Numbers 1-2: Set Apart

Numbers chapter 1 chronicles the number of able bodied men in the nation of Israel. Numbers 2 lays out the order in which the tribes will dwell and travel. There is one section in both chapters that I would like to highlight.

Here they are:

[47] But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. [48] For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [49] “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. [50] But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. [51] When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. [52] The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. [53] But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” [54] Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.
(Numbers 1:47-54 ESV)

[17] “Then the tent of meeting shall set out, with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps; as they camp, so shall they set out, each in position, standard by standard.
(Numbers 2:17 ESV)

The first passage tells us that the Levites are set apart for God. They are not numbered with other tribes and their duties are to act as representatives for God among the people, dwelling around the tabernacle. While Numbers 2:17 tells us that as the nation moves, the Levites will march at the center, flanked by the other tribes.

What does this point to?

1. Even among the nation set apart for God, there is a tribe set apart. In setting apart a tribe for Himself, God reminds the nation of Israel that even though they are His people, He is still perfectly holy and altogether unlike them.
2. The tribe who represents God to the nation dwells at the center of the camp and moves at the center of caravan. God was to be central wherever they stayed and wherever they went.

So God is holy and set apart from the people, and He is central, dwelling in the midst of the people.

What a God we serve who is both untouchable yet so intimate, holy yet always close, completely other but always available!

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One Response to Numbers 1-2: Set Apart

  1. Susie Kim says:

    I’ve been really encouraged reading your blog, especially as we go through the “drier” passages. Thanks!

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