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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."

Egypt

"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)

2:1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. 2:2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 2:3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. 2:4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him." (Exodus 2:1-4 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.

4:13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

4:14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. 4:15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. 4:16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God." (Exodus 4:12-16 KJV)

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).

The Nile River

"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.

4:29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: 4:30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people." (Exodus 4:27-30 KJV)

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.

6:24 And the sons of Korah; Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korhites.

6:25 And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.

6:26 These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom the LORD said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies. 6:27 These are they which spake to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron." (Exodus 6:23-27 KJV)

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.

7:6 And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they. 7:7 And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.

7:8 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 7:9 When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Show a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.

7:10 And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 7:12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods." (Exodus 7:1-12 KJV)

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."

Plagues In Egypt

"12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,

12:2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 12:3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: 12:4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

12:6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 12:7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 12:8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 12:9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

12:10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. 12:11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD passover.

12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD." (Exodus 12:1-12 KJV)

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.

19:3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 19:4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

19:7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD." (Exodus 19:1-8 KJV)

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).

The High Priest

"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.

28:6 And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work. 28:7 It shall have the two shoulder pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together. 28:8 And the curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.

28:9 And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel: 28:10 Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth. 28:11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold. 28:12 And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial. 28:13 And thou shalt make ouches of gold; 28:14 And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches.

28:15 And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it. 28:16 Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. 28:17 And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. 28:18 And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. 28:19 And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. 28:20 And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their enclosings. 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 28:1-21 KJV)

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.

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: 1:50 But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle. 1:51 And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. 1:52 And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. 1:53 But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.

1:54 And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they." (Numbers 1:46-54 KJV)

The Tabernacle

Each of the sections of Levites were given specific tasks in their service to The First Christian Church.

  • 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).

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?
(a) See No Levites In The Lost Ten Tribes?
(b) See Why Wasn't Christ A Levite?
(c) See What Was Strange About John The Baptist?


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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.





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