The Tribe Of Levi
The following is the last chapter in our Bible study on Israel, Through The Eyes Of Jacob And Moses. This is also the title of the upcoming book on this study. We hope you enjoy this chapter on the Levi’s of The Word Of God.
There were two of them. One sat in a custom house, collecting taxes. The other, with his brothers, avenged his sister’s honor. These are not what you would think when I say Apostle, and tribal founder, but both of them were Levi.
Levi, the son of Jacob in Genesis, and Matthew called Levi in the beginning of The New Testament. At the beginning of both Testaments, there is a Levi. The son of Jacob, connects his father Jacob and his descendent Moses.
Levi’s name means joined, its only fitting, you could describe him as a coupling of people. He is the last tribe in our list, but his chapter ties these men, and all of Israel together. John The Baptist, the Forerunner of Christ, was a Levite, just as the Levitical Priesthood would point to another High Priest, The Christ.
Another son of Levi, arguably the most famous, Moses, was five generations after Israel. Jacob’s son Levi, had a son named Kohath, who had a son named Amram, who had two sons and a daughter. One of them was named Moses.
Had his children been born in a hospital, Jacob may have had a favorite chair. After all, he had been here at least thirteen times. Twelve sons, and one daughter. He impacted each child, and each child left their mark on Jacob, especially Levi.
This entire book has focused on the final words of Jacob and Moses to the people of Israel. Jacob, the Patriarch, also known as Israel. Moses, the Prophet, leader of Israel, or Jeshurun as he referred to them in his final address. He would be the first to use that phrase. Their final words to Israel navigated the course of the nation’s history, and the world’s.
Before we go to the words these men spoke to Levi, I would like to compare and contrast Jacob and Moses. I must confess, until writing this book, I had considered them to be quite different. As it so often happens, I was wrong.
Moses could be called the face of The Old Testament. If you grew up watching television, you think fo Carlton Heston with a beard. If you have a Jewish heritage, you think of the Lawgiver.
What fascinates me, is something that I haven’t heard many talk about. He was named, not by the Mother who birthed him, not by the Momma who hid him, but by an Egyptian. Moses was called Moses, not because of the woman who put him in the basket, but the one who took him out, Pharoah’s daughter.
Perhaps it’s because we are adopted parents, but I’m amazed that, the only name he’s given, is by her. When he came of age, by faith, by faith The Bible says, he refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He chose the people of God, and their afflictions, but he kept the name.
Exodus 3:4 (ESV)
4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
God never changed His name. In fact, in Exodus 3, when God sees him watching the Burning Bush, he uses the name twice. “Moses, Moses!” God had no problem with where he got his name, or who had named him. God had a purpose for both the man, and his name.
A lot can be speculated about his name. Yes, it means drawn out of the water. The Hebrew and Egyptian for this name seem to be similar, but Gill indicates that though it was an Egyptian who named him, she used a Hebrew name. He supposes she knew the language, and talked to Moses’ Mother and nurse, Jochebed, in Hebrew.
What I do know is this, both women loved him. I also note, it mentions Moses adopted Mother, his birth parents, but it never mentions a husband for Pharoah’s daughter. I don’t know her story, but it is quite possible Moses was the only source of joy in her life.
I wonder if she had an idea that Moses’ nurse was his Momma? If that’s so, she wasn’t just protecting her adopted son, in a way she was adopting a family. In the process she transferred her identity. Up until Moses, she was known as Pharaoh’s daughter, but Scripture records her as the woman who rescued Moses.
If the enemy tries to bind you up into who you were before you came to the water, remember, that’s not the case. Just as this encounter changed Pharoah’s daughter to Moses’ adopted Mother, and just as the woman at the well left the water pot behind, leave your past at the water. God will never look at you the way you were before you met Him.
God changes our identity in the water. To me this is a perfect type and shadow of baptism. She is in the water to wash, she meets someone in the water from a totally different world than her own. A name is spoken in the water, and she leaves forever changed. Sound familiar?
It reminds me of the second chapter of Acts, as well as the tenth chapter, when Simon Peter baptized Jew and Gentile in The Name of Jesus. Later, the Apostle Paul would do the exact same thing in Acts nineteen.
Acts 19:5 (KJV)
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
As Moses was a type of Christ, and both Peter and Paul baptized in The Name of Jesus, I believe this was no accident. I would encourage you to ask yourself, if Peter and Paul baptized in Jesus’ name, how should we be baptizing? If the type and shadow in Exodus, and The Fulfillment in Acts both used a specific name in the water, shouldn’t we continue in that way?
Both women loved their baby boy. Moses grew up being loved deeply. Educated with the finest education available in his day. He also grew up being taught that he was different.
Perhaps Jochebed, his Mother said, “You may live in the Egyptian palace Moses. You may be dressed like you belong here, but you are called to a higher calling, and to something beyond the palace of Pharoah.”
Our focus is not the extraordinary life of the man Moses, but the final address he gives to the nation he led out of tyranny, and into freedom. Moses reminds me of Israel’s George Washington.
Deuteronomy 33:5 (ESV)
5 Thus the LORD became king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together.
God selected Moses especially to lead, speak, and guide His people. The Ten Commandments that He gave to Moses, are the pattern for most legal systems in our world, in some form or fashion. Like Washington before he left office, and Jacob before he died, Moses gave a farewell address, in Deuteronomy 33.
Moses began this farewell by reminding Israel, that God was king in Jeshurun. He was saying as God led me, that’s how I led Israel. In other words, I led you as God directed me. Moses wanted them to know that meant, God would lead them on after him.
Jacob and Moses’ blessings are the only two like them I find in Scripture. Abraham blessed his family, but without such detail. David addressed Israel, but not this way. Even the Prophet Isaiah, didn’t take each tribe and address them as these two men did.
What connection did Jacob and Moses share, that sparked two of the most unique chapters in the Scriptures? They had each been shepherds. Both men watched their Father In Law’s Sheep. They were familiar with every aspect, from the mundane to the life and death moments. Jacob and Moses had each, most likely helped birth sheep, sheared them, and sheltered them from danger.
They had both met God in a strange country. Each married women in the land they ran too. The land of Laban may have been the native land of Abraham, but it was not that of Jacob. The place his Grandfather had been called to leave, was where he was sent too. Partially because of a bride, but also to escape the hand of his brother Esau.
Esau and Aaron. Jacob and Moses each had older brothers. For a period, each man had been separated from their siblings. Each had a reunion. Both men would be in a position higher than their brothers. One ran from his brother, the other in running, was separated from his brother.
Both Moses and Jacob had an experience with God in the place of escape. That’s where we all find God, in a place of escape from our sin, our guilt, and our shame. Jacob went to sleep and had a dream. Moses saw the fire.
Each man’s experience with God, foreshadowed their future ministry. God would again appear to Jacob through a dream, telling him to go to Egypt. The Fire Moses witnessed in the burning bush, was in a pillar in the sky, on his way out of Egypt.
While Jacob entered, and Moses was famous for leaving, they had both been called to Egypt. They were both told that Israel would not remain there permanently. Each man spoke to Pharoah. Both men were fathers of sons. Finally, each man blessed Israel before they said goodbye.
While both had similarities, including both giving a blessing at the end, it’s in these addresses I see great differences. Please note, I am in no way saying one was more accurate, or better than the other. I believe each address was anointed, and each served a great purpose.
It must be remembered, Jacob blessed sons, and Moses blessed tribes. Jacob was speaking concerning the future of his sons, pointing to the nation they would become. Moses was speaking to the nation they were becoming, reminding them they were family.
Both were about the future, both were about love, most importantly, both were about Unity! The same message. Different circumstances, different approaches, but the same message.
Each was about unity and expansion, from different perspectives. Jacob looked at Levi, and saw a son he loved, but probably like his Dad, he saw a flawed man. Levi had a temper, so did Jacob. Moses looked at the tribe of Levi, and saw not only one of the tribes of Israel, he saw his family.
One was the Father of Levi, the other became a Father to the tribe of Levi, and to all of Israel. They each had a special relationship with the tribe of the priesthood. What did each say to him?
First, it must be stated, who Levi was. It is ironic that in Genesis 29, Leah the Mother of Levi, said Jacob will love me because I’ve born him now three sons. Levi was the third son in the verse that names him. He is always mentioned, in conjunction with someone else.
Even here, he is one of three that are the focus of this chapter. This chapter really is about Jacob, Moses, and Levi. To understand this tribe, you have to realize, they were never meant to stand alone, none of us were.
Genesis 29:34 (ESV)
34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.
Levi, meaning attached, was called to tie things together. In different lives, he is the thread that connects people. Generations are connected in Levi.
Families found meaning tied to each other in Levi. Covenants were birthed in connection with Levi. In the garments worn by the High Priest, Levi’s descendent, threads would be used to illustrate the pattern given from God to Moses to hold Israel together.
Exodus 28:24 (ESV)
24 And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece.
These golden cords, were attached to the breastplate of the High Priest. The word cord used here in the Ephod, while a different word than Levi, means intertwined. These garments not only point to who Levi was, but where God was calling him too.
Levi’s descendants in the Priesthood, would literally wear what his name meant. As family was the cord that ran from Jacob to Moses. Unity and Anointing connected the Ephod of the High Priest to the breastplate. This cord held the breastplate, which held the names of the sons of Israel that Aaron would carry into The Holiest Of Holies.
Jacob, in Genesis 49, went in birth order. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and then Judah. Simeon and Judah book end Levi, Simeon meaning hearing, Judah meaning praise. The Ministry is always connected to hearing and worship. Is it any wonder that God sent John The Baptist, a Levite, to help Israel to hear The Son Of David of Judah?
In Deuteronomy, Judah is mentioned, then Levi, and Benjamin. Benjamin means Son of The Right Hand. Ministry is referred to in Revelation as being in the right Hand of God. Jacob and Moses were seeing much farther prophetically, than a few generations ahead.
Levi and Judah were not only brothers, their families were not strangers from each other. Aaron, the beginning of the Levitical Priesthood, married a woman from the tribe of Judah. Elisheba, which is the Hebrew for the Greek name Elizabeth, was the sister to Nahshon, Prince Of Judah.
I’ve mentioned John The Baptist a few times. It is evident that Our Lord sprang from Judah, but his cousin, John was a Levite, who’s Momma was named Elizabeth. These are not coincidences, what occurs in The Old, is a type and shadow of the new.
John The Baptist referred to himself as the friend of the Bridegroom. Levi and Judah have always been connected. Worship and Ministry are never separated from each other, they are birthed from the same place, the heart and mind of God.
Jacob and Moses both prophesied of The Messiah. Jacob referred to Him as Shiloh, stating that He would one day arrive. Similarly, according to the KJV, Moses said “…bring Him to His people.” One said until He comes, the other said bring Him to His people.
I’m reminded of the book of Revelation. Jesus said, The Lion Of Judah, “Behold I Come Quickly”, Another John, The Revelator and friend of God said, “Even come quickly Lord Jesus.” Moses, also a friend of God, longed to see Him for Himself. He had asked once to see God’s face in fact, when God and he were on the mountain.
Why did Moses want to see Him? Wouldn’t you want to see the face of The One Who transformed your life? Taking you as a fugitive, a murderer, an outcast, and a reject, and making you Prime Minister of Israel?
The old song, “O I want to see Him, look upon His face. There to sing forever of His saving grace.” You see these two men, Jacob and Moses, knew what redemption felt like. Jacob had been a liar, a thief, and ran for his life from his brother. He went over the brook a refuge, and returned with two bands of people under him.
As I said, to write about Levi, is to write about Jacob and Moses. Moses was present in the lives of every Israelite, especially in the family of Aaron. To the boys, he was more than Uncle Moses, he was the Leader of God’s People. He was the Prophet That God spoke to face to face.
So it makes sense to talk of both Moses and Jacob, but why did I mention Matthew called Levi? Apart from his name, it’s that they are both present, in a group of twelve. Each one’s Father is mentioned as well, Jacob and Alphaeus.
Jacob became Israel, Alphaeus means change, or exchange. The events of both books would change, not only these two Levi’s, but everyone they would connect with.
Levi’s other famous descendent, Aaron, Moses brother, and first High Priest, had a son, who had a son. Eleazar, Aaron’s son had a son called Phinehas. While I’ve written about him before, I will briefly mention him again here. When sin invaded the camp, he acted to stop it and the plague, from destroying all of Israel.
Phinehas has always fascinated me because of what his name means. It means mouth of a serpent. There has been all kinds of speculation as to what this means, or how it can be translated. One commentator has said he was named for something from Egypt.
Either way, his name meant what it meant. Yet this man was a great Man Of God, in spite of what you might say was a bad name. I wonder if he was self conscious about his name at any stage in his life? I don’t know, but I mention it for more than interest.
Another group of Levites, who’s Father had not allowed Moses to influence his life the way he should, were the sons of Korah. Korah had rebelled against God, and Moses. God punished him, and it cost him his life. Somehow his children were smart enough to distance themselves from his actions. As a result they lived, and Phinehas was appointed over them.
Why mention Phinehas, and the sons of Korah, the same reason I mention Matthew called Levi. His name wasn’t good either, not because of the meaning of his given name, but what he had became. He was a publican, a tax collector.
Jews hated him, they considered them thieves and traitors. Jesus loved him, and used him to write the first book in the New Testament. Commentators speculate that Matthew’s relationship with his family was strained because of his choices. Sounds a lot like Jacob’s Levi.
Genesis 49:5-7 (ESV Strong’s)
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.
6 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.
Jacob had not approved with the way Simeon and Levi took matters in their own hands to defend their sister. He never forgot it. On his death bed, he addresses them both.
He attacks their anger, and mentions scattering them in Israel. While this did occur, as the tribe of Levi was positioned throughout the tribes of Israel, with the cities of refuge, it was not a punishment. It turned out to be a blessing.
Deuteronomy 33:9-11 (ESV)
9 who said of his father and mother, ‘I regard them not’; he disowned his brothers and ignored his children. For they observed your word and kept your covenant.
10 They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.
11 Bless, O LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands; crush the loins of his adversaries, of those who hate him, that they rise not again.”
In three verses in Genesis, Levi was judged, in three verses in Deuteronomy Levi was rewarded. The difference, clinging to The Word and not the sword. Just as three days would change Matthew called Levi’s future, and all of our own, the future of the family of Levi had changed.
Between the blood shed by Simeon and Levi in Shechem, and the blood of the sacrifices they offered to God in the temple, was the Passover. The Passover was a type and shadow of the very sacrifice of Christ Himself. The crucifixion that would change Matthew and the Disciples life. This like all other connections in Scripture, is intentional.
The book of Matthew is described as being written to the Jews. Just as Moses the Levite Lawgiver declared to Israel God’s pattern, Matthew called Levi revealed God’s fulfillment. There is always a Levi, someone to connect the lost and the hurting to The Savior and Healer.
I’m so thankful that there are men like these two Levi’s in The Bible. It reminds me that God calls us, imperfect men, to be Kings and Priests. Sinners made new by the blood of His cross, just as the two Levi’s were changed, we are called to share with others the good news of His covenant.
Our priesthood is not to offer physical sacrifices, but to praise and declare The God who sacrificed Himself for us. We are to connect with His promises, and to reach out, connecting others to Him through our testimony. Everything is designed by God to share His message of love with the world.
Like Levi, we must bear this Message on our heart, not allowing the cares and distractions of life to sideline us from our purpose. Like the Priests, we spend time in God’s Presence, then we go out and minister among the people.
Jacob prophesied of his son’s future, in the midst of his hurt at them, he said they would be scattered through all of Israel. Yet The Lord knew, this would be God’s blessing, not Jacob’s judgement. For God would place them throughout the nation to teach the people God’s Law.
One day, Jesus would ask Matthew called Levi, to leave all and follow Him. He would spend his life traveling, and teaching. The Lord Jesus said The Son Of Man has nowhere to lay His head. Matthew would travel with Him, and after the Resurrection, spend his life preaching the Gospel.
In Jacob, Levi was judged, in Moses, Levi was redeemed. This was a type and shadow of what would happen in the New Testament. Jesus took our judgement, and called us to tell everyone about Him, so they could be free as well.
Now, I do not believe that Matthew was a Levite. He was a Galilean, probably either from Judah or Benjamin. However, when all of this started, the first Levi wasn’t a priest either, it would take five generations to arrive at the priesthood. Both the family of Levi, and Matthew called Levi, became Ministers of God.
Men who proclaimed His goodness, and carried His message. Jesus looked at Matthew and said, “Follow Me”. I believe He saw grace in God’s eyes when He looked at Him. Also, in the same chapter, before calling Matthew, Jesus heals the leper. Perhaps Matthew saw it, and thought, if He can cleanse the leper, He can change me.
The family of Levi would go from rebuke to blessing. Moses would speak hope into the family’s life. Levi went from being scattered in Israel, to his family leading all of Israel.
He and his brothers had problems. They weren’t exactly the perfect family. These twelve men, didn’t always like or trust each other. They didn’t get along with everyone around them. Does that sound like twelve who followed Jesus? It definitely sounds like you and I.
Had it not been for God, all of us would have been forgotten history. Yet God took them, and us, and impacted our lives. Just as He had their Father Jacob, He made Israel more than they could ever have imagined. He produced into their families men like Moses, Samuel, and David.
When the New Covenant came, He didn’t discard them. Jesus came through the line of David, calling John the Baptist, a Levite, a Priest’s son to go before Him. He called twelve men to spread The Gospel with the world. Paul, a Benjamite, wrote most of the New Testament. This same Apostle would explain to the Gentiles, God didn’t come to leave them, or to leave you, but to make us all a family.
He came to adopt us all, that’s why The Word says that The Spirit Of Adoption, The Holy Ghost cries in our hearts Abba, Father. Jew and Gentile alike, Jesus redeemed to Himself. To make one family, one people, diverse in background, united by His blood.
That is what Israel is, and should be, the family of God. It doesn’t mean there won’t be problems, even when trying to minister to others. Where ever you are today reading this, let me encourage you.
People are hurting today, sinner and saint alike. Some have forgotten that our history is not one of smooth lines, and pleasant places. There have been some of that, but there’s also been heart ache, mistakes, and redemption.
Don’t judge where you are spiritually by what is happening to you. Circumstances rarely reflect our spiritual condition, or our destiny. Life sometimes takes us through Egypt, to get us to Bethlehem.
Jesus said the worst pain I’ll ever face will be at Jerusalem, but He was determined to go there. You are called to something greater than the battle you are facing. Where you are, can look like the back side of the desert, but there is a fire in your future. There has to be, you’re part of Israel!
When God called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He promised them great blessings. They knew that, to do anything great, there would be sacrifice, battle, and victories. The history of Israel, whether you’re referring to the sons of Jacob, or the tribes of the nation, has included great adversities, and great deliverance. The Priesthood God has called us into is no different.
However, I can promise you this, though the sacrifices are challenging, the results are worth more than can be imagined. There will be times you may feel as if your life has been scattered by circumstance, Jacob said that about Levi. I would encourage you that seed is scattered, not from judgment, but for sowing.
What Jacob scattered in Levi, Moses watered, and God multiplied. The tribe of Levi became a type and shadow for the Church that would follow. Now, we are called to Minister to the world, but my words are not where I’d like to end this. I’d like to leave you with the words of one more Israelite, the Preacher of Pentecost himself, Simon Peter. No one could say it better.
1 Peter 2:10 (KJV)
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.