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Joshua 21:2 . Suburbs for our cattle. The levites sharing the tithe of corn, only needed cattle, which were tithed as well as the corn; but they were either burnt on the altar, or consumed in feasts before the Lord, the worshippers participating. See on Deuteronomy 26:12. The suburbs contained a square of two thousand cubits. Numbers 35:0.
Joshua 21:3 . At the commandment of the Lord: the forty eight cities were given to the priests and levites out of their inheritance. The care of religion should be the first care of the magistrate, as it is the first care of heaven. The priests needed but small cities, and the fathers of the levites had to urge their claim, for laymen are too often tardy and reluctant in the support of the sanctuary. The distribution of those cities was such as enabled the levite to instruct the people with every local advantage, and to influence their morals by example.
Joshua 21:41 . Forty and eight cities. Many of those cities were but small; yet as the average population was not more than five hundred persons to a town, Levi was well provided for.
We cannot but be struck with the wisdom and goodness of God in selecting the levites for his service, and in scattering them among all the tribes for the purposes of literary and religious instruction. These men, whose sole business it was to devote themselves to the acquisition of knowledge and piety; and enjoying the high advantage of conversing with the strangers who might resort to the sanctuary of God for devotion, they would improve their minds with the literature of the east, and become at least as well qualified as any others of their age for academical and domestic tutors. Hence we see that God would not have his people remain in ignorance. He would have his laws expounded by men qualified to instruct the nation, that others might pay an enlightened homage to their Maker.
From the liberal provision here made for the priests and levites, ministers in particular ought to learn that God would not have them to be idle. The instruction of children, the illumination of the people, and the suppression of vice, should occupy the whole of their life. Men so peculiarly called the servants of God, should in every view imitate Christ their great Highpriest, and walk worthy of their high vocation. An ignorant, an idle, or a wicked minister is a brand to the christian name; and a punishment awaits him in the life to come, correspondent to his crimes on earth.
We see in the lot of the priests, which fell among the three nearest tribes to the sanctuary, Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon, a gracious providence, that they might reside near the place where they would in their courses be so often wanted. Indeed it is all providence: no sooner do we begin to contemplate the ways of God, than grace and astonishment present themselves in every object. What cause has Zion to rejoice in her king. And abiding in his covenant, she shall never be moved.
The Lord not only gave them rest in the land, but so fulfilled his word that there failed not any good thing which the Lord had promised. So it shall be to his people, on reaching the heavenly Canaan.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34