Numbers.

Division 4. (Num. 25 — 27.)

The testing in its consequences.

The fourth division is, naturally, of smaller compass than usual in the book of Numbers, which is throughout characterized by this number. In this division, it is testing in its consequences that is put before us. And this has three parts: —

First, there is seen the necessity, in the high-handed departure from God that takes place, for such atonement as is made by Phinehas, — atonement to the government of God by judgment of the evil, for the zealous execution of which he gets the assurance of everlasting priesthood.

Secondly, the new numbering of the people shows how they have come through the wilderness, their increase or diminution, and God's faithfulness to His word, whether in grace or judgment.

Thirdly, it is seen that for the realization of the inheritance Moses must give place to Joshua, — Christ personally with us to Christ in Spirit — typically what Christ declared to His disciples, when He said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for, if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." The truth is not here that the law cannot bring us to heaven (as many think), true as, of course, this is, but one much less realized by the people of God than this; nor does Moses represent the law here. We shall speak of all this, however, better in its own place.

1. Israel abide in Shittim, no doubt, so called from its acacias; but the word literally means "things that turn aside," as the acacias with their strong thorns do. Yet the acacia is only spoken of with commendation in Scripture, and so takes its place in the promises of blessing for the renewed earth. (Isa. 41:19, Joel 3:18.) It furnishes the gum arabic of commerce, which, says Tristram, "exudes from the tree spontaneously, as I have often observed in hot weather, but is also obtained more systematically by making incisions in the bark; and the Arabs not only collect it for sale, but for food in times of scarcity. They also say that it allays thirst." "It flourishes most in the dry beds of extinct water-courses, and where no other tree can find moisture. It is a very conspicuous feature wherever it occurs. The timber is very hard and close-grained, of a fine orange-brown color, with a darker heart, and admirably adapted for fine cabinet work."

With so many precious reminders of Him who was indeed before God (not before man only, as so many think), "a root out of a dry ground," the type of a life independent of circumstances and overmastering death; yielding spontaneously, yet also to the hand of violence, the precious sustenance for our souls; we can understand why the shittim-wood should furnish material for the ark, for the table of show-bread, and other furniture of the sanctuary which speak of Christ.

Yet the acacia has its thorns to guard the treasure that it carries, and such is the lesson we are to gather from it now. The resurrection-priesthood, so glorious in its efficacy for the people, as we have already seen, develops here new characters, characters which may at first seem even contradictory of the grace which has gone before, but which are not, — are only the other side of it. The priesthood of Phinehas springs from, and is the continuation of, the priesthood of Eleazar, yet is perpetuated and sustained by judgment; nay, strange as it may seem, atonement is made by judgment: "Phinehas hath turned away My wrath from over the children of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say, 'Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace; and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, a covenant of everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'"

A solemn and yet salutary theme, then, is before us. Again we see, at Shittim, the people of God in their constant liability to get away from God. They begin to give up their separation from the nations among which they are, and as this is no arbitrary thing, but needful separation from the iniquity in which these were plunged, a wild and awful license is the result. Idolatry, the degradation of God, issues (as always) in the degradation of man. "Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor, and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel." Judgment, as is implied in this, goes forth: pestilence begins to do its deadly work, and to appease this anger the heads of the people are sentenced to be hung up to Jehovah before the sun.

But the zealous deed of an Israelite anticipates this sentence. In the midst of the outbreak of lamentation among the congregation, gathered now before Jehovah at the entrance of the tent of meeting, a man of the children of Israel shamelessly brings near before them all a Midianite woman to his tent. Now it is that the zeal of Phinehas awakes: he executes swift judgment, and God accepts this as atonement. It is God's wrath he executes, and the wrath is stayed from Israel: the plague ceases.

Notice how, each time that Phinehas is named, his relation to Eleazar and to Aaron is insisted on. It is what man would most of all have put out of sight. Priestly intercession we understand, but execution of judgment we do not ordinarily consider priestly work: yet the connection here is emphasized. "Phinehas" means "mouth of brass," and implies the firmness of the word of God which here he executes. So "Jesus Christ the righteous" is the title of Him who is our Advocate, — righteous, and the "propitiation for our sins." (1 John 2:1, 2.)

Righteousness, yea, divine righteousness, was shown in the manner of His work for us; and the cross is the solemn declaration of righteous judgment upon sin. So much every Christian bows to and delights in; and herein was propitiation alone possible for us. He bare our sins, that we might not have to bear them; being borne for us we cannot bear them for ourselves. "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" is now the unchangeable word of the same righteousness of God which the cross has so fully manifested and glorified.

But if so, what is the typical meaning of the scene before us? Why is Phinehas the executor of judgment, instead of bearing it? Why is the everlasting priesthood declared his on this very account? And why, above all, does Jehovah's own mouth declare, that in this execution of judgment he had "made atonement" for the children of Israel?

God's Word is true and unchangeable, absolutely self-consistent throughout; and we need not fear to ask such questions. To shirk or shuffle over them would be to do grievous dishonor to His Word, and injury to our own souls. But what, then, are we to say of this certainly most exceptional aspect of atonement, by the execution of judgment, not upon a substitute for sinners, but upon the sinners themselves?

"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily," says the apostle, "eateth and drinketh judgment* to himself; not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."

{*See Rev. Vers., 1 Cor. 11:29, and margin of the common version.}

Note that he is writing explicitly to Christians, making no doubt of their Christianity, as we may see by his very language, "that ye should not be condemned with the world." This means, of course, that they are not of the world. What an unscriptural and unchristian doctrine would it be, that the temporal judgments falling upon unbelievers here deliver them from final condemnation! No, assuredly; nothing but the blood of Jesus can put away sin from before God, or justify the ungodly, so that he shall not be judged forever.

The judgment spoken of here is the judgment of children, for it is children who are alone entitled to it, so that "if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." The thorn of tribulation grows for us thus on the shittah-tree: the cress it is that has procured for us a chastening so needful; and we surely see how the priest after all may have to do with it, how the work of intercession may bring it on. If we look back to that fundamental promise of God to Abram which we find in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, there where Jehovah pledges Himself, by all the value of the sacrifice for Him, to fulfill the promise of inheritance, the emblems that represent Him in thus binding Himself are the furnace of fire and the burning lamp. This is the pledge that needful discipline shall not be wanting, where the "deep sleep" falling upon His people may require this. And to this afterward the burning bush answers, which is not consumed because God is in the fire. The Egyptian oppression was thus, on its reverse side, covenant mercy. And this is only an example of what is a constant principle of the divine ways.

And "when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." For though the cross is our salvation, God must be consistent with Himself. He must be holy in His ways, — must show that He cannot lightly deal with sin: His government must represent aright His character. Thus the cross cannot excuse from discipline, but secures it; as He says to Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities."

If it is asked still how this can be called "making atonement," we must remember how in the sixteenth chapter atonement is said to be made by the incense also, and that the Hebrew word, which is the intensive form of the verb to "cover," is used with regard to every fresh application of atonement, as we should rather say. By his zealous action Phinehas, in the line of the risen priesthood, as is impressed upon us here, covers the children of Israel, NOT apart from the value of that death which a risen priest implies, but rather as insisting on its value. The cross of Christ it is by which we are crucified to the world. If we do not maintain this position, God is true to it and to us in maintaining it as to us; and in respect to His government this is necessary: with regard to it this judgment covers, though only in the hands of our Phinehas could it do so.

2. (1) We have now the second numbering of the tribes, the wilderness-journey being accomplished, and in view of their speedy settlement in the land; to which the claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is evidently an appendix. This second numbering is, of course, intended also for comparison with the first, — a comparison which should furnish us with many lessons. We are dull, however, and slow in reading them;; few of us, it is to be feared, to the very last of our lives here, could give much account of the meaning of the Lord's ways with us. There is a day coming, however, in which everything shall be told out, and its full meaning be apprehended.

The tribes come before us according to their relation to one another in their camps, the camp of Reuben, the natural first-born, being first, however, as in the former numbering, but here also Manasseh preceding Ephraim. It is accountability, not grace, that occupies us, although grace necessarily shines through all God's dealings with His people. The relation of the tribes in their camps has important connection with their history, as we are formed so much by our associations (though in this case they are not voluntary, but ordained by God Himself) and has therefore a fitness which, in its spiritual meaning for us, we have already considered. Individual responsibility is in no wise affected by it. Let us look now at what this numbering presents to us, in contrast with the former one, and in connection with what we may find of their history elsewhere.

(a) First, REUBEN. Reuben according to his name speaks of sonship, natural rather than spiritual, and yet upon which the spiritual may be grafted. Man, as the offspring of God, is in His likeness prominently by that intelligent will, in the possession of which his responsibility is realized. By it he may degrade himself below the beast, and in yielding it to God alone he is blessed and ennobled. These lessons we have had before in connection with Reuben. (Gen. 49; Num. 2.) His four sons we have also briefly looked at in Ex. 6:14: Enoch — the "dedicated," Phallu — the "separated," Hetzron — the "enclosed," Carmi — the "vine-dresser;" — all these are susceptible of a good meaning, although all these may be apart from fruit. They remain as permanent heads of families in the account before us, other names being added which are of great significance.

Thus the son of Phallu is Eliab — "God is Father," — a meaning which, according to the peculiar ambiguity of these Reubenite names, may be either the claim of mere nature, forgetting the fall, or the true cry begotten of the Spirit in the heart of the child of God. That this is no mere fancy is proved by the names of those that spring from him. Dathan and Abiram have already shown us the spirit of rebellion which goes with the assumption of the merely natural claim. Nemuel, on the other side, — "circumcised of God," — shows how, as brought to the realization of "no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3), we may obtain the true claim of grace, in new creation: for every child born in Israel was circumcised on the eighth day. (Gen. 17:12.)

In Nemuel, then, is Reuben truly fruitful; — the promise of his name is fulfilled. And in the diminution of his numbers (from forty-six thousand, five hundred, at the beginning, to forty-three thousand, seven hundred and thirty, at the close), we may learn the loss resulting in our lives from fleshly reasoning and pretension. Let us notice, as in agreement with all that we have seen of Reuben, that he inherits Sihon's territory, Heshbon itself being rebuilt by the men of Reuben (Num. 32:37), although later it became a Levite city in the tribe of Gad. Of these things we may see more in their place.

(b) Of SIMEON it is difficult to speak with clearness. The name given him does not seem to characterize him, and Jacob does not in his prophecy as to the tribe appear to refer to it. Moses, in his blessing leaves out Simeon entirely. There is little or no history attaching to them: they seem to be found generally associated with others; in the land, with Judah; and their inheritance falls within the portion of Judah (Joshua 19:1): they have no individual man of any special prominence.

All this, if put together, tells a tale, however, of its own, and it does not seem as if we could be wrong, in characterizing Simeon as the Lot among the children of Israel. Always seeking companionship, he takes the color of the company he keeps, and never attains to individuality. In the matter of Shechem, he would seem to have imbibed fierceness from Levi, who, upon another occasion and in a different spirit, still shows the unflinching determination which we see in the Hivite massacre. On the other hand, in the Midianite snare, we may easily understand them to have been deeply involved as we see, in fact, that it is the conduct of a prince of Simeon that rouses the zeal of Phinehas. Association is the bane all through, a spirit of dependence which seeks help, not of God, but man; and which, while it may give them a transient appearance of prosperity, in the result shows itself as disastrous. In the beginning of their wilderness history they are fifty-nine thousand three hundred strong, third among all the tribes; but at the end they are but twenty-two thousand two hundred, absolutely the weakest of all. Nor do they ever after come into prominence: no name of note occurs among them; hasty maturity, as so often, has passed into a long decay, which, as far as history goes, is final, although it cannot avail against the grace which gives Simeon his place at last in the revived nation.

Of this grace of God, in contrast so great with their history, the names of the tribal families seem to speak in a remarkable way. Thus they begin with another Nemuel, "circumcised of God," which in Genesis appears as Jemuel, "may God circumcise him!" Here, indeed, Simeon's own name is fulfilled: a hearing God hath heard! Blessed be He! we know Him well.

Next comes Jamin, "right hand," the place of honor and dignity, to which grace alone can exalt the children of men. Then Jachin, "He shall establish." Then Zerah, in which the former, Zohar, "splendor," appears more significantly as the "sunrise." And lastly, Saul, even as the son of the Canaanitess, may remind us of how the Canaanite is made to illustrate, as here in his connection with the families of Israel, redemption from the curse.

(c) The third tribe here is GAD. Both from his name and history, Gad seems a warrior-tribe; though, as with the Arab now, they could unite the pastoral occupation with it. In Jacob's prophecy he is overcome before he overcomes, and thus knows how to turn defeat into a victory. In Leah's mouth his name is a prophecy of increase; and his seven sons all survive in families.

The names here do not, however, fall into ready sequence, and are some of them difficult also to interpret certainly; nor does the blessing of Gad by Moses do more apparently than confirm the character which we have already seen to belong to him. Connecting all together, and allowing its due emphasis to Jacob's original prophecy, it would seem that Gad represents the strength that is ministered when weakness and defeat have taught their lesson, — the divine strength thus found when our own has failed and broken down, — a practical power of resurrection, which suits well with the third place in which we find the tribe in this chapter.

Power seems to be indeed the lesson illustrated by this first camp all through — the camp of Reuben, whose standard we have seen to be faith. These two things, faith and power, are in necessary connection. In Reuben himself we find the source of it in God the Almighty, as declared in the covenant of circumcision, which affirms relationship to Him to be in grace, in new creation. In Simeon, next, the alliance that gives power is with God alone; though, of course also, if with God, we shall realize our relation, and be helpers to each other according to His ordinance. Here, however, we have to take exceeding care; for to lean upon each other is still weakness, and not strength. Here, therefore, as we find with Simeon now, the circumcised Nemuel must come first, that the Jamins and the Jachins may follow in due place. Thirdly, then Gad gives us the practical acquirement of the lesson, first of all by realized weakness and defeat, that God alone may be exalted, — a practical resurrection-lesson blessed to learn indeed.

(2) The second camp here is that of Judah, whose standard is righteousness, first in the order of march, as Paul names it in his epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22), "follow righteousness, faith." Here there is a different thought, and another side of righteousness seen in the place assigned to Judah, which speaks, I believe, of service. All obedience is that, of course; even for those "who only stand and wait." That Judah comes first of the three associated tribes is simple enough. The outflow of the full heart manward is in service, as it is Godward in praise. The spirit of praise it is that banishes legality and makes the life a true offering to God. Then, indeed, Issachar may follow, and the husbandman that laboreth be partaker of the fruit; Zebulon speaking of that open, recognized association of God with us, which is the seal upon true labor. Let us look at Judah, then, from this point of view, and see of what the names found may remind us.

(a) First, then, we are carried back to Er and Onan, that we may remember what a history was that of Judah's family. In these the enmity to God, and the iniquity in which it displays itself find their condemnation and pass away. No fruit of righteousness — Tamar, the "palm" — can be from these. In the third son, Shelah, does Judah's seed find, as it were, its resurrection, and his name tells of "peace," now for the first time found.

Shelah is fruitful, but much more Tamar's seed; of which Pharez, the "breaker forth," breaks out into a multitudinous fruit, which fills up all the after history of Judah. Hence come her kings, and her great King; while twin with Pharez comes Zerah. or the [sun] rise, from whom come afterward singers, as Ethan, and warriors, as Shammah, Sibbechai, Maharai, stout defenders of the throne. A little care may easily find here the meaning.

Two families of Pharez have special mention, Hetzron ("inclosure"?), and Hamul ("compassionate.") They may perhaps represent tendencies which easily come into opposition with one another, and which should not, whose true meaning is seen in union, as with the walled palm-stem of which we have been led to think, and which supports its plenteous fruit.

These histories at least, we may be sure, are parables, even to the genealogical tables, which, as merely that, have been so utterly neglected, or worked in a fashion which has been barren of all profit. Let us only remember, God in all His Word is thinking of our souls; and we have the fullest warrant for the interpretation of names. "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing," says the wise man; "but the honor of kings to search out a matter." (Prov. 25:2.) Where are God's kings today? and who will listen to the voice that says, "Know ye not this parable? and how, then, will ye know all parables?"

(b) Issachar follows, looking, as his name imports, for recompense: so does every laborer expect the fruitful fields which are to justify his work. Issachar has but four sons, the name of the first of which is that of apparently the sole great man of his tribe, Tola, the judge of Israel after the death of Abimelech. Tola's name is significant enough as -a lesson to the great: it means "a worm," or rather, the coccus of the oak,* which produces the "scarlet" or "crimson" dye used in the East, and with which was produced the "scarlet" familiar to us in the vail of the tabernacle and elsewhere. Tola's name, first in the list of the families of Issachar, seems clearly to teach what is.a fundamental principle for all who are to find from their labors the reward they seek. "Scarlet," or better "crimson," is the blood color, and the mode of its production speaks plainly in this respect. But how solemn, then, is the language of the twenty-second psalm, "I am (tola) a worm, and no man"! He whose this voice really is, went down indeed, to do for us His redemption-work, into a depth immeasurably below the place of man as God made him first, the place into which, simply as becoming man, He had descended. And the Tolas are they, who, having learned the depth of His humiliation, have learned in this to recognize their own, and so to take their place upon Job's dust-heap, conscious henceforth that for them recompense, if it be not in hopeless judgment, must be "mercy" merely. (2 Tim. 1:18.)

{*Properly the kermes insect, Coccus ilicis, (Coccus of the oak); the cochineal being the coccus cacti, and American.}

How fittingly, then, does Tola lead among the families of Issachar. Then first with Puah does "utterance" become safe. It will no longer be for the glory of man, but in truthful testimony to Him who is no longer heard about with the hearing of the ear, but whom the eye has seen, and seen in fullest glory in the abyss of sorrow. Not simply will the lips either "utter" this: the life will be utterance, or there is no real one. So Jashub, "he returns," following Puah, may indicate. So the prodigal; and this is what conversion in its true sense indicates, a turning back to God. Finally, and in the fourth place, suitably to the weakness of which it reminds us, we have Shimron with his warning note. "On guard" may better perhaps than any thing else express his name.

(c) This completes Issachar: Zebulon who follows is more difficult to interpret. In his name, and according to what he represents in Jacob's prophecy, he may seem to have close affinity with Simeon in character. But there is a difference: Leah's "Now shall my husband dwell with me" might well be the joyful language of Israel, in view of the relationship which He who dwelt in their midst had entered into with them. The separation to Himself implied by this, Zebulon, in Jacob's words, disregards for commerce with the Gentiles. It is not positive alliance with this nation or that, that seems so much indicated, as the passing out of God's enclosure to seek his own things outside untrammeled.

Here, on the other hand, Zebulon seems to rest in the shelter of the divine arms; and we think as we look at the names of his families of that association of God with us, which, where it is found, is the manifest seal of God upon the ways that please Him. What it implies in us can perhaps not be better expressed than just in contentment to be there, — the enclosing arms not felt as a restraint, but as a shelter, statutes but songs; with which we have traced the circle, and come back once more to Judah.

The names of the three families seem to speak of the realization of this being with God, in its results in blessing: Sered, escape," the joy of the dove which has fled from the stormy wind and tempest to be at rest in its sanctuary home; Elon, "oak," or "strength," which the oak typifies, and which God is to the weakest that have fled to Him; lastly, Jahleel, "expectation of God," the blessed result for one weaned from other dependences, in which the need of the creature finds its holiest expression, and its interpretation spiritually.

(3) The third camp now is Ephraim's, in which we find, however, — it is quite intelligible why — Manasseh foremost. This, as we have seen, is the order of progress, if Ephraim give us the governing thought. In this place Manasseh may represent whole heartedness, as with the apostle in Phil. 3:13; and from him springs Machir, "one who recollects"? for as on the one hand forgetting is the fruit of remembrance, so also do we forget in order to remember: the resolute turning from things here is to occupy oneself with the things beyond: "set your mind on things above," says the apostle, (Col. 3:2, marg.) "not on things on the earth." From hence springs again Gilead, the "rocky," hard, as it may seem, and rough, but strong; and Gilead branchessss out into six families: Jeezer, "where there is help;" Helek, "equal division;" Asriel, "divine bond;" Shechem, "shoulder," — that which bears the burden; Shemida, "name of knowledge," — speaking of that one Name, in the apprehension of which is indeed true knowledge? Lastly, Hepher, "a digging, a well," — the series ending with that which provides for permanent refreshment and growth.

Zelophehad the son of Hepher is introduced here, not as the head of a distinct family in Manasseh, but as preparing the way for what follows in the next chapter.

Ephraim comes after Manasseh with three sons, and a grandson. Much difficulty is connected with these names, which need an intelligent believing study they have never yet received. I do not, therefore, attempt their explanation. And the same exactly is to be said of —

Benjamin, where the many questions that have been raised, had they been sought to be answered with a more spiritual end than a mere dry settlement of difficulties, would long since have put us in possession of that which would have not only conclusively solved the difficulties, but been for us fruitful in true blessing; as it is, we must pass on, having no place for criticisms as yet unfruitful, and with which now almost every one who has the desire and skill can easily become acquainted. The connection of Benjamin with the camp of Ephraim has been already briefly considered.

(4) We come now to the fourth camp, that of Dan. Dan, though only second in number of the tribes of Israel, has but one family, that of Shuham, just as only one son is ascribed to Dan in Gen. 46, Hushim. The natural inference is that Shuham and Hushim are the same, and that the one name by transposition has become the other; but then the transposition itself must have a meaning: the earlier name signifies "hastening," while the latter is "depression, humiliation." Dan, child of the bondmaid, stands yet for the spirit of rule — a rule which is rightly service, but which in man so easily becomes the tyranny of pride and self-interest. The first duty of government is self-government; and the ruler's school is therefore that of discipline. So with God's kings: the back-side of the desert was Moses' school, where he who had once been hasty in judgment became the meekest of all men. David too had not only his shepherd training, but his affliction at the hand of Saul. And now for ourselves also the same rule holds good: if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."

The one name here may have a meaning then; and its change from the old form show how from the hasty spirit of self Dan grows into his proper shape and into a multitude. Abasement is God's way of exaltation and there is no other way: the heart is exercised, the eye is cleared, the mists roll off; the testing has done its work in transforming Hushim into Shuham. Dan becomes a prince indeed, and fulfills his name.

Asher is also the child of a handmaid, and his place in connection with Dan has been already indicated; but neither in the case of Asher nor of Naphtali do the names speak as yet with clearness, while prophecy and history are comparatively silent also. Unwillingly, therefore, we must leave them without notice here.

(5) With this closes the first part of what is clearly a septenary series; the last three parts being distinct from the first four, as even the numbering of Levi is distinct from that of Israel with whom they have no inheritance. This fifth section now provides that according to the number of the tribes their inheritance in the land shall be allotted them. These numbers evidently represent gains or losses for which they were responsible; and as they had thus flourished so should they inherit. The section fills, therefore, exactly its numerical place, and contains a very solemn warning for us. The "lot," according to which the division was to be, makes this still more directly from the Lord. (Prov. 16:33.)

So little complete — to our common shame — has the mere outline interpretation of this chapter been to us, that of necessity the lesson of the numbering itself could not be attempted to be given in detail. I add therefore here from another some remarks which are not only of much interest in themselves, but which may help to stimulate the zeal of others to look more believingly into the seemingly more barren places of God's precious Word. In barren spots it is that the ore is found by the miner's labor.

"Here, not less than elsewhere, numbers are significant, indicating prosperity (Gen. 48:19) and strength (Luke 14:31).

"Reuben (Num. 1:20; Num. 26:5) heads the list, — the first-born, and therefore entitled, according to nature, to the leadership; but because of sin, he was not to have the excellency. In these forty years' wanderings, his numbers dwindle, — at the close, we see him weaker than at the beginning. Looking at his history for a reason for this we come to the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, who were of this tribe (Num. 16:1). Desiring to be leaders, under pretense of claiming their rights for the people, they rebel against God's authority in Moses, turn back in heart to Egypt, and murmur at the trials of the way. Swift judgment overtakes them, — the earth opens and swallows them up, but the leaven of their example spreads among the people, and rebellion is only checked when fourteen thousand are slain by the plague. (Num. 16:49.) How many, like these children of Reuben, rebel against God's authority, in pure self-will, and murmur at the trials of the way, only to weaken themselves and their brethren, finding that, instead of being exalted by their independence, they have become abased!

"In looking at Simeon, we are struck with the shrinkage from fifty-nine thousand, three hundred, to twenty-two thousand, two hundred, — his strength but little more than one third of what he had at the start, and we cannot help remembering that it was a prince of this tribe who was the leading offender at Baal Peor, upon whom also judgment was summarily executed (Num. 25:8); and doubtless his brethren (v. 6) who were sharers in his sin partook also of his judgment, leaving Simeon's ranks woefully depleted. But what was this sin that wrought such havoc? What Balak's efforts at cursing could not effect, mixture with the Midianites did, in measure. Rebellion, the sin of Reuben, does not leave the tribe so weak as mingling with strange people does Simeon. How many, alas! of God,s people have proven, as Simeon did here, that mixture with the world saps their strength and destroys their spiritual prosperity! It is the Pergamos state of the Church — marriage with the world, and is so described in Rev. 2. Then, too, as though in solemn warning, it was at the close of the journey that Simeon thus sinned, and there was no time for recovery. Like Solomon afterward, and Lot before, the last thing mentioned is the sin, and their lamp (of testimony) goes out in obscure darkness. David failed grievously, but there was a good measure of recovery (though he bore his scars to the grave). Let us beware of the first symptoms of coldness or worldliness, lest we too, like Simeon, find our last days here blighted by irremediable failure.

"Gad also shows a weakening at the close. His outward history shows no reason for this, unless his close connection with Reuben and Simeon (Num. 2:10-16) made him a sharer in their sin and judgment. Association with evil workers, even where one outwardly is not a partaker, has a weakening effect. How we can see this all around! — a repetition of Jonathan, — upright himself; yet linked with the house of Saul. Many of God's people are growing weaker, through ecclesiastical, business, social, or family relationships with those who drag them into worldliness.

"Secret causes sap the strength of Naphtali, and he comes out of the course weaker by eight thousand men than when he entered it. With nothing unusual laid to his charge, he has gone backward. Let us beware lest some little foxes' spoil our vines, — lest, while outwardly blameless — with nothing positive in our conduct to be condemned as in Reuben, or in our associations as Gad, we may show even greater deterioration than either. It is loss of first love, even where there are abundant works, which brings such weakness.

"Fruitful Ephraim seems to contradict his name, losing eight thousand men. It is one thing to have a name by grace, quite another to prove it in our walk.

"But this catalogue has also a bright side. Warnings alone might discourage us. Besides, it is not true that the wilderness is a place that only weakens: on the contrary, rightly gone through, the strength is renewed — 'thy pound hath gained ten pounds.' There is Judah, who gains nearly two thousand in those forty years of trial. Did Caleb's faith stimulate them all? (Joshua was not, perhaps, so closely identified with Ephraim, though of that tribe, being the companion of Moses — Ex. 33:11.) Jonathan and David, and a host of others, show what the faith of one man can do in encouraging others. Companionship with a man of faith is helpful; unless, like Lot, we lean on him, instead of imitating his faith. Caleb, at the close of his journey, could say (Joshua 14:11), 'As yet, I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out and to come in.' So the numbers of Judah speak of vigor undiminished. May it be so with us at the close. Issachar and Zebulon, in the same camp with Judah, can bear the same testimony — that the wilderness does not necessarily weaken. Even here there is a difference, — Issachar's increase of nearly ten thousand being much greater than that of Zebulon. Those who succeed, do so in various degrees.

"Manasseh reverses Ephraim's experience, and is an illustration of the fact that 'many that are first shall be last, and the last first.' Many a sincere, quiet, plodding Christian, with nothing brilliant, will show at the close a brighter record than his brother who apparently had so much better prospects.

"Dan, already large, increases; while Asher, from being one of the smaller tribes, takes his place with the largest. Friend, come up higher' might be said of him.

"What varied results, both of failure and success! and to be explained by various reasons. Here are indications of little failures and great ones, of small progress and astonishing progress. Can we not take these two catalogues, and seeing in them a picture for ourselves, learn the lesson? God shows us that at the close, an examination will be made — 'we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.' In these pictures, we can read the end from the beginning, and so be wise, and seek to gather daily gold, silver, precious stones, shunning all that would weaken us, and counting on that grace which bears us on eagle's wings.
"Though the way be long and dreary,
Eagle strength He'll still renew;
Garments fresh, and foot unweary,
Tell how God hath brought thee through."
(S. Ridout, Help and Food, vol. 7, pp. 253-257.)

(6) We now find separately the families of Levi, and their number. With the names we are more or less familiar. Beside the three main families of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, into which the tribe as a whole was divided, we find in Gershon the family of Libni prominent, in Kohath, that of Hebron, while Merari's two sons have gained an equal rank; to these are added the Korahites, also of Kohath, but whom their history gives an exceptional place. Finally, of Kohath also come Aaron and his priestly house, Moses, and Miriam. Aaron's four sons are specified, and the death of Nadab and Abihu. Nowhere is evil more conspicuous than in the tribe of Levi; nowhere is the victory of grace over it more manifest. These depths and heights known are quite fitted to make effective ministers and joyful worshipers such as are represented in this tribe.

(7) The seventh section brings us to the impressive close, in which we find how surely God's word has been fulfilled as to the generation sinning in the wilderness. So will the history of man at last show His faithfulness and truth all through, till the last "It is done" confirms the new heavens and new earth in eternal blessedness..

(Appendix.) The appeal of the daughters of Zelophehad is clearly an appendix to the twenty-sixth chapter, in which the people have been numbered in view of the inheritance. It is a supplement to the law of inheritance whereby God assures the faith that reckons upon Him without title (save that, surest of all, in His own nature) of His power and will to answer it.

3. We come now to what already anticipates what we only fully reach at the end of Deuteronomy. Joshua is appointed to succeed Moses, as Eleazar has succeeded Aaron; and it need not be strange to find that as Moses and Aaron were connected for the deliverance from Egypt, so now Joshua and Eleazar are connected for the entrance into the land. Their relation is different in this respect, that whereas Moses is every way foremost in the first case, now it is Eleazar, and not Joshua. And here, again, the spiritual meaning so governs all, that we must have the typical significance clearly ascertained in order to understand this, which is then at once intelligible.

Eleazar we have already seen to represent Christ in His heavenly priesthood — as risen and gone in to God, as Aaron speaks of Him in connection with the sacrificial work of the cross especially, although there are links on either side with the other, which show the identity of the priest all through, and this naturally much more upon Aaron's side than Eleazar's. The cross is the fundamental priestly work, Aaron the head of the priestly house, and therefore Aaron it is who is seen entering the sanctuary on the day of atonement, while Eleazar is only once seen sprinkling the blood, in the case of the red heifer, where plainly the point of view suits with the "Minister of the sanctuary."

If we compare Joshua with Moses, — both, again, types of Christ, — we shall find Moses representing Him, as it would seem, in almost every possible way. He is, indeed, the type of Christ in person; Joshua, of Christ in spirit, not person — acting in His people by the Holy Ghost; and thus it is that Joshua stands before Eleazar, the work of the Spirit being dependent upon the priesthood of Christ on high. Thus through the wilderness also Moses and Joshua are found together, but the latter the attendant upon the former; while Joshua it is who leads Israel into the land, figuring present realization of the inheritance by faith, as, in a somewhat different aspect, Abraham does.

As has been already said, the giving way of Moses to Joshua here is evidently, therefore, in type, what our Lord says to His disciples, — "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." (John 16:7,) This is a truth upon which we must pause, however, as even yet, for many Christians, there is no proper understanding of it.

The departure that He speaks of is quite plain, indeed. He was leaving His place on earth among His own, to depart to heaven from whence He had come. Sent by the Father into the world upon His glorious mission, His work was now just about completed, the cross being at the next step upon His path, to be followed then by His resurrection and ascension to the Father. It was a real personal departure, no one doubts; and the coming of the Spirit in His place is represented by Him as just as real and personal. The difficulty arising in our minds with regard to this seems to be twofold: first, that the Spirit of God, as a divine Being, is omnipresent; and secondly, that He has always been the Author of all spiritual work in those converted to God: both which things are undeniable by any who are subject to Scripture. But the first is not against a special coming," such as is often in the Old Testament ascribed to God, when He manifests Himself here or there in any special way; and the second is quite consistent with that indwelling in believers now, in which His "coming" finds its confirmation and interpretation.

That it is a thing of wondrous value, our Lord's words assure us: of how much value, if, that it might be, it were expedient that He should go away! How much would the presence of Christ with us in the world — such a presence as His disciples enjoyed — mean for us today! With it, they themselves were blest as none before had been; yet here is blessing for which it is worth while even to lose that blessing! Certainly no display of power, as in the miracles of Pentecost and after, could be intended. Such things had been before, — did not need Christ to be away that they might have them, — did not "abide" when they came, as He declared the Comforter should abide. But what miracles could be to us, if we had them, what Christ our Lord would be? But the presence of the Spirit of God within us, making our bodies the temples of the Holy Ghost; Spirit of truth, Spirit of holiness, Spirit of adoption, Comforter, fount of knowledge, spring of living water, so that we thirst not, but out of the belly shall flow rivers of living water! this is something far beyond any gift of miraculous power: it is the Church's endowment for the place to which she is destined, — her competency to enter into and to fill it. "We have received," says the apostle, "not the spirit that is of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Cor. 2:12.)

Here Christ's absence has its power for us also. He is gone to prepare for us the many mansions of the Father's house, because where He is we are to be also; and the Spirit of God, taking of the things that are Christ's to show them to us, develops in us the heavenly character, which is in effect our sanctification. Our hearts are drawn out of the world. The power of what is unseen and eternal delivers us from the whole scene in which are hid all the snares and entanglements of the subtle adversary. While in it, we are not of it: in faith is the victory over the world. The glory of Christ beheld in faith changes us from glory to glory. Christ thus before us, an object imprinted upon our hearts, becomes thus Christ in practical reality: Christ and the Spirit become practically one for us, and of this Joshua therefore is the type: "the Lord the Spirit" identified in this way with "the Spirit of the Lord," as the apostle shows us in Corinthians. (2 Cor. 3:17.)

Thus we can see also why it is just at this point that Joshua is formally designated as the leader. In the wilderness, as to guidance, we are to walk as He walked. (1 John 2:6.) His living form is before us, as presented in the gospels, Moses rather than Joshua, though the latter, as we have seen, also has his place, and accompanies us all through. But when the wilderness is no longer in question, but the land, then Moses gives up his place, although his word still abides as guidance which Joshua himself follows. (Compare Joshua 1.) Every thing is therefore in harmony, as always in the precious, perfect, unerring Book with which we are occupied.