Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Numbers 8

Numbers 8: Setting up the lamps; the Levites are set apart to the LORD

Synopsis

This chapter starts off with a command from the LORD, concerning the lamps:

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand.’” (verses 1–2)

So this is what Aaron does. I’m not sure why this little section is thrown in here, as it seems isolated from the rest of the chapter—and the chapter before it—but here it is.

The rest of the chapter is concerned with the Levites being set apart for service to the LORD. The Levites were to do the following:

  • Moses was to sprinkle them with water
  • They were to shave their entire bodies, and then wash their clothes
  • They were to prepare two young bulls, along with a grain offering, and then come to the front of the Tent of Meeting, where the entire Israelite community was to gather
  • The Israelites were to lay their hands on the Levites, and then Aaron was to present them before the LORD as a wave offering
  • They were then to lay their hands on the bulls’ heads, and sacrifice them. One was a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering
  • Aaron was then to present the Levites as a wave offering, again
Once all of this was done, the Levites were to begin their ministry:

After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the Tent of Meeting. They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. Of all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary. (verses 15–19)

So Moses, Aaron, the Levites, and the rest of the Israelite community, do as the LORD commanded, and the Levites begin their work.

The chapter ends with some age restrictions for the Levites: they were to begin their work in the Tabernacle at the age of 25, and were to retire at the age of 50. After the age of 50, they would be allowed to help out, but they were not allowed to do the work themselves.

Thoughts

My only thought is that the age of 25 seems kind of old, for the Levites to begin work in the Tabernacle—why did God have them wait so long? Younger men, like in their late teens and early twenties, would have been stronger. And, in that day and age, my assumption would have been that men wouldn’t live that long. (I wonder how many men got to the 50 mark?) Is God having them wait so that they would be more mentally (and spiritually) mature, before they began their work?

Or perhaps my assumption is incorrect, and life spans for Israelites were comparable to life spans today.

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