Deuteronomy 18:1
The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance.
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Deuteronomy 18:1-5.


(1) The priests the Levites, (and) all the tribe of Levi.—The fact that there is no “and” here in the original, and the look of the sentence in English, might dispose a superficial reader to find some ground here for the theory that priest and Levite are not distinguished in Deuteronomy. No such idea occurred to Rashi. He says, all the tribe of Levi, not only those that are perfect (who can serve), but those who have a blemish (and cannot).” The distinction between priest and Levite has already been sufficiently noted on Deuteronomy 11:6; Deuteronomy 17:9. The passage is evidently on the same lines with Numbers 18:18-21, which see.

(3) The shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.—This would be from the peace offering. The shoulder is assigned to them in Leviticus 7:32-33 (comp. Numbers 18:18). The “two cheeks and the maw” are not mentioned elsewhere, and the latter word is found in this place only. They are not a valuable part of the sacrifice. An absurd reason for the gift is assigned by Rashi. We know that in the time of Eli, the priests varied their requirements at pleasure, and in the face of the law (see 1Samuel 2:13). The “priests’ due “here, and “the priests’ custom” there, are the same word in Hebrew, which we have elsewhere translated “requirement.”

(4) The flrstfruit also of thy corn.—See Numbers 18:12. The first of the wool is mentioned here only. The quantity in all these cases has been defined by the Rabbis, on grounds somewhat arbitrary.

(5) To stand to minister in the name of the Lord.—This is the office of the priests. The Levites are said, “to stand before the congregation to minister unto them” (Numbers 16:9). If the writer of Deuteronomy knew no distinction between priest and Levite, it is difficult to see how the Jews could have derived the distinctive privileges of the priests from these enactments.

Deuteronomy 18:1. His inheritance — The Lord’s portion or inheritance, which God had reserved to himself, as tithes and first-fruits, and other oblations distinct from those which were made by fire.

18:1-8 Care is taken that the priests entangle not themselves with the affairs of this life, nor enrich themselves with the wealth of this world; they have better things to mind. Care is likewise taken that they want not the comforts and conveniences of this life. The people must provide for them. He that has the benefit of solemn religious assemblies, ought to give help for the comfortable support of those that minister in such assemblies.Better, "there shall not be to the priests, the Levites, yea the whole tribe of Levi, any inheritance, etc."

And his inheritance - i. e., God's inheritance, that which in making a grant to His people of the promised land with its earthly blessings He had reserved for Himself; more particularly the sacrifices and the holy gifts, such as tithes and first-fruits. These were God's portion of the substance of Israel; and as the Levites were His portion of the persons of Israel, it was fitting that the Levites should be sustained from these. On the principle here laid down, compare 1 Corinthians 9:13-14.


De 18:1-8. The Lord Is the Priests' and the Levites' Inheritance.

1. The priests the Levites … shall eat the offerings—As the tribe of Levi had no inheritance allotted them like the other tribes but were wholly consecrated to the priestly office, their maintenance was to arise from tithes, first-fruits, and certain portions of the oblations presented on the altar, which God having by express appointment reserved to Himself made over, after being offered, to His ministers.The Lord is the priests’ and Levites’ inheritance. Deu 18:1,2. Their due from the people, Deu 18:3-5. A Levite’s portion that came to serve voluntarily, Deu 18:6-8. All unlawful arts prohibited, Deu 18:9-14. Christ is promised, whom they must hearken to, Deu 18:15-19. False prophets threatened, Deu 18:20. The mark of a false prophet, Deu 18:21,22.

The offerings of the Lord made by fire; by which phrase we here manifestly see that he means not burnt-offerings, which were wholly consumed by fire, and no part of them eaten by the priests; but other sacrifices, whereof part was offered to the Lord by fire, and part was allotted to the priests for their food. His inheritance, i.e. the Lord’s portion or inheritance, which God had reserved to himself, as tithes and first-fruits, and other oblations distinct from those which were made by fire; and so these two branches make up the whole of that which belonged to God, and was by him given to the Levites.

The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel,.... That is, in the land of Canaan, in the division of it among the tribes:

they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance; the meat offerings, see Leviticus 2:2, and whatsoever of the sin offerings and peace offerings which were the Lord's; so Ben Melech says, the flesh of the offerings which belonged to the priests was called fire offerings, after part of it was consumed by fire. All these, with other things, Numbers 18:8, were given, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it, for their inheritance, in lieu of their having none in the land of Canaan.

The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his {a} inheritance.

(a) That is, the Lord's part of his inheritance.

1. The priests the Levites] This double title, peculiar to D, is found both in the Code, Deuteronomy 17:9; Deuteronomy 17:18, Deuteronomy 24:8 (cp. Deuteronomy 21:5 : the priests the sons of Levi) and in Deuteronomy 27:9 (edit.?), cp. Deuteronomy 31:9. By God’s appointment (Deuteronomy 18:5) all members of the tribe of Levi were priests de jure, but in consequence of the law abolishing the rural altars and rendering priestly functions impossible except in the Temple, a member of the tribe while resident in the country is called Levite alone—the Levite within thy gates—and can secure the name and the rights of a priest only when he removes to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 18:6); where however he does not cease to be called Levite (Deuteronomy 18:7). With this distinction the priests and the Levites are to D synonymous. This is further emphasised by the addition—

all the tribe of Levi] The and prefixed by the A.V. and R.V. Marg. is not in the Heb., in which the phrase stands in apposition to the priests the Levites. There is therefore no possibility in the interpretation that D intended by Levites ‘all other members of the tribe of Levi.’ This interpretation is a forced attempt to reconcile D’s law with those of P which distinguish between priests and Levites.

no portion nor inheritance with Israel] Cp. Deuteronomy 10:9 (with his brethren), Deuteronomy 12:12 (with you), Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 14:29 (with thee), and the deuteronomic Joshua 13:14; Joshua 13:33; Joshua 18:7. The tribe are landless. So in P, Numbers 18:20; Numbers 18:23 f., Numbers 26:62.

they shall eat] live, or subsist, by; cp. Ar. ’ukul (from the same root) ‘means of subsistence.’

the offerings of the Lord made by fire] This expression, an early instance of which occurs in 1 Samuel 2:28, is found more than 60 times in P and nowhere else (the grammar shows that it is an intrusion. Joshua 13:14).

and his inheritance] all other offerings to the Deity, such as are detailed in Deuteronomy 18:4.

Verse 1. - The priests the Levites, the whole tribe of Levi; i.e. the whole tribe of Levi, including both the priests and the general body of the Levites. They shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire. "The offerings of the Lord made by fire" (literally, the fires or firings of Jehovah), here referred to, were the meal offering, the sin offering, and the trespass effusing (cf. Numbers 18:9). And his inheritance; i.e. of Jehovah, what was appropriated to him, and from him to the tribe of Levi, such as tithes, firstlings, and firstfruits. Deuteronomy 18:1The Rights of the Priests and Levites. - With reference to these, Moses repeats verbatim from Numbers 18:20, Numbers 18:23-24, the essential part of the rule laid down in Numbers 18:"The priests the Levites, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel." "All the tribe of Levi" includes the priests and Levites. They were to eat the "firings of Jehovah and His inheritance," as described in detail in Numbers 18. The inheritance of Jehovah consisted of the holy gifts as well as the sacrifices, i.e., the tithes, firstlings, and first-fruits. Moses felt it to be superfluous to enumerate these gifts one by one from the previous laws, and also to describe the mode of their application, or define how much belonged to the priests and how much to the Levites. However true it may be that the author assigns all these gifts to the Levites generally, the conclusion drawn from this, viz., that he was not acquainted with any distinction between priests and Levites, but placed the Levites entirely on a par with the priests, is quite a false one. For, apart from the evident distinction between the priests and Levites in Deuteronomy 18:1, where there would be no meaning in the clause, "all the tribe of Levi," if the Levites were identical with the priests, the distinction is recognised and asserted as clearly as possible in what follows, when a portion of the slain-offerings is allotted to the priests in Deuteronomy 18:3-5, whilst in Deuteronomy 18:6-8 the Levite is allowed to join in eating the altar gifts, if he come to the place of the sanctuary and perform service there. The repetition in Deuteronomy 18:2 is an emphatic confirmation: "As He hath said unto them:" as in Deuteronomy 10:9.
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