though it was not forgotten in the ideal distribution pourtrayed by the prophet Ezekiel, who, in describing the restoration of the Hebrew people in its integrity, of course introduced all the twelve tribes.' Nothing is, therefore, more in harmony with the later fate of the Simeonites than the menace pronounced upon them in our poem: “ I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”

III, LEVI, VERS.5–7. The history of the tribe of Levi, remarkable and extraordinary in itself, is eminently calculated to open a deep insight into the internal development of the Hebrew nation. But in proportion to its interest and importance are its intricacies and perplexities; it offers contradictions which appear irreconcilable; and it is entangled in dilemmas which seem to defy every critical effort. The difficulties commence with the words attributed to the dying patriarch with reference to that tribe. We find here the Levites coupled with the Simeonites in a severe rebuke and curse, denouncing with horror their violence and oppression, and describing their dispersion through Israel as a dire calamity and well-merited chastisement. How is this to be brought into harmony with the privileged position assigned to them in the ordinances of the Pentateuch? How could it be said of the holy representatives of the people, of the Divinely chosen priests, “ into their council my soul shall not come; in their assembly my glory shall not join ?" And was there ever a time when the Levites were or could be regarded as labourng under so fatal a malediction? We shall follow the safe guidance of the historical statements contained in the Biblical records, and may thus be able to arrive at some satisfactory conclusion.

First it appears that the men of Levi were not at all times unwarlike or unworldly. National tradition assigns to Levi a principal share in the massacre at Shechem; Benaiah, the son of the priest Jehoiada, was, by David, appointed one of his generals; and Solomon not only confirmed this appointment, and employed Benaiah for sanguinary commissions, but he preferred Azariah, the son of his first priest Zadok, to a prominent office of political administration. However, the men of Levi seem, like the Simeonites, in the earlier periods to have been utter strangers to moderation and self-control; so that our song could exclaim, “ an instrument of violence is their burning rage; cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel.” The consequences were not very different from those which attended the similar vices and crimes of the fraternal tribe. The number of the Levites fell to the small amount of 22,000, a figure lower even than that reached by the Simeonites at the second census. Such a paucity of military men rendered it difficult for them to conquer a portion of Palestine for their hereditary abodes; and as they were not even, like the Simeonites, able to enlist the sympathy and co-operation of a more powerful tribe, they never acquired connected territory sufficient to hold their limited population. The analogies in the early history of the two tribes are indeed so striking and manifold, that our poem could appropriately combine the prediction concerning both in one joint address. Thus the Levites were compelled to seek shelter in any part of the country in which access was permitted to them. In small and divided groups, they settled in a large part of the cities both in the east and in the west of Jordan, both in the north and in the south; and they could, therefore, justly be represented as “ dispersed in Jacob and scattered in Israel."

This is manifestly the course of events which decided the ultimate destiny of the

is there alluded to by the words,“ and the
rest of the people” (ibid. ver. 23).
· Ezek. xlviji. 24, 25; comp. Rev. vii, 7.

xxxiv. 25–31.


31 Chr. xxvii. 5; comp. 2 Sam, viii. 18; xx. 23; 1 Ki. ii. 35.

1 Kings ii. 25, 35.
5 i Kings iv. 2, 4; comp. ii. 35.
6 Num. iii. 39; see supra p. 503.

tribe of Levi; and from this point of view alone the severe terms of our song can be accounted for and may be rendered intelligible. It is of no avail to force upon the words a construction repudiated by the first rules of interpretation, and to refer them to the measures of the Pentateuch, which assigns to the Levites, throughout the country, forty-eight cities, with certain inalienable lands around them as pastures for their cattle.? For the Pentateuch represents that arrangement in a very different light from that in which it is viewed in our poem. It is there not regarded as a curse for merciless and unbridled atrocities: but because “the Lord hath singled out the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark of the Covenant, therefore Levi shall have no portion or inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance."8 Thus the want of territorial property on the part of the Levites, was considered as the necessary consequence of their selection for the most precious spiritual privileges; they were not to obtain any wordly power, because they should entirely devote their lives to the service of God, who had taken them under His paternal protection, and who, in order to secure their material welfare also, repeatedly enjoined upon the other tribes, “ take care not to forget the Levite all the days that you are in your land," and otherwise most amply provided for their subsistence, to

But this is not the only nor the greatest discrepancy. The very mission and services of the Levites, during a long period after Moses, appear very different in the historical accounts and in the staternents of the Pentateuch. Let us remind the reader of the chief precepts of the Law concerning the tribe of Levi.

1. Originally the firstborn sons of all Israelites were intended to perform the priestly functions; for they belonged to God, who had miraculously delivered them at the last Egyptian plague;" but in order less to disturb the domestic relations of the people, and to secure greater efficiency in the sacred offices, the religious primogeniture was conferred on the tribe of Levi; so that 22,000 firstborn Israelites were replaced by as many Levites, and each of the rest!? was redeemed by five shekels.is

2. The sacrifices were to be offered “ before the door of the Tabernacle, before the word,” at the place which the Lord would choose among all tribes, to let His name dwell there; and the Israelite was commanded, " take heed that thou offer not thy burni-offerings in every place that thou seest.” 14

3. The service at the altar and within the Holy Tent was to be performed exclusively by Aaron and his descendants; every stranger who attempted to officiate, or even to approach the sacred precincts, was to be put to death.is

4. The descendants of Moses, or the Levites in the more restricted sense, were associated to the priests as their ministers, to do all the subordinate services at the Tabernacle; “ but they should not come near the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar; lest they die together with the priests”;16 nor was an Israelite of any of the other tribes allowed to perform the Levitical offices, “ that there might be no plague when the children of Israel approached the sanctuary.'

If we compare these laws with the facts recorded in the historical books, we are surprised by striking and remarkable contrasts.

1. The people offered sacrifices to God at Bochim, a place the sanctity of which is


? Compare Ler. xxxr. 32–34; Num. xxxv. 1-8; Josh, xiv. 4; xxi. 1-40; i Chr. vi. 39—66.

& Dent. X. 8, 9; xii. 12; Num. xviii. 20; comp. Josh, xiii. 14, 33; xiv. 3, 4; xviii, 7.

9 Deut, xii, 19; xiv. 27, 29.

10 Comp. Num. v. 6, et seq.; Lev. xxv. 32-34; Num. xviii, 14; See Num. xviii. 8, et seq.; Deut, xii. 18; xvi. 11.

" Comp. Exod. xiii. 2, 13.
12 273 in Numbers.

13 Num. iii. 11 – 13, 40 — 51; comp. viii, 16–18; see Com. on Exod.


1 Deut. xii. 11, 13, 14; Lev. i. 3; iv. 4;
viii. 3, 4, etc.

15 Num. ii. 10; xviii. 1, 7.
16 Num. xviii, 3, 6.
17 Num. viii. 19; iii. 10, 38; xvii. 5.

in no wise guaranteed, and where certainly the Tabernacle did not stand at that time.

2. Gideon, from the tribe of Manasseh, brought sacrifices to God at Ophrah, far from the common sanctuary.”

3. Manoah, the father of Samson, of the tribe of Dan, offered sacrifices at Zareah, an unsanctified place.

4. Micah, a man of mount Ephraim, had in his residence “a house of God, and made an ephod, and Teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.” * That image was afterwards taken away by a number of Danites, who, on their way to the northern parts of Canaan, passed through the town of Micah; * and the children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image of Micah, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” It appears, therefore, that it was not unusual for the Israelites, down to a late period, to have private sanctuaries with a regular and permanent service. But this is in direct antagonism with the absolute unity of religious worship prescribed in the Pentateuch.

5. The people assembled at Mizpeh “ to the Lord," while the holy Ark was not there. The remark, that wherever the people of God met consciously as such, it “ assembled to the Lord,” is fallacious and untenable, and scarcely worthy of consisideration; for if so, the Hebrews would have required no holy place of meeting and no Tabernacle at all.

6. When the Ark of the Covenant came to Beth-shemesh, the people " offered buratofferings and sacrificed sacrifices to the Lord.”?

7. Most important for our purpose is the history of Samuel. According to the genealogy of the first book of Chronicles, this great man belonged to the tribe of Leri, descending from Kohath, but not from the line of Aaron. As he was, therefore, no priest, he ought, according to the precept of the Pentateuch above quoted, under penalty of death, to have abstained from all those higher functions exclusively reserved for the progeny of Aaron. But do our records allow of such a conclusion? When the man of God announced to Eli the rejection of his family from its sacred offices, he alluded to Samuel in the following terms, “I will raise up for me a faithful priest, and I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before my anointed for ever.**** And accordingly we find Samuel not only described as a prophet," or acting as Judge, making annually a circuit through the principal towns of Israel, such as Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh ;"2 but we see him in every respect officiating as a true priest, or as a member of Aaron's family. When the Philistines threatened the Israelites then assembled at Mizpeh, with a fierce attack, " Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly to the Lord."}3 At Ramah, his usual abode, where he ordinarily judged the people, “ he built an altar to the Lord.”" The people brought at fixed periods offerings “ on a high place,” but they did not eat until Samuel“ had blessed the sacrifice.”15 When he went to Bethlehem to anoint David instead of Saul, he took a heiser with him, and said to the family of Jesse, “ I am come to sacrifice to the Lord: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice”; upon which " he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice." 16 Who requires more incontrovertible proofs of the thoroughly priestly offices discharged by the Levite Samuel ? And yet, in the Pentateuch, Korah, though likewise a Levite, and likewise

[blocks in formation]

1 Judg. ii. 5. Judg. vi. 11-20.
3 Judy. xiii. 19, 20. * Judg. xvii.5.
5 Judg. xviii,3, 27, 30, 31.
6 1 Sam. vii. 1,5; x. 17.
7 1 Sam. vi. 15.
8 i Chr. vi. 12, 13, 18, 19.
9 Num. xviii. 3, 6.

| Sam. ii. 35; comp. ver. 28. 11 i Sam. iii. 20; ix. 6–14; X. 5 – 13; xix. 20–24.

1 Sam, vii. 6, 15–17. 13 Ibid. vii. 9, 10.

14 Ibid. ver. 17. 15 Ibid. ix. 12, 13.

16 Ibid. xvi. 2, 5.


from the family of Kohath, was punished with a fearful death because he coveted a
dignity completely appropriated by another branch of his tribe.!?

8. During a long period after Moses, down to the end of the time of the Judges, the
position of the Levites was very dissimilar to that provided for them in the Pentateuch.
Instead of conveniently living in the Levitical towns, supported partly by the gifts of
the Israelites, and partly by the lands which formed a certain basis for their subsistence,
they wandered through the length and breadth of the land, homeless and breadless;
they were happy to be maintained by the benevolence of pious individuals; and were
by no means scrupulous whether the towns in which they settled were holy or not.18

9. After the Ark of the Covenant had left Shiloh, in the time of Eli, it remained for
a long period in Kirjath-jearim, where, during the whole of Saul's reign, it remained
without priests, sacrifices, or sacred worship, neglected and abandoned in the house of a
private Israelite. Why did the Levites suffer this profanation? Why did they bestow
no care or attention on the most sacred part of the Tabernacle, which, without it, was
deprived of its very life and centre. 19

10. The people celebrated the election of Saul as king at Gilgal by “ sacrificing
burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord,” although the holy Ark was
not then at Gilgal.20

11. Nor did the irregularities of the religious service cease in the earlier epochs of
the Hebrew monarchy. When Samuel did not arrive at the appointed time in
Gilgal, Saul, though a Benjamite, anxious to march against the enemy, offered the
sacrifices for the assembled army; and the displeasure of Samuel at this step was at-
tributable to perfectly personal and political, not religious, motives; since Samuel him-
self, the Levite, was not justified in presiding at the sacrifice. 21

12. When the people had sinned by eating meat together with its blood, Saul, in
order to expiate the tran sion, built an altar, and commanded that every man
should offer up his ox or his lamb; which is indisputably against the spirit of the
Mosaic injunctions.22

13. David left the Ark of the Covenant for three months in the house of Obed-
Edom, in Gath, because he believed its presence to be dangerous, and brought it to
Jerusalem only when he learnt the abundant blessing experienced by Obed-Edom. 23

14. On this occasion, David, though of the tribe of Judah, arrayed in the “linen
ephod,” the characteristie garment of the priests, "offered burnt-offerings and peace-
offerings before the Lord, and blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts”;24
though he had around him the priests Zadok and Abiathar, throngh whom he was
accustomed to consult the Divine oracle.25

15. At the time of the pestilence, David built an altar on the threshing-floor of
Araunah, offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and the plague ceased. 26

16. “ The sons of David were priests.”27 Instead of this notice, indeed, the Book of
Chronicles, quite in harmony with its usual Levitical tendency, writes : “the sons of
David were the first about the person of the king.”

17. Adoniah, the son of David, offered sacrifices at the meeting of his friends, assem-
bled by him for the purpose of securing their assistance in his attempt to deprive
Solomon of the throne.29

[ocr errors]

17 Num, xvi, 1,8-10; xvii. 5; compare
jy, 15; xviii. 2, 3.

18 See Judg. xvii. 7—12; xviii. 1-31;
xix. 1; 1 Sam. xxi. 1-6; comp. ii. 36.

19 i Sam. vii. 2; 1 Chron. xiii. 3.

20 i Sam, xi. 15; comp. vii. l; 2 Sam. vi.
3, 4; and Judg. xx. 26, 27.

21 1 Sam. xiii. 9, et sey.
2 I Sam, xiv. 32-35.

[blocks in formation]

18. It has been mentioned above, that the priests Beniah and Azariah filled military and secular offices (see p. 504).

19. Before the building of the Temple, not only Solomon, but any Israelite who chose, sacrificed on the heights, on one of which, at Gibeon, which was “the great height," the king offered a thousand burnt-offerings on an altar.' The Book of Chronicles adds, as a justification of this latter act," for there was the Tent of Meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the desert":? but even, if this was the case, the sacrifices must be regarded as illegitimate, since the Ark was at that time in Jerusalem; the worship of Solomon at Gibeon is, in the Book of Kings, introduced with the censure, “ only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places”: and after having obtained a Divine vision, the king went to Jerusalem, stood before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord,' and offered up burnt-offerings, and made peaceofferings.

20. At the consecration of the Temple, Solomon sacrificed together with the people;$ he blessed the latter;6 kneeling before the altar of the Lord, and his hands raised to heaven, he pronounced a ferrent supplication for the prosperity of Israel, asked for the gracious fulfilment of every prayer, for forgiveness of all sins, for blessing in peace and success in war, and concluded with another ardent benediction on the people of Israel. In fine, Solomon himself consecrated the holy edifice; except that the Ark was placed into the Holy of Holies by the priests, who, however, are mentioned at no other part of the ceremonies.

21. And those who do not think all these combined statements conclusive, and perhaps regard many of them as exceptional or isolated, may consider the notice that Solomon, even after the inauguration of the Temple, regularly, “three times every year, offered burnt offerings and peace-offerings upon the altar which he had built to the Lord, and he burnt incense upon the altar that was before the Lord."10

The obvious results to be drawn from these facts are, that during a long period after the conquest of Canaan, the Israelites extensively preserved the patriarchal organisation of their households; that the head of the family, at regular intervals, performed the sacerdotal functions in the name of the other members;"! that, in general, the priestly power remained combined with the secular authority, so that among the Hebrews, as was the case among all ancient nations, kings, military leaders, or other public dignitaries, offered sacrifices for the people, and discharged other religious offices; that these rites were performed at any place where an occasion arose, and not exclusively at the Tabernacle; that the Levites, weakened and humbled in consequence of political misfortunes and reckless warfare, were far from possessing any special claim to the priesthood, could still less obtain or exercise great hierarchical power, and appear almost everywhere in a condition of dependence, and sometimes of helpless

If the reader, from these considerations, turns once more to the words of our poem applying to Levi, he will understand their full force and propriety.

However, it is, on the other hand, undeniable, that the Levites showed, from a remote period, a tendency to occupy the position marked out for them in the Pentateuch, and that the principal religious institutions there delineated are, with more or less distinctness, traceable in the history of the Hebrews after Moses. In harmony with the notice in the Book of Joshua, that “the whole congregation assembled at Shiloh, and there set up the Tabernacle of Meeting,”!? we find during a large part of the period


1 1 Kings iii. 2-4.

? 2 Chr. i. 3, 13; comp. 1 Chr. xvi. 39; xxi. 29.

3 1 Kings iii. 3. 4 Ibid. ver. 15.
5 1 Kings viii. 5, 62, 63.
6 Ib. vers. 14-21. 7 Ib. vers. 22-53.

8 i Kings viii. 54-61.
9 Ibid. vers. 6--11.

10 Ibid. ix. 25; compare xii. 31; xü. 33.

1 Sam. xx. 6; comp. Job i. 5; xlii. 8. 12 Josh. xviii, 1.

« ElőzőTovább »