Day 59 (Feb. 28): God assigns Levite clans various duties for carrying the Tabernacle and it’s sacred objects, Clans counted, keeping the camp pure, marital faithfulness

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Numbers 4-5

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 4:4-13): God instructed them to cover everything in a blue cloth except for the altar, which was to be wrapped in purple.  Why blue and purple?

A. Blue and purple were the colors of royalty, and such materials would have been extremely precious for the people to sacrifice.

Q. (4:17-20): Just hearing the sacred objects described sounds like no big deal at face value.  I think, why can’t others see them?  Then, I realize that I am belittling the wishes of the Creator of the Universe.

A. I don’t think it had anything to do with the sight of the objects, and is instead a desire to protect the men who were responsible for carrying the sacred objects, which were wrapped up.  The text specifically says that if they touched the objects they died, so Aaron’s family had to make sure the sacred items were wrapped up to protect the carriers.

Q. (4:29-33): I’m picturing the men carrying all of these poles and structure parts.  Do they have to carry them themselves or can they load them on an animal?  Why is God so specific on who carries what?

A. I believe that the intention was that these objects, including the ark itself which went first when the nation moved, be carried by people and not by burden animals.  God is dividing up the responsibly for the various parts among the major families of the Levites, and providing a role for each of them.

Q. (4:47-48): Was carrying the Tabernacle and its contents the only job of these men?  I would think that 8,580 men could do the job with a lot to spare.  Do we have any idea how Israelite civilization was set up?  With that many people, I would think it would be like a big downtown with people selling things and offering services.  We were told which sides of the Tabernacle the cities would reside.  The Tabernacle doesn’t look that big compared to the size of Israelite’s population.  I picture each side being like a subdivision.  And then finding your tent …  I picture the scene in Fools Rush In where Matthew Perry counts the houses on his Las Vegas street to see which one is his.

A. There is a lot of speculation about what the tent camp must have looked like, and I don’t really have any good answers for you.  Basically, what I know about the camp is that the Ark/Tabernacle was set up at the center of camp, and then the other tents were setup in concentric circles: the Levites formed the first ring (actually more like the first square, four sides are assigned to the various tribes), and then the rest of the tribes — 12 of them with Joseph’s two sons — formed the outer ring in the divisions that we saw in the previous reading.

When the camp moved, which is coming up, the Ark — carried on poles by the Levites- no one touched the Ark! — came to the front to lead, and the various objects for the Tabernacle (sacred objects, tent cloths, poles, etc.) were carried at various points among the other tribes in the order they were assigned to march.

As I said, there’s a lot of speculation about what this all looked like, but not a ton for us to go on about whether or not this looked like all the matching houses in Vegas.