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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 the mountain called Sinai.

3:1Aaron was the High Priest. All his sons were priests.

2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadab was the oldest son. 3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron. 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 unholy 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 ‘unholy fire’ means. But we know that God had not told them to offer it.

The Levites must work for 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 work for him and for all the Israelites. They must work in front of the Tent of Meeting. They must work at God's Tent. 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. Their work is at God's Tent. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and to his descendants. So they will be the Israelites who help him. And 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, he must die.’ 11 The LORD also said to Moses, 12 ‘I will not take the first son of every woman of Israel. I will take all the Levites instead. 13 I killed all the first-born children of the Egyptians. Then the first-born of every person and animal of Israel became mine. Now, I will not have the first-born child. I will have all the Levites instead. They are mine. I am the LORD!’

Moses and Aaron count the Levites

14 The LORD said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, 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 had become the leaders of the clans of Levi's tribe.

21 There were two families in Gershon's clan. They were the families of Libni and Shimei. 22 They had 7500 males who were one month or older in their list. 23 Gershon's clans had to camp on the west side of God's Tent. 24 The leader of the clan of Gershon was Eliasaph the son of Lael. 25 The descendants of Gershon had to work with the cloth of the walls and the doors of God's Tent. 26 There was a yard outside God's Tent. This yard was round God's Tent and round the altar. There were curtains that hung round this yard. Those men had to work with these curtains. Also, they had to work with the ropes and the curtain for the place where people went into the yard. And they also did all the work with those things.

27 The descendants of Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel belonged to the Kohath's clan. 28 There were 8600 males who were one month old or older in this clan. They were one month old or older when Moses counted them. They had to work in God's Holy Tent. 29 Kohath's descendants had to camp on the south side of God's Tent. 30 The leader of Kohath's descendants was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31 They had to work with the Covenant Box, the table and the lampstands. They had to work with the altar and the tools that the priests used in God's Holy Tent. Also they had to work with the curtain in front of the Most Holy Place in God's Tent. And they also 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 did all the work in God's Holy Tent.

33 The descendants of Mahli and Mushi belonged to Merari's clan. 34 There were 6200 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 God's Tent. 36 They had to work with all the boards of God's Tent and with all the things that held it up. 37 They also had to work with all the things that held up the cloth for the yard round God's Tent.

38 Moses, Aaron and the sons of Aaron had to camp in front of God's Tent. They had to camp on the east side. They were the only people who could go into God's Holy Tent. Any other person who went near it must 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 first-born sons of the Israelites

40 The LORD said to Moses, ‘Record all the first-born males of the Israelites. Record every male who is one month old or older. And count their names. 41 The Israelites' first-born sons are mine. I am the LORD. But I will accept all the males among the Levites instead. Also, the Israelites' first-born animals are mine. But I will accept the animals of the Levites instead.’

42 So Moses counted all the first-born males among the Israelites as the LORD had said. 43 He counted 22 273 first-born 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 use the first-born males among the people. Accept the Levites instead. Do not use the first-born animals of the people. Accept the animals of the Levites instead. The Levites will be mine. I am the LORD. 46 There are 273 more first-born males of the people than there are Levites. The people must buy them back from me. 47 You must accept 5 shekels for each extra first-born 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 the money that buys back the extra males to Aaron and his sons.’ 49 So Moses took the money to buy back the extra 273 first-born sons. That was because the number of first-born sons was more than the number of Levites. 50 He took 1365 shekels from them. The shekels had the same weight as the shekel that the Levites used in God's Holy Tent. 51 Moses gave the money to Aaron and his sons. The LORD had told him that he must do that. So he did it.