Numbers 1:51
And when the tabernacle sets forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that comes near shall be put to death.
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(51) And the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.—The word zar (stranger) here denotes one who was not of the tribe of Levi (Leviticus 22:10; Leviticus 22:12).

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

stranger elsewhere is one of another nation, here one of another tribe, one no Levite. That cometh nigh, so as to do the offices mentioned Numbers 1:50. And when the tabernacle setteth forward,.... Or was about to set forward; that is, the congregation were about to journey, and take the tabernacle with them, as they always did, when and wherever they journeyed:

the Levites shall take it down; unpin it, take the boards and pillars out of their sockets, and the bars out of their places, and the whole into pieces, in order to be put into wagons prepared to carry them, of which mention is made in a following chapter:

and when the tabernacle is pitched, the Levites shall set it up; at whatsoever place the congregation encamped and took up their abode for any time: the tabernacle was pitched in the manner as tents are, when the Levites put the several parts together, laid the sockets, put in the boards and the bars, and also the pillars of the court and elsewhere, and hung the hangings upon them; and set the candlestick, tables, altars, ark, and all the vessels of the sanctuary in their proper places:

and the stranger that cometh nigh; to meddle with or touch the above things, to assist in taking down or setting up the tabernacle, or bearing any of the vessels of it: by a stranger is meant, not one of another nation, nor a proselyte, whether of the gate or of righteousness; but, as Aben Ezra interprets it, one that is a stranger from the sons of Levi, who is not of that tribe, even though an Israelite:

shall be put to death; either the sanhedrim or court of judicature shall condemn and put him to death, as the same writer observes; or he shall die by the hand of heaven, as Jarchi; that is, by the immediate hand of God, or with flaming fire from before the Lord, as the Targum of Jonathan; as Uzzah was smote, and died by the ark of God for touching it, 2 Samuel 5:6.

And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the {h} stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.

(h) Whoever is not of the tribe of Levi.

51. the stranger] Not a ‘foreigner,’ but one who does not belong to the particular class mentioned in the context—here and in Numbers 18:4, the Levites; in Numbers 3:10; Numbers 3:38, Numbers 18:7, the priests.Verse 51. - The stranger. The word appears to mean here any unauthorized person (see Numbers 16:40). This is the first intimation given of the extreme and awful sanctity of the tabernacle, as the tent of the Divine Presence. It is, however, quite of a piece with the anxious warnings against intrusion upon the holy mount at the time of the giving of the law (Exodus 19:21, sq.). The great necessity for Israel was that he should understand and believe that the Lord before whom he had trembled at Sinai was really in the midst of him in all his travail and his danger. This could only be impressed upon his dull mind and hard heart by surrounding the presence chamber of Jehovah with awful sanctities and terrors. At a subsequent period, when the religious reverence here thrown around the tabernacle had been transferred to, or rather concentrated upon, the ark alone, Uzzah was actually smitten for breaking this law (1 Chronicles 13:10). The tumult raised against St. Paul (Acts 21:27, sq.) was justified by a supposed violation of the same. This command was carried out by Moses and Aaron. They took for this purpose the twelve heads of tribes who are pointed out (see at Leviticus 24:11) by name, and had the whole congregation gathered together by them and enrolled in genealogical tables. התילּד, to announce themselves as born, i.e., to have themselves entered in genealogical registers (books of generations). This entry is called a פּקד, mustering, in Numbers 1:19, etc. In vv. 20-43 the number is given of those who were mustered of all the different tribes, and in Numbers 1:44-47 the total of the whole nation, with the exception of the tribe of Levi. "Their generations" (Numbers 1:20, Numbers 1:22, Numbers 1:24, etc.), i.e., those who were begotten by them, so that "the sons of Reuben, Simeon," etc., are mentioned as the fathers from whom the mishpachoth and fathers' houses had sprung. The ל before שׁמעון בּני in Numbers 1:22, and the following names (in Numbers 1:24, Numbers 1:26, etc.), signifies "with regard to" (as in Isaiah 32:1; Psalm 17:4, etc.).
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