« PreviousContinue »
placed their hands upon the heads of the bullocks, which were then offered to make an atonement for them. (Num. viii. 5-22.) By these ceremonial signs was represented the perpetual consecration of the Levites, in place of the first-born of all the Israelites, to the service of the Sanctuary; the purity which God secks in all who come near to serve him; the necessity there is, that for this end all such as belong to the family of Adam, should be cleansed, as it were with water and by blood, by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, and through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost.
In the wilderness, the Levites had the charge of carrying the tabernacle, with all its vessels, from place to place. In this business, each of the three great families into which they were divided, had its particular department of duty assigned by God himself. In the land of Canaan, they were relieved, of course, from all this service. Only a part of them were needed to attend about the Sanctuary. The rest, scattered in their several cities through the land, seem to have been employed, as we have already seen, in various ways, for the promotion of piety and knowledge in the nation; unless where they forgot their character, and lost the spirit of their office in the spirit of the world. That part of them which attended at the tabernacle or temple, were required to see that they were kept clean, and to have continually on hand all supplies, such as wine, oil, incense, &c., that were needed for the sanctuary service. The music of the temple was committed to their care, many of them were employed as porters, and in later times, it became their business, also, to slay the victims that were brought to the altar.-At first, they began to wait upon the service of the tabernacle at the age of twenty-five, and were not admitted to their full ministration before the age of thirty, continuing their service till they reached their fiftieth year. (Num. iv. 3. viii. 24.) Afterward, however, under the temple, they began to attend upon some duties of their ministry as early as the age of twenty. (1 Chron. xxiii. 24-32.)
David divided the Levites into four great classes. The first class, consisting of 24,000, were appointed to assist the priests to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.
The second, of 6,000 were made officers and judges through the land. The third, amounting to 4,000 were porters. The fourth, amounting to 4,000 also, were musicians. (1 Chron. xxiii. 3-5.) Those that were appointed to minister at the temple, were divided into courses or smaller classes, which followed one another in turn, each performing service for a week at a time; thus only a small part of the whole number were present at once.
The business of the PORTERS, was to open in the morning and shut at night, the gates of the outer court; to attend them through the day, in order to prevent any thing contrary to the purity or peace of the temple; to have charge of the treasure-chambers near the gates; and to keep watch at different places through the night. The Jews tell us, that there were altogether, about the temple, twenty-four stations occupied every night by guards; three of them in the Court of Israel, were guarded by priests, and the rest by Levites. Each of these guards, which consisted of several men, had its chief or commander; hence we read of the captains of the temple. (Luke xxii. 4. 52.) There was one with still higher authority, set over all the guards as their ruler, who is called in a more eminent sense, the Captain of the temple. (Acts v. 24.) This last, perhaps, was the same with the Man of the Mountain of the House, whose business we are told it was to walk round every night and see the guards at every station were not neglecting their duty. If he found any asleep, he immediately struck him, and might set fire to his garments, as at times he did not hesitate to do. Some have thought, that there is allusion to this usage of the temple in Rev. xvi. 15.
The MUSICIANS, by their courses, had an important part to perform in the daily service of the Sanctuary. Each course had its leader placed over it, called the Chief Musician; which name we find in the titles of many of the psalms. Part of them sung with their voices, and the rest played on various instruments, standing all along in a row across the east end of the Court of the Priests, as we have noticed in the last chapter, with their faces toward the broad and lofty front of the temple. The time for the performance of this sacred exercise was when the solemn
sacrifice was kindled upon the altar. "When the burntoffering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel and all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpets sounded." (2 Chron. xxix. 25-28.) On common days, accordingly, the service of solemn-sounding praise was performed twice-namely, when the morning and the evening sacrifice ascended from the altar. On extraordinary days, when other public sacrifices were appointed, the musicians were called of course to additional duty.
According to the Jews, a particular psalm was appointed for each day of the week, to be regularly sung with its ordinary daily service, morning and evening. Thus, the 24th psalm was assigned to the first day, (our Sunday)— because, say they, on the first day of the creation-week God possessed the world as its maker, and so gave it to be for a possession to man: the 48th psalm was assigned to the second day, (our Monday,)-because on that day the Lord divided the waters and reigned over them: the 82d to the third day-because on that day the earth appeared, established by the wisdom of the Most High, and placed under his righteous government: the 94th to the fourth day-because on that day He made the sun, moon, and stars, and so will take vengeance on all that worship them: the 81st to the fifth day-because of the variety of creatures made on that day to praise his name: the 93d to the sixth daybecause on that day he finished his works, and made man who can understand the glory of the Creator. On the Sabbath, our Saturday, (they sang the 92d psalm, which is entitled A Song for the Sabbath day. On extraordinary occasions, other psalms were sung. With additional sacrifices of the Sabbath, Num. xxviii. 9, 10,) they sang the two songs of Moses; the one in Deut. xxxii. with the first offering, (or more properly, only a part of it each Sabbath,) and the one in Exod. xv., with the second offering, which was burned in the afternoon before the regular evening sacrifice.Each psalm was divided into three parts; and still, in singing, a considerable pause was made between the first and the second, and between the second and the third. The signal for commencing the song was given by the sound
of the trumpets. These were not used in the musical band of the Levites, but only by the priests; certain of whom were stationed on the southwest side of the altar, to sound with them on these occasions. At the proper time, they made the well-known sounding of three successive blasts, (the first and last long and unbroken, while the middle one was brought out in a sort of flourish, with breakings and quaverings,) when instantly the whole band of voices, harps, psalteries, and cymbals, raised on high the loud anthem of praise. Having gone through the first part of the psalm, the music was silent. During the pause, the trumpets sounded again, and the people were expected to worship in silent reverence. So it was also during the next pause, when the second part of the psalm was finished; after which, the music started a third time and concluded the service. Such, if we may believe the tradition of the Jews, was the general manner of the temple music.
The Levites were not required to perform themselves the more servile kind of employments about the Sanctuary, such as bringing water, splitting wood, &c. They were allowed servants for these labours. These seem to have been originally, such as were devoted to service of this sort by parents, masters, or their own religious choice. (Lev. xxvii. 1-8.) Afterward the number was greatly increased by the subjection of the Gibeonites and others to this business. (Josh. ix. 21-27.) More were added in the age of David and Solomon. (Ezra viii. 20.)-These servants were called NETHINIMS, that is, given or devoted ones.
THE priestly office had its origin with the earliest times. Sacrifices, as we shall hereafter see, were appointed of God directly after the fall, and so accordingly there were priests, whose business it was to offer them. (Heb. v. 1.) At first, fathers were the priests of their own families. Such were Noah, Abraham, Job, &c. As patriarchal establishments grew to be large communities, their heads seem
to have exercised, at least in many cases, a sort of priestly office for the whole, as well as a royal one. We read in the bible of one ancient priest before the time of Moses, of peculiarly interesting character. He was king of Salem, and invested at the same time with the highest dignity of the sacred office; so that even Abraham, though he was priest in his own family, and honoured with the most remarkable favour of God, acknowledged in him a higher and more especially sacred minister of the Most High God. (Gen. xiv. 18-20. Heb. vii. 1-10.) He was constituted a wonderful type of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle fully teaches us in his epistle to the Hebrews. (Ps. cx. 4.)-With the institution of the Jewish Ceremonial Economy, God confined the priesthood to a particular family.
All the male descendants of Aaron were Priests: the first-born of the whole family, in continual succession, according to the regular order of earlier times sustained the still more important dignity of High-Priest. We have an account of the manner in which they were consecrated to their office in Ex. xxix. 1-35. and Lev. viii. 1-36. The ceremonies were solemn and expressive, and for ever separated the family of the priests from all the rest of the nation. 1. They were washed, and then clothed with their holy garments, to signify that they needed to be cleansed from sin, and clad with righteousness for their work.-2. Aaron, the High-priest, was anointed with oil. (Ps. cxxxiii. 2.)—3. A sin-offering was offered to make atonement for them. (Heb. vii. 28.)-4. A burnt-offering followed, in token of their dedication to God, which could not be acceptable till sin was atoned for.-5. A sacrifice of consecration was next necessary-having, in some sort, the nature of a peace-offering: by the significant ceremony of putting a little of the blood on their ears, the thumbs of their right hands, and the great toes of their right feet, it was intimated that their whole powers were to be considered as consecrated to God: part of the blood was mingled with holy oil and sprinkled over them, by which they and their garments were hallowed: part of the flesh, together with part of the bread provided for the occasion, was waved by the priests themselves, and given