This chapter continues recounting the duties of the different Levite clans. Particular attention is paid to the Kohathites, who are responsible for transporting all the objects inside the tabernacle. Before they can do that, Aaron and his sons have to wrap everything up so that they don’t accidentally see or touch anything and thus “invite death” on themselves. God is fairly adamant to Moses that “You must not let the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites.” (v 17) There’s no reason given for this, and surely he could have just assigned the task to someone else, like he did with Aaron’s sons. My interpretation? God was upset at how many people were dying due to not properly taking precautions around him, and was genuinely concerned for their safety. “Don’t let anyone else die, please!”

One last math note, since after this we’re done with the census. This chapter tallies the number of men between the ages of 30 and 50, who are immediately available to perform religious tasks. It comes to 8,580, or 39% of the total male population listed last chapter. That’s not entirely unreasonable; looking at most modern examples of age distribution in the “developing”* world, almost 60% of people being under the age of 30, 39% between 30 and 50, and a tiny sliver over 50, wouldn’t be that far off – except maybe the under 30 should be even larger given childhood mortality. Still, unlike other cases, the math doesn’t seem that crazy.

The Japanese: juunou “fire shovel,” hachi “bowl, pot, basin” (v 14), unpan “transport, conveyance” (v 15), touyu “lamp oil” (v 16), tayasu “to let a fire go out, to extinguish” (v 18), warifuru “to assign, to distribute” (v 19), nazashi de “by name” (v 32).

*The “developing world” is one of the most awful euphemisms ever created, implying that impoverished countries just haven’t caught up yet, rather than that they’re being intentionally held back by patterns of global exploitation. Calling it the “third world” (versus the “first” of Europe and America, and the “second” of the Soviets and China) may not be as popular since the collapse of communism, but that image of impoverished countries as the playthings of global powers still isn’t that far off.

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