Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance.
1. Non erit sacerdotibus Levitis: et toti tribui Levi portio et haereditas cum reliquo Israele, oblationes ignitas Jehovah, et haereditatem ejus comedent.
2. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.
2. Et haereditas non erit illi in medio fratrum suorum, Jehova est haereditas ejus, quemadmodum dixit illi.
3. And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from them that offer a sacrifice, whether it be ox or sheep; and they shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw.
3. Istud autem erit jus sacerdotum a populo, quoad sacrificantes sacrificium, sive bovem, sive agnum, dabunt sacerdoti armum, et maxillas, et ventriculum.
4. The firstfruit also of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give him.
4. Primitias frumenti tui, vini tui, et olei tui, et primitias velleris ovium tuarum dabis illi.
5. For the LORD thy God hath chosen him out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever.
5. Ipsum enim elegit Jehova Deus tuus e cunctis tribubus ruts, ut stet administrandum nomini Jehovae, ipse et filii ejus omnibus diebus.
6. And if a Levite come from any of thy gates out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the LORD shall choose;
6. Quum autem venerit Levita ex allqua portarum tuarum, ex omni Israele, ubi ipse peregrinabitur, et venerit toto desiderio animae suae ad locum quem elegerit Jehova:
7. Then he shall minister in the name of the LORD his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the LORD.
7. Ministrabit nomini Jehovae Dei sui, dent omnes fratres ejus Levitin qui stant illic coram Jehova.
8. They shall have like portions to eat, besides that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony.
8. Partera similem parti altorum comedent, praeter venditiones ejus ad partes.
1. The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi. This chapter contains three principal heads; for first, God shews that there was no reason why the Israelites should be aggrieved at paying tithes to the Levites, and at remitting the first-fruits and other oblations to the priests, since this tribe was deprived of their inheritance. Secondly, He obviates all quarrels, and prevents unlawful gains and pilferings, by assigning their just share to the priests and Levites. Thirdly, He defines how the oblations should be parted among them, and what part of the victims the priests were to take. As to the first clause, since God was as it were the lot of their inheritance, they justly claimed to themselves the right which he had transferred to them. If it were disagreeable to the people that their revenue should be tithed, God came as it were between, and declaring that it was His property in His right as King, appointed the Levites to be His stewards and collectors for receiving it. There was then no ground for any one to raise a dispute, unless he chose professedly to rob God. But this declaration often occurs; since it was of great importance that the people should be assured that God accounted as received by Himself what He had assigned to the Levites; not. only lest any portion should be withheld from them, but also that every one should willingly pay the lawful dues of God’s ministers; and again, lest any should wickedly murmur because the first-fruits and some portion of the sacrifices were appropriated for the subsistence of the priests. Another reason is also expressed, why the honor assigned to the priests should be paid without grudging; viz., because God had appointed them to be the ministers of His service; but “the laborer is worthy of his hire."
3. And this shall be the priests’ due. It is not only for the sake of the priests that God enumerates what He would have them receive, that they may obtain what is their own without murmuring or dispute; but He also has regard to the people, lest the priests should basely and greedily take more than their due; which sacred history relates to have been done by the sons of Eli, (1Sa 2:23,) for they had advanced to such a degree of licentiousness, that, like robbers, they seized violently on whatever their lust desired. Lest therefore they should give way to this gross covetousness, God prescribes to them certain limits, to which they were to confine themselves, so that if they transgressed them, it was easy for any of the people to convict them of avarice.
6. And if a Levite come. This third head more clearly explains what is elsewhere more obscurely declared; for God seemed to curtail from the Levites whatever He gave to the priests. But He now more distinctly places the priests in the first rank, yet so that they should admit the Levites on the score of their labor’s to a share of the oblations. This is the sum of the law, that the Levites who remained at home, should be content with the tithes, and touch nothing of the other offerings; but that from whithersoever they should come to the sanctuary, they were to be accounted as ministers and take their proper place. By this law then, it was provided that none should be excluded on the ground of the intermission of their duties; and that the condition of those that dwelt elsewhere should not be worse than of those who lived at Jerusalem. For although they might reside in other cities, they did not altogether cease from their ministry, since they had other duties to perform besides that of sacrificing the victims. Yet those who entirely devoted themselves to the work of the sanctuary, were endowed by God with double honor; since it was by no means just that they should be defrauded of their maintenance, who bade adieu to domestic cares and labors, and occupied themselves totally in holy offices. That this distribution was not superfluous, will best appear from the narrative of Josephus, who relates that the 226 priests seized on the tithes by violence, and deprived the Levites of their subsistence by hostile measures.
About this time King Agrippa gave the high priesthood to Ismael, who was the son of Fabi. And such was the impudence and boldness that had seized on the high priests, that they had the hardiness to send their servants into the threshing-floors, to take away those tithes that were due to the priests; insomuch that it so fell out that the poorer sort of the priests died for want.” — Whiston’s Josephus. Antiq. 20 ch. 8, sec. 8. See also ch. 9, sec. 2.