Chapter 18 is closely linked to the last two verses of the preceding chapter. To ally the fears of the people, the Lord repeated the instructions about service at the tabernacle. If these instructions were obeyed, there need be no fear of His wrath.
The Lord Again Established The Primary Duties Of The Levites
The Lord now spoke to Aaron: “You and your sons and your family are responsible for any desecration of the sanctuary,” he said, “and will be held liable for any impropriety in your priestly work.
“Your kinsmen, the tribe of Levi, are your assistants; but only you and your sons may perform the sacred duties in the Tabernacle itself. The Levites must be careful not to touch any of the sacred articles or the altar, lest I destroy both them and you. No one who is not a member of the tribe of Levi shall assist you in any way. Remember, only the priests are to perform the sacred duties within the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the wrath of God will never again fall upon any of the people of Israel for violating this law. I say it again—your kinsmen the Levites are your assistants for the work of the Tabernacle. They are a gift to you from the Lord. But you and your sons, the priests, shall personally handle all the sacred service, including the altar and all that is within the veil, for the priesthood is your special gift of service. Anyone else who attempts to perform these duties shall die.” Numbers 18:1-7 TLB
God spoke expressly to Aaron (Num. 18:1, 8, 20) and thereby elevated his high priestly ministry even more. The Lord made it clear that it was the responsibility of the priests to minister in the tabernacle and protect it from defilement, and it was the duty of the Levites to assist the priests in their tabernacle ministry. As long as the priests and Levites obeyed this rule, there would be no judgment sent to the people (v. 5).
The priestly ministry was a serious matter, for if the priests didn’t follow God’s instructions, they might die. If they permitted an unauthorized person to come near the tabernacle or to minister there, God could slay them. It was dangerous to disobey even in the matter of how they dressed (Ex. 28:35, 42-43) or if they washed regularly (30:17-21). God held Aaron and his sons responsible for offenses committed against the sanctuary and the priesthood.
The priesthood was God’s gift to Israel, for without priests the people couldn’t approach God. The Levites were God’s gift to the priests, relieving them of menial tasks so they could devote themselves entirely to serving God and the people. The seven men appointed in Acts 6, usually called deacons, had a similar relationship to the apostles. Nothing is demeaning about serving tables, but the apostles had more important work to do.
Everything rises or falls on leadership, and Aaron was the leader of the priestly family. He was accountable to God for what happened at the sanctuary. God doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48), but He does dwell in our bodies by His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and among His people in the local assembly (3:16). We must be careful how we treat our bodies and what we do to the church of Jesus Christ.
“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (v. 17, niv).
Believers Bible Commentary
Bible Exposition Commentary – Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Counted (Numbers)