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Children of Levi

Levites are the descendants of Levi, one of the Tribes Of Israel, the Children Of Jacob (Genesis 29:34). The term is generally used, from the perspective of The Bible, to identify the part of the tribe that was set apart for the secondary duties of the sanctuary service (1 Kings 8:4, Ezra 2:70), as assistants to the priests, who were also Levites. Although all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests.

Foreshadows of The Christ

Prior to the Exodus, when the Israelites escaped the slavery of the Pharaoh of Egypt (see Who Was The Exodus Pharaoh?), the ancient way of worship was yet observed, with the firstborn son of each household inheriting the priest's office (a very ancient foreshadow of the Christ, our High Priest, the Firstborn from the dead). Then, at Sinai (see Wilderness Journey), a hereditary priesthood from the family of Aaron (the Levitical High Priest was also a direct and exclusive foreshadow of Jesus Christ - see The Day Of Atonement) was established (Exodus 28:1).

The Tabernacle The Levites were formally set apart after the now-infamous incident with the golden calf idol that the Israelites made while Moses was away receiving The Ten Commandments from The Lord (Exodus chapter 32). The Levites did not take part in the idolatry, and actually killed 3,000 of those who were running wild, as ordered by Moses (Exodus 32:25-29).

After the incident was over, Moses said of the Levites, "Consecrate yourselves to day to The Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day" (Exodus 32:29 KJV). The Levites were natural allies of Moses because Moses, and his brother Aaron, were of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 2:1-2,10).

Levi had 3 sons - Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. From those branches of the family, the Levites were organized into 3 levels of service:

  • The first level was composed of Aaron and his offspring, who were descended from Levi's son Kohath. They formed the priesthood.

  • The second level was made up of all of the other descendants of Kohath who were not descendants of Aaron. They were in charge of the most sacred parts of the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:27-32, 4:4-15, 7:9).

  • The third level consisted of all of the descendants of Gershon and Merari, who were given lesser duties (Numbers 3:21-26,33-37).

The Levites served at the Tabernacle from age 30 to 50 (Numbers 4:3,23,30). They were not counted for military service in the armies of Israel, but were set apart for service to God (Numbers 1:45-50, 2:33, 26:62).

Levites had custody of The Tabernacle (as illustrated above, see also What Happened To The Tabernacle?) (Numbers 1:51, 18:22-24). The Gershonites camped on the west of the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:23), the Kohathites on the south (Numbers 3:29), the Merarites on the north (Numbers 3:35), and the priests on the east (Numbers 3:38).

The Tabernacle

With their consecration to The Lord's service, the Levites were allotted no territorial inheritance of their own at the Division Of The Land; God was their inheritance (Numbers 18:20, 26:62, Deuteronomy 10:9). Once established in the Promised Land, they were supported, in the agricultural economy of the time, by the tithes of the produce of the land paid to The Lord by the other tribes.

The Levites were assigned towns to live in from the inheritance of the other tribes - forty-eight cities, thirteen of which were for the priests along with their other inhabitants (Numbers 35:2-5). Nine of these cities were in Judah, three in Naphtali, and four in each of the other tribes (Joshua chapter 21). Six of the Levitical cities were designated as Cities Of Refuge

Fact Finder: Was John The Baptist a Levite, a descendant of the priestly line of Aaron?
Luke 1:5,57-60
See also Elizabeth

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