King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Numbers 18

The charge of the priests and Levites. (1-7) The priests’ portion. (8-19) The Levites’ portion. (20-32)

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The charge of the priests and Levites

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 of Israel.

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.

7 Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest’s office for everything 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 priests’ portion

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 their’s, every meat offering of their’s, and every sin offering of their’s, and every trespass offering of their’s 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 gerahs.

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.

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 Levites’ portion

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.

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 priest.

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 winepress.

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.

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Priesthood. If you transgress, or if you neglect to instruct and watch over those who are employed about the sanctuary, you shall be responsible for it. C. — You must resist those strangers who would intrude themselves into the office, which I have confirmed to you by miracles. M.

Ver. 2. Sceptre. Heb. shebet, denotes also “tribe, family,” &c. The princes of families probably bore a sceptre, as we find all magistrates did in the days of Homer. Iliad i. Æneid xii. C. — All the other children of Aaron’s father, were to be in the order of the Levites, among whom even Moses left his own family, though he was himself an extraordinary priest. H.

Ver. 4. Stranger; even born of a woman of the tribe of Levi. Maimonides.

Ver. 7. Priests. Heb. “you shall serve in the ministry of priests which I have given you.” The office was not due to them on account of any superior merit. H.

Ver. 8. Charge, as stewards or dispensers (C.) of what is offered to me; part of which I abandon to your use, as long as your republic shall subsist. M. — First-fruits, or “heave-offerings,” which comprised also the victims, first-born, &c. over which the high priest had a general inspection. — Office. Heb. “unction.” Sept. “as a reward,” or salary for your labour, in performing the duty of priest. C.

Ver. 9. And are. Heb. “This shall be thine, of the most holy things, from the fire.” Some parts of the victims for sin and of the libations were to be consumed, while the rest was given to the priests. These libations were not properly styled holy of holies, (which were to be eaten only in the holy place, by those who were in actual service) no more than the peace-offerings were, of which even women might partake, v. 11. 12. Lev. x. 14.

Ver. 11. House, perpetually. Hired servants were not admitted to eat of them. Lev. xxii. 10. C.

Ver. 12. The best, (medullam.) Lit. “the marrow.” H. — The fattest and most delicious. M.

Ver. 13. First-ripe, (initia.) “The beginnings” (H.) of the fruit of trees, in the fourth year. Lev. xix. 24. It may also comprise all the fruits of the earth. C. — First-fruits must be distinguished from tithes, which were only the tenth part. The former were offered immediately to the Lord, but the latter to the priests, &c. for their support. Besides the first-fruits of ears of corn at the Passover, and of bread at Pentecost, and at every weekly baking, first-fruits were to be given in the 7th month of the harvest and of the vintage, according to each person’s generosity, provided he gave between the 40th and the 60th part of his revenue; and these last are commonly the first-fruits meant in Scripture. — Lord, in sacrifice. If they were given to the priest, the unclean might partake of them. M.

Ver. 14. Vow. Heb. cherem, “anathema:” man, beast, or land might be thus consecrated to God, either for sacrifice, or for the benefit of his priests. Lev. xxvii. 28. H.

Ver. 15. Beast. The Rabbins restrain this to the ass alone, which they pretend was deemed the only unclean animal by the Israelites, in Egypt, when this law was established; and Moses indeed specifies it alone. Ex. xiii. 13. Abenezra. — But we cannot doubt but that camels, and all other unclean animals, were to be included, if the Hebrews kept them; (C.) and those which were rendered impure by some defect, were also to be redeemed. M.

Ver. 16. Of it; the first-born of man. The child might be redeemed sooner, and sometimes they waited till after the purification of the mother, or 40 days, as our blessed Lady did. Lu. ii. 22. C. — Five sicles of silver, or about 11s. 6d. Eng. were then to be paid, unless poverty obliged them to give only two turtles or pigeons. H. — Beasts might be redeemed after they were eight days old. Ex. xiii. 12. Leo of Modena, (p. 1. c. 9,) informs us, that when a child is to be redeemed, at present, the father sends for a descendant of Aaron, who, after enquiring of the mother, if she have had no child before; and of the father, if he wish to redeem the infant, says aloud, “This child, being the first-born, belongs to me; as it is said, (Num. xviii. 16,) Thou shalt redeem the child of a month old for five sicles. But I take this (about two crowns of gold) instead.” C. — But how can these priests prove their genealogy, since the distinction of the tribes has been so long lost? — Of silver. Heb. “according to thy estimation, for the money of five sicles, by the sicle of the sanctuary, which hath 20 geras.” H.

Ver. 18. Thine. So that thy wife and children, if clean, may eat the flesh. C.

Ver. 19. A covenant of salt. It is a proverbial expression, signifying a covenant not to be altered or corrupted; as salt is used to keep things from corruption; a covenant perpetual, like that by which it was appointed that salt should be used in every sacrifice. Levit. ii. 3. Ch. — Thus God gave the kingdom to David for ever, by a covenant of salt, 2 Par. xiii. 5. Salt is an emblem of eternity. Oleaster believes, that salt was used in the ratification of all solemn covenants, to denote their stability. C.

Ver. 20. Nothing. No portion of land, like the other tribes; but only some towns and suburbs, allotted to thy children in the midst of the Israelites. They might purchase land as well as others, and might obtain a property by the vows of their brethren. Lev. xxvii. 14. Jeremias (xxxii. 7) and S. Barnaby had land. Acts. iv. 37. God had provided for his ministers abundantly, without exposing them to much trouble. The Levites enjoyed the tithes of all the produce of the country, besides the first-fruits of corn, dough, &c. and some parts of each beast that was killed in the town. Deut. xviii. 3. The priests, who were still fewer in number, enjoyed the 100th part of the revenue of all Israel, receiving tithes from the Levites, and innumerable accidental offerings of wine, &c. which made Philo say (de præm. Sacerd.) that “the law of Moses gave the priests all the splendour of kings.” They might, therefore, be zealous to preserve religion for their own temporal advantages. — I am, &c. God promises to reward those who serve him with fidelity. Deut. xviii. 1. Jos. xiii. 14. The priests of the new law ought more particularly to serve him with disinterestedness, for his own sake. C. — Of this they are reminded, when they take the first step towards holy orders. The bishop cuts off some of their hair in the form of a cross, while they recite, The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup: it is Thou that will restore my inheritance to me. Ps. xv. 5. Pontif. Rom. H. — “Some possess riches, while they serve Christ, who appeared in the garb of poverty.” S. Jerom ad Nepot.

Ver. 22. Deadly sin. That is, sin which will bring death after it. Ch. — Heb. “lest they bear sin unto death,” and fall like their brethren. C. xvii. 13. H.

Ver. 23. People; or the Heb. may be also “they shall bear their own iniquity.” If they prove negligent in performing their duty they shall be punished; and if they do not restrain the people from approaching the tabernacle, they shall be answerable for their offence, and both shall incur death. C. — They shall, however, save their own souls, if they have not been deficient in instructing the people, and in doing their utmost to prevent any profanation. H.

Ver. 27. As an. Thus you will perform your duty, as well as if you gave corn and wine of your own growth. M. — Presses. Heb. yakeb, means also the tub where wine was kept. Jonathan translates, “as the ripe (old) wine of the tub of your wine-press;” insinuating that the wine must be fit for use. C. v. 29. 30.

Ver. 32. By, &c. Heb. “when you have made a heave-offering of the best of it; nor shall you profane the holy things of,” &c. H. — This they would do, if they gave the worst only to the priests. D. — There were only three at this time; yet they received the 100th part of the produce of so many thousands. Well therefore might God say, I will fill the souls of the priests with fatness: and my people shall be filled with good things. Jer. xxxi. 14. T.