And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD…
There might seem at first something strange in the withholding from the tribe of Levi its share among the cities of Canaan, divided by lot among the other tribes. There were, however, as we shall see, substantial reasons why the tribe of Levi should not be treated like the other tribes in the apportionment of the land of Canaan. IT HAD ITS OWN PECULIAR WORK TO WHICH IT WAS TO BE ENTIRELY CONSECRATED. Set apart for the service of the altar, it was not to be distracted by other interests. The sacrifices of the Lord were its inheritance. On the other hand, as it must have means of subsistence, every tribe was to set apart from its own lot that which was needful for the sacrifices and service of God. These temporal conditions of the tribe of Levi in the land of Canaan give us a very fair idea of the priesthood of the old covenant, and we shall be able to derive from their consideration several principles applicable to the priesthood of the new covenant.
(1) The fact that the tribe of Levi was to have no portion of its own, shows that it is not the will of God that His service should be mixed up with temporal and material interests.
(2) It is made incumbent on the whole nation to provide for the maintenance of the Levites. This is a sacred duty which cannot be neglected without prejudice to the service of God. In fulfilling this duty, the people associate themselves with the priesthood. The Levites, whom they maintain, are their representatives. The eleven tribes have their delegate in the twelfth. This truth was impressed on the minds of the children of Israel by the offering by which they had to redeem the first born of their male children. Thus even under the old covenant, the great idea of the universal priesthood was implicitly recognised. Now all Israel is a nation of priests, for, as says St. Peter, in Christ "we are made kings and priests unto God" (1 Peter 2:9). Still the Church has its ministers; but these are not a clerical class apart; they are but the representatives of the people; or rather, they do but devote themselves specially to that which is at the same time the duty of every Christian. In fulfilling this ministry, they are called, as was the tribe of Levi, to renounce all earthly ambition, and not to attempt in any way to make holy things the handle for securing their own material advantage. Freely they have received, freely they are to give; or they will come under the condemnation of Simon Magus. It is for the Church to maintain these her servants by voluntary gifts. This duty was urged by the apostles. Let him who is taught communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" (Galatians 6:6).
(3) The Church has become altogether a race of priests. As a Church she has no right to secular dominion. When the papacy pretended that temporal power was a condition of safety for the Catholic Church, it ignored the laws concerning the priesthood, both under the old covenant and the new. Whenever a Church seeks to reign after the manner of temporal sovereigns, she becomes guilty of the same rebellion, and forgets the great words of her Divine Founder: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:86). - E. DE P.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.