Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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Numbers 4

Numbers iv.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 3. Thirty. Moses speaks of those who had to carry the sacred vessels. Those of 25 years old might perform some offices; (chap. viii. 24,) and even at 20, they began to serve the tabernacle, in the reign of David, (1 Paralipomenon xxiii. 24,) the fatigue being then diminished, and the splendour of religion increasing. The Septuagint read 25 instead of 30, in this and all other places, and some think that the Hebrew should be so too. The time for the admission of priests to their more august functions is not specified, but was determined by themselves to be at least 20 years of age. (Outram, Sacrif. i. 7.) --- To stand. This was the ordinary posture of the priests in the temple. The king alone was allowed to sit. (Maimonides) --- Hebrew, "all that enter into the host, or army, to do the work in the tabernacle of the assembly," shall be of a competent age and strength. (Haydock)

Ver. 5. Sons. Necessity excused them on this occasion. Out of respect for the ark, the Levites were not allowed to behold or touch it uncovered. (Calmet) --- That hangeth before the door. Hebrew, "the covering veil, and shall," &c. (Haydock)

Ver. 6. Put in the bars. Hebrew, "place the bars," upon the shoulders of the Levites; for they were never taken out of the sides of the ark, Exodus xxv. 15. Other bars, like hand-barrows, were used to carry the ark and the other different vessels, after they were folded up. Two Levites bore them on their shoulders. (Calmet) --- Perhaps the bars of the ark, after it was enveloped with the three curtains, might project, so that the bearers might take hold of them. (Menochius)

Ver. 7. Loaves. Some imagine this precept was not observed in the desert, as the people fed on manna. But might not they procure some flour of the neighbouring nations? and do not the princes offer flour, chap. vii.? See Deuteronomy xii. 7. (Calmet)

Ver. 10. The bars, which were not attached to it, Exodus xxv. 37. Hebrew and Septuagint, "They shall place it upon the bars." Mot, signifies a stick, upon which two people may carry burdens, chap. xiii. 24. It might be put through the foldings, ver. 12.

Ver. 13. Ashes, which might be upon the grate of the altar, where the sacred fire had been burning. This shews that the precept was already observed. The Septuagint do not mention the ashes. But some copies, with Origen, (hom. iv.) and the Samaritan Pentateuch, insert some words at the end of ver. 14, which Grotius believes have been omitted by the Massorets, in the present Hebrew Bibles. "They shall take a purple veil, and fold up the laver and its foot, and put them in a covering of violet skins, and place them upon the bars." (Calmet) --- The children of Caath were the most honoured among the Levites, as Moses and Aaron sprung from the same family, Eleazar, the future pontiff, presided over them in a particular manner, while his younger brother Ithamar, directed the rest. (Haydock)

Ver. 15. Vessels of, &c. Some say, not even their coverings. God threatens to punish all idle curiosity or negligence, particularly with respect to the ark, which the Caathites had to carry, till the priests became sufficiently numerous to perform that office, as they generally did, Deuteronomy xxxi. 9. (Calmet)

Ver. 16. Over them. The sons of Caath, to whose care the more sacred things were entrusted; or Hebrew, "over the oil," &c. --- Sacrifice of flour, wine, &c. These always accompanied the morning and evening holocaust. It hence appears that this law was already in force, and probably all such precepts were observed as were not incompatible with the wandering state of the Hebrews. (Calmet)

Ver. 20. Curiosity. Septuagint, "suddenly." Let them not rush in before all the vessels be properly covered. The priests folded them up with all haste, that they might see them as little as possible themselves. (Calmet)

Ver. 23. Thirty. Septuagint, "25," as ver. 3. (Calmet) --- They began to be taught how to act, at 25; but did not officiate till 30. (Du Hamel)

Ver. 26. All things. Hebrew, "veils round the altar" of holocausts in the court. (Calmet)

Ver. 27. Assigned. Hebrew, "you shall count over to them what they have to carry." Septuagint, "you shall call (the Levites) by name, and all that shall be intrusted to them," ver. 32. (Calmet) --- From the different offices of the priests and Levites in the old law, Innocent III takes occasion to shew the distinction of the orders in the Christian Church. (De S. Altar. 2. ad 7.)