SERIES: 04 Numbers - 2013
MESSAGE: Numbers 4-5
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 4-5

In Numbers 4-5, God continues to give instructions to Moses and Aaron for the nation of Israel, and another census is taken. As we study this text, we are given insight into God's view of service and what our relationship with Him should look like.

Numbers 3-5

PREVIEW: In Numbers 3-5, the Levites are counted twice, substituted for the firstborn, and their duties are assigned. The Lord instructs His children what to do if they?ve wronged someone and need to make restitution, and He gives the law of jealousy.

The Sons of Aaron - Read Numbers 3:1-4

1. Numbers 3 opens by referring back to the Lord?s revelation to Moses. Where was this revelation given (v. 1)? What part of this revelation is being referred to (v. 2)? (See Exodus 28:1.)

2. Although Aaron had four sons who were consecrated to minister as priests, why were two of them no longer serving as priests (v. 4)? (See Leviticus 10:1-2.)

3. Only Aaron and his direct descendants could serve as priests (see Exodus 28:1, Exodus 29:9, and Exodus 40:15). Two of Aaron?s sons, Nadab and Abihu, were dead, leaving whom to serve as priests alongside Aaron (v. 4)?

The Levites Serve in the Tabernacle - Read Numbers 3:5-13

4. Since Aaron was a Levite, this meant that all the priests were Levites but not all the Levites could be priests. What qualified a Levite to be a priest? (See Exodus 28:1, Exodus 29:9, and Exodus 40:15.)

5. With only Eleazar, Ithamar, and their sons available to serve alongside Aaron as priests, the Lord spoke to Moses and assigned whom to attend to the needs of Aaron and the whole congregation (vv. 5-7)?

6. What non-priestly duties were assigned to the tribe of Levi (vv. 8-9)? (See also Numbers 1:50-51.)

7. The Old Testament priesthood was extremely exclusive: Only Aaron and his descendants could serve as priests. What would happen if someone attempted to perform a priestly duty but wasn?t a son of Aaron (v. 10)?

8. It was the Lord?s original intent that the firstborn of every family of every tribe be priests (see Exodus 13:1, 12, 15). Now the Lord spoke to Moses telling him that He was substituting the entire tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn (v. 12). Why might the Lord have selected the tribe of Levi? (See Exodus 32:25?29.)

Census of the Levites Commanded - Read Numbers 3:14-39

9. The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai and instructed him to count the children of Levi who were not counted in the original census (Numbers 1:49). Who specifically was counted (v. 15)?

10. The Levites were divided into three major family groups. Who were the sons of Levi (v. 17)? Who were their sons (vv. 18-20)?

11. The duties of each family and camping locations were designated by the Lord to Moses. Where were the 7,500 Gershonites to camp (v. 23)? Where were the 8,600 Kohathites to camp (v. 29)? Where were the 6,200 Mararites to camp (v. 35)?

12. What special role and responsibility was given to Eleazar the son of Aaron (v. 32)?

13. The encampment of Levites surrounded the tabernacle (see Numbers 1:53). Who camped on the east side of the tabernacle (v. 38)?

14. How many males one month and older from the tribe of Levi were accounted for during this census (v. 39)?

Levites Dedicated Instead of the Firstborn - Read Numbers 3:40-51

15. The Lord told Moses to count the number of the firstborn males of the children of Israel so that He might substitute the Levites as His instead of the firstborn. How many firstborn were accounted for (vv. 40-43)?

16. The Levites are substituted, life for life, in place of the firstborn as dedicated to the Lord (v. 44). How many more firstborn males were there than Levites (v. 45)?

17. How were the remaining firstborn redeemed when there was not a Levite to take their place (vv. 46-48)?

18. How much redemption money was collected by Moses for the excess firstborn? What was done with that money (vv. 49-51)?

Duties of the Sons of Kohath - Read Numbers 4:1-20

19. Although males one month and older were counted in the census, they didn?t all serve at the tabernacle. What were the ages of men who served (v. 3)? (See also Numbers 8:24.)

20. Although the sons of Kohath carried the furniture and utensils of the tabernacle (see Numbers 3:31), they were not allowed to touch the items themselves. Who prepared these items before the sons of Kohath could carry them (v. 5)?

21. What would happen to the sons of Kohath if they touched any of the holy implements of the tabernacle (v. 15)?

22. What did the priests cover the ark of the Testimony with to prepare it for journey (vv. 5-6)? How did they carry it?

23. What did the priests cover the table of showbread with to prepare it for journey (vv. 7-8)? How did they carry it?

24. What did the priests cover the lampstand with to prepare it for journey (v. 9)? How did they carry it (v. 10)?

25. What did the priests cover the golden altar of incense with to prepare it for journey (v. 11)? How did they carry it (v. 11)?

26. What did the priests cover the utensils of service with to prepare them for journey (v. 12)? How did they carry them (v. 12)?

27. The bronze altar, where sacrifices for sins were made, was covered differently than the other pieces of furniture. What was different (v. 13)? (See also Mark 15:20.) How was it carried (v. 14)?

28. What duty was appointed to Eleazar (v. 16)?

29. In addition to not being able to touch the implements of the tabernacle, what could the sons of Kohath not do to the implements (v. 20)?

Duties of the Sons of Gershon - Read Numbers 4:21-28

30. What was assigned to the sons of Gershon to carry (vv. 25-26)?

31. Who appointed the sons of Gershon to their specific duties (v. 27)?

Duties of the Sons of Merari - Read Numbers 4:29-33

32. What was assigned to the sons of Merari to carry (vv. 31-32)?

33. God is a God of detail and organization. How specific were the assignments given to the sons of Merari (v. 32)?

Census of the Levites - Read Numbers 4:34-49

34. Although the entire tribe was numbered by counting males one month old and up, not all those served. Only those who were between the ages of 30 and 50 served. How many eligible service men were among the Kohathites (v. 36), Gershonites (v. 40) and Merarites (v. 44)? How many in total (v. 48)?

Ceremonially Unclean Persons Isolated - Read Numbers 5:1-4

35. The Lord reminded the people of His holiness and of their need for holiness if they were to live near His dwelling place. Who did the Lord command the children of Israel to put out of the camp and why (vv. 1-4)?

Confession and Restitution - Read Numbers 5:5-10

36. When a man or woman committed any sin and was guilty of it, who was it that they sinned against (v. 6)? (See also Psalm 51:4.)

37. What was the first step the guilty sinner was to take in the process of restitution to the one he or she wronged (v. 7a)?

38. Not only was the guilty sinner to make restitution, what else was he required to give to the one he or she had wronged (v. 7b)?

39. If the guilty sinner wanted to make restitution for their wrongdoing, but the person they wronged was dead, to whom would they make restitution (v. 8a)?

40. Restitution leads to restoration. If the wronged person was dead and had no remaining relatives, to whom was restitution made (v. 8b)?

Concerning Unfaithful Wives - Read Numbers 5:11-31

41. If a husband became jealous of his wife and suspected that she had committed adultery, what was he to bring to the priest in order to determine if she was unfaithful (v. 15)?

42. How might a husband become jealous of his wife and suspect that she was unfaithful to him (v. 14)?

43. If a woman was brought to the priest by a jealous husband who suspected that she had been unfaithful and committed adultery, what was the priest to do to the woman (vv. 16-28)?

44. What would happen if the woman was not guilty of adultery (v. 28)?

45. What would happen if the woman was guilty of adultery (v. 27)?

46. What else would likely happen if the woman was guilty of adultery? (See Exodus 20:14 and Leviticus 20:10.)

47. If a woman committed adultery and concealed that she had defiled herself, and there was no witness against her, nor was she caught?yet she remained with her husband?what might her husband become guilty of (v. 31)? (See also Luke 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 6:11.)


  1. Introduction
    1. The most important verse in the Bible is attached to the book of Numbers
      1. It's not John 3:16
      2. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:14-15).
      3. Jesus referred to the story of the serpents coming into the camp (see Num. 21).
    2. Paul admonished the Corinthians (see 1 Cor. 10).
    3. "Let us therefore enter into the rest that God has prepared for us" (Heb. 4:11).
    4. It is a book of numbers; two million people needed to be organized, numbered
    5. Organization and chaos: God provided a way for his people to march in an organized fashion through the wilderness
    6. Chapter three is a census of eligibility and chapter four is a census of viability
      1. In chapter three, they counted all the males in the tribe of Levi—those eligible to serve
      2. In chapter four, they counted the working Levites (ages thirty to fifty)
      3. Age thirty vs. age twenty-five; it's a clarification—it took five years to prepare them for their task
      4. King David became king when he was thirty
      5. At age thirty, Jesus began His ministry
    7. God spoke to Moses and Aaron; God instituted a theocracy—God is in charge
  2. The ministry (the service)
    1. It's not by self-appointment
      1. God had to appoint you
      2. Later, the people demanded a king
      3. After that, the kingdom split north and south
        1. They built two temples in the north
        2. They set up a golden calf like their forefathers did in the desert
        3. They chose priests out of every class of people, not just the Levites
        4. They brought idolatry into the land
      4. God set the parameters in the New Testament also (see 1 Tim. 3 and Titus)
    2. Maturity
      1. They had to be thirty years old
      2. The word service means warfare in Hebrew
      3. Paul, in the New Testament uses the metaphor of military service to speak of ministry
    3. Each worker is different—unique
      1. There were three families and they all had different duties
      2. Also in the New Testament in the body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:5-6)
      3. As the ministry grew, the need for people with specific gifts grew (see Acts 6)
      4. Every one of us has some gift or gifts
    4. The Kohathites
      1. Camped south of the tabernacle
      2. They were responsible to carry the furniture
        1. The ark of the covenant
        2. The altar of incense
        3. The menorah
        4. The table of showbread
        5. The altar and the laver out in the courtyard
      3. Those age 30 to 50 were counted
      4. They carried the articles of furniture, but they could not look at them or they would die (see v. 18 and 1 Sam. 6)
      5. The sons of Aaron used the veil to cover the ark of the covenant
    5. The Gershonites (sons of Gershon)
      1. Camped west of the tabernacle
      2. They were responsible to carry the soft items
        1. The cloths
        2. The curtains
        3. The skins
    6. The Merarites (sons of Merari)
      1. Camped north of the tabernacle
      2. They were responsible for the infrastructure
        1. The boards
        2. The bowls
        3. The sockets
        4. The pegs
    7. Compare to the New Testament
      1. In the Old Testament, there was an emphasis on a holy place, property, furnishings, and holy items
      2. In the New Testament we don't have a priesthood, a special place we go—we are the temple of the Holy Spirit
      3. That's the beautiful difference
      4. Worship should be going on inside of us every day
    8. 8,580 viable, working Levites
  3. How the work was done
    1. They were camped
    2. Every morning they would look outside and over the top of the tabernacle to see if the cloud was still or starting to move
    3. If it was starting to move, that was their signal
      1. Aaron and his sons would cover the ark and the alters
      2. The Gershonites took down all the curtains and skins, and pack them up
      3. The Merarites took down the sockets, boards, poles, pegs, and cords
    4. Then they would march orderly, a couple million people marching through the wilderness
    5. When the cloud or the pillar of fire would stop, they would stop and set everything back up
      1. They put the ark down first
      2. Then the Merarites would laid down the infrastructure around the ark
      3. After that the Gershonites hung the curtains, the cloths, the veils, and the skins
      4. The high priest would uncover the ark and set up shop for worship
    6. It was all well-timed and very well-organized
      1. Suppose one of the workers woke up and was tired—bored with his job—he felt unimportant and unvalued
      2. He decided not to do his job—did not cooperate with the work
      3. But without his job done, the worship couldn't happen
      4. Every job was important
      5. New Testament corollary
        1. The body of Christ
        2. Paul spoke of the church like a human body
        3. Each cell is important
        4. The DNA code of just one human would produce mass volumes of information—enough to fill the grand canyon
        5. We, the church, are the body of Christ; every cell, every activity, every organ, ever appendage is vital (see 1 Cor. 12:14-31)
  4. Separation
    1. Set diseased people outside the camp
      1. This seems harsh
      2. This doesn't seem like a loving God
      3. It was a loving God doing a very loving thing
      4. Some of these diseases were highly contagious and could kill the entire population
      5. The most loving thing was to isolate them for a period of time
      6. It was important to the health of God's people in the wilderness
    2. Leper is a broad term for an infectious skin disease
      1. Hebrew word tsara'at
      2. From allergy to psoriasis to eczema to full-blown leprosy
      3. The most extreme form was a bacteria—Mycobacterium leprae, a disease that took your life
      4. "It was a progression where you died by the inch" —William Barclay
        1. Foul discharge came out from the skin
        2. Nodules formed on the vocal cords
        3. Eyebrows fell out—hair fell out
        4. Limbs could fall off
        5. Loss of sensation
        6. Long slow death
        7. Very contagious
      5. The priest acted as the physician (see Lev. 13)
        1. Examination
        2. Quarantine
        3. Pronounced clean or unclean
        4. If unclean they were put out of the camp, hair was shaved, clothes torn; they would have to shout, "Unclean! Unclean!"
        5. There was a special chamber in the synagogues called the mehitzah isolated for lepers
        6. They couldn't cuddle their children or be touched
        7. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper (see Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:41; and Luke 5:13)
  5. Sin and restitution (v. 5)
    1. Someone stole your camel
      1. He had to give your camel back
      2. He had to pay a 20% inconvenience charge
      3. It is the right thing to fix the problem—to make restitution
      4. If you sin against God's people, you sin against God; you had to do three things
        1. Confess your sin
        2. Pay restitution to the person you wronged
        3. Sacrifice at the tabernacle
    2. Unfaithful wife, jealous husband
      1. He had to take his wife to the priest
      2. He would take an offering required for her
      3. She would be put under oath
      4. Drink holy water
      5. If she is not guilty, nothing happens
      6. If she is guilty, the curse goes into her stomach
      7. The Old Testament equivalent of a lie detector test
      8. Psychological burden of guilt
      9. Many scholars believe this was a transitional law given for the wilderness march and wandering
      10. Josephus believe the "thigh will rot and the belly will swell," was dropsy
      11. Other scholars believed it was a miscarriage
      12. And others believed it was a thrombophlebitis
      13. We don't know exactly
      14. We do know that marriage fidelity is so high on God's list; you make a vow "Till death do you part"
      15. God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16)
    3. We are the bride of Christ
      1. Our fidelity to Jesus is so important because He's always been faithful to us
      2. He has always loved us
      3. When God looks at us He sees His Son, Jesus—pure, spotless, undefiled
      4. That's the new covenant

Hebrew Terms: צָרָ֫עַת, tsaraath-leprosy; mehitzah

Figures referenced: William Barclay

Cross references: Numbers 21; 1 Samuel 6; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:41; Luke 5:13; John 3:14-16; Acts 6; 1 Corinthians 10; 1 Corinthians 12:5-6; 1 Corinthians 12:14-31; 1 Timothy 3; Titus; Hebrews 4:11

Topic: Job

Keywords: God, priests, holy, tabernacle, desert, census, body of Christ, job, restitution, bride, leprosy, curse

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