The Word Made Fresh
1The LORD said, “Moses, 2tell Aaron that when he sets up the seven lamps, he should place them so that they illuminate the area in front of the lampstand.”
3So, Aaron set up the lamps to face forward on the lampstand as the LORD had said. 4The lampstand was made of hammered gold top to bottom, exactly as the LORD had shown Moses.
5The LORD said, “Moses, 6gather the Levites from among the other Israelites and 7purify them by sprinkling them with the sacred water, and then have them shave themselves all over and wash their clothes so that they will be acceptable. 8Tell them to bring a young bull, and a grain offering of pure flour mixed with olive oil, and a second young bull as a guilt offering. 9Bring the Levites to the front of the meeting tent and gather all the Israelites around them. 10Bring the Levites before the LORD. Have the Israelites lay hands on them. 11Let Aaron present the Levites to the LORD on behalf of all the Israelites. Then they will be ready to do the LORD’s work.
12“Then the Levites will lay their hands on the heads of the bulls. One bull will be their guilt offering to the LORD, the other will be a burnt offering. The Levites will then be accepted to serve the LORD. 13Have them stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as an offering lifted up to the LORD. 14This is how the Levites will be separated from the other Israelites. They will belong to me.
15“After they are cleansed and presented as an offering to the LORD, they will begin their work at the meeting tent, 16 for among all the Israelites they are the ones who are completely in my service. I have claimed them as my own in place of the firstborn male child of every Israelite woman. 17Every firstborn male, human or animal, belongs to me. I claimed them when I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. 18I have taken the Levites in their place 19and have given the Levites to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the meeting tent as a service to all the Israelites so that they will be kept in a right relationship with me, and so that they may not be stricken with sickness when they go near the sanctuary.”
20Then Moses and Aaron and the Israelites did as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, 21and the Levites shaved themselves and washed their clothes, and Aaron presented them as a sacrifice lifted up to the LORD, and they were thus made acceptable for their work. 22That being done, the Levites presented themselves to Aaron and his sons at the meeting tent to do the work the LORD had commanded them to do.
23The LORD said to Moses, 24“Concerning the Levites, only the men twenty-five years old or older may take part in the work at the meeting tent, 25and when they reach the age of fifty, they must retire from their duties and do no more work. 26They may assist their brothers on occasion, but they themselves are no longer responsible for the work.”
This is a summary of the responsibilities of the Levites.
1-4: Moses commands Aaron to set the menorah in the most holy place (behind the curtain in front of the ark of the covenant) to provide light for the priests to do their work each day – replacing the bread of the presence, replenishing the lamps with oil, burning incense and so forth.
5-22: The Levites are set apart and purified for service in the tabernacle. First, they are shaved and bathed. Then all the Israelites lay their hands on the Levites to present them as an offering, and then the Levites offer bulls for guilt and burnt offerings. This is not the same as the ordination and consecration of priests done earlier. Levites can carry the tabernacle, set it up and take it down, and do the work of maintaining it, but Levites cannot handle the sacred objects except to move them to a new camp and then only when they have been properly wrapped by the priests; nor can they officiate at the altar, nor actually enter the sanctuary for service.
23-26: The age limits for the Levites are set at ages 25-50. This is different from the accounting done earlier when the census counted those aged 30-50 but no reason is given for the difference.
I have a suspicion that God was not really so particular about how the Levites went about their duties; but the Levites had to be particular about how they went about their duties, for otherwise they would have let their faith in God fade away. This general observation applies to us today as well. God doesn’t need our worship; we need to worship God.