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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 6

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-15

First Chronicles - Chapter 6

Aaron’s Line, Verses 1-15, & 49-53

The genealogy of the priests is carried forward to the time of the captivity in Babylon. The lineage proceeds from Levi, the third son of Jacob, with all three of Levi’s sons, all of whom established Levitical families, being named. The priests themselves stemmed from the family of Kohath, through Levi’s son Amram. Amram was the father of three notable children, Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.

Verses 49-53 show the work of the priests, allotted to the sons of Aaron. They were to administer the burnt offering, burn the incense on the incense altar, and do all the work pertaining to the holy place and the atonement rituals in Israel, just as the Lord gave commandment for it to Moses in the mountain.

The first high priest of Israel was Aaron, who was succeeded by his son Eleazar, who in turn was succeeded by his son Phinehas. God’s promise to Phinehas in Numbers 25:11-13 indicates, some scholars think, that the high priesthood was to belong to his descendants perpetually. That it did not is apparent in the case of Eli, who was high priest in the late period of the judges, and was of the family of Ithamar, rather than of Eleazar (see 1 Chronicles 24:3-4, where Ahimelech, the great grandson of Eli, is said to be chief of the family of Ithamar, whereas Phinehas was of the house of Eleazar). Eli’s tenure was about the time of Meraioth and Zerahiah, probably. By the time of David there were two chief priests, Zadok of the line of Eleazar and Abiathar (succeeded by Ahimelech) of the line of Ithamar.

Beginning with Aaron there are twenty-three generations in the line that proceeded through Eleazar and Phinehas. The most prominent names after Phinehas in the line are; the first Zadok, who was David’s high priest and remained faithful to Solomon after David’s death; Ahimaaz, the valiant son of Zadok, who brought the news of Absalom’s death to the king in such a way as to prepare him for the shock (2 Samuel 18:19-33); the second Azariah, who was high priest at the time of the temple’s construction; Hilkiah, who was high priest when the lost book of the law was found in the temple, and who was the father of Jeremiah the prophet (2 Kings 22:8-10; Jeremiah 1:1); Seraiah, who was high priest when Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar, and who was put to death by him (Jeremiah 52:24-27); Jehozadak, who went into captivity with the Jews at the fall of the city.

Verses 16-30

Levite Families, Verses 16-30

The sons of Levi" named again; they are the three chief families of the Levites. Other lesser families are found in each of the three, which are enumerated in the succeeding verses. Of Gershom were two: Libni and Shimei; of Kohath were four: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel; of Merari were two: Mahli and Mushi. Verses 20-21 are the descendants of Gershom, verses 22-28 are those of Kohath, and verses 29-30 list the children of Marad’s sons.

Among the descendants of Kohath, in verse 28, are named the sons of Samuel the prophet, Vashni and Abiah. Vashni is called Joel in other places (1 Samuel 8:2).

Verses 31-48

Singers’ Families, Verses 31-48

Interesting things may be learned from this list of the singers and their genealogies. Back in the wilderness these families were first utilized to convey the various parts of the tabernacle and its furniture from camp to camp. The Kohathites carried the holy furniture on staves on their shoulders; the Gershonites had two wagons by which they conveyed the curtains, hangings, skins, etc; the Merarites had four wagons for carrying the boards, bars, pillars and other heavy items. But after they came into Canaan the Levites were no longer needed for these tasks.

The Levites were distributed throughout the tribes in designated cities where the should have performed the services of instruction in the law, judges in matters, and spiritual examples. How well they succeeded is not entirely clear, but it is doubtful that they exercised their potential of influence, due to their own negligence as well as that of the people. In David’s time he organized them into various orders of temple service which continued to the captivity. The singers, who became outstanding among the Levites, are enumerated here, but verse 48 makes clear that their brethren had offices of service also.

There were three chief groups of the singers and musicians, each under a leader who became quite prominent in Israelite history. Each of the groups pertained to a different one of the three sons of Levi. Thus Heman was of the family of Kohath, and seems to be the chief of all the singers. On his right hand stood Asaph, who was of the family of Gershom, while on his left stood Ethan of the family of Merari.

The family of Heman is particularly interesting because he was the grandson of Samuel the prophet (spelled Shemuel here), and was also descended from the rebel Korah who was swallowed alive in the earth during the wilderness wandering because of his sin (Numbers -Chapter 16). Asaph and his sons were responsible for some of the psalms in the Book of Psalms. Ethan also was a psalmist (Psalms 89).

Verses 49-53

see note on: 1 Chronicles 6:1

Verses 54-81

Levite Cities, Verses 54-81

The King James translation "castles" is inaccurate, the actual meaning of the word being "settlements" in verse 54. As the enumeration of the Levite cities begins, Hebron is mentioned first and is given particular attention. It was the old city of the giants and had been allotted to Caleb at his request. Therefore careful note is made to show that it remained his city, although the suburbs (areas immediately adjacent to the city walls) were given the Levites for their pastures and groves. The outlying fields were reserved for Caleb. Of the other Levite cities given out of Judah the more notable were Libnah, one of the larger, and Beth-shemesh, which was the site where the ark was returned to israei from the Philistines (I Samuel-Chapter 6).

Among the Levite cities in Benjamin the most noted was probably that of Anathoth. This was very near to Jerusalem, and was the town in which the family of Jeremiah lived. These cities of Judah and Benjamin were occupied by Levitical families of the priests, descendants of Aaron.

The rest of the Kohathites (besides the priests) had their cities in the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. The Gershonite families received their cities in Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Manasseh east of the Jordan The Merarites had cities in Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun.

More of the Levite cities are stated by name beginning with verse 67. Among these were Shechem, a city of refuge, and one of the chief cities of the tribe of Ephraim; Beth-horon and Aijalon, prominent in Joshua’s defeat of the Canaanite confederation when he commanded sun and moon to stand still (Joshua - Chapter 10); Golan, another city of refuge, east of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee); Kedesh, the old Canaanite capital in the north, and another city of refuge, in the tribe of Naphtali, west of Chinnereth; Ramoth, in the center of Gilead, east 6f Jordan, prominent in many incidents of Israelite history; Bezer, in Reuben, the southern city of refuge east of Jordan; Mahanaim, refuge of both the family of Saul following his death in battle, and of David when he fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 2:11; 2 Samuel 17:24); Heshbon and Jazer, both prominent in Israelites’ conquest of Sihon, king of the Amorites as Israel came out the wilderness under Moses (Numbers 21:21 -­32).

Note these lessons: 1) God wants His ministering servants wholly devoted to His work; 2) many of the high priests of Israel were significant men of the Scriptures; 3) God has established order among His servants; 4) God desires beauty in His worship; 5) the Levites were given houses in prominent cities and in insignificant towns, that they might be examples and leaders to all Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 6". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-chronicles-6.html. 1985.
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