Joshua 13:14: The Inheritance of Levi

Verse 14:[1] (Num. 18:20, 23, 24; Josh. 14:3, 4) Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, (Josh. 13:33) as he said unto them.

[To the Tribe of Levi he gave not, etc.] Namely, Moses, as appears from a comparison with verse 33. Now, he is said not to have given because he had instructed Joshua to order that it be not given. For otherwise he would not have given to nine and a half tribes. Indeed, to the Levites are given cities and the surrounding estates; but not some one region, as to the others, in which by the cultivation of the land they might be able to take care of themselves (Masius).

He, that is, Moses, as is expressed verse 33, gave none inheritance, to wit, in the land beyond Jordan, where yet a considerable part of the Levites were to have their settled abode. This is mentioned as the reason both why Moses gave all that land to the Reubenites, and Gadites, and Manassites; and why Joshua should divide the land only into nine parts and a half, as was said, verse 7, because Levi was otherwise provided for.

[The Sacrifices, etc., אִשֵּׁ֙י יְהוָ֜ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ ה֣וּא נַחֲלָת֔וֹ] The ignitions of the Lord, this is (or, they are [Pagnine, etc.]) his inheritance (Montanus, similarly Tigurinus, Dutch, Junius and Tremellius, Masius, Drusius, Jonathan, Syriac). The Synecdoche is twofold: one of species, a thing to be consumed by Fire, for whatever oblation; the other of the whole, an oblation, for a part of an oblation (Piscator, similarly Junius). The things burned is taken broadly here, whence Jonathan renders it oblations (thus the Syriac), and Jerome sacrifices (thus Munster) (Drusius). It καταχρηστικῶς/improperly signifies the oblations due to God, among which are the first-fruits and the tithes (Masius). In whatever way this might be meant, it signifies those things that were reserved for the sustenance of the Levites, who were not able to live of the things consumed and to be consumed by fire (Drusius). Now, what value God places upon the doing of this law He sufficiently shows, in that Moses declared it in a great many words and so often. Of course, He wants His ministers to be free from all ill will. Now, it is evident that the common people are wont to flay with jeers those that they see to be maintained publicly, as if by their own labor they feed the idleness of those. God forestalls that occasion of calumnies, since He inculcates that He feeds them from His own stock. It ought not to seem harsh, if tithes, etc., which citizens gave to their Kings in accordance with natural equity, God had commanded to be given to Himself, from whose mere liberality they were obliged to attribute whatever they might possess in goods. Moreover, although that disinheriting of the Levites was for punishment, Genesis 49:7, nevertheless, because God had pardoned that sin, He indeed confirmed that they were to be dispersed among the other Tribes, lest that prophecy of Jacob should be in vain; but in this way, that that dispersion should be done both with the highest dignity of them, and with the greatest usefulness of the entire Israelite race. But now, while it was necessary that the authority of the priests be highest, and with them despised sacred doctrine would not fare well, that one cause of dispersion, which is shameful, is everywhere concealed, and the other glorious cause is shown (Masius).

Sacrifices of the Lord made by fire; which by a synecdoche are here put for all those sacrifices and oblations, including first-fruits and tithes, which were assigned to the Levites; and this passage is so oft repeated and urged, to prevent those calumnies and injuries which God foresaw the Levites were likely to meet with from the malice, envy, and covetousness of their brethren; and to oblige all the other tribes to a cheerful and conscionable giving to the Levites their dues, to which they had as good a right and title as they had to their several possessions.

[As he said to him, לוֹ] Unto him (Masius). Concerning that, namely, the tribe of Levi (Vatablus). Now, He spoke these things in Numbers 18:20, etc. (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: רַ֚ק לְשֵׁ֣בֶט הַלֵּוִ֔י לֹ֥א נָתַ֖ן נַחֲלָ֑ה אִשֵּׁ֙י יְהוָ֜ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ ה֣וּא נַחֲלָת֔וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּר־לֽוֹ׃

1 thought on “Joshua 13:14: The Inheritance of Levi

  1. JC Philpot’s “The Witness of the Spirit: Romans 8:16, 17″: ‘”An heir of God!” The Levites had no inheritance among their brethren. God was their inheritance (Joshua 13:14, 33). This was a figure of the family of God; as having no inheritance with their brethren after the flesh. The world is not for them, nor the things of the world. They have another inheritance of which the World knows nothing and for which it cares less?—God. But what is it to be an heir of God? It is to have God for our eternal possession—for all the love, glory, bliss, and blessedness of the self-existent Jehovah to be made over to us for our everlasting enjoyment. Whatever the love of God can give, whatever the grace of God bestow, whatever the glory of God reveal, whatever fulness of bliss there is in the eternal presence of the great and glorious Jehovah,—all that is ours if we be the children of God. The heir of a nobleman may walk at pleasure over his father’s property; he may look at every tree and say, “This is or will be mine; that farm in the distance is mine; those houses on the hill, those woods at my feet, that noble mansion, this beautiful park are mine; all I see around me is mine; I am heir to it all.” A stranger cannot go into that nobleman’s park, look at the trees, view the mansion, survey the wide prospect, and say he is heir to them all. But the eldest son can; for the same title that gives him heirship to one part of the estate gives him heirship to it all. So it is in grace. A child of grace may say, when blessed with a sense of his love—”If God is my Father and I am his heir, all that God is he is to me. His power is for me; his glory for me; his love for me; his holiness for me; his eternal perfections are for me; all he is and all he has is mine, so far as I am his child, and therefore his heir.” Who, blessed with such an inheritance, need envy those who are heirs to titles, rank, fashion, and broad acres, a seat in the House of Peers, or a place near the Throne? When their happiness ends, his will only begin. When they are consigned to their coffin, and “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” sounds over their remains, the child of God, thrust perhaps into an elm shell and buried at the expense of the parish, is only just then entering upon an immortality of bliss and glory.’

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