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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 15

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


The Bringing of the Ark into Jerusalem - 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:3

In the parallel account, 2 Samuel 6:11-23, only the main facts as to the transfer of the holy ark to Jerusalem, and the setting of it up in a tent erected for its reception on Mount Zion, are shortly narrated; but the author of the Chronicle elaborately portrays the religious side of this solemn act, tells of the preparations which David had made for it, and gives a special enumeration of the Levites, who at the call of the king laboured with him to carry it out according to the precepts of the law. For this purpose he first gives an account of the preparations (1 Chron 15:1-24), viz., of the erection of a tent for the ark in the city of David (1 Chronicles 15:1), of the consultation of the king with the priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 15:2-13), and of the accomplishment of that which they had determined upon (vv. 14-29).

Verse 1

In 2 Samuel 6:12 the whole matter is introduced by a statement that the motive which had determined the king to bring the ark to Jerusalem, was his having heard of the blessing which the ark had brought upon the house of Obed-edom. In our narrative (1 Chronicles 15:1), the remark that David, while building his house in Jerusalem, prepared a place for the ark of God, and erected a tent for it, forms the transition from the account of his palace-building (1 Chronicles 14:1.) to the bringing in of the ark. The words, “he made unto himself houses,” do not denote, as Bertheau thinks, the building of other houses besides the palaces built with the help of King Hiram (1 Chronicles 14:1). For עשׂה is not synonymous with בּנה , but expresses the preparation of the building for a dwelling, and the words refer to the completion of the palace as a dwelling-place for the king and his wives and children. In thus making the palace which had been built fit for a habitation, David prepared a place for the ark, which, together with its tent, was to be placed in his palace. As to the reasons which influenced David in determining to erect a new tabernacle for the ark, instead of causing the old and sacred tabernacle to be brought from Gibeon to Jerusalem for the purpose, see the remarks introductory to 2 Sam 6.

Verses 2-3

The reason for the preparations made on this occasion for the solemn progress is assigned in the statement that David had resolved to cause the ark to be carried by the Levites alone, because God had chosen them thereto; cf. Numbers 1:50; Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9; Numbers 10:17. אז , “at that time,” i.e., at the end of the three months, 1 Chronicles 13:14. לשׂאת לא , “there is not to bear,” i.e., no other shall bear the ark than the Levites. “By this arrangement, it is expressly acknowledged that it was contrary to the law to place it upon a cart; 1 Chronicles 13:1-14:17” (Berth.). For this purpose, the king assembled “the whole of Israel” in Jerusalem, i.e., the elders, the rulers over thousands, the heads of families; cf. 2 Samuel 6:15, where it is stated that ישׂאל כּל־בּית took part in the solemn march.

Verses 4-10

From among assembled Israel David then specially gathered together the heads of the priests and Levites, to determine upon the details of this solemn procession. “The sons of Aaron” are the high priests Zadok and Abiathar, 1 Chronicles 15:11; and the “Levites” are the six princes named in 1 Chronicles 15:5-10, with their brethren, viz., (1 Chronicles 15:5-7) the three heads of the families into which the tribe of Levi was divided, and which corresponded to the three sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, respectively (Exodus 6:16): Uriel head of the Kohathites, Asaiah of the Merarites, and Joel head of the Gershonites, with their brethren. Kohath is first enumerated, because Aaron the chief of the priests was descended from Kohath, and because to the Kohathites there fell, on account of their nearer relationship to the priests, the duty of serving in that which is most holy, the bearing of the holiest vessels of the tabernacle. See Numbers 4:4, Numbers 4:15; Numbers 7:9; as to Uriel, see on Numbers 6:24; for Asaiah, see 6:30; and as to Joel, see 1 Chronicles 6:33. Then in 1 Chronicles 15:8, 1 Chronicles 15:9 we have the heads of three other Kohathite families: Shemaiah, chief of the sons of Elizaphan, i.e., Elizaphan son of the Kohathite Uzziel (Exodus 6:22); Eliel, chief of the sons of Hebron the Kohathite (Exodus 6:18); and Amminadab, chief of the sons of Uzziel. The sons of Uzziel, consequently, were divided into two fathers'-houses: the one founded by Uzziel's son Elizaphan, and named after him (1 Chronicles 15:8); the other founded by his other sons, and called by his name. Of the fathers'-houses here enumerated, four belong to Kohath, and one each to Merari and Gershon; and the Kohathites were called to take part in the solemn act in greater numbers than the Merarites and Gershonites, since the transport of the ark was the Kohathites' special duty.

Verses 11-12

Zadok of the line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:1-15), and Abiathar of the line of Ithamar, were the heads of the two priestly lines, and at that time both held the office of high priest (1 Chronicles 24:3; cf. 2 Samuel 15:24., 2 Samuel 20:25). These priests and the six princes of the Levites just enumerated were charged by David to consecrate themselves with their brethren, and to bring up the ark of God to the place prepared for it. התקדּשׁ , to consecrate oneself by removal of all that is unclean, washing of the body and of the clothes ( Genesis 35:2), and careful keeping aloof from every defilement, avoiding coition and the touching of unclean things; cf. Exodus 19:10, Exodus 19:15. לו אל־כינותי , to (the place) which I have prepared for it. לו הכינותי is a relative clause with אשׁר , construed with a preposition as though it were a substantive: cf. similar constructions, 1 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 16:9; 2 Chronicles 30:18; Nehemiah 8:10; and Ew. §33, b.

Verse 13

“For because in the beginning (i.e., when the ark was removed from the house of Amminadab, 1 Chronicles 13:1-14) it was not you (sc., who brought it up), did Jahve our God made a breach upon us,” sc. by the slaying of Uzza, 1 Chronicles 13:11. In the first clause the predicate is wanting, but it may easily be supplied from the context. The contracted form למבּרשׁונה , made up of למה and בּראשׁונה , is unique, since מה is so united only with small words, as in מזּה , Exodus 4:2, מלּכם , Isaiah 3:15; but we find מתּלאה for מה־תּלאה , Malachi 1:13; cf. Ew. §91, d. למה here signifies: on account of this which = because; cf.'Ew. §222, a, and 353, a. “This was done, because we did not seek Him according to the right,” which required that the ark, upon which Jehovah sits enthroned, should be carried by Levites, and touched by no unholy person, or one who is not a priest (Numbers 4:15).

Verses 14-15

The Levites consecrated themselves, and bare - as 1 Chronicles 15:15 anticipatively remarks-the ark of God upon their shoulders, according to the prescription in Numbers 7:9, עליהם בּמּומות , by means of poles upon them (the shoulders). מוטה , the flexible pole used for carrying burdens, Numbers 13:23. Those used to carry the ark are called בּדּים in the Pentateuch, Exodus 25:13.

Verses 16-18

David gave the princes of the Levites a further charge to appoint singers with musical instruments for the solemn procession, which they accordingly did. שׁיר כּלי , instruments to accompany the song. In 1 Chronicles 15:16 three kinds of these are named: נבלים , nablia , ψαλτήρια , which Luther has translated by psalter, corresponds to the Arabic santir, which is an oblong box with a broad bottom and a somewhat convex sounding-board, over which strings of wire are stretched; an instrument something like the cithara. כּנּרות , harps, more properly lutes, as this instrument more resembled our lute than the harp, and corresponded to the Arabic catgut instrument el ‛ûd ( l - c ûd ); cf. Wetzstein in Delitzsch, Isaiah, S. 702, der 2 Aufl., where, however, the statement that the santir is essentially the same as the old German cymbal, vulgo Hackebrett, is incorrect, and calculated to bring confusion into the matter, for the cymbal was an instrument provided with a small bell. מצלתּים , the later word for צלצלים , cymbals, castanets; see on 2 Samuel 6:5. משׁמיעים does not belong to the three before-mentioned instruments (Berth.), but, as is clear from 1 Chronicles 15:19, 1 Chronicles 15:28, 1 Chronicles 16:5, 1 Chronicles 16:42, undoubtedly only to מצלתּים (Böttcher, Neue krit. Aehrenlese, iii. S. 223); but the meaning is not “modulating,” but “sounding clear or loud,” - according to the proper meaning of the word, to make to hear. The infinitive clause וגו להרים belongs to the preceding sentence: “in order to heighten the sound (both of the song and of the instrumental music) to joy,” i.e., to the expression of joy. לשׂימחה is frequently used to express festive joy: cf. 1 Chronicles 15:25, 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 29:30; but also as early as in 2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Samuel 18:6; Judges 16:23, etc. - In 1 Chronicles 15:17, 1 Chronicles 15:18 the names of the singers and players are introduced; then in 1 Chronicles 15:19-21 they are named in connection with the instruments they played; and finally, in 1 Chronicles 15:22-24, the other Levites and priests who took part in the celebration are mentioned. The three chief singers, the Kohathite Heman, the Gershonite Asaph, and the Merarite Ethan, form the first class. See on 1 Chronicles 6:33, 1 Chronicles 6:39, and 1 Chronicles 6:44. To the second class ( המּשׁנים , cf. המּשׁנה , 2 Kings 23:4) belonged thirteen or fourteen persons, for in 1 Chronicles 15:21 an Azaziah is named in the last series who is omitted in 1 Chronicles 15:18; and it is more probable that his name has been dropped out of 1 Chronicles 15:18 than that it came into our text, 1 Chronicles 15:21, by an error. In 1 Chronicles 15:18 בּן comes in after זכריהוּ by an error or transcription, as we learn from the w before the following name, and from a comparison of 1 Chronicles 15:20 and 1 Chronicles 15:25. The name יעזיאל is in 1 Chronicles 15:20 written עזיאל , Yodh being rejected; and in 1 Chronicles 16:5 it is יעיאל , which is probably only a transcriber's error, since יעיאל occurs along with it both in 1 Chronicles 15:18 and in 1 Chronicles 16:5. The names Benaiah and Maaseiah, which are repeated in 1 Chronicles 15:20, have been there transposed. All the other names in vv.18 and 20 coincide.

Verses 19-21

These singers formed three choirs, according to the instruments they played. Heman, Asaph, and Ethan played brazen cymbals להשׁמיע (1 Chronicles 15:19); Benaiah and the seven who follow played nablia ( psalteria ) עלמות על (1 Chronicles 15:20); while the last six played lutes (harps) לנצּח השּׁמינית על (1 Chronicles 15:21). These three Hebrew words plainly denote different keys in singing, but are, owing to our small acquaintance with the music of the Hebrews, obscure, and cannot be interpreted with certainty. נצּח , going over from the fundamental signification glitter, shine, into the idea of outshining and superior capacity, overwhelming ability, might also, as a musical term, denote the conducting of the playing and singing as well as the leading of them. The signification to direct is here, however, excluded by the context, for the conductors were without doubt the three chief musicians or bandmasters ( Capellenmeister ), Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, with the cymbals, not the psaltery and lute players belonging to the second rank. The conducting must therefore be expressed by להשׁמיע , and this word must mean “in order to give a clear tone,” i.e., to regulate the tune and the tone of the singing, while לנצּח signifies “to take the lead in playing;” cf. Del. on Psalms 4:1. This word, moreover, is probably not to be restricted to the singers with the lutes, the third choir, but must be held to refer also to the second choir. The meaning then will be, that Heman, Asaph, and Ethan had cymbals to direct the song, while the other singers had partly psalteries, partly lutes, in order to play the accompaniment to the singing. The song of these two choirs is moreover distinguished and defined by עלמות על and השּׁמינית על . These words specify the kind of voices; עלמות על after the manner of virgins, i.e., in the soprano; השּׁמינית על , after the octave, i.e., in bass - al ottava bassa . See Del. on Psalms 6:1; Psalms 46:1. In 1 Chronicles 15:22-24 the still remaining priests who were engaged in the solemn procession are enumerated.

Verses 22-24

“Chenaniah, the prince of the Levites, for the bearing, teacher in bearing; for he was instructed in it.” Since Chenaniah does not occur among the six princes of the Levites in 1 Chronicles 15:5-10, and is called in 1 Chronicles 15:27 המּשּׂא השׂר , we must here also join בּמשּׂא (as most editions punctuate the first במשׂא , while according to Norzi בּמּשּׂא is the right reading even in the first case) closely with שׂר־הלויּם , with the meaning that Chenaniah was captain of the Levites who had charge of the bearing of the ark, a chief of the Levites who bore it. The word משּׂא is,however, very variously interpreted. The lxx have ἄρχων τῶν ᾠδῶν , and the Vulgate, prophetiae praeerat ad praecinendam melodiam; whence Luther translates: the master in song to teach them to sing. This translation cannot, however, be linguistically upheld; the word משּׂא means only the bearing of the burden (Numbers 4:19, Numbers 4:27, etc.; 2 Chronicles 35:3), and a prophetical utterance of an oppressive or threatening character (Isaiah 13:1, and Isaiah 15:1, etc.). But from this second signification neither the general meaning prophetia, nor, if we wish to go back upon the קול נשׂא , to raise the voice, the signification master of song, supremus musicus (Lavat.), or qui principatum tenebat in cantu illo sublimiore (Vatabl.), can be derived. The meaning prophetia , moreover, does not suit the context, and we must consequently, with Bertheau and others, hold fast the signification of bearing. We are determined in favour of this, (1) by the context, which here treats of the bearing of the ark, for which משּׂא is the usual word; and (2) by the circumstance that in 1 Chronicles 26:29 Chenaniah is mentioned as the chief of the Levites for the external business, which goes to show, if the persons are identical, that he here had the oversight of the external business of the transport. יסר is not the inf. absol., which cannot stand directly for the verb. finit.; nor is it the imperf. of סרר in the signification of שׂרר (Bertheau and others), but a nominal formation from יסר (cf. on this formation as the most proper designation of the actor, Ew. §152, b), in the signification teacher, which is shown by Isaiah 28:26 certainly to belong to יסר . The clause בּמּשּׂא יסר gives the explanation of the preceding בּמשּׂא , or it specifies what Chenaniah had to do in the procession. He had to take the lead in the bearing because he was מבין in it, i.e., was instructed in that which was to be observed in it. - In 1 Chronicles 15:23 two doorkeepers for the ark are named; and in 1 Chronicles 15:24, at the end of the enumeration of the Levites who were busied about the transport, two additional names are mentioned as those of men who had the same duty. The business of these doorkeepers was, as Seb. Schmidt has already remarked on 2 Sam 6, non tam introitum aperire arcae, quam custodire, ne ad eam irrumperetur . Between these two pairs of doorkeepers in 1 Chronicles 15:24, the priests, seven in number, who blew the trumpets, are named. The Kethibh מחצצרים is to be read מחצצרים , a denom. from חצצרה ; the Keri מחצרים is Hiph. of חצר , as in 2 Chronicles 7:6; 2 Chronicles 13:14, and 2 Chronicles 29:28. In 2 Chronicles 5:12 and 2 Chronicles 5:13, on the contrary, מחצּרים is partic. Pi. The blowing of the silver trumpets by the priests in this solemn procession rests on the prescription in Numbers 10:1-10, which see. The place assigned to these trumpet-blowing priests was either immediately before the ark, like the priestly trumpeters in the march round Jericho (Joshua 6:4, Joshua 6:6), or immediately after it. For, that these priests entered in the immediate vicinity of the ark, may be inferred from the fact that before and behind them were doorkeepers of the ark. The procession, then, was probably arranged in this way: (1) the singers and players in front, in three division; (2) Chenaniah, the captain of the bearers; (3) two doorkeepers; (4) the priests with the trumpets immediately before or after the ark; (5) two doorkeepers; (6) the king with the elders and captains of thousands (1 Chronicles 15:25). The two doorkeepers Obededom and Jehiah ( יחיּה ), Rashi, Berth.,and others consider to be the same persons as the singers Obededom and Jeiel ( יעיאל ), supposing that the latter name is wrongly written in one of the passages. This, however, is incorrect, for the identity of the name Obededom is no sufficient ground for supposing the persons to be the same, since in 1 Chronicles 16:38 the singer Obededom and the doorkeeper Obededom the son of Jeduthun seem to be distinguished. And besides that, Obededom and his colleagues could not possibly at the same time as porters precede, and as singers come after, the priests and the ark, and there is consequently no reason to doubt that the name יחיּה is correct.

Verse 25

narrate the further proceedings connected with the bring of the ark to Jerusalem; cf. 2 Samuel 6:12-19. By the words וגו דויד ויהי the account of the execution of the design is connected with the statements as to the preparations (vv. 2-24): “And so were David ... who went to bring up the ark.”

Verse 26

When God had helped the Levites who bare the ark of the covenant of Jahve, they offered seven bullocks and seven rams, i.e., after the journey had been happily accomplished. Instead of this, in 2 Samuel 6:13, the offering which was made at the commencement of the journey to consecrate it is mentioned; see on the passage.

Verse 27

The discrepancy between 1 Chronicles 15:27 and 2 Samuel 6:14 is more difficult of explanation. Instead of the words יהוה לפני בּכל־אז מכרכּר דּוד , David danced with all his might before Jahve, we read in the Chronicle בּוּץ בּמעיל מכרבּל דויד , David was clothed with a robe of byssus. But since מכרכר differs from מכרבל only in the last two letters, and כר might be easily exchanged for בל , we may suppose that מכרבל has arisen out of מכרכר . Bertheau accordingly says: “Any one who remembered that in this verse David's clothing was spoken of might write מכרכר as מכרבל , while the words עז בכל , which were probably illegible,were conjecture to be בוץ במעיל .” This opinion would be worthy of consideration, if only the other discrepancies between the Chronicle and Samuel were thereby made more comprehensible. That, besides David, the bearers of the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah are mentioned, Bertheau thinks can be easily explained by what precedes; but how can that explain the absence of the יהוה לפני of Samuel from our text? Bertheau passes this over in silence; and yet it is just the absence of these words in our text which shows that בוץ במעיל מכרבל cannot have arisen from an orthographical error and the illegibility of עז בכל , since יהוה לפני must have been purposely omitted. Böttcher's opinion ( N. kr. Aehrenl. iii. S. 224), that the Chaldaizing מכרבל can scarcely have been written by the chronicler, because it is not at all like his pure Hebrew style, and that consequently a later reader, who considered it objectionable that a Levite should dance, and perhaps impossible that the bearers should (forgetting that they were released in turn from performing their office), while holding as closely to the letter of the text as possible, corrected עז בכל מכרכר into בוץ במעיל מכרבל , and that the same person, or perhaps a later, added besides וּכנניה והמשׁררים , is still less probable. In that way, indeed, we get no explanation of the main difficulty, viz., how the words from הלויּם to המּשׁררים came into the text of the Chronicle, instead of the יהוה לפני of Samuel. The supposition that originally the words from וכל־הלויּם בּכל־עז מכרכּר ודויד to והמשׁררים stood in the text, when of course the statement would be, not only that David danced with all his might, but also that all the Levites who bore the ark danced, is in the highest degree unsatisfactory; for this reason, if for no other, that we cannot conceive how the singers could play the nebel and the kinnor and dance at the same time, since it is not alternations between singing and playing, and dancing and leaping that are spoken of.

The discrepancy can only be got rid of by supposing that both narratives are abridged extracts from a more detailed statement, which contained, besides David's dancing, a completer account of the clothing of the king, and of the Levites who took part in the procession. Of these the author of the books of Samuel has communicated only the two characteristic facts, that David danced with all his might before the Lord, and wore an ephod of white; while the author of the Chronicle gives us an account of David's clothing and that of the Levites, while he omits David's dancing. This he does, not because he was scandalized thereby, for he not only gives a hint of it in 1 Chronicles 15:29, but mentions it in 1 Chronicles 13:8, which is parallel to 2 Samuel 6:5; but because the account of the king's clothing, and of that of the Levites, in so far as the religious meaning of the solemn progress was thereby brought out, appeared to him more important for his design of depicting at length the religious side of the procession. For the clothing of the king had a priestly character; and not only the ephod of white (see on 2 Samuel 6:14), but also the me‛il of בּוּץ , white byssus, distinguished the king as head of a priestly people. The me‛il as such was,it is true, an outer garment which every Israelite might wear, but it was worn usually only by persons of rank and distinction (cf. 1 Samuel 2:19; 1 Samuel 15:27; 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 24:5; Ezra 9:3; Job 29:14), and white byssus was the material for the priests' garments. Among the articles of clothing which the law prescribed for the official dress of the simple priest (Exodus 28:40) the מעיל was not included, but only the כּתונת , a tight close-fitting coat; but the priests were not thereby prevented from wearing a me‛il of byssus on special festive occasions, and we are informed in 2 Chronicles 5:12 that even the Levites and singers were on such occasions clad in byssus. In this way the statement of our verse, that David and all the Levites and bearers of the ark, the singers, and the captain Chenaniah, had put on me‛ilim of byssus, is justified and shown to be in accordance with the circumstances. The words therefore are to be so understood. The words from וכל־הלויּם to המּשּׂא השּׂר are co-ordinate with ודויד , and may translate the verse thus: “David was clothed in a me‛il of byssus, as also were all the Levites,” etc. No objection can be taken to the המּשּׂא השּׂר when we have the article with a nomen regens , for cases of this kind frequently occur where the article, as here, has a strong retrospective force; cf. Ew. §290, d. On the contrary, המּשׁררים after המּשּׂא is meaningless, and can only have come into the text, like בּן in 1 Chronicles 15:18, by an error of the transcriber, although it was so read as early as the time of the lxx. For the last clause, cf. 2 Samuel 6:14.

Verse 28

1 Chronicles 15:28 is, as compared with 2 Samuel 6:5, somewhat enlarged by the enumeration of the individual instruments.

Verse 29

1 Chronicles 16:29 and 1 Chronicles 16:1-3 agree in substance with 2 Samuel 6:15-19, only some few words being explained: e.g., וּמשׂחק מרקּד , 1 Chronicles 15:29, instead of וּמכרכּר מפזּז (Sam.), and יהוה בּרית ארון instead of והוה ערון (Sam.); see the commentary on 2 Sam. l.c.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 15". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/1-chronicles-15.html. 1854-1889.
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