In today’s blog post we are going to finish Numbers Chapter 18, which talks about the offerings and tithes for support of the priests and also the tithes of the Levites.
The Lord gave these further instructions to Aaron: “I have given the priests all the gifts which are brought to the Lord by the people; all these offerings presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving them before the altar belong to you and your sons, by permanent law. The grain offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings are yours, except for the sample presented to the Lord by burning upon the altar. All these are most holy offerings. They are to be eaten only in a most holy place, and only by males. All other gifts presented to me by the gesture of waving them before the altar are for you and your families, sons and daughters alike. For all the members of your families may eat these unless anyone is ceremonially impure at the time.
“Yours also are the first-of-the-harvest gifts the people bring as offerings to the Lord—the best of the olive oil, wine, grain, and every other crop. Your families may eat these unless they are ceremonially defiled at the time. So everything that is dedicated to the Lord shall be yours, including the firstborn sons of the people of Israel, and the firstborn of their animals. However, you may never accept the firstborn sons, nor the firstborn of any animals that I do not permit for food. Instead, there must be a payment of two and a half dollars made for each firstborn child. It is to be brought when he is one month old.
“However, the firstborn of cows, sheep, or goats may not be bought back; they must be sacrificed to the Lord. Their blood is to be sprinkled upon the altar, and their fat shall be burned as a fire offering; it is very pleasant to the Lord. The meat of these animals shall be yours, including the breast and right thigh that are presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar. Yes, I have given to you all of these ‘wave offerings’ brought by the people of Israel to the Lord; they are for you and your families as food; this is a permanent contract between the Lord and you and your descendants. Numbers 18:8-19 TLB
The Lord would sustain the priests through the sacrificial offerings of the people. When the people offered certain sacrifices, the priests could eat the proper portions of these offerings as their regular share. The male priests could partake of the grain, sin, and guilt offerings (see Lev. 2:1-16; 4:1-5:19). The priests could also eat the wave offerings as long as they were ceremonially clean.
When the people came and offered the first-fruits of their finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain, they also sustained the priests through these offerings. If Israel followed these precepts, the priests would always receive an adequate living and not have to resort to outside work to support their families.
In addition to the regular offerings, the priests also received support from those things the people devoted to the Lord or was otherwise under the “ban” (Lev. 27:28). All of the firstborn belonged to the priests, but the people must redeem every firstborn son and every unclean animal that could not be eaten.
However, ceremonially clean animals, such as an ox, a sheep or a goat, must not be redeemed since they would be sacrificed. These animals served as food for the priests and their families.
Tithes For Support Of The Levites
“You priests may own no property nor have any other income, for I am all that you need.
“As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, they shall be paid for their service with the tithes from the entire land of Israel.
“From now on, Israelites other than the priests and Levites shall not enter the sanctuary lest they be judged guilty and die. Only the Levites shall do the work there, and they shall be guilty if they fail. This is a permanent law among you, that the Levites shall own no property in Israel, for the people’s tithes, offered to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar, shall belong to the Levites; these are their inheritance, and so they have no need for property.” Numbers 18:20-24 TLB
The priests and Levites were forbidden from owning land. Accordingly, they received no allotment from Joshua when they entered the Promised Land. They did receive cities to live in, but no permanent land. The Lord Himself was their inheritance, and they were to serve him exclusively. The people tithed their produce and livestock to support the Levites. The Lord again warned the Levites not to get close to the Tent of Meeting, or they would die.
The Tithe Of The Levites
The Lord also said to Moses, “Tell the Levites to give to the Lord a tenth of the tithes they receive—a tithe of the tithe, to be presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar. The Lord will consider this as your first-of-the-harvest offering to him of grain and wine, as though it were from your own property. This tithe of the tithe shall be selected from the choicest part of the tithes you receive as the Lord’s portion, and shall be given to Aaron the priest. It shall be credited to you just as though it were from your own threshing floor and winepress. Aaron and his sons and their families may eat it in their homes or anywhere they wish, for it is their compensation for their service in the Tabernacle. You Levites will not be held guilty for accepting the Lord’s tithes if you then give the best tenth to the priests. But beware that you do not treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common, lest you die.” Numbers 18:25-32
Since the Levites received their support directly from the people, we might think that they did not tithe. But they did. They received their support from God and were not to forget that. They offered the finest portion of the people’s tithes as if they produced it themselves and gave it to Aaron and his sons.
The Lord works through legitimate lines of authority.
- Faith is not always based on experience.
- God’s purpose can be delayed but not destroyed
- Leaders will face opposition.
- Jealousy and pride have caused many people to disregard God’s leading rebel against leadership.
- God protects his anointed leaders.
- Leaders must learn the art of managing conflict.
- Rebellion against God’s leaders is actually rebellion against God.
Holman Old Testament Commentary