The Levites

This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses(A) at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.(B)

The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn(C) and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.(D) Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests,(E) who were ordained to serve as priests. Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord(F) when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.(G) They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar(H) served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.(I)

The Lord said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi(J) and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.(K) They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community(L) at the tent of meeting by doing the work(M) of the tabernacle. They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons;(N) they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.[a] 10 Appoint Aaron(O) and his sons to serve as priests;(P) anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”(Q)

11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites(R) from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring(S) of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine,(T) 13 for all the firstborn are mine.(U) When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”(V)

14 The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai,(W) 15 “Count(X) the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.”(Y) 16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

17 These were the names of the sons of Levi:(Z)

Gershon,(AA) Kohath(AB) and Merari.(AC)

18 These were the names of the Gershonite clans:

Libni and Shimei.(AD)

19 The Kohathite clans:

Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.(AE)

20 The Merarite clans:(AF)

Mahli and Mushi.(AG)

These were the Levite clans, according to their families.

21 To Gershon(AH) belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites;(AI) these were the Gershonite clans. 22 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500. 23 The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle.(AJ) 24 The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael. 25 At the tent of meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle(AK) and tent, its coverings,(AL) the curtain at the entrance(AM) to the tent of meeting,(AN) 26 the curtains of the courtyard(AO), the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar,(AP) and the ropes(AQ)—and everything(AR) related to their use.

27 To Kohath(AS) belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites;(AT) these were the Kohathite(AU) clans. 28 The number of all the males a month old or more(AV) was 8,600.[b] The Kohathites were responsible(AW) for the care of the sanctuary.(AX) 29 The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side(AY) of the tabernacle. 30 The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan(AZ) son of Uzziel. 31 They were responsible for the care of the ark,(BA) the table,(BB) the lampstand,(BC) the altars,(BD) the articles(BE) of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain,(BF) and everything related to their use.(BG) 32 The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar(BH) son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible(BI) for the care of the sanctuary.(BJ)

33 To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites;(BK) these were the Merarite clans.(BL) 34 The number of all the males a month old or more(BM) who were counted was 6,200. 35 The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.(BN) 36 The Merarites were appointed(BO) to take care of the frames of the tabernacle,(BP) its crossbars,(BQ) posts,(BR) bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use,(BS) 37 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard(BT) with their bases, tent pegs(BU) and ropes.

38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east(BV) of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the tent of meeting.(BW) They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary(BX) on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.(BY)

39 The total number of Levites counted(BZ) at the Lord’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.(CA)

40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more(CB) and make a list of their names.(CC) 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites,(CD) and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord.”(CE)

42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him. 43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more,(CF) listed by name, was 22,273.(CG)

44 The Lord also said to Moses, 45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine.(CH) I am the Lord.(CI) 46 To redeem(CJ) the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 47 collect five shekels[c](CK) for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel,(CL) which weighs twenty gerahs.(CM) 48 Give the money for the redemption(CN) of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”(CO)

49 So Moses collected the redemption money(CP) from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the Israelites(CQ) he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels,[d](CR) according to the sanctuary shekel. 51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

The Kohathites

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “Take a census(CS) of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. Count(CT) all the men from thirty to fifty years of age(CU) who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

“This is the work(CV) of the Kohathites(CW) at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things.(CX) When the camp is to move,(CY) Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain(CZ) and put it over the ark of the covenant law.(DA) Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[e](DB) spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles(DC) in place.

“Over the table of the Presence(DD) they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings;(DE) the bread that is continually there(DF) is to remain on it. They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles(DG) in place.

“They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays,(DH) and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame.(DI)

11 “Over the gold altar(DJ) they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles(DK) in place.

12 “They are to take all the articles(DL) used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame.(DM)

13 “They are to remove the ashes(DN) from the bronze altar(DO) and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils(DP) used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans,(DQ) meat forks,(DR) shovels(DS) and sprinkling bowls.(DT) Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles(DU) in place.

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move,(DV) only then are the Kohathites(DW) to come and do the carrying.(DX) But they must not touch the holy things(DY) or they will die.(DZ) The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

16 “Eleazar(EA) son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light,(EB) the fragrant incense,(EC) the regular grain offering(ED) and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things,(EE) do this for them: Aaron and his sons(EF) are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry.(EG) 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look(EH) at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”


  1. Numbers 3:9 Most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text; some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint (see also 8:16) to me
  2. Numbers 3:28 Hebrew; some Septuagint manuscripts 8,300
  3. Numbers 3:47 That is, about 2 ounces or about 58 grams
  4. Numbers 3:50 That is, about 35 pounds or about 16 kilograms
  5. Numbers 4:6 Possibly the hides of large aquatic mammals; also in verses 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 25

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