Numbers 3

1 These are the descendants of Aharon and Moshe as of the day when ADONAI spoke with Moshe on Mount Sinai.
2 The names of the sons of Aharon are: Nadav the firstborn, Avihu, El'azar and Itamar.
3 These were the names of the sons of Aharon the cohen, whom he anointed and ordained as cohanim.
4 But Nadav and Avihu died in the presence of ADONAI when they offered unauthorized fire before ADONAI in the Sinai Desert, and they had no children; El'azar and Itamar served as cohanim in the presence of Aharon their father.
5 ADONAI said to Moshe,
6 "Summon the tribe of Levi, and assign them to Aharon the cohen, so that they can help him.
7 They are to carry out his duties and the duties of the whole community before the tent of meeting in performing the service of the tabernacle.
8 They are to be in charge of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting and to carry out all the duties of the people of Isra'el connected with the service of the tabernacle.
9 Assign the L'vi'im to Aharon and his sons; their one responsibility in regard to the people of Isra'el is to serve him.
10 You are to appoint Aharon and his sons to carry out the duties of cohanim; anyone else who involves himself is to be put to death."
11 ADONAI said to Moshe,
12 "I have taken the L'vi'im from among the people of Isra'el in lieu of every firstborn male that is first from the womb among the people of Isra'el; the L'vi'im are to be mine.
13 All the firstborn males belong to me, because on the day that I killed all the firstborn males in the land of Egypt, I separated for myself all the firstborn males in Isra'el, both human and animal. They are mine; I am ADONAI."
14 ADONAI said to Moshe in the Sinai Desert,
15 "Take a census of the tribe of Levi by clans and families. Count every male a month old or over."
16 Moshe counted them in the manner ADONAI had said, as he had been ordered.
17 The names of the sons of Levi were Gershon, K'hat and M'rari.
18 The names of the sons of Gershon were Livni and Shim'i; they fathered their respective clans;
19 likewise the sons of K'hat -'Amram,Yitz'har, Hevron and 'Uzi'el -
20 and the sons of M'rari -Machli and Mushi. These fathered the clans of the L'vi'im.
21 Gershon fathered the clans of Livni and Shim'i; these were the Gershon clans.
22 Of them, 7,500 males a month old and over were counted.
23 The Gershon clans were to camp behind the tabernacle, toward the west.
24 The chief of the Gershon clan was Elyasaf, the son of La'el.
25 In connection with the tent of meeting, the descendants of Gershon were to be in charge of the following: the tabernacle itself, its inner and outer coverings, the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting,
26 the curtains surrounding the courtyard, the screen for the entrance of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and the altar, all the fixtures and ropes for these items, and their maintenance.
27 K'hat fathered the clans of 'Amram, Yitz'har, Hevron and 'Uzi'el; these were the K'hat clans.
28 Of them, 8,600 males a month old and over were counted; they were in charge of the Holy Place.
29 The K'hat clans were to camp next to the tabernacle, toward the south.
30 The chief of the K'hat clan was Elitzafan the son of 'Uzi'el.
31 They were responsible for the ark, the table, the menorah, the altars, the utensils the cohanim use when they serve in the Holy Place, the curtain, and everything involved with the maintenance of these things.
32 El'azar the son of Aharon the cohen was first among the chiefs of the L'vi'im and supervised those in charge of the Holy Place.
33 M'rari fathered the clans of Machli and Mushi; these were the M'rari clans.
34 Of them, 6,200 males a month old and over were counted.
35 The chief of the M'rari clan was Tzuri'el the son of Avichayil. They were to camp next to the tabernacle, toward the north.
36 The M'rari clans were assigned responsibility for the frames of the tabernacle, along with its crossbars, posts, sockets and fittings, together with their maintenance;
37 also the posts of the surrounding courtyard, with their sockets, pegs and ropes.
38 Those who were to camp in front of the tabernacle on the east, in front of the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moshe, Aharon and his sons who were in charge of the Holy Place. They carried out their responsibility on behalf of the people of Isra'el, and anyone else who involved himself was to be put to death.
39 The total number of L'vi'im whom Moshe and Aharon counted by their clans, all the males a month old and over, was 22,000.
40 ADONAI said to Moshe, "Register all the firstborn males of the people of Isra'el a month old and over, and determine how many there are.
41 Then you are to take the L'vi'im for me, ADONAI, in place of all the firstborn among the people of Isra'el, and the cattle of the L'vi'im in place of the firstborn of the cattle belonging to the people of Isra'el."
42 Moshe counted, as ADONAI had ordered him, all the firstborn among the people of Isra'el.
43 The total number of firstborn males registered, a month old and over, of those who were counted, was 22,273.
44 ADONAI said to Moshe,
45 "Take the L'vi'im in place of all the firstborn among the people of Isra'el, and the cattle of the L'vi'im in place of their cattle; the L'vi'im are to belong to me, ADONAI.
46 Since there were 273 more firstborn males from Isra'el than male L'vi'im, in order to redeem them,
47 you are to take five shekels [two ounces] for each of these (use the sanctuary shekel, which is equal to twenty gerahs).
48 Give the redemption money for these extra people to Aharon and his sons."
49 Moshe took the redemption money from those who were over and above those redeemed by the L'vi'im;
50 the amount of money he took from the firstborn of the people of Isra'el was 1,365 shekels, using the sanctuary shekel.
51 Moshe gave the redemption-money to Aharon and his sons, in keeping with what ADONAI had said, as ADONAI had ordered Moshe.

Numbers 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

The sons of Aaron, The Levites taken instead of the first-born. (1-13) The Levites numbered by their families, Their duties. (14-39) The first-born are numbered. (40-51)

Verses 1-13 There was much work belonging to the priests' office, and there were now only Aaron and his two sons to do it; God appoints the Levites to attend them. Those whom God finds work for, he will find help for. The Levites were taken instead of the first-born. When He that made us, saves us, as the first-born of Israel were saved, we are laid under further obligations to serve him faithfully. God's right to us by redemption, confirms the right he has to us by creation.

Verses 14-39 The Levites were in three classes, according to the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and these were subdivided into families. The posterity of Moses were not at all honoured or privileged, but stood upon the level with other Levites; thus it was plain, that Moses did not seek the advancement of his own family, or to secure any honours to it. The tribe of Levi was by much the least of all the tribes. God's chosen are but a little flock in comparison with the world.

Verses 40-51 The number of the first-born, and that of the Levites, came near to each other. Known unto God are all his works beforehand; there is an exact proportion between them, and so it will appear, when they are compared together. The small number of first-born, over and above the number of the Levites, were to be redeemed, and the redemption-money given to Aaron. The church is called the church of the first-born, which is redeemed, not as they were, with silver and gold; but, being devoted by sin to the justice of God, is ransomed with the precious blood of the Son of God. All men are the Lord's by creation, and all true christians are his by redemption. Each should know his own post and duty; nor can any service required by such a Master be rightly accounted mean or hard.

Chapter Summary


In this chapter an account is given of the genealogy of the priests and Levites, and of the gift of the Levites to the priests, of the numbering of them, and the service they were to perform; and first of the priests, the sons of Aaron, Nu 3:1-4; and then of the Levites, as given unto them, to wait upon them, and assist them, Nu 3:5-10; and these were taken instead of the firstborn, Nu 3:11-13; and ordered to be numbered, which was done accordingly by their families, Nu 3:14-20; and the sum of each is given, and the particular work assigned to them; of the Gershonites, Nu 3:21-26; of the Kohathites, Nu 3:27-32; of the Merarites, Nu 3:33-38; the sum total of them is given, Nu 3:39; then the firstborn of the children of Israel, from a month old are ordered to be numbered, and were, Nu 3:40-43; and these appearing to be more in number than the Levites, by two hundred seventy three a direction is given that the two hundred seventy three should be redeemed at the rate of five, shekels apiece, and the money paid to Aaron and his sons, Nu 3:44-48; which was accordingly done, Nu 3:49-51.

Numbers 3 Commentaries

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.