Levite Inheritance

As the Promised Land was being divided up between the twelve tribes of the Israelites, the Levites were given no land and no inheritance. Instead, the space that they would have would be land and cities within the inheritance of each of the other tribes. Their role would be to live among the other tribes and serve the Lord amongst those others.

Instead of solely providing for themselves by farming, trade, or some other type of work, the Levites would administer the sacrifices and the service and worship to the Lord. Their role would be to help facilitate coming before the Lord for each of the other tribes.

So the Levites would live there amongst them, each of the tribes, but they would also receive their living from them. Those that they would serve would also be those from whom they would live, those from whom they would eat.

In addition, the Levites were given land around the cities where they would live. They were allowed also to have animals that they would graze, so in addition to the work that they had done, they were also allowed to have a way in which they would be able to have animals to supplement their food, to supplement the provision that they were given by the other tribes that they served. Maybe this was from tradition, given that Moses himself herded sheep for his father in-law, or maybe this was from the fact that there would be future times that the other tribes didn’t provide well for the Levites. In any case, both were allowed. They lived from the provision of the other tribes and were also allowed pasture lands around the cities.

But they didn’t have an inheritance of a larger piece of land. They didn’t have space where they would grow or work to become generationally wealthy. No, instead, the inheritance of the Levites was that of the Lord, and so the promise from Moses was that they would be given cities within the midst of the other tribes where they would settle.

Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The LORD commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.

Joshua 21:1-3

As we think forward to today, what are the parallels that we see?

The Promised Land is a representation of God’s relationship with the Israelites. God promised the land to Abraham and extended his covenant relationship with the Israelites through the line of Isaac and Jacob, ultimately bringing the nation of Israel into the Promised Land through Moses and with Joshua as we are reading now.

This land, that of Canaan, is given to the Israelites and God remains to be their God and they are to be his people. That is the covenant that God made with his people, and the land remains an earthly representation of that covenant. That is the place where they will live, and that is the place from which the entire earth will know the Lord.

With regard to the Levites, they were the priests before the Lord.

We all are considered to be priests before the Lord. Peter calls us a royal priesthood:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

In the same way, as they worshiped Jesus in heaven, God’s people also sang a song that said:

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.

Revelation 5:10

So there is definitely a parallel here. In the same way that the Levites received the Lord as their inheritance because they were the priests for the people of Israel, we are also called to be priests before our king, Lord Jesus. We have received him as our inheritance. Instead of a promised land, as the Jews received, we have the kingdom of God, and if we find it, we will be able to live within it, depending upon him forever. This is our hope as the shadow of the Levite inheritance shows us the way toward our life in Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *