Chapter 18

NUMBERS CHAPTER 18

Duties for the Priests and Levites

    • The Lord told Aaron, “You, your sons, and your relatives (people from the tribe of Levi) are responsible for sins that have to do with the sanctuary, but only you and your sons are responsible for sins that have to do with the priesthood. Bring your relatives (Levites) to help you and your sons perform the sacred duties in front of the Tabernacle of the Covenant, but they can’t go near the sanctuary furnishings, equipment, or the altar. If they do- they will die and so will you. They are to help take care of the Tabernacle, but no unauthorized person can come near you. You are responsible for taking care of the sacred duties inside the Tabernacle and with the altar so that the Israelites won’t incur My wrath again. I, Myself, have chosen the Levites from all the Israelites and assigned them duties in the care of the Tabernacle as a gift to you. However, only you and your sons may perform the priestly responsibilities regarding the altar and everything behind the inner curtain of the Tabernacle. I am giving you the responsibilities of the priesthood as a gift. Any unauthorized person who comes too close to the sanctuary will be killed.”

      • Guzik writes, “Aaron himself was of the tribe of Levi. While only he and his descendants were given the priesthood, the whole tribe of Levi had a special calling to help Aaron and the priests…The Levites were the support people for the ministry of the priests. They didn’t have the prominent position, but were important for their behind-the-scenes service…The Levites were not allowed to do what the priests did. In the same way, the New Testament says we are all different ‘parts’ of the body, each with particular gifts and callings (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).”

Support for the Priests and Levites

    • The Lord continued, giving these further instructions to Aaron:

      • I have put you in charge of all the offerings that the Israelites bring to Me. All of these offerings I have given to you and your sons as your permanent share. A portion of all the most holy offerings- grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings- that are not burned in the fire belong to you and your sons and this portion is most holy. All the males may eat it and it is to be eaten as a most holy offering.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The most holy offerings were consumed only by Aaron and his sons, the priests set apart to serve in God’s presence (Exodus 28:1; 29:44-46). This portion was a holy offering presented to God, and the priests had to respect it as such.”

      • All of the special offerings and gifts that the Israelites lift up (wave) before the altar also belong to you. I have given them to you and your sons and daughters as your permanent share. Every ceremonially clean person in your household may eat these offerings. I also give you all the best olive oil, new wine, and grain that the Israelites give as their firstfruits offering to Me. All these firstfruits belong to you and every ceremonially clean person in your household may eat them. Everything in Israel that is dedicated to Me also belongs to you- the firstborn of every living thing which is presented to Me- either animal or human. But, you must always redeem the firstborn sons as well as the firstborn of unclean animals. You must pay the redemption price when they are one month old according to the set redemption price of 5 shekels. However, you are not to redeem the firstborn of an ox, sheep, or goat because they are holy. You must sprinkle their blood on the altar and burn their fat as a gift to Me, but their meat is yours, just like the breast and right thigh of the special offerings lifted up (waved) to Me are yours. I have given you all of these holy offerings that the Israelites present to Me. They are for you and your household as your permanent share and every ceremonially clean person in your household may eat them. This is an everlasting covenant of salt before Me for you and your descendants.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The Lord provided for the Hebrew priests and their families out of what was set aside for the Lord. The priests had rights to the first born animal offerings and to the redemption fee for Israel’s firstborn sons. Both the firstborn sons and the offspring of unclean animals had to be redeemed by a fee paid in silver, since neither could be sacrificed.”

        • What is a “covenant of salt”?

        • The preservative quality of salt is symbolic of the permanence of this covenant. Guzik explains, “Salt speaks of purity, of preservation, and of expense. So, a covenant of salt is a pure covenant (salt stays a pure chemical compound), a covenant of salt is an enduring covenant (salt makes things preserve and endure), and a covenant of salt is a valuable covenant (salt was expensive).”

          • Regarding this covenant of salt Spurgeon said, “By which was meant that it was an unchangeable, incorruptible covenant, which would endure as salt makes a thing to endure, so that it is not liable to putrefy or corrupt.”

        • This term is also used in 2 Chronicles 13:5 to denote permanence, “Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?”

    • The Lord continued speaking to Aaron saying:

      • You and your descendants will not receive an inheritance in the form of a share of land like the other tribes of Israel will. Instead, I am your inheritance and your share. Because the Levites will not receive a land inheritance, they will receive the Israelites tithes (10%) as their inheritance in return for their work at the Tabernacle. From now on, no Israelites except for the Levites may come near the Tabernacle or they will be judged guilty and die. This is a permanent law.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Israelites’ tithes were one tenth of the year’s production of goods.”

        • Guzik adds, “When an Israelite was not giving their tithe, they were not robbing the Levite – though the money ended up with them. They were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10), because God received the tithe from the giver, and He gave it to the Levite.”

      • Are New Covenant Christians Required to Tithe?

        • This topic is hotly debated. Guzik explains the logic behind the belief that tithing is no longer required, “Some today think the tithe, since it went to support the Levites (who were, in a sense, government workers in ancient Israel), is covered by government taxes of today, and that free-will giving mentioned in the Old Testament answers to the New Testament emphasis on giving.”

        • However, Guzik notes that others may point out that tithing pre-existed the Mosaic Covenant, “It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the law of Moses.”

        • Guzik provides the following, very Scripturally sound, conclusion, “We can say that the New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light, if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42)…What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9)…Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest); but since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark – and starting place! For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith…If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).”

    • The Lord told Moses to give the Levites the following instructions:

      • When you receive the 10% tithe from the Israelites that I have assigned to you as your portion, you must give also give a 10% tithe to the Lord out of what you have received. The Lord will consider this offering your grain offering as if it came from your very own threshing floor or winepress. This 10% tithe will be sacred and must be presented to Aaron, the priest. Be sure to give the Lord the best of what you have been given. Once you have presented your offering, you Levites and your families may eat the remainder anywhere you want because it is your compensation for your work at the Tabernacle. As long as you give the best 10th of what you have received, you won’t be considered guilty for accepting the Israelites’ tithes. However, if you don’t give the best 10th, this is considered defiling the Israelites’ holy offerings for which the penalty is death.”

        • Guzik writes, “The Levites themselves were not exempt from tithing. They were also to give a tenth (and the best of them given as the tenth) due to the Lord, and the Lord gave it to the priests…It was important for the Levites to learn how to be givers also; just because they were supported through the giving of God’s people, it did not mean they didn’t need to give. We all need to learn how to be givers, because God is a giver, and we are being transformed into the image of Jesus.”

        • We are not told if the priests were to tithe from what they received; presumably they did not – because what belonged to the priests was considered holy, and not to be used by others outside the priestly families.” (Guzik)

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