8 [a] The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Speak to Aaron and tell him, ‘When you set up[b] the lamps, the seven lamps are to give light[c] in front of the lampstand.’”
3 And Aaron did so; he set up the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the Lord commanded Moses.
Numbers 8:1sn This chapter has three main sections to it: the lighting of the lamps (vv. 1-4), the separation of the Levites (vv. 5-22), and the work of the Levites (vv. 23-26). Many modern scholars assume that the chapter belongs to P and was added late. But the chapter reiterates some of the Mosaic material concerning the work of the Levites in the new sanctuary. For the chapter to make sense the historical setting must be accepted; if the historical setting is accepted, the chapter is necessary as part of that early legislation. For more reading, see M. Haran, “The Nature of the ʾohel moʿedh in the Pentateuchal Sources,” JSS 5 (1960): 50-65, and “The Priestly Image of the Tabernacle,” HUCA 36 (1965): 191-226; and C. L. Meyers, The Tabernacle Menorah.
Numbers 8:2tn The verb is עָלָה (ʿalah). The Hiphil infinitive construct functions in a temporal clause. The idea of arranging the lamps on the lampstand certainly involved raising the lamps and placing them on the tops of each shaft and branch. Some have taken the idea to mean cause the flame to go up, or light the lamps.
Numbers 8:2tn The imperfect tense forms part of the instruction, and so the translation has to indicate that. The instruction would seem obvious, but the light was to shine in the area immediately in front of the lampstand, so that it would illumine the way and illumine the table that was across the room (hence, “in front of”).
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