The people of Israel have been numbered and divided. Each is in his tribe and place. Yet the Levites were not numbered with the people. They had been set apart by God / YHWH for His specific purpose. Now we begin to see a bit more about this purpose and the Levite’s role and jobs.
Here in chapter 3 we see that while the Levites missed out on the general census, they will be having a special census all their own. While the general population was numbered by their men 20 years old and older, the Levites are numbered by the males from one month and up. Everyone MUST be accounted for. There must be an accurate count. YHWH is dividing up the Levites into their duties, and there must be an accurate count of who is involved in what.
The most interesting part of this chapter for me though mainly starts in vs. 11; “Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD.’” So YHWH, when He was freeing the people from the hand of Pharaoh, killed all of the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He spared those who were under the protection of the blood. Yet when He did that, He did not just ignore those who were spared, but He set them aside as belonging to Him.
I don’t know why, but for some reason this just strikes me. YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel. His angel of death took all of the firstborn of the land, except for the protected. This was in punishment for Pharaoh & Egypts’ sins against God and the people of Israel. Yet as a result of this sparing of the people of Israel, YHWH sees the firstborn of Israel as belonging to Him. I mean, He spared them because they were obedient to Him and He was punishing the Egyptians for their sins, defiance of Him, and slavery of the Israelites. So how does His sparing of the Israelites make them now His? I mean in a sense, it makes sense. In another sense, not so much.
Moses has, with YHWH’s direction and doing, successfully brought the people of Isreal out of their bondage in the land of Egypt. He has brought them to Mount Sinai, the Lord’s / YHWH’s mountain, and brought them face to face with God / YHWH. From there, YHWH has given the people direction, understanding, and instruction. They have built a tabernacle for YHWH to go with them, and it is getting ready for the people to start heading out.
In the meantime, the people need to be prepared. They will be taking the promised land. They will be fighting battles and defeating nations of people who had allowed their sin to consume them to the point of their being vomited out by the land they live in. As such the men of Israel need to be aware of who they are, what they are capable of, and how many of them are going out to war. So God / YHWH calls them to do something simple. Number yourselves. Figure out how many there are who can fight and go to war. So every male 20 years old and older has to register by their families and tribes. They must make themselves known and be prepared for war.
So the leader of each tribe goes about getting their people registered. In the end, all the males 20 years old and up of the sons of Israel amounts to 603,550 men. Not counting women and children under the age of 20, and not even counting one of the tribes. The Levites have been set aside to serve the LORD / YHWH. As such, approximately 1/12th of the people aren’t even considered for the census That is a lot of people!
What’s amazing to me is that just over 500 years before this census occurred, God made a promise to 1 elderly man and his elderly, barren wife;
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:16)
So from 2 elderly and barren people and a promise from YHWH, around 500 years later is this huge, massive nation divided into 12 tribes with an army of over 600,000 men aged 20 and older with 1/12 of them not even involved in that number. Now that’s what I call fulfilling a promise!
What kind of promises has God / YHWH made in your life? Are they promises you are working to fulfill, or are you trusting completely in Him to do all the work and fulfill them for you? Think about it…