Morning Sermon: Exodus 6:13-27; They Were Priests

New Testament Reading: Matthew 1:1-2, 17

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers… [Verse 17] So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:1-2, 17, ESV)


Old Testament Reading: Exodus 6:13-27

“But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans. These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: ‘Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.’ It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron.” (Exodus 6:13–27, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


The genealogies of the Bible  are important. We learned that in our study of the book of Genesis. And they are important for many reasons. They are often used by Moses in his writings to mark divisions in the narrative. That was true in Genesis, and it is true here. We are about to learn all about the so-called plagues that God poured out upon the Egyptians through Moses. This genealogy helps us to transition from a focus on the birth, early life, and call of Moses to the act of deliverance that God worked for the Hebrews through him. This genealogy functions like a commercial break, if you will, but it is a meaningful break, as we will soon see. It helps us to process what has come before, and it helps to prepare us for what is to come in this great story.

Broadly speaking, the genealogies found in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the OT; the writings of Moses) should remind us of the promise of the gospel that was first declared in the hearing of Adam and Eve after the fall. In brief the promise was this: from Eve a Savior would eventually emerge (Genesis 3:15). But we were also informed that Satan would have his seed too. And in this world there would be perpetual hostility between the seed of the woman (God’s people), and the seed of the serpent. And concerning the seed of the women who would one day crush the serpent’s head, we learned that he would emerge from the Hebrew people. The first indication of this was found in Genesis 9 when Noah pronounced a special blessing on his son, Shem. And this message grew even more clear in Genesis 12 when Abram (Abraham) was set apart from the nations. God promised that from him a great nation would come. And from them, the Messiah would emerge to bless all the nations of the earth. 

So then, these genealogies that we find in the Pentateuch are not merely ancestral records. No, they all have something to do with God’s plan of salvation. They look back (in one way or another) to the promise of salvation first uttered in Genesis 3:15 — a Savior would come into the world, and he would come into the world through the woman, that is, through the process of procreation — The genealogies of the Bible are rooted in that promise —  and they look forward (in one way or another) to the Christ, the son of Adam, the son of Abraham, the son of David, the Son of God. 

The genealogy of Exodus 6:13-27 plays an important role in the Exodus story. Not only does it mark a transition in the narrative (as I have said), it also answers important questions concerning what we have already encountered, and sets the stage for stories we will encounter later. In particular, this genealogy answers questions regarding Moses and Aaron. Where did they come from, and what were their credentials? Furthermore, names are introduced to us in this genealogy of people who will become prominent in the Exodus story for good or for ill. Lastly, Christ is present in this genealogy.  So let us consider these three things: One, the genealogical history of Moses and Aaron. Two, the genealogical history of other significant figures in the Exodus story. And three, the presence of Christ in this genealogical record, not as a direct descendant of Levi, Moses, or Arron, but of others who are mentioned almost in passing.


Moses and Aaron

First, we must consider the genealogical record of Moses and Aaron. And as we do we find that they were priests. This is significant. Moses was not only a prophet. He, like Aaron, descended from Levi, the priestly tribe of Israel.

This genealogy begins with Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Remember that it was Jacob that took his family down into Egypt when they were threatened by the famine. He went down into Egypt with his 11 sons and their families. Joseph was already there. So this is a genealogy of Jacob. He is called by his other name, Israel, in verse 14. There Ruben is called “the firstborn of Israel”, or the firstborn of Jacob. 

Clearly this is a very selective genealogy. Of Jacob (or Israel’s) twelve sons, only three are mentioned: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. And when it comes to Reuben and Simeon, only their sons are mentioned. The genealogical record stops there: ​”the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon.” 

It is only the tribe of Levi that is amplified. Three of Levi’s sons are named: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Their sons are also listed. But everything comes to focus on Moses and Aaaron so that we might know where they came from. Moses and Aaron descended from Levi, from Kohath, and from Amram. We are told that “Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister”, that is to say, his aunt, which would be forbidden under the law of Moses. 

So then, you can see that this is a very incomplete and misshapen genealogical record. Only the first three of Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons are mentioned — it stops with Levi, and nothing is said of the other 9. And it is only the genealogy of Levi that is traced out. In other words, this doesn’t look like a nice, symmetrical, family tree when you diagram it out. Instead, it looks like an arrow which points in the direction of the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood.  

What are we to make of this, then? Was Moses sloppy? Did he forget to come back to this genealogical project to fill in the gaps before this book went to the publishers? No! He accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish, and that was to highlight the priesthood. His aim was to publish his and Aaron’s credentials, as it were. They Levites. They were priests. This means that they were qualified to oversee and promote the worship of the God of Israel. 

Do not forget about the theme, brothers and sisters. Israel was redeemed to worship. Moses was to say to Pharaoh, let us go so that we might worship. In Israel, it was the priesthood that led the way. Both Moses and Aaron were priests. And they would be responsible to oversee the construction of the tabernacle, to give instructions concerning the worship of God, to oversee it, and to preserve it’s purity. 

Worship, worship, worship. The theme is already present in the Exodus narrative, but it will become the central theme in chapters 19 and following. Israel was redeemed to worship. Moses and Aaron, the great delivers of Israel, they were priests descended from Levi.

The implications of this are massive. You too have been redeemed to worship. You have been rescued from bondage, forgiven, and cleansed to worship God and to live for his glory. This is Paul so famously says in Romans 12. After describing what Christ has done for us to save us from our sins, he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV). In other words, having been delivered, worship. Live now for the glory of God, not by sacrificing animals at the temple, but by presenting “your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. The worship of God, the glory of God, is central to this story, and that is why Moses demonstrated that he, and especially Aaron, were priests. They led Israel out of Egypt to worship. 


Other Significant People

I have said that this genealogical record hones in upon Levi and then eventually Moses and Aaron, and that is true. But there are other significant people mentioned too. Again the genealogical record surrounding Moses and Aaron is very, very selective. This means that Moses was making a point. 

Another person highlighted in this genealogy is Korah. Korah was a cousin to Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron were born to Amram, and Koarah was born to Amram’s brother, Izhar. This means that Korah was also a Levite and a priest, therefore. 

Certainly there were many, many others who descended from Levi who are not mentioned. Why Korah? Well, that will become clear in Moses’ fourth book, the book of Numbers. In Numbers 16 we learn that Korah led an uprising against Moses and Aaron. In verse 1 we read, “Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’” (Numbers 16:1–3, ESV). This didn’t turn out too well for Korah. To make a long story short, “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, ‘Lest the earth swallow us up!’ And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense” (Numbers 16:32–35, ESV). 

Korah’s rebellion, as it is called, was a big deal in Israel’s history. And Korah is highlighted alongside Aaron in this genealogical record, one, to prepare the reader for that story, and two, to set the stage for the contrast between true and false worship that will soon develop. Worship, worship, worship. This is a major theme. We have been redeemed to worship. But we are to worship, not according to the opinions of men, but rather, according to the word of God.  

There are two other black sheep mentioned in this genealogy, two of Aaron’s own sons, Nadab and Abihu. They served alongside their father in the tabernacle. But one day, they offered what Leviticus 10:1 calls “unauthorized fire before the LORD, which [the LORD] had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1, ESV). Things didn’t go so well for Nadab and Abihu either. Leviticus 10:2 says that “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

So then, you can see what Moses was doing with this genealogy, can’t you? When we read it, we see a bunch of rather unfamiliar and hard to pronounce names. But when the people of Israel to whom Moses originally wrote read this genealogy, they would have immediately understood what Moses was drawing attention to. Worship, worship, worship — purity in worship. These stories regarding Koara, Nadan and Abihu will not be encountered until we read Numbers and Leviticus. The events themselves happened later in Israel history, after the Exodus from Egypt, in the wilderness, and after the tabernacle was built. But by mentioning these names here in the Exodus story, Moses reminded his audience of where all of this was heading. As I said, this is like a commercial break, but a meaningful one. The theme of worship is kept front and center, and so too is the importance of purity in worship. 

There is one last name that I wish to draw your attention to, and this is the name Phinehas. Phinehas is the last to be mentioned in this genealogy. In Exodus 6:25 we read, “Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans” (Exodus 6:25, ESV). So Phinehas is the end of this genealogy. 

He was not a black sheep like the others, but is to be regarded as a priestly hero. In Numbers 25 we learn that Israel was consumed with idolatry and fornication. The wickedness was so great that God sent a plague upon the people. As the Moses, and others who feared the Lord wept, at the tent of meeting “one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel… “ to lie with her in one of the chambers at the temple. Can you imagine it?! In Numbers 25:7 we read,  “When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:7–9, ESV). 

He was regarded as a hero. He did what a priest of Israel was called to do — they were to keep the temple pure. Psalm 106 reflects upon this event in Israel’s history when it says, “Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.” (Psalm 106:30–31, ESV)

So then, the genealogy of Exodus 6 is very selective. And if we pay attention to the men highlighted  — especially Aaron, Korah, Nadab, Abihu, and Phinehas — we see that a story emerges. Big events in Israel’s history are embedded in these names. These names anticipate those events, and the people of Israel would have recognized that as they received this book from Moses’ hand.

Worship, worship, worship. Purity of worship. Flee from idolatry. Flee from immorality. Do not go the way of Aaaron in his weakness, of  Korah, Nadab and Abihu. Have the zeal and courage of Phinehas instead. That’s how we are to interpret this genealogical record.



Now, I have one more observation concerning the names mentioned in this selective genealogy, and that is that Christ is present here. 

You might be tempted to say, well, how can that be? Christ did not descend from Ruben, Simeon, or Levi, but from Judah, and nothing is said of the line of Judah. Well, that is not entirely true. Though the line of Judah is not traced out here, two from the tribe of Judah are mentioned, and Jesus Christ did in fact descend from them. 

In brief, “Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon…” (Exodus 6:23, ESV). Amminadab and Nahshon were of the tribe of Judah. Aaron married a Judahite, therefore. And King David did descend from this Amminadab and Nahshon who are mentioned in this very selective genealogy. This means that Jesus did too.

In Matthew 1 we find the genealogy of Jesus, and in verses 4 through 5 we read, “and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” (Matthew 1:4–6, ESV). And you know where this genealogy lands. It demonstrated that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the promised Messiah. 

Isn’t that marvelous to consider? Even though Jesus did not descend from Levi — he the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and a priest according to the order of Melchizedek — he is still present here in this genealogy through Aaaron’s marriage to “Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon…” 

Redeemed to worship. That was true for ethnic Israel in an earthly sense. But it true for spiritual Israel on a whole other level. Redeemed to worship. Redeemed by Jesus the Messiah from the domain of darkness and transferred into his glorious and eternal kingdom so that we might worship God the Father through the Son in Spirit and in truth.  



One, if God has been faithful to bring the Christ into the world through many seemingly insurmountable challenges for the Hebrew people just as he promised, will he not also be faithful to bring the work of Christ to a completion? We must be confident that he is able no matter how dire things seem to be in the world.  

This concept may be applied on an individual level. God will be faithful to finish the work he has begun in you. He will bring you to completion in Christ, and bring you safely home. But here I am thinking in terms of his kingdom work. God promised an earthly kingdom to Abraham, and he was faithful to bring it into existence in the days of Moses, and later David. And he promised a heavenly kingdom to Abraham as well. This was the kingdom that Abraham looked forward to by faith. This kingdom was inaugurated in the days of Christ. And it will be this kingdom that God will being to a consummation in the new heavens and earth. So yes, I am drawing your attention to God’s faithfulness again. But in particular, I am drawing your attention to God’s faithfulness and his power to accomplish his purposes even through dire circumstances. 

Think of how impossible it must have seemed to the Hebrews that the promises made to Abraham would ever be fully fulfilled. They must have felt as if they were finished, as if the Egyptians were too strong, and as if their problems were truly insurmountable. And yet, God preserved them and worked powerfully amongst them to save them. We should be reminded of all that as we consider this little genealogy and trace it back to Adam and Abraham, and forward to David and Christ. God was faithful to bring his kingdom in to existence just as he promised. 

Two, connected to this, consider the weakness of the Hebrews. They were great in number. Hundreds of thousands would be led out of Egypt. But they could not be more weak politically, economically, and militaristically. They were thoroughly oppressed, beat down, and disheartened. They had no power, no might. And yet, consider what did for them. Consider what God did through them. As 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:27–28, ESV). This principal did not begin with Christ and his Apostles. It was established in the days of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and with Israel. This is how God works in the world, brothers and sisters — through the weak and insignificant ones. He uses the broken hearted and downtrodden ones. 

This is our heritage, brothers and sisters. We should not be surprised to see this same pattern in our day. And we must learn to think differently regarding power and weakness in the world. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul discusses how in Christ there is strength in weakness. And he concludes with these words, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV). This is backwards and upside down when compared to the thinking of the world, but this is how we must view power and weakness in Christ.

This very much pertains to what we are seeing in the world today, doesn’t it? There are forces for evil that seem so very big and powerful, and the forces for good and for God seem so small, weak and insignificant. But we must remember the saying,  if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

Three, in closing I wish to draw your attention to this: though the Hebrews were terribly oppressed under the Egyptians, their family, cultural, and religious identity was maintained to some degree. This is made clear by the fact that genealogical records were kept. Distinctions between the tribes of Israel were maintained. Aaron and Moses knew they were Levites, and that this had significance pertaining to the worship of God in the days of the Exodus. 

It’s impossible to know to what degree this cultural identity was maintained, but here is the point I wish to make. Maintaining our familial, cultural, and religious ties will be key for us as the prevailing culture around us grows darker and ever more hostile to God, to Christ, and his kingdom. We must stick together, brothers and sisters. We must maintain our devotion to God, to the worship of God, and to the family of God in this present evil age.

Comments are closed.

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2022 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church