Numbers 10 – Two Silver Trumpets, the Departure from Sinai
A. Two silver trumpets.
1. (1-2) Two silver trumpets.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.
a. Make two silver trumpets: The two silver trumpets were used to direct the movement of the camps for marching and for battle, and to gather the nation together for an assembly.
i. These silver trumpets are distinct from the trumpets made from a ram’s horn, the shofar that was used to announce the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9) and at Jericho (Joshua 6:4).
ii. “I suspect that considerable time would have been necessary for Moses (and/or his artisans) to make these trumpets of hammered silver…. God may have instructed Moses to have these trumpets fashioned months before the people actually set out on their triumphant march.” (Allen)
iii. “The trumpets are described by Josephus and pictured on the arch of Titus in Rome. They were straight pipes, a little less than 18 in. (45cm) long with a flared opening at the end.” (Wenham)
iv. “These instruments were about two feet long with very narrow tubes, and when blown in certain patterns, they emitted a bright and piercing sound that would communicate clearly to the people the desired intent.” (Cole)
b. You shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps: The trumpets were helpful tools for the journey to the Promised Land. Without them it would be difficult to assemble the nation and march towards Canaan.
i. Before we can obey God, we must first give Him our attention. The trumpets were used to get the attention of the people of Israel.
2. (3-10) The system of blowing trumpets.
When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall gather to you. When you sound the advance, the camps that lie on the east side shall then begin their journey. When you sound the advance the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall begin their journey; they shall sound the call for them to begin their journeys. And when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow, but not sound the advance. The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations.
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”
a. When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather: Distinctive sounds were made to indicate gathering for assembly, marching, or warfare. Israel heard the trumpet and gathered as directed.
i. “If we follow Jewish tradition, long blasts…were used to assemble the people to Moses, to the tent of meeting and for worship. Short staccato blasts…were used in battle and to order the camps to move off.” (Wenham)
b. Whether it was two days, a month, or a year: God also promised to hear the trumpet of Israel in warfare, and to act on behalf of the nation. In a sense, God heard the trumpet and responded to His people in their need.
c. Also in the day of your gladness: Trumpets were also a way of celebrating the gathering of God’s people and the presence of the LORD with them.
i. God will use the sound of a trumpet to gather His people for the ultimate assembling together – the catching away of the church, to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
d. They shall be a memorial for you before your God: In many ways, the nature and use of these sliver trumpets illustrate the nature and practice of preaching.
· There was value in a variety of trumpets and tones (make two silver trumpets, Numbers 10:2).
· The trumpet requires effort in making the sound (the nature of sounding a trumpet).
· The sound should be made clear (use them for calling the congregation, Numbers 10:2).
· The sound should be loud enough to be heard (use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps, Numbers 10:2).
· If the sound continued too long, it became mere noise.
· The trumpets could not make many different notes (make two silver trumpets, Numbers 10:2) presumably without valves or slides to change the tone.
· The sound gathers the people of God (use them for calling the congregation, Numbers 10:2).
· The sound leads the people of God forward (for directing the movement of the camps, Numbers 10:2).
· The trumpets were to get the attention of the people (you shall use them for calling the congregation, Numbers 10:2).
· The people were to respond to the sound of the trumpets (When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you).
· The trumpets were to instruct and guide the people (When you sound the advance).
· The trumpets sometimes called just to the leaders (if they blow only one, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall gather to you).
· The sound tells the people of glad news (Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts).
· The sound leads the people of God into battle (then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets).
· The trumpet was to sound an alarm (then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets).
· The sound comes from an instrument shaped by hammering, hard impact (you shall make them of hammered work, Numbers 10:2).
· The sound is also heard by God Himself (you will be remembered before the LORD your God, and you will be saved from your enemies).
· The sound was made by someone called, cleansed, sanctified and anointed (The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets).
· The sound had a special significance to the people of God (they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the LORD your God).
· The sound proclaimed the work of atoning sacrifice (you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings).
· The sound celebrated peace with God and a right relationship with Him (and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings).
· The trumpets only worked effectively with the evidence of God’s presence (the trumpets told them to start marching, but the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire showed them where to go).
B. Departure for the Promised Land.
1. (11-13) The march to Canaan begins.
Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran. So they started out for the first time according to the command of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
a. The cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle: As the cloud began to move, one might imagine the huge sense of excitement that flowed through the people. This marked the start of their departure from Mount Sinai and their journey to Canaan, the land promised to their forefathers and to them.
i. Israel was now on their way to the Promised Land. Previously, their journey had been from Egypt and slavery; now they set out from the Wilderness of Sinai and were on their way to Canaan and liberty.
ii. The cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran: After this initial departure from Sinai, they were positioned to continue into Canaan. “The Desert of Paran is a large plateau in the northeastern Sinai, south of what later would be called the Negev of Judah, and west of the Arabah. This forms the southernmost portion of the Promised Land, the presumed staging area for the assault on the land itself.” (Allen)
iii. “Stops were made at Kibroth-hattaavah and Hazeroth before they finally reached the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16). This is the largest and most barren of the wildernesses traversed by the Israelites, covering much of the Northern Sinai peninsula.” (Wenham)
b. So they started out for the first time according to the command of the LORD by the hand of Moses: This was the first time Israel marched as an organized, prepared nation. They were not the same group that escaped Egypt as a mob.
i. They had been fully prepared to walk as people suited to God’s Promised Land, and the preparation work was focused on this exact point: bringing them to Canaan.
· They had become ordered and organized (Numbers 1-4).
· They had become cleansed and purified (Numbers 5).
· They had become set apart and blessed (Numbers 6).
· They had learned how to give and how to function as priests (Numbers 3 and Numbers 7-8).
· They were made to remember judgment spared and deliverance brought (Numbers 9).
· They had God’s presence as a guide and the tools needed to lead the people (Numbers 9-10).
ii. “Israel, on the move from the Desert of Sinai (Numbers 10:12), was on a journey that in a few weeks could lead them into the conquest of the land of Canaan. This was a day not to be forgotten…. At last the Israelites were on their way to Canaan!” (Allen)
iii. One would be tempted to think that after such extensive preparation – a virtual transformation from slave people to Promised Land people – the actual entrance into Canaan would be easy. This was not the case. The preparation was exactly that – preparation. Ahead of them were the greatest challenges, challenges that could only be met by faith. To use an example, a soldier might think basic training finishes something – but it doesn’t. It only prepares for a greater challenge, the actual battle itself.
2. (14-28) Description of the order of march.
The standard of the camp of the children of Judah set out first according to their armies; over their army was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. Over the army of the tribe of the children of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. And over the army of the tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon. Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set out, carrying the tabernacle. And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out according to their armies; over their army was Elizur the son of Shedeur. Over the army of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. And over the army of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel. Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. (The tabernacle would be prepared for their arrival.) And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set out according to their armies; over their army was Elishama the son of Ammihud. Over the army of the tribe of the children of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. And over the army of the tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni. Then the standard of the camp of the children of Dan (the rear guard of all the camps) set out according to their armies; over their army was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. Over the army of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ocran. And over the army of the tribe of the children of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan. Thus was the order of march of the children of Israel, according to their armies, when they began their journey.
a. The standard of the camp of the children of Judah set out first: They marched according to the order God had commanded earlier in the book. This means that they took God’s word seriously and followed it exactly – just as those who will receive God’s promises should.
b. Then the tabernacle was taken down: After it was first built at the foot of Mount Sinai, this was the first time the tabernacle was taken apart and transported. Everything was done as God commanded, with each family of Levites taking their appointed role.
c. When they began their journey: This was only the beginning. There were many more challenges of faith ahead for Israel. Up to this point – the beginning of their journey – the record in Numbers shows consistent obedience. We are unprepared for the later disobedience and rebellion of Israel, and for the bitter truth that all those stately men mentioned in these verses would die in the wilderness among a generation of unbelief, unwilling to trust God’s promise to enter Canaan.
3. (29-32) Moses appeals to his brother-in-law to stay with Israel.
Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” And he said to him, “I will not go, but I will depart to my own land and to my relatives.” So Moses said, “Please do not leave, inasmuch as you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. And it shall be, if you go with us; indeed it shall be; that whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same we will do to you.”
a. Come with us, and we will treat you well: Moses was a wise enough leader to know his limitations, and to know that he needed help. Moses knew God’s help often comes through men like his brother-in-law Hobab.
i. Though Israel was guided by God, there was still help needed by man – men like Hobab. God plans it this way, often arranging His help to come, at least in part, through people He has ordained to help us.
ii. They didn’t need Hobab to tell them where to go; the pillar of cloud and fire did that. Hobab’s knowledge and experience were helpful in finding water, potential food, fuel, and other things in the places where the LORD directed them to march and camp.
iii. Come with us, and we will treat you well: “It is a question which every body of Christians has need to ask itself–Can we honestly say to those without, Come with us, and we will do you good? In order that there may be certainty on this point, should not every member of the Church be able to testify that the faith he has gives joy and peace, that his fellowship with God is making life pure and strong and free?” (Watson)
iv. The father of Hobab was Reuel, also known as Jethro. “Some earlier scholars took the use of the two names Jethro and Reuel as an indication that Exodus 2:18 and Exodus 3:11 were from different Pentateuchal sources. But the use of dual names in the Bible and ancient Near Eastern texts has been demonstrated by C. H. Gordon and others to be a common practice in poetic and prose contexts.” (Cole)
b. Please do not leave: Since Moses knew God could use Hobab in a significant way, he was willing to appeal to him – and not take an initial “no” as an answer. The first appeal was to Hobab’s selfishness (we will treat you well). The second appeal – the successful appeal – was to his charity and helpfulness (you can be our eyes).
i. “We are very prone to make our appeal to selfishness – granted, on a high level, but still to selfishness. Would not the appeal that calls to service and sacrifice to the heroic be far more forceful? One thing is certain, and that is this was the supreme note in Christ’s call to men in the days of His flesh.” (Morgan)
ii. “In the Book of Judges we find traces of the presence of Hobab’s descendants as incorporated among the people of Israel. One of them came to be somebody, the Jael who struck the tent-peg through the temples of the sleeping Sisera, for she is called ‘the wife of Heber the Kenite.’ Probably, then, in some sense Hobab must have become a worshipper of Jehovah, and have cast in his lot with his brother-in-law and his people.” (Maclaren)
4. (33-36) The departure from Sinai: Rise up, O LORD!
So they departed from the mountain of the LORD on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was above them by day when they went out from the camp. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:
“Rise up, O LORD!
Let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee before You.”
And when it rested, he said:
“Return, O LORD,
To the many thousands of Israel.”
a. And the cloud of the LORD was above them by day when they went out from the camp: As they began the journey to the Promised Land, they were guided by God’s presence, not by their own sense of direction. They followed the cloud no matter where God led them. If they were to camp in a rough place, they did it. If they were told to depart from a comfortable place, they did it. They allowed themselves to be guided by God, not by their own wisdom or desire for comfort and ease.
i. For the three days’ journey: This was how far it was to Paran (Numbers 10:12). “This kind of phraseology was commonly used in the ancient Near East to indicate distance traveled by armies or caravans, in which the average distance was about fifteen miles per day…. Hence, the Israelites probably traveled forty to forty-five miles on this initial leg.” (Cole)
b. Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You: This was the prayer of Moses when the presence of God led them forward.
i. The idea was simple: “God, go before us and take care of our enemies. It’s too dangerous ahead unless You do this.” This is a fitting prayer for every believer to pray, and that faith here displayed gives the sense that Canaan would soon be theirs.
ii. This is also a fitting prayer to remember the glory and strength of the resurrected Lord. When Jesus rose up, all His enemies were scattered. No one dared oppose Him. All our victory is found in His risen glory. Spurgeon noted the extent of Jesus’ victory in a sermon on this verse:
· Sin was defeated and scattered at the cross.
· The hosts of hell were defeated and scattered at the cross.
· Death itself was defeated and scattered at the cross.
· The gods of the heathen were defeated and scattered at the cross.
iii. “Commanders must pray, as well as lead on their forces, as did Charles the Great, and that late brave King of Sweden, more addict to prayer than to fight.” (Trapp)
iv. “I quote not this except as a picture and illustration of the history of the entire Church. Methinks, in a spiritual sense, when Luther first bowed his knee, the Church began to chant, ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered.’ When Knox in Scotland upheld the glory of Jesus’ name, was it not once again, ‘O God arise, let them that hate thee flee before thee’? When Whitefield and Wesley, seraphic evangelists of Jesus Christ, went through this land, was not this the very song of Israel, ‘O God, arise, and let thine enemies be scattered?’ And shall it not be ours to-day?” (Spurgeon)
v. Spurgeon also saw this as a good prayer for the front-line missionary and the one laboring in difficult places: “Are you serving God in some particular work where many are seeking to undo all that you can accomplish? Are you a City Missionary, and do you labour in the midst of a den of iniquity? Does it seem that what you do in one day is undone in one hour by others? Take it to the throne of grace. Say, ‘Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered.’” (Spurgeon)
vi. “The faith which Moses affirms so confidently stands in ironic contrast to what happens in the succeeding chapters: whereas Moses is sure God will do good to Israel, the people begin to complain of the evil (Numbers 11:1) that he is doing them. Moses prays that all God’s enemies will be scattered: the spies declare Israel will be defeated (Numbers 13). This chapter’s triumphant conclusion deepens the poignant tragedy of the succeeding scenes.” (Wenham)
c. Return, O LORD, to the many thousands of Israel: This was the prayer of Moses when the cloud of God’s presence stopped and indicated the place to camp. Moses then prayed, “Here we camp, LORD. Stay with us.”
i. “Will you and I go home and pray this prayer by ourselves, fervently laying hold upon the horns of God’s altar? I charge you, my brethren in Christ, do not neglect this private duty. Go, each of you, to your chambers; shut to your doors; cry to him who hears in secret, and let this be the burden of your cry – ‘Rise up, Lord; and let thine enemies be scattered.’” (Spurgeon)