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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1 Chronicles 23

Verses 1-32

Preparations for temple service chs. 23-26

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 23 (1 Chronicles 23:1-2) provide an outline for what follows in chapters 23-27 but in reverse order. After David appointed Solomon as his coregent in 973 B.C., he began the preparations the writer described here.

David adapted the service of the Levites, who assisted the priests, to the new temple ritual. This form of worship was a combination of tabernacle and divinely approved revised worship (1 Chronicles 23:3-32; Numbers 3). The Chronicler gave the names of the family heads in Levi’s tribe first (1 Chronicles 23:3-24). Then he explained the duties that David prescribed for them (1 Chronicles 23:25-32). In all this, David was careful to abide within the guidelines of the Mosaic Law and other instructions he had received from the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:19). Previously the Levites had served mainly by carrying the tabernacle and its furnishings from place to place (Numbers 2-4) and by instructing the people in the Law (Leviticus 11-27). Now their duty was also to maintain the temple and its worship, with the exception of matters reserved for the priests (1 Chronicles 23:28-32).

"To entitle this section the ’organization of the Levites’ is to make it sound like bureaucratic regimentation. It is rather to be seen as a scaffolding for that house, a structure to enable God’s people to function as they ought." [Note: Wilcock, p. 100. Cf. 1 Peter 2:5.]

The high priest supervised the priests in their temple service (1 Chronicles 23:28; 1 Chronicles 24:1-19). Priests were descendants of Aaron and constituted only one branch of the Levitical family (Numbers 18:7). The priests continued to offer sacrifices and offerings on the brazen and incense (golden) altars (Numbers 18:1-7). David organized the priests into 24 groups, each of which served for one week at a time (2 Chronicles 23:18). Zadok and Ahimelech served as high priests. Ahimelech, a descendant of Eli, served at the Jerusalem tent David had erected for the ark, until Zadok replaced him. Zadok originally oversaw the sanctuary at Gibeon until David brought him into Jerusalem to take Ahimelech’s place. Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son, rebelled against Solomon, and from then on Zadok served as high priest alone.

The writer also recorded the order of Levitical service (1 Chronicles 24:20-31). The casting of lots determined this order. Every detail of temple service was important to David. This shows his heart for God and how he lived in the present with the future God had promised clearly in view. David lowered the age required for Levitical service from 30 to 20. He may have done this because there was a need for many more Levites under the new system of worship (1 Chronicles 24:24; 1 Chronicles 24:27; cf. 1 Chronicles 24:3). [Note: Merrill, "1 Chronicles," in The Bible . . ., p. 612.]

David also organized some of the Levitical families as temple musicians. Asaph was a Gershonite (1 Chronicles 6:39-43), Heman a Kohathite (1 Chronicles 6:33), and Jeduthun (Ethan) a Merarite (1 Chronicles 6:44-47). They were responsible for singing praises to God and leading the people in doing the same. This is what "prophesying" included (1 Chronicles 25:1). [Note: See Wood, pp. 53-56.] The re-establishment of temple worship was important in postexilic Israel, and music played a large part in it. Consequently, David’s organization would have been of great interest then.

The organization of a temple choir is surprising since the Chronicler elsewhere presented Israel’s worship as done in compliance with the Mosaic Law, which made no provision for a choir. However, the prophets Nathan and Gad had authorized this choir (2 Chronicles 29:25). Furthermore, this choir was in harmony with other legislation in the Law directing praise of the Lord (cf. Numbers 10:10; Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:5). Also, the general scriptural admonition to rejoice in God’s presence encouraged creative expressions of worship in harmony with God’s Word. [Note: J. W. Kleinig, "The Divine Institution of the Lord’s Song in Chronicles," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 55 (1992):75-83.]

"David was Israel’s Mozart, a consummate genius. He provides the libretto of his psalms to accompany the ritual in connection with musical scores; elaborates the liturgy’s staging in the magnificent temple that he envisioned and his son built; and gave the liturgy a choreography that includes dances and processions. With David, the Mosaic liturgy comes to life, reaching its aesthetic zenith." [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, p. 474.]

David also organized the officers of the Levites as gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 26:1-19), treasury guards (1 Chronicles 26:20-28), and leaders in external affairs (1 Chronicles 26:29-32). The gatekeepers were the temple guards (cf. 1 Chronicles 26:7-8). [Note: J. W. Wright, "Guarding the Gates: 1 Chronicles 26:1-18 and the Roles of Gatekeepers in Chronicles," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 48 (1990):69-81.] David even specified the number of guards at each temple gate (1 Chronicles 26:17-18). There were 24 guard stations manned 24 hours a day. In view of the wealth in and on the temple, security needed to be tight (cf. 1 Chronicles 26:27-28).

"In the capitals of the Asiatic kingdoms of antiquity, enormous quantities of precious metals were accumulated." [Note: C. F. Keil, The Books of the Chronicles, p. 247.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 23". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-chronicles-23.html. 2012.