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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–10
Verses 1–10

Here is, I. A command for the purifying of the camp, by turning out from within its lines all those that were ceremonially unclean, by issues, leprosies, or the touch of dead bodies, until they were cleansed according to the law, Luke 5:2; 3.

1. These orders are executed immediately, Luke 5:4. (1.) The camp was now newly-modelled and put in order, and therefore, to complete the reformation of it, it is next to be cleansed. Note, The purity of the church must be as carefully consulted and preserved as the peace and order of it. It is requisite, not only that every Israelite be confined to his own standard, but that every polluted Israelite be separated from it. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. (2.) God’s tabernacle was now fixed in the midst of their camp, and therefore they must be careful to keep it clean. Note, The greater profession of religion any house or family make the more they are obliged to put away iniquity far from their tabernacle, Job 22:23. The person, the place, in the midst of which God dwells, must not be defiled; for, if it be, he will be affronted, offended, and provoked to withdraw, 1 Cor. 3:16, 17.

2. This expulsion of the unclean out of the camp was to signify, (1.) What the governors of the church ought to do: they must separate between the precious and the vile, and purge out scandalous persons, as old leaven (1 Cor. 5:8; 13), lest others should be infected and defiled, Heb. 12:15. It is for the glory of Christ and the edification of his church that those who are openly and incorrigibly profane and vicious should be put out and kept from Christian communion till they repent. (2.) What God himself will do in the great day: he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. As here the unclean were shut out of the camp, so into the new Jerusalem no unclean thing shall enter, Rev. 21:27.

II. A law concerning restitution, in case of wrong done to a neighbour. It is called a sin that men commit (Luke 5:6), because it is common among men; a sin of man, that is, a sin against man, so it is thought it should be translated and understood. If a man overreach or defraud his brother in any matter, it is to be looked upon as a trespass against the Lord, who is the protector of right, the punisher of wrong, and who strictly charges and commands us to do justly. Now what is to be done when a man’s awakened conscience charges him with guilt of this kind, and brings it to his remembrance though done long ago? 1. He must confess his sin, confess it to God, confess it to his neighbour, and so take shame to himself. If he have denied it before, though it go against the grain to own himself in a lie, yet he must do it; because his heart was hardened he denied it, therefore he has no other way of making it appear that his heart is now softened but by confessing it. 2. He must bring a sacrifice, a ram of atonement, Luke 5:8. Satisfaction must be made for the offence done to God, whose law is broken, as well as for the loss sustained by our neighbour; restitution in this case is not sufficient without faith and repentance. 3. Yet the sacrifices would not be accepted till full amends were made to the party wronged, not only the principal, but a fifth part added to it, Luke 5:7. It is certain that while that which is got by injustice is knowingly retained in the hands the guilt of the injustice remains upon the conscience, and is not purged by sacrifice nor offering, prayers not tears, for it is one and the same continued act of sin persisted in. This law we had before (Lev. 6:4), and it is here added that if the party wronged was dead, and he had no near kinsman who was entitled to the debt, or if it was any way uncertain to whom the restitution should be made, this should not serve for an excuse to detain what was unjustly gotten; to whomsoever it pertained, it was certainly none of his that got it by sin, and therefore it must be given to the priest, Luke 5:8. If there were any that could make out a title to it, it must not be given to the priest (God hates robbery for burnt-offerings); but, if there were not, then it lapsed to the great Lord (ob defectum sanguinis—for want of issue), and the priests were his receivers. Note, Some work of piety or charity is a piece of necessary justice to be done by those who are conscience to themselves that they have done wrong, but know not how otherwise to make restitution; what is not our property will never be our profit.

III. A general rule concerning hallowed things given upon this occasion, that, whatever was given to the priest, his it shall be, Luke 5:9; 10. 1. He that gave it was not to receive his gift again upon any pretence whatsoever. This law ratifies and confirms all grants for pious uses, that people might not give things to the priests in a fit of zeal, and then recall them in a fit of vexation. 2. The other priests should not come in sharers with that priest who then officiated, and to whom the hallowed thing, whatever it was, was given. Let him that was most ready and diligent in attending fare the better for it: if he do the work, let him have the pay, and much good may it do him.