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Scripture reading – Numbers 3

The numbering of the children of Israel continues in today’s Scripture reading, with Numbers 3 giving us the census that was taken of the Tribe of Levi. The Levites were not numbered in the earlier census, which concentrated on counting the number of “able-bodied” men of war in Israel twenty years and older. Instead, the census of the Levites focused on “every male from a month old and upward” (3:15).

The Priests and Their Work (Numbers 3:1-10)

Because Moses and Aaron were Levites, the focus of the first verses is upon them: “These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spake with Moses in mount Sinai” (3:1). We are reminded that Aaron was the father of four sons, all who had been anointed and consecrated for serving as priests (3:2-3); however, soon after becoming priests, Nadab and Abihu disobeyed the LORD, and offered “strange fire before the Lord” (3:4), and died. Sealing the fate of their eternal judgment was that “they had no children” (3:4). The surviving sons of Aaron, “Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father” (3:4).

The Levites: The Priests’ Assistants (Numbers 3:11-13)

The LORD had adopted the Tribe of Levi to serve Him in the place of the firstborn sons of the other tribes (3:11-13). It was their duty to serve the LORD and assist Aaron and his sons as they carried out their charge as priests (3:6-9). We are again reminded that no “stranger,” only Aaron and his sons, were to approach the LORD by entering into His sanctuary (3:10).

The Assignments and Charge of the Levite Families (Numbers 3:14-39)

Numbers 3:14-39 gives us an accounting of the census and the Levite families assigned to the four sides of the Tabernacle where they were to encamp. The Gershonites were charged with the coverings of the Tabernacle and the curtain that was its door. They were to encamp on the west side of the Tabernacle (3:18-26). The Kohathliteswere to encamp on the south side of the Tabernacle, and they were charged with the Ark, the table, the candlestick, the altars, and vessels of the sanctuary (3:27-32). Finally, the Merarites encamped on the north side of the Tabernacle and were responsible for the boards of the Tabernacle and the bolts, sockets, plugs, and cords (3:33-37).

Moses, Aaron, and his sons were to encamp on the Tabernacle’s east side at the entrance to the Tabernacle’s compound. They were charged with the worship and sacrifices and were responsible for seeing that no “stranger” would come near the sanctuary (3:38-39).

The Redemption of the First-born Sons (Numbers 3:40-51)

With the census complete, the number of Levite males one-month-old and upward was 22,000 (3:40-43). The number of firstborn males in the other tribes totaled 22,273 males. Because the LORD had adopted the tribe of Levi in the place of the firstborn males of the other tribes, the difference of 273 was compensated by fathers in Israel paying a ransom, a payment for their firstborn sons (3:46-50). The ransom, or redemption money, was given to Aaron and his sons for the expenses of the Tabernacle (3:51).

Closing thoughts and a Word of Caution:

It might be tempting to dismiss the details in Numbers 3; however, a lesson is found there. Consider the organization and specificity of information God outlined for His people to follow in the Tabernacle and its worship. While the Twelve Tribes supported the Tabernacle with their sacrifices, the priests and their families depended on their faithfulness to give.

I fear some faithful ministries and pastors struggle financially because believers fail to give what the LORD requires. What about you? Have you purposed to give the LORD His part? Remember, He expects our best!

2 Corinthians 9:7 – “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Questions to consider:

1) What tribe was to assist the priests as they ministered in the Tabernacle? (Numbers 3:5-6)

2) What were the names of the three sons of Levi? (Numbers 3:17)

3) What was the punishment if a “stranger” (non-Hebrew) approached the Tabernacle? (Numbers 3:38)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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