Numbers xviii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Priesthood. If you transgress, or if you neglect to instruct and watch over those who are employed about the sanctuary, you shall be responsible for it. (Calmet) — You must resist those strangers who would intrude themselves into the office, which I have confirmed to you by miracles. (Menochius)

Ver. 2. Sceptre. Hebrew shebet, denotes also “tribe, family,” &c. The princes of families probably bore a sceptre, as we find all magistrates did in the days of Homer. (Iliad i.; Virgil, Æneid xii.) (Calmet) — All the other children of Aaron’s father, were to be in the order of the Levites, among whom even Moses left his own family, though he was himself an extraordinary priest. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Stranger; even born of a woman of the tribe of Levi. (Maimonides)

Ver. 7. Priests. Hebrew, “you shall serve in the ministry of priests which I have given you.” The office was not due to them on account of any superior merit. (Haydock)

Ver. 8. Charge, as stewards or dispensers (Calmet) of what is offered to me; part of which I abandon to your use, as long as your republic shall subsist. (Menochius) — First-fruits, or “heave-offerings,” which comprised also the victims, first-born, &c., over which the high priest had a general inspection. — Office. Hebrew, “unction.” Septuagint, “as a reward,” or salary for your labour, in performing the duty of priest. (Calmet)

Ver. 9. And are. Hebrew, “This shall be thine, of the most holy things, from the fire.” Some parts of the victims for sin and of the libations, were to be consumed, while the rest was given to the priests. These libations were not properly styled holy of holies, (which were to be eaten only in the holy place, by those who were in actual service) no more than the peace-offerings were, of which even women might partake, ver. 11, 12., and Leviticus x. 14.

Ver. 11. House, perpetually. Hired servants were not admitted to eat of them, Leviticus xxii. 10. (Calmet)

Ver. 12. The best, (medullam.) Literally, “the marrow.” (Haydock) — The fattest and most delicious. (Menochius)

Ver. 13. First-ripe, (initia.) “The beginnings” (Haydock) of the fruit of trees, in the fourth year, Leviticus xix. 24. It may also comprise all the fruits of the earth. (Calmet) — First-fruits must be distinguished from tithes, which were only the tenth part. The former were offered immediately to the Lord, but the latter to the priests, &c., for their support. Besides the first-fruits of ears of corn at the Passover, and of bread at Pentecost, and at every weekly baking, first-fruits were to be given in the 7th month of the harvest and of the vintage, according to each person’s generosity, provided he gave between the 40th and the 60th part of his revenue; and these last are commonly the first-fruits meant in Scripture. — Lord, in sacrifice. If they were given to the priest, the unclean might partake of them. (Menochius)

Ver. 15. Beast. The Rabbins restrain this to the ass alone, which they pretend was deemed the only unclean animal by the Israelites, in Egypt, when this law was established; and Moses indeed specifies it alone, Exodus xiii. 13. (Abenezra) — But we cannot doubt but that camels, and all other unclean animals, were to be included, if the Hebrews kept them; (Calmet) and those which were rendered impure by some defect, were also to be redeemed. (Menochius)

Ver. 16. Of it; the first-born of man. The child might be redeemed sooner, and sometimes they waited till after the purification of the mother, or 40 days, as our blessed Lady did, Luke ii. 22. (Calmet) — Five sicles of silver, or about 11s. 6d. English, were then to be paid, unless poverty obliged them to give only two turtles or pigeons. (Haydock) — Beasts might be redeemed after they were eight days old, Exodus xiii. 12. Leo of Modena, (p. 1. c. 9,) informs us, that when a child is to be redeemed, at present, the father sends for a descendant of Aaron, who, after enquiring of the mother, if she have had no child before; and of the father, if he wish to redeem the infant, says aloud, “This child, being the first-born, belongs to me; as it is said, (Numbers xviii. 16,) Thou shalt redeem the child of a month old for five sicles. But I take this (about two crowns of gold) instead.” (Calmet) — But how can these priests prove their genealogy, since the distinction of the tribes has been so long lost? — Of silver. Hebrew, “according to thy estimation, for the money of five sicles, by the sicle of the sanctuary, which hath 20 geras.” (Haydock)

Ver. 18. Thine. So that thy wife and children, if clean, may eat the flesh. (Calmet)

Ver. 19. A covenant of salt. It is a proverbial expression, signifying a covenant not to be altered or corrupted; as salt is used to keep things from corruption; a covenant perpetual, like that by which it was appointed that salt should be used in every sacrifice, Leviticus ii. 3. (Challoner) — Thus God gave the kingdom to David for ever, by a covenant of salt, 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 5. Salt is an emblem of eternity. Oleaster believes, that salt was used in the ratification of all solemn covenants, to denote their stability. (Calmet)

Ver. 20. Nothing. No portion of land, like the other tribes; but only some towns and suburbs, allotted to thy children in the midst of the Israelites. They might purchase land as well as others, and might obtain a property by the vows of their brethren, Leviticus xxvii. 14. Jeremias (xxxii. 7,) and St. Barnabas had land, Acts iv. 37. God had provided for his ministers abundantly, without exposing them to much trouble. The Levites enjoyed the tithes of all the produce of the country, besides the first-fruits of corn, dough, &c., and some parts of each beast that was killed in the town, Deuteronomy xviii. 3. The priests, who were still fewer in number, enjoyed the 100th part of the revenue of all Israel, receiving tithes from the Levites, and innumerable accidental offerings of wine, &c., which made Philo say (de præm. Sacerd.) that “the law of Moses gave the priests all the splendour of kings.” They might, therefore, be zealous to preserve religion for their own temporal advantages. — I am, &c. God promises to reward those who serve him with fidelity, Deuteronomy xviii. 1., and Josue xiii. 14. The priests of the new law ought more particularly to serve him with disinterestedness, for his own sake. (Calmet) — Of this they are reminded, when they take the first step towards holy orders. The bishop cuts off some of their hair in the form of a cross, while they recite, The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup; it is Thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me, Psalm xv. 5. (Pontif. Rom.) (Haydock) — “Some possess riches, while they serve Christ, who appeared in the garb of poverty.” (St. Jerome, ad Nepot.)

Ver. 22. Deadly sin. That is, sin which will bring death after it. (Challoner) — Hebrew, “lest they bear sin unto death,” and fall like their brethren, chap. xvii. 13. (Haydock)

Ver. 23. People; or the Hebrew may be also, “they shall bear their own iniquity.” If they prove negligent in performing their duty, they shall be punished; and if they do not restrain the people from approaching the tabernacle, they shall be answerable for their offence, and both shall incur death. (Calmet) — They shall, however, save their own souls, if they have not been deficient in instructing the people, and in doing their utmost to prevent any profanation. (Haydock)

Ver. 27. As an. Thus you will perform your duty, as well as if you gave corn and wine of your own growth. (Menochius) — Presses. Hebrew yakeb, means also the tub where wine was kept. Jonathan translates, “as the ripe (old) wine of the tub of your wine-press;” insinuating that the wine must be fit for use. (Calmet; ver. 29, 30.)

Ver. 32. By, &c. Hebrew, “when you have made a heave-offering of the best of it; nor shall you profane the holy things of,” &c. (Haydock) — This they would do, if they gave the worst only to the priests. (Du Hamel) — There were only three at this time; yet they received the 100th part of the produce of so many thousands. Well therefore might God say, I will fill the souls of the priests with fatness: and my people shall be filled with good things, Jeremias xxxi. 14. (Tirinus)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The charge of the priests, and of the Levites, and their portion.

1 And the Lord said to Aaron: Thou, and thy sons, and thy father’s house with thee, shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the sins of your priesthood.

2 And take with thee thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, and the sceptre of thy father, and let them be ready at hand, and minister to thee: but thou and thy sons shall minister in the tabernacle of the testimony.

3 And the Levites shall watch to do thy commands, and about all the works of the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary nor the altar, lest both they die, and you also perish with them.

4 But let them be with thee, and watch in the charge of the tabernacle, and in all the ceremonies thereof. A stranger shall not join himself with you.

5 Watch ye in the charge of the sanctuary, and in the ministry of the altar: lest indignation rise upon the children of Israel.

6 I have given you your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel, and have delivered them for a gift to the Lord, to serve in the ministries of the tabernacle.

7 But thou and thy sons look ye to the priesthood: and all things that pertain to the service of the altar, and that are within the veil, shall be executed by the priests. If any stranger shall approach, he shall be slain.

8 And the Lord said to Aaron: Behold I have given thee the charge of my first-fruits. All things that are sanctified by the children of Israel, I have delivered to thee, and to thy sons for the priestly office, by everlasting ordinances.

9 These therefore shalt thou take of the things that are sanctified, and are offered to the Lord. Every offering, and sacrifice, and whatsoever is rendered to me for sin and for trespass, and becometh holy of holies, shall be for thee, and thy sons.

10 Thou shalt eat it in the sanctuary: the males only shall eat thereof, because it is a consecrated thing.

11 But the first-fruits, which the children of Israel shall vow and offer, I have given to thee, and to thy sons, and to thy daughters, by a perpetual law. He that is clean in thy house, shall eat them.

12 All the best of the oil, and of the wine, and of the corn, whatsoever first-fruits they offer to the Lord, I have given them to thee.

13 All the first-ripe of the fruits, that the ground bringeth forth, and which are brought to the Lord, shall be for thy use: he that is clean in thy house, shall eat them.

14 Every thing that the children of Israel shall give by vow, shall be thine.

15 Whatsoever is first-born of all flesh, which they offer to the Lord, whether it be of men, or of beasts, shall belong to thee: only for the first-born of man thou shalt take a price, and every beast that is unclean, thou shalt cause to be redeemed;

16 And the redemption of it shall be after one month, for five sicles of silver, by the weight of the sanctuary. *A sicle hath twenty obols.

17 But the firstling of a cow, and of a sheep, and of a goat, thou shalt not cause to be redeemed, because they are sanctified to the Lord. Their blood only thou shalt pour upon the altar, and their fat thou shalt burn for a most sweet odour to the Lord.

18 But the flesh shall fall to thy use, as the consecrated breast, and the right shoulder, shall be thine.

19 All the first-fruits of the sanctuary, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to thee, and to thy sons and daughters, by a perpetual ordinance. It is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord, to thee and to thy sons.

20 And the Lord said to Aaron: You shall possess nothing in their land, neither shall you have a portion among them: I am thy portion and inheritance in the midst of the children of Israel.

21 And I have given to the sons of Levi all the tithes of Israel for a possession, for the ministry wherewith they serve me in the tabernacle of the covenant:

22 That the children of Israel may not approach any more to the tabernacle, nor commit deadly sin,

23 But only the sons of Levi may serve me in the tabernacle, and bear the sins of the people. It shall be an everlasting ordinance in your generations. *They shall not possess any other thing,

24 But be content with the oblation of tithes, which I have separated for their uses and necessities.

25 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

26 Command the Levites, and declare unto them: When you shall receive of the children of Israel the tithes, which I have given you, offer the first-fruits of them to the Lord, that is to say, the tenth part of the tenth:

27 That it may be reckoned to you as an oblation of first-fruits, as well of the barn-floors as of the wine-presses:

28 And of all the things of which you receive tithes, offer the first-fruits to the Lord, and give them to Aaron the priest.

29 All the things that you shall offer of the tithes, and shall separate for the gifts of the Lord, shall be the best and choicest things.

30 And thou shalt say to them: If you offer all the goodly and the better things of the tithes, it shall be reckoned to you as if you had given the first-fruits of the barn-floor and the wine-press:

31 And you shall eat them in all your places, both you and your families: because it is your reward for the ministry, wherewith you serve in the tabernacle of the testimony.

32 And you shall not sin in this point, by reserving the choicest and fat things to yourselves, lest you profane the oblations of the children of Israel, and die.



16: Exodus xxx. 13.; Leviticus xxvii. 25.; Numbers iii. 47.; Ezechiel xlv. 12.

23: Deuteronomy xviii. 1.