The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Numbers 7

Num 7:1

Num 7: "When the tabernacle had been constructed and fully set up according to the pattern shown to Moses in the Mount, and when it had been anointed and sanctified with all its instruments and vessels for the service, a circumstance happened that added much grace to the dedication ceremonies of the day.

"The twelve princes of the tribes -- heads of the congregation -- brought to Moses a present of six covered wagons and twelve strong oxen, to be used in the service of the tabernacle. A more useful present could not in the circumstances be imagined.

"The tabernacle had to be shifted from place to place with the changes of camp while the host was on the march. Though it was a portable structure -- capable of being taken to pieces -- many of its parts were heavy, such as the sockets for the pillars of the courts, which would weigh about a hundredweight each. The pillars themselves would be heavy pieces of timber, and so also would be the boards of the tabernacle. The golden candlestick also would be heavy, and the table of shewbread with its golden crown and cherubim. The business of carrying them on the journeys would be very laborious.

"The princes had evidently consulted together on the matter, and had agreed jointly to make a present of the wagons to lighten the work.

"But would the present be accepted in connection with a work wholly divine? The princes may have had their doubts on this, and Moses himself may not have been clear. Whatever uncertainty may have existed was dispelled by the direction that Moses received when the princes brought their offering before the tabernacle. We read (v 89) that 'when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation, he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of the testimony from between the two cherubim.' The message as to the wagons was this: 'Take the offering of the princes, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.' [Num 7:5] Not only so, but Moses was told exactly what disposal to make of them. 'Give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.' It will be remembered that to the Levites, under the superintendence of Aaron, was assigned the work of packing up and carrying the various parts of the tabernacle while on the march and to each particular family was allotted particular parts: to the sons of Kohath, the holy vessels and furniture of the tabernacle; to the sons of Gershon, all the curtains and hangings and pins and cords; to the sons of Merari, all the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets. The distribution of the wagons was according to these services: four wagons and eight oxen were given to the sons of Merari, who had to see after all the heavy parts: two wagons and four oxen were given to the sons of Gershon, who had to carry the curtains and hangings, which must have been of some bulk to enclose a court 150 feet by 75. To the sons of Kohath, none were given, 'because the service of the sanctuary belonging to them was that they should bear on their shoulders' -- that is, the ark, the incense altar, the table of shewbread, etc.

"Two things strike us in connection with the whole episode. God accepts co-operation in forms He has not prescribed if they are in subservient harmony with His requirements. The twelve princes were in submission to Moses and in subjection to the tabernacle and the whole law connected with it. The object of their voluntary gift was to help and further a divine work appointed. Had they brought the materials for a second tabernacle, or a second camp, we cannot but suppose that the offering would not only not have been accepted, but would have been spurned as an act of presumption, like Nadab's and Abihu's offering of strange fire. But being in no rivalry to the divine work, but conceived in the spirit of helpfulness and being a wise measure, God approved and accepted it.

"We see the same feature in the case of Jethro's recommendation to Moses that he should delegate his authority in small matters to subordinate officers. God approved of the suggestion of Jethro, and it became a commandment to Moses to do as Jethro had suggested (Exo 18:13-26; De. 1:9-18). From this we may draw the useful conclusion that the arrangements we are obliged to make in this latter day in the absence of divine direction, will receive the divine sanction and favour provided they are made in the sincere spirit of desiring to help the Lord's work, and are in harmony with the requirements of that work as specified in the word of Jesus and the apostles. The use of the printing press and the holding of meetings for lectures are of this nature. We may hope presently to hear that the Lord approves of them as a doing of our best in an age when His purpose requires that He should be silent" (LM 307-309).

Num 7:12

The order of service:
V 12: 1st day: Judah
V 18: 2nd day: Issachar
V 24: 3rd day: Zebulun
V 30: 4th day: Reuben
V 36: 5th day: Simeon
V 42: 6th day: Gad
V 48: 7th day: Ephraim
V 54: 8th day: Manasseh
V 60: 9th day: Benjamin
V 66: 10th day: Dan
V 72: 11th day: Asher
V 78: 12th day: Napthali

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