“To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans. The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 6,200. The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.”-Numbers 3:33-37
Moving on with the census of the Levites, we now come to the third son of Levi named Merari.
The total number of males from Merari’s line came to 6,200 which was split up into two clans because he had two sons.
In terms of status, they were placed in the least prestigious side of the Tabernacle, the north side.
We’re told they were to care for the “crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes”.
Finally, we come to the line of Aaron and his sons, the priestly line, and of course they along with Moses were to occupy the East side, the front side and most prestigious spot around the Tabernacle.
As the priests of Israel, they were exempt from having to do any of the blue collar work like assembling and disassembling the Tabernacle or transporting its separate parts and furnishings.
The Scripture tells us that they were to dedicate themselves to “the duties of the sanctuary” which meant officiating over and performing the ritual sacrifices on behalf of the common Israelites.
Now notice the last part of verse 38:
“Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the tent of meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.”-Numbers 3:38
Why does God repeat this same warning so many times?
Let me remind you that at this stage in Hebrew history, the firstborn males of Israel had just been informed that their special status of being the family priests was about to end and that the Levites would be taking over their job.
While some of the firstborn were probably overjoyed that they had been relieved of their priestly obligations, I’m quite sure some of the other more prideful firstborn were not at all happy about this change.
There is no doubt that God was directing this warning to the firstborn males of Israel, in effect saying “Don’t even think about approaching my sanctuary to serve in some priestly capacity. If you do, you will pay with your life”.
Of course I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
Being so close to God can be both a great blessing AND a great danger, another concept the modern church really needs to understand.
Finally, notice that ONLY the males from the three non-priestly Levite families was counted.
The Levites from Aaron and his sons were NOT to be counted for this census.