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To two and a half tribes Moses had already given a heritage beyond the Jordan; to the Levites he had given no heritage among them:(A) the descendants of Joseph formed two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. But the Levites were given no share of the land except cities to live in, with their pasture lands for the herds and flocks.(B)

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20 (A)Then the Lord said to Aaron:[a] You shall not have any heritage in their land nor hold any portion among them; I will be your portion and your heritage among the Israelites.

Tithes Due the Levites. 21 To the Levites, however, I hereby assign all tithes in Israel as their heritage in recompense for the labor they perform, the labor pertaining to the tent of meeting.(B) 22 The Israelites may no longer approach the tent of meeting, thereby incurring the penalty of death. 23 Only the Levites are to perform the labor pertaining to the tent of meeting, and they shall incur the penalty for the Israelites’ sin;[b] this is a permanent statute for all your generations. But they shall not have any heritage among the Israelites, 24 for I have assigned to the Levites as their heritage the tithes which the Israelites put aside as a contribution to the Lord. That is why I have said, they will not have any heritage among the Israelites.

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  1. 18:20 The priests and Levites were forbidden to own hereditary land such as the other Israelites possessed; therefore in the allotment of the land (chap. 34) they did not receive any portion of it. Certain cities, however, were assigned to them for their residence; cf. 35:1–8.
  2. 18:23 Incur the penalty for the Israelites’ sin: the Levites are responsible for protecting the sanctuary from illegitimate encroachment and in this sense pay the penalty for the Israelites’ iniquity. This responds further to the fears of the people expressed in 17:27–28.