After Their Situation Changes, David Gives Them New Jobs
The book of Numbers is so named because it starts and ends with a census—a numbering of the people. These take place forty years apart. Moses orchestrates both counts, at God’s command.
For the third part of the first census, Moses counts all men who can serve God from the tribe of Levite—in this case specifically the sons of Kohath. This count focuses on those between age thirty and fifty.
There are two implications from this age range.
One is that it takes not only adulthood, but also a degree of maturity that comes from life lessons before they can serve. We can infer this occurs at age thirty. I wonder at what age significant maturity tends to occur today. Is it sooner or later? I fear it’s later, if at all.
The second implication is that “mandatory retirement” occurs at age fifty. Yes, life expectancies were shorter than, but to see an upper age limit placed on their work for God is interesting.
These men, however, aren’t priests.
Their assigned work is manual labor. The sole task of the sons of Kohath is to move the tent of meeting and items relating to worship. This requires a degree of physical strength, so age does play a part in their work.
It also means they only have work to do when God tells his people to move from one campsite to another. Sometimes this happens frequently, and other times not often at all. The rest of the time they go about their everyday life.
They do this for forty years as the Israelites wander around the desert. But once they get to the land God promised to give them, their wandering stops. The need to pack, move, and unpack the tent of meeting and the items needed for worship ends.
What work do the sons of Kohath do for God once they no longer need to move these items? Nothing.
A few centuries later, however, David gives them new assignments (1 Chronicles 23:25-32).
Though God had given the sons of Kohath a specific assignment, it wasn’t permanent. After their job ended, King David gave them new work to do, changing what God had originally told Moses.
Sometimes God’s commands apply forever and other times only for a season. May we wisely distinguish between the two.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.