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Read Numbers 3

The Levites

This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.

The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons, so Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.

The Lord said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”

14 The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, 15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.” 16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

17 These were the names of the sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

18 These were the names of the Gershonite clans:

Libni and Shimei.

19 The Kohathite clans:

Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.

20 The Merarite clans:

Mahli and Mushi.

These were the Levite clans, according to their families.

21 To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans. 22 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500. 23 The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle. 24 The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael. 25 At the tent of meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes—and everything related to their use.

27 To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans. 28 The number of all the males a month old or more was 8,600. The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary. 29 The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. 30 The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan son of Uzziel. 31 They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use. 32 The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.

33 To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans. 34 The number of all the males a month old or morewho were counted was 6,200. 35 The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, 37 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.

38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the tent of meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.

39 The total number of Levites counted at the Lord’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.

40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names. 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord.”

42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lordcommanded him. 43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.

44 The Lord also said to Moses, 45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord. 46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 47 collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”

49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel.51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

Go Deeper

As you read Numbers 3, recall the Israelites are embarking on their journey to God’s promised land for them. Their exodus requires significant organizational instructions which are often recorded as “the Lord spoke to Moses.” Thus far, the Lord has instructed the Israelite tribes to be counted, and the specific location of each tribe determined, (except for the tribe of Levi.) Today’s reading reveals God’s plan for the role of this tribe. Aaron and his two sons were designated by God as the priests for the Israelites, but it was impossible for them to handle all the religious needs of the tribes. 

God directed Moses to gather the Levites, setting them aside to serve the priests (Aaron and his sons) and accomplish the daily work of the tabernacle. As details of the specific duties are assigned, God’s instructions are clear and precise. Take note of Moses’ obedient response to God’s words. Without hesitation (or offering another perspective), he followed God’s directions totally and precisely: from separating the Levites, to counting every Levite male one month old or more, to registering the first-born Israelite males, to collecting a redemption payment for extra Israelite males not covered by the Levite number, and to giving the redemption payment to Aaron. Moses’ obedience reflects his wholehearted trust in God – the God who provides, rescues, brings order, who knows and redeems. His full obedience serves as a great encouragement and challenge for us.

As in many Old Testament passages, this chapter offers a shadow of God’s salvation plan. The Levites were set aside for lives devoted to practical service to God in place of each first-born Israelite male, who were previously designated as God’s possession after the rescue from Egypt. In other words, they served as a substitute for the other tribes, fulfilling the obligation of the first-born males. This act of substitution is a shadow of Jesus’ substituting His life for ours, sacrificing his life by dying in our place. 

Second Corinthians 5:21 describes it this way: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God’s plan to substitute His own Son and redeem us will be revealed throughout our reading of Numbers and other Old Testament books, often in shadows pointing us to Jesus. As we read, let’s ask God to open our eyes and hearts to catch glimpses of His incredible redemption story fulfilled in Jesus. Then, let’s respond with thanks!


  1. How does Moses’ totally obedient response to God’s words challenge your obedience to God?
  2. How does your trust in God influence your obedience to Him?
  3. What does Jesus’ substitution of His life for yours mean to you? How can you express your thankfulness to Him today?

Did You Know?

It was the job of the Levites to serve the needs of Aaron and the priests, but according to Deuteronomy 24:8 the Levites has another important job: teaching and explaining the Word of God to the Israelites.

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4 thoughts on “Numbers 3”

  1. As I opened up this chapter to read today, I was gently reminded that the same God who instructed the Israelites is our God. The One who according to
    Luke 12:7 “numbers” the hairs on our head. He created us and knows us better and loves us deeper than anyone else. He designed us to live in a divine relationship with him and be on mission with him. If he has redeemed us we have a story to share with others so that they too may be drawn into his marvelous light. We are here on purpose for a higher purpose.

  2. The red thread. Here is more about that red thread woven into God’s Word. Jesus our Redeemer, how sweet a name it is. We are able to speak directly to God because of this name, Jesus Christ. He became our great high Priest, we can enter the Holy of Holy’s because of what He did for His Father and for us. We should be in such reverent awe of this Book and what it unfolds for us. God is so good and that is putting it mildly. There are not enough adjectives or minutes in our 24 hours to honor and glorify Him. But guess what? WOOHOO!!!! That is what we get to do when we are with Him in the eternal life!!!

    God I praise You for how You show me a bigger and then another time, even bigger picture of You. Thank You for Your Son and what He accomplished so I can come before You. God Your HESED love is so amazing. Your loving me brings me to my knees and tears daily. I am beyond thankful, grateful and blessed. God thank You for these minutes of this day, that I glorify You with my actions, words and thoughts. God thank You for helping me bring every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) in Jesus name amen

  3. Diane Frances Rogers

    Obedience to God will always be fruitful. He will not lead us astray. Reading God’s living Word prepares us for what He has in store for our good and His plan.
    In Esther 4:14″ For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance. for the Jews will come from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
    Esther was obedient after fasting and prayer. I pray for this discipline as I wait upon the Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

  4. 1. Moses obedient responses to God teaches me to be obedient to God at all times and not to question to him as to why he’s asking me to do specfic assignments and tasks, it is my job to obey what he has to say. And it challenges me also to stop doubting when God tells me to move, go, or to stay away from a certain thing that will bring harm spiritually to my soul. It challenges me to put my trust in God alone and never look to man or other things to order my steps in life.

    2. I feel like when you trust God you don’t care what the circumstance looks like or what you feel, you are confident that God is faithful and keeper of his word. Trusting in God, placing our confidence is God I believe is when we truly start to obey out of a love for Jesus and it doesn’t feel like a burden or a duty, but it’s a delight. It’s a delight because Jesus is the one you confide in, you trust in, you can vulnerable with etc. Trusting God helps us to obey no matter how crazy things may be, we trust that God is with us. In placing our trust in him we are no longer relying on our own strength to fight sin, but we are drawing from his grace and mighty power to walk in righteousness, holiness, and purity.

    3. Jesus’ substitution of life means so much to me in that Jesus laid aside all his desires, all his wants, his life so that we could have a second chance at intimacy with the Heavenly Father. Jesus our beloved Savior laid down his life so we could be fully washed, redeemed, delivered, and set free from the bondage of sin. It is because of Jesus I am here today. I cannot boast in any deeds I’ve done whether good or bad, because I know I’m just a wretched sinner who’s not worthy of such a compassionate God’s love. It is solely because of the love of God I was saved from the depths of my sin, it was because of the mercy of Jesus his lovingkindess I move and have being and for that I am truly grateful. I can express my thankfulness to him by giving him praise for not only his faithfulness and the marvelous things he has done in my life, but for the simple fact that his character is pure, loving, kind, patient, and compassionate. The fact that he is a loving father that cares to see us spirtually succeed and prosper though we don’t deserve to even be cared for in this way, he does not treat us a sins deserve. What an awesome, pure, loving, and mighty God we serve. May Jesus get all the praise and glory out of our lives, and may our lives constantly radiate his life each and every place we go, In Jesus name, Amen.

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