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The Formal Charge
v. 1. These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spake with Moses in Mount Sinai, that is, this is their further history at this point. Aaron is here named first, because his sons were the heirs of the priesthood.
v. 2. And these are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab, the first-born, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Exodus 6:23.
v. 3. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, for this, form of induction into office was ordered for them as well as for the high priest, Exodus 28:41, although it is expressly related of Aaron only. Leviticus 8:12; Cf v. 30, whom he (Moses) consecrated to minister in the priest's office, to perform all the functions which pertained to that office.
v. 4. And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered strange fire before the Lord, in the Wilderness of Sinai, Leviticus 10:1 ; and they had no children. And Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest's office in the sight of Aaron, their father, that is, during his lifetime. The two men whom the wrath of God had struck down had no children, and therefore the two youngest sons of Aaron alone performed the work of the priests' ministry.
v. 5. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
v. 6. Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron, the priest, like servants receiving the orders of their master, that they may minister unto him.
v. 7. And they shall keep his charge and the charge of the whole congregation before the Tabernacle of the Congregation to do the service of the Tabernacle; they were to have charge of the entire ministry which had been entrusted to Aaron and the entire congregation with reference to the dwelling of God in the midst of His people.
v. 8. And they shall keep all the instruments of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, be responsible for their care, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the Tabernacle, in the name of all the people.
v. 9. And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons; they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel; their entire life-service was to be devoted to this ministry.
v. 10. And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death, for that was the punishment for every one not a priest that presumed even to approach the holy vessels.
v. 11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
v. 12. And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the first-born that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel, as the substitutes for the oldest sons of all the people, who really should have had charge of this ministry, Exodus 13:2; therefore the Levites shall be Mine,
v. 13. because all the first-born are Mine; for on the day that I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I hallowed unto Me all the first-born in Israel, both man and beast. Mine shall they be; I am the Lord. Cf Exodus 13:12-15. By virtue of this arrangement, which placed the ministry of the Tabernacle entirely into the hands of one tribe, the Lord secured their undivided interest, while at the same time He openly rewarded the members of the tribe of Levi for their quick determination in the defense of His honor, Exodus 32:26 ff.
The Formal Mustering
v. 14. And the Lord spake unto Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, saying,
v. 15. Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families, as had been done in the case of the other tribes; every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them.
v. 16. And Moses numbered them according to the word of the Lord, as he was commanded, thus completing the census of all the tribes.
v. 17. And these were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari.
v. 18. And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families: Libni and Shimei.
v. 19. And the sons of Kohath by their families: Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, these two, however, not being reckoned with the Kohathites, but in a separate category, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel.
v. 20. And the sons of Merari by their families: Mabli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to the house of their fathers, as they reckoned their descent from these princes among their ancestors.
The Charges of the Various Divisions among the Levites
v. 21. of Gershon was the family of the Libnites and the family of the Shimites; these are the families of the Gershonites.
v. 22. Those that were numbered of them, mustered or entered into the rolls of service, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, for at that age the first-born boy babies were liable for the service of the Lord, even those that were numbered of them were seven thousand and five hundred.
v. 23. The families of the Gershonites shall pitch behind the Tabernacle westward, inside the armies led by the tribe of Ephraim.
v. 24. And the chief of the house of the father of the Gershonites shall be Eliasaph, the son of Lael.
v. 25. And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the Tabernacle of the Congregation shall be the tabernacle, the inner curtains of variegated cloth, and the tent, the outer covering or curtain of goat-hair, the covering thereof, that of rams' skins and that of the leather of sea-cows, and the hanging for the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the entrance to the Holy Place,
v. 26. and the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the Tabernacle, the white byssus curtains as well as the beautiful entrance curtain of variegated material, and by the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof, the various guy-ropes for the Tabernacle, but not for the court,
v. 37. The Gershonites had to tend to all the drapery and the curtains but the screen of the Most Holy Place.
v. 27. And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites; these are the families of the Kohathites.
v. 28. In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the Sanctuary, taking their share in the ministry of the Holy Place.
v. 29. The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the Tabernacle southward, inside the armies led by the tribe of Reuben.
v. 30. And the chief of the house of the father of the families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan, the son of Uzziel.
v. 31. And their charge, for which they would be held responsible, shall be the ark, and the table, that of showbread, and the candlestick, and the altars, both the golden altar of the Holy Place and the altar of burnt offering in the court, and the vessels of the Sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, the screen of the Most Holy Place, and all the service thereof, everything that was connected with the actual carrying of these appointments from one station to the next.
v. 32. And Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, shall be chief over the chief of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the Sanctuary; he was the superintendent of the work as here described.
v. 33. of Merari was the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these are the families of Merari.
v. 34. And those that were numbered of them, mustered as in the other cases, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousand and two hundred.
v. 35. And the chief of the house of the father of the families of Merari was Zuriel, the son of Abihail; these shall pitch on the side of the Tabernacle northward, inside the armies under the leadership of the tribe of Dan.
v. 36. And under the custody and charge of the sons of Merari shall be the boards of the Tabernacle, the great planks which formed its walls, and the bars thereof, the cross-bars which held the planks upright, and the pillars thereof, at the entrance to the Tabernacle and to the Most Holy Place, and the sockets thereof, the bases of the planks and of the pillars, and all the vessels thereof, the pins and the tools, and all that serveth thereto,
v. 37. and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, the bronze bases which held the pillars upright, and their pins, and their cords, the guy-ropes which held them in place. Theirs was the last work when camp was struck and the first when a new station was reached. The work was thus divided in a manner which practically excluded all friction and made for the greatest efficiency. In this respect we Christians of the New Testament may learn a lesson from the children of Israel.
v. 38. But those that encamp before the Tabernacle toward the east, even before the Tabernacle of the Congregation eastward, for its entrance was on that side, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the Sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel, performing the duties of the priesthood for all the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death, v. 10.
v. 39. All that were numbered of the Levites which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the Lord, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand, in round numbers, the exact figure being 22,300, or the three hundred were subtracted, as the Jews say, because they themselves were first-born and could therefore not be used in a comparison with the other tribes.
v. 40. And the Lord said unto Moses, Number all the first-born of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.
v. 41. And thou shalt take the Levites for Me (I am the Lord) instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel, as their substitutes in the service of the Sanctuary; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel, to be consecrated to the Lord and by Him designated for the use of the Levites.
v. 42. And Moses numbered, as the Lord commanded him, all the first-born among the children of Israel.
v. 43. And all the first-born males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen (22,273).
v. 44. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
v. 45. Take the Levites instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be Mine. I am the Lord.
v. 46. And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the first-born of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;
v. 47. thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll (about $3. 20), after the shekel of the Sanctuary shalt thou take them, this being the standard of weight; (the shekel is twenty gerahs;)
v. 48. and thou shalt give the money wherewith the odd, the surplus, number of them is to be redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, as ransom money.
v. 49. And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites, the 22,000 that were ransomed by the equal number of the Levites;
v. 50. of the first-born of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the Sanctuary (1,365 shekels being about equal to $4,368);
v. 51. and Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses. Although the men in the service of the ministry of the Word in the New Testament are supported by voluntary gifts, these gifts, for all of that, should not be less plentiful than were those under the Law.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent