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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 6

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



The tribe of Levi, its principal genealogies, and its cities. (1) The genealogy of Aaron, including his descent from Levi, and his successors in the line of Eleazar until the Babylonian exile (1 Chronicles 6:1-15). (2) A double series of the sons of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the three sons of Levi, to whom also the ancestry of Heman, Asaph, and Ethan is traced (1 Chronicles 6:16-48). (3) A repetition of the line of Aaron, from Eleazar to the age of David and Solomon, as prelude to the account of the cities of the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:49-81).

Verses 1-15


(1-3) Aaron’s descent from Levi.
(1) The sons of Levi; Gershon . . .—So Genesis 46:11; Exodus 6:16, and uniformly in the Pentateuch. In 1 Chronicles 6:16 we have the spelling Gershom, which perhaps indicates a difference of source.

(2) The sons of Kohath.—The names are the same as in Exodus 6:18. Kŏhath, or Kĕhath, was the chief house of Levi. The name is put second in the series, perhaps for euphonic reasons. (Comp. “Sheni, Ham, and Japhet” with Genesis 9:24; Genesis 10:21.)

(3) And the children.—Heb., sons (bnê ‘Âmrâm).

Aaron, and Moses.Exodus 6:20.

And Miriam.Numbers 26:59 : “the prophetess, the sister of Aaron” (Exodus 15:20).

The sons also of Aaron.—Heb., ‘Aharon; Arab., Hârûn. Exodus 6:23, Numbers 26:60 name the four sons of Aaron in the same order as here. “Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange fire before the Lord” (Numbers 26:61). A fuller account is given in Leviticus 10:1-7.

(4-15) Twenty-two successors of Aaron, for the interval between his death and the Babylonian exile (circ. 588 B.C.). How many centuries that interval comprises is uncertain. The Exodus has been placed at various dates from 1648 B.C. (Hales), and 1491 (Usher) to circ. 1330 (Lepsius and other modern scholars), and even so late as 1265. It is premature, therefore, to object, as some have done, that twenty-two generations are too few for the period they are supposed to cover. If the later dates assigned for the Exodus be nearer the truth, an allowance of about thirty years to the generation would justify the list. At least we have no right to say that the list requires a reckoning of forty or fifty years to the generation. On the other hand, it may well be the case that some links in the chain are wanting. Comp. Ezra 7:1-7, where this list recurs in an abridged form, giving only fifteen names instead of twenty-two.

(4) Eleazar begat Phinehas.Numbers 20:22-28 tells how Moses, by Divine command, made Eleazar priest in Aaron’s room. Joshua 14:1; Joshua 17:4 represent him as acting with Joshua in Canaan. Joshua 24:33 records his death and place of burial. For Phinehas, son of Eleazar, see Exodus 6:25; Numbers 25:7; Numbers 25:11; Judges 20:28 (as ministering before the Ark at Bethel). The list before us appears to ignore the line of Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining son. 1 Chronicles 24:1-6, however, proves that the chronicler was well aware that there had been other personages of high-priestly rank besides those registered here (see especially 1 Chronicles 6:5 : “for there had been princes of the sanctuary and princes of God, of the sons of Eleazar and of the sons of Ithamar”). The line of Eleazar alone is here recorded as being at once the elder and legitimate, and also the permanent one from the time of Solomon onwards.

(5) Uzzi is assumed to have been contemporary with Eli, whose immediate descendants to the fourth generation exercised the office of the high-priest, according to the data of the Books of Samuel and Kings. The line of Eli is as follows: Eli, Phinehas, Ahitub, Ahimelech, Abiathar. (See 1 Samuel 1:28; 1 Samuel 2:4; 1 Samuel 2:11; 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 22:9; 1 Samuel 22:20; 1 Kings 2:26-27.)

(6) Zerahiah begat Meraioth.—Scripture is silent as regards the six persons named in 1 Chronicles 6:6-7. That the line of Eleazar abstained from the priestly functions during the ascendency of the house of Ithamar-Eli, is probably nothing more than a groundless guess on the part of Josephus (Antiq. viii. 1, 3). The indications of the Scriptures point the other way. Zadok and Abiathar enjoyed a co-ordinate authority in the time of David (1 Samuel 20:25), and proofs are not wanting of the existence of more than one recognised sanctuary, in which the representatives of both houses might severally officiate. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 16:39.)

(8) Zadok was appointed sole high-priest by Solomon, who deposed Abiathar (1 Kings 2:27; 1 Kings 2:35).

Ahimaaz.2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 17:17; cf. 2 Samuel 18:27. In all these passages Ahimaaz appears as a young man and a fleet runner, who did service to David in the time of Absalom’s revolt. He nowhere appears as high-priest.

Azariah.—See 1 Kings 4:2, which mentions “Azariah son of Zadok the priest,” in a list of Solomon’s grandees. The remark in 1 Chronicles 6:10, “he who served as priest in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem,” enigmatical where it stands, is intelligible if connected with Azariah son of Ahimaaz; contrasting him with his grandfather, Zadok, who had ministered at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39); and with the other high-priests who were his namesakes, as the first Azariah. Solomon reigned forty years. Azariah, therefore, may have succeeded to the priesthood before his death.

(10) Johanan begat Azariah.—Johanan is un. known. The name Azariah occurs thrice in the present list—viz., in 1 Chronicles 6:9-10; 1 Chronicles 6:13. We have already identified the first with the son, or rather grandson, of Zadok, who is mentioned in 1 Kings 4:2. A high-priest (Azariah) withstood King Uzziah’s assumption of priestly privilege (2 Chronicles 26:17), circ. 740 B.C. The Jewish exegetes Rashi and Kimchi supposed him to be identical with Azariah son of Johanan, fancifully explaining the remark, “he it is that executed the priest’s office in the temple,” &c., as a reference to his bold defence of the priestly prerogative against the king himself. If this were right, several names would be omitted in 1 Chronicles 6:9-10. But we have seen that the remark in question really belongs to a former Azariah, and has been transposed from its original position in 1 Chronicles 6:9 by the inadvertence of some copyist. Another Azariah is mentioned (2 Chronicles 31:10) as “chief priest of the house of Zadok,” early in the reign of Hezekiah. Him, too, we fail to identify with either of the Azariahs of the present list. (See 1 Chronicles 6:13, Note.)

(11) Azariah begat Amariah.—Perhaps the Amariah of 2 Chronicles 19:11, who was high-priest under Jehoshaphat.

(12) And Ahitub begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Shallum.—See 1 Chronicles 6:8 : “And Ahitub begat Zadok.” The recurrence of names in the same families is almost too common to require notice, except where confusion of distinct persons has resulted or is likely to result, as in the instance of those among our Lord’s immediate followers, who bore the names of Simon, Judas, and James.

Somewhere about this part of the list we miss the name of Jehoiada, the famous king-maker, who put down Athaliah and set up Joash (2 Chronicles 23:0). In like manner, Urijah, the too compliant high-priest of the reign of Ahaz, who flourished a generation or so later, is conspicuous here by omission (2 Kings 16:10-16).

Urijah may have been omitted because of his unworthy connivance in an unlawful worship, not, however, as “an unimportant man,” as Keil thinks. (Comp. Isaiah 8:2.) But if the list is a list of actual high-priests, Jehoiada can only have been omitted by accident, unless indeed he is represented in it by an unrecognised alias. Double names are common in Scripture, from Jacob-Israel, Esau-Edom, downwards.

(13) Hilkiah begat Azariah.—Hilkiah is probably the well-known high-priest who “found the Book of the Law” which led to the great reformation of Josiah’s reign (2 Kings 22:8, seq.). Azariah, his son, is not elsewhere mentioned. The Azariah of 2 Chronicles 31:10, who figures as high-priest under Hezekiah, at least eighty years earlier, is absent from this list.

(14) Seraiah begat Jehozadak.—Seraiah was still high-priest at the moment of the fall of Jerusalem (588 B.C. ). Nebuchadnezzar caused him to be put to death at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:24, seq.) From Azariah (1 Chronicles 6:10) to Seraiah we find only ten names. In the list of the kings of Judah for about the same interval eighteen names occur (see 1 Chronicles 3:10-16). This fact undoubtedly suggests the omission of some generations from the list before us.

The use of the word “begat” throughout the series is not to be pressed to the contrary conclusion. Like the term “son” in Ezra 7:3 (“Azariah, son of Meraioth,” though six intermediate names are given in Chron.), it is a somewhat elastic technical formula in these genealogies.

(15) And Jehozadak went into captivity.—The Heb. is went away. Our version rightly supplies into captivity. (Comp. Jeremiah 49:3.) Jehozadak was presumably a child at the time; half a century later a son of his, the high-priest Jeshua or Joshua, returned with Zerubbabel at the head of the first colony of restored exiles, 536 B.C. (Haggai 1:1; Ezra 3:2).

When the Lord carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.—The chronicler is generally charged with a strong Levitical and priestly bias, in unfavourable contrast to the “prophetical tendency of the writers of Samuel and Kings. The sentiment of this verse, however, and of many other passages, is thoroughly accordant with the point of view of the greater prophets. Isaiah, e.g., never wearies of proclaiming that the Assyrian conquerors were mere instruments in the hands of Jehovah, unconsciously executing His fore-ordained purposes.

Nebuchadnezzar.—So the name is spelt in Kings, Chronicles, and Daniel, but incorrectly. Jeremiah 24:2, &c., reads Nebuchadrezzar, which is nearer the true name, Nabium-kudurri-açur (Nebo protect the crown).

Verses 16-19

(16-19) The three branches of Levi with their main subdivisions. Parallel passages, Exodus 6:16-19; Numbers 3:17-20.

(16) Gershom.—See Note on 1 Chronicles 6:1. In the Pentateuch, Gershom is son of Moses; Gershon, son of Levi.

(19) And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers.—The word’families” (Heb., mishpehuth) does not mean single households, but groups of households, or clans. The sentence concludes the short list of the great Levitical houses, just as at Exodus 6:19. (See also Numbers 3:20, where a like formula appears to introduce what follows.)

Verse 20

(20) Of Gershom.—Literally, toi.e., belonging to Gershom.

Libni his son.—See Numbers 3:21, “To Gershon, the clan of the Libnite, and the clan of the Shimeite; these are the clans of the Gershonite.”

The names Jahath, Zimmah, and Zerah recur in the line of Asaph, 1 Chronicles 6:41-43 below (see the Note there). Jeaterai, in whom the present series culminates, is wholly unknown. At the time when the list was first drawn up, the name may have represented a famous chieftain or family. It has the ending of a patronymic or gentilic term, and perhaps should be read with different vowels, we ‘Ithrai, or ‘Ithri, “and the Ithrite” (comp. ‘Ishai for Yishai), a clan of which came two of David’s heroes (1 Chronicles 11:40).

Verses 20-21

(20, 21) The genealogy of the Gershonites in seven successive generations. It does not occur in the Pentateuch. This and the two following lists of Kohathites and Merarites are symmetrical in plan, but not in the number of names included.

Verses 22-23

(22–23) The sons of Kohath. As the text stands we have here a threefold list, each portion of which is isolated from the rest, and begins afresh with the word onê (the sons of).

(22) Amminadab his son.—Amminadab is not mentioned as a son of Kohath in the Pentateuch or elsewhere. Korah, here called son of Amminadab, is called son of Izhar, son of Kohath, Exodus 6:21. (See 1 Chronicles 6:18, supra, and 1 Chronicles 6:38, infra.) Some assume that Amminadab is a “by-name” of Izhar (so Margin). It is more likely that the name Izhar has dropped out of the text of 1 Chronicles 6:22.

(22, 23) Assir his son, Elkanah his son, and Ebiasaph his son.—Comp. Exodus 6:24 : “And the sons of Korah, Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph, these are the sons of Korah.” The connection, then, is as follows:—

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The conjunction and, in 1 Chronicles 6:23, seems to hint that the connection is no longer one of direct descent, but that the three, Assir, Elkanah, and Ebiasaph, are to be regarded as brothers.

(23) And Assir his son.—Comp. 1 Chronicles 6:37 below, in the line of Heman, which in great part coincides with the present series. There we read, “Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah.” The present Assir is therefore son of Ebiasaph, and nephew of the former Assir (1 Chronicles 6:22). The form of a direct descent is now resumed and continued with Tahath, son of Assir (1 Chronicles 6:24).

Verse 24

(24) In the corresponding verse of the genealogy of Heman below (1 Chronicles 6:38) the names are Tahath, Zephaniah, Azariah, and Joel. It is easy to suppose that as the two series diverge after Tahath, Uriel and Zephaniah are two different sons of Tahath. But we notice (1) that Uzziah (1 Chronicles 6:24) may = Azariah, 1 Chronicles 6:36 (comp. King Uzziah—Azariah, 2 Kings 15:1; 2 Chronicles 26:1); (2) that although there is an apparent break between 1 Chronicles 6:24-25, so that a new list begins with the sons of Elkanah (1 Chronicles 6:25), yet 1 Chronicles 6:35-36 speak of an “Amasai, son of Elkanah,” in exact agreement with 1 Chronicles 6:25; and (3) that the correspondence between the two lists (1 Chronicles 6:22-30; 1 Chronicles 6:33-38) is so close, that it is difficult not to assume their substantial identity. Uriel may have been also known as Zephaniah, and Shaul as Joel.

Verse 25

(25) And the sons of Elkanah; Amasai.—See last Note. It is natural to identify the Elkanah of 1 Chronicles 6:36 with this one. The posterity of both are so nearly the same; otherwise we might have taken the present Elkanah for the person mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:23.

Verse 26

(26) The Hebrew text reads: “Elkanah his son—Elkanah—Zophai his son,” &c. Zophai might mean the Zophite. The LXX. has (1 Chronicles 6:25) “And sons of Elkanah, Amessi and Ahimoth;” (1 Chronicles 6:26) “Elkanah his son, Souphi his son,” &c. So the Syriac. That this is correct appears from comparison of Heman’s pedigree (1 Chronicles 6:35). The second Elkanah in 1 Chronicles 6:26 is therefore an intrusion, due perhaps to some scribe who remembered 1 Samuel 1:1, where Zophim occurs just before Elkanah. In 1 Chronicles 6:35 Elkanah is son of Mahath, son of Amasai. Perhaps Mahath is identical with the Ahimoth of 1 Chronicles 6:25; if so, the true reading of 1 Chronicles 6:25-26 would be: “And sons of Elkanah: Amasai his son, Ahimoth (Mahath) his son, Elkanah his son, Zophai his son,” &c. Zophai is to Zuph (1 Chronicles 6:35) as Chelubai (1 Chronicles 2:9) to Chelub (1 Chronicles 4:11). Nahath looks like a transformation of Toah (1 Chronicles 6:34), and Eliab (1 Chronicles 6:27)—“El is father”—may be a by-form of Eliel (ibid.) “El is el.” Jeroham and Elkanah go back to Eliel in 1 Chronicles 6:34, just as they spring from Eliab here. The two series again coincide.

Verse 28

(28) And the sons of Samuel.—Heb., Shemuel The third break in the Kohathite list.

We see from 1 Chronicles 6:33-34 that Samuel (Shemuel, name of God) is son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham; hence we might suppose that the clause “Samuel his son” has been accidentally omitted at the end of 1 Chronicles 6:27. But it is quite possible that the writer assumed the connection to be too well known to require specification, or that he has here thrown together three independent genealogical fragments. Comp. with 1 Chronicles 6:27-28 the pedigree of Elkanah, 1 Samuel 1:1 : “Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph.” Here again the names vary, yet not so as to obliterate their identity. Elihu (“El is He”) = Eliab, Eliel; Tohu, a fuller form of Toah = Nahath.

The firstborn Vashni, and Abiah.—Vashni is not a proper name, but a corrupt form of the Hebrew phrase “and the second” (shçnî, secundus). The sons of the prophet Samuel were Joel, the firstborn, and Abiah, 1 Samuel 8:2 (see also 1 Chronicles 6:33 below). Joel has fallen out of the text here; it should run, “Joel the firstborn, and the second Abiah.”

Reviewing the Kohathite list (22-28) we conclude that it represents three statistical fragments which have been put in juxtaposition by the chronicler or the author whom he has followed, and that in accordance with the real connection between the members, as appears on comparison with the continuous list which immediately follows in 1 Chronicles 6:33-38. The fact that “Samuel his son” is the missing link between 1 Chronicles 6:27-28, makes it likely that “Elkanah his son” is the true connection between 1 Chronicles 6:24-25.

From Levi to the sons of Samuel about twenty generations are reckoned. Usher’s chronology dates the descent of Jacob and his sons into Egypt at 1706 B.C. Twenty generations are six hundred years. The sons of Samuel would, according to this, be living about 1106 B.C. and later. Ruth 4:18-22 reckons only ten generations from Judah to Jesse, the father of David. This again shows that in their genealogical tables the Hebrews did not uniformly supply every link, but were often content with a statement of the principal names.

Verses 29-30

(29, 30) A short list of Merarite names. (Comp. Numbers 3:20, and 1 Chronicles 6:14, supra, for the two sons of Merari, Mahli and Mushi, after whom the clans of the Merarites were designated. The present list traces the line of Mahli to the seventh generation; all the names are alike unknown. Below, 1 Chronicles 6:44-47, we have another line going back to Mushi, brother of Mahli. Why has the chronicler preserved the three lists of 1 Chronicles 6:19-30? The process from Levi to the worthless sons of Samuel, and the utterly unknown names of Jeaterai and Asaiah, reads like an anti-climax. But it is not to be forgotten that these no longer significant fragments are genuine relics of ancient family registers, and as such may have had more than a merely antiquarian value in the days of the chronicler.

1 Chronicles 6:31-32 are a prelude to the pedigrees of Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, the three great masters of David’s choirs (33-48). The nature, time, and place of their special duties are described.

Verse 31

(31) Set over the service of song.—Literally, made stand by the sides (hands) of song, as if to minister to the sacred music. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 25:2-3, where the same peculiar phrase recurs, and Psalms 123:2, “as the eyes of slaves are unto the hand of their Lord.” Comp. also the common heading of the Psalms, “to the conductor or precentor;” Authorised Version, “chief musician.”)

In the house of the Lord.—In David’s time, a tent, as next verse declares.

After that the ark had rest.—Perhaps locative: at the restin-place of the Ark (comp. Genesis 8:9). From the time of its capture by the Philistines (2 Samuel 6:17), the Ark had no certain dwelling till it was lodged in the tent which David spread for it on Mount Zion.

Verse 32

(32) And they ministered.—“And they continued ministering, before the dwelling of the Tent of Meeting, with the music.”

The dwelling place of the tabernacle.—A defining genitive, like River of Jordan, or City of Jerusalem. In the court before this sacred dwelling wherein the Lord met His people, the services of sacrifice and song were carried on. The tent of the Ark in the city of David (see 1 Chronicles 16:1) is here called by the old name of the Mosaic Tabernacle, ‘ôhel mô’çd, “tent of tryst, or meeting,” i.e., of God with man. The ancient tent appears to have stood at Shiloh, and at Bethel (Judges 20:26-28) in the days of the Judges, at Nob in the reign of Saul, and later at Gibeon. (See 1 Chronicles 21:29, and 2 Chronicles 1:3.)

Until Solomon had built the house.—The Ark, and the worship of which it was the centre, were then transferred to the more august abode of Solomon’s Temple.

And then they waited.—Omit then and read “and they stood at their service according to their privilege.” The place and precedence of the choirs and their leaders were fixed by David (1 Chronicles 16:37). Standing was the normal posture for singing.

Verse 33

(33) And these are they that waited (stood) with their children.—The main sentence which began at 1 Chronicles 6:31, and was suspended by the parenthetic 1 Chronicles 6:32, is now resumed. The persons meant are the three chiefs of the Levitical guilds of musicians, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan; their “children” are the members of those guilds. (Comp. the phrase, “sons of the prophets,” i.e., members of prophetic guilds, 2 Kings 9:1; Amos 7:14.) 1 Chronicles 25:1-7 supplies the names of the principal “sons” of the three masters. Their Levitical descent is shown in the genealogies here traced up from themselves to Levi. First we have the pedigree of Heman (1 Chronicles 6:33-38) the Kohathite.

Heman a singer.—Rather, the singer or minstrel. Heman, as representing the chief branch of the Levites, is primus inter pares as regards the other master singers. His choir occupied the centre, having on its right that of the Gershonite Asaph, on its left that of the Merarite Ethan (1 Chronicles 6:39; 1 Chronicles 6:44), so that Heman would conduct the whole body of musicians, when the three choirs chanted in concert. The word “minstrel” is more appropriate than “singer” because the original term (ham’shôrçr) implies singing which the singer himself accompanies with an instrument of music. (See 1 Chronicles 25:6; LXX., ὁ ψαλτῳδὸς.)

Son of Joel, the son of Shemuel.—It is interesting to learn that Heman, the great minstrel, was a grandson of Samuel the great prophet. (For the connection between music and prophecy, see 2 Kings 3:15; 1 Samuel 10:5-6; and below, 1 Chronicles 25:1, Note.) Considering that some have denied that Samuel was a Levite, the point of contact here noted looks like an undesigned coincidence.

Verse 38

(38) Son of Israel.—Asaph and Ethan are traced to Levi. It was not needful to repeat “son of Israel” in each case. For further remarks on the names in 1 Chronicles 6:34-38 see above Notes on 22-28, the lines being identical. The numerous variants, however, seem to imply that the author drew from different documents.

Verse 39

(39) His brother Asaph.—Asaph was Heman’s brother (1) as a Levite; (2) as a choir-master.

The striking agreement of the line of Heman with that of the Kohathites, detailed in 1 Chronicles 6:22-28 above, has led critics to look for a like coincidence between the line of Asaph as given here, and that of the Gershonites in 1 Chronicles 6:20-21. There, however, we have only seven names, here there are thirteen. Still we observe that in the former passage the three names, Jahath, Zimmah, and Zerah appear in the same order of lineal descent from Gershon as in the present list; while the Adaiah of 1 Chronicles 6:41 obviously answers to the Iddo of 1 Chronicles 6:21, and Ethni (1 Chronicles 6:41) is in Hebrew writing not unlike Jeaterai; and we are already familiar with the fact that genealogies sometimes recur in abbreviated forms. (Comp. Ezra 7:1-5, with the line of Aaron in the present chapter.) Upon the whole, therefore, if the suggested identifications be correct, it appears that Asaph’s pedigree has really been partially anticipated in 1 Chronicles 6:20-21.

Verses 39-43

(39-43) The pedigree of Asaph the Gershonite, traced back through thirteen names to Levi. That of Heman names twenty ancestors for the same period of time. This is one more illustration of the common usage of overleaping names in these genealogies.

Verses 44-47

(44-47) The pedigree of Ethan the Merarite, traced back through twelve names to Levi. Ethan is no doubt the same as Jeduthun, 1 Chronicles 25:1; 2 Chronicles 35:15.

(44) And their brethren the sons of Merari.—We should say their comrades or kinsmen (see Note on 1 Chronicles 6:39). “Brethren,” or “brothers,” is the natural style for the members of a guild, whether religious like the monastic bodies, or commercial like the city companies of London, or benevolent like the Freemasons. The plural pronoun refers to the two preceding guilds of Heman and Asaph. The Ethanites stood on the left of the Hemanites in the sanctuary, as the Asaphites stood on their right, and this arrangement was hereditary.

Kishi is a contraction of Kushaiah, like Zabdi of Zebadiah.
(47) Son of Manli, the son of Mushi.—In 1 Chronicles 6:19 Mahli and Mushi appear as two sons of Merari; so also at Lev. 3:20. Mahli son of Mushi here must be nephew of the Mahli of those two passages, if the genealogical form is in each case to be understood literally. It is difficult on a first inspection to perceive any connection between the present list and that of the Merarites in 1 Chronicles 6:29-30. The series there is:

Mahli, Libni, Shimei, Uzza, Shimea, Haggiah, and Asaiah.
Here we have:
Mushi, Mahli, Shamer, Bani, Amzi, Hilkiah, Amaziah, Hashabiah, Malluch, Abdi, Kishi, and Ethan.

Now it is quite possible that both lines spring from Mushi son of Merari. We have only to suppose that the name of Mushi has either dropped out or been omitted by design in 1 Chronicles 6:29. In that case, of course, Mahli in each line becomes identical. Next we remark that Libni in Hebrew adds but one letter (1) to Bani; and these two may be variants of the same name. The second line is again more complete than the first, as it supplies Shamer (Shemer) between Mahli and Bani-Libni. Further. Uzzi and Amzi express the same idea—that of strength—and may therefore indicate identity of person. The names Shimei and Shimeah are perhaps inadvertent duplicates of each other; which may also be the case with Amzi and Amaziah in the second series. Haggiah perhaps answers to Hilkiah.

Thus it may be right to regard this pedigree of Ethan as related to the Merarite line of 1 Chronicles 6:29-30, in the same way as those of Heman and Asaph are related to the first drafts of the Kohathite and Gershonite lines of descent, although the connection is not so evident in the present instance, owing perhaps to corruption of the text.

1 Chronicles 6:48-49 constitute the transition from the pedigrees of the three Levitical choir-masters to the line of the sons of Aaron—Eleazar, which is here repeated from Aaron to Ahimaaz. The form of the list is, however, different. Instead of “Eleazar begat Phinehas,” it runs “Phinehas his son” &c. It is more likely that the chronicler found this list already connected with what follows in the source which he used for this section, than that he merely chose to repeat part of what he had already given under a slightly altered form.

Verse 48

(48) Their brethren also the Levites.—That is, the Levites who were not musiciansthe remaining Levites.

Appointed.—Literally, given—that is, to Aaron and his sons as their assistants; Numbers 3:9 (Heb.), “And thou shalt give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons, given are they to him from amongst the sons of Israel.” The word is nethûnîm. (Comp. nethînim, an identical form, as the name of a well-known class of Temple-servants.)

Tabernacle.—Rather, dwelling-place (mishkan).

Verse 49

(49) But Aaron and his sons offered.—Literally, And Aaron and his sons were offering. The participle denotes unintermitted action. “Aaron and his sons” is a technical name for the priests, to whom, according to this passage, three functions pertained: (1) sacrifice on the altars of burnt-offering and inconse; (2) the work of the most holy place (Holy of holies); (3) atonement for Israel by special rites of sacrifice and purification.

According to all that Moses . . . commanded.—This refers to the entire ministry of the priests. The time in question is the Davidic age.

The servant of God.—Comp. Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1; Joshua 1:13. After his death, Moses is thrice called “servant of Jehovah,” in whose earthly household he had been faithful as a servant (Hebrews 3:5). He fore-figures in grand if imperfect outline that other servant of Jehovah, of whom the second half of Isaiah has so much discourse. “Servant of God” (Elohîm) the chronicler writes, because in his day the NAME was held in ever-increasing awe.

Verses 50-53

(50-53) If the chronicler, and not his source, be held responsible for this repetition of the Aaronite line, we may regard it as an instance of his inartificial method of making a new start. He is about to pass from the Levitical genealogies to their cities and domains, and he first partially recapitulates the line of Aaron’s sons, because their seats are to be described first. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 6:1-2 with 16, 18.) He stops at Ahimaaz, who lived in the age of David and Solomon, because, apparently, the preceding section was mainly concerned with the Levites of that epoch.

Verse 54

(54) Render, “And these were their seats according to their encampments within their border.” This, as the heading to all that follows, should be stopped off therefrom. It does not occur in Joshua 21:0, and may indicate an intermediate source used by the chronicler. The variant spellings of proper names, many of which are not mere copyists’ blunders, point in the same direction.

Of the sons of Aaron.—Rather, “to the sons of Aaron, of the clan of the Kohathites—for to them had fallen the lot—they gave to them Hebron,” &c. Joshua 21:10 has, “for to them the lot had fallen first.”

Verses 54-81

(54-81) The Levitical cities, beginning with those of the Aavonites, the principal branch of the Kohathite clan. This list deals with the same topic as Joshua 21:3-40, with which, upon the whole, it is in substantial agreement. 1 Chronicles 6:54-60 are parallel to Joshua 21:10-19.

Verse 55

(55) Hebron.—Josh., “the city of Arba, the father of the Anak, that is, Hebron.”

In the land of Judah.—Josh., “hill-country” (har for ha’areç).

Suburbs.—The Hebrew migrashîm, pastures or commons, as opposed to arable land (Authorised version, “fields;” Heb., sadeh). Numbers 35:3-5 defines the extent of the Levitical domain round the cities where they dwelt.

Verses 55-56

(55, 56) Closely answering to Joshua 21:11-12.

Verse 56

(56) To Caleb the son of Jephunneh.—Josh. adds “as his possession.”

Verse 57

(57) They gave the cities of Judah.—Heb. text, the cities of refuge, Hebron and Libnah, and her pastures. Of the cities mentioned only Hebron was an asylum for the manslayer. The other cities of refuge were Kedesh-Naphtali, Shechem, Bezer, Ramoth-Gilead, and Golan. (See Joshua 20:7-8.). Here our translators have adopted the Hebrew marginal correction of the text. (Comp. Joshua 21:13, which reads. “The manslayer’s city of refuge, Hebron.”) The same inaccuracy recurs in 1 Chronicles 6:67, below.

With her suburbs.With her pastures. The phrase has been omitted after Jattir (Joshua 21:13).

Verse 58

(58) Hilen.—Holon, which twice occurs in Joshua 15:51; Joshua 21:15, is a more natural form.

Debir.—Oracle, the inmost sanctuary; anciently, Kirjath-sepher (Book Town).

Verse 59

(59) Ashan (smoke); in Joshua, Ain (fountain). The place may have had both names, from a fountain rising like a column of smoke. “Juttah and her pastures” has fallen out here (Joshua 21:16). At the end of the verse Joshua adds, “Nine cities out of these two tribes,” viz., Judah and Simeon.

Verse 60

(60) “Gibeon and her pastures” is omitted; probably an oversight, due to the similarity of sound and form between Gibeon and Geba. Alemeth and Almôn are each valid formations, and perhaps represent an older and younger name of the place.

Thirteen cities.—The list in its present shape contains eleven. This proves that Juttah and Gibeon should be restored to the text.

Verse 61

(61) And unto the sons of Kohath, which were left of the family of that tribe.—A comparison with Joshua 21:5 shows that the text is again mutilated. That passage reads (Heb.), “And unto the sons of Kohath which were left, out of the families [clans] of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half of the tribe of Manasseh, by the lot, ten cities.” The curious redundancy of the present text of 1 Chronicles 6:61, “Out of the half of the tribe of the half of Manasseh”—a phrase which occurs nowhere else—suggests bad emendation of a corrupt reading. The passage from Joshua undoubtedly gives the meaning here. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 6:66-67, below.)

Verses 61-63

(61-63) These verses correspond to Joshua 21:5-7. They supply short statements of the number of cities in the various tribes assigned to the non-Aaronic Kohathites, to the Gershonites, and the Merarites.

Verse 62

(62) Gershom (Josh., Gershon) throughout their families.—Heb., to [i.e., with regard to, after] their clans (so 1 Chronicles 6:63). In 1 Chronicles 6:60, “throughout their families” represents Heb. in their clans.

Tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.—Joshua, “half- tribe.”

Verse 63

(63) This verse is word for word the same as Joshua 21:7, omitting the one term “by lot.”

Verses 64-65

(64, 65) “So the sons of Israel gave to the Levites the cities and their pastures. And they gave by the lot, out of the tribe of the sons of Judah, and out of the tribe of the sons of Simeon, and out of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin, those cities which are called by names;” named, that is, in the list of 1 Chronicles 6:55-60, above. This is clearly a summing up of the whole account so far. The eleven tribes have all been mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:61-65.

The “cities” of 1 Chronicles 6:64 are those included in 1 Chronicles 6:61-63. So the parallel verse (Joshua 21:8) refers back to Joshua 21:5-7, which is parallel to our 1 Chronicles 6:61-63.Joshua 21:9; Joshua 21:9 (=our 1 Chronicles 6:65) introduces the names of the cities which fell to the Aaronites. But there is no real divergence between that account and this; because 1 Chronicles 6:65 also refers back to the list of the same cities in 1 Chronicles 6:55-60. The chronicler adds Benjamin, with reference to 1 Chronicles 6:60, to make his tribal list complete.

(66–81) The names of the cities numbered in 1 Chronicles 6:61-64. (Comp. Joshua 21:20-26.)

Verse 66

(66) And the residue of the families.—The Hebrew text can hardly mean this; and Joshua 21:20 shows that it is incorrect. The original text must have been, “And to the families of the sons of Kohath:—and the cities of their border were of the tribe of Ephraim.” The construction breaks off, and a new start is made by the words “and the cities,” &c. The verse is abridged as compared with Joshua, 50100

Verse 67

(67) And they gave unto them, of the cities of refuge . . .—The correct version of the Hebrew text is, “And they gave unto them the cities of refuge, Shechem and her pastures, in the hill-country of Ephraim; and Gezer and her pastures.” Perhaps both here and in 1 Chronicles 6:57 above “city” (‘iyr), and not “cities” (‘arey), is the original reading. We have already noticed many indications of textual corruption in this and the former section. Gezer was not a city of refuge. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 6:57.) Joshua 21:21 has the singular.

Verse 68

(68) Jokmeam.—Joshua has Kibzaim, a name omitted by the LXX. Vatic. Jokmeam is probably right. The other might easily be a misreading of it, owing to confusion of similar letters. The site is unknown. The four cities of 1 Chronicles 6:67-68 lay in Ephraim. Beth-horon, Gibeon, and Aijalon, the scenes of the great and providentially determined overthrow of the five kings of the Amorites, were appropriately assigned to the sacred tribe of Levi.

Verse 69

(69) Aijalon with her suburbs . . .Joshua 21:23-24, “And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh and her pastures, Gibbethon and her pastures, Aijalon and her pastures, Gath-rimmon and her pastures; four cities.” Clearly there is a lacuna in our text between 1 Chronicles 6:68-69. It has been supposed that the chronicler omits mention of the tribe of Dan, here and elsewhere, owing to a religious prejudice, because of the illicit form of worship of which the city Dan was the centre. It is more likely that such omissions are not chargeable to the chronicler, but either to the imperfection of his sources, or to the carelessness, and perhaps malpractice, of his copyists and editors. (See further Note on 1 Chronicles 7:12.)

Verse 70

(70) Aner . . . Bileam.Joshua 21:25 reads, “Taa-nach [see Joshua 17:11] and Gath-rimmon.” The latter is a mere repetition from the preceding verse. Bileam is a man’s name, being the Hebrew spelling of Balaam. It should be Ibleam (Joshua 17:11). So the LXX. Aner (Genesis 14:13) is also a man, one of Abraham’s allies. Taanach is probably right, the last three letters of the Hebrew word closely resembling those of Aner.

For the family.—Better, unto the family of the sons of Kohath who were left. This depends on the idea of giving (1 Chronicles 6:67). The phrase is a sort of subscription to the whole list of 1 Chronicles 6:67-70. For “family” the plural should be read, as in Joshua 21:26.

Verses 71-76

(Camp. Joshua 21:27-33.) 1 Chronicles 6:71-76.

(71) Unto the sons of Gershom.—Supply they gave, from 1 Chronicles 6:67.

Golan in Bashan (comp. the classical Gaulanitis, a district east of the sea of Galilee) was a city of refuge, like Hebron and Shechem.

Ashtaroth.Images of Ashtoreth (Astarte, queen of heaven); a name like Anathoth (1 Chronicles 6:60), which means “images of Anath,” or Anatum, the consort of Anurn (the sky). The two cities must have been ancient seats of the worship of Ashtoreth and Anath. The names still survive in Tell-Ashtereh and Anâta. Joshua (50100) reads Be’eshterah—perhaps a popular pronunciation of Beth-Ashterah (house of Ashtoreth).

(72) Kedesh means “sanctuary.” Joshua 19:20; Joshua 21:28 has Kishion, which may have borne the other name, as being the seat of a famous sanctuary.

(73) Ramoth.—In Joshua 21:0 Jarmuth, but in Joshua 19:21 Remeth. Jarmuth occurs in Joshua 12:11, and is probably right.

Anem.Joshua 21:29; Joshua 19:21 has En-gannim. Joshua 15:34 mentions a Judæan city called ha-Enam (the two fountains), and that not far from En-gannim (fount of gardens). Anem is very much like Enam.

(74) Mashal is perhaps a popular pronunciation of Mish’al (Joshua 21:30; Joshua 19:26). (Comp. Shçlâh = She’çlâh.)

(75) Hukok.—Helkath (Joshua 19:25). Hukkôk was a city of Naphtali (Joshua 19:34).

(76) Kedesh in Galilee.—A city of refuge (Joshua 21:32); the modern Kedes.

Hammon =Haminoth-dor, “hot springs of Dor” (Joshua 21:32); also called Hammath (Joshua 19:35).

Kirjathaim.—In Joshua 21:32 Kartan; a contracted form of the dual of Kereth (=Kirjah), like Dothan for Dothaim. (Dothain, Genesis 37:17.)

Verses 77-81

(Comp. Joshua 21:34-38.) 1 Chronicles 6:77-81.

(77) Unto the rest of the children of Merari.—Rather, Unto the sons of Merari, the remaining Levites, as at Joshua 21:34. The cities of the Kohathites and Gershonites having been rehearsed, it was natural to speak of the Merarites as “those who were left.”

Were given.They gave, as before (1 Chronicles 6:71).

Rimmon . . . Tabor.—Heb. Rimmônô. The reading of Joshua 21:34-35 is quite different. We there find mention of Jokneam, Kartah, Dimnah, and Nahalal, “four cities.” The first pair of names may be accidentally omitted from our text. Dimnah, in Joshua, should probably be Rimmonah, answering to the present Rimmono or Rimmon (Joshua 19:13). Rimmon, the Assyrian Rammânu. (See Note on 2 Kings 5:18.) Nahalal is mentioned again (Joshua 19:15) as a city-of Zebulun; while Tabor is only known as the name of the mountain which rises north-east of the plain of Esdraelon, and is famous as the traditional scene of the Transfiguration (Judges 8:18; Psalms 89:12). Nahalal means “pasture,” or “sheep-walk” = Nahalôl (Isaiah 7:19); and the original reading of our text may have been, Nahalal-tabôr (pasturage of Tabor)a compound proper name like Hamm-thôdôr, and many-others.

(78, 79) Bezer in the wilderness.—A city of refuge (Deuteronomy 4:43). The phrase “on the east or Jordan” fixes the meaning of the indefinite expression “on the other side Jordan.”

Jahzah is a form of Jahaz, originally meaning, “to Jahaz.” (Comp. the modern names Stamboul = ἐς τὰν πόλιν, Stanchio = ἐς τὰν χίω) Jahaz was assigned to Reuben at the partition of Canaan (Joshua 13:18), along with Kedemoth and Mephaath. Mesha, king of Moab, recovered it from Israel (see Note on 2 Kings 1:1). Mephaath belonged to Moab temp. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:21). It was, according to Jerome, a garrison town in the Roman age. (See also Joshua 13:18; Joshua 21:37; Deuteronomy 2:26.)

(80) Ramoth in Gilead.—A city of refuge (Joshua 21:36). Jazer, Heshbon, Mahanaim, were given by Moses to the Gadites (Joshua 13:25-26). Ramoth Gilead (see 1 Kings 22:0; 2 Chronicles 18:0; 2 Chronicles 18:0, and 2 Kings 8:28). Its position is unknown.

Mahanaim, now Maneh, lay on the north border of Gad.

(81) Heshbon, now Hesbân, on the south border of Gad. (See also Isaiah 15:4; Jeremiah 48:2.)

Jazer belonged to Moab in the eighth century (Isaiah 16:8-9; Jeremiah 48:32).

In regard to this entire list of the Levitical cities, it has been asserted that it is based upon a theory which is historically false; the theory, namely, that certain towns with their pasture-grounds were assigned by lot to the Levites for their exclusive possession. The objection is irrelevant, for the sacred records neither affirm nor imply that none but Levitical families dwelt in the forty-eight Levitical cities. It is à priori probable that the bulk of their population would be ordinary Israelites of the tribes in which they were situated. (Comp. Leviticus 25:32-34, and 1 Chronicles 6:55-57 supra, and Numbers 35:1-5.)

Variations in local names, such as we have noted in comparing this list with those in Joshua, are not at all surprising, when it is remembered that centuries elapsed between the composition of the two books; and that names of places, like other names, are liable to phonetic change in the course of time. Something also must be allowed for errors of transcription.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/1-chronicles-6.html. 1905.
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