All About LeviBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
The previous chapter concluded with the genealogy of the priestly line; this chapter gives a more general accounting of the Tribe of Levi. Verse 6:1, which names the sons of Levi, is identical to 5:27 except that in chapter 5 Gershom is called Gershon. (The Radak explains that the end letters Mem and Nun in a name are interchangeable and he gives several examples of this.) This chapter begins with the sons of Gershom, who was the oldest.
Korach, a descendant of Levi’s son Kehos, is said to be a son of Aminadav. But we know from the story of Korach in the Book of Numbers that Korach’s father was named Yitzhar! (In fact, verse 23 in this very chapter knows that Korach’s father was named Yitzhar!) The Radak, Metzudos Tziyon and other commentaries all agree that Aminadav is another name for Yitzhar, though we are not told the reason for the alternate name.
Verses 16-32 discuss the musicians that David appointed to sing in the Temple. Actually, it says that David appointed them to sing in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but that is not literally the case, as the Tabernacle was destroyed before David became king. It may mean that these Levites sang in the structure David erected to house the Ark when he had it returned to Jerusalem, or perhaps these Levites sang in the actual Tabernacle before it was destroyed.
There were three Levites appointed to the task, one from each of the three families (Gershom, Kehos and Merari). The representative from Kehos was Heiman, a descendant of both the prophet Samuel and Korach, who rebelled against the leadership of Moses in the wilderness. (This Heiman may or may not have been the one who contributed to Psalms – see our commentary on Psalm 88.) He was joined by Asaf (from Gershom) on his right and Eisan (from Merari) on his left.
Of course, the descendants of Aaron were the kohanim (priests), who officiated in the Temple. The chapter here, like the previous one, traces the priestly line, but only up to David’s time (as we are discussing the contemporaries of the Levites he appointed to sing).
The chapter ends with a list of the Levite cities. The Tribe of Levi did not have their own territory in Israel, but they had to live somewhere. They were given 42 cities, plus the six cities of refuge, for a total of 48 cities, which were donated to them by the other Tribes and distributed by lottery.
The kohanim (who were part of the family of Kehos) received land from the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon. Their territory included the city proper of Hebron. (Caleb of the 12 spies owned the outskirts of the city.) The kohanim also had the cities of refuge. The rest of the family of Kehos received cities from Ephraim and the half of Menashe that was in “mainland” Israel. Gershom’s descendants were given cities from Issachar, Asher, Naftali and the half of Menashe that was in Trans-Jordan. Finally, the family of Merari were given cities by Reuben, Gad and Zebulon.
The obvious question: Where’s Dan? Why didn’t they contribute cities to the Levites? As we saw in Judges 1:34, the Tribe of Dan had some trouble conquering their territory. Apparently the Tribe of Ephraim conquered and delivered some of the cities that Dan had promised to Levi.