The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)1 Chronicles 6:19-20. The families of the Levites according to their fathers —
That is, these were the heads of the families which sprang from them. And it is thought the following catalogue contains the successive heads or chiefs of their several families until the times of David, by whom they were distributed into several courses. Zimmah his son — His grandson by his son Shimei, as appears from 1 Chronicles 6:42-43; the names of father and Song of Solomon being often used in Scripture of more remote progenitors or successors.1 Chronicles 6:1 for the sake of their posterity, whose names are given in the three following verses, in the same manner as in Exodus 6:17. The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. Mahli, and Mushi] 1 Chronicles 23:21; 1 Chronicles 24:26; Exodus 6:19.1 Chronicles 5:30-41). In 1 Chronicles 6:4-15 the descendants of Eleazar are enumerated in twenty-two generations; the word הוליד, "he begat," being repeated with every name. The son so begotten was, when he lived after his father, the heir of the high-priestly dignity. Thus Phinehas the son of Eleazar (Exodus 6:25) is found in possession of it in Judges 20:28. From this the older commentators have rightly drawn the inference that the purpose of the enumeration in 1 Chronicles 6:4-15 was to communicate the succession of high priests from Eleazar, who died shortly after Joshua (Joshua 24:33), to Jehozadak, whom Nebuchadnezzar caused to be carried away into Babylon. From the death of Aaron in the fortieth year after Israel came forth from Egypt, till the building of the temple in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon, 400 years elapsed (480 - _40 equals 440, 1 Kings 6:1). From the building of the temple to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple by the Chaldaeans there was an interval of 423 years (36 years under Solomon, and 387 years during which the kingdom of Judah existed; see the chronological table to 1 Kings 12). Between the death of Aaron, therefore, and the time when Jehozadak was led away into captivity, supposing that that event occurred only under Zedekiah, lay a period of 440 + 423 equals 863 years. For this period twenty-two generations appear too few, for then the average duration of each life would be 39 1/4 years. Such an estimate would certainly appear a very high one, but it does not pass the bounds of possibility, as cases may have occurred in which the son died before the father, when consequently the grandson would succeed the grandfather in the office of high priest, and the son would be omitted in our register. The ever-recurring הוליד cannot be brought forward in opposition to this supposition, because הוליד esuace in the genealogical lists may express mediate procreation, and the grandson may be introduced as begotten by the grandfather. On the supposition of the existence of such cases, we should have to regard the average above mentioned as the average time during which each of the high priests held the office. But against such an interpretation of this list of the posterity of Eleazar two somewhat serious difficulties are raised. The less serious of these consists in this, that in the view of the author of our register, the line of Eleazar remained an uninterrupted possession of the high-priestly dignity; but in the historical books of the Old Testament another line of high priests, beginning with Eli, is mentioned, which, according to 1 Chronicles 24:5, and Joseph. Ant. v. 11. 5, belonged to the family of Ithamar. The list is as follows: Eli (1 Samuel 2:20); his son Phinehas, who, however, died before Eli (1 Samuel 4:11; his son Ahitub (1 Samuel 14:3); his son Ahijah, who was also called Ahimelech (1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 22:9, 1 Samuel 22:11, 1 Samuel 22:20); his son Abiathar (1 Samuel 22:20), from whom Solomon took away the high-priesthood (1 Kings 2:26.), and set Zadok in his place (1 Kings 2:35). According to Josephus, loc. cit., the high-priestly dignity remained with the line of Eleazar, from Eleazar to Ozi (עזּי, 1 Chronicles 6:4-6); it then fell to Eli and his descendants, until with Zadok it returned to the line of Eleazar. These statements manifestly rest upon truthful historical tradition; for the supposition that at the death of Ozi the high-priesthood was transferred from the line of Eleazar to the line of Ithamar through Eli, is supported by the circumstance that from the beginning of the judgeship of Eli to the beginning of the reign of Solomon a period of 139 years elapsed, which is filled up in both lines by five names, - Eli, Phinehas, Ahitub, Ahijah, and Abiathar in the passages above quoted; and Zerahiah, Meraioth, Amariah, Ahitub, and Zadok in 1 Chronicles 6:6-8 of our chapter. But the further opinion expressed by Joseph. Antt. viii. 1. 3, that the descendants of Eleazar, during the time in which Eli and his descendants were in possession of the priesthood, lived as private persons, plainly rests on a conjecture, the incorrectness of which is made manifest by some distinct statements of the Old Testament: for, according to 2 Samuel 8:17 and 2 Samuel 20:25, Zadok of Eleazar's line, and Abiathar of the line of Ithamar, were high priests in the time of David; cf. 1 Chronicles 24:5. The transfer of the high-priestly dignity, or rather of the official exercise of the high-priesthood, to Eli, one of Ithamar's line, after Ozi's death, was, as we have already remarked on 1 Samuel 2:27., probably brought about by circumstances or relations which are not now known to us, but without an extinction of the right of Ozi's descendants to the succession in dignity. But when the wave of judgment broke over the house of Eli, the ark was taken by the Philistines; and after it had been sent back into the land of Israel, it was not again placed beside the tabernacle, but remained during seventy years in the house of Abinadab (1 Samuel 4:4-7:2). Years afterwards David caused it to be brought to Jerusalem, and erected a separate tent for it on Zion, while the tabernacle had meanwhile been transferred to Gibeon, where it continued to be the place where sacrifices were offered till the building of the temple.
Thus there arose two places of worship, and in connection with them separate spheres of action for the high priests of both lines, - Zadok performing the duties of the priestly office at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39; cf. 1 Kings 3:4.), while Abiathar discharged its functions in Jerusalem. But without doubt not only Zadok, but also his father Ahitub before him, had discharged the duties of high priest in the tabernacle at Gibeon, while the connection of Eli's sons with the office came to an end with the slaughter of Ahijah (Ahimelech) and all the priesthood at Nob (1 Samuel 22); for Abiathar, the only son of Ahimelech, and the single survivor of that massacre, fled to David, and accompanied him continuously in his flight before Saul (1 Samuel 22:20-23). But, not content with the slaughter of the priests in Nob, Saul also smote the city itself with the edge of the sword; whence it is probable, although all definite information to that effect is wanting, that it was in consequence of this catastrophe that the tabernacle was removed to Gibeon and the high-priesthood entrusted to Zadok's father, a man of the line of Eleazar, because the only son of Ahimelech, and the only representative of Ithamar's line, had fled to David. If this view be correct, of the ancestors of Ahitub, only Amariah, Meraioth, and Zerahiah did not hold the office of high priest. But if these had neither been supplanted by Eli nor had rendered themselves unworthy of the office by criminal conduct; if the only reason why the possession of the high-priesthood was transferred to Eli was, that Ozi's son Zerahiah was not equal to the discharge of the duties of the office under the difficult circumstances of the time; and if Eli's grandson Ahitub succeeded his grandfather in the office at a time when God had already announced to Eli by prophets the approaching ruin of his house, then Zerahiah, Meraioth, and Amariah, although not de facto in possession of the high-priesthood, might still be looked upon as de jure holders of the dignity, and so be introduced in the genealogies of Eleazar as such. In this way the difficulty is completely overcome.
But it is somewhat more difficulty to explain the other fact, that our register on the one hand gives too many names for the earlier period and too few for the later time, and on the other hand is contradicted by some definite statements of the historical books. We find too few names for the time from the death of Aaron to the death of Uzzi (Ozi), when Eli became high priest, - a period of 299 years (vide the Chronological View of the Period of the Judges, ii. 1, S. 217). Five high priests - Eleazar, Phinehas, Abishua, Bukki, and Uzzi - are too few; for in that case each one of them must have discharged the office for 60 years, and have begotten the son who succeeded him in the office only in his 60th year, or the grandson must have regularly succeeded the grandfather in the office, - all of which suppositions appear somewhat incredible. Clearly, therefore, intermediate names must have been omitted in our register. To the period from Eli till the deposition of Abiathar, in the beginning of Solomon's reign - which, according to the chronological survey, was a period of 139 years - the last five names from Zerahiah to Zadok correspond; and as 24 years are thus assigned to each, and Zadok held the office for a number of years more under Solomon, we may reckon an average of 30 years to each generation. For the following period of about 417 years from Solomon, or the completion of the temple, till the destruction of the temple by the Chaldaeans, the twelve names from Ahimaaz the son of Zadok to Jehozadak, who was led away into captivity, give the not incredible average of from 34 to 35 years for each generation, so that in this part of our register not many breaks need be supposed. But if we examine the names enumerated, we find (1) that no mention is made of the high priest Jehoiada, who raised the youthful Joash to the throne, and was his adviser during the first years of his reign (2 Kings 11, and 2 Chronicles 22:10; 2 Chronicles 24:2), and that under Ahaz, Urijah, who indeed is called only הכּהן, but who was certainly high priest (2 Kings 16:10.), is omitted; and (2) we find that the name Azariah occurs three times (1 Chronicles 6:9, 1 Chronicles 6:10, and 1 Chronicles 6:11), on which Berth. remarks: "Azariah is the name of the high priest in the time of Solomon (1 Kings 4:2), in the time of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:17), and in the time of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:10)." Besides this, we meet with an Amariah, the fifth after Zadok, whom Lightf., Oehler, and others consider to be the high priest of that name under Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 19:11. And finally, (3) in the historical account in 2 Kings 22:4., Hilkiah is mentioned as high priest under Josiah, while according to our register (1 Chronicles 6:13) Hilkiah begat Azariah; whence we must conclude either that Hilkiah is not the high priest of that name under Josiah, or Azariah is not the person of that name who lived in the time of Hezekiah. As regards the omission of the names Urijah and Jehoiada in our register, Urijah may have been passed over as an unimportant man; but Jehoiada had exerted far too important an influence on the fate of the kingdom of Judah to allow of his being so overlooked. The only possibilities in his case are, either that he occurs in our register under another name, owing to his having had, like so many others, two different names, or that the name יהוידע has fallen out through an old error in the transcription of the genealogical list. The latter supposition, viz., that Jehoiada has fallen out before Johanan, is the more probable. Judging from 2 Kings 12:3 and 2 Chronicles 24:2, Jehoiada died under Joash, at least five or ten years before the king, and consequently from 127 to 132 years after Solomon, at the advanced age of 130 years (2 Chronicles 24:15). He was therefore born shortly before or after the death of Solomon, being a great-grandson of Zadok, who may have died a considerable time before Solomon, as he had filled the office of high priest at Gibeon under David for a period of 30 years.
Then, if we turn our attention to the thrice recurring name Azariah, we see that the Azariah mentioned in 1 Kings 4:2 cannot be regarded as the high priest; for the word כּהן in this passage does not denote the high priest, but the viceroy of the kingdom (vide on the passage). But besides, this Azariah cannot be the same person as the Azariah in 1 Chronicles 6:9 of our genealogy, because he is called a son of Zadok, while our Azariah is introduced as the son of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, and consequently as a grandson of Zadok; and the grandson of Zadok who is mentioned as being high priest along with Abiathar, 1 Kings 4:4, could not have occupied in this grandfather's time the first place among the highest public officials of Solomon. The Azariah mentioned in 1 Kings 4:2 as the son of Zadok must not be considered to be a brother of the Ahimaaz of our register, for we very seldom find a nephew and uncle called by the same name. As to the Azariah of 1 Chronicles 6:10, the son of Johanan, it is remarked, "This is he who was priest (or who held the priest's office; כּהן, cf. Exodus 40:13; Leviticus 16:32) in the house (temple) which Solomon had built in Jerusalem." R. Sal. and Kimchi have connected this remark with the events narrated in 2 Chronicles 26:17, referring it to the special jealousy of King Uzziah's encroachments on the priest's office, in arrogating to himself in the temple the priestly function of offering incense in the holy place. Against this, indeed, J. H. Mich. has raised the objection, quod tamen chronologiae rationes vix admittunt; and it is true that this encroachment of Uzziah's happened 200 years after Solomon's death, while the Azariah mentioned in our register is the fourth after Zadok. But if the name Jehoiada has been dropped out before Johanan, and the Jehoiada held the high priest's office for a considerable time under Joash, the high-priesthood of his grandson Azariah would coincide with Uzziah's reign, when of course the chronological objection to the above-mentioned explanation of the words וגו כּהן אשׁר הוּא is removed.
(Note: Bertheau's explanation is inadmissible. He says: "If we consider that in the long line of the high priests, many of them bearing the same name, it would naturally suggest itself to distinguish the Azariah who first discharged the duties of his office in the temple, in order to bring a fixed chronology into the enumeration of the names; and if we recollect that a high priest Azariah, the son, or according to our passage more definitely the grandson, of Zadok, lived in the time of Solomon; and finally, if we consider the passage 1 Chronicles 6:32, we must hold that the words, 'He it is who discharged the duties of priest in the temple which Solomon had built in Jerusalem,' originally stood after the name Azariah in v. 9; cf. 1 Kings 4:2." All justification of the proposed transposition is completely taken away by the fact that the Azariah of 1 Kings 4:2 was neither high priest nor the same person as the Azariah in v. 10 of our register; and it is impossible that a grandson of Zadok whom Solomon appointed to the high-priesthood, instead of Abiathar, can have been the first who discharged the duties of high priest in the temple. Oehler's opinion (in Herzog's Realencyklop. vi. 205), that the Amariah who follows Azariah (1 Chronicles 6:11) is identical with the Amariah under Jehoshaphat, is not less improbable; for Jehoshaphat was king sixty-one years after Solomon's death, and during these sixty-one years the four high priests who are named between Zadok and Amariah could not have succeeded each other.)
But lastly, the difficulty connected with the fact that in our passage Azariah follows Hilkiah, while in 2 Kings 22:4. and 2 Chronicles 31:10, 2 Chronicles 31:13, Azariah occurs as high priest under King Hezekiah, and Hilkiah in the time of his great-grandson Josiah, cannot be cleared away by merely changing the order of the names Hilkiah and Azariah. For, apart altogether from the improbability of such a transposition having taken place in a register formed as this is, "Shallum begat Hilkiah, and Hilkiah begat Azariah, and Azariah begat," the main objection to it is the fact that between Azariah, 1 Chronicles 6:13, who lived under Uzziah, and Hilkiah four names are introduced; so that on this supposition, during the time which elapsed between Uzziah's forcing his way into the temple till the passover under Hezekiah, i.e., during a period of from 55 to 60 years, four generations must have followed one another, which is quite impossible. In addition to this, between Hezekiah and Josiah came the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, who reigned 55 years and 2 years respectively; and from the passover of Hezekiah to the finding of the book of the law by the high priest Hilkiah in the eighteenth year of Josiah, about 90 years had elapsed, whence it is clear that on chronological grounds Hilkiah cannot well have been the successor of Azariah in the high-priesthood. The Azariah of v. 11f., therefore, cannot be identified with the Azariah who was high priest under Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 31:10); and no explanation seems possible, other than the supposition that between Ahitub and Zadok the begetting of Azariah has been dropped out. On this assumption the Hilkiah mentioned in v. 13 may be the high priest in the time of Josiah, although between him and the time when Jehozadak was led away into exile three names, including that of Jehozadak, are mentioned, while from the eighteenth year of Josiah till the destruction of the temple by the Chaldaeans only 30 years elapsed. For Hilkiah may have been in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign very old; and at the destruction of Jerusalem, not Jehozadak, but his father Seraiah the grandson of Hilkiah, was high priest, and was executed at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:18, 2 Kings 25:21), from which we may conclude that Jehozadak was led away captive in his early years. The order in which the names occur in our register, moreover, is confirmed by Ezra 7:1-5, where, in the statement as to the family of Ezra, the names from Seraiah onwards to Amariah ben-Azariah occur in the same order. The correspondence would seem to exclude any alterations of the order, either by transposition of names or by the insertion of some which had been dropped; but yet it only proves that both these genealogies have been derived from the same authority, and does not at all remove the possibility of this authority itself having had some defects. The probability of such breaks as we suppose in the case of Jehoiada and Azariah, who lived under Hezekiah, is shown, apart altogether from the reasons which have been already brought forward in support of it, by the fact that our register has only eleven generations from Zadok, the contemporary of Solomon, to Seraiah, who was slain at the destruction of Jerusalem; while the royal house of David shows seventeen generations, viz., the twenty kings of Judah, omitting Athaliah, and Jehoahaz and Zedekiah, the last two as being brothers of Jehoiakim (1 Chronicles 3:10-24). Even supposing that the king's sons were, as a rule, earlier married, and begat children earlier than the priests, yet the difference between eleven and seventeen generations for the same period is too great, and is of itself sufficient to suggest that in our register of the high priests names are wanting, and that the three or four high priests known to us from the historical books who are wanting - Amariah under Jehoshaphat, Jehoiada under Joash, (Urijah under Ahaz,) and Azariah under Hezekiah - were either passed over or had fallen out of the list made use of by the author of the Chronicle.
(Note: The extra-biblical information concerning the prae-exilic high priests in Josephus and the Seder Olam, is, in so far as it differs from the account of the Old Testament, without any historical warrAnt. Vide the comparison of these in Lightfoot, Ministerium templi, Opp. ed. ii. vol. i. p. 682ff.; Selden, De success, in pontific. lib. i.; and Reland, Antiquitatt. ss. ii. c. 2.)
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