Studies in the Books of Chronicles
Part 6 – I Chronicles Chapter 6;
Levi – The Priests of God
The inspired historian now turns his attention to Levi, the priestly tribe. As Israel existed, primarily as a people who had a special relationship with God through the mediation of the priests it is of no surprise that considerable space is given to Levi and the purpose that his sons fulfilled throughout their history. Chronicles is principally a spiritual history of Israel. Therefore, it follows that the genealogy of the tribe which was at the spiritual heart of Israel should be of the utmost importance. This instantly draws our attention to Christ, our great high priest, who is at the heart of the church, the Israel of God in this new Testament age.
1: Their Preservation
This chapter firstly shows us that God preserved the priesthood throughout the long years of history. From v3-15 the Holy Ghost inspired author traces the lineage of the High Priests from Aaron to Jehozadak, who served when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. The German expositors Keil and Delizsch, computed that this spanned a period covering 863 years. The family of Eli, which included Eli and Abiathar, are notable by their absence. This was because they came from the line of Ithamar (v3). God, however, promised that he would cut off the house of Eli, because he would not restrain his wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas (1st Samuel 2:31-33, 3:12-14). While the line that stemmed from Eli did indeed perish, God preserved the lineage of the high priests through Aaron’s son Eleazar. This was the family set apart to perform this necessary ministry for all Israel. While Eleazar and his son Phineas, were high priests, the office for an unknown reason passed to the family of Ithamar. It was not until the reign of Solomon that Eleazar’s family was restored to its privileged position with the anointing of Zadok.
It is striking that even within the high priestly family there is sin and judgment. Yet the dominant theme is preservation. God preserved the holy seed so that Israel would not be without a mediator, yet the work that was done was only a shadow of that which was to come. Today we have one high priest, our Great High Priest, who preserves, through His endless life, our access to God.
2: Their Personalities
Within this record of the priests exist some of the greatest figures in Hebrew history, whose lives were a blessing within their generation and for their posterity:
Aaron – The first of the High Priests after whom the Aaronic blessing is named (Numbers 6:22-27).
Moses – The giver of the law and the greatest of the prophets (Deuteronomy 34:10).
Phinehas – He distinguished himself in the role he played resisting the influence of the Moabites among the children of Israel (Numbers 25:10-13) and went on to become a significant figure in the settlement of Canaan (Joshua 22:30).
Azariah – Not a well-known name by any means but a great hero in his generation and the strongest advocate for separation between church and state. When King Uzziah entered the sanctuary approaching the altar, seizing the incense he was stopped by Azariah, and as the King resisted the priest of God the leprosy appeared on his body.
Samuel – the lineage of this pivotal leader, the last of the judges is traced.
Heman – recorded as a singer (v33) who composed at least one inspired Psalm (Psalm 88).
Asaph – This was Heman’s brother who had similar gifts and was also a composer of Psalms (Psalms 50, 73, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83).
3: Their Purpose
As the priestly tribe, all the Levites had work to fulfil in the administration of the worship of God. The families of Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath and Merari were all given distinct roles. Kohath’s sons were responsible for the tent of witness and for all the furniture within the holy place and the holy of holies. The Gershonites looked after, dismantled and carried all of the curtains and the coverings. The sons of Merari had duties pertaining to the boards, bars pillars and sockets (Numbers 4). The practical work within the tabernacle was carefully regulated. Even the ages when the priests were deemed suitable to serve to established, from 30 to 50. Therefore, we are taught that in God’s work we have differing roles, that practical work is not only spiritual but necessary and that organisation is glorifying to God.
The primary role of Levi was a to lead and protect the worship of God. Therefore, when Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons offered strange fire they were slain by God, which must have brought terrible grief to their father Aaron.
In v. 31,33 and 39 the role of the Levites in leading the singing within the tabernacle and subsequently the temple, was recognised. In v.49 the role of the high priest at the altar is emphasised., this is where atonement was procured.
Through the purpose of the sons of Levi we see the work of the church of Christ in offering up the sacrifices of praise to God (1st Peter 2:9, Hebrews 13:15).
4: Their Provision
From v.54-81 the dwellings of the Levites are described. Levi did not count among the 12 political tribes of Israel, in that they did not receive an assigned territory. Rather they were dispersed throughout Israel, given specific cities and had their needs provided. The way God provides for all who serve Him is set forth as is our responsibility to dwell in world as salt and light.