The Companion of God and his Tribe (9 January, 2014, 8 Shevet 5774)
The Tribe of Levi is mainly to be found amongst the Jews. There are however offshoots of Levi amongst the Ten Tribes that help us determine where the Ten Tribes are. The Almighty made a Covenant with Levi. Levi was promised that he would increase to a great degree and that the Almighty would reward him. Characteristics of Levi are impressive. In the End Times all descendants of Israel will have it made known to them what Tribe they belong to. They who pertain to Levi will be the first to be so identified.
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1. Family Divisions
2. Descendants of Levi who were Lost with the Ten Tribes
3. Most of Levi is now Amongst Judah
4. Some Characteristics of Levi
5. Yehudah Kiel:Â The Secular Civil Administrative Role of Levi in Biblical Times
6. Levi in the End Times and the Tribal Identities of ALL IsraelitesÂ Being Clarified
1.Â Family Divisions
Levites include Priests (Cohanim) and other Levites.
MosesÂ came fromÂ Levi.
So naturally did his brother and sister, Aharon and Miriam, along with the Prophets Samuel, Ezekiel, Ezra, and Malachi.
The father of Levi was Jacob i.e. the Patriarch Israel. His mother was Leah.
Levi and Simeon (the second son of Leah) are referred to as "brothers" as if there was something even more brotherly in their connection than the fraternal bonds linking all the Twelve sons of Jacob.
Levi had 3 sons Gershon, Kohath, Merari.
The sons of Kohath were Amram, Ishar, Hebron, and Uziel.
Amram was the father of Moses, Aharon, and Miriam their sister.
From Aharon descend the Priests (Cohanim) who today in terms of recognizable descendants may be more numerous than the rest of the Levites put together.
2.Â Descendants of Levi who were Lost with the Ten Tribes
From Moses emerged different groups:
The Sons of Moses: Part of these merged with the Jewish People but another part was to be found with the Ten TribesÂ in Gaul (France) and the British Isles.
Isles of the West, The Arabian Connection
Yet a third section of the Descendants of Moses may derive from YehonatanÂ son of Gershon who was descended from Moses even though some translations render the name Manasseh.Â YehonatanÂ became a priest for the Tribe of Dan (Judges chapter 18).Â Descendants ofÂ YehonatanÂ fathered a dynasty in Cilicia (southeast Turkey) in the region of the Dananu (from Dani) and Yadi (Judah in the north).Â They referred to their ancestor as Moxis i.e. Moses.
Dan and the Serpent Way
Â In Greek Mythology Moxis is recalledÂ as Mopsis.Â Amongst the Dacians (ancestors of the Danes) he was known as Zal-moxis i.e. Moses the Chief.
There may also be a link to Ireland.
Levi like Simeon was to be scattered amongst the other tribes:
"Cursed is their zealousness for it is brazen and their wrath for it is hard. I will separate them in Ya'akov and scatter them throughout Israel" (Genesis 49:6-7).
As we have seen through the Sons of Moses and other ways small groups from Levi seem to have also been found amongst the Ten Tribes.
In The Tribes we show how in ancient times a Levi people was recalled in Northern Italy (Pliny N.H. 3:17). This area was later controlled by the Lombards who had arrived from Scandinavia and also may have been descended in part from Levi and Simeon.
3. Most of Levi is now Amongst Judah
Nevertheless, after the Ten Tribes separated from the House of DavidÂ most of the Levites moved southward into the Kingdom of Judah.
And from all their territories the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel took their stand with him. For the Levites left their common-lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them from serving as priests to the LORD. Then he appointed for himself priests for the high places, for the demons, and the calf idols which he had made. And after the Levites left, those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the LORD God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers.
4. Some Characteristics of Levi
A great deal of literature exists concerning the Tribe of Levi.Â
Levi is usually praised for various virtues but one foremost Commentator (Don Isaac Abarbanel) listed a host of negative traits, which we shall refrain from repeating.
Levi like his brother Simeon was known for zealotry. His religious zeal could verge on extremism.
#3. Levi Characterised by Religious (and other) fanaticism?
The Maccabees (Hasmoneans) who freed Judah from the pagan Helelenist Seleucids were Cohans from the Tribe of Levi.
ItÂ is worth notingÂ that the later Rabbi Mair Kahana, having been a Cohen, was also from the Tribe of Levi.
A Kingdom of Priests
The Levites were a Tribe of Priests. They were to serve in the Temple and also as teachers and directors to all of the Israelites. For this reason they were to receive one-tenth of the produce from the staple crops.
The role fulfilled by Levi towards the rest of Israel is destined to be carried out by all Israel in its relations with the rest of humanity.
5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me aÂ Kingdom of Priests [Cohanim] and a Holy Nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.
The Levites in general were not to serve in the armies of Israel when they went out to war.
They were exempt.
There were however exemptions from the exemption.
An example is Benaiyahu the son ofÂ Yehoiada the Priest. He was a great warrior of renown, chief officer of the Cherethi and Pleti mercenaries and at times in charge of the whole Israelite Army.
#3. The Tribe of Levi.Â
5 Simeon and Levi are brothers;Â Â weapons of violence are their swords.
The word translated as their swords (macorotayhem) may also be rendered as their means of livelihood.
We found elements from Simeon in Ireland and many of the police in the USA are Irish. So too, today in Israeli quite a few of the policemenÂ seem to be named Levi.
A Midrash says that albino blond and red-haired types ("Bohakanim") were common amongst the Tribes of Simeon and Levi.
In future days it has been premised that the Tribe of Levi along with descendants of David shall be multiplied greatly (Jeremiah 33:22).
The ruling body of the Israelite Nations in day to day matters was the Sanhedrin of 70 elders. It was considered important that Cohens be included in its quorum.
2. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch: The Levitical Aspect of the Cohanim.
In the Temple Service there was a special choir of Levites as well as instrumental musical accompaniment by a Levite orchestra.
Levites are often accomplished musicians.
The Tribe of Levi is associated with the quality of atonement and forgiveness.
The very name Levi connotes associate and accompany. The Levites were supposed to maintain the associationÂ of Israel with the Almighty.
Despite their strictness, pedantic exactitude, and fanatical approach Levites also often have a talent for conciliation. This could help them in their capacity of officials and judges.Â
A good study of the Characteristics of Levi is found at:
Levi. Tribal Characteristics in a Nutshell
5. Yehudah Kiel:Â The Secular Civil Administrative Role of Levi in Biblical Times
Yehudah Kiel in the Foreword to his Daat Mikra Commentary to the Book of Joshua (Sefer Yehoshua), Jerusalem, 1970, has an note on the Cities of the Levites.
The Israelites had been commanded to give 48 cities to the Levites when they conquered the Land (Numbers 35:7).
Kiel points out that the 48 cities listed in the Book of Joshua is slightly different from those in 1-Chronicles ch.6.
Some say that the two lists are basically the same only some places are listed under different names.
Others opine that the differences emanateÂ from changes in the locations that the Levites dwelt in.
Â There are settlements attributed to the LevitesÂ in the Book of Joshua that the Israelites did not possess such as Gezer (Joshua 16:10), Taanach (17:11-12), Nehalel (Judges 1:30). Other citiesÂ given to the Levites adjoin areas whose conquest the Israelites did not complete.
The Israelites were supposed to wipe out or expel the locals.
Instead they let the natives stay were they were and pay tribute.
Over these areas they would have appointed governors and possibly also garrisons.
Perhaps, suggests Kiel,Â this was one of the tasks of Levi?
11 Bless [Levi], O LORD, his substance,
Â and accept the work of his hands;
crush the loins of his adversaries,
of those that hate him, so that they do not rise again.
We later learn that often the Canaanite rebelled against IsraelÂ and took back the control over them.
Such an eventuality would have resulted in the displacement of the Levite occupying group.
Kiel shows too that, in the time of David, Levites did fulfill administrative governmental positions.
29 Of the Izharites [from Levi], Chenaniah and his sons were appointed to outside duties for Israel, as officers and judges.
30 Of the Hebronites [from Levi], Hashabiah and his brothers, one thousand seven hundred men of ability, had the oversight of Israel west of the Jordan for all the work of the Lord and for the service of the king.
31Of the Hebronites, Jerijah was chief of the Hebronites. (In the fortieth year of David's reign search was made, of whatever genealogy or family, and men of great ability among them were found at Jazer in Gilead.) 32 King David appointed him and his brothers, two thousand seven hundred men of ability, heads of families, to have the oversight of the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of the Manassites for everything pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king.
We see from the above verses that David appointed numerous Levites to oversee governmental works on both sides of the Jordan.
We also saw above that Kiel suggests that the Levites played the role of occupational forces exerting Israelite control over subject peoples and exacting taxes from them.
Cities of the Cohens in the area of the future Kingdom of Judah
The Levites were divided into Cohens (descendants of Aharon) and other Levites. During the sojourn of Israel in the Wilderness the Cohens had increased and multiplied greatly, as noted by Yehudah Kiel following on from Iben Ezra. Out of the 48 cities allocated to the Levites, the Cohens were to receive 13! The cities of the Cohens were all in the south in the regions of Judah and Benjamin. Even though both Cohens and Levites were fromÂ the same Tribe there were differences between them.Â The predominance of Cohens amongst those tribes that came to comprise the Kingdom of Judah may have contributed to a stronger religious observance.Â
6. Levi in the End Times and the Tribal Identities of ALL IsraelitesÂ Being Â Clarified
Jeremiah ch.33 speaks of the Restoration of Israel (the Ten Tribes) and Judah.
He also mentions a covenant between the Almighty andÂ the House of DavidÂ as well as with the Levites.
Both groups shall be multiplied exceedingly.
19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 Thus says the Lord: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, 21 only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken, so that he would not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with my ministers the Levites. 22 Just as the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will increase the offspring of my servantÂ David, and the Levites who minister to me.
The Prophet Malachi also spoke of a covenant with Levi:
Know then that I have sent this commandment unto you, that My covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
My covenant was with him of life and peace, and I gave them to him, and of fear, and he feared Me, and was afraid of My name.
The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and did turn many away from iniquity (Malachi 2:4-6).
The prophet Malachi connected a purification of the "sons of Levi" with the coming of God's messenger:
Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in, behold, he cometh, saith the LORD of hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap;
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver; and there shall be they that shall offer unto the LORD offerings in righteousness (Malachi 3:1-3).
Isaiah 66 speaks of Lost Israelites from both the Ten tribes and Judah being brought back by the Gentiles and once again acknowledged as of Israelite Descent.
From amongst these new returned Israelites Cohens (Priests) and levites will be appointed.
Â [Isaiah 66:20] AND THEY SHALL BRING ALL YOUR BRETHREN FOR AN OFFERING UNTO THE LORD OUT OF ALL NATIONS UPON HORSES, AND IN CHARIOTS, AND IN LITTERS, AND UPON MULES, AND UPON SWIFT BEASTS, TO MY HOLY MOUNTAIN JERUSALEM, SAITH THE LORD, AS THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL BRING AN OFFERING IN A CLEAN VESSEL INTO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â [Isaiah 66:21] AND I WILL ALSO TAKE OF THEM FOR PRIESTS AND FOR LEVITES, SAITH THE LORD.
Abarbanel (1437-1509):Â From those Childen of Israel who will be brought from distant lands,Â who were immersed among the Gentiles and intermixed with them. From these Israelites will also be taken individuals for Priests and Levites. These will be they who [oringinally] came from Priestly and Levitical families. It will not matter if they had once been sold as slaves and against their will had become Gentiles. How will it be known what family they came from? Doubtless it will be through Divine Inspiration as predicted by Malachi: AND HE SHALL SIT AS A REFINER AND PURIFIER OF SILVER: AND HE SHALL PURIFY THE SONS OF LEVI, AND PURGE THEM AS GOLD AND SILVER, THAT THEY MAY OFFER UNTO THE LORD AN OFFERING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
THEN SHALL THE OFFERING OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM BE PLEASANT UNTO THE LORD, AS IN THE DAYS OF OLD, AND AS IN FORMER YEARS [Malachi 3:3-4].
Note the Talmud also says:
Said Rabbi Hama Bar Hanina: When God decides to let it be known who belongs to which Tribe, he clarifies firstly who belongs to the Tribe of Levi, as it says, 'And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi...' ([Malachi 3;3); (Talmud, Kiddushin 70;a).
Maimonides (1135-1204) says:
In the days of the Messianic King: When his kingdom shall be settled and all of Israel gather unto him, he shall then give the Tribal-genealogy of each one. He shall do this through Divine inspiration. As it says, HE SHALL SIT AS A REFINER AND PURIFIER ([Malachi 3:3). He will purify the Tribe of Levi first,.as it says, 'till there be stood up a priest with Urim and with Thumim' (Ezra 2;63). .. (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Kings, ch. 12, no.3).
Rashi (1040-1105): Â AND I WILL ALSO TAKE OF THEM FOR PRIESTS [Isaiah 66:21]: He will take from the peoples who bring them [i.e. the Children of Israel] backÂ and from those [Israelites] who are brought back as Priests and Levites. At present these have been forcibly assimilated amongst the Gentiles. Before me [i.e. God] it is clear those amongst themÂ who are Priests and Levites. I will separate them out and they will serve before me, says God. Where did God first speak of this? THE SECRET THINGS BELONG UNTO THE LORD OUR GOD Â [Deuteronomy 29:29]. This is what is explained in the Midrash on Psalms.
Rashi understands Isaiah as saying that in the End Times certain Gentiles Nations will help the Jews return.
From amongst these Gentiles the Almighty will choose Priests and Levites.
These sources are speaking from the orientation of Judah. The British and Americans were responsible in some degree for enabling the return of Jews to the land of Israel. They were the ones who can be described as 'Gentiles' who brought 'Israel' (i.e. the Jews in this case) back and from them too will Priests and Levites be chosen out.
The other sources (Talmud Kiddushin 70;a, Maimonides, Abarbanel, etc) say that the choosing refers to Tribal Distinctions Being Clarified!
Descendants of Israelites will be told what Tribe they belong to.
Descendants of the Tribe of Levi will be distinguished before the other Tribes.
Our understandingÂ (based on other BiblicalÂ verses and related sources) is that both parties are correct.
The Ten Tribes who are identified asÂ Gentiles will helpÂ Judah return.
Later members of both Judah and the Ten Tribes will be told what Tribe they belong to. They who belong to Levi will be told first.