I have commented from time to time about my own interest in the goings on of the Levites as well as the Aaronic priesthood and some of my own reasons for that . I do not wish to comment on these reasons here, I simply wish to let it known that I have a particular bias and perspective. When we think of the Aaronic priesthood, our first thought is that they were the ones who engaged in the tabernacle and temple worship system with regards to sacrifices, but that was only a small part of what they did. 2 Chronicles 15:3 tells us a large part of what they were supposed to do in ancient Israel: “For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law.”
Likewise, the priests had a great deal of authority in distinguishing right from wrong, as it is written in Deuteronomy 17:8-12: “If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel.”
So, we know that the priests had a job and a big part of that job was teaching and serving as the judges over Israel, and God gave them a great deal of legitimacy because of their position. It is not a surprise that they failed at their job miserably. This evening I listened to a Bible study for an hour and a half by the retired pastor of our congregation and he did a fantastic job at pointing out the failures of the Aaronic priesthood during most of their history at serving God’s people. Their job was to teach God’s law to Israel and for most of Israel’s history the people of Israel were entirely ignorant of God’s law, a tradition that continues to this day, where people have all kinds of beliefs about the law that are way off base. We might not think that this is anything unusual, and we might not think that the failure of those whose responsibility was to teach God’s laws was simply something that had to be expected because it has been such a serious problem throughout the history of God’s involvement with mankind.
It is worthwhile to note, though, that the legitimacy of the the Levites and of the Aaronic priesthood in the first place related to their loyalty to God. As it is written in Exodus 32:25-29: “ Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”” This legitimacy as a result of loyalty to God’s ways continued, as we see from the example of Phinehas the son of Eliezar in Numbers 25:7-13: “Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’””
Given this, therefore, we see that just as the Levites were given legitimacy because of the zeal for God’s ways, their loss of zeal for those ways meant that God first called them to repent over and over again and finally promised that their priesthood would be removed from them. How would God do this? Would he give an everlasting covenant to a new priesthood or would he find it acceptable to take the failures of legitimate authorities as an excuse for others to usurp that authority and to seize those offices for themselves without any regard to the authority that God had set up? And what relevance does that have for us? It is these questions I would like to take up as we discuss the usurpation of the Pharisees of the job of the priests and Levites next.
 See, for example: