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Reference: Kohath, Kohathites


Although the origin of the name Levi is doubtful, and scholars are still uncertain whether or not it was the name of a tribe before 'Levite' was a descriptive term denoting one who was trained in priestly duties, there is no doubt that the term 'Levite' had this meaning as early as the period of the Judges (see Jg 17:7-8,13). And in process of time every member of the Levitical or priestly 'caste' traced his descent through one line or another to Levi. These genealogies must have been in the making before the Exile, but were afterwards stereotyped and reduced to system by the priestly school. The name Kohath is found nowhere except in Priestly Narrative and Chronicles. The three main divisions of Levites bore the names of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and these are accordingly given as the names of the 'sons' of Levi (Ge 46:11; Ex 6:16; Nu 3:17; 1Ch 6:1,16; 23:6). The second division is described either as 'the Kohathites' (Nu 3:27,30; 4:18,34,37; 10:21; 26:57; Jos 21:4,11; 1Ch 6:33,54; 9:32; 2Ch 20:18; 29:12) or 'the sons of Kohath' (Ex 6:18; Nu 3:19,29; 4/2'>4:2,4,15; 7:9; Jos 21:5,20,26; 1Ch 6:2,18,22,61,66,70; 15:5; 23:12). These were subdivided into four groups, the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites (Nu 3:27), each being traced to a son of Kohath (Ex 6:18; Nu 3:19; 1Ch 6:2,18; 23:12). From these families fragments of genealogies remain. Amram is of peculiar importance, because his children were Aaron and Moses (Ex 6:20; 1Ch 23:13-17); and Korah, a son of Izhar, was notorious in priestly tradition (Nu 16). See Korah, Dathan, Abiram.

The importance of these families after the Exile was small, with the exception of the priests who traced their descent from Aaron. Some Kohathites are named as appointed to humble offices (1Ch 9:10,8 f., Ezr 2:42; Ne 12:25). But the tendency of the period to idealize ancient history led the Prlestly writers, including the Chronicler, to construct narratives in which the eponymous ancestors of the Levitical families played a prominent part; see 1Ch 9:19. (1) During the desert wanderings the Kohathites were on the south side of the Tent (Nu 3:30), and they carried the screen of the sanctuary and its furniture, after it had been prepared for travel by the greatest of all the descendants of Kohath

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