Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Two trumpets. These were probably deemed sufficient at first, though in the days of Josue there were seven, (Calmet) and in those of Solomon 20,000. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] viii. 2.) (Tirinus) — They were used for all public assemblies. Josephus (iii. 11,) says, one was sounded to call the princes together, and the other to collect the people, which is not quite conformable to the Scripture. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Once. Hebrew, “with one trumpet.” If both sounded together uniformly, the people assembled, ver. 7.
Ver. 5. Longer, and with interruptions. Hebrew teruha, “a signal,” an alarm. Septuagint, “a loud cry of victory.” Chaldean, “the taratantara,” as Montanus translates, in allusion to the sound of the Hebrew word, (Calmet) or of the trumpets. When they were sounded with a variety of notes, or at different intervals, all knew that the camp was to break up, even though they had not been attentive to the motions of the cloud. Then Juda led the van, chap. ii. 9. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. And, &c. Hebrew, “they shall blow an alarm for their marches.” This must be referred to the camps on the west, which proceeded forward at the third sounding, as those on the north did at the fourth, according to the Septuagint. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Sound. High mysteries must be reserved for the more learned. (Theodoret, q. 15.) (Worthington)
Ver. 8. Priests. God’s officers and heralds. Curtius (3) observes, that among the Persians at day-break, the signal was given from the king’s tent by sound of trumpet.
Ver. 9. Your God, who will reward your obedience with victory.
Ver. 10. And on. This serves to explain what kind of banquet is meant. On the festivals of religion, peace-offerings were made, of which those who were pure, might partake. (Haydock) — On solemn and extraordinary occasions, holocausts were also presented to God by the whole nation; and the trumpets announced those public rejoicings, 2 Paralipomenon v. 12., and xxix. 26. (Calmet) — Months. The day when the moon first appeared, was a festival day among the Jews, (Menochius) or the first day of the month, while they observed the solar year.
Ver. 11. The second. The Samaritan copy here places what we read, Deuteronomy i. 7, 8; and it is certain that those words were addressed to Moses on this occasion, though it be not so certain, that they were written by him in this place. (Calmet) — Of the month Jiar. The Hebrews had continued near Sinai a year and 20 days. Thence they went to the desert of Pharan, encamping first at the sepulchres of concupiscence, and at Haseroth, which were probably in that desert. Moses only specifies those encampments, where something memorable took place. He mentions none between Asiongaber and Cades, though the length of the journey required many, Numbers xi. 34., and xiii. 1. (Calmet) — Perhaps he only reckons those among the stations where the people continued a considerable time.
Ver. 17. It. Hence it would appear, that part of the Levites followed Juda’s division, which was preceded by the priests bearing the ark, (ver. 33,) while the Caathites bore the sacred vessels after Ruben, (ver. 21,) and were followed by Ephraim and Gad. But Calmet observes, that the Levites, and the whole camp of the Lord, came in the middle of the four great divisions, immediately after Ruben, chap. ii. 9, 17. Salien thinks, that the ark and cloud led the way, and returned to the middle at the end of the journey, ver. 36. (Haydock) (Tirinus)
Ver. 21. Sanctuary, or holy vessels. They never set them down, till they arrived at the place where the tabernacle was to be fixed. Hebrew may be, “the sons of Caath set forward, bearing the vessels of the sanctuary, (Calmet) and they (the other Levites, ver. 17,) set up the boards and curtains of the tabernacle till they arrived;” that so both the vessels and the ark might be placed in proper order. If the ark had to return into the middle of the camp from leading the way, as Salien insinuates; while it passed between the ranks of Juda, the Levites would have time to arrange every thing. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. Hobab; probably the brother of Sephora, and son of Raguel or Jethro, who had departed, leaving this son for a guide to Moses. Though God directed the marches of the Hebrews, he would not have them to neglect human means. — Kinsman. The Hebrew clothen, and Greek gambros, are not more determinate, as they signify either father, son, or brother-in-law (see Exodus ii. 18.; Calmet); or in general a relation. (St. Jerome) (Du Hamel)
Ver. 31. Guide, being well acquainted with the country, and consequently able to point out the best places for pasturage and for water, and to inform us what sort of people we are near. Hebrew, “thou shalt serve us for eyes.” Septuagint, “as a senator.” The Persians had officers who had the title of eyes and ears of the king. (Brisson 1.) Some suppose that Moses stood in no need of Hobab, having lived himself in that country 40 years, with Jethro; and that he only wished to keep his kinsman with him, that he might observe the true religion. He supposed at that time that they would presently obtain possession of Chanaan. But the sins of the people caused almost all to perish in the desert. Hobab probably accepted of the proposal, as we find the Cineans, descendants of Jethro, holding a portion of the land, Judges i. 16. (Calmet) His posterity, the Rechabites, were noted for more than usual piety; and were the same with the Essenes, according to Serarius, and the first authors of a monastic life, Jeremias xxxv. (Tirinus)
Ver. 33. Journey. During this time, we know not where they encamped. The first place that is specified is Tabera, or “the burning,” (chap. xi. 3.; Calmet) which St. Jerome believes is the same place, which was also called the sepulchres of concupiscence, (ver. 34,) the 13th station, (Haydock) which is described above as the desert of Pharan. (Menochius) — Before them. See ver. 17. (Haydock) — The Rabbins assert that there were two arks; one containing the writings of Moses going before, with the lawgiver, at the head of the army; and the other, carried by the Levites, in the centre. (Drusius) — Calmet would rather translate “went in their presence;” that is, in the midst. The kings of Persia always marched in the centre, for greater safety, and that they might communicate their orders with more expedition, as well as to keep all in order, and observe what was doing. (Xenophon.; Cyrop. iv. and viii.; Arian ii. and iii.) (Calmet) — But the ark of God would probably go before the people, with the cloud, which hung over it.
Ver. 36. Host. Septuagint, “Bring, or turn back, (Haydock) O Lord, the thousands, the myriads in Israel.” Some give the same sense to the Hebrew. (Calmet) — Prayers are composed, not only for the obtaining of good in general, but also for particular purposes. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The silver trumpets and their use. They march from Sinai.
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, *saying:
2 Make thee two trumpets of beaten silver, wherewith thou mayst call together the multitude, when the camp is to be removed.
3 And when thou shalt sound the trumpets, all the multitude shall gather unto thee, to the door of the tabernacle of the covenant.
4 If thou sound but once, the princes and the heads of the multitude of Israel shall come to thee.
5 But if the sound of the trumpets be longer, and with interruptions, they that are on the east side, shall first go forward.
6 And at the second sounding and like noise of the trumpet, they who lie on the south side shall take up their tents. And after this manner shall the rest do, when the trumpets shall sound for a march.
7 But when the people is to be gathered together, the sound of the trumpets shall be plain, and they shall not make a broken sound.
8 And the sons of Aaron the priests shall sound the trumpets: and this shall be an ordinance for ever in your generations.
9 If you go forth to war out of your land, against the enemies that fight against you, you shall sound aloud with the trumpets, and there shall be a remembrance of you before the Lord your God, that you may be delivered out of the hands of your enemies.
10 If at any time you shall have a banquet, and on your festival days, and on the first days of your months, you shall sound the trumpets over the holocausts, and the sacrifices of peace-offerings, that they may be to you for a remembrance of your God. I am the Lord your God.
11 The second year, in the second month, the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle of the covenant.
12 And the children of Israel marched by their troops from the desert of Sinai, and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Pharan.
13 And the first went forward according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
14 *The sons of Juda by their troops: whose prince was Nahasson, the son of Aminadab.
15 In the tribe of the sons of Issachar, the prince was Nathanael, the son of Suar.
16 In the tribe of Zabulon, the prince was Eliab, the son of Helon.
17 And the tabernacle was taken down, and the sons of Gerson and Merari set forward, bearing it.
18 And the sons of Ruben also marched, by their troops and ranks, whose prince was Helisur, the son of Sedeur.
19 And in the tribe of Simeon, the prince was Salamiel, the son of Surisaddai.
20 And in the tribe of Gad, the prince was Eliasaph, the son of Duel.
21 Then the Caathites also marched, carrying the sanctuary. So long was the tabernacle carried, till they came to the place of setting it up.
22 The sons of Ephraim also moved their camp by their troops, in whose army the prince was Elisama, the son of Ammiud.
23 And in the tribe of the sons of Manasses, the prince was Gamaliel, the son of Phadassur.
24 And in the tribe of Benjamin, the prince was Abidan, the son of Gedeon.
25 The last of all the camp marched the sons of Dan, by their troops, in whose army the prince was Ahiezer, the son of Ammisaddai.
26 And in the tribe of the sons of Aser, the prince was Phegiel, the son of Ochran,
27 And in the tribe of the sons of Nephthali, the prince was Ahira, the son of Enan.
28 This was the order of the camps, and marches of the children of Israel, by their troops, when they set forward.
29 And Moses said to Hobab, the son of Raguel the Madianite, his kinsman: We are going towards the place which the Lord will give us: come with us, that we may do thee good: for the Lord hath promised good things to Israel.
30 But he answered him: I will not go with thee, but I will return to my *country, wherein I was born.
31 And he said: Do not leave us: for thou knowest in what places we should encamp in the wilderness, and thou shalt be our guide.
32 And if thou comest with us, we will give thee what is the best of the riches, which the Lord shall deliver to us.
33 So they marched from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, for three days, providing a place for the camp.
34 The cloud also of the Lord was over them by day when they marched.
35 And when the ark was lifted up, Moses said: *Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee, flee from before thy face.
36 And when it was set down, he said: Return, O Lord, to the multitude of the host of Israel.
1: Year of the World 2514.
14: Numbers i. 7.
30: Exodus xviii. 27.
35: Psalm lxvii. 2