Monday, March 26, 2007

Numbers 4

Numbers 4: Tasks assigned to the Levites

Synopsis

This chapter is sort of a continuation from the last one. Numbers 3 was a census of the Levites, while Chapter 4 outlines the three clans within the Levites, and their specific responsibilities.

For each clan—the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites—Moses and Aaron are instructed to count all of the men from thirty to fifty years of age, who are able to “serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting” (verse 3). The LORD then gives specific commands about each clan, and what their responsibilities are to be:

  • The Kohathites were to care for “the most holy things” (verse 4)—but not until Aaron and his sons had covered them all up!
    • When the camp was to move, Aaron and his sons were to take down the shielding curtain—I belive this is the curtain to the Most Holy Place—and use it to cover the Ark. They would then cover that with hides of sea cows (or dugongs), and then spread a cloth of solid blue over that, and finally put the poles in place, for carrying the Ark.
    • Similarly, they were to cover up the Table of the Presence, along with its plates, dishes and bowls: They were to cover the table with a blue cloth, and put the plates, dishes, and bowls on top of it. They were then to spread a scarlet cloth over all of that, then then cover it all with hides of sea cows. Finally, they were to put the table’s poles in place.
    • The Lampstand, along with its lamps, wick trimmers, trays, and jars of oil, was to be covered with a blue cloth, and then wrapped in hides of sea cows. It was then to be placed on a carrying frame.
    • They were to cover the Altar with a blue cloth, and then cover that with hides of sea cows, before putting the carrying poles in place
    • All of the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary were to be wrapped in a blue cloth, and then covered with hides of sea cows, before being placed on a carrying frame
    • The ashes were to be removed from the bronze altar, and a purple cloth was to be spread over it. All of its related utensils were then to be placed on it, and covered with hides of sea cows, before its carrying poles were put in place.
    • All of the above steps were to be performed by Aaron and his sons. Once this was all done, the Kohathites were to carry these articles, but they were not to directly touch the things, or they would die.
    • Verse 16 says that Aaron’s son Eleazar was to be in charge of “the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil.” It also says, though, that he was to be in charge of “the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.” So I guess he was to be in charge, but I’m wondering why special attention was paid to the articles at the beginning of the verse; maybe because he himself (or his family) was to carry these articles, and the Kohathites were to carry everything else? In any event, the Kohathites were not to do anything on their own; Aaron and his sons were to be in charge—I’m guessing Eleazar (and his descendants) were to be the primary people in charge—and assign each Kohathite the work he was to do. The Kohathites were not even to look at the holy things, or they would die.
  • The Gershonites were to be responsible for carrying all of the curtains for the tabernacle.
    • As with the Kohathites, the Gershonites were to be assigned tasks by Aaron and his sons—specifically Ithamar, and, I guess, his descendants.
  • The Merarites were to carry the frames of the tabernacle (crossbars and poles, posts, bases, ropes, pegs, etc.).
    • Again, as with the Kohathites and Gershonites, they were to do all of their work under the direction of Aaron and his sons, specifically Ithamar.
So Moses and Aaron counted the Levites, as commanded. There were 2,750 Kohathites, 2,630 Gershonites, and 3,200 Merarites.

Thoughts

Although I’ve read all of this before, it wasn’t until I started blogging through all of these rules that it dawned on me the separation between Aaron and his sons and the Levites. I keep thinking of the Levites in the Old Testament as being “the priests,” but it’s really just Aaron and his sons that were the priests; the Levites were the priests’ helpers.

And other than that, I don’t have anything to say about this chapter.

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