Q.

Acts 4 (vv. 36, 37) reveals that Barnabas, a Levite, owned land. I thought Levities were forbidden this privilege.

A.
The Levites, the priestly tribe, were under many restrictions and bound to many duties. Numbers 18:20 describes the restriction to which you refer: “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” Deuteronomy 10:9 states, “Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, according as the LORD thy God promised him.”

So how did it come about that Barnabas owned property? There are several possible answers. First, the restriction had long been abandoned by the tithe Barnabas appeared on the scene. Even back in Jeremiah’s time, we find the prophet-priest owning land (see Jeremiah 32:6‒15).

Second, Barnabas may never have served as a Levite. Other than a mention of Barnabas as a Levite, Luke does not elaborate any further concerning this lineage.

Third, it is quite possible that the restriction applied only to land in Israel. It seems apparent that the land Barnabas owned was in Cyprus. If land was also owned in Israel, perhaps it was in his wife’s name.

Fourth, scholars point to Deuteronomy 18:8 as evidence that Levites held property privately, though the tribe itself did not receive inheritances.

Whatever the explanation, Barnabas certainly followed the example of the Levites. Levites were servants. They took care of the temple grounds and gates, provided music at various sacrifices and ceremonies, and performed other important tasks. The servanthood of Barnabas, “the son of consolation,” is seen in his willingness to sell his land and lay the proceeds at the feet of the apostles.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (February 1997).
© 1997 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.