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for the first time distinctly declared, that the tithes, which had been declared to be “holy unto the Lord,” were appropriated by him to the support of his ministers the Levites, to whom the further direction is given to make a similar contribution for their superiors, to that which the people made for them; that is, to give to the priests a tenth part of their tithes.* In addition to what has been already said upon the subject, it is obvious to remark, that the rich revenues of the Priests and Levites would have an effect to give them respectability in the people's view, and the consequent influence, which it was important to the general well-being that they should possess, besides securing that influence in favor of existing institutions, from which personally they derived so much advantage. Again, the decree that the ministers of the sanctuary should “have no inheritance among the children of Israel,” tended manifestly to secure their attention to their proper duties, from which the care of landed property, might they hold it, would be likely to seduce them; while their dispersion in small settlements of their own, throughout the tribes, made them a universal bond of union to the state, and afforded opportunity for the instructions of the Law, which was their charge, to be promptly enforced, wherever occasion might call for them.t
* Numb. xviii. 21 - 32. See pp. 322, 323. † This chapter, relating to the support of the priesthood, well connects itself (1) with the two next preceding, in which events are recorded establishing the rank of Aaron and his associates. — “ They may be joined" (2); 119;, quasi, they may be Levited; a paronomasia on the name 95.--"A stranger shall not come nigh unto you" (4); no other person shall interfere.— “That there be no wrath any more ” (5); compare Numb. xvi. — With 8-11, compare p. 255, note ; with 12, 13, compare xv. 1-21; with 14 - 18, Lev. xxvii. 1-13, 26, 27; and with 21 - 24, Lev. xxvii. 30-33. — “The best of the oil” &c. (12); literally, the fat; a metaphor in common use, similar, as Geddes well suggests, to our expression, the cream of a thing. — “ A covenant of salt” (19); a thing agreed upon,
The nineteenth chapter prescribes a new ritual for the cleansing of impurities, contracted through the presence of dead bodies. On the one hand, it was the policy of the Law to procure their speedy interment; both with a view to the general health and comfort, and also, it is probable, as a discouragement to the superstitious Egyptian practice of embalming. * And this object would be well secured by regulations subjecting a person, who approached a corse, to the serious inconvenience of seclusion from society for some days after, and the observance of a set ceremonial in order to his restoration. Under such a liability, every one would be interested to see that a body was soon buried, whether it was peculiarly his own charge, or might merely expose him to accidental defilement. On the other hand, it is not unlikely, that the regulation previously prescribed,t had proved, upon the short experiment, so burdensome as to have occasioned complaint; and that, its object being served in attracting serious attention to the subject, it now admitted of being relaxed, without injury. Accordingly, provision is made for the purification of the numbers, who, day by day, in such a multitude, must have been defiled by the occurrence of some death near them, without so much as the aid of a priest. The ashes of a heifer, immolated without the camp, with certain carefully specified formalities, are directed to be thrown into water, which water is to be kept, in order to be sprinkled by any “clean person” upon whatever person or thing has been defiled by the presence of a body, of part of a body, or of a grave. This
for perpetuity. See p. 242, note 11. — Verses 27, 30; your tribute to the priests, paid from the tribute of others, shall correspond to the tribute, which others, from their own threshing-floors and wine-presses, pay to you. “Pollute” (32); make common by withholding from the due sacred use, that of contribution to the priests. * See Ex. xiii.-19.
† Numb. v. 1-4.
being done on the third, and again on the seventh day after a defilement, it was then considered to be removed. It is reasonable to suppose, that, to meet the numerous occasions, which must have been constantly arising in remote parts, a quantity of water, thus prepared, was sent into the different quarters of the encampment.
The last five chapters, on which we have remarked, are without a date in the text. The contents of the last four are assigned, by a note in the margin of our English Bibles, to a period half way between the Exodus and the invasion. This, however, is done without authority ; nor, though it is true we cannot disprove the hypothesis, is there any probability in its favor. On the contrary, the movement to which the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters relate, is one which it is far most natural to refer to a period when the national institutions were recent; the arrangement prescribed in the eighteenth, for a tribute from the Levites to the priests, had such an important relation to the economy of the ecclesiastical estate, that it seems impossible not to ascribe it to a very early time; † and the inconvenience, resulting from a preceding law, which I have suggested that the law in the nineteenth chapter was designed to remove, was so oppressive, as to create a strong probability, that it was not permitted to remain long in force. On the whole, I cannot hesitate to understand, that the actual
* It may safely be presumed that the precise directions respecting the “red heifer” had reference to some existing practices and opinions; but it is in vain to attempt to explain all the particulars of the ritual. A quantity of learning, collected with a view to their illustration, and successfully, as to some parts, may be seen in Spencer, “De Legibus" &c., lib. 2, cap. 15.
† Verse 22 may be thought to furnish a confirmation of this argument. “ Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the Tabernacle of the Congregation.” This is language, which it is not natural to suppose was used a score of years after the Levites had entered on their charge.
series of events is pursued by Moses, without a pause, from the place which records his entrance on his mission, to the end of the nineteenth chapter of the book before us.
And I suggest, in conclusion of this part of the history, that the prominent transactions, which it relates, are recorded in the order in which we might have supposed, that, under such an administration, they would be made to succeed each other. First, we have the deliverance of the nation from its bondage, (in other words, the creation of the commonwealth,) along with the institution of its great commemorative rite, the Passover. The people, separated and made one, next receives a compendious law for present use, comprehending, however, the great principles of ulterior legislation. Then elaborate institutions of worship are prescribed, having in view the education of the race for their great function, and laws are given in fuller detail, adapted to the promotion of all their prosperity. They are now an organized community, ready, in every thing except national character, to enter on their high destiny. But this is wanting; and till it shall be formed, they are doomed to remain under circumstances where no call for enterprise will exist, and where their obscurity will be their protection.
NUMBERS XX. 1.- XXVII. 23.
RETURN OF THE PEOPLE TO THE SOUTHERN BORDER OF CANAAN. –
Their CONDITION DURING THE INTERVAL OF THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS. - REASONS OF THE CHASM LEFT BY Moses IN THE RECORD. — SCARCITY, AND MIRACULOUS SUPPLY, OF WATER. — NEGOTIATION WITH THE EDOMITES FOR A PASSAGE THROUGH THEIR COUNTRY. - DEATH OF AARON. — SKIRMISH WITH THE SOUTHERN CANAANITES. CIRCUIT BY THE RED Sea.- PLAGUE OF “ FIERY SERPENTS.” — NEGOTIATION WITH THE AMORITES, AND CONQUEST OF THE TERRITORIES OF Simon AND OG. — APPLICATION OF BALAK, King of Moab, to BALAAM, AND HIS PROCEEDINGS THEREU POX.
DISORDERS AND PUNISHMENT OF THE PEOPLE AT Saittim. — CENSUS, AND ARRANGEMENT FOR The Division of CANAAN, — RULE FOR THE INHERITANCE OF PROPERTY IN LAND. — Moses' Vision OF CANAAN, AND CONSECRATION OF JOSHUA AS His SuccessoR.
More than thirty-seven years pass without a record, and we find the Israelites again at Kadesh Barnea, near the southern border of Canaan, the same place where their fathers, in the second year after leaving Egypt, had desisted from the project of an immediate invasion. What had been their condition meanwhile? They are probably often conceived of, as having been roving about in a compact mass; without employment, or object, except that of detention from Canaan; and miraculously supplied with all their food through the whole period, on account of the sterility of the tract which they were traversing. Each of these views I conceive to be destitute of proof, and in violation of probability.
The latter view owes its currency among us to nothing more than the manner in which our translators have rendered the word, used to denote the region through