LEVI (lē'vī, Heb. lēwî, joined)

2. and 3. Ancestors of Jesus (Luke.3.24, Luke.3.29).

4. See Matthew.

LEVI le’ vī (לֵוִֽי, LXX Λευι, meaning uncertain, perhaps a gentilic form of לֵאָ֔ה, Leah, a wild cow, or cognate to Arab. lawiyu, one pledged for a debt or vow [so Albright]). Older writers derive it from לָוָה, H4277, to join or twist (cf. Gen 29:34). It is possible that it stems from a Minaean cognate, lawi’a, a priest, from a root to join (cf. Num 18:2, 4). Minaean inscrs. speak of temple personnel as lawi’u.

1. The third son of Jacob and Leah and ancestor of the tribe bearing his name (Gen 29:34; 35:23; Exod 1:2; 1 Chron 2:1). When Shechem the Hivite assaulted Dinah, her brothers Levi and Simeon led in executing vengeance by killing all the males and pillaging the city of Shechem (Gen 34:25-31). In his final blessing Jacob mentioned Levi’s and Simeon’s cruelty on that occasion (Gen 49:5-7). The sons of Levi carry on this characteristic, killing 3,000 rebellious Hebrews in the wilderness under order by Moses at the episode of the golden calf (Exod 32:25-29; cf. Deut 33:8-11).

Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, were born before the Exodus from Egypt. When Numbers 26:59 mentions that Jochabed was born to Levi, the reference must be to the tribe, not to the son of Jacob. A comparison of Numbers 3:22, 28, 34 with Numbers 4:47, 48 reveals a sharp decrease in Levites for which there seems to be no explanation. One would assume Levi to be about average strength, i.e. 50,000 men.

2. An ancestor of Jesus Christ (Luke 3:24), a son of Melchi and father of Matthat.

3. An ancestor of Jesus Christ (3:29), son of Simeon and father of Matthat.

4. The tax collector (publican) who later became one of the twelve apostles (Mark 2:14-17). According to Luke 5:27-32, Jesus was a guest in his home. Mark calls him the son of Alphaeus. Some Gr. MSS read “James” at Mark 2:14 instead of “Levi.” In the Gospel of Matthew he is always called “Matthew” instead of Levi (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32). The name does not appear in any of the formal lists as a variant of Matthew.


J. Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture, III/IV (1940), 680ff.; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1942), 109, 204f.; T. Meek, Hebrew Origins (1960), 123, 124; E. Speiser, Anchor Bible: Genesis (1964).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Lewi; Leui; Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek Leuei):

(1) The 3rd son of Jacob by Leah. See separate article.

(2) (3) Two ancestors of Jesus in Luke’s genealogy (Lu 3:24,29).

(4) The apostle Matthew.

See nodetitle.

The third of Leah’s sons born to Jacob in Paddan-aram (Ge 29:34). In this passage the name is connected with the verb lawah, "to adhere," or "be joined to," Leah expressing assurance that with the birth of this third son, her husband might be drawn closer to her in the bonds of conjugal affection. There is a play upon the name in Nu 18:2,4, where direction is given that the tribe of Levi be "joined unto" Aaron in the ministries of the sanctuary. The etymology here suggested is simple and reasonable. The grounds on which some modern scholars reject it are purely conjectural. It is asserted, e.g., that the name is adjectival, not nominal, describing one who attaches himself; and this is used to support theory that the Levites were those who joined the Semitic people when they left Egypt to return to Palestine, who therefore were probably Egyptians. Others think it may be a gentilic form le’ah, "wild cow" (Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 146; Stade, Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 152); and this is held to be the more probable, as pointing to early totem worship!