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1. Census, Organization, and the Levites

August 14, 2009

Text:      Numbers 1:1-4:49

Outline:             I. The Number of Israelites Available to Fight        Numbers 1:1-51

II. The Tribe Locations in Camp                                    Numbers 1:52-3:38

III. The Number of Levites for “Firstborn” Substitution      Numbers 3:39-51

IV. The Number of Levites Available for Transport      Numbers 4:1-49

Context/Discussion/Comments:

Israel is still camped at Mt. Sinai. The Law has been given, the Tabernacle has been built, and Israel is being made ready to depart for the Promised Land. But before they leave, the Lord requests they Number the people and organize themselves for their respective duties.

First, all males 20 years and older are to be counted with the help of an elder of each tribe. Note that God knows that elder by name. All the tribes are counted, including the two tribes of Joseph but excluding the Levites. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun will camp on the east side of the Ark having a total of 186,400 men. Rueben, Simeon, and Gad will camp on the south side of the Ark with a total of 151,400 men. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin will camp on the west side of the Ark with a total of 108,100 men. And Dan, Asher, and Naphtali will camp on the north side of the Ark with 157,600 men. The tribe of Levi is not included because they have the responsibility to take down, put up, and transport the Tabernacle and its’ furnishings. They are to be placed between the Tabernacle and the twelve tribes. Aaron and his family would be camped on the east side of the Tabernacle. The clan of Gershon camped on the west, the clan of Kohath would camp on the south, and the clan of Merari would camp on the north. Therefore, we have the tabernacle in the middle surrounded by Levites who were surrounded by the twelve tribes. All this was done to provide protection from those who would want to destroy and pillage Israel on their way to the Promised Land.

God originally stated that the firstborn of the males, both human and animal, belonged to Him. Now God determines that the male Levites one month old and older are to be substituted for the firstborn. They total 22,000 Levites and the actual firstborn in all the tribes total 22, 273 or just 273 more than the Levites. Thus, God substitutes them one for one and requires that 5 temple shekels be given by the tribes for each of the 173 extra male firstborns and given to Aaron as High Priest.

Aaron and his sons, that is the priests, were responsible for packing and protecting the tabernacle vessels/articles. Eleazar, the eldest son and next in line to be High Priest, had responsibility over the lamp oil, incense, grain offerings, and anointing oil. In fact he had responsibility for all the furnishings.

When breaking camp, the Kohathites were responsible for transporting the temple vessels/articles packed by the priests. The Gershonites transported the curtains and the Merarites transported the poles and framework. This work was accomplished using the 8580 men from these three Levite clans.

Lessons/Applications:

1. Fighting capability is important. Do not fear. Volunteer to fight in “God’s army” to advance His Kingdom and claim His Promise. We are to fight with His Word, His Presence of the Holy Spirit, and with His armor [Eph 6:10-18].

2. Positions are critical for security and protection. We, the Church, must be ready to turn back attacks from all directions.

3. Worship of the Lord is central to our faith. Let us not give up our freedom to worship God under any circumstances. Our survival as His People depends on this fact.

4. Seek to encourage, dedicate, and consecrate those in your local congregation into full time service for the Lord. Ministers and missionaries are needed to lead His People in glorifying the Name of the Lord. Do not neglect this important responsibility. The harvest is great but the workers are few. [John 4:34-38; Matt. 9:37-38]

5. The Lord’s assignments are many and varied. We are to know our gifts and use them for His glory. We must do the work of the Lord to the best of our ability. Every job assignment is important and serves His purpose. We are all required to obey, walk in faith, and advance His Kingdom.

6. Our God is a God of order and organization, not chaos. His Spirit moves us in an organized manner to accomplish His Will. Let us plan and organize our involvement in His ministry accordingly.

7. As members of “His army”, we are to be prepared and be ready to:

a. Turn back Satan’s attacks.

b. Persevere in faith toward the goal of our salvation, eternal life with Him.

c. Be a living witness always to show others that He is the Lord God Almighty.

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