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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 18

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2533. B.C. 1471.

The work of the priests and Levites, Numbers 18:1-7 . The maintenance of the priests, Numbers 18:8-20 . Of the Levites, Numbers 18:21-24 . The portion they are to pay to the priests, Numbers 18:25-32 .

Verse 1

Numbers 18:1. The Lord said unto Aaron Probably by Moses. Having, by the foregoing miracles, vindicated the honour and authority of the priesthood, God now lets Aaron know the importance of his office, wherein he was to behave with great care and circumspection, and withal he again declares what was the duty of the Levites, as distinct from that of the priests, from Num 18:1 to Numbers 18:8. And from thence he proceeds to tell them what maintenance he had settled upon both, for their encouragement in doing their duty. Thou and thy sons shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary Shall suffer the punishment of all the usurpations, or pollutions of the sanctuary, or the holy things, by the Levites, or any of the people, because you have power from me to keep them all within their bounds. Thus the people are, in good measure, secured against their fears. Also they are informed that Aaron’s high dignity was attended with great burdens, having not only his own but the people’s sins to answer for; and therefore they had no such reason to envy him, if the benefits and dangers were equally considered. The iniquity of your priesthood That is, of all the errors committed by yourselves, or by you permitted in others, in things belonging to your priesthood.

Verses 2-3

Numbers 18:2-3. Minister unto thee About sacrifices, and offerings, and other things, according to the rules I have prescribed them. The Levites are said to minister to Aaron here; to the church, Numbers 16:9; and to God, Deuteronomy 10:8. They shall not contend with thee for superiority, as they have done, but shall be subordinate to thee. Thy sons with thee Or, both to thee and to thy sons with thee Which translation seems to be favoured by the following words, before the tabernacle; which was the proper place where the Levites ministered. Besides, both the foregoing words and the two following verses entirely speak of the ministry of the Levites, and the ministry of the priests is distinctly spoken of, Numbers 18:5. Thy charge That which thou shalt command them and commit unto them.

Verses 6-7

Numbers 18:6-7. To you they are given as a gift We are to value it as a great gift of the divine bounty, to have those joined to us that will be helpful and serviceable to us in the service of God. The altar Of burnt-offering. Within the veil This phrase here comprehends both the holy and the most holy place. As a gift Which I have freely conferred upon you, and upon you alone; and therefore let no man henceforth dare either to charge you with arrogance in appropriating this to yourselves, or to invade your office.

Verses 8-9

Numbers 18:8-9. Having pointed out to him the duties of his function, now follows a detail of the emoluments annexed to it; which emoluments are expressly declared to be for Aaron and his sons That is, for the high- priest, who undoubtedly had a principal portion, and for the inferior priests. I also have given thee the charge I have bestowed them upon thee for thine use, with a charge that none have them but thyself. By reason of the anointing Because thou art anointed with the sacred oil, and thereby consecrated to the office of priest, see Leviticus 8:12. Most holy things Such as were to be eaten only by the priests, and that in the sanctuary. Reserved from the fire That is, such sacrifices, or parts of sacrifices, as were not burned in the fire. Which they shall render unto me By way of compensation for a trespass committed against me, in which case a ram was to be offered, which was a most holy thing, and may be particularly designed here.

Verse 10

Numbers 18:10. In the most holy place shalt thou eat it In the court of the priests, where there were places for this use, which is called the most holy place, not simply and absolutely, but in respect of the thing he speaks of, because this was the most holy of all the places appointed for eating holy things, whereof some might be eaten in any clean place in the camp, or in their own houses.

Verse 13

Numbers 18:13. Whatsoever is first ripe Not only the first-fruits of the oil, and wine, and wheat, now mentioned, but all other first-fruits of all other grains, and all fruit-trees. Every one that is clean And none else, because these fruits were first offered to God, and by consequence given to the priests; but for those which were immediately given to the priests, the clean and unclean might eat of them.

Verses 14-15

Numbers 18:14-15. Every devoted thing Dedicated to God by vow or otherwise, provided it be such a thing as might be eaten: for the vessels or treasures of gold and silver which were dedicated by Joshua, David, or others, were not the priests’, but appropriated to the use of the temple. Whether it be of men Which were offered to God in his temple, and to his service and disposal.

Verse 16

Numbers 18:16. Those that are to be redeemed Namely, of men only, not of unclean beasts, as is manifest from the time and price of redemption here mentioned, both which agree to men; the time, Numbers 18:16; the price, Numbers 3:46-47; but neither agree to unclean beasts, which were to be redeemed with a sheep, (Exodus 13:13,) and that after it was eight days old.

Verses 17-18

Numbers 18:17-18. They are holy Namely, in a peculiar manner, consecrated to a holy use, even to be sacrificed to God, Deuteronomy 15:19. The flesh All the flesh of them, and not only some parts, as in other sacrifices.

Verse 19

Numbers 18:19. A covenant of salt A durable and perpetual covenant; so called here, and 2 Chronicles 13:5, either because salt is of singular use to preserve things from corruption, and was an emblem of friendship; or because it was ratified on their part by salt, which is therefore called the salt of the covenant, for which the priests were obliged to take care that it should never be lacking from any meal-offering, Leviticus 2:13. And this privilege conferred upon the priests is called a covenant, because it was given them conditionally, upon condition of their service and care about the worship of God.

Verse 20

Numbers 18:20. Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land In the land of the children of Israel. You shall not have a distinct portion of land, as the other tribes shall. The reason of this law was partly because God would have them wholly devoted to his service, and therefore free from worldly encumbrances, partly because God had abundantly provided for them otherwise, by tithes, and first-fruits, and oblations, and partly that, by this means, being dispersed among the several tribes, they might have the better opportunity for teaching and watching over the people. I am thy part I have appointed thee a liberal maintenance out of my oblations.

Verses 21-22

Numbers 18:21-22. The tenth For the tithes were all given to the Levites, and out of their tithes the tenth was given to the priests. Come nigh the tabernacle So nigh as to do any proper act to the priests or Levites.

Verse 23

Numbers 18:23. Their iniquity The punishment due not only for their own, but also for the people’s miscarriage, if it be committed through their connivance or negligence. And this was the reason why the priests withstood King Uzziah, when he would have burnt incense to the Lord.

Verse 24

Numbers 18:24. A heave-offering An acknowledgment that they have all their land and the fruits of it from God’s bounty. Note, the word heave-offering, which is for the most part understood of a particular kind of offerings heaved or lifted up to the Lord, is here used for any offering.

Verse 26

Numbers 18:26. Ye shall offer up a heave-offering They who are employed in assisting the devotions of others, must be sure to pay their own as a heave- offering. Prayers and praises, or rather the heart lifted up in them, are now our heave-offerings.

Verses 27-28

Numbers 18:27-28. As though it were the corn It shall be accepted of you as much as if you offered it out of your own lands and labours. To Aaron And to his children, who were all to have their share herein.

Verse 29

Numbers 18:29. Your gifts Not only out of your tithes, but out of the other gifts which you receive from the people, and out of those fields which shall belong to your cities. Offer To the priest. As many gifts, so many heave- offerings; you shall reserve a part out of each of them for the priest. The hallowed part The tenth part, which was the part or proportion that God hallowed or sanctified to himself as his proper portion.

Verse 32

Numbers 18:32. Neither shall ye pollute the holy things As you will do, if you abuse their holy offerings, by reserving that entirely to yourselves which they offer to God, to be disposed as he hath appointed, namely, part to you, and part to the priests. Thus we learn in what manner God regulated the offices of the priests and Levites, and how he provided for their subsistence. The tribe of Levi had no part nor inheritance in the land of Canaan as the other tribes had; but had for their share the tithes of the whole country; and the priests, in particular, had their portions of the sacrifices and offerings, and a tenth part of the tithes. By these means the ministers of religion were supported in a comfortable, decent manner, without being forced to neglect the duties of their function to provide for the necessities of the body. This proves that, in the Christian Church, provision should be made for the maintenance of those that serve in the sacred ministry, as St. Paul teaches: “They which minister about holy things, live by the things of the temple; and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar; even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.”

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 18". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/numbers-18.html. 1857.
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