Numbers 3:12 MEANING

Numbers 3:12
Verse 12. - I have taken the Levites. The actual separation of Levi had been already anticipated (see Numbers 1:47, 53), but the meaning and purpose of that separation is now formally declared, into reason, however, is assigned for the choice of this particular tribe. It is almost always assumed that their zeal in the matter of the golden calf was the ground of the preference shown to them now. But it may be doubted whether there was any "preference" in the matter at all. To Aaron and his seed on undoubted and important preference was shown, but the functions and position of the Levites were not such as to give them any preeminence, or to secure them any substantial advantage. They were tied down to the performance of routine duties, which demanded no intelligence, and gave scope for no ambitions. The one obvious reason why Levi was selected is to be found in the fact that he was by far the smallest in numbers among the tribes, being less than half the next smallest, Manasseh, and almost exactly balancing the first-born. A larger tribe could not have been spared, and would not have been needed, for the purpose in question. If any more recondite motive must be sought for the Divine selection, it must be found in the prophecy of Genesis 49:7. Levi as well as Simeon, though in a different way, was doomed never to raise his head as a united and powerful tribe among his brethren.

Numbers 3:13 Verse 13. - Because all the first-born are mine (see Exodus 13:2, and below on verse 43). That the powers of heaven had a special claim upon the firstling of man or beast was probably one of the oldest religious ideas in the world, which it would be difficult to trace to any origin but in some primeval revelation. It branched out into many superstitions, of which the cruel cultus of Moloch was the worst. Among the tribes which preserved the patriarchal faith, it retained more or less of its primitive meaning in the assignment of sacrificial duties to the eldest son. According to the Targums, the "young men of the children of Israel" sent by Moses to offer sacrifices before the consecration of Aaron (Exodus 24:5) were first-born. Whatever ancient and latent claims, however, God may have had upon the firstborn of Israel, they are here superseded by a special and recent claim founded upon their miraculous preservation when the first-born of the Egyptians were slain. All the firstborn in that day became "anathema," devoted to God, for evil or for good, for death or for life. He, to whom belongs the whole harvest of human souls, came and claimed his first-fruits from the fields of Egypt. He took unto himself by death the first-born of the Egyptians; he left for himself in life the first-born of the Israelites. For the convenience, however, of the people, and for the better and more regular discharge of the ministry, he was content to take the single small tribe of Levi in lieu of the first-born of all.

Numbers 3:12 Verse 12. - Instead of all the first-born. The Septuagint inserts here, "they shall be their ransom."

Numbers 3:13 Verse 13. - Mine shall they be: I am the Lord. Rather, "mine shall they be, mine, the Lord's."

Numbers 3:15 Verse 15. - From a month old. The first-born were to be redeemed "from a month old" (Numbers 18:16).

3:1-13 There was much work belonging to the priests' office, and there were now only Aaron and his two sons to do it; God appoints the Levites to attend them. Those whom God finds work for, he will find help for. The Levites were taken instead of the first-born. When He that made us, saves us, as the first-born of Israel were saved, we are laid under further obligations to serve him faithfully. God's right to us by redemption, confirms the right he has to us by creation.And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel,.... Separated them from others, and set them apart for the service of the sanctuary; this was his own act and deed, and which he did of his own will and pleasure, who is a sovereign Being, and might and would do whatsoever he pleased, nor should any object unto him, or contradict him: and this he did:

instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel; he made an exchange of those for the Levites; upon the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt, and saving the firstborn of Israel, he claimed the latter as his own in a special sense, and now he gave up his right to them, and instead thereof took the Levites; nor could the people of Israel reasonably object to this, nor be uneasy at it, but rather be pleased with it; since hereby they were not only freed from the charge of redeeming their firstborn, but since they were the Lord's, he might have appointed them to be servants to the priests; and every Israelite would choose rather, no doubt, to part with a tribe for this service than to have their firstborn sons employed in it; and there were none so fit as the tribe of Levi, not only because it was a small tribe, but because the priests were of this tribe, to whom they were to minister; and therefore as there was a connection between them, the Levites would readily serve them: it is a notion that has obtained both among Jews and Christians, that the firstborn before this time were priests in the family, but now the Levites were taken in their room; and Jarchi particularly observes, that when the firstborn sinned in the business of the calf, they were rejected, and the Levites, who did not commit idolatry, were chosen in their room; but it does not appear, before the fixing the priesthood in Aaron's family, that the firstborn in a family were priests, and officiated as such, but rather the father and head of the family for the whole, or everyone for himself, as in Adam's family, he and his two sons; and moreover, it was a recent thing, and only among the Hebrews, that the firstborn were in a peculiar manner the Lord's, not as priests, only to be redeemed, and now the Levites were redeemed in their room; it was not to be priests, but the servants of the priests (r):

therefore the Levites shall be mine; whom he gave to the priests to assist them in their work, which was for him and his glory.

(r) Vid. Outram. de Sacrificiis, l. 1. c. 4. sect. 1, 2, 3.

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