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Numbers 4:46-49 meaning

The last four verses of chapter 4 (46-49) contain a summary of the census of the Levites.

Moses then gave a summary of all the numbered men of the Levites whom Moses and Aaron and the leaders of Israel numbered (v.46). They were counted

  • By their families and by their fathers' households
  • From thirty years and upward even to fifty years old (v.47)

In other words, the census included everyone who could enter to do the work of service and the work of carrying in the tent of meeting. This was the purpose of this census—to find out how many Levites were available to assist the priests in maintaining and carrying the tabernacle through the wilderness.

When the census was complete, Moses and Aaron found out that their numbered men were 8,580 (v. 48). This was the sum of the number of families of Kohath, which was 2750 (v. 36), the families of Gershon, which was 2630 (v. 40), and the families of Merari, which was 3200 (v. 44).

This number of Levites was comparatively small. The rest of the tribes numbered from 35,400 (Benjamin) to 74,600 (Judah, see commentary on Numbers 2:32-34).

All of this was done according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses (v. 49). Moses was careful to follow the LORD's command when they were numbered. The census was carried out based on everyone by his serving or carrying, resulting in the final tally of his numbered men.

As he had done many times before, this was done just as the Lord had commanded Moses.


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