Numbers 18 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Numbers 18)

Verse 1

[1] 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.

Shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary — Shall suffer the punishment of all the usurpations, or pollutions of the sanctuary, or the holy things, by the Levites, or any of the people, because you have power from me to keep them all within their bounds. Thus the people are in good measure secured against their fears. Also they are informed that Aaron's high dignity was attended with great burdens, having not only his own, but the people's sins to answer for; and therefore they had no such reason to envy him, if the benefits and dangers were equally considered.

The iniquity of your priesthood — That is, Of all the errors committed by yourselves, or by you permitted in others in things, belonging to your priesthood.

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Unto thee — About sacrifices and offerings and other things, according to the rules I have prescribed them. The Levites are said to minister to Aaron here, to the church, Deuteronomy 10:8. They shall not contend with thee for superiority, as they have done, but shall be subordinate to thee.

Thy sons with thee — Or, both to thee, and to thy sons with thee: Which translation may seem to be favoured by the following words, before the tabernacle, which was the proper place where the Levites ministered. Besides, both the foregoing words, and the two following verses, entirely speak of the ministry of the Levites, and the ministry of the priests is distinctly spoken of, Numbers 18:5.

Verse 3

[3] And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die.

They charge — That is, that which thou shalt command them and commit unto them.

Verse 5

[5] 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.

The sanctuary — Of the holy, and of the most holy place.

Verse 6

[6] And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.

To you they are given as a gift — We are to value it as a great gift of the divine bounty, to have those joined to us, that will be helpful and serviceable to us, in the service of God.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

The altar — Of burnt-offering.

Within the veil — This phrase here comprehends both the holy and the most holy place. As a gift which I have freely conferred upon you, and upon you alone; and therefore let no man henceforth dare either to charge you with arrogance in appropriating this to yourselves, or to invade your office.

Verse 8

[8] 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.

I have given them — Not only the charge, but the use of them for thyself and family.

By reason of the anointing — That is, because thou art priest, and art to devote thyself wholly to my service.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

Most holy — Such as were to be eaten only by the priests, and that in the sanctuary.

Reserved — That is, such sacrifices or parts of sacrifices as were not burnt in the fire.

Render unto me — By way of compensation for a trespass committed against me, in which case a ram was to be offered, which was a most holy thing, and may be particularly designed here.

Verse 10

[10] In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.

In the most holy place — In the court of the priests, where there were places for this use, which is called the most holy place, not simply and absolutely, but in respect of the thing he speaks of because this was the most holy of all the places appointed for eating holy things, whereof some might be eaten in any clean place in the camp, or in their own house.

Verse 13

[13] And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.

Whatsoever is first ripe — Not only the first-fruits of the oil and wine, and wheat now mentioned, but all other first-fruits of all other grains, and all fruit trees.

Clean — And none else, because these were first offered to God, and by consequence given to priests; but for those which were immediately given to the priests, the clean and unclean might eat of them.

Verse 14

[14] Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.

Devoted — Dedicated to God by vow or otherwise, provided it be such a thing as might be eaten: for the vessels or treasures of gold and silver which were dedicated by Joshua, David, or others, were not the priests, but appropriated to the uses of the temple.

Verse 15

[15] 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.

Of men — Which were offered to God in his temple, and to his service and disposal.

Verse 16

[16] 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.

Those that are to be redeemed — Namely, of men only, not of unclean beasts, as is manifest from the time and price of redemption here mentioned, both which agree to men; the time, Exodus 13:13, and that after it was eight days old.

Verse 17

[17] But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Holy — Namely, in a peculiar manner, consecrated to an holy use, even to be sacrificed to God. Deuteronomy 15:19.

Verse 18

[18] And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.

The flesh — All the flesh of them, and not only some parts, as in other sacrifices.

Verse 19

[19] 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.

A covenant of salt — A durable and perpetual covenant; so called here and Leviticus 2:13. And this privilege conferred upon the priests is called a covenant because it is given them conditionally, upon condition of their service, and care about the worship of God.

Verse 20

[20] 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.

In their land — In the land of the children of Israel. You shall not have a distinct portion of land, as the other tribes shall. The reason of this law, was, partly because God would have them wholly devoted to his service, and therefore free from worldly incumbrances; partly, because God had abundantly provided for them otherwise, by tithes and first-fruits and oblations; and partly that by this means being dispersed among the several tribes, they might have the better opportunity for teaching and watching over the people.

I am thy part — I have appointed thee a liberal maintenance out of my oblations.

Verse 21

[21] 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.

The tenth — For the tithes were all given to the Levites, and out of their tithes the tenth was given to the priests.

Verse 22

[22] Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

Nigh — So nigh as to do any proper act to the priests or Levites.

Verse 23

[23] But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.

Their iniquity — The punishment due not only for their own, but also for the people's miscarriage, if it be committed through their connivance or negligence. And this was the reason why the priests withstood King Uzziah, when he would have burnt incense to the Lord.

Verse 24

[24] 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.

An heave-offering — An acknowledgment that they have all their land and the fruits of it from God's bounty. Note the word heave-offering, which is for the most part understood of a particular kind of offerings heaved or lifted up to the Lord, is here used for any offering.

Verse 26

[26] 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.

Ye shall offer up an heave-offering — They who are employed in assisting the devotions of others, must be sure to pay their own as an heave-offering. Prayers and praises, or rather the heart lifted up in them, are now our heave-offerings.

Verse 27

[27] 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.

As though it were the corn — It shall be accepted of you as much as if you offered it out of your own lands and labours.

Verse 28

[28] Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD's heave offering to Aaron the priest.

To Aaron — And to his children, who were all to have their share herein.

Verse 29

[29] Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.

Your gifts — Not only out of your tithes, but out of the other gifts which you receive from the people, and out of those fields which shall belong to your cities.

Offer — To the priest. As many gifts, so many heave-offerings; you shall reserve a part out of each of them for the priest.

The hallowed part — the tenth part, which was the part or proportion that God hallowed or sanctified to himself as his proper portion.

Verse 31

[31] 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.

Every place — In every clean place, and not in the holy place only.

Verse 32

[32] 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.

Neither shall ye pollute the holy things — As you will do, if you abuse their holy offerings, by reserving that entirely to yourselves, which they offer to God to be disposed as he hath appointed, namely, part to you, and part to the priests.