THE LEVITES’ INHERITANCE
All the tribes of Israel received land as their inheritance. These lands not only served as a place to live in, but also as a source of sustenance whenever they worked on it. However, one of the tribes did not receive land as their inheritance…
(Deut. 18:1-2) The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD’s food offerings as their inheritance. (2) They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them.
The special role that the Levites would fulfill had already been mentioned in chapter 10…
(Deut. 10:8-9) At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day. (9) Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God said to him.
If they had no land to provide for themselves, what would the Levites live off of? The Lord gave them a special provision: they would get the tithe and the first fruits of the production of the other tribes of Israel, aside from the food that came from the sacrifices and the animal and grain offerings.
(Deut. 18:3-5) And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. (4) The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. (5) For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.
Also in the book of Numbers it speaks about this special portion for the Levites…
(Num. 18:20-21) And the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel. (21) To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting
Paul referred to the portion of the ministers of God in the Temple, and explained that their service was equivalent to the believing ministers of his time.
(1 Corinthians 9:13-14) Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? (14) In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
Most of the Levites didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in the 48 Levitical cities which were all over the land of Israel (Num. 35:7-8). These were inhabited cities with common lands surrounding them for their food harvests. In those cities, the Levites served the local people as judges and teachers of the Law (Heb. Torah); but their main job was to serve God in the Temple of Jerusalem.
(Deut. 18:6-7) And if a Levite comes from any of your towns out of all Israel, where he lives—and he may come when he desires—to the place that the LORD will choose, (7) and ministers in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD
Although the Levites didn’t receive any land inheritance, they kept the best portion: to serve the Lord. The service of the Levites in the Temple was split among 24 groups, and each one would serve for two weeks per year (1 Chronicles 24:4-18). In Jerusalem they would get a place to stay and food when they arrived to serve God (Deut. 18:8).
YOU SHALL NOT IMITATE THE ABOMINATIONS
When the Israelites would enter the Promised Land, they would not find a deserted land, but an inhabited land. Over and over again, the Torah warns them to clean the land of all idolatry and of all the abominations of the people who lived there before them.
(Deut. 18:9-12) When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. (10) There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer (11) or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, (12) for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.
The definitions of these abominations are the following:
- Burning his son or daughter: this practice was associated with the worship of the pagan god Moloch, who demanded the sacrifice of a son or daughter.
- Divination: is looking to know the future through magic or other mediums that have nothing to do with science or reason.
- Fortune telling or Interpreting Omens: predicts evil or misfortunes.
- Sorcery: a divination that is not based on science or reason, but on magic.
- Charms: magical and evil powers that are used to dominate the will of a person or to control the course of the events.
- Necromancy (or magic): an occult science that pretends to produce surprising effects with the help of secret forces of nature.
a. “White magic”: the use of natural mediums that seem supernatural
b. “Black magic”: making extraordinary things with the help of a demon
- Inquiring of the dead: divination of the future though invoking the spirit of the dead.
The Canaanite nations used to practice those abominations, but the Torah clearly warns Israel not to imitate these evil traditions.
(Deut. 18:14) for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.
In contrast with the pagan traditions of the other nations, the Bible says that Israel is called to be “perfect”…
(Deut. 18:13, CEB) Instead, you must be perfect before the LORD your God.
What does it mean to “be perfect”?
It obviously does not mean to “have no defects”, because no human being is perfect. Instead, it means to have integrity and to be straight. The word that is translated as “perfect” in Hebrew is: Tamiym, which can also be translated as: complete (or whole), straight, truthful, and sincere.
A person of integrity is one that acts with righteousness. He makes an effort at all times to do things as God commands; and in case he makes a mistake, he rectifies his mistake. This is someone who would be considered “perfect” or with integrity in the Biblical concept (Heb. Tamiym).
The call to “be perfect”, or blameless, goes back to Abraham…
(Genesis 17:1) You shall be blameless before the LORD your God
In the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus also calls us to be perfect…
(Matthew 5:48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Being perfect is related to imitating God.
(Luke 6:40) A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Being perfect has to be the goal of the believers (2 Cor. 7:1), and it is a process that last a whole lifetime. Paul is an example of that…
(Philippians 3:12-15) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Every believer must aim at being perfect. Each one has to give the best of them, and the Lord will do the rest (Col. 1:28-29).
The opposite of looking to be perfect would be to be “double-minded”, and this is something James talks about:
(James 1:8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
A “double-minded” person is sometimes good, and other times acts wrongly without repenting. This person will usually judge others harshly, but is forgiving when looking at his own life. The double-mind is a matter of the heart that is reflected in the actions. That is why James says:
(James 4:8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
The Bible mentions the concept of integrity (“to be perfect”; Heb. Tamim) comparing it to the abominations that the other nations commit. God calls his people Israel to be different, set apart… to be holy as God is holy (Lev. 20:23-27).
A PROPHET AMONG YOU
In contrast with the magical arts, the Bible presents the image of the prophet…
Some might have the temptation of looking at the “prophet” as the Biblical version of the magician or the sorcerer, but nothing could be further from the truth. While magicians look to manipulate the present and the future at their own will, the biblical prophet leads us to submit to the will of God.
The Biblical prophet is simply a voice that God uses to reveal His will. Many can identify the prophet with the concept of “predicting the future”, but that is not the essence of his purpose. In reality, the prophet is someone who speaks what God wants to say to His people, whether it be about the future, the present, or even related to the past. Prophet in Hebrew is: Navi, which comes from the verb Navah which means: to speak by inspiration (or to prophesy).
Now let’s see what the Bible says in regard to the prophet in Devarim 18…
(Deut. 18:15-18) The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— (16) just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ (17) And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. (18) I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
The prophet is an intermediary between God and His people. What he speaks is what God told him, and that is why we need to pay attention to what the prophet says.
(Deut. 18:19) And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
The people must obey the prophet. But, does this apply to every prophet? While the prophet speaks in the name of God, we do have to listen to his words; but the Bible also warns us to be careful with the false prophets…
The Bible defines the “false prophet” as someone who speaks something that God has not told him. And the consequence to such a fault is very serious…
(Deut. 18:20) But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
The punishment is severe because the danger is very serious, since it could mislead the people of God. However, it is difficult to distinguish between who is a false prophet and who is a real one. The Torah teaches us a way to determine that…
(Deut. 18:21-22) And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— (22) when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
I WILL RAISE A PROPHET
The description of the prophet of God in this chapter has a hidden messianic message.
(Deut. 18:15) The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen…
Giving testimony of Jesus as the Messiah, Peter pointed out that He is the prophet that had been promised in Devarim…
(Acts 3:22-23) Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. (23) And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
Jesus Christ (in Hebrew, Yeshua HaMashiach) is the sent prophet, who speaks what God the Father has spoken, and to Him we must obey.
(John 12:49-50) For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. (50) And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.
More lessons on Deuteronomy: DEVARIM (Deut.)