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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 18

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


Chapter 18 Those Who Could Approach The Sanctuary Were Therefore Necessary and Must Be Maintained.

The rights to the priesthood having been established details are now given about the service of the priests and other Levites.

3). The Service of the Levites (Numbers 18:1-32 ).

The priesthood having been finally vindicated and firmly established, their service and the service of the other Levites is then dealt with. They will serve the Sanctuary and live among the people and make Yahweh’s ways known to them and bear their iniquity. This is Yahweh’s response to the terror of the people in 17:12-13.

This section may be analysed as follows:

a Aaron and his sons to be before the Tent of the Testimony and the Levites to have the charge of the Tent (Numbers 18:1-3 a).

b The Priests alone to have the charge of the inner Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:3-7).

c Provision for the Priests - the contributions/heave offerings and the firstfruits are to be their inheritance (Numbers 18:8-20).

c Provision for the Levites - the tithes are to be their inheritance (Numbers 18:21-24).

b The Priests to receive a tithe of the tithes for their service in the Sanctuary and at the altar (Numbers 18:25-29).

a The Levites to receive the remainder of the tithes for their service with regard to the Tent and to eat ‘in every place’ (Numbers 18:30-32).

We will now consider these aspects in more detail.

Verses 1-7

Aaron and His Sons To Be Before the Tent of the Testimony and the Levites to Have the Charge of the Tent And Do Service For The Priests (Numbers 18:1-7 ).

In this section the vital ministry of the priests and Levites is emphasised. They were to maintain the holiness of the Dwellingplace of Yahweh, and see to all necessary means by which atonement was possible for Israel. On them would come the guilt of failure in this regard. The priests were to ‘bear the iniquity of the Sanctuary’ (Numbers 18:1) and the Levites that of watching over the Dwellingplace (Numbers 18:23).

This first section follows a similar chiastic pattern.

a The priests to bear the iniquity of the Sanctuary and the priesthood (Numbers 18:1).

b The Levites brought near to be their servants and to keep the charge of the Tent (Numbers 18:2 a).

c The priests to be before the Tent of the testimony (Numbers 18:2 b).

d The Levites to keep the charge of all the Tent (Numbers 18:3 a).

e The Levites not to come near to the vessels of the Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:3 b).

d The Levites to keep the charge of the Tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent. No stranger to come near (Numbers 18:4).

c The priests to keep the charge of the sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:5).

b The Levites are a gift to the priests to do service at the Tent of meeting (Numbers 18:6).

a The priesthood reserved entirely for the priests (Numbers 18:7). No stranger to come near.

Note the repetition of ‘no stranger to come near’ in Numbers 18:4 and Numbers 18:7. This similar pattern of a repetition within a chiasmus can be found in Exodus 18:21-22 a with Exodus 18:25-26 a; Numbers 18:23 with 24; Deuteronomy 2:21 with Deuteronomy 2:22; Deuteronomy 31:6-7.

Numbers 18:1

‘And Yahweh said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your fathers’ house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you will bear the iniquity of your priesthood.” ’

A most solemn charge was given to Aaron on behalf of the sons of Aaron. The special sacredness of this was brought out by the fact that Yahweh spoke directly to Aaron alone, which was unusual (see also verse 8). He wanted Aaron to recognise the supreme sacredness of his charge.

He and his sons and his father’s house (the Levites) were to have full responsibility for the carrying out of all the requirements of the Sanctuary, and he and his sons were to have the full responsibility of the whole system of offerings and sacrifices as outlined in Leviticus, including the Day of Atonement. On them would come the blame for the failure to carry them out meticulously. They would bear the judgment that followed failure. Thus for the priests special offerings were available to cover unwitting failures in this regard (Leviticus 4:3-12; Leviticus 16:6). Examples of judgment following failure in this regard can be found in the case of Aaron’s two eldest sons when they offered ‘strange (unauthorised) fire’ (Leviticus 10:1-2), and the sons of Eli who manipulated the system to their own advantage (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 1 Samuel 2:29-34; 1 Samuel 4:17; 1 Samuel 22:18-19; 1 Kings 2:27)

“You shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary.” It was the priests who were mainly to maintain the holiness of the inner Sanctuary in the faithful fulfilment of their duties with regard to the preparation and presentation of the showbread, the maintenance, trimming and lighting of the lampstand, and the offering of the holy, uniquely prescribed incense on the altar of incense, ensuring especially that nothing ‘foreign’ or unprescribed could interfere. They had the privilege of approaching nearest to the throne of Yahweh, but thereby they bore the heavier responsibility.

But this also included the fact that the very presence of the camp around the Sanctuary contributed to its defilement, and that was why there was the necessity for the compulsory daily offerings and the annual Day of Atonement, failure in respect to which would redound on the priests. Even the gifts and offerings of the people contributed to that defilement (Exodus 28:38) and it was through the ministry of ‘the Priest’ that these were made acceptable. Thus the Priest and the priesthood performed a vital function.

The Levites also would be responsible to protect the Sanctuary, and they were to watch over it and carry out its ancillary functions, including the bearing of it on the march. To this extent too they ‘bore the iniquity of the Sanctuary’ for any failure in that regard. It was a sacred responsibility.

“You will bear the iniquity of your priesthood.” Aaron and his sons were also responsible for the correct and proper carrying out of all the cultic requirements, including the proper offering of offerings and sacrifices, the discerning of cleanness and uncleanness, and the advising of the people in cultic matters, and would bear the judgment of Yahweh on all failures in this regard. On them would come the responsibility for any lack in the carrying out of all God’s commandments in this regard (see Isaiah 1:10-15). It was a great privilege but a heavy responsibility.

Numbers 18:2

And your brethren also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you, but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the testimony.’

The priests were to have the assistance of the remainder of the Levites, who would ‘minister to them’ by looking after the maintenance and heavy duties with regard to the holy things, but only in a very secondary capacity (see Numbers 3-4).

The Levites were to be ‘joined to them’. There is a play on words here. ‘To join’ is lawah, while the Levites are lewi. It is a word play, the equivalent of a sacred pun, beloved of the ancients.

Numbers 18:3

And they shall keep your charge, and the charge of all the Tent. Only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, that they die not, neither they, nor you (ye).’

The Levites would be expected to ‘keep the charge’ of the priests, that is, receive and obey the instructions of the priests. They were especially to have responsibilities for the erecting and dismantling of the Dwellingplace once the holy things had been fully covered by the priests (Numbers 4:5-15), and of guarding the Sanctuary from the approach of unauthorised persons (Numbers 1:53). But to come near the vessels of the sanctuary, including its furniture and all their appurtenances, or to approach the altar while it was uncovered and in active service was forbidden them. To fail in this regard would be fatal. It would result in death. And if it was due to failure on behalf of the priests, they too would die.

Numbers 18:4

And they shall be joined to you, and keep the charge of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent. And a stranger (unauthorised person) shall not come near to you (ye).”

The Levites would also have responsibility for the maintenance of the Tent, and to perform any ancillary duties outside those which were wholly the responsibility of the priests. They were general helpmeets. But they alone could do this. No unauthorised person was to be involved in any of these matters, or ‘come near’ in order to act in this regard.

Numbers 18:5

And you shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar, that there be wrath no more on the children of Israel.”

But the charge of the inner Sanctuary and of the altar was the priests alone. They alone could enter the inner Sanctuary, they alone could minister at the altar and have charge of all its affairs. This would avoid ‘wrath’ and judgment falling on Israel as it had in the case of Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:19-33).

Numbers 18:6

And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel. To you they are a gift, given to Yahweh, to do the service of the tent of meeting.”

The Levites belonged to Yahweh, having replaced the firstborn of the children of Israel (Exodus 13:2 and often), and the Levites were now Yahweh’s gift to the priests to perform all the laborious and heavy tasks peripheral to the actual cult activity, which included the carrying of all the holy things while on the march and, later, the gathering and controlling of the tithes and giving guidance concerning God’s Instruction (the Torah).

Numbers 18:7

And you and your sons with you shall keep your priesthood for everything of the altar, and for that within the veil; and you (ye) shall serve. I give you (ye) the priesthood as a service of gift, and the stranger (unauthorised person) who comes near shall be put to death.”

So Aaron and his sons were to protect and guard the priesthood (compare Numbers 3:10) in respect of everything appertaining to the altar, and for everything within the veil. Thus they were responsible for all use of the altar, the activities within the inner Sanctuary, and all service with regard to the Holy of Holies, (the Holiest of All, the Most Holy Place), where none could enter except the High Priest once a year on the Day of Atonement.

“And you shall serve.” Theirs was to be a continual service, day by day, sabbath by sabbath, new moon by new moon, year by year. Their whole lives were to be dedicated to Yahweh’s service. This was God’s gift to them, and none other could participate. Any unauthorised person who sought to interfere was to be put to death.

“Who comes near.” To come near in such a context means to have access to, to be associated with. It often contains the idea of encroaching or intruding. The point here is that the person is going beyond what he knows he should.

For us all this holy work is carried on by our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who is for us both High Priest and offering (see Hebrews). It is through His work for us and through faith in Him that we are made acceptable to God. The careful emphasis on the work of the priests and its dangers demonstrates how important and particular His work was. And to us then is given a priesthood for the offering of praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5; Ephesians 5:19-20), and for service on His behalf in purity of life and witness (Romans 12:1-2).

Numbers 18:8-20

Provision for the Priests - the Holy Things, The Contributions/heave offerings and the Firstfruits, and Yahweh Himself, are to be Their Inheritance (Numbers 18:8-20 ).

As a reward for their faithful service the priests were given as an inheritance certain holy things, the most holy being for their own consumption, and the less holy being for all their families. Celibacy was never God’s plan for His servants. They were responsible to produce children for the maintenance of the service of God.

The most holy things included portions of the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings (see Leviticus 2:0; Leviticus 4:1 to Leviticus 6:7; Leviticus 6:14 to Leviticus 7:7). These could be eaten only by males of the family of Aaron within the precincts of the Tent of meeting. The holy things, which could be eaten by their whole families if they were ‘clean’, included the contribution offerings (heave offerings), the firstfruits and portions of peace offerings, which could be eaten in a clean place.


a The holy things are given to Aaron and his sons (Numbers 18:8-10).

b The contribution/heave-offerings to be for their whole families (Numbers 18:11).

c The firstfruits of grain, oil and vintage to be for the priests and shared by their households (Numbers 18:12-13).

d Everything ‘devoted’ in Israel to be the priests (Numbers 18:14).

c The firstfruits among living creatures to be for the priests (Numbers 18:15-18).

b The contribution/heave-offerings to be for their whole families (Numbers 18:19).

a Yahweh Himself (the Most Holy) is the priests’ portion and inheritance (Numbers 18:20).

Numbers 18:8

‘And Yahweh spoke to Aaron, “And I, behold, I have given you (thee) the charge of my heave-offerings, even all the hallowed things of the children of Israel. To you have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to your sons, as a portion for ever.” ’

To Aaron and his sons were given charge of all ‘contribution offerings’ or ‘heave-offerings’. In view of the fact that not all that comes under this name could be ‘heaved’ (moved up and down) before Yahweh, ‘contribution offering presented before Yahweh’ is probably the best translation. But the principle is the same. They were offerings made to Yahweh and brought before Him at the door of the Tent of meeting. They were thus ‘hallowed things’, set apart to Yahweh. They could in fact be partaken of by the priests, by their families and, under the supervision of the priests and in their gift, by the people when gathered at the Tent of meeting (Deuteronomy 12:17). Because Aaron and his sons were anointed, set apart for Yahweh by the anointing with oil, all contribution offerings were at their disposal.

These ‘contribution offerings’ included the shoulder/thigh of all peace offerings (Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 3:0; Leviticus 7:32), a portion of cakes of unleavened and leavened bread offered with such offerings (Leviticus 7:14), the firstfruits of the dough (Numbers 15:18-21), the ‘contribution of the threshing-floor’ (Numbers 15:20; Leviticus 2:14-16; Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:16-19; Leviticus 23:10), a portion of the tithes (18:24, 28), and a portion of spoils in battle (Numbers 31:29; Numbers 31:41). When there was overabundance they would be shared with the people, but only at feasts at the Tent of meeting, and this would become a custom (Deuteronomy 12:17). Especially in the early days the contribution offerings would be far more than the priests and their families could consume.

Numbers 18:9

This shall be yours (thine) of the most holy things, reserved from the fire, every oblation of theirs, even every grain offering of theirs, and every purification for sin offering of theirs, and every guilt offering of theirs, which they will render to me, will be most holy for you and for your sons.”

The most holy things were reserved for the male priests. These included the portions of the grain, purification for sin and guilt offerings not offered by fire on the altar. The point here is that they ate them as the representatives of Yahweh, ‘standing in’ for Yahweh. Yahweh needed no earthly food, but it had to be offered to Him nonetheless in gratitude and worship, and as a means for the purification of sin. And it was then openly consumed by the priests who ate it in His name. None other could eat of it.

Numbers 18:10

As the most holy things you shall eat of them, every male shall eat of them. It shall be holy to you (thee).”

This privilege was tightly restricted. These offerings were ‘most holy’. They were uniquely the preserve of Yahweh Himself. Only the male priests could eat them on Yahweh’s behalf. They were special. The fact that they included the grain offerings is against any theories about the priest being necessary in order to absorb the sin. The point was that they were so holy to Yahweh that only He through His priests could participate in them.

Numbers 18:11

And this is yours. The heave-offering of their gift, even all the wave-offerings of the children of Israel, I have given them to you, and to your sons and to your daughters with you, as a portion for ever. Everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of them.”.

But all contribution offerings could be eaten by al in the priestly families who were ritually clean. And included with these were the wave offerings which were the portion of the priests from offerings and sacrifices, and included the breast of each animal sacrificed, apart from whole burnt offerings which were totally consumed on the altar.

Numbers 18:12

All the best of the oil, and all the best of the vintage, and of the grain, the firstfruits of that which they give to Yahweh, to you have I given them.”

The priests were also to receive the choicest of the firstfruits, of the oil, the vintage and the grain. The firstfruits of all produce was to be given to Yahweh, and was available to the priests.

Numbers 18:13

The first-ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to Yahweh, shall be yours. Every one who is clean in your house shall eat of it.”

And these firstfruits, the first-ripe fruits, were available to all in the priestly families. All in their households who were ritually clean could eat of them. They were holy but not most holy.

Numbers 18:14

Everything devoted in Israel shall be yours.”

Furthermore anything that was ‘devoted’ to Yahweh under an oath was the priests. See Leviticus 27:0. There we discover that many would seek to reveal their devotion to God by offering some of their wealth under oath, or offering themselves so that they had to be ‘redeemed’. All this, including the redemption price, belonged to the priests.

Numbers 18:15

Everything which opens the womb, of all flesh which they offer to Yahweh, both of man and beast shall be yours. Nevertheless the first-born of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts you shall redeem.”

From the time of leaving Egypt every male that opened the womb belonged to Yahweh, whether of man or domestic beast (Exodus 13:2 and often). If it was a clean animal it had to be offered as a sacrifice. If it was an unclean animal such as an ass it must either be redeemed or its neck was to be broken (this latter not offering it as a sacrifice). If it was a man child, the man child had to be redeemed.

Numbers 18:16

And those who are to be redeemed of them, from a month old shall you redeem, according to your estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary (the same is twenty gerahs).”

The cost of redeeming a male child was to be five shekels. That was lower than the price of a male slave, and probably represented the slave price of a male child.

Numbers 18:17

But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, you (thou) shall not redeem. They are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a pleasing odour to Yahweh.”

If it was ox, sheep or goat it had to be offered as a sacrifice, and its blood sprinkled on the altar. Its fat was to be burned, as the fat of any offering always was, as a pleasing odour to Yahweh. There could be no redemption.

Numbers 18:18

And their flesh shall be yours, as the wave-breast and as the right thigh, it shall be yours (thine).”

The flesh of the offering of the firstling then belonged to the priest, along with the wave-breast and the contribution-thigh which always went to the priests unless the offering was a whole burnt offering.

Numbers 18:19

All the heave-offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to Yahweh, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion for ever. It is a covenant of salt for ever before Yahweh to you and to your seed with you.”

So all contribution offerings which were of holy things, and therefore ‘most holy’, were to be given to the priests as a portion for ever. This was a covenant of salt before Yahweh, that is a covenant which would be preserved and could not weaken or decay. It was for ever.

Numbers 18:20

‘And Yahweh said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.” ’

And this would be the priests’ lot because they would have no inheritance in the land. They would have no portion in the land. Yahweh would be their inheritance and their portion.

This teaches us that those who would serve Christ fully should have no portion in this life. If they prosper they should look on all in which they prosper as God’s and only to be used under His commandment. They should receive their food as God provides, and utilise all that they have to further His work and purposes. When a supposed man of God accumulates wealth for himself and lives a wealthy lifestyle he thereby debars himself from true service for God.

Verses 21-24

Provision For the Levites - the Tithes Are to Be Their Inheritance (Numbers 18:21-24 ).

We are now informed of the fact that the tithe, one tenth of all produce whether of domestic animals, grain, olive oil, or vintage, was to belong to Yahweh and be given to the Levites. During the period in the wilderness this would all be necessary in order to ensure that the Levites had a reasonable supply of food. Thus here the command is that the whole tithe be given to the Levites, although even then as a small tribe they would have sufficient and to spare. Thus it is probable that they made some of the tithe available at the regular feasts. Once they were in the land this one tenth would become so much that the Levites would have overabundance. Then it would be made official that a portion of the tithe could be used at the feasts to provide food for the people who attended. And every third year the tithe would be set aside for the Levites and for the needy of the land, the fatherless, the widows and resident aliens, probably stored by and distributed by the Levites (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).


a The tithe of Israel to be the Levites’ inheritance in return for their service (Numbers 18:21).

b The children of Israel not to come near to the Tent of meeting from now on lest they bear sin (Numbers 18:22)

b The Levites are to do service in the Tent of meeting, and bear their iniquity (Numbers 18:23). Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

a The tithe is to be their inheritance. Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance (Numbers 18:24).

Note within the chiastic order the ‘out of harmony’ double reference to ‘among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance’. This parallels the same feature earlier with regard to ‘no stranger coming near’ in Numbers 18:4; Numbers 18:7; (also see Exodus 18:21-22 a with Exodus 18:25-26 a; Deuteronomy 2:21 with Deuteronomy 2:22) and is clearly intended.

Numbers 18:21

And to the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meeting.”

This is the first specific reference to the fact that the tithe should be given to the Levites. Leviticus 27:30-33 regulates the tithing but does not name its recipient. Tithing was an ancient custom in the Ancient Near East and we only have to turn to Genesis 14:0 to see it in operation. There Abraham had to pay a tithe to the King of Salem as feudal dues, or possibly as a kind of rental for the use of land for grazing, and as fealty while dwelling on his land. In return he received use of the land and provisioning after the battle which had just been fought. But Yahweh was Israel’s Overlord and in Israel that tithe was due to Yahweh. It was His and at His disposal. Here He declared that it should then go to the Levites as His servants, as their inheritance from Him.

Numbers 18:22

And from now on the children of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin, and die.”

And because the Levites now served the Dwellingplace of Yahweh, where He met with His people, instead of the firstborn sons of Israel, no children of Israel could come near the Tent of meeting in order to serve there lest they come under judgment (bear sin) and die. They could, of course, approach the court of the Tent with their offerings, but they came as approved suppliants and not as those who had a right of entry.

Numbers 18:23

But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations. And among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

For now it was the Levites who were to do the service of the Tent of meeting, guarding the approach and entry, assisting the people when they brought their offerings, erecting, dismantling and carrying it on its travels, supervising the collection of the tithes and ensuring that the priests received their portion.

“They shall bear their iniquity.” Their work carried with it certain dangers. If it was carried out carelessly or without due regard to the sanctity of what they carried they might well find themselves in peril. It was because they had to be well enough experienced not to make foolish or blasphemous errors that they could not bear the Dwellingplace and its furniture and accessories until they were thirty. We can understand why five years training connected with it was necessary before they actually physically participated (compare Numbers 4:3-39; Numbers 4:47 with Numbers 8:24).

Numbers 18:24

For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a contribution/heave-offering to Yahweh, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

And that is why the tithe, which was a ‘contribution offering’ to Yahweh, was then given to the Levites. It was their inheritance from Yahweh. And that is why it was doubly stressed that they had no inheritance among the people. Yahweh was their inheritance.

Verses 25-32

The Priests to Receive a Tithe of the Tithes For Their Service at the Sanctuary and the Altar And The Remainder To Go To The Levites (Numbers 18:25-29 ).

The tithe was therefore to go to the Levites who were to ensure that one tenth of the tithe, and the very best of the tithe, went in turn to the priests.


a The Levites to set aside a tithe of their tithe for the priests (Numbers 18:25-26)

b The contribution to be reckoned as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor and the fullness of the winepress as provided by the Levites (Numbers 18:27).

c The contribution to be offered to Yahweh and given to Aaron the priest (Numbers 18:28).

c The contribution offered to Yahweh to be from the best, the most hallowed parts (Numbers 18:29).

b The remainder to be accounted to the Levites as the increase of the threshing-floor and the increase of the winepress (Numbers 18:30).

a Once they have tithed it the Levites may eat their own tithe in every place which is clean (Numbers 18:31-32).

The Levites To Set Aside a Tithe of Their Tithe for the Priests (Numbers 18:25-27 ).

Numbers 18:25

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,’

Again we have the emphasis that these were Yahweh’s words to Moses. Note the change from Aaron in verses 1 and 8. It was not fitting that Aaron tell the Levites what he himself was to receive. Such niceties confirm that we are here dealing with the actual situation and not some later invention.

Numbers 18:26

What is more you shall speak to the Levites, and say to them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a contribution offering (heave-offering) of it for Yahweh, a tithe of the tithe.’ ”

On receiving the tithes from the people the Levites were to offer one tenth of the tithe to Yahweh for the priests, as their contribution to the ministry of the priests. It would be a tithe of the tithe.

Numbers 18:27

And your heave-offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing-floor, and as the fullness of the winepress.”

And as the Levites would not have much to offer that they grew themselves, this tithe to the priests would count as though it came from the grain of their threshing-floor and from the fullness of their winepresses, being their contribution to the ministry of the priests.

Numbers 18:28

Thus you also shall offer a heave-offering to Yahweh of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel; and of them you (ye) shall give Yahweh’s heave-offering to Aaron the priest.”

In that way the Levites would be making a contribution offering to Yahweh of tithes, in the same way as the other tribes made a contribution offering to Yahweh of tithes. They would make it out of their own tithe inheritance that they received from Yahweh.

Numbers 18:29

Out of all your gifts you shall offer every contribution offering (heave-offering) of Yahweh, of all the best of it, even the hallowed part of it out of it.”

Out of all the gifts that they received they were to make their contribution offering to Yahweh, and for this purpose they were to choose the choicest and the best. That was to form the ‘hallowed part’. That which was made holy to Yahweh and set apart for the priests.

Numbers 18:30

Therefore you shall say to them, When you make a contribution of (heave) the best of it from it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the increase of the threshing-floor, and as the increase of the winepress.”

And that is why Moses could tell the Levites that when they did give the best to Yahweh from their tithes it would be treated as though they had grown it themselves, as though they had grown the grain and threshed it, as though they had grown the grapes and pressed them.

Numbers 18:31

And you (ye) shall eat it in every place, you (ye) and your households. For it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting.”

But the remainder of the tithe they could eat ‘in every place’. That did not have to be brought before Yahweh nor eaten in the precincts of the Tent of meeting. It would need to be in a clean place, but it could be in any of their tents, and later their towns. It was their reward for their service in the Tent of meeting.

Numbers 18:32

And you (ye) shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it. And you (ye) shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, that you die not.”

Thus once they had given to the priests the tithe of the tithe, as their contribution offering to Yahweh, they would be free from blame for their use of the remainder of them. By partaking of them and utilising them as they wished they would not be profaning them. This provision was very necessary. Otherwise it could have been argued that as the Levites’ share of the tithe was ‘given to Yahweh’ it had to be treated as ‘most holy’ and therefore not to be eaten outside the Sanctuary precincts.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 18". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/numbers-18.html. 2013.
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