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Generally, those belonging to the tribe of Levi, although in some passages, “Levite” seems to be a description of function rather than a tribal name (e.g., a Levite who belonged to the tribe of Judah is mentioned in (Judg 17:7). In any case, wherever the Levites appear they are priests, whose function was not only to sacrifice, but also to transmit and administer the divine law (Deut 17:18; Deut 33:10). In Deuteronomy, they make up the whole priesthood and live in various towns in the country, perhaps in special levitical cities (Josh 21:1-42). In the Temple period, however, it seems that the Jerusalem authorities did not accept Levites as true priests and they were reduced to a subordinate position in the cultic staff (2Kgs 23:8-9; Ezek 44:10-14). In the postexilic period, their high position and the importance of their duties is once again emphasized, especially in 1 and 2 Chronicles (1Chr 15:11-15; 1Chr 16:4-37; 2Chr 29:34). Two collections of psalms in the Psalter are attributed to groups into which the Levites were divided, Asaph (Ps 50, Ps 70-83) and Korah (Ps 42-49). They also retained their ancient functions of administering the law (1Chr 23:4; 2Chr 19:8-11) and of teaching it to the people (2Chr 17:7-9; 2Chr 35:3). The Levites retained their high status in the NT period, as (Luke 10:32) assumes.

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.