Notes (NET Translation)
15 On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle — the tent of the testimony — and from evening until morning there was a fiery appearance over the tabernacle. 16 This is the way it used to be continually: The cloud would cover it by day, and there was a fiery appearance by night.
The day the tabernacle was set up was the first day of the first month of the second year (Ex 40:2; Num 7:1). The fire-cloud is the glory of the Lord (Ex 40:34-38). The fire is always present in the cloud but is normally only visible at night. The fire-cloud covers just the tent-shrine (“the tent of the testimony”), not the entire courtyard.
17 Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the Israelites would begin their journey; and in whatever place the cloud settled, there the Israelites would make camp.
Verses 17-23 are not true poetry, but rather an elevated prose. God, not the Israelites, decides when to move and camp.
18 At the commandment of the LORD the Israelites would begin their journey, and at the commandment of the LORD they would make camp; as long as the cloud remained settled over the tabernacle they would camp.
The obedience of the Israelites is stressed (see also vv 20, 21).
19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle many days, then the Israelites obeyed the instructions of the LORD and did not journey.
20 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a number of days, they remained camped according to the LORD’s commandment, and according to the LORD’s commandment they would journey.
21 And when the cloud remained only from evening until morning, when the cloud was taken up the following morning, then they traveled on. Whether by day or by night, when the cloud was taken up they traveled.
22 Whether it was for two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud prolonged its stay over the tabernacle, the Israelites remained camped without traveling; but when it was taken up, they traveled on.
23 At the commandment of the LORD they camped, and at the commandment of the LORD they traveled on; they kept the instructions of the LORD according to the commandment of the LORD, by the authority of Moses.
The Lord’s commands came through (“by the authority of”) Moses.
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