Evening Bible Study
Genesis, the book
of beginnings, covers time from the Creation, through Joseph and the nation of
Israel moving to Egypt because of the famine.
the deliverance of Israel from Egypt through Moses. It starts with Moses’ birth, covers the
plagues, escape through the Red Sea, the building of the tabernacle and God’s
Leviticus was God’s
instructions to the priests on the specifics of worship, sacrifices, laws,
etc., and was given over probably a month’s time span, at the beginning of the
the time span of the forty years that the nation wandered in the wilderness. It’s what happened in that forty year gap
between being delivered from Egypt, but before they made it into the Promised
The people start out as a mass of unorganized slaves, and end up forty
years later as a nation ready to conquer a new land. Numbers records the discipline of God that
brought them to that point.
Deuteronomy was written
just before the people entered the Promised Land, and is the giving of the Law
one more time, but now to a different generation, one about to enter the Promised
Land. It’s a sort of “Law Review”.
The name comes from the two “numberings” that took place during the forty years in the
The first census, or numbering of the people took place at the beginning of
the forty years, the second took place at the end, as they were about to enter
the Promised Land.
:1-4 General instructions
1:1–3 (NKJV) — 1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness
of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month,
in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “Take a census of all the
congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’
houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, 3 from twenty years old and above—all
who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their
:1 on the first day of the second month …
This is exactly one month after
the Tabernacle has been finished and raised (Exo. 40:17)
Then think about how you’re going to live your life.
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) — 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
these things shall be added to you.
:2 Take a census
Purpose of the census
This census was for the purpose of counting able bodied men to fight.
A military draft. Everybody twenty years old and up was counted
as potential warriors.
I thought it was wrong to take a census!
David got in big trouble for taking a census.
The issue is not that taking a census is wrong of itself,
but the reasons behind taking the census is what makes it wrong.
David seemed to be taking his census out of pride, wanting
to boast himself in the size of his army.
Moses is taking a census out of obedience, God is telling him to. The purpose is to begin organizing and
training Israel for war.
:5-16 The leaders of the tribes
These guys were to help in the census.
We are given a list of the leaders.
:17-43 The numbers
We are given a list of each tribe and the number of men that were able to
If you look at the list, you might wonder why the order is the way it is.
The order is not based on the original birth order of the twelve sons of
The order is based on where the tribes are camped around the Tabernacle,
and the order they will march in when they set out to move.
Reuben – 46,500
Simeon – 59,300 (South group)
Gad – 45,650 (South group)
Judah – 74,600
Issachar – 54,400 (East group)
Zebulun – 57,400 (East group)
40,500 (West group)
Manasseh – 32,200 (West group)
Benjamin – 35,400 (West group)
Dan – 62,700
Asher – 41,500 (North group)
Naphtali – 53,400 (North group)
Note: Even though there are twelve
tribes listed, there is a tribe missing.
Can you tell which one?
The tribe of Levi
is not in this list. The Levites will
not be in the regular army.
Yet whenever the nation of Israel is mentioned, there are always twelve
Since Levi is not supposed to be included in this count of warriors, the
tribe of Joseph is divided into its two parts, Ephraim and Manasseh.
:44-46 Total number
1:44–46 (NKJV) — 44 These are the ones who
were numbered, whom Moses and Aaron numbered, with the leaders of Israel,
twelve men, each one representing his father’s house. 45 So all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their
fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to
war in Israel— 46 all who were
numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.
The total is … 603,550
Since this only included fighting men, twenty years and up, it is estimated by many that the
nation itself must have been nearly two million people at the time of the
Keep these extremely large numbers in mind when you read about how they had
trouble with things like food and water.
:47-54 The Levites
1:47–54 (NKJV) — 47 But the Levites were not
numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe; 48 for the Lord had
spoken to Moses, saying: 49 “Only
the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the
children of Israel; 50 but you shall
appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its
furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the
tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the
tabernacle. 51 And when the
tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the
tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes
near shall be put to death. 52 The
children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone
by his own standard, according to their armies; 53 but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the
Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of
Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.” 54 Thus the children of Israel did;
according to all that the Lord
commanded Moses, so they did.
:53 the Levites shall camp around the
The Levites were to be a kind of “buffer” between God, and the people.
The nation as a whole did not understand the principles of holiness and a
Holy God. In fact the Levites didn’t
seem to comprehend it all too much either.
But the Levites were set aside for learning how God was to be
specifically related to.
:1-9 Organizing the armies – Eastern
2:1–2 (NKJV) — 1 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 “Everyone of the children of Israel
shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they
shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.
I think of the typical “unlikely fighting group” movie, where some army
captain has to take a rag tag bunch of volunteers (like “The Dirty Dozen”) and
shape them into a fierce fighting force.
Play “Angels in
the Outfield” clip.
This is what God is going to do with this nation of people who have lived
their whole lives as obedient slaves, not warriors.
Isn’t it amazing how God can take a bunch of losers and use them in a
wonderful way? God can do that with us
:2 by his own standard
The groups formed under specific “banners” or “signs”.
You looked for the banner of your group to make sure you were in the right
It’s the same word that’s translated “banner” in:
Song of Solomon 2:4 (NKJV) — 4 He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love.
Lead by love.
The banner was a kind of rallying point, with each tribe marching behind
its own banner. It was also an instrument of guidance. When the trumpets would
sound, the banners were picked up, and the people would march behind their
We too can find assurance that when we are following God’s leading, the
direction He’s leading us is determined by His love. That’s His banner over us.
He’s not out to destroy His own people. He’s a Good Shepherd leading His flock
to the best pastures.
It’s His love that makes us unique:
John 13:34–35 (NKJV) — 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I
have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have
love for one another.”
People will see that we are being led by God, “under His
banner”, by the love we have for each other.
:3-9 East Wing
The first sub-group was Judah, and included the tribes of Issachar, and
Zebulun. They totaled 186,400 men.
When the people came to a place to stay, the groups were to form kind of a
circle around the tabernacle. This group
would be on the East side of the camp.
When it became time to set out, this group would go first.
:10-16 South Wing
The second group was headed by the tribe of Reuben and included Simeon and
Gad, with a total of 151,450
They camped on the south, setting out 2nd.
:17 In the center
2:17 (NKJV) — 17 “And the tabernacle of
meeting shall move out with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the camps;
as they camp, so they shall move out, everyone in his place, by their
The Levites and
the tabernacle, during marches, would set out next.
If they were ever attacked, the tabernacle would be protected equally from
the front and the rear.
While camping, the tabernacle
was surrounded by the twelve tribes.
This provides protection for the tabernacle on all sides.
It’s a picture of putting God in the center of their life.
It also shows equal access to God by all tribes.
:18-24 Western Wing
The Western Wing would set out next on marches.
They were headed by the tribe of Ephraim, along with Manasseh and Benjamin, a total of 108,100.
When they reached camp, they would be on the west side of the Tabernacle.
:25-31 Northern Wing
The Northern Wing was headed by the tribe of Dan, along with the tribes of
Asher and Naphtali, totaling 157,600.
They set out last, camping on the north.
:32-34 Summary of arrangement
2:32–34 (NKJV) — 32 These are the ones who
were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ houses. All who were
numbered according to their armies of the forces were six hundred and three
thousand five hundred and fifty. 33
But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 34 Thus the children of Israel did
according to all that the Lord
commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each
one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses.
There’s another way of looking at the camping arrangement.
There are four groups surrounding a central group.
Two groups are of equal size, of the other two groups, one is larger, one
The camp arrangement
might have looked something like this:
Depending on your perspective, it kind of forms a cross. If the Israelites camped this way, then as
the Midianites watched them from the hills around them, they would have seen a
I wonder if people should be seeing the cross in the way that we camp?
Now we move to the tribe that's been left out of all these arrangements,
the tribe of Levi.
:1-4 Aaron's family
3:1–4 (NKJV) — 1 Now these are the records
of Aaron and Moses when the Lord
spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 2
And these are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab, the firstborn, and Abihu,
Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3 These are
the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he consecrated to
minister as priests. 4 Nadab and
Abihu had died before the Lord
when they offered profane fire before the Lord
in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar
ministered as priests in the presence of Aaron their father.
The sons of Aaron were to serve as the priests. They were one of the families in the tribe of
Nadab and Abihu
- see Lev.10.
Killed for offering to God something He didn't ask for, all excited when
the fire of God fell, they might have even been drunk.
Afterwards, you could say they were “on fire” for God.
:5-10 Levite's ministry
3:5–10 (NKJV) — 5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and
present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7 And they shall attend to his needs
and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do
the work of the tabernacle. 8 Also
they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to
the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to
Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of
Israel. 10 So you shall appoint
Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider
who comes near shall be put to death.”
The rest of the tribe of Levi were considered to be helpers for the
priests, helping them perform their ministry.
It takes a lot of people to pull of the worship at the Tabernacle. It will take a lot of work to move the
Tabernacle each time the nation moved to a new campsite. Each family, each person had a place.
:11-13 Levites and the firstborn
3:11–13 (NKJV) — 11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “Now behold, I Myself have taken the
Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens
the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13 because all the firstborn are Mine.
On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified
to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine:
I am the Lord.”
delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt, He did it through this “Angel of
Death” and the blood of lambs. God would
have the angel kill all the firstborn of every family, as if the firstborn all
belonged to Him.
If you killed a
lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of your house, you could save
your firstborn, but they still belonged to God.
Now God is swapping the Levites for the first-born of all the people.
God’s putting His possessions to good use.
:14-20 Levite census
Now the Levites will be counted, but not in order to send them to war.
This census is different in that all males will be counted, from a month old on up, not just
those of “fighting age”.
There will be a reason why ALL the Levites will be counted, as opposed to
just those on current, active duty.
Watch for it (in vs. 40-51).
There will be three family subdivisions of the Levites: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
Just as the other twelve tribes were to camp in a specific order around the
tabernacle, the Levites camped in the inner circle, in specific places, around
Each family will also have their own specific duties as well.
There were 7,500 Gershonites. They were located on the west of the
3:25–26 (NKJV) — 25 The duties of the children
of Gershon in the tabernacle of meeting included the tabernacle, the tent with
its covering, the screen for the door of the tabernacle of meeting, 26 the screen for the door of the
court, the hangings of the court which are around the tabernacle and the altar,
and their cords, according to all the work relating to them.
They were in charge of all the cloth.
There were 8,600
Kohathites, they camped on the south of the Tabernacle.
This was the family that Aaron was from, and so their duties dealt with the
more inner workings
of the tabernacle.
3:31 (NKJV) — 31 Their duty included the
ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the utensils of the sanctuary with
which they ministered, the screen, and all the work relating to them.
There were 6,200 Merarites, they camped on the north of the Tabernacle.
3:36–37 (NKJV) — 36 And the appointed duty of
the children of Merari included the boards of the tabernacle, its bars, its
pillars, its sockets, its utensils, all the work relating to them, 37 and the pillars of the court all
around, with their sockets, their pegs, and their cords.
They were the heavy lifters.
:38-39 Priests and Summary
3:38 (NKJV) — 38 Moreover those who were to
camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tabernacle of meeting, were
Moses, Aaron, and his sons, keeping charge of the sanctuary, to meet the needs
of the children of Israel; but the outsider who came near was to be put to
This was the one side of the Tabernacle not yet covered, the east, where
the entrance was. This was covered by the
priests themselves, the sons of Aaron.
In total there
were 22,000 Levites.
:40-51 Firstborn swap
3:40–43 (NKJV) — 40 Then the Lord said to Moses: “Number all the
firstborn males of the children of Israel from a month old and above, and take
the number of their names. 41 And
you shall take the Levites for Me—I am the Lord—instead
of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the
Levites instead of all the firstborn among the livestock of the children of
Israel.” 42 So Moses numbered all
the firstborn among the children of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. 43
And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names from a month old
and above, of those who were numbered of them, were twenty-two thousand two
hundred and seventy-three.
Now we will see why ALL the Levites were counted.
God has Moses count
all the firstborn in Israel, which was 22,273, and swap them for the 22,000
What do you do about the extra 273 that the Levites can’t match? God will
pay the Levites for them.
(NKJV) — 44 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the
children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their
livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the Lord. 46 And for
the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the firstborn of the
children of Israel, who are more than the number of the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels for each
one individually; you shall take them in the currency of the shekel of the sanctuary,
the shekel of twenty gerahs. 48 And
you shall give the money, with which the excess number of them is redeemed, to
Aaron and his sons.” 49 So Moses
took the redemption money from those who were over and above those who were
redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the
firstborn of the children of Israel he took the money, one thousand three
hundred and sixty-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 51 And Moses gave their redemption
money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses.
were to be paid a “ransom” (five shekels a piece) for the extra 273 they couldn’t
match, a total of 1,365 shekels.
Now the Levites were legally God’s possession. All of them (from a month old).
:1-16 Kohath's duties
Now we’ll look at the specific duties of each family of the Levites.
4:1–3 (NKJV) — 1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath
from among the children of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ house, 3 from thirty years old and above, even
to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tabernacle
I find it interesting that a Levite’s ministry began at age 30, and Jesus’ ministry also
began around age 30.
4:4–6 (NKJV) — 4 “This is the service of
the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy
things: 5 When the camp prepares to
journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering
veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins, and spread
over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles.
The priests worked with the rest of their family the Kohathites by
preparing each piece of the Tabernacle, covering the items with either blue,
red, or purple cloth, and then putting on the waterproof cover of badger skins. Then the Kohathites would come in and be able
to carry each piece of the Tabernacle without seeing or touching the specific
The other day I caught a little bit of a show on the Discovery Channel
where this guy was trying to trace what happened to the Ark.
He made a comment about how the Ark was covered with gold and would
“glint in the sun”. Wrong. When done correctly, the Ark would never be
seen in the sun. It would be covered up.
Each piece of the Tabernacle is then covered by the priests, to be handed
off to the Kohathites to be carried.
:17-20 Protect Them
4:17–20 (NKJV) — 17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 18 “Do not cut off the tribe of the
families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; 19 but do this in regard to them, that they may live and not die
when they approach the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and
appoint each of them to his service and his task. 20 But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are
being covered, lest they die.”
This is a picture of holiness. God is holy.
We often talk about how we are unable to withstand the presence of God
We can only come into God’s presence because of what Jesus did on the
cross, dying for our sins.
Jesus is the one who keeps us from being “cut off”.
:21-28 Gershon's ministry
Again … They were in charge of carrying all the fabric portions of the tent
:29-33 Merari's ministry
These guys were the heavy lifters. They
were in charge of carrying the heavy structural support pieces of the
tabernacle - boards, sockets, etc.
:34-49 Summary of Levitical numbers
These were those from age 30 to 50.
What's been going on? God has been
in the process of organizing the nation into a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Organization can be spiritual.
Sometimes I get the idea from some people that to be spiritual, we need to
just “let things happen”. As if it’s
unspiritual to plan and organize. Not so.
If we want to be a healthy body, a lean, mean, ministry machine, there will
be a place for organization.
It’s okay to plan. It’s okay to be
responsible and trustworthy. Sometimes
people use “spiritual” reasons to excuse their own flakiness.
Everyone has a part
No one was just “along for the ride”.
Everyone had a role to play. Everyone has something to give.
On a special Teachers’ Day, a kindergarten teacher was receiving gifts from her pupils. The florist’s son handed her
a gift. She shook it, held it overhead, and said, “I bet I know what it is,
some flowers.” “That’s right”, the boy said, “but how did you know?” “Oh, just
a wild guess,” she said. The next pupil was the candy store owner’s daughter. The teacher held her
gift over head, shook it and said, “I bet I can guess what it is, a box of
candy.” “That’s right, but how did you know?”, asked the girl. “Oh, just a wild
guess,” the teacher said. The next gift was from the son of the liquor store owner. The
teacher held it overhead, but it was leaking. She touched a drop of the leakage
with her finger and touched it to her tongue. Is it wine?” she asked. “No” the
boy replied, obviously delighted that he was the first student to at least
temporarily defy the teacher’s apparent insight. The teacher repeated the
process, touching another drop of the leakage to her tongue. “Is it champagne?”
she asked. “No,” the clearly delighted boy answered. Once again the teacher
tasted the leakage and finally said, “I give up, what is it?” The boy
enthusiastically replied, “It’s a puppy!”
Okay … well some of us have “messy” gifts, but we all have
something to give…
Paul put it this way to the church:
1 Corinthians 12:14–22 (NKJV) — 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of
the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should
say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of
the body? 17 If the whole body were
an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be
the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of
them, in the body just as He pleased. 19
And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are
many members, yet one body. 21 And
the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to
the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those
members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
It’s important that we all learn to find out what God has
It’s important for us to realize what our spiritual gifts
are and what role we are to play in God’s plan.
You are not just along for the ride. You have a role to play.