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Israel map from 1695

Twelve tribes of Israel

The Levites , named after their progenitor Levi ( Hebrew לֵוִי), are one of the twelve tribes of Israel , which according to the Tanakh or the Old Testament descended from the sons of Jacob .

Biblical basis

In the 1st book of Moses Levi is the third son of Leah and Jacob ( Gen 29,34  LUT ). According to Deut 18 : 1-8 LUT, his descendants were chosen to  serve in the temple for all Israelites alone . As the only one of the tribes of Israel they received no land ownership, instead they were entitled to the temple dues . In Num 1,49–50  LUT it says:

“Only you should not scrutinize the tribe of Levi and you should not take up their sum among the sons of Israel, but appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony and over all its equipment and over everything that belongs to it! They are to carry the apartment and all its equipment, and they are to operate it and lie down around the apartment. "

Since they had killed all the men of the city of Shechem together with the tribe of Simeon ( Gen 34  EU ), the Levites were not blessed by Jacob before his death, but they were announced that they would be dispersed:

“The brothers Simeon and Levi; their swords are murderous weapons. My soul should not be in their council, and my heart should not be in their assembly; for in their anger they murdered men, and in their willfulness they paralyzed bulls. Cursed be their anger that it is so violent, and their anger that it is so cruel. I will scatter them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. "

The Levites traditionally stand behind the Kohanim , assist them and take over temple services or organizational tasks. Basically, if the Kohen fails as a rabbi, a Levite steps in.

Since, as a result of diaspora, cultural changes, but also expulsions, conversions into other religions have taken place, there are variations of the name.

Rabbinical tradition

For the Levites, who to this day exist as a separate group in religious Judaism, a number of special laws and regulations apply, of which only a few are applicable during the current absence of the Jerusalem Temple :

So the Levites have priority over other Jews when reading the Torah . Today they often have the surname Levi or Levy or Halevi or Halevy. The first name Levi, on the other hand, is quite common among all Jews and does not indicate that they belong to the Levites. In the temple, the Levites were responsible, among other things, for observing the rules in the 3rd book of Moses , which is therefore called Leviticus in Latin .

Direct service at the altar was performed only by a subgroup of the Levites, the Kohanim ; these are considered direct descendants of Aaron , who was himself a Levite. The expression “Levites” today usually only refers to those who are not Kohanim. The family names Kohen, Kohn, Kahn, Kahane, Katz, Kagan , Kogan, Cohn , Cohen , Cahn or the like indicate that they belong to the Kohanim . The Kohanim again have priority over the other Levites when reading the Torah, they speak a special blessing in the synagogue, and special marriage and purity regulations apply to them. For example, according to religious law, which is also applicable as state law in Israel, they may not marry a non-Jew, convert or divorced woman, but only a Jewish-born virgin.

Leviticism is hereditary in the male line and can neither be discarded nor acquired; in particular, converts do not belong to these groups. The office of rabbi is completely separate from this, it is not hereditary and can be exercised by any Jew who has received the appropriate training and ordination.

In Liberal Judaism , the distinction between priests, Levites and other Jews has been abandoned today.

Roman Catholic Church

As Levites in were Roman Rite of the Catholic Church before the second Vatican Council the deacon and sub-deacon called when the priests at the solemn Holy Mass in the form of a high office ( " Levites Office assisted"). In particular, the Levites preached the epistle and the gospel . Levite offices are still held today in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite .


In the Middle Ages , the 26th chapter of the 3rd book of Moses, which is also called Leviticus, was often used as the basis for Christian sermons ; The phrase reading the riot act comes from this period . (see Lev 26,14-39  LUT )

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gen 49: 5-7  LUT