Vision Logo Circle
Vision Logo Circle

Who Were The Levites? Pt 2

by | Tue, Aug 9 2022

Text size: A- A+

So last time we learned that the event of the Golden Calf was a pivotal point in Hebrew history, and the Levites chose to mete out God’s judgment against the other Hebrews who refused to repent of the idolatry and debauchery. It’s generally believed in Jewish tradition that it was this decision that saw God hand-pick the Levites to be a priestly tribe and find their inheritance in God rather than in a land allotment.

So we know that Aaron’s family line was the blood line that produced the priests who performed sacrifices and rituals in the Tabernacle and later on in the Temple, but what about the rest of the families in the tribe of Levi? What did they do?

In the wilderness wanderings, the families of the Levites were responsible for transporting the Tabernacle and it’s furniture and the tribe had three family divisions, the families of Kehot, Gershon and Merari.

The family of Kehot would transport the Ark of the Covenant and other accoutrements; the family of Gershon carried the curtains; the family of Merari carried the beams, sockets and bars.

The three families I just mentioned were family lines, and in each family line there were many other families making the tribe quite big. When they were selected to serve as a priestly tribe, God said they weren’t to be numbered like the rest of the tribes, but they were quite numerous nonetheless.

Number 1:49-51, ‘Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel. But you shall appoint the Levites over the Tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the Tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they’ll take care of it, they’ll also camp around the Tabernacle. So when the Tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the Tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the layman who comes near shall be put to death.’

So everything pertaining to the maintenance, upkeep, construction and packing up of the Tabernacle was to be done by the Levites alone. Anyone else trying to get involved with anything pertaining to the upkeep of the Tabernacle would meet a nasty end. This was an important and sacred task.

Numbers 18 lists the duties of the Levites and its pretty interesting stuff.

Numbers 18:1-3, ‘The Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood. But bring with you also your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you, while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. And they shall thus attend to your obligation and the obligation of all the tent, but they shall not come near to the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die.”’

Basically, this meant that the Levites were to serve God by serving the needs of the priests; keep the Tabernacle clean, tidy, functional, well fitted-out, make sure it’s packed up properly, make sure it reconstructed properly. Be close enough to the priests that you can make sure they have all that they need…but…don’t get too close to them or the furniture where the sacrifices are being made to God otherwise, you’ve overstepped the bounds and God will take you out. And the priests who permitted it.

Again, the role of the Levites in serving and ministering to God, and making a place ready for the people to come before God was incredibly important and sacred, but even they had to work within set parameters. It was a holy, serious and sacred role.

I mentioned that the Levites were not provided an allotment of land like all the other tribes, however, where were they supposed to live? How were they supposed to survive? Without land, how could they build a home, a family, grow food for eating and graze animals? That takes land.

Once the wilderness wanderings ended and the tribes entered their inheritance land, God said that the Levites, while not having a tribal land for themselves, were to be provided cities – 48 of them – situated throughout all the land of Israel where they’d live amongst the rest of their nation. They’d be on rotation to go to Jerusalem to serve in the Temple before heading back to their respective cities to care for their communities.

Of those 48 cities, six were designated as cities of refuge. They were in Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth and Golan. (Josh 20:7-8)

We’ll learn about the cities of refuge next time.