The Levite cantor Heman the Kohathite (1 Chr 6:33-6:38)

“These are the men who served the temple and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites there was Heman the singer, son of Joel, son of Samuel, son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah, son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai, son of Elkanah, son of Joel, son of Azariah, son of Zephaniah, son of Tahath, son of Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, son of Israel.”

This is really a passage about one person, Heman, the singer, who then traced his lineage right back to Israel in 22 generations, via (1) Levi, (2) Kohath, (3) Izhar, (4) Korah, (5) Ebiasaph, (6) Assir, (7) Tahath, (8) Zephaniah, (9) Azariah, (10) Joel, (11) Elkanah, (12) Amasai, (13) Mahath, (14) Elkanah, (15) Zuph, (16) Toah, (17) Eliel, (18) Jeroham, (19) Elkanah, (20) Samuel, (21) Joel and then himself (22) Heman. Heman is called a singer and not a musician. The names are pretty much the same as earlier in this chapter, but there are a few different names here compared to the earlier genealogy. Heman is clearly the grandson of the prophet Samuel via Joel. Instead of Eliab it is now Eliel which is the name of 9 different people in the biblical literature. Nahath has become Toah, but this is the only time that this name appears. Zophai has become Zuph, which is also a place. Mahath has been added since there is one other person beside this one. Amminadab has become Izhar. Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul have been dropped. Otherwise it is the same.

The sons of Levi (1 Chr 6:16-6:16)

“The sons of Levi were Gershom, Kohath, and Merari.”

This is an exact repetition of the sons of Levi as mentioned earlier in this chapter, Genesis, chapter 46, Exodus, chapter 3, and Numbers, chapter 3. There is no confusion about these names. Levi (the Levites) had 3 sons, (1) Gershom (Gershonites), (2) Kohath (Kohathites), and (3) Merari (the Merarites). We know nothing about their mother since nothing was written about any of the wives of Levi. However, we do know that his mother was Leah and his father Jacob. He had five blood brothers, Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.   He also had 6 other step brothers from different mothers but the same father, Jacob. Somehow his family will become the priests of Yahweh, even though in his own life as portrayed in Genesis, chapter 34, there is nothing to indicate any concern for the worship of Yahweh. Instead he is seen as a violent man with a temper. He and his brother Reuben killed every man in the city of Shechem for the violation of their sister after an arrangement had been made.

The sons of Levi (1 Chr 6:1-6:1)

“The sons of Levi were Gershom, Kohath, and Merari.”

Here are the 3 sons of Levi as mentioned in Genesis, chapter 46, Exodus, chapter 3, and Numbers, chapter 3, so there is no confusion about these name. Levi (the Levites) had 3 sons, Gershom (Gershonites), Kohath (Kohathites), and Merari (the Merarites). We know nothing about their mother since nothing was written about any of the wives of Levi. However, we do know that his mother was Leah and father Jacob. He had five blood brothers, Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Somehow his family will become the priests of Yahweh, even though in his own life as portrayed in Genesis, chapter 34, there is nothing to indicate any concern for the worship of Yahweh. Instead he is portrayed as a violent man with a temper. Levi and his brother Reuben killed every man in the city of Shechem for the violation of their sister after an arrangement of peace had been made. Here there is a little confusion in the text, since the Bible of Jerusalem has this section as the last part of chapter 5. However the Oxford Bible has this as the beginning of chapter 6, which I will follow. They both sync up with the beginning of chapter 7.

Census of the Levites (Num 3:14-3:39)

“Then Yahweh spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai.  ‘Enroll the Levites by ancestral houses and by clams.  You shall enroll every male from a month old and upward.’   So Moses enrolled them according to the word of Yahweh as he was commanded.  The following were the sons of Levi, by their names: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.   These are the names of the sons of Gershon by their clans: Libni and Shimei.  The sons of Kohath by their clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.   The sons of Merari by their clans: Mahli and Mushi.  These are the clans of the Levites, by their ancestral houses.

Now Yahweh asks Moses to take a special census of the Levites.  The three sons of Levi with their sons were already listed in Exodus, chapter 6:

1) Gershon – Libni and Shimei;

2) Kohath – Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel;

3) Merari – Mali and Mushi.

“To Gershon belonged the clan of the Libnites and the clan of the Shimeites.  These were the clans of the Gershonites.  Their enrollment, counting all the males from a month old and upward was seven thousand five hundred.  The clans of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, with Eliasaph son of Lael as head of the ancestral house of the Gershonites.  The responsibility of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting was to be the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the hangings of the court, the screen for the entrance of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords.  This includes all the service pertaining to these.”

There were two clans of Gershon: the Libnites and the Shimeites.  This census counted any male above the age of one month old so that there were 7,500 in this group. The Gershonites camped behind the tabernacle on the west side.  Eliasaph son of Lael was head of the ancestral house of the Gershonites. They were in charge of:

1)      The tabernacle;

2)      The tent and its covering;

3)      The screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting;

4)      The hangings of the court;

5)      The screen for entrance of the court;

6)      The cords;

7)      All the service pertaining to these items.

“To Kohath belonged the clan of the Amramites, the clan of the Izharites, the clan of the Hebronites, and the clan of the Uzzielites.  These are the clans of the Kohathites.   Counting all the males from a month old and upward, there were eight thousand six hundred, attending to the duties of the sanctuary.  The clans of the Kohathites were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, with Elizaphan son of Uzziel as head of the ancestral house of the Kohathites.  Their responsibility was to be the ark, the table, the lamp stand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen.  This includes all the service pertaining to these.  Eleazar son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the leaders of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who had charge of the sanctuary.”

There were four clans of Kohath: the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites, and the Uzzielites that totaled 8,600 men over one month old. The Kohathites camped on the south side of the tabernacle.  Elizaphan, son of Uzziel was the head of the ancestral house of the Kohathites.  However, Eleazar, son of Aaron, was the chief of the leaders of the Levites and in charge of the sanctuary, over his cousin Elizaphan. According to Exodus, chapter 6, Aaron and Moses were the sons of Amram, so that the other sons of Kohath would have been their uncles.  This group was in charge of:

1)      The ark;

2)      The table;

3)      The lamp stand;

4)      The altars;

5)      The vessels of the sanctuary;

6)      And the screen;

7)      All the service pertaining to these items.

To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites.  These are the families of Merari.   Their enrollment, counting all the males from a month old and upward was six thousand two hundred.  The head of the ancestral house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel son of Abihail.  They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle.  The responsibility assigned to the sons of Merari was to be about the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories.  This includes all the service pertaining to these.  They were also responsible for the pillars of the court all around, with their bases, pegs, and cords.”

There were two clans of Merari: the Mahlites and the Mushites.  This census counted any male above the age of one month old.  There were 6,200 in this group.  The Merarites camped on the north side of the tabernacle.  Zuriel son of Abihail was in charge of the Merarites who were in charge of:

1)      The frames of the tabernacle;

2)      The bars;

3)      The pillars;

4)      The bases;

5)      All the accessories;

6)      The pillars of the court;

7)      Bases, pegs, and cords;

8)      All the service pertaining to these items.

“Those who were to camp in front of the tabernacle on the east, that is in front of the tent of meeting toward the east,  were Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons.  They were in charge of the rites within the sanctuary, whatever had to be done for the Israelites.  Any outsider who came near was to be put to death.  The total enrollment of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron enrolled at the commandment of Yahweh by their clans, all the males from a month old and upward, was twenty-two thousand.”

On the east side, or the front of the tabernacle, Moses, Aaron, and his sons camped since they were in charge of the rites within the sanctuary.  In total, there were 22,000 Levites right around the meeting tent.

The genealogy of Moses and Aaron (Ex 6:14–6:27)

“The following are the heads of their ancestral houses.  The sons of Reuben, the first-born of Israel were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.  These are the families of Reuben.  The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman.  These are the families of Simeon.”

In this genealogy the names of Reuben and Simeon and their children are the same as Genesis chapter 46, but the other ten sons of Jacob are omitted except for Levi, who has a more explicit genealogy.  Levi was the third son of Jacob, while Reuben and Simeon were the two oldest sons..

The following are the names of the sons of Levi according to their genealogies Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  The length of Levi’s life was one hundred thirty-seven years.  The sons of Gershon were Libni and Shimei, by their families.  The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.  The length of Kohath’s life was one hundred thirty-three years.  The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi.”

The three sons of Levi were (1) Gershon, (2) Kohath, and (3) Merari, the same as mentioned in Genesis, chapter 46.  Gershon had two sons named (1) Libni and (2) Shimei.  This is the only mention of Libni but there are a lot of biblical characters named Shimei.  Kohath had four sons named (1) Amram, (2) Izhar, (3) Hebron, and (4) Uzziel.  Amram will be the father of Moses.  Izhar was then the uncle of Moses and a clan developed named the Izeharites.  Hebron’s family became known as the Hebronites.  Uzziel’s descendants are called Uzzielites.  There are other biblical characters with the same name.  Merari had two sons named (1) Mahli and (2) Mushi. Mahli’s family becomes known as the Mahlites.  Mushi’s sons were called Mushites.  Levi lived to be 137 years old.  Kohath lived to be 133 years old, but there is no indication of how long the other two sons lived.

“These are the families of the Levites according to their genealogies.  Amram married Jochebed his father’s sister and she bore him Aaron and Moses.  The length of Amram’s life was one hundred thirty-seven years.”  

Amram, the son of Kohath and grandson of Levi, married Jochebed, his father’s sister and thus his aunt.  He lived 137 years.  He had two important sons Aaron and Moses as well as a daughter named Miriam.  The most interesting character is Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who married Amram, her nephew.  Jochebed is an odd character since she is the mother of Moses and Aaron, as well as the daughter of Levi, which means very little time passed between Joseph and Moses.  However, the earlier passages seem to indicate a long lag time because no one remembered Joseph.  Surely Jochebed would have remembered her uncle Joseph.  In the earlier passage about the birth of Moses in chapter 2, her name never comes up, just the descriptive ‘mother of the child.’   The same is true of Moses’ sister Miriam, who is also nameless in this earlier passage.  Many rabbis have tried to interpret Jochebed as a cousin of Kohath, rather than his sister, but the translation texts, both English and French, speak of her as a sister of Kohath and therefore the aunt of Amram.  Not too many people marry their aunts so that Moses and Aaron’s mom was also their great aunt.

“The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri.  The sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri.”  

Now we have a more detailed list of the generations, especially Kohath’s family.  Iszhar had 3 sons named Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri, but the only further mention is that of Korah.  Although a common biblical name, this Korah will have a fight with his cousin Moses in the desert.  His family is called the Korahites. There is no mention of Hebron’s family, only Amram, Izhar and Uzziel. Uzziel had 3 sons Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri.  Nepheg, Zichri, Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri do not seem to play any important biblical roles.

“Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon.  She bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.  The sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph.  These are the families of the Korahites.  Aaron’s son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel.  She bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the ancestral houses of the Levites by their families.”

Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon and had four sons (1) Nadab, (2) Abihu, (3) Eleazar, and (4) Ithamar.  This is the only mention of Elisheba.  Her brother Nahshon will have a more important role to play in the Exodus since he is the bother-in-law of Aaron.  Nadab and Abihu will meet a very violent death in the desert journey.  Only Eleazar is mentioned as marring the daughter of Putiel and they had a son called Phinehas.  He will become more important as his two older brothers died childless.  For some reason the high priest will pass through Ithamar.  Korah also had three sons named Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph, who do not have any major biblical roles.  There is no mention of Moses, his wife or children.

“It was the same Aaron and Moses to whom Yahweh said: ‘Bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, company by company.  It was they who spoke to Pharaoh King of Egypt to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, the same Moses and this Aaron.”

This genealogy does not have a long time span.  We get from Levi, brother of Joseph, who was the violent one, to Moses and Aaron in three generations, so that Levi was the grandfather of Moses and Aaron on his mother’s side.  Moses’ father would have married his aunt, Jochebed, who would be older since she was the daughter of Levi.  These marriages always seem to be with close relatives, but this one is really odd.  There is no mention of Moses’ sister either.