The Priests and Levites

Have you ever wondered what the life of a priest in the Old Testament entitled? Is it something anyone could handle or chose the commit to? The priests are well known in the Old Testament Bible to be the connection between God’s people and God. Let’s learn a little more about the lives of what used to be the Priest and Levites of Israel.

Who were the Levites?

Levi was the third son of Jacob, and his descendants became the Levites belonging to the tribe Levi. During the Exodus out of Egypt Moses lead the chosen people through the desert to the land of Promised land which was Canaan, a land flowing with Milk and Honey. Moses was from the Tribe of Levi along with his brother Aaron. Aaron was the first anointed as high priest over the Israelites.

Those from the tribe Levi able to help in the tabernacle were men 25 years old or older. They helped in duties and worked at the Tent of Meeting until they became 50 (Num8). The tribe of Levi did not have land because the Lord God was their inheritance (Josh 13:33).

The Duty of the Priests and Levites

Becoming Priests

priests and levites

In the book of Exodus, Moses was commanded to gather Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar to serve as priests. Aaron became the first high priest and had the exclusive right and responsibility to make offerings on the altar to​ God. He and his sons served as priests to all the Israelites.

In order for them to become priests, they must first be consecrated to the God of Israel. Moses was given specific rules on how to consecrate Aaron and his sons to God in Exodus 29. Moses was to take a young bull and two rams without defect, make bread and cakes mixed with oil along with wafers spread with oil. Aaron and his sons were then washed with water at the entrance of the tent of meeting. After this Moses used anointing oils and poured them on Aaron’s head. After this, the Bull and rams were offered up to God.

Rules for Priests

In Leviticus 21 it gives rules that the priests must follow in order to stay sacred for the God of Israel..

  • Not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards
  • Cut their bodies
  • Not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands
  • Cannot enter a place with a dead body

Priestly garments Exodus 28

The priests wore specific garments given to them to bring them honor and dignity (Ex 28:2). Their garments consisted of a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. They were to use god, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and
fine linen for their garments.

The breast piece contained 12 precious stones each for a tribe of Israel. sardius (ruby), topaz, carbuncle (garnet), emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper. Each stone was engraved with the name of one of
the twelve tribes of Israel.

In Ex 29:29 Aaron’s sacred garments were kept and used to anoint and ordain. Him and his descendants wore them for seven days while they served in the tent of meeting and ministered in the Holy Place.

Tabernacle Duties

Aaron along with the priests had many duties to attend to in the tabernacle. Aaron tended to the lamps every morning and burny fragrant incense. The fragrant incense was burnt every morning and again at twilight while tending the lamps. The incense itself was made according to the instructions God commanded, and if they did not do it accordingly they died (Exo 30). To avoid death and enter the Tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons washed their hands and feet (Ex 30).

Sacrificial Offerings

the sacrificial lamb

The priests and Levites had the exclusive right to present up offerings on behalf of the Israelites to God. In Exodus 29, they had to offer up two lambs a year old without defect. One in the morning and one at twilight. This was to be done regularly at the entrance of the tent of meeting. There the Lord would meet and speak to Moses and also dwell with the Israelites.

In the book of Leviticus, chapters 1-7 are regarding the different offerings of the priests: Burnt offering, grain offering, fellowship offering, sin offering, and the guilt offering. The priests served to give the offering up the Lord on their behalf. The Priests kept all commands set by God, However, the consequence for disobedience was death. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu in Lev 10 offered up unauthorized fire, and as a result of their disobedience fire came from the presence of the Lord and consumed them.