Joshua 21:8
And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
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21:1-8 The Levites waited till the other tribes were provided for, before they preferred their claim to Joshua. They build their claim upon a very good foundation; not their own merits or services, but the Divine precept. The maintenance of ministers is not a thing left merely to the will of the people, that they may let them starve if they please; they which preach the gospel should live by the gospel, and should live comfortably.The non-priestly Kohathites had been diminished by the destruction of Korah and his company Numbers 16. On comparing Numbers 26:57 following with Numbers 3:27 ff, two of the families of the Kohathites seem to have disappeared altogether. Hence, it is not surprising that the rest of the Kohathites were sufficiently accommodated in ten cities. 4-8. the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites—The Levites were divided into Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites. Among the former the family of Aaron were exclusively appointed to the priesthood, and all the rest were ranked in the common order of Levites. The first lot was drawn by the Kohathites; and the first of theirs again by the priests, to whom thirteen cities were granted, and ten to the rest of the Kohathites (Jos 21:5); thirteen to the Gershonites (Jos 21:6), and twelve to the Merarites (Jos 21:7). These cities with their suburbs; of which See Poole "Numbers 35:2".

And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs,.... Reaching two thousand cubits from the cities all around: these cities did not lie all together, and so could not be described by their coasts; but in the several tribes, and intermixed with their cities; which fulfilled Jacob's prophecy, that they should be divided and scattered in Israel, Genesis 49:7; as well as it was so ordered for the benefit of the several tribes, that they might have the assistance of the priests and Levites, to instruct them in the knowledge of the laws and commandments of God, and all divine things:

as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses; Numbers 35:2.

And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
Joshua 21:8The Merarites received twelve towns from Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun.

The number of towns thus assigned to the Levites will not appear too large, if we consider, (1) that judging from the number of towns in so small a land, the greater part of them cannot have been very large; (2) that the Levites were not the sole possessors of these towns, but simply received the number of dwelling-houses which they actually required, with meadow land for their cattle in the suburbs of the towns, whilst the rest of the space still belonged to the different tribes; and (3) that if the 23,000 males, the number of the Levites at the second census which was taken in the steppes of Moab, were distributed among the thirty-five towns, it would give 657 males, or 1300 male and female Levites for every town. On the other hand, offence has been taken at the statement, that thirteen towns were given up to the priests; and under the idea that Aaron could hardly have had descendants enough in Joshua's time from his two sons who remained alive to fill even two towns, to say nothing of thirteen, the list has been set down as a document which was drawn up at a much later date (Maurer, etc.). But any one who takes this ground not only attributes to the distribution commission the enormous shortsightedness of setting apart towns for the priests merely to meet their existing wants, and without any regard to the subsequent increase which would take place in their numbers, but also forms too large an estimate of the size of the towns, and too small an estimate of the number of the priests. Moreover, it was never intended that the towns should be filled with priests' families; and the number of priests alive at that time is not mentioned anywhere. But if we bear in mind that Aaron died in the fortieth year of the journeys of the Israelites, at the age of 123 years (Numbers 33:38), and therefore was eighty-three years old at the time of the exodus from Egypt, his descendants might have entered upon the fourth generation seven years after his death. Now his two sons had twenty-four male descendants, who were the founders of the twenty-four classes instituted by David (1 Chronicles 24). And if we only reckon six males to each of the next generations, there would be 144 in the third generation, who would be between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five when the distribution of the land took place, and who might therefore have had 864 male children living at that time; so that the total number of males in the families of the priests might have amounted to more than 1000, that is to say, might have consisted of at least 200 families.

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