This chapter “back-tracks” a little and brings us back to the day when Moses had just finished setting up the newly-made Tabernacle for the very first time (Ex. 40:17-33), and had anointed it and sanctified it (Lev. 8:10). On this same day, the princes or leaders of each of the 12 tribes of Israel brought offerings to the Lord. The more advanced the position that a person holds in the world, the greater opportunity they have of serving God and their people in that position.
First, the princes collectively made an offering to the Lord, consisting of six covered wagons and 12 oxen to go with them. The Lord directed that these wagons were to be divided up among the Levites, so that they could use them to carry the various pieces of the Tabernacle framework and curtains when the people were on the move. Thus we see that no sooner was the Tabernacle set up, than provision was being made for its being taking down and moved. Even when we settle in this world, we must be preparing for changes and moves – especially for the great change that will take us out of this world for good.
The Gershonites (the Tabernacle curtain-caretakers) received two wagons and four oxen, while the Merarites (the Tabernacle framework-handlers) received the other four wagons and eight oxen. Naturally, the Tabernacle framework pieces required more wagon space than folded-up curtains. As for the Kohathites, they did not receive any of the wagons or oxen. They were particularly honored by the responsibility of moving the Tabernacle furniture, and they were to carry the furniture “upon their shoulders” (verse 9).
The princes among the tribes were very eager and willing in the service of God. Here is an example to those who are in positions of earthly authority and high rank; they ought to use their honor and power, as well as their estate and influence, to promote the service of the Lord in the places where they live.
In Leviticus 8:10-11, we read how Moses sanctified both the golden incense altar and the brazen sacrifice altar on the day when the Tabernacle had been set up and anointed, and the priesthood was being established. Although it is not recorded in Leviticus, there was a great ceremony afterwards, involving the dedication of the “altar” (probably referring to the brass sacrifice altar) by the princes with their freewill offerings. That is what is recorded here in the majority of this chapter. It seems that Nahshon, the prince of Judah, brought his offering on that same day that the Tabernacle was anointed and sanctified; and the rest of the princes brought their offerings – one at a time – on the days following, according to the Lord’s commandment. God’s work should not be done confusedly or hurriedly; we must take time in His service, and not call it a task or a burden. Thus, they began the use of this altar with rich presents – great expressions of joy and gladness, and of extraordinary respect to this token of God’s presence with them.
Each of the 12 princes brought an identical offering for the dedication of the altar, consisting of the following items:
- one silver charger weighing about 6½ pounds (3 kg), worth about $2,400*
- one silver bowl weighing about 3½ pounds (1.6 kg), worth about $1,300*
- fine flour and oil for a grain offering, filling both the charger and the bowl
- a golden spoon weighing about ½ pound (0.2 kg), worth roughly $15,000*
- incense filling the golden spoon
- one bullock, one ram, and one lamb for a burnt offering
- one kid of the goats for a sin offering
- two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs for peace offerings
The fact that each man’s offering was specifically detailed shows us that that Lord takes note of even the smallest service that is done for Him. And the reason why all the princes’ offerings were the same was because all the tribes of Israel had an equal share in the altar, and an equal interest in the sacrifices that were offered upon it. And it is worth noticing that even though this was a time of joy and rejoicing; yet still, in the midst of their sacrifices, we find a sin-offering. Similarly, even in our best actions, we are conscious that there is sin; and so there ought to be repentance in even our most joyful acts of worship and service. In all our approaches to God, we must – by faith – look to Christ as our perfect and spotless Sin-offering.
Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord, and he heard the voice of One speaking to him from the mercy-seat – namely, the Eternal Word, the second Person in the Trinity; for all God’s communication with Man is by His Son, by Whom He made the world and rules the Church. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This speaking from the mercy-seat – what a proof it was that God hears our prayers and answers them! Let us always remember, as we approach the mercy-seat, that the Father always hears His Son. Through Jesus, we may approach at all times – not as a servant, but as sons and daughters.
Lord, we thank You that we are not under the spirit of bondage, but in the spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15) And as we here behold the rich offerings of the princes – what can we offer You? Help us to offer You our broken and contrite hearts, and let us be accepted for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
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*based on the current values of gold and silver on April 29, 2022
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