Ithamar was born into a high profile family, but as the youngest son of Aaron and Elisheba (Exodus 6:23), that birth order earned for him last billing in the recorded genealogies. God had plans for this man, though, and like his three older brothers Ithamar was selected to serve as a priest in the nation of Israel.
Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest to Me—Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. Exodus 28:1 NASB
The oldest sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, decided to perform the responsibilities of the priesthood in their own way rather than obey God’s explicit commands. God’s immediate judgment fell on the two men who forfeited their lives (Leviticus 10:1-2). That act of disobedience by the older brothers led to advancement for the younger brothers.
But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron. Numbers 3:4 NASB
Though Scripture gives little additional detail about Ithamar his specific assignment seemed to fall into the arena of logistics and support.
- Exodus 38:21 records Ithamar’s responsibilities of keeping an inventory of the funds and materials used to build the tabernacle.
- Numbers 4 adds that Ithamar coordinated tabernacle moves by supervising the work of the Gershonites and the Merarites as they assembled, disassembled, or transported the components.
As long as the project progressed on schedule, with no lost parts or misplaced funds, Ithamar’s contribution remained hidden. Sometimes our job assignment may be glamour-free and hidden from the spotlight. Does our desire to do quality work dry up like uncapped markers? It is those moments of obscurity that test our integrity. How well we do the unsung or unseen speaks volumes about our character and motivation.
Some sources state that the literal meaning of Ithamar’s name is “palm island,” and his work ethic is an oasis of a good example for those of us who labor in obscurity somewhere other than the top spot.
Though his job may have seemed on the surface to be less than significant, the truth is that Ithamar held responsibility for overseeing nearly 70% of the Levites serving the Lord in that tabernacle. The MacArthur Study Bible (page 201) puts the total number of Levites involved in the service of the tabernacle at 8580. The total included the 2630 Gershonites and 3200 Merarites under Ithamar’s direct supervision. Without the timely and accurate contribution of Ithamar and his people worship could not happen.
The drive that propelled Ithamar to take his role seriously and do it to the best of his ability was his love for God. The youngest son of Aaron did not limit the view of his work to counting, wrangling and moving. He recognized the vital role he played in fostering the nation’s worship. That personal knowledge filled him with determination to excel at his assigned tasks. His contagious and influential spirit no doubt spread to others on his team. Ithamar knew when the job was done right, even if no one commented or handed him a gold star for the day.
Ithamar understood the lesson that Paul would one day put in writing. When we work as though we are working for the Lord, something changes in our attitude and our output becomes an act of worship. None of us want to give God a shoddy performance or do less than our best for Him, the One who gave His very best for us (John 3:16).
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:17 NLT
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24 NLT
Incidentally, our work matters to God. Others may overlook us or take us for granted, but God is always watching.
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other believers, as you still do.
Hebrews 6:10 NLT