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)
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
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)