In Deu. 17:9, it is written,

9 “And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. NKJV, 1982

ט וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם וְאֶל הַשֹּׁפֵט אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וְדָרַשְׁתָּ וְהִגִּידוּ לְךָ אֵת דְּבַר הַמִּשְׁפָּט

Other English versison translate it as “the priests the Levites” (no comma; ASV, KJV) and “the Levitical priests” (NET, NIV, NLT).

Assuming that all those who could minister as priests were Levites—specifically, the sons of Aaron (who was the great-grandson of Levi), why does the scripture include הַלְוִיִּם (“the Levites”) after “the priests”? It seems superfluous.

2 Answers 2


I believe that הַלְוִיִּם is in adjectival form, so that the phrase translated in English would be something like "Levitical priests". This is how the JPS Tanakh translates it, as well as how Rashi explains it (in English translation):

[And you shall come to] the Levitic kohanim: i.e., the kohanim, who are descended from the tribe of Levi.

and to the judge who will be in those days ...

So the verse seems to be referring to two entities: the Levitical priests (KJV: the priests the Levites) and the judge.

The Septuagint translation reflects this understanding as well, I think:

καὶ ἐλεύσῃ πρὸς τοὺς ἱερεῖς τοὺς Λευίτας [-] καὶ [-] πρὸς τὸν κριτήν, ὃς ἂν γένηται ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, καὶ ἐκζητήσαντες ἀναγγελοῦσίν σοι τὴν κρίσιν.

I agree the English translations are confusing (of the LXX as well as of the MT). Whether they read "the priests the Levites" or "the priests, the Levites", though, I think the right understanding is something like, "the priests, [that is] the Levites, ..."

  • 1
    user33515 - +1 A.) Maybe a highlighting mix up; B.) "τοὺς ἱερεῖς" (the priests); "τοὺς Λευίτας" (the Levites); "πρὸς τὸν κριτήν" (to the judge). C.) The LXX, Deut 17:9, (@katabiblon.com); D.) There is no conjunction "and | καὶ" between "Priests and Levites" as there is between "Priests and the Judge"; E.) Also oddly, the passage seems to state only one Judge / many priests, but then only one priest in verse 12; (an interesting Rabbinic debate); Apr 6, 2017 at 17:10
  • Perhaps a priest and a judge were both required to ensure that there would be some sort of disagreement :)
    – user33515
    Apr 6, 2017 at 17:27
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    user33515 - HAH! A.) In Maimonides' introduction to the Talmud - he goes on, at length, about how the Judges have more authority, even over the prophets. B.) It is the fundamental premise behind the Oral Law (Pharisee ~Judges/Sanhedrin) vs. Written Law (Sadducee ~Priests/Scribes) conflict. B.) Perhaps Biblically, it is a jurisdiction thing; C.) Either way, Deuteronomy 1:17 might have kicked in from time to time : "The case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me [Moses, a Prophet and Judge], and I will hear it.’" Apr 6, 2017 at 17:42

You have a distinction in Torah of High priests or singular Kohen and plural koheniym as the descendents of Aaron. Then the other priests or really Tabernacle or Temple workers from the Tribe of Levi which carried out all the other duties. After king David's time the two sons of Zadok produced twenty four sons. These became the Zadokites or old Saducees. So even if all Levites are priests all Levites are not koheniym or high priestly families. Most of scripture is written by this Tribe. Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra and of course Matthew, Mark, to name but a few.

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