Numbers 3

About the Levites

1 This is the list of the family of Aaron and Moses, when the Lord spoke to Moses. The Lord spoke to Moses on Sinai mountain.

2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadab was the firstborn son. 3 Aaron anointed them, and he gave authority to them to work as priests. 4 But Nadab and Abihu fell down and died in front of the Lord. That happened when they offered strange fire to the Lord in the Sinai desert. They had no children. So only Eleazar and Ithamar worked as priests while their father Aaron was alive.

3:4We are not sure what ‘strange fire’ was. But we know that it was something that did not please God.

The Levites help the priests

5 Then the Lord said to Moses, 6 ‘Bring the tribe of Levi to Aaron the priest. They must help him. 7 They must serve him and all the Israelites. They must work at Tent of Meeting and take care of it. 8 They must work on behalf of the Israelites. They must do all the necessary work with the things that are in the Tent of Meeting. That is how they will serve God. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and to his descendants. They will be the Israelites who help him. They do not have to do anything else. 10 But you must make a list of Aaron and his descendants. They will be the priests. If any other person comes near to the special Tent, they must die.’

11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 ‘I will not take the firstborn son of every woman in Israel to belong to me. I will take the Levites instead of them. 13 I killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, but I did not kill the firstborn sons of the Israelites. As a result, the firstborn son of every person and animal among the Israelites became mine. They belong to me. I am the Lord!’

The Levite families

14 The Lord said to Moses in the Sinai desert, 15 ‘Put the Levites into clans and families and count them. Make a list of every male who is a month old or older.’ 16 Moses obeyed the Lord. So Moses recorded them as the Lord said.

17 The names of the sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

18 Gershon had two sons. Their names were Libni and Shimei.

19 Kohath's sons were called Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.

20 Merari's sons were called Mahli and Mushi.

Those were the sons and grandsons of Levi. They became the leaders of the clans of Levi's tribe.

Gershon's clan

21 There were two families in Gershon's clan. They were the families of Libni and Shimei. 22 They had 7,500 males who were one month or older in their list. 23 Gershon's clan had to camp on the west side of the special Tent. 24 The leader of the clan of Gershon was Eliasaph the son of Lael.

25 Gershon's family had to take care of the special Tent, with the cloth that covered it, and the curtain at its door. 26 There was a yard round the outside of the Tent and the altar. Gershon's family took care of the curtains that hung round the yard, with their ropes. They also took care of the curtain at the entrance to the yard. They took care of all those kinds of things.

Kohath's clan

27 There were four families in Kohath's clan. They were the families of Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. 28 There were 8,600 males who were one month old or older in this clan. They had to take care of the things inside the special Tent. 29 Kohath's clan had to camp on the south side of the special Tent. 30 The leader of Kohath's descendants was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel.

31 Kohath's family had to take care of the Covenant Box, the table and the lampstands. They had to take care of the altars and the tools that the priests used in the special Tent. They also took care of the curtain in front of the Most Holy Place in the Tent. They did all the work with those things.

32 Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, was the most important leader of the Levites. He ruled over those people who took care of God's special Tent.

Merari's clan

33 There were two families in Merari's clan. They were the families of Mahli and Mushi. 34 There were 6,200 males in that list. They were one month old or older when Moses counted them. 35 The leader of Merari's clan was Zuriel, the son of Abihail. They had to camp on the north side of the special Tent.

36 Merari's family had to take care of all the wood parts of the Tent. They took care of the heavy things that stood on the ground to hold the poles. 37 They also took care of the poles that held the cloth round the yard, their ropes and other things that made the Tent stand.

38 Moses, Aaron and Aaron's sons had to camp in front of the special Tent, on the east side. They were the only people who could go into the Holy place in the Tent. Any other person who went near it had to die.

39 So Moses and Aaron obeyed the Lord. They counted the Levites by their clans. There were 22,000 males who were one month old or older.

The Levites take the place of the firstborn sons of the Israelites

40 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Record all the firstborn males of the Israelites. Record every male who is one month old or older. Make a list of their names. 41 The Israelites' firstborn sons belong to me. I am the Lord. But I will accept all the males among the Levites instead. The Israelites' firstborn animals are also mine. But I will accept the animals of the Levites instead.’

42 So Moses counted all the firstborn males among the Israelites as the Lord had said. 43 He counted 22,273 firstborn males who were one month old or older. He made a list of their names.

44 Then the Lord said to Moses, 45 ‘Do not take the firstborn males among the people to belong to me. Accept the Levites instead. Do not use the firstborn animals of the people. Accept the animals of the Levites instead. The Levites will belong to me. I am the Lord. 46 There are 273 more firstborn males of the people than there are Levites. So the people must pay for the extra firstborn sons. 47 You must accept 5 shekels for each extra firstborn male. The shekel must have the same weight as the shekel that the Levites use in God's Holy Tent. There are 20 gerahs in one shekel. 48 Give that money to Aaron and his sons.’

49 So Moses took the money to buy back the extra 273 firstborn sons. That was because the number of firstborn sons was more than the number of Levites. 50 He took 1,365 shekels from them. The shekels had the same weight as the shekel that the Levites used in God's Holy Tent. 51 Moses did what the Lord had told him to do. He gave the money to Aaron and his sons.