Duties of Levites
1 So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s household (family) with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary [that is, through your service as priests you will atone for the offenses which the people unknowingly commit when brought into contact with the manifestations of God’s presence]; and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood [that is, your own unintentional offenses]. 2 But bring with you also your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father (ancestor), so that they may join with you and serve you [as assistants], while you and your sons with you are before the Tent of the Testimony [the Holy Place where only priests may go, and the Most Holy Place which only the high priest may enter]. 3 And the Levites shall attend to your duty [as assistants] and to the duties of all the tent (tabernacle); only they shall not approach the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. 4 They shall join you and attend to the duties of the Tent of Meeting—all the service of the tent—and no stranger [no layman, anyone who is not a Levite] may approach you [and your sons]. 5 So you shall attend to the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of the altar [of burnt offering and the altar of incense], so that there will no longer be wrath on the Israelites [as with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram].(A) 6 Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, given (dedicated) to the Lord, to do the service for the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). 7 Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar [of burnt offering and the altar of incense] and [of the Holy of Holies] within the veil, and you are to serve. I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the stranger (outsider, layman) who approaches shall be put to death.”(B)
The Priests’ Portion
8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, “Now behold, I [the Lord] have entrusted you with My heave offerings, even all the holy gifts of the Israelites, I have given them to you as a portion, and to your sons as a continual allotment.(C) 9 This shall be yours of the most holy things, [reserved] from the fire: every offering of the people, every grain offering and sin offering and guilt offering, which they shall render (give) to Me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons. 10 You shall eat it as the most holy thing; every male [of your family] shall eat it. It shall be holy to you.(D) 11 This also is yours: the heave offering of their gift, including all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I have given them to you and to your sons and to your daughters with you as a continual allotment; everyone in your household who is [ceremonially] clean may eat it. 12 All the best of the fresh [olive] oil, and all the best of the new wine and of the grain, the first fruits of those which they give to the Lord, I give them to you. 13 The first ripe fruits of all that is in the land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; everyone in your household who is [ceremonially] clean may eat it. 14 Every devoted thing in Israel [everything that has been promised to the Lord with an oath] shall be yours. 15 Every firstborn of the womb of all flesh, whether it is man or animal, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall most certainly redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 And their redemption price, from a month old you shall redeem, according to your (a)valuation, for the [fixed] price of five shekels in silver, in accordance with the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. 17 But the firstborn of a cow or of a sheep or of a goat you shall not redeem; they are holy [and belong to the Lord]. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall offer up their fat in smoke as an offering by fire, for a sweet and soothing aroma to the Lord. 18 Their meat shall be yours, like the breast of a wave offering and like the right thigh. 19 All the offerings of the holy things, which the Israelites offer to the Lord I have given to you and to your sons and your daughters with you as a continual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of (b)salt [that cannot be dissolved or violated] before the Lord to you and to your descendants with you.” 20 Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in the land [of the Israelites], nor have any portion [of land] among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.
21 “Behold, I have given the Levites all the tithe in Israel as an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). 22 The Israelites shall never again approach the Tent of Meeting [the covered sanctuary, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies], or they [who do] will incur sin and die. 23 Only the Levites shall perform the service of the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that the Levites shall have no inheritance [of land] among the children of Israel. 24 But the tithe of the Israelites, which they present as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘They shall (c)have no inheritance among the children of Israel.’”
25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the Israelites the tithe which I have given to you from them as your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe [paid by the people]. 27 Your offering shall be credited to you as the grain from the threshing floor or as the full produce from the wine vat. 28 Likewise you shall also present an offering to the Lord from all your tithes, which you receive from the Israelites; and from it you shall give the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all your gifts, you shall present every offering due to the Lord, from all the best of it, even the sacred part from them.’ 30 Therefore you shall say to them, ‘When you have offered the best from it, then the rest shall be credited to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor, and as the product of the wine vat. 31 You may eat it anywhere, you and [the members of] your households, for it is your compensation in return for your service in the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). 32 You will bear no sin because of it when you have offered the best of it; but you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the children of Israel, or you will die [because of it].’”
a. Numbers 18:16: Since the price is set at five shekels, this term is not to be understood here as an ordinary appraisal (which could vary), but probably refers to the priest’s estimation of whether the item qualifies for redemption.
b. Numbers 18:19: Salt was symbolic of preservation, and here permanence.
c. Numbers 18:24: They would have homes, cities, and pasture land to use, but not to possess as a personal inheritance.