Summary: In preparation for the move from Sinai to the Promised Land the tribal leaders brought to the Lord gifts of six wagons and 12 oxen (vv. 1-3). God shows His appreciation for the generosity of the tribal leaders.
Thoughts about the passage:
This chapter points back to a month earlier when the tabernacle had just been completed and dedicated. In preparation for the move from Sinai to the Promised Land the tribal leaders brought to the Lord gifts of six wagons and 12 oxen (vv. 1-3). These, they said, were to be at the disposal of the Levites to help them in their work of transporting the tabernacle and its contents (vv. 4-5). Moses therefore distributed the oxen and carts as follows: two carts and 4 oxen to the Gershonites (v. 7), four carts and 8 oxen to the Merarites (v. 8), but none to the Kohathites (v. 9) because they were to bear the sacred objects on their shoulders (4:15). Failure to do this later brought great grief to David and his servants when the ark was transported from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:3; 7-8). The Merarites needed more carts and oxen than the Gershonites because they had to carry the heavy wooden and metal framework of the tabernacle (Num. 4:31-32).
Each of the 12 tribal leaders (1:5-15) brought offerings for the dedication of the altar (vv. 10-17). All the remaining tribal leaders brought identical gifts, each on consecutive days (vv 18-83). The 12 days spanned by these offerings most likely commenced with the 1st day of the first month of the second year since the Exodus (Ex. 40:17) and continued through the 12th day of that month. The order of their coming with their gifts corresponds exactly with the arrangement of the tribes around the tabernacle (Num. 2:3-31).
The presentations of the 12 leaders (vv. 12-83) were summarized and totaled. The pleasure of the Lord at the generous spirit of the tribal leaders may be suggested by His communication to Moses in the tabernacle’s most holy place between the two cherubim (vv. 84-89).
God signified his gracious acceptance of these presents that were brought him, by speaking familiarly to Moses, as a man speaks to his friend, from off the mercy-seat (v. 89). By this I may know that God hears and accepts my prayers if he gives me grace to hear and receive his word, and thus my communion with him is maintained and kept up.