THE ADMINISTRATION OF WORSHIP UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE LEVITES ELEVATES THIS TRIBE TO A POSITION OF PROMINENCE
Frederick Mabie: The length of the Chronicler’s treatment of the tribe of Levi is second only to his survey of the line of Judah (chs. 2–4). The extra attention afforded to these two tribes relates to their key role in ancient Israel: the Davidic dynasty through the tribe of Judah and priests and Levites through the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was chosen by God to mediate matters of sacrifice, temple/tabernacle caretaking, music, and worship. In addition, priests and Levites served as teachers of God’s law, will, and ways to God’s covenantal people. It should be noted that the Chronicler is careful to maintain the distinction between Levites and priests throughout his genealogical survey with items pertaining to genealogy and settlement cities handled separately for each. While every priest was a Levite, not every Levite was a priest.
J.A. Thompson: The tribe of Levi was one of the three tribes that occupied the central place in the thinking of the Chronicler. It was one of the tribes that in his view remained faithful to the Davidic kingship and to temple worship in the preexilic period. Far more attention is given to their genealogy than to the other tribes (Naphtali has one verse, 7:13). Levi was scattered throughout “all Israel” and was in every era their clergy. In the words of Wilcock, “Levi thus provides a religious leadership which acts as a binding force through the length of Israel’s history and the breadth of its territory.”
Also the tribe of Levi represented Israel’s central concern, the worship of God. The temple and its rituals stood at the heart of Israel’s life. It was the tribe of Levi that cared for the temple and administered its rituals. No doubt the Chronicler owed something to the Book of Numbers when he placed Levi in the center of the genealogies of Israel, for, according to Numbers, the tribes of Israel as they were encamped in the wilderness were arranged in a square with the clans of Levi in the center around the tabernacle (Num 1:44–2:34). Moses, Aaron, and his sons “were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites” (Num 3:38).
Iain Duguid: Section Outline — Levi (6:1–81)
a. The Levites and Their Roles (6:1–53)
(1) Kohathites: The Line of Priests from Aaron to the Exile (6:1–15)
(2) Gershomites, Other Kohathites, Merarites (6:16–30)
(3) David’s Setting Some in Charge of Choral Music (6:31–32)
(2′) Head Singers of the Kohathites (Heman), Gershomites (Asaph), and Merarites (Ethan) (6:33–48)
(1′) Descendants of Aaron and Sacrifices (6:49–53)
b. Their Dwelling Places (6:54–81)
(1) Aaronic Priests: The Kohathite Towns in Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin (6:54–60)
(2) Rest of the Kohathites, Gershomites, and Merarites (Tallies in Other Tribal Areas) (6:61–64)
(1′) More on Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin (6:65)
(2′) Place Names for the Other Kohathites (6:66–70), Gershomites (6:71–76), and Merarites (6:77–81)
Andrew Hill: The genealogy may be divided into two sections: Levitical genealogies (6:1–53) and the settlement of the priests and Levites (6:54–81). Each section treats the priests and Levites separately: the genealogy of the high priests (6:1–15), the genealogies of the three Levitical orders (6:16–30), the Levitical singers (6:31–47), priestly duties (6:48–53), the settlement of the priests (6:54–60), and the settlement of the Levites (6:61–81).
I. (:1-53) LEVITICAL GENEALOGIES AND KEY ROLES
A. (:1-30) Priestly and Non-Priestly Lines
1. (:1-15) Priestly Line
“The sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. 2 And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 And the children of Amram were Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. And the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 4 Eleazar became the father of Phinehas, and Phinehas became the father of Abishua, 5 and Abishua became the father of Bukki, and Bukki became the father of Uzzi, 6 and Uzzi became the father of Zerahiah, and Zerahiah became the father of Meraioth, 7 Meraioth became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, 8 and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Ahimaaz, 9 and Ahimaaz became the father of Azariah, and Azariah became the father of Johanan, 10 and Johanan became the father of Azariah (it was he who served as the priest in the house which Solomon built in Jerusalem), 11 and Azariah became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, 12 and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Shallum, 13 and Shallum became the father of Hilkiah, and Hilkiah became the father of Azariah, 14 and Azariah became the father of Seraiah, and Seraiah became the father of Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went along when the LORD carried Judah and Jerusalem away into exile by Nebuchadnezzar.”
Frederick Mabie: This initial section focuses on the lineage of Kohath, who represents the line of the Aaronic high priests. This genealogy reminds the audience that while Aaron, Moses, and Miriam were from the family of Levi, only the line of Aaron served as high priests. Within this family line, the two eldest sons of Aaron—Nadab and Abihu—violated God’s holy space by not doing everything according to God’s will (“unauthorized fire . . . contrary to his [God’s] command”; cf. Lev 10:1), and Eleazar became the son through whom the high priesthood transferred. This genealogical survey of the line of Kohath extends into exilic times via the mention of Jehozadak (v.15). Only the lines of Judah and Levi are traced by the Chronicler into the exilic time frame, further attesting to their critical role in the covenantal life of Israel.
August Konkel: Though this has often been interpreted as a list of high priests, the Chronicler does not describe them as such. He provides a genealogy from Levi to the exile without distinguishing the role these individuals had in priestly duties.
Iain Duguid: Unlike the Davidic line, the Chronicler does not continue the high priestly line after the exile, although priests are among the returnees (9:10–13). His prime concern appears to be the offering of sacrifices and worship, rather than the high priestly line itself.
Andrew Hill: The genealogy highlights two priests with anecdotes: Azariah, who served as priest in Solomon’s temple (6:10), and Jehozadak, who was deported to Babylonia at the time of Jerusalem’s exile (6:15). Both events were watersheds in Israelite history. The erection of a permanent sanctuary for the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem redefined the Levitical priesthood, while the Babylonian exile indelibly marked Israelite history and theology. . .
The story of triumph or tragedy attached to each name of the Levitical genealogy serves to exhort and admonish the Chronicler’s audience. More than that, they plant seeds of hope for the imminent installation of the kingdom of that royal priest after the order of Melchizedek, who will destroy the enemies of the Israelites (Ps. 110:4).
John Schultz: Two notable parallels occur in the lines of Aaron and David (cf. 2:10-17; 3:1-16). Only these two families out of all the tribal lists are traced from the patriarchs to the exile (2:10-17; 3:1-24; 6:1-15), indicating that they form the basis of Israel’s future survival. Also, both lines follow immediately upon example of Israelite ‘unfaithfulness’ which resulted in national disaster (2:7; 5:25; cf. 6:15; 9:1). Judah and Levi therefore seem to be the means through which even covenant-breaking sins could be atoned for (6:49; cf. 2 Chr. 36:22-23). Chapter 6 underlines the point by repeated reminders of Solomon’s temple (vv. 10, 32, 53), which was a visible sign of God’s desire to forgive sins (2 Chr. 7:15-16).
2. (:16-30) Non-Priestly Line
“The sons of Levi were Gershom, Kohath, and Merari. 17 And these are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei. 18 And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 19 The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers’ households. 20 Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, 21 Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, Jeatherai his son. 22 The sons of Kohath were Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, 23 Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son, and Assir his son, 24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son. 25 And the sons of Elkanah were Amasai and Ahimoth. 26 As for Elkanah, the sons of Elkanah were Zophai his son and Nahath his son, 27 Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son. 28 And the sons of Samuel were Joel, the first-born and Abijah, the second. 29 The sons of Merari were Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzzah his son, 30 Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, Asaiah his son.”
Iain Duguid: The repetition of verses 1, 2 in verses 16, 18 affirms the importance of all three sons of Levi and of descendants of Kohath other than the high priests, reinforced by the way in which verses 33–48 trace back to each son the ancestry of the key Davidic period head singers: Heman, Asaph, and Ethan. . .
While the Aaronic priestly line has prominence, by both its being first and its continuance to the exile, the complementary role of other Levitical families is affirmed by the repetition of verses 1–2 (vv. 16, 18). The priestly line and the others are alike in being “sons of Levi.” The naming of Samuel and his sons (v. 28) and the ending with “Asaiah” (v. 30; 15:6, 11) show that these lines continued to the time of Saul and David.
Frederick Mabie: While the genealogy of each of the sons of Levi is developed by at least two generations, the line of Gershon and Merari is pursued for seven generations.
J.A. Thompson: Whereas the line of high priests is preserved in a vertical chronology, ignoring other lines of descent, in this section the three lines of Levi are followed up, namely, those of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Of these Gershon (v. 20) and Merari (v. 29) are followed for seven generations through the line of the elder sons Libni (v. 17) and Mahli (v. 19). The Kohath tradition develops through Amminadab for ten generations.
August Konkel: The genealogy of the descendants of Levi lists those families not in priestly lineage descended from Amram through Aaron. The sons of Gershom (var. of Gershon), Kohath, and Merari are given as found in the earlier genealogies (Exod 6:17–19; Num 3:18–20). The Kohathites (Num 4:2–15), Gershomites (vv. 21–28), and Merarites (vv. 29–33) were responsible for assembling, maintaining, guarding, dismantling, and moving the tabernacle in the wilderness. This was all part of the work in which the Levites served as assistants to the priests, who were descendants of Kohath through Amran and Aaron.
Tyndale Commentary: Although this list begins in almost exactly the same way as verses 1-15 (‘Gershom,’ vv. 16, 17, etc. [REB. NEB. RSV], is Chronicles’ usual spelling for the more familiar Gershon, v. 1, Exod. 6:16, Num. 3:17), it leads into a different subject, viz, the three main Levitical divisions of the sons of Gershon (vv. 10-21), Kohath (vv. 22-28), and Merari (vv. 29-30). The beginning (vv. 16-19) is determined by Chronicles’ source (Num. 3:17-20), and is in no sense a duplicate of the previous list. Seven generations are given both for the Gershonites and the Merarites, and all three lines seem to end at the time of David, as indicated by Samuel’s sons (v. 28; cf. 2 Sam. 8:2) and Asaiah (v. 30; cf. 15:6).
B. (:31-47) Musical Branch of the Levites
“Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark rested there. 32 And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem; and they served in their office according to their order. 33 And these are those who served with their sons. From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, 34 the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, 35 the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, 36 the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, 37 the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, 38 the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. 39 And Heman’s brother Asaph stood at his right hand, even Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea, 40 the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah, the son of Malchijah, 41 the son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah, 42 the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei, 43 the son of Jahath, the son of Gershom, the son of Levi. 44 And on the left hand were their kinsmen the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, the son of Malluch, 45 the son of Hashabiah, the son of Amaziah, the son of Hilkiah, 46 the son of Amzi, the son of Bani, the son of Shemer, 47 the son of Mahli, the son of Mushi, the son of Merari, the son of Levi.”
David Guzik: The fact that David appointed these men over the service of song shows that the musical worship of God is important, it is worthy of attention, and should be organized. In fact, it is specifically said they served in their office according to their order.
Iain Duguid: vv. 31-32 — The longest description of roles among all of the genealogies is this central statement of David’s appointment of Levites “in charge of the service of song in the house of the Lord.” Temple worship, planned by David and implemented by Solomon, required new arrangements; for the Chronicler’s hearers these continued for the postexilic second temple. Here the Chronicler introduces his major interest in music and worship. Other Levitical personnel and roles (alluded to in v. 48), along with much more on music, will be detailed in chapters 23–26.
Frederick Mabie: This section of the Chronicler’s survey of the family line of Levi focuses on David’s organization of the musical branch of the Levites. In ancient Israel, numerous Levitical ministers are noted as being responsible for music and worship, including “joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps, and cymbals” (1Ch 15:16; cf. the 288 musicians counted during the time of David; 25:1–8). By contrast, with the exception of the blowing of trumpets (cf. 15:24; 2Ch 5:13), the priests did not play a role in the musical service of ancient Israel.
The presentation of this genealogy is in the reverse (ascending) order (compare vv.22–28). As such, the subsections of this genealogy end with Kohath (v.38), Gershon (v.43), and Merari (v.47) rather than beginning with each of these sons of Levi. The focal point of the Chronicler’s overview of the Levitical musical corps is Heman the Kohathite (v.33; cf. 1Ch 15:16–17; 25:1, 4–5), with Asaph the Gershonite being described as serving at his right hand (v.39), and Ethan the Merarite described as being at his left hand (v.44). All three of these worship leaders are associated with the sounding of bronze cymbals (cf. 15:19).
Andrew Hill: The families of Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, each representing one of the three sons of Levi, were appointed as music directors for temple worship. Apparently the Levitical musicians split the duties of the music ministry between the “house of the LORD” in Jerusalem where “the ark came to rest” (6:31; cf. 15:1–3) and the tabernacle in Gibeon (cf. 16:39–42) until the completion of Solomon’s temple (6:32).
August Konkel: A change in the Levitical duties was instituted with the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chron 6:31–32). The duties for transporting the tabernacle were over; the symbol of divine rule over creation would be localized with the king’s residence in one place, as was customary in ancient culture. The primary function of the Levites in Chronicles is their leadership in song at the temple. Their work was done following all the regulations (v. 32), an indication that the practice of music was begun earlier at the tabernacle in Gibeon, led by Heman and Jeduthun (1 Chron 16:41). The ark found its resting place in Jerusalem, in the tent (house of the Lord) David prepared for it, when it was brought up from Obed-Edom (15:1–16:1). Song and liturgical ritual (service) in Jerusalem were part of the Levitical duty.
C. (:48-53) Key Levitical Roles
1. (:48-49) Summary
a. (:48) Non-Priestly Roles
“And their kinsmen the Levites were appointed for all the service of the tabernacle of the house of God.”
b. (:49) Priestly Roles
“But Aaron and his sons offered on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.”
Frederick Mabie: As these verses reflect and as previously noted, the Chronicler is careful to maintain the distinction between Levites and priests throughout his survey of the tribe of Levi, and while every priest was a Levite, not every Levite was a priest. In addition to the musical responsibilities of some Levites, other Levites functioned as servants to the Levitical/Aaronic priests, especially in matters of the tabernacle/temple (v.48; cf. Nu 8:19). Similarly, the Chronicler elsewhere writes, “The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the temple of the LORD: to be in charge of the courtyards, the side rooms, the purification of all sacred things and the performance of other duties at the house of God” (1Ch 23:28).
Levites were also called to be watchful stewards over God’s Word (cf. Dt. 33:8–11) and were entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the ark of the covenant (cf. Nu 4:15; Dt 10:8–9; 1Ch 15:14–15). In the light of these various duties, Levites had titles such as doorkeepers/gatekeepers, scribes, secretaries, treasurers, and temple-work supervisors (cf. 1Ch 23:2–32; 26:20–22; 2Ch 34:8–13).
By contrast, priests were descendants of the Aaronic Levitical family line (cf. Ex 28:1 and 1Ch 6:3–8) and were primarily responsible for the matters of temple service, particularly the sacrificial system and other aspects of worship that took place within the Most Holy Place (cf. v.49). As the Chronicler succinctly summarizes, “Aaron was set apart, he and his descendants forever, to consecrate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices before the LORD, to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in his name forever” (1Ch 23:13).
In addition, priests had the responsibilities of discerning between clean and unclean, and of teaching Israelites the ways of God (cf. Lev 10:10–11). The specific role of priests as teachers reflects God’s covenantal framework, in which priests are charged by God to “teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them” (Lev 10:11; cf. the poetic [and prophetic] description of Levi’s teaching and atonement commission in Dt 33:8–11 as well as the admonition directed at priests in Mal 2:1–9).
Iain Duguid: vv. 49-53 — The priests’ tasks involve everything related to the “Most Holy Place,” with specific mention of “to make atonement for Israel.” The importance of this key role of the high priest (Leviticus 16) cannot be overestimated. Although “mak[ing] atonement” is mentioned elsewhere in Chronicles only at 2 Chronicles 29:24, that most significant occasion was part of the temple worship restoration and reformation under Hezekiah and was “for all Israel.” Its result was that “all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people” (2 Chron. 29:36). Here was encouragement to continue the sacrificial rituals faithfully after the exile.
2. (:50-53) Aaronic High Priests
“And these are the sons of Aaron: Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son, Abishua his son, 51 Bukki his son, Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son, 52 Meraioth his son, Amariah his son, Ahitub his son, 53 Zadok his son, Ahimaaz his son.”
Frederick Mabie: This list of Aaronic high priests is an abridged summary of the list of high priests given at 6:1–15 (e.g., 6:3–8) and functions as a point of reference to the distinctions between priests and Levites articulated in vv.48–49. Since Zadok and Ahimaaz (v.53) served during the reigns of David and Solomon, respectively, this review serves the Chronicler’s ultimate focus on the Davidic dynasty and temple ministries served by the priests and Levites.
August Konkel: The lineage of Levi concludes with a summary statement of the priests from Aaron to Zadok (vv. 50–53), the time from the institution of tabernacle duties to the transfer of these duties to the temple in the days of Solomon.
Andrew Hill: The list of high priests is an abbreviated version of the descendants of Aaron found previously (6:3–8). The register of names completes the thought of verse 49, given the reference to Aaron and the duties associated with the high priests. Zadok was a contemporary of David (2 Sam. 15:27; 19:11), while Ahimaaz was the high priest during a portion of Solomon’s reign (1 Chron. 6:8–9). Breaking the list of high priests off at this juncture is logical because David reorganized the priesthood (6:31–32) and Solomon built the temple where divinely ordained priestly tasks were performed (6:49).
Adam Clarke: We have already had a list of these, (see 1 Chron 6:3-16;) this is a second, but less extensive, and is a proof that the writer of this book had several lists before him, from which he borrowed as he judged proper.
II. (:54-81) LEVITICAL SETTLEMENTS
Tyndale Commentary: The structure is as follows:
vv. 54-60: Aaronites from the Kohathite clans;
vv. 61-63: Summary of individual Levite clans (cf. vv. 66-81);
vv. 64-65: General summary (v. 65 refers to the Aaronites, cf. Josh. 21:4, 9);
vv. 66-70: Rest of the Kohathite clans (cf. v. 61);
vv. 71-76: Gershonites (cf. v. 62);
vv. 77-81: Merarites (cf. v. 63).
A. (:54-60) Settlements for Priestly Levites
“Now these are their settlements according to their camps within their borders. To the sons of Aaron of the families of the Kohathites (for theirs was the first lot), 55 to them they gave Hebron in the land of Judah, and its pasture lands around it; 56 but the fields of the city and its villages, they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 57 And to the sons of Aaron they gave the following cities of refuge: Hebron, Libnah also with its pasture lands, Jattir, Eshtemoa with its pasture lands, 58 Hilen with its pasture lands, Debir with its pasture lands, 59 Ashan with its pasture lands, and Beth-shemesh with its pasture lands; 60 and from the tribe of Benjamin: Geba with its pasture lands, Allemeth with its pasture lands, and Anathoth with its pasture lands. All their cities throughout their families were thirteen cities.”
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler also reorders the Levitical settlement list from Joshua, placing the allotment of towns for the descendants of Aaron first (6:54–60; cf. Josh. 21:9–19). The emphatic position of the Aaronides no doubt calls attention to the centrality of the priestly line in postexilic Judah, given the collapse of Davidic kingship. Although the three clans of Levi are listed by birth order (Gershom/Gershon, Kohath, Merari in 6:1, 16), the roster of Levitical cities is (apparently) ordered by the fall of the lot (Kohath, Gershom/Gershon, Merari; cf. Josh. 14:2; 21:4–7).
B. (:61-81) Settlements for Non-Priestly Levites
“Then to the rest of the sons of Kohath were given by lot, from the family of the tribe, from the half-tribe, the half of Manasseh, ten cities. 62 And to the sons of Gershom, according to their families, were given from the tribe of Issachar and from the tribe of Asher, the tribe of Naphtali, and the tribe of Manasseh, thirteen cities in Bashan. 63 To the sons of Merari were given by lot, according to their families, from the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities. 64 So the sons of Israel gave to the Levites the cities with their pasture lands. 65 And they gave by lot from the tribe of the sons of Judah, the tribe of the sons of Simeon, and the tribe of the sons of Benjamin, these cities which are mentioned by name. 66 Now some of the families of the sons of Kohath had cities of their territory from the tribe of Ephraim. 67 And they gave to them the following cities of refuge: Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim with its pasture lands, Gezer also with its pasture lands, 68 Jokmeam with its pasture lands, Beth-horon with its pasture lands, 69 Aijalon with its pasture lands, and Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands; 70 and from the half-tribe of Manasseh: Aner with its pasture lands and Bileam with its pasture lands, for the rest of the family of the sons of Kohath. 71 To the sons of Gershom were given, from the family of the half-tribe of Manasseh: Golan in Bashan with its pasture lands and Ashtaroth with its pasture lands; 72 and from the tribe of Issachar: Kedesh with its pasture lands, Daberath with its pasture lands, 73 and Ramoth with its pasture lands, Anem with its pasture lands; 74 and from the tribe of Asher: Mashal with its pasture lands, Abdon with its pasture lands, 75 Hukok with its pasture lands, and Rehob with its pasture lands; 76 and from the tribe of Naphtali: Kedesh in Galilee with its pasture lands, Hammon with its pasture lands, and Kiriathaim with its pasture lands. 77 To the rest of the Levites, the sons of Merari, were given, from the tribe of Zebulun: Rimmono with its pasture lands, Tabor with its pasture lands; 78 and beyond the Jordan at Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, were given them, from the tribe of Reuben: Bezer in the wilderness with its pasture lands, Jahzah with its pasture lands, 79 Kedemoth with its pasture lands, and Mephaath with its pasture lands; 80 and from the tribe of Gad: Ramoth in Gilead with its pasture lands, Mahanaim with its pasture lands, 81 Heshbon with its pasture lands, and Jazer with its pasture lands.”
Iain Duguid: The allocation in every tribal area ensures that temple personnel are throughout the land, so all tribes provide support for the Levites. Their presence is a constant reminder that temple worship is for “all Israel.” The spread also facilitates nontemple related roles that may be administrative, judicial, and educational (e.g., 2 Chron. 17:7–9; 19:4–10).
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler ends his summary of the tribe of Levi by giving a list of Levitical cities provided for both priestly and nonpriestly Levites. The tribe of Levi did not receive a landed inheritance like the balance of Israelite tribes. From a positive angle, this was because the Lord was their inheritance (cf. Nu 18:20–24). From a negative angle, this lack of a landed inheritance (like the near landlessness of Simeon; 1Ch 4:24–43) reflects the prophetic “blessing” of Jacob on his sons that includes the scattering of Levi and Simeon (Ge 49:5–7) in the light of their response to the situation with their sister Dinah (cf. Ge 34:1–31, esp. vv.25–31).
Continuing his trend of addressing matters of priest and Levite separately, the Chronicler initially lists the settlement towns and pasturelands granted to Levitical/Aaronic priests (vv.54–60), largely echoing the content of Joshua 21:1–42. The towns and pasturelands allotted to the priests were only located in Judah and Benjamin, presumably to provide proximity to places of communal worship. Unlike the Levitical/Aaronic priests, whose towns were only in the tribal areas of Judah and Benjamin, the nonpriestly Levites were granted towns and pasturelands dispersed across the tribal territories of Israel (vv.61–81). The mention of Hebron and Shechem as cities of refuge (vv.57, 67) reflected their function (along with six other towns spread throughout the territory of ancient Israel) as safe havens for those accused of killing another person unintentionally (cf. Jos 20:1–9).
August Konkel: The Levitical settlements spread across the territories of ancient Israel (Aharoni et al.: 108), which would be necessary if they were to serve as cities of refuge and places of covenant instruction. The Kohathites were in the more southern tribes west of the Jordan (Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh). The Gershonites were in the more northern and eastern territories, including Golan and Ashtaroth in Bashan (Transjordan Manasseh); they were also found in the tribes of Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali to the west and north of Galilee (vv. 71–76). The Merarites were located in Zebulun, Reuben, and Gad, territories in the southern Transjordan, though their territory extended west to Tabor and Rimmono, the area north of Ephraim and Manasseh (vv. 77–81). The Aaronide cities were located in Judah and Benjamin, indicating that they were a southern group. Though not all these locations can be identified, the concentration of the Levitical cities was largely in Judah, Ephraim, and western Galilee, but their distribution extended to the far north in the remote parts of Transjordan.