PROPER WORSHIP REQUIRES EXCELLENT ORGANIZATIONAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE SKILLS
J.A. Thompson: Chapters 23–27 sometimes are looked upon as an interruption, if not an interpolation, in this narrative. In fact, they are very important for showing that David fulfilled all his duties as a good king by seeing to it that the proper worship of the Lord would continue. From the Chronicler’s perspective, the account of David’s reign would be truncated if this material were not included.
The total preparations for the temple included the allocation of personnel to undertake the various spiritual ministries of the temple. These were more crucial than the material structure alone—a perspective that David understood better than many of his modern Christian counterparts. Chapters 23–26 take up various branches of the Levites (chap. 23), priests (chap. 24), musicians (chap. 25), and the gatekeepers and treasury officials (chap. 26). These chapters form a unit in themselves. It seems likely that the Chronicler used for his composition some traditions that were reduced to writing earlier although in their present form they bear unmistakable signs of the Chronicler’s hand.
August Konkel: “Administration” does not sound positive to most people. It is too closely affiliated with concepts of bureaucracy, thought of as a cumbersome interference in getting things done. But worse than bloated bureaucracy is a lack of organization. Organizations have the name because they involve an administration capable of accomplishing desirable tasks. The Chronicler spends much of his work in laying out good administration. This unique section on administration concludes the reign of David.
The remainder of 1 Chronicles is directed to assemblies of people. Chapters 23 through 27 address smaller groups of officials with specific duties. Chapters 28 to 29 address all Israel concerning their responsibility for the temple.
Wilcock: To entitle this section the ‘organization of the Levites’ is to make it sound like bureaucratic regimentation. It is rather to be seen as a scaffolding for that house, a structure to enable God’s people to function as they ought.
Iain Duguid: The concluding chapters of 1 Chronicles are framed by statements about David’s being “old” and Solomon’s becoming “king” (23:1; 29:28). Two parts commence in a similar manner:
(1) chapters 23–27 describe David’s organizational arrangements, while
(2) chapters 28–29 recount his stirring charges and actions in handing over temple and kingdom, along with the people’s responses.
David has charged Solomon and the leaders to “build the sanctuary of the Lord God” (22:19) and has already provided for materials and artisans (22:2–5), but that dealt briefly with only the building itself. The Chronicler’s focus is on people and their continuing responsibilities, with organization of both temple personnel and national administration to the fore. Organizational details (160 verses) far outweigh those of the physical building and its objects (41 verses; 28:11–12; 2 Chron. 3:1–4:22). Whereas 1 Kings 1–2 portrays the weakness of David’s old age and intrigues surrounding the succession, the Chronicler chooses to focus on positive aspects particularly relevant to his hearers.
Peter Wallace: As we go through this passage, I want you to see the big picture: what the Chronicler is talking about is the careful organization of worship and music, of church finance and discipline – all under the rule of the LORD’s Anointed.
(:1) PROLOGUE – PREPARATION FOR TRANSITION TO SOLOMON
“Now when David reached old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.”
Iain Duguid: David’s life has not been cut short (cf. Isa. 65:20); he shares the honored description of Abraham, Isaac, Job, and the later faithful priest Jehoiada (Gen. 25:8; 35:29; Job 42:17; 2 Chron. 24:15).
Andrew Hill: The general heading provides an entrée into the rest of the Chronicler’s account of David’s reign (23:2–29:30) by explaining the series of organizational moves by David that permit the successful transition of power to his son. Selman connects the heading implicitly to the Davidic covenant because David’s organization of the priests and Levites links his “house” or dynasty with the God’s “house” or temple (1 Chron. 17).
This means that neither the kingship nor the temple is an independent institution; both partner in establishing God’s kingdom in Israel.
J.A. Thompson: It was not that Solomon became king at the very close of David’s life. Indeed, there may have been a period of co-regency between David and Solomon based on Egyptian models. The statement means simply that as David grew older and in order to protect the succession, he installed Solomon as king (cf. 1 Kgs 1–2). There is no indication of Solomon’s age at this time.
I. (23:1-23) DIVISIONS OF LEVITES
A. (:2-6) Census of the Levites
J.A. Thompson: David gathered the three leading segments of Israelite society— princes, priests, and Levites. These groups were a stereotyped division of the people current at the time (cf. 13:2; 2 Chr 30:25; 35:8; Ezra 2:70). They will be dealt with in the reverse order in the following chapters: Levites (chap. 23), priests (chap. 24), and others (chaps. 25–27).
Andrew Hill: David organized the Levites according to four distinct categories of labor: the work of the temple, officials and judges, gatekeepers, and musicians (23:3–5). Three of the four Levitical guilds are treated later as David prepares for the building of the temple, again in reverse order (see chs. 25–26). In addition to the legal functions of those Levites appointed as judges, it is possible that those described as “officials” have record-keeping responsibilities. The Levites assigned to the work of the temple assist the priests with the sacrificial rituals and certain aspects of temple worship (perhaps their duties are prescribed in 23:28–31). . .
This census should not be seen as a contradiction to the ill-advised military census previously ordered by David and implemented by Joab (ch. 21). The purpose of this census of the Levites is to establish a rotation of Levitical service for temple worship.
“And he gathered together all the leaders of Israel with the priests and the Levites. 3 And the Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward, and their number by census of men was 38,000. 4 Of these, 24,000 were to oversee the work of the house of the LORD; and 6,000 were officers and judges, 5 and 4,000 were gatekeepers, and 4,000 were praising the LORD with the instruments which David made for giving praise. 6 And David divided them into divisions according to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.”
Frederick Mabie: In the presence of the priests and key officials of the community (v.2), David articulates the responsibilities that will be undertaken by the main family lines of Levi (v.6) once a temple is established in Jerusalem (note vv.25–26). The various responsibilities of these Levites are divided between those who will supervise the temple service (v.4), those who will serve in the civil realm (officials and judges; v.4), the gatekeepers (v.5), and the musicians/worship leaders (v.5). The latter part of the chapter (cf. vv.24–27) reflects the significant diversity of service ultimately performed by the Levitical community.
August Konkel: The census of Levites follows the pattern of including them only in connection with their assigned tasks, not in a general census (1Chron 23:3‐4; cf. Num 1:3, 49‐50). The census classifies Levites according to their clerical function (those supervising the work of the temple, officers and judges, guards, and musicians). The enumeration and registration of the Levites are not in the traditional system of father’s houses or families. The organization of the Levites is according to smaller administrative units that the Chronicler calls divisions (1Chron 23:6‐23). The anticipation of centralized worship at a national sanctuary required a system of divisions of alternating services.
Iain Duguid: New under David is the major function of those who “offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.” Priests had previously blown “trumpets,” but David expands the variety with other instruments made specifically for the Levites “for praise” in the temple (2 Chron. 7:6; 29:26; Neh. 12:36). The organization of musicians is detailed in 1 Chronicles 25 (cf. 15:16–24; 16:4–7).
All tasks are to be perpetual, day and night, throughout the year. The Levites are accordingly organized on the basis of clans “in divisions,” who will work on a rotational basis, ensuring an equitable involvement. David retains the traditional threefold grouping of Levites based on the descendants of Levi’s sons, “Gershon, Kohath, and Merari” (6:1–53; cf. Ex. 6:16–19; Num. 3:17–39), but he will adapt their tasks to the new setting of the temple.
B. (:7-23) Genealogical Table of Levitical Families
Frederick Mabie: These Levitical families are organized by David in light of the transition from a worship setting that included a portable shrine and changing sites of worship, to a centralized worship setting at the Jerusalem temple.
August Konkel: There are two notable developments within these divisions of Levitical families. The first is that two of the families of Shimei became too small to support a division of Levites (1Chron 23:11). They came to be enumerated as one ancestral house. Presumably another of the father’s houses that was more prolific divided and came to fill the void. The replacement is not named since this was a development that took place after the time the divisions were established. A second development was that Eleazar, one of the sons of Mahli, son of Merari, did not have any sons (v. 22). This did not eliminate that ancestral house from having a share in the Levitical divisions. Here is a case of implementing the provisions of Numbers 27:1‐7 and 36:1‐12, made for instances of property inheritance when there were no sons. The daughters through their husbands would retain the property within the family. The daughters of Eleazar married their relatives of the house of Qish, but their family retained its identity. As in the regulations of Numbers, the women do not actually assume the role of the male but bridge the generational gap.
John Schultz: In this section we find ourselves in the same situation as in the opening chapters of First Chronicles in which long lists of genealogy are given. It may be difficult to find food for the soul in these lists. We refer to the remarks of J. Sidlow Baxter in his book Explore the Book, who stated that these lists were a reminder to the Jews who returned for exile who might have forgotten their roots and divine election. Those, who had returned to the Promised Land for the purpose of rebuilding the place of God’s revelation on earth, needed to be reminded where they came from in order to know where they were going.
1. (:7-11) Sons of Gershon
“Of the Gershonites were Ladan and Shimei. 8 The sons of Ladan were Jehiel the first and Zetham and Joel, three. 9 The sons of Shimei were Shelomoth and Haziel and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers’ households of Ladan. 10 And the sons of Shimei were Jahath, Zina, Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. 11 And Jahath was the first, and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, so they became a father’s household, one class.”
2. (:12-20) Sons of Kohath
“The sons of Kohath were four: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. 13 The sons of Amram were Aaron and Moses. And Aaron was set apart to sanctify him as most holy, he and his sons forever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister to Him and to bless in His name forever. 14 But as for Moses the man of God, his sons were named among the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The son of Gershom was Shebuel the chief. 17 And the son of Eliezer was Rehabiah the chief; and Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. 18 The son of Izhar was Shelomith the chief. 19 The sons of Hebron were Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth. 20 The sons of Uzziel were Micah the first and Isshiah the second.”
Andrew Hill: Aaron and Moses are sons of Amram of the Kohathites (23:12–20). The line of Aaron is excluded from the Levitical census as the high priestly family (23:13). Aaron was “set apart” (bdl) or singled out for holy service to God and his people. The family of Moses, however, was numbered among the Levites (23:14). Unlike Aaron’s family, the family of Moses receives no special status despite his standing as a “man of God.” This title signifies one chosen and sent by God as a prophet or a human agent of divine revelation and an example of holiness.
The fourfold list of duties prescribed for Aaron and his descendants is the most comprehensive statement of priestly function in Chronicles and is perhaps a commentary on the anointing of Aaron and his sons (23:13; cf. Ex. 30:30). Both the priests and the Levites are called “to minister” before the Lord and “pronounce blessings” in his name (cf. Deut. 10:8). Allen’s poignant insight calls attention to this priestly blessing as it “formed a bridge between temple worship and mundane life back home.” The distinctive service of the priests consists of consecrating holy things and of offering sacrifices (23:13). The priests are responsible to sanctify the vessels and furniture of the Lord’s sanctuary and to maintain the holy status of these objects as they are utilized in worship (cf. Ex. 30:22–29). The expression “offer sacrifices” (lit., “burn incense” or “go up in smoke,” Heb. qṭr) refers in general to the various types of ritual sacrifices superintended by the priests (e.g., Lev. 1:9; 2:2; 3:5).
3. (:21-23) Sons of Merari
“The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22 And Eleazar died and had no sons, but daughters only, so their brothers, the sons of Kish, took them as wives. 23 The sons of Mushi were three: Mahli, Eder, and Jeremoth.”
(:24) SUMMARY STATEMENT AND TRANSITION
“These were the sons of Levi according to their fathers’ households, even the heads of the fathers’ households of those of them who were counted, in the number of names by their census, doing the work for the service of the house of the LORD, from twenty years old and upward.”
Andrew Hill: The summary statement concluding the register of the Levitical heads of families emphasizes the meticulous nature of the census, registered by name and counted individually (23:24). . . serves double duty in that it closes the genealogical tables by summarizing the methodology of the census-taking and directly introduces the unit describing the functions of the Levites.
II. (23:25-32) LEVITICAL DUTIES
A. (:25-27) Association between Gift of Rest and a Permanent Temple
“For David said, ‘The LORD God of Israel has given rest to His people, and He dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26 And also, the Levites will no longer need to carry the tabernacle and all its utensils for its service.’ 27 For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered, from twenty years old and upward.”
Iain Duguid: Again comes a reminder that the new organization and assignments are not simply a matter of a king’s desire and authority but flow from the Lord’s actions. It is God who has given the “rest” the nation enjoys, and the building of the temple leads to his “dwelling in Jerusalem.” The association between “rest” and temple was a key factor in earlier words to Solomon (1 Chron. 22:9–10) and will be again in words to the people (28:2–6), while the Lord’s “dwelling” (Hb. shakan, 23:25; replacing the movable “tabernacle,” mishkan, v. 26) features in the beginning of his words to David (17:4–5). That the Lord’s chosen site is “in Jerusalem” has been the climax of David’s abortive census (22:1). The addition of “forever” not only affirms the fixed location but also gives David’s arrangements ongoing authority (2 Chron. 35:4; Neh. 12:45).
B. (:28-32) Assistance Provided to the Sons of Aaron in Temple Service
“For their office is to assist the sons of Aaron with the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts and in the chambers and in the purifying of all holy things, even the work of the service of the house of God, 29 and with the showbread, and the fine flour for a grain offering, and unleavened wafers, or what is baked in the pan, or what is well-mixed, and all measures of volume and size. 30 And they are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the LORD, and likewise at evening, 31 and to offer all burnt offerings to the LORD, on the sabbaths, the new moons and the fixed festivals in the number set by the ordinance concerning them, continually before the LORD. 32 Thus they are to keep charge of the tent of meeting, and charge of the holy place, and charge of the sons of Aaron their relatives, for the service of the house of the LORD.”
Andrew Hill: In addition to their role as a supporting cast to the priesthood, the Levites are also in charge of the music that accompanies the rituals of temple worship (23:30–31). The key idea of the passage is the contribution of the Levites to the continuity of Israelite worship through the faithful discharging of their responsibilities, first in the Tent of Meeting and then in the temple of David and Solomon (23:32). The subordination of the Levites to the priests characteristic at David’s time seems to have changed by the postexilic period, when priest and Levite seem to function more as equals in the service of the second temple.
August Konkel: With the establishment of the temple at Jerusalem, the Chronicler describes the transformed work of the Levites. The Levites serve alongside the priests (1Chron 23:28); it does not mean that their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord (KJV). The appointment of the Levites is to serve with the sons of Aaron and not in subordination to them. Levites are not assistants to the priests. The service of the Levites is in every aspect of temple function. This is a complete evolution from their service to the tabernacle. Before the temple, Levitical service pertained to the physical labor in moving the tabernacle and providing security (Num 8:25‐26). The tabernacle, the outer altar, and their respective utensils are forbidden to Levites on the pain of death (Num 18:3). As Milgrom has unequivocally established, this situation pertained so long as the tabernacle functioned (Milgrom 1983: 18–28, 30–38). In Chronicles this situation changes with the building of the temple (1Chron 23:25‐26). The work of the Levites becomes cult service and is described in considerable detail.
J.A. Thompson: Part of their duty was to provide thanksgiving and praise in the temple, that is, to carry out musical duties. If some of the details of this and subsequent chapters appear trivial and even irrelevant to us, they were evidently important to the Chronicler and his postexilic audience. The details of God’s relationship with his people are significant in every age. Organization and planning is not necessarily contrary to sincerity in worship. As J. G. McConville has written, “Worship can be sublime and spiritual without becoming disorganized; and the converse is probably not true” (cf. 1 Cor 14:48). These chapters also remind us of the many tasks and the many people necessary for proper worship and service (cf. 1 Cor 12:14–31).
III. (24:1-19) DIVISIONS OF PRIESTS – DESCENDANTS OF AARON
“Now the divisions of the descendants of Aaron were these: the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2 But Nadab and Abihu died before their father and had no sons. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests. 3 And David, with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their offices for their ministry. 4 Since more chief men were found from the descendants of Eleazar than the descendants of Ithamar, they divided them thus: there were sixteen heads of fathers’ households of the descendants of Eleazar, and eight of the descendants of Ithamar according to their fathers’ households. 5 Thus they were divided by lot, the one as the other; for they were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God, both from the descendants of Eleazar and the descendants of Ithamar. 6 And Shemaiah, the son of Nethanel the scribe, from the Levites, recorded them in the presence of the king, the princes, Zadok the priest, Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and the heads of the fathers’ households of the priests and of the Levites; one father’s household taken for Eleazar and one taken for Ithamar. 7 Now the first lot came out for Jehoiarib, the second for Jedaiah, 8 the third for Harim, the fourth for Seorim, 9 the fifth for Malchijah, the sixth for Mijamin, 10 the seventh for Hakkoz, the eighth for Abijah, 11 the ninth for Jeshua, the tenth for Shecaniah, 12 the eleventh for Eliashib, the twelfth for Jakim, 13 the thirteenth for Huppah, the fourteenth for Jeshebeab, 14 the fifteenth for Bilgah, the sixteenth for Immer, 15 the seventeenth for Hezir, the eighteenth for Happizzez, 16 the nineteenth for Pethahiah, the twentieth for Jehezkel, 17 the twenty-first for Jachin, the twenty-second for Gamul, 18 the twenty-third for Delaiah, the twenty-fourth for Maaziah. 19 These were their offices for their ministry, when they came in to the house of the LORD according to the ordinance given to them through Aaron their father, just as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.”
Frederick Mabie: While these priestly divisions are situated within the general context of David’s preparations for Solomon’s incoming administration (v.3; cf. chs. 22–29), they are also rooted in divine instruction previously given to Aaron (cf. v.19). In addition, the outworking of these priestly appointments advances via the casting of lots (cf. vv.5–18), reflecting both equity (“impartially,” v.5) and divine involvement (cf. Pr 16:33). The casting of lots culminates in the appointment of twenty-four priestly divisions that constitute their “appointed order of ministering” in the context of temple service (vv.3, 19).
Mark Boda: the key for the Chronicler is that these families followed the “procedures” Aaron had established based on the command of the Lord. As with the Levites, so with the priests, faithful obedience to God’s revelation is key to this new phase of Israelite worship.
IV. (24:20-31) FURTHER DIVISIONS OF LEVITES
“Now for the rest of the sons of Levi: of the sons of Amram, Shubael; of the sons of Shubael, Jehdeiah. 21 Of Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, Isshiah the first. 22 Of the Izharites, Shelomoth; of the sons of Shelomoth, Jahath. 23 And the sons of Hebron: Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth. 24 Of the sons of Uzziel, Micah; of the sons of Micah, Shamir. 25 The brother of Micah, Isshiah; of the sons of Isshiah, Zechariah. 26 The sons of Merari, Mahli and Mushi; the sons of Jaaziah, Beno. 27 The sons of Merari: by Jaaziah were Beno, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri. 28 By Mahli: Eleazar, who had no sons. 29 By Kish: the sons of Kish, Jerahmeel. 30 And the sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites according to their fathers’ households. 31 These also cast lots just as their relatives the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the heads of the fathers’ households of the priests and of the Levites– the head of fathers’ households as well as those of his younger brother.”
Frederick Mabie: Note that the Chronicler does not include the Levitical family line of Gershon in this listing. The reason for this omission is uncertain but may relate to this chapter’s focus on those having particular duties at the Jerusalem temple.
August Konkel: The introduction designating the rest of the descendants of Levi in verse 20 is a sequel to the preceding list of Levites in 1 Chronicles 23:3‐23. The singers and the gatekeepers of the following chapters are also Levites, so this list must be a supplement to the divisions of the Levites already given. It is modeled on the list of priests. The closing verse parallels the introduction of the priests (1Chron 24:6, 31), the only omission being the king’s officers. For reasons not evident, it does not include the families of Gershon.
Iain Duguid: The careful delineation of the procedures for organizing the “divisions” and of the distinct role for the “sons of Aaron,” but with Levites involved in the process and having specific roles alongside the priests, allocated with the same procedures, may suggest that the Chronicler is addressing postexilic tensions among priestly families and the Levites. He gives greatest attention in chapters 23–26 to the Levites, but, while the “sons of Aaron” are mentioned only in 23:13, 32 and 24:1–19, they are central. He is affirming that all, as “brothers,” are involved “in their service to come into the house of the Lord” (24:19; cf. 23:32).
J.A. Thompson: The list of Levites here presupposes and updates the list in 23:6–23 by recapitulating parts of it in the same order and extending them by one generation. Thus to the family of Kohath the line of Shubael is extended to Jehdeiah (v. 20); the line Rehabiah, to Isshiah (v. 21); that of Izhar, to Jahath (v. 22). The Hebron line is not changed (v. 23; 23:19); Uzziel extended to Shamir (v. 24), and so on. A new line is added to Merari, that of Jaaziah, who had three sons. Ten more names were added, apparently reflecting the situation at the time of the author. The addition of only one name in most cases suggests a generation later than the list in chap. 23.