A descendant of the family head Kohath, who was one of the three sons of Levi. (Gen. 46:11; Num. 26:57) The “Kohathites” or “sons of Kohath” were divided into four families, being descendants of the four sons of Kohath: the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites and the Uzzielites. (Num. 3:19, 27) Their chieftain at the time of Israel’s encampment at Mount Sinai (1513 B.C.E.) was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. (Num. 3:30) Moses and Aaron were Kohathites of the Amramite family (Ex. 6:18, 20), and rebellious Korah was a Kohathite of the family of the Izharites (Num. 16:1), as was the faithful prophet Samuel.—1 Sam. 1:1, 19, 20; 1 Chron. 6:33-38.
The census taken in the wilderness of Sinai revealed that there were 8,600 males a month old and upward belonging to the families of the Kohathites. (Num. 3:27, 28) Their males between thirty and fifty years of age “who entered into the service group for the service in the tent of meeting” numbered 2,750.—Num. 4:34-37.
During the wilderness trek, the Kohathites were assigned to camp on the S side of the tabernacle (Num. 3:29), between it and the encampment of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. (Num. 2:10, 12, 14) The Kohathites had the privilege and responsibility of transporting the ark of the covenant, the table of showbread, the lampstand, the altars and the utensils of the holy place, as well as the screen of the Most Holy (Num. 3:30, 31), after these items were packed and covered by Aaron and his sons, who were also Kohathites. The Kohathites other than Aaron and his sons were not allowed to see the utensils even for a moment, or to touch the holy place, for doing so would mean death. (Num. 4:4-15, 20) Though Israel provided the Levites with cattle and wagons for transporting the tabernacle equipment, the Kohathites were not given any. Doubtless because of the sacredness of their burdens, they carried their loads on the shoulder. (Num. 7:2-9) They were the last of the Levites to pull away from an encampment.—Num. 10:17-21.
After the conquest of Canaan, when the Levites were assigned certain cities, the Kohathites received twenty-three, thirteen being assigned to the sons of Aaron out of the territories of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin and the other ten to the rest of the Kohathites from the territories of Ephraim, Dan and the half tribe of Manasseh.—Josh. 21:1-5, 9-26; 1 Chron. 6:54-61, 66-70.
Heman, a Kohathite of the family of Izhar, was given a position by David in connection with the singing at Jehovah’s sanctuary. (1 Chron. 6:31-38) One hundred and twenty Kohathites under Uriel their chief were among those whom David appointed to bring the ark of Jehovah from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem, on which occasion Heman figured prominently in the music and singing. (1 Chron. 15:4, 5, 11-17, 19, 25) According to First Chronicles, when David divided the Levites into courses or divisions, some Kohathites were singers (25:1, 4-6) and gatekeepers (26:1-9); others were in charge of the stores and things made holy (26:23-28), and some acted as officers, judges and administrators. (26:29-32) Certain Kohathites looked after baking and the preparation of layer bread for the sabbath.—1 Chron. 9:31, 32.
The Kohathites praised Jehovah upon learning that he would give Judah under Jehoshaphat victory over the combined forces of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. (2 Chron. 20:14-19) Kohathite Levites participated in cleansing the house of Jehovah in King Hezekiah’s day. (2 Chron. 29:12-17) Also, Kohathites Zechariah and Meshullam were among those acting as overseers when King Josiah repaired the temple.—2 Chron. 34:8-13.