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Monday, March 5 2012
The Origin Of The Levite Priesthood
Levites originated as the children and descendants of Levi, who was a son of Jacob (see Are Levites 'Jews'?). When Jacob (who the LORD renamed as "Israel") entered Egypt (see Why Did They Go To Goshen?), the people of Israel were a family of about seventy people. While the Levites have become most well-known as the Israelite priesthood, Levi was not a priest - nor were any of his children or descendants for over four hundred years after Levi lived his life.
"1:1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. 1:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 1:3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 1:4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 1:5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already." (Exodus 1:1-5 KJV)
Over the four centuries that the people of Israel were in Egypt, they grew from a family of a few dozen people into a large nation of people - the reason that the Pharaoh feared them as a security threat to his country ("1:9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 1:10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land" Exodus 1:9-10 KJV). The result was a genocide upon the Israelite male infants. Moses, who happened to be born of the tribe of Levi, was one of those infants, of all of the tribes, who were to be killed. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was not cast into the river because he was about two years older than Moses - and hence not an infant at the time of the decree "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river."
"1:22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river [see The River Of Moses], and every daughter ye shall save alive." (Exodus 1:22 KJV)
Moses was taken from the river by the Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the royal palace. As such, he would have had very little contact with Aaron for the first eighty years of their lives - both Moses and Aaron were over eighty years old when they were brought together for the Exodus (see Moses Of Midian). When the time came, Aaron began his service to the LORD as a spokesman, a prophet, not a priest.
"4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
The LORD sent Aaron "into the wilderness to meet Moses" (literally to meet the brother than he hardly could have known before that time) in the Sinai - specifically Mount Sinai (i.e. "met him in the mount of God") where Moses had already spoken with the LORD (see also Paul's Geography Lesson).
"4:27 And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him. 4:28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
By the time of the Exodus, Aaron was already the patriarch of his own family.
"6:23 And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
The LORD spoke to Moses, who then spoke to Aaron, who then spoke publicly. It was Aaron who did most of the talking to Pharaoh - still as a prophet, not a priest.
"7:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. 7:2 Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. 7:3 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 7:4 But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 7:5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
At the time of the first Passover, there was no Levite priesthood. The sacrifice of the lambs was done by "all the congregation of Israel."
"12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
The prophetic symbolism of "Israel" and of the "priesthood" was then evident. The "ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" in Exodus (quoted below) will be fulfilled in the future, as reiterated in the Book of Revelation: "1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5-6 KJV).
"19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 19:2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
The symbolism of the prophecy is multi-layered, as is salvation itself (see When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin for the first resurrection and The Eighth Day: What Does It Mean? for the second resurrection). Aaron was then appointed as the high priest - a portrayal of Christ ("4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" Hebrews 4:14-15 KJV).
"28:1 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. 28:2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. 28:3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. 28:4 And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. 28:5 And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
Just as the high priest became a living prophecy of the ultimate spiritual high priest to come, the other Levites were "set apart" (the same word from which the word "saint" originated - meaning simply set apart, or sanctified, for a holy service) in their service to the high priest.
"1:46 Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
Each of the sections of Levites were given specific tasks in their service to The First Christian Church.
Fact Finder: (a) Why did all of the faithful and obedient Levites move from the Kingdom of Israel to the Kingdom of Judah? (b) Apart from the fact that the Messiah lived nearly all of His life in the territory that had been the Kingdom of Israel (where the Levites had officially left), why wasn't the Messiah born as a Levite? (c) Was John the Baptist a Levite?
This Day In History, March 5
363: Emperor Julian of Rome left Antioch with a force of 90,000 to attack the Sassanid Empire.
1179: The Third Lateran Council opened under Alexander III. The 300 bishops enacted measures against the Waldenses and Albigensians. Lateran III also required that popes were to be elected by two-thirds vote from the assembled cardinals (see also The Struggle For The Papacy).
1496: King Henry VII of England issued letters patent to John Cabot and his sons, authorizing them to explore "unknown lands."
1616: Nicolaus Copernicus's book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was banned by the Roman Catholic Church.
1778: Thomas Arne, English composer of Rule, Britannia, died.
1790: Flora Macdonald, Scottish Jacobite heroine, died. In 1746 she helped "Bonnie Prince Charlie," the Stuart claimant to the British throne, escape from the Hebridean island of Benbecula.
1824: The British, concerned of a Burmese invasion of Bengal, launched the First Anglo-Burmese War. It lasted nearly 2 years.
1912: Italian forces became the first to use airships for military purposes, using them for reconnaissance behind Turkish lines.
1918: The Soviets moved the capital of Russia from Petrograd to Moscow.
1926: Clement Ader, French self-taught engineer, inventor, and pioneer of flight died at age 85. In 1890 he flew his steam-engine powered aircraft a distance of 160 feet; the Wright brothers did not fly their gasoline-engine powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk until 1903, 13 years later.
1933: U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a 4 day "bank holiday" in order to stop large amounts of money from being withdrawn from the banks during a financial panic.
1933: Election returns in Germany gave the Nazis and their allies 52% of the seats in the Reichstag (see Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion).
1936: The Spitfire fighter plane went on display for the first time in England.
1946: In a speech at Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill uttered his now-famous: "From Stettin in the Baltic, to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent."
1953: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died.
1974: During the Yom Kippur War, Israeli forces withdrew from the west bank of the Suez Canal.
1979: Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Jupiter. Voyager 2 followed 4 months later.
1982: The Soviet probe Venera 14 landed on Venus.
1999: Paul Okalik was elected the first Premier of Nunavut.