(This post begins a new series called “Monday Musings” which will be archived on the “Say What?” page)
One argument supporting the role of men as sole teachers and leaders in the church is God’s ordinance in the Old Testament for the Levites, and the Aaronic priesthood. This argument contends there is Biblical precedent for God to set aside a people for the priestly role based solely on biology, and not on ability or inclination, because that is exactly what God did with the Levites, and specifically Aaron.
In fact, not only did God maintain solely the descendants of Aaron were to serve as priests (carried through into Jesus’ day), but only those descending from David might rightfully occupy Israel’s throne. Again, solely based upon biology, not character, giftedness, inclination, or even connection with God Himself. This was proven over and over again as corrupt and godless men occupied both the royal and priestly duties of Judah (Israel being completely off the chart, having rebelled and established a country of their own).
On the two occasions where kings sought to perform a priestly duty (Uzziah, a good king, and Jeraboam, a bad king) God Himself intervened with serious repercussion, underscoring how important to God it was that only Levites, and only those descended from Aaron serve Him in these offices.
It seems a compelling argument, doesn’t it? God is consistent, the Bible says, unchanging. The whole people of Israel, all twelve tribes, heard God say He would make them into a nation of priests. Yet only Aaron’s line would actually be permitted to be priests. Even Moses was not permitted to be a priest. Only Aaron. Therefore, would it not be consistent of God that even in the New Testament, when this promise was reiterated in a fresh way, that only men would actually be permitted to teach and lead?
Surely some of you are asking why. Why would God say the Levites were to be priests? Guess what. There is an answer to that, but it’s a triggering kind of story, if you have a low tolerance for evil and violence.
Way, way back in Genesis, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi took their swords and killed every male in the city of Shechem because the prince had had sex with their sister before they were married. They then plundered the city, took all the flocks and herds, all Shechem’s children and women, all their wealth, and kept it all for themselves.
Jacob, their father, asked them why they had done such a horrifying thing. They both answered it was in defense of their sister’s honor, and by inference, their family honor. But, it seems, Jacob was circumspect, and he never again trusted them, especially when near Shechem. In fact, it was this very distrust which prompted Jacob to send his young and favored son Joseph to go check up on his brothers, one fateful day.
God, through Jacob as he prophesied over his sons, told Simeon and Levi their descendants would never have an inheritance in the promised land for the terrible thing they had done.
Yet now, a good 500 years, at least, later, the Levites’ same fierceness in defending the honor of the One they loved would be used for the Lord during the infamous Golden Calf Incident. They gathered together the worst offenders and killed them, even if they were part of their own family. In vindicating God’s honor with such fearless and focused devotion, to the death, the Levites proved the truth of their ancestor’s motivation in defending his sister’s honor.
God therefore honored this tribe, including even Aaron, who had repented from his central role in the creation of the golden idol, by giving them Himself as their portion, their inheritance, in the Promised Land. They would care for the tabernacle, make the sacrifices, and read the words of the Law to the people. In return, their food would be whatever the people brought to them, a portion of the sacrifices, and their beds would be wherever they could find a place, in the cities. They would never own property.
Their work would be to represent the people to God in repentance, brutal work which would include daylong slaughter, even on the Sabbath and during the festivals, of all the people’s sacrifices. It would include the upkeep and repair of the tabernacle, the backbreaking work of keeping the fires stoked, the bronze basin full of water (in a desert), the offal and waste dealt with from all the sacrifices, keeping the incense altar burning, and many more similar tasks. The work would be so demanding, only men at their physical peak would be able to do it.
This constant bloodshed and work of repentance was to be the Levites’ continual inheritance, a continuation of the bloodshed of their ancestor Levi, and of their repentance and purification.
The Aaronic priests would read the words of the Law to the people, adjudicate on cleanliness and family issues, and inquire of God for specific answers to prayer. They alone could bring the blood of Atonement into the Holy of Holies once a year.
When another branch of Levites protested the more desirable work of Aaron and his sons, the high priestly work, God dealt swift and severe judgment. God would never sanction even one exception to His appointment of priest (Samuel, by the way, was not a priest, and did not act as a priest or Levite, but as a prophet and judge).
So, that’s the whole story in a nutshell.
I am wondering how this story correlates to the contention that men alone have been chosen by God to teach and lead in these New Testament times? What great vindication have men displayed that God would be speaking to? You see, Simeon, the other brother, also fathered a tribe. But that tribe did not distinguish itself in the wilderness years. Later, when the Israelites entered Canaan, Simeon was the smallest and weakest of all the tribes and had received no blessing from Moses. When every other tribe received their land allotment, the tribe of Simeon was spread throughout the inheritance given to the tribe of Judah, literally “scattered throughout the land,” just as Jacob had prophesied would happen.
Well, one of you might say, what about men vindicating Adam having not taught Eve well about the Tree of Good and Evil, and repenting from Adam not being the leader during the serpent’s deception of Eve?
And I might say Jesus Himself is that second Adam, and what Jesus has done is redeem both men and women at once, as the one flesh Adam and Eve were to be before the fall. Paul taught this not only in his letter to the Romans, but also in writing
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”1 Corinthians 15:22
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.1 Corinthians 15:44-49
This is the inheritance given to both men and women, to all who have put their faith in the second Adam.
In His ministry, as particularly narrated through Luke and John, Jesus as the second Adam gave some of His deepest revelation to women (the woman at the well, Martha, Mary of Magdala), insisted the gospel always include Mary of Bethany’s contribution, and gave the highest honor of delivering the news of His resurrection to Mary of Magdala. As the second Adam, Jesus gave both teaching and leadership back to women, who had, since Genesis 3:16 been suffering under the curse of men’s rule.
But still, you might be thinking.Still, what about 1 Timothy 2:14, where the whole Adam and Eve issue is directly addressed? What about that? Wouldn’t that whole passage seem to be predicated exactly upon this Levite theme?
So, let’s talk about that. You do your homework, I’m going to do mine.
Actually, I’d like to pursue two lines of reasoning. One of them takes us to 1 Timothy 2, and since there’s plenty of research on that passage, we’ll have lots to talk about.
The other line of reasoning pursues what is meant by Jesus explaining He has come to fulfill the Law. The book of Hebrews delves into the ramifications and implications of that in terms of Jesus as both sacrifice and high priest, and as the bodily representation of the temple itself, in all its parts. Because the Law is fulfilled, it no longer has a claim on the lives of believers. The temple worship is fulfilled, therefore the levitical priesthood is no longer necessary. The King of kings is on the throne, therefore the kingly line is fulfilled. The Holy Spirit has regenerated a people to God who are holy and clean, therefore the Law is fulfilled.
This being the case, all the curses and consequences of the fall have been rescinded, and humanity restored to God. This is what every believer is invited to live in, the state of grace. We’ll pursue this second line of reasoning once we’ve had our fill of studying and discussing the 1 Timothy 2 passage.
Here’s that text in Greek, and some websites to help you try to dig into the actual meaning and grammar of what’s written. Let’s get back together a week from today, and see what we come up with.
If you come across what other theologians have written, let’s bring that into the conversation as well.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
11 γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ·
12 ⸂διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ⸃ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.
13 Ἀδὰμ γὰρ πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη, εἶτα Εὕα·
14 καὶ Ἀδὰμ οὐκ ἠπατήθη, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ⸀ἐξαπατηθεῖσα ἐν παραβάσει γέγονεν.
15 σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ καὶ ἁγιασμῷ μετὰ σωφροσύνης.
https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/ (This will give you the latest definition of these words, including the latest archaeological discoveries of inscriptions and papyri)
https://gntreader.com (This will give you the parsing of each word)
Moses, Aaron, and the Ten Commandments | Aron de Chaves \ de Chavez. (Painter at Amsterdam in 1700.)The original uploader was F67HGBVN at Hebrew Wikipedia. [Public domain]