New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Num 8:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Num 8:2 Speak to Aaron, and tell him, ‘When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand’.
Num 8:3 Aaron did so. He lit its lamps to light the area in front of the lampstand, as Yahweh commanded Moses.
Num 8:4 This was the workmanship of the lampstand, beaten work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was beaten work: according to the pattern which Yahweh had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand-
The candlestick represents the assembly of believers (Rev. 1:20). It was made of beaten work, representing how all those in the true church will be beaten into a shape through which they can be lights for God. "Hammered" or "beaten" suggests that through blow by blow on material heated in the furnace of affliction (Is. 48:10), God works out a place where His glory may be revealed. And that place is our lives.

Num 8:5 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 8:6 Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.
Num 8:7 You shall do this to them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of cleansing on them, let them shave their whole bodies with a razor, and let them wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves-
Washing and becoming like new born children, with no body hair, looks forward to baptism. We’re not baptized just for the sake of it; we do this so that we may be made holy or separated unto the service of God. We are God’s, just as they were (:14).

Num 8:8 Then let them take a young bull, and its grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil; and another young bull you shall take for a sin offering.
Num 8:9 You shall present the Levites before the Tent of Meeting. You shall assemble the whole congregation of the children of Israel.
Num 8:10 You shall present the Levites before Yahweh. The children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites-

God intended Israel to be "a Kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6). “All the people of Israel” were the builders of the spiritual house of God, i.e. His people (Acts 4:10,11). All Israel were to lay their hands on the Levites to show that they were truly Israel’s representatives (Num. 8:10). When Israel were rejected, they were told that they as a nation could no longer be God’s priest (Hos. 4:6). By baptism, we become spiritual Israel; and this idea is relevant to us too. Peter picks up these words in Exodus and applies them to every one of us: "You also are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Pet. 2:5,9).

"Come near before Yahweh" is usually translated "offer [sacrifice] before Yahweh", and is translated that way multiple times. Although rarely (Ex. 16:9; Lev. 9:5) it is used of the congregation coming near before Yahweh. But the congregation didn't generally want to come before Yahweh, and so He chose just the Levites to come before Yahweh (Num. 8:10; 16:9 s.w.). It was God's intention that all Israel should be His servants, a nation of priests. But He changed and ammended His approach, and chose just the Levites for this. We see here how open God is to change, so that by all means He may have relationship with His people. Under the new covenant, all believers are part of a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) as He initially intended even under the old covenant. And yet there is always the tendency to leave the priestly work to specialists rather than perceiving our personal call to do it.

Num 8:11 and Aaron shall offer the Levites before Yahweh for a wave offering, on the behalf of the children of Israel, that it may be theirs to do the service of Yahweh-
The portion to be waved was placed on the priests hands (Ex. 29:25), and then 'waved' or 'swung' towards the altar and then back- not from right to left. The idea was that the offerings were first given to God, recognizing they should be consumed on the altar to God; but then given back to the priest by God. So they ate them having first recognized that their food was really God's, all was of Him, and He had given it back to them to eat. This should be our spirit in partaking of any food, as we are the new priesthood. Our prayers of thanks for daily food should include this feature. All things are God's and anything we 'offer' to Him is only giving Him what He has given to us (1 Chron. 29:14,16).

Num 8:12 The Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and you shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering to Yahweh, to make atonement for the Levites-
The sin offering always preceded the burnt offering. Dedication to God, represented by the burnt offering, is on the basis of our recognizing first of all our sinfulness and need for His grace. This is why the sin offering always precedes the burnt offering in the Mosaic rituals. We too have been cleansed by the blood of Christ in order to serve Him and His Father (Heb. 9:14; 1 Thess. 1:9).

Num 8:13 You shall set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them as a wave offering to Yahweh.
Num 8:14 Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine-

The Levites were God's (Num. 3:12,13,45; 8:14), and the Lord alludes to this:"I pray not for the (Jewish) world, but for them (the disciples, cp. the Levites) which thou hast given me; for they are thine" (Jn. 17:9). The Levites represent us (Jn. 17:6 = Dt. 33:9); the relationship between Moses and the Levites represents that between Christ and us. Moses' thankfulness that they remained faithful during the golden calf crisis, that sense of being able to rely on them, will be reflected in the Lord's feelings toward the faithful.

Num 8:15 After that, the Levites shall go in to do the service of the Tent of Meeting: and you shall cleanse them, and offer them as a wave offering.
Num 8:16 For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; instead of all who open the womb, even the firstborn of all the children of Israel, I have taken them to Me-
The Levites were separated unto God’s service; it wasn’t so much that they were separate from others in a negative sense; rather they were positively separated unto God’s service. We shouldn’t see holiness as negative- that we can no longer do certain things; but instead focus on what positively we have been separated unto.

Num 8:17 For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and animal. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified them for Myself.
Num 8:18 I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel-
"The men which You gave me out of the (Jewish) world... they have kept Your word" (Jn. 17:6) compares with the Levites being "given" to Aaron / the priesthood out of Israel (Num. 3:9; 8:19; 18:6); at the time of the golden calf they "observed thy word, and kept thy covenant" (Dt. 33:9), as did the disciples. The relationship between Moses and the Levites was therefore that between Christ and the disciples- a sense of thankfulness that at least a minority were faithful.

Num 8:19 I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come near to the sanctuary-


The spiritual and physical wellbeing of others can depend upon third parties, in this case the faithfulness of the Levites. Others can suffer because of our lack of diligence; it’s not that if we don’t do our part for them, then God will raise up others to do what we ought to have done. He may do this, as He was prepared to at the time of Esther, but He wishes us to see the eternal consequence of our actions upon others.


Num 8:20 Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel did so to the Levites. According to all that Yahweh commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so the children of Israel did to them.
Num 8:21 The Levites purified themselves from sin, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them for a wave offering before Yahweh; and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them.
Num 8:22 After that, the Levites went in to do their service in the Tent of Meeting before Aaron, and before his sons, as Yahweh had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.

Num 8:23 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,-
David numbered the Levites from 30 years old (1 Chron. 23:3), in accordance with the law which said Levites were to serve between the ages of 30 and 50 (Num. 4:3,23,35,39). But in 1 Chron. 23:24 we are told that David numbered the Levites from 20 years old. We note in Num. 8:23 that there appeared some flexibility within the Mosaic law; the Levites could be numbered from 25 years old. This is one of many examples of how the Mosaic law was not set in stone. It was principle and spirit rather than letter of the law, and within it there are examples of where one law overrode another, or one principle overrode letter of the law. The law was not designed as a simple test of obedience, for it was far more detailed than that. It was designed to inculcate a spirit of living which looked forward to the spirit of the Lord Jesus. And so David felt free to number the Levites from 20 years old, even though we also read that he numbered 'the Levites from 30 years old', suggesting that this was a technical term rather than a literal description. This would go toward explaining why 38,000 Levites were numbered by David, although "thousand" may mean a division rather than a literal 1000. At the time of Num. 4:47,48 there were only 8,580.

Num 8:24 This is that which belongs to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall go in to serve in the service in the work of the Tent of Meeting-
"This is that which belongs to the Levites" is a reference to the fact the Levites had no possessions of land within Israel. What belonged to them was the honour of serving God; whether or not we own property in this present age, our eternal possession is the honour of being God’s servants. To be a servant, in a world where perceived ‘freedom’ is so cherished, is to be our greatest possession.

Num 8:25 and from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting on the work, and shall serve no more,
Num 8:26 but shall minister with their brothers in the Tent of Meeting, to perform the duty, and shall do no service. You shall do thus to the Levites concerning their duties.