Some observe that the repetition of those words, The Lord spoke unto Moses, here and afterwards (Exod. 30:17, 22, 34), intimates that God did not deliver these precepts to Moses in the mount, in a continued discourse, but with many intermissions, giving him time either to write what was said to him or at least to charge his memory with it. Christ gave instructions to his disciples as they were able to hear them. Moses is here ordered to levy money upon the people by way of poll, so much a head, for the service of the tabernacle. This he must do when he numbered the people. Some think that it refers only to the first numbering of them, now when the tabernacle was set up; and that this tax was to make up what was deficient in the voluntary contributions for the finishing of the work, or rather for the beginning of the service in the tabernacle. Others think that it was afterwards repeated upon any emergency and always when the people were numbered, and that David offended in not demanding it when he numbered the people. But many of the Jewish writers, and others from them, are of opinion that it was to be an annual tribute, only it was begun when Moses first numbered the people. This was that tribute-money which Christ paid, for fear of offending his adversaries (Matt. 17:27), when yet he showed good reason why he should have been excused. Men were appointed in every city to receive this payment yearly. Now, 1. The tribute to be paid was half a shekel, about fifteen pence of our money. The rich were not to give more, nor the poor less (Exod. 30:15), to intimate that the souls of the rich and poor are alike precious, and that God is no respecter of persons, Acts 10:34; Job 34:19. In other offerings men were to give according to their ability; but this, which was the ransom of the soul, must be alike for all; for the rich have as much need of Christ as the poor, and the poor are as welcome to him as the rich. They both alike contributed to the maintenance of the temple-service, because both were to have a like interest in it and benefit by it. In Christ and his ordinances rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker, the Lord Christ is the Redeemer of them both, Prov. 22:2. The Jews say, “If a man refused to pay this tribute, he was not comprehended in the expiation.” 2. this tribute was to be paid as a ransom of the soul, that there might be no plague among them. Hereby they acknowledged that they received their lives from God, that they had forfeited their lives to him, and that they depended upon his power and patience for the continuance of them; and thus they did homage to the God of their lives, and deprecated those plagues which their sins had deserved. 3. This money that was raised was to be employed in the service of the tabernacle (Exod. 30:16); with it they bought sacrifices, flour, incense, wine, oil, fuel, salt, priests’ garments, and all other things which the whole congregation was interested in. Note, Those that have the benefit of God’s tabernacle among them must be willing to defray the expenses of it, and not grudge the necessary charges of God’s public worship. Thus we must honour the Lord with our substance, and reckon that best laid out which is laid out in the service of God. Money indeed cannot make an atonement for the soul, but it may be used for the honour of him who has made the atonement, and for the maintenance of the gospel by which the atonement is applied.
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