NUMBERS CHAPTER 8.

The Cleansing of the Levites.

the lighting of the sanctuary lamps. V. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v. 2. Speak unto Aaron and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, apparently the chief daily function of the high priest in those days, and a very important part of the officiating priest's work at a later period, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick. Cp. Ex. 25, 37. The lamps were to be placed in their sockets on the candlestick in such a manner as to throw their light toward the front, thereby illuminating the Holy Place. This custom has a very definite significance in this connection, for Israel was at all times to be such a people before the Lord as to let its light shine in the darkness of this world. V. 3. And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, so that they shone forward or toward the east from the veil which screened the Most Holy Place, as the Lord commanded Moses. V. 4. And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, of fine chased work, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work, Ex. 25, 31-39; according unto the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses, so he made the candlestick. Stress is again laid upon the fact that the candlestick conformed exactly to the pattern which Moses saw on the mountain.

the purifying of the levites. V. 5. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v. 6. Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. This was done in order to take from them any Levitical defilement and to set them apart as a body of servants for the ministry of the Tabernacle. V. 7. And thus shalt thou do unto them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, probably water mingled with the ashes of the sin-offering, Lev. 3, 12, the act being symbolical of the washing from sins and impurities of every kind, and let them shave all their flesh, pass over their entire body with a razor, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean, the rite thus being neither so solemn nor so comprehensive as in the case of the priests. V. 8. Then let them take a young bullock with his meat-offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, for so it was prescribed. Lev. 2, 1; and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin-offering. Cp. Lev. 4. V. 9. And thou shalt bring the Levites before the Tabernacle of the Congregation, in the eastern part of the court, facing the altar of burnt offering; and thou shall gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together, especially in its chief representatives; v. 10. and thou shalt bring the Levites before the Lord, formally present them before the face of Jehovah by having them line up before the altar of burnt offering; and the children of Israel, through their representatives, shall put their hands upon the Levites, thus confessing the obligation of all the people in the service of Jehovah in their first-born sons and transferring this obligation to the Levites as the representatives of the first-born. V. 11. And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord, in a gesture of waving, whereby they were transferred from the position of ordinary members of the congregation to that of God's servants in a peculiar sense, for an offering of the children of Israel, for that is the meaning the ceremony intended to convey to the onlooker, that they may execute the service of the Lord, become a part of that army of Jehovah, of Hia true soldiers, that waged a spiritual warfare in His interest. "Most likely Aaron pointed to the Levites, and then waved his hands as in ordinary cases of making the offering." V. 12. And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks, in the usual gesture conveying their own guilt to the sacrificial animals; and thou shall offer the one for a sin-offering and the other for a burnt offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the Levites, and thus to bring them into the proper relationship of most intimate fellowship with Jehovah. V. 13. And thou shall set the Levites before Aaron and before his sons, for it was as their assistants that they were mainly to serve, and offer them for an offering unto the Lord. V. 14. Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from. among the children of Israel; and the Levites shall be Mine. V. 15. And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, in performing their ministrations in the court and in transporting the Sanctuary from one station to the next; and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. These verses are a further explication of the preceding passage, for the Lord wanted it clearly understood what the position of the Levites was in the midst of the congregation. V. 16. For they are wholly given unto Me from among the children of Israel, offered to Jehovah by the entire people as their representatives; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the first-born of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto Me. V. 17. For all the first-born of the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast, the Lord having an exclusive claim upon them for His service. On the day that I smote every first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself. V. 18. And I have taken the Levites for, in the place or stead of, all the first-born of the children of Israel. V. 19. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel to do the service of the children of Israel, that which should have been performed by them in their first-born, in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel; that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come nigh unto the Sanctuary. By their representative service the Levites constituted an atonement for the children of Israel, for the latter were restrained by this arrangement from approaching near to the Sanctuary and thus bringing a calamity upon themselves. V. 20. And Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel did to the Levites according unto all that the Lord commanded Moses concerning the Levites; so did the children of Israel unto them. V. 21. And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the Lord; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. V. 22. And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the Tabernacle of the Congregation before Aaron and before his sons, under whose immediate direction they worked; as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them. While there is no hierarchy by divine appointment in the New Testament, ministers and teachers are nevertheless engaged in the business of the Lord in a peculiar sense, as overseers over the Lord's flock.

the age at which the levites served. V. 23. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v. 24. This is it that belongeth unto the Levites, this is the special regulation fixing the age limit of the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, be engaged in the ministry connected with the Lord's Sanctuary; v. 25. and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof and shall serve no more, not be obliged to do the heavy work connected with the transport of the Tabernacle; v. 26. but shall minister with their brethren in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, to keep the charge, have the supervision over the furniture and the vessels of the Sanctuary, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge, with regard to all the services which they were to perform. It was not a complete retirement which the Levites suffered, but they were relieved of the more difficult manual and physical labor connected with the offering of the sacrifices and with the service of the Tabernacle. David later modified these regulations by having all the Levites serve from the time they were twenty years old, 1 Chron. 23, 24. 25, and this ordinance remained in power while the kingdom of Judah existed.