Numbers 1:50
But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(50) The tabernacle of testimony.—The testimony (sometimes described as the two tables of the testimony (Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:29) denotes in the first instance the tables of the law which were directed to be placed in the ark (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21). Hence the ark is described as the ark of the testimony (Exodus 25:22; Exodus 26:33), and the tabernacle as the tabernacle of the testimony (Exodus 38:21), and the tent, including the outer covering of the mishkan, or wooden building, is called the tent of the testimony (Numbers 9:15). Also the veil which separated the holy place from the most holy is called the veil of the testimony (Leviticus 24:3).

And shall encamp round about the tabernacle.—The tent of meeting was like a royal palace, and the Levites served as a guard of honour round about it, to protect it from every sort of desecration.

Numbers 1:50-51. The tabernacle of testimony — So called here, and Exodus 38:21, because it was made chiefly for the sake of the ark of the testimony, which is often called the testimony. The stranger elsewhere is one of another nation, here one of another tribe. That cometh nigh — So as to do the offices mentioned Numbers 1:50.

1:47-54 Care is here taken to distinguish the tribe of Levi, which, in the matter of the golden calf, had distinguished itself. Singular services shall be recompensed by singular honours. It was to the honour of the Levites, that to them was committed the care of the tabernacle and its treasures, in their camps and in their marches. It was for the honour of the holy things that none should see them, or touch them, but those who were called of God to the service. We all are unfit and unworthy to have fellowship with God, till called by his grace into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and so, being the spiritual seed of that great High Priest, we are made priests to our God. Great care must be taken to prevent sin, for preventing sin is preventing wrath. Being a holy tribe, they were not reckoned among other Israelites. They that minister about holy things, should neither entangle themselves, nor be entangled, in worldly affairs. And let every believer seek to do what the Lord has commanded.had spoken - Render spake. The formal appointment is only now made, in reward for their zeal Exodus 32:26-29, though reference to their future office appears previously in Leviticus 25:32 ff, and they had already acted as assistants to the priests (compare Exodus 38:21). 47-54. But the Levites … were not numbered among them—They were obliged to keep a register of their own. They were consecrated to the priestly office, which in all countries has been exempted customarily, and in Israel by the express authority of God, from military service. The custody of the things devoted to the divine service was assigned to them so exclusively, that "no stranger"—that is, no person, not even an Israelite of any other tribe, was allowed, under penalty of death, to approach these [Nu 16:40]. Hence they encamped round the tabernacle in order that there should be no manifestation of the divine displeasure among the people. Thus the numbering of the people was subservient to the separation of the Levites from those Israelites who were fit for military service, and to the practical introduction of the law respecting the first-born, for whom the tribe of Levi became a substitute [Ex 13:2; Nu 3:12]. The tabernacle of testimony; so called here, and Exodus 38:21 because it was made chiefly for the sake of the ark of the testimony, 2 Samuel 7:2, which is oft called the testimony, as hath been observed before.

But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony,.... So called from the ark in it, in which was the law of God, which was a testimony of the will of God to his people:

and over all the vessels thereof; the candlestick, table: and altars, as Aben Ezra notes:

and over all things that belong to it; the vessels of vessels, as the same writer calls them; for the candlestick, shewbread table, and the two altars of incense and burnt offering had vessels appertaining to them:

they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; carry them from place to place when needful:

and they shall minister unto it; by taking care of the instruments of it and the vessels in it, but not by doing any part of the priestly office in it, as offering sacrifice, burning incense, and the like:

and shall encamp round about the tabernacle; they were a sort of camp or army of themselves, and their station was around the tabernacle, which was a kind of royal palace to God the King of kings; so that as they were the king's legion, and to be numbered alone, as Jarchi observes, in Numbers 1:49, so they were a guard about his palace, and were placed between that and the camp of Israel.

But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
50. the tabernacle of the testimony] Better the dwelling, &c. The Heb. mishkân, denoting the place where Jehovah’s presence dwelt among His people, is used in the Hexateuch by P only. The rendering ‘tabernacle’ confuses it with ’ôhel ‘tent.’ See note on Numbers 1:1.

The ‘testimony’ or ‘witness’ refers to the stone tablets of the decalogue, which were placed in the ark and were a testimony or witness to the ethical character of Israel’s God and the ethical character which He desired to see in His people. Similar expressions are ‘the ark of the testimony’ (Exodus 25:22), the ‘tablets of the testimony’ (Exodus 31:18), the ‘veil of the testimony’ (Leviticus 24:3). On the significance of the various names of the Tabernacle see the writer’s Exodus, p. lxxxvii.

Numbers 1:50Moses was not to muster the tribe of Levi along with the children of Israel, i.e., with the other tribes, or take their number, but to appoint the Levites for the service of the dwelling of the testimony (Exodus 38:21), i.e., of the tabernacle, that they might encamp around it, might take it down when the camp was broken up, and set it up when Israel encamped again, and that no stranger (zar, non-Levite, as in Leviticus 22:10) might come near it and be put to death (see Numbers 3:10). The rest of the tribes were to encamp every man in his place of encampment, and by his banner (see at Numbers 2:2), in their hosts (see Numbers 2), that wrath might not come upon the congregation, viz., through the approach of a stranger. קצף, the wrath of Jehovah, breaking in judgment upon the unholy who approached His sanctuary in opposition to His command (Numbers 8:19; Numbers 18:5, Numbers 18:22). On the expression "keep the charge" (shamar mishmereth), see at Genesis 26:5 and Leviticus 8:35.
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