At the end of Numbers 17, the people asked if they were all going to die because of their proximity to the ark of the covenant. Within the context of the Numbers 17 story, it didn’t make much sense. But here in Numbers 18, we get the answer: No, you won’t die. Because the Aaronic priests will bear that “iniquity” on your behalf.

The rest of the chapter is all about the symbiotic (sorta) relationship between the Levitical priests and the Aaronic ones.

Moses and Aaron, by Barthel Beham, 1526

Moses and Aaron, by Barthel Beham, 1526

Specifically, the Levites are to minister to the Aaronides, while the Aaronides minister to the ark. It’s also specified that all offerings made to God belong to the priests. I find it rather convenient that, during this portion of the chapter, God is speaking directly to Aaron.

Redemption prices are set for offerings made to God. The prices are in “the shekel of the sanctuary” (v.16). We’ve discussed previously that this specification as to the value of the shekel suggests a much later composition (or editing) date than traditionally believed. The only interesting thing about the list is that firstling cows, sheep, and goats can’t be redeemed because “they are holy” (v.17). This seems to follow what we got in Leviticus 27 (though here specific species are identified).

The last bit God tells Aaron is that Levites are not to own land, and therefore have no inheritance to pass on to their children. Instead, their children are to be supported by their share of the offerings made to God. As God puts it: “I am your portion and your inheritance” (v.20).

Turning back to Moses (without such a smooth transition, suggesting the melding of two separate narratives), God explains that Levites get to keep all the offerings made as tithes, but that they must make a tithe on the tithes, which goes to the Aaronide priests.

It’s a long chapter, but it’s light on content, so that’s for today! Class dismissed!