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Adam Clarke Commentary

Numbers 18

Introduction

The priests are to bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, Numbers 18:1 . The Levites to minister to the priests, and have charge of the tabernacle, Numbers 18:2 -4. The priests alone to have the charge of the sanctuary, etc., no stranger to come nigh on pain of death, Numbers 18:5 -7 The portion allowed for their maintenance, Numbers 18:8 . They shall have every meat-offering; and they shall eat them in the holy place, Numbers 18:9 , Numbers 18:10 . The wave-offerings, Numbers 18:11 . The first-fruits of the oil, wine, and wheat, and whatever is first ripe, and every devoted thing, Numbers 18:12 -14; also, all the first-born of men and beasts, Numbers 18:15 -18; and heave-offerings, Numbers 18:19 . The priests shall have no inheritance, Numbers 18:20 . The Levites shall have no inheritance, but shall have the tenth of the produce in Israel, Numbers 18:21 -24, of which they are to give a tenth to the priests, taken from the best parts, Numbers 18:25 -30.

Verse 1

Thou and thy sons - shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, etc. - That is, They must be answerable for its legal pollutions, and must make the necessary atonements and expiations. By this they must feel that though they had got a high and important office confirmed to them by a miraculous interference, yet it was a place of the highest responsibility; and that they must not be high-minded, but fear.

Verse 2

Thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi - may be joined unto thee - There is a fine paronomasia, or play upon words, in the original. לוי Levi comes from the root לוה lavah, to join to, couple, associate: hence Moses says, the Levites, ילוו yillavu, shall be joined, or associated with the priests; they shall conjointly perform the whole of the sacred office, but the priests shall be principal, the Levites only their associates or assistants.

Verse 15

The first-born of man - and the firstling of unclean beasts - Thus vain man is ranked with the beasts that perish; and with the worst kinds of them too, those deemed unclean.

Verse 16

Shalt thou redeem - for the money of five shekels - Redemption of the first-born is one of the rites which is still practiced among the Jews. According to Leo of Modena, it is performed in the following manner: - When the child is thirty days old, the father sends for one of the descendants of Aaron: several persons being assembled on the occasion, the father brings a cup containing several pieces of gold and silver coin. The priest then takes the child into his arms, and addressing himself to the mother, says: Is this thy son?Mother. Yes.Priest. Hast thou never had another child, male or female, a miscarriage or untimely birth?Mother. No.Priest. This being the case, this child, as first-born, belongs to me.Then, turning to the father, he says: If it be thy desire to have this child, thou must redeem it.Father. I present thee with this gold and silver for this purpose.Priest. Thou dost wish, therefore, to redeem the child?Father. I do wish so to do.The priest then, turning himself to the assembly, says: Very well; this child, as first-born, is mine, as it is written in Bemidbar, Numbers 18:16 , Thou shalt redeem the first-born of a month old for five shekels, but I shall content myself with this in exchange. He then takes two gold crowns, or thereabouts, and returns the child to his parents.

Verse 19

It is a covenant of salt - That is, an incorruptible, everlasting covenant. As salt was added to different kinds of viands, not only to give them a relish, but to preserve them from putrefaction and decay, it became the emblem of incorruptibility and permanence. Hence, a covenant of salt signified an everlasting covenant. We have already seen that, among the Asiatics, eating together was deemed a bond of perpetual friendship; and as salt was a common article in all their repasts, it may be in reference to this circumstance that a perpetual covenant is termed a covenant of salt; because the parties ate together of the sacrifice offered on the occasion, and the whole transaction was considered as a league of endless friendship. See the note on Leviticus 2:13 .

Verse 20

I am thy part and thine inheritance - The principal part of what was offered to God was the portion of the priests, therefore they had no inheritance of land in Israel; independently of that they had a very ample provision for their support. The rabbins say twenty-four gifts were given to the priests, and they are all expressed in the law. Eight of those gifts the priests ate nowhere but in the sanctuary: these eight are the following: - 1. The flesh of the Sin-Offering, whether of beasts or fowls, Leviticus 6:25 , Leviticus 6:26 .2. The flesh of the Trespass-Offering, Leviticus 7:1 , Leviticus 7:6 .3. The Peace-Offerings of the congregation, Leviticus 23:19 , Leviticus 23:20 .4. The remainder of the Omer or Sheaf, Leviticus 23:10 , etc.5. The remnants of the Meat-Offerings of the Israelites, Leviticus 6:16 .6. The two Loaves, Leviticus 23:17 .7. The Shew-Bread, Leviticus 24:9 .8. The Log of oil offered by the leper, Leviticus 14:10 , etc.Five of those gifts they ate only in Jerusalem: - 1. The breast and shoulder of the Peace-Offerings, Leviticus 7:31 , Leviticus 7:34 .2. The Heave-Offering of the sacrifice of confession, Leviticus 7:12 -14.3. The Heave-Offering of the Nazarite's ram, Leviticus 6:17 -20.4. The Firstling of the clean beast, Numbers 18:15 ; Deuteronomy 15:19 , Deuteronomy 15:20 .5. The First-Fruits, Numbers 18:13 .Five gifts were not due unto them by the law, but in the land of Israel only: - 1. The heave-offering or First-Fruits, Numbers 18:12 .2. The heave-offering of the Tithe, Numbers 18:28 .3. The Cake, Numbers 15:20 .These three were holy.4. The first-fruits of the Fleece, Deuteronomy 18:4 .5. The Field of Possession, Numbers 35.These two were common.Five gifts were due unto them both within and without the land: - 1. The gifts of the Beasts Slain, Deuteronomy 18:3 .2. The redemption of the First-Born Son, Numbers 18:15 .3. The Lamb for the firstling of an ass, Exodus 4:20 ; Numbers 18.4. The restitution of that taken by violence from a stranger, Numbers 5:8 .5. All Devoted things, Numbers 18:14 .One gift was due unto them from the sanctuary: - 1. The skins of the burnt-offering, and all the skins of the other most holy things, Leviticus 7:8 .In all 24. See Ainsworth.The gifts which the females of the priests' families had a part in were these: - 1. The heave-offering, or first-fruits.2. The heave-offering of the tithe.3. The cake.4. The gifts of the beast, Deuteronomy 18:3 .5. The first of the fleece.Besides all this the priests had the tribute money mentioned Numbers 31:28 , Numbers 31:29 .

Verse 21

Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth - 1. The Levites had the tenth of all the productions of the land.2. They had forty-eight cities, each forming a square of 4,000 cubits.3. They had 2,000 cubits of ground round each city. Total of the land they possessed, 53,000 acres.4. They had the first-fruits and certain parts of all the animals killed in the land.Canaan contained about 11,264,000 acres; therefore the portion possessed by the Levites was rather less than as one to two hundred and twelve; for 11,264,000 divided by 53,000, quotes only 212 28/53 - See Lowman, Dodd, etc. But though this was a very small proportion for a whole tribe that had consented to annihilate its political existence, that it might wait upon the service of God, and labor for the people's souls; yet let it be considered that what they possessed was the best of the land: and while it was a slender remuneration for their services, yet their portion was such as rendered them independent, and kept them comfortable; so that they could wait on the Lord's work without distraction. This is a proper pattern for the maintenance of the ministers of God: let them have a sufficiency for themselves and families, that there may be no distracting cares; and let them not be encumbered with riches or worldly possessions, that they may not be prevented from taking care of souls.

Verse 28

Thus ye also shall offer a heave-offering - As the Levites had the tithe of the whole land, they themselves were obliged to give the tithe of this tithe to the priests, so that this considerably lessened their revenue. And this tithe or tenth they were obliged to select from the best part of the substance they had received, Numbers 18:29 , etc. A portion of all must be given to God, as an evidence of his goodness, and their dependence on him. See the end at Numbers 20:28 .

Numbers 18


  1 And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.
  2 And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness.
  3 And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die.
  4 And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you.
  5 And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel.
  6 And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
  7 Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the veil; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
  8 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.
  9 This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons.
  10 In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.
  11 And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.
  12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.
  13 And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.
  14 Everything devoted in Israel shall be thine.
  15 Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
  16 And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
  17 But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
  18 And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.
  19 All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.
  20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.
  21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
  22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.
  23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.
  24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
  25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
  26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.
  27 And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.
  28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest.
  29 Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.
  30 Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.
  31 And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.
  32 And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.

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