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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Numbers 8

Verses 1-4

The lighting of the lamps 8:1-4

The lighting of the lamps in the tabernacle symbolized the consecration of the Levites who were to represent the whole nation as lights to the world (Numbers 8:1-4; cf. Isaiah 42:6). The high priest was in charge of the lampstand (cf. Revelation 1:20 to Revelation 3:22).

Verses 5-26

The consecration of the Levites 8:5-26

The consecration of the priests had taken place earlier (cf. Leviticus 8). Then the people only looked on (Leviticus 8:3-4). Now God set apart to His service the whole tribe of Levi that He had taken in place of the first-born sons (Numbers 8:16-18). This time the people played a role by laying their hands on the Levites (Numbers 8:10). The Levites stood in the place of the people as their representatives whereas the priests were closer to God and further from the people.

The consecration proceeded after the high priest lit the lamps (Numbers 8:5-22). After the Levites washed and trimmed their hair (Heb. ’abar ta’ar ’al) to symbolize and effect cleansing, the Israelites placed their hands on them portraying the transference of responsibility from the first-born sons to them (Numbers 8:10; Numbers 8:12). Thus the Levites became living sacrifices unto God (cf. Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1-2).

Levites could perform service in the tent of meeting only between the ages of 25 and 50 (Numbers 8:23-26). Carrying the tabernacle in transit was a task for which there were stricter qualifications (cf. Numbers 4:47) probably because of the dangers connected with this service (cf. Numbers 4:15; Numbers 4:20). As stated above, the Levites had to be 30 to 50 to carry the tabernacle.

"The distinctive emphasis of this section is that the Levites are nevertheless not remote from the community. Through the laying on of hands they in some sense represent the people at large, and constitute an offering from the people. Unlike the priests they do not receive anointing or special vestments. Like laymen they wash their clothes for the special rites. They are perhaps something of a bridge between priests and people." [Note: Budd, p. 94.]

"Chapter 8 deals with two issues: lamps and Levites. Both the proper setting of the lamps and the distinction of the Levites from the community are further elements in the purification of the nation in preparation for the holy task God had prepared for her. . . . May one suggest that as the lamps were to be properly focused on the bread of the Presence, so the Levites were to have their proper stance within the community as well?" [Note: Allen, p. 764.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Numbers 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/numbers-8.html. 2012.