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Holman Bible Dictionary
The tribe of Levi included at least three separate families: Gershon, Kohath and Merari (with the families of Moses and Aaron being treated somewhat separately from the rest of the tribe of Gershon). During the wilderness journey they were in charge of taking the tabernacle down, transporting it, setting it up and conducting worship at the tent where God dwelt (Numbers 1:47-54; Numbers 3:14-39 ). In some passages (Deuteronomy 17:9 ,Deuteronomy 17:9,17:18; Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 24:8 ), the terms priest and Levite (or Levitical priests) seem identical, but in Exodus 28:1 and Levitcus 8–10 it is clear that only the family of Aaron fulfilled the priestly duties of offering sacrifices in the tabernacle. Because there appears to be a different way of handling the relationship between the priests and the Levites in these texts, interpreters differ in the way they understand the Levites. Although it is possible that the role of the Levites changed or that the distinction between the priests and Levites was not maintained in each period with equal strictness, the interpretation which maintains a general distinction between the priests and Levites seem to fit most texts.
The Levites were consecrated to God and given by God as a gift to Israel in order that they might perform the duties at the tabernacle (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 8:1 ). Their work made it possible for the people to come to the tabernacle and offer sacrifices for the atonement of sins. The Levites assisted the priests in their responsibilities (Numbers 3:5-9; Numbers 16:9 ) by preparing grain offerings and the show bread, by purifying all the holy instruments used in the Temple, by singing praises to the Lord at the time of the morning and evening offerings, by assisting the priests with burnt offerings on sabbaths and feast days, and by being in charge of the Temple precinct and the chambers of the priests (1 Chronicles 6:31-48; 1Chronicles 23:1-13,1 Chronicles 23:24-32; 1 Chronicles 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 29:12-19 ). Because of their work, the holiness of the Temple was maintained; and the glory of the Lord dwelt among Israel. During David's reign, the Levites were integrated into the administration of the government, including the keeping of the gates, judges, craftsmen, musicians, and overseers of the royal treasury (1 Chronicles 9:22-28; 1 Chronicles 23-26 ) In Jehoshaphat's time the Levites were involved with teaching the people the word of God (2 Chronicles 17:7-9 ). This responsibility probably continued into the postexilic period of Ezra (Nehemiah 8:9-12 ).
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Levites'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/l/levites.html. 1991.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13