“Adonai said to Moshe, “Summon the tribe of Levi, and assign them to Aharon the cohen, so that they can help him. They are to carry out his duties and the duties of the whole community before the tent of meeting in performing the service of the tabernacle. They are to be in charge of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting and to carry out all the duties of the people of Isra’el connected with the service of the tabernacle.“-Numbers 3:5-8
We are in the midst of studying the genealogy of Aaron’s line given us in Numbers Chapter 3.
Let’s take a look at list of the names given us in verse 2.
The names of the sons of Aharon are: Nadav the firstborn, Avihu, El‘azar and Itamar.
This list is a grisly reminder of the sad fate that befell Nadav and Avihu.
Recall that they attempted to offer strange fire (ESH ZARAH in Hebrew) to the Lord and as a result they were incinerated alive right before their father, Aaron’s eyes,
Notice the little footnote informing us that Nadav was the firstborn.
This tells us that Nadav was next in line to inherit the High Priest’s position after Aaron.
But alas it was not to be and since Nadav and Avihu did not have sons when the Lord killed them, their deaths were effectively the end of their family line.
It would now be up to Eleazar to step in and fill Nadav’s shoes as the next in line to be High Priest.
Let’s next take a look at verse 7.
“And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle.” -Numbers 3:7
Where it says they “shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation”, the actual Hebrew is as follows:
SHAMAR means “to keep guard” or “to watch over” and MISHMERETH is the actual physical place where guards are to be stationed.
So the basic idea being expressed here is that the non-priest Levites are to stand guard between the whole community and the Tent of Meeting.
Next, let’s take a look at verse 8.
“Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle.”
The part where it says the work of the Tabernacle is in the original Hebrew ABAD BODAH.
This phrase means “heavy work” and in this context specifically refers to the disassembling and re-assembling of the pieces of the Tabernacle whenever the congregation was required to pick up and move to a new location at the Lord’s command.
Keep these two phrases “SHAMAR MISHMERETH” and “ABAD BODAH” in mind as they comprise the totality of the work the non-priest Levites were to be responsible for.
In a nutshell, the Levites were to “keep guard” and do the “heavy work” of the Tabernacle.
They were to be as human cherubim who were to keep guard and protect the gates leading into the holy sanctuary from any intruders.
If a “stranger” meaning anyone who was not authorized to enter approached, that person was to be struck down by these Levitical guards.
Such is the great importance of protecting God’s HOLINESS.