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'house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindléd.
And ye shall not go out from the door of the taber. nacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.
And the LORD -spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations : And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; And that ye may teach, the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The crime of the rash young men, who were cut off in só awful a manner, was presumptuous sin. They were the order of priests, who took it by turns to burn incense on the golden altar. The LORD had sent fire from Heaven to burn the first sacrifices that were laid on this altar, this was called Holy Fire, and it was the •business of the priests to keep it from being extinguished. Nadab and Abihu, regardless of the Divine command, which Moses had declared to them, did not wait till it was their turn to burn incense, but took their censers (the utensils made for carrying the offer. ing to the altar) and performed what was instituted as a solemn act of praise, with indecorum and irreverence ; despising the Holy Fire, they made use of common fire, which was a great affront to the Divine Majesty,
There is some reason to suppose, from the subsequent command to the priests to abstain from wine, that Nadab and Abihu were in a state of intoxication, from having indulged their appetites too freely with the portion that was allotted to them. The priests, being en. tirely devoted to the services of religion, were raised above the necessity of procuring subsistence for them. selves; and it was upon this account, that a certain portion of the sacrifices was appropriated to their mainte
It was necessary to make an example of the first offenders, in order to deter others from committing the like crime: accordingly we find, that the Holy Fire, which they despised, was made the instrument of their punishment.
Though from a difference of situation we never can be guilty of the very same crime for which these young mea suffered, yet we may collect useful instruction from the relation of it, which should warn us to observe the utmosi reverence and devotion in every part of religious worship.
MOSES NUMBERS the PEOPLE THE ORDER OF EN
CAMPMENT-THE LORD'S BLESSING.
As the children of Israel were very numerous, and the LORD vouchsafed to be their King, He commanded Moses and Aaron to take account of his subjects; and to regulate encampments, for they dwelt in tents, which they carried with them when they moved. When Jacob came into Egypt, his whole family consisted of seventy persons : they increased in two hundred and
fifteen years, to upwards of six hundred twenty-five thousand. We may justly suppose, that, besides those which were numbered, there were double the number of women, children, and sick persons; amounting in the whole, to at least one million eight hundred seventyone thousand one hundred persons. What quantities of food must fall daily from heaven to feed such multitudes! God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that “ he would greatly multiply their seed, were now amply fulfilled. A very exact account was taken of the people, in order to distinguish what tribe and family every man belonged to. « The whole
* body of the people were divided into four large battalions, so placed as to inclose the tabernacle, and each under one general standard. The standard of the camp of Judah was first; it consisted of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, which pitched on the east side of the ta. bernacle. On the south side was the standard of the camp of Reuben ; under which were the tribes of Reu. ben, Simeon, and Gad. On the west side was the standard of the camp of Ephraim ; under which were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. And on the north side was the standard of the camp of Dan; under which was the tribes of Dan, Napthali, and Ashur. Between these four" great camps and the ta. bernacle were pitched the four lesser camps of the priests and the Levites, who had their attendants about it. On the east side encamped Moses and Aaron, and Aaron's sons, who had the charge of the sanctuary, On the south side were the Kohathites, a part of the Levites descended from Kohath, the second son of Levi. On the west side were the Gershonites, another
* Stackhouse on the Bible.
branch of the Levites, descended from Gershon, Levi's eldest son. On the north side were the Merarites, the remaining part of the Levites, who sprang from Merari, Levi's youngest son,”
“ This was the order of the Israelites encamping ; and the method of their marching was thus : Whenever they were to decamp (which was always when the pillar of the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle) the trumpet sounded, and upon the first alarm, the standard of Judah being raised, the three tribes which belonged to it. set forward ; upon which, the tabernacle was immediately taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites attended the waggons with the boards and staves of it. When these were
on their march, a second alarm sounded; upon which, the standard of Reuben's camp advanced, with the three tribes under it, bearing the sanctuary ; which, because it was holy, and not so cumbersome as the pillars and boards of the tabernacle, was not put into a waggon, but carried upon men's shoulders. Next followed the standard of Ephraim's camp, with the three tribes, belonging to it. And last of all, the other three tribes, under the standard of Dan, brought up the rear." Every thing was contrived in a most excellent manner, preserve regularity and decorum, and prevent confusion and disputes : each person was informed of his proper bu siness, and knowing that all was settled by God's appointment, they readily submitted to it: the Levites were particularly honoured, as a reward for their fide. lity to God, in slaying those who worshipped the golden calf.
The camp of Israel must have made a very beautiful appearance ; especially if we consider, that the glory of GOD was manifested in the midst of it. The tribe of
Judah had the pre-eminence. Judah was not the eldest son of Jacob; but this partly fulfilled a prophecy which Jacob spake a little before his death*.
To assure the people that they were under the divine protection, and to excite their gratitude, the Lord commanded Moses, to give directions to Aaron and his sons to pronounce the following blessing upon them, when they assembled for public worship, which every sincere worshipper might apply to himself, “ The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
And the Lord graciously promised that he would put his name upon Israel and bless them, so that it should evidently appear that He had chosen them for his pe
How gracious was the Lord in thus providing for the good order and happiness of his people !- We find regulations were made for due subordination among the multitudes, which composed the great congregation; and it certainly must be best for every nation to have a distinction of ranks and orders, both ecclesiastical and civil,
The blessing of the LORD, and the Divine promise which accompanied it, were the highest and most honourable privileges bestowed upon the Israelites. In imitation of Aaron and his sons, Christian ministers pronounce a blessing upon their congregations of a similar kind, founded upon the promises of the New Testament, The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and
* See Sect. lii. vol. i.