Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(1) On the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle.—Better, had finished the setting up of the tabernacle. The offerings of the princes occupied twelve days, the sacrifices being too numerous to be offered at the same time. It follows, therefore, that the expression “on the day” here and in Numbers 7:10 must be understood, as in Genesis 2:4, as meaning “at the time.” The verse, however, may be read thus: “And it came to pass on the day . . . that he anointed it . . . ;” in which case the following verse would begin thus: “And the princes of Israel . . .” It should be observed, however, on the other hand, that Numbers 7:10 connects the time of the offerings with that of the anointing of the altar. In any case, the expression “on the day” needs to be interpreted in the wider sense, which it not unfrequently requires, inasmuch as the Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month of the second year (Exodus 40:17), and the events recorded in this and the preceding chapters appear to have taken place on and after the first day of the second month of that year (Numbers 1:1). The account of the setting up of the Tabernacle and the altar, &c., is contained in Exodus 40:17-33, and the account of the anointing and consecration is contained in Leviticus 8:10-11. It appears from a comparison of Exodus 40:17 with Numbers 10:11 that fifty days intervened between the erection of the Tabernacle and the beginning of the march from Sinai.
(2) And were over them that were numbered.—The first mention of these princes is found in connection with the numbering of the tribes (Numbers 1:4).
(3) Six covered wagons.—In Isaiah 66:20 the word which is here rendered covered, and which is a noun, occurs in the plural, and is rendered in the Authorised Version litters. It occurs nowhere else in the same sense. It seems probable, however, that the Vulgate, which the Authorised Version follows, has the right signification: plaustra tecta.
(7) Two wagons and four oxen.—The Gershonites had charge of the hangings of the Tabernacle and court (Numbers 4:25-26), whilst the Merarites had charge of the boards, pillars, &c., which were of much greater weight (Numbers 4:31-32). The Kohathites were required to bear their burdens on poles upon their shoulders (Numbers 7:9), and therefore did not require any wagons.
(10) For dedicating of the altar.—Literally, the dedication of the altar—i.e., the gifts made at the dedication of the altar.
(12) And he that offered his offering the first day . . . —It should be observed that the order in which the offerings were made is not that of Numbers 1, but that observed in the encampments, as prescribed in Numbers 2.
(13) And his offering was one silver charger . . . —The offerings of the twelve princes, or rather of the tribes which the princes represented, was the same in each case. The repetition of the description of the offerings, which occupies the remaining portion of this chapter, may serve to denote the special regard which God has to the offerings of His people, as may be learned from the notice which our Lord took of the offerings which were made for the Temple service, and His commendation of that of the poor widow who cast her two mites into the treasury (Mark 12:41-44).
(89) And when Moses was gone . . . —Better, And when Moses went—i.e., as often as he went.
To speak with him—i.e., with God. Inasmuch as the tent of meeting took its name from the promise made to Moses (Exodus 25:22) that God would meet with him there, it was not necessary to supply the Divine name. The terms in which the promise is expressed seem to denote that it was in the Holy of Holies that God met with Moses.
From off the mercy seat.—Or, from over the mercy seat.
The ark of testimony.—Better, the ark of the testimony—so called from the fact that the Testimony (i.e., the two tables of the Law) was put in it (Exodus 25:16).