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Numbers 3:21-37

The Numbering of the Gershonites

3:21 From Gershon came the family of the Libnites and the family of the Shimeites; these were the families of the Gershonites. 3:22 Those of them who were numbered, counting every male from a month old and upward, were 7,500. 3:23 The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle toward the west. 3:24 Now the leader 1  of the clan 2  of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael.

3:25 And 3  the responsibilities of the Gershonites in the tent of meeting included the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the curtain at the entrance of the tent of meeting, 3:26 the hangings of the courtyard, 4  the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard that surrounded the tabernacle and the altar, and their ropes, plus all the service connected with these things. 5 

The Numbering of the Kohathites

3:27 From Kohath came the family of the Amramites, the family of the Izharites, the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites; these were the families of the Kohathites. 6  3:28 Counting every male from a month old and upward, there were 8,600. They were responsible for the care 7  of the sanctuary. 3:29 The families of the Kohathites were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. 3:30 Now the leader of the clan of the families of the Kohathites was Elizaphan son of Uzziel.

3:31 Their responsibilities included the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they ministered, 8  the curtain, and all their service. 9  3:32 Now the head of all the Levitical leaders 10  was Eleazar son of Aaron the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible 11  for the sanctuary.

The Numbering of Merari

3:33 From Merari came the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these were 12  the families of Merari. 3:34 Those of them who were numbered, counting every male from a month old and upward, were 6,200. 3:35 Now the leader of the clan of the families of Merari was Zuriel son of Abihail. These were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.

3:36 The appointed responsibilities of the Merarites included the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, its posts, its sockets, its utensils, plus all the service connected with these things, 13  3:37 and the pillars of the courtyard all around, with their sockets, their pegs, and their ropes.

1 tn The vav (ו) disjunctive on the noun at the beginning of the verse here signals a greater emphasis on the individual rather than another item in the numbering of the clans.

2 tn Heb “a father’s house.” So also in vv. 30,35.

3 tn The disjunctive vav (ו) here introduces a new section, listing the various duties of the clan in the sanctuary. The Gershonites had a long tradition of service here. In the days of David Asaph and his family were prominent as musicians. Others in the clan controlled the Temple treasuries. But in the wilderness they had specific oversight concerning the tent structure, which included the holy place and the holy of holies.

4 tc The phrases in this verse seem to be direct objects without verbs. BHS suggests deleting the sign of the accusative (for which see P. P. Saydon, “Meanings and Uses of the Particle אֵת,” VT 14 [1964]: 263-75).

5 tn Heb “for all the service of it [them].”

6 sn Both Moses and Aaron came from this line (6:16-20). During the Hebrew monarchy this branch of the line of Levi was exemplary in music (1 Chr 6:33-48). They were also helpful to Hezekiah in his reforms (1 Chr 29:12-14).

7 tn The construction here is a little different. The Hebrew text uses the participle in construct plural: שֹׁמְרֵי (shomÿrey, literally “keepers of”). The form specifies the duties of the 8,600 Kohathites. The genitive that follows this participle is the cognate מִשְׁמֶרֶת (mishmeret) that has been used before. So the expression indicates that they were responsible for the care of this part of the cult center. There is no reason to delete one of the forms (as does J. A. Paterson, Numbers, 42), for the repetition stresses the central importance of their work.

8 tn The verb is יְשָׁרְתוּ (yÿsharÿtu, “they will serve/minister”). The imperfect tense in this place, however, probably describes what the priests would do, what they used to do. The verb is in a relative clause: “which they would serve with them,” which should be changed to read “with which they would serve.”

9 tn The word is literally “its [their] service.” It describes all the implements that were there for the maintenance of these things.

10 tn The Hebrew construction has “the leader of the leaders of” (וּנְשִׂיא נְשִׂיאֵי, unÿsinÿsiey).

11 tn Heb “the keepers of the responsibility” (שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁמֶרֶת, shomÿrey mishmeret). The participle is a genitive specifying the duty to which he was appointed (thing possessed); its cognate genitive emphasizes that their responsibility was over the holy place.

12 tn The Hebrew text has “these they the families of Merari.” The independent personal pronoun has an anaphoric use, somewhat equivalent to the copula “and” (see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 23, §115).

13 tn Heb “and all their service.” This could possibly be a hendiadys: “and all their working tools.” However, the parallel with v. 26 suggests this is a separate phrase.

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