offering it, as redeemed from the penalty of sin. Thus Jesus Christ is said to have made his soul an offering for sin. (Isa. liii.
10. with 2 Cor. v. 21.) Part II. The institution of the priesthood, in which the consecration
of Aaron and his sons to the sacred office is related, together with
the punishment of Nadab and Abihu. (Lev. viii.--X.) Part III. The laws concerning purifications both of the people and
the priests. (Lev. xi.- xxii.) Among these, the regulations concerning leprosy (xiii.) as repres
senting the universal taint of sin, and those concerning the scape-goat and the great day of atonement, (xvi.) demand particular attention; as typifying the death and resurrection of Christ, and the atonement, made thereby (Heb. ix. 7–12. 2427.); while they at the same time inculcate the hatefulness of sin, and the necessity of internal purity. Chapters xviii. and xix. contain various cautions to the Israelites to avoid the sinful practices of the Egyptians and Canaanites, with laws adapted to the peculiar circumstances and situations of the children of Israel, interspersed with several moral precepts inculcating the
duties of humanity and mercy, and the necessity of strict integPart IV. The laws concerning the sacred festivals, vows, things dee Chapter xxüi. treats of the seven great festivals, viz. the sabbath,
roted, and tithes. ? In hoc libro singula pene syllaba celestia spirat sacramenta ; quia ad Christum unicum Novi Testamenti summum sacerdotem figuræ illius nos deducunt Epist ad Paulinum.
the passover, the feast of first-fruits, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of trumpets, the great day of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles. The celebration of these solemn festivals was of singular use for maintaining the system of divine worship among the Israelites, for distinguishing them from all other people, for the solemn commemoration of the many and great beneits conferred on them by Jehovah, for the preservation and continuance of the public ministry, for preserving purity and unity in divine worship, and lastly, for prefiguring the manifold and great blessings bestowed on mankind by the Messiah. In chap. xxiv. various ceremonial and judicial rites are enjoined ; and in chap. xxv. is recapitulated the law respecting the sabbatical year which had before been given (see Exod. xxiii.); the observance of the jubilee is enjoined, with various precepts respecting mercy, benevolence, &c. The jubilee was typical of the great time of release, the Gospel dispensation. (See Isa. xxvi. 13. and lxi. 1-3. with Luke iv. 19.) Chap. xxvi. presents various prophetic promises and threatenings which have signally been fulfilled among the Jews. (Compare v. 22. with Numb. xxi. 6. 2 Kings ii. 24. and xvii. 25. with Ezek. v. 17.)! The preservation of the Jews to this day as a distinct people, is a living comment on v. 44. The twenty-seventh and last chapter comprises regulations concerning vows, and things devoted, as well as the tithes which were to be dedicated to the service of the tabernacle.
1 In prophetic language, lions and bears denote tyrannical governors. The accomplishment of the prediction in v. 34. which was also denounced by Jeremiah, (xix. 9.) has been noticed in the first volume of this work
ON THE BOOK OF NUMBERS.
1. Title, author, date, and argument. - II. Scope. - III. Types of
the Messiah. - IV. Prediction of the Messiah. - V. Chronology.
— - VI. Synopsis of its contents. - VII. Observations on the Book
of the Wars of the Lord, mentioned in Numbers xxi. 14. 1. IN conformity with the Hebrew custom, this fourth book of Moses is usually termed 7), va-JeDabar, and he spake, from the initial word : it is also called 7270 BEMIDBAR,
In the Desert," which word occurs in the first verse, because it relates the transactions of the Israelites in the wilderness. By the Alexandrian translators it was entitled APIOMOI, which appellation was adopted by the Greek fathers; and by the Latin translators, it was termed Numeri, Numbers, whence our English title is derived; because it contains an account of the numbering of the children of Israel
, related in chapters i-iii. and xxvi. It appears froin xxxvi. 13, to have been written by Moses in the plains of Moab. Besides the numeration and
. marshalling of the Israelites for their journey, several laws, in addition to those delivered in Exodus and Leviticus, and likewise several remarkable events, are recorded in this book.
II. The scope of the Book of Numbers is, to show how faithfully Jehovah fulfilled his promises to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the rapid increase of their posterity, and also in his providential care of them during their journeyings in the wilderness, and finally conducting them to the land of Canaan ; together with his impartial severity against their murmurings and corruptions, for which many of them perished in the wilderness after their deliverance from Egypt, “ so that they could not enter into his rest because of their unbelief." All these things are our examples, and are “written for our
” admonition,” since the Christian's rest depends upon the same promises as that of the Israelites. (Compare i Cor. x. 1-11. Jude 5. Heb. iii. 7—19. iv. 1–11.) The method pursued in this book is precisely that which would be adopted by the writer of an itinerary : the respective stations are noted; and the principal occurrences that took place at each station are related, omitting such as are of comparatively less importance. This circumstance is an additional internal proof that Moses was the author of the Book of Numbers, which is cited as his work in many parts of Scripture.
III. TYPES OF THE Messiah, are, The Ordinance of the Red Heifer (Numb. xix. with Heb. ix. 13, 14. and xiii. 11–13.); -The Water that issued from the Rock (Numb. xx. 11. with 1 Cor. x. 4.); - The Brazen Serpent (Numb. xxi. with John iii. 14.); The Cities of Refuge (Numb. xxxv. with Heb. vi. 18., latter part of the verse).
IV. This book contains only one prediction concerning the Messiah, viz. Numb. xxiv. 17. 19. which, Rosenmüller and some other
eminent biblical critics have contended, cannot apply to Jesus Christ. This passage, it is true, in its primary and literal meaning, intimates that from the people of Israel should arise a mighty prince, who would obtain an entire conquest and bear rule over the kingdoms of Moab and Edom : and it was fulfilled in David, for it is expressly recorded of him, that he finally subdued those nations. (2 Sam. viii. 2. 14.) But, in its full import, it has invariably been considered as referring to that illustrious personage, of whom David was a type and a progenitor : and is in fact a splendid prediction of the final and universal sway of the Messiah, when the middle wall of partition shall be broken down, and both Jews and Gentiles shall become one fold under one shepherd. This explanation is perfectly consonant to many other prophecies concerning the Saviour ; which, in similar language, describe him as acquiring dominion over heathen countries, and destroying the enemies of his church : and it is observable, that, in several of these antient predictions, some particular opposers, as the Moabites and Edomites, are put for the “ adversaries of the Lord,” in general. (See Psal. ii. 8. lxxii
. 8. cx. 6. Isa. xi. 14. and xxv. 10.)! In this passage, an eminent critic observes, that Balaam, in prophetic vision, describes the remote coming of Shiloh, under the imagery of a star and a sceptre, or an illustrious prince. Though it was foretold that “ the sceptre should depart from Judah” at his coming, this prophecy confirms to him a proper sceptre of his own; and our Lord claimed it when he avowed himself a “ King” to Pilate, but declared that his “ kingdom was not of this world.” (John xviii. 37, 38.) This branch of the prophecy was fulfilled about 1600 years after ; when, at the birth of Christ, “the Magi from the East" (who are supposed by Theophylact to have been the posterity of Balaam) came to Jerusalein, saying, “ Where is the [true] born king of the Jews : for we have seen his star at its rising, and are come to worship him." (Matt. ii. 1, 2.)
V. The book of Numbers contains a history of the Israelites, from the beginning of the second month of the second year after their departure from Egypt, to the beginning of the eleventh month of the fortieth year of their journeyings, – that is, a period of thirty-eight years and nine or ten months. (Compare Numb. i. and xxxvi. 13. with Deut. i. 3.) Most of the transactions here recorded took place in
1 Robinson's Scripture Characters, vol. i. p. 480. — The same author adds
Jesus, then, is the Star' which Balaam foretold ; the bright and morning star,' which, through the tender mercy of our God, hath visited us,' (Luke i. 76. Rev. xxii. 16.); and to him also 'the sceptre' of universal government is committed.
He shall have dominion;' for ' he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor. xv. 25.) Balaam looked forward to the time of his coming, which is usually called, as in Numb. xxiv. 14. the latter days:' and concerning him, he said, 'I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh; which might intimate, that his appearance was far removed, and that he should see him only by the spirit of prophecy. But it may also refer to the second advent of the Saviour, when indeed both Balaam and every despiser of his grace shal see him' in his glory, — shall behold him, but not nigh: for they shall be driven out from him with shame and confusion, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.'” Ibid. p. 481.
2 Dr. Hales's Analysis of Chronology, vol. ii. book i. p. 2:29.