Numbers 4 The Voice (VOICE)
4 The Eternal One spoke to Moses and Aaron.
A census can be ominous or encouraging. Sometimes everyone on the list has to die before a new generation can take the land (chapter 1), but sometimes, like in this chapter, it is an occasion to highlight God’s people, the Levites.
Eternal One: 2 From among the Levite clans, organize Kohathite men by their extended families 3 between the ages of 30 and 50, who serve in the congregation tent. 4 They are the ones who shall deal with the most sacred objects associated with the congregation tent. 5 When it’s time to break camp, follow these instructions: Aaron and his sons shall take down the screen curtain and cover the covenant chest. 6 Over that, they shall lay a sea-cow skin,[a] and over that, a pure blue cloth. They shall then slide in the chest’s poles. 7 Regarding the table that displays the offerings, they shall spread it with a blue cloth and set the bowls, ladles, cups, pitchers for the drink offering, and regular bread on it. 8 This they shall cover with a crimson cloth, and over that a sea-cow skin. And they shall slide in its poles too. 9 Regarding the seven-branched lampstand, they shall cover it—the lamps, tongs, fire pans, and all the oil receptacles used with it—with a blue cloth. 10 They shall put it and all its furnishings in a sea-cow skin and set that on the frame for carrying. 11 Concerning the golden altar for incense, they shall cover it first with a blue cloth, and over that with a sea-cow skin. They shall insert its poles. 12 Likewise, all of the furnishings used in sanctuary service should go into a blue cloth, be covered with a sea-cow skin, and set on a carrying frame. 13 They will need to empty the fat ashes from the burnt offering altar before spreading a purple cloth over it. 14 Then load all the things used with it—the fire pans, long forks, spatulas, and basins—and cover the whole with a sea-cow skin. Then they shall slide in the poles. 15 When Aaron and his sons are done covering all the holy objects and furnishings, then and only then (so that they don’t touch the sacred things and die), the Kohathites can approach. They are the ones who shall transport these items of the congregation tent. 16 Aaron’s son, Eleazar, shall be responsible for the oil used for light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, the oil used for anointing, the whole congregation tent, and every holy thing within it, including each and every furnishing.
17 (continuing instructions to Moses and Aaron) 18-19 Take special care to pack everything well so that the people of the Kohathite clans are not killed on account of touching the most sacred things when they shouldn’t. Aaron and his sons can direct each person’s role and their transportation of the items. 20 The Kohathites should never look on the sacred things for even a moment, or else they’ll die.
21 (continuing instructions to Moses) 22-24 Add up the Gershonites, ages 30–50, by their extended families and clans. These are the ones who shall perform the following specific tasks required for the congregation tent: 25 They shall be responsible for transporting the tent curtains, the congregation tent with its covering and the sea-cow skin over that (as well as the screen for the tent’s entrance), 26 the hangings for the courtyard area, the screen at the entrance gate of the designated area around the tent and altar, the ropes, and everything they need for service. And they shall do whatever is needed to maintain and care for these things. 27-28 These Gershonites shall answer to Aaron the priest and his sons (particularly Ithamar) with respect to what exactly they should carry and do; and you shall assign into their care what they need to carry. This is what the Gershonite clans are to do concerning the congregation tent.
29-30 Number the Merarites in the same way—those ages 30–50 by extended families and clans, whoever qualifies to work for the good of the congregation tent. 31 They are to carry the following things (and that’s all they need to do for the congregation tent): the tent framework with its bars, pillars, and foundations; 32 the pillars of the courtyard area along with their bases, pegs, ropes, and all their furnishings and related items. Specify each object that each one must carry. 33 That’s all the Merarite clans need to do for the congregation tent. They’ll answer specifically to Ithamar (the son of Aaron the priest).
34-37 So Moses, Aaron, and all the heads of the community did as the Lord had instructed. They organized the Kohathites by the clans and the extended families, ages 30–50, who were eligible to work on behalf of the congregation tent and found that there were 2,750. 38-45 The Gershonites whom Moses and Aaron organized by each clan and extended family numbered 2,630; and the Merarites—3,200. 46 All were listed from the Levites organized by Moses, Aaron, and the heads of the families, 47 who were between the ages of 30 and 50 and capable of performing their designated congregation tent tasks of maintenance and transportation, 48 numbered 8,580. 49 Each one had a job specified by the Eternal One and dictated through Moses. Each one was recorded by his job as the Eternal had commanded Moses to do.
Numbers 4 New International Version (NIV)
4 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.
4 “This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. 6 Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[a] spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.
7 “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. 8 They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.
9 “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, 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.
11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.
12 “They are to take all the articles 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.
13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles 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, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.
16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering 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, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”
21 The Lord said to Moses, 22 “Take a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans. 23 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.
24 “This is the service of the Gershonite clans in their carrying and their other work: 25 They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle, that is, the tent of meeting, its covering and its outer covering of durable leather, the curtains for the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard, the ropes and all the equipment used in the service of the tent. The Gershonites are to do all that needs to be done with these things. 27 All their service, whether carrying or doing other work, is to be done under the direction of Aaron and his sons. You shall assign to them as their responsibility all they are to carry. 28 This is the service of the Gershonite clans at the tent of meeting. Their duties are to be under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.
29 “Count the Merarites by their clans and families. 30 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting. 31 As part of all their service at the tent, they are to carry the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts and bases, 32 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, ropes, all their equipment and everything related to their use. Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry. 33 This is the service of the Merarite clans as they work at the tent of meeting under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.”
The Numbering of the Levite Clans
34 Moses, Aaron and the leaders of the community counted the Kohathites by their clans and families. 35 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, 36 counted by clans, were 2,750. 37 This was the total of all those in the Kohathite clans who served at the tent of meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command through Moses.
38 The Gershonites were counted by their clans and families. 39 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, 40 counted by their clans and families, were 2,630. 41 This was the total of those in the Gershonite clans who served at the tent of meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command.
42 The Merarites were counted by their clans and families. 43 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the tent of meeting, 44 counted by their clans, were 3,200. 45 This was the total of those in the Merarite clans. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command through Moses.
46 So Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted all the Levites by their clans and families. 47 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to do the work of serving and carrying the tent of meeting 48 numbered 8,580. 49 At the Lord’s command through Moses, each was assigned his work and told what to carry.
Thus they were counted, as the Lord commanded Moses.