Obtaining A Greater Portion
– Levitical Tribes Inheritance –
Joshua 21:1-45
Paul J. Bucknell

'A Special Calling' (Joshua 21:1-7) helps us understand why the Levites were treated so differently by giving a detailed history on the Levite tribe. This lesson is applied to Chritians today who are likened to the priests that make up God's kingdom. We might suffer some but we endure and wait for a greater inheritance. This is part 2 to a 5 part series on Joshua 21, 'Obtaining a Greater Portion.' See below for an index on Joshau.

Chart of Levitical Tribe - diagram of Levi's descendantsThen the heads of households of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of households of the tribes of the sons of Israel. And they spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, “The LORD commanded through Moses to give us cities to live in, with their pasture lands for our cattle.” So the sons of Israel gave the Levites from their inheritance these cities with their pasture lands, according to the command of the LORD. Then the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites. And the sons of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, received thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah and from the tribe of the Simeonites and from the tribe of Benjamin. And the rest of the sons of Kohath received ten cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Ephraim and from the tribe of Dan and from the half-tribe of Manasseh. And the sons of Gershon received thirteen cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Issachar and from the tribe of Asher and from the tribe of Naphtali and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. The sons of Merari according to their families received twelve cities from the tribe of Reuben and from the tribe of Gad and from the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 21:1-7).

The Levites did not receive a regular inheritance as the other tribes. Although descended from Levi a son of Jacob (Israel), they did not receive a portion as the rest. Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.  Instead of receiving a whole portion of land, they would receive a city and a certain portion of its outlying areas to feed their flocks. They could not expand but were limited to their cities. We find that they were fairly equally distributed over the land of Israel, on both sides of the Jordan.  
  1. Aaron and the priests were descended from Kohath (Kohathites) . Kohath (verses 4-5) is first described, though second born. It seems that the more honored positions received their portions closer to Jerusalem, though it is not stated here. Aaron’s descendants received 13 cities all around Jerusalem which would later become the capital of Israel. Other Kohathites received a portion a bit further north. Gershon (verses 6) received cities in the northern part near where Jesus grew up in Galilee. Merari’s descendants (verse 7) received property also in the north on both sides of the Jordan. We should note that since it was by lot, God was in control of who got what. This is a simple way to perceive the will of God, commonly used in the Old Testament but only used in the New Testament before the Holy Spirit.
  2. Gershon’s descendants were responsible for the tabernacle’s coverings and screens (Numbers 3:25-26), while the descendants of Merari were responsible for the frames of the tabernacle (Numbers 3:36). Only the Kohathites were responsible for the ark, sanctuary and its duties (Numbers 3:31-32).
  3. Curse on firstborn prefigures on on the whole world.Numbers 3:45 provides an explanation as to why God treated the Levites differently. When the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt, God released the last plague which killed all the firstborn, both of man and beast. He made a special deal with the Israelites. The fact was that the spirit of death was to kill all the firstborn. It was a show of what would later come when he would kill all. But God only permitted the firstborn in that place to be killed at that point. The Israelites were rescued because they followed God’s special plan called Passover. This is what redeemed meant. God redeemed Israel. He Firstborn Exchange from Israelites to the tribe of Levisaved them from the angel of death at a cost. They were saved from death, but now they belonged to Him. The Lord later said that instead of taking the firstborn of each family as his own, he would take the whole tribe of Levi. It was a trade of sorts. The calculations are all worked out in the scriptures.
  4. The Levites, then, in a special way were now His own. Listen to Numbers 3:45, “Take the Levites instead of all the first-born among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD.” As it turns out, God would use these Levites to perform special duties for Himself. No one else could do what they were appointed to do. This special privilege was kept sacred and special. Later King Saul was severely reprimanded for making a sacrifice on an altar.
  5. This same thought is transferred to the New Testament. Do you know how? God considers all His people as priests. But it was at a cost of His Son Jesus Christ. There was a clear exchange, Christ’s death for the elect, God’s people. Notice how this is so clearly seen in Revelation 1:5-6.
To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:5-6).
The action was ‘released us.” The cost was ‘by His blood.” The result is that we are His as a kingdom and  priests. We are no longer of the world. We are His. Perhaps, we should also notice His motivation, “To Him who loves us.” This is important. For though we might not seem to be very loved, it is our position that we most clearly see His reward. Possessions will come but only at a later time. If we try to get things now, then we forsake Him. Those who preach a prosperity gospel do not understand the gospel. It is another gospel. But let us hear more testimony of the scripture.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE.” (Galatians 3:13).
Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).
  1. Do you see that all of mankind is His. Everyone is expected to obey and serve Him. Because of our sin, we are all under the curse.  It is not if we die, but when we shall die. Every man and woman and child is accountable to Him. But God has chosen some to come close to Him. They come close to Him and serve Him. Christians are like the firstborn of the Israelites who were redeemed, in this case by the blood of the Lamb, not a Passover lamb. If we are a genuine Christian, we belong to Him. Every Christian is marked out as a holy person called out into service to God. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are His and serve Him.
  2. We need not only to think of our special calling but our special service. Service and sacrifice only are meaningful if we first understand calling. Without the calling, there is no way a person will sacrificially serve the Lord.

    Next > A Special Service (Joshua 21:8-42)

    Obtaining a Greater Portion (Joshua 21:1-45)

    Index on Joshua

    Reaching Beyond Mediocrity (Joshua 10:1-43)
    – The Day the Sun Stood in the Sky –
    Skepticism and Higher Bible Criticism
    Joshua 10:12-14 Interpretations of the 'Sun stood in the sky.'
    Joshua 10:12-14 Purpose of Recording the Miracle
    Joshua 10:1-11: A. Joshua's Sincere Obedience
    Joshua 10:12-43: B. Joshua's Quest for God's Best
    Joshua 10:1-43: Bible Study Questions
    Mobilizing God's People (Joshua 1:10-18)

    Joshua 1:10-18: Introduction to Moblizing God's People
    Joshua 1:10-11: A. Communicates God’s Will
    Joshua 1:12-15: B. Demands Total Participation
    Joshua 1:16-18: C. Responds With A Clear Commitment
    Joshua 1:10-18: Bible Study Questions
    Finishing the Task (Joshua 13:1-33)

    Joshua 13: Introduction: 3 Unexplainables
    Joshua 13:1 Passes on the Vision
    Joshua 13:2-5 Knows the Need
    Joshua 13:6 Lives by Faith
    Joshua 13:7-33 Distributes the Responsibility
    Joshua 13:1-33 Bible Study Questions
    Victory over Strongholds (Joshua 6:1-27)
    Joshua 6:1-27 The Lesson from Jericho
    Joshua 6:1 Our Need for God's Power
    Joshua 6:2-5 Our Discovery of God's Solutions
    Joshua 6:6-27 Our Participation in God's Victory
    Joshua 6:1-27 Summary: You can win too!
    Joshua 6:1-27_Bible_Study_Questions
    Obtaining a Greater Portion (Joshua 21)

    Joshua 21 Introduction: A Greater Deal
    Joshua 21:1-7 A Special Calling
    Joshua 21:8-42 A Special Service
    Joshua 21:43-45 A Special Promise
    Joshua 21 Bible Study Questions
    Effectively Dealing with Defeat & Despair (Joshua 7:1-15)
    Joshua 7:1-15: Learning about Defeat and Failures
    Joshua 7:1-5: Falling into Failure
    Joshua 7:6-10: Staying in Disgrace
    Joshua 7:11-15: Road to Recovery
    Joshua 7:1-15: Bible Study Questions

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    Biblical Foundations for Freedom

    Rev. Paul J. Bucknell
A) A Special Calling (Joshua 21:1-7)