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NUMBERS CHAPTER 8
How the lamps are to be lighted, Numbers 8:1-4.
God commands the Levites to be cleansed, Numbers 8:5-15; that they may serve with Aaron and his sons instead of the first-born, Numbers 8:16-22.
Their age and service, Numbers 8:23-26.
1. On every side of the candlestick. So the candlestick is here put for the bulk or shaft of the candlestick, as Exodus 25:31,Exodus 25:35, and the lamps, when they were lighted, were put into the branches of the candlestick, and take it out upon occasion. Thus the meaning is, that all the lamps were to be lighted on that part which was towards the middle, looking that way whence they had their light; for the middle lamp was lighted with the fire of the altar, and from that the other lamps received light. But against this sense it is objected, that the lamps could not be otherwise ordered, but that they must give light round about the candlestick, and therefore that sense seems to make this direction idle and frivolous. Or,
2. On that part which is before the candlestick, Heb. over against the face of the candlestick, i.e. in that place towards which the candlestick looked, or where the candlestick stood in full view, i.e. upon the north side, where the table of shewbread stood, as appears from hence, because the candlestick stood close to the boards of the sanctuary on the south side, Exodus 26:35. And thus the lights were on both sides of the sanctuary, which was fit and necessary, because it was wholly dark in itself, and had no window in it.
Beaten gold, not hollow, but solid and massive gold, beaten out of one piece, and not of several pieces joined or soldered together. See Exodus 25:18,Exodus 25:31; Exodus 37:17.
Or, wash or purify them, which was also done with the priests and others when they were to approach to God and his service. See Exodus 19:10,Exodus 19:14; Leviticus 14:9.
Of purifying, Heb. of sin, i.e. for the expiation of sin. This water was mixed with the ashes of a red heifer, Numbers 19:9, which therefore may seem to have been prescribed before, though it be mentioned after; such kind of transplacings of passages being frequent in Scripture.
Shave all their flesh; which external rite signified the cutting off their inordinate concupiscences of earthly things, and that singular purity of heart and life which is required in the ministers of God. See Isaiah 52:11; 2 Timothy 2:21.
The same sacrifice which was offered for a sin-offering for the whole congregation, Leviticus 4:0, because the Levites came in the stead of all the first-bern, which did in a manner represent the whole congregation.
The children of Israel; not all of them, which was impossible, but some in the name and stead, and by the appointment of all, to wit, either the first-born, or rather the princes or chiefs of each tribe, who used to transact things in the name of their tribes.
Put their hands upon the Levites; whereby they signified their transferring of that right of ministering to God from the first-born, in whose hands it formerly was, unto the Levites, and their renouncing of their interest in the Levites, from whom they might otherwise have expected help by their persons or purses, as they did from other tribes, in their common concernments, and their entire resignation and dedication of them to God’s service; as the person offering, by laying his hand upon the head of his sacrifice, Leviticus 1:4, signified his translation of his guilt upon the beast, and his dedication of it unto God.
For an offering, Heb. for a wave-offering. Of which see Exodus 29:24. Not that Aaron did so wave them, which he could not do, but that he caused or commanded them to imitate that motion, and to wave themselves towards the several parts of the world; whereby they might signify their readiness to serve God according to their capacity wheresoever they should be; though the word may be taken more generally for any offering made to God, as Exodus 35:22.
Upon the heads of the bullocks; to signify, that they were offered by them and for them. See Exodus 29:15,Exodus 29:19; Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 3:2; Leviticus 4:4.
Before Aaron and his sons, i.e. put them into the power of Aaron and his sons, to employ them in holy ministrations; for so that phrase is sometimes used, as Genesis 13:9,
the land is before thee, i.e. in thy power, to use or enjoy it. Or setting the Levites before them did signify the giving the Levites to them, or to their service.
For an offering unto to the Lord; for to him they were first properly offered, and by him given to the priests in order to his service.
The Levites go in, to wit, into the court, where they were to wait upon the priests at the altar of burnt-offering; and, at present, into the tabernacle, to take it down and set it up.
They are given unto me by the people’s consent, as well as taken (as it follows) by my choice and command. See Numbers 3:9.
The service of the children of Israel, i.e. to serve God in their stead and behalf, to do what otherwise they had been obliged to do in their own persons.
In the tabernacle: how in it, See Poole "Numbers 8:15".
To make an atonement for the children of Israel; not by offering sacrifices, which the priests alone might do, but by assisting the priests in that expiatory work, and by a diligent performance of all the parts of their office, whereby God was pleased both with them and with the people. That there be no plague: this is added as a reason why God appointed them to serve in or about the tabernacle, that they might watch and guard it, and not suffer any of the people to come near it, or meddle with holy things, which if they did, it would certainly bring a plague upon them.
The Levites were purified by washing and sprinkling and sacrifices. See Leviticus 15:13-15; Numbers 19:11, &c.
Before Aaron and his sons; in their presence, and by their direction and appointment.
From twenty and five years old. See Poole "Numbers 4:3".
i.e. Upon the difficult and cumbersome part of their work.
With their brethren, by way of advice, and assistance in lesser and easier works.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 8". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent