Rights of the Priests


Numbers 5

Numbers 5:9, 10

9. And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his.

9. Omnis oblatio sanctificationum in filiis Israel, sacerdoti quam efferent erit ipsius.

10. And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.

10. Qued quisque sanctificaverit sacerdotis erit, et tradetur in manum ejus.


9. And every offering. Thus far I have brought together the passages, in which Moses treats of the office of the priests, and have briefly expounded them, I will now begin to treat of their rights, i.e., of the honor which God invested them with, that He might have them ready and cheerful in their obedience. Here, however, Moses lightly touches upon what he more fully sets forth in other passages, as we shall presently see, viz., He assigns to the priests all the holy oblations, the various kinds of which He afterwards enumerates. Now, there were three principal grounds for this law; -- First, Lest what had been already dedicated to God should be profaned by its promiscuous use; for, that the sacrifices might retain their proper dignity, it was necessary to distinguish the sacred from ordinary meats. Secondly, A vainglorious excess in respect to the ceremonies was restrained; for if after the victims were killed all the flesh had been returned to the owners, a desire of ostentation1 would have grown up amongst foolish men, the rich would have come emulously to gain applause, and when they had feasted magnificently, they would have exposed the rest for sale. Thus would they have abused their false pretense of worshipping God to the acquirement of favor towards themselves. The third ground is that which Paul touches upon, viz., that it is just that the ministers of the altar should live by the altar, (1 Corinthians 9:13;) for though it is an unworthy thing that the servants of God should be attracted by their hire, yet was God unwilling that the priests, when they had freely bestowed their labor on the worship of the sanctuary, should suffer from hunger, lest their alacrity might thus be repressed. For if they desired to execute their office properly, it was necessary that they should attend altogether to spiritual things, and abandon the care of their domestic affairs. If any should object that these were incentives to avarice, and that an excellent and profitable calling was set before the priests, the reply is easy: whatever came to their share, since it was restricted to their own eating, could not have been excessive in quantity; for they were not allowed to sell any, nor even to give it away to others, as we have already seen, and as will hereafter be repeated. Thus then the foul dishonesty of those, who taunt Moses as if he had enriched the priests by the spoils of the people, is abundantly reftired; for if there were any whose interests he would have desired to consult, surely his own sons would have been preferred to all; yet to them there is no reference here. Nay, whatever he grants to the priests, he takes away from his own sons and their posterity; as if he purposely deprived them of advantages which were not otherwise unlawful. In a word, the dignity of holy things was alone consulted, without any endeavor being made to enrich the priests.

1 "C'estoit pour inciter les gens a une fole convoitise de se monstrer, et faire leurs parades:" it would have incited men to a foolish ambition for ostentation and parade. -- Fr.


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