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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4


Verse 1-4:

"Generations," toledoth, "births." This text lists the children of Aaron, not of Moses. Perhaps the reason is that the family of Aaron constitutes the lineage of the Levitical priesthood.

The two eldest sons of Aaron were slain of the Lord, when they offered "strange fire" upon the altar, see Le 10:1-7. They were childless, so the priestly succession passed to their two younger brothers. In later years, the descendants of Eleazar were divided into sixteen courses, and those of Ithamar into eight courses. 1Ch 24:1-5.

Verses 5-13

Verses 5-13:

"Bring the tribe of Levi near," not in a formal act of public presentation, but to assign to the Levites their appointed duties.

"Charge," mishmereth, "a thing to be watched." The Levites were to serve both Aaron and the congregation of Israel. The elaborate rituals of their religious duties required a large number of people to assist the priests. The Levites were to be trained and consecrated to this ministry.

"Instruments," keli, "vessels." This is an inclusive term, denoting armor, carriage, furniture, wares of various kinds.

The tribe of Levi was to be "wholly given" to Aaron by Jehovah God, not a personal possession but as ministers in the Tabernacle service, which was under the direction of Aaron and his descendants. But the Levites themselves were expressly forbidden to intrude into the priestly office, which was reserved exclusively for Aaron’s descendants.

Once again God affirms the law of the firstborn, see Ex 13:1, 2; 11-16; 34:19; Le 27:26-29. God claimed exclusive title to the firstborn. He assigned the unique distinction to the tribe of Levi to fill this role as the firstborn of Israel. This tribe was to be wholly dedicated to Him.

Verses 14-20

Verses 14-20:

This text begins the census of the Levites by families, in prepara­tion for their consecration. Specific duties were assigned to each family in the Tabernacle service. For additional details of these families, see Ex 6:16-27; 1Ch chapters 6 and 23.

Verses 21-26

Verses 21-26:

The census of the Levites differed from that of the other tribes, in that the count was taken of the Levite males from one month old and upward, while that of the other tribes was from twenty years old and upward.

The Gershonites numbered 7,500 males.

The place of the Gershonites in Israel’s encampment was directly behind the Tabernacle, to the west (see chart).

The ministry of the Gershonites was to secure and transport the actual Tabernacle itself: the tent, the coverings, the hangings for the court, etc., all that made up the actual Tabernacle, see Ex 26:1-37; 27:9-19; chapter 36.

Verses 27-32

Verses 27-32:

The Kohathites were the family from which the priests came. The census showed 8,600 males in this family. To them was assigned the space immediately to the south of the Tabernacle, in the camp.

The Kohathites had charge of transporting the furniture of the Tabernacle, see Ex 25:1-40; 27:1-8; 37:1-38:8.

Verses 33-37

Verses 33-37:

The Merarites occupied a place immediately to the north of the Tabernacle, in the camp. The census showed 6,200 males in this family.

The Merarites were charged with the responsibility of caring for and transporting the boards which made up the Tabernacle walls, the bars, pillars, and sockets of the structure; the vessels which were used in the Tabernacle; and the framework for the outer courtyard along with the guy ropes and tent pegs to secure it.

Verses 38-39

Verses 38, 39:

Moses and Aaron occupied the central and honored place in Israel’s camp: immediately to the east of the Tabernacle, and near its entrance. These two brothers represented the sacred and the civil authority in Israel.

The "stranger" in this text refers to any not descended from these two men, Moses and Aaron.

The total number of males counted among the families of the Levites was 22,000. This was the smallest of the tribes of Israel, numerically. No explanation is given in Scripture to account for this.

Verses 40-43

Verses 40-43:

The firstborn males from one month old and upward numbered 22,273. This figure is only about 3.5 percent of the male population, and slightly above one percent of the total population. This small figure may be accounted for by not including those firstborn who were themselves heads of families. Other theories have been advanced, but these have no basis in Scripture.

Verses 44-51

Verses 44-51:

Each male of the Levites stood as the redemptive payment for each of the firstborn males of the other tribes of Israel. However, there were 273 more males among the tribes than there were males in the tribe of Levi. Provision must be made for these.

Each of the 273 was to be redeemed by payment of a pre­determined sum as the ransom price for a male child who had been vowed to the Lord (Le 27:6), five shekels of silver, about 17.5 ounces. The total amount was 1,365 shekels, approximately 5460 ounces, or 455 pounds troy. This was a large sum of money, in excess of $76,000, computing by today’s standards. This was to be paid to Aaron and his sons, as compensation for their service.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-3.html. 1985.
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