Scriptures

Numbers 4

Introduction

‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting. “This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law.  Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place. “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place. “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame. “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place. “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame. “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles in place. “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting. “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.” The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.” Numbers 4:1-20

The Kohathites

The sons of Kohath, that is, the Kohathites, as well as the Gershonites and Merarites, were given specific duties in reference to the tabernacle.

The Kohathites had the job of taking care of the utensils of worship, that is, the ark of the covenant, the table of showbread, the candlestick, and the golden altar, together with the furniture inside.

Notice the age was those who were 30 to 50.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This minimal age of thirty was reduced to twenty-five in Numbers 8:23-26, probably for the purpose of allowing a five-year apprenticeship. To question the accuracy of this account on the basis of 1 Chronicles 23:24-27, where the age was reduced to twenty, is unacceptable. The Jews of the whole temple era departed in many particulars from the Word of God.’

The Kohathites were to operate under the direction of Eleazar, the priest, Numbers 3:32 / Numbers 4:16 / Numbers 4:28 / Numbers 4:33.

Eleazar was the older of the two surviving sons of Aaron and that of the two other families by Ithamar. Since they were under more strict regulations than the Gershonites and Merarites, they had the greater responsibility in their service to the tabernacle.

The third and external covering of the ark only was to be solid blue, Exodus 25:4. The table of showbread had an outer wrapping of scarlet, Numbers 4:8, the altar was to be covered with a purple cloth, Numbers 4:13.

The poles were never taken out of the golden rings by which the ark was to be carried, Exodus 25:14-15, but would need adjustment, Numbers 4:6 / Numbers 4:8 / Numbers 4:11 / Numbers 4:14.

The Gershonites

‘The LORD said to Moses, “Take a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting. “This is the service of the Gershonite clans in their carrying and their other work: They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle, that is, the tent of meeting, its covering and its outer covering of durable leather, the curtains for the entrance to the tent of meeting, the curtains of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard, the ropes and all the equipment used in the service of the tent. The Gershonites are to do all that needs to be done with these things. All their service, whether carrying or doing other work, is to be done under the direction of Aaron and his sons. You shall assign to them as their responsibility all they are to carry. This is the service of the Gershonite clans at the tent of meeting. Their duties are to be under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.’ Numbers 4:21-28

The sons of Gershon had the job and responsibility of the tent structure, which included the curtains and outer curtain, Numbers 3:25-26. They worked under the direction of Aaron’s son, Ithamar.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The curtains of the tabernacle and of the court were of great weight, and two ox-wagons were required for their transport. The Merarites, charged with the even heavier transport of the framework of the tabernacle were given four ox-wagons for the purpose, Numbers 7:7.’

The Merarites

‘Count the Merarites by their clans and families. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting. As part of all their service at the tent, they are to carry the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts and bases, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, ropes, all their equipment and everything related to their use. Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry. This is the service of the Merarite clans as they work at the tent of meeting under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.” Numbers 4:29-33

The sons of Merari had the job and responsibility of taking care of the boards, bars, pillars, sockets, and the solid parts of the curtains, Numbers 3:36-37.

They worked under the direction of Aaron’s son, Ithamar, who had who had the responsibility of organizing the construction of the tent of meeting, Exodus 38:21.

The Numbering Of The Levite Clans

‘Moses, Aaron and the leaders of the community counted the Kohathites by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, counted by clans, were 2,750. This was the total of all those in the Kohathite clans who served at the tent of meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the LORD’s command through Moses. The Gershonites were counted by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, counted by their clans and families, were 2,630. This was the total of those in the Gershonite clans who served at the tent of meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the LORD’s command. The Merarites were counted by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, counted by their clans, were 3,200. This was the total of those in the Merarite clans. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the LORD’s command through Moses. So Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted all the Levites by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to do the work of serving and carrying the tent of meeting numbered 8,580. At the LORD’s command through Moses, each was assigned his work and told what to carry. Thus they were counted, as the LORD commanded Moses.’ Numbers 4:34-49

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘God so ordered it, that though the Merarites were the fewest in number, yet they should have most able men among them; for whatever service God calls men to, he will furnish them for it, give strength in proportion to the work, and grace sufficient. The least of the tribes had many more able men than the Levites, those who engage in the service of this world, are many more than those devoted to the service of God. May our souls be wholly devoted to his service.’

It’s worth noting that the age to begin any priestly responsibility was 30, hence why Jesus, Himself begun His earthly ministry at the age of 20, Luke 3:23.

Here we are informed that the sons of Levi could retire from their priestly responsibilities at the age of 50. In other words, their service begun at the age of 30 and ended when they were 50 years of age, after which, they could live in their own homes for the remainder of their lives.

There were 2,750 Kohathites, and 2,630 Gershonites, and 3,200 Merarites, giving us the total of 8,580.

Go To Numbers 5

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John 10:10

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