Bible Commentary: Numbers 4

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Numbers 4

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The Service of the Sons of Kohath 

Who was Kohath? In this chapter we see a lot of him. When Jacob (Israel) traveled down into Egypt with his sons and grandsons, Kohath, the son of Levi, was among them—along with his brothers Gershon and Merari. God had promised Jacob that in Egypt He would make of him a great nation (Genesis 46:3, 11). And with the passage of time, Kohath’s family grew large in Egypt, as did the families of his brothers. Now, while the descendants of Gershon and Merari are given different Levitical responsibilities, the Lord gives the charge of the ark, the table of showbread, the menorah, the altars, the veil, the utensils of the sanctuary, the screen and all the work related to them to the sons of Kohath (3:30-31). In reading through this section of Scripture, we again see some of the artful creations and beautiful objects associated with the service of the tabernacle: the blue and purple coverings, the badger skins, the golden instruments and the golden menorah must have been magnificent to behold. Yet most of the sons of Kohath, though they were responsible for carrying these things, were not allowed to actually touch them or look upon them (verse 15; 1 Chronicles 13:9). Only one group of Kohathites was allowed to do that—the family of Aaron! Yes, the priests were descendants of Kohath. Perhaps this is even one of the reasons that the Kohathites were given charge of the sacred articles. The age range of those in this service to be counted in the census was 30 to 50 years of age, a span of 20 years. The taking down, transporting and setting up of the tabernacle was difficult work. It demanded concentration and precision. Part of the reason for starting their official duties at 30 years of age, then, seems to be that the work of this office took not just strength but, more importantly, training and maturity. Interestingly, God later selected this age for certain ministerial careers to commence. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ both began their ministries at around this same age.