Cities of the Levites' in Joshua XXI and I Chronicles VI
Ross, John Paton
The 'cities of the Levites' have left no trace in the historical and prophetical literature of Israel; they appear only in P and Chronicles. They must then be either a fiction of the later compilers of the Law, or an earlier institution which made no great impact in monarchic times. This study therefore begins with a review of the materials of Levite history up to the Exile; the Levite cities must find a place somewhere within this setting, if they ever had any real existence. In the second chapter we turn to survey the development of modern critical study of Joshua and Chronicles, culminating in the classic interpretations of Wellhausen and, for Chronicles, of Rothstein and Rudolph. These provide the presuppositions widely accepted by more recent scholars. We then examine and compare the texts of the two versions of the Levite city list, from a literary standpoint, and conclude that, contrary to previous opinion, the one in Chronicles represents an earlier stage in the development of the tradition than that in Joshua. There are signs that at some time the list has been remoulded, with additions and deletions, to fit the pattern of four cities from each of the twelve tribes. Having recognised the difficulties in supposing the list to be entirely a late invention, in the second half of this study we try to find the Levite cities' place in history. First, the findings of archaeologists, traditio-historians and form-critics are examined, When their proposals appear not wholly satisfactory, we turn in chapter five to those who have attempted to re-appraise the character of the 'Levites' of these contexts. In pursuing this enquiry further, we reach the conclusion that these 'Levites' must be distinct both from the old secular tribe of Levi, and from the sacerdotal Levites of the Deuteronomic and Priestly literature. The 'cities of the Levites' seem to be towns which, in the second millennium, entered Israel by alliance rather than by conquest. Finally, we observe the measure of correspondence between the areas of 'Levite' and Hivite/Hurrian occupation, and raise the question whether the term 'Levite' here may not stem from a textual corruption of 'Hivite' in the Jerusalem archives.