Numbers 7:9
But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.
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Numbers 7:9. Because of the sanctuary, &c. — The Seventy translate it more literally, Because they have the service of the holy things, (that is, of the ark, Numbers 4:5; Numbers 4:15.) They shall carry it upon their shoulders — This way of carrying the ark was both for greater dignity, on account of the superior holiness and value of it, and its contents and appurtenances, and that the structure of it might not be discomposed, as it might have been by the shaking of a wagon.

7:1-9 The offering of the princes to the service of the tabernacle was not made till it was fully set up. Necessary observances must always take place of free-will offerings. The more any are advanced, the greater opportunity they have of serving God and their generation. No sooner was the tabernacle set up, than provision is made for the removal of it. Even when but just settled in the world, we must be preparing for changes and removes, especially for the great change.To the Gershonites, who had to transport the hangings and coverings of the tabernacle, two wagons are assigned: to the Merarites, who had the charge of the solid parts of the tabernacle, four wagons. The furniture and vessels the Kohathites were to carry on their own shoulders. Compare Numbers 3:25-26, Numbers 3:31, Numbers 3:36-37. 6-9. Moses took the wagons and the oxen—The Hebrew word seems to be fairly rendered by the word "wagons." Wheel carriages of some kind are certainly intended; and as they were covered, the best idea we can form of them is, that they bore some resemblance to our covered wagons. That wheel carriages were anciently used in Egypt, and in what is now Asiatic Turkey, is attested, not only by history, but by existing sculptures and paintings. Some of these the Israelites might have brought with them at their departure; and others, the skilful artisans, who did the mechanical work of the tabernacle, could easily have constructed, according to models with which they had been familiar. Each wagon was drawn by two oxen, and a greater number does not seem to have been employed on any of the different occasions mentioned in Scripture. Oxen seem to have been generally used for draught in ancient times among other nations as well as the Hebrews; and they continue still to be employed in dragging the few carts which are in use in some parts of Western Asia [Kitto].

gave them unto the Levites—The principle of distribution was natural and judicious. The Merarites had twice the number of wagons and oxen appropriated to them that the Gershonites had, obviously because, while the latter had charge only of the coverings and hangings (the light but precious and richly-embroidered drapery, [Nu 4:24-26]) the former were appointed to transport all the heavy and bulky materials (the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets) in short, all the larger articles of furniture [Nu 4:31, 32]. Whoever thinks only of the enormous weight of metal, the gold, silver, brass, &c., that were on the bases, chapiters, and pillars, &c., will probably come to the conclusion that four wagons and eight oxen were not nearly sufficient for the conveyance of so vast a load. Besides, the Merarites were not very numerous, as they amounted only to thirty-two hundred men from thirty years and upward [Nu 4:44]; and, therefore, there is reason to suppose that a much greater number of wagons would afterwards be found necessary, and be furnished, than were given on this occasion [Calmet]. Others, who consider the full number of wagons and oxen to be stated in the sacred record, suppose that the Merarites may have carried many of the smaller things in their hands—the sockets, for instance, which being each a talent weight, was one man's burden (2Ki 5:23). The Kohathites had neither wheeled vehicles nor beasts of burden assigned them, because, being charged with the transport of the furniture belonging to the holy place, the sacred worth and character of the vessels entrusted to them (see on [64]Nu 4:15) demanded a more honorable mode of conveyance. These were carried by those Levites shoulder high. Even in this minute arrangement every reflecting reader will perceive the evidence of divine wisdom and holiness; and a deviation from the prescribed rule of duty led, in one recorded instance, to a manifestation of holy displeasure, calculated to make a salutary and solemn impression (2Sa 6:6-13).

Because of the greater worth and holiness of the things which they carried. See Numbers 4:6,8,10,12,14 2 Samuel 6:6,13.

But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none,.... Being all disposed of to the sons of Gershon and Merari: the reason of which follows:

because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders; as the ark with the mercy seat, and cherubim, the shewbread table, the candlestick, and the two altars; though in later times we find the ark was sometimes not only carried by the priests, but upon a cart, Joshua 3:17.

But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: {d} because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.

(d) The holy thing of the sanctuary must be carried on their shoulders and not drawn with oxen, Nu 4:15.

9. the sanctuary] the holy things. See on Numbers 4:15.

upon their shoulders] In early days this form of honour was not always paid to the ark; see 2 Samuel 6:3.

Verse 9. - Upon their shoulders. For which purpose poles or bearing-frames had been provided, as implying more honour and care than the use of carriages. The death of Uzzah seems to have been the melancholy consequence of neglecting this rule (2 Samuel 6:3, 7, as compared with 1 Chronicles 15:13). Numbers 7:9He gave two waggons and four oxen to the Gershonites, and four waggons and eight oxen to the Merarites, as the former had less weight to carry, in the coverings and curtains of the dwelling and the hangings of the court, than the latter, who had to take charge of the beams and pillars (Numbers 4:24., Numbers 4:31.). "Under the hand of Ithamar" (Numbers 7:8); as in Numbers 4:28, Numbers 4:33. The Kohathites received no waggon, because it was their place to attend to "the sanctuary" (the holy), i.e., the holy things, which had to be conveyed upon their shoulders, and were provided with poles for the purpose (Numbers 4:4.).
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