The Levites’ Exclusion from Land Allotment: The Joshua Story in Dialogue with the Joseph Story

  • Hulisani Ramantswana UNISA
Keywords: Levites, Landlessness, Joseph story, Joshua story, Legitimisation


In this study an African proverb or saying, Mapfeṋe hu ḽa mahulwane (literally, “The baboons who get to eat are the big ones”), the tenor of which is that the ones who tend to benefit from the system are those in position of power while the rest have to eat the crumbs or nothing at all, is utilized as a lens to engage the issue of the exclusion of the Levites from owning land. Utilizing the proverb of our interrogation as a lens, the Joshua story (especially Jos 14, 16–17) is read in dialogue with the Joseph story. This paper, therefore, argues that the Levites’ loss of land was due to a coup by the Joseph tribes under the leadership of Hoshea (Joshua) son of Nun from the tribe of Ephraim. The Levites’ exclusion from land, thus, reflects the privileging of those in power at the expense of the tribe of Levi, which was relegated to lower class. The paper also engages the current South African political-economic context, in which those in political power enrich themselves by grabbing what they can while they can at the expense of the ordinary citizens.


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