"Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to Christianity; and yet, how amazing is it, nothing is less practiced?” (George Whitefield).
In Genesis God elected a people, in Exodus He redeemed them, in Leviticus He sanctified them, and in Numbers He directed them. Numbers takes up the story where Leviticus left off. Leviticus described the believer’s worship and Numbers their walk. Leviticus covers only one month, but Numbers stretches over thirty-nine years. God is the author of order, not confusion; and this is seen in the way He organizes the people. Chapter three deals with the organization of the Priests.
At the time of the first Passover, God instructed every Israelite family to dedicate their first born son to Him. They were set apart to assist Moses and Aaron in ministering to the people (vv. 1-4). When the LORD talked with Moses on Mount Sinai, Aaron’s four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were the ones to be ordained as priests. But the LORD killed Nadab and Abihu in the Sinai Desert when they used fire that was unacceptable in their offering to the LORD. This was only a temporary thing as we now find God choosing all the men from the tribe of Levi to replace the first born sons. These men called Levites, were set apart to care for the tabernacle and to minister to the people (vv. 5-13). All the Priests had to belong to the tribe of Levi but not all Levites were priests. These Levites were to be 25 years old before entering service.
Aaron and his descendants were appointed to the priesthood. There is a tremendous contrast between the priesthood of Aaron in the Old Testament and the priesthood of Christ in the New Testament. Aaron and his descendants were the only ones who could carry out the duties of the priests and approach God’s dwelling place (vv. 14-37). Now that Christ is our High Priest and our mediator with God, anyone who follows Him is also called a priest (I Peter 2:5, 9). Consequently all Christians may come into God’s presence without fear because God’s own Son encourages His followers to do so.
To be able to go directly to the Lord in prayer is a great privilege that people in the Old Testament knew nothing about. As a Christian I have the full advantage of taking everything to Him in prayer. It is so easy for me to try to work things out in my own strength or talk to other people about my problems rather than going to the Lord about everything. Lord help me to be a person of prayer.
These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death." And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD." And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, "List the sons of Levi, by fathers' houses and by clans; every male from a month old and upward you shall list." So Moses listed them according to the word of the LORD, as he was commanded. And these were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their clans: Libni and Shimei. And the sons of Kohath by their clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. And the sons of Merari by their clans: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers' houses. To Gershon belonged the clan of the Libnites and the clan of the Shimeites; these were the clans of the Gershonites. Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 7,500. The clans of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, with Eliasaph, the son of Lael as chief of the fathers' house of the Gershonites. And the guard duty of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the hangings of the court, the screen for the door of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords--all the service connected with these. To Kohath belonged the clan of the Amramites and the clan of the Izharites and the clan of the Hebronites and the clan of the Uzzielites; these are the clans of the Kohathites. According to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, there were 8,600, keeping guard over the sanctuary. The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, with Elizaphan the son of Uzziel as chief of the fathers' house of the clans of the Kohathites. And their guard duty involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service connected with these. And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary. To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. And the chief of the fathers' house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. And the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords.
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Numbers 1:1-54Numbering the Soldiers
Numbers 2:1-34Organizing the Tribes
Numbers 3:1-37The Levites Assignments
Numbers 3:38-51The Levites substitution for the firstborn
Numbers 4:1-49The Levitical census and duties
Numbers 5:1-31The peoples need for holiness
Numbers 6:1-27A separated people