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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 18

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



God showing to Aaron, his sons, and the Levites their office, Numbers 18:1-7; appointeth to Aaron and his sons their maintenance, Numbers 18:8-20; and also to the Levites, Numbers 18:21-24.

He commandeth them by Moses to give tenths of their tenths to the chief priests, Numbers 18:25-32.

Verse 1

The iniquity of the sanctuary, i.e. shall suffer the punishment of all the usurpations or pollutions of the sanctuary, or the holy things, by the Levites or any of the people, because you have authority and power from me to keep them all within their bounds, and I expect you use it to that cud. Thus the people are in good measure secured against their fears expressed Numbers 17:12,Numbers 17:13. Also they are informed that Aaron’s high dignity was attended with great burdens, having not only his own, but the people’s sins to answer for; and therefore they had no such reason to envy him as they might think, if the benefits and encumbrances and dangers were equally considered.

Of your priesthood, i.e. of all the errors committed by yourselves, or by you permitted in others in things belonging to your priesthood.

Verse 2

Minister unto thee, about sacrifices and offerings and other things, according to the rules and limits I have prescribed them. The Levites are said to minister to Aaron here, to the church, Numbers 16:9, and to God, Deuteronomy 10:8. They shall not contend with thee for superiority, as they have done, but they shall be subordinate and servants to thee.

Thou and thy sons with thee, or, both to thee, and to thy sons with thee; which translation may seem to be favoured by the following words,

before the tabernacle, which was the proper place where the Levites ministered, whereas the priests did minister to God both before and in the tabernacle. Besides, both the foregoing words, and the two following verses, do entirely speak of the ministry of the Levites, and the ministry of the priests is distinctly spoken of Numbers 18:5.

Verse 3

Thy charge, i.e. that which thou shalt command them and commit unto them.

Of all the tabernacle, i.e. of the boards and hangings and utensils of the tabernacle, to take them down, and carry them, and set them up again.

The vessels, which therefore were to be covered by the priests before the Levites might meddle with them.

They, nor ye, they for presuming to touch them, and you for your negligence in not covering them well, or not looking to them.

Verse 5

Of the sanctuary, i.e. of the holy, and of the most holy, place.

Upon the children of Israel, for coming too near the holy place, or for usurping any part of your sacred function, or for any other miscarriage which they may be guilty of through your carelessness or remissness, in which case they shall perish for their error, but their blood will I require at your hands, who should have advised them better, or overruled them.

Verse 6

For the Lord, i.e. for the service of the Lord, to assist you therein, in the servile and troublesome parts of it.

Verse 7

The altar, to wit, of burnt-offering, as appears from the following words.

Within the veil. This phrase elsewhere signifies the inward or second veil, but here it signifies either the outward veil only, or rather both the veils, the singular number being put for the plural, as when the altar is put for both the altars, as hath been noted; and so this phrase comprehends both the holy and the most holy place.

As a service of gift; as a gift which I have freely conferred upon you, and upon you alone; and therefore let no man henceforth dare either to charge you with arrogance and usurpation in appropriating this to yourselves, or to invade your office.

Verse 8

Unto thee have I given them; not only the charge of them, but the use of them for thyself and family, in such manner as I have elsewhere expressed.

The anointing, to wit, to the priestly office, i.e. because thou art priest, and art to devote thyself wholly to my service; which, that thou mayst perform more diligently and cheerfully, I give thee this recompence.

Verse 9

The most holy things; such as were to be eaten only by the priests, and that in the sanctuary. How these differ from the holy things, see on Leviticus 6:17.

Reserved from the fire, i.e. such sacrifices or such parts of sacrifices as were not burnt in the fire.

Every oblation; which may be understood either,

1. Of the wave-loaves, Leviticus 23:17, and the shew-bread, which were most holy things, Leviticus 23:20; Leviticus 24:9, and which did belong to the priest; nor was there any other such oblation besides what is here particularly expressed; for the peace-offerings were not most holy, and the burnt-offerings were not the priest’s. Or,

2. Of oblations in general; and so the following particulars are mentioned by way of explication and restriction of that general word, to show what oblations are here meant, and to exclude peace-offerings and burnt-offerings.

Which they shalt render unto me, by way of compensation for a trespass committed against me, in which case a ram was to be offered, Leviticus 6:2,Leviticus 6:6, which was a most holy thing, and may be particularly designed here.

Shall be most holy; thou shalt esteem it a most holy thing, and shalt use it accordingly, in manner following. Or, these are most holy, and therefore shall be

for thee, and for thy sons, to wit, exclusively, none else may eat them.

Verse 10

In the most holy place, to wit, in the court of the priests, where there were places for this use; see Leviticus 6:16,Leviticus 6:17,Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 7:6; Leviticus 8:31; Leviticus 14:13; Nehemiah 13:5,Nehemiah 13:9; Ezekiel 42:13; which is called the most holy place, not simply and absolutely, as the place within the veil was, but in respect of the thing he speaks of, because this was the most holy of all the places appointed for caring of holy things, whereof some might be catch in any clean place in the camp, Leviticus 10:14, or in their own houses. And as the most holy place is sometimes called simply holy, so it is not strange if a holy place be called most holy, especially this place which was near to the altar of burnt-offerings, which is called most holy, and made all that touched it holy, Exodus 29:37. And God would have these things eaten by them in a holy place, as in God’s presence, that they might be obliged to the greater caution, and not to abuse God’s good creatures, and especially holy things, to intemperance; and that they might learn to eat this and their other food with thankfulness to God the giver of it, and with respect to his service and glory, which was afterward prescribed to Christians, 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 4:3.

Every male, and they only; whereas of peace-offerings the females might eat their share, Deuteronomy 12:18.

Verse 11

The heave-offering, i.e. the right shoulder, which was the priest’s.

Of their gift, to wit, of their peace-offerings, as may appear, because here is an enumeration of all that belonged to the priest in the several oblations, and therefore it is not likely that he would omit the peace-offerings, wherein the priest had a share, and the very share here spoken of and called a heave-offering, which was the right shoulder, Leviticus 7:32, which also might be eaten by the daughters, Leviticus 7:34; Leviticus 10:14, as is here said. See Numbers 6:17, &c. The wave-offerings, to wit, the breasts of the peace-offerings, which were waved Leviticus 7:30,Leviticus 7:31,Leviticus 7:34.

With thee, i.e. who are with thee in thy house; for if they were married to strangers, they might not eat of them, Leviticus 22:12,Leviticus 22:13.

In thy house, to wit, as fixed members of thy house, though they be bond-slaves; for strangers and hired servants were excepted, Leviticus 22:10,Leviticus 22:11.

Verse 12

The best, Heb. the fat for the best: the fat of wheat is the best of it, Deuteronomy 32:14; Psalms 81:16; Psalms 147:14.

The first-fruits of them; as well those which were offered in the name and behalf of the body of the people at the solemn feasts, Leviticus 23:10,Leviticus 23:17, as those which were required of particular persons, Exodus 22:29; Exodus 23:19; whereof the precise quantity is not determined, but left free to the giver, as an exercise for his piety and charity, only they are enjoined to give the first and the best of them.

Verse 13

i.e. Not only the first-fruits of the oil, and wine, and wheat now mentioned, but all other first-fruits of all other grains, and all fruit-trees, &c.

Every one that is clean; and none else, because these were first offered to God, and by consequent given to the priests; but for those which were directly and immediately given to the priests, the clean and unclean might eat of them.

Verse 14

Dedicated to God by vow or otherwise, provided it be such a thing as might be catch or consumed by use; for the vessels or treasures of gold and silver which were devoted or dedicated by Joshua, David, or others, were not the priests’ but were appropriated to the uses of the temple.

Verse 15

Whether it be of men, which were offered to God in his temple, Exodus 13:12; Luke 2:22, and to his service and disposal.

Verse 16

Those that are to be redeemed, to wit, of men only, not of unclean beasts last mentioned, as is manifest from the time and price of redemption here mentioned, both which agree to men; the time, Numbers 18:16; the price, Numbers 3:46,Numbers 3:47; but neither agree to unclean beasts, which were to be redeemed with a sheep, Exodus 13:13, and that after it was eight days old.

According to thine estimation: this belongs either,

1. To the foregoing clause, to this purpose, that whereas women newly delivered of a child continued in their uncleanness either a longer or shorter time, according to the quality of the birth, as it was male or female, Leviticus 12:4,Leviticus 12:5, and the temper of the mother, the priest was to take that time when he judged the mother to be clean, that so the mother might be purified and the child redeemed at the same time. Or rather,

2. To the following clause, to wit, the price which was to be paid, as appears by comparing this place with Leviticus 27:2,Leviticus 27:3. And both there and here it is said to be done according to the priest’s estimation, though a certain rule be added to guide his estimation, and a certain price set, because the priest was to apply that general rule to each person, and to put that price upon him.

Verse 17

They are holy, to wit, in a peculiar manner, and higher degree than other beasts, consecrated to a holy use, even to be sacrificed unto God, and not to be redeemed nor alienated to any other use. Compare Deuteronomy 15:19.

Verse 18

The flesh; all the flesh of them, and not only some parts, as in other sacrifices.

Verse 19

A covenant of salt, i.e. a durable and perpetual covenant; so called here and 2 Chronicles 13:5, either because salt is a sign of incorruption, as being of singular use to preserve things from corruption; or because it is confirmed and ratified on their part by salt, which is therefore called

the salt of the covenant, for which the priests were obliged to take care that it should never be lacking from any meat-offering, Leviticus 2:13. And this promise or privilege conferred upon the priests is called a

covenant because it is given them conditionally, upon condition of their service, and care about the worship of God, and sacrifices, which were commonly accompanied with meat-offerings, and therefore with salt.

Verse 20

In their land, i.e. in the land of the children of Israel, mentioned Numbers 18:13. You shall not have a distinct and separate portion of land, as the other tribes shall. The reason of this law was, partly, because God would have them wholly devoted to and employed in his service, and therefore; free from worldly encumbrances and businesses; partly, because God had abundantly provided for them otherwise by tithes and first-fruits and oblations of all sorts; partly, because God would have their worldly comfort and happiness depend singly upon him and his service, and so would; oblige them to use more zeal and diligence in the advancement of piety, even for their own interest, which was either better or worse as true religion flourished or decayed; see Judges 17:9,Judges 17:10; Judges 19:18; 2 Chronicles 13:0:; 2 Chronicles 30:22; 2 Chronicles 31:4; partly, that this might be a firm bond of hearty love and affection between the people and their teachers, the Levites, who, as they performed religious services for the people, so they received their subsistence from them; and partly, that by this means being dispersed among the several tribes, they might have the better opportunity for teaching and watching over the people, which was their duty, Deuteronomy 33:10; 2 Chronicles 30:22; Malachi 2:4-7.

I am thy part, i.e. I have appointed thee a liberal maintenance out of my oblations.

Verse 21

For the tithes were all given to the Levites, and out of their tithes the tenth was given to the priests, here Numbers 18:26, & C, and Nehemiah 10:37,Nehemiah 10:38.

Verse 22

i.e. So nigh as to do any act proper to the priests or Levites.

Verse 23

Their iniquity, i.e. the punishment due not only for their own, but also for the people’s miscarriage, if it be committed through their connivance or negligence. And this was the reason why the priests withstood king Uzziah, when he would have burnt incense to the Lord, 2 Chronicles 26:17,2 Chronicles 26:18.

Verse 24

As an heave-offering unto the Lord, i.e. as a rent charge or an acknowledgment that they have and hold all their lands, and the fruits of it, from God’s bounty. Note that the word

heave-offering, which is for the most part understood of a particular kind of offerings heaved or lifted up to the Lord, is here used for any offering in general, as before, Numbers 18:8.

Verse 27

It shall be accepted of you as much as if you offered it out of your own lands and labours.

Verse 28

And to his children, which were one with him, and were all to have their share herein.

Verse 29

Out of all your gifts; not only out of your tithes, but out of the other gifts which you receive from the people, and out of those fields which shall belong to your cities.

Ye shall offer, to wit, to the priest.

Every heave-offering, i.e. as many gifts, so many heave-offerings; you shall reserve a part out of each of them for the priest.

The hallowed part thereof: this may describe either,

1. The nature and proportion of this offering, and so peradventure he means the tenth part, which was the part or proportion that God hallowed or sanctified to himself as his proper portion, both here and elsewhere; or,

2. The reason or ground of this offering, because it is a thing hallowed or appropriated by God to himself, and given by him to the priest, and because the payment of this due doth hallow all the rest, so as they may use it with comfort and good conscience, as it follows, Numbers 18:31,Numbers 18:32.

Verse 31

In every place, i.e. in every clean place, and not in the holy place only.

Verse 32

The best of it; implying, that if they neglected this duty, they sinned in the use of such unhallowed food.

Neither shall ye pollute the holy things, as you will do, if you abuse their holy offerings, by reserving that entirely to yourselves which they offer to God to be disposed as he hath appointed, to wit, part to you, and part to the priests.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 18". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/numbers-18.html. 1685.
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