In Numbers 4:35, God requires a 30-year-old (Sheloshim Shanah) as the youngest to serve in His Ohel Mo'ed.

Bamidbar 4:35

"From the age of שְׁלשִׁ֤ים thirty שָׁנָה֙ years and upward, until the age of fifty years, all who come to the legion, for service in the Tent of Meeting." ( מִבֶּ֨ן שְׁלשִׁ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה וְעַ֖ד בֶּן־חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֑ה כָּל־הַבָּא֙ לַצָּבָ֔א לַֽעֲבֹדָ֖ה בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד )

But - in Numbers 8:24, God makes an update for Kohenim setting a younger 25-year-old (Chamesh-ve-Esrim shanah) age requirement.

Bamidbar 8:24

"This is the rule for the Levites. From חָמֵ֨שׁ וְעֶשְׂרִ֤ים twenty-five שָׁנָה֙ years of age up they shall participate in the work force in the service of the Tent of Meeting" ( זֹ֖את אֲשֶׁ֣ר לַלְוִיִּ֑ם מִבֶּן֩ חָמֵ֨שׁ וְעֶשְׂרִ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה יָבוֹא֙ לִצְבֹ֣א צָבָ֔א בַּעֲבֹדַ֖ת אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד )

Why was the Kohenim age requirement lowered from Sheloshim shanah (Bamidbar 4:25) to Chamesh-ve-Esrim shanah (Bamidbar 8:24)?

  • "Spiritual maturity" isn't a phrase from the text, is it? Better to edit this to ask why Levites/priests must be 30-50 years old.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 25, 2021 at 15:08
  • @curiousdannii - Why is 30 שְׁלשִׁ֤ים (Sheloshim) the mature age requirement of כֹּהֲנִים Kohenim, not applied to soldiers? Jan 25, 2021 at 16:18
  • 1
    @חִידָה Can you please refrain from transliterating Hebrew to English? Its clumsy, annoying and serves no purpose here on BH where the majority of users don't speak Hebrew (This is not MY).
    – bach
    Jan 26, 2021 at 16:03
  • @Bach - I appreciate your opinion. What would help make לָשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ more appealing to your eyes? (No transliteration & no niqqud - just עברי) Jan 26, 2021 at 16:23
  • 1
    If you wanna write the Hebrew alphabet with a translation that's fine. Fire example your question about quarantine of house is acceptable. But writing out the Hebrew in english as if this is some type of artscroll is ridiculous!
    – bach
    Jan 26, 2021 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


There are different kinds of service being discussed. In Num 8.24:

those 50 and over will return from:

tseva ha avodath --> "the work of the service"

Whereas those 25 and older will:

tsevo tsavah ba avodath --> "serve the service in the work"

Traditional view

Rashi suggests that they are in fact studying for five years:

מבן חמש ועשרים FROM TWENTY AND FIVE [YEARS] AND UPWARD [THEY SHALL GO IN TO WAIT UPON THE SERVICE] — But in another passage, it states, (Numbers 4:3) “from thirty years old [and upwards … all that enter into the host to do the work in the tabernacle]”! How are these apparently contradictory passages to be reconciled? In the following way: From twenty five years on he (the Levite) comes to learn the laws regulating the service, and he studies for five years, and at the age of thirty he may actually do the service. — From here we may derive the principle that a pupil who does not see an auspicious omen (i. e. success) in his study during five years will never see it. (Sifrei Numbers 62; Chullin 24a.)

Rashi Commentaries. (n.d.). (pp. 573–574).

Of course by "study", this did not involve reading books (there were no books), but an apprenticeship relationship involving graduating when they reach the age of full adulthood, which is 30. That was the age needed to participate in the work of the service, but from age 25, Levites served (tseva) but did not work (avodath)

Assessing the traditional view

Was Rashi right? All we have are the text and the traditions associated to it. There are no other sources of information. But from the fact that different language is used, we can infer that it was a different type of service, and from the fact that 30 is the traditional age of adulthood, it would make sense that the responsibilities were contingent on age and adulthood status -- indeed it would be strange if this wasn't the case.

What is also nice about the traditional view is that

  • at the beginning there were no apprentices, because they were all apprentices. Only after a period of initial service so that the adults understood what their roles were did a second census take place and apprentices joined them.

  • between the time of the first census and the second census the offerings were made for the raw materials and the objects were fashioned. This involved collecting and distributing huge amounts of gold and silver, so it made sense that no minors were serving during this time.

  • Between the first census and right before the second census the Levites were consecrated. They did not take on any apprentices until after they themselves were consecrated. That makes sense, too.

So with all of these considerations, the traditional view fits nicely into the narrative. That doesn't mean it is inspired scripture, but at least it makes sense.

In terms of questions about military age and recruitment, the requirements of fighting and the requirements of serving in the tabernacle were not the same requirements, just as the age at which people were eligible to marry was even earlier than the age at which they were recruited to fight.

  • Good point in your last paragraph.
    – Lesley
    Feb 4, 2021 at 8:41

Numbers 8:24 New International Version

"This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting,

in the work
בַּעֲבֹדַ֖ת (ba·‘ă·ḇō·ḏaṯ)
Preposition-b | Noun - feminine singular construct
Strong's Hebrew 5656: Work of any kind

Younger men could start working on manual labor.

Numbers 4:3 New International Version

Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

in the work
מְלָאכָ֖ה (mə·lā·ḵāh)
Noun - feminine singular
Strong's Hebrew 4399: Deputyship, ministry, employment, work, property

When they were older, they were promoted to other kinds of work. Two age limits for two kinds of work.

  • Which of the Leviim לְוִיִּ֑ם was worthy enough at 25-years-old to help lower the previous 30-year-old age requirement? - Yet the youngest soldier is still required to be age 20. Jan 25, 2021 at 16:37

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