me-ra'-ri (merari, "bitter"; Mararei):
(1) The 3rd son of Levi, his brothers, Gershon and Kohath, being always mentioned together with him (Ge 46:11; Ex 6:16 ff). He was among those 70 who went down to Egypt with Jacob (Ge 46:8,11; compare Ge 46:26 and Ex 1:5).
(2) The family of Merari, descendants of above, and always (with one exception, for which see MERARITES) spoken of as "sons of Merari" in numerous references, such as 1Ch 6:1,16,19,29, which only repeat without additional information the references to be found in the body of this article. We early find them divided into two families, the Mahli and Mushi (Ex 6:19; Nu 3:17,20,33). At the exodus they numbered, under their chief Zuriel, 6,200, and they were assigned the north side of the tabernacle as a tenting-place (Nu 3:34-35), thus sharing in the honor of those who immediately surrounded the tabernacle--the south side being given to the Kohathites, the west to the Gershonites, and the east--toward the sun-rising--being reserved for Moses, Aaron and his sons (Nu 3:23,29,35,38). To the Merarites was entrusted the care of the boards, bars, pillars, sockets, vessels, pins and cords of the tabernacle (Nu 3:36-37; 4:29-33). They and the Gershonites were "under the hand" of Ithamar, son of Aaron, the sons of Gershon having charge of the softer material of the tabernacles --curtains, covers, hangings, etc. (Nu 3:25-26). When reckoned by the number fit for service, i.e. between 30 and 50 years, the sons of Merari were 3,200 strong (Nu 4:42-45). Because of the weight of the material in their charge they were allowed 4 wagons and 8 oxen for carriage (Nu 7:8). In marching, when the tabernacle was taken down, the standard of Judah went first (Nu 10:14); then followed the Merarites bearing the tabernacle (Nu 10:17), and after them came the standard of Reuben (Nu 10:18). After the settlement in Canaan they had 12 cities assigned them out of Gad, Reuben and Zebulun (Jos 21:7,34-40; 1Ch 6:63,77-81), just as the other two branches of Levi's family had their 12 cities respectively assigned out of the other tribes (Jos 21:1-45). The names of these Merarite cities are given (loc. cit.), and among them is Ramoth-gilead, one of the cities of refuge (Jos 21:38). It is evident from 1Ch 6:44-47; 16:41; 25:1,3,6,9,11,15,19,21 f; compare 1Ch 15:6,17-19 that they had charge under Ethan or Jeduthun of the temple music in the service. In David's time Asaiah was their chief (1Ch 15:6). Himself and 220 of the family helped David to bring up the Ark. David divided the Levites into courses among the Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites (1Ch 23:6; compare 1Ch 23:21-23; 24:26-30). The functions of certain Merarites are described in 1Ch 26:10-19. They also took part in cleansing the temple in Hezekiah's time (2Ch 29:12) as well as in the days of Josiah (2Ch 34:12), helping to repair the house of the Lord. Among the helpers of Ezra, too, we find some of them numbered (Ezr 8:18-19). The family seems to have played a very important part in keeping steady and true such faithfulness as remained in Israel.
(3) The father of Judith (Judith 8:1; 16:7).