Numbers 18


‘The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood. Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law. They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar. Otherwise both they and you will die. They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting—all the work at the tent—and no one else may come near where you are. “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again. I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the tent of meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.” Numbers 18:1-7

Duties Of Priests And Levites

In this chapter we find the Lord emphasising the duties of the priests, Numbers 3:1-4:49. Israel must the learn the lesson from the previous events, if they complain against God’s anointed, that is, Aaron, his sons and the Levites, they were actually complaining against the will of God, Numbers 16:1-3.

The Levites are also warned to assume the responsibilities of their appointment, and they needed to be very careful about following God’s will, Numbers 17:13. They weren’t permitted to do what the priests did, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

‘Then the LORD said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin1  or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy. “This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. “I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest. All the land’s firstfruits that they bring to the LORD will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. “Everything in Israel that is devoted to the LORD is yours. The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the LORD is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. “But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours.’ Numbers 18:8-18

Offerings For Priests And Levites

The wave offerings were to be presented to God and waved before Him, Exodus 29:28 / Leviticus 7:14 / Numbers 6:20 / Numbers 15:19-21.

It was a choice portion of the animal, like the breast or the thigh which was waved before the Lord. That portion of meat was for the priest and his family, and was considered holy, so it had to be eaten in the holy place.

Aaron is reminded that he, his sons and the Levites, as the spiritual leaders of Israel, were to be supported by all Israel. While they were busy working for God and for the people offering sacrifices, the Israelites needed to understand that they now had the responsibilities of taking care of their needs, 1 Corinthians 9:1-15.

The priests were to take a portion of everything which was offered as a sacrifice.

Plaut, in his commentary, says the following concerning the fruit.

‘Jews interpreted this to apply only to the seven principal fruits for which the land was famous. 1. Wheat. 2. Barley. 3. Grapes. 4. Figs. 5. Pomegranates. 6. Olive oil and 7. Dates, including honey.

‘Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.” The LORD said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.’ Numbers 18:19-20

Notice the Lord mentions the covenant of salt. This was a covenant that wouldn’t be dissolved but would last throughout the generations of Israel. Only when the generations of Israel ended in Christ would the Levitical priesthood cease.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘It was founded upon the ancient understanding throughout all the East that one’s eating with a person established a binding and perpetual obligation between them. Behind this is the fact that all of the sacrifices offered unto God were salted. All Hebrew sacrifices were mingled with salt, Leviticus 2:13 / Mark 9:49. God gave the kingdom to David by a covenant of salt, 2 Chronicles 13:5.’

The priests were to be looked after by the rest of Israel because they had no inheritance in the land. However, the Lord Himself was their portion and their inheritance, 1 Peter 2:9.

‘I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting. From now on the Israelites must not go near the tent of meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’” The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD’s portion to Aaron the priest. You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’ “Say to the Levites: ‘When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the tent of meeting. By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.’” Numbers 18:21-32

The priests were to receive a tenth from the nation, but they in turn were to offer a tenth of the tithe as an offering to the Lord. This tells us that the priests themselves still had to make their own offering to the Lord.

Although the priests worked full time in offering sacrifices, they still had to tithe to the Lord that which they received from the people.

Once, every three years, the tithe was collected and distributed not only to the Levites, but also to the poor and needy among Israel, Deuteronomy 14:28-29.

The payment of tithes to the Levites is recognised in Nehemiah 10:37 / Nehemiah 12:44, but here for the first time assigned to them as theirs.

Remember, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, Genesis 14, and Jacob vowed to give the tithe of all his possessions, Genesis 28:20-22.

We must remember if people didn’t contribute the tithe, they weren’t robbing the priests, the were actually robbing God Himself, Malachi 3:8-10.

As Christians, we’re not commanded to tithe, but we are commanded to give, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 / 2 Corinthians 9.

Go To Numbers 19


"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

1 Peter 5:7