(1) These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses . . . —The name of Aaron is placed first, not only because he was the elder brother, but also because the ministry of Moses was restricted to his own person, and his sons are merely classed amongst the rest of the Levitical families in 1 Chronicles 23:14; whereas the office of Aaron was perpetuated in the persons of his descendants. Hence we find no mention made in this place of the sons of Moses, but only of those of Aaron. The word generations here, as in the book of Genesis (e.g., Genesis 6:9; Genesis 25:19) and elsewhere, is used to denote the history; and in this sense the present and the following chapters pertain as much to Moses as to Aaron. Or the reference may be to the fact that Moses and Aaron were made the heads of the whole tribe of Levi, and therefore that the Levitical families generally are traced up equally to both.
And they had no children.—To die childless was regarded not only as a reproach, but also as a judgment. This was especially the case in regard to Nadab and Abihu, inasmuch as the sons of one, or of both (as was the case in regard to the sons of Eleazar and of Ithamar), would have succeeded to the high priesthood.
Mine shall they be: I am the Lord.—Or, They shall be (i.e., belong) to me, (even) to me, Jehovah. (Comp. Genesis 4:26 : “And to Seth, to him also.” Literally, And to Seth, even him.)
The covering thereof.—The mikseh (covering) appears to include the two coverings described in Exodus 26:14—viz., the covering of rams’ skins and that of badgers’ skins or seals’ skins.
The hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation—i.e., for the entrance or opening of the tent of meeting. This hanging was of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen, and was hung at the entrance—i.e., the eastern or open end of the tent (Exodus 26:36). The word rendered door (pethach, not deleth) means an opening. At a later period, when the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, it had doors (1 Samuel 3:15). Both words occur in 1 Kings 6:31 : “And for the entering (or at the opening) of the oracle he made doors.” &c.
And the cords of it for all the service thereof.—The pronominal suffixes do not seem to refer to the court, the cords belonging to which appear to have been under the custody of the Merarites (Numbers 3:37), but to the mishkan or Tabernacle itself. Or, the latter suffix (its service, or the service thereof) may be designed to refer to each of the various things mentioned, as in Numbers 3:31, inasmuch as the words for all the service thereof may mean for everything which had to be done in connection with the things mentioned.
For the charge of the children of Israel—i.e., to attend to everything which was commanded the children of Israel.
Twenty and two thousand.—The total of the three several items—viz., 7,500, 8,600, and 6,200—amounts to 22,300. It appears, however, from Numbers 3:46 that the total is correctly given as 22,000, inasmuch as the number of the firstborn, 22,273, exceeded that of the Levites by 273. It has been suggested that in Numbers 3:28 we should read שלש (shalosh), three, for שׁש (shesh), six—i.e., 8,300 instead of 8,600; or, if the numbers were denoted, as it has been commonly supposed, by the letters of the alphabet, it is quite possible that one letter may have been substituted by the scribe for another. Some suppose that the three hundred were themselves firstborn sons, who had been born since the command to sanctify the firstborn, and that it is on this account that they were not included in the census. (See Bishop Wordsworth’s Notes in loc., where the reasons which may be assigned for the extreme paucity of this tribe, as compared with the other tribes, are discussed.) The later census, which also included the children from a month old and upwards, shows but a very small increase in the number of this tribe, the number on that occasion amounting only to 23,000 (Numbers 26:62).
After the shekel of the sanctuary.—See Exodus 30:13, where the expression occurs for the first time, and the value of the shekel is stated, as in this verse.