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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Numbers

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FRAMEWORKS: Numbers 3: Introducing the Levites

 

Part 1.2: Ch.3 & 4: The Levites & their Roles

Ch.3: Introducing the Levites
Ch.4: The Levite Clans

FRAMEWORKS: Numbers 3: Introducing the Levites

v.1-4 Aaron's Two Remaining Sons

v.5-10 The tribe of Levi to help the Priesthood

v.11-16 The Levites will be special to the Lord

v.17-20 The Three Clans of the Tribe of Levi

v.21-26 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Gershon

v.27-32 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Kohath

v.33-37 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Merari

v.38 The Location of Moses & Aaron etc. in the camp

v.39 Number of Levite Males

v.40-43 Number of Firstborn in Israel

v.44-51 The Redemption Money for Excess Number of First-born Males

 

[Preliminary Notes: Again a chapter with names and numbers that might be considered hardly worth while reading by the modern reader but to understand the management of the Tabernacle as the central meeting place with God within the camp, this chapter sheds essential light if we are to understand the activities of the nation when they moved.

First there are the priests coming from Aaron's family but then there are the Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel who are set apart to literally manhandle the Tabernacle.

So we see the two remaining sons of Aaron who assist him in the priesthood and then we find the three clans of the tribe of Levi who are each allocated different tasks in respect of moving the Tabernacle which had to be dismantled and then reconstructed every time the nation moved at God's leading. We are also shown God's claim on the first-born of Israel (a constant reminder of the Passover) who are substituted by the first-born sons of Levi or redemption money for the excess numbers – see below.]

 

v.1-4 Aaron's Two Remaining Sons

 

v.1 This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.

v.2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

v.3 Those were the names of Aaron's sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests.

v.4 Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.

 

[Notes: After Aaron's two older sons die [see Lev 10:1,2] he is left with just two sons who assist him in his role of overseeing the Offerings being brought and the daily management of the Tabernacle.]

 

 

v.5-10 The tribe of Levi to help the Priesthood

 

v.5  The Lord said to Moses,

v.6  Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.

v.7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle.

v.8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle.

v.9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.

v.10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

 

[Note: The Levites are not priests but helpers. Moses & Aaron were both from the tribe of Levi but the priests only came from the family of Aaron. The Levites as a tribe will look after the Tabernacle, moving it and re-erecting it.]

 

 

v.11-16 The Levites will be special to the Lord

 

v.11 The Lord also said to Moses,

v.12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine,

v.13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”

v.14 The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai,

v.15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.”

v.16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord .

 

[Notes: At the Passover, all the first-born sons of Israel had been saved when the first-born Egyptians had died. To deepen His relationship with Israel, God says that having been saved by grace and the death of a lamb, those first-born sons technically belong to Him but instead of having any claim on them, He will instead call the tribe of Levi to serve Him and their first-born sons can stand in the place of all the other first-born sons in the other tribes. Where the number falls short, a small redemption sum will be paid to cover all the others. Thus this first census of the Levites covers every male over a month old – see later in the chapter.]

 

v.17-20 The Three Clans of the Tribe of Levi

 

17 These were the names of the sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

18 These were the names of the Gershonite clans: Libni and Shimei.
19 The Kohathite clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
20 The Merarite clans: Mahli and Mushi.

These were the Levite clans, according to their families.

 

[Notes: To understand what follows realise that Levi [Israel's 3 rd son – Gen 29:34] has three sons who become clans with their own families – they are thus all Levites. For more on the families, see 1 Chron 6.]

 

 

v.21-26 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Gershon

 

21 To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans.

22 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500.

23 The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle.

24 The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael.

25 At the tent of meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting ,

26  the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes—and everything related to their use.

 

[Notes: The three sub-clans of the oldest son, Gershom, were responsible for the actual Tabernacle coverings. There is no indication why any particular clan has been given which job. Note each of the three sons' clans were to camp on a different side of the Tabernacle.]

 

 

v.27-32 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Kohath

 

27 To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans.

28 The number of all the males a month old or more was 8,600. The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.

29 The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.

30 The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan son of Uzziel.

31  They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use.

32 The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.

 

[Notes: The four sub-clans of the second son, Kohath, were responsible for the contents of the Tabernacle. Note [v.32] it was a priest who was over the Levites, Eleazar.]

 

 

v.33-37 The Numbers & Role of the clan of Merari

 

33 To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans.

34 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 6,200.

35 The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.

36 The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use,

37 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.

 

[Notes: The two sub-clans of the youngest son, Merari, were responsible for the actual structure of the Tabernacle.]

 

 

v.38 The Location of Moses & Aaron etc. in the camp

 

v.38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the tent of meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.

 

[Notes: Moses & Aaron and their families to camp out beyond the front of the Tabernacle. Thus Moses hasn't far to go to meet with God.]

 

 

v.39 Number of Levite Males

v.39 The total number of Levites counted at the Lord 's command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.

 

[Notes: This is the total number of Levite males. Distinguish this from the census in Lev 4:47,48 of just 8,580 males who are between 30 and 50 available to serve.]

 

 

v.40-43 Number of Firstborn in Israel

 

v.40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names.

v.41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord .”

v.42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him.

v.43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.

 

[Notes: The number here of all first born males in the other eleven tribes to be set off against the 22,000 Levite males – see above notes after v.16]

 

 

v.44-51 The Redemption Money for Excess Number of First-born Males

 

v.44 The Lord also said to Moses,

v.45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord .

v.46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites,

v.47 collect five shekels [That is, about 2 ounces or about 58 grams] for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

v.48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”

v.49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites.

v.50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels, [That is, about 35 pounds or about 16 kilograms ] according to the sanctuary shekel.

v.51   Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord .

 

[Note: For v.39-51 see notes after verse 16.]

   

 

CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 4