They with the Gershonites and the Kohathites had charge of the tabernacle, which they had to carry from place to place (Num. 3:20, 33-37; 4:29-33). In the distribution of the oxen and wagons offered by the princes (Num. 7), Moses gave twice as many to the Merarites (four wagons and eight oxen) as he gave to the Gershonites, because the latter had to carry only the lighter furniture of the tabernacle, such as the curtains, hangings, etc., while the former had to carry the heavier portion, as the boards, bars, sockets, pillars, etc., and consequently needed a greater supply of oxen and wagons.
This is a coincidence illustrative of the truth of the narrative. Their place in marching and in the camp was on the north of the tabernacle. The Merarites afterwards took part with the other Levitical families in the various functions of their office (1 Chr. 23:6, 21-23; 2 Chr. 29:12-13). Twelve cities with their suburbs were assigned to them (Josh. 21:7, 34-40).