Since God had designated the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle and its furnishings and to assist the high priest and priests, they were to reside around the tabernacle. Every male descendant of Levi’s three sons more than a month old was numbered. They were assigned their specific locations on the west, south and north sides of the tabernacle. Moses, Aaron and his sons, who were charged with the daily tabernacle services, camped on the east side.
God had specified that the firstborn children of each of the families and the firstborn of their livestock would be His. Instead of taking these firstborn children and livestock from the children of Israel, God chose to use the Levites and their livestock as substitutes. The firstborn males one month and older of the Israelites was counted.
In a well-organized society, like a precision machine, all parts have an assigned duty. Aaron, the high priest and his two surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, the priests were to cover the sanctuary and all of the furnishings of the sanctuary in preparation for moving. The Kohathites were responsible for moving those items when moving time came. Eleazar was the overall “project manager” for that part of the move.
The responsibility of carrying the fabric materials which consisted of the hangings and curtains of the tabernacle was the duty of the Gershonites. Wood and metal parts of the tabernacle were to be transported by the sons of Merari. Eleazar’s brother, Ithamar was the priest in charge of moving the structural parts of the tabernacle.
At first, God placed the heavy work of the tabernacle service upon the Levite men who were of 30-50 years of age. As time went by, some of those duties were shared by men above twenty-five and later, some men more than twenty years old. The results of the census of the Levites revealed a total of 8,580 men aged 30-50 years.