18:2 “Bring with you your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, so that they may join 2 with you and minister to you while 3 you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 18:3 They must be responsible to care for you and to care for the entire tabernacle. However, they must not come near the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. 18:4 They must join 4 with you, and they will be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the tent, but no unauthorized person 5 may approach you. 18:5 You will be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the care of the altar, so that there will be 6 no more wrath on the Israelites. 18:6 I myself have chosen 7 your brothers the Levites from among the Israelites. They are given to you as a gift from the Lord, to perform the duties 8 of the tent of meeting.
1 sn The firstborn were those that were essentially redeemed from death in Egypt when the blood was put on the doors. So in the very real sense they belonged to God (Exod 13:2,12). The firstborn was one who stood in special relationship to the father, being the successive offspring. Here, the Levites would stand in for the firstborn in that special role and special relationship. God also made it clear that the nation of Israel was his firstborn son (Exod 4:22-23), and so they stood in that relationship before all the nations. The tribe of Reuben was to have been the firstborn tribe, but in view of the presumptuous attempt to take over the leadership through pagan methods (Gen 35:22; 49:3-4), was passed over. The tribes of Levi and Simeon were also put down for their ancestors’ activities, but sanctuary service was still given to Levi.
2 sn The verb forms a wordplay on the name Levi, and makes an allusion to the naming of the tribe Levi by Leah in the book of Genesis. There Leah hoped that with the birth of Levi her husband would be attached to her. Here, with the selection of the tribe to serve in the sanctuary, there is the wordplay again showing that the Levites will be attached to Aaron and the priests. The verb is יִלָּווּ (yillavu), which forms a nice wordplay with Levi (לֵוִי). The tribe will now be attached to the sanctuary. The verb is the imperfect with a vav (ו) that shows volitive sequence after the imperative, here indicating a purpose clause.
3 tn The clause is a circumstantial clause because the disjunctive vav (ו) is on a nonverb to start the clause.
4 tn Now the sentence uses the Niphal perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive from the same root לָוָה (lavah).
5 tn The word is “stranger, alien,” but it can also mean Israelites here.
6 tn The clause is a purpose clause, and the imperfect tense a final imperfect.
7 tn Heb “taken.”
8 tn The infinitive construct in this sentence is from עָבַד (’avad), and so is the noun that serves as its object: to serve the service.