A Time of Preparation…the People Numbered Numbers 1-10:10, cont’d.
Numbers 3-4 The Position of the Levites
Numbers 3:1-4-Levi was the third son of Jacob through Leah.
The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu died in the wilderness when they offered "strange fire" (an inappropriate offering, cf. Leviticus 10:1-4). They had no children. Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests under their father Aaron.
10:1 strange fire. Nadab and Abihu apparently used coals of fire that were not taken from the brazen altar as prescribed (see Leviticus 6:12; 16:12). It seems, too, that they offered incense other than at the morning or evening sacrifice (cf. Exod. 30:7-8). Some feel that they were drunk, since a prohibition against drinking immediately follows their punishment (Lev. 10:9).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Numbers 10:1 footnote, p. 172
Numbers 3:5-13-The first-born men of the tribe of Levi were assistants to Aaron and his sons.
Instead of the first-born son of every family among the Jews being called to serve Aaron and his sons…God said that the sons from the tribe of Levi would serve “instead” of them, in their place. The word “instead” (:12) indicates “substitution”. It is the same word that is used in Genesis (22:13) where God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice “in place of” Isaac, in his behalf. Jesus would later pay the price for our sins when He died in our place, as our substitution, on the cross.
Numbers 3:14-15-Here we find the numbering, or counting of the sons of Levi (from a month old and upward).
Having determined this number, Moses now identified where their campsite placement was to be and what their duties were.
Numbers 3:16-17-The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
Numbers 3:18-26-The male members of Gershon’s family numbered 7,500.
They camped west of the Tabernacle. Their duties included the curtains and covering of the Tabernacle.
Numbers 3:27-32-The male members of Kohath’s family numbered 8,600.
They camped south of the Tabernacle. Their duties included the ark, table, and utensils.
3:28 The addition of one Hebrew letter would change 8,600 to 8,300 and bring the figures in verses 22, 28, and 34 into agreement with the total in verse 39.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Numbers 3:28 footnote, p. 210
Moses and Aaron were descendants of Kohath. Eleazar (son of Aaron) was the chief of the Levites.
Numbers 3:33-37-The male members of Merari’s family numbered 6,200.
They camped north of the Tabernacle. Their duties included the framing materials of the Tabernacle.
Numbers 3:38-Moses, Aaron and his sons camped east of the Tabernacle and performed the duties of the sanctuary.
Numbers 3:39-The total number of male Levites from a month old was 22,000.
Numbers 3:40-51-The total number of male sons of Israel from a month old was 22,273.
This passage tells of the ransom of the firstborn of all the male children of Israel. This was accomplished by the exchange of the number of Levites and payment for the additional number (273).
Leviticus 4-This chapter details the specific responsibilities of the Levites concerning the transportation of the Tabernacle.
Numbers 4:1-21-The descendants of Kohath and their responsibilities.
They were to take a census of those ages 30-50 (4:36-there were 2,750). In 4:3, the age for entering service was 25. Perhaps there was a 5-year apprenticeship before a Levite was fully and officially prepared to serve. When they were about to move camp and they took down the Tabernacle…Aaron and his sons were to cover the articles inside of the tent of meeting and the sons of Kohath were to carry them. Aaron and his sons are the only ones that could enter the Holy Place and see the items inside of it (:17-21). Eleazar carries the oil for the light, the incense, and continual grain offering, and the anointing oil.
Numbers 4:22-28-The descendants of Gershon and their responsibilities.
They were to take a census of those ages 30-50 (4:40-there were 2,630).
Numbers 4:29-33-The descendants of Merari and their responsibilities.
They were to take a census of those ages 30-50 (4:44-there were 3,200).
Numbers 4:34-48-The total number of Levites ages 30-50 was 8,580.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes we take our worship of You so casually…as if it makes little difference. But here, I see that how we worship You is a reflection of what we believe about You. Jesus told us that we must worship You in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23). In “spirit”…meaning from the heart and not just going through the actions. And, in “truth”…meaning in a manner that is in keeping with what is true of Your nature. Please help me to do both, Lord.