Friday, December 16, 2016

Numbers 3

The generations of Aaron and Moses are listed (as they existed during the time when YAHWEH spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai.)
Aaron's Sons:
1. Nadab (firstborn)
2. Abihu
3. Eleazar
4. Ithamar
These were also anointed and ordained to be priests.

But the two oldest, Nadab and Abihu, died before YAHWEH when they offered unauthorized fire before YAHWEH in the wilderness. These two had no children.

Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during Aaron's life.

(I wish there were details about why they died. What happened? Was this judgment? Or were they acting foolishly and thereby causing a fire that destroyed them? Not enough details here to know what went on.)

Yahweh tells Moses to make the tribe of Levi serve and guard Aaron as well as the whole congregation before the tent of meeting.

Levites should guard the furnishings, the people as they minister.

YAHWEH tells Moses that the Levites should be given to Aaron and his sons, wholly. Aaron and his sons were responsible for guarding the priesthood.

And He reminds Moses that if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.

(Outsider as in from another country/language/people? Or outsider as outsider outside the tribe of Levi?)
YAHWEH says that the Levites are His. Just like he killed all the firstborn in Egypt, YAHWEH has claimed the firstborn of Israel as consecrated to Himself.

Twice, YAHWEH says, "They shall be mine."

YAHWEH instructs Moses to take a record/census of Levites by houses/clans. Every male one month old or older should be listed. Moses obeyed.

Sons of Levi:
1. Gershon (7,500 males 1 month or older)
- Libni (clan of Libnites)
- Shimei (clan of Shimeites)
* These clans were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west.
* Eliasaph was chief of Gershonites.
* Their duties involved tabernacle, tent covering, court hangings, court door screen around tabernacle and altar and its cords.

2. Kohath (8,600 males 1 month or older)
- Amram (clan of Amramites)
- Izhar (clan of Izharites)
- Hebron (clan of Hebronites)
- Uzziel (clan of Uzzielites)
* These clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle.
* Elizaphan, son of Uzziel, was the chief of Kohathites.
* There duties involved keeping guard over the sanctuary, ark, table, lampstand, altars, vessels of sanctuary that the priests use, and the screen.
* Eleazar, 3rd son of Aaron (1st after the older two died), was chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and he had oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary (Kohath).

3. Merari (6,200 males 1 month or older)
- Mahli (clan of Mahlites)
- Mushi (clan of Mushites)
* Zuriel (son of Abihail) was chief of Merarites.
* These clans were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.
* Their duties involved frames of tabernacle, bars, pillars, bases, and accessories; the pillars around the court and their bases, pegs, and cords.
"These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers' houses."

(What is the difference between "father's house" and "clan"? I think it works on this spectrum: individual --> father's house --> clan --> tribe --> nation/people)

Gershon was west of tabernacle; Kohath was south of tabernacle; Merari was north of tabernacle.
Moses, Aaron, and his son camped east towards the sunrise before the tent of meeting. They were to guard the sanctuary itself, to protect the people of Israel.

"Any outsider who came near was to be put to death." The Levites were responsible for guarding the sanctuary from those who might profane it.
All the male Levites a month old or older were 22,000.

YAHWEH said to Moses to take a census of the firstborn Israelite males one month or older. YAHWEH says that instead of the firstborn and the firstborn cattle of ALL Israelites, He claims the firstborn and firstborn cattle of the Levites.

(It sounds like YAHWEH is changing His mind about who inherits certain responsibilities. And the interject -- I am the LORD -- seems like it's His justification or reasoning. It's like He anticipates that there might be a question as to why. His reason is I AM THE LORD.)

Moses obeyed, and all the firstborn males in Israel (one month and older) were 22,273.

YAHWEH said to Moses the same thing He just said about firstborn of Levites and the Levites' cattle being his. His reason "I am the LORD."

Moses counted all the firstborn males in the other tribes (one month old and up) and there were 22,273 -- 273 more than the 22,000 male Levites (one month or older).

Basically what is happening here is a firstborn swap. Normally, the firstborn would be dedicated to the service of the LORD (I think), but now the Levites were supposed to represent the firstborn of Israel whom God spared in the Exodus from Egypt. Traditionally, it is the ministry of the eldest son to serve his father and protect his interests. But now God is shifting to having a designated tribe to represent the firstborn males of Israel.

Because there are 273 more non-Levite males one month old and up, they had to be "redeemed" at a price of five shekels. It's almost like God is providing a fee for a legal contract breech. This freed them from God's claim on them for sanctuary service.
Matthew Henry comments, "Note, God's institutions put no hardships upon men in any of their just interests or reasonable affections. It was presumed that the Israelites would rather part with the Levites than with the first-born, and therefore God graciously ordered the exchange; yet for us he spared not his own Son."

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