Sunday, 23 April 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 3 - The Non Denim Wearing Levites
After all of the boring rules and regulations of Leviticus we are getting back to the story. No, really we are. First though God had to set his house in order and to sort out the admin and apportion the chores. For this he needed some servants. And he has a whole tribe of people in mind for that - the Levites. And no, that has nothing to do with people who wear a lot of denim.
So you'll recall that, back in Exodus, Moses had a brother invented for him specifically so that some people could live the high life as priests based on their fictitious lineage back to him. Aaron was the brother in question and, said God (allegedly) his sons and sons of sons in perpetuity, would be his priests. Being a priest is of course a big deal because, as Leviticus outlined, they get to dress in fine clothes, eat lots of sacrifices given for God and even levy taxes.
And they also get a whole tribe of men who were to be their servants and the servants of the Tabernacle.
You may recall that a very long time ago two of the sons of Aaron were killed by God for getting things wrong in the Tabernacle. This left Aaron with two sons to be the priests.
Now you may also recall that back in Exodus God killed all of the first born of Egypt in order to persuade the Pharaoh to let his people go. God however spared the first born of the Israelites. In return for this God said that he wanted all of the spared first born to be his servants. Forever. Nice bargain.
But now, given that this was a rather high price, he made them another offer. Instead of having everyone's first born he would instead have a whole tribe of men to be his. What a generous God he is.
These were the sons of Levi. The Levites. They were to have a very important role. They were to be the servants of God. While the rest of the tribe were doing their daily jobs, raising their cattle and sheep and generally doing normal things, the Levites were to look after the Tabernacle, work for the priests and guard the Tabernacle if the tribe ever went to war.
So God decided to do a special census of the Levites, of all of the males over a month old. Each male was the descendant of one of Levi's three sons and so they were split into sub tribes and apportioned their own positions in the camp and their own special duties.
So the descendants of Gershon lived on the west side of the camp and were given fabric tending duties.
The descendants of Kohath were to take up position on the south of the camp and were given the job of looking after all of the holy items within the Tabernacle like the mythical Ark of the Covenant.
Merari's sons took up position on the north side and looked after the tent itself, and were responsible for erecting it.
Wondering what happened on the east side? That was where Moses and Aaron and the priests were to live. They got more space because they were so important, although what would have happened had Levi had more than 3 sons is not revealed. Anyone would think this was just made up.
So they counted everyone up and there were supposed to be 22 thousand Levites. This, needless to say, is ridiculous. How many people does it take to carry around a tent, a few altars and some fancy clothes? And while we're on the subject this is supposedly a tribe of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. In the desert. All camped around one tent. How big was this tent? Was it the size of a cathedral?
Anyway, God has given the Israelites this great deal, he wasn't claiming their first born. But in return for this they had to pay a tax. Well, who would have thought. Another tax. It's like living under a Labour government.
But the Israelites didn't object. They agreed to all of these highly unreasonable demands. It's all going really well isn't it. Don't worry, it won't last.