Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Q&A - Why did the Kohathites carry the holy articles on their shoulders ?

I have somewhat answered this question in this post, but I wanted to elaborate a little bit more and take a look at this question from a different angle.

First of all and as I have mentioned before, the main reason for sons of Kohath had to carry the Tabernacle artefacts on their shoulders was the direct one specified in Numbers 7:9:
9 But unto the sons of Kohath he gave none: because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders.


‎9 ‏וְלִבְנֵ֥י קְהָ֖ת לֹ֣א נָתָ֑ן כִּֽי־עֲבֹדַ֤ת הַקֹּ֙דֶשׁ֙ עֲלֵהֶ֔ם בַּכָּתֵ֖ף יִשָּֽׂאוּ׃


And of'course, this was due to the fact that the artefacts (particularly the Ark of The Covenant) were holy and deserved special treatment and care.

But what about the Kohathites themselves ? Would not this create an unfair burden upon them, compared to other carrier families (i.e Merarites or Gershonites) who enjoyed the relative comfort of bull-powered wagons?

The answer to this question can be found by analyzing the original text, primarily Numbers 4:18-20 and Genesis 49:10.

1) The name, or rather, expression קהת ("kohath") means "an obedient one", sometimes "one of whom expected much" (see Gen. 49:10).

2) Now, based on Numbers 4:18-20, Genesis 49:10 and the definition of the name "Kohath" above, we can conclude that Kohathites, as people, possessed the following qualities: they were obedient and of them were expected much.

3) This means that sons of Kohath were more obedient than any other family of the Children of Israel. And this also means that the sons of Kohath were very meticulous, very thorough and very reliable, so it was expected from them, without any reservation, to transport and care for the most holy parts of the Tabernacle.

4) In other words, physical (genetic), mental and spiritual abilities of the sons of Kohath were of such qualities that would make them the only family of the Children of Israel capable of being in close contact with the most holy parts of the Tabernacle (albeit covered) for a prolonged periods of time and under very stressful, challenging conditions.

5) Of'course, their physical abilities are most underlined by the original text, which means that they were the "humble strongmen" among the Levites, exceeding in this regard the sons of Judah (see. Gen. 49:10). 

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