The Tabernacle Encampment: Levi - Part 4
Recap of Tabernacle Typology Series
In part 1 of this series I laid a light foundation for how the third part of the Godhead Trinity (Jesus) makes appearances in the Old Testament. Yahweh’s name literally means he is. If Yahweh is the same today as he was at creation, this claim warrants investigation. (Hebrews 13:8) In part 2 I explored the significance of the tabernacle as a means of communication and obedience to Yahweh. This is also where the idea of the tabernacle being a template which Jesus mirrors in the New Testament is introduced. Part 3 starts to unfold the typology of Jesus in the tabernacle. Jesus defeated death on the cross. The cross is a representation of his victory…His throne. Through looking at the camp of Israel we find that they camped in a cross shaped formation. Are there any other details of the tabernacle encampment which point to Jesus’ crucifixion? In this article I would like to address two: the encampment of Levi; and the Hebrew encampment as a whole.
Israel Pointing to Yahweh
The camps did include women and children though the census was based on the males. You will recall, from the last article, the criterion of Israel’s census is based on the count of “males 20 and older able to fight.” (Numbers 1:3) The census for this “kingdom of priests” is based on Israel’s military strength (Exodus 19:4-6). Israel is a kingdom of priests, made of the strong, who are meant to show Yahweh to the nations in whatever means they are capable.
In what ways are we capable? By our gifting, our strengths, and our stories. The book of Romans (12:3-8) challenges us to use what makes us different as a means to bring glory to Yahweh. I believe that is the heart of the verse in Hebrews when Jesus’ humanity is described. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) Your gifting and talents separate you from others as well as your life story and your experiences. Being able to use your blessings and sorrows to honor Yahweh is something only you can do. This is how you build a personal relationship with someone (a nation) and point them to Yahweh. I have felt this impact personally when a friend thanked me for sharing my struggle with mental illness. Because I shared my story, my pain, with him he sought help. He later told me, my vulnerability offered a turning point in his own journey to mental wellness.
The Census of Levi
Israel was meant to protect the inner camp of Levi, which is holy, as it dwells around Yahweh’s sanctuary. Like Israel, the Levites were instructed by Yahweh to preform a separate census. (Numbers 1:45-55) The census for the Levites was based on the count of “males a month old and older.” (Numbers 3:14-17) The camp of Levi acts in service of the tabernacle and in the priesthood. Why does the census include a broader age range than Israel’s? I believe this is symbolic of who is expected to serve God or be set aside for those purposes. While a month old child may not be able to serve directly, the parents can. The parents of that month old can rear him/her in a way which honors Yahweh. (Proverbs 22:6) There is also not an age limit as to when a person can begin serving Yahweh. (1 Timothy 4:12-13) As soon as they are old enough to comprehend, they are commanded to respond in obedience to Yahweh. Levi is set aside as the priesthood; made of all whom should be close to Yahweh, from the young to the old. The innocent to the wise.
Israel is a kingdom of priests for the nations. It would follow that they are charged with interacting with people of other lands. Levi, being servants of the sanctuary, had the main responsibilities of serving Yahweh. The fact that Israel and Levi’s census was separated both in count and in duties seems to highlight two crucial points in being a follower of Yahweh: love God & love people. These points are made throughout the Bible via various laws, but is worded succinctly by Jesus in Mark 12:28-31 wherein he tells us to love God above all and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus’ words echo the function of the two encampments of the tabernacle.
The Arrangement of Levi
As with Israel, there were specifics given to each Hebrew tribe whom served as a division of the encampment of Levi. Below is a section from Numbers describing the census of one such division, the tribe of Gershon.
Arrangement of the Camp - To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans. The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500. The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle. The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael. At the tent of meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes—and everything related to their use. - Numbers 3:21-26
Each portion of the text gives the tribe, the census count, the camp’s position to the tabernacle, and the tribe’s responsibilities in regard to the tabernacle. I have created a slide summarizing these items for the other tribes of Levi.
The Levites camped in between the tabernacle and Israel. This is a depiction of the encampment of Levi in relation to the encampment of Israel and the tabernacle.
What's in a Name? (Section 1)
In the previous article, I discussed the importance of Hebrew naming conventions and how the significance could be seen in the encampment of Israel. Craig Hill, author of The Ancient Paths, highlights the sacredness of a child’s name and how it is a time to bless someone. His/her name often times would contain character qualities, job descriptions, or his/her life’s purpose. This continues to be true as we explore the camp of Levi.
What originally sparked my curiosity in researching the Hebrew meanings of these names was the name of Moses. In his birth story, it is written that his parents saved him from Pharaoh’s decree (to throw all new born males in the Nile) by placing him in a basket and floating him in the Nile. He was later saved by Pharaoh’s daughter who named the Hebrew child Moses. Moses means to draw out. (Exodus 2:10) This is fitting as she drew him out of the river. Taking his destiny into account, Yahweh would later use Moses to draw the Israelites out of Egypt.
In researching the Biblical Hebrew of the tribes’ names, I have prepared the following table which summarizes the translations and camp details I have gathered thus far.
Tribe/Person of Levi
Position to Tabernacle
Position to Cross
The placement of the camps in regards to the tabernacle is also significant. Gershon is behind the Tabernacle; whereas, the Priests, Aaron, and Moses camp at the front of the tabernacle where the only entrance to meet with Yahweh can be found. Gershon, which means exile, was on the other end of the tabernacle and figuratively exiled from the entrance to His presence.
Within the typology of the tabernacle, if Israel represents the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion, Levi would represent the blood of Christ. I believe there are at least two ways you can view the symbolic nature of Levi and; therefore, Jesus’ blood. One perspective is the way in which it affects how humans relate with Yahweh. The second perspective is the way it affects how Yahweh relates to humanity. In either case, the camp of Levi represents what Jesus did for us on the cross.
If Levi represents the blood of Christ, how does the camp of Levi apply to a follower of Jesus?
How does the blood of Jesus affect how man relates to Yahweh?
Merari / Bitter
By obeying Gods commandments, we remove ourselves from the bitterness caused by sin and receive his blessing.
Gershon / Exile
Sin is what keeps us exiled from God’s presence and unable to receive his blessing.
Kohath / Assembly
We must assemble before God as a people, referring first to his teachings in all things.
Moses / Drawn Out
He has drawn us out and separated us as his most treasured possession.
Aaron / Light Bringer
Our purpose is to testify of the light which he brings to the world.
Yahweh is life giving. (Genesis 2:7) Separation from life is death. How does the blood of Jesus save us from death (i.e. separation from Yahweh)? How does the blood transform us so that Yahweh sees us as clean? (A deeper look into the aspect of atonement will be taken in the article on the Outer Court of the Tabernacle.)
Gershon / Exile
By defiling ourselves we have been banished, exiled from his sanctuary which holds his presence.
Moses / Drawn Out & Merari / Bitter
Yahweh has a plan to draw out the bitterness of our sin.
Aaron / Light Bringer
Jesus brings light unto the world.
Kohath / Assembly
Because Yahweh loved us first by presenting himself as a sacrifice we must respond in obedience to his commandments; for there will be a day when his faithful will be assembled in his presence.
The Tabernacle Encampment as a Whole
Because of the two censuses being derived from different parameters and that scripture holds Yahweh set Levi aside, you can view the encampment of Israel and the encampment of Levi to be separate. Below is a representation of the camp of Levi in relation to the camp of Israel and the tabernacle.
What's in a name? (Section 2)
Looking further into the meanings of names, what does the Tabernacle encampment as a whole have to offer?
Jacob (name changed to Israel)
Wrestles with God
Hope to Join
Tent of Meeting
As before, applying the significance of the names to our lives as followers of Christ I have found that…
Jacob / Deceiver
We are born deceivers. Lying to ourselves by chasing fleshly desires over objective truth.
Israel / Wrestles with God
As we grow, we continually wrestle with God.
Levi / Hope to Join
One day we will join him in eternal life.
Tabernacle / Tent of Meeting
We can prepare to dwell with his presence, in the tent of meeting, because he is faithful.
Within the tabernacle encampments, the Levites were charged with interceding to Yahweh on behalf of Israel and speaking to Israel on behalf of Yahweh. So it would seem that Levi is a layer in between Yahweh and the people of Israel. Levi represents an action. The action is found in how Yahweh loves mankind and in how mankind is to respond to that love.
What does it mean to join Yahweh or to enter into his presence? I’ll explore those items in the next article.
© 2019 Nicholas Briar