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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 15



Verse 1-2

Numbers 15:1-2. When the following laws were delivered, is uncertain. But it would seem, from Numbers 15:23, to have been toward the end of their peregrinations, and not long before their settlement in Canaan, consequently at a time when part of that mutinous generation, mentioned in the former chapter, were cut off by death. If this remark be just, these laws were enjoined only to the children of the murmurers, who had not forfeited a right to the inheritance in the promised land, as their fathers had done. Le Clerc, however, is of opinion that the laws here recorded were delivered before the rebellion recorded in the former chapter.

Verse 3

Numbers 15:3. An offering made by fire — This is a general expression for those offerings which were in whole or in part burned upon the altar. A sacrifice in performing a vow — Namely, peace-offerings, which are often called sacrifices, in general, as Exodus 18:12, and Leviticus 17:5; Leviticus 17:8. See the nature of them explained, Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 7:11.

Verse 4-5

Numbers 15:4-5. Bring a meat-offering — Sacrifices, being of the nature of spiritual feasts, were each of them to have מנחה, mincha, a meat or meal- offering, and drink-offering, as an appendage annexed to them, consisting of flour, oil, and wine, in the proportion following: for as wine and oil are the most excellent liquors which the earth, through Divine Providence, produces for the use of mankind, God would have them to be offered to him in all sacrifices, that men might be continually put in mind of him from whom they received these blessings, and might openly acknowledge their great benefactor.

Verse 14

Numbers 15:14. If a stranger sojourn with you — It is plain this is to be understood of such strangers as had renounced idolatry and become proselytes to the worship of the true God. And if strangers, who were intermixed with the Jews, and resided in their country, had not been obliged to conform to the same ceremonies of public worship with the Jews, their example might, by degrees, have produced a change in, and corruption of, that form of worship which God himself had instituted.

Verse 15

Numbers 15:15. So shall the stranger be before the Lord — As to the worship of God; his sacrifices shall be offered in the same manner, and accepted by God upon the same terms, as yours; which was a presage of the future calling of the Gentiles. And this is added by way of caution, to show that strangers were not upon this pretence to partake of their civil privileges.

Verse 19-20

Numbers 15:19-20. When ye eat — When you are about to eat it; for before they eat it, they were to offer this offering to God. The bread of the land — That is, the bread-corn. The threshing-floor — That is, of the corn in the threshing-floor, when you have gathered in your corn.

Verse 22

Numbers 15:22. Have erred, and not observed all these commandments — If the whole body of the people be guilty of any neglect of the public ceremonies of religion, or of any deviation from any of the rites instituted concerning the outward service of God, (for of these only Moses seems here to speak,) which might happen involuntarily, and through ignorance, then the following method is prescribed to expiate the sin of such omissions or deviations upon their being known. It may be observed, however, that this plea of ignorance could not be admitted except in cases that were liable to obscurity. The law in Leviticus 4:13, which appears partly similar to this, probably speaks of some positive miscarriage, or the doing what ought not to have been done; whereas this speaks of an omission of something which ought to have been done.

Verse 25

Numbers 15:25. It shall be forgiven, for it is ignorance — Proceeding from some mistake, and not from contempt of God and his laws; for then the guilty person was to be utterly cut off.

Verse 30

Numbers 15:30. The soul that doeth aught presumptuously — Hebrew, With a high hand, or, with violence. It is meant to express the action or conduct of a man who knowingly and wilfully broke the law, and when admonished, despised the admonition, and set the law at naught. Maimonides and other rabbis think this law is to be restrained to sins of idolatry, which certainly are most properly a reproaching of Jehovah, and a despising of his word, and therefore were commanded, in the law of Moses, to be punished with greater severity than other crimes, as being high treason against their state, subversive of the essential form of their government, and an implicit rejecting of Jehovah for their God and King, and yielding their allegiance to the idols of the nations. The same reproacheth the Lord — He sets God at defiance, and exposeth him to contempt, as if he were unable to punish transgressors. But every wilful sin is, in the nature of things, a reproach or dishonour to the Lord, Romans 2:23. It is saying, in effect, that his commandments are not wise, just, and good, and that we know better what is fit for ourselves than he can judge for us. But acts of idolatry, or whatever tended to favour it, whether in a Jew or proselyte, were especially reproachful to God, for the reasons just mentioned. That soul shall be cut off — Here this phrase signifies put to death, though in many other places it seems to denote only exclusion from the privileges of the Jewish community. Persons sinning thus presumptuously could have no benefit by the expiatory sacrifices of the law, for they blasphemed the Lawgiver, and disowned the authority of the law. Thus, (Hebrews 10:29,) He that despised Moses’s law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses.

Verse 32

Numbers 15:32. A man gathered sticks on the sabbath day — This seems to be mentioned here as an instance of sinning presumptuously; and accordingly it is so understood by the Jews. The law of the sabbath was plain and positive, and this transgression of it must therefore have been a known and wilful sin. And from the connection of this verse with the former it may be justly inferred that this man had sinned with a high hand, despising the word of the Lord, and the authority of his law.

Verse 33-34

Numbers 15:33-34. To all the congregation — That is, to the rulers of the congregation. They (Moses and Aaron, and the other rulers) put him in ward — Till the will of the Lord concerning him should be declared. What should be done — That is, in what manner, or by what kind of death he was to die, which, therefore, God here particularly determines: otherwise it was known in general that sabbath-breakers were to be put to death.

Verse 35

Numbers 15:35. The man shall surely be put to death — One reason why the breach of the sabbath was punished with such severity by the Jewish law is, that it was an implicit denying of God to be the Creator of the world. For the sabbath being a sign, (Exodus 31:13,) whereby the worshippers of the one true God, who created the world, were distinguished from the idolatrous nations, who believed the world was eternal, and who worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, and a multitude of nominal gods, the violation of this institution implied or led to a defection from the true religion to polytheism and idolatry.

Verse 38

Numbers 15:38. Fringes — These were certain threads, or ends, standing out a little farther than the rest of their garments, left there for this use. In the borders — That is, in the four borders or quarters, as it is, Deuteronomy 22:12. Of their garments — Of their upper garments. This was practised by the Pharisees in Christ’s time, who are noted for making their borders larger than ordinary. A riband — To make it more obvious to the sight, and consequently more serviceable to the use here mentioned. Of blue — Or, purple.

Verse 39

Numbers 15:39. That ye may remember — As circumcision in their persons, so this ornament in their garb was designed as a badge to distinguish them from all other nations; so that as often as they looked upon this mark, they might be put in mind of their being the worshippers of the true God, a holy people, and bound to the service of their Maker by peculiar laws and obligations. That ye seek not — Or, inquire not, for other rules and ways of serving me than I have prescribed you. Your own heart and eyes — Neither after the devices of your own hearts, as Nadab and Abihu did when they offered strange fire; nor after the examples of others which your eyes see, as you did when you were set upon worshipping a calf after the manner of Egypt.

Verse 40

Numbers 15:40. That ye may remember — They were not to mistake the wearing of these fringes or borderings, as if they had real sanctity or religion in themselves, but to consider them as helps to their memories, and means of awakening them to a sense of their special relation to God, as the only object of their worship, their Governor and Judge. But although this, and many other memorial signs among the Jews, seem to have been admirably fitted to keep up in their minds the remembrance of their duty, and one would have imagined that, with such helps, they could scarce ever have omitted the practice of it; yet their example proves to us that all methods are insufficient to affect thoroughly the hearts of men, till God, according to his promise, to be fulfilled especially under the New Testament dispensation, write his laws on their hearts by his Holy Spirit, Jeremiah 31:31, and Ezekiel 36:26. This we should look for, and seek with all our hearts. When this is obtained, and not before, we shall be holy unto God, as Israel were here exhorted to be, that is, purged from sin, and sincerely devoted to God in soul and body.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 15:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

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