Numbers 8
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The office of Moses; the functions of Aaron; and the service of the Levites

CHAPTER 8:1–26

1AND the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou 1lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light 2over against the candlestick. 3And Aaron did so; he 3lighted the lamps thereof bover against the 4candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses. And 4this work of the candlestick was of 5beaten gold; 6unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was ebeaten work: according unto the 7pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick.

5And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 6Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. 7And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle 8water of purifying upon them, and 9let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. 8Then let them take a young bullock with his 10meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. 9And thou shalt bring the Levites before the 11tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole 12assembly of the children of Israel together. 10And thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the children of Israel shall 13put their hands upon the Levites: 11And Aaron shall 14offer the Levites before the LORD for 15an offering 16of the children of Israel, that they 17may execute the service of the LORD. 12And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites. 13And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and 2offer them for 3an offering unto the LORD. 14Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. 15And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the 1tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and 2offer them for 3an offering. 16For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead 18of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me. 17For 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. 18And I have taken the Levites 19for all the firstborn of the children of Israel. 19And I have given the Levites as a 20gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the 1tabernacle 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. 20And 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. 21And the Levites 21were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron 2offered them as an 2offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. 22And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the ltabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.

23, 24And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall 22go in 23to wait upon the service of the 1tabernacle of the congregation: 25And from the age of fifty years they shall 2425cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: 26But shall minister with their brethren in the 1tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.


[Num 8:7. הִטֶּהָרִוּ for הִטָּהֲרוּ see GREEN, § 63, 1 a, 121, 3. Comp. 2 Chron. 30:18.

Num 8:16. בְּכוֹר כֹּל for בָּל־בְּכוֹר, comp. 3:13.—TR.].


1. Speak unto Aaron, etc., Num 8:1–4. The most important function of the high-priest at the head of the military expedition of God’s people appears here to be that he shall provide well for the candlestick of the Tabernacle, and so set the lights that they shall all shine forwards from the candlestick. Herewith the chronicler finds it not superfluous to lay stress again upon the fact, that the candlestick was made of gold, that it was of solid gold and was entirely conformed to the vision of Moses on the mountain. Every word is a condemnation of the pretended middle-age of Aaron. See the comments on Exod. 25:31–40.

2. Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, etc., Num 8:5–25. The Levites are set apart as a body of servants for the Tabernacle. In regard to their installation: a. they are purified according to an intensified conception of Levitical purity, but not sanctified after the manner of the priests. The purification takes place in three acts. First: Sprinkling with sin-water. For various explanations of what water is meant see KEIL, in loc. [The water mixed with ashes of the red heifer. Num. 19, LYRA, ESTIUS, AINSWORTH; see on 5:17.—TR.]. It was probably water mingled with the ashes of the sin-offering (Lev. 3:12), an anticipation of the later ritual water of purification (Num. 19). Second: Shearing the hair, and indeed that of the whole body. Yet it is not meant that they should make themselves bald as in the case of lepers; but only a cropping is meant, whereby also the notion is limited with respect to the body. Third: Washing the clothes. b. The consecration sacrifice. Two bullocks are destined for the sacrifice; one for a burnt-offering combined with a meal-offering, the other for a sin-offering. Next the Levites are placed before the Tabernacle amid the assembly of the whole congregation. The children of Israel (KEIL says, only the princes of the tribes?) lay their hands on them, for they are to represent the congregation. c. But Aaron was to wave them from the children of Israel [Num 8:11]. Here the notion of waving becomes especially clear; by a symbolical act they are severed from the congregation, shaken loose, so to speak. KEIL supposes that Aaron in a solemn way led the Levites up to the altar and then back. But this would have been no sufficient symbolism of the thought. If the assembly of the people stood opposite them, then the Levites were alternately led to it and then again led back from it, of course in the direction of the altar of burnt-offering (Num 8:11, 13, 14). [“Most likely Aaron pointed to the Levites, and then waved his hands as in ordinary cases of making this offering. The multitude of the Levites seems to preclude the other modes suggested.” The Bib. Comm.TR.].

Then follows the sacrificial act of the Levites, and after that they are given over to Aaron as a staff of servants, with which the waving is once more mentioned, as if their dissolution from the people and their consecration for Aaron were to be distinguished. Next follows a repeated explanation concerning the destination of the Levites to represent the first-born of the nation in the service of Jehovah (Num 8:15–19, comp. 4:4–33). Jehovah had acquired the first-born for Himself by sparing the first-born in Egypt. He exchanged the Levite for them; but these, the Levites in the narrower sense He in turn gave to Aaron and his sons, to attend the service of the Sanctuary, which, properly, the children of Israel had to care for. By this representation they constitute an atonement (לְכַפֵּר) for the children of Israel in as far as the latter would thus be restrained from coming too near to the Sanctuary, which would be followed by a calamity. It is furthermore narrated that the prescribed acts of consecration took place, and that thereupon the Levites entered in, i. e., not into the Temple [Tabernacle], but into their service in the fore court. [Num 8:19. “It is a very great kindness to the Church, that ministers are appointed to go before them in the things of God, as guides, overseers and rulers in religious worship, and to make that their business. When Christ ascended on high He gave these gifts. Eph. 4:8., 11, 12.” M. HENRY.—TR.]

3. This is it that belongeth unto the Levites, etc., Num 8:23–26. Here are given supplementary limitations of the Levitical term of service. “From twenty-five years of age to fifty they are fit for going forth as a military expedition in the service of the Tabernacle. After this period they are exempt from this service; yet they are to remain as helps to the Levites in discharging their functions in the Tabernacle. “מִשְׁמֶרֶתַ in contrast with עֲבֹדָה the over-sight of all the vessels of the Tabernacle; comp. שָׁמַר אֶת־הַכֵּלִים 3:8; עבדה the service, e. g., in taking down and setting up the Tabernacle, its purification, carrying water and wood for the altar and sacrificial service, slaughtering the sacrificial beasts for the general daily and festival sacrifices of the congregation, etc., Num 8:26 b.KEIL. KEIL also calls to mind that David, according to 1 Chr. 23:24, drew the Levites into service as early as their twentieth year and on, “because the Levites had no longer to carry the Tabernacle and all its vessels.” One might also conjecture that in chap. 4 the thirty years were originally appointed only for the Kohathites, because these stood next to the priests, and had to carry the sacred vessels, but that, by misunderstanding of later copyists, the number thirty was ascribed also to the Gershonites and Merarites. [“It is remarkable, that no law was made concerning the age at which the priests should begin to officiate; and though various blemishes disqualified them for the service of the Sanctuary, yet they continued their ministrations till death, if capable. On the other hand, nothing is said concerning any bodily defects or blemishes disqualifying the Levites, but the time of their service is expressly settled. Their work was far more laborious than that of the priests, it is probable that, without necessity, the priests would not begin very early to officiate; and the wisdom and experience of age would increase, rather than diminish, their fitness for the sacred duties of their office.” SCOTT. TR.]


Chap. 8. The candlestick and the Levites. What they have in common; the care of the glory of the Sanctuary, Their consuming themselves in the service of God. The candlesticks must cast their gleam forwards into the Temple. The service of the Levites at the sanctuary transmitted to the entire Christian Church. The universal priesthood of all believers should become active in their Levitical ministry.


1settest up.

2in front of.

3set up.

4this was the work, omit was of.

5turned, or solid.

6from the foot to the flower.

7vision; image, BUNSEN: form, ZUNZ.

8sin-water; atoning-water, BUNSEN.

9Heb. let them cause a razor to pass over, etc.


11Tent of Meeting.



14Heb. wave.

15Heb. wave offering.

16from among.

17Heb. they may be to execute, etc.

18of every first-birth that breaks the womb, etc.

19instead of.

20Heb. given.

21purified themselves.

22enter into the row of the.

23Heb. to war the warfare of, etc.

24Heb. return from the warfare of the service.

25go out of the row of the.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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