Was Levi Cursed or Blessed?


Was Levi Cursed or Blessed? - Genesis 49:5-7 and Deuteronomy 33:8-11


Genesis 49:5-7 Simeon and Levi are brothers - their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.

Deuteronomy 33:8-11 About Levi he said: "Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful servant. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He said of his father and mother, 'I have no regard for them.' He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children, but he watched over your word and guarded your covenant. He teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel. He offers incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar. Bless all his skills, LORD, and be pleased with the work of his hands. Strike down those who rise against him, his foes till they rise no more."

As occasionally seen in Scripture, some verses may appear contradictory at first, but in essence, they actually supplement one another. In this case, we must understand that the covenant not only has blessings but cursings as well.

The curse on the tribe of Levi happened because of how they treated Shechem (Gen. 34:1-31). As a result of their sinful conduct, they would be scattered among the other tribes of Israel; Levi would not obtain a land possession of their own. On the other hand, the blessing of Levi reflects Levi's fidelity at the time of the golden calf incident, when the tribe of Levi carried out the sentence of God (Ex. 32:28).

God's people may be blessed or cursed under the covenant (Deut. 28). Blessings and cursings may be temporal or eternal. Just because one is cursed (temporal), it does not negate the possibility of future blessing. Just because one makes manure of their lives, it does not mean God cannot later use them as fertilizer. What rich fertilizer Levi became! God forgives sin (1 John 1:9). It was God's eternal plan to scatter the descendants of Levi throughout Israel so that they could teach God's precept and laws to Israel (Deut. 33:10). God's temporary curse brought repentance so that God could fulfill his eternal plan. So, God can take what was/is cursed and make it work for his glory (cf. Prov. 11:8; 16:4; 21:18; Is. 43:4; Rom. 9:10-29).

There is no contradiction between these two proclamations. Levi's descendants were scattered, as Jacob prophesied in Genesis. However, later they were used by God to function as the priestly tribe throughout all Israel, as Moses had proclaimed in Deuteronomy.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).