Numbers 4 Commentary

Some duties of the Levites (4:1-49)

Moses then took a special census of Levites, but this time counted only those aged between thirty and fifty, for only those in this age group did the actual work (4:1-3). The work detailed here concerned taking down the tabernacle and packing it for transport. (Further details are given in 7:1-11.)

The priests themselves packed the furniture and other sacred articles, for not even the Kohathites who carried them were allowed to see or touch them. A covering of soft cloth protected the articles from scratching, and a further covering of animal skin protected them from the weather. All articles were carried on either poles or boards. The ark had a special outer covering of blue so that all could see it prominently in the procession (4-20).


After the furniture and vessels were removed from the tabernacle, the curtains and hangings were taken down. These were carried by the Gershonites (21-28). The framework and foundations were then taken apart and packed ready for carrying by the Merarites (29-33).

Aaron’s eldest surviving son Eleazar, who was in charge of all the Levites, supervised the whole work. He took direct control of the Kohathites, since they carried the most holy things. His younger brother Ithamar controlled the Gershonites and Merarites (see 3:32; 4:16,28,33). The writer then records the number of working men in the three Levitical groups (34-49).

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