Introduction: After tracing the lineages of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, Chronicles records descendants of the tribe of Levi through their exile to Babylon. The Levites were God’s appointed priests. It might be tempting to skip this chapter if you do not wear a white collar and preach on Sundays. But the lessons from their time as God’s priests apply to every believer in Jesus. Thus, you should carefully read the history of God’s priests to see how you can best serve Him and help to build His Church. From the history of the Levites, God reveals seven lessons on how you can serve Him as one of His appointed priests.
First, the line of priests began with Levi, Jacob’s son. But Levi was a sinner who dishonored God. God chose the Levites out of mercy and grace. God also chose you not because of your merits but out of His mercy and grace. You can respond by serving God out of gratitude for His mercy and grace. Second, Aaron was the first High Priest. Yet, he was also a sinner. What set him apart was his faith and his willingness to serve. God also wants you to respond in faith and accept His calling for you to serve Him. Third, the line of High Priests included Phineas who served as a holy and righteous priest. Because of his righteousness, God made an eternal covenant with him and his descendants. God also wants you to serve Him by living as a holy and righteous example to others. Fourth, each of the clans of Levi had unique roles. God has also given you unique gifts. God wants you to serve Him according to the unique gifts that He has given you. Fifth, God specified that the Levites had an important role in leading the nation in worship. God also wants you to serve Him through active and ongoing worship. Sixth, God also specified that each Levite High Priest had a unique role in leading the people in atonement. Today, Jesus is our High Priest who has provided a one-time atoning sacrifice. God wants you to serve Him through faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Finally, the Levites were set apart as a light to serve God’s people. They lived without a land inheritance given to the other tribes. God also wants you to serve Him as His light by living in the world but not of the world.
God’s grace in selecting Levi’s family for His priesthood. Chronicles traces the line of the Aaronic priesthood beginning with Levi and his descendants: The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. 2 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.” (1 Chr. 6:1-2.) Levi’s sons are also recorded in Genesis (Gen. 46:11). Each son went on to form important clans. Kohath was the patriarch of the Kohathites. Merari was the patriarch of the Merarites. The sons of Kohath are also recorded in the book of Exodus (Ex. 6:18). Because the Jews spent 400 years in captivity, the genealogy likely has gaps during this time period. Although not recorded here, Levi also had a female descendant named Jochebed. She was the mother of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. Kohath was a descendant in the line leading to Amram, Moses’s father. God’s use of Levi’s family for His priesthood is a story of His mercy and grace.
Jacob/Israel’s rebuke of his son Levi. When Jacob/Israel gave prophetic blessings for his 12 sons before his death, he rebuked Levi for the horrific sins that he committed in God’s name with his brother Simeon: “5 ‘Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. 6 ‘Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. 7 ‘Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:5-7). Levi was the fourth son of Leah and Jacob (Gen. 29:34). After their sister Dinah was raped, Levi plotted with Simeon for revenge against the people of Shechem. Hamor, the father of the rapist, sought to make restitution for his son’s crime (Gen. 34:8-12). Levi and Simeon then tricked the people of Shechem to be circumcised to become part of God’s people. While the people recovered from their pain, the two killed the people in cold blood and looted their flocks and their women and children (Gen. 34:25-26). Thus, the alliance of Levi and Simeon was an unholy one. When God’s people formed an unholy alliance at Babel, He “scattered” them across the Earth (Gen. 11:8-11). God also disciplined the descendants of Levi and Simeon by “scattering” them throughout the Promised Land (Gen. 49:7). But each future tribe would respond to this discipline differently.
God spared the Levi tribe because they repented and dedicated themselves to God. After Aaron created the golden calf, Moses gave everyone a chance to repent. Levi’s descendants took this opportunity to repent and dedicated themselves to God (Ex. 32:25-29). God will also forgive even your most heinous sins if you will turn and repent of them (1 Jo. 1:9; Ex. 33:19(b)). Is there any sin that you still need to repent of?
Levi’s tribe used God’s discipline for good. The tribe of Levi turned God’s discipline into a good for all of greater Israel (Ro. 8:28). The Levites would receive no land (Nu. 26:62). Instead, they repented of their sins and were then set apart as priests for God’s use (Nu. 18:10-11; Lev. 6:16-18; 7:6; Dt. 18:1; 14:27-29). They were given as servants for God as a substitute for the firstborn from every family (Nu. 8:16-17; 3:41). If they had not done this, the firstborn of each family would have been given to the Lord (Ex. 13:1-16). While in the wilderness, the tribe grew for being loyal to God from 22,000 to 23,000 men (Nu. 4:39; 26:62). Their growth shows that believers can achieve spiritual growth when they are set apart for God. Moses later blessed Levi for doing God’s work in guiding people through the Spirit (symbolized by the stones Thummim and Urim) and for teaching the people God’s Law (Dt. 33:8-11). By being scattered throughout the Promised Land, they blessed the people everywhere by being a light to them (Is. 49:6). In contrast, the Simeon tribe never repented. Zimri was a leader from the tribe of Simeon. He openly brought a temple harlot home for all to see after God began to punish the nation of Israel for its temple prostitution (Nu. 25:6, 14). Of the 24,000 people who died in God’s punishment (Nu. 25:9), most were believed to be from this tribe. While in the wilderness, Simeon went from 59,300 to 22,200 fighting men (Nu. 1:23; 26:14). This was a decrease of 37,100 or 62.56%. In absolute terms, Simeon went from being the third largest tribe to the smallest. Like Simeon and Levi, all have been judged because of their sins. But you are called upon to follow Levi’s example. This includes repenting of your sins and serving God by being a light to others (Matt. 5:14). If God has disciplined you, have you repented and agreed to serve Him?
Give thanks for God’s mercy and grace in your life. Like the tribe of Levi, you have no reason to boast before God. “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Cor. 5:6). “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2:21). You should serve Him out of praise for His mercy in sparing you from the judgment that you deserve and for His grace in giving you what you do not deserve: “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Ps. 136:26; Ezra 3:11). How have you responded to God’s mercy and grace?
God’s grace in selecting Aaron and his family for His priesthood. In addition to showing grace in selecting the line of Levi, God also showed grace in selecting Aaron for His priesthood: “3 The children of Amram were Aaron, Moses and Miriam. And the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.” (1 Chr. 6:3). God appointed Aaron as the first High Priest. But, like Levi, Aaron did not deserve the honors that God gave him. It was only by God’s grace that He did not strike down Aaron or his family for their sins.
God’s grace in selecting Aaron to be the first High Priest. Aaron committed several deadly sins, any one of which should have disqualified him from serving as High Priest. First, despite being selected for High Priest, his faith failed him when tested at Mount Horeb. When Moses left for Mont Horeb, he entrusted Aaron to help run things in his absence (Ex. 24:9). Aaron soon faced a rebellion from his people when Moses did not promptly return. As the High Priest, his first mistake was failing to have faith and trust in God in addressing the people’s complaints. He instead gave into the people’s complaints by creating a golden calf for the people to worship (Ex. 32:2-6). Although this may have seemed right at the time, it lead to the death of 3,000 Jews (Ex. 32:28). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). Second, by building a golden calf for the people to worship God, Aaron violated God’s Second Commandment against idolatry (Ex. 20:4; Dt. 5:8). He was cursed for this sin (Dt. 27:15). Third, Aaron also blasphemed God’s holy name by claiming that the golden calf had freed the Jews from Egyptian bondage (Ex. 32:4). This violated the Third Commandment because he blasphemed God’s holy name (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). This sin was serious because it stumbled that generation and future generations of Jews. Indeed, centuries later, King Jeroboam used Aaron’s false statements to create a counterfeit religion in Northern Israel (1 Kgs. 12:28). Fourth, rather than repenting of his sins, Aaron sought to conceal his role. Like Adam, he first blamed others for his sins. He then concealed the extent of his role in the planning process by claiming that the golden calf popped out of the fire on its own (Ex. 32:21-24). In so doing, he broke the Ninth Commandment by bearing false witness (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). Fifth, Aaron and Miriam had also murmured and conspired against Moses (Nu. 12:1-2). In so doing, they violated the Tenth Commandment against covetousness (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). His murmuring against God’s appointed representative was also murmuring against God (Ex. 16:8). Sixth, Aaron failed to raise his sons to fear the Lord as future priests. Aaron’s sons Nabad and Abihu died for burning “strange fire” that God “had not commanded” (Lev. 10:1-3). Nabad and Abihu may have deviated from God’s Word regarding how they were required to prepare the incense (Ex. 30:34-38; Lev. 16:1-2). Or, they may have been drunk when they performed their duties. Although we cannot know for certain, the later explanation appears to be the most likely one. God’s first words to Aaron following the death of his sons was warning that neither he nor his sons drink wine or “strong drink” when entering into the Tent of Meeting (Lev. 10:8-9). Finally, Aaron rebelled against God’s commands at Meribah. For this, he could not enter the Promised Land (Nu. 20:12, 24). Thus, God’s willingness to use Aaron was an act of mercy and grace.
Nicolas Poussin (1593/94-1665) “The Adoration of the Golden Calf” (oil painting 1634)1
Like Aaron, accept God’s calling to be part of His priesthood. Even though Aaron was a sinner, what made him special was his faith and his willingness to serve. Like Aaron, you must also believe in faith to serve Him (Heb. 11:6). Like Aaron, God also calls you to be part of His holy priesthood: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Pet. 2:9, 5). “[A]nd He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:6). As a holy priesthood, you are a co-builder in building God’s Church on Earth: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9). Are you willing to serve in faith?
God’s eternal covenant with Aaron’s descendants. After God judged Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, the line of the high priests passed to Eleazar, Aaron’s next oldest son. Through Eleazar’s son Phinehas, God formed an eternal covenant. Chronicles then traces the line of Phinehas’ descendants through the time of exile: “4 Eleazar became the father of Phinehas, and Phinehas became the father of Abishua, 5 and Abishua became the father of Bukki, and Bukki became the father of Uzzi, 6 and Uzzi became the father of Zerahiah, and Zerahiah became the father of Meraioth, 7 Meraioth became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, 8 and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Ahimaaz, 9 and Ahimaaz became the father of Azariah, and Azariah became the father of Johanan, 10 and Johanan became the father of Azariah (it was he who served as the priest in the house which Solomon built in Jerusalem), 11 and Azariah became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, 12 and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Shallum, 13 and Shallum became the father of Hilkiah, and Hilkiah became the father of Azariah, 14 and Azariah became the father of Seraiah, and Seraiah became the father of Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went along when the Lord carried Judah and Jerusalem away into exile by Nebuchadnezzar.” (1 Chr. 6:4-15). The High Priest line passed through Phinehas’ descendants until the time of Eli. With Eli, the line of High Priest descendants temporarily was under the descendants of Ithamar, Aaron’s youngest son (1 Chr. 6:3). But, because of Eli’s family’s sins, the High Priest line reverted back to the line through Eleazar and Phinehas under the High Priest Zadok (1 Kgs. 1:7-8, 44-45; 2:26-27). The line then continued with Phinehas’ descendants (Ezek. 44:15; 48:11).
In his faith and righteousness, Phinehas foreshadowed Jesus. Unlike Levi and Aaron, Phinehas was a faithful, obedient, and righteous High Priest. For example, God commended Phinehas for his zeal in aggressively rooting out sin by slaying the Jewish man Zimri and the Midianite cult prostitute Cozbi (Nu. 25:10-15). Phinehas was not a vigilante engaged an “honor killing.” He was instead an appointed “judge” (Nu. 25:5) given authority to judge sin (Ro. 13:3). He also was measured in his punishments. He prayed for God’s guidance when the tribes of Israel needed to decide whether to go to war against Benjamin for their sins and rebellions (Jdgs. 20:28). He was also an intercessory prayer warrior for God’s people: “Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and so the plague was stayed. And it was reckoned to him for righteousness, to all generations forever.” (Ps. 106:30). Phinehas was also a man of peace. As the High Priest, he resolved a conflict between Israel’s tribes when the tribes that lived outside the Promised Land built their own altar outside the Promised Land (Josh. 22:10-33). He was further remembered as a hero amongst those who resisted foreign conquerors and their influences (Ecc. 45:23-24; 1 Maccabees 2:26). Phinehas foreshadowed Jesus. Like Phinehas, Jesus was zealous in seeking to save God’s people from sin. He was so zealous that he gave His own life so that we might live (Jo. 3:16). One day, like Phinehas, Jesus will also judge the enemies of God (Is. 11:4; Rev. 9:6). Like Phineas, Jesus is also our peace (Eph. 2:14, 17). Like Phinehas, Jesus became our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15). Like Phinehas, Jesus is an intercessory prayer warrior intervening on our behalf: “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Ro. 8:34).
Phinehas judged Zimri and a Midianite cult prostitute2
God’s perpetual covenant with Phinehas and his descendants. Because of Phinehas’ righteousness, God established His covenant for a perpetual priesthood though Phinehas and his descendants: “11 Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’” (Nu. 25:11-13). Like Phinehas, God the Father gave Jesus an “everlasting covenant” (Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 3:5-6; Heb. 7:22; 8:6-10; 12:24). Jesus is also the fulfillment of God’s covenant of eternal peace (Eph. 2:14, 17).
Phinehas taught his children to serve the Lord. Phinehas also raised his children to know and follow God’s law. Following his example, his son Abishua (Ezra 7:1-5), his grandson Abishua and his great grandson and his great, great grandson Uzzi were righteous high priests (1 Chr. 6:4-6). But, for reasons that are not recorded in the Bible, the Uzzi’s descendants lost the right to be High Priest for generations.
In contrast to Phinehas, the line of Eli was wicked and corrupt. Following Uzzi’s death, the line of High Priests transferred to the line of Eli. In Samuel’s day, God judged the priesthood under the High Priest Eli for their wicked practices. The sons of Eli used God’s gifts to indulge themselves (1 Sam. 2:11-17). The sins of Eli’s sons included claiming to represent God without really knowing Him: “they did not know the Lord. . .” (1 Sam. 2:12). They also took the sacrificial offerings for themselves (1 Sam. 2:13-14). Eli’s sons also “despised” the offerings to God (1 Sam. 2:17). The sons of Eli represented a counterfeit priesthood because they failed to repent even when their father confronted them over their sexual sins (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Because Eli’s sons would not repent, God ultimately judged them (1 Sam. 2:26-34). While the Jews were camped in front of Mount Horeb, God appointed the tribe of Levi the privilege of forever serving as the priests for the nation of Israel (Lev. 7:35-36; Nu. 25:13). But, because the priests of the house of Eli could not atone for their sins against God, He had to judge them (1 Sam. 3:13-14). Under King Solomon’s reign, he removed a wicked High Priest named Abiathar, who descended from Eli. Abiathar sided with Solomon’s older brother Adonijah over Solomon in a contest for power. Solomon then appointed Zadok as High-Priest (1 Kgs. 2:26-27, 35; 1 Chr. 6:8, 12). This restored the High Priest line through Phinehas (Nu. 25:10-13). This also fulfilled God’s prophesy in favor of Phinehas and against Eli’s descendants. These events show that God’s Word always comes true.
Many of Phinehas’ descendants followed in his example of righteousness. After the High Priest line was restored, many of the High Priests tried to serve as an example of righteousness. For example, the High Priest Azariah guided Solomon in the dedication of the Temple to allow God’s glory to again dwell in Israel (1 Chr. 6:10; 1 Kgs. 8:3-11). Amariah, as High Priest under Jehoshaphat, attempted to guide him in his actions as king (1 Chr. 6:11). Because Jehoshaphat mostly followed Amariah’s advice, God blessed him (2 Chr. 17:3). Another High Priest risked his own death to confront King Uzziah when he tried to merge the roles of king and High priest under himself (2 Chr. 26:18-20). Hilkiah was another righteous High Priest (1 Chr. 6:13). He was the High Priest who discovered the last copy of God’s law hidden in the Temple during Josiah’s reign (2 Kgs. 22:8-13; 2 Chr. 34:14-21). During Josiah’s reign, he helped to restore God’s Word as the standard for righteousness. The Babylonians murdered the High Priest Seraiah (1 Chr. 6:14; 2 Kgs. 25:18-21). Jehozadak, however, then kept the priesthood alive during the exile (1 Chr. 6:15). His son Jeshua returned from exile with Zerubbabel and helped to guide the Jews (Ezra 3:2, 5:2; Neh. 12:26). They served as a continuing light to the Jews. This does not mean that every single High Priest was righteous. There were plenty of cowards who refused to speak out against idolatry and other sins. But these descendants mostly served God as a righteous and holy example to others.
Be holy and be consecrated for God at all times. God calls upon every believer to follow the example of the Levites when they walked in holiness and righteousness: “you . . . are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood . . .” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As part of God’s nation of priests, you are meant to be a light to the lost: “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14(a)). To be a light, however, you must be holy: “‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Ex. 22:31). “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1). “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48; Jam. 4:17). Being holy in part requires that you separate yourself from the unclean things of the world (Jam. 1:27; Ro. 12:1). Are you living a holy and serving as a beacon of light to others?
As God’s ambassador, walk with righteousness and integrity. You are also God’s ambassador (2 Cor. 5:22). You also represent God’s light (Matt. 5:14). God also calls upon you to be blameless and righteous: “so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:11). Do your actions reflect fairly upon Jesus’ righteousness?
The clans of Levi. Chronicles next records the clans of Levi’s three sons and the 10 generations that followed under each clan: “16 The sons of Levi were Gershom, Kohath and Merari. 17 These are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei. 18 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. 19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers’ households. 20 Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, 21 Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, Jeatherai his son. 22 The sons of Kohath were Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, 23 Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son and Assir his son, 24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son and Shaul his son. 25 The sons of Elkanah were Amasai and Ahimoth. 26 As for Elkanah, the sons of Elkanah were Zophai his son and Nahath his son, 27 Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son. 28 The sons of Samuel were Joel the firstborn, and Abijah the second. 29 The sons of Merari were Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzzah his son, 30 Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, Asaiah his son.” (1 Chr. 6:16-30). God set apart the Levites to serve Him and His people. Each clan had a different but equally important role in the body.
Gershon. The first clan listed was the clan of Gershon, Levi’s eldest son (1 Chr. 6:16-17, 20-21). The clan of Gershon had the responsibility for carrying the screen for the doorway to the tent of meeting (Nu. 3:25-26). The screen to the doorways kept God’s consuming fire from destroying a sinful and corrupt nation. They were positioned to the west of the Tabernacle (Nu. 3:23). Because the tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle in the formation of a cross (Numbers 2), they were by the head of the cross. Samuel, one of Israel’s great prophets, came from this clan (1 Chr. 6:28). He anointed both Saul (1 Sam 10:17-25) and David (1 Sam. 16:12-13). He was also an intercessor for the people: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23). As a righteous priest, God also answered his prayers (E.g., 1 Sam. 7:9; 12:18).
Kohath. The second clan listed was the clan of Kohath, Levi’s middle son (1 Chr. 6:16, 18, 22-28). The clan of Kohath had the responsibility for carrying the ark, the lamp stand, the utensils, and the screen (Nu. 3:25-32). They were positioned to the south (Nu. 3:29). With the tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle in the formation of a cross, they were within one of the arms of the cross. The sons of Aaron, who performed the sanctuary duties, and Moses’ family, camped to the east (the foot of the cross) (Nu. 3:38). The Kohath tribe carried the ark, but they played no role in the sacrificial services. This clan included the prophet Nathan (1 Chr. 6:26). The prophet Nathan helped guide David and correct him when he sinned. Before Solomon built the Temple, Nathan also built a Tabernacle for the ark (2 Sam. 7:1-3; 1 Chr. 17:1-2). Nathan also provided great wisdom to both David and Solomon (e.g., 2 Samuel 12; 1 Kgs. 1:10, 12, 34, 38). Nathan also rebuked David for his adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12:1-14).
Meri. The third clan listed was the clan of Meri, Levi’s youngest son (1 Chr. 6:16, 19, 29-30). The clan of Meri carried the bars, pillars, the sockets, pegs, cords, and other equipment to hold up the Tabernacle (Nu. 3:36-37). They were positioned to the north of the ark (Nu. 3:35), one of the two arms of the cross. God recognized the important role that the Meri performed. They carried out the necessary but unglamorous role of carrying the parts that held the Tabernacle together. Unlike the other two clans, they had no famous prophets. Thus, it might have been tempting to consider this clan to be less important. But, in God’s eyes, they were equally important. In a church, the persons who maintain the fixtures in the church allow it to function. Does your church identify these people for special recognition as God recognized the Meri tribe?
Serve God according to the unique gifts that He has given you within the body. Every member of the Church is part of the body of Christ with a unique role (Ro. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-15). A modern church cannot function without the support staff who greet people, set up the chairs, collect the donations, sing, keep the books, and organize events. Yet, there is no place for spectators in God’s army. Are you using your talents to serve God?
The Levites' responsibility for God’s worship music. Among the many special duties of the tribe of Levi, one of the most important was in leading the nation in worship. God celebrated and recognized those within the tribe of Levi who played this important role. The Levites described here are ones who served under David when he placed the ark in a temporary Tabernacle (2 Sam. 6:17): “31 Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark rested there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they served in their office according to their order. 33 These are those who served with their sons: From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, 34 the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, 35 the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, 36 the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, 37 the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, 38 the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. 39 Heman’s brother Asaph stood at his right hand, even Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea, 40 the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah, the son of Malchijah, 41 the son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah, 42 the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei, 43 the son of Jahath, the son of Gershom, the son of Levi. 44 On the left hand were their kinsmen the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, the son of Malluch, 45 the son of Hashabiah, the son of Amaziah, the son of Hilkiah, 46 the son of Amzi, the son of Bani, the son of Shemer, 47 the son of Mahli, the son of Mushi, the son of Merari, the son of Levi. 48 Their kinsmen the Levites were appointed for all the service of the tabernacle of the house of God.” (1 Chr. 6:31-48). Within the three clans of Levi, each had an important worship leader or leader of a temple choir. Within the clan of Kohath, this was Heman (1 Chr. 6:33-38). Within the clan of Gershon, this was Asaph (1 Chr. 6:39-43). Within the clan of Merari, this was Ethan (1 Chr. 6:44-47). These three leaders headed a family of worship leaders, singers, musicians, and possibly dancers (1 Chr. 15:16-24; 16:4-43; 25:1). The modern reader may not find the long list of specific names of musicians to be important. Indeed, many of these names appear nowhere else in the Bible. But God carefully recorded their names to show how important your worship is to Him. He will never forget your songs of praise and your devotion to Him.
Heman and Asaph made contributions to worship that remain with us today. God also celebrated the unique contributions to worship that some of these Levites made. Heman is mentioned several times as a leader in Temple worship (1 Chr. 15:17-19; 16:41-42; 25:1-7; 2 Chr. 5:12-13). More importantly, Palms 88 is attributed to him. Within the clan of Gershon, Asaph was also important (1 Chr. 6:39-43). Asaph is mentioned several times in Chronicles for his worship (1 Chr. 15:17-19; 16:5, 7, 17; 25:6). Furthermore, no less than eleven chapters of Psalms are attributed to him (Psalms 50; 73-83). Because of his influence, many future worship leaders were called “sons of Asaph” (2 Chr. 20:14; 29:13; Ezra 2:41; 3:10; Neh. 7:44; 11:17). These two men together left behind 12 chapters of psalms of worship and praise to guide believers for all the ages.
Worship is important for your relationship with God. Worship plays an important role in preparing your heart to receive the Word. David understood the importance of worship. “Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.” (1 Chr. 15:16). “The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD—‘for His lovingkindness is everlasting’ -- whenever he gave praise by their means, while the priests on the other side blew trumpets; and all Israel was standing.”’ (2 Chr. 7:6). He had four thousand Levites assigned to perform worship services (1 Chr. 16:31; 23:5).
Be filled with joyful worship. Worship can also bring you joy and prepare your heart to praise God: “Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, ‘All my springs of joy are in you.’” (Ps. 87:7; 126:2; 51:14; Job 8:21). “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). Is there joy in your worship?
Dancing can also be a part of worship. Dancing was also meant to be part of worship (Ps. 30:11). When God delivered the Jews from Pharaoh’s army, Miriam included both song and dance as part of her celebration (Ex. 15:20-21). Solomon also wrote that there is a time for celebration that includes dancing (Ecc. 3:4). God gave us the rhythm to dance to worship Him. Thus, in heaven, our songs of praise will likely be accompanied by dancing. Sadly, Satan has corrupted most forms of dance.
Worship can also be used to express your sorrow. Herman’s contribution (1 Chr. 6:33-38) is also important because he showed that your worship can include pouring out your burdens to God: “ . . . A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol.” (Ps. 88:2-3, 13). You can also give your burdens to Jesus.
The High Priests atoned for the nation. Chronicles next returns to the High Priest line to stress the important role that they played in atoning for the nation’s sins: “49 But Aaron and his sons offered on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded. 50 These are the sons of Aaron: Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son, Abishua his son, 51 Bukki his son, Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son, 52 Meraioth his son, Amariah his son, Ahitub his son, 53 Zadok his son, Ahimaaz his son.” (1 Chr. 6:49-53). While this list may seem at first repetitive, it is repeated here to stress the unique role that the High Priests held in leading the nation to atone for their sins.
The altar of burnt offering for the atonement of sin3
To atone for the nations’ sins, only the High Priest could go before God’s holy of holies. God only allowed the High Priest to enter His holy of holies to atone for His people: “2 The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.” (Lev. 16:2). He also could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year on Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:29). Yom Kippur brought together (1) the holiest man, (2) in the holiest place, (3) on the holiest day. The High Priest was to go alone into the Tent of Meeting to intercede on behalf of the people (Lev. 16:17-18). Aaron offered the blood of an animal without blemish to atone for sins (Lev. 16:11). Without this blood offering, there would be no atonement for the people’s sins (Lev. 17:11). This rule also did not die with the Old Testament: “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus, however, came to fulfill this law.
The High Priest interceding for the people foreshadowed Jesus. Today, Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 8:1-2). He is also the only mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Although Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, He was “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:20). Jesus sits in the Holy of Holies interceding on your behalf daily (Heb. 8:1-2; 9:1-10). Today, you don’t need to sacrifice animals. Nor have the Jews had a temple for animal sacrifices for the last 2,000 years. Instead, Jesus is the lamb without defect offered for the sins of every person (1 Peter 1:18-19). Jesus’ sacrifice was also superior to Aaron’s sacrifice (Heb. 8:6). He did not need to sacrifice animal blood to be our High Priest (Heb. 7:26-28). Because His sacrifice was perfect, we no longer need blood sacrifices (Heb. 10:12-14). All you need is faith in Him.
Without faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, you cannot receive His atonement. Without faith in His atoning sacrifice, He cannot atone for your sins. “and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jo. 11:26). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” (Jo. 6:47). “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jo. 3:36). Have you shared Jesus’ good news with others?
Zodak’s descendants may lead worship during the Millennial reign. There are other exciting reasons to study the second reading of the chosen line of High Priests in Chronicles. God does everything for a reason. Here, He partially repeats the line of anointed priests (1 Chr. 6:6:4-8). Yet, His repetition ends with the High Priest “Zadok” (1 Chr. 6:53). Zadok was the High Priest who restored the High Priest line through Phinehas. God promised Phinehas that He would form “a covenant of a perpetual priesthood,” through his descendants (Nu. 25:11-13). God never forgets His promises. The prophet Ezekiel makes clear that Zadok’s descendants will return to play an important role in leading God’s people to worship during the Millennial reign: “but the chamber which faces toward the north is for the priests who keep charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who from the sons of Levi come near to the LORD to minister to Him.” (Ezek. 40:46) ‘“You shall give to the Levitical priests who are from the offspring of Zadok, who draw near to Me to minister to Me,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘a young bull for a sin offering.” (Ezek. 43:19) ‘“But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,’ declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezek. 44:15). “It shall be for the priests who are sanctified of the sons of Zadok, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the sons of Israel went astray as the Levites went astray.” (Ezek. 48:11).
The Levites limited allotment of lands. Chronicles’ account of the Levites concludes with the limited land allotments given to the Levites. The first verses record the pattern of land allotments around the city of refuge Hebron. All other cities followed a similar pattern: “54 Now these are their settlements according to their camps within their borders. To the sons of Aaron of the families of the Kohathites (for theirs was the first lot), 55 to them they gave Hebron in the land of Judah and its pasture lands around it; 56 but the fields of the city and its villages, they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 57 To the sons of Aaron they gave the following cities of refuge: Hebron, Libnah also with its pasture lands, Jattir, Eshtemoa with its pasture lands, 58 Hilen with its pasture lands, Debir with its pasture lands, 59Ashan with its pasture lands and Beth-shemesh with its pasture lands; 60 and from the tribe of Benjamin: Geba with its pasture lands, Allemeth with its pasture lands, and Anathoth with its pasture lands. All their cities throughout their families were thirteen cities. 61 Then to the rest of the sons of Kohath were given by lot, from the family of the tribe, from the half-tribe, the half of Manasseh, ten cities. 62 To the sons of Gershom, according to their families, were given from the tribe of Issachar and from the tribe of Asher, the tribe of Naphtali, and the tribe of Manasseh, thirteen cities in Bashan. 63 To the sons of Merari were given by lot, according to their families, from the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities. 64 So the sons of Israel gave to the Levites the cities with their pasture lands. 65 They gave by lot from the tribe of the sons of Judah, the tribe of the sons of Simeon and the tribe of the sons of Benjamin, these cities which are mentioned by name. 66 Now some of the families of the sons of Kohath had cities of their territory from the tribe of Ephraim. 67 They gave to them the following cities of refuge: Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim with its pasture lands, Gezer also with its pasture lands, 68 Jokmeam with its pasture lands, Beth-horon with its pasture lands, 69 Aijalon with its pasture lands and Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands; 70 and from the half-tribe of Manasseh: Aner with its pasture lands and Bileam with its pasture lands, for the rest of the family of the sons of Kohath. 71 To the sons of Gershom were given, from the family of the half-tribe of Manasseh: Golan in Bashan with its pasture lands and Ashtaroth with its pasture lands; 72 and from the tribe of Issachar: Kedesh with its pasture lands, Daberath with its pasture lands 73 and Ramoth with its pasture lands, Anem with its pasture lands; 74 and from the tribe of Asher: Mashal with its pasture lands, Abdon with its pasture lands, 75 Hukok with its pasture lands and Rehob with its pasture lands; 76 and from the tribe of Naphtali: Kedesh in Galilee with its pasture lands, Hammon with its pasture lands and Kiriathaim with its pasture lands. 77 To the rest of the Levites, the sons of Merari, were given, from the tribe of Zebulun: Rimmono with its pasture lands, Tabor with its pasture lands; 78 and beyond the Jordan at Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, were given them, from the tribe of Reuben: Bezer in the wilderness with its pasture lands, Jahzah with its pasture lands, 79 Kedemoth with its pasture lands and Mephaath with its pasture lands; 80 and from the tribe of Gad: Ramoth in Gilead with its pasture lands, Mahanaim with its pasture lands, 81 Heshbon with its pasture lands and Jazer with its pasture lands.” (1 Chr. 6:54-81). The Levites did not have a contiguous territory. Instead, they were scattered amongst the 12 tribes to serve them (Nu. 35:1-8; Josh. 21:1-42). The names of the Levite cities may have little meaning to the modern reader. But their locations and how they were set up tell us both what God expected from the Levites and what He expects from believers today.
The cities given to Levite clans. To show that He was faithful to keep His promises and that He remembers every single individual, He listed the 48 cities given to each of Levi’s three son’s descendants by name. The first to receive an inheritance were the descendants of Levi’s son Kohath. They were scattered into 10 cities across the tribes of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin, Ephraim, Dan, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in southern and central Israel (1 Chr. 6:61, 66; Josh. 21:9-26). The second clan of Levi to receive an inheritance was Gershon. They were scattered into 13 cities across the tribes of Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali in northern Israel (1 Chr. 6:71; Josh. 21:27-33). The third to receive an inheritance was the descendants of Levi’s son Merari. They were scattered into 12 cities across the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Zebulun, and the half tribe of Manasseh, which were all in Jordan with the one exception of Zebulun (1 Chr. 6:63, 67; Josh. 21:34-40). Just as He provided for the Levites as they served Him, God will also provide for you.
Be a light and a source of God’s justice for those around you. God gave the Levites a total of 48 cities (Nu. 35:7). God also spread 42 of the 48 cities within the Promised Land (Josh. 21). The 42 cities inside the Promised Land corresponded to the 42 stations in the wilderness between Egypt and Jordan (Nu. 33:3-49). They also corresponded to the 42 names in the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus (Matt. 1:1-17). Yet, the Levites were not given their own territory within Israel. They were instead given cities within the regions controlled by the other tribes. They were spread out to live amongst the nine and one half tribes within Israel and the two and a half tribes that decided to live outside the Promised Land. They were meant to be a light to those around them. Jesus also does not want you to be locked away in a monastery where no one can see you (Matt. 5:14(b)-15). God spread out the Levites to “teach [God’s] ordinances to Jacob.” (Dt. 33:10). If they were concentrated in their own territory they could not do this easily.
Be a light to those around you no matter where God has placed you. Like the Levites, God scatters believers amongst non-believers in your neighborhood, your school, and your place of work. You are likewise commanded to teach the Word to those around you. You should also share the lessons from your own road to redemption and your road to Emmaus where you met Christ (Lk. 24:13-35). Are you a source of light and refuge to people in distress wherever they are “naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” (Matt. 25:36).
The Levites were denied a land inheritance in favor of an inheritance in the Lord. Unlike the 12 tribes who had contiguous lands, the Levites were to have “no inheritance in their land.” God was instead their inheritance: (Dt. 18:1-2; 10:9; 12:12; Nu. 18:20). “Only to the tribe of Levi he did not give an inheritance; the offerings by fire to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as He spoke to him.” (Josh. 13:14; 14:3). The Levites were given cattle, goods, and land to provide for themselves (Nu. 35:3). Yet, He meant for them to live modestly. Thus, He put strict limits on the land that the priests could own surrounding their cities (Nu. 35:4-5). This forced economic moderation amongst the priests. They could not accumulate too much wealth. God did this because He was more concerned about their spiritual dependence upon Him than their financial independence.
Store up your treasures in heaven. Jesus also had no home (Lk. 9:58). Although we are not commanded to live without a home, Jesus calls upon believers to deny themselves (Lk. 9:23). He has also told believers to store up our treasures in heaven: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matt. 6:20). Believers are also called upon to be content with what God has given them (Heb. 13:5-6). Solomon once prayed that God would give him neither riches nor poverty because he knew the extreme of either would pull him off his walk (Prov. 30:8-9). Money itself is not evil. It is the love or coveting of money that is the root of many evils (1 Tim. 6:10). If money has become a source of covetousness, you must place limitations on the amount of money you accumulate.
If you choose Jesus as your inheritance, you will also be blessed. Like the Levites, Jesus will also reward you with a relationship with Him as part of your inheritance: “And it shall be with regard to an inheritance for them, that I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel-- I am their possession.” (Ezek. 44:28). “The LORD is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.” (Ps. 119:57). “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.” (Ps. 16:5). “But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Is. 61:6-7). The Holy Spirit is His down payment on your eternal inheritance: “who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Cor. 1:22). Are you seeking out your spiritual inheritance in the form of a relationship with Jesus?
The command to live amongst the people, but within walled cities. The Levites were spread out to live amongst the nine and one half tribes within Israel and the two and a half tribes that decided to live outside the promised land. Yet, they lived within their own walled cities (Nu. 35:5). They did not live in cities with other tribes. If God wanted the Levites to be truly integrated, He could have simply had them live in the cities of the other tributes. Likewise, if He had wanted the Levites completely separated from others, He could have had them live in their own territory. He instead chose the middle path for His priests. They needed to be a light to those around them. But they needed some separation from the world to avoid becoming worldly or led astray in their walk. These same principles apply to believers today.
God also wants us to help non-believers, but to keep some separation. God also wants us to be an example and a light to others. He does not want us locked away in a monastery where no one can see us: “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matt. 5:14(b)-15). At the same time, He does not want us to become yoked to non-believers and the things of the world. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Is your heart guarded from influences?
The Levites’ dependence upon the tribes around them. God’s system not only ensured that the Levites would be a light to the tribes, it also ensured that they would depend upon them. Like a tithe to support a church, these cities came as an offering from each tribe: “So the sons of Israel gave to the Levites the cities with their pasture lands.” (1 Chr. 6:64). Because of the limits imposed upon the land that they could own around each city (Nu. 35:4-5), they could not sustain themselves without the help of their host tribes. For example, God gave the Gershom tribe the central city of Hebron (1 Chr. 6:57; Josh. 21:11). This same city was also one of the cities of refuge (Josh. 20:7). But He previously gave this city to the descendants of Caleb (1 Chr. 6:57; Josh. 14:15; 15:13). He clarified that Caleb’s descendants received the surrounding towns and agricultural land (Josh. 21:12). Because the agricultural land was vital in that time to the survival of a city, this meant that the Gershom descendants in Hebron could not survive and run the city of refuge without assistance from Caleb’s descendants. The two groups were dependent upon each other. In a similar way, believers are not meant to be completely self-reliant and independent from each other. They are instead meant to be both in fellowship with one another (Heb. 10:25). They are also meant to be dependent upon one another the way they were during the time of the early Church: “and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” (Acts 2:45). Are you dependent upon other believers? Are you helping to support the full time servants of the Church with your time, talents, and treasure?
The cities of refuge. The 48 cities listed also included cities of refuge. God required that the “cities of refuge” be (1) spread throughout the populated areas; (2) have roads leading to the cities so that all could easily reach them; and (3) be built on hills for all to easily see them (Dt. 19:1-7). A person who killed another by accident or through negligence did not escape all consequences for their actions. If the person ever left the city of refuge, he or she did so at their own risk. No shelter existed outside the city. Thus, to stay safe, the person who committed manslaughter or second degree murder had to spend his or her life inside the city until the death of the high priest (Nu. 35:25; Josh. 20:6).
Jesus is our refuge. These cities of refuge all foreshadow Jesus. It is to Jesus that we “have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18). “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). “Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.” (Is. 32:2). God does not want any to perish. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Jesus wants you to help people find their refuge in His eternal city: “For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1; 91:2). Jesus also wants you to seek Him and let Him be your refuge in times of trial and tribulation.