- 1 The LORD said to Aaron, "You and your sons as well as the other members of your ancestral house shall be responsible for the sanctuary; but the responsibility of the priesthood shall rest on you and your sons alone.
- 2 Bring with you also your other kinsmen of the tribe of Levi, your ancestral tribe, as your associates and assistants, while you and your sons are in front of the tent of the commandments.
- They shall look after your persons and the whole tent; however, they shall not come near the sacred vessels or the altar, lest both they and you die.
- 3 As your associates they shall have charge of all the work connected with the meeting tent. But no layman shall come near you.
- You shall have charge of the sanctuary and of the altar, that wrath may not fall again upon the Israelites.
- "Remember, it is I who have taken your kinsmen, the Levites, from the body of the Israelites; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD for the service of the meeting tent.
- 4 But only you and your sons are to have charge of performing the priestly functions in whatever concerns the altar and the room within the veil. I give you the priesthood as a gift. Any layman who draws near shall be put to death."
- 5 The LORD said to Aaron, "I myself have given you charge of the contributions made to me in the various sacred offerings of the Israelites; by perpetual ordinance I have assigned them to you and to your sons as your priestly share.
- You shall have the right to share in the oblations that are most sacred, in whatever they offer me as cereal offerings or sin offerings or guilt offerings; these shares shall accrue to you and to your sons.
- In eating them you shall treat them as most sacred; every male among you may partake of them. As sacred, they belong to you.
- 6 "You shall also have what is removed from the gift in every wave offering of the Israelites; by perpetual ordinance I have assigned it to you and to your sons and daughters. All in your family who are clean may partake of it.
- I have also assigned to you all the best of the new oil and of the new wine and grain that they give to the LORD as their first fruits;
- and likewise, of whatever grows on their land, the first products that they bring in to the LORD shall be yours; all of your family who are clean may partake of them.
- 7 Whatever is doomed in Israel shall be yours.
- Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD, shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed.
- The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs to the shekel.
- But the first-born of cattle, sheep or goats shall not be redeemed; they are sacred. Their blood you must splash on the altar and their fat you must burn as a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD.
- Their meat, however, shall be yours, just as the breast and the right leg of the wave offering belong to you.
- 8 By perpetual ordinance I have assigned to you and to your sons and daughters all the contributions from the sacred gifts which the Israelites make to the LORD; this is an inviolable covenant to last forever before the LORD, for you and for your descendants."
- 9 Then the LORD said to Aaron, "You shall not have any heritage in the land of the Israelites nor hold any portion among them; I will be your portion and your heritage among them.
- "To the Levites, however, I hereby assign all tithes in Israel as their heritage in recompense for the service they perform in the meeting tent.
- The Israelites may no longer approach the meeting tent; else they will incur guilt deserving death.
- Only the Levites are to perform the service of the meeting tent, and they alone shall be held responsible; this is a perpetual ordinance for all your generations. The Levites, therefore, shall not have any heritage among the Israelites,
- for I have assigned to them as their heritage the tithes which the Israelites give as a contribution to the LORD. That is why I have ordered that they are not to have any heritage among the Israelites."
- The LORD said to Moses,
- "Give the Levites these instructions: When you receive from the Israelites the tithes I have assigned you from them as your heritage, you are to make a contribution from them to the LORD, a tithe of the tithes;
- and your contribution will be credited to you as if it were grain from the threshing floor or new wine from the press.
- Thus you too shall make a contribution from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites, handing over to Aaron the priest the part to be contributed to the LORD.
- From all the gifts that you receive, and from the best parts, you are to consecrate to the LORD your own full contribution.
- "Tell them also: Once you have made your contribution from the best part, the rest of the tithes will be credited to you Levites as if it were produce of the threshing floor or of the winepress.
- Your families, as well as you, may eat them anywhere, since they are your recompense for service at the meeting tent.
- You will incur no guilt so long as you make a contribution of the best part. Do not profane the sacred gifts of the Israelites and so bring death on yourselves."
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Footnotes1 [1-3] This law, which kept unqualified persons from contact with sacred things, is the answer to the Israelites' cry in Numbers 17:13(28). It is followed by other laws concerning priests and Levites.
2 Associates: in Hebrew this word alludes to the popular etymology of the name "Levi." Cf Genesis 29:34.
3 Layman: here, "one who is not a Levite"; in Numbers 18:7, "one who is not a priest."
4 Veil: the outer veil, or "curtain," is probably meant.
5 [8-10] Two classes of offerings are here distinguished: the most sacred offering, which only the male members of the priestly families could eat, and the other offerings, which even the women of the priestly families could eat (Numbers 18:11-19).
6 Wave offering: this included the breast and right leg (Numbers 18:18), the shoulder of the peace offering (Lev 7:30-34), and portions of the nazirite sacrifice (Numbers 6:19-20).
7 Doomed: in Hebrew, herem, which means here "set aside from profane use and made sacred to the Lord." Cf Lev 27:21,28,
8 An inviolable covenant: literally, "a convenant of salt." Cf 2 Chron 13:5. The reference may perhaps be to the preservative power of salt (cf Matthew 5:13); but more likely the phrase refers to the custom of partaking of the same salt in common to render a contract unbreakable. See note on Lev 2:13.
9 The priests and Levites were forbidden to own hereditary land such as the other Israelites possessed; therefore in the allotment of the land they were not to receive any portion of it. Certain cities, however, were assigned to them for their residence; cf 35:1-8.
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