Sung Psalm 78:51-55
Reading Joshua 21:1-9
The Levites aided in the work of the priests as teachers of the law throughout the land, bearers of the holy things, singers, slayers of the sacrifices and keepers of the temple (later).
The cities of refuge (6) were also Levitical cities (Num.35:6).
The Levites were last to inherit. They consisted the Kohathites who were priests, the rest of the Kohathites, the Gershonites and Merarites (see family tree).
Their inheritance was done by lot. First by their family grouping, then by tribes from which the cities would come, and third the actual cities themselves. There were 48 (see map).
Numbers 35:1-8 is the foundational chapter. They were given suburbs of cities for grazing approximately 500 metres out from the city walls. The number of cities appointed was proportionate to the number of cities in each tribe (v8). Note that many of these cities still had pagan inhabitants e.g. Gibeon and Gezer. Many of these cities had later historical significance: Anathoth (v18) from where the priests Jeremiah and Abiathar came (Jer. 1:1, I Kings 2:26), Bethshemesh (v16) where the ark ended up after exiting Philistia (I Sam.6:9), Gibeon (v17) a great high place ( I Kings 3:4) and Jattir (v14) which may have been the home of one of David’s priests (I Sam.20:26).
Notable exceptions to the list of cities are Jerusalem, alluded to in Deut. 12:5, 16:2 and 18:6-8 as the place which God would choose to later become the kingly and ecclesiastical capital of the whole land and Shiloh which was the first holy city where the tabernacle dwelt.
As believers we are all God’s New Testament priestly tribe, able to offer the sacrifice of ourselves, to intercede for others, to share the word of God, and to work practically in our local church.