6 occurrences in 6 dictionaries

Reference: Levites


All the descendants of Levi may be comprised under this name, Ex 6:16,25; Jos 3:3, (see LEVI;) but chiefly those who were employed in the lower services in the temple, by which they were distinguished from the priests, who were of the race of Levi by Aaron, and were employed in higher offices, Nu 3:6-10; 18:2-7. God chose the Levites for the service of his tabernacle and temple, instead of the firstborn of all Israel, to whom such duties naturally belonged, and who were already sacred to God in memory of the great deliverance in Egypt. Ex 13; Nu 3:12-13,39-51. In the wilderness, the Levites took charge of the tabernacle and its contents; and conveyed it from place to place, each of the three families having a separate portion, Nu 1:51; 4; 1Ch 15:2,27. After the building of the temple they took charge of the gates, of the sacred vessels, of the preparation of the showbread and other offerings, and of the singing and instrumental music, 1Ch 9; 23; 2Ch 29. They brought wood, water, etc., for the priests; aided them in preparing the sacrifices, and in collecting and disbursing the contributions of the people, 2Ch 30:16-17; 35:1. They were also the temple guards, Ne 13:13,22; and the salutation and response in Ps 134 are thought by Bishop Lowth to have been their song in the night. But besides their services in the temple, they performed a very important part in teaching the people, 2Ch 30:22; Ne 8:7, among whom they were scattered, binding the tribes together, and promoting virtue and piety. They studied the law, and were the ordinary judges of the country, but subordinate to the priests, 2Ch 17:9; 19:8-11. God provided for the subsistence of the Levites, by giving to them the tithe of corn, fruit, and cattle; but they paid to the priests the tenth of their tithes; and as the Levites possessed no estates in land, the tithes which the priests received from them were considered as the first fruits which they were to offer to the Lord, Nu 18:21-32. The payment of tithes to the Levites appears not to have been enforced, but depended on the goodwill of the people; hence the special charges laid on their brethren, not to forget them, De 2:12,18-19.

God assigned for the habitation of the Levites forty-eight cities, with fields, pastures, and gardens, Nu 35. Of these, thirteen were given to the priests, all in the tribes near Jerusalem. Six of the Levitical cities were appointed as cities of refuge, Jos 20-21. While the Levites were actually employed in the temple, they were supported out of the provisions kept in store there, and out of the daily offerings. The same privilege was granted to volunteers, drawn to Jerusalem by the fervor of their love to God's service, De 12:18-19; 18:6-8. The consecration of Levites was without much ceremony. See Nu 8:5-22; 2Ch 29:34.

The Levites wore no peculiar dress to distinguish them from other Israelites, till the time of Agrippa. His innovation in this matter is mentioned by Josephus, who remarked that the ancient customs of the country were never forsaken with impunity.

The Levites were divided into different classes: the Gershomites, Kohathites, and Merarites, Nu 3:17-20. They were still further divided into courses, like the priests, 1Ch 23-26. At first, they entered in full on their public duties at thirty years of age, Nu 4:3; 8:25; but David fixed the age for commencing at twenty years; and at fifty they were exempt, 1Ch 23:24-27. The different courses of porters, singers, guards, etc., were on duty in succession, one week at a time, 1Ch 23-26; 2Ch 23:4,8; 31:17; Ezr 3:8-12. After the revolt of the ten tribes, a large portion of the Levites abandoned their cities in Israel, and dwelt in Judah, 2Ch 11:12-14; 13:9-11. After the captivity, numbers of them returned from beyond the Euphrates to Judea, Ne 11:15-19; 12:24-31. In the New Testament they are not often mentioned, Lu 10:32; Joh 1:19; Ac 4:36. The "scribes" and "doctors," however, are supposed to have belonged chiefly to this class.

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The men of Levi, the sacerdotal tribe, all ministers, out of whom the priests were taken, namely, Aaron's family. Levi's wild zeal against the defiler of Dinah was the forerunner of the Levites' zeal against impure idolaters. The antiquity and genuineness of Genesis are marked by the absence of all notice of Levi's subsequent greatness as the priest tribe. The genealogy (Ge 46:11) goes no further down than Levi's three sons; these too are named in their order of birth, not giving Kohath the prominence which his family had subsequently, He has four clans in Ex 6:16-25, Gershon and Merari but two each. Amram, Aaron, and Moses belonged to his stock (Ex 4:14). The firstborn "young men" of Israel were the priests to offer sacrifices (Ex 24:5) before the law, representing the priestly nation (Ex 19:6,22,24). (See LEVI on the Levites' promotion to be the priestly tribe for their zeal in the Lord's cause.)

Levi became "an Israel within an Israel," the witness and guard of the truth. Substituted for the firstborn males of all Israel whom Jehovah claimed as His when He saved Israel from the stroke on Egypt's firstborn; the Levites, 22,000; the firstborn males, 22,273; the odd 273 above were to be redeemed at five shekels each (Nu 3:45-51), the fixed price for redeeming a victim vowed in sacrifice (Nu 18:16; Le 27:6). The Levites' cattle were taken for the firstlings of Israel's cattle (compare Ex 13:12-13). The Levites marching from Sinai round the tabernacle were the heavenly King's royal guard; none else was to approach it on pain of death (Nu 1:51; 18:22; 4:3-30).

The priests occupied the eastern side of the tabernacle, inside Judah the leading camp; the Kohathites the southern side, inside Reuben; the Gershonites the western side, inside Ephraim; the Merarites the northern, inside Daniel The aggregate of Gershonites (Nu 3:22), Kohathites (Nu 3:28), and Merarites (Nu 3:34), is 22,300; but in the redemption 300 are deducted (probably the firstborn in Levi within the year that had elapsed since the command was issued, Nu 3:40-43), and 22,000 taken as substituted for Israel's male firstborn. Levi in this census was the fewest tribe in numbers, but in the other tribes servants not pure Israelites were enumerated, whereas in Levi only pure Israelites. The number of Israel's firstborn males (22,273) compared with the male adults (603,550) is disproportionately small, the proportion being usually one in four.

But the law of Ex 13:1-2, dedicated those alone who should be firstborn thenceforward (compare Exodus 2; Exodus 11-12; Nu 3:13; 8:17), for the duties of the firstborn referred to a ritual yet to be revealed, and the firstborn of cattle must mean those thereafter firstborn. Thus the proportion of firstborn sons in one year born of 2,000,000 of men is so large as can be explained only by the divine blessing, and the sudden development which the Exodus gave to the nation. The Levites stood midway between the people and the priesthood, which culminated in the high priest. They could not sacrifice, burn incense, or see the "holy things" until covered (Nu 4:15). Yet they came nearer than the people, and they alone struck the tent in marching, carried its parts, and pitched it again. Their work needed matured strength; so their service began not until 30 years old (with a previous probationary period of five years: Nu 8:24), whereas military service began at 20. At 50 their service ceased (Nu 8:25-26).

So, of 8,600 Kohathites, 2,750 were on duty, of 7,500 Gershonites 2,630, of 6,200 Merarites 3,200 (Numbers 4). The Kohathites held the highest office and bore the ark (except on solemn occasions when the priests bore it: Jos 3:3,15) and vessels, after the priest had covered them (Nu 4:15). The Gershonites bore the tent hangings and curtains; the Merarites the tabernacle boards, bars, and pillars; the Kohathites under Eleazar bore the vessels on their shoulders (Nu 7:9); the Gershonites and Merarites under Ithamar (Nu 4:28,33), because of their weighty charge, were allowed oxen and wagons. The Levites were Jehovah's and Israel's 1Ch 9:2; the Levites' subordinates) and "joined" (as Levi means) to the priests (Nu 3:9; 8:19; 18:2,4,6).

The Levites were purified for service with bathing, shaving, washing clothes, imposition of Israel' s hands, waving them as a wave offering to Jehovah (compare our gospel "living sacrifice," Ro 12:1) toward the four points of the compass, in token of entire consecration of all their powers; the Levite then laid hands on one bullock offered for a sin offering and another for a burnt offering. Korah's rebellion through seeking the priesthood was followed by a fresh defining of the Levites' office (Numbers 16; Nu 18:1-7). The Levites received a tithe or tenth of all produce, animal and vegetable, of which they had to pay the priests a tithe (Nu 18:20-32). A second tithe the Israelites used for the tabernacle feasts and free will offerings, and of this second tithe the Levites should receive a share (De 14:23,27), especially when ministering (De 18:7-8).

Forty-eight cities were appointed them (four on the average from each tribe), including the six cities of refuge and (of suburbs, meadow for their cattle) 1,000 cubits out from the city walls, each of the four sides being 2,000 cubits long. (See GEZER.) The phrase "the Levite that is within thy gates" is appropriate (De 14:27), for the Levites' cities did not cease to belong to the tribes within which they lay. Thus Levites are occasionally spoken of as belonging to other tribes, namely, those within whose territory they resided (1 De 8:6; Jg 17:7; 1Sa 1:1). Elkanah a Levite is called an "Ephrathite," "Heman the Ezrahite," i.e. from Zerah of Judah (title Psalm 88; Psalm 89). "The priests the Levites" on the peculiar use of Levites without distinction from the priests) were to determine controversies and to preserve the law in the side of the ark, and in the seventh year at the feast of tabernacles read it before Israel, and pronounce the curses from Ebal (De 17:9-12; 31:9-13,26; 27:14). (See DEUTERONOMY.)

The Hivite Gibeonites (Jos 9:27) and the Nethinim relieved the Levites of their more burdensome duties subsequently. (See NETHINIM.) Micah's consecration of the homeless Levite as his household priest implies a relapse in dark times to the original household priesthood. It was a Korahlike usurpation on the part of the Levite (Judges 17). Samuel the Levite, adopted into the priesthood, revived the divine order. The Levites were among his schools of the prophets, whose training consisted in praise, prayer, and study of the law. Hence enlarged views of acceptable worship appear in the Levite Asaph's Psalm 50. The ark after its restoration from the Philistines was in charge of Abinadab in the hill, or Gibeah, or Kirjath Jearim (1Sa 7:1; 2Sa 6:3), probably an old Canaanite highplace sanctuary. David's words (1Ch 15:2) imply that heretofore Levites had not been in charge of the ark, therefore that Abinadab was not a Levite possibly (?). "None ought. to carry the ark of God but the Levites, for them hath Jehovah chosen."

Saul's assumption of sacrificing, his slaughter of the priests at Nob and of the serving Gibeonites, imply his self-willed impatience of the prominence of the priest tribe. Accordingly, at Hebron, 4,600 Levites joined David, besides 3,700 priests (1Ch 12:26-27). He honoured them at his succession, and once even wore their robe (2Sa 6:14). The duties of the Levites are defined by him (1Ch 23:24-32), "to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of Jehovah," etc., "and to stand every morning to thank and praise Jehovah, and likewise at even, and to offer (i.e. assist the priests in offering) all burnt sacrifices," etc.

The Levites supplied "officers and judges" (1Ch 26:30), "in all the business of the Lord and the service of the king." Korah's sons of the Levites, headed by Heman, played upon psalteries and harps (1Ch 9:19,32); the Kohathites prepared the shewbread every sabbath; the Gershonites were headed by Asaph's son in the temple choir (1Ch 6:39,44; 15:17), the Merarites by Ethan or Jeduthun. The heavier work being no longer needed of transporting the tabernacle, and psa

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The tribe that descended from Levi, son of Jacob. When Moses came down from the mount and saw the golden calf which the people had made, he asked, "Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him." He bade them gird on their swords and slay every man his brother, his companion, and his neighbour. And there fell of the people that day about three thousand. Moses spoke of it as consecrating themselves to the Lord, every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that God might bestow a blessing upon them. Ex 32:26-29.

The Levites were chosen by God as a redemption for all the firstborn of Israel, which God claimed for Himself. They thus became wholly His, and they were given to Aaron to minister in all that pertained to the service of the tabernacle, except the priesthood, which was restricted to Aaron and his descendants. Nu 3:5-51.

Of the Levites there were three main branches: the GERSHONITES, the KOHATHITES, and the MERARITES. Moses and Aaron were descendants of Kohath. When the camp of Israel rested, this tribe surrounded the tabernacle. When it moved they had to carry its various parts and the sacred things belonging thereto. According to Nu 4:3, etc., the Levites appear to have commenced their tabernacle service at the age of thirty; but in Nu 8:24-26 the age is given as twenty-five. It may be that they spent the first five years on probation, learning their duties. When Israel had settled in Canaan and the labour of carrying the tabernacle was over, they commenced their service at the age of twenty. They laboured till they were fifty years of age. 1Ch 23:24-27.

Before the Levites entered upon any service they were thoroughly cleansed and consecrated. The children of Israel put their hands upon them, and Aaron offered them "before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel" that they might execute the service of the Lord. An atonement was made for them. Nu 8:5-26.

The Levites had no inheritance in the land, and in order that they might be free to serve the Lord, tithes were given them. Nu 18. Forty-eight cities were given to them as places to dwell in, and the suburbs thereof for their cattle. Six of these cities were to be CITIES OF REFUGE. Nu 35:1-8. The names of the cities are given in Jos 20:7-9; 21:1-42.

In the time of David the Levites were set over 'the service of song;' others were door-keepers: some were singers and others played on various instruments. 1Ch 6:31; 15:16,26. In the days of Hezekiah after the temple had been cleansed, the Levites apparently helped to flay the sacrifices, being found "more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests." 2Ch 29:34. At the Passover that followed, the Levites had the charge of killing the passover lambs for the people who were unclean. 2Ch 30:17. On the return from exile the Levites helped to explain the law to the people. Ne 8:7-8. In the N.T. the Levites are mentioned only in Lu 10:32; Joh 1:19; Ac 4:36.

The Levites are typical of Christians, who are redeemed, cleansed, and consecrated to the service of the Lord, and have no inheritance on earth.

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(descendants of Levi). Sometimes the name extends to the whole tribe, the priests included,

Ex 6:25; Le 25:32; Nu 35:2; Jos 21:3,41

etc; sometimes only to those members of the tribe who were not priests, and as distinguished from them. Sometimes again it is added as an epithet of the smaller portion of the tribe, and we read of "the priests the Levites."

Jos 3:3; Eze 44:15

The history of the tribe and of the functions attached to its several orders is essential to any right apprehension of the history of Israel as a people. It will fall naturally into four great periods:-- I. The time of the exodus. --There is no trace of the consecrated character of the Levites till the institution of a hereditary priesthood in the family of Aaron, during the first withdrawal of Moses to the solitude of Sinai.

Ex 24:1

The next extension of the idea of the priesthood grew out of the terrible crisis of Exod 32. The tribe stood forth separate and apart, recognizing even in this stern work the spiritual as higher than the natural. From this time they occupied a distinct position. The tribe of Levi was to take the place of that earlier priesthood of the first-born as representatives of the holiness of the people. At the time of their first consecration there were 22,000 of them, almost exactly the number of the first-born males in the whole nation. As the tabernacle was the sign of the presence among the people of their unseen King, so the Levites were, among the other tribes of Israel, as the royal guard that waited exclusively on him. It was obviously essential for their work as the bearers and guardians of the sacred tent that there should be a fixed assignment of duties; and now accordingly we meet with the first outlines of the organization which afterward became permanent. The division of the tribe into the three sections that traced their descent from the sons of Levi formed the groundwork of it. The work which they all had to do required a man's full strength, and therefore, though twenty was the starting-point for military service, Numb 1, they were not to enter on their active service till they were thirty.

Nu 4:23,30,35

At fifty they were to be free from all duties but those of superintendence.

Nu 8:25-26

(1) The Kohathites, as nearest of kin to the priests, held from the first the highest offices. They were to bear all the vessels of the sanctuary, the ark itself included.

Nu 3:31; 4:15; De 31:30

(2) the Gershonites had to carry the tent-hangings and curtains.

Nu 4:22-26

(3) The heavier burden of the boards, bars and pillars of the tabernacle fell on the sons of Merari. The Levites were to have no territorial possessions. In place of them they were to receive from the others the tithes of the produce of the land, from which they, in their turn, offered a tithe to the priests, as a recognition of their higher consecration.

Nu 18:21,24,26; Ne 10:37

Distinctness and diffusion were both to be secured by the assignment to the whole tribe of forty-eight cities, with an outlying "suburb,"

Nu 35:2

of meadowland for the pasturage of their flocks and herds. The reverence of the people for them was to be heightened by the selection of six of these as cities of refuge. Through the whole land the Levites were to take the place of the old household priests, sharing in all festivals and rejoicings.

De 12:19; 14:26-27; 26:11

Every third year they were to have an additional share in the produce of the land.

De 14:28; 26:12

To "the priests the Levites" was to belong the office of preserving, transcribing and interpreting the law.

De 17:9-12; 31:26

II. The period of the judges. --The successor of Moses, though belonging to another tribe, did all that could be done to make the duty above named a reality. The submission of the Gibeonites enabled him to relieve the tribe-divisions of Gershon and Merari of the most burdensome of their duties. The conquered Hivites became "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for the house of Jehovah and for the congregation.

Jos 9:27

As soon as the conquerors had advanced far enough to proceed to a partition of the country, the forty-eight cities were assigned to them. III. The monarchy. --When David's kingdom was established, there came a fuller organization of the whole tribe. Their position in relation to the priesthood was once again definitely recognized. In the worship of the tabernacle under David, as afterward in that of the temple, the Levites were the gatekeepers, vergers, sacristans, choristers, of the central sanctuary of the nation. They were, in the language of

1Ch 23:24-32

to which we may refer as almost the locus classicus on this subject, "to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of Jehovah, in the courts, and the chambers, and the purifying of all holy things." They were, besides this, "to stand every morning to thank and praise Jehovah, and likewise at even." They were, lastly, "to offer" --i.e. to assist the priest in offering-- "all burnt sacrifices to Jehovah in the sabbaths and on the set feasts." They lived for the greater part of the year in their own cities, and came up at fixed periods to take their turn of work.

1-Chronicles/25/1'>1Ch 25:1,1; 26:1

... The educational work which the Levites received for their peculiar duties, no less than their connection, more or less intimate, with the schools of the prophets, would tend to make them the teachers of the others, the transcribers and interpreters of the law, the chroniclers of the times in which they lived. (Thus they became to the Israelites what ministers and teachers are to the people now, and this teaching and training the people in morality and religion was no doubt one of the chief reasons why they were set apart by God from the people, and yet among the people. --ED.) The revolt of the ten tribes, and the policy pursued by Jeroboam, who wished to make the priests the creatures and instruments of the king, and to establish a provincial and divided worship, caused them to leave the cities assigned to them in the territory of Israel, and gather round the metropolis of Judah.

2Ch 11:13-14

In the kingdom of Judah they were, from this time forward, a powerful body, politically as well as ecclesiastically. IV. After the captivity. --During the period that followed the captivity of the Levites contributed to the formation of the so-called Great Synagogue. They, with the priests, formed the majority of the permanent Sanhedrin, and as such had a large share in the administration of justice even in capital cases. They appear but seldom in the history of the New Testament.

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LEVITES. Under this name may be comprised all the descendants of Levi; but it principally denotes those who were employed in the lowest ministries of the temple, by which they were distinguished from the priests, who, being descended from Aaron, were likewise of the race of Levi by Kohath, but were employed in higher offices. The Levites were descendants of Levi, by Gershom, Kohath, and Merari, excepting the family of Aaron; for the children of Moses had no part in the priesthood, and were only common Levites. God chose the Levites instead of the first-born of all Israel, for the service of his tabernacle and temple, Nu 3:6, &c. They obeyed the priests in the ministrations of the temple, and brought to them wood, water, and other things necessary for the sacrifices. They sung and played on instruments, in the temple, &c; they studied the law, and were the ordinary judges of the country, but subordinate to the priests. God provided for the subsistence of the Levites, by giving them the tithe of corn, fruit, and cattle; but they paid to the priests the tenth of their tithes; and as the Levites possessed no estates in the land, the tithes which the priests received from them were looked upon as the first-fruits which they were to offer to the Lord, Nu 18:21-24. God assigned them for their habitations forty-eight cities, with fields, pastures, and gardens, Numbers 35. Of these thirteen were given to the priests, six of which were cities of refuge, Jos 20:7; 21:19-20, &c. While the Levites were actually employed in the temple, they were subsisted out of the provisions in store there, and out of the daily offerings there made; and if any Levite quitted the place of his abode, to serve the temple, even out of the time of his half-yearly or weekly waiting, he was received there, kept and provided for, in like manner as his other brethren, who were regularly in waiting, De 18:6-8. The consecration of Levites was without much ceremony. They wore no particular habit to distinguish them from the other Israelites, and God ordained nothing particularly for their mourning, 2Ch 29:34. The manner of their consecration may be seen in Nu 8:5-7, &c.

Josephus says, that in the reign of Agrippa, king of the Jews, about A.D. 62, six years before the destruction of the temple by the Romans, the Levites desired permission from that prince to wear the linen tunic like the priests; and this was granted. This innovation was displeasing to the priests; and the Jewish historian remarks, that the ancient customs of the country were never forsaken with impunity. He adds, that Agrippa permitted likewise the families of the Levites, whose duty it was to guard the doors, and perform other troublesome offices, to learn to sing and play on instruments, that they might be qualified for the temple service as musicians. The Levites were divided into different classes: Gershonites, Kohathites, Merarites, and Aaronites or priests, Numbers 3, &c. The Gershonites, whose number was seven thousand five hundred, were employed in the marches through the wilderness in carrying the veils and curtains of the tabernacle; the Kohathites, whose number was eight thousand six hundred, in carrying the ark and sacred vessels of the tabernacle; the Merarites, whose number was six thousand two hundred, in carrying the several pieces of the tabernacle which could not be placed upon the chariots; and the Aaronites were the priests who served the sanctuary. When the Hebrews encamped in the wilderness, the Levites were placed around the tabernacle; Moses and Aaron at the east, Gershon at the west, Kohath at the south, and Merari at the north. Moses ordained that the Levites should not begin in the service of the tabernacle till they were five-and-twenty years of age, Nu 8:24-26; or, as he says elsewhere, from thirty to fifty years old, Nu 4:3. But David, finding that they were no longer employed in these grosser offices of transporting the vessels of the tabernacle, appointed them to enter on service at the temple at twenty years of age. The priests and Levites waited by turns, weekly, in the temple. They began their weeks on one Sabbath day, and on the Sabbath day in the following week went out of waiting, 1Ch 23:24; 2Ch 21:17; Ezr 3:8. When an Israelite made a religious entertainment in the temple, God required that the Levites should be invited to it, De 12:18-19.

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