|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:1-7 The people complained of their difficulty and peril in drawing near to God. God here gives them to understand, that the priests should come near for them. Aaron would see reason not to be proud of his preferment, when he considered the great care and charge upon him. Be not high-minded, but fear. The greater the trust of work and power that is committed to us, the greater danger there is of betraying that trust. This is a good reason why we should neither envy others' honours, nor desire high places.
Verse 1. - The Lord spake unto Aaron. This clear and comprehensive instruction as to the position and support of the sons of Aaron on the one hand, and of the Levites on the other, may very naturally have been given in connection with the events just narrated. There is, however, no direct reference to those events, and it is quite possible that the only connection was one of subject-matter in the mind of the writer. That the regulations which follow were addressed to Aaron directly is a thing unusual, and indeed unexampled. The ever-recurring statement elsewhere is, "the Lord spake unto Moses," varied occasionally by "the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron" (as in Numbers 2:1; Numbers 4:1; Numbers 19:1); but even where the communication refers to things wholly and peculiarly within the province of Aaron, it is usually made to Moses, and only through him to his brother (see e.g., Numbers 8:1-3). This change in the form of the message may point to a later date, i.e., to a time subsequent to the gainsaying of Korah, when the separate position of Aaron as the head of a priestly caste was more fully recognized than before, and he himself somewhat less under the shadow of his greater brother. Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary. Aaron's father's house, according to the analogy of Numbers 17:2, 3, 6, was the sub-tribe of the Kohathites, and these had charge (to the exclusion of the other Levites) of the sanctuary, or rather sacred things (הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, as in Numbers 10:21. Septuagint, τῶν ἁγίων). See on Numbers 4:15. This mention of the Kohathites in connection with the sanctuary is an incidental proof that these instructions were given in view of the wanderings in the wilderness, for after the settlement in Canaan no Levites (as such) came into contact with the sacred furniture. It is not easy to define exactly the meaning of "shall bear the iniquity (תִּשְׂאוּ אֶת־עַון) of the sanctuary." The general sense of the phrase is, "to be responsible for the iniquity," i.e., for anything which caused displeasure in the eyes of God, "in connection with the sacred things and the service of them;" hence it meant either to be responsible for such iniquity, as being held accountable for it, and having to endure the penalty, or as being permitted and enabled to take such accountability on oneself, and so discharge it from others. This double sense is exactly reflected in the Greek word αἴρειν, as applied to our Lord (John 1:29). The priests, therefore (and the Kohathites, so far as they had anything to do with the sanctuary), were responsible for all the unholiness attaching or accruing to it, not only by reason of all offences committed by themselves, but by reason of that imperfection which clung to them at the best, and made them unworthy to handle the things of God. In a further and deeper sense they might be said to be vicariously responsible for all the iniquity of all Israel, so far as the taint of it affected the very sanctuary (see on Exodus 28:38; Leviticus 16:16). The iniquity of your priesthood. The responsibility not only for all sinful acts of omission and commission in Divine service (such as those of Nadab and Abihu, and of Korah), but for all the inevitable failure of personal holiness on the part of those who ministered unto the Lord. This responsibility was emphatically recognized and provided for in the rites of the great day of atonement.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord spake unto Aaron,.... As the things spoken were such as concerned Aaron, he might be only and immediately spoken unto: thou,
and thy sons, and thy father's house with thee; meaning both priests and Levites, the priests by him and his sons, and the Levites by his father's house:
shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; the blame of any evil committed there, the punishment of it; the priests, Aaron and his sons, if they did not perform the duty of their office aright, he in the most holy place, and they in the holy place, and at the altar of burnt offering in the court; and the Levites, if they did not take care to watch in the tabernacle, and keep out strangers and polluted persons:
and thou, and thy sons with thee, shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood; be answerable for my sins, errors, and mistakes that should be committed by them in the discharge of their office, through their own remissness, or not taking care that the Levites did their duty; this shows that the office of priesthood, though honourable, was burdensome, and not to be envied; and that the people needed not to be under such terrible apprehensions as they were, lest they should come too near the sanctuary, as to be in danger of death, since it lay upon the priests and Levites especially to take care thereof, and who, if negligent, would suffer.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Nu 18:1-7. The Charge of the Priests and Levites.
1. the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary—Security is here given to the people from the fears expressed (Nu 17:12), by the responsibility of attending to all sacred things being devolved upon the priesthood, together with the penalties incurred through neglect; and thus the solemn responsibilities annexed to their high dignity, of having to answer not only for their own sins, but also for the sins of the people, were calculated in a great measure to remove all feeling of envy at the elevation of Aaron's family, when the honor was weighed in the balance with its burdens and dangers.
Numbers 18:1 Parallel Commentaries
Numbers 18:1 NIV
Numbers 18:1 NLT
Numbers 18:1 ESV
Numbers 18:1 NASB
Numbers 18:1 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible