In last week’s parshah, the following pasuk appears:
כט) ויאמר משה מלאו ידכם היום ליקוק כי איש בבנו ובאחיו ולתת עליכם היום ברכה
29 And Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves to the Lord this day—for each of you has been against son and brother—that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”
The simple meaning of the verse is that the tribe of Levi, because of their dedication to G-d, displayed by their willingness to kill even a son or a brother, were rewarded by being given a special role, that of the priesthood.
However an alternative explanation gives quite the opposite meaning. That due to the bloodthirstiness of the tribe of Levi, that they were eager to even kill son or brother without even signs of remorse, G-d felt it necessary to remove them from the activity of war, and have them only active in the priesthood. Hence the tribe of Levi was exempt from the conquest of the land. According to this explanation, being given the priesthood was actually a punishment, a sign that they were not capable of living an ordinary life, but needed to be separated from the community and involved only in spiritual activity. This would echo Yaakov’s negative comments to the tribe of Levi in Veyechi, because of their bloodthirstiness with Shechem.
ה) שמעון ולוי אחים כלי חמס מכרתיהם
ו) בסדם אל תבא נפשי בקהלם אל תחד כבדי כי באפם הרגו איש וברצנם עקרו שור
ז) ארור אפם כי עז ועברתם כי קשתה אחלקם ביעקב ואפיצם בישראל
5 Simeon and Levi are a pair; Their weapons are tools of lawlessness.
6 Let not my person be included in their council, Let not my being be counted in their assembly. For when angry they slay men, And when pleased they maim oxen.
7 Cursed be their anger so fierce, And their wrath so relentless. I will divide them in Jacob, Scatter them in Israel.
Another interesting example is the song I quoted in the previous post. A fundamentalist reading, looking just at the verses as they are, might come to certain conclusions. However a different reading, and especially one which identifies the original source texts of the verses, might come to an entirely different conclusion as to the intended meaning.