Numbers 3:28
In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the sanctuary.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
3:14-39 The Levites were in three classes, according to the sons of Levi; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; and these were subdivided into families. The posterity of Moses were not at all honoured or privileged, but stood upon the level with other Levites; thus it was plain, that Moses did not seek the advancement of his own family, or to secure any honours to it. The tribe of Levi was by much the least of all the tribes. God's chosen are but a little flock in comparison with the world.Of the Levites, the Kohathites, the kinsmen of Moses and Aaron, and the most numerous, have the most important charge confided to them, namely, that of the ark, the altars, and the more especially sacred furniture generally. 14-31. Number the children of Levi—They were numbered as well as the other tribes; but the enumeration was made on a different principle—for while in the other tribes the number of males was calculated from twenty years and upward [Nu 1:3], in that of Levi they were counted "from a month old and upward." The reason for the distinction is obvious. In the other tribes the survey was made for purposes of war [Nu 1:3], from which the Levites were totally exempt. But the Levites were appointed to a work on which they entered as soon as they were capable of instruction. They are mentioned under the names of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, sons of Levi, and chiefs or ancestral heads of three subdivisions into which this tribe was distributed. Their duties were to assist in the conveyance of the tabernacle when the people were removing the various encampments, and to form its guard while stationary—the Gershonites being stationed on the west, the Kohathites on the south, and the families of Merari on the north. The Kohathites had the principal place about the tabernacle, and charge of the most precious and sacred things—a distinction with which they were honored, probably, because the Aaronic family belonged to this division of the Levitical tribe. The Gershonites, being the oldest, had the next honorable post assigned them, while the burden of the drudgery was thrown on the division of Merari. Keeping, or keepers, &c., i.e. appointed for that work, as soon as they were capable of it.

Of the sanctuary, i.e. of those holy things contained in or nearly belonging to the sanctuary, expressed Numbers 3:31. In the number of all the males, from a month old and upwards, were eight thousand and six hundred,.... 8,600 men, which was the largest number of any of the houses of the Levites; but considering it had double the number of families in it, the increase was not so large in proportion, at least to Gershon, whose two families wanted but 1,100 of these four:

keeping the charge of the sanctuary; of the holy and most holy places, and the vessels and instruments belonging thereunto; not that the males of a month old were keeping them, but when they were grown up and were capable of it, they had the charge thereof, in which they were instructed and trained up from their youth.

In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the {k} charge of the sanctuary.

(k) Everyone doing his duty in the sanctuary.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. eight thousand and six hundred] This should probably be read eight thousand and three hundred (שלש for שש); Numbers 3:39, and a comparison of Numbers 3:43 with Numbers 3:46, shew that the Levites numbered 22,000, whereas the figures given in Numbers 3:22; Numbers 3:28; Numbers 3:34 make a total of 22,300.Verse 28. - Eight thousand and six hundred. The four families of the Kohathites, of which that of Amram was one, must have contained about 18,000 souls. Moses and Aaron were sons of Amram, and they seem to have had but two sons apiece at this time. If, therefore, the family of the Amramites was at all equal in numbers to the other three, they must have had more than 4000 brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces. It is urged in reply that Amram lived 137 years, and may have had many other children, and that the variations in the comparative rates of increase are so great and so unaccountable that it is useless to speculate upon them. There is, however, a more serious difficulty connected with the genealogy of Moses and Aaron, as given here and elsewhere. If they were the great-grandchildren of Levi on their father's side, and his grandchildren on their mother's side, it is impossible to maintain the obvious meaning of Exodus 12:40. Either the genealogy must be lengthened, or the time must be very much shortened for the sojourning in Egypt. The known and undoubted habit of the sacred writers to omit names in their genealogies, even in those which seem most precise, lessens the difficulty of the first alternative, whereas every consideration of numbers, including those in this passage, increases the difficulty of the second. To endeavour to avoid either alternative, and to force the apparent statements of Scripture into accord by assuming a multiplicity of unrecorded and improbable miracles at every turn (as, e.g., that Jochebed, the mother of Moses, was restored to youth and beauty at an extreme old age), is to expose the holy writings to contempt. It is much more reverent to believe, either that the genealogies are very imperfect, or that the numbers in the text have been very considerably altered. Every consideration of particular examples, still more the general impression left by the whole narrative, favours the former as against the latter alternative. The Gershonites were divided into two families, containing 7500 males. They were to encamp under their chief Eliasaph, behind the tabernacle, i.e., on the western side (Numbers 3:23, Numbers 3:24), and were to take charge of the dwelling-place and the tent, the covering, the curtain at the entrance, the hangings round the court with the curtains at the door, and the cords of the tent, "in relation to all the service thereof" (Numbers 3:25.); that is to say, according to the more precise injunctions in Numbers 4:25-27, they were to carry the tapestry of the dwelling (the inner covering, Exodus 26:1.), and of the tent (i.e., the covering made of goats' hair, Exodus 26:7.), the covering thereof (i.e., the covering of rams' skins dyed red, and the covering of sea-cow skin upon the top of it, Exodus 27:16), the hangings of the court and the curtain at the entrance (Exodus 27:9, Exodus 27:16), which surrounded the altar (of burnt-offering) and the dwelling round about, and their cords, i.e., the cords of the tapestry, coverings, and curtains (Exodus 27:14), and all the instruments of their service, i.e., the things used in connection with their service (Exodus 27:19), and were to attend to everything that had to be done to them; in other words, to perform whatever was usually done with those portions of the sanctuary that are mentioned here, especially in setting up the tabernacle or taking it down. The suffix in מיתריו (Numbers 3:26) does not refer to the court mentioned immediately before; for, according to Numbers 3:37, the Merarites were to carry the cords of the hangings of the court, but to the "dwelling and tent," which stand farther off. In the same way the words, "for all the service thereof," refer to all those portions of the sanctuary that are mentioned, and mean "everything that had to be done or attended to in connection with these things."
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