Today we are reading Numbers 3-4
The Levites were given specific jobs when it came to dismantling and preparing the tabernacle to move but some translations make the job assignments appear far more general than they actually were.
We will use Numbers 3:7 as an example. In Hebrew the words used were shamar mishmereth, which means to keep guard. In most translations, though, it is translated as “perform duties”, even though that sounds far more vague than keeping guard.
To see a list of how different translations treat this verse, click here https://biblehub.com/numbers/3-7.htm
You’ll notice that ESV gets this one right. Note that I’m not an ESV cheerleader and I still maintain that the best Bible translation is the one you will read, but it is important to realize that all translations are the work of man and we never go wrong by digging a little deeper.
There are a few other verses like this in this chapter if you want to hop down that trail a bit.
What did folks do before priests? Before the Levites were instated as priests for YHWH, the duties that were to become theirs were given to the firstborn male of each family. They acted as the family priest or intermediary between them and whatever gods they worshipped. YHWH replaced these firstborn of Israel with the Levites when He adopted them away to exclusively serve in His priesthood.
In Chapter 4 we see specific instructions on packing up the Tabernacle and all of it’s belongings. You’ll note that not just anyone could pack up the sacred objects inside (Menorah, ark, etc), only the priests could do it.
The priests had to wrap them carefully in a manner that would prevent others from accidentally touching them and only once they were carefully wrapped were they transferred over to the Kohathites, another Levitical tribe.
Even at that point the objects were then placed carefully between poles so that the folks carrying them had yet another protective measure in that they just had to hold the poles.
Sidenote: I want to help present a concept of just what an undertaking moving this Tabernacle was.
It is estimated that the precious metals alone in creating the Tabernacle would have totaled around 8 tons and the heavy acacia wood used in construction would have been another several tons. This does not even count the skins, cloths, and other materials used in the Tabernacle – and it was all designed to be hand carried.
Now imagine how strong those Levites were! I would not want to go up against them in a dark alley – or accidentally stumble too near to the Tabernacle where I was not authorized to be.
Back to the careful packing– I am struck by this and it reminds me of something else that YHWH has been showing me. Look at the special care given to each and every piece of the tabernacle and how precious they treated each thing.
I realize we don’t have a tabernacle among us today but we do have our Father among us and directly reachable by us in terms of communication and yet, where is the reverence? Rather than revere the almighty, we are taught to treat Him as a buddy that we just call on when we need something.
This has been grieving my spirit and it’s something I’m working on in my on life: Holding YHWH in more reverence and not treating His Word or my relationship with Him as a casual or commonplace thing.
In Numbers 3:11-13 we have further reiteration of the very special relationship the Levites have to the Father. Further, He clearly tells us that the members of this tribe will serve as replacement for the firstborn of each family, which is rightfully His. This is a fascinating paragraph to turn over in your mind. I encourage you to digest it slowly today.
As far as the Levites go, we given their numbers according to their father’s houses. Note that these numbers are males only, one month old and up.
- Gerson (Gershonites) = 7500, camping on the west side of the tabernacle
- Kohath (Kohathites, also included Amramites and Izharites) =8600, camping on the south side of the tabernacle
- Merari (Merarites, also included Mahlites and Mushites)= 6200, camp on north side of tabernacle
In addition to these were the Moses, Aaron, and their households. All told the men of the tribe of Levi, one month old and up, made up 22,000 according to my Bible, actual calculations based on what we are given end up at 22,300 so this may have been an estimate.
Here is that photo I shared yesterday showing where each tribe camped:
Duties of each house of Levi:
- Moses- took census, oversees all
- Aaron, & Sons – High Priests. They set up and took down the tent of meeting. Numbers 4:5-15
- Kohathites – moved the tent of meeting and holy objects. Numbers 4:4-15
- Gershonites – moved all of the curtains, screens, and roof coverings. Numbers 4:25-26
- Merarites – moved the boards, pillars, bases, sockets, pegs, and cords Numbers 4:31-32
•Now I want you to look at Numbers 4:9 at the link below: https://biblehub.com/numbers/4-9.htm
•You will see many translations for that one verse at that link. If you click INT or INTERLINEAR up at the top it will go to this page: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/numbers/4-9.htm (Just click this link if you want)
•Find “lamp stand” and click the number that is over it and you’ll come to this page: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/4501.htm
You will see there that they are not just talking about a lampstand or fancy candlestick – it is specifically a Menorah, which we saw YHWH design in Exodus 25:31-40. It is important to know that for the visual as we are reading this and I feel translations have done us an injustice by using lamp stand.
Our Father uses a lot of symbolism in the Bible that we no longer see in our faith today. Instead we see a lot of symbolism that is familiar to us but is not found in the Bible. Today I was thinking of all of our manmade traditions that we hold up as more important than YHWH’s – and we don’t even realize it because it is so ingrained in us.
It’s what we’ve always done.
Without thinking too hard I came up with a list of twelve right off the bat: traditions we hold as if they were commandments that aren’t anywhere in the Bible, and some are in direct contradiction to YHWH’s instructions.
We’ve replaced His Holy Days with man’s holidays and His symbolism with that of our own creation. Messiah took great issue with religious leaders who created their own rules, disregarded YHWH’s rules, and then held theirs up as more important. I think we need to take great care not to do that in this case as well. Matthew 15:9
If we are going to have our own symbols and festivals, at the very least begin by making sure we are honoring YHWH’s and giving His the status they deserve rather than using our own to replace them.
I read a great analogy somewhere this past week when it comes to how we honor YHWH:
A man’s wife had a birthday coming up and she had her heart set on a guitar. She loved music and was sure her husband would fulfill her request out of his love for her – so she asked him to get one for her birthday gift.
When her birthday came around, he excitedly handed her a hockey stick. She was undoubtedly disappointed but he explained that he really loved hockey and so in his heart that was the perfect gift for her.
She explained to him that when you love someone, you humble yourself and put their heart and its desires above your own. Having a new understanding, he took the hockey stick back and bought his wife a guitar.
My point is: If YHWH is important to us, we should treat Him like He is. My heart is aching a bit as I type this, thinking over all the times in my life that I have grieved the Father. He has been so patient, loving, gracious, and full of care when it comes to me. I love him, so dearly. I want to follow after Him. I want to please Him. I want Him to see my gratitude and love in the response to His grace in every facet of my life.
I am saved by His Grace alone – It wasn’t being obedient that got me saved. But I will do all that I can to be obedient as a result of that precious gift.
May we keep our eyes on Him and our focus on matters of eternal significance.
I love ya, and I’m glad you’re here!
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!