Matthew Poole's Commentary
These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the LORD spake with Moses in mount Sinai.The genealogy of Moses, Aaron, and his sons, Nadab and Abihu, Numbers 3:1-4. The Levites are joined with them in the administration of the tabernacle, Numbers 3:5-10, instead of all the first-born, Numbers 3:11-13. The three families of the Levites numbered, Numbers 3:14-39. The first-born numbered, Numbers 3:40-43. Being more than the Levites, some of them are redeemed, and the money given to Aaron and his sons, Numbers 3:41-51.
These which follow in this chapter are the generations, i.e. either,
1. The things done by them; as the word generation is sometimes used, as Genesis 6:9 25:19 37:2. Or rather,
2. The kindred or family, for that is the subject of this chapter, and not their events or actions.
Object. Aaron’s family indeed is here mentioned, but not Moses’s family.
Answ. Moses’s family and children are here included under the general name of the Amramite, Numbers 3:27, which includes all the children and grandchildren of Amram, the persons only of Aaron and Moses being excepted. And the generations of Moses are thus obscurely mentioned, because they were but common Levites, the priesthood being given solely to Aaron’s posterity, whence Aaron is here put before Moses, who elsewhere is commonly named after him. In the day that the Lord spake with Moses in Mount Sinai: this seems to be added, because Nadab and Abihu, mentioned Numbers 3:2, were then alive, though dead at the time of taking this account.
And these are the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.No text from Poole on this verse.
These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest's office.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Eleazar and Ithamar ministered in the priest's office in the sight of Aaron their father.In the time of Aaron’s life, as this phrase is taken, Numbers 3:4; see also Psalm 72:5,17; and under their father’s inspection and direction, and as their father’s servants or ministers in the priest’s office; for servants are oft described by this phrase of being, or standing, or serving in the sight or presence, we of their master.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him.Present them; offer them to the lord for his special service. This was promised to them before, and now actually conferred upon them.
And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle.His charge, i.e. Aaron’s charge, or those things which are committed principally to Aaron’s care and oversight, and under him and his direction to the Levites.
Of the whole congregation, i.e. of all the sacrifices and services which are due to the Lord from all the people, and because all the people could not and might not perform them, or at least divers of them, in their own persons, therefore they were to be performed by some particular persons in their name and stead; formerly by the first-born, Numbers 8:16, and now by the Levites. See Numbers 1:53 16:9.
Before the tabernacle, emphatically; not within the tabernacle, for the care of these things within the holy place was appropriated to the priests, as the care of the most holy place was peculiar to the high priest.
And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle.The charge of the children of Israel; those things which all the children of Israel are in their several places and stations obliged to take care of, though not in their persons, yet by others in their stead.
And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.Given unto him, to attend upon him and observe his orders, and ease him of part of his burden in things hereafter mentioned.
And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest's office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.They shall wait, in their own persons, not by the Levites.
The stranger, i.e. every one who is of another family than Aaron’s, yea, though he be a Levite. See Numbers 1:53 16:40.
That cometh nigh, to wit, to execute any part of the priest’s office.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine;Instead of all the first-born, who were God’s propriety by right of redemption, Exodus 13:12, and to whom the administration of holy things was formerly committed, which now was taken away from them, either because they had forfeited this privilege by joining with the rest of their brethren in the idolatrous worship of the calf, or because they were to be mainly concerned in the distribution and management of the inheritances which now they were going to possess, and therefore could not be at leisure to attend upon the service of the sanctuary; which made it fit that this work should be committed to other hands. And God would not commit it to some other persons in each tribe, which might be an occasion of idolatry, confusion, division, and contempt of sacred things, but to one distinct tribe, which might be entirely devoted to that service, and particularly to the tribe of Levi; partly, out of his respect to Moses and Aaron, branches of this tribe; partly, as a recompence of their zeal for God and against idolaters; see Exodus 32:26,29 Deu 33:9; and partly, because it was the smallest of the tribes, and therefore most likely to find both employment in and maintenance for the work.
Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD.Who may appoint whom I please for my service.
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them.From a month old, because at that time the first-born, in whose stead the Levites came, Numbers 8:16, were offered to God, Luke 2:22, and to be redeemed, Numbers 18:16. And from that time the Levites were consecrated to God, and were as soon as they were capable,’ to be instructed in their work. Elsewhere they are numbered from twenty-five years old, when they were entered as novices to part of their work, Numbers 8:24; and from thirty years old, when they were completely admitted to their whole office.
And Moses numbered them according to the word of the LORD, as he was commanded.No text from Poole on this verse.
And these were the sons of Levi by their names; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari.No text from Poole on this verse.
And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families; Libni, and Shimei.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the sons of Kohath by their families; Amram, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the sons of Merari by their families; Mahli, and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to the house of their fathers.No text from Poole on this verse.
Of Gershon was the family of the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites: these are the families of the Gershonites.No text from Poole on this verse.
Those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, even those that were numbered of them were seven thousand and five hundred.No text from Poole on this verse.
The families of the Gershonites shall pitch behind the tabernacle westward.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the chief of the house of the father of the Gershonites shall be Eliasaph the son of Lael.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation shall be the tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,The tabernacle; not the boards, which belonged to Merari, Numbers 3:36, but the ten curtains mentioned Exodus 26:1.
The tent, to wit, the curtains of goats’ hair.
The covering thereof, i.e. the coverings of rams’ skins and badgers’ skins. See Numbers 4:25.
And the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof.The cords, by which the tabernacle was fastened to the pins, and stretched out, Exodus 35:18.
And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites.This family had many privileges above the others; of that were Moses and Aaron, and all the priests; they had the chief place about the tabernacle, and the care of the most holy things here below, Numbers 3:31; and in the land of Canaan they had twenty-three cities, which were almost as many as both their brethren received. See Jos 21.
In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the sanctuary.Keeping, or keepers, &c., i.e. appointed for that work, as soon as they were capable of it.
Of the sanctuary, i.e. of those holy things contained in or nearly belonging to the sanctuary, expressed Numbers 3:31.
The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle southward.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the chief of the house of the father of the families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And their charge shall be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the service thereof.The hanging, which covered the most holy place, for all other hangings belonged to the Gershonites.
All the service thereof, i.e. all the other furniture belonging to it, of which see Numbers 4:7,9,14.
And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be chief over the chief of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary.Eleazar shall be chief, next under the high priest; whence he is called the second priest, 2 Kings 25:18; and in case of the high priest’s absence by sickness or other necessary occasions, he was to perform his work, 1 Kings 4:4; and he had a superiority over all the rest of the priests and Levites.
Over the chief of the Levites, i.e. over those three persons, who were each the chief of their several families; of whom see here, Numbers 3:24,31,35.
Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites, and the family of the Mushites: these are the families of Merari.No text from Poole on this verse.
And those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousand and two hundred.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the chief of the house of the father of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle northward.No text from Poole on this verse.
And under the custody and charge of the sons of Merari shall be the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto,No text from Poole on this verse.
And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords.Therefore these were for another use than those mentioned Numbers 3:26.
But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.For the charge of the children of Israel; either in their stead. that charge which they were obliged to keep either by themselves. or by others appointed by them, if God had not committed it to those; or for their good, and service, and benefit; for their preservation, as the word may be rendered.
All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand.Object. But if the particular numbers, mentioned Numbers 3:22,28,34, be put together, they make exactly 22,300.
Answ. The odd 300 are omitted here, either according to the use of the Holy Scripture, which in so great numbers small sums are commonly neglected, or because they were the first-born of the Levites, and therefore belonged to God already, and so could not be given to him again instead of the other first-born. See Leviticus 27:26. If this number of first-born seem very small to come from 22,000 Levites, it must be considered, that only such first-born are here named as were males, and such as continued in their parents families, not such as had erected new families of their own. Add to this, that God so ordered things by his wise providence for divers weighty reasons, that this tribe should be much the least of all the tribes, as is evident by comparing the numbers of the other tribes from twenty years old, Num 1, with the number of this from a month old; and therefore it is not strange if the number of their first-born be less than in other tribes. Although if the other tribes had been computed from a month old, as this was, their number of 600,000 had probably been double or treble to that; and consequently the number of their first-born being 22,273 Numbers 3:43, would have been as unproportionable to their whole sum, as this of 300 first-born Levites seems to their whole number. And some add, that only those first-born are numbered, both in this and in the other tribes, which were born since they came out of Egypt, when God challenged all the first-born to be his.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.That they may be compared with the number of the Levites for the reason here following.
And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the LORD) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel.Instead of all the first-born, to wit, such are now alive of them, but those which should be born of them hereafter are otherwise disposed.
The cattle of the Levites; not that they were to be taken from the Levites, or to be sacrificed to God, any more than the Levites themselves were, but that they together with the Levites were to be presented before the Lord by way of acknowledgment, that the Levites might be set apart for God’s service, and their cattle for themselves as God’s ministers, and for their support in God’s work.
And Moses numbered, as the LORD commanded him, all the firstborn among the children of Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I am the LORD.Take the Levites, to wit, the 22,000 reckoned up Numbers 3:39, See Poole "Numbers 3:39"
And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:)Five shekels apiece was the price to be paid for the redemption of a first-born a month old, Numbers 18:15,16; but this money, though paid for these 273 persons, was probably paid out of the common stock of all, except lots were cast who should pay, which is not probable in so small a concern accompanied with so much trouble.
And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.To whom all the Levites were given, and therefore the money which came in their stead.
And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites:No text from Poole on this verse.
Of the firstborn of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:No text from Poole on this verse.
And Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.No text from Poole on this verse.