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Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-19

Numbers 18

The Work of the Priest and the Assistance of the Levites (Numbers 18:1-7)

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

We are reminded that the LORD had chosen the tribe of Levi to assist the priests in their duties; however, they were not to usurp the priest’s authority nor approach the “vessels of the sanctuary and the altar” lest they die (Numbers 18:2-3). Furthermore, no “stranger” (meaning a non-Levite person) was to assist the priests in their “service of the Tabernacle” (Numbers 18:4). To serve as God’s ministers was a gift from the LORD, and a sacred privilege (Numbers 18:5-7).

The Wages and Support of the Priests and Levites (Numbers 18:8-20)

You will notice the mention of “heave offerings” throughout this passage. What were they? They were a portion of the sacrifices the LORD commanded the people to bring and set aside for the priests and the tribe of Levi (Exodus 29:27-28).

The heave offering was explicitly the right shoulder of an offered cow, ram, or goat (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). Also, the harvest’s first fruits were designated heave offerings (Numbers 15:20-21). Because the tribe of Levi did not have an inheritance in the land (for the LORD was their inheritance and provider), the “heave offerings” served to meet the needs of the priests and their households (Numbers 18:9, 11-13). There were also offerings designated to be eaten “in the most holy place,” and only males of the priest’s families were to eat of them in the court of the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:9-10).

The Provision for the Levites (Numbers 18:21-24)

Like the priests they served, the Levites would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land (Numbers 18:21). Rather than being engaged in securing and tilling the land, the focus of the Levites was on “the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation” (Numbers 18:21). While the tribes 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” (Numbers 18:21), that was “given to the Levites to inherit” (Numbers 18:24).

The Levites Supported the Priests with a Tithe of the Tithe. (Numbers 18:25-32)

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

Numbers 19 Purification Offering for Uncleanness Caused by Death

The Offering of a Red Heifer (Numbers 19:1-10)

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

The Ritual for Cleansing (Numbers 19:11-23)

For example, a man who touched the dead body of a man (necessitated by the preparation of a body for burial) was deemed unclean for seven days, as well as everything he touched (Numbers 19:11; Leviticus 15). Why? Because the LORD knew what men of that day did not: The pollution caused 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 where a man died was considered unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:14). Any open vessels in the tent of a dead man were considered unclean (Numbers 19:15). What an amazing revelation! Before microscopes revealed the dangers of harmful bacteria, the LORD protected His people from contamination.

Because the sacrifice of the heifer was for “uncleanness,” the law required the heifer to be led outside the camp of Israel, where it was sacrificed and burned (Numbers 19:5). Also, the priest that offered the heifer, and the Levite that burned it, were to wash their clothes and bathe, and were deemed unclean until even (Numbers 19:7-10). In more severe cases, the exclusion from the camp would be seven days (Numbers 19:11-19).

Closing thoughts:

Death is an ever-present, inescapable sorrow (Hebrews 9:27). Yet, we who have trusted Christ as our Savior have eternal hope. Like the red heifer that was led out of the camp of Israel and offered as a sacrifice for sin, Christ was led out of Jerusalem and put to death outside the walls of that city. He has borne the curse and burden of our sins by His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. He Lives! John reminded believers, “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” (1 John 1:7b, 9).

Questions to consider:

1) Whose iniquity were Aaron and his sons to bear? (Numbers 18:1)

2) What tribe was commanded to assist the priests? (Numbers 18:2)

3) What inheritance was designated for Aaron and his sons? (Numbers 18:20)

4) What were the consequences of touching a dead body? (Numbers 19:11-12)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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