Scriptures

The Levites

Introduction

‘Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 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. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. 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. Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.’ The LORD also said to Moses, ‘I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 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.’ The LORD said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, ‘Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.’ So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD. These were the names of the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. These were the names of the Gershonite clans: Libni and Shimei. The Kohathite clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. The Merarite clans: Mahli and Mushi. These were the Levite clans, according to their families. To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans. The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500. The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle. The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael. 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, 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. To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans. The number of all the males a month old or more was 8,600. The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary. The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan son of Uzziel. 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. 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. To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans. The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 6,200. 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. 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, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.’ Numbers 3:3-37

After the children of Israel had left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and the pattern of the Tabernacle from God. Whilst Moses was away, a critical problem of idolatry came among the children of Israel, who remained down on the Plain.

The tribe of Levi showed itself to be definitely on the Lord’s side at that time.

Exodus 32:25-28 ‘Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, ‘Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.’ And all the Levites rallied to him. Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.’

Levi was the tribe to which both Moses and Aaron belonged. As a result of their taking sides with the Lord, the tribe of Levi ‘the Levites’ was selected to take care of the Tabernacle of the Testimony,

Exodus 38:21 ‘These are the amounts of the materials used for the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the covenant law, which were recorded at Moses’ command by the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.’

As a whole, the Levites became responsible for

‘the service of the work of the Tent of Meeting’; the Tabernacle, ‘Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.’ Numbers 4:3

The Hebrew word translated service also means ‘warfare’. Therefore, their ‘service’ in the Tabernacle was a figure of spiritual warfare; as at the golden calf incident, the Levites were on the Lord’s side. Exodus 32:25-28.

Levi had had three sons, Gershon, Kohath and Merari. The Levites’ work was partitioned according to their families:

The family of Gershon were responsible for carrying and setting up the curtains of the Outer Court, the Coverings of the Tabernacle, the curtain Door to the Sanctuary, the curtain Door to the Outer Court, together with all the ropes and fixings required for securing these curtains.

Numbers 3:25+26 ‘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, 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.’

The family of Merari were responsible for carrying and setting up the Boards, the Bars and the Pillars and Sockets of the Outer Court.

Numbers 3:36+37 ‘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, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.’

The family of Kohath were responsible for carrying and placing the Ark of the Covenant, the Veil, the Golden Incense Altar, the Lampstand, the Showbread Table, the Laver and the Burnt Offering Altar, together with all the utensils these required.

Numbers 3:31 ‘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.’

The children of Israel knew when it was time to move on in their journey through the wilderness, because the pillar of cloud, by day or fire, by night would move as a signal leading them. The Levites would dismantle the Tabernacle, carry it to the destination, determined by the pillar of cloud and fire and then reassemble it at the new location.

When the Tabernacle was reared up at a new location, God commanded that the tribes settled around it in a specific order.

Numbers 2:1-34, ‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ‘The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.’ On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab. His division numbers 74,600. The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 6 His division numbers 54,400. The tribe of Zebulun will be next. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 8 His division numbers 57,400. All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first. On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. His division numbers 46,500. The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. His division numbers 59,300. The tribe of Gad will be next. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel. His division numbers 45,650. All the men assigned to the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second. Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard. On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Ammihud. His division numbers 40,500. The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. His division numbers 32,200. The tribe of Benjamin will be next. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. His division numbers 35,400. All the men assigned to the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, number 108,100. They will set out third. On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan under their standard. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. His division numbers 62,700. The tribe of Asher will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Okran. His division numbers 41,500. The tribe of Naphtali will be next. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. His division numbers 53,400. All the men assigned to the camp of Dan number 157,600. They will set out last, under their standards. These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. The Levites, however, were not counted along with the other Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses. So the Israelites did everything the LORD commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each of them with their clan and family.’

On the East side:

Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

On the South side:

Reuben, Simeon and Gad.

On the West side:

Ephraim and Manasseh (the sons of Joseph) and Benjamin.

On the North side:

Dan, Asher and Naphtali.

The Levites were to encamp all the way around the Tabernacle,

Numbers 1:53 ‘The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law.’

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

1 John 3:16

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