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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 18

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Verse 1

Bear the Guilt

The theme is still that we depend on the priesthood of the Lord Jesus. It is a priesthood in the power of resurrection. More than ever before, we depend on that priesthood in our time. On the basis of the intercession of the Lord Jesus, there are also believers in Christianity today who are saved from being dragged along in the general apostacy that is becoming increasingly apparent.

This chapter is the answer to the people’s question about the priesthood at the end of the previous chapter (Numbers 17:12-1 Chronicles :). For the first and only time the LORD addresses Himself directly to Aaron. He does this to show Aaron the privileges of the priesthood, not only of the high priest, but also of his sons. The point is that in the believers, as priests on earth, fruit for God comes forth, worked by the High Priest. That is what God desires. To this end He has formed us into a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6).

But then He must also speak of iniquity. Being a priest gives not only privileges but also a great responsibility. They will notice every guilt of the people, to which the people are insensitive, and will bear it before God. They must act accordingly in accordance with the holiness of God and remove that guilt from His presence according to His instructions. Thus, believers who know the priesthood as a privilege and actually exercise it, will feel co-responsible for what happens in Christianity. They will acknowledge its guilt before God, while they also know that by virtue of the intercession of the Lord Jesus and their own intercession God still tolerates Christianity.

Verses 2-4

The Levites Serve the Priests

There is not only responsibility, there are also privileges. Performing the priestly service is such a privilege. The Levites have nothing to do with the sanctuary and the altar, that is, they have no direct task there. Their service is to help the priests in their priestly task. Thus the ministry of the Word is intended to promote the priestly service of the believers. If the Word of God is explained, it will arouse the desire of believers to praise God, that is, as priests they approach God with spiritual sacrifices.

The close connection between priesthood and Levite service is emphasized here. The Levite must join the priest, not the other way around – Levi means ‘added’ (Genesis 29:34). Every Levite service must be aimed at enabling the priest to do his work better, the bringing of offerings. Levite service outside the sanctuary cannot be separated from the priesthood that enters God. God wants the connection between what happens outside and what happens inside the veil to remain.

Verses 5-7

A gift for the Priests

Of the priesthood it turned out in the previous chapters that it was not appreciated by the Israelites. God now shows that His attitude toward Israel depends precisely on the priesthood they despise. We can apply this to the situation in Christianity. There is little or no worship in spirit and truth in Christianity. Where it is found, God accepts it for the whole and can let the whole exist.

We read that the Levites are a gift and that the priesthood is a gift. Both gifts are given to the priest. That is, it is grace and not merit. As far as we are concerned, we must acknowledge that we are only unworthy slaves (Luke 17:10). Believers who are aware of this will serve the Lord with joy as Levites and with great gratitude as priests, which in turn will be to the benefit of the whole.

Verses 8-19

The Income of the Priests

The priests are distinguished in Aaron and his sons (Numbers 18:8-2 Samuel :) and Aaron and his whole family, sons and daughters (Numbers 18:11-Psalms :). There is food that is only for Aaron and his sons, those are the most holy things. There is also food that his whole family can eat, that is, all those who are clean from his sons and daughters. In the pictures of the Bible we see in the sons believers who live up to their priesthood. They are not satisfied that they know they are priests, but they actually exercise their priesthood. The daughters represent believers who are priests in principle, but in practice do nothing with it.

This difference is reflected in the food consumed. The grain offerings, guilt offerings and sin offerings are only for the sons. The peace offerings are for the sons as well as the daughters. All offerings speak of the Lord Jesus. But spiritual maturity is needed to feed on the Lord Jesus in what He has been in His life on earth, and to understand what He is as the One Who has taken the guilt upon Himself and bore the sin.

This insight is not necessary in the case of a peace offering. If someone has only recently come to conversion, he can immediately thank the Lord Jesus for his salvation. He can enjoy the breast of the wave offerings as a picture of the love of the Lord Jesus and of the right thigh as a picture of the power of the Lord Jesus. That is eating the peace offering.

In order to penetrate into what that redemption has cost Him, it is necessary to have been occupied with the meaning of the work of the Lord Jesus. Daughters represent believers – both men and women! – who are satisfied with the awareness that they are priests, but are not concerned with spiritual things. They know their position and are grateful for it, but it does not encourage them to enter the sanctuary with offerings. Sons represent believers – both men and women! – who are active in searching the Scriptures to know the meaning of the work of the Lord Jesus. It touches their hearts and they long to praise God in the sanctuary for what they have seen of His Son.

The sin offering is slaughtered in case someone has sinned. The priest who brings it must eat it. Eating the sin offering represents the penetration into what it has cost the Lord Jesus to undergo judgment for that sin. If someone has sinned, a priestly believer can help such a person confess it. This is only possible by thinking about the Lord Jesus as a sin offering and showing that He suffered for that sin. By confession sin is forgiven. Helping someone to be restored in the fellowship with the Father and the fellow believers cannot be done by a ‘daughter of Aaron’. This must be done by a ‘son of Aaron’. A newly converted can’t do that. It requires priestly maturity.

The income of the priests consists of (parts of) different sacrifices and the best of the land. The latter, of course, can only be got when the people live in the land. It is the responsibility of the people to give the best of their income to the LORD (Leviticus 27:30). Also every devoted thing and the firstborn is for the LORD and He designates it for the priests. What is for the LORD is also for the priests.

This regulation is given by the LORD to increase the solidarity of the people. So the people must also be busy with the blessing of the land. People, priests and Levites, all is connected. As believers we are the people, and we are also priests and Levites. Our daily lives contribute to our service as priests and Levites. Our lives also contribute to the priestly and Levite services of the others.

A ‘covenant of salt’ points to the sustainability of this statute as an indissoluble covenant. God always holds fast to what He has given in precepts as a blessing for His people.

Verses 20-24

The Inheritance of the Levites

These verses also refer to the land to which the people are on their way to. The LORD has already made known in the wilderness what shall be the portion and inheritance of the priests and the Levites. They get no property, no piece of land. But that will not be a loss for them. They receive the LORD as their “portion” and their “inheritance” (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:1; Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26; Lamentations 3:24). Everything belongs to Him. He who has Him as his inheritance has much more than a part of the land. He has everything. The Christian possesses everything in Christ Who is his portion, for all blessings are summarized in Him, in Him are “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Verses 25-32

The Tithe of the Levites

The tithe of the Levites come from the people of God. Our spiritual tithes that we give as members of the people of God prevent the Levites of sinning. An application is that we do give deconstructive but constructive criticism on a service. All those who are allowed to do a service must be supported by encouragement, by passing on something we have received from the Lord Jesus. Then we get a healthy Levite service. So we can also pray for each other.

Those for whom life consists of contributing to the work of the Lord are just as responsible to give of their income to the Lord. The Levites themselves must also pay the tithes, a statute that is also held after the exile (Nehemiah 10:38-Malachi :). They pay their tithes of what they receive from the best of the people. They give the best of the best.

Failure to comply with this statute means that the servant loads sin on himself. Meeting this commitment never makes us poorer, but richer, not materially, but spiritually: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (Malachi 3:10).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Numbers 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/numbers-18.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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