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Levi and Levites
(913 words)

[German Version]

The etymology of Levi and Levites (Heb. לֵוִי/lēwî, לְוִיִּם/lewîyim) is unclear – possibly from לוה/lwh I, “person pledged for a debt,” or II, hypocoristically “client” (of the god N.N.?); a popular etymology relating it to join appears in Gen 29:34 and Num 18:2. According to legend, Levi was the son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:34; 35:23). Jacob is said to have cursed him and Simeon on account of their religious zeal in destroying the city of Shechem (Gen 34:25–31); this story explains why the tribes descended from them were divided and scattered in Israel (Gen 49:5–7).


Cite this page
Achenbach, Reinhard, “Levi and Levites”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 03 June 2023 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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