Here is the offering of the princes to the service of the tabernacle. Observe,
I. When it was; not till it was fully set up, Num. 7:1. When all things were done both about the tabernacle itself, and the camp of Israel which surrounded it, according to the directions given, then they began their presents, probably about the eighth day of the second month. Note, Necessary observances must always take place of free-will offerings: first those, and then these.
II. Who it was that offered: The princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, Num. 7:2. Note, Those that are above others in power and dignity ought to go before others, and endeavour to go beyond them, in every thing that is good. The more any are advanced the more is expected from them, on account of the greater opportunity they have of serving God and their generation. What are wealth and authority good for, but as they enable a man to do so much the more good in the world?
III. What was offered: six wagons, with each of them a yoke of oxen to draw them, Num. 7:3. Doubtless these wagons were agreeable to the rest of the furniture of the tabernacle and its appurtenances, the best of the kind, like the carriages which great princes use when they go in procession. Some think that God, by Moses, intimated to them what they should bring, or their own consideration perhaps suggested to them to make this present. Though God’s wisdom had ordained all the essentials of the tabernacle, yet it seems these accidental conveniences were left to be provided by their own discretion, which was to set in order that which was wanting (Titus 1:5), and these wagons were not refused, though no pattern of them was shown to Moses in the mount. Note, It must not be expected that the divine institution of ordinances should descend to all those circumstances which are determinable, and are fit to be left alterable, by human prudence, that wisdom which is profitable to direct. Observe, No sooner is the tabernacle fully set up than this provision is made for the removal of it. Note, Even when we are but just settled in the world, and think we are beginning to take root, we must be preparing for changes and removes, especially for the great change. While we are here in this world, every thing must be accommodated to a militant and movable state. When the tabernacle was framing, the princes were very generous in their offerings, for then they brought precious stones, and stones to be set (Exod. 35:27), yet now they bring more presents. Note, Those that have done good should study to abound therein yet more and more, and not be weary of well-doing.
IV. How the offering was disposed of, and what use was made of it: the wagons and oxen were given to the Levites, to be used in carrying the tabernacle, both for their ease (for God would not have any of his servants overburdened with work), and for the more safe and right conveyance of the several parts of the tabernacle, which would be best kept together, and sheltered from the weather, in wagons. 1. The Gershonites, that had the light carriage, the curtains and hangings, had but two wagons, and two yoke of oxen (Num. 7:7); when they had loaded these, they must carry the rest, if any remained, upon their shoulders. 2. The Merarites, that had the heavy carriage, and that which was most unwieldy, the boards, pillars, sockets, etc., had four wagons, and four yoke of oxen allotted them (Num. 7:8); and yet, if they had not more wagons of their own, they would be obliged to carry a great deal upon their backs too, for the silver sockets alone weighed 100 talents, which was above four tons, and that was enough to load four wagons that were drawn but by one yoke of oxen a-piece. But each socket being a talent weight, which is about a man’s burden (as appears, 2 Kgs. 5:23) probably they carried those on their backs, and put the boards and pillars into the wagons. Observe here, How God wisely and graciously ordered the most strength to those that had the most work. Each had wagons according to their service. Whatever burden God in his providence lays upon us, he will by his sufficient grace proportion the strength to it, 1 Cor. 10:13. 3. The Kohathites, that had the most sacred carriage, had no wagons at all, because they were to carry their charge upon their shoulders (Num. 7:9), with a particular care and veneration. When in David’s time they carried the ark in a cart, God made them to know to their terror, by the death of Uzza, that they did not seek him in the due order. See 1 Chron. 15:13.
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