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18 The Lord now spoke to Aaron: “You and your sons and your family are responsible for any desecration of the sanctuary,” he said, “and will be held liable for any impropriety in your priestly work.

2-3 “Your kinsmen, the tribe of Levi, are your assistants; but only you and your sons may perform the sacred duties in the Tabernacle itself. The Levites must be careful not to touch any of the sacred articles or the altar, lest I destroy both them and you. No one who is not a member of the tribe of Levi shall assist you in any way. Remember, only the priests are to perform the sacred duties within the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the wrath of God will never again fall upon any of the people of Israel for violating this law. I say it again—your kinsmen the Levites are your assistants for the work of the Tabernacle. They are a gift to you from the Lord. But you and your sons, the priests, shall personally handle all the sacred service, including the altar and all that is within the veil, for the priesthood is your special gift of service. Anyone else who attempts to perform these duties shall die.”

The Lord gave these further instructions to Aaron: “I have given the priests all the gifts which are brought to the Lord by the people; all these offerings presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving them before the altar belong to you and your sons, by permanent law. The grain offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings are yours, except for the sample presented to the Lord by burning upon the altar. All these are most holy offerings. 10 They are to be eaten only in a most holy place, and only by males. 11 All other gifts presented to me by the gesture of waving them before the altar are for you and your families, sons and daughters alike. For all the members of your families may eat these unless anyone is ceremonially impure at the time.

12 “Yours also are the first-of-the-harvest gifts the people bring as offerings to the Lord—the best of the olive oil, wine, grain, 13 and every other crop. Your families may eat these unless they are ceremonially defiled at the time. 14-15 So everything that is dedicated to the Lord shall be yours, including the firstborn sons of the people of Israel, and the firstborn of their animals. 16 However, you may never accept the firstborn sons, nor the firstborn of any animals that I do not permit for food. Instead, there must be a payment of two and a half dollars made for each firstborn child. It is to be brought when he is one month old.

17 “However, the firstborn of cows, sheep, or goats may not be bought back; they must be sacrificed to the Lord.[a] Their blood is to be sprinkled upon the altar, and their fat shall be burned as a fire offering; it is very pleasant to the Lord. 18 The meat of these animals shall be yours, including the breast and right thigh that are presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar. 19 Yes, I have given to you all of these ‘wave offerings’ brought by the people of Israel to the Lord; they are for you and your families as food; this is a permanent contract[b] between the Lord and you and your descendants.

20 “You priests may own no property nor have any other income, for I am all that you need.

21 “As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, they shall be paid for their service with the tithes from the entire land of Israel.

22 “From now on, Israelites other than the priests and Levites shall not enter the sanctuary lest they be judged guilty and die. 23 Only the Levites shall do the work there, and they shall be guilty if they fail. This is a permanent law among you, that the Levites shall own no property in Israel, 24 for the people’s tithes, offered to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar, shall belong to the Levites; these are their inheritance, and so they have no need for property.”

25-26 The Lord also said to Moses, “Tell the Levites to give to the Lord a tenth of the tithes they receive—a tithe of the tithe, to be presented to the Lord by the gesture of waving before the altar. 27 The Lord will consider this as your first-of-the-harvest offering to him of grain and wine, as though it were from your own property. 28-29 This tithe of the tithe shall be selected from the choicest part of the tithes you receive as the Lord’s portion, and shall be given to Aaron the priest. 30 It shall be credited to you just as though it were from your own threshing floor and winepress. 31 Aaron and his sons and their families may eat it in their homes or anywhere they wish, for it is their compensation for their service in the Tabernacle. 32 You Levites will not be held guilty for accepting the Lord’s tithes if you then give the best tenth to the priests. But beware that you do not treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common, lest you die.”


  1. Numbers 18:17 they must be sacrificed to the Lord, literally, “they are holy.”
  2. Numbers 18:19 a permanent contract, literally, “a covenant of salt.”

Duties of Priests and Levites

18 The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary,(A) and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood. Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister(B) before the tent of the covenant law. They are to be responsible to you(C) and are to perform all the duties of the tent,(D) but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar. Otherwise both they and you will die.(E) They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting—all the work at the tent—and no one else may come near where you are.(F)

“You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar,(G) so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again. I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you,(H) dedicated to the Lord to do the work at the tent of meeting.(I) But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain.(J) I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift.(K) Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.(L)

Offerings for Priests and Levites

Then the Lord said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion,(M) your perpetual share.(N) You are to have the part of the most holy offerings(O) that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain(P) or sin[a](Q) or guilt offerings,(R) that part belongs to you and your sons. 10 Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it.(S) You must regard it as holy.(T)

11 “This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings(U) of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share.(V) Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean(W) may eat it.

12 “I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain(X) they give the Lord(Y) as the firstfruits of their harvest.(Z) 13 All the land’s firstfruits that they bring to the Lord will be yours.(AA) Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.(AB)

14 “Everything in Israel that is devoted[b] to the Lord(AC) is yours. 15 The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours.(AD) But you must redeem(AE) every firstborn(AF) son and every firstborn male of unclean animals.(AG) 16 When they are a month old,(AH) you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels[c](AI) of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel,(AJ) which weighs twenty gerahs.(AK)

17 “But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy.(AL) Splash their blood(AM) against the altar and burn their fat(AN) as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.(AO) 18 Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering(AP) and the right thigh are yours.(AQ) 19 Whatever is set aside from the holy(AR) offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt(AS) before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”

20 The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them;(AT) I am your share and your inheritance(AU) among the Israelites.

21 “I give to the Levites all the tithes(AV) in Israel as their inheritance(AW) in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting.(AX) 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the tent of meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die.(AY) 23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance(AZ) for the generations to come.(BA) They will receive no inheritance(BB) among the Israelites.(BC) 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord.(BD) That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’”

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you(BE) as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.(BF) 27 Your offering will be reckoned(BG) to you as grain from the threshing floor(BH) or juice from the winepress.(BI) 28 In this way you also will present an offering to the Lord from all the tithes(BJ) you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest. 29 You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’

30 “Say to the Levites: ‘When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress.(BK) 31 You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the tent of meeting.(BL) 32 By presenting the best part(BM) of it you will not be guilty in this matter;(BN) then you will not defile the holy offerings(BO) of the Israelites, and you will not die.’”


  1. Numbers 18:9 Or purification
  2. Numbers 18:14 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord.
  3. Numbers 18:16 That is, about 2 ounces or about 58 grams