The Sons of Aaron
1When the LORD talked with Moses on Mount Sinai, 2Aaron’s four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, 3were the ones to be ordained as priests. 4But the LORD killed Nadab and Abihu in the Sinai Desert when they used fire that was unacceptable in their offering to the LORD. And because Nadab and Abihu had no sons, only Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests with their father Aaron.
The Duties of the Levites
5The LORD said to Moses:
6Assign the Levi tribe to Aaron the priest. They will be his assistants 7and will work at the sacred tent for him and for all the Israelites. 8The Levites will serve the community by being responsible for the furnishings of the tent. 9They are assigned to help Aaron and his sons, 10who have been appointed to be priests. Anyone else who tries to perform the duties of a priest must be put to death.
11-13Moses, I have chosen these Levites from all Israel, and they will belong to me in a special way. When I killed the first-born sons of the Egyptians, I decided that the first-born sons in every Israelite family and the first-born males of their flocks and herds would be mine. But now I accept these Levites in place of the first-born sons of the Israelites.
The Levites Are Counted
14In the Sinai Desert the LORD said to Moses, 15” Now I want you to count the men and boys in the Levi tribe by families and by clans. Include every one at least a month old.” 16So Moses obeyed and counted them.
17Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, had become the heads of their own clans. 18Gershon’s sons were Libni and Shimei. 19Kohath’s sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20And Merari’s sons were Mahli and Mushi. These were the sons and grandsons of Levi, and they had become the leaders of the Levite clans.
21The two Gershon clans were the Libnites and Shimeites, 22and they had seven thousand five hundred men and boys at least one month old. 23The Gershonites were to camp on the west side of the sacred tent, 24under the leadership of Eliasaph son of Lael. 25Their duties at the tent included taking care of the tent itself, along with its outer covering, the curtain for the entrance, 26the curtains hanging inside the courtyard around the tent, as well as the curtain and ropes for the entrance to the courtyard and its altar. The Gershonites were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down.
27The four Kohath clans were the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and the Uzzielites, 28and they had eight thousand six hundred men and boys at least one month old. 29The Kohathites were to camp on the south side of the sacred tent, 30under the leadership of Elizaphan son of Uzziel. 31Their duties at the tent included taking care of the sacred chest, the table for the sacred bread, the lampstand, the altars, the objects used for worship, and the curtain in front of the most holy place. The Kohathites were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down. 32Eleazar son of Aaron was the head of the Levite leaders, and he made sure that the work at the sacred tent was done.
33The two Merari clans were the Mahlites and the Mushites, 34and they had six thousand two hundred men and boys at least one month old. 35The Merarites were to camp on the north side of the sacred tent, under the leadership of Zuriel son of Abihail. 36-37Their duties included taking care of the tent frames and the pieces that held the tent up: the bars, the posts, the stands, and its other equipment. They were also in charge of the posts that supported the courtyard, as well as their stands, tent pegs, and ropes. The Merari clans were responsible for setting these things up and taking them down.
38Moses, Aaron, and his sons were to camp in front of the sacred tent, on the east side, and to make sure that the Israelites worshiped in the proper way. Anyone else who tried to do the work of Moses and Aaron was to be put to death.
39So Moses and Aaron obeyed the LORD and counted the Levites by their clans. The total number of Levites at least one month old was twenty-two thousand.
The Levites Are Accepted as Substitutes for the First-Born Sons
Malachi 3:3 says —
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
“And He Shall Purify” from Messiah by Handel, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and choir.
40The LORD said to Moses, ” Make a list and count the first-born sons at least one month old in each of the Israelite families. 41They belong to me, but I will accept the Levites as substitutes for them, and I will accept the Levites’ livestock as substitutes for the Israelites’ first-born livestock.”
42Moses obeyed the LORD and counted the first-born sons; 43there were 22,273 of them.
44Then the LORD said, 45” The Levites will belong to me and will take the place of the first-born sons; their livestock will take the place of the Israelites’ first-born livestock. 46But since there are more first-born sons than Levites, the extra two hundred seventy-three men and boys must be bought back from me. 47For each one, you are to collect five pieces of silver, weighed according to the official standards. 48This money must then be given to Aaron and his sons.”
49Moses collected the silver from the extra two hundred seventy-three first-born men and boys, 50and it amounted to one thousand three hundred sixty-five pieces of silver, weighed according to the official standards. 51Then he gave it to Aaron and his sons, just as the LORD had commanded.
The Duties of the Kohathite Clans
1The LORD told Moses and Aaron:
2-3Find out how many men between the ages of thirty and fifty are in the four Levite clans of Kohath. Count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
4The Kohathites will be responsible for carrying the sacred objects used in worship at the sacred tent. 5When the Israelites are ready to move their camp, Aaron and his sons will enter the tent and take down the curtain that separates the sacred chest from the rest of the tent. They will cover the chest with this curtain, 6and then with a piece of fine leather, and cover it all with a solid blue cloth. After this they will put the carrying poles in place.
7Next, Aaron and his sons will use another blue cloth to cover the table for the sacred bread. On the cloth they will place the dishes, the bowls for incense, the cups, the jugs for wine, as well as the bread itself. 8They are to cover all of this with a bright red cloth, and then with a piece of fine leather, before putting the carrying poles in place. 9With another blue cloth they will cover the lampstand, along with the lamps, the lamp snuffers, the fire pans, and the jars of oil for the lamps. 10All of this will then be covered with a piece of fine leather and placed on a carrying frame.
11The gold incense altar is to be covered with a blue cloth, and then with a piece of fine leather, before its carrying poles are put in place. 12Next, Aaron and his sons will take blue cloth and wrap all the objects used in worship at the sacred tent. These will need to be covered with a piece of fine leather, then placed on a carrying frame.
13They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and cover it with a purple cloth. 14On that cloth will be placed the utensils used at the altar, including the fire pans, the meat forks, the shovels, and the sprinkling bowls. All of this will then be covered with a piece of fine leather, before the carrying poles are put in place.
15When the camp is ready to be moved, the Kohathites will be responsible for carrying the sacred objects and the furnishings of the sacred tent. But Aaron and his sons must have already covered those things so the Kohathites won’t touch them and die.
2 Samuel 6:1-7 (NIV)
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem
David again brought together out of Israel chosen men, thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.
When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.
16Eleazar son of Aaron the priest will be in charge of the oil for the lamps, the sweet-smelling incense, the grain for the sacrifices, and the olive oil used for dedications and ordinations. Eleazar is responsible for seeing that the sacred tent, its furnishings, and the sacred objects are taken care of.
from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael:
Numbers 4:16 — And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest pertaineth . . . the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.
Psalm 138:3 — In the day when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
Numbers 4 is one of the many chapters in the Bible which hallows detail. “The oversight of the tabernacle and of all that therein is” included such detail as the naming of the separate instruments used. There is something very loving in the way burden-bearing is recognized as part of service–Aaron and his sons were to appoint them every one to his service and to his burden (Numbers 4:19). The God with whom we have to do is a God who understands.
Are you burdened in your service today because of the continual necessity of looking after details? In work of every sort there are a thousand tiny things which do not seem to matter, and yet matter very much. Indeed there is nothing, except things concerning our own comfort or desires, about which we can say, “It doesn’t matter.”
How can our spirit be kept fresh and sweet and buoyant and tireless? A quick look up, “O Lord, Thou knowest,” will restore us. In the day–in the moment–when I cried Thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
17-20The Kohathites must not go near or even look at the sacred objects until Aaron and his sons have covered those objects. If they do, their entire clan will be wiped out. So make sure that Aaron and his sons go into the tent with them and tell them what to carry.
The Duties of the Gershonite Clans
21The LORD said to Moses:
22-23Find out how many men between the ages of thirty and fifty are in the two Levite clans of Gershon. Count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
24The Gershonites will be responsible 25for carrying the curtains of the sacred tent, its two outer coverings, the curtain for the entrance to the tent, 26the curtains hanging around the courtyard of the tent, and the curtain and ropes for the entrance to the courtyard. The Gershonites are to do whatever needs to be done to take care of these things, 27and they will carry them wherever Aaron and his sons tell them to. 28These are the duties of the Gershonites at the sacred tent, and Ithamar son of Aaron will make sure they do their work.
The Duties of the Merarite Clans
29-30The LORD said:
Moses, find out how many men between thirty and fifty are in the two Levite clans of Merari, but count only those who are able to work at the sacred tent.
31The Merarites will be responsible for carrying the frames of the tent and its other pieces, including the bars, the posts, the stands, 32as well as the posts that support the courtyard, together with their stands, tent pegs, and ropes. The Merarites are to be told exactly what objects they are to carry, 33and Ithamar son of Aaron will make sure they do their work.
The Levites Are Counted Again
34-49Moses, Aaron, and the other Israelite leaders obeyed the LORD and counted the Levi tribe by families and clans, to find out how many men there were between the ages of thirty and fifty who could work at the sacred tent. There were two thousand seven hundred fifty Kohathites, two thousand six hundred thirty Gershonites, and three thousand two hundred Merarites, making a total of eight thousand five hundred eighty. Then they were all assigned their duties.
Images courtesy of:
father with four sons. http://momsgreatdeals.com/aboutm17.jpg
great-grandfather with baby. http://www.texashomesteader.com/wp-content/uploads/papa-and-andrew-300×236.jpg
Kothatites carry the ark. http://www.kohath.org/images/photos/8_19_08/147736.jpg
ark of the covenant. http://justinlessard.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/ark-of-the-covenant.jpg
tent poles, pegs, ropes. http://www.redearthcampers.com.au/assets/specimages/24a.jpg