The Levites and the Boundaries of Israelite Identity

ISBN : 9780190665098

Mark Leuchter
320 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2017
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At a glance, the Hebrew Bible presents the Levites as a group of ritual assistants and subordinates in Israel's cult. A closer look, however, reveals a far more complicated history behind the emergence of this group in Ancient Israel. A careful reconsideration of the sources provides new insights into the origins of the Levites, their social function and location, and the development of traditions that grew around them. The social location and self-perception of the Levites evolved alongside the network of clans and tribes that grew into a monarchic society, and alongside the struggle to define religious and social identity in the face of foreign cultures. This book proposes new ways to see not only how these changes affected Levite self-perception but also the manner in which this perception affected larger trends as Israelite religion evolved into nascent Judaism. By consulting the textual record, archaeological evidence, the study of cultural memory and social-scientific models, Mark Leuchter demonstrates that the Levites emerge as boundary markers and boundary makers in the definition of what it meant to be part of "Israel."


Chapter 1: Egypt, Land, and the Patron Deity in Emergent Israel
Chapter 2: Moses, the Mushites, and the rise of the Levites
Chapter 3: The Levites and the Early Israelite Monarchy
Chapter 4: The Levites Strike Back
Chapter 5: The Levite Scribes Part 1: The Composition of Deuteronomy
Chapter 6: The Levite Scribes Part 2: The Development of the Jeremiah Tradition
Chapter 7: From Scribes to Sages: The Levites in the Persian Period
Conclusion: The Levite Legacy

About the author: 

Mark Leuchter is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Judaism in the Department of Religion at Temple University.

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