Numbers xv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 2. Speak. This law was probably given towards the end of the 40 years, ver. 23.

Ver. 3. Victim “of peace,” as some Latin copies read, including all the different sorts, ver. 28. (Calmet)

Ver. 4. Ephi. Hebrew, “a tenth of flour,” or one gomer. (Du Hamel)

Ver. 11—15. Thus, &c. — Land. In this last verse, the Samaritan copy observes a more correct manner of punctuation than the Hebrew which is commonly rendered “O congregation.” (Houbigant) — The author of the Vulgate has preserved the sense, but not all the words of the original. The strangers here spoken of are the proselytes of justice, who kept all the law. Those of the gate, who lived in the land, uncircumcised, could only present holocausts, without libations, Leviticus xxii. 25. (Calmet) — “The many sacrifices (of the old law) prefigured this one sacrifice” of the new. (St. Augustine, City of God x. 20.) Christ, represented by the oil, offers himself the victim, under the forms of bread and wine. (Du Hamel)

Ver. 20. Eat. Hebrew and Septuagint, “of your dough.” They elevated a part towards heaven, and gave it to the priest or Levite, who lived nearest them; and, in case none could be found, as at the present day, they were to burn it in honour of God. Tradition determines the quantity to be between a 40th and a 60th part. (St. Jerome in Ezec. xlv.) This they do every time they bake, according to Philo, and Leo of Modena, (2. 9,) though the law be not clear, and some might think it sufficient to give a part, the first time they baked with new flour.

Ver. 22. Ignorance. Other victims are prescribed; (Leviticus iv. 13,) so that the ignorance here mentioned must be of a different nature. The former was perhaps a sin of commission, and this a sin of omission; such as if the whole people should neglect to eat the paschal lamb. The Rabbins think that the law alludes here to idolatry, committed for want of knowledge. But that is next to impossible in a whole nation. Outram believes, that the Book of Leviticus speaks of those who transgress the negative precepts, without abandoning the true religion; but the present law alludes to those who forget the laws of their fathers, and embrace a false worship. Thus Ezechias offered the victims here prescribed, though more in number, to expiate the idolatry of the people under Achaz, 1 Paralipomenon xxix. 21. See also 1 Esdras viii. 35. Some think Moses has supplied in this place what was left deficient before. But it is more probable, that he supposes here only some of the tribes have sinned ignorantly, while in Leviticus he speaks of the whole nation. (Calmet) — No one sins for the sake of the offence, but for some advantage which we falsely persuade ourselves we shall derive from doing so. (St. Augustine, q. 24.)

Ver. 25. And for. Hebrew, “and their sin (offering) in the presence of the Lord, for their ignorance.” (Calmet)

Ver. 30. Pride. Hebrew and Septuagint, “with hand, or with head (Chaldean) uplifted,” without shame or control. The Rabbins say, he must deny that God is the author of the law, and sin deliberately, after being admonished, &c., before he will incur this penalty. But why all these restrictions? — Rebellious. Hebrew, “he hath blasphemed, or irritated the Lord.” Such crimes imply a contempt of the law. — Cut off by God, if the judges neglect to do it. The Hebrews maintain, that each individual has a right to kill such scandalous offenders, as Phinees did Zambri, chap. xxv. 7. (1 Machabees ii. 23.) It is not clear whether all strangers, living in the country, were subjected to this law. (Selden, Jur. ii. 11.) Though such crimes were not pardoned by the law, true repentance will free us from them. (St. Augustine, q. 25.) (Worthington)

Ver. 32. Wilderness of Pharan, if this crime were committed soon after the murmuring of the people, or in some other part of the desert. This example tends to show the severity and extent of the former precept. The law had condemned the breaker of the sabbath to be put to death. But Moses consulted the Lord, to know in what manner; or perhaps there were some circumstances attending the offender, which extenuated or enhanced his crime. Some of the Rabbins have unjustly aspersed the character of Salphaad, as if he were the person, because it is said that he died in the desert in his own sin, chap. xxvii. 3. (Calmet) — Those who transgress with full knowledge, deserve to be severely chastised; (Luke xii. 47,) and this is the more necessary, when the law has been lately promulgated, to restrain the insolent. (Haydock) — God generally makes an example of those who first transgress his laws, as he did of our first parents, of Cain, the Sodomites, the worshippers of the golden calf, &c. He punished thus the sacrilege of Nadab, the disobedience of Saul, the lie of Ananias and Saphira. (Cajetan) (Du Hamel)

Ver. 38. Fringes. The Pharisees enlarged these fringes through hypocrisy, (Matthew xxiii. 5,) to appear more zealous than other men for the law of God. (Challoner) — Our Saviour conformed to this law, Luke viii. 44. Moses shews that these fringes were to be made for the cloak, which was square, and not for the tunic, Deuteronomy xxii. 12. The colour, in St. Justin Martyr’s time, was purple. (Dialogue with Trypho) It seems that the Phœnicians were accustomed to wear such fringes. Sidoniam picto chlamidem circumdata limbo. (Virgil, Æneid iv.) (Calmet) — God ordained that his people should be thus distinguished from other nations. (Tirinus)

Ver. 39. Astray, (fornicantes). The eyes being left without restraint, easily fix upon dangerous objects, which captivate the heart, and lead to idolatry and the contempt of God’s law. (Calmet) — We are also admonished to meditate on the law, and not follow our own thoughts or interpretations, so as to render it of no effect, in the regulation of our morals. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Certain laws concerning sacrifices. Sabbath-breaking is punished with death. The law of fringes on their garments.

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

2 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: When you shall be come into the land of your habitation, which I will give you,

3 And shall make an offering to the Lord for a holocaust, or a victim, paying your vows, or voluntarily offering gifts, or in your solemnities burning a sweet savour unto the Lord, of oxen or of sheep:

4 Whosoever immolateth the victim, shall offer a sacrifice of fine flour, the tenth part of an ephi, tempered with the fourth part of a hin of oil:

5 And he shall give the same measure of wine to pour out in libations for the holocaust, or for the victim. For every lamb,

6 And for every ram there shall be a sacrifice of flour of two tenths, which shall be tempered with the third part of a hin of oil:

7 And he shall offer the third part of the same measure of wine for the libation, for a sweet savour to the Lord.

8 But when thou offerest a holocaust or sacrifice of oxen, to fulfil thy vow or for victims of peace-offerings,

9 Thou shalt give for every ox three tenths of flour tempered with half a hin of oil,

10 And wine for libations of the same measure, for an offering of most sweet savour to the Lord.

11 Thus shalt thou do,

12 For every ox, and ram, and lamb, and kid,

13 Both they that are born in the land, and the strangers,

14 Shall offer sacrifices after the same rite.

15 There shall be all one law and judgment, both for you, and for them who are strangers in the land.

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

17 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them:

18 When you are come into the land, which I will give you,

19 And shall eat of the bread of that country, you shall separate first-fruits to the Lord,

20 Of the things you eat. As you separate first-fruits of your barn-floors:

21 So also shall you give first-fruits of your dough to the Lord.

22 And if through ignorance you omit any of these things, which the Lord hath spoken to Moses,

23 And by him hath commanded you, from the day that he began to command and thence forward,

24 And the multitude have forgotten to do it: they shall offer a calf out of the herd, a holocaust for a most sweet savour to the Lord, and the sacrifice and libations thereof, as the ceremonies require, and a buck-goat for sin:

25 And the priest shall pray for all the multitude of the children of Israel: and it shall be forgiven them, because they sinned ignorantly; offering, notwithstanding, a burnt-offering to the Lord, for themselves and for their sin and their ignorance:

26 And it shall be forgiven all the people of the children of Israel, and the strangers that sojourn among them: because it is the fault of all the people through ignorance.

27 But if one soul shall sin ignorantly, he shall offer a she-goat of a year old for his sin:

28 And the priest shall pray for him, because he sinned ignorantly before the Lord: and he shall obtain his pardon, and it shall be forgiven him.

29 The same law shall be for all that sin by ignorance, whether they be natives or strangers.

30 But the soul that committeth any thing through pride, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, (because he hath been rebellious against the Lord) shall be cut off from among his people:

31 For he hath contemned the word the Lord, and made void his precept: therefore shall he be destroyed, and shall bear his iniquity.

32 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and had found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day,

33 That they brought him to Moses and Aaron, and the whole multitude.

34 And they put him into prison, not knowing what they should do with him.

35 And the Lord said to Moses: Let that man die, let all the multitude stone him without the camp.

36 And when they had brought him out, they stoned him, and he died as the Lord had commanded.

37 The Lord also said to Moses:

38 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt tell them *to make to themselves fringes in the corners of their garments, putting in them ribands of blue:

39 That when they shall see them, they may remember all the commandments of the Lord, and not follow their own thoughts and eyes going astray after divers things,

40 But rather being mindful of the precepts of the Lord, may do them, and be holy to their God.

41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that I might be your God.



38: Deuteronomy xxii. 12.; Matthew xxiii. 5.