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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Kohath, Kohathites

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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 Judges 17:7-8; Judges 17:13 ). 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 P [Note: 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 ( Genesis 46:11 , Exodus 6:16 , Num 3:17 , 1 Chronicles 6:1; 1 Chronicles 6:16; 1 Chronicles 23:6 ). The second division is described either as ‘the Kohathites’ ( Numbers 3:27; Numbers 3:30; Numbers 4:18; Numbers 4:34; Numbers 4:37; Numbers 10:21; Numbers 26:57 , Joshua 21:4; Jos 21:11 , 1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 6:54; 1Ch 9:32 , 2 Chronicles 20:18; 2 Chronicles 29:12 ) or ‘ the sons of Kohath ’ ( Exodus 6:18 , Numbers 3:19; Numbers 3:29; Numbers 4:2; Numbers 4:4; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9 , Joshua 21:5; Joshua 21:20; Jos 21:26 , 1 Chronicles 6:2; 1 Chronicles 6:18; 1Ch 6:22; 1 Chronicles 6:61; 1 Chronicles 6:66; 1Ch 6:70; 1 Chronicles 15:5; 1 Chronicles 23:12 ). These were subdivided into four groups, the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites ( Numbers 3:27 ), each being traced to a son of Kohath ( Exodus 6:18 , Numbers 3:19 , 1Ch 6:2; 1 Chronicles 6:18; 1 Chronicles 23:12 ). From these families fragments of genealogies remain. Amram is of peculiar importance, because his children were Aaron and Moses ( Exodus 6:20 , 1 Chronicles 23:13-17 ); and Korah, a son of Izhar, was notorious in priestly tradition ( Numbers 16:1-50 ). 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 (1 Chronicles 9:10; 1 Chronicles 9:8 f., Ezra 2:42 , Nehemiah 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 1 Chronicles 9:19 . (1) During the desert wanderings the Kohathites were on the south side of the Tent ( Numbers 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 Aaron and his sons ( Numbers 3:31 , Numbers 4:4-18 , Numbers 10:21 ); they were privileged to carry their burden upon their shoulders ( Numbers 7:9 ), instead of in waggons, as the Gershonites and Merarites; they were superintended by Eleazar, Aaron’s son ( Numbers 4:16 ). (2) After the settlement in Palestine, 23 cities were assigned to them ( Joshua 21:4 f., Joshua 21:18-26 = 1 Chronicles 6:57-61; 1 Chronicles 6:67-70 ). (3) In David’s reign the Chronicler relates that the Temple music was managed partly by Heman, a Kohathite, and his family ( 1 Chronicles 6:31-38; 1Ch 16:41 f., 1 Chronicles 25:1; 1 Chronicles 25:4-5; 1 Chronicles 25:13; 1 Chronicles 25:16; 1 Chronicles 25:18; 1 Chronicles 25:20; 1 Chronicles 25:22 f., 1 Chronicles 15:25-29; and see 1Ch 15:8; 1 Chronicles 15:8-10; 1 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Chronicles 15:19 ). David divided the Levites into courses ‘according to the sons of Levi’ ( 1 Chronicles 23:6; Kohathites 1 Chronicles 23:12-20; 1 Chronicles 24:20-25 ); and particular offices of Kohathites are stated in 1 Chronicles 26:1-9; 1 Chronicles 26:12-15; 1 Chronicles 26:17-19; 1 Chronicles 26:23-31 . (4) Under Jehoshaphat they led the song of praise at the battle of En-gedi ( 2 Chronicles 20:19 ). (5) Under Hezekiah they took part in the cleansing of the Temple ( 2 Chronicles 29:12; 2 Chronicles 29:14 ).

A. H. M‘Neile.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Kohath, Kohathites'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/k/kohath-kohathites.html. 1909.

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