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Hebrew Text:

וַיְהִי־נַעַר מִבֵּית לֶחֶם יְהוּדָה מִמִּשְׁפַּחַת יְהוּדָה וְהוּא לֵוִי וְהוּא גָר־שָׁם

English Translation:

And there was a young man of Beit-Lechem of Yehuda, of the family of Yehuda, and he was a Levite, and he sojourned there.

How can this man be called "a Levite" yet be of the family (mishpocha) of Yehuda?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This answer quotes Rashi, who provides two explanations. The first argument seems textually thin - there are no other examples of calling someone by a tribe name based on their mother's side (see the single exception explained by the Radak, which doesn't actually attribute the tribe but describes their lineage). If anything, a simpler textual explanation is that he was a Levite paternally, and Judean from his mother's side. This explains the text's emphasis on his living not in his own tribe. This is the explanation given in the beginning of the talmudic discussion Gone Quiet quotes, as well as in the Yalkut Shimoni.

The second argument seems thin simply because according to the talmud, Samuel wrote the book of Judges and he significantly predates Manasseh. This in addition to it not having a textual basis.

An alternate explanation comes from the Metzudot and the Ralbag. Both he and the Radak explain that there are two cities called Bethlehem - one belonging to Zebulun and the other Judah (see Joshua 19:15). The text then emphasizes that the city under discussion is the Judean Bethlehem. As such, he explains that the words ממשפחת יהודה aren't actually referring to the person in question, but rather the city. So there is no question at all - he was a Levite living in the north, no contradiction to begin with.

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The Levites had no tribal allotment, but were allotted several cities in each tribal territory.

Josh 21:4 And the sons of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, received thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah and from the tribe of the Simeonites and from the tribe of Benjamin.

The man in question was a descendant of Levi who lived in and identified with the tribe of Judah.

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Your explanation would definitely explain the significance of the phrase "...of Beit-Lechem of Yehuda..." It means he lived in Beit-Lechem, a city of Yehuda. However, it fails to explain the significance of the phrase "...of the family of Yehuda..." This implies descent from the tribe of Yehuda, and tribal descent is only derived paternally. Same as being a Levite. So, how could this man be a Levite (from his father) and also of the family of Yehuda (likewise from his father)? That's the question. Now, if you can provide a scripture that proves mishpocha is also used of land, that helps. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Oct 23 '13 at 2:41
    
The word "family" (mishpocha) does not always refer to biological/genealogical families. In Jer 15:3, the word refers to four types of destruction. Several people who did not descend from Israel, were numbered with the "family of Israel", e.g. Rahab and Ruth. The same applies to the "tribe of Judah" in Is 48:1. I believe that this is the sense in which it is used in Jdg 17:7 - a man who is not related to Judah by blood, is closely associated with his tribe. This is certainly how the author/redactor, who put these apparent contradictions within the same verse, intended it to be understood. –  Niobius Oct 23 '13 at 11:59
    
"This is certainly how the author/redactor, who put these apparent contradictions within the same verse, intended it to be understood." I believe that's the question at hand and is not so certain. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Oct 23 '13 at 16:49

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