Numbers.

Scope and Divisions of Numbers.

Literally, the book of Numbers is evidently the history of Israel's wilderness-life from Sinai onward, — that is, after their formal incorporation as the people of God under the legal covenant. It is a history of sad and terrible failure, — instead of a rapid march to Canaan, a sojourn of forty years in the desert, during which the entire generation that left Egypt as grown-up men (except two persons) perish under the judgment of God. But a new generation is led on to the borders of the land, conquerors over all opposition, until just opposite and ready to enter Canaan, the history ends; Deuteronomy being simply a review, and not a history.

Spiritually, its lesson is simple and obvious: it is the trial of the believer in the world; in which, alas! his failure becomes manifest, — and yet the grace of God does not fail; the resources of the priesthood, as found in Him in whom resurrection is the sign of competence, are brought out, the enemy is defeated, no curse can be on those whom God has not cursed, they go from strength to strength, until the good land of their inheritance is practically reached.

The Levites and their service are prominent through the book, — Christian responsibility to carry and exhibit Christ in the world, true ministry as indeed it is. The people also are seen as the Lord's host, united together for wilderness-warfare — not so much with personal enemies as influences, which develop murmuring, insubordination, and all the protean forms of unbelief. The evil does not break in, the power of God with them is too great for this, — but breaks out.

The divisions of the book are five: —
(Numbers 1 — 10:10.) The Ordering of the Camp.
(Numbers 10:11 — 16:35.) Growing departure from God: the testimony of history as to the people.
(Numbers 16:36 — 24.) The resources of the priesthood, marked out by resurrection.
(Numbers 25 — 27.) The testing in its consequences.
(Numbers 28 — 36.) The divine ways, and the end.

Notes.

Division 1. (Num. 1 — 10:10.)

The Ordering of the Camp.

 In the first division, then, we find the ordering of the camp. The people are to face the perils of the way, and the first requisite for this is to be in subjection to their Leader, not Moses, but rather the Lord Himself. Hence, first of all, this mustering and marshaling of what is to be the host of God. For a soldier to keep rank is an absolute necessity and here a wisdom that cannot fail ordains for every one his place and his association. Thus divine foresight is able to manifest itself for them, and they are secured from uncertainty and anxiety. They have but to be obedient, and by obedience to cast all the responsibility of the future upon Him who has identified His glory with the fulfillment of His promises to them. These of course were as to Israel nationally only: they did not pledge the security of individuals, and in fact the generation that came as men out of Egypt perished, except two persons, in the wilderness. For us who are Christians, thank God, grace reigns, and we are individually "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." But on that very account it is said to us, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure."

Subdivision 1. (Num. 1, 2.)

The organization and muster.

The first two chapters are the first subdivision, the mustering of the people as a whole, even the place of the Levites being indicated in the second chapter, though these are separated from the body of the nation for a prescribed service in connection with the sanctuary. Apart from them, the number of the tribes is maintained by the incorporation of Joseph's two sons as tribal heads according to Gen. 48. In this muster the organization carried out is the natural one, by families or "fathers' houses:" two terms which appear to be co-extensive, contrary as this is to the usual thought.* The difference between them is, that the word for "family" implies subjection to authority,** while the father's house shows that this authority has its grounds in the natural relation. Such is God's relationship to His people, of which the father is the image. Here rule should be as easy as obedience delightful. In family groups they were thus linked together in God's host, brother fighting alongside of brother, an army so compacted as to be, one might suppose, invincible. And what a means of encouragement, and of the impartation of energy, has God provided for us as Christians, who are members of one family, owning a common. Father, and embarked together in a common cause! Alas! how much feebleness has come in through God's order having been departed from: so many among us who cannot show their names upon the register, and so few together of those undoubtedly akin! And yet, with all this, we are still able to realize in measure the blessedness of the divine thought for us, and the comfort and power that result from this family organization, such as we find it in Israel.

{*The "fathers' houses" are generally considered to be subdivisions of the "families;" but they are used in a way which would seem to forbid this. Thus, although the usual order here is "by families, by fathers' houses," yet we find this order reversed also (Num. 3:15; Num. 4:22); and while on the one hand the numbering is sometimes by fathers' houses only, (as Num. 1:45; Num. 32; Num. 26:2,) in the second registration there are specified families alone. Both terms are used also in the most general way, even for a whole tribe (Num. 1:4; Num. 2:2; Num. 17:2; Joshua 7:17; Judges 17:7). Num. 3:20, "These are the families of the Levites, according to their fathers' houses," seems to identify them as certainly the account to which it is appended only mentions "families;" and their identity is plainly stated, according to my translation of Num. 4:38, 46.

** Mishpach, (from shaphach, to humble, to subject,) is so denominated from being. subject to or under the authority of the master of the family. So in Latin, familia, a family, is from famulus, a servant. — (Parkhurst.)}

 1. The first chapter gives this enrolling, "the sum of all the assembly of the children of Israel," but only their effective force, those fit for warfare, not women or babes, but grown men. In Christ of course there is neither male nor female, and women do not escape from spiritual warfare: but the thought conveyed to us here is none the less plain and significant. It is not the simple fact of being Christians that makes us practically fit to be warriors. Any that are Christ's may of course have to fight, but to be properly a warrior is a different thing. For this we must have two things which indeed come near together, and are both covered by the number which marks the section. First of all, maturity, which in the Greek stands as "perfectness," "wholeness," (teleiotes,) the full harmony of all the faculties. For this as saints we need to be nourished up by the Word of God. And secondly, what the apostle gives as necessary for a good soldier of Christ," devotedness, not to be entangled with the affairs of this life, which from another side brings us again to the thought of entireness, oneness. Thus to the Corinthians he complains that their carnality kept them still "babes in Christ." Here then is our title to enrollment among those "fit for war" in the spiritual Israel.

 (1) The persons able to do the work of numbering are, first of all, Moses and Aaron, the double type of Christ as King and Priest. He is indeed the One who knoweth them that are His, and under whose eye His servants are: the Lord who rules, and He who intercedes for and sustains them. Good it is to be under an eye like this!

 Under Moses and Aaron there are certain princes of the people, each identified with his own tribe, and in due time coming to be head over it. Of these we have nothing noted but their own and their fathers' names, but just for that reason, if there could otherwise be doubt, we may be sure that their names are intended to speak to us. All these Bible names should speak and their connection with the several tribes which they represent must be of importance: there must be a reason why Elizur, rather than Shelumiel or Nahshon, should be prince of Reuben; and it is in exploring Reuben's history that we should find it.

That history of Reuben, as of the other tribes, we shall find in a prophetic summary in Jacob's dying words, where divine wisdom has given the moral of it, the character of Reuben as therein shown, and the lessons we are to derive from it. We may turn then with confidence to the words of this grand prophecy, with which we are already familiar, to gather aid in the understanding of what is now before us.

 Reuben stands first then here as in Genesis, and Reuben's prince is Elizur the son of Shedeur. The first of these names is unquestionable in its meaning, as it is beautiful, — "God is a Rock." And this seems at once plain when connected with the character which Jacob gives to his first-born, "unstable, — boiling over — as water, thou shalt not excel." How grandly in opposition to the instability of Reuben is the rock-like stability of God! And it is the learning of this, and how to build upon it, that imparts stability to the unstable. In ourselves there is never strength, and the way of strength for us is to know this: "when I am weak, then am I strong." An Abraham with whom the body is now dead, needs — and finds because he needs — the Almighty God.

 Thus it is plain why Elizur is Reuben's prince and leader. He is one of God's royal family of overcomers, and he overcomes the evil, native in the tribe he represents. Faith with him has found refuge from himself, and found it in God. He is then the suited captain for the men fit for war in the tribe of the first-born.

 But this is not the whole: for Reuben's instability is more than weakness. Too many excuse as that what is in fact willfulness, the lust of the flesh; and though there is weakness necessarily in such a case, nevertheless that word does not describe the case. So we have seen it to be in what is before us: lust and will characterize the first-born of Jacob, as they do the first outcome of man in general; and so, before one can find one's strength in God, the holiness of God must be known, and our wills must be brought into conformity with His holiness. And this is accomplished more or less for us all in the fire of purification, the fire at which He sits as a Refiner of silver, purifying to Himself His people from their dross. No marvel then is it that the Reubenite Elizur is "the son of Shedeur:" that is, "the Almighty is fire." Yes, "our God is a consuming fire;" and He truly is the Almighty who is this, so that there is no escape out of His hands, when in love He takes up with us this His gracious work. Thus is the lesson learned, and how good when one has learned it! yea, "the knowledge of the Holy is" indeed "understanding."

 The next tribe, in birth order, perhaps in character, is Simeon; and the prince of Simeon is Shelumiel, "at peace with God." Again, how significant if we turn back to Jacob's prophecy, and hear him denounce on God's part Simeon's cruel wrath! His paths had not been peace, nor with Him who is "the God of peace:" hence peace with God, the deep, sweet rest of a mind conformed to His mind, Simeon could not know. Now with the Simeonite prince all this is changed; as to Simeon's special evil he too is an overcomer, and his also is the victory of faith: there is no evil which faith cannot overcome, because He with whom it links itself is the Almighty. And so in the process indicated here, Shelumiel is the son of Zurishaddai, — that is, "My rock is the Almighty."

 We have had much this thought already in Elizur, for the very simplest truths that faith embraces are of the widest reach and deepest import. Here, though the thought is much the same, the connection is different, just as Simeon is different from Reuben in his character. While Reuben is, as Jacob says, "the topmost of my strength," Simeon's very alliance with his brother is the confession of weakness, but a weakness which he would remedy by a recourse to that to which at present so many are betaking themselves — confederacy. And here he does find it indeed, but only to make cruel use of it, and to walk in separation from God. On his part therefore it brings in the end division and scattering. This is a necessity for him, if he is to be saved from himself; that, having found what the strength of nature betrays one to, he may turn to Him in whom there is all-sufficiency and with whom is holiness. This is now the Simeonite prince's alliance, and such an one needs never to be broken up again. Out of such have all great movements come; and here in such an alliance, as nowhere else, that individuality which is essential to the integrity and perfection of all true manhood is maintained; heart, conscience, the moral nature, are exercised and developed. Thus Shelumiel, that true peace with God which is the result of communion, springs from Zurishaddai, the known and enjoyed strength of the Almighty.

 In the third place we have Judah, and here a condition very different from that of the two preceding tribes. In Judah we find the worshiper, and the strength implied in the spirit of praise. For the lesson of the two former histories is learnt in this: the heart that rejoices in God Himself has ceased from its own will and found communion in the path of obedience. Thus there is strength: but here we may seem to have no room for the overcomer. Is it so in fact? and does the prince of Judah no more exemplify what we have found to be in the former ones? We may as well ask, what room is there for the overcomer in the church of Philadelphia, where (as in the other churches) there is a distinct promise to one? But the answer is, there is in Philadelphia, as elsewhere, still a tendency to slip away, — not to hold fast that which they have; and here then at least there is a need for overcoming. Just so with that which characterizes Judah. The spirit of praise may all too easily be lost, and Nahshon may teach us how to retain it. He may be in this sense an overcomer.

 Nahshon then means "a diviner," not necessarily in a bad sense. It is a word used for diligent observation (1 Kings 20:33); and divining, apart from the heathenism so much associated with it, is but the discernment in the present of the future: and so may the child of God divine. In that which makes him a worshiper he may find what will give him prophetic insight into the future. Nahshon is therefore the son of Amminadab, or, as the last word means, of "the people of the Liberal Giver." Here faith gets then its foresight, in the knowledge of His free grace to whom we belong. How beautiful is this genealogy of a prophet! and how this spirit breathes throughout the psalms, so largely Judah's! Still more should we be able to take as the ground of a happy confidence, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Thus the spirit of praise is nursed within us.

 Issachar's prince comes fourth in the list, Nathaniel, the "gift of God:" again exactly suited to him whose name speaks of hire, and whose tendency is to stoop his shoulder to foreign yokes, and to pay his tribute from the love of ease. The spirit of legality takes up readily with such strange service, as it is self which it really serves, and a bribe will turn it from its true Master. Yet, though God may hire a Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. 29:18), the bread in our Father's house is not for hirelings, though in the far-off country one might think so. As we have seen, at His redemption-feast no hireling sits (Ex. 12:45). Yet the hireling spirit in the people of God themselves would turn His grace into legal compensation, and a true overcomer is this Nathaniel who has learnt that the "gift of God" cannot be purchased. Here, too, the genealogy speaks very simply of how grace is apprehended: he is the son of Zuar, — that is "Little." For he who thinks of hire values himself necessarily at too high a rate, and he who estimates himself as really "little" is ready to appreciate the gift of God.

Yet there is a right thought of recompense — a reward, of "mercy" (2 Tim. 1:18) which love will not be denied in giving, — which is really but the gift of God. This can never become to the soul as hire, the motive to service, and for this reason, that it is the reward of true devotedness alone, and not self-seeking: to work for the reward is to lose it. Issachar's captain must in this way also be Nathaniel.

 In the fifth place here we find Zebulon; and in Zebulon we have seen Israel forgetting her separation to God, and stretching out toward the Gentiles. How sadly has this tendency to departure shown itself in the Church with regard to her more vital and wider separation from the world! and who can sufficiently estimate the evil resulting? When Balaam afterward sees the people in the "vision of the Almighty," the first thing that he sees is a people that dwell "alone, and are not reckoned among the nations." When with satanic craft he is laboring to injure whom he cannot destroy, he seeks to seduce them from this position by Midianitish women. In the Church the "unequal yoke" was very early brought in, and the apostle's words show the magnitude of the evil resulting. "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever? . . . . Where: fore come out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:14-18.)

 God is the Father of His believing people; but if they mix themselves with the world in forgetfulness of whose they are, they force Him, as it were, to forget their special relation to Himself. He cannot be to them. a Father as He would. How terrible is this loss, then, little as many regard it! And how powerfully does Zebulon's captain witness to us in this way — Eliab, "God is a Father!" May it speak with all its solemnity, and with all its precious encouragement, to His people's hearts! Thus Zebulon, "dwelling," gets its right significance.*

{*Of Helon, — the second name — the interpretation is so little assured, that I think it safer here to pass it by.}

 Leah's children end with this, save Levi, whose place is elsewhere. We have now Rachel's, Joseph first claiming his double portion in his two sons. Of these, Ephraim comes first according to Jacob's prophetic destination to this place of the younger born. Ephraim's prince is Elishama, "God hath heard;" for the very "fruitfulness" of which Ephraim speaks may be a snare to us if we have not learnt reverently to ascribe it to One who heareth His people's prayer. The second name, Ammihud, "the people of Majesty," may intimate that conscious relationship to the infinite Greatness which is the warrant and stimulus of successful prayer. All these names breath a spirit of dependence and of nearness, — of lowliness, yet of intimacy, — things that go necessarily together. There is abundant access for the humble-hearted; "the proud He beholdeth afar off." The nearest intimacy with God cannot minister to pride or go with it: the assumption of nearness, where the will is not subdued, and the spirit is unchastened, is but a false assumption. Who that has fairly measured himself in the presence of God but must carry with him the crippling of his human strength, as Jacob carried from Peniel his halting thigh?

 And now we come to Manasseh: "Manasseh" means, as we know, "forgetting." "God has made me to forget," says Joseph, "all my kindred, and my father's house." It is translated into Christian experience, the spirit of the racer, who sees no more what is once behind him, as he presses on toward the prize before. And this last thought Manasseh's prince supplies. His name is Gamaliel, — "God is a rewarder." As it is said of Moses, He had respect to the recompense of the reward." (Heb. 11:26. )

 Here the interlacing of divine truth brings us back to Issachar; yet, as approaching it from another side, the truth itself is different. The danger is not now of legality: rather, as the future is faced thus, there is need of what shall give competency to meet with assurance of heart the thought of recompense. That competency is here in the second name, Pedahzur, "the Rock hath redeemed." Only from the conviction of the strength of our salvation can we start for the goal of divine recompense, — forgetting the things behind in the consciousness of what Eye rests upon us, and of a heart that forgets never: may we so press on!

 Then follows Benjamin, who wherever we find him is the warrior, type of Christ Himself in the power that will put down evil in the earth in a day to come. For ourselves also in the meantime, — for us who are to be among the white-robed hosts that follow Him, when He comes forth as the white-horsed warrior to the judgment of that day, — a conflict with evil is appointed, not with carnal weapons, but so real and well-contested that we need all the panoply of God. From this no one that is Christ's can escape, save only by desertion of his post. How can he fittingly be with Christ in that day, who has never contended in the strife of this?

 It will be said, perhaps, that all the tribes here are warriors, and just because the warfare is appointed to all, it would seem as if there could be no special warrior type among them; but Benjamin's presence here is sufficient proof that this is a mistake. Not only, as has been already said, may those be in the conflict who are not warriors, but there are also different kinds of warfare, — defensive as well as offensive, in the fort and in the field. Benjamin is the type of the aggressive soldier, not the shield-bearer, but the swordsman or the slinger, such as there were in Benjamin at another day, — "seven hundred chosen men, . . . . every one could sling stones at a hair's breadth, and not miss" (Judges 20:16). This God would have in His people also, not the mere holding of the fort, but the going out to war, as when the land is to be won, or brethren are to be delivered.

 This, then, is the Benjamite, and the prince of Benjamin is Abidan, "My father is judge." Not according to men's judgment merely, least of all our own, but according to God's judgment, must every thing be conducted here; but not merely that even: the Father's judgment is what we who are His children are ourselves under, as the apostle admonishes us: "If ye call on the Father who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here with fear." (1 Peter 1:17.)

 What more needful admonition in the controversy with evil than this, to re member that we ourselves are under our Father's holy eye! How can we contend elsewhere with that whose power we are ignoring over our own hearts and ways? In the dark days which so quickly followed Israel's possession of the land, the judge was the deliverer: "and when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; . . . and it came to pass when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, . . . and the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel." This then was the twofold office of the judge: as it was said of Othniel, "He judged Israel, and went out to war." Benjamin's prince then is Abidan.

 But Abidan also is the son of Gideoni, — "the cutter down." For that from which proceeds all true after-judgment is the acceptance of that first judgment at the cross in which the tree of humanity had to be felled in order to construct the ark of salvation. Christ crucified is our deliverance, but Christ crucified is also the judgment of the flesh: "our old man was crucified with Him." Thus it is because Christ died to sin we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin; and to be so reckoning is power over it. If there be shoots from the stump, the knife and the axe have still their place; but for intelligent faith Gideoni has well done his woodman's work. We have not to die to sin; we are dead: not in experience, but "with Christ," therefore for faith. All self-judgment afterward proceeds upon this judgment of God upon us, — a judgment which when accepted by us is ability for all the rest. Gideoni is the father of Abidan.

 The children of the two wives are now told out, and we come to the children of the bondmaids. The first of these is Dan, "judgment," the spirit of rule, which, as Dan's origin points out, is really service. Yet in man's hand how readily it is turned from this! "Man being in honor abideth not." Instead of using his place for the blessing of those entrusted to his care, he uses it for himself, feeds with it his ambition or his greed in some form, and becomes a rebel to the One from whom he derives authority. Thus in Dan, as we have seen in Jacob's prophecy, is found the apostate. But for this, as for all else, there is a remedy with God, and Dan is here in his place with his captain Ahiezer, — "brother of help," the son of Ammishaddai, — "the people of the Almighty." Let them be realized in this relation, and the ruler becomes according to God's design, the "helping brother" of those over whom he is appointed. Thus do the hills after their nature minister to the valleys, and God in His love serves all: for this is true greatness ever: "without contradiction the less is blessed of the better," and "it is more blessed to give than to receive." (Heb. 7:7; Acts 20:35.)

 Asher follows Dan: his prince is Pagiel, — "event of God," the son of Ocran,  — "afflicted." Strange names these in connection with Asher, — the "happy," and whose portion in Jacob's prophecy answers to his name. Yet "He maketh all things work together for good to them that love Him," and sorrow in His hands is turned into joy. To true happiness here, as well as. for a guard against the dangers of it, some strain of sorrow seems of necessity to mingle with it, something wherein the soul has to submit itself to God, — to say it is the Lord, "the event is of God." The apostle's thorn in the flesh after his ecstasy in the third heaven may tell us this as to the most spiritual joys. Asher's prince is often a Pagiel, as Pagiel is truly Ocran's child: "tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope."

 And now we have Gad, whose prince is Eliasaph, — "God hath added;" he is the son of Deuel, — "known of God." How good a thing it is to be known of God! For this does not of course mean merely such knowledge as God has of every thing, but the knowledge we have of one with whom we are intimate, and which implies approval. And this is truly the secret of spiritual increase such as Eliasaph speaks of, the last part of whose name is the same word as "Joseph." Leah's exclamation when Gad is born shows that this is the thought also in his name. Need we be told that increase is to be looked for in a child of God? Or how sad a proof it is of the lack of divine intimacy when there is not this? And yet there are those whose stagnant condition would imply that they have no thought of this: if they are safe, it is enough; they do not "grow in grace," they remain babes, a condition which the apostle traces in the Corinthians to their carnality.

 We have but one tribe more, that of Naphtali. His prince is Ahira, "brother of evil," the son of Enan, which means apparently "eyed," or "having eyes." This is the most difficult name perhaps to interpret of all that we have had; the words also being susceptible of other meanings, though these are the simplest ones. May it be that in Ahira we find one whose eyes have affected his heart, like another Jeremiah (Lam. 3:51), and made him a man of sorrows in sympathy with the sorrow around? Such a spirit one would suppose to need expression among these leaders of Israel, and thus the "brother of evil" would come to be the "brother born for adversity," of which Proverbs speaks (Prov. 17:17). And this would not suit ill with the character of that Naphtali, whose own name is a memorial of "struggling," and whose "pleasant words" are noted in that prophecy of Jacob to which there seems constant reference all through.

 These, then, are Israel's princes, able to muster and lead to victory the hosts of the redeemed, as being personally overcomers in regard to their surroundings or the tendencies to failure amid which they are. In the constant battle-field which this world is for us, we must indeed be overcomers or overcome. All the men fit for war must be ranged under these leaders, as in the addresses to the seven churches of Revelation, the promises are all for overcomers. Here is the test for us, and we cannot excuse ourselves from it: blessed be God, if we have the spirit of the overcomer, the evil round can never master us, any more than the darkness of night can keep the stars from shining. The darkness is their opportunity to shine!

 (2) As to the number of the tribes which is now given to us, we must learn better the symbolism of numbers and the meaning of these tribal divisions themselves, before we can expect to find what is hid in it. Yet we may be well assured that there is here, as elsewhere, such deeper meaning, which should en courage attempt to seek it. God has forbidden idle words: can there be such in His own book? Assuredly not; it is impossible; and the first condition of successful search is the faith that accredits Him with a wisdom and love which has every where hidden in it the treasures which are to reward this.

 (3) The separation of the Levites to God for the work of the tabernacle is now declared. They are to be the body-guard of the divine King, and as the priests go in to God to perform their intercessory service in behalf of the people, so the Levites keep them from the wrath that would follow the intrusion of the stranger into the tabernacle of God, the holy things of which they bear through the desert in all their journeyings. They are thus the distinct types of ministry which addresses itself from God to man, as priesthood does from man to God. These things will, however, come fully before us in a little while, and we shall till then defer the discussion of them.

 2. The people, being numbered, are next ranged round the sanctuary, the Levites, as we have seen, being in the innermost circle, and the rest of the tribes arranged in four large camps, three tribes in each camp, under the standard of one of them as chief. Here, as so commonly then, the twelve divide into 4 x 3, not with less significance here than elsewhere: the number of manifest sovereignty — for the Lord is in the midst of His people — may show how God transforms the place of trial into the means of the display of Himself in power over it.

 The four camps lie to the four quarters, east, south, west, and north, from which come the outside influences, which, in a world like this may be any of them adverse, and which the people of God must meet in the power of Him who is among them. They must be independent of circumstances, carrying their resources, in this sense, within themselves. The whole order has reference to these outside influences, as we may see more shortly, the entire wilderness journey being a warfare, and the people's dwelling-place a camp.

The divisions and associations of the tribes can only be understood aright as we study them in detail.

 (1) The first division is that of Judah, with whom, under his standard, are Issachar and Zebulon. The position of his camp is doubly indicated as "eastward, toward the sunrising," two expressions which we may be sure are not mere tautology, for there is nothing of this kind in the Word of God; and inquiry here, as elsewhere, will not be without result.

 In fact the two expressions are in a sense in contrast. They both speak of the east, where of course the sun rises; but while the sunrise always conveys the idea of joy and blessing as connected with the returning day, the other word implies rather the opposite of this. This word is qedem, what faces," or "confronts you," and thus as nearly as may be resembles our word adversity from the Latin, "what is toward" you, only in a hostile manner. The qadim, the "east wind," is the dry and parching wind from the desert, as the west wind is literally the sea-wind, bringing moisture and rain. Judah's position, then, contemplates two opposite things, the world as the place of malign influence, and the uprising of the Sun of Righteousness, which for us is the end of this. These two contrary thoughts to us as Christians so suggest one another that there is no difficulty in their connection. He who faces in earnest the evil of the world will have proportionately before him that appearing of Christ which will bring its long disorder to an end forever. The night is fir spent, and the day is at hand; blessed be God, we who believe in Him are children of the day; therefore," says the apostle, "let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." (Rom. 13:12.) Here we are in Judah's camp toward the sunrise.

 But why Judah foremost, the leader of all. Israel in this way? His name and what we have seen of his history account for this. We have seen the light of the prophet in his eyes, and are all familiar with the fulfillment of the prophecy in his name in the psalms of his descendant David. We have read too his motto in the words of Jacob, "The spirit of praise is the spirit of power." Judah is foremost here for the same reason that Jehoshaphat in a later day put his singers and trumpeters in the forefront of the battle against the enemy; and when they began to sing and praise, the Lord went out against the foe and smote them. (2 Chron. 20.) So then it is here.

 For the spirit of praise is the spirit also of obedience, and thus Judah is qualified to be the law-giver (Ps. 60:7). Wherever the heart is filled with God His throne will be in the heart, and what an irresistible power is in this spirit of obedience to the all-wise "Captain of salvation"! Who or what can defeat the King's army, so long as it obeys orders? And what a triumphant enthusiasm, the presage of victory, swells in these loyal songs in the face of the battle!

This is what characterizes Judah, the spirit of obedience rising into the joyous spirit of praise, as with him who says, Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." (Ps. 119:54.) This is the "shout of a King" which Balaam heard at a somewhat later day than this, and before which Moab quailed. How beautiful is this position of Judah, meeting the edge of the east wind with the song of loyal devotedness, his camp thrown forward into the darkness to meet the first rays of the coming day; his captain he with the prophet's eyes, and of the race of those who know the Liberal Giver as their God!

 The last thought connects with Issachar, who, with Zebulon, fights under Judah's banner, with his captain Nathaniel, "the gift of God." They are both under the best of leadership evidently. The one will not seek his own, nor the other stray off to the world, while Judah leads.

 Taken as a whole, then, the camp of Judah is the expression of the spirit of righteousness, the standard under which he gathers is that of righteousness, a spirit to which statutes are songs, free therefore from legality, and which maintains the enjoyment of relationship to God as Father, where Issachar and Zebulon give the complementary thoughts. How full and sweet an expression is it; and how clearly the New Testament shines out here in the Old!

 (2) The next camp is that of Reuben, in which the rejected first-born takes humbly the second place. The subjugated will of man shows itself now, as we have seen in him, in the dependent cleaving to God, which is indeed "strength" and stability. "God is a rock" — (Elizur) is the principle which now victoriously leads him on. His place is on the south, which literally is "the right hand," the place of power and dignity, though in dependence: how completely does this mark the position of Reuben, again the child's place (Reuben, "see, a son!")

 But he needs this place, for the influences of the south are relaxing ones. How good that he has to lean only upon Another! that the place of his strength is inaccessible to any possible attack! It is indeed in resisting the relaxing influences of what men count prosperity that the power of faith is most distinctly shown. How beautiful an example is that of Moses, who, "when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt"! This was the resolute will of faith, the spirit of the prince of Reuben, in the face of the world. And in truth, though the influences of the south are pleasant for a season, they end in fierce and furnace heat before which the fruits of the earth are dried up and perish. How many have found the hot breath of worldly prosperity to be the destruction of spiritual fruit! The camp of Reuben if it be well maintained, is indeed here a place of honor, and the subjugated will of a Reubenite the first necessity to face the south.

 Here, then, Reuben is foremost, and under him are Simeon and Gad. Simeon too has learned dependence upon the prayer-hearing God, and has the peace of conformity of his mind to God's. If Reuben's prince is Elizur ("God is a rock"), the father of the prince of Simeon is Zurishaddai, — "my rock is the Almighty." Thus they are suited companions. But the communion which Simeon represents must be under the lead of Reuben's will of adherence and subjection to God, that it may abide the desert warfare, and thus he fills exactly his place here. Gad also is in the same line of dependence with his captain Eliasaph, — God hath added," — growth through faith, that is, by virtue of what faith embraces. Thus Reuben's camp is finished and furnished. Upon his standard we may read "faith."

(3) In the centre of the camp we have next the tent of meeting, with its Levite guard. As with Jerusalem at an after-day, "God is in the midst of her: she shall not be moved." (Ps. 46:5.) The Levites, devoted to the sanctuary and surrounding it, present the thought of consecration: and this is at the heart of all successful warfare. There is little said about Levi here: it is his glory to be overshadowed by the glory of God. And this is morally the character of all true consecration: that which vaunts itself is none.

 Westward was the camp of Ephraim: "westward" being, in Hebrew, "toward the sea." And the sea is pre-eminently in Scripture, as in nature, the type of trouble and unrest, which the word itself implies in the original. We have seen it in the six day's work the type of the evil within us, and which remains in us though regenerate, limited, however, by divine grace. It is the evil, moreover, in its negative rather than its positive aspect, and the west wind, as the sea-wind, differs from the east wind, the wind of the desert in this way. It comes not to wither, but rather loaded with the moisture which revives and refreshes the earth. This is the answer of heaven to the appeal of man's misery, even though that misery be in a sense identified with his sin. As the heaven draws from the bosom of the sea itself the vapors which it pours out again upon the land, so grace is that with which God in sovereign goodness has answered our sin, and the occasion of which has been the very sin itself; for only in a world of sinners could He show grace. How full and exact are these natural types, when we come to analyze them!

 Ephraim's camp, then, lies toward the sea,* and his name reads easily in this connection; for "fruitfulness" is dependent on the showers of heaven, spiritually as much as naturally. Nor only this, but plainly also the result of that which the heaving and stormy sea suggests — still under divine control — is what the apostle has affirmed for us, that "tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope." (Rom. 5:3, 4.) Here is the key-word, I doubt not, to Ephraim's position among Israel's hosts. His camp is the fourth camp, and the standard under which it marches is that of experience.

{*In the desert it must have been north-west to do this; but these distinctions are not made in Scripture, and the figure is more exact as Scripture gives it. We have not to consider the changes of locality to get the spiritual instruction, which is ever what is aimed at.}

 In a warfare such as this, experience must needs have an important place: in deed such an one as that which we have just heard from inspired lips itself implies the wilderness warfare and the victory of grace. The "fruitfulness" of which Ephraim's name tells is also an experience of which another apostle makes use in his conflict with those who were seeking to seduce those to whom he writes (1 John 2:26). The consciousness of what the gospel works, arms us against those who would deprive us of it. The consciousness of our love to the brethren reassures us as to our having passed from death unto life (1 John 3:14). "Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3). And "hereby do we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:13). These of course are not the things that give us peace at first, nor the foundation on which we build at any time. Christ alone is the foundation. And yet in the day of conflict we may find "Ephraim the strength of the head" (Ps. 60:7): the experience of the fruitfulness of grace is like a helmet to resist the blows of skeptical argument, and preserve the mind quiet and undizzy amid the assaults of error.

 Quite suited to this is the name of Ephraim's prince. "God hath heard" may be the conviction of faith, but it is also the realization of experience; just as Manasseh's prince, "God is a rewarder," may speak the confidence of hope, but may speak as well what is present realization. Indeed, it will be almost necessarily both, since God thus is continually meeting us with pledges and anticipations of the final recompense. Benjamin's Abidan, "my father is judge," implies also a practical experience.

 Manasseh comes naturally under Ephraim's headship, according to Jacob's prophecy. Manasseh — "forgetfulness," is but negative when alone: as a means to an end it must be connected with and governed by the end, in order to have its proper character. The spouse of the psalms is bidden, like another Joseph, to forget all her people and her father's house, but it is in the absorption of her heart with her divine King and Bridegroom (Ps. 45:10). So that to me to live is Christ," of him who proclaimed himself a Manassite, "forgetting that which is behind" (Phil. 1:21; Phil. 3:13). It was not asceticism; it was absorption: a "counting all things but dung, that" he "might win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).

 Benjamin also would lack the true spirit if not found under Ephraim. The spirit of controversy, apart from the eager desire of fruit for God, would be but that of Ishmael — warfare for its own sake, — a spirit to be abhorred. How different when it is a burning zeal for Christ and for His glory that animates one, and, as we have seen, Abidan is the captain of the host!

 But Ephraim leads Benjamin also, because the experience of the fruit of grace as realized in the soul is necessary for the conflict in its behalf. This we have seen in the apostle's appeal to its testimony as against seducers. And all truth that is to be maintained in the face of an evil world must have like witness in the hearts and lives of its professors. The Benjamite warriors must be found in the camp of Ephraim under the standard of experience.

 (5) And now we come to the last camp, fifth in order here — that of Dan. It lies to the north, and as we have found the other quarters of the heaven with significant names, so it is also here. The north (tsaphon) means "what is hidden," and the reason why the north is called so is because to those living in the northern hemisphere the sun travels through the southern heavens, and the north side of any thing is the dark side. Naturally the north itself would be contemplated as the seat of darkness, the abode of gloom and mystery. Striking it is, then, that the camp of Dan falls into the fifth place, the number five speaking, as we have so often seen, of exercise in connection with God's governmental ways. In this respect Scripture itself recognizes, and the heart of every man bears witness to, the mystery with which they are encompassed. Here still, as with Moses upon the mount, it is impossible to see God's face. Only after He has passed by can we see the glory of His back parts.

 And this mystery, how it assaults us! From the north came the most frequent attacks upon the land, and from it will come the final attack. (Ezek. 38, 39.) In the sides of the north the Babylonian apostate makes his seat and utters his defiance of the Almighty. (Isa. 14.) We must not imagine this to be without significance. Nothing in Scripture is; and it is by putting things together that we perceive a meaning which taken by themselves such things might seem to lack. Certainly in the place of mystery it is that apostasy and infidelity entrench themselves most securely; while upon the forehead of Babylon the great there is also written, "Mystery."

 Dan, who fills the fifth position here, was also the fifth son of Jacob. Child of the handmaid as he is, he represents the spirit of rule or judgment. Strangely enough, in Jacob's prophecy he shows, as we may say, the northern character; and unites in his serpent symbol the two ideas of assailant and apostate. Is this when the influences of his position, which is by and by in the extreme north of Israel, have overcome and carried him away? Here, however, all is different: he is in his place every way, and his prince is Ahiezer, "brother of help." Dan is here, therefore, nearly connected with Abidan, prince of the tribe before him, Benjamin, and speaks similarly of that judgment of one's self according to God which is indeed the only spirit in which to meet without damage the mysteries which confront us. Where intellect merely is only perplexed and baffled, and speculation betrays us into error, or into that pride which is the most fatal error, there the spirit of self-judgment escapes without an effort, finding safe footing where the other falls. This is easily understood. An exercised conscience is the true remedy for over-exercise of mind, just as the apostle tells us of those on the other hand who, not "holding faith and a good conscience," "concerning faith have made shipwreck." (1 Tim. 1:19.) Here, too, Ahiezer finds his place: those in practical lowly service to others are not easily mastered by the subtleties which carry away the theorist.

Dan, who fills the fifth position here, was also the fifth son of Jacob. Child of the handmaid as he is, he represents the spirit of rule or judgment. Strangely enough, in Jacob's prophecy he shows, as we may say, the northern character; and unites in his serpent symbol the two ideas of assailant and apostate. Is this when the influences of his position, which is by and by in the extreme north of Israel, have overcome and carried him away? Here, however, all is different: he is in his place every way, and his prince is Ahiezer, "brother of help." Dan is here, therefore, nearly connected with Abidan, prince of the tribe before him, Benjamin, and speaks similarly of that judgment of one's self according to God which is indeed the only spirit in which to meet without damage the mysteries which confront us. Where intellect merely is only perplexed and baffled, and speculation betrays us into error, or into that pride which is the most fatal error, there the spirit of self-judgment escapes without an effort, finding safe footing where the other falls. This is easily understood. An exercised conscience is the true remedy for over-exercise of mind, just as the apostle tells us of those on the other hand who, not "holding faith and a good conscience," "concerning faith have made shipwreck." (1 Tim. 1:19.) Here, too, Ahiezer finds his place: those in practical lowly service to others are not easily mastered by the subtleties which carry away the theorist.

 Dan's standard, then, is truly that of exercise, and under and next to him comes Asher, the "happy:" for happiness clearly depends upon this awakened conscience, and is found in the way of such brotherly helpfulness as Ahiezer speaks of: "if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17.) We have seen that Asher's captain indicates how God maintains us in happiness by the ministry of a chastening sorrow, which sufficiently accounts for Asher being under the standard of "exercise." All is simple here for those that have proved it even in a small measure, and what child of God has not? Only may we heed the admonition of it!

 Finally, Naphtali comes under the same banner, his captain also, Ahira, manifestly near akin to Ahiezer. And here every thing tells of exercise, so that there is scarcely need to enlarge upon it. Thus the order of the camps is complete.

Subdivision 2. (Num. 3, 4.)

The separation of the Levites to the service of the tent of meeting.

 The second subdivision shows us the separation of the Levites to their own peculiar service in connection with the tent of meeting, and details the service itself with special reference to the wilderness condition. The Levites are evidently in as distinct relation to the book of Numbers as the priests are to the book of Leviticus. The latter belong to the sanctuary when set up, and have their place in it as intercessors and as worshipers; the former guard it from without, or attend upon it in its traveling dress. They face outward, as the priests in their service face inward, — that is, Godward: and this is the essential distinction at all times between ministry and priesthood. It must be remembered that in Christianity God's people are both; and not some of them, but all of them. "Ye are a holy priesthood" is said to all; and, in the prophetic wisdom of God, by him whom men have decreed to be the authoritative head of an exclusive priestly caste. Peter it is who is chosen of God to make this known to us (1 Peter 2:5): "Ye are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Here is the priestly attitude, the face Godward, although now the sacrifices are no longer propitiatory, Christ having offered Himself once for all for this; but "by Him" we are to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, — that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name." And again we are exhorted, "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices, God is well pleased." (Heb. 13:15, 16.)

Our altar is, then, now not the brazen altar, — the work there has been done; and we, having been accepted in the value of it, are introduced into the sanctuary itself, — to the golden altar, the vail also being rent, so that we are brought fully nigh to God. And as brought nigh, our lives are to be a thank-offering to Him, that which alone makes a life in its spirit Christian. Praise, intercession, all that in which we draw near to God is in its character thus priestly: the face is toward God.

 On the other hand, Levite service is from God and for God toward men; and this is ministry, which is nevertheless of the most diverse kind: not open ministry of the Word only, although in some sense indeed always that for when "without the Word" a woman wins her ungodly husband to the Lord, it is still by the Word as seen in its effect on her she does it, and she is truly more a minister of it in this than many a wordy preacher. All God's saints are thus ministers: if the priesthood is not among us a special class, but all are priests, so the ministry is not with us a distinct class either, though there are distinct kinds of ministry. Nor is there in this way among saints a special class, holier by their office than are others; all are saints, and holy, not one secular and another sacred: a thought which degrades all ministry. They who are brought to God in the holiest by the new and living way which Christ hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, His flesh, are as holy as any can be: to deny it is to put dishonor on the work of Christ.

 The children of Levi sprang, as we know, from the third son of Jacob, from whom came Aaron and Moses also, the double type of Christ. His name, "joined," suits perfectly with the history of the tribe, in their first father joined to Simeon in deeds of violence, which brings upon them as chastisement the sentence, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." But it is in result true blessing. Levi, in whom this is more fully accomplished than in Simeon, is only thereby more fully blessed. He is joined to the Lord, and the Lord becomes his portion, and if scattered in Israel, it is as a spiritual seed to bring forth fruit to God all over the land. Moses' blessing in Deuteronomy speaks of their terrible proving at a time when, as we have seen, in the execution of divine judgment upon the idolaters, he "acknowledged not his brethren, and knew not his own children," and of the result in the divine approval, "they shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law." They are to teach the lesson who have learnt it; and so it ever is.

 1. The first section gives their designation to the service, as the second gives us the service itself. God is sovereign in the choice of those who are to serve Him, which surely does not imply that the highest wisdom is not in the choice, but the contrary. All God's attributes are manifested in His every act; most conspicuously, therefore, where He is most sovereign.

 (1) His call of them is here distinctly given, although there have been intimations of it before this. As we see already, that of the priests must have taken place first, as the calling of the Levites depends upon that of the priests. Communion and worship must precede and introduce to service, if this is to be real and effectual.

 (a) It begins with the "generations of Aaron and Moses," the spiritual heads of the tribe, though only the name of Moses is given, as his children fall into their place as simple Levites. It is all the plainer on this account that it is as heads of the tribe they are brought in here. Typically, Christ as Priest and King is seen in relation to ministry, the fount and director of it. Aaron is first, because it depends above all upon mediation, is the fruit of this. Aaron, too, is the head of that priestly family which is typically our own. Here indeed we find terrible failure and the judgment of God, the first two sons cut off, and the third, Eleazar (the "help of God"), speaking in this way of that resurrection-power in which God acts when all human power is completely at an end. Ithamar, ("where the palm-tree is,") following Eleazar, seems to imply the uprightness and fruitfulness, constantly in Scripture associated with the palm-tree, like which the righteous flourish. (Ps. 92:12.) This, at least, is in the true order here not the less so that in the history we find that when (as in Eli) Ithamar's descendants are exalted above Eleazar's then there is mournful failure and collapse. Together and in due order Eleazar and Ithamar minister as priests in their father's presence.

(b) The Levites are now bidden to be brought near, and to be given to Aaron and his sons, to minister to him, and keep the charge of the vessels of the tabernacle: a weighty service, for which they need to be in dependence on the Priest. Indeed, to the service of the priests they are wholly given, ministry belonging to those who worship, and its first and most imperative duty is to guard and care for the holy things with which they have to do. The tabernacle vessels we know to set forth the truth of what Christ is in all His offices; and all ministry must watch over and preserve this.

(c) But they are indeed Jehovah's possession, sanctified to Him instead of the first-born which He had sanctified to Himself when He delivered them in Egypt. Those whom He delivers He claims, and only in being His can deliverance be realized. This is the joy of salvation, that we then belong to Him, and that He obtains in us that which He has sought.

 (2) Next, we have their numbering, in which also their divisions and relationships are made known to us. They are numbered from a month old and upward, as the first-born are, and for the same reason. If only men in their strength were to be redeemed or numbered, would it not appear as if God took "pleasure in the legs of a man"? (Ps. 147:10.) But it is the soul He values, and the soul of an infant is precious in His sight: His "delight" is "in the sons of men."

 The sons of Levi are Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and these three are the heads of eight families. "Gershon" means "exile;" his two sons are Libni, "white," and Shimei, "my report:" names not difficult to unite into a meaning. For a true exile is indeed one conscious of exile, though it be but for a while, from the home of his heart; and it is from this spirit of strangership that springs power for purity and freedom from defilement; while the last name may speak naturally of what has in this case fullest value for him, the "report" of things not now seen.

 Correspondingly the Gershonites have charge of all that which in the tabernacle speaks of practical righteousness, whether in Christ or in His people, as the tabernacle itself, the tent and its covering, the hangings of the court, and what connects with these. He is occupied with what is subjective, as we say, and illustrates the anointed foot. His prince is Eliasaph, "God hath added," a name we have had before in the prince of Gad, and near akin to Joseph. "Increase" is in the line of Gershon's practical bent, and that "increase" is from God is a good reminder to those in this way who may be in danger of self-occupation, meaning, as it always does, self-confidence. These princes we have noticed to be always overcomers. He is the son of Lael, "of God," or, "belonging to God," a name which seems as if it welled out of the deep joy of a soul that had found here the secret of its strength and progress.

 Kohath comes next with his four sons, whose names (with his own) are much more difficult to read. His charge was the ark, the table, the lamp-stand, the altars, and the utensils belonging to all this, with the one linen article, which speaks, as we know well, of the humanity of Christ. Thus it is easy to see that typically the Kohathite ministry is objective; his occupation is with what is outside himself in Christ; the anointed ear is nearer his symbol than the anointed foot. His prince is beautifully Elitzaphan, "[whom] God hath hidden," for here it is indeed in the presence of God, and in occupation with Christ, that self is lost. He is the son of Uzziel, the "power of God." May we not take it as the realization of the apostle's prayer (Eph. 3:16, 17) "that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith"?

 What, then, of these first names, which after all are not uncertain in their meaning, but difficult in their application? "Kohath," all are agreed, means "assembly." He has indeed in his charge the ark, the centre of gathering. To lift up Christ as the One in whom, and as the fruit of His work, God reveals Himself to us, is to draw men, according to His assurance, unto Him. Here is indeed the glory of the Kohathite ministry: as when the Baptist out of the fullness of his heart, when looking upon Jesus as He walked, said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" and those who heard him speak left him to follow Jesus.

 Kohath's first son is Amram, "people of the Exalted One," a beautiful name, if we connect it with that gathering to Christ of which his own name seems to speak to us; while the next is Jitzhar, "oil," the undoubted type of the Spirit as the Anointer; then we have Hebron, "union," as some put it, "communion," as we have elsewhere interpreted it; in either case, clearly the effect of the Spirit's work; lastly, we find the father of Elitzaphan, Uzziel, "the power of God." That these names run most naturally together, that they harmonize in a blessed presentation of the results of Kohathite ministry, is plain. Are they not the real significance of what must have significance if it be of God?

 Last of Levi's three sons we find Merari, "bitter," with his two sons, Mahli, "sick," and Mushi, "yielding." Strangest words of all are these in connection with Levi's sons. These families have charge of the boards of the tabernacle and its bars, its pillars and sockets, and those of the court and the pegs and cords. Here it is evident that not so much Christ Himself as the people of the Lord occupy Merari. His is the anointed hand. His work is in the main what we may call ecclesiastical; and who that has engaged in this but has found the bitterness which expresses itself in Merari's name? Little fitted would he be for ministry who could not feel it; and this we must believe to be the reason of a connection which seems strange enough, and yet expresses familiar experience. Think of how Paul's epistles convey this to us from the full heart of a devotedness which went on, finding from men rather disappointment than recompense, — in his own words, "Though the more abundantly I love you the less I be loved."

 Mahli may express on the other hand the faintness that results from excessive labor; while Mushi may denote that spirit of forbearance and gentleness that, where the truth permits, can yield all else, — a spirit how necessary in just such relation as is here intimated to the Church of God! The lack of it is as fruitful a cause of trouble among saints as perhaps can be found. Merari's captain is in striking, comforting contrast to these names, Zuriel, "my rock is God," the son of Abihail, "the father of valor," — the "virtue" of 2 Peter 1.

 It should be noted that Merari significantly encamps north of the tabernacle, Kohath to the south, Gershon to the west, while Moses, Aaron, and his sons encamp toward the east, filling thus Judah's place in the inner circle.

 (3) We have next the numbering of the first-born, the sanctification of the Levites in their place, and the redemption of the overplus. We can add nothing of importance to what has been already said with regard to this.

 2. We have now the service of the Levites and the numbering of those of age for service. The service here is what the book of the wilderness would naturally insist upon, the form of it that which was peculiar to the wilderness, or to the time when there was as yet no settled location for the ark of God, no place in which was Jehovah's name. This service is the carriage of the holy things through the wilderness, the type for us of the presentation in the world, as we pass through it, of Christ and the heavenly truths of Christianity. These, it is true, are in their traveling dress, and as they are in themselves, in their innermost reality, faith alone can know them. Yet is this testimony of the highest possible value, counted so of God, who, if it be His good pleasure thus to go through the world, trusts Himself to the loving obedience of His people to bear Him through.

 It is a testimony with the lips as in the life, in the life as with the lips, the truth uttered never to be divorced from the truth embodied in practice. The former without the latter would be empty words; the latter without the former (if such a thing indeed were possible) an enigma never to be solved, a lost hieroglyph. The two together fulfill our Lord's precept, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." This combined testimony alone places our good works in the light, in which when seen they glorify the Father.

 (1) This, then, is Levite service here. In the first part of this section the families of the tribe are put into their several places by God, He sovereign in His appointment as to it, every thing of course, therefore, in its place perfectly ordered, — Kohath with his precious vessels, Gershon with his fine linen, Merari with his boards and pillars. Service is gift, and therefore gift is the appointment to service, since the Giver can make no mistake. What an immense thing for the Church of God if it could rise up to this so simple truth, and every member of the body of Christ were to start out of the bands with which custom and tradition have enswathed him, into the healthful use of all the faculties and powers with which God has endued him! Does he question his title or responsibility to use any other faculties than spiritual ones? It would be thought strange indeed to do so. Here, and here alone, where the faculties are the highest, and the need for their exercise is the most urgent, here he questions.

 It must not be thought, however, that because God has apportioned to the Kohathites one charge, to the Gershonites another, and to the Merarites still another, that Christians are in a similar way divided into corresponding classes. It is true that each Christian has undoubtedly sonic character of gift, or some proportion of gifts, special to himself. But this is not represented, as we see easily, by the special charges here. On the contrary, every Christian is Kohathite, Gershonite, and Merarite all in one: the objective cannot be divorced from the subjective, nor either from the necessary outflow to others, without fatal consequences.

(a) Kohath is another instance of which there have been so many, that the first-born naturally loses his place to another. Kohath is not the first-born of Levi, but Gershon is. Grace, not nature, rules.

 Let us look, then, at Kohath's charge. Here first we have the ark, the throne of God in Israel, a throne typically of grace, the lid of the ark being the "propitiatory" or "mercy-seat," on which once a year the precious blood was sprinkled. Yet the ark with its mercy-seat was Christ, for it is in Christ, and through His work, that God can take His place in gracious government over a redeemed people. But the ark is wrapped in a covering vail: it is Christ as known in the flesh that is here, though hiding within Himself all His heavenly glory. Outside of this is a sealskin covering, the impenetrable holiness of His character; and outside of this again a cloth wholly of blue, the heavenly color.

 Essentially, then, what we have is Christ in the grace of humanity, yet holy and heavenly, our redeemer and Lord. This implies on our part of course as a first principle obedience, and that the joyful obedience of the redeemed.

 Next to this is borne the table of show-bread: Christ again, as maintaining us  in communion, for this entered into heaven, so that a cloth of blue immediately envelops the table upon which are the furniture of the table and the vessels of the drink-offering, with the continual bread itself. The bread is primarily for God, the presence-bread, though the food of the priests afterward, and thus communion is maintained according to the value of the position which we have in Christ, fruit of that corn of wheat which, that it might not abide alone, has fallen into the ground and died. This is emphasized by the crimson cloth which covers all, covered itself only with the sealskin covering, like that "it is most holy," of the sin-offering.

 Next, the lamp-stand is covered like the table with a cloth of blue, for Christ as the maintainer of spiritual light is passed into the heavens. For the world it is hidden: it is night, and the sun is down; but upon us who are in the sanctuary it shines still through the night. Outside the lamp is wrapped again in the sealskin covering: what is most apparent is the holiness of the truth.

 Then we have, similarly covered with blue and sealskin, the altar of incense; and then the vessels of service. Then follows the altar of burnt-offering, covered with a purple cloth, for the Crucified is the One who reigns; and "if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."

 Thus typically it is with Christ in His relationship to God and to His people that Kohath is occupied, and this implies our place before God, communion with God, heavenly illumination, worship, and the way to glory by the cross. Practical in the highest way as all this is, the truth is yet essentially objective: it points the eye in the first place elsewhere than upon self, and than this very thing nothing can be more practical. Yet the testimony is that of God Himself, and not of man, though man may utter and re-utter it. We enter the heavens to be qualified for earth; we do not begin on earth, by and by to reach the heavens. Our simplest earthly duties require us to be conversant with things above.

(b) Gershon has a charge very distinct from that of Kohath. His is all the fine linen, whether of the tabernacle or the court, except the vail, together with the coverings of skin, and what pertains to these. We have looked at them already severally as they came before us in the book of Exodus, and we see readily that they all speak of practical righteousness or character in some way. In the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle itself they speak of Christ; in the hangings of the court they speak of His people, but still in a similar way. We have already said that he illustrates the anointed foot; but this scarcely seems to agree with the numerical place which Scripture assigns to Gershon: we should naturally have given him a fourth place rather than a second.

 But Scripture is given to guide and correct our thoughts, not to be subject to them: it would be of no use to us whatever if it were. What, then, does the number point to with which is associated this second form of Levite service? The only possible thought seems that of separation, and as soon as we look a little carefully at Gershon here a certain connection begins to appear.

 First, his name — "exile" — speaks very simply of separation from the place to which he is native, typically for us heaven, and Gershon belongs by birth to Canaan, while his life afterward in Egypt justifies his name. Is not this, too, to be our character, "strangers," as belonging to heaven, "partakers of the heavenly calling?" and does it not appeal to us as naturally following and dependent on that to which Kohath has introduced us? is not the heavenly objective truth, as just now said, the governing truth in this case, as it ought to be?

 Then we may observe that the curtains, coverings, and hangings with which Gershon has to do are in fact all lines of separation. They define the tabernacle itself, or mark off and separate the court from the wilderness around. They speak therefore, easily and without strain, of the boundary-lines of God's special enclosure such as the Church is in the world.

 Scripture insists upon such a separation every where: it is not strange to find it insisted upon here; and it is an essential part of testimony surely, which, we have seen, this Levite service is. What need, too, of enforcement of what Satan and the world from the outside, in league with the flesh within us, unite to break through and, if possible, destroy! Frail enough too for a wall these linen curtains look! That which is of God is constantly exposed to the contempt of unbelief; and this unbelief the event for long often seems to justify. To-day, the Church itself thinks little of separation; and yet he who holds by the Word of God will find the reckoning of eternity to be on his side.

 Gershon's separation is not an imaginary one. It is not an air-line, but one maintained, as these linen hangings suggest, by practical righteousness. How much, in fact, depends upon it! If God cannot walk with the world, my walking with Him requires as its first necessity separation from it: what righteousness can there be apart from a walk with Him? There can at least be no right or Christian measure, The grace and peace which the apostle prays may be to us are "from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." (Gal. 1:3, 4.) The cross of Christ is that by which the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world; and for this he who wrote thus gloried in it. (Gal. 6:14.) If times are changed, the cross of Christ at least has not, and those who "mind earthly things" are by that fact "enemies of the cross of Christ." (Phil. 3:18, 19.)

(c) We come now to Merari's charge: after the testimony of separation follows that of union; for this is surely what the tabernacle frame-work suggests, — the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets, made for each other, and which Merari himself joined together wherever they encamped. The boards thus united speak of the Church, builded together for a habitation of God in spirit," (Eph. 2:22) — that is, a spiritual habitation corresponding to the material one which is here before us. The place of Merari in this way has been already indicated, and in so brief an outline as alone is possible to us now, there remains little to be added. Only we may note that while Kohath's charge is under the oversight of Aaron's son Eleazar, those of Gershon and Merari both fall under that of Ithamar. Eleazar, the third son, and whose name signifies "the help of God," naturally reminds us of resurrection-power, and in that way of the position into which the Risen Priest introduces us. The Kohathite ministry depends upon this new place which Christ has taken for us. Ithamar is the fourth son, and his name signifies "where the palm is." Practical walk (for the righteous is compared to the palm-tree) is easily read in him, and thus his connection is clearly with Gershon and Merari.

 (2) Now comes the numbering of the Levites who are of age for service. Every one such finds his place in this reckoning. He enters it at thirty, the age of realized capacity (3 x 10); he leaves it, in its wilderness-form, at fifty, or typically only when the creature stands before his God in the day of account (5 x 10).

 As to the numbers of the respective families, one can only confess that lack of proper diligence is the reason of being able to say nothing of them. Assuredly there is meaning in it all worthy of Him who has inspired it; and those who seek in faith and humility, here as elsewhere, shall find.

Subdivision 3. (Num. 5, 6.)

The sanctification of the camp.

The camp being thus ordered and arranged, the next thing is to have it cleansed from evil, that God, in whom alone their strength is, may be with them. The place of this, and its necessity, need not be dwelt upon: the details are full of interest, their connection with one another made quite plain only by their typical significance, according to which alone leprosy and contact with the dead would be defilement. How evidently are the things that happened unto Israel —  types which are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come!

1. First, in the leper and the man with an issue we find, though in different degrees, the outbreak of the flesh. The taint of the natural life, poisoned by sin, is easily read in these things, which are in fact the penalties of sin. From this there would be no escape, for it no help, did we not receive a new life, divine, and so in itself incorrupt, untainted. With this comes the responsibility of judging what is of the old, which these two things show us unjudged. They who are thus marked as indulging sin are to be put out of the camp; and with them those defiled with the dead, for the life we have received is eternal. This eternal life is therefore to be maintained in incorruption, and dissociation from all that is incongruous with it. Our Lord's words are the New Testament enforcement of this, — "Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60.)

 Defilement with the dead is characteristic of the book of Numbers: we have it again in the law of the Nazarite, in the provision of the second passover, and above all in the ordinance of the red heifer, which is specifically for purification from it. Thus the evil is one of great importance, and in close relation to the wilderness-journey. Nor is it difficult to see this connection. The wilderness, in its barrenness, in its lack of what would sustain life, naturally suggests death. On many an one the skeletons of animals and men lie far and wide, bleaching in sun and wind. The world in the same way has on it the stamp and seal of death, the evident mark of its distance and alienation from the living God. No wonder if all connected with it naturally should be thus associated with uncleanness in the Word of God. So that which dies of itself may not be eaten, though that which is slain and offered to God is, on the contrary, the food of both God and man.

 The contact that defiles is of course for us spiritual. It is that cleaving to the world which the apostle laments, even weeping, in the professors of Christianity, and in its full development makes them such as "whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." (Phil. 3:19.) These he calls enemies of the cross of Christ," for the cross of Christ is that by which we are crucified to the world and the world to us (Gal. 6:14). And "in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." "Our conversation" — our citizenship — "is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. 3:20.)

 There are lighter grades, of course, and some forms of it that seem inevitable; yet in its lightest form it is a most serious evil. The world is all around us, the scene through which we pass,- and in which we have our daily occupation, attractive still to the old nature, and an enemy's country, where "the prince of the power of the air," with unseen subtle influences, "worketh in the children of disobedience." Unlike Adam in Eden, here we are called to suspect everywhere the stratagems of an active foe, who makes the very place of tombs his stronghold. In it we have to be; of it we are not: we are a new creation — citizens of heaven, and to act in character with this, as strangers and pilgrims," thus to "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."

2. The second thing in this purification of the camp is the restitution enjoined for trespass — a restitution which we have already seen is to be in excess of the injury inflicted by the trespass. It does not satisfy God to have the loss made up; there must be an overplus of gain to him who has suffered the loss, wherein God too is glorified. This is the positive side of blessing in the conflict with evil, not as before simply the banishment of it; and for this the work of Christ must come in, as seen in the accompanying sacrifice: it is a triumph of holiness which redemption alone can secure, and has secured, and which those redeemed from sin are called to imitate.

 3. In the third case, there is not a dealing with known sin, but even the suspicion is not to be tolerated in the people of God. In the jealousy-offering, a direct appeal to God is provided in such a case, where indeed the sin suspected struck at the very foundation of that family relation which not only in Israel but elsewhere is itself the foundation of all other relation between man and man. Its place here, therefore, where the purification of the camp is in question, is perfectly simple, while the typical meaning adds to its significance. The relation of man and wife is that by which (as the nearest and most intimate of all,) it pleased God to set forth His own relation with His covenant-people (Isa. 44:5; Jer. 31:32). The Church is at present but espoused to Christ, not married (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7); but as to the bond existing, Scripture treats it as the same in both cases (Deut. 22:23, 24). To the Church, therefore, also the type fully applies, — in its details, more completely than to Israel.

 How grave a question, then, is here! and there must not be even a question. The Lord is jealous over us with a heart that never wanders, a love that does not admit a question. How it would spoil all if the suspicion here could be allowed as to the husband! but "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" is what is ever true on His side. The church, alas! may give herself to another, as Israel also did: the history of one is in sorrowful correspondence with that of the other.

 When there is suspicion the man brings his wife to the priest, and for her a meal-offering of barley-meal, not the fine wheat-flour of the usual meal-offering. The reason for the substitution has been variously interpreted. The Rabbins took it as a sign that the adulteress had conducted herself like an irrational animal; but the woman is not yet proved to be an adulteress. Others suggest that "the persons presenting the offering were invoking the punishment of a crime, and not the favor of God," but this is not strictly true, nor would an offering for the supposed guilty person appear suitable for such a purpose. Knobel takes it to indicate that the offerer might be innocent, and in that case no offering at all was required. Keil, rightly rejecting all these, supposes it to represent the questionable repute in which the woman stood, or the ambiguous, suspicious character of her conduct; but the first of these the offering does not seem able to express, the second might not be really the truth: circumstances might arise beyond her own control entirely which might bring her into suspicion. Lange thinks that the "poor bond of union that still exists between the parties is designated by the inferior offering;" but the offering is the woman's, not the man's, though the man provide it: it represents in some way her alone. Oehler says, "As an accused person appears before the tribunal in mourning attire, without the question of his guilt or innocence being in any way affected, so may this sacrifice be said to exhibit a merely gloomy character." Which, however, would give no precision to the type at all.

 The truth seems to be rather that the meal-offering of fine wheat-flour represents Christ, as we have seen; and although the Pentecostal wave loaves were an exception, figuring the Church, yet in this case the distinction is made plain by the introduction of leaven into the flour. In the case before us the leaven would have implied guilt, and the fine wheat would have been out of place: the barley-meal, coarser and commoner, might well typify a life which could not be professed to be very much, as in God's sight, yet not corrupted in a manner charged. This offered from the woman's hand would indeed call for God's remembrance as to its truth or falsehood. The omission of oil and frankincense may indeed speak of one coming with a sad heart and not in the joyous spirit of praise.

 Before this is offered, however, holy (that is, consecrated) water is put into an earthen vessel, and dust from the tabernacle floor mixed with the water. The dust is here, as usually, "the dust of death," which from the tabernacle-floor intimates that nevertheless God has come in for man. Death remains still, and as judgment to the flesh, and yet for blessing. The cross of Christ has made this familiar to us as Christians; and in it our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Christ has died to sin once, and in that He liveth He liveth unto God: so are we to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God in Christ Jesus.

 "The power of the Holy Spirit judging thus (according to the sentence of death against the flesh) the state of unfaithfulness which was thought to be hidden from the true husband of the people, makes the sin manifest and brings down the chastening and curse upon the unfaithful one, that evidently by the just judgment of God. Drinking death, according to the power of the Spirit, is life to the soul. 'By these things,' says Hezekiah, men live, and in all these things is the life of the Spirit;' even when they are the effect of chastening, which is not always necessarily the case. But if any of the accursed things be hidden — if there be unfaithfulness toward Jesus, undetected though it may be by man and God puts it to the test; if we have allowed ourselves to be enticed by him who has the power of death, and the holy power of God is occupied with death, and comes to deal with the power of the enemy — the concealed evil laid bare, the flesh is reached; its rottenness and powerlessness are made manifest, however fair its appearances may be." (Synopsis.)

 Here, then, sanctification in its innermost reality is insisted on, separation as united to Christ, being His alone; and this prepares us for the section that follows, in which in the Nazarite vow the earth-side of this sanctification is insisted on.

 4. The very term, "Nazarite" speaks of "separation." The three things re quired of him are all this: separation from the fruit of the vine, from the dignity of manhood by his long hair, and from the dead. The vow was (as looked at here) voluntary, and for a limited time; and these are the things in which its character declares itself.

 The vow was a special, extraordinary one; but we must not on that account imagine that it must typify what is special or extraordinary among Christians. The priesthood, the Levite-service, etc. were restricted to the few in Israel, while among Christians they represent what in responsibility and privilege is universal. The voluntary character gives here a special force, for all true sanctification must come from the heart freely devoting itself. There were Nazarites from their birth afterward, as in the case of Samson and of Samuel, a thing which typically is reconcilable with this; for we are saints from our new birth, and yet are free in our separation to Him who has won us to Himself. The limit of the vow on the other side is just as simple: for separation applies only to the present world , which sin has defiled, while holiness will be ours forever.

 The first point of separation is from wine and strong drink — from all that could intoxicate, or, as is said of wine, "take away the heart." (Hosea 4:11.) Wine stands eminently for that which "maketh glad the heart of man" (Ps. 104:15), by no means of necessity evil, for we are told it "cheereth God and man" (Judges 9:13): God, no doubt, in the drink-offering. It stands therefore for pleasure, which may be spiritual and heavenly, as when (his vow ended) the Nazarite himself drinks it, but here as often for the pleasures of the world which take away the heart from God and from the things of God. Strong drink is that which has still more plainly and decidedly this character.

 But the separation is carried very far indeed, for he is to drink no vinegar of wine or of strong drink, nor liquor of grapes, nor eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation, he is to eat nothing made of the wine-vine, from the seed-stones even to the skin. Here, the mention of the wine-vine would show that it is as producing the wine that the vine is condemned. Yet no intoxicating effects as of wine could be produced by any of these things. They are things pleasant to the taste, no doubt, and though not intoxicating, allied to that which does intoxicate: what do they typify, then, for us?

Now the Nazarite is a man separated to God, as the saint is whom he pictures. And for the Christian Christ is to be his one sufficing joy. The knowledge of the new man is distinctly said to be in a sphere "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Col. 3:11.) How much of the world's pleasures would that exclude? Only the intoxicating ones? Would it not exclude all in which one could not find Christ in some way? all that would be inconsistent with frank and unhesitating acceptance of that unspeakably gracious invitation, "If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink"? What less could result from the supreme conviction that "Christ is ALL"?

 If this appear extreme, did not the separation of the Nazarite from the very skin of the wine-vine" appear extreme? Or can it be that God's principles demand any thing less than being carried out to an extreme? Can there be a too absorbing delight in Christ? Or can we turn to Him too entirely for satisfaction?

 Legality this is not. Legality is the spirit of self-righteousness, or of slavish dread, never of love, or desire after Christ, or of expectation from Him, such as that of which we have been speaking. Carry these ever so far, they can never land you in that in the direction of which they do not even point, but away from it. He who speaks of himself as doing but one thing, was neither a legalist nor an extremist. He was simply a man into whose heart, forever filling it, the glory of Christ had shined.

 Let us not confound this, however, with the spirit of asceticism that has peopled monasteries with men fleeing vainly from the world, or scattered through the desert the abodes of the recluse. Nor let us imagine as involved in it any "death to nature," in which what God has made or instituted is branded as if it were unclean. It is striking that just in these two epistles in which Christian position is most emphasized (Ephesians and Colossians) the duties of earthly relationships are most largely dwelt upon. The lilies of the field could be seen by Him who as Son of Man was here on earth for us arrayed in glory beyond all Solomon's. His hands indeed had made them, and if not a sparrow fell to the ground without His Father, He could say, "I and My Father are one." Still as ever is it true that the Lord's works are manifold, and in wisdom has He made them all: the earth is full of His riches; yea, and His works are sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

 But the Christian Nazarite is Christ's: therefore in his pleasures, in his business, in his duties, Christ is before him, with him, over him. He has fellowship with the Father and the Son, and there is nothing for him outside this. Here is the principle which makes him of necessity a stranger to what they find pleasure in, who find none in Him. The world's vine of wine," as a whole, he is separate from.

 The second point of separation with the Nazarite, is from the dignity and rights of manhood. The long hair with the woman is the sign of authority under which she is, as the apostle teaches. If a man has long hair, it is a shame to him; but the Nazarite humbles himself to this, taking the dependent and subject place, and giving up the rights of man to consecrate himself wholly to God.

 Man is indeed a ruined creature, and the first Adam headship is gone forever; the last Adam is the second Man, not the first: yet He also upon earth had not His rights nor claimed them, "came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life a ransom for many." His people here also have to walk in His steps, and "he that will be great must be a servant." Yet it is power, none the less, and blessing, — love's privilege, in which again we have fellowship with Christ. Nor should we wonder that a Samson's strength should be in his hair, for the place of dependence and subjection is ever the place of power.

 The third point of separation we have already looked at, — separation from the dead. It is life in Christ we have, and eternal: it is to be maintained as such, free from defilement with that which has come under the power of death. All these three parts of Nazarite separation are plainly connected and in most perfect harmony.

 As to failure, it is here in this last way that it is contemplated. To man's eyes it would seem but an accident, but there are none; the power of circumstances should never prevail against those sanctified to God. How naturally we excuse ourselves by our weakness and the unexpected assaults of the enemy! But true weakness is always strength, and there are no circumstances in which God is not. Nothing of this sort, then, is admitted. The defiled Nazarite goes six days unclean, and on the seventh, he must shave his head. On the eighth, he brings his offering, two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, for the heavenly One to whom the earth was the place of service and sacrifice must be before His eyes on this day typical of new creation.

 The former days of his vow are lost days, and he must begin his vow entirely anew, because his separation had been defiled. This lack of fulfillment shows as to that time something which vitiated the whole of it, for if with God, there can be to the soul no lack of power in accomplishment. He brings also a lamb for a trespass-offering.

 For us the vow is completed only when our course here is completed. Now if Christ be in us, "the body is dead because of sin" (Rom. 8:10), and in consequence we are exhorted to present our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) — a sacrifice in life, in contrast with the bloody sacrifice of the law. They cannot be suffered yet to have their freedom, for our bodies as yet do not partake in the power of redemption: "we wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:23.) Thus we have to walk in Nazarite separation from what is of ourselves, keep under our bodies and bring them into subjection. (1 Cor. 9:27.) The liberty of grace is not deliverance from the need of this, but power to enable us for it: the liberty of glory will be alone complete deliverance; we may "drink wine" when there will be no longer in us any evil to arouse, and the pleasures that present themselves to us are the "pleasures" which are at God's right hand for evermore. (Ps. 16:11.) Yea, Christ shall "drink the wine new" with us in His Father's kingdom. (Matt. 26:29.)

 Then, too, we shall be presented to God in the full value of His work and person, as typified by the offerings with which the Nazarite is presented; separation will be ended in the joy of perfect communion; and the "shoulder" that bare us all the way through according to the full demands of divine holiness, we shall indeed "wave" before God in triumphant exultation.

 5. With this, the purification of the camp is completed, and as thus purified, the divine blessing is now given to them and Jehovah's Name is put upon them. There are three pairs of related blessings with which this last is a seventh, making it perfect. The connection of the three parts of the blessing with the three Persons of the Triune God, often referred to, is indeed easy to be traced: that in the mouth of the apostle comes very near it, — "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost." (2 Cor. 13:14.) For the first blessing here is that of preservation as from the Creator-Father; the second, grace in God as revealing Himself, as He has done in Christ; while the third speaks of inner experience and enlightenment, with the deep rest which flows from it, the work of the Spirit of God. All that God is is thus engaged for us; and His name upon His people makes them His representatives on earth. He identifies Himself with them, as One not ashamed to be called their God.

Subdivision 4. (Num. 7 — 10:10.)

Need met for the way.

In the last subdivision here we have now the need for the way met, beginning with the gifts of the princes, both for the Levite service and for the maintenance of the altar, and closing with the account of the method by which as their divine Leader Jehovah communicated to them His will. The connection of points here which at first seems difficult to trace, will be best brought out as we take them Up in detail.

 1. The gifts of the princes provide, as already said, for the Levite service and for the altar. As free gifts of the tribal heads they have special importance as showing the spirit animating the people, the unanimity prevailing among them, and the equal place they have before God. Their different places in the camp, and in relation to one another, do not affect this. They are the one people of God, alike in His love, and to serve in love, that is, freely, though in necessary obedience. This is strongly emphasized here in this long chapter, full of what may seem tedious repetitions, but which show how equally divine love values the response of man's heart to it, wherever found. Each prince has his day, each offering its record, nothing is omitted, nothing passed hastily over, and how important all this is is shown by the word itself. Assuredly, the Spirit of God would not take up so much space with what was of secondary importance: that in the inspired page would be impossible. We may be assured, therefore, if there be question with us, how necessary this is as a provision for the road we travel together, that we should enter into and realize thoroughly that Father's heart which is toward His children, not to be measured by their different service or capacities or honors. The children of a king may be variously ranked and decorated, yet they are in absolute equality as his children. So for us who have our common place in the family of God, and our common acceptance in the Beloved. To appreciate this will do much to unite us in mind and heart together, and how much to fortify us for the various difficulties, peculiar to each, which we shall encounter in the way. Pursuing it with such assurance, our difficulties will not divide but unite us together, our different places and capacities furnish only the occasion of mutual ministry which will link us more and more to one another.

 The gifts are first of all for the service of the Levites, such help as one may render to another, without interfering with any special responsibility. The wagons and oxen are divided to them according to their service, the Merarites getting two thirds of all, the Gershonites one third, while the Kohathites get none. This does not seem, and yet is, an equal distribution. The burden of the Kohathites is too sacred to be transferred to the oxen, who made bad work of it at a later time, and their shoulders cannot be released from the toilsome honor. So with us often: the heaviest-laden are but the most trusted, and in the distribution of burdens there is more equality than seems.

 The second class of gifts is for the altar, which went to maintain the offerings, Israel's constant service of praise. These offerings again were, as we well know, types of Christ and His offering, which God saw thus in the offerings of His people, as they continually rose up to Him. Is it not so in fact still and ever that in His people's praise God sees afresh, as it were, His Son's glorious work? Our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving are but the confession of His name. (Heb. 13:15.)

 Here, then, we have the first need of the way met, oneness of heart upon the part of the people, a practical spirit of praise, which is answered on God's part with an equal love and acceptance that inwraps the whole people. A different place in service does not imply a difference in His favor, which in Christ is toward us all. How sweet an assurance with which to start! and how will the realization of it unite our hearts together!

 2. The second thing we find here is a plain example once more of how the typical meaning governs all. Why should a commandment as to lighting the lamps come in at this place? ending, too, as it does, with a description in part of the lamp-stand itself! For the last Keil can only account as being quite in keeping with the antiquated style of narrative adopted in these book's"!

 But how plain is it all when we reach the spiritual meaning which underlies it! For where must we find the pattern for our walk but in Christ Himself, realizing too that He is in glory, of which we have seen already the lamp-stand speaks? Thus the reference to the work of the lamp-stand is fully accounted for, coming as it does after the statement that it was the office of the lamps to throw their light upon the lamp-stand itself. This seems to be wholly misunderstood by the commentators, who would have it that the light was to be thrown out upon the part of the sanctuary opposite to the lamp-stand. It is rather that the lamps themselves on the end of the branches issuing from it are opposite the shaft, just in the place for lighting it up; and if that be a strange thing for the lamps, that their duty should be to light up the lamp-stand, the spiritual meaning is not strange at all, that it is the work of the Spirit to glorify Christ, and that this is the sure test of what is the true work of the Spirit any where, while it is that which we need for our wilderness-walk at all times. To have our eyes upon Christ in glory is to find sure guidance for the way, as well as power to walk in it: how completely, then, here does every thing find its place!

 3. The consecration of the Levites takes place after this, for Christ's glory before our eyes must be our competence for such work as is represented here. First, they are purified typically from sin, the whole body shaved — the mere growth of nature removed, the clothes washed, — the habits purified according to the Word. They are then presented before Jehovah, and offered, on the part of the people, to do what as a whole they were responsible for. The Levites are thus the people's representatives, and their service (typically) belongs to the people of God at large. Thus they become the Lord's, being, as taken instead of the first-born, His in virtue of redemption, and then given to the priests for the service of the tent of meeting..

 The term of service is here extended on both sides of the twenty years of burden-bearing. They entered at twenty-five, and after fifty ministered with their brethren, but had no proper charge.

 4. We have next the command to keep the passover, and the appointment of a second for those who were hindered by distance or defilement from keeping the first. For the trials of a wilderness-life, how necessary to carry with them the remembrance and joy of redemption — the knowledge, therefore, of God for them in grace, whatever the difficulties through which they might have to find their way! This redemption, let us remember, was a matter of experience; and so for us, although it is true that it is an experience of faith. But the cloud of apprehension has gone from our souls: God has been realized for us; the lamb has been fed upon; the pillar of cloud and fire have been with us in the way. The power of such experience, for those whose walk has been maintained with God, no trials can wear out. They are a provision for the way sweeter and more assuring than was the passover for Israel.

 Now if any thing has come in to hinder this joy with us, — distance (which for us, of course, must be moral), or defilement with that which is under death, — thank God, there is gracious provision for us. Partake in uncleanness, we cannot. God has ordained that joy in Christ shall not go on with looseness of life and unjudged ways. And yet He has not shut us out, nor would keep us out, from return. The principle of His words to Laodicea remains ever true, "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in, and sup with him, and he with Me." For the heart that truly seeks Christ, there is no dreary pathway of penance enjoined by which to get back to His presence. He does not even say here, "Let him come to Me," blessed as that would be, but — oh the grace of it! — "I will come in, and sup with him."

 Such grace shines out for us in this second passover. It is not that any whit of holiness can be given up (in the type here the due order of the feast is fully preserved, — nay, insisted on), but that grace is the only way of cleansing as of keeping clean; and grace, thank God, reigns.

 5. And now, in the last section of this subdivision, we find the people in possession of the unspeakable blessing of Jehovah's presence with them. Cloud by day and fire by night, still and ever in contrast with the world, and thus rendering them independent of it, that glorious Presence led them on. There was no way for them but that which thus was made for them. Where the Pillar stopped they stopped, and for whatever time; when it moved, they moved. For us, there is still what answers to such guidance: with us, though unseen, more wondrous. Do you know it, reader? Ah! not to know it is indeed to be astray, lost in a pathless wilderness! You may think even you have little need, — your circumstances shaped for you, or shrewd, careful judgment exercised as to all your steps; but there is never for any one of us a path in which we can do without Him, neither so hedged in nor so marked out. And who that has one right thought would desire it? Who would desire to be left to himself, or to government by others, or to chance guidance, when God is inviting to a walk with Him? Test us, of course, this will; but, on the other hand, what manifestations of God will it not afford us! Let us well understand: there is no walk with God but after this manner; faith needed for it ever; yet a path in light, not in obscurity; the least difficult really of all paths, just because of the infinite resources of Him who goeth with us, and of the tenderness of love which upholds the weakest.

 (2) It is very manifest how the silver trumpets connect themselves with this. There is a personal presence of God with His people, and a personal guidance as the result of that presence; but we need also the balancing-truth that this guidance is according to the Word, and that all that purports to be such must be tested by the Word. These trumpets, therefore, are two, as the number of sufficient testimony; "silver," as being the voice of the Redeemer; "of beaten work," because involving suffering on His part who has come down among men to fill that place. Then they have two special uses, — for journeying, and for assembling together. In the latter case, one blast is enough to gather the princes (are they expected to have quicker ears than the rest?), but for the whole assembly there are repeated blasts. Alas! do God's people now think of any need of the Word of God to summon them together? For the journeying, it was an "alarm" — a sustained note: Scripture does in fact prolong this strain.

 But there were many other occasions for the silver trumpets, which were to be in priestly hands, for the spirit of worship alone can use the Word of God aright. In the day of the prevalence of the enemy's power, the sound of the trumpets would bring in the delivering hand of God. And in the day of rejoicing, no less than in the day of trial and oppression, in their set times, and the new moons, — the times of revival and renewed hope, over their burnt-offerings and peace-offerings (as justifying their acceptance and characterizing fellowship with God) the note of the silver trumpet was to be heard. All this is of easy interpretation no doubt; but there is still great need of calling it to mind. To know and do are, alas! by no means the same thing; yet all the blessing of the precious Word of God is found as it is received in the humble and obedient heart.