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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 8

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Of lighting the lamps: of consecrating the Levites; and of the age and time of their service.

Before Christ 1490.

Verse 2

Numbers 8:2. When thou lightest the lamps, &c.— Houbigant thinks that the stress here is to be laid upon the word seven; and that the meaning is, "when thou lightest the lamps of the candlestick, take care that all the seven lamps be lighted, and that none of them be omitted." Others, however, instead of over against the candlestick in this and the following verse, would read, on all sides of the candlestick. But the Hebrew פני אלאּמול el mul peni, seems to refer to the lights (the lights at the extremity of the candlestick,) and so to confirm Houbigant's opinion.

REFLECTIONS.—The candlestick being prepared, the lamps are ordered to be lighted. Aaron first is employed, though afterwards the priest in waiting performed the service. The fire was taken from the altar, and the lamps were lighted therewith; nor had the tabernacle any other light, but from this candlestick. Note; Christ is the only Light of the world; and if ever we shine, it must be by the sacred fire which his Spirit kindles in us. The use of the lamp was, that they might see to do the work of the tabernacle. Ministers must first have their own spirits lighted up, as the lamp of the Lord, before they can minister acceptably to God, or profitably to men. How shall they who are in darkness themselves, lead others to the light?

Verse 7

Numbers 8:7. Sprinkle water of purifying In the Hebrew, as Dr. Beaumont observes, the sin-water, i.e. the water of purification from sin, is called the sin-offering. The manner of preparing this water is seen, chap. Numbers 19:17. Sprinkled with this water, the Levites were next to shave all their flesh; another sign of their entering into a state of purity, the study whereof is incumbent upon all, but especially on the ministers of religion; see Leviticus 14:8-9. Calmet thinks it probable, that the same ceremony was observed by the priests on the day of their consecration, though we have no precept concerning it. The priests of Egypt, in like manner, shaved their whole bodies every third day, as a mark of purity and cleanliness. Hence they are sometimes characterised by the name of the bald tribe; grege calvo. Juv. Sat. 6. And so the heathens had their water of lustration, (probably borrowed from the Mosaic law) wherewith they were accustomed to sprinkle themselves in token of purification, as in Virgil, AEneid vi. l. 229, 230.

Idem ter socios pura circumtulit unda, Spargens rore levi et ramo felicis olivae.

"A verdant branch of olive in his hands, He mov'd around, and purify'd the bands; Slow as he pass, the lustral waters shed," &c. PITT.

Verse 10

Numbers 8:10. The children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites That is, the children of Israel, by their rulers, who were their representatives. By this sign the children of Israel signified their separating the Levites to the service of the sanctuary, instead of their first-born; and transferring upon them that charge which would otherwise have belonged to the first-born.

Verse 11

Numbers 8:11. Aaron shall offer the Levites, &c.— Shall wave the Levites for a wave-offering. Margin of our English Bibles. See Exodus 29:26. As Aaron, properly speaking, could not wave the Levites, it is probable, that lifting up his hands, and turning about to all quarters of the heavens, (as he did when he offered a wave-offering,) the Levites, after his example, imitated the same motion; and so were offered, as it were, a wave-offering to God. So Bishop Patrick. Le Clerc conjectures, that they were only presented before God at the altar, or went round about the altar at Aaron's command; for the word often signifies to offer in general.

Verse 13

Numbers 8:13. And thou shalt set the Levites Houbigant renders this verse, Then thou shalt bring the Levites to Aaron and to his sons, and shalt apply them to [the service of] the Lord: others would have it, Thou shalt present them to Aaron and his sons, after having offered them as an offering unto the Lord. So in Numbers 8:15. And thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them, &c. should be, after thou shalt have cleansed them, and have, &c.

Verse 19

Numbers 8:19. And to make an atonement for, &c.— The Levites being regularly called to perform the duties of the tabernacle, their service was acceptable to God, and (as figurative of the great Antitype of the whole Levitical Priesthood) averted his displeasure from Israel; which is the meaning of the phrase to make an atonement for, as appears from the following words. So ch. Numbers 25:13. Phineas is said to have made an atonement for Israel, because his pious zeal against two notorious offenders averted the divine judgment from the community. Some have thought, that the phrase signifies, that the Levites were thus accepted in lieu of the people themselves; an opinion which they think the 10th and 11th verses countenance.

In the tabernacle of the congregation The Levites entered not into the tabernacle. The preposition ב beth, signifies at, before, about, near; in any one of which senses it may be properly used here. See Noldius.

Verse 24

Numbers 8:24. From twenty and five years old See the note on ch. Numbers 4:3.

Verse 26

Numbers 8:26. But shall minister with their brethren They were to be dismissed at the age of fifty from all the laborious part of the service, and were afterwards to attend only upon the easier duties of their ministry. The Hebrew words directly suggest this meaning, and do not support their opinion, who would render the passage, they shall minister to their brethren; i.e. as counsellors and instructors.

REFLECTIONS.—As they who bear the vessels of the Lord must be holy, the Levites are, 1. Enjoined to wash and shave themselves all over; and then water of purifying is sprinkled upon them. Thus must Jesus sprinkle our consciences, ere we can serve the living God. 2. When prepared, they are presented before the Lord, and, instead of the first-born, surrendered up to God's service. Whatever God calls for, we may cheerfully resign, as we shall surely see a blessing from it. 3. Offerings of atonement followed; for most necessary it is, that they who preach peace with God to others, should first experience it in their own souls. Whereupon, 4. A solemn presentation of them is made by Aaron to God. Ministers are living sacrifices, whose time, abilities, strength, and all, must be employed for God, from the moment they are devoted to him. 5. God accepts of them instead of the first-born, appoints them their work in the tabernacle, to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among them; and regards them as his immediate servants. Note; (1.) God's service is among the highest honours. (2.) They who are called to the honour, must remember the work of the ministry, and diligently preach the atoning blood of the Lamb which was slain. (3.) If this be neglected, the plague of sin among the people will lie at the minister's door. 6. Their time of service is fixed. The prime of life is fittest for the laborious work of the ministry: when the faithful labourers begin to grow aged, they may well be assisted by their younger brethren.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/numbers-8.html. 1801-1803.
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