The LORD spoke to Moses in Wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting…in the second year after they had come out of Egypt, saying “take a census of all the congregation of the people Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head – Numbers 1:1-3
Total Census Numbers These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his father’s house. So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel—all those listed were 603,550
Total Census Numbers Figures for the individual groups add up to the given total. Total population may have been nearly 2.2 million The LORD kept His promise to Abraham about raising a nation (Gn 15:5) to provide the promised Savior (Gal 3:8 -9). The census agrees with the round figure given in Ex 12:37 and with the exact count in Ex 38:26 and Nu 2:32.
What About the Levites? But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ”Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it.
What About the Levites? Levites were appointed “over the tabernacle” (v. 50); therefore, there was no need to tabulate their manpower in a military census. Their numbers and duties are recorded separately in chapters 3 and 4. The LORD sets the Levites apart for special service. Their duty is spiritual, not military. God charges the Levites with moving, maintaining, and protecting the tabernacle.
What is a “Standard”? 13 times in chapter we read that “the people of Israel shall camp each by his own “standard” A standard designates a banner to identify larger groups. Individual tribes also had distinctive ensigns.
Matriarchal Ordering of Tribes Sons of LEAH came first, on the east side (2:3 – 9) Sons of LEAH came second, on the south side (2:10 -13, 16) along with Zipah’s son Gad (2:14 – 16) Sons of RACHEL were third, on the west side (vv 18 – 24) Sons of BILHAH were last, on the north side. (v 27 – 28, 31)
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every…firstborn among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine…In Egypt I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and beast. They shall be mine: I AM the LORD (Numbers 3:11 – 13)
The ROLE of the Levites The Levites were chosen by God to assist the priests. Each Levitical clan performs assigned duties for the care and security of the sanctuary and its contents. Just as the Lord consecrated the Levites to care for the tabernacle and support the services in the sanctuary, Yahweh likewise calls and consecrates His people to support the ministry of Word and Sacrament today!
Redemption of the Firstborn All firstborn sons belong to the LORD – 22,273 All the males of the Tribe of LEVI – 22,000 The sons of LEVI served as the redemption price for all the tribes of ISRAEL Except for the 273 over – therefore 5 shekels per head had to be given to Aaron and his sons as a redemption price. (3:46 – 47)
Duties of the Kohathites (4:1 – 20) Clan of Moses and Aaron Kohathites had the most sacred assignment: carry “the sanctuary and all the furnishings” after Aaron and his sons “have finished covering” them. (v. 15) They were not to touch or even “to look on the holy things…lest they die”(v. 20)
Duties of the Gershonites (4:21 - 28) Gershonites were to carry – the curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting – The covering of goatskin that was on top – The screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting – The hangings of the court – The screen for the entrance of the gate of the court – They followed the command of Aaron and his sons.
Duties of the Merarites (4:29 - 33) Merarites were under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest Merarites were to carry – The frames of the tabernacle – Its bars, pillars, and bases – The pillars around the court with their bases, pegs, and cords, with all their equipment and all their accessories