second son of Levi and the father of Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (Ex. 6.18; Nm. 3.19) He forms a link in the priestly line as it descends from Levi, through Amram to Aaron. Qahat died at the age of 133 (Ex. 6:18). The Kohathites were a major priestly family and are mentioned as late as the fifth century BCE (cf. 1 Chr. 9.32).

In the literature of the Second Temple period, Qahat does not figure largely. He is mentioned as the son of Levi in Jubilees 44.14 and Testament of Levi 11.3; 12.2. In Aramaic Levi secs. 67–68, Qahat is exalted: he was born on the first day of the first month, at the rising of the sun, which is a particularly significant date according to the solar calendar (sec. 68). Aramaic Levi states that Qahat “would have an assembly of all the people and … the beginning of kings, priesthood for Israel” (sec. 67; cf. Gn. 49.10). In the same vein, Testament of Levi 12.6 interprets the name Qahat as “the first place of majesty and instruction.” As in Aramaic Levi, both the royal and priestly dimensions of Qahat are stressed. This combination is underlined by the exegesis of Genesis 49.10 underlying Aramaic Levi sec. 67. That verse of Genesis was originally directed to Judah (a royal reference) but is applied by Aramaic Levi to Qahat (a priestly reference). The same combination of royal and priestly attributes is to be found in a fragment of Aramaic Levi from Cave 1 (1Q21) not parallel to sec. 67. It is surely not by chance that Qahat figures in these documents, which are closely related. There are numerous copies of both Jubilees and Aramaic Levi at Qumran. The only other work in which Qahat plays a prominent role is the Testament of Qahat (4Q542).

Although most scholars consider the Testament of Qahat a farewell address, the surviving text, strictly speaking, indicates only that it is an exhortation, and no details are given about the narrative framework. A comparison with the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, however, shows that a testamentary context is plausible. Since the speaker mentions both “Amram my son” and “Levi my father,” clearly he is Qahat.

One large and three smaller fragments of the Testament of Qahat survive, apparently parts of four different columns. The large fragment preserves one column almost completely and the right half of the second one. The writing is careless, and corrections have been made by both the copyist and by a later hand. Paleographically, the Testament of Qahat is dated to the late second century BCE, a date not contradicted by a carbon-14 sample (Puech, 1988). The text is in Late Aramaic and some Hebraisms have been detected. It contains some expressions that are not dissimilar to Aramaic Levi.

The first fragment opens with direct speech to “my sons.” They are exhorted to observe purity and holiness—priestly qualities. Similarly, intermarriage and duplicity are excoriated. In the course of the second column, the speech to the sons becomes directed specifically to Amram. The transmission of teaching to Amram from Abraham, via Isaac, Jacob, and Levi, is stressed, as well as an “inheritance,” which the addressees received from their fathers and which they are to pass on to future generations. In column ii, this inheritance is specifically said to be “books,” apparently books of priestly teaching. The emphasis on transmission takes up a theme that is prominent in Aramaic Levi and was particularly important for the justification of the priestly teaching of the group responsible for the Testament of Qahat (cf. Aramaic Levi secs. 13, 22, 50, 57). Jubilees similarly emphasizes the line of transmission from antiquity, although its stress is chiefly on the antediluvian generations (Jub. 7.38–39, 10.14, 21.10; but see also Jub. 45.16). Reference is made to eschatological reward and punishment and, in the second column, to light and darkness. The document seems to refer to resurrection on the day of [judgment?], and the eschatological punishment is described as fire, abysses, and caverns. This is reminiscent of material in the early part of 1 Enoch (see, for example, 1 En. 10.13).

The Testament of Qahat from Cave 4 was most likely composed in priestly circles, either preceding the Qumran community or early in its life. These circles viewed their authoritative tradition as derived not just from Levi, but from instructions transmitted to Levi from Abraham. In Aramaic Levi these instructions are even attributed to Noah (sec. 57). At least one of the purposes of the Testament of Qahat is the authentication of this tradition. Like Aramaic Levi, which is definitely pre-Qumran in date of composition, the Testament of Qahat contains dualistic elements—light and darkness—which later become extremely important at Qumran. Its concern with eschatology would not be discordant with composition in the second century BCE. [See Light and Darkness.]

Puech, following and moderating the earlier views of Milik, argues that the Testament of Qahat is later than Aramaic Levi, which itself precedes Jubilees. This is the case, he maintains, since the Testament of Qahat and Jubilees both seem to have used Aramaic Levi. The implications of this series of relationships for the dating of the composition of the Testament of Qahat are clearly that it was written after Aramaic Levi (third or early second century BCE) and before the time of the copying of the Qumran manuscript, in the late second century BCE. It is representative of the development of priestly ideas that became central for the Qumran group. The three sacerdotal writings, Aramaic Levi, the Testament of Qahat, and the Visions of Amram (4Q543–548) form a series of priestly instructions; Aramaic Levi is the oldest, and the other two works depend on it although their relationship cannot be determined.

No traces of the Testament of Qahat, other than the single manuscript, have been found either at Qumran or elsewhere. Milik suggests that the works of “the three patriarchs” mentioned in Apostolic Constitutions 6.16.3 actually are the writings associated with Levi, Qahat, and Amram. This view, however, has not been widely accepted, and in that case there is no reference whatsoever to the Testament of Qahat beyond the single manuscript from Qumran.

[See also Amram; Apostolic Constitutions; Levi; Levi, Aramaic; and Testaments.]


  • Beyer, K. Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer, pp. 209–214. Göttingen, 1984.
    Addition of a small fragment to Testament of Qahat (4Q542).
  • Cook, E. M. “Remarks on the Testament of Kohath from Qumran Cave 4.” Journal of Jewish Studies 44 (1993), 205–219.
    Discussion of the linguistic character of the text.
  • de Jonge, M. “The Testament of Levi and ‘Aramaic Levi.’” Revue de Qumrân 13 (1988), 376–385.
    Discussion of textual and literary issues.
  • Fitzmyer, J. A., and D. J. Harrington. A Manual of Palestinian Aramaic Texts (Second Century B.C.–Second Century A.D.), pp. 92–97. Biblica et orientalia, 34. Rome, 1978.
    Reedition of the text.
  • Milik, J. T. “4QVisions de ῾Amram et une citation d'Origène.” Revue biblique 79 (1972), 77–92.
    Initial publication of some Qahat fragments.
  • Puech, É. “Le Testament de Qahat en araméen de la grotte 4 (4QTQah).” Revue de Qumrân 15 (1988), 23–54.
    The first full edition of the Testament of Qahat.

Michael E. Stone