Numbers 4:18 MEANING

Numbers 4:18
(18) Cut ye not off the tribe . . . --The word shebet (tribe) is here used in a very peculiar sense, and denotes one division only of the tribe of Levi. In this and the following verses the injunction already given (Numbers 5:15) is renewed, and Moses and Aaron are charged not to be guilty of such negligence in respect of it as might expose the Kohathites to death in consequence of their unlawful treatment of the holy things. Moses and Aaron might be said to do that which would be the result of their negligence. In like manner St. Paul enjoins the Roman Christians in these words: "Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:15).

Verse 18. - Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites. The word tribe (shebet) is used in an unusual way here, not in the sense of tribus, but of stirps. Perhaps as Levi was himself a microcosm of all Israel, so his families ranked as tribes; and no doubt they remained more distinct than the families of any other tribe. The meaning of the command is plainly this, "Take care that the Kohathites are not cut off through any negligence or want of consideration on your part; and the form of the command, "cut ye not off," conveyed most emphatically the warning, that if any mischief befell the Kohathites which the priests could have prevented, they would be responsible for it in the sight of God. No doubt, as a fact, the Kohathites would take their cue from the conduct of the priests: if they were irreverent and careless, the Levites would be the same, and would sooner or later presume, and, presuming, would die.

4:4-20 The Kohathites were to carry the holy things of the tabernacle. All the holy things were to be covered; not only for security and respect, but to keep them from being seen. This not only marked the reverence due to holy things, but the mystery of the things signified by those types, and the darkness of the dispensation. But now, through Christ, the case is altered, and we are encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace.Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites. Or give no occasion, as the Targum of Jonathan; or be not the cause of their cutting off, as Jarchi, through negligence or inadvertency of theirs, in packing up the above things, and delivering them to them.
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