Did the priests eat portions of the sacrificial meat? 

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Old Testament verses on what the Levites could eat

The Lord instructed, in the Old Testament, that the priests and the Levites should eat certain meat portions of some of the sacrificial animals brought to the ancient sanctuary.

Moses wrote, “And the remainder of it Aaron and his sons shall eat; with unleavened bread it shall be eaten in a holy place; in the court of the tabernacle of meeting they shall eat it. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of My offerings made by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the trespass offering. All the males among the children of Aaron may eat it. It shall be a statute forever in your generations concerning the offerings made by fire to the Lord. Everyone who touches them must be holy’” (Leviticus 6:16–18 also 7:15, 16, 31–34; Numbers 18:8–10; Deuteronomy 18:1, 2). 

The Bible teaches that the priests were eligible to their support from the things of the Temple. Not only the priests were eligible but also the Levites who served in the Temple and took care of the sacred articles there. The levites had fewer material blessings and, therefore, they were not to be forgotten (Deuteronomy 12:19, 12). They cleaned the Temple and prepared supplies to be used in it, such as oil and incense; they also ministered as the musicians for the Temple service (Numbers 1:50–53; 3:5–37; 4:1–33; 8:5–22; 1 Chronicles 23:3–6, 24, 27–32).

God’s provision for His workers

God commanded Moses that the priests and their helpers should not have any inheritance in the land of Palestine, but should obtain their support entirely from the Temple (Numbers 18:20–24; 26:57, 62; Deuteronomy 18:1–8). As they were free from the duties of working the land, they were able to work in the Temple full-time. The Lord had made provision for that through the tithes and sacrificial offerings of the congregation. 

It was impossible for the worshiper who gave certain free will offerings to the temple to consume the flesh of an animal in one or two days. Therefore, he was instructed to share the meat with the temple workers. This teaching encouraged liberality to the poor.  God appoints that those who have shall share with those who have not (Deuteronomy 15:7–11).  This was the Lord’s plan (Deuteronomy 12:11, 12, 17, 18; 16:11). Thus, the event of sharing food was a happy one (Psalms 42:4; Isaiah 30:29). Also, the presence of the Levites with the people allowed for a time of spiritual teaching.

New Testament instruction for providing food for priests

God’s instruction for providing food for the priests was repeated in the New Testament, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” (1 Corinthians 9:13). 

Christ sent out His apostles into the cities of Palestine and told them to make no provision for their needs for that was the duty of those they ministered to. The disciples were not to carry with them “neither gold nor silver nor copper” (Matthew 10:9). Christ instructed, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house” (Luke 10:7).

The same theme of sharing was given by Christ when He said, “call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” when “thou makest a feast” (Luke 14:12, 13). Christ encouraged hospitality that is based on true care for the needs of others. Christ taught that this kind of generosity, though not returned in this life, will be rewarded in the eternal life. The history of the Israelites has been written for the benefit of the Christian church today. And God’s commands in the ancient Temple ministry are worthy of our attention today. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team 

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