“And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim. For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs, And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs, Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities. All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.” (Joshua 21:20-26)
The rest of the Kohathites, who were not part of Aaron’s family were given ten additional cities in Ephraim, Dan and the half tribe of Manasseh. After the split in Rehoboam’s day, they would go with Israel rather than Judah. One of their cities, Shechem, the site where Simeon and Levi murdered the men of the city for Dinah’s sake was a city of refuge.
“And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities.
And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs, Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.
All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:27-33)
Originally, the Gershonites had been responsible for the fabric parts of the Tabernacle, the coverings, curtains, and other leather or cloth parts. That responsibility continued, but their primary job was to teach the northern most tribes to serve God. To that end they were given thirteen cities scattered among the northern tribes on either side of the Jordan as far south as the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Included in their holdings were two Cities of Refuge, Golan on the East of Jordan in the Half tribe of Manasseh, and Kedesh in the land of Naphtali on the west side.
“And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.
And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs, Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.” (Joshua 21:34-40)
All twelve of the Merarite cities were located on the east of Jordan in the lands of Gad and Reuben. Like the other tribes they were responsible for teaching the people in their area about God, but they were still responsible for the framework of the Tabernacle. Their two Cities of Refuge were Bezer, in Reuben, and Ramoth Gilead in Gad. Ramoth was one of the best known Cities of Refuge, and Samuel ministered there regularly five hundred years later.
“All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs. These cities were every one with their
suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.” (Joshua 21:41-42)
Moses command to Israel in Numbers 35:7 was fulfilled exactly. “So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.” The Levites were scattered thoroughly in so that they were readily available to anyone who wished to know what God demanded. At the same time they were separated enough they could not establish an Imperial religious entity capable of taking over Israel, thus eliminating Jacob’s concerns in Genesis 49.