THE HIGH PRIORITY OF THE ROLE OF MUSIC IN WORSHIP IS REFLECTED IN DAVID’S ORGANIZATION OF THE TEMPLE MUSICIANS
Andrew Hill: This section is devoted to the rostering and duties of the temple musicians, the first of several special classes of Levites. The passage suggests that singing in the temple liturgy was typically accompanied by the playing of musical instruments. As in the case with the priests, the Levitical musicians are ordered in families and arranged in twenty-four courses (cf. 24:20–31).
Martin Selman: The arrangements for the musicians, the first of the specialist groups of Levites, are now given. Music was of the highest importance in Israelite worship, as is clear from many parts of the Old Testament, notably the Psalms. The Levitical musicians’ role in leading and directing worship was crucial, for it was they who encouraged the people to worship God with conviction, harmony, and vitality. David’s organization prepared for the Levites’ leading of worship in Solomon’s temple, as illustrated by the temple dedication service when the great Levitical orchestra and choir made their declaration: “He is good; his love endures for ever” (2 Chr. 5:12-14; 7:1-6; cf. 1 Chr. 15-16).
J.A. Thompson: The establishment of a temple choir is in one sense surprising. Elsewhere the Chronicler is profoundly concerned that the worship be carried on in strict accord with the law, which makes no provision for a choir. How then does he justify a levitical choir in David’s reign? J. W. Kleinig observes that the Chronicler uses several strategies to support the validity of this institution. Above all, it was authorized by a prophetic word from Nathan and Gad (2 Chr 29:25). Three other sources of justification for the choir, however, are possible.
– First, in Num 10:10 the priests are to proclaim the Lord’s grace by blowing trumpets at the altar, and this serves to vindicate the use of music in praise.
– Second, Deut 10:8 and 18:5 say that the Levites “pronounce blessings” in God’s name (cf. Deut 18:5); hence the use of a levitical choir is reasonable.
– Third, the general admonitions in Scripture to rejoice in God’s presence allow for worship in song.
Iain Duguid: Such meticulous detailing of arrangements for music in the temple is a unique feature of Chronicles. For his hearers, now with a second temple, the Chronicler is clearly commending the importance of traditional structures and procedures for ongoing music serving and praising God. The book of Psalms, also postexilic in its canonical form, contains many references to “singing” and instruments, together with titles that at times have tantalizing Levitical and musical notes; Chronicles can be read as a complement, reminding hearers to give attention to implementation, thus facilitating corporate praise. . .
The Chronicler’s comments are a reminder that church music is “to the Lord.” There is a breadth of involvement as people of different ages and skill levels come together; choirs and musicians are to prepare and perform in a way that points the congregations to God, not themselves. It could be said that every occasion, irrespective of location or numbers present, is a “royal performance” to the King of kings.
Mark Boda: Both the link to the royal house and the link to prophecy strengthen the claim of superior status for the Levitical singers among the Levitical orders.
(:1) PROLOGUE — SUMMARY
“Moreover, David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun,
who were to prophesy with lyres, harps, and cymbals;
and the number of those who performed their service was:”
Iain Duguid: It is possible that “Jeduthun” is the same man as “Ethan,” who was appointed initially with Asaph and Heman (15:17; 6:31–48). (“Ethan” is not named elsewhere [“Ethan the Ezrahite” in the superscription to Psalm 89 is a different person; cf. 1 Chron. 2:6; 1 Kings 4:31].) “Jeduthun” is named several times, including after the exile (Neh. 11:17), but with no preceding genealogy. . .
Standing out in its difference is the “promise of God to exalt” Heman (1 Chron. 25:5). Regarding the priests, the Chronicler simply states the relative strength of the sons of Eleazar to explain why they were allocated more divisions (24:4), but with Heman the large family is first said to be a fulfillment of a promise (otherwise unmentioned). Their numerical strength is not fortuitous but God’s active blessing. Further, the last seven sons’ names are unusual in their structure and meaning and may be phrases at the start of psalms (e.g., “Hananiah, Hanani”: “Be gracious to me, Yahweh, be gracious to me”; “Eliathah”: “You are my God”; “Giddalti”: “I have magnified”). This personal note points to the material as being early.
I. (:2-7) THE THREE MUSICAL GUILDS
A. (:2-4) Composition of the Three Musical Guilds
1. (:2) Family of Asaph
“Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah;
the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph,
who prophesied under the direction of the king.”
2. (:3) Family of Jeduthun
“Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun with the harp, who prophesied in giving thanks and praising the LORD.”
3. (:4-5) Family of Heman
“Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. 5 All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Heman.”
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler traces the origin of the temple music ministry in three Levitical families: Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun (25:1). There is a sense in which these families represent musical guilds, as witnessed in their contribution to the Psalms (cf. Ps. 73–89). Perhaps each family or guild has its own distinctive musical style or repertoire, or some other distinctive feature (note, e.g., the musical notations introducing the psalms of the Asaph and Korah collections, Ps. 73–89).
There seems to be some fluidity in the membership of the core families responsible for the music ministry of the temple since Ethan replaces Jeduthun in another of the Chronicler’s lists of Levitical musicians (cf. 15:19), and the sons of Korah are connected with nearly a dozen different psalms (Ps. 42; 44–49; 84–85; 87–88). David’s organization of a corps of Levitical temple musicians is important to the legitimacy of music in worship as temple liturgy developed. This is another way for the Chronicler to connect his present with Israel’s past, especially since the postexilic community is still bereft of Davidic kingship. For the Chronicler, the community is still linked to Davidic kingship, at least indirectly, through the temple worship he organized.
B. (:6-7) Coordination of the Three Musical Guilds
“All these were under the direction of their father to sing in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, harps and lyres, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the direction of the king. 7 And their number who were trained in singing to the LORD, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was 288.”
II. (:8-31) THE 24 DIVISIONS OF LEVITICAL MUSICIANS
“And they cast lots for their duties, all alike, the small as well as the great, the teacher as well as the pupil.”
Mark Boda: As with the priests and then the other Levites in chapter 24, so now with the musicians, the appointments are made through “sacred lots” without preferential treatment, here defined as discrimination on the basis of age (“young or old”) or expertise (“teacher or student”). As with the priestly divisions, 24 lots were cast for 24 families and in each case the leader of the family was accompanied by 12 relatives (25:9-31).
Andrew Hill: The opening verse bridges the two sections of the chapter in the collective reference to the preceding roster of Levitical musicians (“young and old, teacher and student”) and in the introduction of the lot-casting for assigned duties. The casting of lots is also the method used to determine the order of ministry for the priestly divisions (24:31) of the Levites and the gate assignments for the gatekeepers (26:13). The Israelites considered the drawing of lots (24:5) as an impartial selection process as well as a divinely superintended one, since they understood that the decision of the lot is from the Lord (Prov. 16:33). It is unclear whether the lot-casting determines the composition and ministry routine of the Levitical singers or their rotation of liturgical service.
The rota of twenty-four divisions of Levitical musicians is actually one long sentence (25:9–31). Unlike the register of the priests (ch. 24) and the Levitical gatekeepers (ch. 26), the Levitical singers are identified first by family affiliation according to three main branches (25:1–7) and then by the ordering of divisions (25:8–31).
9 Now the first lot came out for Asaph to Joseph, the second for Gedaliah, he with his relatives and sons were twelve;
10 the third to Zaccur, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
11 the fourth to Izri, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
12 the fifth to Nethaniah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
13 the sixth to Bukkiah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
14 the seventh to Jesharelah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
15 the eighth to Jeshaiah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
16 the ninth to Mattaniah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
17 the tenth to Shimei, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
18 the eleventh to Azarel, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
19 the twelfth to Hashabiah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
20 for the thirteenth, Shubael, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
21 for the fourteenth, Mattithiah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
22 for the fifteenth to Jeremoth, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
23 for the sixteenth to Hananiah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
24 for the seventeenth to Joshbekashah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
25 for the eighteenth to Hanani, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
26 for the nineteenth to Mallothi, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
27 for the twentieth to Eliathah, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
28 for the twenty-first to Hothir, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
29 for the twenty-second to Giddalti, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
30 for the twenty-third to Mahazioth, his sons and his relatives, twelve;
31 for the twenty-fourth to Romamti-ezer, his sons and his relatives, twelve.”
Frederick Mabie: As with their priestly brothers (cf. 24:5–18, 31) and their Levitical brothers (cf. 24:20–31), these Levitical musicians have their divisions determined by lot without partiality to age or stature (v.8; cf. Pr 16:33). The Levitical musicians appointed to musical ministry at the temple are organized into twenty-four divisions in analogy to the twenty-four divisions of Levitical-Aaronic priests appointed to minister at the Jerusalem temple (cf. 1Ch 24:1–19). This suggests that these Levitical musicians ministered in tandem with the twenty-four divisions of priests in the context of temple worship, feasts, and morning and evening sacrifice together with others who led in expressions of praise and thanksgiving (cf. 1Ch 23:30–31; note the superscriptions to Pss 92; 100; cf. Isa 30:29; Selman, 236; Hill, 310). When these roles are understood together, it is clear that David envisioned the temple as home to a vibrant tapestry of praise and worship, reflecting the splendor of God’s goodness and holiness.
August Konkel: The casting of lots for the priests was to assign the rotation of duties without prejudice (1 Chron 24:3, 31). The divisions rotated every week, each serving for a total of two weeks of the year, irrespective of the festival times. The casting of lots for the musicians is not specific to the rotations of service, as in the case of the priests. Equality is emphasized in casting lots for the duties of the singers (25:8), so there could be no discrimination in the assignment of less significant responsibilities or in the skill level of the performer. Both apprentice and skilled performer are assigned their duties by lot. These assignments appear to be the designation of performers and their duties within the divisions. The singers seem to be in general groupings to fulfill the requirements of duty, which may have helped facilitate considerable responsibility for a relatively small number of people.