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1 Chronicles 23

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

 NASB  NKJV  NRSV  TEV   NJB
(LXX versing)
Solomon Reigns The Divisions of the Levites David Organizes the Levites and Assigns them Their Duties The Work of the Levites The Orders and Functions of the Levites
23:1-2 23:1 23:1 23:1-2
Offices of the Levites 23:2-6 23:2-6 23:2-5
23:3-6 23:3-5
Gershonites 23:6-11 23:6
23:7-11 23:7-11 23:7-11 23:7-11
Kohathites
23:12-20 23:12-20 23:12-20 23:12-17 23:12-20
Merarites 23:18-20
23:21-23 23:21-23 23:21-23 23:21-23 23:21-23
Duties Revised
23:24-32 23:24-32 23:24-32 23:24 23:24
23:25-32 23:25-32

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

  1. David was concerned with Solomon's leadership and administration because of his youth, so he provided the building materials. He also organized the temple servants (as Moses had done).

  2. The Chronicler emphasizes David's role in Solomon's temple and its personnel and procedures in order to emphasize the rebuilt, second temple of his day. It was small but it was a continuation of God's guidelines to Moses as developed by the ideal king, David.

  3. 1 Chronicles 23:1-27:34 is a literary unit dealing with David's organization of temple personnel and procedures. It seems 1 Chr. 23:2 links to 28:1.

  4. Ezra and Nehemiah document the early post-exilic period, while the Chronicler documents the later development. See Introduction, Date. Much of the difference between
    1. Moses
    2. David
    3. Ezra (chapter 2) ‒ Nehemiah (chapter 7)
    4. Ezra (chapter 2) ‒ Nehemiah (chapter 7)

      is simply the development of procedures due to changing conditions.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:1-2
1Now when David reached old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel. 2And he gathered together all the leaders of Israel with the priests and the Levites.

23:1 "reached old age" This is literally "became old and sated with days." This is an idiom (cf. 2 Chr. 24:15) for a long life. It was not an emphasis of satisfaction with one's life but the length of one's life.

▣ "he made his son Solomon king" From 1 Chr. 28:5 we know it was YHWH's choice, not David's. Solomon's succession is mentioned several times.

  1. 1 Chr. 22:5,6,9,10
  2. 1 Chr. 28:5-8
  3. 1 Chr. 29:1-30

All of the problems associated with Solomon found in 1 Kings 1-2 are omitted.

23:2 "all the leaders" See note at 1 Chr. 22:17. One wonders how this verse relates to 1 Chr. 28:1. If they are the same, then 1 Chr. 23:3-27:34 is an insertion.

For a good brief discussion of "Levites" see NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 772-777.

▣ "the priests and Levites" All the servants at the temple were descendants of Aaron (except the Nethilim, Ezra 2:43,58,70; 7:7; 8:17,20). Some of his sons became priests who offered sacrifices and some took care of the tabernacle/temple. The Levites' specific duties, now that the ark's location is permanent (cf. 1 Chr. 23:25-26) have changed and are listed in 1 Chr. 23:28-31.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:3-6
3The Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward, and their number by census of men was 38,000. 4Of these, 24,000 were to oversee the work of the house of the Lord; and 6,000 were officers and judges, 5and 4,000 were gatekeepers, and 4,000 were praising the Lord with the instruments which David made for giving praise. 6David divided them into divisions according to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

23:3 It is specifically mentioned that Joab did not count the Levites (cf. 1 Chr. 21:6). Here, they are counted but with no negative remarks. Possibly because this census was for the organization of the temple, not David's military.

23:4-5 There are several kinds of Levites.

  1. those who oversee the work of the house of the Lord
  2. officers ‒ BDB 1009 (cf. 1 Chr. 26:29; 2 Chr. 19:11; 34:13)
  3. judges ‒ BDB 1047; there were religious and non-religious judges, cf. Deut. 17:9,12; 19:17
  4. gatekeepers ‒ BDB 1045; 1 Chr. 15:18; 16:38; 26:13; 2 Chr. 8:14; Ezra 2:42,70; 7:7; Neh. 7:1, 45, 73
  5. musicians ‒ cf. 1 Chr. 15:16; 16:4-5,42; 25:1-8 (but the priests blew the trumpets, cf. 2 Chr. 29:26)

Since the Levites now helped with the temple, they must be supported by offerings to the temple (cf. Neh. 10:39; 12:47; 13:5,10).

SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHES IN THE MOSAIC LEGISLATION

23:4
NASB, Peshitta  "to oversee the work"
NKJV  "to look after the work"
NRSV  "have charge of the work"
TEV  "administer the work"
NJB  "responsible for the service"
JPSOA  "in charge of the work"
REB  "responsible for the maintenance"
LXX  "taskmasters over the tasks"

This VERB (BDB 663 I, KB 716, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) has several connotations.

  1. supervising the building of the temple ‒ 2 Chr. 2:2,18; 34:12,13; Ezra 3:8,9
  2. maintaining the ministry/service of the temple ‒ 1 Chr. 23:4,32
  3. conducting the liturgical and musical aspects of worship ‒ 1 Chr. 15:21 and the title "choir director," which appears in many of the MT's Introduction in the Psalms (i.e., Psalm 4; 5; 6; 8; etc.)

In this context #3 fits best.

23:6 This lists the sons of Levi.

  1. Gershon ‒ see 1 Chr. 23:7-12; Num. 4:21-28
  2. Kohath ‒ see 1 Chr. 23:12-20; Num. 4:4-15 (family of Aaron and Moses, 1 Chr. 23:13)
  3. Merari ‒ see 1 Chr. 23:21-23; Num. 4:29-33

This follows Exod. 6:16-19; Num. 3:14-20; and 1 Chr. 6:16-30.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:7-11
7Of the Gershonites were Ladan and Shimei. 8The sons of Ladan were Jehiel the first and Zetham and Joel, three. 9The sons of Shimei were Shelomoth and Haziel and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers' households of Ladan. 10The sons of Shimei were Jahath, Zina, Jeush and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. 11Jahath was the first and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, so they became a father's household, one class.

23:7 "Ladan" In Exod. 6:17 his name is spelled "Libni."

23:10 "Zina" In the next verse it is spelled "Zizah." The Chronicler is obviously using different lists.

  1. Notice that there are two lists of the sons of Shimei; 1 Chr. 23:9 and 10 differ.
  2. The name of Eliezer's son is spelled differently between 1 Chr. 23:17a and 17b.
  3. 1 Chr. 23:16 has "sons" but lists only one called "the first."
  4. The same as 1 Chr. 23:16, 23:17 has "sons" but only one named, called "the first."
  5. Same for 1 Chr. 23:18.
  6. The list of 1 Chr. 23:16-23 is repeated with variations in 24:26-30.
  7. The age of Levites in 1 Chr. 23:3 is changed in 23:27.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:12-20
12The sons of Kohath were four: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. 13The sons of Amram were Aaron and Moses. And Aaron was set apart to sanctify him as most holy, he and his sons forever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister to Him and to bless in His name forever. 14But as for Moses the man of God, his sons were named among the tribe of Levi. 15The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. 16The son of Gershom was Shebuel the chief. 17The son of Eliezer was Rehabiah the chief; and Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. 18The son of Izhar was Shelomith the chief. 19The sons of Hebron were Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth. 20The sons of Uzziel were Micah the first and Isshiah the second.

23:13 The duties of the priests were:

  1. to burn incense before the Lord
  2. to minister to Him
  3. to bless His name

▣ "Aaron. . .most holy. . .and his sons" This designation (BDB 871 CONSTRUCT BDB 871) is a play on the word "sanctify" (BDB 872). It was used to show the higher status of priests over Levites, who are only designated as "holy" (cf. 2 Chr. 23:60.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY

23:16 "Shebuel" In 1 Chr. 24:20 he is called "Shubael."

23:18 "Shelomith" In 1 Chr. 24:22 he is called "Shelomoth."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:21-23
21The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22Eleazar died and had no sons, but daughters only, so their brothers, the sons of Kish, took them as wives. 23The sons of Mushi were three: Mahli, Eder and Jeremoth.

23:22 Tribal identification was significant because of the Divine allotment of land by Joshua (cf. Joshua 12- 19). A similar procedure is documented in Num. 27:1-8; 36:1-9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 23:24-32
24These were the sons of Levi according to their fathers' households, even the heads of the fathers' households of those of them who were counted, in the number of names by their census, doing the work for the service of the house of the Lord, from twenty years old and upward. 25For David said, "The Lord God of Israel has given rest to His people, and He dwells in Jerusalem forever. 26Also, the Levites will no longer need to carry the tabernacle and all its utensils for its service." 27For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered from twenty years old and upward. 28For their office is to assist the sons of Aaron with the service of the house of the Lord, in the courts and in the chambers and in the purifying of all holy things, even the work of the service of the house of God, 29and with the showbread, and the fine flour for a grain offering, and unleavened wafers, or what is baked in the pan or what is well-mixed, and all measures of volume and size. 30They are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise at evening, 31and to offer all burnt offerings to the Lord, on the sabbaths, the new moons and the fixed festivals in the number set by the ordinance concerning them, continually before the Lord. 32Thus they are to keep charge of the tent of meeting, and charge of the holy place, and charge of the sons of Aaron their relatives, for the service of the house of the Lord.

23:25 This verse alludes to 1 Chr. 22:18. "Rest" was a way of denoting that the full extent of the Promised Land was occupied and without rebellion or foreign conflict.

▣ "He dwells in Jerusalem" This is referring to YHWH dwelling above the Mercy Seat on the ark between the wings of the Cherubim.

Jerusalem was the final site for the worship of YHWH. This special choice by YHWH (i.e., "the place I cause My name to dwell") is repeated often in Deuteronomy.

The ark and the tent were originally together

  1. in the wilderness and Moab
  2. Gilgal ‒ Jos. 4:15-5:12
  3. Shiloh ‒ Jos. 18:1; 19:51; 1 Sam. 2:22
  4. Gibeon ‒ 1 Chr. 16:39-40; 2 Chr. 1:3-6
  5. now Jerusalem ‒ 1 Chr. 23:25

SPECIAL TOPIC: MERCY SEAT

SPECIAL TOPIC: ARK OF THE COVENANT

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHERUBIM

▣ "forever" This word must be interpreted in context.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('olam)

SPECIAL TOPIC: WHY DO OT COVENANT PROMISES SEEM SO DIFFERENT FROM NT COVENANT PROMISES?

23:27 The age differs in 1 Chr. 23:3. This same thing is seen in Num. 4:3 compared to Num. 8:24. As more and more Levites were needed, the bottom age was lowered.

  1. 30-50 years
  2. 25-50 years
  3. here, 20-50 years

Fifty was always the top age.

23:28-31 The Levites are to assist the priests

  1. by working in the courts and chambers
  2. in purifying all holy things
  3. in making showbread
  4. in producing the fine flour of the grain offering
  5. in making unleavened wafers
  6. in making all baked goods
  7. by being involved daily in blessing rituals
  8. by being involved in the sacrifices (both at festivals and each day [i.e., washing the animals; clearing the ashes; etc.])
  9. in helping administer the temple and the priests
  10. later they became local teachers (cf. 2 Chr. 17:8; 35:3; Neh. 8:7-8)

This would develop into rabbinical Judaism's position of "rabbi" (i.e., "teacher"). Ezra was the first of this category.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHOW BREAD or BREAD OF THE PRESENCE

23:29 "all measures of volume and size" See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN WEIGHTS AND VOLUMES; also note Lev. 19:25.

23:30 The morning and evening sacrifice of a lamb is called "the Continual" (cf. Exod. 29:38-41; Num. 28:3-8; 1 Chr. 16:40).

▣ "thank. . .praise" These are used together to denote singing (cf. 1 Chr. 16:4; 23:30; 25:3; Ezra 3:11; Neh. 12:24,46).

23:31 "sabbath" See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH (OT).

▣ "the fixed festivals" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL.

23:32 "the holy place" See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHART OF THE TABERNACLE.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why is the author of Chronicles emphasizing the temple and its organization?
  2. How are priests and Levites both the same and different?
  3. Were there civil judges or religious judges?
  4. What specific tasks are given to priests (1 Chr. 23:13) and Levites (1 Chr. 23:4-5,28-31)?
  5. Why was the census of the Levites not a sin? (i.e., compare 1 Chr. 21:1)?
  6. Why is the age of Levites entering temple service different here (1 Chr. 23:24) from 1 Chr. 23:3 and Num. 4:3 and 8:24?

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