From Merari came the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these were the families of Merari. And those who were numbered, according to the number of all the males from a month old and above, were six thousand two hundred. The leader of the fathers’ house of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. These were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 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.
Numbers 3:33-37 (NKJV)
The 3rd son of Levi was Merari. The line of Merari became divided into two clans because he had two sons. The total amount of males from the line of Merari was 6,200.
They were instructed to camp on the LEAST prestigious side of the Tabernacle, the north. They were to care for and transport the planks that formed the framework of the sacred tent, and all the poles and sockets and ropes used to form the cloth wall that surrounded the outer courtyard.
No wonder Moses gave them four wagons and eight oxen to help them with their work. Aaron’s son Ithamar supervised their ministry.
All this information about the ministry of the Levites reminds us that our God is concerned with details and wants His work to be done by the people He has chosen and in the way He has appointed. Nothing in the camp of Israel was left to chance or human contrivance. Each Levite and priest knew his responsibilities and was expected to “serve God with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). Caring for the tabernacle was serious work, a matter of life and death.
The chapters also remind us that not everybody has the same burdens to bear. The Gershonites and Merarites could put their burdens on wagons, but the Kohathites had to carry their burdens on their shoulders. There are some burdens we can share (Gal. 6:2), but there are other burdens that only we can bear (v. 5).
Finally, we must note that our God believes in organization, but the organization is a means to an end and not an end in itself. If an army isn’t organized, it can’t fight the enemy successfully; if a family isn’t organized, it will experience nothing but chaos and confusion.
God was preparing His people to engage enemy nations and defeat them. It was important that the camp be orderly and the work of the tabernacle be organized. Otherwise, the worship would not please God and the warfare would lead to defeat.
When God’s work is done God’s way, in obedience to God’s truth, it will never lack God’s blessing.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Counted