Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Numbers 18

Numbers 18: Duties and offerings for Levites and Priests

Synopsis

In this chapter, we take a break from the “action,” and go into a few more rules and regulations for the Levites and Priests.

First, God gives Aaron (and his descendants) some instructions regarding the care of the Tabernacle—specifically, what should be done by the Levites, vs. Aaron and his sons.

  • Offences against the priesthood and the sanctuary were to be borne by Aaron and his sons. It’s actually worded a bit differently, for offenses against the priesthood vs. offences against the sancutary:

    The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your father’s family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood.” (verse 1, emphasis added)
  • The Levites were to assist Aaron and his sons in ministering before the Tent of the Testimony. The Levites would be reporting to Aaron and his sons, and were not to go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both the Levites and Aaron and his sons would die. They were also to care for the Tent itself.
  • Noone else, other than Aaron’s family and the Levites, were to come near the Tent.
  • The LORD also specifies that He has given the work of the Tent of Meeting to Aaron and his sons as a gift. In addition, He has given the service of the Levites to Aaron’s family as a gift.
  • These rules are laid out so that the LORD’s wrath would not fall on the Israelites again.

I think these rules are rehashes of things the LORD has already told them. When He says that these rules are given so that His wrath will not fall on the Israelites “again,” He is probably referring to all of the rebellion we’ve been reading about in Chapter 17 and Chapter 16.

Next, the LORD outlines what portions of His offerings were to be given to Aaron and his family.

  • All of the holy offerings presented to the LORD were to belong to Aaron and his sons; they were to have the part of the offering that was “kept from the fire” (verse 9). They were to regard it—and eat it—as something holy. This part of the offering was for the males in Aaron’s family.
  • Anyone in Aaron’s family who was ceremonially clean was also to receive anything that was “set aside” (verse 11) from the wave offerings.
  • As well, anyone in Aaron’s family who was ceremonially clean were to receive the firstfruits of the harvest—“the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give to the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest” (verse 12).
  • The firstborn of “every womb, both man and animal” (verse 15) was to belong to Aaron and his sons. But Israelite children and firstborn unclean animals were to be redeemed.
    • They were to be redeemed for 55 grams of silver, when they were a month old.
    • Oxen, sheep, and goats were not to be redeemed, they were to be sacrificed. The blood was to be sprinkled on the altar, and the fat burned, but the meat would belong to Aaron’s family.

Again, I believe this has all been covered in previous chapters (or in the book of Exodus).

Next, details are given about inheritance, for Aaron’s family and for the Levites.

  • Aaron and his descendants would have no inheritance in the land, for the LORD was their inheritance.
  • In return for their work at the Tent of Meeting, the Levites would receive all of the tithes in Israel as their inheritance. (As an aside, it is reiterated in verse 22 that the Israelites were not to go near the Tent of Meeting from this point forward, or they would bear the consequences of their sin and die. Only the Levites were to go near the Tent of Meeting.) Just as with Aaron’s family, the Levites would have no inheritance of their own; they’d be dependent on the Israelites’ tithes.
  • When the Levites received their tithes, they were to give a tenth of that tithe as an offering to the LORD. This would be accepted on their behalf as if it were their own grain from their own threshing floors, or their own wine from their own winepresses.
    • Just as with the other Israelites, the Levites were to give the best of what they had to the LORD. This is further reiterated in verses 30–32:

      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.”
    • The portion that the Levites gave were to go to Aaron’s family.

Thoughts

In some cases, in the rules above, the LORD specifically talks about what was applicable to the Levites, vs. what was applicable to Aaron’s family, but in other cases, it’s not specified. In the cases where it is not specified, I’m not sure what the situation would be for the Levites.
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