Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,How the lamps are to be lighted, Numbers 8:1-4. God commands the Levites to be cleansed, Numbers 8:5-15; that they may serve with Aaron and his sons instead of the first-born, Numbers 8:16-22. Their age and service, Numbers 8:23-26.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick.i.e. Either,
1. On every side of the candlestick. So the candlestick is here put for the bulk or shaft of the candlestick, as Exodus 25:31,35, and the lamps, when they were lighted, were put into the branches of the candlestick, and take it out upon occasion. Thus the meaning is, that all the lamps were to be lighted on that part which was towards the middle, looking that way whence they had their light; for the middle lamp was lighted with the fire of the altar, and from that the other lamps received light. But against this sense it is objected, that the lamps could not be otherwise ordered, but that they must give light round about the candlestick, and therefore that sense seems to make this direction idle and frivolous. Or,
2. On that part which is before the candlestick, Heb. over against the face of the candlestick, i.e. in that place towards which the candlestick looked, or where the candlestick stood in full view, i.e. upon the north side, where the table of shewbread stood, as appears from hence, because the candlestick stood close to the boards of the sanctuary on the south side, Exodus 26:35. And thus the lights were on both sides of the sanctuary, which was fit and necessary, because it was wholly dark in itself, and had no window in it.
And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.No text from Poole on this verse.
And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the LORD had shewed Moses, so he made the candlestick.Beaten gold, not hollow, but solid and massive gold, beaten out of one piece, and not of several pieces joined or soldered together. See Exodus 25:18,31 37:17.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.Or, wash or purify them, which was also done with the priests and others when they were to approach to God and his service. See Exodus 19:10,14 Le 14:9.
And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.Of purifying, Heb. of sin, i.e. for the expiation of sin. This water was mixed with the ashes of a red heifer, Numbers 19:9, which therefore may seem to have been prescribed before, though it be mentioned after; such kind of transplacings of passages being frequent in Scripture.
Shave all their flesh; which external rite signified the cutting off their inordinate concupiscences of earthly things, and that singular purity of heart and life which is required in the ministers of God. See Isaiah 52:11 2 Timothy 2:21.
Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering.The same sacrifice which was offered for a sin-offering for the whole congregation, Le 4, because the Levites came in the stead of all the first-bern, which did in a manner represent the whole congregation.
And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together:No text from Poole on this verse.
And thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites:The children of Israel; not all of them, which was impossible, but some in the name and stead, and by the appointment of all, to wit, either the first-born, or rather the princes or chiefs of each tribe, who used to transact things in the name of their tribes.
Put their hands upon the Levites; whereby they signified their transferring of that right of ministering to God from the first-born, in whose hands it formerly was, unto the Levites, and their renouncing of their interest in the Levites, from whom they might otherwise have expected help by their persons or purses, as they did from other tribes, in their common concernments, and their entire resignation and dedication of them to God’s service; as the person offering, by laying his hand upon the head of his sacrifice, Leviticus 1:4, signified his translation of his guilt upon the beast, and his dedication of it unto God.
And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD.For an offering, Heb. for a wave-offering. Of which see Exodus 29:24. Not that Aaron did so wave them, which he could not do, but that he caused or commanded them to imitate that motion, and to wave themselves towards the several parts of the world; whereby they might signify their readiness to serve God according to their capacity wheresoever they should be; though the word may be taken more generally for any offering made to God, as Exodus 35:22.
And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites.Upon the heads of the bullocks; to signify, that they were offered by them and for them. See Exodus 29:15,19 Le 1:4 3:2 4:4.
And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD.Before Aaron and his sons, i.e. put them into the power of Aaron and his sons, to employ them in holy ministrations; for so that phrase is sometimes used, as Genesis 13:9,
the land is before thee, i.e. in thy power, to use or enjoy it. Or setting the Levites before them did signify the giving the Levites to them, or to their service.
For an offering unto to the Lord; for to him they were first properly offered, and by him given to the priests in order to his service.
Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine.No text from Poole on this verse.
And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering.The Levites go in, to wit, into the court, where they were to wait upon the priests at the altar of burnt-offering; and, at present, into the tabernacle, to take it down and set it up.
For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.They are given unto me by the people’s consent, as well as taken (as it follows) by my choice and command. See Numbers 3:9.
For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.No text from Poole on this verse.
And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary.The service of the children of Israel, i.e. to serve God in their stead and behalf, to do what otherwise they had been obliged to do in their own persons.
In the tabernacle: how in it, See Poole "Numbers 8:15".
To make an atonement for the children of Israel; not by offering sacrifices, which the priests alone might do, but by assisting the priests in that expiatory work, and by a diligent performance of all the parts of their office, whereby God was pleased both with them and with the people. That there be no plague: this is added as a reason why God appointed them to serve in or about the tabernacle, that they might watch and guard it, and not suffer any of the people to come near it, or meddle with holy things, which if they did, it would certainly bring a plague upon them.
And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the children of Israel unto them.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them.The Levites were purified by washing and sprinkling and sacrifices. See Leviticus 15:13-15 Numbers 19:11, &c.
And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.Before Aaron and his sons; in their presence, and by their direction and appointment.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation:From twenty and five years old. See Poole "Numbers 4:3".
And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more:i.e. Upon the difficult and cumbersome part of their work.
But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.With their brethren, by way of advice, and assistance in lesser and easier works.