For Service

        For Encampment

        For Worship



        Offerings and Blessings



        By Sight

        By Sound

        By Grace



For Service

Census (1:1-44)

Note that the census was initiated by God (cf. 2 Sam 24 where David numbered his men). And that every man was listed by name, not just a number. On the one hand it means that God is concerned for the individual, while on the other hand it means that the individual is responsible for his actions. Every man above twenty is to be counted. Note also that it was the men that were counted, not the women. Men are to be responsible for their families. Whatever action they took would have consequences on their families.

Purpose (1:45)

The purpose is to "conscript" the people for Israelís army, like national service. And like NS, the people did not have a choice not to serve. It was a national and collective responsibility. Perhaps the idea was to make the men aware of their responsibilities of protecting their families back in the camp.

Specialization (1:47-54)

The only exception was the Levites, who, as we have seen in Ex 32:29, were set apart to serve the Lord as helpers to the priests in the tabernacle. It was their reward for obedience. It was deemed that direct service to God was ranked above national service. However, we must remember that we cannot make service to God an excuse for not shouldering our social responsibilities.

For Encampment


The men were grouped primarily by their tribe. Sometimes tribal loyalty is stronger than national loyalty, as we see later in Kings, and even at the end of the chapter. We must remember that we are grouped for action because of the speciality of each group, not because each is superior, like in the case of denominations.


Three tribes were grouped into a division. One of the three tribes would be the lead tribe. Tradition is that the standard of the division of Judah was the lion, that of Reuben the man, of Ephraim the ox, and of Dan the eagle, corresponding to the description of the creatures seen by Ezekiel (Eze 1:10; cf Rev. 4:7).


The arrangement of the camp is interesting, as can be seen in the diagram. What it looks to us is different from what it looks to God. Many times we do not see the forest for the trees.

For Worship

The Levites

As was mentioned, the Levites were set apart to be helpers for the priests. They were like a "tithe" from Israel to God. They were also to be a "buffer" between the carnal Israel and the holy tabernacle (1:53). Their term of service started at age 30 (with 5 years apprenticeship beginning at 25), and "retired" at 50.

The Tasks

Moses, Aaron and his sons were given responsibility to care for the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. The 3 main tasks were given to the 3 sons of Levi - The Kohathites to carry the tabernacle furnishings, the Gershonites carry the curtains, and the Merarites carry the fixtures. Note that while the tabernacle fixtures could be carried on oxen and carts (ch.7), the Kohathites had to carry the holy things on their shoulders (cf. 2 Sam 6, when David tried to bring the Ark to Jerusalem on a cart).

The Numbering

Again they were numbered, just as Israel had been, and each was given their individual tasks. There was strict division of labour.



Of the Camp (5:1-4)

The camp was to be kept pure, both ceremonially and medically.

Of Morals (5:5-10)

There is also to be a purity of morals.

Of Relationships (5:11-31)

Finally, relationships have to be kept pure.

Compare these requirements with 1 Cor 5 and following.

Offerings and Blessings

Personal (6:1-21)

A person who is not a Levite can offer himself temporarily (or even permanently, as in the case of Samson) to God, to be separated and consecrated unto Him. Such people voluntarily place themselves under the Nazarite vow. It was an act of total devotion to the Lord. Note that there are no obvious benefits or rewards attached to the vow. We do not serve God for rewards. Serving God Himself is reward enough.

Priestly (6:22-27)

Together with presenting Israelís offerings to God, the priests are to bless the people from God. The triple blessings in the Aaronic blessing is intended to proclaim God over the people (v.27), "thus they will put My Name on the Israelites", sort of like "in the Name of Jesus".

People (7:1-88)

Finally, the people came forward to give freewill offerings for the dedication of the tabernacle. Note that this was over and above that required for the building of the tabernacle.


Communion (7:89)

Communion is established between God and Moses. The people have an advocate in Moses, just as we have communion with God through Jesus our heavenly advocate.

Consecration (8:5-19)

The Levites had to be consecrated before serving. so is it for us. The Lord would not use an unclean vessel.

Calling (8:20-26)

Finally, the Levites are called to the tasks assigned.


By Sight


Keeping in mind that all directions come from God, He gives the Israelites a visual ritual of remembrance, the Passover, to remind them of who is giving the orders.


Ritual observance of Passover is required to reinforce the emphasis of God's redemptive work. Note that the timing is not that important.


The people were required to obey the movement of the cloud above the tabernacle. It was something all could see and could not be questioned.

By Sound

For Assembly

The silver trumpets were sounded for assembly and Feasts.

For Movement

They were also sounded for movement, using different signals. We see such use centuries later when the Roman regions also used such devices. God is very practical. How else can one signal instantaneously to a large assembly?

For Battle
Besides being used as signals during battle, which is the obvious usage, the more important purpose was in the acknowledgement that it would be God who would be fighting for them.

By Grace

Finally, the Israelites are reminded every time they moved that their survival, movement, directions, etc was solely upon the grace of God, and that everything depended on His continued presence with them (10:35).


1) Why do you think God is so concerned about purity?

2) How do we know what direction God is leading us? What if it is contrary to our expectations?

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© Nicholas Tay 1996, 1998