Home > Book of Revelation, Literalism, Malachi > The sons of Levi

The sons of Levi

February 11, 2011

The prophet Malachi foretold the coming of Christ, who would suddenly appear in his temple, and there would be a “refining” of the sons of Levi. In one sense his prophecy was fulfilled in the first century when Jesus visited the Jewish temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers. But while that demonstration expressed divine outrage at what was occurring there, its effects did not last. Malachi’s prophecy is really about the work of purification of the heavenly temple, performed by the Spirit of Christ in the church. Malachi wrote:

Malachi 3:1-4
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.

This must be referring to the saints, and the church, because it makes no sense when it is applied literally to the tribe of Levi. The saints are called “a royal priesthood” by the apostle Peter.

1 Peter 2:9-10
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Peter was not talking about ethnic Jews, as he said that before, they were “not a people.” That could be said of Gentile Christians but not Jews. They had been made nigh to the commonwealth of Israel by the blood of Christ.

In the family of Jacob, one of the sons was Levi, and Moses and Arron were Levites. Arron was the first high priest. The Levites were the tribe from which the priests and keepers of the sanctuary came. [Numbers 3:5-9] Because of this the Levites were not to be numbered among the other tribes.

Numbers 1:47-50
But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.
For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying,
Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel:
But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.

The tribe of Levi was scattered among all the tribes. In several places in the Bible, the 12 tribes are listed, and in some listings Levi is not even present. The variations in the order of the names of the tribes is quite interesting:

Genesis 35
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher

Genesis 49
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin

Numbers 1
Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Gad, Naphtali

Numbers 1
Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali

Numbers 2
Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali

Numbers 7
Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali

Numbers 10
Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali

Numbers 13
Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Manasseh, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Gad

Numbers 26
Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali

Deuteronomy 27
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, Benjamin, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali

Deuteronomy 33
Reuben, Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher

Joshua 21
Judah, Simeon, Benjamin, Ephraim, Dan, Manasseh, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Reuben, Gad, Zebulun

Joshua 21
Judah, Simeon, Benjamin, Ephraim, Dan, Manasseh, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Reuben, Gad

Ezekiel 48
Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad

Revelation 7
Juda, Reuben, Gad, Aser, Nephthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin

The tribes that are in included in these lists show some variation; the tribes of one of Levi, Simeon, and Dan being omitted in one or more cases, and Joseph in the first listing being replaced by Ephraim and Manasseh in the following ones.

During the history of the Israelites, the tribe of Levi was integrated with the other tribes. After the events of the first and second centuries, Jews were scattered among all the nations, and there has been intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles. How can the tribe of Levi be “purified”? Of course, there is no way it can mean ethnic or racial “purity.” That idea is simply nonsense! But the prophecy is a Messianic prophecy, that refers to the work of Christ. He is to “refine” and purify the saints!

Malachi’s prophecy describes a process of spiritual refinement. The saints are described as the “bride of the Lamb” who is to be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” [Revelation 19:8]

One of the ways they are to be “refined” is by the “burning up” of false theories and interpretations, which won’t survive the “fire.” IMO, preterism, and dispensationalism are fuel for the flames.

  1. Steve
    September 11, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Do you consider partial preterism fuel for the fire?; it’s interpretation seems the same as yours concerning the new Jerusalem, I thought Adam Clarke’s commentaries where pretty good but no you have casted doubt in my thinking.

    • September 12, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      The metaphor of “fuel for the fire” occurs in Ezekiel’s prophecy about the weapons of the armies of Gog and Magog that are burned as fuel, for seven years. [Ezekiel 39:9] The weapons mentioned in the prophecy are symbolic. They are flawed doctrines and interpretations. Weapons such as swords, and bows and arrows, represent “bitter words,” in Psalm 64:3.

      The “seven years” is a symbolic time, and I suggest that it corresponds to the “week” in which Christ “confirms the covenant with many” in Daniel 9:27. Each spans the time from the start of Jesus’ ministry, to the end of the age.

      Partial preterists say that “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week” in Daniel 9:27 means seven literal years, that were fulfilled in the first century. But if so, who were the many that the covenant was confirmed with? It must include the apostles, and other disciples. The theory claims that it refers to Jewish Christians who believed the gospel because of the preaching of the apostles, and about three and a half years after the crucifixion, the 70th week ended. It terminated in obscurity. No attention was paid to it by the apostles. The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, according to this view, was ignored. There is no record of it in the New Testament. The theory implies that the covenant was no longer confirmed, after about 34 A.D. Did Christ’s promises really expire in 34 A.D.?

      Jesus said, “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” [Matthew 28:20] Was this promise confirmed for three and a half years, and then revoked?

      The covenant is the new covenant; Jesus was the “messenger of the covenant.” The covenant refers to the gospel. To say that only Jews living in Jerusalem from 30 A.D. to 34 A.D. who believed the gospel benefited by Christ “confirming the covenant with many” is not a credible interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy. According to the promises given to Abraham, “many” means “all nations.” The covenant is the promise given to Abraham, that in his seed “all nations will be blessed.” This is what Daniel 9:27 refers to.

      All the tribes of the earth is another way of saying “all nations.” Christ confirms the covenant, by leading his saints to the truth, and exposing flawed interpretations, including full and partial preterism, which are “fuel” for metaphorical flames.

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