Sacred Texts  Christianity  Calvin  Index  Previous  Next 

Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Numbers 18

Numbers 18:25-32

25. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

25. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

26. Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.

26. Praeterea ad Levitas loqueris: et dices eis, Quum acceperitis a filiis Israel decimas quas vobis ab illis dedi in haereditatem vestram, tunc offeretis ex illis oblationem Jehovae decimas ex decimis.

27. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.

27. Et reputabitur vobis oblatio vestra, ut frumentum ex area, et ut plenitudo e torculari.

28. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest.

28. Sic offeretis vos quoque oblationem Jehovae ex onmibus decimis vestris quas acceperitis a filiis Israel, et dabitis ex illis oblationem Jehovae Aharon sacerdoti.

29. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.

29. Ex omnibus oblationibus vestris offeretis omnem oblationem Jehovae, ex omni pinguedine ejus, sanctificationem ipsius ex eo.

30. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.

30. Ac dices illis, Quum attuleritis pinguedinem eius ex co, reputabitur Levitis ut fructus arere, et ut fructus torcularis.

31. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.

31. Comedetis autem illud ill omni loco vos et domus vestra: quia merces est vobis pro ministerio vestro in tabernaculo conventionis.

32. And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.

32. Et non portabitis super eo peccatum, quum vos obtuleritis pinguedinem ejus ex eo: et sanctiticationes filiorum Israel non polluetis, ne moriamini.


25. And the Lord spake unto Moses. This is another kind of tithe, i.e., a hundredth part of the whole produce, which the Levites paid to the priests. Some reckon a third kind; but I have given my reasons why I do not agree with this opinion. Assuredly it is not probable that in the same year double tithes were exacted and paid. Let this twofold division, therefore, be enough for us. A larger portion was given to the priests, not only as an honorable distinction, but. because greater holiness and integrity in expending them was expected from them; and also that they might meet many peculiar burdens. Lest then the Levites should be too sordid and niggardly, God declares that their theft would be no less wicked if they dealt dishonestly towards the priests, than as if the people should withhold any part of their own just share; for this is the object of the words, that the tithe of the tithes, which they are commanded to pay, should be as if they paid it from the threshing-floor and the wine-press, (Nu 18:27;) as though it were said that they were no more exempted from the second tithes, than the people from the first. The precept is then still further extended, viz., that they should offer a part of all the offerings. Thirdly, sincere liberality is inculcated upon them, that they should not lay aside as the priests’ portion anything that was lean or out of condition, or in any respect of inferior quality, but that they should rather offer whatever was most choice; for this is what is meant by the word חלב, cheleb,  224 which some translate adeps; the word pinguedo seemed more suitable, in which, however, there is a metaphor contained.

31. And ye shall eat it. Because the tithes were reckoned to be amongst the sacred oblations, a question might arise, whether it was lawful to eat them anywhere except in the sanctuary. God therefore declares, that when the Levites had separated the δευυτεροδεκάτας (the second tithes,) the residue passed into the nature and condition of ordinary meats; inasmuch as they might then eat in any place of the bread made of tithe-corn, like the produce of their own fields. The reason, which is subjoined, seems to be by no means appropriate; via, that it was the reward for the labor which they bestowed on the service of the tabernacle; for hence it was rather to be inferred, that this food was peculiarly destined for the ministers, whilst they were discharging their official duties, and keeping watch in the tabernacle, or killing the victims at the altar. But since by God’s command they were scattered over the whole land, and did not cease to be ministers of the tabernacle on account of the distance of their residence, it was justly permitted that, wherever they might be, they should eat of the meat appointed them by God. If it were allowable to take the particle כי, ki,  225 adversatively, the sense would be clearer. In the next verse he confirms the same declaration, i.e., that they should be free from all guilt when they had honestly paid the priests. Yet at the same time they are strictly admonished that they should not commit themselves by any fraud; for God declares that it would amount to sacrilege, if they should have thievishly embezzled any of it, and threatens them with capital punishment; for “to pollute the holy things” of the people, is equivalent to profaning whatever was consecrated in the name of the whole people.



Nu 18:30. A.V. “the best thereof.” Margin, “Heb., fat.” According to Facciolati, adeps, means liquid fat which does not readily become hard; and pinguedo, simply fat, “an oily substance in animals and other things."


כיfor, or because. W.

"On pourroit aussi translater, Combien que ce soit votre loyer;” it might also be translated, although this is your reward. — Fr.

Next: Deuteronomy 18:1-8