Deuteronomy 18:6
And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6-8) And if a Levite come.—The Levites with the priests were to receive forty-eight cities in Israel, with the suburbs (Numbers 35:7). There was as yet no provision made by which all could serve in turn at the tabernacle. When David divided them all into courses, priests, Levites, singers (and porters?) alike, there was no longer any need for this provision. The institutions of David prove its antiquity. The only case in history that illustrates it is that of the child Samuel. His father, Elkanah, was a descendant of Korah. He dwelt in Mount Ephraim, and came up to Shiloh year by year. But Samuel was dedicated by his mother to perpetual service there, and as long as the tabernacle continued in Shiloh, the child Samuel “ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest”—not as a priest, but as a Levite in attendance upon the priests.

Deuteronomy 18:6. With all the desire of his mind — With full purpose to fix his abode, and to spend his whole time and strength in the service of God. It seems, the several priests were to come from their cities to the temple by turns, before David’s time; and it is certain they did so after it. But if any of them were not contented with this attendance upon God in his tabernacle, and desired more entirely and constantly to devote himself to God’s service there, he was permitted so to do, because this was an eminent act of piety, joined with self-denial, to part with those great conveniences which he enjoyed in the city of his possession.

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.These verses presuppose that part of the Levites only will be in residence and officiating at the place of the sanctuary, the others of course dwelling at their own homes in the Levitical cities, or "sojourning" elsewhere; compare the marginal references. But if any Levite out of love for the service of the sanctuary chose to resort to it when he might reside in his own home, he was to have his share in the maintenance which was provided for those ministering in the order of their course.6-8. if a Levite … come with all the desire of his mind—It appears that the Levites served in rotation from the earliest times; but, from their great numbers, it was only at infrequent intervals they could be called into actual service. Should any Levite, however, under the influence of eminent piety, resolve to devote himself wholly and continually to the sacred duties of the sanctuary, he was allowed to realize his ardent wishes; and as he was admitted to a share of the work, so also to a share of the remuneration. Though he might have private property, that was to form no ground for withholding or even diminishing his claim to maintenance like the other ministering priests. The reason or principle of the enactment is obvious (1Co 9:13). At the same time, while every facility was afforded for the admission of such a zealous and self-denying officer, this admission was to be in an orderly manner: he was to minister "as all his brethren"—that is, a Gershonite with Gershonites; a Merarite with Merarites; so that there might be no derangement of the established courses. Either for any private occasions, or to sojourn there for a season, or rather with full purpose to fix his abode, and to spend his whole time and strength in the service of God, as appears by the sale of his patrimony, mentioned Deu 18:8. It seems probable that the several priests were to come from their cities to the temple by turns before David’s time, and it is certain they did so after it. But if any of them were not contented with this seldom attendance upon God in his tabernacle or temple, and desired more entirely and constantly to devote himself to God’s service there, he was permitted so to do, because this was an eminent act of piety joined with self-denial to part with those great conveniencies which he could and did enjoy in the city of his possession, and to oblige himself to more constant and laborious work about the sacrifices, &c.

And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of Israel, where he sojourned,.... In any of the cities through the land, for they were dispersed all over the country, and employed in instructing and teaching the people; and, excepting the cities which were given them to dwell in out of the various tribes, they were but sojourners:

and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose; the city of Jerusalem, where the temple would be built, and sacrifices offered, at which the Levites were assisting to the priests, and in various parts of the service of the sanctuary; and to which they are supposed to come with an hearty good will, with great eagerness of soul, and a vehement desire of being employed in the work of the Lord. Though Jarchi interprets it of a priest, that comes and offers his freewill offerings, or what he is obliged to, and even in a ward not his own; or, as otherwise expressed, of the priests that come to the feast, who offer in the ward, and serve in the offerings that come by virtue of the feast, as the additions of the feast, though it is not in their own ward; and indeed every priest was a Levite, though every Levite was not a priest; and the description of him after given, as standing ministering in the name of the Lord, best agrees with a priest.

And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with {c} all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;

(c) Meaning, to serve God whole heartedly, and not to seek ease.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. a Levite … from any of thy gates] any of the tribe who had ministered at any of the rural sanctuaries now disestablished by the concentration of the cultus at Jerusalem. Thy gates, see Deuteronomy 12:12. Out of all Israel, emphatic addition to the usual phrase.

where he sojourneth] Heb. is a gçr, a landless resident, without portion or inheritance. So in Jdg 17:7; Jdg 19:1. D knows nothing of the Levitical cities of P, Numbers 35:1-8, Joshua 21.

and come with all the desire of his soul] The construction is uncertain. Some begin the apodosis of this conditional sentence here, then he may come, etc. (Steuern., Berth.), which is not probable; others preferably with the beginning of Deuteronomy 18:7 (EVV., Wellh., Addis, Marti); others not till the beginning of Deuteronomy 18:8 (Dillm., Driv.). Desire of his soul, see Deuteronomy 12:15.

unto the place, etc.] See on Deuteronomy 12:5.

Verses 6-8. - Only a portion of the Levites were engaged in the service of the sanctuary; the rest lived in their towns throughout the country. It might happen, however, that a Levite, moved by pious feeling, would come to the place of the sanctuary to worship there; and it is prescribed that such a one should fare as his brethren the Levites engaged in the service of the sanctuary fared; he should minister along with them, and share with them in the gifts of the worshippers; and this in addition to any private means he might have from the sale of his patrimony. Where he sojourned. The Levite, though not homeless, was regarded as only a sojourner in the land, inasmuch as the tribe had no inheritance (נַחֲלָח) there. They shall have like portions to eat; literally, they shall eat portion as portion, i.e. share and share alike. That which cometh of the sale of his patrimony; literally, his price upon [the house] of [his] fathers, i.e. the produce of the sale effected on the house he inherited from his ancestry (cf. Leviticus 25:33). Deuteronomy 18:6As the priests were to be remembered for their service on the part of the people (Deuteronomy 18:3-5), so the Levite also, who came from one of the towns of the land with all the desire of his soul to the place of the sanctuary, to minister there in the name of the Lord, was to eat a similar portion to all his Levitical brethren who stood there in service before the Lord. The verb גּוּר (sojourned) does not presuppose that the Levites were houseless, but simply that they had no hereditary possession in the land as the other tribes had, and merely lived like sojourners among the Israelites in the towns which were given up to them by the other tribes (see at Deuteronomy 12:12). "All his brethren the Levites" are the priests and those Levites who officiated at the sanctuary as assistants to the priests. It is assumed, therefore, that only a part of the Levites were engaged at the sanctuary, and the others lived in their towns. The apodosis follows in Deuteronomy 18:8, "part like part shall they eat," sc., the new-comer and those already there. The former was to have the same share to eat as the latter, and to be maintained from the revenues of the sanctuary. These revenues are supposed to be already apportioned by the previous laws, so that they by no means abolish the distinction between priests and Levites. We are not to think of those portions of the sacrifices and first-fruits only which fell to the lot of the priests, nor of the tithe alone, or of the property which flowed into the sanctuary through vows or free-will offerings, or in any other way, and was kept in the treasury and storehouse, but of tithes, sacrificial portions, and free-will offerings generally, which were not set apart exclusively for the priests. וגו ממכּריו לבד, "beside his sold with the fathers," i.e., independently of what he receives from the sale of his patrimony. ממכּר, the sale, then the thing sold, and the price or produce of what is sold, like מכר in Numbers 20:19. לבד is unusual without מן, and Knobel would read ממּכריו, from מכריו and מן, in consequence. האבות על stands for בּית־אבות על (see at Exodus 6:25; κατὰ τὴν πατρίαν, lxx), according to or with the fathers' houses, i.e., the produce of the property which he possesses according to his family descent, or which is with his kindred. Whether על in this passage signifies "according to the measure of," or "with," in the sense of keeping or administering, cannot be decided. As the law in Leviticus 25:33-34, simply forbids the sale of the pasture grounds belonging to the Levites, but permits the sale of their houses, a Levite who went to the sanctuary might either let his property in the Levitical town, and draw the yearly rent, or sell the house which belonged to him there. In any case, these words furnish a convincing proof that there is no foundation for the assertion that the book of Deuteronomy assumes or affirms that the Levites were absolutely without possessions.
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