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.
The priesthoods of Shiloh and Dan could boast of an illustrious origin (I Sam.
As certain sanctuaries, Shiloh, Shechem, Bethel, &c., grew in importance, the priesthoods that officiated at them would acquire special prestige.
Priesthoods, whose traditions connect them with the south, are subordinated; the ecclesiastical records are re-shaped or re-adjusted; and a picture is presented of hierarchical jealousies and rivalries which (it was thought) were settled once and for all in the days of the exodus from Egypt.
Nabonidus, in fact, had excited a strong feeling against himself by attempting to centralize the religion of Babylonia in the temple of Merodach (Marduk) at Babylon, and while he had thus alienated the local priesthoods the military party despised him on account of his antiquarian tastes.