The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Numbers 3

Num 3:1

Num 3: "Having considered the order to be assumed by the worshipers in their travels through the wilderness, Moses now gives attention to the workers in the service of Yahweh. The tribe of Levi is separated for that purpose. Its members are in as distinct relation to the Book of Numbers as the priests are to the Book of Leviticus. They are appointed to guard the Tent of Meeting from any pollution from without, or to attend t it and its various parts during its travels, whilst the priests attend to the sanctuary when it is set up, and have their place therein as intercessors and worshipers.

"The Levites face outwards, guarding the Tend of the Tabernacle from pollution; the priests face inwards, leading to God. This is the essential difference between what might be termed ministry and priesthood. Both the Levites who minister or prepare for worship, and the priests who conduct that worship, are types of the saints, who both minister and act as a spiritual priesthood (Heb 13:15,16; 1Pe 2:5). The Levitical service is from God and for God, but towards men. It defines what the Scriptures call 'ministry'. The name 'Levi' signifies 'joined'', and their work was to help men in their approach to God, so that they might be joined with Him in fellowship" (Expos).

Num 3:10

ANYONE ELSE WHO APPROACHES THE SANCTUARY MUST BE PUT TO DEATH: Where strangers could be tolerated as worshipers, they were not as worship leaders. Here was a select band, chosen by God to be a special people for Himself. We also belong to a kingdom of priests and a holy people to God, though our priesthood is of a different order. We should ensure equally that the stranger does not infiltrate our leadership (cp Num 18:7; Eze 44:8; Acts 6:3,4; 1Ti 4:15,16).

Num 3:15

EVERY MALE A MONTH OLD OR MORE: In ct 20-year starting point for numbering other males (Num 1:3). Numbering of other tribes was for military purposes (hence 20 years), but Levi was "firstborn", from birth.

Num 3:28

A discrepancy arises when we add together the totals of the three families of Levites. There are 300 more than the 22,000 given in v 39. Prob some scribe, by mistake, omitted one letter; instead of writing three (sh-lsh) hundred, he wrote six (sh-sh) hundred.

Num 3:43

Concerning the number of Levites three group totals are given, the sum of which is 22,000 (Num 3:39). The sum as given is incorrect; it should be 22,300. The number of all Israelite firstborn is given here as 22,273, with 273 being the excess above the number of the Levites (Num 3:46). It has been pointed out that this would yield at least 25 sons per family, given a population of between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 persons. The figures do indeed appear to be difficult if taken at face value, and argue for a much smaller total population of Israel. See Lesson, Large numbers in the OT.

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