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4. The family of Levi ch. 6
This list clearly defines the priests and Levites’ line of descent. Its purpose seems to be to legitimate and clarify their role and service in the temple. [Note: Idem, "1 Chronicles," in The Old . . ., p. 301.] Only the descendants of Aaron, the priests, could serve in the temple by offering sacrifices on the incense altar (1 Chronicles 6:49; cf. Numbers 3:5-38). Nehemiah correctly barred priests who could not demonstrate that they were descendants of Aaron from serving in the rebuilt (second) temple (Nehemiah 7:63-65).
The priests could only function when Israel dwelt in the Promised Land and as long as the tabernacle or temple God had blessed with His presence stood. With the return from exile the ritual of covenant worship was again possible. Consequently the priesthood was very important to the restoration community (the company of Israelites restored to the land from Babylonian exile).
God had given the special privilege of being priests to Aaron and his sons as a gracious blessing. Normally the first-born son acted as priest of the family in the ancient Near East. This was one of the privileges of the birthright. Reuben had forfeited this, too, by his sin.
1 Chronicles 6:1-15 trace Aaron’s descendants, the high priests, to the Babylonian exile.
"Some writers have wanted to portray the high priest in postexilic times in an exalted position. But it is striking how little attention the Chronicler gives to the role of high priest. . . .
". . . in a number of passages he put considerable emphasis on faith in God as the way to blessing but rarely on ritual perfection." [Note: Thompson, p. 36. See Braun, 1 Chronicles, p. 84, for a chart of Israel’s high priests as they appear in Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 Chronicles.]
1 Chronicles 6:16-53 give a more general list of the descendants of Levi whom God allowed to assist the priests in certain aspects of Israel’s worship. They received this privilege as a result of God’s grace as well (Numbers 3:12-13; Numbers 3:45; Numbers 8:14). God’s physical provision for the Levites concludes the chapter (1 Chronicles 6:54-81).
The writer placed Levi’s genealogy at the heart of the chiastic structure that he used to set forth these genealogies. In this way he drew attention to Levi’s central importance in Israel. [Note: See Leslie C. Allen, "Kerygmatic Units in 1 & 2 Chronicles," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 41 (June 1988):22. This article contains many helpful insights into the structure of Chronicles.]
A The lineage of David (chs. 1-3)
B Judah and Simeon in the South (1 Chronicles 4:1-43)
C The Transjordanian tribes to the north (ch. 5)
D Levi (ch. 6)
C’ The other northern tribes (ch. 7)
B’ Benjamin in the South (ch. 8)
A’ The lineage of Saul (ch. 9)
"The emphasis on Judah and Levi in the genealogies marks the center of the Chronicler’s hope and faith. Two things marked the true Israel: the king and the priest." [Note: Thompson, p. 56.]
As we compare parallel genealogies in various parts of Scripture, we observe that some lists contain omissions and additions. This shows that genealogical lists are not always complete.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany