1 Chronicles 23
Pulpit Commentary
So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.
Verse 1. - David... made Solomon his son king over Israel. These words give the key note of what remains in this book. David made his son king, as he himself acknowledges (1 Chronicles 28:5), under the superintending direction of God. The manner in which the formal event was precipitated by the conduct of Adonijah is found at length in 1 Kings 1:11-53. The original occasion alluded to there more than once, on which David promised, "and sware" to Bathsheba, that her son should be his chief heir and successor to the throne, is not distinctly recorded. We can easily assign one convenient place in the history for it to have found monition, viz. in 2 Samuel 12:25. The brevity of the statement which composes this verse, when compared with all the deeply interesting matter recorded in 1 Kings 1:11-53, is one among many other very clear illustrations of the purposed silence of our present history in certain directions.
And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites.
Verse 2. - He gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. As on an occasion of supreme importance, David, in view of his own death and of his son's succession at the present time, calls together the full council, and the highest possible representative council of the nation. So 1 Chronicles 22:17; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 25:1; in which last passage the word "captains" should have have been rendered "princes" (שׂרִי). The arrangement of the Levites, and the distribution of their functions in the presence of the princes, as here described, and as it is even more strongly put (1 Chronicles 25:1), "by" them, simply points to the fact that the ultimate outer authority, as between Church and state, lay with the state. The Church was made for it, not it for the Church. And it was the duty of the state to defend the Church.
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.
Verse 3. - Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward. The thing which Joab had rightly resisted (1 Chronicles 21:3-6) and shrunk from doing was now rightly done. There was now a practical and a legitimate object for doing it. This consideration helps to determine what it was that "displeased the Lord" in the former general census of David. In connection with this clause, 1 Chronicles 27:23 should be noted, where we read, "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the Lord had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens." The period from the age of thirty years up to fifty (Numbers 4:3, 23, 35, 39) was fixed under Moses, for those "that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of the burden in the tabernacle of the congregation" (Numbers 4:47). It is not certain, however, that this census did not inquire, in point of fact, respecting some below this limit of age. For we may note ver. 24 in the first place, and this is partly explained by Numbers 8:23-25. The number "thirty and eight thousand" of our present verse may be compared with the "eight thousand and five hundred and four score" of Numbers 4:47, 48. It is to be observed how promptly the national council did on this occasion commence with the arrangement of the ministers of religion, "the Levites." As we read (Numbers 4:3) of "thirty years" of age as the appointed age for the commencement of their ministry, and (Numbers 7:3) of the present or "offering" of "six covered waggons and twelve oxen," which the twelve "princes of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, princes of the tribes," offered "before the Lord," which greatly lessened the laborious work of the Levites; so we find the commencing age reduced from time to time, to "twenty-five" years (Numbers 8:24), and to "twenty years" of age, as in our present chapter (vers. 24-28).
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:
Verse 4. - To set forward (Hebrew לְנַצֵּחַ, Piel conjugation). The strict meaning of the word here is to superintend. The word has already occurred in the same sense in 1 Chronicles 15:21. Officers and judges (Hebrew וְשֹׁמְרִים וְשֹׁפְטִים). The explanation of the nature of the work of these, as really outward work, for the "outward business of Israel," is distinctly stated in 1 Chronicles 26:29; 2 Chronicles 19:5-11. These officers are mentioned under the same Hebrew term in Exodus 5:6, in a very different connection. It is plain that they were generally foremen, or overseers; while the judges took cognizance of matters which involved the interests of religion. This verse and the following give between them the four divisions of Levites, afterwards to be more fully described. The fuller account of the "twenty-four thousand" priests (including attendants) occupies ch. 24; the "six thousand" officers and judges, 1 Chronicles 26:20-32; the "four thousand" porters, 1 Chronicles 26:1-19; and the "four thousand who praised the Lord with the instruments," ch. 25.
Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith.
Verse 5. - Porters (Hebrew שֹׁעְרִים); doorkeepers. The word is so translated in 1 Chronicles 15:23, 24. It was the duty of these to keep the entrances of the sanctuary, by day and night, in their courses (see also 2 Kings 7:10, 11). The Chaldaic equivalent of this word is תָּרָע (Ezra 7:24; Daniel 2:49). There is no connection between either the word or idea we have here, and those of Psalm 84:11, where the Hithp. conjugation of סָפפ is used, and the sense of residence probably intended to be conveyed. The instruments which I made... to praise. Possibly the quotation of a short sentence often on David's lips. Men given to music may have been very conscious of it, in ancient days, as well as in modern. The language, however, does not necessarily assert that David claimed the inventing or in any similar sense the making of these musical instruments, but that he appointed them for the service of praise. What some of them were may be seen in 2 Chronicles 5:12 - "cymbals, psalteries, harps, trumpets" (see also 2 Chronicles 29:25-27; Nehemiah 12:35, 36; Amos 6:5).
And David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi, namely, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
Verse 6. - Here begin the families of the Levites, as arranged in courses by David. These arrangements were scrupulously observed by Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:14; 2 Chronicles 29:25).
Of the Gershonites were, Laadan, and Shimei.
Verse 7. - The heads of the houses of the first Levite family, viz., of Gershon, are now enumerated. The subject occupies the five verses that close with the eleventh. The family of Gershon branches into two - the name of the one Laadan (so written again in 1 Chronicles 26:21; but in 1 Chronicles 6:17, 20, as well as in Exodus 6:17 and Numbers 3:18, written Libui), and the name of the other Shimei.
The sons of Laadan; the chief was Jehiel, and Zetham, and Joel, three.
Verse 8. - This verse contains the names of the three so-called sons of Laadan, but (1 Chronicles 26:22) the last two appear to have been grandsons.
The sons of Shimei; Shelomith, and Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the chief of the fathers of Laadan.
Verse 9. - This verse purports to give the three sons of Shimei, but not the Shimei of ver. 7, but of a descendant of Laadan. This is made clear, not only by the remaining clause of this verse, which says, "These were the chief of the fathers of Landau," and again by the enumeration in ver. 10 of sons of that Shimei who is coupled with Landau in ver. 7, but also by a comparison of 1 Chronicles 24:22; 1 Chronicles 26:21-26. It is, of course, possible that the name stands here in error for some other name, but the supposition is gratuitous.
And the sons of Shimei were, Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei.
Verse 10. - (See Zechariah 12:13.) The Zina of this verse is Zizah in the very next verse, which difference of form cannot be accounted for by any mere clerical explanation. The name Jahath seems to have been a favourite name in this family (1 Chronicles 6:43).
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.
Verse 11. - In one reckoning. The Hebrew of the word here translated "reckoning" is פְקֻדָּה, i.e. "enumeration." The meaning is they were accounted as only one "father's house." The derivative significations of the word are "care," "custody," and generally "office" (2 Chronicles 23:18). The total of Gershonite houses will amount to nine, three of these being houses of Shimei, and six of Landau.
The sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four.
Verse 12. - This and the following eight verses give the Kohath heads of houses (1 Chronicles 5:28; 6:2, 3, 18 [1 Chronicles 6:2, 17, 18, 33]; Exodus 6:18; Numbers 3:27), four in their leading divisions.
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.
Verse 13. - The sons of Amram. From Amram, the first-mentioned son of Kohath, come the two great names of Aaron and Moses (Exodus 6:20). Aaron was separated,... and his sons for ever. This statement must be read, both with ver. 3 - into the number of Levites mentioned in which Aaron and his sons do not count - and with ver. 14, which implies that Moses and his sons did count into that number. The sons of Aaron are dealt with in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19, infra. That he should sanctify the most holy things. The Hebrew text renders it doubtful whether the rendering here should not rather be, "Aaron was separated to sanctify him as most holy," etc. If it be so, this is the only place where the forcible term, "holy of holies" (most holy), is used of Aaron. The duties of the priest are described as threefold, in this place, viz.: "to burn incense before the Lord," - this will carry the idea of making atonement; "to minister to God," on behalf of man, ? this will be one part of the work of a mediator; and "to bless in the Name of God," - this will fulfil the remaining part. For ever. The proviso may, no doubt, include reference to the "ever-living High Priest." The threefold summary of solemn and beneficent duties receives ample illustration from many passages, and in special connection with the names of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 28:1, 38, 43; Exodus 29:1, 35, 45; Exodus 30:7-10; Numbers 6:22-27).
Now concerning Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi.
Verse 14. - Moses the man of God. This title is distinguished by the presence of the article. The 'Speaker's Commentary' mentions it as occurring only nine times, of which five instances belong to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; with the present place); three instances show the title applied to David (2 Chronicles 8:14; Nehemiah 12:24, 36); and once it is applied to Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:22). Although the sons of Moses belonged, as is here said, to the tribe of Levi, they did not belong to that portion which discharged priestly duties.
The sons of Moses were, Gershom, and Eliezer.
Verse 15. - We read of the birth of Gershom to Moses and Zipporah (Exodus 2:22; see also Exodus 18:4, where Eliezer is also spoken of).
Of the sons of Gershom, Shebuel was the chief.
Verse 16. - Shebuel (comp. 1 Chronicles 24:20, where the name appears as Shubael; and 1 Chron 26:24).
And the sons of Eliezer were, Rehabiah the chief. And Eliezer had none other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many.
Verse 17. - Rehabiah. He was the chief (הָראשׁ); but it happened that he was also the only son. Hence it is added in antithesis that his sons were very many (see the name again, 1 Chronicles 26:25). The non-priestly Amramites are therefore seen to correspond with the houses of Shebuel and Rehabiah.
Of the sons of Izhar; Shelomith the chief.
Verse 18. - Of the sons of Ishar. While six names in all are mentioned under Amram, only one, Shelomith, is found under his next brother, Izhar. This Shelomith (spelt Shelomoth in 1 Chronicles 24:22) is not the same with the Shelomith of 1 Chronicles 26:25, 26.
Of the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth.
Verse 19. - Hebron. This third son of Kohath furnishes four houses. So again in the twenty-third verse of the following chapter.
Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah the first, and Jesiah the second.
Verse 20. - Jesiah; in ver. 25 of next chapter written Isshiah. The two houses from Uzziel given in this verse make up the number of houses from Kohath to nine (as given again in 1 Chronicles 24:20-24), and to these must be added the priests through Aaron and his sons, two houses, making in all eleven.
The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. The sons of Mahli; Eleazar, and Kish.
Verse 21. - This and the following two verses give the houses of Merari, contributing four houses, and, with the nine Gershonite and eleven Kohathite, adding up to twenty-four. Merari is the third son of Levi (Genesis 46:11). The Mahli and Mushi of this verse were possibly grandson and son of Merari, if we follow the guidance of 1 Chronicles 6:47. Yet it would seem far more natural to explain this last-quoted passage by our ver. 23, which would then parallel it. Otherwise we must account for the name of Mahli habitually standing first, as here, as in 1 Chronicles 6:19 also, and 1 Chronicles 24:26, as also in Exodus 6:19; Numbers 3:20, 33, etc.; in all of which places the statement is as distinct as in this verse, that Mahli and Mushi were sons. This and the following verse must be compared particularly with 1 Chronicles 24:26-29; the Jaaziah of which passage was evidently no son of Merari, on a par with Mahli and Mushi, but a later descendant. His descendants were three - Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri (Beno being no proper name, but signifying "his son").
And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters: and their brethren the sons of Kish took them.
Verse 22. - Their brethren... took them; i.e. their kinsmen, as margin, "took them" to wife (Numbers 36:5-12). (For the sons of Kish, see 1 Chronicles 24:29.)
The sons of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jeremoth, three.
Verse 23. - The sons of Mushi (comp. 1 Chronicles 24:30).
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.
Verse 24. - This and the remaining verses of the chapter contain some general provisions regarding the offices and future work of the Levites - in part David's last edition of such provisions. (On the present verse comp. Numbers 1:1-4; Numbers 4:1-3, 21-23, 29, 30; Numbers 8:23-26.) It is not easy to reconcile this verse with ver. 3. Keil cuts the knot at once by supposing the "thirty" years of ver. 3 to be the error of a copyist, to whose memory the Mosaic census was present. And with Bertheau, he objects to the supposition that this verse describes a supplementary census, in conformity with "David's last words" (ver. 27), and as contrasted with his former directions. With the exception of what is contained in vers. 25-27, it is true that these do not offer themselves sufficient indications to make one feel confident of this explanation. On the other hand, to set down the number "thirty" in ver. 3 at once to the mistake of a copyist is too summary and convenient a way of escaping an awkward difficulty. It is evident that the following three verses do purport to explain why at this time the age of allowable service was altered to a standard so much lower than of old, and to assert that this alteration was recognized by the last orders of David.
For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever:
Verse 25. - For David said. The "for" of this clause cannot be supposed to account exclusively for the inclusion in the census of Levites beginning from the age of twenty years; it accounts no doubt for the whole proceeding. Since there would be no more journeyings for people, for buildings, or for sacred vessels, it was nosy fully time to organize religious duty and "the service of the house of God" in a manner adapted to permanent institutions. In order to this, the first step was to know and to arrange the number of those who were answerable for sacred duties.
And also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof.
Verse 26. - And also unto the Levites. Emphasis is laid on the thought of the relief that permanent habitation in Jerusalem conferred on the Levites over and above the whole body of the rest of the people. They will no more be mere burden-bearers, though the burdens they Bore were of the most sacred character.
For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above:
Verse 27. - The... words of David. Although there are many instances of the expression, "the words of" David or some other king, as equivalent to his "doings" (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29), and not a few instances of the same phrase, standing for the "account" or "history' of any one (1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29, three times; 2 Chronicles 9:29), the expression here may rather parallel passages like 2 Samuel 23:1; 2 Chronicles 29:30.
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;
Verse 28. - Because their office; i.e. probably the office or position of all, including the younger Levites. The development and greater detail of their varied duties, as the working staff of the "sons of Aaron," are alluded to here; and how priests, Levites, and Nethinim (1 Chronicles 9:2) all now formally undertook the whole range and scope of their functions is suggested. The work of these assistants of the "sons of Aaron" is detailed in three or four items, so far as this verse goes. They are first generally for the sacred service of the house of the Lord. That sacred service is in the matter of the courts (Exodus 27:9; 1 Kings 6:36; Conder's' Bible Handbook,' pp. 376-378, 2nd edit.); of the chambers (1 Chronicles 9:26; Ezekiel 40:17; Ezekiel 42:1; Nehemiah 10:38; Conder's 'Bible Handbook,' pp. 376, 380); of the purifying of all holy things: and of the work, i.e. the performing of the sacred service of the house of God.
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;
Verse 29. - Both for the shewbread, and... size. Seven other specifications of service are continued in this verse, with which we may compare 1 Chronicles 9:26-32. For the shewbread. The first mention of shewbread is found in Exodus 25:30. The directions for making it are found in Leviticus 24:5-9. The twelve unleavened cakes of which it consisted, heaped on the table in two piles, represented the twelve tribes, and intimated the Divine acceptance of the offerings of each faithful tribe (see also 2 Chronicles 13:11). For the fine flour for meat offering. This is spoken of in Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 2:1-7; Leviticus 6:14, 15, 19-27; Leviticus 23:13; Leviticus 14:5. For the unleavened cakes... the pan... fried. These are spoken of in Leviticus 2:4-7. For all manner of measure and size; Hebrew וּלְכָל־מְשׂוּרֶה וּמִדָּה. These two words occur also in Leviticus 19:35, 36, where they are rendered respectively "in measure" and "in meteyard." Perhaps the exacter rendering here would be "for all matters of liquid and solid measure."
And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even;
Verse 30. - To stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord (so ver. 13 of this chapter and 1 Chronicles 25:7). Though Bertheau sees no special sign in the connection for this description to be confined to the four thousand whose special work and privilege it was, yet it is in entire analogy with the whole context so to confine it.
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:
Verse 31. - And to offer; Hebrew, "and for all the offering of burnt offerings." For other references to the help which the Levites gave in the matter of the burnt offerings, and for the number (2 Samuel 2:15; Numbers 28:1-31) of them, see Numbers 29:2-34; 2 Chronicles 29:32-34; 2 Chronicles 35:2-12. The priests alone performed the actual sacrifices. The set feasts. These refer to the three:

(1) the Passover (Leviticus 23:4, 5);

(2) the Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-17);

(3) the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-37).
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.
Verse 32. - Keep the charge of the tabernacle... holy place... sons of Aaron. This concluding verse is equivalent to a quotation from Numbers 18:1-7; in the first verse of which passage Aaron and the priests generally are reminded both of their representative character and position, and of the solemn responsibility which rested on them.

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