8. The Tribe of Levi

By John Thiel, The Characteristics of the Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 Conference, study 8, mp3

We are learning that the 144,000 are without sin, without fault, and undefiled. This is how they are described in Revelation. They are like that, not because they started like that, not because they were always like that, but in that they were purified out of horrifying corruptions. This is vividly revealed in the tribe of Levi. And phenomenally this purification in reference to the tribe of Levi is expressed in the book of Malachi:

Malachi 3:3 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. 

Looking at the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation, where each tribe is named, we there see the tribe of Levi:

Revelation 7:7 …Of the tribe of Levi [were] sealed twelve thousand.

The sealing is actually a purifying exercise. From 1844 to 1848 was the beginning of the sealing experience. As the Spirit of Prophecy tells us, it is a settling into the truth both intellectually and spiritually. In the study of Levi we see just such an exercise.

Levi’s Beginnings

Follow carefully the process regarding Levi. What were his beginnings? He was born to Leah.

Genesis 29:34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

Levi means joined. We will see the relevance of that soon. He was born under the mother’s stress of wanting to be accepted in her husband’s eyes in contrast to Rachel. This inheritance was also rubbing off in the birth of this son, Levi.

As we recall from our previous study, Simeon and Levi were cahoots together in cruelty.

Genesis 34:25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males

And as they slew them and completely devastated that city,

Genesis 34:28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which [was] in the city, and that which [was] in the field, 29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that [was] in the house.

They really did a thorough job. Levi was such a person. And God was not pleased with that whatsoever.

God does not annul His laws. He does not work contrary to them. The work of sin He does not undo. {Ed 148.2}

Although God forgives, the consequences of the sins committed are not undone. The work of sin He does not undo. This is why Jesus had to come in the atonement and suffer with us, because the work of sin cannot be undone; it is something that has to be experienced as a result of sin.

Consequences of Sin

Like with Simeon who had no place given to his tribe as their abode in Canaan, so the sure consequences of his sin fell upon Levi also. Here are the consequences that Levi also could not escape from:

Genesis 49:5 Simeon and Levi [are] brethren; instruments of cruelty [are in] their habitations.

This is the blessing that Jacob pronounced upon them. What is it? It’s a curse actually. But it can turn out as a blessing, as you will see if you follow carefully through this study. Jacob denounced what they did.

Genesis 49:7 Cursed [be] their anger, for [it was] fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

The sin could not be undone; they would be scattered. We saw it with Simeon, and now let us carefully look at the sin that could not be undone, in that Levi had no territory of his own either. Recall how God dealt with them through Joseph. This is how God dealt with them in their sin:

During the years since Joseph had been separated from his brothers, these sons of Jacob had changed in character. Envious, turbulent, deceptive, cruel, and revengeful they had been; but now, when tested by adversity, they were shown to be unselfish, true to one another, devoted to their father, and, themselves middle-aged men, subject to his authority.  {PP 225.3} 

A change had taken place in their lives. This is the 144,000 who had been corrupt. What is the description? “Envious, turbulent, deceptive, cruel, and revengeful.” But as they went through the purifying fire, which ended up in the experience with Joseph now in Egypt, they had become very loyal and faithful. The consequences of the sin are not altered, but the sin can be changed into victory. And that is what we need to absorb here.

Let us reflect upon Levi’s experience and observe the purification manifestations in the tribe of Levi. Aaron is an example; he was of the tribe of Levi.

Experience in Levi

Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for [as for] this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which [are] in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring [them] unto me. 3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which [were] in their ears, and brought [them] unto Aaron. 4 And he received [them] at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These [be] thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 5 And when Aaron saw [it], he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow [is] a feast to the LORD.

Here was a condition of sin which was within the Levitical tribe.

Exodus 32:21 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? 22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they [are set] on mischief. 23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for [as for] this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break [it] off. So they gave [it] me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

Can you see the sinful personality which is here revealing itself, even though he was of the tribe of Levi, of the priesthood? We are reading this to see how Aaron later changed from this.

Exodus 32:25 And when Moses saw that the people [were] naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto [their] shame among their enemies:)

Aaron was responsible for this. Now remember, the priests will suffer worse than those who are not priests. In Levi’s weakness in giving up to the people, there would come an experience in his life. His life had to develop a strength. Like with Levi, Aaron, the son, had to go through a purifying experience. And if he would be faithful, he would be strong and continue.

Leviticus 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This [is it] that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.

You can imagine how Aaron would have felt. Oh no… my sons, slain by the Lord; they have failed…

Leviticus 10:4 And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. 5 So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. 6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. 7 And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD [is] upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.

A serious dilemma has just happened. Aaron’s two sons have died. How would Aaron feel? He was going to fall apart over this, and their brothers too. But what a purging experience did they have to go through so that they would be strong. In the light of the story of his past weakness, now he had to be strong. If you are weak, if you are sinful, if you are of Levi, with your past mistakes, you can be strong. We are here watching the purification process of Aaron. We are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that Aaron was a very weak father; he did not correct his sons (PP 361; 3T 295). Aaron was a vacillating man. Just like he was with the way that he dealt with the golden calf, so he did the same with his sons. Now that his sons were dead he went through a purification experience in which he was not even allowed to mourn, lest he die and all the people be wrongly affected.

The great leader reminded his brother of the words of God, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” Aaron was silent. The death of his sons, cut down without warning, in so terrible a sin–a sin which he now saw to be the result of his own neglect of duty–wrung the father’s heart with anguish, but he gave his feelings no expression. By no manifestation of grief must he seem to sympathize with sin. The congregation must not be led to murmur against God. {PP 361.1}

Because if he would have mourned, the people would have felt sorry for Aaron, and they would have said, Why is God so cruel? You see a very important principle here. Don’t blame God for the things that go wrong. How many times I heard people say, Why did God do this?? What does this sound like? Are we in our inward soul murmuring against God? The priest was not even to give an expression of sorrow and ache over the destruction of his sons, because they had been wicked, and both he and his other two sons were to sanctify God in the eyes of the people so that they could see, “Oh, if it was me I would be mourning over the loss of my sons…” but they weren’t because they were to teach the people that God’s justice had to be met out. Here you see a development of purification in the life of Aaron, son of Levi.

At the time of the golden calf, after he came down, Moses said that all the people who were against what the golden calf represented were to come out. And who was it that came out? The tribe of Levi. They didn’t partake of the golden calf worship. And there were also a few others of the other tribes. And what were the Levites called to do then? They then had to be strong. They had to take the swords and slay the people that were worshipping the golden calf. The purification exercise is something that went on in Levi in real visible terms, so that it came to the point where the whole tribe of Levi was blessed because they were strong, because they had developed that strength and conquered their weaknesses.

Exodus 32:26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who [is] on the LORD’s side? [let him come] unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. 27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, [and] go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. 28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. 29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

So the sins of Levi and the fact that Levi was going to be without a place in Canaan that he could call his own, were overcome by their faithfulness in doing what God said. It’s an interesting comparison, because didn’t they just slay all the people of Shechem? Wasn’t there cruelty there? Yes; but that was their own choice. Now God told them to do it.

The lawlessness and insubordination into which Aaron had permitted them to fall, if not speedily crushed, would run riot in wickedness, and would involve the nation in irretrievable ruin. By terrible severity the evil must be put away. … Those who had not joined in the apostasy were to take their position at the right of Moses; {PP 324.1} 

Then they went forth to do that slaughter.

Here Moses defines genuine consecration as obedience to God, to stand in vindication of the right and to show a readiness to carry out the purpose of God in the most unpleasant duties, showing that the claims of God are higher than the claims of friends or the lives of the nearest relatives. The sons of Levi consecrated themselves to God to execute His justice against crime and sin. {3T 301.2}

There’s so much to think about here. Before, they did something which was in their eyes justifiable, and were cruel and destructive; but now they were destructive again, but under God’s direction. They did something which in the past was an evil thing; but now, under God’s direction, it was the right thing to do. And it is herewith that the curse that was upon Levi was altered and turned into a blessing. Let us examine that transaction.

When Curse Turns to Blessing

God does not change His law; the sin that is done must receive its consequence; but He can turn the curse into a blessing. The curse was that they were not to have any place of their own in Canaan.

Numbers 3:45 Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I [am] the LORD. 

The Levites shall be Mine, said God.

Numbers 18:20 And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them:

That is the curse; they had no part in Canaan. But what does God say next?

Numbers 18:20 …I [am] thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. 21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, [even] the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: [it shall be] a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer [as] an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

No earthly inheritance, but because in their loyalty and faithfulness to God when He demanded it of them they were strong – Aaron had to be strong; they were strong at the time of the golden calf – God therefore turned the curse into a blessing. They now had an inheritance in God because they were loyal. Yes, they were scattered; they were scattered throughout Israel (Deut. 10:8, 9; 2 Ch. 11:3), but they were given a place to serve the people as priests and servants of God in the temple.

God does not annul His laws. He does not work contrary to them. The work of sin He does not undo. But He transforms. Through His grace the curse works out blessing.  {Ed 148.2} 

He can turn the darkness into light. He brings light out of darkness. Although your sins are red like crimson, they shall be as white as snow. This is what is meant here. As the people who are sinful come and learn from God to strengthen themselves in obeying Him, the consequences of their sins are there, but those consequences are turned into a blessing. In spite of the consequence of sin, that because of his cruelty Levi had no inheritance in the land, the Lord blessed them because they were faithful in their repentance and in doing what He said. So they went through a purifying experience so that the consequences of their sins could be turned into a blessing.

Of the sons of Jacob, Levi was one of the most cruel and vindictive, one of the two most guilty in the treacherous murder of the Shechemites. Levi’s characteristics, reflected in his descendants, incurred for them the decree from God, “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” Genesis 49:7. But repentance wrought reformation; and by their faithfulness to God amidst the apostasy of the other tribes, the curse was transformed into a token of highest honor. {Ed 148.3}

This is a purification exercise that is an important mind exercise, even for the onlooker. When we see people whom we know have done corrupt things but who continue as faithfully serving the Lord and doing what the Lord says thereafter, we should remember that God can turn their sin and darkness into a transformation; He can bring the light out of the darkness. He can bring a transformation through that sin.

How God Does It

Observe God’s amazing way of turning the curses into blessings:

Jacob in his distress was not overwhelmed. He had repented, he had endeavored to atone for the wrong to his brother. And when threatened with death through the wrath of Esau, he sought help from God. “Yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication.” “And He blessed him there.” Hosea 12:4; Genesis 32:29. In the power of His might the forgiven one stood up, no longer the supplanter, but a prince with God. He had gained not merely deliverance from his outraged brother, but deliverance from himself. The power of evil in his own nature was broken; his character was transformed. {Ed 147.3} 

At eventide there was light. Jacob, reviewing his life-history, recognized the sustaining power of God–“the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil.” Genesis 48:15, 16. {Ed 147.4}

The same experience is repeated in the history of Jacob’s sons–sin working retribution, and repentance bearing fruit of righteousness unto life.  {Ed 148.1}

God does not annul His laws. He does not work contrary to them. The work of sin He does not undo. But He transforms. Through His grace the curse works out blessing.  {Ed 148.2}

I could never understand the following words of Isaiah until I understood this.

Isaiah 1:18 …though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

This is what is meant – the transformation from the very sin that was done. The curse is turned into a blessing. We see it with Levi through the exercises of tribulation. As it says, they “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb;” the fire purified them.


You will remember the meaning of Levi – joined. What was Levi to become an instrument to join?

2 Chronicles 11:14 For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD:

Our mind is here taken to the time when Jeroboam, the Ephratite, had led out and turned the ten tribes of Israel into pagan worship, and the Levites that were dwelling amongst Israel came to Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 11:16 And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers. 17 So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.

So the Levites who were living among the other tribes of Israel came, and their arrival in Jerusalem was a joining experience. They were used to join the people. So although there was such evil in the tribe of Levi that the curse was laid upon them, yet what would these overcomers be instrumental in doing?

2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 

Isn’t that joining? Isn’t that what the Levites were symbolic of?

2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, … 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

This is the work of the ministry; this is the work of the Levite – a joiner – joining the people who are sinners to God. This is what is written in Ephesians 4:11-13, 15, 16. God has given some talents to different people – apostles, prophets, evangelists, etc. Why? To join us to Christ, to join us together and cause us to be together in Christ.


As we read in Malachi, God will purge His people as silver and gold through the fire.

I have been shown in regard to the individuals mentioned that God loves them and would save them if they would be saved in His appointed way. “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 is the process, the refining, purifying process, which is to be carried on by the Lord of hosts. The work is most trying to the soul, but it is only through this process that the rubbish and defiling impurities can be removed. Our trials are all necessary to bring us close [to join us] to our heavenly Father, in obedience to His will, that we may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. To each whose name is here mentioned, God has given capabilities, talents to improve. You each need a new and living experience in the divine life in order to do the will of God. No amount of past experience will suffice for the present nor strengthen us to overcome the difficulties in our path. We must have new grace and fresh strength daily in order to be victorious. {3T 541.1}

To be among the 144,000 we need to be victorious; we need to learn how God works with us, as He did with the tribe of Levi. And wherever you may find yourself in any one of these tribes, the message of this conference is strengthening and strengthening again. In each example the Lord will bring a blessing from the curse, and we are to take this as the people who want to be overcomers at the end. This is our direction, our message; this is that present truth – to learn from the sons of Jacob.

May we not forget what we are learning, because we need it as we go further along the path, until we are purified one hundred percent.


Posted on 06/01/2018, in The Twelve Tribes of the 144,000 (2017 Conference) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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