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Numbers 4:18 reads: אַל-תַּכְרִיתוּ, אֶת-שֵׁבֶט מִשְׁפְּחֹת הַקְּהָתִי, מִתּוֹךְ, הַלְוִיִּם how should I understand the combination שֵׁבֶט מִשְׁפְּחֹת? My translation reads: Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites

Are the Kohathites a tribe formed by their families, which should not be cut off from the Levites? Or does this verse means to teach that the tribal family of the Kohathites (from all the families of the tribe Levi) shoudn't be cut off from the Levites? Or did I get confused by my translation and should I understand this verse in another way.

  • Didn't you ask a similar question regarding the order of families (mishpacha) and shevet (tribes)? Did the answer to that question not sufficiently explain the hierarchy? – DanF Jul 16 '17 at 18:53
  • See my answer to your other question judaism.stackexchange.com/a/83837/5275. It is the same concept. The families are what identifies the tribes. Thus, in this verse, it means "the tribe that contains the family of Kehat from among the Levi'im." I.e., there were 3 families that comprised the Levi'im and each had their own tasks in the Mishkan. The verse is saying, Don't cut of the family of Kehat from the tribe of Levi - i.e. - make sure that they have some task to do just as the other families do. If you don't give them a task, they will as if they are cut off from their tribe. – DanF Jul 16 '17 at 20:20
  • @DanF I believe the question is about the meaning of the terms combined, don't know if that changes the answer, but maybe Hopefully is wondering why this verse says shevet mishpachot and not just mishpachot, why is the addition of shevet needed in reference to the Kohathites. – Levi Jul 18 '17 at 6:27
  • @Levi I don't think that aspect alters my answer. Note that since a shevet consists of multiple mishpachot. Saying "Shevet Hakhati* would be incorrect, of course, as that doesn't exist. I think the verse includes both because the end of the verse says Levi'im which is the shevet. As I stated in my prev. comment, the mishpacha is what identifies the shevet. – DanF Jul 18 '17 at 14:13

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