Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Testaments of the Twelve Patriachs - Levi

Story Summary

In the Testament of Levi, who was the third son of Jacob/Israel, Levi, the priest, speaks mostly of visions and prophesies regarding Judgement Day and Jesus in the longest of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

On his deathbed although still perfectly healthy, Levi imparts wisdom to his sons (1:1-3).  Levi reminds them that he and Simeon took revenge on Hamor for their sister Dinah (ref. Genesis 34) (1:4).

Levi then explains how he had a vision wherein he saw seven different heavens.  The first held fire, snow, and ice, and the spirits of vengeance for men prepared for the Day of Judgement.  The second heaven held the armies which would unleash vengeance the spirits of deceit and on Beliar (Belial) on Judgement Day.  The third heaven above held the holy ones.  The fourth and highest heaven held God.  Next to the fourth heaven a heaven held archangels, who made offerings for the sins of ignorance of the righteous.  Below that heaven are the messenger angels.  Next to that heaven are dominions offering continuous praise to God.  The angel guiding Levi told him that Levi would proclaim God as the redeemer of the Jews, and, through the Tribes of Levi and Judah, God would come to save all races of men (1:5-27).

The vision continued.  The angel guiding Levi told him that Judgement Day is coming and there will be punishment.  God will bless Levi's progeny and they will be a guiding light until God comes into Israel and bestows blessings of mercy on the Jews and Gentiles (2:1-10).

Then the angel took Levi back down to earth and gave him a sword and shield with which to slay Hamor's sons, and Levi did so after this vision (2:11-12).

Levi discovered that his angel guide was the angel responsible for interceding on behalf of the nation of Israel and the righteous.  Then Levi awoke from this vision (2:13-15).

As Levi was returning home, he found a bronze shield.  Levi advised Jacob/Israel and Benjamin to not have Hamor and his sons circumcised.  Then Levi and Simeon, followed by the rest of the brothers, attacked the city where Hamor and his sons lived.  Levi and his brothers had sinned by going against Jacob/Israel's wishes, but Levi knew that God had planned this vengeance because of that city's wickedness.  Levi told Jacob/Israel that his progeny would despoil the Canaanites.  Then they all headed to Bethel (3:1-12)

After seventy days in Bethel, Levi had a vision where seven men in white raiment declared Levi and his progeny to be priests of God forever, adorning him with all of the trappings of priesthood.  Levi's progeny would be divided into three offices as a sign of God's coming; the first is great, the second is the priesthood, and the third will come from Judah, establishing a new priesthood in the fashion of the Gentiles, and that Priest will be a prophet.  Levi's progeny will get the best of the best and will guard the holy place (3:13-30)

Isaac blessed Levi in accordance with the visions Levi had seen.  Jacob/Israel paid tithes to Levi after a vision that Levi would be God's priest.  They all went to Hebron (3:31-34).

There, Isaac taught Levi about the rules, regulations, guidelines, and offerings required by a priest (3:35-42).

Levi has his sons all of this to be free of the guilt of his progeny, because "in the end of ages" they will transgress against Christ, the Savior of the world by deceiving Israel and stirring up evils against Him. Because of this, the Temple veil will be rent and they will be exiled.  God will choose a new Jerusalem, per the writings of Enoch (3:43-47).

Levi then recounts the birth of his sons and the family of his sons, as well as laying out a brief historical time line of his life (3:48-59).

Levi commands his progeny to study God's Law, teaching their children to read it unceasingly.  They should also work righteousness to earn treasures in heaven.  Having the wisdom of God will help them favorably endure any situation.  If they teach and obey the teaching, they will be enthroned (4:1-10).

Levi knows that his progeny will attack the Savior.  Where they should be pure and a light to the Gentiles, they will instead be impure and dark; teaching commandments contrary to God's Law, defiling offerings to God, defiling the office of the priesthood in many ways, being arrogant, and treating holy things with contempt.  Therefore God will destroy the Temple, exile the Levites, and assign them eternal shame.  If it wasn't for their forefathers, they would be completely eliminated (4:11-23).

For seventy weeks they will profane the priesthood; making void the Law and persecuting the righteous.  They shall shed the blood of an innocent, dignified Man who renews the Law through God's power.  They will remain in exile until that Man comes back to them with pity, receiving them through faith and water (4:24-29).

Levi further explains the seventy (actually seven) weeks as a series of seven Jubilees, and each one represents a different priesthood.  The first is perfect, and "in the day of his gladness shall he arise for the salvation of the world."  The second "shall be conceived in the sorrow" but glorified by all.  The third through the seventh progress from sorrow, to pain, to great darkness and pollution.  (In the fifth week is when they return from their first exile.)  Then the priesthood will fail (5:1-12).

God will then establish a new, righteous Priest who will judge the earth.  He will enlighten the world with knowledge, establish peace on earth, and be exalted on earth and in heaven.  God will speak to Him, and He will be sanctified in the water.  He will have no successors forever.  He will enlighten the Gentiles, put an end to sin, let the saints eat from the Tree of Life, bind up Beliar, and grant His children power over evil spirits.  God and the Priest's children will rejoice forever (5:13-29).

Then Levi had his sons agree to follow God, and then he died (5:30-35).

Christian Parallels

As can be seen in the summary above, the writing in the Testament of Levi is rich with parallels to Christianity to the point where they are blatantly obvious, but Levi does have some Apocryphal tweaks too.  Given the strong story/prophesy parallel, I will just focus on pointing out specific parallel verses below.

Levi 1:19 speaks of armies in heaven prepared for Judgement Day, like the armies described in Revelation 19:14.

In Levi 1:22 we see archangels making offerings in Heaven; a belief which is consistent with the concept of the parallel Sanctuary in Heaven as presented in Hebrews 8:1-5.

Levi 3:17 speaks of being washed pure with water (like John the Baptist's baptism) and eating bread and drinking wine (Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20) as part of an anointing ceremony.

Levi 3:26 says that God will "establish a new priesthood, after the fashion of the Gentiles."  Gentile rulers of this era were often deified, so that would be one interpretation.  Another is explained in detail in Hebrews 7 regarding Jesus being a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Levi 3:45 states that the veil of the Temple will be torn, like we find in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45.

Levi 4:5 advises to earn treasures in heaven, similar to Matthew 6:19-20, Matthew 19:21, Mark 1:21, Luke 12:23, and Luke 18:22.

In Levi 4:10 we find that anyone who does and teaches others to do noble things (like obey God's Law) is rewarded, similar to the sentiment of Matthew 5:19.

We find in Levi 4:15 that the Levites will teach what is contrary to God's Law, just like we see in Matthew 15:1-9.

Levi 4:20 and Levi 4:28 prophesy that the Temple will be destroyed, like we see in Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, and Luke 21:5-6.

Levi 5:14 shows that the new Priest will judge the world, like we find in John 5:22.

In Levi 5:15 we see a star in the heavens will indicate this new Priest, like the one the wise men followed in Matthew 2:1-9.

We see in Levi 5:16-17 that this Priest will metaphorically bring light into the world, which is a repeated theme in the New Testament, such as in John 1:9 as applied to Jesus.

In Levi 5:20-21 we see where, in water, God will speak and bestow a spirit of sanctification on this new Priest, much like how Jesus' baptism scenes are portrayed in Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, and Luke 3:21-22.

Finally, in Levi 5:27 claims that men will rule over evil spirits, much like in Matthew 10:1, Mark 5:13, Luke 10:17, and Acts 5:16.

Memorable Quotes

"And when I was feeding the flocks in Abel-Maul, the spirit of understand of the Lord came upon me, and I saw all men corrupting their way, and that unrighteousness had built for itself walls, and lawlessness sat upon towers." - Levi 1:6

"And it has fire, snow, and ice made ready for the day of judgement, in the righteous judgement of God; for in it are all the spirits of the retributions for vengeance on men." - Levi 1:18

"And in the second are the hosts Of the armies which are ordained for the day of judgement, to work vengeance on the spirits of deceit and of Beliar." - Levi 1:19

"In the heaven next to it are the archangels, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins of ignorance of the righteous;" - Levi 1:22 (interesting that sin offerings are made in parallel in Heaven)

"And [God] said to me: Levi, I have given thee the blessing of the priesthood until I come and sojourn in the midst of Israel." - Levi 2:10

"Then the angel brought me down to the earth, and gave me a shield and a sword, and said to me: Execute vengeance on Shechem because of Dinah, thy sister, and I will be with thee because the Lord hath sent me." - Levi 2:11

"And I said to him: I pray thee, O Lord, tell me Thy name, that I may call upon Thee in a day of tribulation." - Levi 2:13

"And he said: I am the angel who intercedeth for the nation of Israel that they may not be smitten utterly, for every evil spirit attacketh it." - Levi 2:14 (possibly a reference to Michael, ref. Daniel 12:1)

"And I saw seven men in white raiment saying unto me: Arise, put on the robe of the priesthood, and the crown of righteousness, and the breastplate of understanding, and the garment of truth, and the late of faith, and the turban of the head, and the ephod of prophecy." - Levi 3:14

"The second washed me with pure water, and fed me with bread and wine even the most holy things, and clad me with a holy and glorious robe." - Levi 3:17 (baptism and communion!)

"And the third shall be called by a new name, because a king shall arise in Judah, and shall establish a new priesthood, after the fashion of the Gentiles." - Levi 3:26 (Gentile rulers of this era were often deified, so that would be one interpretation.  Another is explained in detail in Hebrews 7 regarding Jesus being a priest in the order of Melchizedek.)

"And Isaac called me continually to put me in remembrance of the Law of the Lord, even as the angel of the Lord showed unto me." - Levi 3:35 (Levi obeys God's Law, which would not be given, Biblically speaking, until centuries later.)

"And behold I am clear from your ungodliness and transgression, which ye shall commit in the end of the ages against the Saviour of the world, Christ, acting godlessly, deceiving Israel, and stirring up against it great evils from the Lord." - Levi 3:44

"For the house which the Lord shall choose shall be called Jerusalem, as is contained in the book of Enoch the righteous." - Levi 3:47 (A reference to prophesy in the book of Enoch, and it is used in a way to suggest Jerusalem is not a particular place on earth, but rather anywhere God wants it to be.)

"Work righteousness, therefore, my children, upon the earth, that ye may have it as a treasure in heaven." - Levi 4:5

"Yea, ye shall bring a curse upon our race, because the light of the law which was given for to lighten every man this ye desire to destroy by teaching commandments contrary to the ordinances of God." - Levi 4:15

"And ye [Levites who attack the Savior] shall be an abomination unto [the Gentiles], and ye shall receive reproach and everlasting shame from the righteous judgement of God." - Levi 4:21

"And a man who reneweth the law in the power of the Most High, ye shall call a deceiver; and at last ye shall rush upon him to slay him, not knowing his dignity, taking innocent blood through wickedness upon your heads." - Levi 4:27

"And to [the Priest God will raise] all the words of the Lord shall be revealed; and he shall execute a righteous judgement upon the earth for a multitude of days." - Levi 5:14

"And the glory of the Most High shall be uttered over him, and the spirit of understanding and sanctification shall rest upon Him in the water." - Levi 5:22 (think when John the Baptist baptizes Jesus...)

"And He shall open the gates of paradise, and shall remove the threatening sword against Adam, and He shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life, and the spirit of holiness shall be on them." - Levi 5:26 (ref. Genesis 3:22-24 where God puts up a flaming sword to keep man away from the Tree of Life.)

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