Add parallel Print Page Options

Levites to Be Priesthood

Now these are the records of the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day when the Lord spoke [by special revelation] with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests who were anointed, whom Aaron [a]consecrated and ordained to minister in the priest’s office. But Nadab and Abihu died in the presence of the Lord when they offered strange (unholy, unacceptable, inappropriate) fire before the Lord in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no sons. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests [b]in the presence and under the supervision of Aaron their father.(A)

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near and present them before Aaron the priest, so that they may serve him. They shall carry out the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the Tent of Meeting, doing the service of the tabernacle. They shall also take care of all the furnishings and utensils of the Tent of Meeting, and [attend to] the duties of the Israelites, doing the service of the tabernacle. You shall give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons [as servants and helpers]; they are to be given wholly to him from among the Israelites. 10 So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall observe and attend to their priesthood; but the layman (non-Levite) who approaches [the holy things] shall be put to death.”

11 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of and as a substitute for every firstborn, that is, the first that opens the womb among the Israelites. So the Levites shall be Mine, 13 for all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and animal. They shall be mine; I am the Lord.”

14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 “Number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ households, by their families (clans). You shall number every male from a month old and upward.” 16 So Moses numbered them just as he was commanded by the word (mouth) of the Lord. 17 These are the [three] sons of Levi by their names: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 18 These are the names of the [two] sons of Gershon by their families: Libni and Shimei; 19 and the [four] sons of Kohath by their families: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel; 20 and the [two] sons of Merari by their families: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites by their fathers’ households.

21 Of Gershon were the families of the Libnites and of the Shimeites. These are the families of the Gershonites. 22 The males who were numbered, every male from a month old and upward totaled 7,500. 23 The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, 24 and the leader of the fathers’ households of the Gershonites was Eliasaph the son of Lael.

Duties of the Levites

25 Now the responsibilities of the sons of Gershon in the Tent of Meeting involved the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the curtain for the doorway of the Tent of Meeting, 26 and the hangings of the courtyard, the curtain for the doorway of the courtyard which is around the tabernacle and the altar, its tent ropes, and all the service [c]concerning them.

27 Of Kohath were the families of the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites; these are the families of the Kohathites. 28 The males who were numbered, every male from a month old and upward totaled [d]8,600, attending to the duties of the sanctuary. 29 The families of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, 30 and the leader of the fathers’ households of the families of the Kohathites was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31 Now their responsibilities involved the ark, the table [on which the bread of the Presence was placed], the lampstand, the altars, the utensils of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the curtain, and all the service concerning them. 32 Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, was chief of the leaders of the Levites; he supervised those who performed the duties of the sanctuary.

33 Of Merari were the families of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these are the families of Merari. 34 The males who were numbered, every male from a month old and upward totaled 6,200. 35 The leader of the fathers’ households of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. The Merarites were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 Now the appointed responsibilities of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets or bases, and all the equipment, and all the service concerning them, 37 and the pillars around the courtyard with their bases and their pegs and their cords (tent ropes).

38 Now those to camp before the tabernacle toward the east, before the Tent of Meeting, toward the sunrise, were to be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for whatever was required of the Israelites; and the [e]layman (non-Levite) who approached [the sanctuary] was to be put to death. 39 All the men of the Levites whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the [f]command of the Lord, by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000.

Firstborn Redeemed

40 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Number every firstborn male of the Israelites from a month old and upward, and [g]make a list of their names. 41 You shall take the Levites for Me instead of and as a substitute for all the firstborn among the Israelites. I am the Lord; and you shall take the cattle of the Levites instead of and as a substitute for all the firstborn among the cattle of the Israelites.” 42 So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the Israelites, just as the Lord had commanded him; 43 and all the firstborn males from a month old and upward as numbered were 22,273 [273 more than the Levites].

44 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Take the Levites [for Me] instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. And the Levites shall be Mine. I am the Lord. 46 For the ransom (redemption price) of the 273 of the firstborn of the Israelites who outnumber the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels apiece, per head, you shall take them in terms of the sanctuary shekel (the shekel is twenty gerahs), 48 and give the money, the ransom (redemption price) of those who outnumber the Levites to Aaron and to his sons.” 49 So Moses took the ransom (redemption) money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; 50 from the firstborn of the Israelites he took the money in terms of the sanctuary shekel, 1,365 shekels. 51 Then Moses gave the ransom money to Aaron and to his sons at the command of the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Duties of the Kohathites

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families (clans), by their fathers’ households, from thirty years old and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). This is the work and responsibility of the sons of Kohath in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle): the most holy things.

“When the camp prepares to move out, Aaron and his sons shall come into the sanctuary and take down [h]the veil (curtain) screening off the Holy of Holies, and cover the ark of the testimony with it; and they shall put on it a covering of [i]porpoise skin (fine leather), and shall spread over that a cloth of pure blue, and shall insert the carrying poles of the ark. Over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue and put on it the plates, the dishes [for incense], the sacrificial bowls, the jars for the drink offering, and the continual bread [of the Presence] shall be on it. They shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet, and cover that with a covering of porpoise skin, and they shall insert its carrying poles. Then they shall take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand for the light, along with its lamps, its wick cutters, its trays, and all the oil vessels, by which it is supplied; 10 and they shall put the lampstand and all its utensils in a covering of porpoise skin, and shall put it on the carrying bars. 11 Over the golden [incense] altar they shall spread a blue cloth, and cover it with a covering of porpoise skin, and shall insert its carrying poles; 12 and they shall take all the utensils of the service with which they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a blue cloth, and cover them with a covering of porpoise skin, and put them on the carrying bars. 13 Then they shall clean away the ashes from the altar [of burnt offering], and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 They shall also put on it all its utensils with which they minister in connection with it: the pans, the meat-forks, the shovels, the basins, and all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread a covering of porpoise skin over it, and insert its carrying poles. 15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all its furniture, as the camp sets out, after all that [is done, but not before], the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them [using the poles], so that they do not touch the holy things, and die. These are the things in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) which the sons of Kohath are to carry.

16 “The responsibility of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, is the oil for the light, the [j]fragrant incense, the continual grain offering, and the anointing oil—the responsibility of all the tabernacle and everything that is in it, with the sanctuary and its furnishings.”

17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 18 “Do not cut off (eliminate, destroy) the tribe of the families of the Kohathites [who are only Levites and not priests], from among the Levites [by exposing them to the sin of [k]touching the most holy things]. 19 But deal with them in this way, so that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and assign each of them to his [specific] work and to his load [to be carried on the march]. 20 But the Kohathites shall not go in to see the holy things, even for an instant, or they will die.”

Duties of the Gershonites

21 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 22 “Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ households, by their families. 23 From thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them; all who enter for 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 carrying [when on the march]: 25 they shall carry the tent curtains of the tabernacle, and the Tent of Meeting, its covering and the covering of porpoise skin (fine leather) that is on top of it, and the curtain for the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), 26 and the hangings of the courtyard, and the curtain for the entrance of the gate of the courtyard which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their tent ropes, and all the equipment for their service; and all that is to be done, they shall [l]perform. 27 Aaron and his sons shall direct all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, all they have to carry and all they have to do. You shall assign to them as a duty all that they are to carry [on the march]. 28 This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle); and their duties shall be [m]under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron, the [high] priest.

Duties of the Merarites

29 “As for the sons of Merari, you shall number them by their families (clans), by their fathers’ households; 30 from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them, everyone who enters the service to do the work of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). 31 This is what they are assigned to carry [on the march], according to all their service in the Tent of Meeting: the boards [for the framework] of the tabernacle and its bars and its pillars and its sockets or bases, 32 and the pillars around the courtyard with their sockets or bases and their pegs and their cords (tent ropes), with all their equipment and with all their [accessories for] service; and you shall assign each man by name the items [n]he is to carry [on the march]. 33 This is the work of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their tasks in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), [o]under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron, the priest.”

34 So Moses and Aaron and the leaders of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites by their families (clans) and by their fathers’ households, 35 from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who enters the service to do the work in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle); 36 the men who were numbered by their families were 2,750. 37 These were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all who did service in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the Lord [p]through Moses.

38 The men who were numbered of the sons of Gershon, by their families (clans), and by their fathers’ households, 39 from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered the service to do the work in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle); 40 the men who were numbered by their families, by their fathers’ households, were 2,630. 41 These were numbered men of the families of the sons of Gershon, everyone who served in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), whom Moses and Aaron numbered just as the Lord had commanded.

42 The men who were numbered of the sons of Merari, by their families (clans), by their fathers’ households, 43 from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who entered the service for work in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle); 44 the men who were numbered by their families were 3,200. 45 These are the men who were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered in accordance with the commandment of the Lord through Moses.

46 All the men who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted by their families (clans) and by their fathers’ households, 47 from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who could enter to do the work of service and the work of carrying in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle); 48 the men that were numbered were 8,580. 49 According to the commandment of the Lord through Moses, they were numbered, each assigned to his work of serving and carrying. Thus they were numbered by him, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Footnotes

  1. Numbers 3:3 Lit filled their hand.
  2. Numbers 3:4 Lit before the face.
  3. Numbers 3:26 Lit of it.
  4. Numbers 3:28 Some suspect that this count should be 8,300 which, when added to the 7,500 of v 22 and the 6,200 of v 34 gives the total of 22,000 in v 39. Unless the figure there was rounded, the number here may have been a copyist’s error (omitting just one letter between two that are the same in Hebrew).
  5. Numbers 3:38 This ban against “the layman” or “the unauthorized” from coming near the sanctuary (the sacred tent, the tabernacle proper) should not be construed as discrimination against people who were not Israelites. It included everyone except the ordained descendants of Levi of the house of Aaron. The tabernacle proper was made up of two small rooms which no one except the priest or priests who had the assignment was ever to enter. The congregation entered the outside enclosure (the courtyard) only. This was true also of the later temples. Neither Jesus nor any of his disciples or Paul ever entered the sanctuary. When Jesus “taught in the temple” or “entered into the temple,” the Greek word invariably indicates that He was in the temple enclosure (hieron) and not in the sanctuary (naos). A violation of this ban is recorded in 2 Chr 26:16-21. King Uzziah attempted to enter the sanctuary to burn incense. While he was being confronted and restrained by Azariah the priest and eighty others he broke out in leprosy. He remained a leper for the rest of his life.
  6. Numbers 3:39 Lit mouth.
  7. Numbers 3:40 Lit take the number of.
  8. Numbers 4:5 Lit the veil of the curtain.
  9. Numbers 4:6 The meaning of the Hebrew word is not certain; some scholars have suggested that the material is instead a fine leather of unspecified origin.
  10. Numbers 4:16 Or incense of spices.
  11. Numbers 4:18 The Kohathites would die if they touched the holy things unless some provision was made for them.
  12. Numbers 4:26 Lit serve.
  13. Numbers 4:28 Lit in the hand of.
  14. Numbers 4:32 Lit the duty of their loads.
  15. Numbers 4:33 Lit in the hand of.
  16. Numbers 4:37 Lit by the hand of.

Bible Gateway Recommends

Amplified Compact Holy Bible, hardcover
Amplified Compact Holy Bible, hardcover
Retail: $19.99
Our Price: $13.99
Save: $6.00 (30%)
4.5 of 5.0 stars
Amplified Study Bible, Large Print, Imitation Leather, Brown
Amplified Study Bible, Large Print, Imitation Leather, Brown
Retail: $69.99
Our Price: $45.99
Save: $24.00 (34%)
4.0 of 5.0 stars
Amplified Compact Holy Bible--soft leather-look, camel/burgundy
Amplified Compact Holy Bible--soft leather-look, camel/burgundy
Retail: $39.99
Our Price: $24.99
Save: $15.00 (38%)
4.5 of 5.0 stars
Amplified Holy Bible, softcover
Amplified Holy Bible, softcover
Retail: $19.99
Our Price: $13.99
Save: $6.00 (30%)
4.5 of 5.0 stars
Amplified Study Bible, Hardcover
Amplified Study Bible, Hardcover
Retail: $44.99
Our Price: $23.99
Save: $21.00 (47%)
4.5 of 5.0 stars