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The Inheritance of the Levites.

The Inheritance of the Levites.

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Published by glennpease

Joshua xxi. i — 42.

Joshua xxi. i — 42.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 05, 2013
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THE IHERITACE OF THE LEVITES.BY WILLIAM GARDE BLAIKIE, D.D, LL.D.Joshua xxi. i — 42.OCE and again we have found reference made tothe fact that Levites received no territorial in-heritance among their brethren (xiii. 14, 33, xiv. 3, 4).They had a higher privilege : the Lord was their in-heritance. In the present chapter we have an elaborateaccount of the arrangements for their settlement ; itwill therefore be suitable here to rehearse their history,and ascertain the relation they now stood in to therest of the tribes.In the days of the patriarchs and during the sojournin Egypt there were no official priests. Each headof a house discharged the duties of the priesthood inpatriarchal times, and a similar arrangement prevailedduring the residence in Egypt. The whole nation washoly ; in this sense it was a nation of priests ; all wereset apart for the service of God. By-and-by it pleasedGod to select a portion of the nation specially for Hisservice, to establish, as it were, a holy of holies withinthe consecrated nation. The first intimation of thiswas given on that awful occasion when the firstbornof the Egyptians was slain. In token of His mercy insparing Israel on that night, all the firstborn of Israel,both of man and beast, were specially consecrated to340xxi. 1-42.] THE IHERITACE OF THE LEVITES. 341the Lord. The animals were to be offered in sacrifice,
except in the case of some, such as the ass, not suitedfor sacrifice ; these were to be redeemed by the sacrificeof another animal. Afterwards a similar arrangementwas made with reference to the firstborn of men, thetribe of Levi being substituted for them (see umb. iii.12). But this arrangement was not made till after thetribe of Levi had shown, by a special act of service,that they were fitted for this honour.Certainly we should not have thought beforehandthat the descendants of Levi would be the speciallysacred tribe. Levi himself comes before us in thepatriarchal history in no attractive light. He andSimeon were associated together in that massacre of the Shechemites, which we can never read of withouthorror (Gen. xxxiv. 25). Levi was likewise an accom-plice with his brethren in the lamentable tragedy of Joseph. And as nothing better is recorded of him, weare apt to think of him as through life the same. Butthis were hardly fair. Why should not Levi haveshared in that softening influence which undoubtedlycame on the other brethren ? Why may he not havebecome a true man of God, and transmitted to his tribethe memory and the example of a holy character?Certain it is that we find among his descendants inEgypt some very noble specimens of godliness. Themother of Moses, a daughter of the house of Levi, isa woman of incomparable faith. Moses, her son, isemphatically "the man of God." Aaron, his brother,moved by a Divine influence, goes to the wildernessto find him when the very crisis of oppression seems toindicate that God's time for the deliverance of Israelis drawing nigh. Miriam, his sister, though far fromfaultless, piously watched his bulrush-cradle, and after*34» THE BOOK OF JOSHUA.wards led the choir whose praises rose to God in a
great volume of thanksgiving after crossing the sea.The first honour conferred on Levi in connectionwith religious service was the appointment of Aaronand his sons to the special service of the priest-hood (Exod. xxviii. ; umb, xviii. i). This did notnecessarily involve any spiritual distinction for thewhole tribe of which Aaron was a member, nor wasthat distinction conferred at that time. It was afterthe affair of the golden calf that the tribe of Levi re-ceived this honour. For when Moses, in his holy zealagainst that scandal, called upon all who were on theLord's side to come to him, "all the sons of Levigathered themselves unto him" (Exod. xxxii. 26).This seems to imply that that tribe alone held itself aloof from the atrocious idolatry into which even Aaronhad been drawn. And apparently it was in connectionwith this high act of service that Levi was selected asthe sacred tribe, and in due time formally substitutedfor the firstborn in every family (umb. iii. 12, sqq. f viii. 6 sqq. f xviii. 2 sqq.). From this time the tribe of Levi stood to God in a relation of peculiar honour andsacredness, and had duties assigned to them in harmonywith this eminent position.The tribe of Levi consisted of three main branches,corresponding to Levi's three sons — Kohath, Gershon,and Merari. The Kohathites, though apparently not theoldest (see umb. iii. 17) were the most distinguished,Moses and Aaron being of that branch. As Levites,the Kohathites had charge of the ark and its sacredfurniture, guarding it at all times, and carrying it fromplace to place during the journeys of the wilderness.The Gershonites had charge of the tabernacle, withits cords, curtains, and coverings. The sons of Merarixxi. 1-42.J IHn itiE&rfAJn'CE OF THE LEVITES, 343

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