VI. THE LEVITICAL SERVICE AND
THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD, WITH THEIR REWARD
A. The Levitical Service
and the Aaronic Priesthood
Numbers 18 unveils to us the charge or the duties of the Levitical service and the Aaronic priesthood, with their reward. The reward was the compensation the Levites and priests received for their service. After the rebellion in chapter sixteen, which was an attack on the priesthood of Aaron and his household, a definite word was given regarding the service of the Levites and the priesthood of Aaron and his sons and also regarding their reward. I believe that the word here became a statute or an ordinance that was kept by the children of Israel throughout the generations.
1. The Service of the Levites
The service of the Levites was to take care of the tent of meeting, the tabernacle of the testimony, which is a type of Christ and the church (vv. 1a, 2a, 3-4, 6). In taking care of the tabernacle and its contents, the Levites did not serve God directly; rather, they served the priesthood and the priests, who served God directly.
a. The Levites Being a Gift to Aaron and His Sons
The Levites were a gift to Aaron and his sons, a gift that had been given to God (v. 6b). God wanted all the firstborn of the children of Israel to do the service. Eventually, God used the Levites to replace them. The children of Israel gave their firstborn to God as a gift, and these were replaced by the Levites. God then gave the Levites, who had been given to Him, as a gift to the priests.
b. To Join Aaron and His Sons and Minister to Them
The Levites were to join Aaron and his sons and minister to them. For the Levites to minister to the priests meant that they served the priests.
2. The Priesthood of Aaron and His Sons
In English the word priesthood is sometimes used to denote a body of priests, that is, a number of priests who have been grouped together. This word is also used to denote the service of the priests, and this is mainly the meaning here in Numbers 18.
Aaron and his sons were to bear the iniquity of their priesthood (v. 1b). The word iniquity is used here to charge the priests not to make mistakes while carrying out their priestly service. The priesthood was a service to offer all kinds of offerings and sacrifices to God, all of which were types of different aspects of the rich Christ. Thus, it was a very important and serious matter. Any mistake, neglect, or shortage would have been a kind of iniquity. The priests were required to fulfill their charge without making mistakes so that their priestly service would not have any iniquity.
The priests were to keep the charge of the sanctuary, the tabernacle, and of the altar (v. 5). The whole tabernacle was the sanctuary. In the Bible the word sanctuary is used in a very ambiguous way; it may refer to the Holy Place, to the Holy of Holies, or to both. The sanctuary typifies Christ and also the church. The altar, which was outside the sanctuary, signifies the cross of Christ. Therefore, the sanctuary and the altar typify Christ with the church and His cross.
The Levites served under the priests in caring for the sanctuary and the altar. For instance, when the children of Israel were commanded to move, the Levites packed and carried the tabernacle and all its furnishings. When the people arrived at a particular place, the Levites set up the tabernacle and everything related to it.
(Life-Study of Numbers, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)