The third son of Jacob by Leah. Levi had three sons, and died in Egypt at the age of 137 (Gen. 29:34; 46:11; Exod. 6:16). His descendants, the Levites, had care of the sanctuary. The Book of Leviticus describes their ministry.
The Man of Isolation
Isolation is a feature in the history of Levi, quite as much as it characterizes Simeon, with whom he is paired. The capacity to stand alone made Simeon and Levi conspicuous among their brethren in their attack upon the Shechemites, and proved a valuable instrument for the work of the Lord. The tribe of Levi was fitted by the discipline of trial to discharge a most important duty in Israel—a duty which made Levi second in importance to none but Judah, whose forerunner and counterpart he was formed to be. Levi stands before Judah in the prophecies of Jacob—Judah before Levi in the blessings of Moses, the man of God.
“The true Levites,” says Dr. C. H. Waller, “are the men who have been made lonely among their brethren that they may live alone with Jehovah, and so dwell as the families of others that they may unite them to the family of God.”
Levi came under the ban of Jacob, who, in his prophecy set Simeon and Levi under a “curse.” To the patriarch they were bad brothers.
Dr. Dinsdale Young has a telling chapter on Simeon and Levi in which he elaborates on these features:
I. They constituted an unholy brotherhood—they had a common disposition (Gen. 49:5).
II. They had unhallowed belongings (Gen. 49:5)—sinful homes and perverted instruments.
III. They drew from their father a heart-felt prayer (Gen. 49:6). Reviewing their sinful courses, the dying father prays for them.
IV. Their father uttered a righteous imprecation upon their sin. Jacob did not curse them, but their sin (Gen. 49:7).
V. A just judgment was pronounced upon them, “I will divide them” (Gen. 49:7). Though divided and scattered, they were not cut off from the promised land. Theirs was not the abundant entrance of others, yet they were privileged to enter.