(Me·rarʹites) [Of (Belonging to) Merari].
One of the three major families of Levites, descending from Levi’s son Merari through Mahli and Mushi. (Ex 6:16, 19; Nu 3:20; 26:57, 58) The first census of the Israelites in the wilderness listed 6,200 Merarite males from a month old upward, 3,200 of these being from 30 to 50 years of age and entering the service group “for the service in the tent of meeting.” (Nu 3:33, 34; 4:42-45) Their chieftain then was Zuriel, and their encampment was on the N side of the tabernacle. (Nu 3:35) During the wilderness trek the three-tribe division of Judah was first to pull away from an encampment. Then the Gershonites and Merarites “as carriers of the tabernacle pulled away,” followed by the three-tribe division of Reuben and then the Kohathite Levites. (Nu 10:14-21) The Merarites were in charge of the panel frames, bars, pillars, and socket pedestals of the tabernacle, as well as “all its utensils and all its service,” in addition to the pillars, socket pedestals, tent pins, and tent cords of the courtyard. (Nu 3:36, 37) To move these heavy objects, they were supplied with four wagons and eight cattle. In the wilderness they and the Gershonites were “under the hand” of Aaron’s son Ithamar.—Nu 7:6-8.
In the division of the Promised Land under Joshua, 12 cities were assigned to the Merarites, four each from the tribal territories of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun. One of these, Ramoth in Gilead (in the territory of Gad), was a “city of refuge.”—Jos 21:7, 34-40; 1Ch 6:63, 77-81.
In David’s day 220 Merarites, with Asaiah as their chief, assisted other Levites in bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-edom. (1Ch 15:1-6, 25) After the Ark had a resting-place, “David gave positions for the direction of the singing at the house of Jehovah” to certain Merarites. (1Ch 6:31, 44-47) Other Merarites were assigned as gatekeepers.—1Ch 26:1, 10, 19.
During Judean King Hezekiah’s reform program, some Merarites were among the Levites who cleansed the temple. (2Ch 29:12, 15) Later, in the seventh century B.C.E., Merarites Jahath and Obadiah were appointed over repairers of the temple by King Josiah.—2Ch 34:12, 13.
Merarites were among the Levites returning from Babylonian exile in 537 B.C.E. (1Ch 9:14) Later (in 468 B.C.E.), Merarites were among the Levites accompanying Ezra from Babylon to Jerusalem.—Ezr 8:1, 18, 19, 31, 32.