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à razor. * Of this rite Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson gives the following account: 'God commanded them to 'shave all the hair entirely off from their bodies, 'thereby intending to remind them, that, renouncing as far as possible all care of corporeal things, they should wholly devote themselves to their sacred mi, nistry.' Moreover, lest their purified bodies should be again defiled by impure clothing, they were also commanded to wash their garments.t
Being purified by these rites, and consecrated by the imposition of the hands of the people, which was the next part of the ceremony, they were offered by Aaron as living sacrifices before the Lord. Being thus given instead of the first born, they were im. mediately allotted by God to the priests as sacred servants. Still there wanted, especially as they were about to enter on the sacred office, an expiatory vic, tim to make an atonement for their sins. A bullock was therefore offered for a sin offering : after which the ceremony was completed by their offering another bullock for a burnt offering, together with a meat offering, as a present to their Lord : and after these oblations they were admitted into his family.
II. Initiated by these rites, they immediately entered on their office ; which was not always the same, but varied according to the circumstances of different times. Before the sacred ark had obtained a permanent station, it was the business of the Levites to take charge of the tabernacle, and all the parts, furniture, and utensils of it, whenever it was to be removed, they were either to carry on their own shoulders, or to place on the waggons allotted to them for its conveyance from place to place. The + Kumn, viä. 7
Num. viii. 9, 10. 8. Num. viii, 18, 19.
ark, the table of the shew bread, the two altars, the candlestick, and indeed all the holy vessels were to be borne upon the shoulders of the sons of Kohath. But the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle, which were under the care of the sons of Gershon ; and its bars, piHars, and sockets, with every thing else of that kind, which were confided to the sons of Merari; were to be carried about on waggons. Hence it was, that waggons and oxen were given to the families of Gershon and Merari, but not to the family of Kohath.*
When the place of the ark was not to be changed any more, there was no further occasion for these labours of the Levites: in consequence of which David, who fixed the ark in Jerusalem as its per manent station, appointed some of them to be officers and judges in civil affairs, some to be porters at the gates of the temple, some to celebrate the praises of God with music both vocal and instrumental, and others to assist the priests in all things relating to the sanctuary. These last prepared the shew bread, the fine flour, and the unleavened cakes : whenever it was necessary, as it was at the principal festivals, they slew and flayed the victims; and performed other offices which existing circumstances required.
III. During the continuance of the tabernacle, the Levites were called to different duties of their office at different ages; to the charge of the sanctuary on the completion of their twenty-fifth year; but not to bearing burdens on their shoulders, or laying them on waggons, when they were under thirty, or upwards of fifty. Thus are reconciled the two apparently inconsistent injunctions, of which one directs the ministry of the Levites to commence from the thirtieth year, and the other from the twenty-fifth.* The former relates to those more burdensome labours which I have mentioned, and the latter to the care of the tabernacle. These different employments required persons of different ages and different degrees of strength. I know that some persons endeavour to obviate this difficulty by another solution. They suppose the Levites to have been called to a course of instruction for their office at their twenty-fifth year, but not to the actual performance of its functions till the completion of their thirtieth.† But this supposition, as Abarbinel observes, is at variance with the scripture, which expressly states the Levites, at twentyfive years of age, to have been called “to wait
* Num. vii. 7-9. + I Cbron, xxiii. 4, 5. 26. 28, 29. II Chron, xxix. 16. 24. xxxiv. 6. 11.
upon the service of the tabernacle,” which clearly denotes, not instruction for their ministry, but the ministry itself:'and there can be no doubt that their instruction for their office began before that age.
But these remarks are to be understood of the Levites before they were numbered by David. For David, a little before his death, directed them to be called to their office “from twenty-years old and “ upward.” I say nothing here of such as were appointed to preside in civil affairs; but those who had attained that age, and were devoted to the service of the sanctuary, were divided, as we have before observed, into three orders; and each order was distributed into twenty-four classes. One of these orders was appointed to assist the priests ; the second, to keep the gates of the sanctuary; and the third, to
+ Maimon. in Chele Hamik dash. c. iii. # Abarb. ad Num. viii. 94.
$ I Chron. xxiii. 27.
* Num, iv, 3. viii. 24.
accompany the public solemnities with vocal and instrumental music. But it is said by the Jews, that, to preserve the divine worship from being disgraced by the less melodious notes of old men, every one more than fifty years of age was removed from the quire. This idea is conveyed in the following passage of Abarbinel. · The Levites are incapacitated by
age, not by corporeal blemishes. The priests are disqualified by corporeal blemishes, but not by age.
For though the sons of priests were not accustomed to perform the sacred functions before they were twenty years old, yet, as the same author has remarked, there is no law of God forbidding them to officiate under that age.
What then, according to the divine law, is the proper age for exercising the sacerdotal functions ? The same, says Abarbinel, as for observing God's commands in general : ‘A priest ' is really qualified for his office, as soon as he has • attained an age capable of knowing his obligation to observe the precepts of the law.
But the priests, his brethren, permit him not to officiate till the completion of his twentieth year.'
IV. As the Levites were given to be assistants to the priests, so were “ the Nethinims appointed for the service of the Levites," + but with considerable inferiority of condition. The Nethinims were descended from the Gibeonites, whom Joshua, on account of the league he had made with them, would not utterly destroy, but whom, on account of the fraud employed by them to accomplish that league, he devoted to perform the drudgery of the sanctuary; commanding them to be inade “ hewers of wood and drawers “ of water." I
# Ad Num. viii.
+ Ezra viii. 20.
Josh. ix. 21.
to the Jews. Particular Account of the Meat Ofer- •
THE preceding disquisition respecting the sacred places and the ministers of religion, appointed for the Hebrews, prepares us to enter with greater facility on an examination of their sacrifices. Since the Jews consider no dedicated things as sacrifices properly so called, except that class of oblations which the sacred writers name Corban,* we must first inquire what is it that the scripture designates by this term. It is applied to whatever was offered to God before an altar. Nor is any thing else ever distinguished by this appellation, except the wood provided for the sacred fires; which I suppose to have been so denominated, because it was designed to be used upon the altar.t Now all consecrated things ought to be considered as offered before an altar, which were brought to the door of the tabernacle; that being the place where God commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, and where the great altar was placed, which after the erection of the temple was removed into the court of the priests: so that whatever was offered at the door of the tabernacle, was at the same time offered before the altar.
Of those things which were offered to God before the altar, some were dismissed and sent away, as the goat which was led into the wilderness; some were dedicated, entire and uninjured, to the service of the sanctuary; and others were cut in pieces and con
Neliem. x. 34. xiii. 31. Levit. xvii. 4, 5, 6. Exod. xl. 6. 29.