Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Oblations. Hebrew “they shall eat the holocausts of the Lord and his inheritances.” The priests shall have the parts of the sacrifices for peace allotted to them, &c., tithes shall be given to support the Levites. (Haydock) — These parts are what God claims from the people, as their Sovereign, (Calmet) and these he assigns to his ministers. Septuagint, “The fruits of the Lord are their inheritance, they shall eat them.” (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Due, (judicium.) Moses only mentions a part, having explained the rest, Exodus xxix. 27., Leviticus vii. 32. — Breast, (ventriculum.) In the other places pectusculum occurs. Hebrew, “the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw, or caul,” called in Latin omasum, being the last and fattest of the four ventricles, and highly esteemed by the ancients. The cheeks or chaps are specified no where else; so that some think Moses here supplies what he had left imperfect, assigning to the priests the cheeks and the tongue. Jansenius supposes that this is only a part of the breast, which appears to have two cheeks when the shoulders are cut off. But Moses here probably speaks not of the peace-offerings, but of the beasts which were killed by the Israelites at home for their own uses, &c., (Clerc) as Philo explains it, (de præm.) and Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 4) only specifies the right shoulder and the breast, which were given to the priests on these occasions. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “the shoulder, the cheeks, and the last ventricle.” The victims were not, therefore, of a sacred nature; as they were only sacrificed, inasmuch as the blood was to be offered to the Lord. (Haydock) See Genesis xliii. 16.
Ver. 4. Corn, besides those which were offered to the Lord at the feast of Pentecost. Each landholder was bound to give between the 40th and the 60th part of his produce. (St. Jerome) See Exodus xxii. 29.
Ver. 5. Stand. This was the usual posture of the priests ministering in the temple, as well as of people praying. — Minister. Samaritan and Septuagint add, “and to bless in,” &c.
Ver. 6. Levite. In the days of Moses, all the Levites probably assisted in the service of the tabernacle, when they thought proper. But, after they should be dispersed, he encourages them to come willingly. David afterwards divided the priests and the Levites into classes, which were obliged to serve in their turns, 1 Paralipomenon xxiii., &c. Though he derogated from the words of the law, he followed the spirit of the injunction, which was intended to promote the great glory and decency of religion; and even after this regulation, (Calmet) those who desired, like Samuel, (Menochius) to consecrate their labours to the Lord for life, or for a long time, were in all probability entitled to the privileges here granted. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Portion. Whence this was taken, whether from the tithes in general, or from the treasury of the temple, or from the revenue of the high priest, &c., does not appear. (Calmet) — Fathers. The Levites might possess houses, suburbs, and cattle. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “besides that which ariseth from the sale of his patrimony.” (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Fire. This impiety is not punished with death, (Leviticus xviii. 21,) as the burning of children was, Leviticus xx. 2. (Grotius) — It was done in imitation of the latter, and became more common, as it was less cruel; the person who was thus expiated, being to pass between or to jump over fire. The council of Trullo (canon 65,) was forced to condemn this remnant of an abominable superstition. But the other inhuman worship of Moloc, and of other pagan divinities, was certainly very common, and chiefly brought down destruction upon the people of Chanaan. See Jeremias xix. 5., Ezechiel xxiii. 37., Psalm cv. 37., and 4 Kings xvii. 31. Ennius says, Pæni sunt soliti suos sacrificare puellos. See St. Augustine, City of God vii. 17.; St. Jerome in Jeremias vii. 31. (Calmet) — Soothsayers. The original term may also signify, “that useth divination.” Both those who set up for diviners, and those who consult them, are condemned. (Haydock) — Hiscuni explains it of a superstitious practice, by which a person measured a stick with his finger, saying first I will go; and then I will not; and if, when he came to the end of the stick, he had to say I will go, he determined to begin his journey. See Ezechial xxi. 21. — Dreams. Hebrew mehonen, (Leviticus xix. 26,) may denote one who judges from the sight of the clouds, or feigns revelations. — Wizard. Hebrew, “witch.” Septuagint, “poisoner,” or one who gives things to do harm. (Rabbins)
Ver. 11. Charmer of serpents, Psalm lvii. 6. One who makes a compact with the devil. — Spirits. Python was the name of the serpent, which Apollo slew. It might be derived from the Hebrew patah, “to seduce,” because a serpent seduced Eve, and dealers with the devil generally deceive those who consult them. Septuagint, “a belly talker,” as these impostors muttered some sounds, intimating that a spirit gave answers from their belly, See Isaias xxix. 4. — Tellers. Hebrew, “wise men.” (Haydock) — Those who promise great knowledge from the secrets of the caballa, or magic. — Dead. Necromancy was already very common. Thus the witch of Endor made the ghost of Samuel appear to Saul, 1 Kings xxviii. 7. The Rabbins say that the person took a bone, or the skull of the dead, when he intended to enquire into futurity. (Drusius)
Ver. 13. And without spot. This is by way of explication of the word perfect. Any mixture of superstition in the worship of God is hateful to him; and that man who acknowledges any other spirit capable of foretelling what will come to pass, freely (Haydock) denies the Lord. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. God, who has already informed thee how to proceed in difficult emergencies, (chap. xvii. 8,) by having recourse to the council of priests, and will also, after any death, send in due time a succession of true prophets. Hebrew, “God hath not suffered thee” to imitate those nations; (Haydock) or those prophets, whom the Lord thy God will give thee, shall not resemble these (Calmet) soothsayers (or observers of times) and diviners. (Haydock) — They shall be filled with my spirit. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Prophet. This passage plainly proves, that the Scripture may have many literal senses: for the context insinuates that God would supply the wants of his people, so that they should not need to go far in order to consult diviners, since they should have leaders and prophets, after the death of Moses, who might explain to them God’s will, as they had desired; but at the same time, it clearly refers to the Messias, as it is explained by St. Peter, (Acts iii. 22.; Worthington) and by St. Stephen, Acts vii. 37. The Jews, at that time, were convinced of the truth of this application: but they only denied that Christ was the Messias. They have since gone a step farther, and deny that it regards the Messias, some referring it to Josue, others to Jeremias, &c. (Ap. Munster and Fag.) But surely what other prophet could be compared with Moses? (Chap. xxxiv. 10.) What other man reunited in his person the qualifications of lawgiver, chief of God’s people, mediator, &c., or who was like him? Hence prophet is written in the singular, to denote his eminent dignity. (St. Augustine, contra Faustus) — St. Philip recognized the claim of Jesus, as did the people after the multiplication of bread, John i. 45., and vi. 14. God the Father seems to allude to this passage, according to the remark of Tertullian, (contra Mar. iv. 22,) when he says hear ye him, (Luke ix. 35,) as St. Cyprian believes our Saviour does also, John v. 46. St. Athanasius (contra Arianos 2) condemns the error of the Jews, who would apply this passage to any other prophet but to the Messias. If they could be excused for denying him this latter claim, they surely cannot in calling in question that Jesus was a true prophet, since he has all the marks of one; (Grotius) and if they would once acknowledge this, they must soon confess that he is also the Messias, and the Son of God, as these truths are so necessarily connected. (Calmet) — The miracles of Moses were far exceeded by those of Jesus Christ, and the latter conversed more intimately with his eternal Father, &c. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Die. This promise is not recorded, Exodus xx. 19. God will send you a mediator, who shall hide the splendour of his divinity (Calmet) under the form of a servant, Philippians ii. 7. (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Mouth. So Christ says, The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself, John xiv. 10.
Ver. 19. Revenger. St. Peter (Acts iii. 23,) reads, And it shall be that every soul which will not hear that prophet; (instead of Hebrew, “my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him,”) or he shall be destroyed from among the people. (Tertullian, contra Mar. iv. 22.) (Haydock) — God now chastises the faithless Jews. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 20. To say. These denote heretics, as the following point out apostates. (Worthington)
Ver. 22. Fear him. Septuagint, “you shall not spare him,” but cut him off by death. (Haydock) — Though the completion of what has been foretold be not a sure sign of a true prophecy, (chap. xiii. 2,) yet when the thing does not come to pass which the prophet had spoken unconditionally, he must undoubtedly be rejected; as also when he speaks in the name of false gods. No miracles can then establish his credit. The prophecy of Jonas, and many of the other prophecies, were conditional. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The Lord in the inheritance of the priests and Levites. Heathenish abominations are to be avoided. The great prophet, Christ, is promised. F alse prophets must be slain.
1 The *priests and Levites, and all that are of the same tribe, shall have no part nor inheritance with the rest of Israel, because they shall eat the sacrifices of the Lord, and his oblations.
2 And they shall receive nothing else of the possession of their brethren: for the Lord himself is their inheritance, as he hath said to them.
3 This shall be the priest’s due from the people, and from them that offer victims: whether they sacrifice an ox, or a sheep, they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the breast:
4 *The first-fruits also of corn, of wine, and of oil, and a part of the wool from the shearing of their sheep.
5 For the Lord thy God hath chosen him of all thy tribes, to stand, and to minister to the name of the Lord, him and his sons for ever.
6 If a Levite go out of any one of the cities throughout all Israel, in which he dwelleth, and have a longing mind to come to the place which the Lord shall choose,
7 He shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, that shall stand at that time before the Lord.
8 He shall receive the same portion of food that the rest do: besides that which is due to him in his own city, by succession from his fathers.
9 When thou art come into the land, which the Lord thy God shall give thee, beware lest thou have a mind to imitate the abominations of those nations.
10 *Neither let there be found among you any one that shall expiate his son or daughter, making them to pass through the fire: or that consulteth soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens, neither let there be any wizard,
11 Nor charmer, nor any one that consulteth pythonic spirits, or fortune-tellers,* or that seeketh the truth from the dead.
12 For the Lord abhorreth all these things, and for these abominations he will destroy them at thy coming.
13 Thou shalt be perfect, and without spot before the Lord thy God.
14 These nations, whose land thou shalt possess, hearken to soothsayers and diviners: but thou art otherwise instructed by the Lord thy God.
15 *The Lord thy God will raise up to thee a prophet of thy nation, and of thy brethren, like unto me: him thou shalt hear,
16 As thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in *Horeb, when the assembly was gathered together, and saidst: Let me not hear any more the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see any more this exceeding great fire, lest I die.
17 And the Lord said to me: They have spoken all things well.
18 *I will raise them up a prophet out of the midst of their brethren, like to thee: and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak all that I shall command him.
19 And he that will not hear his words, which he shall speak in my name, I will be the revenger.
20 But the prophet, who being corrupted with pride, shall speak in my name, things that I did not command him to say, or in the name of strange gods, shall be slain.
21 And if in silent thought thou answer: How shall I know the word, that the Lord hath not spoken?
22 Thou shalt have this sign: Whatsoever that same prophet foretelleth in the name of the Lord, and it cometh not to pass: that thing the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath forged it by the pride of his mind: and therefore thou shalt not fear him.
1: Year of the World 2553.; Numbers xviii. 20. and 23.; Deuteronomy x. 9.; 1 Corinthians ix. 13.
4: Numbers xviii. 21.
10: Leviticus xx. 27.
11: 1 Kings xxviii. 7.
15: John i. 45.; Acts iii. 22.
16: Exodus xx. 21.
18: John i. 45.