I received the following question:

What’s the difference between priests and Levites?

The Levites actually were priests. Originally, the firstborn son of every family (that is, the one who would take over as patriarch for the father,) was chosen as the priest. Then, the Lord redeemed the firstborn, and substituted the Levites in their place. Thus, every Levite was a priest, and as such, they had certain duties that they could perform before God that others could not.

There were also Aaronic priests. These were also Levites, but they were Levites who were descended from the family of Aaron, Moses’ brother. The Aaronic priests had more privileges than the Levite priests, and could perform services in the temple that no other Levites could. The high priest had to come from the Aaronic priests. Remember, though, that these were a subset of the Levites.

When Levites and priests are listed together, what it means is “Levite (priests) and (Aaronic) priests.” The family of Aaron were “higher” priests than the Levites, so they would sometimes just be called the “priests,” whereas the Levites were just called “Levites.” It’s a little confusing, but they understood it perfectly. Levites were just a different (lower) order of priests.

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