Aaron being now fully established in the priesthood abundantly to his
own satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of the people (which was the
good that God brought out of the evil opposition made to him), in this
chapter God gives him full instructions concerning his office or rather
repeats those which he had before given him. He tells him,
I. What must be his work and the care and charge committed to him, and
what assistance he should have the Levites in that work,
II. What should be his and the Levites' wages for this work.
1. The perquisites or fees peculiar to the priests,
2. The settled maintenance of the Levites,
III. The portion which must be paid to the priests out of the Levites'
Thus every one knew what he had to do, and what he had to live
|The Service of the Priests and Levites.
||B. C. 1490.|
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.
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.
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.
4 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.
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
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
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 coherence of this chapter with that foregoing is very
I. The people, in the close of that chapter, had complained of the
difficulty and peril that there were in drawing near to God, which put
them under some dreadful apprehensions that the tabernacle in the midst
of them, which they hoped would have been their joy and glory, would
rather be their terror and ruin. Now, in answer to this complaint, God
here gives them to understand by Aaron that the priests should come
near for them as their representatives; so that, though the people were
obliged to keep their distance, yet that should not at all redound to
their disgrace or prejudice, but their comfortable communion with God
should be kept up by the interposition of the priests.
II. A great deal of honour God had now lately put upon Aaron; his rod
had budded and blossomed, when the rods of the rest of the princes
remained dry, and destitute both of fruit and ornament. Now lest Aaron
should be puffed up with the abundance of the favours that were done
him, and the miracles that were wrought for the support of him in his
high station, God comes to him to remind him of the burden that was
laid upon him, and the duty required from him as a priest. He would see
reason not to be proud of his preferment, but to receive the honours of
his office with reverence and holy trembling, when he considered how
great was the charge committed to him, and how hard it would be for him
to give a good account of it. Be not high-minded, but fear.
1. God tells him of the danger that attended his dignity,
(1.) That both the priests and Levites (thou, and thy sons, and thy
father's house) should bear the iniquity of the sanctuary;
that is, if the sanctuary were profaned by the intrusion of strangers,
or persons in their uncleanness, the blame should lie upon the Levites
and priests, who ought to have kept them off. Though the sinner that
thrust in presumptuously should die in his iniquity, yet his blood
should be required at the hands of the watchmen. Or it may be taken
more generally: "If any of the duties or offices of the sanctuary be
neglected, if any service be not done in its season or not according to
the law, if any thing be lost or misplaced in the removal of the
sanctuary, you shall be accountable for it, and answer it at your
(2.) That the priests should themselves bear the iniquity of the
priesthood; that is, if they either neglected any part of their
work or permitted any other persons to invade their office, and take
their work out of their hands, they should bear the blame of it. Note,
The greater the trust is of work and power that is committed to us the
greater is our danger of contracting guilt, by falsifying and betraying
that trust. This is a good reason why we should neither be envious at
others' honours nor ambitious ourselves of high places, because great
dignity exposes us to great iniquity. Those that are entrusted with the
charge of the sanctuary will have a great deal to answer for. Who
would covet the care of souls who considers the account that must be
given of that care?
2. He tells him of the duty that attended his dignity.
(1.) That he and his sons must minister before the tabernacle of
that is (as bishop Patrick explains it), before the most holy
place, in which the ark was, on the outside of the veil of that
tabernacle, but within the door of the tabernacle, of the congregation.
They were to attend the golden altar, the table, and candlestick, which
no Levite might approach to. You shall serve,
Not, "You shall rule" (it was never intended that they should lord it
over God's heritage), but "You shall serve God and the congregation."
Note, The priesthood is a service. If any desire the office of a
bishop he desires a good work. Ministers must remember that they
are ministers, that is, servants, of whom it is required that they be
humble, diligent, and faithful.
(2.) That the Levites must assist him and his sons, and minister to
them in all the service of the tabernacle
though they must by no means come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary,
nor at the altar meddle with the great services of burning the fat and
sprinkling the blood. Aaron's family was very small, and, as it
increased, the rest of the families of Israel would increase likewise,
so that the hands of the priests neither were now nor were likely to be
sufficient for all the service of the tabernacle; therefore (says God)
the Levites shall be joined to thee,
where there seems to be an allusion to the name of Levi, which
signifies joined. Many of the Levites had of late set themselves
against Aaron, but henceforward God promises that they should be
heartily joined to him in interest and affection, and should no more
contest with him. It was a good sign to Aaron that God owned him when
he inclined the hearts of those concerned to own him too. The Levites
are said to be given as a gift to the priests,
Note, 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.
(3.) That both priests and Levites must carefully watch against the
profanation of sacred things. The Levites must keep the charge of
the tabernacle, that no stranger (that is, none who upon any
account was forbidden to come) might come nigh
and that upon pain of death,
And the priests must keep the charge of the sanctuary
must instruct the people, and admonish them concerning the due distance
they were to keep, and not suffer them to break the bounds set them, as
Korah's company had done, that there be no wrath any more upon the
children of Israel. Note, The preventing of sin is the preventing
of wrath; and the mischief sin has done should be a warning to us for
the future to watch against it both in ourselves and others.
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.
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.
10 In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall
eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.
11 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.
12 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.
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.
14 Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.
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.
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
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
18 And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and
as the right shoulder are thine.
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.
The priest's service is called a warfare; and who goes a warfare
at his own charges? As they were well employed, so they were well
provided for, and well paid. None shall serve God for nought. All
believers are spiritual priests, and God has promised to take care of
them; they shall dwell in the land, and verily they shall be
fed, and shall not want any good thing. Godliness has the
promise of the life that now is. And from this plentiful
provision here made for the priests the apostle infers that it is the
duty of Christian churches to maintain their ministers; those that
served at the altar lived upon the altar. So those that preach
the gospel should live upon the gospel, and live comfortably,
1 Corinthians 9:13,14.
Scandalous maintenance makes scandalous ministers. Now observe,
1. That much of the provision that was made for them arose out of the
sacrifices which they themselves were employed to offer. They had the
skins of almost all the sacrifices, which they might sell, and they had
a considerable share out of the meat-offerings, sin-offerings, &c.
Those that had the charge of the offerings had the benefit,
Note, God's work is its own wages, and his service carries its
recompence along with it. Even in keeping God's commandments there is
great reward. The present pleasures of religion are part of its pay.
2. That they had not only a good table kept for them, but money
likewise in their pockets for the redemption of the first-born, and
those firstlings of cattle which might not be offered in sacrifice.
Thus their maintenance was such as left them altogether disentangled
from the affairs of this life; they had no grounds to occupy, no
land to till, no vineyards to dress, no cattle to tend, no visible
estate to take care of, and yet had a more plentiful income than any
other families whatsoever. Thus God ordered it that they might be the
more entirely addicted to their ministry, and not diverted from it, nor
disturbed in it, by any worldly care or business (the ministry requires
a whole man); and that they might be examples of living by faith, not
only in God's providence, but in his ordinance. They lived from hand to
mouth, that they might learn to take no thought for the morrow;
sufficient for the day would be the provision thereof: and they had no
estates to leave their children, that they might by faith leave their
children, that they might by faith leave them to the care of that God
who had fed them all their lives long.
3. Of the provision that was made for their tables some is said to be
which was to be eaten by the priests themselves, and in the court of
the tabernacle only; but other perquisites were less holy, of which
their families might eat, at their own houses, provided they were
Leviticus 21:10-12, &c.
4. It is commanded that the best of the oil, and the best of
the wine and wheat, should be offered for the first-fruits unto
the Lord, which the priest were to have,
Note, We must always serve and honour God with the best we have, for he
is the best, and best deserves it; he is the first, and therefore must
have the first ripe. Those that think to save charges by putting God
off with the refuse do but deceive themselves, for God is not
5. All this is given to the priests by reason of the anointing,
It was not for the sake of their personal merits above other Israelites
that they had these tributes paid to them, be it known unto them; but
purely for the sake of the office to which they were anointed. Thus all
the comforts that are given to the Lord's people are given them by
reason of the anointing which they have received. It is said to be
given them by an ordinance for ever
and it is a covenant of salt for ever,
As long as the priesthood should continue this should continue to be
the maintenance of it, that this lamp might not go out for want of oil
to keep it burning. Thus provision is made that a gospel ministry
should continue till Christ comes, by an ordinance for ever. Lo, I
am with you (that is their maintenance and support) always, even
to the end of the world. Thanks be to the Redeemer, it is the word
which he has commanded to a thousand generations.
|The Priests and Levites Provided For.
||B. C. 1490.|
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
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.
22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the
tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.
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.
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.
25 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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.
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.
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
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.
30 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
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
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.
Here is a further account of the provision that was made both for the
Levites and for the priests, out of the country.
I. They must have no inheritance in the land; only cities to
dwell in were afterwards allowed them, but no ground to occupy: Thou
shalt not have any part among them,
It is repeated again
Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance,
either by purchase or descent. God would have them comfortably provided
for, but would not have their families over-rich, lest they should
think themselves above that work which their wages supposed and obliged
them constantly to attend upon. As Israel was a peculiar people, and
not to be numbered among the nations, so Levi was a peculiar tribe, and
not to be settled as the rest of the tribes, but in all respects
distinguished from them. A good reason is given why they must have
no inheritance in the land, for, says God, I am thy part, and
thy inheritance. Note, Those that have God for their inheritance
and their portion for ever ought to look with a holy contempt and
indifference upon the inheritances of this world, and not covet their
portion in it. "The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in
him, and not depend upon any thing I have on this earth,"
The Levites shall have no inheritance, and yet they shall live very
comfortably and plentifully--to teach us that Providence has various
ways of supporting those that live in a dependence upon it; the fowls
reap not, and yet are fed, the lilies spin not, and yet are clothed,
the Levites have no inheritance in Israel, and yet live better than any
other tribe. The repetition of that caution, that no Israelite
should approach the tabernacle, comes in suitable, though somewhat
It seems set in opposition to that order concerning the priests and
Levites that they should have no inheritance in Israel, to show
how God dispenses his favours variously. The Levites have the honour of
attending the tabernacle, which is denied the Israelites; but then the
Israelites have the honour of inheritances in Canaan, which is denied
the Levites; thus each is kept from either envying or despising the
other, and both have reason to rejoice in their lot. The Israelites
must not come nigh the tabernacle, but then the Levites must
have no inheritance in the land; if ministers expect that people
should keep in their sphere, and not intermeddle with sacred offices,
let them keep in theirs, and not entangle themselves in secular
II. But they must both have tithes of the land. Besides the
first-fruits which were appropriated to the priests, which, the Jews
say, were to be a fiftieth part, or at least a sixtieth, the tithe also
1. The Levites had the tithes of the people's increase
I have given (whose the whole is) all the tenths in
Israel, of all the productions of the land, to the children of
Levi, to be divided among them in just proportions, for their
service which they serve. The Levites were the smallest tribe of
the twelve, and yet, besides all other advantages, they had a tenth
part of the yearly profits, without the trouble and expense of
ploughing and sowing; such care did God take of those that were devoted
to his service; not only that they might be well maintained, but that
they might be honoured with a national acknowledgment of the good
services they did to the public, and owned as God's agents and
receivers; for that which was a heave-offering, or an offering lifted
heavenward unto the Lord, was by him consigned to the Levites.
2. The priests had the tenths of the Levites' tithes settled upon them.
The order for this Moses is directed to give to the Levites, whom God
would have to pay it with cheerfulness, rather than the priests to
demand it with authority: Speak to the Levites that it be
offered by them, rather than levied upon them. Now observe,
(1.) The Levites were to give God his dues out of their tithes, as well
as the Israelites out of their increase. They were God's tenants, and
rent was expected from them, nor were they exempted by their office.
Thus now, ministers must be charitable out of what they receive; and
the more freely they have received the more freely they must give, and
be examples of liberality. You shall offer a heave-offering to the
Those that are employed to assist the devotions of others must be sure
to pay their own, as a heave-offering to the Lord. Prayers and praises
lifted up to God, or rather the heart lifted up in them, are now our
heave-offerings. This (says God) shall be reckoned to you as though
it were the corn of the threshing-floor; that is, though it was not
the fruit of their ground, nor of their own labour, as the tithes of
other Israelites were, yet being of such as they had it should be
accepted, to the sanctifying of all the rest.
(2.) This was to be given to Aaron the priest
and to his successors the high priests, to be divided and disposed of
in such proportions as they should think fit among the inferior
priests. Most of the profits of the priests' office, which were
appointed in the former part of the chapter, arising from the
sacrifices, those priests had the benefit of who constantly attended at
the altar; but, forasmuch as there were many priests employed in the
country to teach and rule, those tithes taken by the Levites, it is
probable, were directed by the high priest for their maintenance. It is
the probable conjecture of the learned bishop Patrick that the tenth of
this last tenth was reserved for the high priest himself, to support
his state and dignity; for otherwise we read not of any peculiar
provision made for him.
(3.) When the Levites had thus paid the tenth of their income, as a
heave-offering to the Lord, they had themselves the comfortable
enjoyment of the other nine parts
"When you have thus heaved the best from it (for still God's
part must be the best) then you shall eat the rest, not as a
holy thing, but with the same freedom that the other Israelites eat
their part with, in every place, you and your households,"
See here what is the way to have the comfort of all our worldly
possessions so as to bear no sin by reason of them, as it follows,
[1.] We must be sure that what we have be got honestly and in the
service of God. It is your reward for your service; that meat is
the best eating that is first earned; but, if any will not work,
neither shall he eat,
2 Thessalonians 3:10.
And that seems to be spoken of as having a particular comfort and
satisfaction in it which is the reward of faithful service done in the
tabernacle of the congregation.
[2.] We must be sure that God has his dues out of it. Then we have the
comfort of our substance when we have honoured the Lord with it. The
you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have heaved
the best from it. This intimates that we must never feed ourselves
without fear, lest our table become a snare, and we bear sin by reason
of it; and that therefore we are concerned to give alms of such
things as we have, that all may be clean and comfortable to us.