Numbers 8
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
1–4. The Lampstand

The golden lampstand (not ‘candlestick’ E.VV. [Note: .VV. The English Versions, i.e. Authorised and Revised.] ) stood in the Holy Place, on the south side, i.e. on the left of one entering from the court. It was the only source of light in the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies being in darkness. The religious conceptions attaching to it in the time of the writer may be seen from Zechariah 4:1-6 a, Zec 4:10b – Zec 4:14. The full description of the lampstand is given in Exodus 25:31-40.

Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick.
2. When thou settest up] So R.V. marg. correctly. The lamps were small bowls of oil with wicks. They stood on the top of the central stem and of the three branching arms or shafts on either side. The verb describes Aaron as reaching up to put them in their place after the wicks have been lighted.

in front of the lampstand] i.e. towards the opposite (north) side, where the table of the Presence-bread stood.

And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.
And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick.
4. beaten work] Repoussé work, hammered out of a solid plate of gold (Exodus 25:31; Exodus 25:36; Exodus 37:17-22). This work was employed also for the Cherubim (Exodus 25:18; Exodus 37:7) and the two silver clarions (Numbers 10:2).

unto the base … and unto the flowers] The Heb. idiom means both base and flowers. The flowers were the ornamentation on each of the six shafts and on the central stem. In every shaft there were three cups, and on the central stem four, each consisting of a calyx and petals of an almond blossom. The lampstand of Herod’s temple was made on this model, and is familiar from its representation on the arch of Titus.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
5–26. The Levites

Numbers 8:5-22
. Their purification and dedication, Numbers 8:23-26. The age of service. The passage is an expansion of Numbers 3:5-13, with the addition of the rite of purification. The Levites are inferior to the priests, and are therefore merely cleansed from the ceremonial pollution of ordinary life, while the priests receive something higher, an actual quality which the Hebrews called ‘holiness,’ i.e. not moral excellence, but separation, exclusiveness (Exodus 29, Leviticus 8).

Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.
And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.
7. water of expiation] lit. water of sin, a unique expression denoting ‘water that washes away sin.’ Cf. the ‘waters of bitterness’ (Numbers 5:17 f.), ‘water of impurity’ (Numbers 19:9). Notice that the Levites are only sprinkled, while the priests (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6) are completely bathed. This comparison suggests that the water here, as there, is intended to be simple pure water.

cause a razor &c.] for the purpose of cleanliness. In Herod. ii. 37 the Egyptian priests are said to ‘shave themselves all over their body every other day.’

wash their clothes] as ordinary laymen would do (Exodus 19:14) for ceremonial cleansing. The priests, on the other hand, were vested in entirely new robes of office (Exodus 29:8 f., Leviticus 8:13).

Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering.
And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together:
And thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites:
10. shall lay their hands] Through their representatives (Numbers 1:4-16), to indicate that the whole community offered the Levites as their gift. Cf. the same action in the case of the burnt-offering (Leviticus 1:4).

And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD.
11. offer] wave, as R.V. marg.; see Numbers 8:13; Numbers 8:15; Numbers 8:21. The literal significance of the term (see on Numbers 5:25) is here lost, but the underlying thought remains that, having been given to Jehovah, the Levites were given back by Him for ritual service to the priests and the congregation.

And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites.
12. For the sin-offering and burnt-offering see on Numbers 4:11.

And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD.
13. The Levites are formally handed over to the priests as their ministers.

Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine.
And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering.
For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.
For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.
And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.
And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary.
19. as a gift] lit. ‘given [persons].’ See on Numbers 3:9.

19. the service of the children of Israel] i.e. the service which Jehovah requires from them. They perform it in the person of their representatives, who are now the Levites instead of the first-born.

atonement] Not in this case propitiation for past sins, but the averting of God’s anger by preventing sin from being committed. The sin would be two-fold—the non-performance of the rightful worship, and, as the following words (which should be rendered as in R.V. marg.) shew, the too near approach of the laity to the holy things. The Levites are both substitutes for the laity, and at the same time a cordon to keep them at a distance.

that there be no plague] Cf. Numbers 1:53.

And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the children of Israel unto them.
And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them.
21. purified themselves from sin] lit. ‘unsinned themselves.’ See on Numbers 31:19.

And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation:
24. that which belongeth unto the Levites] An elliptical expression: that which [thou shall do] With regard to the Levites.

from twenty and five years old] In Numbers 4:3 the age is from thirty years. See note there.

to wait upon the service] R.V. marg. ‘to war the warfare.’ See on Numbers 4:3.

And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more:
But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.
26. shall do no service] i.e. no necessary responsible service. They may assist their younger fellow-Levites as voluntary helpers.

their charges] their functions; the duties committed to their charge.

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