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Jos 21:1 Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel;
Ver. 1. Then came near the heads of the fathers. ] Some are of opinion that the chief of the priests and Levites did here demand their due when they were not thought of, but by great oversight were passed over in the division. But others, for better reason, hold that they came near now in the proper season, because they were to have their cities and inheritances out of the several tribes and portions allotted unto them, which also they had with very good will, and to a very fair proportion. Once amongst us, the statute of Mortmain provided that men should give no more to the church; so liberal were our forefathers to their clergy. But tempora mutantur; these later times have seen the springs of bounty, like Jordan, turned back, which heretofore did run fresh and fast in to the church. How apt are men to dispute God out of his own, and to begrudge his ministers a competent subsistence; to allow the ox nothing but the straw for treading out the grain, and so much straw as themselves please! This is a sure sign of gasping devotion, and of cursed covetousness, as that great apostle coneludeth. 2Co 9:5 The Levites, under the law, had a liberal and honourable maintenance by God’s own appointment. Besides all the rest of their incomes by sacrifices, freewill offerings, &c., here they have their cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for their cattle, and those of due belonging to them by virtue of God’s command, whom only, and not the people, they were to acknowledge for their benefactor. Neither hath he made worse provision for the ministers of the gospel than he did for the priests of the law. See 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 . But many have learned of Julian the apostate, to take away ministers’ maintenance, pretending conscience, for that too much living was a burden to them, and a hindrance to their ministry.
Jos 21:2 And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.
Ver 2. The Lord commanded. ] He left not his Levites to the will and devotion of the people: for then they should have had Micah’s allowance, Jdg 17:10 prisoners’ pittances, such as will neither keep them alive, nor suffer them to die. Spoliantur parochiae et scholae, non aliter ac si tame necare nos velint, is Luther’s complain: they keep us so poor as if they meant to famish us all. Therefore the Lord commanded, as here; lest men should deal by his Levites, as Louis XI of France did by his chaplains, to whom he allowed twenty shillings a month, whereas to his barber, John Cottier, he allowed ten thousand crowns a month.
Jos 21:3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
Ver. 3. These cities and their suburbs. ] In their cities others dwelt with them: for how could they subsist without those of other professions? See Ezra 2:70 . And as for the suburbs, they were for pasture, pleasure, and other country commodities, not for tillage; for the Levites were not to have any such employment. Num 18:20-24
Jos 21:4 And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, [which were] of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.
Ver. 4. Out of the tribe of Judah, &c. ] The priests, by a sweet providence, were placed in those three tribes that were nearest to the tabernacle and temple, that they might do their work with more ease to themselves and content to the people.
Jos 21:5 And the rest of the children of Kohath [had] by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.
Ver. 5. And the rest of the children of Kohath. ] Thus the Levites were dispersed throughout the land - as salt is sprinkled upon meat, to keep it from putrifying; "ye are the salt of the earth" Mat 5:13 - for instruction of the people; and herein that malediction, Genesis 49:7 , was turned into a benediction. It were happy if every congregation had an able minister. To many churches here at the first Reformation, for want of preachers, readers were sent; whence one of the martyrs wished that every able minister might have ten congregations committed to his charge till further provision could be made.
Jos 21:12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.
Ver. 12. Gave they to Caleb. ] Who was glad, no doubt, of the Levites’ so near neighbourhood and good company, to instruct him and his in the law of the Lord, and to exhort them to obedience, which the best are too backward to, and may need monitors and remembrancers. 2Pe 1:12
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 21". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34