Numbers 3

The Levites

1 This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the LORD spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.
2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests.
4 Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the LORD when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.
5 The LORD said to Moses,
6 “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.
7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle.
8 They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle.
9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.[a]
10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”
11 The LORD also said to Moses,
12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine,
13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD.”
14 The LORD said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai,
15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.”
16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD.
17 These were the names of the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
18 These were the names of the Gershonite clans: Libni and Shimei.
19 The Kohathite clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.
20 The Merarite clans: Mahli and Mushi. These were the Levite clans, according to their families.
21 To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans.
22 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500.
23 The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle.
24 The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael.
25 At the tent of meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting,
26 the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes—and everything related to their use.
27 To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans.
28 The number of all the males a month old or more was 8,600.[b] The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.
29 The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.
30 The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan son of Uzziel.
31 They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use.
32 The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.
33 To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans.
34 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 6,200.
35 The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.
36 The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use,
37 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.
38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the tent of meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.
39 The total number of Levites counted at the LORD’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.
40 The LORD said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names.
41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the LORD.”
42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the LORD commanded him.
43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.
44 The LORD also said to Moses,
45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the LORD.
46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites,
47 collect five shekels[c] for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.
48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”
49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites.
50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels,[d] according to the sanctuary shekel.
51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the LORD.

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.

Cross References 96

  • 1. S Exodus 6:27
  • 2. S Exodus 19:11
  • 3. Numbers 1:20
  • 4. S Exodus 6:23; Numbers 26:60
  • 5. S Exodus 28:41; S Exodus 29:30
  • 6. S Leviticus 10:2
  • 7. S Leviticus 10:1
  • 8. Leviticus 10:6,12; Numbers 4:28
  • 9. 1 Chronicles 24:1
  • 10. Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31:9; 1 Chronicles 15:2
  • 11. Numbers 8:6-22; Numbers 18:1-7; 2 Chronicles 29:11
  • 12. Numbers 1:53; Numbers 8:19
  • 13. S Leviticus 8:35; Numbers 1:50
  • 14. ver 12,45; Numbers 8:19; Numbers 18:6
  • 15. S Exodus 30:7
  • 16. S Exodus 29:9
  • 17. Numbers 1:51
  • 18. Nehemiah 13:29; Malachi 2:4
  • 19. ver 41; Numbers 8:16,18
  • 20. S ver 9; Exodus 13:2; Numbers 8:14; Numbers 16:9
  • 21. S Exodus 13:12
  • 22. Leviticus 11:44
  • 23. S Exodus 19:1
  • 24. ver 39; S Numbers 1:19
  • 25. ver 22; Numbers 18:16; Numbers 26:62
  • 26. S Genesis 29:34; S Genesis 46:11; Numbers 1:47; 1 Chronicles 15:4; 1 Chronicles 23:6; 2 Chronicles 29:12
  • 27. Joshua 21:6
  • 28. Joshua 21:4
  • 29. S Exodus 6:16
  • 30. Exodus 6:17
  • 31. S Exodus 6:18
  • 32. S Genesis 46:11
  • 33. S Exodus 6:19
  • 34. S Genesis 46:11
  • 35. Exodus 6:17
  • 36. S Numbers 2:18
  • 37. Exodus 25:9; Numbers 7:1
  • 38. Exodus 26:14
  • 39. Exodus 26:36; Numbers 4:25
  • 40. Exodus 40:2
  • 41. Exodus 27:9
  • 42. ver 31
  • 43. Exodus 35:18
  • 44. Numbers 4:26
  • 45. S Genesis 46:11; S Exodus 6:18
  • 46. Exodus 6:18; 1 Chronicles 26:23
  • 47. Numbers 4:15,37
  • 48. ver 15
  • 49. Numbers 4:4,15
  • 50. S Exodus 25:8; Exodus 30:13; 2 Chronicles 30:19; Psalms 15:1; Psalms 20:2; Ezekiel 44:27
  • 51. S Numbers 1:53
  • 52. S Exodus 6:22
  • 53. S Exodus 25:10-22; Deuteronomy 10:1-8; 2 Chronicles 5:2; Jeremiah 3:16
  • 54. S Exodus 25:23
  • 55. S Exodus 25:31; 1 Chronicles 28:15; Jeremiah 52:19
  • 56. ver 26; Exodus 27:1; Exodus 30:1
  • 57. Numbers 1:50
  • 58. S Exodus 26:33; Numbers 4:5
  • 59. Numbers 4:15; Numbers 18:3
  • 60. S Exodus 6:23
  • 61. ver 28
  • 62. Numbers 4:19; Numbers 18:3
  • 63. S Exodus 6:19
  • 64. S Genesis 46:11
  • 65. ver 15
  • 66. S Numbers 1:53; Numbers 2:25
  • 67. Numbers 4:32
  • 68. Exodus 26:15-25; Exodus 35:20-29
  • 69. Exodus 26:26-29
  • 70. Exodus 36:36
  • 71. Numbers 18:3
  • 72. Exodus 27:10-17
  • 73. Exodus 27:19
  • 74. Numbers 2:3
  • 75. S Numbers 1:53; 1 Chronicles 9:27; 1 Chronicles 23:32
  • 76. ver 7; Numbers 18:5
  • 77. ver 10; Numbers 1:51
  • 78. S ver 15
  • 79. Numbers 26:62
  • 80. ver 15
  • 81. Numbers 1:2
  • 82. ver 12
  • 83. Leviticus 11:44
  • 84. ver 15
  • 85. ver 39
  • 86. S ver 9
  • 87. Leviticus 11:44
  • 88. Exodus 13:13; Numbers 18:15
  • 89. S Leviticus 27:6
  • 90. S Exodus 30:13
  • 91. S Leviticus 27:25
  • 92. ver 51
  • 93. ver 50
  • 94. ver 48
  • 95. ver 41,45
  • 96. S ver 46-48

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text; some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint (see also 8:16) "to me"
  • [b]. Hebrew; some Septuagint manuscripts "8,300"
  • [c]. That is, about 2 ounces or about 58 grams
  • [d]. That is, about 35 pounds or about 16 kilograms

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

Scripture quoted by permission.  Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide.