Numbers 4

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from amongst the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, 3 from thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all who enter into the service, to do the work in the Tent of Meeting. 4 “This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the Tent of Meeting, the most holy things. 5 When the camp moves forward, Aaron shall go in, and his sons, and they shall take down the veil of the screen, and cover the ark of the Testimony with it, 6 and shall put a covering of sealskin on it, and shall spread over it a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles. 7 “On the table of show bread they shall spread a blue cloth, and put on it the dishes, the spoons, the bowls, and the cups with which to pour out; and the continual bread shall be on it. 8 They shall spread on them a scarlet cloth, and cover the same with a covering of sealskin, and shall put in its poles. 9 “They shall take a blue cloth, and cover the lamp stand of the light, and its lamps, and its snuffers, and its snuff dishes, and all its oil vessels, with which they minister to it. 10 They shall put it and all its vessels within a covering of sealskin, and shall put it on the frame. 11 “On the golden altar they shall spread a blue cloth, and cover it with a covering of sealskin, and shall put in its poles. 12 “They shall take all the vessels of ministry, with which they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a blue cloth, and cover them with a covering of sealskin, and shall put them on the frame. 13 “They shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth on it. 14 They shall put on it all its vessels, with which they minister about it, the fire pans, the flesh hooks, the shovels, and the basins; all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of sealskin, and put in its poles. 15 “When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary, and all the furniture of the sanctuary, as the camp moves forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to carry it: but they shall not touch the sanctuary, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the Tent of Meeting. 16 “The duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be the oil for the light, the sweet incense, the continual meal offering, and the anointing oil, the requirements of all the tabernacle, and of all that is in it, the sanctuary, and its furnishings.” 17 The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 18 “Don’t cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from amongst the Levites; 19 but thus do to them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach to the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them everyone to his service and to his burden; 20 but they shall not go in to see the sanctuary even for a moment, lest they die.” 21 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 22 “Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses, by their families; 23 you shall count them from thirty years old and upward until fifty years old; all who enter in to wait on the service, to do the work in the Tent of Meeting. 24 “This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, in serving and in bearing burdens: 25 they shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle, and the Tent of Meeting, its covering, and the covering of sealskin that is above on it, and the screen for the door of the Tent of Meeting, 26 and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the door of the gate of the court, which is by the tabernacle and around the altar, and their cords, and all the instruments of their service, and whatever shall be done with them. They shall serve in there. 27 At the commandment of Aaron and his sons shall be all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, in all their burden, and in all their service; and you shall appoint their duty to them in all their responsibilities. 28 This is the service of the families of the sons of the Gershonites in the Tent of Meeting: and their duty shall be under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 29 “As for the sons of Merari, you shall number them by their families, by their fathers’ houses; 30 you shall count them from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who enters on the service, to do the work of the Tent of Meeting. 31 This is the duty of their burden, according to all their service in the Tent of Meeting: the tabernacle’s boards, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, 32 and the pillars of the court around it, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name you shall appoint the instruments of the duty of their burden. 33 This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service, in the Tent of Meeting, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.” 34 Moses and Aaron and the princes of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites by their families, and by their fathers’ houses, 35 from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered into the service, for work in the Tent of Meeting. 36 Those who were numbered of them by their families were two thousand and seven hundred and fifty. 37 These are those who were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all who served in the Tent of Meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the LORD by Moses. 38 Those who were numbered of the sons of Gershon, their families, and by their fathers’ houses, 39 from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered into the service, for work in the Tent of Meeting, 40 even those who were numbered of them, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty. 41 These are those who were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, all who served in the Tent of Meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the LORD. 42 Those who were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, 43 from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered into the service, for work in the Tent of Meeting, 44 even those who were numbered of them by their families, were three thousand and two hundred. 45 These are those who were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the LORD by Moses. 46 All those who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the princes of Israel numbered, by their families, and by their fathers’ houses, 47 from thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered in to do the work of service, and the work of bearing burdens in the Tent of Meeting, 48 even those who were numbered of them, were eight thousand and five hundred and eighty. 49 According to the commandment of the LORD they were numbered by Moses, everyone according to his service, and according to his burden. Thus were they numbered by him, as the LORD commanded Moses.

(Previous Chapter)    •    (Next Chapter)

Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–3

The middle-aged men of the tribe of Levi, all from thirty years old to fifty, were to be employed in the service of the tabernacle. The service of God requires the best of our strength, and the prime portion of our time, which cannot be better spent than to the honour of Him who is the First and Best. And the service of God should be done when we are most lively and active. Those do not consider this who put off repentance to old age, and so leave the best work to be done in the worst time.

Verses 4–20

The Kohathites were to carry the holy things of the tabernacle. All the holy things were to be covered; not only for security and respect, but to keep them from being seen. This not only marked the reverence due to holy things, but the mystery of the things signified by those types, and the darkness of the dispensation. But now, through Christ, the case is altered, and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Verses 21–33

We have here the charge of the other two families of the Levites, which, though not so honourable as the first, yet was necessary, and to be done regularly. All the things were delivered them by name. It intimates the care God takes of his church and every member of it. The death of the saints is represented as the taking down of the tabernacle, 2Co 5:1, and the putting it off, 2Pe 1:14. All shall be raised up in the great day, when these vile bodies shall be made like the glorious body of Jesus Christ, and so shall be for ever with the Lord.

Verses 34–49

God so ordered it, that though the Merarites were the fewest in number, yet they should have most able men among them; for whatever service God calls men to, he will furnish them for it, give strength in proportion to the work, and grace sufficient. The least of the tribes had many more able men than the Levites: those who engage in the service of this world, are many more than those devoted to the service of God. May our souls be wholly devoted to his service.

Back to Top