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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Numbers

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3.1–44 : The first Levitical census.

A second Levitical census appears in ch 4 , and a third in 26.57–62 .

1–4 :

The Aaronides constitute the priestly line within the larger tribe of Levi.

4 :

See Lev 10.1–7 .

5–10 :

The Levites are assistants to the priests. Their duties include “guarding” (translated as perform duties, be in charge of in vv. 7–8; cf. 1.53 ) the sanctuary, that is making certain that no one inappropriate enters it, and performing “labor” (translated doing service, v. 7 ), such as transporting the sanctuary and its furnishings (see ch 4 ). The Aaronides, for their part, are to “guard their priesthood” (v. 10 ; translated attend to the priesthood), i.e., make sure that only they perform priestly duties, such as working at the altar or in the tent of meeting. Non‐priests, including even Levites, who encroach on these locales and prerogatives are to be put to death (cf. vv. 10,38; 1.51; 18.1–7 ). This highly ordered, hierarchical, border‐conscious system is typical of priestly thinking.

11–13 :

The Israelites are to devote the firstborn, of animals and humans, to God (Ex 13.2; Lev 27.26–27; Num 8.17; 18.15–16 ). Animals are sacrificed. Firstborn children would theoretically become temple servants (cf. 1 Sam 1.10–11,24–28 ). But the Levites are substitutes for the firstborn children and serve in the sanctuary in their place (see 3.40–51 ).

14–39 :

The passage identifies three Levitical clans and notes their duties (see also the notes on ch 4 ). They camp on the west, south, and north of the sanctuary. They, together with the priests (and Moses, the inaugural priest and prophet and Aaron's brother) who camp on the east, form a ring around the sanctuary that protects it from encroachers (see 1.53; 2.1–34n.; 3.5–10n. ).

25–26 :

The tabernacle, Ex 26.7–14 ; the screen, Ex 26.36–37 .

26 :

Hangings, Ex 27.9 ; screen, Ex 27.16 .

31 :

The ark, the table, the lampstand, Ex 25.10–40 ; the altars, Ex 27.1–8; 30.1–10 ; the vessels, Ex 37.16; 38.3; cf. Num 4.7,14 ; the screen, Ex 26.31–35 .

36–37 :

Ex 26.15–31 .

40–51 :

The excess firstborn children are redeemed; the redemption money becomes holy and goes to the priesthood.

47 :

A shekel weighed about 11.4 gr (.4 oz); see Ex 30.13n.

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