How to carry the worship center
Job description of the Kohath family1The LORD told Moses and Aaron: 2Take a count. See how many men are in the Kohath family—every household in that extended family. 3Focus the count on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent.
4Here’s the job description for the Kohath family and the work they’re responsible to do at the sacred Meeting Tent. 5When it’s time to break camp and move on, Aaron and his sons will go inside the sacred tent. They’ll take down the curtain at the entrance into the room where the Ten Commandments are kept in the Box of the Law. 6They'll cover the box with full-grain leather, adding a blue drape on top. Then they’ll insert carrying poles into the rings built into the box. 7Next, they’ll put a blue tablecloth on the table of the Bread of God’s Presence. On top of that, they’ll stack the dishes used in the worship center: plates, pans, bowls, and the jugs for the liquid offerings. 8Then they’ll wrap it all in crimson fabric, followed by a layer of full-grain leather. They'll insert carrying poles into the rings built into the table.
9Next they'll use a blue drape to cover the lampstand and its lamps, along with all the equipment needed to maintain the lamp inside the tent: tongs, trays, lamp snuffers, and jars of the finest grade of olive oil, used as fuel for the lamps. 10They'll load the lampstand, lamps, and accessories onto a carrying frame, and wrap it in full-grain leather. 11They'll cover the golden incense altar with a blue cloth, followed by a layer of full-grain leather. Then they'll insert carrying poles into the rings on the altar. 12They'll do the same with all the remaining worship center utensils. They’ll wrap them in blue cloth and secure them with a layer of full-grain leather. They'll put all of this onto a carrying frame.
13Next, they’ll go outside to the bronze altar used for animal sacrifice. They’ll clean off the ashes and cover the altar with purple fabric. 14On top of this cloth, they’ll stack the altar utensils: shovels, forks, bowls, and pans used to carry burning coals. They’ll wrap it all in full-grain leather, and insert the carrying poles into the rings built into the altar.
15When Aaron and his sons finish packing the sacred objects from the tent worship center and the camp is ready to hit the road, the Kohath family will carry the furnishings by holding onto the poles. This will protect them from direct contact with the holy objects, which would kill them. This is everything in the Meeting Tent that the Kohath family will carry when it's time travel. 16Aaron's son, Eleazar the priest, is responsible for all of this. He’s in charge of the Meeting Tent and everything in it: oil for the lamps and for anointing priests, fragrant incense for burning on the altar, the regular grain offering, and all the furnishings inside the tent.
Don’t lose the Kohath family17The LORD told Moses and Aaron: 18Don’t ever do anything that would eliminate the Kohath family from the Levites.
19Here’s how I want you to protect them from getting killed on the job. When it’s time for them to carry the sacred objects, Aaron and his sons will show them what to do and how to do it. 20Do not for one second let them even see one of these holy objects. If they do, they’ll die.
Job description of the Gershon family21The LORD told Moses: 22Take a count. See how many people are in the Gershon family—every household in the extended family. 23Focus the count on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent.
24Here’s the job description for the Gershon family and the work they’re responsible to do at the sacred Meeting Tent. 25They’ll carry the tent worship center and the protective layers above it. That includes the outside layer of full-grain leather, and the entrance curtain, as well. 26They’ll carry the fabric curtains that form a wall surrounding the large courtyard, the tent, and the sacrificial altar. They’ll carry the entrance gate curtains, too, along with ropes and everything else used to secure the curtains. They’ll need to take care of all of this. 27Aaron and his sons will tell the Gershon family what to carry and how to carry it. 28This is the job description of the Gershon family. Aaron’s son Ithamar the priest will oversee their work.
Job description of the Merari family29Now count the Merari family—every household in the extended family. 30Focus the count on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent.
31Here’s the job description for the Merari family and the work they’re responsible to do at the sacred Meeting Tent. They’ll carry the heavy objects: worship center boards, supporting poles and crossbars, along with bases that hold poles in place. 32They’ll also carry the support poles, bases, pegs and ropes used with the curtain wall around the worship center and its courtyard. Given all this equipment, I want you to assign by name what each man will carry. 33This is the job description of the Merari family. Aaron’s son Ithamar the priest will oversee their work.
8,580 men to carry tent worship center34So Moses, Aaron, and other leaders counted the Kohath family—every household. 35They focused the count on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent. 36There were 2,750 Kohath men in that age group. 37That’s the count Moses and Aaron got when they registered Kohath men for work at the Meeting Tent. The LORD told Moses to count the men.
38The Gershon family got counted as well—every household. 39Again, the count focused on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent. 40There were 2,630 men in that age group. 41That’s the count Moses and Aaron got when they registered Gershon men for work at the Meeting Tent. The LORD told Moses to count the men.
42The Merari family showed up for the count—every household. 43The count focused on men ages of 30-50, the ones eligible to work at the Meeting Tent. 44There were 3,200 men in that age group. 45That’s the count Moses and Aaron got when they registered Merari men for work at the Meeting Tent. The LORD told Moses to count the men. 46Moses, Aaron, and other Israelite leaders counted all these men, 47everyone 30-50, those eligible to work at the Meeting Tent. 48There were 8,580 men. 49That’s the count Moses got when he registered men for the job of carrying the Meeting Tent. The LORD had told Moses to count the men.
The context here is the worship center. But it seems Moses also had a separate meeting tent, before the worship center was built (Exodus 33:7). The tent worship center was located in the middle of the camp (Numbers 2:17). The meeting tent of Moses was at another place, where people would go to hear from Moses. He would tell them what the Lord had to say about any question they had. Some scholars say Moses likely set up his meeting tent outside the camp because of God’s refusal at the time to travel with the people. Moses may have figured that if God wouldn’t come to them, they would go to God.
The gold-covered box is often called the Ark of the Covenant, meaning the “box of the agreement.” It’s referring to the agreement between God and the Israelites. Israelites promise to obey God and God promises to protect and prosper them.
Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather with few flaws.
For a description of the Box of the Law, often referred to as the Ark of the Covenant, see Exodus 25:10-22.
The bread is also known as the consecrated bread, the shewbread, or the Bread of God’s Presence. Every Sabbath day, priests put 12 fresh loaves of bread on the table. A week later, priests ate those loaves and replaced them with another dozen loaves of bread (Leviticus 24:5-9). “Bread of “God’s Presence” means the priests were eating the sacred bread in the presence of God.
This is the last of six bundles that Aaron and his sons pack for transport. The coverings over every bundle not only protect the sacred objects. They also protect the Levite families from direct contact with holy objects they are not allowed to see or touch. Contact like that would kill them, the writer says.
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