Sunday, 6 August 2017
The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 18 - The Power and Wealth of the Priests and Levites
So in chapter 16 there was a small rebellion as some of the Israelites demanded to know who had made Moses and Aaron the bosses. God killed them all including their families just to show them. That's what all of this book is about. The story concerns the tribe being doubtful and disobedient and thus being punished. And guess what? They just so happen to have the power of the priests confirmed. How convenient.
After all of the slaughter of recent chapters then in which God showed who was boss and then delegated it down to Aaron and his priests and his priestly helpers the Levites, we now get a reiteration of what all of this means. It means that Aaron and those allegedly descended from him have sole rights to go into the Tabernacle.
God told Aaron that he and his sons and the Levites were in charge of the Tabernacle. The Levites were the chief servants of the Tabernacle but they were forbidden from making contact or even looking at its most sacred and holy objects. This must have made life tricky. But breaking this rule meant death.
But then God told them what they got in return for all of this: lots of free food and money. Much better. Yes all of those sacrifices were to be given to the priests to eat. So, not actually for God then. There were to be lots and lots of animal sacrifices as we have detailed in Leviticus. But essentially this was just free food for the priests. Funnily enough people who now claim that the Bible is the literal truth tend to ignore the need for animal sacrifices don't they. It's all very very pagan.
And the Levites got a wage too. The Israelites had to give the Levites 5 Shekels for every first born male and every first born animal. A nice little earner then. The only downside was that the priests and Levites were not allowed to own land. God would provide for them, which is to say that the whole tribe would provide for them with taxes on everything.
And on top of those 5 Shekels for all of the first borns there was a tithe or tax of 10% of everything produced by the people. This was to go to the Levites. They then had to hand over 10% of this income to the priests. Why priests needed an income like this is not revealed. Still, thanks to God they were going to be very very rich priests indeed. I bet you didn't see that coming.