The exact meaning of these features is not clear, but if it be remembered (a) that the Levites of post-exilic literature represent only the result of a long and intricate development, (b) that the name "Levite," in the later stages at least, was extended to include all priestly servants, and (c) that the priesthoods, in tending to become hereditary, included priests who were Levites by adoption and not by descent, it will be recognized that the examination of the evidence for the earlier stages cannot confine itself to those narratives where the specific term alone occurs.
Post-exilic revision has also hopelessly obscured the offence of Moses and Aaron, although there was already a tendency to place the blame upon the people (Deut.
3 But the history of the Levites in the early post-exilic stage and onwards is a separate problem, and the work of criticism has not advanced sufficiently for a proper estimate of the various vicissitudes.
The key must be sought in the exilic and post-exilic age where, unfortunately, direct and decisive evidence is lacking.
For the history of the Levites in the post-exilic and later ages, see the commentaries on Numbers (by G.