[Comm vol06] Thml template 00

And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels. 51

Download 1.6 Mb.
Size1.6 Mb.
1   ...   170   171   172   173   174   175   176   177   ...   277
51. And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels.

51. Et accepit Moses et Eleazar sacerdos aurum ab illis, omnia vasa operis.

52. And all the gold of the offering that they offered up to the Lord, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekels.

52. Fuitque omne aurum oblationis quod obtulerunt Jehovae, sedecim millia, septingenti et quinquaginta sicli, a tribunis et centurionibus.

53. (For the men of war had taken spoil, every man for himself.)

53. (Viri namque exereitus praedati fuerant quisque sibi.)

54. And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tabernacle of the congregation,for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord.

54. Accepit inquam Moses et Eleazar sacerdos aurum a tribunis et centurionibus, et intulit illud in tabernaculum conventionis, in memoriam filiis Israel coram Jehova.

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. Amongst the other prerogatives which God conferred upon His Church, this one is celebrated, that He armed the godly “to execute vengeance upon the heathen, — to execute upon them the judgment that is written,” (<19E907>Psalm 149:7-9) and although the Spirit declares that this should happen under the kingdom of Christ, still He refers to ancient examples, one of which, well worthy of remembrance, is here recorded. The Midianites had organized a wicked conspiracy for the destruction of God’s people: and God, in undertaking to punish this cruel act of theirs, gave a striking proof of His paternal favor towards the Israelites; whilst this grace is doubled by His constituting them the ministers of his judgment. This passage, therefore, shews us how anxious God was for the welfare of His elect people, when He so set Himself against their enemies, as if He would make common cause in all respects with them. At the same time we must observe this additional favor towards them, that although the Israelites themselves were not without blame, He still deigned to appoint them as judges of the Midianites. Inasmuch, however, as He everywhere prohibits His people from indulging the lust of vengeance, we must not forget the distinction between men’s vengeance and His own. He would have His servants, by patiently bearing injuries, overcome evil with good; while, at the same time, He by no means abdicates His own power, but still reserves to Himself the right of inflicting punishment. Nay, Paul, desiring to exhort believers to long-suffering, recalls them to the principle, that God takes upon Himself the office of avenging. f203 Since, then, God is at liberty to execute vengeance, not only by Himself, but also by His ministers, as we have already seen, these two things are not inconsistent with each other, that the passions of the godly are laid under restraint by the Word, that they should not, when injured, seek for vengeance, or retaliate the evils they have received, and still that they are the just and legitimate executioners of God’s vengeance, when the sword is put into their hands. It remains, that whosoever is called to this office, should punish crime with honest zeal, as the minister of God, and not as acting in his own private cause. God here intrusted the office of vengeance upon His people, but by no means in order that they might indulge the lust of their nature: for their feeling ought to have been this, that they should have been ready to pardon the Midianites, f204 and still that they should heartily bestir themselves to inflict punishment upon them.

That, whilst God so severely judged the Midianites, he spared the Moabites, was for the sake of Lot, who was the founder of their race. But I have already frequently reminded my readers that, when God’s judgments surpass our understanding, we should, in sober humility, give glory to His secret, and to us incomprehensible, wisdom: for those who, in this respect, seek to know more than is fitting, elevate themselves too high, in order to plunge with head-long audacity into a profound abyss, in which, at length, all their senses must be overwhelmed. Why was He not at liberty to remit the punishment of the Moabites, and at the same time to repay to the Midianites the recompense which was their due? Besides, it was only for a time that he pardoned the Moabites, until their obstinacy should render them inexcusable, after they had not only abused his forbearance, but tyrannically afflicted their brethren, by whom they had been treated with kindness.

Moreover, God desired, whilst Moses was still alive, again to testify by this final act His love towards His people, in order that they might more cheerfully advance to the possession of the promised land: for this was no feeble encouragement, when they saw that God spontaneously put Himself forward to avenge them. At the same time it was expedient for Moses that, at the very moment of his death, he should feel, by a fresh instance, what care God took for the welfare of the people. For he was able joyfully to leave them in God’s keeping, whose hand he had so recently seen put forth to fulfill to the utmost His gracious purposes towards them. To the same effect were the words, “Thou shalt be gathered unto thy people,” which were undoubtedly spoken as a consolation in death. It was also a reason for making haste; for if the dearth of the holy Prophet had been waited for, perhaps the Israelites would not have dared to attack, with arms in their hands, a peaceful nation, from whom there was no peril or inconvenience impending. But so great was the authority of Moses over them, that they were more ready to obey his bidding than that of any other person.

Although it is said indifferently of the reprobate as well as believers, that they are gathered or congregated to their fathers by death, still this expression shews that men are born for immortality; for it would not be appropriate to say this of the brute animals, whose death is their final destruction, inasmuch as they are without the hope of another life.

3. And Moses spake unto the people. There is no doubt but that Moses delivered the commands which he had received from God; although, therefore, it is stated f205 that only ten thousand went forth to the war, yet the facts themselves demonstrate that the number, as well as the mode of warfare, was prescribed by God. And assuredly it would have been inconsiderate of Moses to attack so great a people with so small a band; and thus he would have deservedly incurred the penalty of his rashness, if he had attempted it of his own accord; still, when God’s command had preceded, he happily concluded the matter, which had been properly and rightly undertaken. Nor can it be questioned but that God desired by this test to prove the faith of His people. For, according to human apprehension, it was folly to endanger themselves without cause; and the objection was obvious that it was by no means advisable, when six hundred thousand men were at hand, to restrict to so few the office of waging such a perilous war. Just, therefore, as God afterwards destroyed the great army of the Midianites by only four hundred men under the guidance of Gideon, so also under the hand of Moses He sent forth only a single thousand from every tribe for the destruction of that nation. The tribe of Zebulon alone could have furnished five times as many soldiers as God took from the whole people. Thus, then, they proved their faith, when in reliance on the aid of God alone, they did not hesitate boldly to rush forward against their enemies. And the event itself more fully illustrated God’s grace than as if they had fought with all their forces, for then it would have been believed that the Midianites were overwhelmed by the infinite multitude of men. As, therefore, the people testified their obedience by prompt compliance, so they experienced in the result that there is nothing better than to submit ourselves to God, and to leave the prospect of success so completely in His hand, as that our confidence may depend solely upon him.

Lest either of the tribes should boast itself against the others, they were each of them commanded to give the same number of soldiers. Moreover, Phinehas was sent with them, not so much that he might engage personally with the enemy, or be their General, as that he might rule and control their minds as God’s messenger and interpreter. They were to be kept in the fear of God, and to be elevated to the expectation of victory, and therefore God’s priest was their leader, so that the war might be a holy one; and the same was the object of the silver trumpets, with which, in obedience to the Lw, as we have elsewhere seen, f206 the Levites were accustomed to sound, that it might be manifest that their battles were not fought without the will and authority of heaven. Amongst “the holy instruments,” some commentators, in my opinion rightly, include the Ark of the Covenant.

7. And they warred against the Midianites. It was a signal example of obedience, that 12,000 men did not refuse to engage in a war which was full of danger, when it was reasonable for them to object that it was not right for them to be exposed to butchery, as it were, whilst the people sat idly in the camp, who by their great numbers and with little trouble would have routed and overcome the enemy. It was therefore no common proof of piety, that they obeyed God’s command, and sought for no pretext to cover their cowardice. God, too, shewed by the result that He did not rashly expose His servants to danger; for it is in His power to rescue those whom He takes under His protection, from a hundred deaths. From hence also we are taught that there is no surer means of safety than to follow whither He leads. What Moses afterwards adds, tends to render praise to their perseverance, with one exception, they were right in killing all the males, even to the kings, whom Moses relates to have been slain in the general slaughter; and especially that they inflicted punishment on Balaam, who by his cunning and his snares, had endeavored to destroy the people of God. They were right, too, in spoiling the whole land; nor did they act with less propriety and discretion in razing all the cities and towns, which might have been a temptation to the timid and inactive to take up their abode there; for, as we have seen before, all hindrances were to be taken away, so that the people might advance freely and without incumbrance into the land of Canaan; else, when there was an opportunity of repose, many would have willingly foregone the promised inheritance. Hence the cities were consumed by fire, lest they should afford any hold for those who were willing to stay. Thus far the selected soldiers faithfully performed their duty: in one respect they failed, in that, under the impulse either of avarice or lust, they preserved the women alive: on which point we shall see more presently.

11. And they took all the spoil. It was a sign both of their disinterestedness and modesty, that they brought the booty, which they had taken in the ardor of battle, to Moses and Eleazar; nor was it a mere empty and pompous ceremony, as many boastingly parade the wealth which they desire to keep to themselves; but their intention was, to acquiesce in the determination of Moses as to its distribution. For, when Moses soon afterwards allots half of it to the people, they are so far from rebelling against his decision, that they do not even murmur. It is clear, then, that in this respect they were no less submissive than they had been when, at the outset, they took up arms, and boldly went forth to battle, whilst the rest were quietly reposing out of the reach of the darts.

Download 1.6 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   170   171   172   173   174   175   176   177   ...   277

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2022
send message

    Main page