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Are Levites 'Jews'?

Abraham had a son named Isaac (Abraham also had many other sons and daughters e.g. see Ishmael's Paran and Keturah; also Abraham's Journey).

"21:1 And the LORD [see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'] visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 21:4 And Abraham circumcised [see Circumcision] his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him." (Genesis 21:1-4 KJV)

Isaac had a son named Jacob (Jacob had a fraternal, definitely not identical, twin brother named Esau; see Why Did Esau Lose The Blessing?).

"25:21 And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. 25:23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them." (Genesis 25:21-26 KJV)

The LORD changed Jacob's name to "Israel" (notice that the name change occurred after almost all of Jacob's twelve sons and one daughter were born to him; they were up to then children of Jacob, or "Jacobites," not children of Israel, or "Israelites"; see The Origin Of 'Israel').

"32:22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok [see The Jabbok River]. 32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 32:25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 32:26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh.

And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name?

And he said, Jacob.

32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32:22-28 KJV)

"Levi and Judah"

Jacob, who the LORD renamed as "Israel," had twelve sons and one daughter from his two wives (Rachel and Leah, who were sisters - and first-cousins of Jacob) and two concubines (Bilhah and Zilpah, who were servants of Rachel and Leah). All but the youngest child, Benjamin, were born while Jacob was living with his uncle Laban, in what is today Syria (see Jacob and Laban, Jacob's Ringstreaked, Speckled And Spotted and Jacob And Laban's Witness Heap; also The Syrian Tongue Of Jesus).

Leah (pronounced in Hebrew, lay-ah) was the mother of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Israel's only recorded daughter, Dinah.

Israel and Judah

"29:32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

29:33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

29:34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi [see Levites].

29:35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing." (Genesis 29:32-35 KJV)

"30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. 30:18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

30:19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 30:20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.

30:21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah." (Genesis 30:17-21 KJV)

Zilpah, Leah's servant (it was Leah's idea that Jacob have children with her i.e. Genesis 30:9) was the mother of Gad and Asher.

"30:9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 30:10 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. 30:11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

30:12 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. 30:13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher." (Genesis 30:9-13 KJV)

Bilhah, Rachel's maid (it was Rachel's idea that Jacob have children with her i.e. Genesis 30:3-6) was the mother of Dan and Naphtali.

"30:1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

30:2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

30:4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 30:5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 30:6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

30:7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 30:8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali." (Genesis 30:1-8 KJV)

Rachel (see Rachel Of Padanaram) was the mother of Joseph, and Benjamin - who was the only one of Jacob's children to be born in what later became known as the land of Israel. Tragically, Rachel died, near Bethlehem, giving birth to Benjamin.

"30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 30:23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 30:24 And she called his name Joseph [see Joseph, Prime Minister Of Egypt]; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son." (Genesis 30:22-24 KJV)

"35:16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 35:17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." (Genesis 35:16-19 KJV)

From Jacob / Israel's sons came the tribes of Israel - each named after their progenitor e.g. the tribe of Judah was named after Israel's son Judah ("Jude" and "Jew" are abbreviations of Judah's name), the tribe of Levi was named after Israel's son Levi etc. (see Numbers chapter 1). As the assigned priesthood, the Levites were set apart from the other tribes and were not to be counted among them i.e. "thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel."

Order Of The Camp

"1:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 1:2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls" (Numbers 1:1-2 KJV)

"1:47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them. 1:48 For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying, 1:49 Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel" (Numbers 1:47-49 KJV)

"28:21 And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes." (Exodus 28:21 KJV)

People of the twelve tribes always maintained their own tribal identity. Each of the twelve tribes were given their own tribal lands in the land of Israel, with the exception of the Levites, who were assigned the priesthood by the LORD, were distributed throughout the tribal lands of the other tribes (Joshua chapter 21; see map above) - but nevertheless maintained their tribal identity e.g. Levites who lived in the tribal land of Reuben called themselves Levites, not Reubenites; Levites who lived in the tribal land of Judah called themselves Levites, not Jews etc.

"21:41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs." (Joshua 21:41 KJV)

"23:2 And they went about in Judah, and gathered the Levites out of all the cities of Judah, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 23:2 KJV)

"23:8 So the Levites and all Judah did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest had commanded, and took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that were to go out on the sabbath: for Jehoiada the priest dismissed not the courses." (2 Chronicles 23:8 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) After The Division Of Israel into "Israel" (see The Northern Kingdom) and "Judah" (see The Southern Kingdom) how did the Levites, who were distributed in towns and lands throughout the entire land of Israel, become concentrated in the southern kingdom of Judah? (b) How did the religious beliefs and practices of the Levites in Judah change from what was originally given to them by the LORD? How did much of "the law of Moses" become the "traditions of men"? Why is it that Moses (who, by the way, was a Levite just as much as his brother Aaron, Exodus 2:1-2,10; so too was John the Baptist centuries later, Luke 1:5,57-60) wouldn't recognize much of what has become the religion of the people of Judah?
(a) See No Levites In The Lost Ten Tribes?
(b) See Did Jesus Break The Law? and The Origin Of The Essenes, Sadducees And Pharisees


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