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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 23

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-32

1 Chronicles 23:3 . Thirty years. So Moses had commanded. Numbers 4:3. But now it would seem from 1 Chronicles 23:24, that David numbered the levites from the age of twenty, the number at thirty not being sufficient.

1 Chronicles 23:4 . Twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house; not as officers, but domus ministerio, servants who performed the hard work for the priests. The splendour of David’s kingdom required establishments.

1 Chronicles 23:6 . David divided them into courses. The levites served from week to week; the priests also, as in the next chapter, were divided into twenty four courses. The sanhedrim examined their persons to see that they were perfect, and their birth to see whether they were the sons of Aaron. If maimed, they were not allowed to approach the altar, but to perform inferior services, and so had meat; and in cases of need, as when unclean for the dead, a priest might officiate during such time of sickness, though unclean.


No tribe had God blessed more than the small tribe of Levi. The poll of the men able to do service, besides the priests, was thirty eight thousand. Consequently, the population of that tribe could not be less than two hundred thousand. Equally biassed by virtue and interest, they had been more faithful to the religion of their fathers than others; and God, through the long and severe times of Philistine oppression, had remarkably blessed and preserved them from evil. May we and our children learn from this, and a thousand other instances, to abide under the covenant protection of Israel’s God.

We learn farther, that not only Levi, but all the tribes prospered in proportion as they were faithful to the Lord. David was liberal to the priests and levites; and they in return were grateful and assiduous. They suppressed vice, they cherished virtue, and diffused knowledge through the land; and we never read, till after Solomon’s fall, that any man murmured to pay his tithes and taxes to God and his king; for the servants were worthy, and the oblations so paid, oblations on which the worshipper was partially allowed to feast, bore no proportion to the hundredfold prosperity which was heaped upon the land. Thus God, who was bounteous to his people, required the heart, and a grateful return of mercies.

The priests and the levites served the Lord by courses. This was in every view a happy arrangement. Every one had bread to eat, and the people had a circulation of talents in the reading and expounding of the law, as we find examples in the book of Deuteronomy, in the psalms, and in the sermons of the prophets. The holy prophets also circulated their labours through the land; and the Lord Christ, and his apostles, proceeded on the same plan. Hence the mode of one settled minister to a congregation, is not sufficiently warranted by example in the holy scriptures. And the early bishops, one of whom was in every town, which we should call a market- town, had deacons under them, which made a circulation of gifts, and a diversity of instruction. He who undertakes the sole instruction of a large congregation, should indeed be a man of singular talents.

Here we cannot but rejoice to find Moses, the man of God, still living in the numerous branches of his family. He had sought no princely preferments for his sons; but the laws of the father were still in the mouths of his children. Well, that was treasure, and that was the utmost of the father’s wishes. Truly we have an instance here, that God shows mercy unto thousands of generations in them that love him, and keep his commandments.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 23". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-chronicles-23.html. 1835.
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