NUMBERS CHAPTER 4.

The Special Work of the Levites.

The Work of the Kohathites. V. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, v. 2. Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, for they had charge of the most holy vessels, after their families, by the house of their fathers, v. 3. from thirty years old and up ward even until fifty years old, for it was at that age that the Levites were in active service in the Sanctuary, all that enter into the host, as members of the holy army of Jehovah, to do the work in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, which was the special obligation resting upon them. V. 4. This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, about the most holy things; v. 5. and when the camp setteth. forward, the signal having been given to move on to the next station, Aaron shall come, and his sons, for only the priests were allowed to perform this particular service, and they shall take down the covering veil, the screen of the Most Holy Place, and cover the Ark of the Testimony with it, this curtain thus serving as a screen even during the journey, for the very looking at the ark in presumptuous curiosity was punished by the Lord, 1 Sam. 6, 19; v. 6. and shall put thereon the covering of badgers' skins, that of leather made from the skins of sea-cows, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, of costly hyacinth-colored material, and shall put in the staves thereof, in the rings applied to the corners for that purpose. V. 7. And upon the table of showbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, as in the case of the ark, to distinguish it in a similar manner, and put thereon the dishes, the large bowls, and the spoons, and the bowls, the jugs or cans for the drink-offerings, and covers to cover withal, the small saucer-like dishes for pouring the drink-offering; and the continual bread shall be thereon, for so the show-bread was called because it was always before the face of the Lord; v. 8. and they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers' skins, the fine crimson-colored cloth of purple thus being shielded against the weather by the outer leather covering, and shall put in the staves thereof, as in the case of the ark. V. 9. And they shall take a cloth of blue, of the same hyacinth-colored material, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuff-dishes, the various instruments used for snuffing and cleaning, and all the oil-vessels thereof, in which the oil for use in these lamps was stored, wherewith they minister unto it; v. 10. and they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put it upon a bar, a stretcher-like conveyance. V. 11. And upon the golden altar, that of incense, they shall spread a cloth of blue, as over the other appointments, for the hyacinth color was the color of Jehovah, and cover it with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put to the staves thereof; v. 12. and they shall take all the instruments of ministry wherewith they minister in the Sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers' skins, and shall put them on a bar, on a conveyance for carrying; v. 13. and they shall take away the ashes from the altar of burnt offering, and spread a purple cloth thereon, one dyed with red purple, or of a crimson hue; v. 14. and they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, even the censers, the tongs, the flesh-hooks, and the shovels, and the basins, or smaller bowls, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread upon it a covering of badgers' skins, and put to the staves of it, fastening them in the rings intended for them. V. 15. And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the Sanctuary and all the vessels of the Sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward, only the laver and his foot being omitted in the enumeration, very likely because they received no covering; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the things which they had to carry from one station of the journey to the next. V. 16. And to the office of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, pertaineth the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat-offering accompanying the burnt offering in the morning and in the evening, and the anointing oil; he had to see that all these were provided as needed; and the oversight of all the Tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the Sanctuary and in the vessels thereof; he was responsible for all the appointments. And as superintendent of the entire Tabernacle and all its equipment he had charge of the work of the Kohathites. Since the ministry of the latter was so important, but since it was also essential that they did not come into contact with the sacred vessels, the Lord renews His words of caution with special emphasis. V. 17. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, v. 18. Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; they should beware of giving them occasion to transgress the Lord's command and thus bring upon themselves His destruction; v. 19. but thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden, assign to each one his station, his place in the company of porters; v. 20. but they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, not even for a moment, while this work is being done, lest they die. By enforcing this regulation with the greatest strictness, the priests would be doing their share in preserving the life of the Kohathites, and their indifference might become a sin of omission which would be charged against them. The same rule applies today, Jas. 4, 17.

The Work  of the Gershonites. V. 21. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v. 22. Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, throughout the houses of their fathers, by their families; v. 23. from thirty years old and upward until fifty years old shall thou number them, when they, according to God's order, were fit for service; all that enter in to perform the service, literally, "to war the warfare," for their service was a branch of warfare for God, to do the work in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. V. 24. This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, to serve, and for burdens, in carrying a part of the paraphernalia of the Sanctuary; v. 25. and they shall bear the curtains of the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle of the Congregation, his covering, and the covering of the badgers' skins that is above upon it, and the hanging for the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, v. 26. and the hangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, which is by the Tabernacle and by the altar round about, and their cords, and all the instruments of their service, and all that is made for them; so shall they serve. Cp. chap. 3, 24-26. V. 27. At the appointment of Aaron and his sons, literally, "at his mouth," at his directions, shall be all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, in all their burdens, and in all their service; and ye shall appoint unto them in charge of all their burdens. Both as porters on the way and in their work of assisting in the Sanctuary the Levites were strictly under the command of the priests, as directed by God. V. 28. This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon in the Tabernacle of the Congregation; and their charge shall be under the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron, the priest.

The Work of the Merarites. V. 29. As for the sons of Merari, thou shalt number them after their families, muster them, take their census, by the house of their fathers; v. 30. from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every one that entereth into the service, as enrolled in the ranks of the Lord's soldiers, to do the work of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. V. 31. And this is the charge of their burden, the appointments whose carrying was placed upon them as their ministry, according to all their service in the Tabernacle of the Congregation: the boards of the Tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof, v. 32. and the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service; and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden, count them off very carefully, lest one be overlooked. Cp. chap. 3, 36. 37. V. 33. This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service, in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, under the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron, the priest, who was superintendent of this part of the work. The work of the Gospel ministry is also a good work, 1 Tim. 3, 1, and those that are engaged in preaching should comport themselves as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, in the spiritual warfare against the enemies of their faith, 1 Tim. 1, 18; Eph. 6, 1018.

The Total Number of the Levites in Service. V. 34. And Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites after their families and after the house of their fathers. V. 35. From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service for the work in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, v. 36. and those that were numbered of them by their families, were two thousand seven hundred and fifty. V. 37. These were they that were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all that might do service in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, being both of the right age and physically and mentally fit, which Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. V. 38. And those that were numbered of the sons of Gershon, throughout their families and by the house of their fathers, v. 39. from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service for the work in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, v. 40. even those that were numbered of them, throughout their families, by the house of their fathers, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty. V. 41. These are they that were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, of all that might do service in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, whom Moses and Aaron did number according to the commandment of the Lord. V. 42. And those that were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, throughout their families, by the house of their fathers, v. 43. from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that entereth into the service, for the work in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, v. 44. even those that were numbered of them after their families, were three thousand and two hundred. V. 45. These be those that were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom. Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses. V. 46. All those that were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the chief of Israel numbered, after their families, and after the house of their fathers, v. 47. from thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of the burden in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, v. 48. even those that were numbered of them, marshaled and enrolled for duty, for helping in the work of carrying the Tabernacle and its equipment from one station to the next, were eight thousand and five hundred and fourscore (8,580), a number which is in just about the right proportion to the total mustering of the Levites. V. 49. According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand of Moses, at his direction, every one according to his service and according to his burden, according to the things that were laid upon him at the mustering; thus were they numbered of him, as the Lord commanded Moses. They were told exactly what their individual duty consisted in, and could go ahead in an almost automatic manner. Such a wise distribution of burdens is to be recommended to this day in the Church of Christ; it makes for better work in the Lord's vineyard.