Numbers 4

Listen to Numbers 4
1 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
2 “Record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Kohathite division of the tribe of Levi.
3 List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.
4 “The duties of the Kohathites at the Tabernacle will relate to the most sacred objects.
5 When the camp moves, Aaron and his sons must enter the Tabernacle first to take down the inner curtain and cover the Ark of the Covenant with it.
6 Then they must cover the inner curtain with fine goatskin leather and spread over that a single piece of blue cloth. Finally, they must put the carrying poles of the Ark in place.
7 “Next they must spread a blue cloth over the table where the Bread of the Presence is displayed, and on the cloth they will place the bowls, ladles, jars, pitchers, and the special bread.
8 They must spread a scarlet cloth over all of this, and finally a covering of fine goatskin leather on top of the scarlet cloth. Then they must insert the carrying poles into the table.
9 “Next they must cover the lampstand with a blue cloth, along with its lamps, lamp snuffers, trays, and special jars of olive oil.
10 Then they must cover the lampstand and its accessories with fine goatskin leather and place the bundle on a carrying frame.
11 “Next they must spread a blue cloth over the gold incense altar and cover this cloth with fine goatskin leather. Then they must attach the carrying poles to the altar.
12 They must take all the remaining furnishings of the sanctuary and wrap them in a blue cloth, cover them with fine goatskin leather, and place them on the carrying frame.
13 “They must remove the ashes from the altar for sacrifices and cover the altar with a purple cloth.
14 All the altar utensils—the firepans, meat forks, shovels, basins, and all the containers—must be placed on the cloth, and a covering of fine goatskin leather must be spread over them. Finally, they must put the carrying poles in place.
15 The camp will be ready to move when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the sacred articles. The Kohathites will come and carry these things to the next destination. But they must not touch the sacred objects, or they will die. So these are the things from the Tabernacle that the Kohathites must carry.
16 “Eleazar son of Aaron the priest will be responsible for the oil of the lampstand, the fragrant incense, the daily grain offering, and the anointing oil. In fact, Eleazar will be responsible for the entire Tabernacle and everything in it, including the sanctuary and its furnishings.”
17 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
18 “Do not let the Kohathite clans be destroyed from among the Levites!
19 This is what you must do so they will live and not die when they approach the most sacred objects. Aaron and his sons must always go in with them and assign a specific duty or load to each person.
20 The Kohathites must never enter the sanctuary to look at the sacred objects for even a moment, or they will die.”
21 And the LORD said to Moses,
22 “Record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Gershonite division of the tribe of Levi.
23 List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.
24 “These Gershonite clans will be responsible for general service and carrying loads.
25 They must carry the curtains of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle itself with its coverings, the outer covering of fine goatskin leather, and the curtain for the Tabernacle entrance.
26 They are also to carry the curtains for the courtyard walls that surround the Tabernacle and altar, the curtain across the courtyard entrance, the ropes, and all the equipment related to their use. The Gershonites are responsible for all these items.
27 Aaron and his sons will direct the Gershonites regarding all their duties, whether it involves moving the equipment or doing other work. They must assign the Gershonites responsibility for the loads they are to carry.
28 So these are the duties assigned to the Gershonite clans at the Tabernacle. They will be directly responsible to Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.
29 “Now record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Merarite division of the tribe of Levi.
30 List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.
31 “Their only duty at the Tabernacle will be to carry loads. They will carry the frames of the Tabernacle, the crossbars, the posts, and the bases;
32 also the posts for the courtyard walls with their bases, pegs, and ropes; and all the accessories and everything else related to their use. Assign the various loads to each man by name.
33 So these are the duties of the Merarite clans at the Tabernacle. They are directly responsible to Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.”
34 So Moses, Aaron, and the other leaders of the community listed the members of the Kohathite division by their clans and families.
35 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle,
36 and the total number came to 2,750.
37 So this was the total of all those from the Kohathite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the LORD had commanded through Moses.
38 The Gershonite division was also listed by its clans and families.
39 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle,
40 and the total number came to 2,630.
41 So this was the total of all those from the Gershonite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the LORD had commanded.
42 The Merarite division was also listed by its clans and families.
43 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle,
44 and the total number came to 3,200.
45 So this was the total of all those from the Merarite clans who were eligible for service. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the LORD had commanded through Moses.
46 So Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel listed all the Levites by their clans and families.
47 All the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle and for its transportation
48 numbered 8,580.
49 When their names were recorded, as the LORD had commanded through Moses, each man was assigned his task and told what to carry. And so the registration was completed, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Numbers 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

The Levites' service. (1-3) The duties of the Kohathites. (4-20) The duties of the Gershonites and Merarites. (21-33) The numbers of the serviceable Levites. (34-49)

Verses 1-3 The middle-aged men of the tribe of Levi, all from thirty years old to fifty, were to be employed in the service of the tabernacle. The service of God requires the best of our strength, and the prime portion of our time, which cannot be better spent than to the honour of Him who is the First and Best. And the service of God should be done when we are most lively and active. Those do not consider this who put off repentance to old age, and so leave the best work to be done in the worst time.

Verses 4-20 The Kohathites were to carry the holy things of the tabernacle. All the holy things were to be covered; not only for security and respect, but to keep them from being seen. This not only marked the reverence due to holy things, but the mystery of the things signified by those types, and the darkness of the dispensation. But now, through Christ, the case is altered, and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Verses 21-33 We have here the charge of the other two families of the Levites, which, though not so honourable as the first, yet was necessary, and to be done regularly. All the things were delivered them by name. It intimates the care God takes of his church and every member of it. The death of the saints is ( 2 Corinthians. 5:1 ) ( 2 Peter. 1:14 ) great day, when these vile bodies shall be made like the glorious body of Jesus Christ, and so shall be for ever with the Lord.

Verses 34-49 God so ordered it, that though the Merarites were the fewest in number, yet they should have most able men among them; for whatever service God calls men to, he will furnish them for it, give strength in proportion to the work, and grace sufficient. The least of the tribes had many more able men than the Levites: those who engage in the service of this world, are many more than those devoted to the service of God. May our souls be wholly devoted to his service.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Hebrew the Tent of Meeting; also in 4:4, 15, 23, 25, 28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 43, 47 .
  • [b]. Or Ark of the Testimony.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 4

This chapter relates an order to number the Levites fit for business, and gives an account of the time and age when they should enter into service, and how long they should continue therein, Nu 4:1-3; what their particular service should be; and first of the Kohathites, Nu 4:4-20; next of the Gershonites, Nu 4:21-28; and then of the Merarites, Nu 4:29-33; after which Moses and Aaron, with the chief of the congregation, numbered each of them, even as many as were at the age fit for service, as the Kohathites, Nu 4:34-37; the Gershonites, Nu 4:38-41; the Merarites, Nu 4:42-45; the sum total of which is given, Nu 4:46-49.

Numbers 4 Commentaries