me-ra'-ri (merari, "bitter"; Mararei):
(1) The 3rd son of Levi, his brothers, Gershon and Kohath, being always mentioned together with him (Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16). He was among those 70 who went down to Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:8,11; compare 46:26 and Exodus 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 1 Chronicles 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 (Exodus 6:19; Numbers 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 (Numbers 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 (Numbers 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 (Numbers 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. (Numbers 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 (Numbers 4:42-45). Because of the weight of the material in their charge they were allowed 4 wagons and 8 oxen for carriage (Numbers 7:8). In marching, when the tabernacle was taken down, the standard of Judah went first (Numbers 10:14); then followed the Merarites bearing the tabernacle (Numbers 10:17), and after them came the standard of Reuben (Numbers 10:18). After the settlement in Canaan they had 12 cities assigned them out of Gad, Reuben and Zebulun (Joshua 21:7,34-40; 1 Chronicles 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 (Joshua 21). The names of these Merarite cities are given (loc. cit.), and among them is Ramoth-gilead, one of the cities of refuge (Joshua 21:38). It is evident from 1 Chronicles 6:44-47; 16:41; 25:1,3,6,9,11,15,19,21; compare 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 (1 Chronicles 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 (1 Chronicles 23:6; compare 23:21-23; 24:26-30). The functions of certain Merarites are described in 1 Chronicles 26:10-19. They also took part in cleansing the temple in Hezekiah's time (2 Chronicles 29:12) as well as in the days of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:12), helping to repair the house of the Lord. Among the helpers of Ezra, too, we find some of them numbered (Ezra 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).