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Numbers 18:1-5

Context
Responsibilities of the Priests

18:1 1 The Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your tribe 2  with you must bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, 3  and you and your sons with you must bear the iniquity of your priesthood.

18:2 “Bring with you your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, so that they may join 4  with you and minister to you while 5  you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 18:3 They must be responsible to care for you and to care for the entire tabernacle. However, they must not come near the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. 18:4 They must join 6  with you, and they will be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the tent, but no unauthorized person 7  may approach you. 18:5 You will be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the care of the altar, so that there will be 8  no more wrath on the Israelites.

Numbers 18:23

Context
18:23 But the Levites must perform the service 9  of the tent of meeting, and they must bear their iniquity. 10  It will be a perpetual ordinance throughout your generations that among the Israelites the Levites 11  have no inheritance. 12 

1 sn This chapter and the next may have been inserted here to explain how the priests are to function because in the preceding chapter Aaron’s position was affirmed. The chapter seems to fall into four units: responsibilities of priests (vv. 1-7), their portions (vv. 8-19), responsibilities of Levites (vv. 20-24), and instructions for Levites (vv. 25-32).

2 tn Heb “your father’s house.”

3 sn The responsibility for the sanctuary included obligations relating to any violation of the sanctuary. This was stated to forestall any further violations of the sanctuary. The priests were to pay for any ritual errors, primarily if any came too near. Since the priests and Levites come near all the time, they risk violating ritual laws more than any. So, with the great privileges come great responsibilities. The bottom line is that they were responsible for the sanctuary.

4 sn The verb forms a wordplay on the name Levi, and makes an allusion to the naming of the tribe Levi by Leah in the book of Genesis. There Leah hoped that with the birth of Levi her husband would be attached to her. Here, with the selection of the tribe to serve in the sanctuary, there is the wordplay again showing that the Levites will be attached to Aaron and the priests. The verb is יִלָּווּ (yillavu), which forms a nice wordplay with Levi (לֵוִי). The tribe will now be attached to the sanctuary. The verb is the imperfect with a vav (ו) that shows volitive sequence after the imperative, here indicating a purpose clause.

5 tn The clause is a circumstantial clause because the disjunctive vav (ו) is on a nonverb to start the clause.

6 tn Now the sentence uses the Niphal perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive from the same root לָוָה (lavah).

7 tn The word is “stranger, alien,” but it can also mean Israelites here.

8 tn The clause is a purpose clause, and the imperfect tense a final imperfect.

9 tn The verse begins with the perfect tense of עָבַד (’avad) with vav (ו) consecutive, making the form equal to the instructions preceding it. As its object the verb has the cognate accusative “service.”

10 sn The Levites have the care of the tent of meeting, and so they are responsible for any transgressions against it.

11 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Levites) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

12 tn The Hebrew text uses both the verb and the object from the same root to stress the point: They will not inherit an inheritance. The inheritance refers to land.



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