Bible Reference: Numbers chapters 3 and 4
Heart of the Story: Kohath seems to have been the second son of Levi. This clan protected and had special duties to the priests and to the Tabernacle in Israel.
Background: Levi was the third son of Jacob (Israel). When the census of Israelites was order in the Sinai Desert, God mandated that Levites not be counted as fighting men. Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The names of the clans of Kohath when the Israelites were camped on the Sinai and building the Tabernacle were: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. According to Numbers (3:28), the Kohathites numbered 8,600 men from one-month old and upward.
Storyline: God set aside the Levites to assist with the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and all accoutrements belonging in the Tabernacle. They assisted the priests (son of Aaron) in Tabernacle duties, perhaps with making sacrifices on the Bronze Altar. Kohathites had the responsibility of baking the Presence Bread weekly that was placed on the Golden Altar in the Tent of Meeting.
When the Tabernacle moved, Kohathites carried all items located in the tent of meeting (Numbers 4: 4-15); however, importantly, the Kohathites couldn’t not to touch the holy items in the Tent of Meeting. The priests, sons of Aaron, was responsible for preparing the Tent of Meeting and furnishings for transport. Only after the priests prepared the holy items for transport, did the Kohathites carry the Tent of Meeting and its furnishing on their shoulders. The Tent of Meeting items were not transported in carts or wagons.
When the Israelites camped, the Kohathites camped on the south side of the Tabernacle. Because the Tabernacle was always set up so that its entrance faced east. Kohathites were the last line of defense against armies invading the Israelite encampment from the South.
Pondering Relationships: The Kohathites were Levites who had key responsibilities to when the Tabernacle was moved. Kohathites were not priests. Only Levites in the line of Aaron were priests. God specifically commanded that the Kohathites not touch the holy things that they carried, lest they die (Numbers 5:15). From what I discerned, the priest wrapped the holy items up and only after they were wrapped could the Kohathites pick them up and carry them.
In the 40-year time the Israelites lived on the Sinai Peninsula and traveled on the east side of the Jordan River, they made multiple moves. The Tent of Meeting furnishing were heavy, i.e., the Golden Lampstand was made of 75 pounds of gold. Probably, more than one Kohathite carried the furnishings each day and over multiple days of travel.
I noticed that after the Israelites entered Canaan, at times Levites not from Aaron’s offspring claimed the title of priest, i.e., Jonathan in the book of Judges. Despite a few “bad apple” Levites, most took their responsibilities seriously. Levites were included in the exiles who returned to Jerusalem during the Restoration period.
Some Levites were members of the Temple choir, teachers of the law, and scribes. Levites returned from Babylon in the restoration period.
Reflection: Kohathites role was to assist the priests in all things. What is your role as assistant to God — in your family, church, community? Do you fulfill that role gladly or resentfully?
Copyright: July 24, 2017 Carolyn A. Roth