Numbers 3






1 “These also are the generations of Aaron and Moses” -  The word

generations (toledoth) is used here in a peculiar and, so to speak,

technical sense, with reference to what follows, as in Genesis 2:4; 6:9.

It marks a new departure, looking down, not up, the course of history.

Moses and Aaron were a beginning in themselves as the chosen heads of

the chosen tribe: Moses having the higher office, but one entirely personal

to himself; Aaron being the first of a long and eminent line of priests. The

actual genealogy, therefore, is that of Aaron, and he is placed first -  “in the day” -  

Apparently the day mentioned in ch.1:1; or it may be more general, as in Genesis

2:4 – “that the LORD spake with Moses in mount Sinai.  2 “And these are

the names of the sons of Aaron; Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar,

and Ithamar.”


3 “These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests which were

anointed, whom he consecrated to minister in the priest’s office.

4 And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered

strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they

had no children:” - If they had left sons, these would have succeeded to their

office, and to the headship of the priestly line “and Eleazar and Ithamar

ministered in the priest’s office in the sight of Aaron their father.”

In his lifetime. Septuagint, “with Aaron.” In the time of David the descendants

of Eleazar were divided into sixteen courses, the descendants  of Ithamar into

eight (I Chronicles 24:3). 



“Strange Fire (v. 4)


There are various kinds of fire used in the service of God which, if not as

hateful in his sight as that offered by Nadab and Abihu, are “strange.”

There is a fire which is appropriate and acceptable, because kindled by

God; all others are “strange fire, which he commanded not” (Leviticus 10:1).

For example:


  • ILLEGITIMATE ZEAL, as seen in every kind of persecution (see

Luke 9:51-56). Yet a writer on the origin of the Inquisition quotes the

passage in justification of the burning of heretics: “Lo! fire the punishment

of heretics, for the Samaritans were the heretics of those times” (Prescott’s

‘Ferdinand and Isabella,’ 1:319, n.). See Galatians 4:18. But let the zeal

run in the path marked out for it by Christ towards enemies (Matthew 5:44),

backsliders (Galatians 6:1), or heretics (James 5:19-20).


  • UNAUTHORISED SERVICES; whether offered by unauthorized

persons, as Korah, who yet had the true fire (ch. 16:17-18), or Saul

(I Samuel 13:9-14), or Uzziah (II Chronicles 26:16-21); or by God’s

servants, but in ways alien to His mind (Illus., Uzzah, I Chronicles 13:9-10;

15:13). Such are the “voluntary humility” and “neglecting of the body”

condemned in Colossians 2:18-23, and all similar austerities. The fire

God approves must be presented by accepted worshippers in an

 Appointed way.


  • SUPERSTITIOUS DEVOTIONS. These may be presented through

Christ “the way,” and yet marred by ignorant fears of God, or unworthy

fancies, or errors intertwined with God’s truth in the many ways known to

ancient or modern superstition (I John 4:18; 5:13-15).


  • ARTIFICIAL EMOTION. We need never dread the emotion caused

by God’s own truth, used in legitimate ways. Truth is like solid fuel that

ought to keep up a glowing heat, whether of alarm (Acts 2:37; 24:25)

or of joy (Ibid. 2:41). But emotion excited apart from the communication

of appropriate truth may be disastrous; or at best like a blaze of straw,

soon leaving only blackness and ashes. All such “strange fire” tends to

the injury, or even the destruction, of the offerers (John 4:24). To worship

God in truth we must ourselves be “accepted in the beloved”

(Ephesians 1:6), enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and must present

spiritual sacrifices kindled by His own celestial fire of love.




A Mortal Sin (v. 4)


“And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord,”



Sons of Aaron; elder sons: in whom, therefore, a greater sense of

thoughtfulness and responsibility might have been expected. They had

also been duly anointed and consecrated. They could hardly plead

ignorance and inexperience in the things of God. They had nothing else

to do than attend to the tabernacle. They knew, or ought to have

considered, that Jehovah had laid down instructions, even to the

minutest points, as to what the priests were to do. It is a warning

then to all who stand among peculiar privileges and enjoy greater light,

e.g., those who live in a household where there is piety at the head,

and a continual regard in all things for the will of God (Matthew 11:20-24).


  • THE SIN THEY COMMITTED. They offered strange fire before the

Lord. The fire to be used was the holy fire ever burning upon the altar

(Leviticus 6:13). To offer incense was to symbolize thanksgiving and

supplication, and this, of all things, requires to be done in most careful

conformity with Divine appointments. All offerings to God, to be worth

anything, must be voluntary; yet even a voluntary offering may be an

abomination before Him when it is a random and reckless exercise of our

own freedom. The highest of human actions is to do God’s will with

all our will, as seeing clearly that it is the right thing to do.


  • THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCE. It was truly a mortal sin, a sin

which on the very commission of it was followed by death, like the

taking of some swift-working poison. It was as dangerous for a careless

priest to take up the tabernacle services as for a man to take naked lights

about a powder magazine. The fire of the Lord was a hidden thing, yet in a

moment its full energy might be revealed, either to bless or destroy

(Leviticus 9:24 with Leviticus 10:2). But though the sin was a

mortal sin, it was not in itself worse than other offences against which

sentence is not executed speedily (Ecclesiastes 8:11).  ALL SIN IS

MORTAL though the deadly result be spread over long periods.

This sin was punished promptly and terribly, as were some other sins in

Israel, not because they were worse, but because the people, and

particularly the Levites, needed a lesson in the most impressive

way in which it could be given. The fire of the Lord went

out against the priests here, but soon after it went out against the people

(ch.11:1). “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)


Lessons:  A worthy office may have an unworthy occupant. There are a

Nadab and Abihu here and Leviticus 10; there were a Hophni and Phinehas afterwards

(I Samuel chps. 2-4, and a Judas among the apostles. Anointing, consecration,

imposition of hands may have official value, but GOD ONLY can give the faculty

of true inward service. We may bring strange fire before God when we bring zeal not

according to knowledge. There may be great fire and intensity and activity

with nothing of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. Consider the

lamentations of Paul over his persecuting days. There is here another instance of the

letter killing. In the Old Testament punishment predominated over reward, because

disobedience predominated over obedience.


5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,   6  Bring the tribe of Levi

near,” - Not by any outward act of presentation, but by assigning to them

solemnly the duties following. The expression is often used of servants coming

to receive orders from their masters –  “and present them before Aaron the

priest, that they may minister unto him.”


7 “And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole

Congregation” – Septuagint, “shall keep his watches, and the watches of the

children of Israel.” The Levites were to be the servants of Aaron on the

one side, and of the whole congregation on the other, in the performance

of their religious duties. The complicated ceremonial now prescribed and

set in use could not possibly be carried out by priests or people without the

assistance of a large number of persons trained and devoted to the work.

Compare Paul’s words in II Corinthians 4:5, “Ourselves your servants

 for Jesus’ sake.” - “before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do

the service of the tabernacle.  8  And they shall keep all the

instruments (vessels and furniture) of the tabernacle of the congregation,

and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle.

9  And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they

are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.”  The word nethunim

 (wholly given) is emphatic here, and in ch. 8:16. As the whole house of

Israel at large, so especially (for a reason which will presently appear) the

tribe of Levi belonged absolutely to God; and He, as absolutely, made them

over to Aaron and the priests for the service of his sanctuary. (Ephesians 4:11,

gave some apostles,” etc. The Levites, as gifts from God (nethunim) to their

brethren the priests, must be distinguished from the nethinim or serfs of foreign

extraction given by the congregation to the Levites to do their most menial work

for them (Joshua 9:27).  10 “And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons,

and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh

nigh shall be put to death.”  This constantly recurring formula has not always

quite the same meaning: in ch.1:51 it signified any one not of the tribe of Levi;

here it includes even the Levite who was not also a priest. The separation of the

Levites for the ministry of the tabernacle was not to infringe in the least upon

the exclusive rights of Aaron and his sons.


11  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  12  “And I, behold, I have

taken the Levites” – The actual separation of Levi had been already anticipated

(ch.1:47, 53), but the meaning and purpose of that separation is now formally

Declared.  No reason, however, is assigned for the choice of this particular tribe.

It is almost always assumed that their zeal in the matter of the golden calf was the

ground of the preference shown to them now. But it may be doubted whether there

was any “preference” in the matter at all. To Aaron and his seed an undoubted

and important preference was shown, but the functions and position of the Levites

were not such as to give them any preeminence, or to secure them any substantial

advantage. They were tied down to the performance of routine duties, which

demanded no intelligence, and gave scope for no ambitions. The one obvious reason

why Levi was selected is to be found in the fact that he was by far the smallest in

numbers among the tribes, being less than half the next smallest, Manasseh, and

almost exactly balancing the first-born. A larger tribe could not have been spared,

and would not have been needed, for the purpose in question. If any more

recondite motive must be sought for the Divine selection, it must be found

in the prophecy of Genesis 49:7. Levi as well as Simeon, though in a

different way, was doomed never to raise his head as a united and powerful

tribe among his brethren -  “from among the children of Israel instead of

all the firstborn” – The Septuagint inserts here, “they shall be their ransom.”

that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the

Levites shall be mine;  13 Because all the firstborn are mine;” –  (see

Exodus 13:2, and below on v. 43). That the powers of heaven had a special

claim upon the firstling of man or beast was probably one of the oldest religious

ideas in the world, which it would be difficult to trace to any origin but in some

primeval revelation. It branched out into many superstitions, of which the

cruel cultus of Moloch was the worst. Among the tribes which preserved

the patriarchal faith, it retained more or less of its primitive meaning in the

assignment of sacrificial duties to the eldest son. According to the

Targums, the “young men of the children of Israel sent by Moses to offer

sacrifices before the consecration of Aaron (Exodus 24:5) were firstborn.

Whatever ancient and latent claims, however, God may have had

upon the firstborn of Israel, they are here superseded by a special and

recent claim founded upon their miraculous preservation when the firstborn

of the Egyptians were slain. All the firstborn in that day became

anathema,” devoted to God, for evil or for good, for death or for life. He,

to whom belongs the whole harvest of human souls, came and claimed

His first-fruits from the fields of Egypt. He took unto Himself by death the

Firstborn of the Egyptians; He left for Himself in life the first-born of the

Israelites. For the convenience, however, of the people, and for the better

and more regular discharge of the ministry, He was content to take the

single small tribe of Levi in lieu of the first-born of all - “for on the day that

I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the

firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the



14  And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai,

saying, 15 Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by

their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou

number them.” The first-born were to be redeemed “from a month old”

(ch. 18:16).  16 “And Moses numbered them according to the word of the

LORD, as he was commanded. 17 And these were the sons of Levi” -  

These genealogical notices are inserted here in order to give completeness to the

account of the Levites in the day of their dedication - “by their names; Gershon,

and Kohath, and Merari.  18  And these are the names of the sons of

Gershon by their families; Libni, and Shimei.  19 And the sons of Kohath

by their families; Amram, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel.  20 And the sons

of Merari by their families; Mahli, and Mushi. These are the families of

the Levites according to the house of their fathers.  21 Of Gershon was

the family of the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites: these are the

families of the Gershonites.  22 Those that were numbered of them,

according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward,

even those that were numbered of them were seven thousand and five

hundred.  23  The families of the Gershonites shall pitch” - These directions

as to the position and duties of the Levitical families retain the form in which they

were originally given. The way in which they are mixed up with direct narrative

affords a striking proof of the inartificial character of these sacred writings -  

behind the tabernacle westward.”  The tabernacle opened or looked eastward

Towards the sunrise.


24 “And the chief of the house of the father of the Gershonites shall be

Eliasaph the son of Lael.  25  And the charge of the sons of Gershon” –

(See ch. 4:24-26) - “in the tabernacle of the congregation shall be the

tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the

door of the tabernacle of the congregation,  26 And the hangings of the

court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the tabernacle,

and by the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof.

27 And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of

the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of

the Uzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites.”


28  In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were

eight thousand and six hundred,” - The four families of the Kohathites, of

which that of Amram was one, must have contained about 18,000 souls.

Moses and Aaron were sons of Amram, and they seem to have had but two

sons apiece at this time. If, therefore, the family of the Amramites was at all

equal in numbers to the other three, they must have had more than 4000

brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces. It is urged in reply that Amram

lived 137 years, and may have had many other children, and that the variations

in the comparative rates of increase are so great and so unaccountable that it is

useless to speculate upon them. There is, however, a more serious difficulty

connected with the genealogy of Moses and Aaron, as given here and elsewhere.

If they were the great-grandchildren of Levi on their father’s side, and his

grandchildren on their mother’s side, it is impossible to maintain the obvious

meaning of Exodus 12:40. Either the genealogy must be lengthened, or the time

must be very much shortened for the sojourning in Egypt. The known and

undoubted habit of the sacred writers to omit names in their genealogies,

even in those which seem most precise, lessens the difficulty of the first

alternative, whereas every consideration of numbers, including those in this

passage, increases the difficulty of the second. To endeavor to avoid

either alternative, and to force the apparent statements of Scripture into

accord by assuming a multiplicity of unrecorded and improbable miracles at

every turn (as, e.g., that Jochebed, the mother of Moses, was restored to

youth and beauty at an extreme old age), is to expose the holy writings to

contempt. It is much more reverent to believe, either that the genealogies

are very imperfect, or that the numbers in the text have been very

considerably altered. Every consideration of particular examples, still more

the general impression left by the whole narrative, favors the former as

against the latter alternative - “keeping the charge of the sanctuary.

29 The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the

tabernacle southward.  30 And the chief of the house of the father of the

families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel.” - of the

youngest branch. This may have aroused the jealousy of Korah, who

 represented  an elder branch.  (See ch. 16)  31 “And their charge shall

be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the

vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging,

and all the service thereof. 32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest”

The priests were themselves Kohathites, and therefore their chief is here

mentioned as having the oversight over the other overseers - “shall be chief

over the chief of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the

charge of the sanctuary.  33 Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites,

and the family of the Mushites: these are the families of Merari.

34 And those that were numbered of them, according to the number of

all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousand and

two hundred.  35 And the chief of the house of the father of the families

of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the

tabernacle northward.  36 And under the custody and charge of the sons

of Merari shall be the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof,

and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels

thereof, and all that serveth thereto,  37 And the pillars of the court

round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords.”


38  But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even

before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses,

and Aaron and his sons,” - The most central and honorable place in the camp,

and the most convenient for constant and direct access to the sanctuary.

Moses held a wholly personal and exceptional position as king in Jeshurun

(Deuteronomy 33:5); Aaron was hereditary high priest. Between them

they represented the union of royal and sacerdotal authority, which had

many partial continuations in Jewish history, but was fully realized in

JESUS CHRIST! - “keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the

charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh

shall be put to death. 39 All that were numbered of the Levites, which

Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the LORD,

throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward,

were twenty and two thousand.” - It is obvious that there is a

discrepancy between this total and its three component numbers, which

make 22,300. It is so obvious that it must have been innocent; no one

deliberately falsifying or forging would have left so palpable a discrepancy

on the face of the narrative. It may, therefore, have arisen from an error in

transcription (the alteration of a single letter would suffice); or it may be

due to the fact that, for some reason not stated, 300 were struck off the

Levitical total for the purpose of this census. Such a reason was found by

the Hebrew expositors, and has been accepted by some moderns, in the

fact that the Levites were taken and counted instead of the first-born, and

that, therefore, their own first-born would have to he excluded. There is

nothing to be said against this explanation, except that no trace of it

appears in a narrative otherwise very full and minute. The first-born of the

Levites may have been just 300 (although the number is singularly small),

and they may have been considered ineligible for the purpose of redeeming

other first-born; but if so, why did not the sacred writer say so, instead of

silently reducing the total of “all that were numbered of the Levites”?

40 And the LORD said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the

males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and

take the number of their names.  41 And thou shalt take the Levites

for me (I am the LORD) instead of all the firstborn among the children

of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among

the cattle of the children of Israel.  42 And Moses numbered, as the

LORD commanded him, all the firstborn among the children of Israel.

43 And all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month

old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty

and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen.” These were

the first-born of the twelve tribes; but who were included under the designation

first-born is a matter of grave dispute. The smallness of their number (not much

above one per cent. of the whole population) has given rise to several conflicting

theories, all of which seem to be artificial, arbitrary, and therefore unsatisfactory.

It is urged by some that the expression “every male that openeth the womb” must

be strictly pressed, and that there would be no “first-born” in those families (which

form a considerable majority) in which either a girl was born first, or the

eldest, being a boy, had died. It is further urged that only those first-born

would be counted who were not themselves fathers of families. These

considerations will indeed reduce the probable numbers very largely, but

not to the required amount. Others, again, give an entirely different turn to

the difficulty by urging that as the command in Exodus 13:1-2 was

prospective only, so at this time only the first-born since the exodus were

counted. This makes it necessary to assume an altogether unprecedented

birth-rate during that short period. One other explanation strives to satisfy

the arithmetical conditions of the problem by assuming that the whole of

the Divine legislation in this matter was in reality directed against the

worship of Moloch, and was designed to prevent the offering of first-born

to Him by redeeming them unto Himself. As the rites of Moloch only

demanded young children of tender age, only such were counted in this

census. It may, indeed, be very probably concluded that their heavenly

Father did claim these first-born, partly in order to save them from

Moloch, because the people would thereafter be exposed to the fascination

of that horrid superstition; but there is no proof whatever that they were

acquainted with it at this time. These cruel rites, together with many other

heathen abominations, are forbidden in Leviticus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 18:10,

in view of the entry into Canaan, where they were practiced. The prophet Amos,

when he reproaches them with having “carried the tabernacle of their “Moloch”

even in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26), absolves them by implication from any

darker superstition; and the highly rhetorical passage Ezekiel 20:26 seems to

refer to the consequences of disobedience at a later date, and can hardly be

pressed against the entire silence of the Pentateuch. Anyhow it does not

seem possible, on the strength of a supposed intention on the part of God

of which no trace appears in the text, to impose a narrow and arbitrary

limit upon the plain command to number “all the first-born, from a month

old and upward.” If we turn from these speculations to the reason and

ground of the matter as stated by God Himself, it will appear much more

simple. It was distinctly on the ground of their preservation from the

destroying angel in Egypt that the first-born of Israel were claimed as

God’s peculium now (see v.13). The command in Exodus 13:1 was

no doubt prospective, but the sanctification of the first-born was based

upon the deliverance itself; and this command was intended not to limit

that sanctification for the present, but to continue it for the future. Now if

we turn to Exodus 12:29-30, and ask who the first-born were whom

the destroying angel cut off, we see plainly enough that they included the

eldest son, being a child, in every house; that every family lost one, and

only one. On the one hand, Pharaoh himself was in all probability a firstborn,

but he was not in any personal danger, because he ranked and

suffered as a father, not as a son. On the other hand, the majority of

families in which the first-born was a daughter, or had died, did not

therefore escape: “there was not a house where there was not one dead”

(Ibid. v. 30).  Taking this as the only sure ground to go upon, we may conclude

With some confidence that the first-born now claimed by God included all the

eldest sons in the families of Israel who were not themselves the heads of

houses. These were the destroyed in Egyptthese the redeemed in Israel.

How they came to be so few in proportion is a matter in itself of extremely

slight importance, and dependant, perhaps, upon causes of which no record

was left.


44 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  45 Take the Levites

instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle

of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine:

I am the LORD.  46 And for those that are to be redeemed of the two

hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of

Israel, which are more than the Levites;  47 Thou shalt even take five

shekels apiece” - This amount had already been fixed (Leviticus 27:6, if indeed

this chapter does not belong to a later period as the commutation value of a male

child under five years old who had been vowed unto the Lord. If the redeeming

of the first-born by the Levites began with the eldest, those that were left over

would all be within this age. (For a shekel. See Exodus 30:13) - “by the poll,

after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty

gerahs:)  48 And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of

them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons.  49 And Moses took

the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were

redeemed by the Levites:  50  Of the firstborn of the children of Israel

took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five

shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: 51 And Moses gave the money

of them that were redeemed unto Aaron” - The Levites were given to Aaron

in lieu of the first-born. As, however, their number fell somewhat short, the redemption

money taken for the remainder was due to Aaron as compensation, and was doubtless

applied to the support of the tabernacle worship - “and to his sons, according to the

word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.”  (What a testimony!

Of Moses, it is consistently said that Moses did as the Lord commanded! CY  -




        The Servants of God, and the Church of the First-born (vs. 1-51)


We may see in this chapter, spiritually, the obligation of the whole people to be the

bond-servants of Jesus Christ, and the dedication, as their representatives in the

outward and visible service of God, of such as are separated unto the Holy Spirit at

His call.   For the whole Church of Jesus Christ is the general assembly and

Church of the first-born (Hebrews 12:23), and they are all wholly His by right of

redemption, and are all priests unto God; nevertheless, for convenience, and almost

of necessity, their outward ministry and service in holy things is discharged by such as

God’s choice and their own aptness have marked out therefore.


Consider, therefore, WITH RESPECT TO THE LEVITES:





CHRIST, the great High Priest, and are placed at His disposal, that He may

use their labors according to His will; and this is the one simple consideration

which must govern their life, unless they be rebellious.


  • That they were given unto Aaron “TO KEEP HIS CHARGE, AND




Rendered aright to the well-pleasing of God. Even so it is in the deepest sense

true (if rightly considered) that every one who has some special call is a partner

partly in the work of Christ, partly in the duty of the Church; he helps to

carry on the one or to discharge the other (or both). The atonement indeed

was made by Aaron — as by CHRIST – HIMSELF, ALONE;  but the

outward and subordinate matters of his office he discharged by means of the

Levites, and he could not otherwise have discharged them. Even so does

Christ outwardly and visibly fulfill His manifold office upon earth by the mouths

and by the hands of his servants. Thus, if any preach the word, he is doing

the work of Christ our Prophet; if any minister to the sick, of Christ our

Healer; if any feed His lambs, of Christ our Good Shepherd; if any rule over

men for their good, of Christ our King. Even if any suffer in the spirit of

Christ, he is filling up the yet unfilled measures of the afflictions of Christ

(Colossians 1:24), because it is appointed unto Christ to suffer, as once

in Himself, so now in His earthly members, until the cup be wholly drained

(Revelation 1:9; 14:12). So, on the other hand, every one that is

devoted to some ministry is discharging the duty of all to all, and through

all to God. The body of Christ, which is the Church, owes unto all her

members spiritual and temporal care and tendance; unto God ceaseless

worship, prayer, and praise. But as the natural body discharges many of its

functions through separate members or organs, so does the body of Christ

through individuals set apart thereunto.







Even so all who belong to “the general assembly and Church of the

firstborn,” which are enrolled not in the lists of Aaron on earth, but in the

book of God in heaven (Hebrews 12:23), i.e., all Christian people, so

far as they understand their high calling, are claimed as His, and wholly His,

by God; and this because He redeemed them by the precious blood of

Christ (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 14:8; I Peter 1:19, etc.). And notice

that this “hallowing” of the first-born was a kind of death. All the first-born

throughout the land of Egypt were “anathema”a thing devoted. God had

claimed them. If then these are saved from the destroyer by the death of the

substituted lamb, they are still regarded as dead unto the old, the ordinary, life

of men who are sui juris, as living only for God, and unto God. And this is

precisely and unequivocally the position of all redeemed souls. Christ did not

die that they should not die, but that their death should take a happy and

blessed form, instead of one dark and terrible (II Corinthians 5:15;

Colossians 3:3). Every soul, elect, first-born, redeemed, is hallowed and

dedicated and marked as dead unto sin and self, alive only unto God.



TO THE LAST INDIVIDUAL; which does not seem to have been the

case even with the Levites. Even so there is no one of His redeemed,

 firstborn, that does not come into separate remembrance before God,

because a soul hallowed by the precious blood is of PRICELESS



  • THAT THE ODD NUMBER of the first-born over and above those

redeemed by the Levites HAD TO BE REDEEMED WITH A PRICE;

for they were His, and He could by no means renounce His rights over any.

Even so all the assembly of the first-born are the Lord’s, and He cannot

forego His claims over any one of them, neither can any one of them say,

“It does not matter about me — I shall not signify — I need not be




Consider, again, as incidentally appearing:


  • That the whole matter begins with the genealogy of Aaron and Moses

the priest and the Ruler in Israel. Even so all questions of religion and

devotion, however seemingly simple or entirely practical, do really begin

with and from the “generations” of Him who is both Priest and Ruler in

Israel, of Him who came forth out of Bethlehem, whose goings forth are

from everlasting (Micah 5:2). And so do the Gospels begin with the

human genealogy (Matthew, Luke), or the Divine (John), of the Anointed,

or with the briefest summary of both (Mark — “the Son of God”).


  • That Nadab and Abihu (see above on v. 4),  priests of the line of Aaron, who

offered strange fire, had no children. Even so the solitary priesthood of

Christ is ministered visibly in the Church, and there are that attempt to

minister it presumptuously and falsely, as though it were their own;

but these are spiritually barren, and leave no children in the faith,

because the blessing and power of God is not with their ministry, and

because human ambitions are “strange” to the gospel of love.


  • That Moses and Aaron camped on the east of the tabernacle, as the

place at once most central and most near the Divine presence. Even so our

King and Priest doth so abide as that He may ever appear in the presence of

God for us (Hebrews 9:24), and yet may ever be in the midst of His

Church (Matthew 28:20; Revelation 2:1).






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