|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 8. - And the cities which ye shall give shall be, &c. Rather, "And as to the cities which ye shall give from the possession of the children of Israel, from the many ye shall multiply, and from the few ye shall decrease." What seems to be a general rule of proportionate giving is laid down here, but it was not carried out, and it is not easy to see how it could have been. From the large combined territory of Judah and Simeon nine cities were indeed surrendered (Joshua 21), but all the rest, great and small, gave up four apiece, except Naphtali, which gave up three only. As the territory of Naphtali was apparently large in proportion to its numbers, this was probably for no other reason than that the tribe stood last on the list. Every one. Hebrew, אִישׁ. It was in fact each tribe that surrendered so many cities, but since the tribal inheritance was the joint property of all the tribesmen, every man felt that he was a party to the gift. No doubt it was the Divine intention to foster in the tribes as far as possible this local feeling of interest and property in the Levites who dwelt among them (compare the expression "their scribes and Pharisees" in Luke 5:30). The dispersion of the Levites (however mysteriously connected with the prophecy of Genesis 49:5-7) was obviously designed to form a bond of unity for all Israel by diffusing the knowledge and love of the national religion, and by keeping up a constant communication between the future capital and all the provinces. According to the Divine ideal Israel as a whole was "the election" (ἡ ἐκλογή) from all the earth, the Levites were the ἐκλογή of Israel, and the priests the ἐκλογή of Levi. The priestly family was at present too small to be influential, but the Levites were numerous enough to have leavened the whole nation if they had walked worthy of their calling. They were gathered together in towns of their own, partly no doubt in order to avoid disputes, but partly that they might have a better opportunity of setting forth the true ideal of what Jewish life should be.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel,.... What shall fall by lot for their inheritance, and they shall be possessed of; and though they are, shall not refuse, nor grudge to give them, according to the direction of God, whose the land is, they holding it under him:
from them that have many ye shall give many, but from them that have few ye shall give few; which rule was observed; for out of Judah, whose lot was large, and out of Simeon, whose inheritance was within that of Judah, because it was so large, nine cities were given, whereas out of the other tribes only four cities out of each were given, and out of one of them but three, see Joshua 21:1,
everyone shall give of his cities unto the Levites, according to his inheritance which he inheriteth; and the Levites, being thus dispersed among the several tribes, were of great advantage to them, to instruct them in the knowledge of divine things; so that though hereby Jacob's curse on this tribe had its fulfilment, that it should be divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel, yet that became a blessing to the rest of the tribes; see Genesis 49:7.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel—The burden of furnishing those places for the residence and support of the Levitical order was to fall in equitable proportions upon the different tribes (see Nu 33:54; Jos 20:7).
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