Today we are going to take a look at the duties of the Gershonites. Starting in verse 22 we begin to see the makeup of the Levites according to the census of them, as taken by God, and then recorded by Moses.
Those who were numbered, according to the number of all the males from a month old and above—of those who were numbered there were seven thousand five hundred. The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle westward. And the leader of the father’s house of the Gershonites was Eliasaph the son of Lael. 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, 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.
Numbers 3:22-26 (NKJV)
The family line of Gershon was further divided into two lines, representing his two sons Libni and Shimei. The total number of descendants of Gershon, son of Levi, amounted to 7,500 males 1 month old and older.
They were assigned to camp at the rear of the Tent of Meeting, to the west, the 3rd most prestigious camping spot. Their Tabernacle duties consisted of caring for certain parts of the Tabernacle structure; though when we read this passage in English it sounds like it’s repeating itself because most renderings say something to the effect of “the Tabernacle, the tent, it’s covering and the screen….”.
What’s the difference between the Tabernacle and the tent; aren’t they the same thing?
In fact these words are referring the various layers of cloth and skins that together form the tent sanctuary. So more accurately the word Tabernacle is referring to the cloth inner lining, the word tent is referring to the middle layer of goat’s hair, and the word covering points to the outer covering of tanned Ram skins and also possibly to the waterproof top- covering probably made out of porpoise skins.
Plus, by the word screen it is indicating the outer entrance into the tent, the veil that hung in the entryway from the courtyard into the Holy Place (this is not the inner veil, the parokhet, that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies).
The Gershonites are also responsible for the altar of burnt offering and the cords that hang the outer curtain from its pole.