Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Numbers 3

Numbers iii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Generations; descendants of Aaron, whose names are specified; and of Moses, whose children are left unnoticed among the rest of the Levites, ver. 27. This enhances the merit of the Jewish legislator, and shews his modesty and disinterestedness. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Presence; or as it is expressed, (1 Paralipomenon xxiv. 9,) under the hand of Aaron, by his direction, and in quality of his assistant, (Calmet) while he lived, Eleazar succeeded him in the high priesthood; (Josue xxiv. 33,) and his children possessed that dignity, till the posterity of Ithamar came in under Heli, chap. xxv. 13. (Haydock)

Ver. 6. To him, and to the other priests, who had to perform the higher offices. The Levites did not approach near the altar, except when they had to carry it and the tabernacle. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. And. Hebrew, "They shall watch over him, and over all the congregation," to assist the priests in their sacred office, and to take care that the people behave respectfully. (Haydock) --- All were bound to prevent any sacrilegious abuse. (Menochius)

Ver. 10. To whom. Samaritan and Septuagint, "to me." They must serve God in the persons of his priests. They are called a gift, people bestowed, as the Nothnim, to serve in the meanest functions; and hence the Nathineans take their name. The Gabaonites were employed by Josue in this quality, Josue ix. 23. --- Over. Hebrew, "they shall retain," &c. They shall permit no stranger to interfere. Cuneus (Rep. ii. 11,) observes, that if a Levite undertook to do the office allotted to another, he was to be slain, after sentence had been passed by the judge. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. Mine. God claimed the first-born, on account of having spared them, Exodus xii. 23. He requires that all the males shall be redeemed, except those of the tribe of Levi, whom he claims as his peculiar portion, as the price of the redemption of those who were living in Egypt, when the destroying angel passed by. This honour was wholly gratuitous, though the Levites deserved to obtain a confirmation of it by their zeal, Exodus xxxii. 29 and Deuteronomy xxxiii. 9. God seems to have revealed to Moses the destination of Aaron's family, long before they were appointed to exercise the functions of the priesthood, Exodus xix. 22, 24, and xxiv. 1. (Calmet)

Ver. 15. Month; at which time the first-born were to be redeemed, chap xviii. 16. (Menochius) --- If only those of 20 years of age had been counted, they could not have amounted to nearly an equal number with the first-born of all the other tribes. (Calmet)

Ver. 17. Names. These had been long ago dead. (Menochius)

Ver. 22. Five hundred, expressed by the letter c, has, according to Kennicott, been put for 200, which the Hebrews denote by a similar letter, r. See 2 Kings xxiii. 8 and 1 Paralipomenon xi. 11, for other mistakes. (Haydock)

Ver. 26. Thereof. The Gersonites had the care of the veils round the court, and of the cords and gates. The priests guarded the tabernacle, ver. 32. The sons of Caath carried the altars, (ver. 31,) and the Merarites took care of the cords, which were attached to the pillars of the court, ver. 37. Hebrew may be translated "(among the vessels of) the tabernacle, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the sanctuary, (or tabernacle of the congregation) and the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is beside the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and the cords belonging to the service of the tabernacle." (Calmet) --- Whatsoever, in the Vulgate, must only be referred to the curtains.

Ver. 28. Sanctuary, with respect to the things mentioned, ver. 31. (Menochius) --- The Samaritan copy observes, that they also carried the brazen laver, as we find they did, chap. iv. 14. All these things were folded up in the violet curtains of the sanctuary, while the ark was covered with the veil which hung before it, chap. iv. 5. Some pretend that the number here specified ought to be 830, to obviate a difficulty [in] ver. 39. But this amendment has no solid foundation. (Calmet)

Ver. 32. Eleazar had authority over the Levites, as his father had over the priests also. Thus we find princes of the priests, different from the sovereign pontiff. (Matthew ii. 4 and xvi. 21 and Luke iii. 2.) Eleazar had also a particular charge of the Caathites, (chap. iv. 16,) and was to take care that they handled the sacred vessels with due respect. (Calmet)

Ver. 38. Sons, the children of Aaron. Those of Moses were among the Levites, 1 Paralipomenon xxiii. 13. They did not remain with their father. --- In the, &c. Hebrew, "to guard the," &c., in order to supply for the rest of the Israelites, ver. 9. (St. Augustine, q. 4.)

Ver. 39. And Aaron; a word omitted in the Samaritan and Syriac, and in the oldest Hebrew manuscript, and marked in the printed copies as dubious. (Kennicott) --- Thousand. If we collect the different sums, we shall find other 300; so that the Levites would be 27 more than the first-born of the other tribes, though Moses says (ver. 43-46) that they were fewer by 273. Some say that the 28th verse has been corrupted, (Calmet) or the 22nd, where we read 500 instead of 200. (Haydock) --- Others observe, that in the 22,000, the first-born of the Levites and the priests of Aaron's family are not included, and these might amount to 300 men. (Lyranus) --- But Bonfrere rightly observes that this number is too small, as only one is allowed for 74 people. He thinks that the first-born, who were heads of families, are omitted, and those also who were born before the angel destroyed the Egyptians. On this supposition, however, 22,000 will appear too great a number to be produced by the Levites in the space of a year, when some were too young, and others too old, to have children, and others had children already before that event. We may, therefore, either admit the solution of Lyranus, or confess that some fault has crept into the number, though this must be very difficult, since Moses argues in the sequel on the supposition of its certainty. (Calmet) --- St. Jerome hence infers, that these numbers are full of mystery; Origen (hom. 4,) says, that the exact number, 22,000, may signify the perfection which God requires from those whom he takes into his service, as there are just 22 Hebrew letters, and 22 patriarchs, from Adam to Jacob, the father of the Israelites. (Worthington) --- The 22,000 might be accepted by God, instead of so many Israelites; and the 300 other Levites might be due to him on their own account, being the first-born since the Hebrews left Egypt. (Tirinus) (Du Hamel)

Ver. 41. Cattle. These were kept by the Levites, and were not intended for sacrifice. (Menochius)

Ver. 46. Levites, omitting the 300, as [in] ver. 39. For each of these 273, five sicles were to be paid, the price of the redemption of a child who had been vowed, Leviticus xxvii. 6. The money was to be paid either by those who were counted last, or by a tax laid upon all the people, or it was determined by lot who should pay it. The Scripture is silent on this head. (Calmet)