|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
35:1-8 The cities of the priests and Levites were not only to accommodate them, but to place them, as religious teachers, in several parts of the land. For though the typical service of the tabernacle or temple was only in one place, the preaching of the word of God, and prayer and praise, were not thus confined. These cities were to be given out of each tribe. Each thus made a grateful acknowledgement to God. Each tribe had the benefit of the Levites dwelling amongst them, to teach them the knowledge of the Lord; thus no parts of the country were left to sit in darkness. The gospel provides that he who is taught in the word, should communicate to him that teaches, in all good things, Ga 6:6. We are to free God's ministers from distracting cares, and to leave them at leisure for the duties of their station; so that they may be wholly employed therein, and avail themselves of every opportunity, by acts of kindness, to gain the good-will of the people, and to draw their attention.
Verse 2. - That they give unto the Levites... cities to dwell in. This legislation forms the natural sequel and complement of the Divine decrees already promulgated concerning the Levites. Separated from the rest of the tribes from the time of the first census (Numbers 1:49), excluded from any tribal inheritance (Numbers 18:20), but endowed with tithes and offerings for their maintenance (Numbers 18:21, &c.), it was also necessary that they should be provided with homes for themselves and their cattle. They might indeed have been left to exist as they could, and where they could, upon the provision made for them in the law. But, on the one hand, that provision was itself precarious, depending as it did upon the piety and good feeling of the people (which must often have been found wanting: cf. Nehemiah 13:10; Malachi 3:8, 9); and, on the other, it is evident that the Levites were intended, as far as their family and social life was concerned, to share the ordinary comforts and enjoyments of Israelites. Nothing could have been more foreign to the Mosaic ideal than a ministry celibate, ascetic, and detached from this world's wealth, such as readily enough sprang up (whether intended or not) under the teaching of the gospel (cf. Luke 10:4; Luke 12:33; Acts 20:34, 35; 1 Corinthians 7:7, 25, 26; 1 Corinthians 9:18, 27; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:4). Suburbs. The Hebrew word מִגְרָשׁ undoubtedly means here a pasture, or a paddock, an enclosed place outside the town into which the cattle were driven by day to feed. It is possible that the A.V. may have used the word "suburbs" in that sense. To keep cattle to some extent was not only a universal custom, but was well-nigh a necessity of life in that age.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Command the children of Israel,.... All the tribes of them; it is not a bare instruction that is given them, much less a mere request that is made to them, or something proposed, and left to their option whether they would agree to it or not; but it is strictly enjoined them by the Lord, who had given them freely all they should possess, and who had a right to all they had, and to whom they were in duty and gratitude bound to do his will and pleasure: the order is:
that they give unto the Levites, of the inheritance of their possession, cities to dwell in; which was but reasonable and requisite, that the ministers of God, and the assistants of the priests, and who did the service of the congregation, that they should have, habitations for them and their families, as well as food and raiment was provided for them in another way:
and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them; which were partly for ornament to their cities, and partly for their health, that they might have air, and not be too closely confined within the walls of their cities; and also for convenience, that they have room for their cattle, and places to lay up the increase of their fields, as after suggested. Jarchi says, that a suburb was a space and place parted without the city, round about, for the beauty of it; but they were not allowed to build there an house (i.e. to dwell in), nor to plant a vineyard, nor to sow seed; other ground is after provided for such uses.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in—As the Levites were to have no territorial domain allocated to them like the other tribes on the conquest of Canaan, they were to be distributed throughout the land in certain cities appropriated to their use; and these cities were to be surrounded by extensive suburbs. There is an apparent discrepancy between Nu 35:4 and Nu 35:5, with regard to the extent of these suburbs; but the statements in the two verses refer to totally different things—the one to the extent of the suburbs from the walls of the city, the other to the space of two thousand cubits from their extremity. In point of fact, there was an extent of ground, amounting to three thousand cubits, measured from the wall of the city. One thousand were most probably occupied with outhouses for the accommodation of shepherds and other servants, with gardens, vineyards, or oliveyards. And these which were portioned out to different families (1Ch 6:60) might be sold by one Levite to another, but not to any individual of another tribe (Jer 32:7). The other two thousand cubits remained a common for the pasturing of cattle (Le 25:34) and, considering their number, that space would be fully required.
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