Mera'rite (Hebrews same as Merari, Sept. Μεραρί, Auth. Vers. " Merarites"), the patronymic title of the descendanlts of MERARI (Nu 26:57). Their prominence among the Levitical families justifies a somewhat copious treatment of the subject.
At the time of the exodus, and the numbering in the wilderness, the Merarites consisted of two families, the Mahlites and the Mushites, Mahli and Mushi being either the two sons or the son and grandson of Merari (1Ch 6:19,47). Their chief at that time was Zuriel, and the whole number of the family, from a month old and upwards, was 6200;
those from thirty years old to fifty were 3200. Their charge was the boards, bars, pillars, cockets, pins, and cords of the Tabernacle and the court, and all the tools connected with setting them up. In the encampment their place was to the north of the Tabernacle, and both they and the Gershonites were "under the hand" of Ithamar, the son of Aaron. Owing to the heavy nature of the materials which they had to carry, four wagons and eight oxen were assigned to them; and in the march both they and the Gershonites followed immediately after the standard of Judah, and before that of Reuben, that they might set up the Tabernacle against the arrival of the Kohathites (Nu 3:20,33-37; Nu 4:29-33,42-45; Nu 7:8; Nu 10:17,21). In the division of the land by Joshua, the Merarites had twelve cities assigned to them, out of Reubenn Gad, and Zebulon, of which one was Ramoth-Gilead, a city of refuge, and in later times a frequent subject of war between Israel and Syria (Jos 21:7,34-40; 1Ch 6:63,79-81). In the time of David Asaiah was their chief, and assisted with 220 of his family in bringing up the ark (1Ch 15:6). Afterwards we find the Merarites still sharing with the two other Levitical families the various functions of their caste (1Ch 23:6,21-23). Thus a third part of the singers and musicians were Merarites, and Ethan or Jeduthun was their chief in the time of David. SEE JEDUTHUN. A third part of the door-keepers were Merarites (1Ch 23:5-6; 1Ch 26:10,19), unless, indeed, we are to understand from ver. 19 that the door-keepers were all either Kohathites or Merarites, to the exclusion of the Gershonites, which does not seem probable. In the days of Hezekiah the Merarites were still flourishing, and Kish, the" son of Abdi, and Azariah, the son of Jehalelel, took their part with their brethren of the two other Levitical families in promoting the reformation, and purifying the house of the Lord (2Ch 29:12,15). After the return from captivity Shemaiah represents the sons of Merari, in 1Ch 9:14; Ne 11:15, and is said, with other chiefs of the Levites, to have "had the oversight of the outward Busiless of the house of God." - There were also at that time sons of Jeduthun under Obadiah or Abda, the son of Shemaiah (1Ch 9:16; Ne 11:17). A little later again, in the time of Ezra, when he was in great want of Levites to accompany him on his journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, "a man of good understanding of the sons of Mahli" was found, whose name, if the text here and at ver. 24 is correct, is not given. "Jeshaiah, also, of the sons of Merari," with twenty of his sons and brethren, came with him at the same time (Ezr 8:18-19). But it seems pretty certain that Shirebiah, in ver. 18, is the name of the Mahlite, and that both he and Hashabiah, as well as Jeshaiah, in ver. 19, were Levites of the family of Merari, and not, as the actual text of ver. 24 indicates, priests. The copulative ו has probably fallen out before their, names in ver. 24, as appears from ver. 30 (see also 1Ch 9:14; Ne 12:24). SEE LEVITE.
The above table gives the principal descents, as far as it is possible to ascertain them. But the true position of Jaaziah, Mahli, and Jeduthun is doubtful. Here too, as elsewhere, it is difficult to decide when a given name indicates an individual, and when the family called after him, or the head of that family. It is sometimes no less difficult to decide whether any name which occurs repeatedly designates the same person, or others of the family who bore the same name, as e.g. in the case of Mahli, Hilkiah, Shimri, Kishi or Kish, and others. As regards the confusion between Ethan and Jeduthun, it may perhaps be that Jeduthun was the patronymic title of the house of which Ethan was the head in the time of David. Jeduthun might have been the brother of one of Ethan's direct ancestors before Hashabiah, in which case Hashabiah, in 1Ch 25:3,19, might be the same as Hashabiah in 6:45. Hosah and Obededom seem to have been other descendants or clansmen of Jeduthun, who lived in the time of David; and, if we may argue from the name of Hosah's sons, Simri and Hilkiah, that they were descendants of Shamer and Hilkiah, in the line of Ethan, the inference would be that Jeduthun was a son either of Hilkiah or Amaziah, since he lived after Hilkiah, but before Hashabiah. The great advantage of this' supposition is, that while it leaves to Ethan the patronymic designation Jeduthun, it draws a wide distinction between the term "sons of Jeduthun" and " sons of Ethan," and explains how in David's time there could be sons of those who are called sons of Jeduthun above thirty years of age (since they filled offices, 1Ch 26:10), at the same time that Jeduthun was said to be the chief of the singers. In like manner it is possible that Jaaziah may have been a brother of Malluch or of Abdi, and that if Abdi or Ibri had other descendants besides the lines of Kish and Eleazar, they may have been reckoned under the headship of Jaaziah, The families of Merari which were so reckoned were, according to 1Ch 24:27, Shoham, Zaccir (apparently the same as Zechariah in 1Ch 15:18, where we probably ought to read " Zaccur, son of Jaaziah," and 26:11), and Ibri, where the Sept. has ᾿Ωβδί, Α᾿βαϊv, and Α᾿βδί. See each name in its place.