Numbers 1:53
But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(53) That there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel.—The word kezeph (wrath) is used to denote some immediate visitation of the hand of God, as, e.g., the plague. Thus, after the plague which broke out in consequence of the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, we read in Numbers 18:5 “that there be no wrath (kezeph) any more upon the children of Israel.” In Numbers 8:19 the word negeph (plague) is used in the same sense as kezeph is used here. (Cf. Joshua 9:20; 2Kings 3:27; 1Chronicles 27:24.)

Numbers 1:53. No wrath — From God, who is very tender of his worship, and will not suffer the profaners of it to go unpunished! whose wrath is called simply wrath, by way of eminence, as the most terrible kind of wrath.

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]. No wrath, to wit, from God, who is very tender of his worship, and will not suffer the profaners of it to go unpunished; whose wrath is called simply wrath by way of eminency, as the most terrible kind of wrath.

Shall keep the charge, i.e. shall suffer no stranger to approach through curiosity, or any other motive.

But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony,.... Between the tabernacle and the camps of Israel, to guard the tabernacle and preserve the things in it, and to keep persons from going into it that should not, to pollute or plunder it: these were placed in like manner as the four living creatures round the throne, Revelation 4:6; where the allusion seems to be to this situation of the Levites:

that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel; that is, from the Lord, should any of them approach too near, or meddle with and touch what they had nothing to do with, or go where they should not; such wrath as came upon Uzzah for his error and transgression before observed:

and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony; the several things in it committed to their charge; see Numbers 3:8.

But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath {i} upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.

(i) By not having due regard to the tabernacle of the Lord.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
53. that there be no wrath] i.e. Divine judgement for the violation of the sacredness of the Tabernacle; cf. Numbers 8:19. The Tabernacle was an outward expression of a great religious ideal—that of the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people. But the religious ideal of the Jew fell short of the truth revealed in Christianity. The Jew strained every nerve to safeguard the awful unapproachableness of God, whereas the Christian knows that he can ‘draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace’ (Hebrews 4:16). For this purpose the Jewish writers represented the Tabernacle as surrounded by a cordon of ‘clergy,’ i.e. the sons of Aaron and the three Levitical families. And outside them the laity of Israel pitched their tents according to their tribes, in the positions specified in ch. 2. This arrangement is a counterpart of Ezekiel’s ideal description of the assignment of land to the several tribes round the Temple which should be built when Israel was restored from exile (Ezekiel 48).

Verse 53. - That there be no wrath upon the congregation - that no man, not being a Levite, intrude himself through ignorance or presumption upon the sacredness of the tabernacle, and so bring death upon himself, and displeasure upon the people. The Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle. Out of this command grew the Levitical guard of the temple, which afterwards played a considerable part in the history of Israel (2 Kings 11).



Numbers 1:53Moses 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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