Numbers 10:17
And the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) And the tabernacle was taken down . . . —The order of precedence as regards the twelve tribes which were encamped on the four sides of the Tabernacle is clearly laid down in Numbers 2, where it is ordered that the camp of the Lervites should set forward “in the midst of the camps” (Numbers 10:17). The precise position which the three bodies of Levites were to occupy in the marches is defined in this chapter. The Gershonites, who had the charge of the curtains and hangings of the Tabernacle and the court (Numbers 4:25-26), with their two wagons, and the Merarites, who had the charge of the heavier and more bulky materials (Numbers 4:31-32), with their four wagons, were to set forward after the first or eastern camp, which was composed of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, in order that they might have time to erect the Tabernacle before the arrival of the Kohathites, “bearing the sanctuary” (or sacred things). Next in order after the Gershonites and Merarites followed the southern camp, consisting of the three tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. Then followed the Kohathites in the centre of the procession, “bearing the sanctuary.” After them marched the three tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, who formed the western camp, and as the rereward, the three tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, which formed the northern camp. This arrangement serves to throw light upon Psalm 80:2 : “Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

10:11-28 After the Israelites had continued nearly a year at mount Sinai, and all was settled respecting their future worship, they began their march to Canaan. True religion begins with the knowledge of the holy law of God, and humiliation for sin, but we must go on towards perfection, in acquaintance with Christ and his gospel, and those effectual encouragements, motives, and assistances to holiness, which it proposes. They took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord, De 1:6-8, and as the cloud led them. Those who give themselves to the direction of God's word and Spirit, steer a steady course, even when they seem bewildered. While they are sure they cannot lose their God and Guide, they need not fear losing their way. They went out of the wilderness of Sinai, and rested in the wilderness of Paran. All our removes in this world are but from one wilderness to another. The changes we think will be for the better do not always prove so. We shall never be at rest, never at home, till we come to heaven, but all will be well there.A more precise determination of the method of executing the order given in Numbers 2:17. The appointed place of the tabernacle, in the midst of the host, was represented during the march by the ark, the holy vessels, etc. carried by the Kohathites. The actual structure of the tabernacle was borne in advance by the Gershonites and Merarites, immediately behind the camp of Judah; so as to be set up ready against the arrival of the sacred utensils borne by the Kohathites. Compare Numbers 2; 4, 13-27. the children of Israel took their journey … by the hand of Moses—It is probable that Moses, on the breaking up of the encampment, stationed himself on some eminence to see the ranks defile in order through the embouchure of the mountains. The marching order is described (Nu 2:1-34); but, as the vast horde is represented here in actual migration, let us notice the extraordinary care that was taken for ensuring the safe conveyance of the holy things. In the rear of Judah, which, with the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, led the van, followed the Gershonites and Merarites with the heavy and coarser materials of the tabernacle. Next in order were set in motion the flank divisions of Reuben and Ephraim. Then came the Kohathites, who occupied the center of the moving mass, bearing the sacred utensils on their shoulder. They were so far behind the other portions of the Levitical body that these would have time at the new encampment to rear the framework of the tabernacle before the Kohathites arrived. Last of all, Dan, with the associated tribes, brought up the rear of the immense caravan. Each tribe was marshalled under its prince or chief and in all their movements rallied around its own standard. No text from Poole on this verse.

And the tabernacle was taken down,.... By the Levites, as Aben Ezra, and which appears to be their work, from Numbers 1:51; this began to be done by them as soon as the cloud was perceived to move upwards, and the camp of Judah was preparing to march; and after Aaron and his sons had taken the holy vessels out of the holy and most holy place, and had packed up and covered them as directed, Numbers 4:5; this was an emblem of the taking down of the Jewish church state, the abolition of the service of the sanctuary, as well as of the changeable condition of the Gospel church in the wilderness, which is not always in one and the same place, but is moved from place to place, and that by the ministers of the word, signified by the Levites, who are sent and carry the Gospel here and there:

and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle; the former, the hangings and vail, and the latter the boards, pillars, sockets, &c. each of them having wagons for their assistance: these followed immediately after the camp of Judah.

And the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing {g} the tabernacle.

(g) With all the belongings of it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. The verbs in this and the following verse, and in 21 f., 25, are perfects with Vav. This use, to describe consecutive actions in the past, though not unexampled in late literature, is rare. And it is probable that the writer intended them to be frequentative. The order of the host in the first march was that which was observed throughout the journeys.

Verse 17. - And the tabernacle was taken down. That is, the fabric of it; the boards, curtains, and other heavy portions which were packed upon the six wagons provided for the purpose (Numbers 7:5-9). And the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward. Between the first and second divisions of the host. In chapter 2 it had been directed in general terms that "the tabernacle" should set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the host, between the second and third divisions. At that time the duties of the several Levitical families had not been specified, and the orders for the taking down and transport of the tabernacle and its furniture had not been given in detail. It would be historically an error, and theologically a superstition, to imagine that Divine commands such as these had no elasticity, and left no room for adaptation, under the teaching of experience, or for the sake of obvious convenience. Whether the present modification was directly commanded by God himself, or whether it was made on the authority of Moses, does not here appear. There can be no question that subsequent theocratic rulers of Israel claimed and used a large liberty in modifying the Divinely-originated ritual and order. Compare the case of the passover, the arrangements of Solomon's temple as corresponding with those of the tabernacle, and even the use of the silver trumpets. The Septuagint has the future tense here, καθελοῦσι τὴν σκηνήν κ.τ.λ. as if to mark it as a fresh command. Numbers 10:17In vv. 13-28 the removal of the different camps is more fully described, according to the order of march established in ch. 2, the order in which the different sections of the Levites drew out and marched being particularly described in this place alone (cf. Numbers 10:17 and Numbers 10:21 with Numbers 2:17). First of all (lit., "at the beginning") the banner of Judah drew out, with Issachar and Zebulun (Numbers 10:14-16; cf. Numbers 2:3-9). The tabernacle was then taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites broke up, carrying those portions of its which were assigned to them (Numbers 10:17; cf. Numbers 4:24., and Numbers 4:31.), that they might set up the dwelling at the place to be chosen for the next encampment, before the Kohathites arrived with the sacred things (Numbers 10:21). The banner of Reuben followed next with Simeon and Gad (Numbers 10:18-21; cf. Numbers 2:10-16), and the Kohathites joined them bearing the sacred things (Numbers 10:21). המּקדּשׁ ( equals הקּדשׁ, Numbers 7:9, and הקּדשׁים קדשׁ, Numbers 4:4) signifies the sacred things mentioned in Numbers 3:31. In Numbers 10:21 the subject is the Gershonites and Merarites, who had broken up before with the component parts of the dwelling, and set up the dwelling, עד־בּאם, against their (the Kohathites') arrival, so that they might place the holy things at once within it.
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