Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Chronicles 24 contains (1) an account of the organisation of the priests in twenty-four classes (1Chronicles 24:1-19); (2) a recapitulation of the Levitical classes, as described in the last chapter (1Chronicles 24:20-31).
Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.(1) Now these are the divisions.—Literally, And for the sons of Aaron, their divisions (were as follows). The sentence forms a superscription to the section (1Chronicles 24:1-19).
But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest's office.(2) But Nadab and Abihu died before their father.—Leviticus 10:1-2 tells why: viz., because they offered “strange fire” before the Lord. (See also Numbers 3:4, from which our text appears to be derived.)
And had no children.—Literally, And sons had not become (been born) to them.
Therefore Eleazar and Ithamar.—And Eleazar and Ithamar acted as priests; Numbers adds, “before the face of Aaron their father.” It is implied that the office of the priesthood remained with the two lines, or houses, of Eleazar and Ithamar.
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.(3) And David distributed them.—The same phrase as at 1Chronicles 13:3. (See Note there.)
Both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar.—This expression forms part of the subject of the Hebrew sentence. The construction is like that in 1Chronicles 24:2, “And Nadab died, and Abihu.” Thus, “And David divided them, and Zadok and Ahimelech,” i.e., “And David, with Zadok and Ahimelech, divided them.” The meaning is that Zadok and Ahimelech, the heads of the houses of Eleazar and Ithamar, assisted David in the classification of the priests.
According to their offices.—Rather, According to their official class (1Chronicles 23:11).
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.(4) And there were more chief men found.—Literally, And the sons of Eleazar were found more numerous as regards the heads of the men than the sons of Ithamar. The basis of division was not the individual members of the different families, but the heads of them. There were more head men, or heads of households, deriving from Eleazar than from Ithamar.
Chief men.—Heb., heads of the men, i.e., heads of single families or households; just as “heads of the fathers “denotes heads of groups of fathers or clans. (Comp. Joshua 7:14; Joshua 7:16-18.) Of course, as the heads of households were more numerous, the total number of priests claiming descent from Eleazar must likewise have been more numerous than their kinsmen the Ithamarites.
And thus were they divided . . . fathers.—Rather, And they divided them: to the sons of Eleazar, heads of father-houses, sixteen, and to the sons of Ithamar, to their father-houses, eight (heads). They (i.e., David and the two high priests) divided them (1Chronicles 24:3.)
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.(5) Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another.—Literally, And they divided them by lots, these with those: i.e., the sons of Eleazar with those of Ithamar, the clans of each standing together, apart from those of the other, and the lots being drawn for each alternately. The object was to decide the question of precedence in the order of ministration (comp. Luke 1:5; Luke 1:8-9), the liturgical functions being, of course, the same for all.
For the governors of the sanctuary . . .—Better, for there had arisen holy princes (“lords spiritual”) and princes of God (both) from among the sons of Eleazar, and from among the sons of Ithamar. The decision was referred to the equal arbitrament of the lot, because there had been, and were, distinguished heads of priestly houses belonging to both lines of descent. “Princes of the sanctuary” (Isaiah 43:28)—the phrase is equivalent to “princes of the priests” (2Chronicles 36:14). “Princes of God”—an expression (sārê ’ĕlôhîm) not found elsewhere; it is either synonymous with the last, or perhaps denotes the high priests. (Comp. Notes on 1Chronicles 6:4-6.) The term “Prince of God” (nĕsî ’ĕlôhîm) is applied to Abraham (Genesis 23:6), apparently in the sense of mighty prince, which may be the meaning here.
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.(6) And Shemaiah . . . wrote them.—Made a list of the names in the order determined by lot, as given below (1Chronicles 24:7-18).
The chief of the fathers.—Better, the heads of the houses or clans.
One principal household being taken . . .—The Hebrew text is corrupt, but we may with great probability restore the original reading by the change of a single letter, and translate, one clan was drawn for Eleazar, and one drawn for Ithamar: i.e., alternately. So one Hebrew MS. The LXX. has, “one by one for Eleazar, and one by one for Ithamar.” (So some Hebrew MSS. The Syriac and Vulg. read, “one house for Eleazar, and another house for Ithamar.”) The chances would be that the Ithamarites would all be drawn before the Eleazarites. (Comp. 1Chronicles 25:22-31, where ten “sons of the Hemanite” are left over, and drawn last.)
Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,(7-10) The order of the twenty-four classes of priests, as decided by the drawings. We have no means of discovering to which of the lines individual clans belonged, whether to that of Eleazar or to that of Ithamar.
The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim,(8) Harim—i.e., hārûm, flat-nosed. (Comp. Latin Naso.) This name recurs in Ezra 2:39; Nehemiah 3:11.
Seorim (barley)—i.e., bearded (Latin, Barbatus), is not found elsewhere.
The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin,(9) Malchijah.—Nehemiah 3:11.
Mijamin.—Looks like on the right hand. Perhaps the first syllable is a disguise of Mê (water—a metaphorical term for son), and then the name would be equivalent to Benjamin (Nehemiah 12:5).
The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah,(10) Hakkoz.—The thorn. (Comp. koz, thorn, 1Chronicles 4:8.)
Abijah.—Called “Abia” (Luke 1:5). To this class or course of the priests belonged Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.
The ninth to Jeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah,(11) Jeshuah.—Heb., Yĕshûa’; in Greek, Ἰησοῦ, Jesus (Ezra 2:2). The name only occurs in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The Syriac and Arabic read “Elisha” here.
Shecaniah.—1Chronicles 3:21. This was a common name in the post-exilic age (Iah is a neighbour).
The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim,(12) Eliashib (God will restore).—1Chronicles 3:24.
Jakim (He, i.e., God, or Jah, will establish).—Equivalent to Eliakim and Jecamiah (1Chronicles 8:19).
The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,(13) Huppah.—(Covering, canopy; Isaiah 4:5). Here only as a proper name; but comp. “Huppim” (1Chronicles 7:12).
Joshebeab.—Only here. It means, May the Father (i.e., God) cause to lead captive! But the LXX. reads Ιεσβααλ, or Ισβααλ : i.e., Eshbaal, “man of Baal.” So Vulg., “Isbaab.”
The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer,(14) Immer.—1Chronicles 9:10; Jeremiah 20:1 (perhaps a lamb).
Bilgah.—Nehemiah 10:9 (“Bilgai”), 12:5 (smiling; comp. Isaac, the laugher).
The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses,(15) Hezir.—Hog. (See Nehemiah 10:21.) The Syriac and Arabic read “Ahaziah;” but Vulg. and LXX. prove “Hezir.”
Aphses.—Heb., ha-piççêç (the scatterer): here only. LXX. Αφεσση; Vulg., “Aphses;” Syriac and Arabic, “Phasin.”
The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel,(16) Pethahiah.—Ezra 10:23, (Iah openeth, i.e., setteth free). (Comp. Jephthah: He, i.e., Iah, openeth.)
Jehezekel.—Heb., Yĕhezqêl: Ezekiel.
The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul,(17) Jachin.—Genesis 46:10; 1Kings 7:21 (He, i.e., Jah, setteth up, maketh firm). The same name as Jehoiachin.
Gamul.—Here only as proper name (weaned, Isaiah 11:8).
The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah.(18) Delaiah.—1Chronicles 3:24, a common post-exilic name (Jah draws out, i.e., frees): but comp. Jeremiah 36:12, and Note on 1Chronicles 3:1.
Maaziah.—Here only. Perhaps “Maadiah” (Nehemiah 12:5) should be read. So Syriac, “Ma’adyâ;” Arabic, “Mi’diyyâ.” But LXX. (Vat.), “Maasai” (? Maaseiah); Vuig., “Maaziau.”
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.(19) These were the orderings of them in their service.—Better, These were their classes for their service.
According to their manner, under Aaron.—Better, according to their rule (or order; Vulg., ritum), ordained through Aaron, &c. (See Numbers 2:1; Numbers 4:1; Numbers 4:17.) All the sacerdotal functions were fixed, and each of the twenty-four classes undertook the weekly discharge of them in rotation with the rest, beginning on the Sabbath (2Kings 11:9; 2Chronicles 23:8). Josephus (Ant. vii. 14, 7) declares that the arrangements of David lasted down to his own day.
And the rest of the sons of Levi were these: Of the sons of Amram; Shubael: of the sons of Shubael; Jehdeiah.(20) And the rest of the sons of Levi were these.—Rather, And for the sons of Levi that were left over; i.e., after the priests had been separately dealt with. The list begins with the Kohathite heads, omitting the Gershonites (1Chronicles 23:7-11), perhaps owing to a lacuna in the chronicler’s MS. authority.
Of the sons of Amram; Shubael.—For the sons. Shubael is a variant of “Shebuel” (1Chronicles 23:16). The same variation recurs in 1Chronicles 25:4; 1Chronicles 25:20. Shebuel was grandson to Moses (1Chronicles 23:16). Here the name represents a Levitical house or class, of which, in David’s time Jehdeiah (Jah gladdens) was the head. The name “Jehdeiah” occurs again in 1Chronicles 26:30, and nowhere else in the Old Testament. (Comp. “Jahdiel,” God gladdens, 1Chronicles 5:24.)
Concerning Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, the first was Isshiah.(21) Concerning Rehabiah: of the sons.—For Rehabiah: for the sons of Rehabiah, the chief (head) was Isshiah. 1Chronicles 23:17 only says that the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous.
Of the Izharites; Shelomoth: of the sons of Shelomoth; Jahath.(22) Of the Izharites.—For the Izharites. The Gentilic form of this designation indicates that Shubael, Rehabiah, and others of these proper names, are likewise names of houses or clans.
Shelomoth is mentioned in 1Chronicles 23:18, but not the chief, “Jahath.”
And the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth.(23) And the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first.—The Hebrew text is here mutilated. Our translators have emended it from 1Chronicles 23:19. The names of the houses or classes are given, without those of the heads.
Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah: of the sons of Michah; Shamir.(24) The sons of Uzziel . . . of the sons of Michah.—With 1Chronicles 24:24-25, comp. 1Chronicles 23:20. “Jesiah” there is the same Hebrew name as is here spelt “Isshiah;” it should be Yishshîyah in both places.
Shamir and Zechariah are the heads of the bnê Micah and bnê Isshiah. Only five heads of the nine Kohathite houses are mentioned, viz., Jehdeiah, Issliiah, Jahath, Shamir, and Zechariah.
The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi: the sons of Jaaziah; Beno.(26) The sons of Merari.—1Chronicles 24:26-30 : the Merarite heads. (Comp. 1Chronicles 23:21-23.)
The sons of Jaaziah; Beno.—Beno is the Hebrew for “his son,” and can hardly be a proper name. The clause should be connected immediately with what follows in 1Chronicles 24:27, and the whole translated thus: “The sons of Jaaziah his son—that is, sons of Merari belonging to Jaaziah his son—were Shoham, and Zaccur, and Ibri.”
Jaaziah appears as a third son of Merari, not mentioned elsewhere. (See Note on 1Chronicles 23:23.) If the Hebrew text is substantially sound, it is implied that there existed in the days of David a group of Merarite houses calling themselves “sons of Jaaziah.”
The construction here suggested involves the rejection of the conjunction before “Shoham” in 1Chronicles 24:27, and the removal of the paragraphic sign at the beginning of the verse.
The sons of Merari by Jaaziah; Beno, and Shoham, and Zaccur, and Ibri.(27) Shoham (onyx) and Ibri (Hebrew) do not occur as individual names elsewhere, but there is no reason to doubt their genuineness.
Some commentators pronounce 1Chronicles 24:26-27, spurious, against the evidence of the ancient versions.
Of Mahli came Eleazar, who had no sons.(28) Of Mahli came Eleazar.—Literally, To Mahli, Eleazar; and there became not to him sons. (Comp. 1Chronicles 23:22.) The clan Eleazar did not branch out into new clans, but, being few in number, amalgamated with that of Kish-Jerahmeel.
Concerning Kish: the son of Kish was Jerahmeel.(29) Concerning Kish.—Literally, To Kish, the sons of Kish, Jerahmeel. The plural, “sons of Kish,” as in 1Chronicles 23:22.
The sons also of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites after the house of their fathers.(30) The sons also of Mushi.—So 1Chronicles 23:23. (See Notes there.) Only the names of the houses or classes are mentioned, without those of the chiefs. (Comp. 1Chronicles 24:23, supra.)
These were the sons of the Levites after the house of their fathers.—Rather, according to their father-houses (clans). This subscription proves that the original of 1Chronicles 24:20-30 contained a complete catalogue of the Levitical houses or clans, exclusive of the Aaronites. How far the apparent defects of the present Hebrew text reproduce those of its archetype, and how far they are due to errors of transcription, cannot now be decided.
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.(31) These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron.—Rather, Just like, in the same way as their brethren, the priests. The same compound preposition (le‘ummath) recurs in 1Chronicles 26:12; 1Chronicles 26:16. In 2Samuel 16:13 it has the sense of over against, or parallel with. The lots were cast, as in the case of the priests, to determine the order according to which the classes were to serve in rotation.
Their brethren the sons of Aaron.—This expression seems to indicate that the preceding list does not include all the Levites, but only those who assisted the priests in the Temple services: that is, the 24,000 of 1Chronicles 23:4. The chronicler naturally returned to them after his account of the priestly classes. Hence, perhaps, the omission of the Gershonite houses is intentional. The narrative proceeds to treat of the Levites who were not in immediate attendance on the priesthood in 1 Chronicles 25, 26
The chief of the fathers.—Rather, the chiefs of the clans.
Even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren.—Rather, clans—the chief just like his younger brother. The word “fathers” (ābôth) is a brief form of “father-houses” (bêth- ābôth). The meaning appears to be that all the Levitical houses received their position by lot, senior and junior branches alike. The order, as thus determined, is not communicated; nor is it expressly stated that the Levitical classes were twenty-four in number, but it appears highly probable, both from the data of the text, and from the analogy of the classes of the priests and the musicians (1 Chronicles 25).