In the season of Reuben, mankind betrayed perfect love for imperfect lust. Then, a destructive season of sin followed, represented by the sinful character of Jacob’s second son, Simeon. Men trampled on the grace extended by God, taking every liberty and opportunity as an occasion for the flesh to pursue vanity.
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Even after the promise of a Savior was given to Abraham, sin persisted, but the Lord had already anticipated and accounted for the stubbornness of sin in the flesh. Thankfully, His patient parenting sought a means of discipline rather than destruction, and He continued to extend mercies in hopes that humanity would recognize and receive His love for them. This would be shown through the next season of man which is also symbolized by the next son of Jacob, Levi.
The Birth of Levi
Every symbol and prophetic parallel established at the onset of Jacob’s story continues with Levi, starting with his birth. When he was born, Leah uttered words which reflected the hope she invested in him.
Genesis 29:34 NASB
34 And she conceived again and gave birth to a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi.
Leah hoped a third son would produce a greater connection with Jacob. The birth of Reuben failed to pacify her loneliness, and Simeon didn’t cure her longing for love. Now her hope was that Levi could provide a way for her to finally feel validation and acceptance. When we view this situation, replacing the symbols with what they prophetically represent, it tells a story: Banishment from the garden wasn’t disappointing enough, neither was the guarantee of an inheritance encouraging enough to save mankind from his separation from God. So, Perhaps a collection of straightforward laws might cause men to acknowledge their erroneous ways and appreciate the loving liberty they had long disregarded. This was the next measure taken by the Lord and the next period of mankind. It would be the season of Levi or the season of the Old Covenant Law.
The Bread Test
A single chapter in Exodus provides the perfect, prophetic microcosm of the way Israel would respond to the law, God’s new measure of mercy, and it perfectly illustrates the transition from Simeon to Levi. Remember, Levi worked with Simeon to destroy a covenant at Shechem. Therefore, men during the season of Levi would only compound the problems created during the season of Simeon.
Exodus 16:1-3 KJV
1And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. 2And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: 3And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Now, remember story of Hagar and the woman featured in Revelation chapter 12. In both of their narratives, the wilderness became a place where God preserved and strengthened those who were apparently forgotten. The desert wilderness where Israel wandered was no different. The Lord liberated His people that they might escape bondage and be freed from the impression and influence of evil, even though they felt forgotten.
In the wilderness, there is always purpose. Though desolate, it is a place where man can be separated from the technological efforts created to sustain himself and be positioned for the Lord to showcase the power of His provision. The wilderness is, literally and figuratively, a place where flesh is deprived of its ability to rely upon human invention and forced to trust in divine intervention. When we are separated from the places and things we’ve placed our trust, we are in a virtual desert, made to witness the saving hand of Yahweh. Just before crossing the Red Sea, Moses spoke of this purpose of the wilderness.
Exodus 14:13-14 KJV
13And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
In times of true desperation, there is nothing left to depend on except God and His creation. Without the distraction of human creations, our option to trust and receive the Lord becomes more illuminated for our consideration. We must always remember…
John 8:34 NASB
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
As for Israel, it’s important to remember that their story is our story, and before they were brought to the wilderness, they were in bondage to Pharaoh. Through the Exodus, God had demonstrated His power to overthrow the strongest holds, namely sin. But the Israelites expressed that they would rather enjoy their lives in captivity than trust God in their freedom. Rather than wait on God to supply, teach, and establish His perfect covenant in them, they preferred to remain in bondage and settle for the meat and bread provided by the world. Spiritually, they were telling God that they would rather live by the quick and substandard satisfaction of sin, even if it meant they would remain enslaved to Satan. They were, once again, choosing the forbidden fruit.
Like many today, their sinful flesh still found a way to reject God’s grace and mercy. The Hebrews complained to Moses in spite of their recent and narrow escape from destruction at the hands of the Egyptians. God could have justly destroyed them for their refusal to appreciate His mercy and grace, but He appealed to their weakened spirits. He would oblige their complaints and give them their desires but on His terms, not theirs. One way or the other, the Lord aimed to prove, to them, their lawlessness and the insufficiency of their own will and way. Notice, carefully, the following words and instructions of God.
Exodus 16:4 KJV
4Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
There is much to be gathered from this scripture. In response to their lack of gratitude and disregard for liberty, God gave them the bread they wanted, but it wasn’t because of their incessant complaints; it was for the purpose of proving a point. The Lord rained bread from heaven to prove whether or not Israel would walk in His laws. The bread or manna, rained from heaven, was a prophetic type and shadow of the law that would soon come, and it is also called, “bread from heaven.” God delivered bread with specific instructions, and their obedience, or lack thereof, would foreshadow their future response to the laws of the Old Covenant. Notice the specifics of the instructions to the Israelites concerning gathering bread for their households.
Exodus 16:13-20 NASB
13 So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew [f]evaporated, behold, on the [g]surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “[h]What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is [i]what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone gather [j]as much as he will eat; you shall take [k]an omer apiece according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it by the [l]omer, the one who had gathered much did not have too much, and the one who had gathered little did not have too little; everyone gathered [m]as much as he would eat. 19 Moses said to them, “No one is to leave any of it until morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank; and Moses was angry with them.
The instructions given to the children of Israel were plainly stated. Each household was to gather what their families needed for the day and nothing more, and this was to test their faith. None of them were supposed to store or leave any bread for the next day, which gave them an opportunity to prove their faith through obedience. Would they believe that God would provide, day by day, or would they hoard in fear that He would forsake them and trust of their own ability to save. Those who gathered as instructed would essentially establish their trust that God would continue to supply daily bread as needed. Those who would disobey would once again prove their unwillingness to believe in the Father. Much later, Jesus would remind us that trusting God should be done daily, and His provision is sufficient.
2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3Give us day by day our daily bread.
In His prayer, it is understood that Jesus was not requesting actual bread but a daily measure of instruction, word and provision needed to get us through each day. This was the same principle proposed by the manifestation of manna, but the Israelites didn’t trust in God’s daily supply. In an absence of faith, they hoarded the bread, desiring instead to take control of their own provision, only to have it rot and become full of maggots.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
The manna from heaven was a prophetic precursor of the Mosaic law, delivered from the throne of heaven, and He was testing their spiritual preparedness through a similitude of actual bread, sent from heaven. As scripture proclaims, the manna even tasted like honey, a flavor biblically used to describe the sweetness of God’s word.
Exodus 16:31 KJV
31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
Ezekiel 3:3 NASB
3He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
Revelation 10:10 KJV
And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey:
Israel’s deceitful disobedience was a barometer of the level of sinful pride existing in them, and an indication that many of the future Israelites would ultimately refuse to know the power of God. Instead, they would choose their flesh and their own way. Just as the story of Hamor and Shechem prophetically foreshadowed the eventual murder of Jesus and His covenant, the story of the bread from heaven predicted that Israel would eventually handle the Law of God with the same contempt and deceit.
“Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me,” declares the LORD.
Imprisoned by the Law
When the law finally arrived, its corrupt administration would be led by the malpractice of the tribe of Levi’s priests. Knowing the truth of God’s instructions, their deceitful nature willfully disobeyed and manipulated the covenant of God to suit their own selfish benefits. Jesus spoke scathingly of their dishonorable leadership.
4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi
This begins to explain the difference between Simeon and Levi. While they were both characterized by their “self-will”, Levi is differentiated by those who have come to know the explicit instructions of God only to subvert them for selfish agendas. As promised, God would not allow Israel to flourish in its deceitful ways, so every effort to hoard and control the law began to stink in His eyes, being filled with maggots. Although all men were sinful, Levi took sin to the level of willful rebellion and iniquity. He acted against the clear knowledge of righteousness, and expressed a preference for flesh in the face of God, a deed worthy of the highest level of imprisonment.