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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 4

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



God commands the Levites to be numbered from thirty till fifty years, fit for the service of the tabernacle; their charge, Numbers 4:1-16.

Of the Kohathites, Numbers 4:17-20.

Of the Gershonites, Numbers 4:21-28.

Of the sons of Merari, Numbers 4:29-33.

The number of each, Numbers 4:34-45.

Of all in general, Numbers 4:46-49.

Verse 3

From thirty years old: this age was prescribed, as the age of full strength of body, and therefore most proper for their present laborious work of carrying the parts and vessels of the tabernacle; and of maturity of judgment, which is necessary for the right management of holy services; whence even John and Christ entered not upon their ministry till that age. And it may still seem to be the fittest season for men’s undertaking the ministry of the gospel, except in case of extraordinary abilities, or the church’s pressing necessity.

Object. They might enter upon this work at their twenty-fifth year, Numbers 8:24, and in David’s time and afterward at their twentieth year.

Answ. 1. Their first entrance upon their work was at their twenty-fifth year, when they began as learners, and acted only under the inspection and direction of their brethren; but in their thirtieth year they were completely admitted to a full discharge of their whole office.

2. David, being a prophet, and particularly directed by God in the affairs of the temple, might and did make a change in this matter, which he might the better do, both because it was but a change in a circumstance, and because the magnificence of the temple, and the great multitude of sacred utensils and sacrifices, required a greater number of attendants than formerly was necessary.

Until fifty years old, when they were exempted from the toilsome work of carrying burdens, but not discharged from the honourable and easy work done within the tabernacle, Numbers 8:26.

All that enter, i.e. that do and may enter, having no defect, Leviticus 21:17, nor other impediment. The society of sacred ministers he calls a host, because of that excellent order which was among them, as to persons, place, time, the matter and manner of their services.

Verse 4

Hereafter mentioned, as the ark, table, altar, &c. Compare Numbers 3:31.

Verse 5

For upon this necessary occasion the inferior priests are allowed to come into the holy of holies, which otherwise was peculiar to the high priest, Hebrews 9:7.

The covering veil; the second veil; of which see Exodus 26:31, &c. Leviticus 4:6; Hebrews 9:3; where, with the ark was covered while the tabernacle stood, Exodus 40:3. And

cover the ark; because the Levites, who were to carry the ark, might neither see nor immediately touch it.

Verse 6


the covering of badgers’ skins the ark was secured from the injuries of the weather:.

Object. How could these staves be put in, when they were never to be taken out, Exodus 25:15, compared with 1 Kings 8:8.

Answ. 1. These places may speak of the staves while the ark and tabernacle stood, but when they were to be removed the posture of all things was altered.

2. The Hebrew verb doth not signify putting in, but barely putting, or placing, or disposing, and may be understood not of putting the staves into the rings, wherein they constantly remained, but of the putting of them either upon their shoulders to try and fit them for carriage, or into the holes or receptacles which probably were made in these coverings for the receiving and covering of these gilded staves, to keep them both from the touch of the Levites, and from the inconveniences of bad weather.

Verse 7

Of shew-bread, Heb. of faces or presence, for of the bread of faces or presence, i.e. of the bread which was continually standing in the presence of the Lord.

The dishes, upon which the shew-bread was put.

The continual bread, i.e. shew-bread; so called because it was continually to be there, even in the wilderness; where though they had only manna for themselves, yet they reserved corn for the weekly making of these loaves, which they might with no great difficulty procure from some of the people bordering upon the wilderness in the innermost parts whereof they were.

Verse 10

So contrived that this cloth containing the candlestick &c., might be either laid upon it, or some other way fastened to it.

Verse 11

The golden altar; all covered with plates of gold.

Verse 12

The instruments of ministry; the sacred garments used by the priests in their holy ministrations. See Exodus 31:10.

Verse 13

From the altar of burnt-offerings; whereby it may seem probable, though it be denied by most, that they did offer some sacrifices in the wilderness, though it may not be so frequently nor orderly as afterwards they did. Whence else were these ashes? And there are some undeniable instances of their sacrificing there, as Exodus 18:12 Exodus 18:24:4; Numbers 7:0, &c.; from which it seems rational to conclude that they did offer sacrifices at other times, though not so constantly and diligently as they did in Canaan. And for the argument against it from Amos 5:25, that may be easily dissolved, as we shall there see, if the Lord please. Moreover the taking away of the ashes only doth sufficiently imply that the fire was preserved, which as it came down from heaven, Leviticus 9:0, so it was by God’s command to be continually fed and kept burning, and therefore doubtless was put into some vessel, which might be either fastened to the altar and put within this covering, or carried by some person appointed thereunto.

Verse 14

Amongst all these vessels here and above named there is no mention of the brazen laver though that be elsewhere. reckoned among the holy things, as Exodus 35:16; Exodus 38:8; Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:30, whereof possibly the reason may be because it was not covered, as not being capable of much hurt by the weather; though some ancient translations of the Bible do here add these words, They shall take a purple covering, and cover the laver, &c.

Verse 15

The sons of Kohath shall bear it, to wit upon their shoulders, not upon carts or waggons, as appears from Numbers 7:9, the neglect of which order did provoke the Lord, 2 Samuel 6:6,2 Samuel 6:7; 1 Chronicles 13:7; 1 Chronicles 15:12, &c. Afterward the priests themselves, being multiplied, carried these things, as appears from Deuteronomy 31:9; Joshua 3:6; Joshua 8:33; 1 Samuel 4:4, though the Levites also were not excluded, 2 Chronicles 5:5. They shall not to any holy thing; immediately, or before they be covered. Lest they die, as some did for that sin. See 1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:6,2 Samuel 6:7.

Verse 16

i.e. He himself is to carry these things, and not to commit them to the sons of Kohath. The daily meat-offering of fine flour, which was to be offered every morning and evening with the daily burnt-offering. See Exodus 29:38,Exodus 29:39.

The oversight of all the tabernacle, i.e. the care that all the things above mentioned be carried by the persons and in the manner expressed.

Verse 18

i.e. Do not by your neglect provoke God to cut them off for touching the holy things.

Verse 19

To his service; to that which is peculiarly allotted to him, the services and burdens being equally distributed among them.

Verse 25

The curtains of the tabernacle, i.e. the curtains or covering of goats’ hair.

The tabernacle of the congregation, i.e. the ten curious curtains which covered the boards of the tabernacle; for the boards themselves were carried by the Merarites.

His covering, i.e. the covering of rams’ skins which was put next over those ten curtains.

Verse 26

The gate of the court, i.e. which court compassed both the tabernacle and the altar, Exodus 27:16.

Verse 28

Under his conduct and direction. Thus the hand of Hege, Esther 2:3, is his care and custody.

Verse 31

Which were as the feet upon which the pillars stood; of which see Exodus 38:27.

Verse 32

Every part and parcel therefore shall be put in an inventory; which is required here rather than in the foregoing particulars, partly, because these were much more numerous than the former; partly, because being meaner things, and such as might easily be supplied, they might otherwise have been neglected; and partly, to teach us that God esteems nothing small in his worship and service, and that he expects his will should be observed in the minutest circumstances.

Verse 44

Here appears the wisdom of Divine Providence, that whereas in the Kohathites and Gershonites, whose burdens were fewer and easier, there were but about a third part of them which were fit for service, the Merarites, whose burdens were more and heavier, had above one half of them fit for this work.

Verse 48

Which number was much inferior to any other tribe, for the reasons mentioned on Numbers 3:39.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/numbers-4.html. 1685.
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