So, what does Leviticus mean anyway? It means the Book of the Levites. Did that clear things up? That raises the next question. Who were the Levites? Levi was one of the sons of Jacob. Remember, Jacob became Israel (Gn 32:27-28), had twelve sons, and they became the tribes of Israel. Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Ex 6:16); their descendants, in aggregate, were called ‘clans.’ The Levites were the caretakers of the tabernacle (and later, the temple). The Gershonites took care of all the coverings and curtains; the Kohathites took care of the articles of worship; and the Merarites took care of all the hardware (Nu 3). This was important because the Israelites were nomads for forty years, so the tabernacle had to be moved from place to place as the people moved. It had to be set up and taken down many, many times. It took manpower to do that, and needed order to accomplish it speedily and efficiently.
Then, from Kohath came Aaron and Moses. Aaron became Israel’s first high priest. He and his sons were the ones to offer sacrifices. Aaron had four sons. God killed two of them (Nadab an Abihu) because of their disobedience (Lv 10:1-2). The other two were Eleazar and Ithamar (Ex 6:23). Eleazar became high priest after Aaron’s death (Nu 20:26). The high priest was usually the first son of the previous high priest. Yet, by the time of the prophet Samuel, the high priest position had switched from being a descendant of Eleazar to a descendant of Ithamar. During the reign of King David, Abiathar (descendant of Ithamar) sided against David, but Zadok (descendant of Eleazar) sided with David. In the future, when Christ returns and sets up his earthly kingdom, the descendants of Zadok will once again be the priests to lead the world in worship and sacrifice (Ek 40:46).
I think we can sum up the main duty of the Levities as follows: “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statues that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses” (Lv 10:10-11).
God had much to teach Israel and he had to retrain them in many things and though many processes and ways of worship. He needed someone to lead the people in worship, in better understanding of who God is, and to institute practices which pointed to God and not to false gods which they grew up being surrounded by in the Egyptian culture. God chose the Levites to be those to serve in that capacity.
Next time, we’ll see what some of those changes were and why. Have your practices changed since you became a Christian? I’m sure they didn’t all change suddenly, right? As you understood more, you changed more. The same was true here. Think back over all the changes God has made in you. What positive things came from that?
Post Author: Randy C. Dockens, PhD
Promise Of A Nation To Abraham