Opening Prayer

In you Lord are wisdom, power, and tender love. Today I thank you, that as I turn to you, you have already turned toward me.

Read NUMBERS 4:1–28

The Kohathites

4 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

“This is the work of the Kohathites at the tent of meeting: the care of the most holy things. When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and put it over the ark of the covenant law. Then they are to cover the curtain with a durable leather,[a] spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.

“Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. They are to spread a scarlet cloth over them, cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

“They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the olive oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of the durable leather and put it on a carrying frame.

11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with the durable leather and put the poles in place.

12 “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with the durable leather and put them on a carrying frame.

13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of the durable leather and put the poles in place.

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, only then are the Kohathites to come and do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the tent of meeting.

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not destroyed from among the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”

The Gershonites

21 The Lord said to Moses, 22 “Take a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans. 23 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

24 “This is the service of the Gershonite clans in their carrying and their other work: 25 They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle, that is, the tent of meeting, its covering and its outer covering of durable leather, the curtains for the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard, the ropes and all the equipment used in the service of the tent. The Gershonites are to do all that needs to be done with these things. 27 All their service, whether carrying or doing other work, is to be done under the direction of Aaron and his sons. You shall assign to them as their responsibility all they are to carry. 28 This is the service of the Gershonite clans at the tent of meeting. Their duties are to be under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.

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  1. Numbers 4:6 Possibly the hides of large aquatic mammals; also in verses 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 25

New International Version (NIV)

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Give thanks that we have a God who attends to details for the good of his people.

Think Further

All Levites were counted as substitutes for the firstborn of Israel, but only those from ages 30 to 50, in prime strength, are given the task of carrying the various items of tabernacle furniture. We have a God who accounts for human limitations and the necessary division of tasks so that the tabernacle could be moved from place to place. At each stage we are reminded of the absolute holiness of God and the danger involved in going beyond the limits he has set.

Each culture gives different significance to colors. A Western bride will wear a white dress, but a Chinese one will prefer red. Black is the Western color of mourning, but in the East white is preferred. Our chapter specifies the order and colors of the wrapping materials for the sacred vessels. Blue, scarlet, and purple are the prevailing cloth colors, with the addition of the protection of an animal skin. Jewish and Christian scholars have given typological value to these colors, but the text focuses on obedience rather than aesthetic values. There is beauty in creation and in the tabernacle of God’s dwelling, but we are to worship ‘in the beauty of holiness’.1

The priests come closest to the presence of God, but each person has a role in assuring that the tabernacle is guarded and transported. Later, some would be jealous that they were not given the roles that came closest to the divine presence, but our text shows the value and role of each one. The Levites here are readied for journeying on with God, as he leads them by cloud and fire toward the land of promise. We also, with our gifting and responsibilities, are tasked with moving on with brothers and sisters to fulfill the will of God in our generation.


Are you celebrating the beauty of God’s holiness as you fulfill the ministry he has given to you?

Closing prayer

Loving Lord, so often I am a somnolent saint, sleeping on the job. I need to be revived again, so I can use my gifts to do my part in your great mission to the world.

Last Updated on January 23, 2023 by kingstar

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