First, the Levites are purified for the immediate task of carrying the whole recently-constructed tabernacle on their travels to the Promised Land. Imagine: even the people who carry the tabernacle have to be purified! There is not a single moment when Yahweh’s holiness stops shining, when His Presence can be considered common, unimportant or insignificant. Everyone who approaches Him must be purified!
This requirement informs us as to the rest of the purpose of the Levites. They are much more than a system of transportation: “I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary” (Numbers 8:19). Yes, they will carry the tabernacle, and they will help the priests in the tabernacle duties that don’t require priestly intervention, but they will do much more. Their mere presence, chosen, purified and redeemed by Yahweh, serves as a shock absorber for Yahweh’s just wrath against a contaminated people who dare to approach Him with their sacrifices. If it weren’t for the Levites redeemed on their behalf, the Israelites would suffer a devastating plague at any moment for the slightest bit of impurity that they unknowingly bring to the tabernacle before Yahweh’s perfect holiness.
All this movement in preparation for the march to the Promised Land does not serve as an excuse for neglecting the Passover celebration in Numbers 9. All Israel in obedience gathers together and thanks Yahweh for His decisive redemption a year earlier. In cases of impurity or absence due to a long trip, Yahweh concedes that some Israelites may not be able to participate, but they must celebrate it the following month. Even in the midst of so much hurry and so many upcoming responsibilities, the Israelites need to pause, remember their salvation and praise Yahweh.
And in the rest of the reading we see all Israel on the move. With the cloud of Yahweh’s Presence before them, called by the sound of the trumpets, all Israel marches in the order of their tribes toward the Promised Land. While this section of the Bible (the Mosaic Law) closes, we can hear Moses’ voice shouting enthusiastically. “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered; and let those who hate you flee before you.’ And when it rested, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel” (Numbers 10:35-36).