SynopsisThis chapter is mostly concerned with a census of the Levites, including extra detail about where the different Levite tribes were to camp, around the Tabernacle. (See the Numbers 2 post for a diagram.) However, there is some other detail included in this chapter, as well.
The chapter starts by listing Aaron’s sons:
The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. Nadab and Abihu, however, fell dead before the LORD when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons; so only Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron. (verses 2–4)
I find the genealogies in the Old Testament often do that; in the middle of a big list of names, some extra details will be thrown in, to remind you of some event that happened to the people in question.
The LORD then tells Moses to give the Levites to Aaron, to be his helpers in doing the work of the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons are to be the High Priests, and the Levites are to do the work of taking care of the Tabernacle.
God then expands on this, and tells Moses that He has taken the Levites as His, in place of the firstborn male of every Israelite woman. By all rights, every firstborn male in Israel should belong to the LORD, but, instead, He has chosen to take the entire tribe of Levi to be His.
In verses 14–37, the Levites are counted.
At the end of the survey, though, there is a problem: God has taken the Levites to be His, in place of every firstborn male in Israel, but the numbers don’t add up:
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.
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. 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.”
So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the LORD commanded him. The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.
The LORD also said to Moses, “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. To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”
So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD.
Close is not good enough, for God.