The Difference Between Priests and Levites

Let me share something I learned from today’s reading.  Do you spot something confusing in the following passage?

Hezekiah assigned the priests and Levites to divisions—each of them according to their duties as priests or Levites—to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, to minister, to give thanks and to sing praises at the gates of the LORD’s dwelling.  — 2 Chronicles 31:2

What confused me was the separate mention of priests and Levites.  In fact, this separation appears many times in the passages surrounding this reference.  Aren’t the Levites the same as the priests?

In fact, they are not (or at least, not necessarily).  In Numbers 8:19, we read:

“And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.”

Aaron was a priest, and all priests descended from him.  All priests are Levites.  Yet not all Levites are priests – the Levites also exist to serve the men of the priesthood.  I found a good article on this fact here, and I quote from it with this:

What causes the confusion is that Aaron also descended from Levi. Since all priests descend from Aaron, all priests are Levites. Yet all Levites are not priests, but they do serve the priests. Hence, you find mention of the priests and the Levites together, such as “And he gathered together all the leaders of Israel, with the priests and the Levites (1 Chronicles 23:2). This is also why the Hebrew writer speaks of the Levitical priesthood — all priests came from a subset of the tribe of Levi. Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11).

I just thought others might like to know this.  It certainly cleared up some confusion for me.


2 Responses to “The Difference Between Priests and Levites”

  1. 1 kemi olowojolu
    December 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Thank you. This was very helpful.

  2. 2 Derrick Makavo
    August 24, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Thanks for the explanations

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