The Life of Jesus in Harmony
LE'VITES (Heb. benelewi, "sons of Levi," or simply lewi, "Levites"). A title
that, besides denoting all the descendants of Levi (Ex 6:25; Lev 25:32; Josh
21:3,41, is also the distinctive title of that portion of the tribe that was set
apart for the service of the sanctuary and subordinate to the priests (Num 8:6;
Ezra 2:70; Jn 1:19; etc.).
After the Captivity. After the captivity the Levites
cherished the traditions and maintained the practices of their tribe. It is
noticeable that, in the first body of returning exiles, they were present in a
noticably small number (Ezra 2:36-42). Those who did come were blessed in the
foundation and dedication of the second temple (3:10; 6:18). In the next movement
under Ezra none of them presented themselves at the first great gathering
The special efforts of Ezra did not succeed in bringing together more than
thirty-eight, and their places had to be filled by two hundred and twenty of the
Nethinim (v. 20). Those who returned with him resumed their functions at the
feast of tabernacles as teachers and interpreters (Neh 8:7), and those who were
most active in that work were foremost also in chanting the hymnlike prayer which
appears in ch. 9 as the last great effort of Jewish psalmody.
The two prophets who were active at the time of the return, Haggai and
Zechariah, if they did not belong to the tribe, helped it forward in the work of
restoration. The strongest measures were adopted by Nehemiah, as before by Ezra, to
guard the purity of their blood from the contamination of mixed marriages (Ezra
10:23); and they are made the special guardians of the holiness of the Sabbath
The last prophet
of the Old Testament sees, as part of his vision of the latter days, the time
when the Lord 'shall purify the sons of Levi' (Mal 3:3).
In the New Testament. The Levites appear but seldom in the history of the NT.
Where we meet with their names it is as the type of a formal, heartless
worship, without sympathy and without love (Lk 10:32). The mention of a Levite at
Cyprus in (Acts 4:36) shows that the changes of the previous century had carried
that tribe also into "the Dispersion among the Greeks."