Today we are going to continue our study on Numbers 3 beginning with the priests and their duties.
The area in front of the Tabernacle, in the east toward the sunrise, was reserved for the tents of Moses and of Aaron and his sons, who had the final responsibility for the sanctuary on behalf of the people of Israel. Anyone other than a priest or Levite who went too near the sanctuary was to be put to death.
When Moses and Aaron counted the Levite clans at the Lord’s command, the total number was 22,000 males one month old or older.
Numbers 3:38-39 (NLT)
The most prestigious camping place went to Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons…the priests. They camped to the east, or front, of the Tabernacle. They didn’t assemble or disassemble the Tabernacle; they didn’t transport any part of it or its furnishings; that was the job of the Levites.
And as it makes it clear in verse 38, the priests’ purpose was to “attend to the duties of the sanctuary”, that is, perform the rituals.
And this duty was done not on their OWN behalf, but on behalf of all the Israelites. It was for the sake of all the Israelite tribes that the Levites and the Priests did what they did.
The end of verse 38 emphasizes, yet again, that any non-authorized person who came too near the Tabernacle or attempted to perform a priestly function was to be killed. One wonders why this is mentioned so many times.
Did God think these Israelite people were stupid?
Well besides the fact that God is making it so very clear that nearness to Him brings danger as well as blessing (something few but the most daring Missionaries in the modern church seem to grasp), I have no doubt that in this era this is a warning primarily to the firstborns of Israel.
Remember we are at a point in time whereby the special status of all Israeli firstborns is in process of being removed from them and turned over to the Levites.
These Israeli firstborns had, for centuries, been the ones with the unique honor and duty to perform priest-like functions for their own families. You can bet that while some firstborns were relieved not to have to do it anymore, others had their pride pricked and were not at all happy about this change.
And they surely had no intention of giving it all up so easily and so wanted to continue to involve themselves in the rituals and ceremonies God had decreed to Moses. God’s answer: don’t even think about it. Come near and die.
By the way notice that NO count of the males that formed the priestly families is given. ONLY the total number of the 3 non-priest families is used.