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Who said of his father and his mother, I saw him not,
224. The usual explanation of this contrast may be seen in the following note of the Rev. Thos. Scott :
Levi and Simeon had been left under a severe rebuke by Jacob. And the tribe of Simeon had in no wise distinguished itself; on the contrary, it had been, notoriously guilty in the transgression of Baal-Peor, and was greatly reduced in the wilderness. A portion, therefore, was assigned it within the lct of Judah, with which it was in great measure incorporated; and, perhaps, for that reason it was separately mentioned in this prophecy.
But the curse of Levi had been turned into a blessing, on account of the transactions here referred to. There were two Meribahs, one of which is also called Massah, where, probably, Aaron and the Levites remarkably distinguished themselves, in opposing the murmurs of the people. At the other Meribah Aaron was found guilty, Num. XX. 10–13. Yet there is a tradition (!) that the tribe of Levi approved themselves faithful. The prophet, however, in this passage seems to have referred to some remarkable instances not elsewhere recorded, in which the Levites were tried, and honourably distinguished themselves in the cause of God. In the provocation of the golden calf, the Levites, at God's command, inflicted punishment on the ringleaders, without respect to rank or relation, and in a very zealous and impartial manner, Ex. xxxii. 25–29. Perhaps some of their own tribe and near relations were involved in that guilt, whom they no more spared than other criminals. And, though meh might censure this severity, yet God highly approved of it, and honoured those who so honoured Him.
225. It is true that Zimri, “a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites,' was notoriously guilty, according to the story, at Baal-Peor, N.xxv.14: but there is no sign whatever that the tribe was more in fault than others. In that very sin of the golden calf, Aaron himself, the head of the tribe of Levi, was notoriously the chief offender. And, if the Levites spared not
their fathers, mothers, brothers, and children, then surely these relatives of theirs must have been guilty of the sin; and so the Levites themselves, as well as their leader, must have been concerned in that transaction. There is no ground, therefore, for supposing, as some have done, that Moses was ordered by Divine instruction to change Jacob's curse into a blessing, in reward for their dutiful conduct, so that they were still, indeed, to be 'portioned-out and scattered, according to Jacob's words, but now to be honourably dispersed in their twenty-four Levitical cities. It would be strange, indeed, (if we were really bound to believe that Jacob's infallible prophetical insight, as to the future lot of his children, was displayed in this Blessing,') to find that he foresaw the future glory of the tribe of Judah, but had not the remotest idea of the splendour and dignity, to which the tribe of Levi would attain.
226. The real fact is that the “Blessing of Moses, as we have seen in Part III, was composed at a much later date than that, which we have been compelled by the facts of the case to assign to the Blessing of Jacob,'-at a time when the tribe of Levi was really held in high esteem and honour, and was composed, perhaps, by one who was himself a Levite and a Priest. Whereas in the time of the Jehovist, their condition, apparently, was as low, and their position as insignificant, as the words before us imply,--so far, at least, as we are able to gather from the facts narrated about them. This is a most important and interesting question; and it will be necessary to go into it at some length, and to endeavour to make out more clearly what was the true history of the tribe.
227. But, indeed, one of the most decisive proofs of the low condition of the Levites in the earlier part of David's reign, is. this very fact itself that, in this passage of Genesis, which so many indications, as we have seen, show plainly to have been written about this very time; they are spoken of in such disparaging terms. It is evident that the writer knew
nothing whatever of this tribe having been appointed in the most solemn manner, by express Divine command, as the chosen tribe, to bear the sacred vessels, and minister in holy things, and approach nearer to the presence of Jehovah than others. It seems absolutely impossible that any one—at least, any pious writer-living after the age of Moses, should have expressed himself thus about the Levites, if the Books of Leviticus and Numbers had been in existence in his time, and their laws in operation to any extent.
228. Let us now see, however, what we can gather from the historical Books to throw light upon this point. We pass over the Book of Joshua, since that (as we have seen) must be regarded as a part of the Pentateuch itself; and we come at once to the Book of Judges, which relates the chief occurrences in Israel immediately after the (supposed) settlement of the people by Joshua in the Promised Land.
229. And here the first thing, which must surely strike the attention of any thoughtful reader, is the utter absence of any reference throughout the whole Book, professing to relate the history of four hundred years,—except in the two episodes introduced in the end,-even to the existence of Levites or Levitical Priests, as persons solemnly set apart for religious duties, much less to that high honour or distinction which the laws of the Pentateuch assign to them. There is no mention whatever made of them in the Song of Deborah, where nine of the tribes are named. And yet is it conceivable that a Prophetese, in such a pious song of thanksgiving, would have made no reference whatever to Priest or Levite, Ark or Tabernacle, if really these institutions existed, and were held in high esteem at the time? We shall have to consider the history of each of these four points separately, at full length, in its proper place, though not in this part of our Work. At present, we are concerned only with the Levites. And these, as a tribe, are
never once mentioned in the Book of Judges, from the first chapter of the Book to the last, nor in its Appendix, the Book of Ruth. And the only two instances, in which the name Levite occurs, are cases which fully bear out the statement, that they had not at that time any such position of dignity and wealth, as the Pentateuch assigns to them, -no cities of their own, no maintenance, no tithes from the offerings of the people.
230. Thus in Ju. xvii. 7-xvii.31 we read of —
'a young man out of Bethlehem-Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Lerite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed out of the city from Bethlehem-Judah, to sojourn where he could find a place. . Accordingly, he comes to the house of Micah, “a man of Mount Ephraim,' and is glad to engage himself to be his priest, for his food and clothing, and a small sum of money, ten shekels,* annually.
*And Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his Priest, and was in the house of Micah.' Ju.xvii.12.
After this there comes a party of Danites ;
* And these went into Micah's house, and fetched the carved image, the ephod, and the teraphim, and the molten image. Then said the Priest unto them, “What do ye?' And they said unto him, “Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be with us a father and a Priest. Is it better for thee to be a Priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a Priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel ? And the Priest's heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people. .... And the children of Dan set up the graven image. And Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons, were Priests to the tribe of Dan, until the day of the captivity of the land.' Ju.xviii.18–30.
231. On the above passage we remark as follows :
(i) This Levite is evidently regarded as a mere straggler, having no house or home-no Levitical city to go to-no support from tithes and offerings. He'goes to sojourn where he might find a place.'
* The value of this payment may be estimated from the command, that the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than half-a-shekel, when they give an offering unto Jehovah, to make an atonement for your souls.' E.XXI.15.
(ii) It is noticeable that the writer does not record this story, as if he were exceedingly shocked at the idolatrous proceedings of Micah, the Levite, and the Danites. He seems to write of the transaction as if it were something not at all extraordinary in his times for a man to have a 'graven image' and 'teraphim'in his house, in direct violation of the laws of the Pentateuch, E.xx.4, Lxxvi.1, D.iv.16, v.8, xxvii.15. Nor can we be much surprised at this, since even David had 'teraphim'in his house, 1S. xix. 13, though in our E.V. it appears merely as an 'image.
(iii) There is no indication that eren the Levite himself, or any of his em. ployers, had any fear of the solemn charges of the Levitical Law before their eyes. The man of Mount Ephraim consecrates him-he becomes a priest-he ministers to idols; he then goes away contentedly with the Danites to act as their priest; they exchange him for a Manassite (whether through his death, or for some other reason); and this Manassite and his sons continue to act as priests to the tribe of Dan for a considerable time. Or if with many critics we read nvin, 'Moses' for quien, Manasseh,' it is still more amazing, on the traditionary view, that the
son of Moses' should have taken part in such irregular proceedings; but he and his descendants would, of course, have been Levitrs.
(iv) We may add also that, as the story now stands, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, still lived, and 'stood before the Ark in those daye,' xx.28,--that is, in the days of the affair about Gibeah, xix.1, before which Laish had already received the name of Dan, according to the narrative in xviii.29. Upon the traditionary view, it must certainly seem strange that Phinehas, who had actually received the promise of an everlasting priesthood because of his zeal for God on a former occasion, N.xxv.6–16, and who was sent by Joshua to warn the trans-Jordanic tribes of the trespass they were committing, in building another altar beside the Altar before the Tabernacle, Jo.xxii.13, &c., should now havo permitted the setting up of a graven image, in direct breach of the Second Commandment, not only in the distant outpost of Dan, but in Mount Ephraim, not far from the Tabernacle itself.
(v) But the parenthetical passage about the Ark and Phinehas, Ju.xx.27-,28", has all the appearance of being a later interpolation in the original story. And in (II.460,461) we have shown that, very probably, the notice in Ju.xviii.30, about
Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh (or Moses), and his sons being priests to the tribe of Dan until the Captivity of the land,' is also an interpolation inserted after the Captivity of the Ten Tribes.
232. Upon the whole, however, it is plain that this · Levite' is spoken of as being in a very low and impoverished condition, and certainly as having very little regard for, and apparently very little knowledge of, the commands and threatenings of the Mosaic Law. It may be said that the general neglect of the Levites as a tribe, which is implied not only in this story, but