“A tithe of a tithe,” and a Cleansing from Sin (Numbers 18-19)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-19

Numbers 17 addressed the establishing of Aaron, and his sons as the priestly lineage, while Numbers 18 outlines the duties of the priests and Levites, and the care and support of their families.

With the rebellion of Korah, and the men who followed him still fresh (Numbers 16), it was prudent for the LORD to address Aaron regarding the sins of his “father’s house” (remembering that Korah was of the tribe of Levi, 18:1). The honor of the priesthood, and the sins committed by the tribe of Levi, were to weigh upon Aaron, and his sons.

The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to assist the priests in their duties; however, they were not to usurp their authority, nor approach the “vessels of the sanctuary and the altar,” lest they die (18:2-3). None, but the priests, were to “keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar” (18:5-7).

Numbers 18:8-20 – The Care and Support of the Priests

You will notice the mention of “heave offerings,” throughout this passage. What were they? They were a portion of the sacrifices that were brought by the people, and set aside by the LORD for the priests (Exodus 29:27-28). The heave offering was specifically the right shoulder of a cow, ram, or goat that had been sacrificed (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). The first-fruits of the harvest were also designated heave offerings (Numbers 15:20-21). The needs of the priests, and their families were met through the heave offerings (18:9, 11-13), and was to be eaten “in the most holy place,” that being the court of the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:10).

Numbers 18:21-24 – Provision for the Levites

Like the priests, the Levites would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land (18:21). Rather than being engaged in securing land, their focus was to be upon “the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation” (18:21). While the children of Israel were occupied tilling their lands, and caring for their flocks and herds, the Levites were supported by “the tenth (or the tithe) in Israel” (18:21), “given to the Levites to inherit” (18:24).

Numbers 18:25-32 – The Levites were to give a tithe of a tithe.

Lest any should believe those in ministry do not have an obligation to pay their tithe, we find the Levites, after receiving the tithes of the congregation, were to take off the “tenth part of the tithe” (18:26). The tithe of the tithe, was “the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest” (18:28). What did the LORD require to be given as the tithe? “The best thereof” (18:29).

Numbers 19 – Purification Offering for Uncleanness

The offering of a red heifer (a female cow) was to be brought by those deemed unclean by reason of coming in contact with death (19:11). Death, being the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23a), demanded sacrifice, and the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

A man who touched the dead body of a man (which was necessary for those preparing a body for burial), was deemed unclean for seven days (19:11). The LORD knew what men of that day did not know: The pollution by a dead body was not only a spiritual lesson, (“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23), but also a practical one. Even the tent in which a man died was considered unclean seven days (19:14), and any open vessels in that tent were considered unclean (19:15). What an amazing revelation! Long before microscopes revealed the dangers of harmful bacteria, the LORD was protecting His people from contamination.

Because the sacrifice of the heifer was for “uncleanness,” the heifer was led outside the camp of Israel, sacrificed, and burned (19:5). The priest that sacrificed the heifer, and the Levite that burned it, were to wash their clothes and bathe, and were deemed unclean until even (19:7-10).

Lesson: Death is an ever present, inescapable sorrow (Hebrews 9:27). We who have trusted Christ as our Savior have an eternal hope, for He has borne the burden of our sin by His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He Lives!

1 John 1:7b, 9 – “… The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin… 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith