Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Levite Inheritance

Joshua 21:1-8

“Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.  And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:1-3) 

God had chosen the Levites to be the priests, serving as the mediators between God and man.  As the priests and servants of the tabernacle they were to have no country of their own, as Numbers 18:24 explains.  “But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

In Numbers 35:23, Moses had instructed Joshua, “Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.  And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.”  

When the land had been divided among the tribes, the Levites asked that the promise made to them be fulfilled as well, and Israel did so.

“And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.  And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.” (Joshua 21:4-5)

The family of Kohath had been charged with carrying and caring for the furnishings of the Tabernacle, and Moses and Aaron were of the family.  They were given cities in Simeon, Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Dan, all in the southern part of the land, west of the Jordan.

“And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.” (Joshua 21:6) 

The Gershonites received their cities in the northern region which would be known as Galilee in Roman times.  They were largely cut off from Jerusalem when Israel split.

The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.” (Joshua 21:7)

Merari’s family were given land in Reuben and Gad on the east side of the Jordan and in Zebulon on the west side.  They were responsible for two of the cities of Refuge.

“And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.” (Joshua 21:8)

Which cities were given to which family was again decided impartially, by lot.

Aaron’s Family
Joshua 21:9-19

"And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name, Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot.  And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.  But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.” (Joshua 21:9-12)

As members of the Kohath Levites, Aaron’s family was given the first lot of land in Judah.  In fact they were given the city of Arba, later called Hebron.  It was part of the land that had been conquered by Caleb.  Caleb retained most of the land, giving up the cithy and an area around it about a half mile wide on each side.  It was one of the Cities of Refuge and would figure prominently throughout Israel’s history.

“Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs, And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs, And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs, And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.

 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs, Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities. 

All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:13-19) 

All thirteen of Aaron’s cities were in Simeon, Judah, and Benjamin, which later became the Nation of Judah.  Undoubtedly, Aaron’s family played a major part in Judah’s following God longer than Israel did.  Nearly all the Levites, and all the priests in the New Testament were Aaron’s descendants.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful, clear exposition of the Levites and the special role they played in encouraging Judah to follow God. Another great post!
    God bless,