February 16, 2008

Breadcrumb: Twelve minus twelve is... one?

Though we knew this already, Josh. 14:3-4 reminds us that the Levites did not, in fact, receive any land. This is to deal with any confusion that might arise from there being 12 tribes receiving land. If you weren't playing close attention before, you might think that the twelve sons of Jacob (including Levi) correspond to the twelve tribes receiving land, but you would be mistaken. Instead, there were thirteen tribes, since one was given to each of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. This is both why we can have twelve tribes receiving land without the Levites getting any, and also why we never hear about the "Tribe of Joseph."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'Levi' is just the old Canaanite word for Priest. Its cognate with the Minaean (ie. SE Arabia, not 'Minoan') word 'Luwi', meaning priest.

The 'Levites' weren't originally a tribe; it was just a job title - any tribe could be priests, and towards the end of Judges you'll see a couple of 'Levites' who are members of the 12 landed tribes - eg. Jonathon-son-of-Manasseh.

That's why the 'Levites' had no land except cities. Priests naturally congregate around places of religious significance - certain 'cities' will be sacred. As the priesthood became hereditary, so the sacred cities became perceived as the property of a (retroactive) 'Levite' tribe.

The 'cities of refuge' are a similar effect. The right of asylum always existed at the ancient sanctuaries, but as the religion grew more centralised, the number of sanctuaries significant enough for the right of asylum to be respected naturally was reduced. All 6 of the 'cities of refuge' were major religious centres.