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Numbers 8:9-15

Context
8:9 You are to bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the entire community of the Israelites. 8:10 Then you are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on the Levites; 1  8:11 and Aaron is to offer 2  the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, that they may do the work 3  of the Lord. 8:12 When 4  the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, offer 5  the one for a purification offering and the other for a whole burnt offering to the Lord, 6  to make atonement for the Levites. 8:13 You are to have the Levites stand before Aaron 7  and his sons, and then offer them as a wave offering to the Lord. 8:14 And so 8  you are to separate the Levites from among the Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

8:15 “After this, the Levites will go in 9  to do the work 10  of the tent of meeting. So you must cleanse them 11  and offer them like a wave offering. 12 

1 sn The consecration ceremony was to be done in full view of the assembled people. In all probability the laying on of the hands was done through representatives of the tribes, and not all the people. This ritual of the imposition of hands showed that the people were taking part in the consecration, and that the Levites represented them in the service of the Lord.

2 tn The Hebrew text actually has “wave the Levites as a wave offering.” The wave offering was part of the ritual of the peace offering and indicated the priest’s portion being presented to God in a lifted, waving motion for all to see. The Levites were going to be in the sanctuary to serve the Lord and assist the priests. It is unclear how Moses would have presented them as wave offerings, but the intent is that they would be living sacrifices, as Paul would later say in Rom 12:1 for all Christians.

3 tn The construction emphasizes the spiritual service of the Levites, using the infinitive construct of עָבַד (’avad) followed by its cognate accusative.

4 tn The clause begins with a vav (ו) on the noun “the Levites,” indicating a disjunctive clause. Here it is clearly a subordinate clause prior to the instruction for Moses, and so translated as a circumstantial clause of time.

5 tn The imperative is from the verb “to do; to make,” but in the sentence it clearly means to sacrifice the animals.

6 sn The “purification offering” cleansed the tabernacle from impurity, and the burnt offering atoned by nullifying and removing the effects of sin in the Levites.

7 tc The Greek text adds the Lord here: “before the Lord, before Aaron.”

8 tn The vav (ו) consecutive on the perfect tense not only carries the nuance of instruction forward to this clause, but also marks this clause out as a summary of what has taken place, i.e., by doing all this ritual Moses will have separated the Levites from the people for God’s own possession.

9 tn The imperfect tense could also be given the nuance of the imperfect of permission: “the Levites may go in.”

10 tn Heb “to serve.”

11 tn The two verbs in the rest of this verse are perfect tenses with vav (ו) consecutive constructions, making them equal to the imperfect. Some commentators try to get around the difficulty of repetition by making these future perfects, “and you will have cleansed,” as opposed to a summary statement, “for thus you will cleanse….”

12 tc The Greek text adds “before the Lord.”



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