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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Numbers 4



Verse 2

Numbers 4:2 Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers,

Ver. 2. Of the sons of Kohath.] Kohath was not Levi’s firstborn, but Gershom: and yet he hath the pre-eminence, and chief charge, as of the ark, tables, candlestick, altars, &c., [Numbers 3:31] perhaps because Moses and Aaron were of that family.

Verse 3

Numbers 4:3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.

Ver. 3. To do the work.] The work of the ministry is not an idle man’s occupation, but a labouring even to lassitude; compared therefore to harvest work, and to that of cleaving wood, digging in mine pits, rowing with oars, &c. All the comfort is, that God that helped the Levites to bear the ark of the covenant, [1 Chronicles 15:26] will not be wanting to his weak, but willing servants, "that labour in the word and doctrine." [1 Timothy 5:17]

Verse 5

Numbers 4:5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering vail, and cover the ark of testimony with it:

Ver. 5. And when the camp setteth forward.] Which was not till the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle, by the Lord, [Numbers 10:11-12] who went before them. Semper memento illud Pythagoricum, Eπον θεω, (a) Let God lead us, and we cannot miscarry.

Verse 8

Numbers 4:8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.

Ver. 8. And cover the same.] It is well observed, that only the ark (representing Christ), and the table with show bread, (representing the Church), had three coverings; all the other holy things had but two, for "a covert from storm and from rain." Thus, "upon all the glory shall be a defence." [Isaiah 4:5-6]

Verse 13

Numbers 4:13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:

Ver. 13. The ashes from the altar.] The fire from heaven was also carefully kept alive, [Leviticus 6:12] though nothing be here said of it.

Verse 15

Numbers 4:15 And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear [it]: but they shall not touch [any] holy thing, lest they die. These [things are] the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.

Ver. 15. Lest they die.] As Uzzah did. [1 Chronicles 13:10]

The burden of the sons of Kohath.] Who, as they had the honos, so the onus See Numbers 4:1.

Fructus honos oneris, fructus honoris onus.

Verse 16

Numbers 4:16 And to the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest [pertaineth] the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, [and] the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein [is], in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.

Ver. 16. And to the office of Eleazar.] Called therefore prince of the princes of the Levites. [Numbers 3:32]

Verse 18

Numbers 4:18 Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites:

Ver. 18. Cut ye not off,] i.e., Cause them not, by your default, to be cut off. Heed must be taken, that we neither give offence carelessly, nor take offence causelessly.

Verse 20

Numbers 4:20 But they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they die.

Ver. 20. But they shall not go in to see.] The men of Bethshemesh paid for their peeping. [1 Samuel 6:9] Search not into God’s secrets: hic oportet mirari, non rimari [Deuteronomy 29:29] Remember that saying of Xenocrates the philosopher: Nihil interesse, pedesne quisquam, an oculos in aliena domo ponat, (a) It is as great unmannerliness to pry into another man’s house as to press into it.

Verse 30

Numbers 4:30 From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old shalt thou number them, every one that entereth into the service, to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Ver. 30. From thirty years.] The Greek hath it, from twenty-five years: for then they began to be learners and probationers; and at thirty, they set upon the service. See Numbers 8:24. In their old age they had leave to retire.

Verse 32

Numbers 4:32 And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name ye shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.

Ver. 32. By name ye shall reckon.] That all might be ready and forthcoming, when the sanctuary was set up again. Christ "knoweth" and "calleth" all his "by name," [John 10:3] not the meanest of them is missing. [John 17:12]

Verse 44

Numbers 4:44 Even those that were numbered of them after their families, were three thousand and two hundred.

Ver. 44. Three thousand and two hundred.] By this diversity of number among the Levite families, God showeth his wisdom, saith an interpreter, in fitting men for the work, whereunto he hath appointed them, whether it requireth multitude or gifts. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, &c., dividing to every man severally as he will." [1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:12] It is reported, that in Luther’s house was found written, Res et verba Philippus, res sine verbis Lutherus, verba sine re Erasmus, Melancthon hath both matter and words; Luther hath matter, but wants words; Erasmus hath words, but wants matter. Every one hath his own share: all are not alike gifted.

Verse 48

Numbers 4:48 Even those that were numbered of them, were eight thousand and five hundred and fourscore.

Ver. 48. Eight thousand, &c.] What a poor few were these to the other tribes! God’s portion is ever the least.


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Numbers 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

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