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Numbers 8-10: Instructions

Original Publication Date
April 1, 2016
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 1:34 AM
Tags
NumbersChapter StudyLeviPassover
Bible References
Number 8-10
Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on April 1, 2016 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

Numbers 8-10 contain instructions for important rituals such as cleansing the Levites and observing the Passover, as well as, instructions for orderly movement.

Cleansing the Levites

As keepers of the tabernacle, the Levites needed to be cleansed before they could be of service. They were to be sprinkled with holy water, shave all their flesh, and wash all their clothes. Reading from a modern perspective, I wonder if "shave all their flesh" included arms, legs, chest, and underarms. Shaven legs and underarms wasn't even in fashion for women until the late 1940s and 1915 respectively.[1]

Since other verses (i.e. Leviticus 19:27) prohibit marring a beard, I am also curious wether this includes facial hair, or if it only pertains to the hair on their head. Of course, completely removing a beard is not necessarily marring it, that would be destructionβ€”mar implies the original is left with some defect. Since Numbers 8:7 does specify "all their flesh," I would assume this means includes both facial hair and the hair on their head. Definitely any hair that would have been visible, and possibly the hair that only God would have seen as well. A quick look at the history of shaving tells us that this would not have been an easy task; they didn't have Gillette razors back then, not even strait razors.

In addition to the physical cleansing, a spiritual cleansing via sacrifice of flour mingled with oil (for a meat offering) and a bullock (for a sin offering). Before the two rituals were performed, the Israelites were to place their hands on the Levites and the Levites were offered to God.

Age of Service

In the second part of the census, Moses takes the sum of the Levites from 30 to 50 years old, however the age for beginning service as a Levite is listed as 25. One site suggested that the first 5 years are an apprenticeship period and thus those people are not included in the sum.[3]

However, a more likely answer comes from examining the subtly of the original Hebrew. There are three verses discussing the age of service for Levites, all of which "contradict."

From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.
This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation:
Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.

Numbers 4 uses the word melakah, which refers to business or occupation. Numbers 8 uses the word baabodath, which refers to work or labor. Ezra 3 explicitly talks about "set[ting] forward the work of the house" not necessarily going into service. Thus the difference in age is based upon the type of work they were required to do. Also, in Ezra, there were fewer Levites to carry out the tasks so they lowered the age of service in order to be able to continue the needed services.[2]

Passover

Numbers 9 rehashes the rules concerning the Passover Feast and stresses its importance. During this time the question of "what if?" comes up within the congregation: what if a man is unclean at the time of the Passover and unable to make an offering to God? In this circumstance the individual was to honor the Passover a month late, on the 14th day of the second month. In addition, God permitted strangers (non-Israelites) to observe the feast, as long as they kept God's laws. Anyone dwelling with the Israelites was to keep the law of God and no distinction was to be made. This is proof that even before Jesus, God was accepting of non-Israelites who submitted to Him; there simply wasn't a wide spread campaign to bring them into the fold.

God's Pillar

God appeared as a pillar before the Israelitesβ€”a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. When God appeared as this pillar, it was a signal to the Israelites to move, but if God remained in the mercy seat, they stayed put and rested. The time spent resting varied greatly.

Two Silver Trumpets

Signals and commands for the tribes were to come from two silver trumpets. These trumpets were to be played by Aaron's sons. The blow of a trumpet could more easily communicate a command across a camp of that size than a voice or drum. Likely this aided the leadership and instruction of the 600,000+ Israelites. These trumpets were also played during feasts for both solemn and joyous occasions.

References and Footnotes

  1. Padden, Kathy. "The History of Shaving".Β Today I Found Out. April 2013
  2. Geisler, Norman and Howe, Thomas. "Numbers 4:3β€”How Can the Age for Levitical Service Be 30, When Numbers 8:24 Says 25, and Ezra 3:8 Says 20?".Β Defining Inerrency. 2014
  3. Ohr Somayach International. "Levites at Work: Age for Levitical Service".Β Ask the Rabbi. 2016

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