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Chapter 18:1-8 (ESV)

Posted on March 08, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 18:1-8 (ESV) - “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD's food offerings as their inheritance. They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them. And this shall be the priests' due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.

“And if a Levite comes from any of your towns out of all Israel, where he lives—and he may come when he desires—to the place that the LORD will choose, and ministers in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD, then he may have equal portions to eat, besides what he receives from the sale of his patrimony.

Question to consider: Why did the Levites not receive an inheritance in the land?

At the time in which Jacob was giving his last will and testament, he had this to say of Levi and his brother Simeon, “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 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. 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.” (Genesis 49:5-7)

However, the tribe of Levi seemed to undergo a heart transformation through the generations in captivity in Egypt, for they were the only tribe who didn’t participate in the worship of the golden calf. Aaron and Moses were of course from the tribe of Levi. Maybe out of guilt for living in the household of Pharaoh, Moses made sure his tribe received better living conditions than the other tribes. Maybe the tribe paid more attention to the works done by God through Aaron and Moses since they were related. However they came to reject the worship of the golden calf, the LORD honored them by making Himself their inheritance. 

Because God separated this tribe for Himself, they were not given an inheritance in the land. Instead they were scattered throughout the towns of Israel, and the people in those towns took care of them out of their tithes. Their full-time job was to minister to the people of Israel and make sure their actions and worship were according to the Law. Those among the Levites who were descendants of Aaron were considered the kohanim (the priests). Today, Jews with the last name, Cohen, are considered to be descendants of this line. The Levites would have cared for the people spiritually as a scribe or rabbi. The kohanim served in Jerusalem at the tabernacle when the city was built. They received their food from the sacrifices they made for the people.

While you might think they were poor because they didn’t get a land inheritance, receiving a tithe from everyone who did get a land inheritance would have given them more than enough. If they sold the excess, they could amass wealth. An example of a wealthy Levite was Joseph from Cyprus whom the apostles called Barnabas. While he did not own land in Israel, he owned enough land in Cyprus to be able to sell portions of it to help fund the early church. While many of the Levites and kohanim might have eventually gained wealth by taking advantage of people in the synagogues and in turning the temple courts into a “den of thieves”, Barnabas was not one of them.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for providing us good shepherds to faithfully tend to Your church. Help us to recognize them by their fruit and willingly and joyfully support and encourage them. Amen.