Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Now . . . and—i.e., after the council had agreed upon it.
The Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward.—A census like that which Moses instituted (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 4:23; Numbers 4:30, &c.), of all Levites “from thirty years old and upward unto fifty years,” for the work of the Tabernacle.
By their polls, man by man.—Lit., As to their skulls, as to men. The second phrase defines the first, and excludes women and children.1 Chronicles 23:3. From the age of thirty years and upward — Not only till fifty, as it was appointed Numbers 4:2-3, but even till their death: for that was but a temporary law grounded upon a special reason, because the Levites were employed in carrying the tabernacle and sacred vessels from place to place; and therefore God would have them freed from those burdens when they came to feel the infirmities of age: which reason wholly ceasing upon the building of the temple, their work being far easier than it had been, and their service being more a privilege than a burden, their time of service is justly prolonged.1 Chronicles 23:28-32 give the most complete account in Scripture of the nature of the Levitical office.
by their polls, man by man—Women and children were not included.From the age of thirty years and upward; not only till fifty, as it was appointed, Numbers 4:2,3, but even till their death; for that was but a temporary law grounded upon a special reason, because the Levites were employed in carrying the tabernacle and sacred vessels from place to place; and therefore God would have them freed from those burdens when they came to feel the infirmities of age; which reason wholly ceasing upon the building of the temple, and their work being far easier than it had been, and their service being more a privilege than a burden, their time of service is justly and fitly prolonged. 1 Chronicles 23:24.
and their number by their posts; or, according to their heads:
man by man, was thirty and eight thousand; which vastly exceeds the number in the times of Moses; see Numbers 4:47, but then those above fifty years of age were not numbered, as they now might; since their work in the temple would be much more easy, no burdens to carry, as the ark, the vessels, &c.Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. by their polls] Lit. by their skulls. “Poll” is an almost obsolete word for “head,” retained in the compound word, “poll-tax.”
thirty and eight thousand] A great increase since the time of Moses; the males from a month old and upwards are reckoned at 22,000 in Numbers 3:39 and at 23,000 in Numbers 26:62.Verse 3. - Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward. The thing which Joab had rightly resisted (1 Chronicles 21:3-6) and shrunk from doing was now rightly done. There was now a practical and a legitimate object for doing it. This consideration helps to determine what it was that "displeased the Lord" in the former general census of David. In connection with this clause, 1 Chronicles 27:23 should be noted, where we read, "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the Lord had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens." The period from the age of thirty years up to fifty (Numbers 4:3, 23, 35, 39) was fixed under Moses, for those "that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of the burden in the tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 4:47). It is not certain, however, that this census did not inquire, in point of fact, respecting some below this limit of age. For we may note ver. 24 in the first place, and this is partly explained by Numbers 8:23-25. The number "thirty and eight thousand" of our present verse may be compared with the "eight thousand and five hundred and four score" of Numbers 4:47, 48. It is to be observed how promptly the national council did on this occasion commence with the arrangement of the ministers of religion, "the Levites." As we read (Numbers 4:3) of "thirty years" of age as the appointed age for the commencement of their ministry, and (Numbers 7:3) of the present or "offering" of "six covered waggons and twelve oxen," which the twelve "princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, princes of the tribes," offered "before the Lord," which greatly lessened the laborious work of the Levites; so we find the commencing age reduced from time to time, to "twenty-five" years (Numbers 8:24), and to "twenty years" of age, as in our present chapter (vers. 24-28). 1 Chronicles 22:2) for the building. חצבים, properly hewers, in 1 Chronicles 22:2 limited to stone-hewers, is here, with the addition ועץ אבן חרשׁי, used of the workers in stone and wood, stonemasons and carpenters. כּל־חכם, all manner of understanding persons in each work, in contradistinction to מלעכה עשׁי, includes the idea of thorough mastery and skill in the kind of labour. These workmen, whom David had levied for the building of the temple, are mentioned by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 2:6. - In 1 Chronicles 22:16 all the metals, as being the main thing, are again grouped together, in order that the exhortation to proceed with the erection of the building may be introduced. The ל before each word serves to bring the thing once more into prominence; cf. Ew. 310, a. "As for the gold, it cannot be numbered." "Arise and be doing! and Jahve be with thee" (1 Chronicles 22:17-19).
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