This chapter is concerning the lamps or lights of the sanctuary.
I. The burning lamps in the candlestick, which the priests were charged
II. The living lamps (if I may so call them), The
Levites, who as ministers were burning and shining lights. The
ordination of the priests we had an account of,
Here we have an
account of the ordination of the Levites, the inferior clergy.
1. How they were purified,
2. How they were parted with by the people,
ver. 9, 10.
3. How they were presented to God in lieu of the firstborn,
4. How they were consigned to Aaron and his sons, to be ministers to
5. How all these orders were duly executed,
And, lastly, the age appointed for their ministration,
|The Lights of the Sanctuary.
||B. C. 1490.|
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the
lamps, the seven lamps shall give light over against the
3 And Aaron did so; he lighted the lamps thereof over against
the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.
4 And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto
the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work:
according unto the pattern which the LORD had showed Moses, so he
made the candlestick.
Directions were given long before this for the making of the golden
and it was made according to the pattern shown to Moses in the mount,
But now it was that the lamps were first ordered to be lighted, when
other things began to be used. Observe,
1. Who must light the lamps; Aaron himself, he lighted the
As the people's representative to God, he thus did the office of a
servant in God's house, lighting his Master's candle; as the
representative of God to the people, he thus gave them the intimations
of God's will and favour, thus expressed
Thou wilt light my candle; and thus Aaron himself was now lately
directed to bless the people, The Lord make his face to shine upon
The commandment is a lamp,
The scripture is a light shining in a dark place,
2 Peter 1:19.
And a dark place indeed even the church would be without it, as the
tabernacle (which had no window in it) without the lamps. Now the work
of ministers is to light these lamps, by expounding and applying the
word of God. The priest lighted the middle lamp from the fire of the
altar, and the rest of the lamps he lighted one from another, which
(says Mr. Ainsworth) signifies that the fountain of all light and
knowledge is in Christ, who has the seven spirits of God figured
by the seven lamps of fire
but that in the expounding of scripture one passage must borrow light
from another. He also supposes that, seven being a number of
perfection, by the seven branches of the candlestick is shown the full
perfection of the scriptures, which are able to make us wise to
2. To what end the lamps were lighted, that they might give light
over against the candlestick, that is, to that part of the
tabernacle where the table stood, with the show-bread upon it, over
against the candlestick. They were not lighted like tapers in an urn,
to burn to themselves, but to give light to the other side of the
tabernacle, for therefore candles are lighted,
Note, The lights of the world, the lights of the church, must shine as
lights. Therefore we have light, that we may give light.
|The Consecration of the Levites.
||B. C. 1490.|
5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
6 Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and
7 And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle
water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh,
and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.
8 Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering,
even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock
shalt thou take for a sin offering.
9 And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the
congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the
children of Israel together:
10 And thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the
children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites:
11 And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an
offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the
service of the LORD.
12 And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the
bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and
the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an
atonement for the Levites.
13 And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his
sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD.
14 Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children
of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine.
15 And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of
the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them,
and offer them for an offering.
16 For they are wholly given unto me from among the children
of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of
the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them
17 For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine,
both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in
the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.
18 And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the
children of Israel.
19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his
sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the
children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to
make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no
plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel
come nigh unto the sanctuary.
20 And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the
children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that
the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the
children of Israel unto them.
21 And the Levites were purified, and they washed their
clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD;
and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them.
22 And after that went the Levites in to do their service in
the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his
sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so
did they unto them.
23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty
and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the
service of the tabernacle of the congregation:
25 And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting
upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more:
26 But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of
the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service.
Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge.
We read before of the separating of the Levites from among the children
of Israel when they were numbered, and the numbering of them by
that they might be employed in the service of the tabernacle. Now here
we have directions given for their solemn ordination
and the performance of it,
All Israel must know that they took not this honour to themselves, but
were called of God to it; nor was it enough that they were
distinguished from their neighbours, but they must be solemnly devoted
to God. Note, All that are employed for God must be dedicated to him,
according as the degree of employment is. Christian musts be baptized,
ministers must be ordained; we must first give ourselves unto the Lord,
and then our services. Observe in what method this was done:
I. The Levites must be cleansed, and were so. The rites and ceremonies
of their cleansing were to be performed,
1. By themselves. They must wash their clothes, and not only
bathe, but shave all their flesh, as the leper was to do when he
They must cause a razor to pass over all their flesh, to clear
themselves from that defilement which would not wash off. Jacob, whom
God loved, was a smooth man; it was Esau that was hairy. The great
pains they were to take with themselves to make themselves clean
teaches all Christians, and ministers particularly, by repentance and
mortification, to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of flesh
and spirit, that they may perfect holiness. Those must be
clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
2. By Moses. He must sprinkle the water of purifying upon them,
which was prepared by divine direction. This signified the application
of the blood of Christ to our souls by faith, to purify us from an evil
conscience, that we may be fit to serve the living God. It is our duty
to cleanse ourselves, and God's promise that he will cleanse us.
II. The Levites, being thus prepared, must be brought before the Lord
in a solemn assembly of all Israel, and the children of Israel
must put their hands upon them
so transferring their interest in them and in their service (to which,
as a part, the whole body of the people was entitled) to God and to his
sanctuary. They presented them to God as living sacrifices, holy and
acceptable, to perform a reasonable service; and therefore,
as the offerers in all other cases did, they laid their hands upon
them, desiring that their service might be accepted in lieu of the
attendance of the whole congregation, particularly the first-born,
which they acknowledge God might have insisted on. This will not serve
to prove a power in the people to ordain ministers; for this imposition
of hands by the children of Israel upon the Levites did not make them
ministers of the sanctuary, but only signified the people's parting
with that tribe out of their militia, and civil incorporations, in
order to their being made ministers by Aaron, who was to offer them
before the Lord. All the congregation of the children of Israel could
not lay hands on them, but it is probable that the rulers and elders
did it as the representative body of the people. Some think that the
first-born did it because in their stead the Levites were consecrated
to God. Whatever God calls for from us to serve his own glory by, we
must cheerfully resign it, lay our hands upon it, not to detain it but
to surrender it, and let it go to him that is entitled to it.
III. Sacrifices were to be offered for them, a sin-offering first
and then a burnt-offering, to make an atonement for the Levites,
who, as the parties concerned, were to lay their hands upon the head of
the sacrifices. See here,
1. That we are all utterly unworthy and unfit to be admitted into and
employed in the service of God, till atonement be made for sin, and
thereby our peace made with God. That interposing cloud must be
scattered before there can be any comfortable communion settled between
God and our souls.
2. That it is by sacrifice, by Christ the great sacrifice, that we are
reconciled to God, and made fit to be offered to him. It is by him that
Christians are sanctified to the work of their Christianity, and
ministers to the work of their ministry. The learned bishop Patrick's
notion of the sacrifice offered by the Levites is that the Levites were
themselves considered as an expiatory sacrifice, for they were given to
make atonement for the children of Israel,
and yet not being devoted to death, any more than the first-born were,
these two sacrifices were substituted in their stead, upon which
therefore they were to lay their hands, that the sin which the children
of Israel laid upon them
might be transferred to these beasts.
IV. The Levites themselves were offered before the Lord for an
offering of the children of Israel,
Aaron gave them up to God, as being first given up by themselves, and
by the children of Israel. The original word signifies a
wave-offering, not that they were actually waved, but they were
presented to God as the God of heaven, and the Lord of the whole earth,
as the wave-offerings were. And in calling them wave-offerings it was
intimated to them that they must continually lift up themselves towards
God in his service, lift up their eyes, lift up their hearts, and must
move to and fro with readiness in the business of their profession.
They were not ordained to be idle, but to be active and stirring.
V. God here declares his acceptance of them: The Levites shall be
God took them instead of the first-born
of which before,
Note, What is in sincerity offered to God shall be graciously owned and
accepted by him. And his ministers who have obtained mercy of him to be
faithful have particular marks of favour and honour put upon them:
they shall be mine, and then
they shall go in to do the service of the tabernacle. God takes
them for his own, that they may serve him. All that expect to share in
the privileges of the tabernacle must resolve to do the service of the
tabernacle. As, on the one hand, none of God's creatures are his
necessary servants (he needs not the service of any of them), so, on
the other hand, none are taken merely as honorary servants, to do
nothing. All whom God owns he employs; angels themselves have their
VI. They are then given as a gift to Aaron and his sons
yet so as that the benefit accrued to the children of Israel.
1. The Levites must act under the priests as attendants on them, and
assistants to them, in the service of the sanctuary. Aaron offers them
and then God gives them back to Aaron,
Note, Whatever we give up to God, he will give back to us unspeakably
to our advantage. Our hearts, our children, our estates, are never
more ours, more truly, more comfortably ours, than when we have offered
them up to God.
2. They must act for the people. They were taken to do the service
of the children of Israel, that is, not only to do the service
which they should do, but to serve their interests, and do that which
would really redound to the honour, safety, and prosperity of the whole
nation. Note, Those that faithfully perform the service of God do one
of the best services that can be done to the public; God's ministers,
while they keep within the sphere of their office and conscientiously
discharge the duty of it, must be looked upon as some of the most
useful servants of their country. The children of Israel can as ill
spare the tribe of Levi as any of their tribes. But what is the
service they do the children of Israel? It follows, it is to make an
atonement for them, that there be no plague among them. It was the
priests' work to make atonement by sacrifice, but the Levites made
atonement by attendance, and preserved the peace with heaven which was
made by sacrifice. If the service of the priests in the tabernacle had
been left to all the first-born of Israel promiscuously, it would have
been either neglected or done unskillfully and irreverently, being done
by those that were not so closely tied to it, nor so diligently trained
to it, nor so constantly used to it, as the Levites were; and this
would bring a plague among the children of Israel--meaning,
perhaps, the death of the first-born themselves, which was the last and
greatest of the plagues of Egypt. To prevent this, and to preserve the
atonement, the Levites were appointed to do this service, who should be
bred up to it under their parents from their infancy, and therefore
would be well versed in it; and so the children of Israel, that is, the
first-born, should not need to come nigh to the sanctuary; or, when any
Israelites had occasion, the Levites would be ready to instruct them,
and introduce them, and so prevent any fatal miscarriage or mistake.
Note, It is a very great kindness to the church that ministers are
appointed to go before the people in the things of God, as guides,
overseers, and rulers, in religious worship, and to make that their
business. When Christ ascended on high, he gave these gifts,
VII. The time of their ministration is fixed.
1. They were to enter upon the service at twenty-five years old,
They were not charged with the carrying of the tabernacle and the
utensils of it till they were thirty years old,
But they were entered to be otherwise serviceable at twenty-five years
old, a very good age for ministers to begin their public work at. The
work then required that strength of body and the work now requires that
maturity of judgment and steadiness of behaviour which men rarely
arrive at till about that age; and novices are in danger of being
lifted up with pride.
2. They were to have a writ of ease at fifty years old; then they were
to return from the warfare, as the phrase is
not cashiered with disgrace, but preferred rather to the rest which
their age required, to be loaded with the honours of their office, as
hitherto they had been with the burdens of it. They shall minister
with their brethren in the tabernacle, to direct the junior
Levites, and set them in; and they shall keep the charge, as
guards upon the avenues of the tabernacle, to see that no stranger
intruded, nor any person in his uncleanness, but they shall not be put
upon any service which may be a fatigue to them. If God's grace provide
that men shall have ability according to their work, man's prudence
should take care that men have work only according to their ability.
The aged are most fit for trusts, and to keep the charge; the younger
are most fit for work, and to do the service. Those that have used
the office of a servant well purchase to themselves a good degree,
1 Timothy 3:13.
Yet indeed gifts are not tied to ages
but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit. Thus
was the affair of the Levites settled.