They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn,1 the first male offspring2 from every Israelite woman.
References for Numbers 8:16
Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal,3 is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself.45
References for Numbers 8:17
And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel.6
References for Numbers 8:18
Of all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons7 to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites8 and to make atonement for them9 so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary."
References for Numbers 8:19
Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses.
The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes.10 Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD and made atonement11 for them to purify them.12
References for Numbers 8:21
After that, the Levites came to do their work13 at the Tent of Meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses.
References for Numbers 8:22
The LORD said to Moses,
"This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more14 shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting,15
References for Numbers 8:24
but at the age of fifty,16 they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.
References for Numbers 8:25
They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.17 This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites."
References for Numbers 8:26