Numbers 18

Duties of Priests and Levites

1 The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood.
2 Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law.
3 They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar. Otherwise both they and you will die.
4 They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting—all the work at the tent—and no one else may come near where you are.
5 “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.
6 I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the tent of meeting.
7 But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

Offerings for Priests and Levites

8 Then the LORD said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share.
9 You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin[a] or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons.
10 Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy.
11 “This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.
12 “I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest.
13 All the land’s firstfruits that they bring to the LORD will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.
14 “Everything in Israel that is devoted[b] to the LORD is yours.
15 The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the LORD is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals.
16 When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels[c] of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.
17 “But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
18 Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours.
19 Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.”
20 The LORD said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.
21 “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.
22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the tent of meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die.
23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites.
24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’ ”
25 The LORD said to Moses,
26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering.
27 Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress.
28 In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD’s portion to Aaron the priest.
29 You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’
30 “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.
31 You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the tent of meeting.
32 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.’ ”

Numbers 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

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

Verses 1-7 The people complained of their difficulty and peril in drawing near to God. God here gives them to understand, that the priests should come near for them. Aaron would see reason not to be proud of his preferment, when he considered the great care and charge upon him. Be not high-minded, but fear. The greater the trust of work and power that is committed to us, the greater danger there is of betraying that trust. This is a good reason why we should neither envy others' honours, nor desire high places.

Verses 8-19 All believers are spiritual priests, and God has promised to take care of them. Godliness has the promise of the life that now is. And from the provision here made for the priests, the apostle shows that it is the duty of christian churches to maintain their ministers. Scandalous maintenance makes scandalous ministers. The priests were to be wholly devoted to their ministry, not diverted from it, or disturbed in it, by worldly care or business. Also, that they might be examples of living by faith, not only in God's providence, but in his ordinances. The best should be offered for the first-fruits unto the Lord. Those who think to save, by putting God off with the refuse, deceive themselves, for God is not mocked.

Verses 20-32 As Israel was a people not to be numbered among the nations, so Levi was a tribe to be distinguished from the rest. Those who have God for their Inheritance and their Portion for ever, ought to look with holy contempt and indifference upon the possessions of this world. The Levites were to give God his dues out of their tithes, as well as the Israelites out of their increase. See, in ver. ( 31 ) , the way to have comfort in all our worldly possessions, so as to bear no sin by reason of them. 1. We must be sure that what we have is got honestly and in the service of God. That meat is best eaten which is first earned; ( 2 Thessalonians. 3:10 ) We must be sure that God has his dues out of it. We have the comfort of our substance, when we have honoured the Lord with it. Ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved the best from it. We should give alms of such things as we have, that all may be holy and comfortable to us.

Cross References 67

  • 1. S Exodus 28:38
  • 2. Numbers 3:10
  • 3. S Numbers 3:32
  • 4. Numbers 1:51
  • 5. ver 7; Numbers 4:15
  • 6. S Numbers 3:38
  • 7. ver 3; Leviticus 6:12; Numbers 16:46
  • 8. S Numbers 3:9
  • 9. Numbers 3:8
  • 10. Hebrews 9:3,6
  • 11. ver 20; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 40:13; Hebrews 5:4
  • 12. ver 3; Numbers 3:10
  • 13. S Leviticus 2:2
  • 14. Leviticus 6:16; Leviticus 7:6,31-34,36; Deuteronomy 18:1; 2 Chronicles 31:4
  • 15. S Leviticus 6:17
  • 16. Leviticus 2:1
  • 17. Leviticus 6:25
  • 18. S Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 7:7
  • 19. S Leviticus 6:16
  • 20. Leviticus 6:17,18
  • 21. Exodus 29:26; Leviticus 7:30; Numbers 6:20
  • 22. Leviticus 7:31-34
  • 23. Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 22:1-16
  • 24. Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 28:51; 2 Kings 18:32; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:37; Jeremiah 31:12; Ezekiel 23:41; Hosea 2:8; Joel 1:10; Haggai 1:11
  • 25. S Genesis 4:3
  • 26. Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Nehemiah 10:35
  • 27. S Exodus 29:27; Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:19
  • 28. ver 11
  • 29. S Leviticus 27:21; Joshua 6:17-19; Leviticus 27:28
  • 30. Exodus 13:2
  • 31. S Numbers 3:46
  • 32. S Genesis 10:15
  • 33. S Exodus 13:13
  • 34. S Numbers 3:15
  • 35. S Leviticus 27:6
  • 36. S Exodus 30:13
  • 37. Numbers 3:47
  • 38. S Leviticus 27:9; Deuteronomy 15:19
  • 39. S Leviticus 3:2
  • 40. S Exodus 29:13
  • 41. S Leviticus 1:9
  • 42. Leviticus 7:30
  • 43. ver 11
  • 44. 2 Kings 12:4
  • 45. S Leviticus 2:13; 2 Chronicles 13:5
  • 46. Numbers 26:62; Deuteronomy 12:12
  • 47. ver 24; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 18:1-2; Joshua 13:33; Ezekiel 44:28
  • 48. ver 24; S Genesis 28:22; Numbers 31:28; Deuteronomy 14:22; Nehemiah 10:37; Nehemiah 13:5; Malachi 3:8
  • 49. Leviticus 27:30-33; Hebrews 7:5
  • 50. Numbers 1:53
  • 51. S Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 22:9; Numbers 1:51
  • 52. S Exodus 12:14; S Exodus 27:21
  • 53. Numbers 10:8
  • 54. ver 20; Numbers 26:62; Deuteronomy 10:9
  • 55. Ezekiel 44:10
  • 56. Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 26:12
  • 57. ver 21
  • 58. ver 28; Nehemiah 10:38
  • 59. Leviticus 7:18
  • 60. Genesis 50:10; Deuteronomy 15:14; Judges 6:37; Ru 3:3,6,14; 1 Samuel 23:1
  • 61. ver 12,30
  • 62. Malachi 3:8
  • 63. S ver 27
  • 64. ver 23
  • 65. Leviticus 22:15
  • 66. ver 29
  • 67. S Leviticus 19:8

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Or "purification"
  • [b]. The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord.
  • [c]. That is, about 2 ounces or about 58 grams

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of the distinct work and service of the priests and Levites, Nu 18:1-7; and of several things given to the priests for their maintenance, Nu 18:8-19; and of the tithes the Levites should have to live upon, since they were to have no inheritance in the land of Israel, Nu 18:20-24; and of the tenth out of those tithes they were to give to the high priest, Nu 18:25-32.

Numbers 18 Commentaries