BibleAsk Team

Who was Levi in the Bible?

The Bible mentions four men by the name of Levi. Two of them appear in the genealogy of Jesus. They both father a person by the name of Matthat (Luke 3:24, 29). A third person by the Name of Levi was Jesus’ disciple Matthew (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27–29) the tax collector (Mark 10:3). It was common for Hebrew men to have more than one name like Simon Peter and John Mark (Mark 3:14).

The fourth Levi is the third son of Jacob and Leah. The sons of Leah were: “Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun” (Genesis 35:23). the Name Levi means, “attachment.” Leah his mother named him so because she hoped that through his birth, her husband Jacob would truly become attached to her more than his other wife Rachel (her sister) (Genesis 29:34).

The Bible tells us that Levi and his brother, Simeon, annihilated the city of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah. At first, the brothers agreed with the people of shechem that the rapist will marry Dinah. But later they killed the men of that city. When Jacob, their father, heard of their dreadful act, he rebuked them (Genesis 34:30–31) for they were an “instruments of cruelty” to that city (Genesis 49:5).

Before Jacob died in Egypt, he called his sons and prophesied over each of them. He said this of Levi: “Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (Genesis 49:5–7). And according to his prophecy, the descendants of Levi became numerous, but they were scattered throughout the Promised Land because of their dreadful deed in Shechem.

Later on, Levi had three sons—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16). Levi died and joined his fathers “and the years of the life of Levi [were] an hundred thirty and seven years” (Exodus 6:16). His son Kohath gave birth to Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel (Exodus 6:18). Then, Amram married a woman named Jochebed, and together they had Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (Exodus 6:16–20). Thus, Moses and his siblings were descendants of Levi.

Levi’s descendants rose to imminence when they took a firm stand for the Lord after the Israelites sinned greatly by building the altar of Baal while Moses was on Mountain with God (Exodus 32:1-6). When Moses came down and saw the altar of Baal, he said, “who [is] on the LORD’S side? [let him come] unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him” (Exodus 32:26). Then, the Levites executed the Idolaters people about three thousand men. Thus, they purged the sin from the camp (v. 28).

So, Moses pronounced the favor of Heaven upon them. And the Lord had a special “blessing” stored for them. They were chosen to serve in the sanctuary (Num. 3:5–9; 18:1–7; Deut. 10:8). The Levites were assigned under Aaron to assist him in his responsibilities and to guard the tabernacle.

When the Israelites entered the promised land of Canaan (Joshua 13:33), the sons of Levi were the only Israelite tribe that received cities but didn’t inherit a land “because the Lord the God of Israel Himself is their inheritance” (Deuteronomy 18:2).

The Tribe of Levi had religious, political and educational duties to the Israelite. The book of Chronicles records their duties (1 Chron. 23:28–30; 25:1–7; 26:12, 20, 29–31). In return, the the other tribes that inherited lands were expected to give tithe or ten percent of their income to support the Levites through out the generations.

Other prominent men of Levi’s family ancestry were Eli, Ezra, and John the Baptist. Today, the Levites are part of the Jewish communities bearing a special status. There are around 300,000 Levites among Ashkenazi Jewish communities, and a like figure among Sephardim and Mizrahim.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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