#258. For what reason were the Levites granted tithes: as compensation for their service relevant to the Tent of Meeting OR because they had no land-allotment? (Num 18:21, 31 vs Deut 14:29)

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The Levites belong to Yahweh. This is a staple feature throughout all the Pentateuchal sources.

“The Levites shall be mine. I am Yahweh!”

But this is only because of the theology of redemption at play here: The Levites ransom the lives of Israel’s firstborns (see #145). This ransom theology is best stated in the Priestly source:

And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying: “And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel in place of every firstborn, the first birth of the womb from the children of Israel. And the Levites shall be mine, because every firstborn is mine! In the day that I struck every firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated every firstborn in Israel to me, from human to animal. They shall be mine. I am Yahweh! (Num 3:11-13).

Thus instead of all male firstborns belonging to Yahweh, the Levites redeem them and it is thus the Levites who belong to Yahweh.

As a result, the Levites have no allotment in the promised land. They belong to Yahweh. In the Deuteronomic tradition it is for this reason as well that the Levites are granted the tithes, firstfruits, and donations—in lieu of having a portion of the promised land.

Although the same themes are present in the Priestly source, there is nevertheless an additional feature at play here which is unique to the Aaronid-run priesthood represented in P. And that is that since only an Aaronid can be priest, the remaining Levites are delegated to being servants to the Aaronids (Num 3:5-10). Their non-priestly function is to minister after the service of the Tent of Meeting. And it is for this reason in P that the Levites are granted tithes—for their service relevant to the Tent of Meeting.

2 thoughts on “#258. For what reason were the Levites granted tithes: as compensation for their service relevant to the Tent of Meeting OR because they had no land-allotment? (Num 18:21, 31 vs Deut 14:29)

  1. Roland, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, the FIRSTBORN from among the dead (there are many more examples) is WHO is in view here. The firstborn was given a double portion and was the kinsman redeemer of the family and the one who also represented YHVH in the family hierarchy. That there was a rebellion to this and idolatry and the worship of the celestial bodies (baal worship was the worship of the planet Mars) and human sacrifices are undeniable. Unredeemed mankind is dead in sin and and unable to understand anything spiritual. That only is able to begin with being born from above and why Jesus said, “unless a man is born from above (born again) he cannot see, much less enter, the Kingdom of YHVH Eloheem

  2. This godly right to the firstborn seems very “ancient” and indicative of a prior custom of human sacrifice, that was “replaced” in this way with a much kinder habit (and, incidentally, a secure future for a priest class, though the Aaronids restricted that privilege greatly). Nevertheless this section could be read as if the demand for the firstborn exists only from the time of the exodus (in the day I struck every firstborn in Egypt). But there is Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Do you have any comments on which section was written first?
    There is more on firstborn sacrifices of cattle and men:
    Deut 15:19 Set apart for the LORD your God every firstborn male of your herds and flocks. Do not put the firstborn of your cows to work, and do not shear the firstborn of your sheep, and
    Ex 22:29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me

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