The book of Numbers apparently preserves divergent traditions regarding the minimum age of service for Levites.
And Yahweh spoke to Moses saying: “This is what applies to the Levites: everyone 25 years and older must serve in the work forces, performing the tasks of the Tent of Meeting.” (Num 8:23-24)
And Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron saying:
- “Take a head count of the Kohathites, who are part of the Levites, by their clans and patriarchal houses, of those 30 years of age until 50 years of age, all who are eligible for performing assigned tasks in the work force pertaining to the Tent of Meeting” (Num 4:3)
- “Take a head count of the Gershonite clans as well, by their clans and patriarchal houses. You shall tally all of them 30 years of age and older to 50 years of age, all who are eligible to perform the tasks of the work force relevant to the Tent of Meeting” (Num 4:23)
- “Take a head count of the Merarites, 30 years of age and older…” (Num 4:30)
There are several other factors that make it clear that Numbers 8 comes from a different Priestly tradition. In fact, Numbers 7-9 appear to be from a different tradition, and were most likely inserted here by the redactor because of its thematic similarity to Numbers 1-6. But the time frame assigned to the events enumerated in these chapters is out of sequence with Numbers 1-6. For we are told that the alleged events of Num 1-6 happened 2/1/2; while the events reported in Numbers 7-9 occur on 1/1/2—that is before the whole book of Leviticus and equivalent to the time period represented in Exodus 40: “And it was on the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle” (Num 7:1). I’ve already treated this chronological contradiction at #170.
The particular task of the Levites in their service of the Tent of Meeting will be the focus of tomorrow’s contradiction since the Aaronid priesthood that wrote Numbers grossly disagree with the Levite written books of Samuel about the role and function of the Levites, and specifically concerning what they can and cannot touch or see.