Understanding Torah Society part 16 -
The Levites: their place and function in Torah society
B'midbar (Numbers) 8:14-15
14 "Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel; and the Levites shall be mine.
15 And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tent of meeting; and you shall cleanse them, and offer them for a wave-offering."
Part of understanding the duties of the Levites is also understanding who they are. As a result of the incident with the golden calf, YHWH set apart the tribe of Levi to minister to Him in the tent of meeting. Before this, it seems clear, at least to this writer, that those who ministered to YHWH as priests were all the first-born of Israel.
Shemot (Exodus) 30:30
"And you shall anoint Aharon and his sons, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest's office."
Please note the similarity between the passage directly above with the passage directly below. Notice that both are "sanctified" unto YHWH. The main difference is that, in the passage above Aharon and his sons are specified ministering in the office of priests. This is because they are replacing the rightful priest within each home, the head of the home, and in particular, the first-born. This replacement was the direct result of the first-born priests taking part in the golden calf incident.
Shemot (Exodus) 13:2
"Sanctify unto Me all the first-born, whatsoever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; it is Mine."
The first-born were rejected as priests before YHWH as a result of their part in the golden calf incident. Instead, YHWH commanded that the tribe of Levi be set-apart unto Him to do certain duties in Israel. However, because of the Diaspora and its length, as well as many other things, the individual members of Israel have lost their identities as to which tribe they belong, and in many cases, that they even belong to Israel at all. Even those who know they are a part of the southern house, the house of Yehudah (Judah), do not really know to which tribe they belong. Certainly, YHWH knows, but man at this point does not. Please note what YHWH says concerning the matter of Levites in the latter days.
Yeshayah (Isaiah) 66:21
20 "And they shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an oblation unto YHWH, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says YHWH, "as the children of Israel bring their oblation in a clean vessel into the house of YHWH."
21 "And of them also will I take for priests and for Levites," says YHWH.
In the returning process, YHWH will select for Himself priests and Levites. But how will He do this? By what process will He select the priests and Levites in the future restored kingdom of Israel?
Yechezqel (Ezekiel) 20:37
"And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;"
This seems to be more of a figure of speech than an actual description of an event, but it could be literal; we just don't know at this point. Whichever way it is, YHWH shall cause His people to pass under His rod. We noted the following passage in the previous study, in part 15.
Vayyiqra (Leviticus) 27:32
"And all the tithe of the herd or the flock, whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be set-apart to YHWH."
YHWH commands us to pass our newborn flocks and herds under the rod, and every tenth animal is to be set apart unto Him. Likewise, it seems that when He restores Israel, He is going to do the very same thing; that is, He shall pass His people under His rod and every tenth person shall be set apart as a priest or Levite. He is certainly capable of doing this without our knowledge. However He does it, He shall do it. Please note in the passage above from Yeshayah, that these people are coming out from every nation in the world. Truly, Israel is a mixed multitude and the new Levites shall reflect this reality!
Not only are the people of Israel a mixed multitude, but the tribe of Levi, including the kohenim, also reflect this reality. There is no such thing as "pure" Israelite blood. There have always been people from other nations coming into Israel. This is good and right as well as how YHWH intends for it to be.
B'midbar (Numbers) 18:21
"And to the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meeting."
As we examined in the previous study, YHWH has given the tithe of Israel to the tribe of Levi for their service in the tent of meeting. The question then becomes: what does their service in the tent of meeting entail?
 Some may point to Aharon and wonder why he maintained the office of high priest when his part in the incident of the golden calf was so great. Please consider that Aharon from that day forward carried the sins of the whole nation. As the high priest of Israel, all the sins of the people, including his own, were placed upon him. He carried this sin, it was not simply dismissed. (See B'midbar 18:23)
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