A photo showcasing a Levite priest dressed in traditional garments, holding sacred scriptures, symbolizing their role as intermediaries between God and the Israelites in the Bible.

The Important Role Of The Levites In The Bible

The tribe of Levi and the Levites are mentioned frequently throughout the Bible, playing crucial roles in the Israelite religious system.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Levites were assistants to the priests and served various religious functions in the Tabernacle and temple.

They helped transport the tabernacle during the Exodus, assisted the priests with sacrifices, taught the law, cared for the tabernacle furnishings, provided temple music, and served as gatekeepers and judges.

In this comprehensive article, we will comprehensively examine the origins and critical duties of the Levites, analyzing relevant biblical passages to understand their vital purpose among the 12 tribes of Israel.

The Heritage and Status of the Levites

The Descendants of Levi

The Levites were descendants of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob (later renamed Israel). Levi had three sons – Gershon, Kohath and Merari – who became the founders of the Levite clans (Exodus 6:16-19).

The Levites formed one of the twelve tribes of Israel, but they were unique in that they were set apart for special religious duties under God’s service.

When the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness after the Exodus, the Levites took charge of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, carrying them from place to place as the people traveled.

They assisted the priests descended from Aaron (who was descended from Levi’s son Kohath) during offerings and sacrifices.

Once the people settled in Canaan, the Levites were assigned cities and suburbs scattered throughout Israel where they lived (Numbers 35:1-8).

Consecration and Divine Service

The Levites went through a special consecration ceremony to purification and ordain them for divine service (Numbers 8:5-22).

As part of this rite, they shaved off all their hair and washed their clothes. Then the leaders of the Israelites laid hands on them to designate them officially.

Afterward, they served as intermediaries between God and the Israelite community.

The Kohathites guarded and transported the Ark of the Covenant and other sacred objects (Numbers 4:4-15).

The Gershonites were responsible for the tabernacle tent curtains, while the Merarites transported the structural framework (Numbers 4:21-33).

Later, when Solomon’s temple was built, the Levites took on duties like music and guarding the temple treasury (1 Chronicles 26:20-28). They taught the law of God in the surrounding towns (2 Chronicles 17:8-9) and aided the priests (2 Chronicles 29:34).

Living off Tithes Instead of Inheritance

As compensation for their full-time temple service, the Levites were allowed to collect a tenth (tithe) of various goods from the other Israelites (Leviticus 27:30-33).

This replaced any territorial inheritance they would have otherwise received when the land was divided up among tribes.

Accepting tithes was their “inheritance among the sons of Israel” (Numbers 18:21-24). The Levites would then present a tenth of these offerings as an offering to God (Numbers 18:26-28).

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Roles and Responsibilities

Transporting the Tabernacle

When the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, the Levites were tasked with the crucial job of transporting the tabernacle and all its furnishings (Numbers 1:47-53).

They carried the framework, coverings, curtains, and vessels of the tabernacle anytime the nation moved locations.

This prevented the holy objects from being mishandled and protected the sanctity of God’s dwelling place.

The Kohathites specifically were responsible for carrying the most sacred artifacts – the ark of the covenant, table of showbread, lampstand, altars, and articles of the sanctuary (Numbers 3:27-32).

Assisting the Priests

In addition to moving the tabernacle, the Levites aided the priests in their temple and tabernacle duties.

They presented offerings, kept fire burning on the altar, prepared the showbread, mixed ointments, officiated over ritual cleanings, and maintained the facilities (1 Chronicles 23:24-32; Numbers 3:5-9).

The Levites served as minor clergy – handling the basic tasks so the priests could focus on more specialized ritual services and duties.

Providing Temple Music

Talented Levite singers and musicians had an essential function in Israel’s system of worship (1 Chronicles 15:16-24).

When the ark of the covenant entered Jerusalem and later when the temple was dedicated, Levite musicians praised God in song with lyres, harps and cymbals.

The Bible records 4,000 Levites dedicated just to providing music in the temple ceremonies (1 Chronicles 23:5). King David organized these Levite musicians and appointed directors over them (1 Chronicles 25).

Teaching and Interpreting the Law

As ministers of God, the Levites also taught the law of Moses to the people (Deuteronomy 33:8-11). Levites would preserve the law, copy Scripture texts, promote obedience to the covenant among Israelites, and settle disputes regarding the Torah.

Ezra the scribe stands out as a learned priest “skilled in the law of Moses” who led Israel in spiritual revival and reformation (Ezra 7:1-10). Levites like Ezra provided expert interpretation and application of God’s law in their communities.

Guarding the Tabernacle and Temple

Guarding the sanctuary was another vital job assigned to certain Levite clans. When encamped around the tabernacle or settled in Jerusalem, Moses stationed Levites as sentries to prevent unauthorized approach to the holy areas (Numbers 1:53).

Gatekeepers specifically monitored entryways and secured the temple compound perimeter (1 Chronicles 26:1-19).

They searched containers, contributed to pest control, and even assisted with financial accounting for gifts given to the Lord’s house (2 Chronicles 31:11-18).


In conclusion, the Levites were entrusted with many weighty responsibilities related to Israel’s worship and spiritual life.

As assistants to the priests, they carried out essential functions in transporting and protecting the tabernacle, offering sacrifices, providing music, teaching God’s law, and guarding the holiness of the tabernacle and temple.

Their loyal service and dedication were vital to preserving and promoting devotion to God among the 12 tribes of Israel.

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