Acts 4:36-37:

Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

How did Barnabas come to own land near Jerusalem that he could sell, if he was a both a Levite and a native of Cyprus? Levites had no inheritance and were to be supported by the other tribes for their priestly or temple service. Was he in disobedience to the Lord to own the land in the first place, according to Mosaic Law?

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    Good candidate for migration to Hermeneutics.SE Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:13
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2 Answers 2


I am not sure you are interpreting the law about Levites owning land correctly.

Joshua 10 describes the division of the land between the tribes, but does not assign it to individuals. Verse 14 gives no portion of the land to Levi:

Only to the tribe of Levi he had given no inheritance; the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as He said to them.

It is not that individual Levites had no inheritance. The tribe did not have a region of the promised land set aside for them. Instead, they were distributed amongst the cities in other tribes' land.

Consider Numbers 35:1-2:

In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Command the Israelites to give, from the inheritance that they possess, towns for the Levites to live in; you shall also give to the Levites pasture lands surrounding the towns.

Along with these cities, the Levites were given fields around those cities.

And in Deuteronomy 18:6-8, we see that not only could individual Levites have an inheritance, they could sell it:

So if a Levite comes from any of your gates, from where he dwells among all Israel, and comes with all the desire of his mind to the place which the Lord chooses, then he may serve in the name of the Lord his God as all his brethren the Levites do, who stand there before the Lord. They shall have equal portions to eat, besides what comes from the sale of his inheritance

And Nehemiah 13:10:

I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.

It seems that as least in the time of Nehemiah, Levites could own fields as part of the support offered to them.

  • Yes, Jeremiah purchased a field from his cousin in Anathoth (Jer. 32:8-9) Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 8:27

I'm thinking that some confusion might apply here because the Levites worked part-time as priests and only collected "support" when working at their priestly duties. At other times they had to support themselves.

Another area of confusion might be the difference between an "inheritance" of land which would revert back to the tribe at Jubilee and the inheritance of land purchased outright, which could be passed on to family or inherited or sold but was never an "inheritance" of their tribe.

Yes a Levite priest could work and own land and was expected to earn his own living for the majority of his life. The Temple gave very little actual support to any individual priests - far different from the wages expected by today's pastors and priests.

  • Pastors, not pasters. Welcome. This is a good core for an answer, but some support for the points you are making (perhaps OT, perhaps old hebrew laws and customs) would make this answer fit the SE model. Tour, How to Ask and How to Answer are available to assist new users in getting the most out of an SE site. Commented May 2, 2020 at 20:21

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