Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
Verse 1. - The Hebrew of this verse reads, And to the sons of Aaron, their divisions מַחְלְקותָם); the sons of Aaron: Nadeb and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. The word "divisions" is the same word that is translated "courses" in ver. 6, and which verse also would read literally, "And David divided them divisions to the sons of Levi, to Gershon, Kohath, and Merari." Our present verse evidently continues both the subject and construction of that verse. Of the four sons (Exodus 6:23), two died without issue, viz. Nadab and Abihu (ver. 2); and the other two have to supply the "chief men of the house," viz. Eleazar sixteen, and Ithamar eight (ver. 4).
But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.
Verse 2. - (Comp. Leveticus 10:1, 2, for the death of these; and for their being childless, Numbers 3:2-4; Numbers 26:60, 61.)
And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service.
Verse 3. - The Hebrew of this verse reads, And David divided them, and Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimalech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices (לַכְסֻדָּתָם), in their service (בַּעְבֹדָתָם). And the evident purport of it is that the three, David, Zadok, and Ahimelech, conjointly made the arrangements. This is virtually repeated in vers. 6, 31 (see also 1 Chronicles 25:1 for an analogous case). For the "Ahimelech" of this verse and vers. 6, 31, should be read "Abiathar," as shown in 1 Chronicles 18:16, by comparison of 1 Samuel 22:20; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 1:7, 8; Mark 2:26.
And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar; and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers.
Verse 4. - The simpler translation of this verse might run thus: And there were found (of) sons of Eleazar, more for chief men, than (of) sons of Ithamar, and they divided them - to sons of Eleazar, sixteen chiefs of fathers' houses; and to sons of Ithamar, eight.
Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar.
Verse 5. - Translate, And they divided them by lots, these with those; i.e. as there was no ground of choice between the two families, which differed only in number, and as the highest ecclesiastical places had been filled already by both of them, the impartiality of the "lot" was resorted to, for the settling of the order in which they would take the services now in question (1 Chronicles 25:8). The governors; read rather, the princes. The distinction intended between "the holy princes," or "princes of the sanctuary," on the one hand, and "the princes of God" on the other, is not very clear. One instance of the former expression is found in Isaiah 43:28. Keil supposes there may be no distinction between them, but adds that if there is, he would take the "princes of God" to stand for the regular high priests exclusively, viz. those who could enter into the most holy place before God. The "princes of God" is a title evidently illustrated by the word "Israel" (Genesis 32:28).
And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.
Verse 6. - The person who acted as clerk or secretary on the occasion, and the whole number of the witnesses, and the lot-taking itself, are here given. The present Hebrew text repeats the word אָחֻז (taken) twice, before the name of Ithamar, at the end of the sentence. The evident and easy correction of the first occurrence of which into אֶחָד (one) will make the clause and sense correspond with what goes before. Bertheau, however, and Keil, and some others do not accept this correction, and would keep the present Hebrew text, the first-named, moreover, contending that the repetition of the word for "taking" points to two lots being represented by each house of Ithamar, whose total number was only eight, for one of Eleazar, whose total was sixteen. Not only does the repetition of the present Hebrew text not avail to authorize such a supposition, but the supposition itself would be unsupported and gratuitous. What is really told us amounts to this only, that the drawing was first from the collection of families under the name of Eleazar, and then from that descended from Ithamar. For anything we are here told, the urn of Ithamar can have held out only half as long as that of Eleazar, and it can be only conjecture to suppose that two lots were drawn from the urn of Eleazar for every one from that of Ithamar, so as to make them run out together at the end. Could any one of the names from sixteen to twenty-four that are recorded in this chapter as "coming forth" in the shape of a "lot," be identified as belonging to families descended from Ithamar, the question might be solved. Ahimelech the son of Abiathar; read, as above, ver. 3, 1 Chronicles 18:16, etc., Abiathar the son of Abimelech.
Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,
Verse 7. - Jehoiarib. Written thus only here and in 1 Chronicles 9:10; elsewhere always Joiarib. He then is the head of the first of the twenty-four courses of priests in David's time, and according to his plan. (For the evidence of the return of some of this family from the Exile, see Nehemiah 11:10, though the text of this clause is very suspicious; Nehemiah 12:6, 19; see also interesting article under this name, with tables, Smith, 'Bible Dictionary,' 1:946.) Jedaiah. (For the return of some of the descendants of this family, see Ezra 2:36; Nehemiah 7:39; comp. also Nehemiah 12:6, 7, 19, 21.)
The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim,
Verse 8. - Harim (see Barrington's 'Genealogies,' 1:94, 99, 151, 169; see also for the mention of descendants, Ezra 2:39; Ezra 10:21; Nehemiah 7:42; Nehemiah 10:5; Nehemiah 12:4 (where the name appears as Rehum), 15). The sons of Harim mentioned in Ezra 2:32; Ezra 10:31; Nehemiah 7:35; Nehemiah 10:27, were not a priest-family. Seorim. This name does not occur again.
The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin,
Verse 9. - Malehijah. An earlier priest of this same name is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:12, who is again mentioned in Nehemiah 11:12; Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 38:1. The name in our present verse is probably the same (but used to mark a family and not the individual) as that found in Nehemiah 10:3 (see also Nehemiah 12:42). The Malchijah of Nehemiah 3:11 and Ezra 10:25 is the name of an Israelitish layman. Mijamin. In like manner, this as a family name reappears in Nehemiah 10:7; Nehemiah 12:5 (in the form Miamin), 17, 41 (in the form Miniamin); see also 2 Chronicles 31:15, where the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Peshito Syriac read Benjamin. The name as of a layman also appears in Ezra 10:25.
The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,
Verse 10. - Hakkoa The first half of this word is the definite article, as may be seen in Nehemiah 3:4, 21 and Ezra 2:61, where the name is found, as in the cases above, for the priest-family. Abijah (see again Nehemiah 10:7; Luke 1:5). To this course, therefore, Zaharias, father of John the Baptist, belonged.
The ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah,
Verse 11. - Jeshuah. In Ezra 2:36 and Nehemiah 7:39 certain "children of Jedaiah," who returned from Babylon, are mentioned as belonging to the "house of Jeshua," and distinguished presumably thereby from children of another Jedaiah. This accords with the fact that in Nehemiah 12:6, 7, and again in 19, 21, two families of the name Jedaiah are given in the priest-lists. We may, therefore, conclude that families descended from the Jeshuah of our present verse were among those who returned from captivity (Ezra 2:36; Nehemiah 7:39). Shecaniah (see Nehemiah 12:3, where spelt Shechaniah). Of those similarly named in Ezra 8:3, 5, the former may possibly have been descendants of this Shecaniah, the latter not so.
The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim,
Verse 12. - Eliashib. Not the progenitor of the Eliashib of Nehemiah 3:1, 20, 21; for see 1 Chronicles 12:10, 22, 23, for the pedigree of the latter. Jakim, This name does not reappear.
The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,
Verse 13. - Huppah... Jeshebeab. The former of these names is not found again among priest-names, and the latter not at all.
The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer,
Verse 14. - Bilgah... Immer. The former name reappears, not for the same per-sen, in Nehemiah 12:5, 18; and, under a slightly altered form, Bilgai, in Nehemiah 10:8. The latter is the name of a family known already (1 Chronicles 9:12), and which became much better known (Ezra 2:37; Ezra 10:20; Nehemiah 3:29; Nehemiah 7:40; Nehemiah 11:13; Jeremiah 20:1). The notices parallel to one another (Ezra 2:59; Nehemiah 7:61) are interesting, but obscure. They probably speak of a place called Immer, but even this is not quite clear.
The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses,
Verse 15. - Hezir... Aphses. The former name, as that of a layman, is found again in Nehemiah 10:20. Of the latter, spelt in the Hebrew Hapizez, nothing more is known.
The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel,
Verse 16. - Pethahiah... Jehezekel. The former name reappears as one of those who separated themselves from the alliances they had contracted in the land of their captivity (Ezra 10:23; Nehemiah 9:5). The latter is in its characters (יָחָזְקֵאל) the same with those of Ezekiel, though here Englished Jehezekel!
The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul,
Verse 17. - Jachin... Gamul. The latter of these names is not found again in any connection with a priest-family. Of the former we read as well in 1 Chronicles 9:10 as in Nehemiah 11:10, and probably he is the Achim of Matthew 1:14.
The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.
Verse 18. - Delaiah... Maaziah. The spelling of the former of these names, as it appears here and in Jeremiah 36:12, 25, differs by the addition of a shurek (וּ) from the name, spelt the same in the English Version, found in 1 Chronicles 3:24; Nehemiah 6:10; Nehemiah 7:62; Ezra 2:60. The latter name recurs in Nehemiah 10:8, etc., though without a final shurek.
These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.
Verse 19. - The order has been thus given of the twenty-four classes or courses of the priests. Each course served a week from the seventh day to the seventh (2 Kings 11:9; 2 Chronicles 23:8). An interesting allusion to this order of courses is tacitly made in Ezekiel 8:16-18, where the twenty-fifth idolater may be supposed to be the high priest. Some have, on very insufficient grounds, supposed that this "ordering" of courses was not really the institution of David, but attributed to him after the Exile for the sake of the authority of his name. In Nehemiah 12:1-7, moreover, the names do not appear as even twenty-four, but twenty-two - deficient by two! - a thing most easily to be accounted for. In addition to the direct scriptural witness on this subject, Josephus's ('Ant.,' 7:14) testimony confirms the account of our present chapter, while Movers (in 'Chronik.,' 279) and Dehler (in Herzog's 'R.E.,' 12:185) effectively combat the positions of De Wette and Gramberg, and of Herzberg, in his 'History of the People of Israel.'
And the rest of the sons of Levi were these: Of the sons of Amram; Shubael: of the sons of Shubael; Jehdeiah.
Verses 20-31. - The distribution of the other Levites. Verse 20. - The rest of the sons of Levi designated here are explained sufficiently clearly by ver. 30. They were those who were not of the sons of Aaron, not priests, but whose "office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 23:28), for certain specified work, some of which was of the more menial character. These, of course, do not exhaust the whole of the non-priestly Levites; for we read distinctly in the following two chapters of other detachments of the non-priestly Levites, whose office was as singers, doorkeepers, and treasure-keepers. And this consideration may of itself possibly be a sufficient account of the absence of any of the family of Gershonites in the list of the present chapter, though they do appear to view for other work in 1 Chronicles 26:21, etc. Amram... Shubael. The latter of these two names marks the line of Moses, in his eider son, Gershon, whose son was Shebuel (1 Chronicles 23:15, 16), as the former is the name of the father of Moses, and eldest son of Kohath.
Concerning Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, the first was Isshiah.
Verse 21. - Rehabiah. This name marks the line of Moses, in the person of his younger son, Eliezer, father of Rehabiah. And the practical result of these two verses is to give us the two "chiefs," or heads, or representatives, Jehdeiah and Isshiah, both Amramites.
Of the Izharites; Shelomoth: of the sons of Shelomoth; Jahath.
Verse 22. - Jahath. Here follows in order after the Amramites, Jahath, a descendant from Izhar, Kohath's second son (1 Chronicles 23:12, 18), through Shelomoth (otherwise Shelemith). This Jahath furnishes for us the third name of this series of "other sons of Levi." And Keil plausibly argues, from the absence of these three names from the list of 1 Chronicles 23:6, 23, that, while that list is occupied with fathers' houses, this list is occupied with the official classes of the Levites who were to be engaged in the way already stated.
And the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth.
Verse 23. - This verse is manifestly imperfect. What is necessary to fill up the evident gaps is to be found, however, in 1 Chronicles 23:19; also the pointed allusion to the time of David, in 1 Chronicles 26:31, is deserving of especial notice. The four names of this verse, then, are descendants of Kohath's third son, Hebron (1 Chronicles 23:12).
Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah: of the sons of Michah; Shamir.
Verses 24, 25. - These verses give us Shamir and Zechariah, descendants of Uzziel, Kohath's fourth son (1 Chronicles 23:12), the former through Michah (1 Chronicles 23:20), and the latter through Michah's brother, Isshiah (1 Chronicles 23:20), called here "sons of Uzziel," but presumably not intended for immediate sons (Exodus 6:22). In all these fourteen heads were drawn from the four sons of Kohath.
The brother of Michah was Isshiah: of the sons of Isshiah; Zechariah.
The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi: the sons of Jaaziah; Beno.
Verses 26-29. We now pass from the Kohath family to that of Merari. For the oft-repeated Mahli and Mushi, they belonged to the time of Moses (Exodus 6:19; Numbers 3:33). The elder of these, Mahli, as already seen in 1 Chronicles 23:21, 22, had two sons, Eleazar and Kish, the sons of the latter of whom took the daughters of Eleazar, who had no sons, and thus kept only one house surviving, the head of which was (ver. 29) Jerahmeel. This would seem to complete all that needs to be said of the Mahli line. Meantime, however, we are confronted by the contents of the latter half of our ver. 26 and ver. 27. These purport to give, amid some confusion of expression, sons of Merari by Jaaziah his son (Beno). No anterior authority, however, can be found for this Jaaziah. Neither of him nor of any of the three names (omitting Beno, which is evidently to be translated "his son") here linked on to his, is anything known. While we accept the text as it at present is, we have an additional branch with three families to add to the account of Merari - the branch of Jaaziah, the three families of Shoham, Zaeeur, Ibri. Even so we have in ver. 27 to obliterate arbitrarily the conjunction van, prefixed to the name Shoham. Under these circumstances, Keil impatiently rejects these clauses altogether, as an interpolation, though one of which he can give no account, and adds up, in consequence, the families of Levi (exclusive of the priests) to twenty-two instead of the unexplained twenty-five of the present text. On the other hand, Bertheau retains the present reading, and accepts Jaaziah as a third branch of the family of Merari. If this were so, it is surprising that nowhere else is room found for the slightest mention of Jaaziah, nor any other mention of these supposed descendants.
The sons of Merari by Jaaziah; Beno, and Shoham, and Zaccur, and Ibri.
Of Mahli came Eleazar, who had no sons.
Concerning Kish: the son of Kish was Jerahmeel.
The sons also of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites after the house of their fathers.
Verse 30. - The three sons of Mushi here given agree with 1 Chronicles 23:23. It is to be observed that, in the foregoing verses, we have no expressed sum of the families or heads to which they add up. Hence Bertheau finds twenty-five in all, which he would reduce to the twenty-four he wants by omitting, without any adequate justificacation, the Mahli of ver. 30. Others, omitting the three names of Shoham, Zaccur, Ibri, bring the twenty-five to twenty-two. Keil finds only fifteen "heads" or "classes," but surmises that the Hebronite and Mushite "fathers' houses" may have been numerous enough to find more than one "class;" and thereby to make up the twenty-four classes which he desires as well for symmetry's sake as for the patent suggestions of ver. 31.
These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, and Zadok, and Ahimelech, and the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites, even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren.
Verse 31. - Over against... over against. This translation of the Hebrew (לְעמַּת) is obscure and awkward. The meaning is "equally with," or "correspondingly with" (1 Chronicles 26:12, 16, etc.). The root means "communion," and the word is found only in the constructive state. The Vulgate shows the translation, Omnes sors aequaliter dividebat; tam majores quam minores.