KOHATH, KOHATHITE kō’ hăth, kō’ hă thīt (קְהָ֖ת, LXX Κααθ; קְּהָתִ֑י). The second son of Levi (Gen 46:11; Exod 6:16) who died at the age of 133 years (Exod 6:18).
Kohath, the son of Levi, was the father of Amram, Izher, Hebron and Uzziel (Exod 6:18; Num 3:19, 27; 1 Chron 6:2), who became Kohathite branches of the Levitical families (Num 3:27). He was the grandfather, through Amram and his wife Jochebed (the sister of Kohath), of Aaron, Moses and Miriam (Exod 6:20; Num 26:59; 1 Chron 6:3). The Kohathites were, therefore, the most prominent of the Levitical families.
After the construction of the Tabernacle, the Kohathites, the Gershonites and Merarites were given charge over its care and transit. The Kohathites were to encamp on the S side of the Tabernacle (Num 3:29) and were to be responsible for “the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service pertaining to these” (3:31). Though these various items were the responsibility of the Kohathites, they were not to handle the holy things. Aaron and his sons were instructed to put a covering of goatskin upon these things before they were handled by the others (4:5-15). The manner of transportation was not to be in wagons, but upon the shoulders of the Kohathites. According to the census, there were 8,600 males above one month old (3:28), or 2,750 between the ages of thirty and fifty who attended to these duties (Num 4:1-4, 34-37).
After the conquest of Pal., the Kohathites were cared for in the same manner as the other Levitical families. Those who were descendants of Aaron received by lot thirteen cities and their pasture lands. The tribes of Judah and Simeon gave Hebron (a refuge city for slayers), Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, Holon, Debir, Ain, Juttah and Bethshemesh. Four cities were given by Benjamin: Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth and Almon (Josh 21:9-19; 1 Chron 6:57-60 lists only eleven of the thirteen, including the name Ashan with the former group). The rest of the Kohathites were provided ten cities (Josh 21:20-26), four from the tribe of Ephraim: Shechem, a city of refuge for the slayer, Gezer, Kibzaim (1 Chron 6:68 has Jokmean) and Beth-horon; four from Dan: Elteke, Gibbethon, Aijalon and Gathrimmon; and two from the half tribe of Manasseh: Taanach and Gath-rimmon (6:70 has Aner and Bileam).
During the reign of David the Levites were organized into three divisions according to the sons of Levi (23:6). Heman represented the Kohathites in “the service of song in the house of the Lord” (6:31), some had charge of the preparation of the Showbread every Sabbath (9:32), and Uriel was appointed by David as chief of the 120 Kohathites chosen to assist in the return of the Ark to Jerusalem (15:3-5).
When the Moabites and Ammonites came against Judah, Jehoshaphat presented the situation before the Lord, bowing in worship together with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The Kohathites were ministering in the Temple and “stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice” (2 Chron 20:19).
In two different reform movements the Kohathites were active participants. During the reign of Hezekiah (715-687/6 b.c.) Mahath, the son of Amasai, and Joel, the son of Azariah, “of the sons of the Kohathites” were among those who “cleansed the house of the Lord” (29:12-16). In Josiah’s reform and repair of the Temple in 621 b.c. two Kohathites, Zechariah and Meshullam, were among the Levites whom the king set over the work on the Temple (2 Chron 34:12). See also Korahites, Korhites KORAH.