Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Enumeration and Arrangement of the Levites According to Their Divisions and Employments - 1 Chronicles 23-26
These four chapters give a connected view of the condition of the Levites towards the end, i.e., in the fortieth year, of David's reign (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:1 and 1 Chronicles 26:31), and of the sections into which they were divided according to their various services. This review begins with a statement of the total number belonging to the tribe of Levi according to the census then undertaken, and their divisions according to the duties devolving upon (1 Chronicles 23:2-5); which is followed by an enumeration of the heads of the fathers'-houses into which the four families of Levites had branched out (23:6-23), together with a short review of their duties (1 Chronicles 23:24-32). Thereafter we have: 1. In 1 Chronicles 24, a catalogue of the Aaronites, i.e., of the priests, who were divided into twenty-four classes, corresponding to the sons of Eleazar and Ithamar, and were appointed to perform the service in succession, according as it was determined by lot, special mention being made of the heads of these twenty-four classes; and a catalogue of the heads of the fathers'-houses of the other descendants of Levi, in an order of succession, which was likewise settled by lot (1 Chronicles 24:20-31). Then, 2. In 1 Chronicles 25 we have a catalogue of the twenty-four orders of Levitic musicians, in an order fixed by lot. And, 3. In 1 Chronicles 26 the classes of doorkeepers (vv. 1-19), the administrators of the treasures of the sanctuary (1 Chronicles 26:20-28), and the officials who performed the external services (1 Chronicles 26:29-32).
So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.Number, duties, and fathers'-houses of the Levites. - This clear account of the state and the order of service of the tribe of Levi is introduced by the words, 1 Chronicles 23:1, "David was old, and life weary; then he made his son Solomon king over Israel." זקן, generally an adjective, is here third pers. perf. of the verb, as in Genesis 18:12, as שׂבע also is, to which ימים is subordinated in the accusative. Generally elsewhere ימים שׂבע is used, cf. Genesis 35:29; Job 42:17, and also שׂבע alone, with the same signification, Genesis 25:8. These words are indeed, as Berth. correctly remarks, not a mere passing remark which is taken up again at a later stage, say 1 Chronicles 29:28, but an independent statement complete in itself, with which here the enumeration of the arrangements which David made in the last period of his life begins. But notwithstanding that, it serves here only as an introduction to the arrangements which follow, and is not to be taken to mean that David undertook the numbering of the Levites and the arrangement of their service only after he had given over the government to his son Solomon, but signified that the arrangement of this matter immediately preceded Solomon's elevation to the throne, or was contemporaneous with it. Our verse therefore does not contain, in its few words, a "summary of the contents of the narrative 1 Kings 1," as Berth. thinks, for in 1 Kings 1 we have an account of the actual anointing of Solomon and his accession to the throne in consequence of Adonijah's attempt to usurp it. By that indeed Solomon certainly was made king; but the chronicler, in accordance with the plan of his book, has withdrawn his attention from this event, connected as it was with David's domestic relations, and has used המליך in its more general signification, to denote not merely the actual elevation to the throne, but also his nomination as king. Here the nomination of Solomon to be king, which preceded the anointing narrated in 1 Kings 1, that taking place at a time when David had already become bed-rid through old age, is spoken of. This was the first step towards the transfer of the kingdom to Solomon; and David's ordering of the Levitical service, and of the other branches of public administration, so as to give over a well-ordered kingdom to his successor, were also steps in the same process. Of the various branches of the public administration, our historian notices in detail on the Levites and their service, compressing everything else into the account of the army arrangements and the chief public officials, 1 Chronicles 27.
And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites.Numbering of the Levites, and partition of their duties. - 1 Chronicles 23:2. For this purpose David collected "all the princes of Israel, and the priests and Levites." The princes of Israel, because the numbering of the Levites and the determination of their duties was a matter of national importance. "The meaning is, that David, in a solemn assembly of the princes, i.e., of the representatives of the lay tribes, and of the priests and Levites, fixed the arrangements of which an account is to be given" (Berth.).
Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand.The Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upwards. This statement agrees with that in Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:30, Numbers 4:39., where Moses caused those from thirty to fifty years of age to be numbered, and appointed them for service about the tabernacle during the journey through the wilderness. But Moses himself, at a later time, determined that their period of service should be from twenty-five to fifty; Numbers 8:23-26. It is consequently not probable that David confined the numbering to those of thirty and upwards. But besides that, we have a distinct statement in 1 Chronicles 23:24 that they were numbered from twenty years of age, the change being grounded by David upon the nature of their service; and that this was the proper age is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 31:17 and Ezra 3:8, according to which the Levites under Hezekiah, and afterwards, had to take part in the service from their twentieth year. We must therefore regard שׁלשׂים in Ezra 3:3 as having crept into the text through the error of copyists, who were thinking of the Mosaic census in Numbers 4, and must read עשׂרים instead of it. The various attempts of commentators to get rid of the discrepancy between 1 Chronicles 23:3 and 1 Chronicles 23:24 are mere makeshifts; and the hypothesis that David took two censuses is as little supported by the text, as that other, that our chapter contains divergent accounts drawn from two different sources; see on 1 Chronicles 23:24. The number amounted to 38,000, according to their heads in men. לגברים serves for a nearer definition of לגלגּלתם, and explains that only men were numbered, women not being included.
Of which, twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the LORD; and six thousand were officers and judges:1 Chronicles 23:4 and 1 Chronicles 23:5 contain words of David, as we learn from להלּל עשׂתי אשׁר (1 Chronicles 23:5, end), so that we must supply דויד ויּאמר before 1 Chronicles 23:4. מאלּה, of these (38,000) 24,000 shall be וגו לנצּח, to superintend the business, i.e., to conduct and carry on the business (the work) of the house of Jahve. This business is in 1 Chronicles 23:28-32 more nearly defined, and embraces all the business that was to be carried on about the sanctuary, except the specifically priestly functions, the keeping of the doors, and the performance of the sacred music. For these two latter offices special sections were appointed, 4000 for the porters' services, and the same number for the sacred music (1 Chronicles 23:5). Besides these, 5000 men were appointed Shoterim and judges. "The instruments which I have made to sing praise" are the stringed instruments which David had introduced into the service to accompany the singing of the psalms; cf. 2 Chronicles 29:26; Nehemiah 12:36.
Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.
And David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi, namely, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.The fathers'-houses of the Levites. - 1 Chronicles 23:6. "And David divided them into courses according to the sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari;" see on 1 Chronicles 6:1. The form ויּחלקם which recurs in 1 Chronicles 24:3 with the same pointing, is in more accurate MSS in that place pointed ויּחלקם. There are also found in MSS and editions ויחלּקם, and the rare form of the Kal ויּחלקם (for ויּחלקם); cf. J. H. Mich. Notae crit. This last pronunciation is attested for, 1 Chronicles 24:3, by D. Kimchi, who expressly remarks that the regular form ויּחלקם corresponds to it; cf. Norzi on this passage. Gesen. (in Thes. p. 483) and Ew. (83, c) regard ויּחלקם as a variety of the Piel (ויחלּקם), to which, however, Berth. rightly remarks that it would be worth a thought only if the punctuation ויחלקם were confirmed by good MSS, which is not the case, though we find the Piel in the Chronicle in 1 Chronicles 15:3, and then with the signification to distribute. Berth. therefore holds - and certainly this is the more correct opinion - that the form ויּחלקם, attested by Kimchi for 1 Chronicles 24:3, was the original reading in our verse also, and considers it a rare form of the impf. Kal derived from ויּחלקם (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:4-5), by Kamets coming into the pretonic syllable, after the analogy of יּשׁחטוּם for ישׁחטוּם, 2 Kings 10:14, and by the passing of an ă (Pathach) into ĕ (Seghol) before the Kamets, according to well-known euphonic rules. מחלקות is a second accusative: "in divisions." The tribe of Levi had been divided from ancient times into the three great families of Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites, corresponding to the three sons of Levi; cf. 1 Chronicles 6:1-53; 1 Chronicles 28:32. - From 1 Chronicles 23:7 onwards we have an enumeration of the fathers'-houses into which these three families were divided: 1 Chronicles 23:7-11, the fathers'-houses of the Gershonites; 1 Chronicles 23:12-20, those of the Kohathites; and 1 Chronicles 23:21-23, those of the Merarites. Berth., on the other hand, thinks that in these verses only the fathers'-houses of those Levites who performed the service of the house of Jahve, i.e., the 24,000 in 1 Chronicles 23:4, and not the divisions of all the Levites, are enumerated. But this opinion is incorrect, and certainly is not proved to be true by the circumstance that the singers, porters, and the scribes and judges, are only spoken of afterwards; nor by the remark that, in great part, the names here enumerated appear again in the sections 1 Chronicles 24:20-31 and 1 Chronicles 26:20-28, while in the enumeration of the twenty-four classes of musicians (1 Chronicles 25), of the doorkeepers (26:1-19), and of the scribes and judges (1 Chronicles 26:29-32), quite other names are met with. The recurrence of many of the names here enumerated in the sections 1 Chronicles 24:20-31 and 1 Chronicles 26:20-28 is easily explained by the fact that these sections treat of the divisions of the Levites, according to the service they performed, and of course many heads of fathers'-houses must again be named. The occurrence of quite other names in the lists of musicians and doorkeepers, again, is simply the result of the fact that only single branches of fathers'-houses, not whole fathers'-houses, were appointed musicians and doorkeepers. Finally, Bertheau's statement, that in the catalogue of the scribes and judges quite other names occur than those in our verses, is based upon an oversight; cf. 1 Chronicles 26:31 with 1 Chronicles 23:19.
Of the Gershonites were, Laadan, and Shimei.The fathers'-houses of the Gershonites. - According to the natural development of the people of Israel, the twelve sons of Jacob founded the twelve tribes of Israel; his grandsons, or the sons of the twelve patriarchs, founded the families (משׁפּחות); and their sons, i.e., the great-grandsons of Jacob, founded the fathers'-houses (בּית־אבות). But this natural division or ramification of the people into tribes, families, and fathers'-houses (groups of related households), was not consistently carried out. Even the formation of the tribes suffered a modification, when the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born before Jacob's arrival in Egypt, were adopted by him as his sons, and so made founders of tribes (Genesis 48:5). The formation of the families and fathers'-houses was also interfered with, partly by the descendants of many grandsons or great-grandsons of Jacob not being numerous enough to form independent families and fathers'-houses, and partly by individual fathers'-houses (or groups of related households) having so much decreased that they could no longer form independent groups, and so were attached to other fathers'-houses, or by families which had originally formed a בּית־אב becoming so numerous as to be divided into several fathers'-houses. In the tribe of Levi there came into operation this special cause, that Aaron and his sons were chosen to be priests, and so his family was raised above the other Levites. From these causes, in the use of the words משׁפּחה and בּית־אב many fluctuations occur; cf. my bibl. Archol. ii. 140. Among the Levites, the fathers'-houses were founded not by the grandsons, but by the great-grandsons of the patriarch.
"Of the Gershonites, Laadan and Shimei," i.e., these were heads of groups of related families, since, according to 1 Chronicles 23:9, their sons and descendants formed six fathers'-houses. The sons of Gershon, from whom all branches of the family of Gershon come, are called in 1 Chronicles 6:2, as in Exodus 6:17 and Numbers 13:18, Libni and Shimei; while in our verse, on the contrary, we find only the second name Shimei, whose sons are enumerated in 1 Chronicles 23:10, 1 Chronicles 23:11; and instead of Libni we have the name Laadan, which recurs in 1 Chronicles 26:21. Laadan seemingly cannot be regarded as a surname of Libni; for not only are the sons of Shimei named along with the sons of Laadan in 1 Chronicles 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 23:9 as heads of the fathers'-houses of Laadan, without any hint being given of the genealogical connection of this Shimei with Laadan, but mainly because of לגּרשׁנּי in 1 Chronicles 23:7. In the case of Kohath and Merari, the enumeration of the fathers'-houses descended from them is introduced by the mention of their sons, קהת בני and מררי בני (1 Chronicles 23:12, 1 Chronicles 23:21), while in the case of Gershon it is not so; - in his case, instead of גרשׁון בני, we find the Gentilic designation גּרשׁנּי, to point out that Laadan and Shimei are not named as being sons of Gershon, but as founders of the two chief lines of Gershonites, of which only the second was named after Gershon's son Shimei, while the second derived their name from Laadan, whose family was divided in David's time into two branches, the sons of Laadan and the sons of Shimei, the latter a descendant of Libni, not elsewhere mentioned. That the Shimei of 1 Chronicles 23:9 is not the same person as Shimei the son of Gershon mentioned in 1 Chronicles 23:7, is manifest from the fact that the sons of the latter are enumerated only in 1 Chronicles 23:10. Each of these two lines numbered at that time three fathers'-houses, the heads of which are named in 1 Chronicles 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 23:9. הראשׁ in 1 Chronicles 23:8 belongs to יחיאל: "the sons of Laadan were: the head (also the first; cf. 1 Chronicles 23:11, 1 Chronicles 23:16) Jehiel, Zetham, and Joel, three."
The sons of Laadan; the chief was Jehiel, and Zetham, and Joel, three.
The sons of Shimei; Shelomith, and Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the chief of the fathers of Laadan.The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth or Shelomith (both forms are found in 26:35 of another Shelomith), Haziel, and Haran, three. These (three and three) are the heads of the fathers'-houses of Laadan. - In 1 Chronicles 23:10 and 1 Chronicles 23:11 there follow the fathers'-houses of the Shimei mentioned in 1 Chronicles 23:7 along with Laadan: they are likewise three, derived from the four sons of Shimei, Jahath, Zina, Jeush, and Beriah; for the last two, as they had not many sons, were included in one father's-house, one פּקדּה, i.e., one official class (1 Chronicles 24:3; 2 Chronicles 17:14). The Gershonites at that time, therefore, numbered nine father's-houses-six named after Laadan, and three after Shimei.
And the sons of Shimei were, Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei.
And Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second: but Jeush and Beriah had not many sons; therefore they were in one reckoning, according to their father's house.
The sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four.The fathers'-houses of the Kohathites. - The four sons of Kohath who are named in 1 Chronicles 23:12, as in 1 Chronicles 6:2; 1 Chronicles 6:18, and Exodus 6:18, founded the four families of Kohath, Numbers 3:27. From Amram came Aaron and Moses; see on Exodus 6:20. Of these, Aaron with his sons was set apart "to sanctify him to be a most holy one; he and his sons for ever to offer incense before Jahve, to serve Him, and to bless in His name for ever." קדשׁ ק להקדּישׁו signifies neither, ut ministraret in sancto sanctorum (Vulg., Syr.), nor, ut res sanctissimas, sacrificia, vasa sacra etc. consecrarent (Cler.). Against this interpretation we adduce not only the objection advanced by Hgstb. Christol. iii. p. 119, trans., that the office assigned by it to the Levites is far too subordinate to be mentioned here in the first place, but also the circumstance that the suffix in הקדּישׁו, after the analogy of שׁרתו, must denote the object of the sanctifying; and this view is confirmed by the subject, who offers incense and blesses, not being expressed with להקטיר and לברך. The Vulgate translation cannot be accepted, for קדשׁים קדשׁ cannot be the ablative, and the most holy place in the temple is always called הקּדשׁים קדשׁ with the article. קדשׁים קדשׁ, without the article, is only used of the most holy things, e.g., of the vessels connected with the worship, the sacrificial gifts, and other things which no lay person might touch or appropriate. See on Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 2:3, and Daniel 9:24. Here it is committed to Aaron, who, by being chosen for the priest's service and anointed to the office, was made a most holy person, to discharge along with his sons all the priestly functions in the sanctuary. Specimens of such functions are then adduced: יי לפני הקטיר, the offering of the sacrifice of incense upon the altar of the inner sanctuary, as in 2 Chronicles 2:3, 2 Chronicles 2:5; Exodus 30:7.; לשׁרתו, "to serve Him," Jahve, - a general expression, including all the other services in the sanctuary, which were reserved for the priests; and בּשׁמו לברך, to bless in His name, i.e., to pronounce the blessing in the name of the Lord over the people, according to the command in Numbers 6:23, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:2; Deuteronomy 21:5; not "to bless His name" (Ges., Berth.). To call upon or praise the name of God is שׁמו בּרך, Psalm 96:2; Psalm 100:4; and the assertion that בשׁם בּרך is a somewhat later phrase formed on the model of בשׁם קרא, for "to call upon God" (Ges. in Lex. sub voce בלך), is quite groundless. Our phrase occurs as early as in Deuteronomy 10:8 and Deuteronomy 21:5; and the latter passage in connection with לשׁרתו of the priests; in the former, of the tribe of Levi, but so used that it can refer only to the priests, not to the Levites also.
The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.
Now concerning Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi."But as to Moses the man of God" (cf. Deuteronomy 33:1), "his sons were called after the tribe of Levi," i.e., were reckoned in the ranks of the Levites, not of the priests. On על נקרא, cf. Genesis 48:6; Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63.
The sons of Moses were, Gershom, and Eliezer.Each of his two sons Gershon and Eliezer (see Exodus 2:22 and Exodus 18:3.) founded a father's-house; Gershon through his son Shebuel (שׁבוּאל, in 1 Chronicles 24:20 שׁוּבאל), Eliezer through Rehabiah. The plurals בני ג, בני א are used, although in both cases only one son, he who was head (הראשׁ) of the father's-house, is mentioned, either because they had other sons, or those named had in their turn sons, who together formed a father's-house. From the remark in 1 Chronicles 23:17, that Eliezer had no other sons than Rehabiah, while Rehabiah had very many, we may conclude that Gershon had other sons besides Shebuel, who are not mentioned because their descendants were numbered with Shebuel's father's-house.
Of the sons of Gershom, Shebuel was the chief.
And the sons of Eliezer were, Rehabiah the chief. And Eliezer had none other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many.
Of the sons of Izhar; Shelomith the chief.Only one son of Jizhar, the brother of Amram, is mentioned, Shelomith as head, after whom the Jizharite father's-house is named.
Of the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth.Amram's next brother Hebron had four sons, and the youngest brother Uzziel two, who founded fathers'-houses; so that, besides the priests, nine Levitical fathers'-houses are descended from Kohath, and their chiefs who served in the sanctuary are enumerated in 1 Chronicles 24:20-25.
Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah the first, and Jesiah the second.
The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. The sons of Mahli; Eleazar, and Kish.The fathers'-houses of the Merarites. - 1 Chronicles 23:21. As in 1 Chronicles 6:19; Exodus 6:19, and Numbers 3:33, two sons of Merari are mentioned-Mahli and Mushi-who founded the two families of Merari which existed in the time of Moses. Mahli had two sons, Eleazar and Kish; the first of whom, however, left behind him at his death only daughters, who were married to the sons of Kish (אחיהם, i.e., their cousins), according to the law as to daughters who were heiresses (Numbers 26:6-9). The descendants of Mahli, therefore, were comprehended in the one father's-house of Kish, whose head at that time (1 Chronicles 24:29) was Jerahmeel.
And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters: and their brethren the sons of Kish took them.
The sons of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jeremoth, three.Of the sons of Mushi, three founded fathers'-houses, so that the Merarites formed only four fathers'-houses in all. If we compare the enumeration of the Merarites in 1 Chronicles 24:26-30, we find there in 1 Chronicles 24:30 Eleazar and Kish called sons of Mahli, with the remark that Eleazar had no sons. In 1 Chronicles 24:26, however, of the same passage we read, "sons of Merari (were) Mahli and Mushi, sons of Jaaziah his son;" and 1 Chronicles 24:27, "sons of Merari by Jaaziah his son; and Shoham, and Zaccur, and Ibri." From this Bertheau concludes that Merari had really three sons, and that the name of the third has been dropped out of 1 Chronicles 23; but in this he is incorrect, for 1 Chronicles 23:26 and 1 Chronicles 23:27 of the 24th chapter are at once, from their whole character, recognisable as arbitrary interpolations. Not only is it strange that בּנו יעזיּהוּ בּני should follow the before-mentioned sons of Merari in this unconnected way (Vav being omitted before בּני), but the form of the expression also is peculiar. If יעזיּהוּ be a third son of Merari, or the founder of a third family of Merarites, coordinate with the families of Mahli and Mushi, as we must conclude from the additional word בּנו, we should expect, after the preceding, simply the name with the conjunction, i.e., ויעזיּהוּ. The יעזיּהוּ בּני is all the more surprising that the names of the sons of Jaaziah follow in 1 Chronicles 24:27, and there the name of the first son שׁהם is introduced by the Vav copulative. This misled the older commentators, so that they took בּנו for a proper name. The repetition of מררי בּני, too, at the beginning of the second verse is strange, and without parallel in the preceding enumeration of the fathers'-houses founded by Amram's sons (1 Chronicles 24:20-25). We must, then, as the result of all this, since the Pentateuch knows only two descendants of Merari who founded families of fathers'-houses,
(Note: Bertheau, on the contrary, proceeding on the hypothesis that we may presume the list of Merari's descendants which is given in our verses to have been originally in perfect agreement with that in 1 Chronicles 24:26-31, would emend our text according to 1 Chronicles 23:21, for it cannot be doubted that in our passage also Jaaziah and his three sons were named. But since elsewhere only the two sons Mahli and Mushi occur, one can easily see why the third son Jaaziah came to be omitted from our passage, while we cannot conceive any motive which would account for the later and arbitrary interpolation of the names in 1 Chronicles 24:26. This argumentation is weak to a degree, since it quite overlooks the main difficulty connected with this hypothesis. Had we no further accounts of the descendants of Merari than those in the two passages of the Chronicle (1 Chronicles 23:11. and 1 Chronicles 24:26-29), it would be natural to suppose that in 1 Chronicles 23:21. the additional names which we find in 1 Chronicles 24 had been dropped out. But in the genealogical lists in the Pentateuch also (Exodus 6:19 and Numbers 3:33), only two sons of Merari are named; and according to them, the Merarites, when Moses' census of the Levites was taken, formed only two families. Had Merari had yet a third son besides the two - Mahli and Mushi, who alone were known in the time of Moses - who left descendants, forming three fathers'-houses in David's time, the omission of this third son in the family register in the Pentateuch would be quite incomprehensible. Or are we to suppose that in Exodus 6:19 also the name Jaaziah had been dropped out, and that in consequence of that the family descended from him has been omitted from Numbers 3:33? Supported by the Pentateuch, the text of our verses is presumably entire, and this presumption of its integrity is confirmed by the character of the additions in 24:26, 27, as above exhibited.)
regard the additions in 1 Chronicles 24:26-27 as later glosses, although we are not in a position to explain the origin or the meaning of the interpolation. This inability arises from the fact that, of the names Jaaziah, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri, only Zaccur again occurs among the Asaphites (1 Chronicles 25:2), and elsewhere of other persons, while the others are nowhere else to be met with. The three families of Levi numbered therefore 9 + 9 + 4 equals 22 fathers'-houses, exclusive of the priests.
These were the sons of Levi after the house of their fathers; even the chief of the fathers, as they were counted by number of names by their polls, that did the work for the service of the house of the LORD, from the age of twenty years and upward.Concluding remarks. - 1 Chronicles 23:24. "These (the just enumerated) are the sons of Levi according to their fathers'-houses, according to those who were counted (Numbers 1:21.; Exodus 30:14) in the enumeration by name (Numbers 1:18; Numbers 3:43), by the head, performing the work for the service of the house of Jahve, from the men of twenty years and upwards." המּלאכה עשׂה is not singular, but plural, as in 2 Chronicles 24:12; 2 Chronicles 34:10, 2 Chronicles 34:13; Exodus 3:9; Nehemiah 2:16, cf. 2 Chronicles 11:1. It occurs along with עשׁי, with a similar meaning and in a like position, 2 Chronicles 24:13; 2 Chronicles 34:17; Nehemiah 11:12; Nehemiah 13:10. It is only another way of writing עשׁי, and the same form is found here and there in other words; cf. Ew. 16, b. The statement that the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and upwards is accounted for in 1 Chronicles 23:25 thus: David said, The Lord has given His people rest, and He dwells in Jerusalem; and the Levites also have no longer to bear the dwelling (tabernacle) with all its vessels. From this, of course, it results that they had not any longer to do such heavy work as during the march through the wilderness, and so might enter upon their service even at the age of twenty. In 1 Chronicles 23:27 a still further reason is given: "For by the last words of David was this, (viz.) the numbering of the sons of Levi from twenty years old and upwards." There is a difference of opinion as to how העחרונים דויד בּדברי are to be understood. Bertheau translates, with Kimchi, "in the later histories of David are the number equals the numbered," and adduces in support of his translation 1 Chronicles 29:29, whence it is clear that by "the later histories of David" a part of a historical work is meant. But the passage quoted does not prove this. In the formula והאחרנים והאחרנים דּברי... (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 16:11, etc.), which recurs at the end of each king's reign, דּברי denotes not historiae, in the sense of a history, but res gestae, which are recorded in the writings named. In accordance with this, therefore, דויד דּברי cannot denote writings of David, but only words or things ( equals deeds); but the Levites who were numbered could not be in the acts of David. We must rather translate according to 2 Chronicles 29:30 and 2 Samuel 23:1. In the latter passage דויד דּברי are the last words (utterances) of David, and in the former דויד בּדּברי, "by the words of David," i.e., according to the commands or directions of David. In this way, Cler. and Mich., with the Vulg. juxta praecepta, have already correctly translated the words: "according to the last commands of David." המּה is nowhere found in the signification sunt as the mere copula of the subject and verb, but is everywhere an independent predicate, and is here to be taken, according to later linguistic usage, as neutr. sing. (cf. Ew. 318, b): "According to the last commands of David, this," i.e., this was done, viz., the numbering of the Levites from twenty years and upwards. From this statement, from twenty years and upwards, which is so often repeated, and for which the reasons are so given, it cannot be doubtful that the statement in 1 Chronicles 23:3, "from thirty years and upwards," is incorrect, and that, as has been already remarked on 1 Chronicles 23:3, שׁלשׁים has crept into the text by an error of the copyist, who was thinking of the Mosaic census.
(Note: The explanation adopted from Kimchi by the older Christian commentators, e.g., by J. H. Mich., is an untenable makeshift. It is to this effect: that David first numbered the Levites from thirty years old and upwards, according to the law (Numbers 4:3; Numbers 23:30), but that afterwards, when he saw that those of twenty years of age were in a position to perform the duties, lightened as they were by its being no longer necessary for the Levites to bear the sanctuary from place to place, he included all from twenty years of age in a second census, taken towards the end of his life; cf. 1 Chronicles 23:27. Against this Bertheau has already rightly remarked that the census of the Levites gave the number at 38,000 (1 Chronicles 23:3), and these 38,000 and no others were installed; it is nowhere said that this number was not sufficient, or that the arrangements based upon this number (1 Chronicles 23:4, 1 Chronicles 23:5) had no continued existence. He is, however, incorrect in his further remark, that the historian clearly enough is desirous of calling attention to the fact that here a statement is made which is different from the former, for of this there is no trace; the contrary, indeed, is manifest. Since אלּה (1 Chronicles 23:24) refers back to the just enumerated fathers'-houses of the Levites, and 1 Chronicles 23:24 consequently forms the subscription to the preceding register, the historian thereby informs us plainly enough that he does not communicate here a statement different from the former, but only concludes that which he has formerly communicated. We cannot very well see how, from the fact that he here for the first time adduces the motive which determined David to cause the Levites from twenty years old and upwards to be numbered and employed in the service, it follows that he derived this statement of David's motive from a source different from that account which he has hitherto made use of. Nor would it be more manifest if 1 Chronicles 23:27 contained - as it does not contain - a reference to the source from which he derived this statement.)
In 1 Chronicles 23:28-32 we have, in the enumeration of the duties which the Levites had to perform, another ground for the employment of those from twenty years old and upwards in actual service.
For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever:
And also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof.
For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above:
Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God;Their appointed place or post was at the hand of the sons of Aaron, i.e., they were ready to the priest's hand, to aid him in carrying on the service of the house of God. "Over the courts and the cells (of the courts; cf. 1 Chronicles 9:26), and the purifying of every holy thing," i.e., of the temple rooms and the temple vessels. On ל before כּל־קדשׁ, used for mediate connection after the stat. const., cf. Ew. 289, b. עבדת וּמעשׂה, and for the performance of the service of the house of God. Before מעשׂה, על is to be supplied from the preceding. The individual services connected with the worship are specialized in 1 Chronicles 23:29-31, and introduced by the preposition ל. For the bread of the pile, i.e., the shew-bread (see on Leviticus 24:8.), viz., to prepare it; for the laying of the bread upon the table was the priest's business. For fine meal (סלת, see on Leviticus 2:1) for the meat-offering and unleavened cakes (המּצּות רקיקי, see on Leviticus 2:4), and for the pans, i.e., that which was baked in pans (see on Leviticus 2:5), and for that which was roasted (מרבּכת, see on Leviticus 6:14), and for all measures of capacity and measures of length which were kept by the Levites, because meal, oil, and wine were offered along with the sacrifices in certain fixed quantities (cf. e.g., Exodus 29:40; Exodus 30:24), and the Levites had probably to watch over the weights and measures in general (Leviticus 19:35).
Both for the shewbread, and for the fine flour for meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for that which is baked in the pan, and for that which is fried, and for all manner of measure and size;
And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even;"On each morning and evening to praise the Lord with song and instruments." These words refer to the duties of the singers and musicians, whose classes and orders are enumerated in 1 Chronicles 25. The referring of them to the Levites who assisted the priests in the sacrificial worship (Berth.) needs no serious refutation, for וּלהלּל הודות is the standing phrase for the sacred temple music; and we can hardly believe that the Levites sang psalms or played on harps or lutes while the beasts for sacrifices were slaughtered and skinned, or the meat-offerings baked, or such duties performed.
And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:"And for all the bringing of offerings to Jahve on sabbaths, the new moons, and the feasts, in the number according to the law concerning them (i.e., according to the regulations that existed for this matter), continually before Jahve." It was the duty of the Levites to procure the necessary number of beasts for sacrifice, to see to their suitableness, to slaughter and skin them, etc. תּמיד refers to עלות, the burnt-offerings for Jahve, which are תּמיד, because they must always be offered anew on the appointed days.
And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the LORD.In conclusion, the whole duties of the Levites are summed up in three clauses: they were to keep the charge of the tabernacle, the charge of the sacred things, i.e., of all the sacred things of the worship, and the charge of the sons of Aaron, i.e., of all that the priests committed to them to be done; cf. Numbers 18:3., where these functions are more exactly fixed.