Numbers starts off 1 year and 2 months after they leave Egypt. Because of the lack of any time frame up til now, I have no idea if this is a direct continuation of Leviticus and they're still at Mt. Sinai, or if they've left by now.
Anyway, God comes along and tells Moses to do a census. And he has to tell Moses specifically which guys to get to help him. Can't Moses do anything on his own?
So they do the census, which clearly only includes adult men. They give how many are in each of the 12 tribes of Israel (The descendants of Jacob's 12 sons. Apparently the descendants of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, can fuck off. I wonder what ever happened to them, anyway?). And the Levites are not counted in the census, because they are to be in charge of the tabernacle. They get the privilege of carting this load of useless stuff around, and in return they don't get counted in the census. Makes complete sense to me!
Also, if anyone besides the Levites approaches the tabernacle, they will die. Excluding Moses and the priests, I guess, though it doesn't actually say that. Why? No idea.
God also tells them to set up their camps such that they are divided into their 12 tribes. Why? I thought this was supposed to be all one people, God's chosen people. Why are they supposed to divide themselves?
The next chapter, God gives Moses the marching order for the 12 tribes. Why is this important? Also, they give how many are in each tribe, again. I can see this book is going to be just as repetitive as the last.
Now there's a bit more about the Levites. They are basically born to serve the priests. They don't even get the option to be priests themselves... Seems like a raw deal. God says that he will not demand the first borns from the rest of the Israelites, because he is taking all of the Levites instead. I really don't get what the Levites ever did to deserve this.
They list the sub-clans of the Levites, and what they were each in charge of. Like, one is in charge of the tent frame, one in charge of the alters, etc. Imagine, from birth the only prospect for you and your entire family is to be in charge of God's tent poles. Ugh.
Then God has Moses count all the Levites, and all the first born Israelites, apparently to make sure he wasn't getting gypped in his deal to take them instead. The number of Levites was 20,000, the number of first borns was 22,273. Oh no, God is missing out on 273 people! (I still don't get why God is claiming people for his very own, or what that even means.) So to make up the difference, God makes the Israelites give 5 shekels for each of the 273 to Aaron. This is just so confusing and nit-picky, I don't even know what to make of it.
Chapter 4 goes into detail about what the responsibilities of the Levites are, regarding the tabernacle. Basically, everything little thing they do is under the direct supervision of Aaron and the priests. Also, the Levites are not allowed to actually touch anything; it all has to be wrapped in leather or cloth by the priests first.
They also do some more counting...this time they count all of the people in the sub-clans of the Levites.
More randomness... if you are unclean, you must go outside the camp (I guess until you are clean again?). The reason is that you are defiling the camp with your uncleanliness, and God is in the camp, so you have to leave. A couple of things:
- God said in Exodus he wasn't going to be traveling with them, so what is he doing in their camp?
- In what way is omnipresent God not outside of the camp?