Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHARGE OF THE
1. the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house
with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary--Security is here
given to the people from the fears expressed
by the responsibility of attending to all sacred things being devolved
upon the priesthood, together with the penalties incurred through
neglect; and thus the solemn responsibilities annexed to their high
dignity, of having to answer not only for their own sins, but also for
the sins of the people, were calculated in a great measure to remove
all feeling of envy at the elevation of Aaron's family, when the honor
was weighed in the balance with its burdens and dangers.
2-7. thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi--The departments of the
sacred office, to be filled respectively by the priests and Levites,
are here assigned to each. To the priests was committed the charge of
the sanctuary and the altar, while the Levites were to take care of
everything else about the tabernacle. The Levites were to attend the
priests as servants--bestowed on them as "gifts" to aid in the service
of the tabernacle--while the high and dignified office of the
priesthood was a "service of gift." "A stranger," that is, one, neither
a priest nor a Levite, who should intrude into any departments of the
sacred office, should incur the penalty of death.
8-13. the Lord spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the
charge of my heave offerings--A recapitulation is made in this passage
of certain perquisites specially appropriated to the maintenance of the
priests. They were parts of the votive and freewill offerings,
including both meat and bread, wine and oil, and the first-fruits,
which formed a large and valuable item.
14. Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine--provided it was
adapted for food or consumable by use; for the gold and silver vessels
that were dedicated as the spoils of victory were not given to the
priests, but for the use and adornment of the sacred edifice.
19. it is a covenant of salt--that is, a perpetual ordinance. This
figurative form of expression was evidently founded on the conservative
property of salt, which keeps meat from corruption; and hence it became
an emblem of inviolability and permanence. It is a common phrase among
Oriental people, who consider the eating of salt a pledge of fidelity,
binding them in a covenant of friendship. Hence the partaking of the
altar meats, which were appropriated to the priests on condition of
their services and of which salt formed a necessary accompaniment, was
naturally called "a covenant of salt"
21, 22. I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for
an inheritance, for their service which they serve--Neither the priests
nor the Levites were to possess any allotments of land but to depend
entirely upon Him who liberally provided for them out of His own
portion; and this law was subservient to many important purposes--such
as that, being exempted from the cares and labors of worldly business,
they might be exclusively devoted to His service; that a bond of mutual
love and attachment might be formed between the people and the Levites,
who, as performing religious services for the people, derived their
subsistence from them; and further, that being the more easily
dispersed among the different tribes, they might be more useful in
instructing and directing the people.
23. But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the
congregation: they shall bear their iniquity--They were to be
responsible for the right discharge of those duties that were assigned
to them, and consequently to bear the penalty that was due to
negligence or carelessness in the guardianship of the holy things.
26. the Levites . . . offer . . . a tenth of the tithe--Out of their
own they were to pay tithes to the priests equally as the people gave
to them. The best of their tithes was to be assigned to the priests,
and afterwards they enjoyed the same liberty to make use of the
remainder that other Israelites had of the produce of their
threshing-floors and wine-presses.
32. ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, &c.--Neglect in having the
best entailed sin in the use of such unhallowed food. And the holy
things would be polluted by the reservation to themselves of what
should be offered to God and the priests.