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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 23

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

First Chronicles Chapter 23

1 Chronicles 23:1 "So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel."

Generally speaking, a king remains king, until he dies. David anointed his son, Solomon, king, while he was still alive. He did this so there would be no question which of his sons was to reign in his stead. It was actually God who had chosen Solomon to be king. David was king over all twelve tribes of Israel, and so would Solomon be.

1 Chronicles 23:2 "And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites."

These princes were all of David’s sons. They included all of the heads of families, as well. The Levites were all in the service of the LORD in some capacity, or the other.

1 Chronicles 23:3 "Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand."

The Levites did not begin to serve the LORD, until they were thirty years old. This was, possibly, the reason they were not counted, until they became this age. There was not much reason to count the Levitical tribe, because they did not go to war, and they were not required to pay taxes.

1 Chronicles 23:4 "Of which, twenty and four thousand [were] to set forward the work of the house of the LORD; and six thousand [were] officers and judges:"

We see that these 24,000 men were to supervise the work on the temple. We see 6,000 were officers and judges.

1 Chronicles 23:5 "Moreover four thousand [were] porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, [said David], to praise [therewith]."

The porters were keepers of the doors. They were stationed day and night to guard the doors. Earlier in these lessons, we got into the importance of the praise and worship conducted in the music and singing.

1 Chronicles 23:6 "And David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi, [namely], Gershon, Kohath, and Merari."

All Levites were in the service of the LORD. Each family had their uniqueness. Kohath was the father of the priests and high priests. Merari was more associated with the musical ministry. The descendents of Gershon were keepers of the treasury in the time of David.

1 Chronicles 23:7 "Of the Gershonites [were], Laadan, and Shimei."

1 Chronicles 23:8 "The sons of Laadan; the chief [was] Jehiel, and Zetham, and Joel, three."

1 Chronicles 23:9 "The sons of Shimei; Shelomith, and Haziel, and Haran, three. These [were] the chief of the fathers of Laadan."

1 Chronicles 23:10 "And the sons of Shimei [were], Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four [were] the sons of Shimei."

1 Chronicles 23:11 "And Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second: but Jeush and Beriah had not many sons; therefore they were in one reckoning, according to [their] father’s house."

The verses above are the genealogy of Gershon.

1 Chronicles 23:12 "The sons of Kohath; Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four."

The Amram, mentioned here, was the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

1 Chronicles 23:13 "The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever."

Aaron was the first high priest. His family would be the priests and high priests in the service of the LORD. The priest burnt incense before the LORD. We have already mentioned that this symbolizes the prayers of the saints. Basically, he represented the people to God and God to the people. Moses, we know was specially chosen of God to be the deliverer of Israel. He was the one whom God decided to give His law through.

1 Chronicles 23:14 "Now [concerning] Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi."

"The man of God" was used five times in speaking of Moses. Moses was chosen of God, before birth, to lead the people of Israel out of bondage, and to the promised land. His relationship with God was on a one to one relationship. He was of the tribe of Levi, but his sons were not priests.

1 Chronicles 23:15 "The sons of Moses [were], Gershom, and Eliezer."

These two sons were born to Moses and Zipporah, while Moses was in exile.

1 Chronicles 23:16 “Of the sons of Gershom, Shebuel [was] the chief.”

1 Chronicles 23:17 "And the sons of Eliezer [were], Rehabiah the chief. And Eliezer had none other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many."

1 Chronicles 23:18 "Of the sons of Izhar; Shelomith the chief."

1 Chronicles 23:19 "Of the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth."

1 Chronicles 23:20 "Of the sons of Uzziel; Micah the first, and Jesiah the second."

1 Chronicles 23:21 "The sons of Merari; Mahli, and Mushi. The sons of Mahli; Eleazar, and Kish."

1 Chronicles 23:22 "And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters: and their brethren the sons of Kish took them."

1 Chronicles 23:23 "The sons of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jeremoth, three."

It is interesting to note, at this point, that the houses of the Levites had sprung to twenty-four houses. There were 11 Kohathite families, 9 of the Gershonite, and 4 of the families of Merari. The daughters, were taken in marriage by their nearkinsmen. They remained Levites.

1 Chronicles 23:24 "These [were] the sons of Levi after the house of their fathers; [even] the chief of the fathers, as they were counted by number of names by their polls, that did the work for the service of the house of the LORD, from the age of twenty years and upward."

The twenty years, here, is most of the time spoken of as thirty years. I would assume thirty years to be the age for taking on duties as priests and high priest, because Jesus’ formal ministry began when He was thirty. All of the Levites were in service of the LORD. The Kohathites through Aaron were the priests.

1 Chronicles 23:25 "For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever:"

There would be no more journeying with the tabernacle. The place of worship would be established forever in Jerusalem. Three times a year, all of the Hebrew men were to come to Jerusalem to worship. The women came, also, when they did not have a baby to care for. The central place of worship would be in the temple in Jerusalem.

1 Chronicles 23:26 "And also unto the Levites; they shall no [more] carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof."

Part of the duties of the Levites had been to carry the tabernacle, and set it up at each spot God chose. Each Levite had a particular job to do. Now, we see that the tabernacle would not be moved again. Those who were in the service of moving it would, now, be assigned new jobs.

1 Chronicles 23:27 "For by the last words of David the Levites [were] numbered from twenty years old and above:"

I will not belabor whether they were twenty, or thirty. It really is unimportant. We are, probably, looking over some minor detail here, that would explain it, such as they could have been in training when they were twenty, and actually began to minister when they were thirty.

1 Chronicles 23:28 "Because their office [was] to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God;"

We see that the twenty year old’s were like apprentice workers who were serving those who were ministering. The young people did the menial labor.

1 Chronicles 23:29 "Both for the shewbread, and for the fine flour for meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for [that which is baked in] the pan, and for that which is fried, and for all manner of measure and size;"

This is saying, that much of the cooking of the bread and the preparation of the meat and flour offerings were done by these young Levites.

1 Chronicles 23:30 "And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even;"

We remember, from a previous lesson, that some of the Levites were to sing and play instruments in the temple and around the temple. They led the praise and worship in song. They would lead praise, also, where they would lift their hands in praise to the LORD and praise and worship the LORD.

1 Chronicles 23:31 "And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD:"

The priests did the actual sacrificing to the LORD. The other Levites could help with minor preparations for the sacrifices. The priests were to keep the sabbaths, new moons, and the feasts ever on the minds of the people. The priests and the high priest were the spiritual leaders of these people.

1 Chronicles 23:32 "And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy [place], and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the LORD."

Just as in a church, the ministering body does not just pertain to the preacher, there were many ministering functions in the temple. The high priest and the priests were the family of Aaron set aside and made holy for their service, but all the Levites ministered in some capacity.

1 Chronicles 23 Questions

1. When did David make Solomon king?

2. What was unusual about this?

3. Who had actually chosen Solomon to be king?

4. Who were the princes that were gathered?

5. How many Levites above thirty were numbered?

6. Why was there not much reason to number the Levitical tribe?

7. How many were to supervise the work on the temple?

8. How many were officers and judges?

9. What was the job of the porters?

10. How many were involved in praise on instruments?

11. What were the three families of the tribe of Levi?

12. Kohath was the father of the _________ and _______ ________.

13. The descendents of Gershom were keepers of the ___________ in the time of David.

14. Amram was the father of whom?

15. Who was the first high priest?

16. What did the burning of incense before the LORD symbolize?

17. What did the high priest do, basically?

18. What was Moses called in 1 Chronicles 23:14?

19. Who were sons of Moses by Zipporah, while he was in exile?

20. How many houses had the Levites become, at the time of this lesson?

21. What would change about their worship, after the temple was built?

22. What were these 20 year olds to do?

23. Much of the cooking was done by whom?

24. Who actually did the sacrifices?

25. How does this resemble our church today?

Verses 1-6

1Ch 23:1-6

1 Chronicles 23:1-6

DAVID PRESCRIBES THE OFFICES OF THE LEVITES;

THREE DIVISIONS OF THE LEVITES

"Now David was old and full of days; and he made Solomon his son king over Israel. And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. And the Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand. Of these, twenty and four thousand were to oversee the work of the house of Jehovah; and six thousand were officers and judges; and four thousand were doorkeepers; and four thousand praised Jehovah with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith. And David divided them into courses according to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari."

"Now David was old ... and made Solomon his son king over Israel" (1 Chronicles 23:1). The truth here makes it impossible to receive Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Samuel 7 as a primary reference to Solomon. The Great One mentioned there was prophesied to be born after David slept with his fathers. This verse clearly indicates that Solomon enjoyed a co-regency for an unspecified time with David his father.

"Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward" (1 Chronicles 23:3). David’s actions here in numbering the Levites conformed exactly to the instructions of Moses given in Numbers 4:23.

"Four thousand praised Jehovah with the instruments that I (David) made" (1 Chronicles 23:5). David’s actions in this had no prior command of God to justify it. He violated the divine instructions that, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2). David’s invention of instruments of music and his introduction of them into the worship of God was specifically condemned by the prophet Amos (Amos 5:23; Amos 6:5).

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 23:1. Made Solomon king. This means he made him acting king, not that he occupied the throne. That kind of action was never done lawfully while the rightful ruler was living. But David had become infirm near the end of his life, and some unrest had been created by persons who wanted the throne. To settle the dispute while he lived, David made it clear to his people that Solomon was to be king after him. See the account of the controversy about the rulership in 1 Kings 1.

1 Chronicles 23:2. Princes is a very commonly used word in the Old Testament. It comes from various Hebrew words, but the general meaning is, one who has prestige or influence, not necessarily one in official standing. The definition given by Strong for the word is, "a head person (of any rank or class)." So the word could sometimes include men in official position, but the term would be applied to them on account of their personal influence, not because of their official standing. This accounts for the mention of the princes, and with the priests and Levites.

1 Chronicles 23:3. The numbering of the people was done at different times, and the rules or limits to regulate the list were also different at times. On the occasion of this verse the beginning age for the Levites was 30 years. Polls means heads, and there were 38,000 of them at that time.

1 Chronicles 23:4. Set forward means to oversee or engage actively in the work. 24,000 of the numbered Levites were given such a charge. 6,000 were officers and judges, which means they were the technical authorities over the work.

1 Chronicles 23:5. The porters were door keepers or janitors. The other 4,000 made up the choir.

1 Chronicles 23:6. Courses means divisions or sections or groups. The three sons of Levi had been dead for centuries, but the lines of their descendants were in existence. David formulated the three lines into groups in such a way that each man could know from which of the three sons of their common father he had come.

Verses 7-11

1Ch 23:7-11

1 Chronicles 23:7-11

THE SONS OF GERSHON

"Of the Gershonites: Ladan and Shimei. The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the chief, and Zetham, and Joel, three. The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, and Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers’ houses of Ladan. And the sons of Shimei: Jahash, and Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. And Jahash was the chief, and Zizah the second: but Jeush and Beriah had not many sons; therefore they became a fathers’ house in one reckoning."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 23:7-11. The descendants of each of the three sons of Levi were next divided and designated into their individual groups. This paragraph concerns the men who descended from Gershon.

Verses 12-20

1Ch 23:12-20

1 Chronicles 23:12-20

THE SONS OF KOHATH

"The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses; and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons, forever, to burn incense before Jehovah, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, forever. But as for Moses the man of God, his sons were named among the tribe of Levi. The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. And the sons of Eliezer were: Rehabiah the chief; and Eliezer had no other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many. The sons of Izhar: Shelomith the chief. The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. The sons of Uzziel: Micah the chief, and Isshiah the second."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 23:12. Kohath was another son of Levi. He had four sons, but Am ram was the only one who had any special significance. That was due to his relation to the priesthood as will be seen and explained in the following verse.

1 Chronicles 23:13. We have been told a number of times that the priesthood belonged exclusively to Aaron and his sons, and to their lineal descendants. This verse contains that information, but goes further with the information about the priesthood. It gives us the very item that was the exclusive right of the priests, which was the burning of incense. The supervision of the sacrifices was in their hands, and they were the ones who generally took the active part at the altar, but the restrictions were not as close on that. Others than priests were permitted to officiate in offering sacrifices. As instances, we will cite the cases of Samuel (1 Samuel 16:2) and David (2 Samuel 6:17). But no one who was not of the sons of Aaron could participate in the burning of incense. There is an outstanding case of error regarding this in 2 Chronicles 26:18.

1 Chronicles 23:14-20. Man of God was said of Moses in view of his special work as leader of the people, and the lawgiver for God. He is named in the paragraph because he was of the tribe of Levi, as was Aaron his brother. Nothing outstanding can be said of his sons or their families, but they are given "honorable mention" because of the great importance of their father. The reader should not confuse the son of Moses, Gershom, with Gershon, son of Levi. Note the difference in the last letters.

Verses 21-23

1Ch 23:21-23

1 Chronicles 23:21-23

THE SONS OF MERARI

"The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish. And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but daughters only: and their brethren the sons of Kish took them to wife. The sons of Mushi: Mahli, and Eder, and Jeremoth, three."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 23:21-23. Merari was the third son of Levi according to the list recorded here and elsewhere. The instance of Eleazar’s daughters marrying their cousins, the sons of Kish, was according to Numbers 36:6.

Verses 24-32

1Ch 23:24-32

1 Chronicles 23:24-32

THE LEVITICAL HEADS OF FATHERS’ HOUSES

"These were the sons of Levi after their fathers’ houses, even the heads of the fathers’ houses of those of them that were counted, in the number of names by their polls, who did the work of the house of Jehovah, from twenty years old and upward. For David said, Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath given rest unto his people; and he dwelleth in Jerusalem for ever: and also the Levites shall no more have need to carry the tabernacle and all the vessels of it for the service thereof. For by the last words of David the sons of Levi were numbered, from twenty years old and upward. For their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of Jehovah, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, even the work of the service of the house of God; for the showbread also, and for the fine flour for the meal-offering, whether of unleavened wafers, or of that which is baked in the pan, or of that which is soaked, and for all manner of measure and size; and to stand every morning to thank and praise Jehovah, and likewise at even; and to offer all burnt-offerings unto Jehovah, on the sabbaths, on the new moons, and on the set feasts, in number according to the ordinances concerning them, continually before Jehovah; and that they should keep the charge of the tent of meeting, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, for the service of the house of Jehovah."

The Gargantuan significance of this chapter lies in the proof that during the life of David king of Israel, all of the extensive instructions and details written in the Book of Moses (The Pentateuch) were well known in Israel. As any good reference Bible will demonstrate, there is hardly a line in this chapter that does not tie in specifically with instructions in the Pentateuch. Furthermore, all of these instructions (except David’s use of instruments of music) were ancient, dating back to the times of Moses. They were not invented by David but honored by him.

Here is the complete frustration of the efforts of radical critics to late-date the Pentateuch. And, as for the allegation that some late Chronicler falsely attributed all these words and activities to King David, such a theory is just as unreasonable and impossible of acceptance as would be the allegation of some alleged `scholar’ someone named Smith or Brown discovered America instead of Christopher Columbus.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 23:24. Chief of the fathers shows that not every individual person who was born after Levi was named. The list of polls or heads included only those that did the work. The age limit finally was reduced to twenty years and over. See the comments at verse 3 on this subject.

1 Chronicles 23:25-27. This group of verses really should be considered in direct connection with the preceding one. By lowering the age limit of the Levites, (which was done by David near the end of his life), it increased the number of men who would be taken into the list. It would also reduce the average physical strength of the men by including those ten years younger than the ones at first numbered. But the Lord had given them rest from the enemy nations, relieving them of the hardships of the activities in the field. These men were to be in Jerusalem and be always ready to do the manual labor necessary for the duties of the priests. Another thing, the temple was about to be erected, and the headquarters of the nation would not be moved from place to place as was necessary while they depended on the tabernacle. Therefore, the service required for the assistance to the priests would be near home all the time, so that any man twenty years old or over could perform the service.

1 Chronicles 23:28. There is always some work required in connection with the religious service that is not strictly religious in its nature. This includes such as washing the animals, and the care of the building with its doors and various apartments. This work was performed by these men that were numbered from twenty years and upward.

1 Chronicles 23:29. This specifies some of the items of preparatory work in connection with the temple service. Somebody had to do the manual work of baking the loaves of unleavened bread that were placed on the table of shewbread each Sabbath. There were also many calls for cakes and bread to be offered on the altar of burnt sacrifies. (Leviticus 2.) This created a demand for such articles and these men were employed in it.

1 Chronicles 23:30. Another service to be rendered in connection with the material sacrifices was the prayer and praise service. Some of these men referred to above performed the said services as members of the choir.

1 Chronicles 23:31. Sabbath is in the plural because every special or holy day was a sabbath. The term is used generally, and the writer then specifies some of the days that were considered sabbath or holy days besides the 7th day of the week. New moons always had to be observed as holy days. (1 Samuel 20:5; 1 Samuel 20:18; 1 Samuel 20:24.) means the ones Set feasts with definite dates, such as the Passover which always came on the 14th day of the first month; Pentecost which always came 50 days after Passover; and Atonement which always came on the 10th day of the 7th month.

1 Chronicles 23:32. The tabernacle was at that time at Gibeon, with all the articles of the service except the ark. The service was necessarily incomplete due to the distance from the capital city, also because the ark was in a tent to itself. What service could be had, however, was to be performed by these Levites. It was intended also that they should have the similar work later on. This is evident by the reference to the house of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 23". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/1-chronicles-23.html.
 
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