Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.XVIII.
(1) Shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary . . . —It must be remembered that the iniquity of the sanctuary, and the iniquity of the priesthood, extended not only to the defilement of the sanctuary by the transgressions of priests and people (Leviticus 16:11; Leviticus 16:15-16), but also to its defilement by the imperfections connected with the services of the priests and the offerings of the people (Exodus 28:38).
And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness.(2) That they may be joined unto thee.—There is an allusion here to the meaning of the name Levi, which was given to Leah’s third son. (See Genesis 29:34.) The Hebrew verb is the same as that which occurs in the speech of Leah.
And minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons . . . —Or, and they shall minister unto thee, both unto thee and to thy sons with thee, before the tent of witness. The service of the Levites was executed before the tent—i.e., in the court; that of the priests was in the holy place, as well as in the court (Numbers 18:7).
And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you.(4) And keep the charge . . . —See Numbers 1:53; Numbers 3:7.
And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel.(5, 6) And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary . . . —See Numbers 8:19.
Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.(7) And within the vail.—i.e., the vail which separated the holy place from the most holy. The word which is employed in this place (parocheth) is used only of the second vail. (See Leviticus 16:12.) When the outer vail or hanging is designed to be understood, the word used is masak. The reference appears to be to the whole of the priestly duties which were discharged by Aaron and his sons, from those connected with the altar of burnt offering to those which were performed in the most holy place.
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.(8) The charge of mine heave offerings.—See Leviticus 7:34, and Numbers 18:11 of this chapter.
Unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing.—Better, unto thee have I given them for an anointing portion. (See Leviticus 7:35, and Note.)
By an ordinance for ever.—Better, as an eternal statute.
This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons.(9) From the fire.—i.e., from the fire which was kindled upon the altar of burnt offering.
Every oblation of their’s, every meat offering of their’s . . . —Or, every oblation of their’s for all their meat offerings, and for all their sin offerings, and for all their trespass offerings (or, guilt offerings).
In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.(10) In the most holy place . . . —These gifts were to be eaten, as most holy, in the court of the Tabernacle (see Leviticus 6:16; Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 7:6), and only by the priests and the male members of their families.
And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.(11) The heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings . . . —See Leviticus 7:34.
Every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.—See Leviticus 22:10-13.
All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.(12) All the best . . . —Hebrew, all the fat, as in Genesis 45:18.
The firstfruits of them . . . —The quantity is not defined. St. Jerome, in his Commentary on Ezekiel 45, mentions the fortieth part as a liberal contribution, and the sixtieth as a scanty one, according to Jewish tradition.
Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.(14) Every thing devoted . . . —See Leviticus 27:21-28.
Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.(15) Every thing that openeth the matrix . . . —(See Leviticus 27:6; Leviticus 27:26-27.) Five shekels was the redemption-price paid for each of the firstborn who were not redeemed by the Levites (Numbers 3:47).
And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.(16) According to thine estimation.—See Leviticus 18:3-7, and Notes.
And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.(18) And the flesh of them shall be thine . . . —In Deuteronomy 12:17-18, the firstlings of the herd and of the flock are directed to be eaten by the owners in the place which the Lord should choose. Either the law as prescribed in Numbers was subsequently modified, or the second clause of this verse explains and qualifies the preceding clause, and assigns only the wave breast and the right shoulder (or, rather, leg) to the priests. (Comp. Leviticus 10:14-15.)
All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.(19) It is a covenant of salt.—i.e., an indissoluble covenant. (See Leviticus 2:13, and Note; also 2Chronicles 13:5.) Hence the phrases used by the Greeks to denote the breach of a covenant, “Where is the salt?” and “They overstepped the salt.” (Comp. Pliny, H. N., xxxi. 41; Cic., De Div., ii. 16; Virgil, Ecl., viii. 82.)
And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.(20) Thou shalt have no inheritance . . . —Aaron is addressed in this verse as the representative of the priesthood. He himself did not enter into the land of Canaan.
I am thy part and thine inheritance . . . —All that are admitted into the number of Christ’s royal priesthood have God for their portion and inheritance—in life, in death, and throughout eternity. (Comp. Psalm 73:26; Psalm 142:5.)
And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.(21) All the tenth in Israel.—The reference here is to the first tithe, or tenth of the whole of the produce of the land.
Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.(22) Lest they bear sin and die.—i.e., lest they bring sin upon themselves, the penalty of which they would have to bear. This appears to be the primary meaning of the phrase, from which the secondary meaning, viz., that of bearing sin in the sense of atoning for it, is derived. (Comp. Leviticus 19:17; Leviticus 22:9.)
But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.(24) But the tithes . . . —Better, for the tithes . . . This verse assigns the reason why the Levites were to have no inheritance among the children of Israel.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,(25) And the Lord spake unto Moses . . . —The law respecting the Levitical dues was given to Aaron, and communicated through him to the people. The law respecting the tithe which the Levites were to give to the priests, in which Aaron’s family were directly concerned, was communicated to Moses, and by him to the Levites.
Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.(26) Even a tenth part of the tithe.—Better, a tithe of the tithe.
And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.(27) And as the fulness of the wine-press.—The word which is here rendered fulness is the same which occurs in Exodus 22:9, and is there rendered “the first of thy ripe fruits.” It is used to denote either the fully ripe grain, or the produce of the vine. The tithe which the Levites paid to the priests was regarded in the same light as if it had been the produce of their own labour.
Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.(30) As the increase of the threshing-floor.—As the tithe rendered to the priests was to be regarded in the same light as if it had been the produce of their own labour (Numbers 18:27), so what remained after the heave-offerings had been duly set apart was to be reckoned as much the property of the Levites, and to be treated in the same manner, as the corn of the threshing-floor and the wine of the wine-press of the rest of the Israelites.
And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.(31) And ye shall eat it in every place.—When the tenth which was due to the priests had been duly paid, the remainder of the tithe received from the people became the rightful portion of the Levites, as their ordinary means of subsistence, and might be eaten by them in every place, not being subject to the restrictions laid upon the priests in regard to the place in which the holy things were to be eaten. (See 5:10.)
And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.(32) And ye shall bear no sin . . . —i.e., shall not incur any guilt, or become liable to any punishment. (See Note on Numbers 18:22.)