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The Kohathites were one of the four main divisions among the Levites in Biblical times, the other three being the Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Aaronites. The Bible claims that the Kohathites were all descended from the eponymous Kohath, a son of Levi,[1].

The Bible ascribes a specific religious function to the Kohathites, namely care of the vessels and objects within the sanctuary - the Ark of the Covenant, Menorah, Table of Shewbread, etc.[2]

According to the Book of Joshua, rather than possessing a continuous territory, the Kohathites possessed several cities scattered throughout the geographic region in the Kingdom of Israel south of the Jezreel Valley, and in the region north of the Galilee, the latter being an extremely large distance apart from the former:[3]

The narrative in Joshua argues that the territory was taken by the Levites right after Joshua's conquest of Canaan, but some scholars believe this cannot be correct, as it is contradicted not only by archaeological evidence, but also by narratives in the Book of Judges, Books of Samuel, and Books of Kings;[3][4] Gezer, for example, is portrayed in the narrative of the Book of Kings as only coming into the possession of the Levites during the reign of Solomon,[5] and archaeological excavation of the site has shown that shortly prior to the Babylonian captivity it was still the site of a large temple to the Canaanite deity Astarte. However, a close reading of the book of Judges reveals that the Canaanite peoples conquered by the invading Israelite tribes were often not completely subdued. The disputed territory is sometimes assigned to an individual or tribe before any conquest was undertaken (e.g., Caleb's inheritance in Joshua 14). A major theme of the book of Judges is that the disorder portrayed in the book is a direct consequence of Israel lacking the will to finish the job of conquest, allowing their enemies to dwell in their midst.[6]

Some scholars have other views.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Numbers 3:21
  2. ^ Numbers 3:31-32
  3. ^ a b Joshua 21:20-26
  4. ^ Israel Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed
  5. ^ 1 Kings 9:16
  6. ^ "Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, January 1903"
  7. ^ Peake's Commentary on the bible
  8. ^ Aaronids

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Levi, Tribe of" . The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Kohathites" . Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.