Numbers
Introduction 1-4 The Generations of Aaron and Moses 5-10 The Levites Are a Given to the Priests 11-13 The Levite Instead of the Firstborn 14-20 Command to Count the Levites 21-26 The Gershonites and Their Task 27-32 The Kohathites and Their Task 33-37 The Merarites and Their Task 38 Camp of Moses and Aaron and his sons 39-51 Difference in Number
Introduction

In this chapter we see that the Levites according to the thoughts of God are set apart for the service. They are a type of the church, or rather of the members of the church, in their service to God, just as the priests are a picture of the New Testament believers who approach to the throne of God for worship or in intercession for the benefit of others.

There are three principles that are important to us in the service to the Lord:
1. We are redeemed from Egypt, a picture of the world (Exo 12:1-401Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,2“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.3Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.4Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons [in them]; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.5Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.8They shall eat the flesh that [same] night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, [both] its head and its legs along with its entrails.10And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.11Now you shall eat it in this manner: [with] your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover.12For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD.13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy [you] when I strike the land of Egypt.14‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it [as] a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it [as] a permanent ordinance.15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.16On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and [another] holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.17You shall also observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.18In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.19Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether [he is] an alien or a native of the land.20You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”21Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover [lamb].22You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.23For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you].24And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.25When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.26And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’27you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.28Then the sons of Israel went and did [so]; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.29Now it came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.30Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.31Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said.32Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”33The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.”34So the people took their dough before it was leavened, [with] their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.35Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing;36and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.37Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.38A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.39They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.40Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.; Gal 1:44who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,).
2. As a result, we belong to God (1Cor 6:2020For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.).
3. We were given to Christ for the service of the heavenly tabernacle (cf. Num 3:66“Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him.).

The Levites are the only tribe chosen to carry the holy things of the tabernacle and serve therein. For the church this means that every member, every believer, is responsible for making his contribution to being a church. Of all that God has given us in the church, He has given us the responsibility to carry it all through the wilderness and to bring it to its end intact.

Every child of God is a Levite, but the question is who actually does this service. Every Levite has its own task. God has given us all a gift of grace, but are we using it? That is different from the priests. All the sons of Aaron are priests; there is no distinction therein. So we meet on the first day of the week. All brothers and sisters perform priestly service. In approaching to God all discernment disappears, for who and what are we in His presence? As Levites there is a difference. This distinction is made by God Himself (1Cor 12:55And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.). Each has its own task, which is different from the task of the other.


The Generations of Aaron and Moses

1Now these are [the records of] the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 2These then are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. 4But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron.

Moses and Aaron are mentioned together as the spiritual fathers of the generation of Levi, both priests and Levites. In Moses the aspect of the authority of the Word of God comes to the fore. In Aaron we see more sympathy for our weaknesses. Together they are a picture of the Lord Jesus in Whom both aspects are perfectly united (Heb 3:11Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;; 4:12-1612For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as [we are, yet] without sin.16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.).

Nadab and Abihu have not taken into account the authority of the word God has spoken and have entered the sanctuary in the opinion of being able to approach God in their own way (Lev 10:1-31Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.2And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.3Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
). That is their own invented priestly service. Such a priesthood dies out, it does not hold out to God because God does not hold it, there is nothing of Him in it. They have no sons or descendants to follow them. Their death, so soon after the establishment of the priesthood, must be a terrifying example and call for holiness in the priestly ministry.

Mentioning their names and their end makes it clear that the priesthood is not linked to the importance of the family, but to the sovereign choice of God. It also shows that getting a privilege does not automatically mean loyalty, but that man is able to corrupt his privilege.

The remaining sons serve as priests during Aaron’s life. It is good if young people serve under the watchful eye of the elderly. It must also have been a joy for Aaron to see worthy successors in these two boys (cf. 3Jn 1:44I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.).


The Levites Are a Given to the Priests

5Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6“Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7They shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle. 8They shall also keep all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. 9You shall thus give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel. 10So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.”

The Levites are given as a tribe to Aaron and his sons. They are subject to Aaron and act on the priest’s instructions. The Levite helps with priestly service. Every Levites service in the church aims to make the members of the church better and better priests through this service. A better priest is more to the honor of God.

They are also given to the whole congregation of Israel. Every believer is as a Levite, as a servant, accountable only to the Lord (Rom 14:44Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.). The performance of his task is a matter only between the Lord and Him. It is not the brothers and sisters who determine his service. If the matter is healthy, they will agree to it. Only in the case of discipline, when sin becomes manifest in the servant, the church must deal with it.

The gifts are given to the church and find their fulfillment in the midst of the church. That is why the servant has to do with the church. He does not act above or separate from the church. The church is entitled to this gift. He is a servant, so he is not in a higher place, but in the lowest place. He is subject to the Lord and works amidst the church.

Verse 66“Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. and verse 99You shall thus give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel. find their counterpart for us in the words of the Lord Jesus to His Father: “They were Yours and You gave them to Me” (Jn 17:66“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.), and to the Jews: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (Jn 6:3737All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.).

The “layman” here is someone who does not belong to Aaron’s family (cf. verse 3838Now those who were to camp before the tabernacle eastward, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, are Moses and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for the obligation of the sons of Israel; but the layman coming near was to be put to death.). In Numbers 1 it concerns someone who is not Levite (Num 1:5151So when the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the layman who comes near shall be put to death.). Nadab and Abihu were qualified, but still killed because they approached in their own way.


The Levite Instead of the Firstborn

11Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12“Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. 13For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD.”

The Levites replaced the firstborn. The firstborn belong in a special way to the LORD. He reminds Moses that He has sanctified them for Himself on the basis of the blood of the Lamb (Exo 12:1-281Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,2“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.3Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.4Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons [in them]; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.5Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.8They shall eat the flesh that [same] night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, [both] its head and its legs along with its entrails.10And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.11Now you shall eat it in this manner: [with] your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the LORD’S Passover.12For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD.13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy [you] when I strike the land of Egypt.14‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it [as] a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it [as] a permanent ordinance.15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.16On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and [another] holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.17You shall also observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.18In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.19Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether [he is] an alien or a native of the land.20You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”21Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover [lamb].22You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.23For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite [you].24And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.25When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.26And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’27you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.28Then the sons of Israel went and did [so]; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.; 13:1-131Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,2“Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”3Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.4On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.5It shall be when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month.6For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD.7Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.8You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’9And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.10Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.11“Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you,12you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD.13But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem [it], then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.). In the firstborn the whole people of God are represented. The right to the firstborn is the right to the whole people.

The church is called the “church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:2323to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of [the] righteous made perfect,). Thus they are the property of God. This gives God the right to determine that they will serve the church. Members of the church are God’s special property and God has the right to give each member of the church a task. God asserts His right from the very moment of birth. Every believer is predestined to a certain task from his being born again onwards (cf. Gal 1:1515But when God, who had set me apart [even] from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased; Acts 9:1515But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;; 1Tim 1:1818This command I entrust to you, Timothy, [my] son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,).

The Levite only starts to perform his service when he is thirty years old. The whole period up to 30 years is preparation for this task. This can be applied to a service in the church. Before a person performs a public service in the church, he will also get to know God’s thoughts about his service better by reading and studying God’s Word. That does not mean that nothing is done at that time of preparation. A believer can testify of the Lord as soon as he is converted (Acts 9:2020and immediately he [began] to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”). He can also thank the Lord in the church for his redemption.

God asserts His right over those He redeems, and only by being of Him can redemption become a reality. Through the exchange between firstborn and Levites we see the two fundamental pillars on which the service rests:
1. The new birth and purification through the blood of Christ.
2. The connection to and sanctification for the Lord.

The choice of God of this tribe shows us His grace. Their ancestor Levi is characterized by violence and cruelty (Gen 49:55“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
; 34:25-3125Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth.27Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister.28They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field;29and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that [was] in the houses.30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.”31But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”). But God glorifies Himself by making dedicated believers out of self-willing and cruel people.


Command to Count the Levites

14Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15“Number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ households, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall number.” 16So Moses numbered them according to the word of the LORD, just as he had been commanded. 17These then are the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. 18These are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families: Libni and Shimei; 19and the sons of Kohath by their families: Amram and Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel; 20and the sons of Merari by their families: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their fathers’ households.

The Levites must also be counted. Like the firstborn (verse 4040Then the LORD said to Moses, “Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names.), the Levites are also counted from one month old. Each Levite individually is important to God and the service to be rendered. His task cannot be performed by anyone else. This is also the case in the church. It is of great practical importance that every child of God knows his task which the Lord has given him to do. It is also important that he stays with this and does not interfere in what the Lord gives another person to do. The Lord is sovereign in this.

The Levites all take a different place toward the tabernacle. The three sons each have a different task. This we can apply to the church to which the Lord Jesus gave “some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:1111And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers,). These gifts or tasks can be seen in the sons of Levi. There are believers who can speak about the Lord Jesus in a special way in what He is for God; others can present Him in what He is for the sinner in a special way. In this way, everyone has received his own gift to serve with.

A brother from Hong Kong told something that reminds us of this and illustrates it. He has known three leaders of home churches in China who have been of great significance for many home churches in China. All three have been nicknamed after the tabernacle. A brother was called “altar” because he burned for the gospel. The second brother was called ‘laver’ because in his preaching he emphasized holiness and cleansing. The third brother was called ‘sanctuary’ because he knew the Scriptures so well.


The Gershonites and Their Task

21Of Gershon [was] the family of the Libnites and the family of the Shimeites; these [were] the families of the Gershonites. 22Their numbered men, in the numbering of every male from a month old and upward, [even] their numbered men [were] 7,500. 23The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle westward, 24and the leader of the fathers’ households of the Gershonites [was] Eliasaph the son of Lael. 25Now the duties of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting [involved] the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, 26and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords, according to all the service concerning them.

The Gershonites have to take care of all the coverings and curtains. Coverings and curtains speak of our practical revelation in the world, what people see of us. Is the Lord Jesus visible in our lives?

The Gershonites must camp on the west side, the side of the tribulation. Our whole life as Gershonites may be a testimony of Who the Lord Jesus is. Who the Lord Jesus is for us is best seen when we find ourselves in difficulties. Being a witness is performing a service as an evangelist.


The Kohathites and Their Task

27Of Kohath [was] the family of the Amramites and the family of the Izharites and the family of the Hebronites and the family of the Uzzielites; these were the families of the Kohathites. 28In the numbering of every male from a month old and upward, [there were] 8,600, performing the duties of the sanctuary. 29The families of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the southward side of the tabernacle, 30and the leader of the fathers’ households of the Kohathite families was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31Now their duties [involved] the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they minister, and the screen, and all the service concerning them; 32and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest [was] the chief of the leaders of Levi, [and had] the oversight of those who perform the duties of the sanctuary.

The Kohathites receive the care for all the objects that are in the sanctuary, both in the holy and in the holy of holies. They are familiar with the presence of God. They know, so to speak, the position of God’s people before God. In all the objects they care for, the glory of God is seen in Christ.

They have to camp on the south side, the right side. That is the side of dignity, of a known position. It is the task of the teacher to make all members of God’s people aware of this.


The Merarites and Their Task

33Of Merari [was] the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these [were] the families of Merari. 34Their numbered men in the numbering of every male from a month old and upward, [were] 6,200. 35The leader of the fathers’ households of the families of Merari [was] Zuriel the son of Abihail. They [were] to camp on the northward side of the tabernacle. 36Now the appointed duties of the sons of Merari [involved] the frames of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, all its equipment, and the service concerning them, 37and the pillars around the court with their sockets and their pegs and their cords.

The Merarites are given the care for the boards and pillars, for everything needed to hold up and sustain the tabernacle. They must camp on the north side, the cold side, the side from where the attacks of the evil one come to destroy God’s work.

We see their service in the work of the shepherds, who are committed to keeping the church standing so that it does not succumb under the pressure of the enemy. Shepherds make sure that the believers remain united, like the boards of the tabernacle.


Camp of Moses and Aaron and his sons

38Now those who were to camp before the tabernacle eastward, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, are Moses and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for the obligation of the sons of Israel; but the layman coming near was to be put to death.

Moses and Aaron were to camp on the east side, at the entrance of the tabernacle, the side of the sunrise. These most privileged persons and families are closest to God’s dwelling place and access to Him. That distinction of proximity does not exist in the church.

Every believer is equally close to God. But there is a difference in the enjoyment that the individual members of the church have of the position they all occupy without distinction because of the work of the Lord Jesus. He who is closest to Christ is the one who serves Him best. Without this closeness it is not possible to serve Him.


Difference in Number

39All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of the LORD by their families, every male from a month old and upward, [were] 22,000. 40Then the LORD said to Moses, “Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. 41You shall take the Levites for Me, I am the LORD, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” 42So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, just as the LORD had commanded him; 43and all the firstborn males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273. 44Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45“Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD. 46For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, 47you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take [them] in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), 48and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons.” 49So Moses took the ransom money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; 50from the firstborn of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. 51Then Moses gave the ransom money to Aaron and to his sons, at the command of the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

For the third time, Moses is given the command to count. The purpose of this count is to see if every firstborn has a Levite as a counterpart. The question is whether anyone who is in position of a firstborn is in practice a Levite. Does every believer perform his task as Levite?

The count of both groups shows that there are unfortunately less Levites than firstborn. Applied to the church this means that in the practice of the church not every believer as a firstborn has a Levite as a counterpart. Yet God asserts His right to it. He wants such a person to serve as Levite. Ransom is required to become a Levite as a firstborn. God determines the amount of the ransom. The ransom is ten times as much as the ransom to be paid by one who is numbered of the people (Exo 30:1313This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.).

The awareness that I was bought for a price by the blood of the Lord Jesus will lead me to accomplish my task as a Levite. It is my responsibility, of which the number five speaks.

The mention of cattle in verse 4141You shall take the Levites for Me, I am the LORD, instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” indicates that God asserts His authority and His rights not only upon ourselves, but upon everything we possess.


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