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CRITICAL NOTES.] In this chapter we have divisions of the 24 orders of priests (1 Chronicles 24:1-19), and the classes of Levites who attended them in discharge of their sacred functions.
1 Chronicles 24:1-6.—The sons of Aaron. The divisions supply from 1 Chronicles 24:6 of chap. 23. The author had there stated that “to the sons of Levi David assigned their courses.” He now adds, “To the sons of A. also (David assigned) their courses. The sons of A. (were) Nadab, &c.” [Speak. Com.]. Both, i.e., Zad. and Ahim., assisted David. 1 Chronicles 24:4. Chief, more heads of houses. 1 Chronicles 24:5. Lot, that is, the assignment of their order in the courses made by lot to the families belonging to both E. and Ith. Governors or princes of the sanctuary. 1 Chronicles 24:6. Wrote, as lots were drawn forth. Taken alternately.
1 Chronicles 24:7-19.—The allotted order. Some names in this list found elsewhere and others not. 1 Chronicles 24:10. Abijah, Abia (Luke 1:5; Nehemiah 10:7). 1 Chronicles 24:11. Jeshuah, whose descendants returned from captivity (Ezekiel 2:6; Nehemiah 7:39). 1 Chronicles 24:12. Eliashib, not progenitor of the one in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:20-21. 1 Chronicles 24:15. Hezir, as a layman (cf. Nehemiah 10:20). 1 Chronicles 24:16. Peth., one of those who separated themselves from alliances contracted in captivity (Ez. 10:23; Nehemiah 9:5). 1 Chronicles 24:17. Jachin (cf. chap. 1 Chronicles 9:10; Nehemiah 11:10), probably the Achim of Matthew 1:14. 1 Chronicles 24:19. Orderings, the charge as 1 Chronicles 24:3. Under, by the hand of Aaron. Commanded, a constant expression in the law of Moses (Exodus 39:42; Leviticus 27:34; Numbers 36:13; Deuteronomy 34:9).
1 Chronicles 24:20-31.—Distribution of other Levites. The rest. Object of this second enumeration of the Levitical families (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:7-23) seems to be the designation of the heads of the families in David’s time. The omission of the Gershonites is curious, and can only be accounted for by supposing that the author did not find any account of their heads in his authorities. The addition to the Merarites (1 Chronicles 24:26-27) is also curious. It brings the number of families up to 25, which is one more than we should have expected [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 24:21. Rehabi. (cf. chap. 1 Chronicles 23:17). 1 Chronicles 24:22. Shel., Shelomith in chap. 1 Chronicles 23:18, a different person from Amramite Shel. (cf. chap. 1 Chronicles 26:25-26). He was probably not a contemporary of David, as the head of the family in David’s time was Jahath [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 24:26. Beno, not really a name; Heb. for his son, and to be attached to Jaaziah. The meaning of the whole passage (1 Chronicles 24:26-30) seems to be that there were three branches of the Merarites—the Beni-Mahli, the Beni-Mushi, and the Beni-Jaaziah—of whom the first formed a mighty house in David’s time, viz., the Beni-Kish, their head being Jerahmeel, while each of the other branches comprised three families, the heads of which were respectively in David’s time Shoham, Zaccur, Ibri, and Mahli, Eder, Jerimoth [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 24:31. Principal, “all the Levitical houses enumerated drew lots in their courses on equal terms, the elder families having no advantage over the younger ones,” as there were 24 courses of the priests, so we must suppose that there were 24 of the Levites, though the number of the families as given in the text (chap. 1 Chronicles 23:7-23; 1 Chronicles 24:20-30) is 25 [Speak. Com.].
THE DIVISIONS OF PRIESTS (SONS OF AARON).—1 Chronicles 24:1-19
The word “divisions” means courses, as 1 Chronicles 24:6 in chap. 23; and evidently continues the subject and construction of that verse. Two sons of A. died, and the other two supply “the chief men of the house,” viz., 16 from Eleazar and 8 from Ithamar, 24 in all.
I. Divisions to facilitate work. Divided more easily performed. “Many hands make light work.” Burdens equalised carried better. Jealousies are prevented and a true spirit created. “Be not solitary, be not idle,” a saying of Burton.
II. Divisions by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5). No ground of choice between the two families, who differed only in number, and as the highest places had already been filled by both of them, the impartiality of lot to settle the order of service.
1. Lot appointing to dignified work. “For the governors (or princes) of the sanctuary” (1 Chronicles 24:5). High priests who exclusively could enter into the most holy place before God [Keil].
2. Lot publicly taken. “Shem., the scribe, wrote them before the king” (1 Chronicles 24:6). Openly before witnesses and a clerk acting as secretary to scrutinise. Before king, princes, and priests the act most solemn. Fraud and suspicion impossible. “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.”
III. Divisions in specific order (1 Chronicles 24:7-19). Order essential to existence and efficiency. Men who seek pre-eminence and power create disorder, anarchy, and ruin. Well-ordered words make good logic; well-ordered regulations preserve the social constitution; and well-set stones make architecture. Order in God’s house and service secures regularity, beauty, and efficiency; excludes what is called “good fortune,” happy “hits,” and points to the divine side of life on its appointment. No “chance” work; all appears to be settled by law. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”
THE DEATH OF NADAB AND ABIHU.—1 Chronicles 24:2
The story strange, and understood only by intimate acquaintance with the Jewish system and the prevailing sentiments of the time. Nadab and Abihu had been honoured with special privileges, but unduly exalted themselves, became proud, negligent, and presumptuous. Learn from their death—
I. That sin inverts the natural order of things. “They died before their father.” “Sin,” as “transgression of law,” creates confusion and disorder. It overturns and inverts. What more natural than a son to outlive his father; but wickedness shortens life, and brings untimely death.
II. That sin deprives of blessings which God can bestow. They “had no children.” Children great blessings, “a heritage from the Lord.” To be childless, under Jewish dispensation, considered calamity. Profane the name of God, and you may be cut off from high honour, just lineage, and blessed memory. The righteous alone can secure posthumous fame. “The memory of the just is blessed.”
III. That sin often overwhelms with fearful ruin. They died not a natural death. “There went out fire from the Lord and devoured them.” A punishment sudden and severe, awful and retributive (Leviticus 10:1-4). Indicative of their heinous guilt, and God’s jealousy in punishing it.
IV. That sin is often mentioned in history to warn of its consequences. This special sin frequently mentioned in Scripture. “By this awful judgment the wisdom of God observed the same course, in repressing the first instance of contempt for sacred things, as he did at the commencement of the Christian dispensation (Acts 5:1-11).” “The temple mouse fears not the temple idol,” is a proverb. Those who minister in holy things need be careful not to arrogate to themselves the glory which belongs to God, but ever keep before them the solemnity and responsibility of that service in which they are engaged.
THE DIVISIONS OF THE LEVITES.—1 Chronicles 24:20-31
The rest refers to those not of the sons of Aaron, and does not exhaust nonpriestly class, for we find in following two chapters others who were singers, doorkeepers, and treasurers. Two families given chiefly. Gershonites found among officers and Judges 1:0. The family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 24:20-25).
2. The family of Merari (1 Chronicles 24:26-29).
3. The three sons of Mushi (1 Chronicles 24:30-31). These all content with an inferior “lot,” anxious to do their best, and joyfully contributing to the whole. “They were arranged by lot to match the courses of their brethren, the sons of Aaron, in the presence of the same superiors.” “The principal fathers,” or the chief over against his lesser brother. Each, great and small, his place and his work, and acting under “the great Taskmaster’s eye.” “Let every man be occupied, and occupied in the highest employment of which he is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best” [Sidney].
“A wise man scorneth nothing, be it never so small or homely,
For he knoweth not the secret laws that may bind it to great effects”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 24:2. Sad deaths. I. The sins which caused them.
1. Disobedience to divine injunction. “They offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.”
2. Gross inconsistency. Perhaps they were drunk, hence the law (Leviticus 10:8). “They drink and forget the law” (Proverbs 31:5).
3. Rashness in approaching God. They “took,” snatched (some read 1 Chronicles 24:1), their censers without reverence and consideration; rushed into God’s presence in haste.
4. Presumptuous in act. Not only did they take “strange incense,” but went both together when one only should have officiated; intruded into the holy of holies, to which access denied to all but high priest, and thus set a precedent most dangerous, and which called for divine displeasure. II. The punishment which followed the sins. “They died.”
1. A dishonourable death. “Without children.”
2. A sudden death. “Fire came out” suddenly.
3. An overwhelming death. Instantly died as if struck by a lightning-flash.
4. A retributive death. “Before the Lord.” Before the veil that covered the mercy-seat. “Without mercy,” and without divine interference. A foretaste of torment “in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). “God will be sanctified either actively or passively, either in us or upon us; sure it is that he will be no loser by us. Sanctified he will be, either in the sincerity of men’s conversation or else in the severity of their condemnation. Singular things are expected of all that draw nigh to God in any duty, but especially in the office of the ministry. Those that stand in the presence of princes must be exact in their carriages. God appointed both the weights and measures of the sanctuary to be twice as large as those of the commonwealth, to show that he expects much more of those that serve him there than he doth of others. The souls of priests must be purer than sunbeams, saith Chrysostom” [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 24:5-30. Remarkable persons. 1 Chronicles 24:5. Governors (Heb.), Princes of the house of God. Chief priests rulers over others of their own order, and subject to the high priest. Submission and diligence give distinction in calling. “C’est par le travail qu’on regne” [Louis XIV.]. If translation be Princes of Holiness, then holiness gives influence and power; distinction of character and approbation of God. Good men are kings of society. 1 Chronicles 24:7. Jehoiarib, the father of the Maccabees (1MMalachi 2:1). 1 Chronicles 24:10. From Abijah came Zacharias, father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5). “Old he was, yet not free from taking his turn. Dumb also for a time; yet he went on to do his office in the ministration. The evangelist’s word of the course (Grk. epi and çmerias, a daily service) importeth a daily attendance upon the work while the course continueth” [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 24:23. Sons of Hebron. The four persons named appear to have been contemporaries of David, the heads of the Hebronite houses in his time (cf. ch. 1 Chronicles 26:31) [Speak. Com.]. “What shall I do to be for ever known?” asked Schiller. Scripture will give the answer.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 24
1 Chronicles 24:2. Died. It is a dangerous thing in the service of God to decline from his own institutions; we have to do with a God who is wise to prescribe his own worship, just to require what he has prescribed, and powerful to revenge what he has not prescribed [Bp. Hall].
1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 24:31. Lot. Methods are the masters of masters [Tallerand]. Method is essential, and enables a larger amount of work to be got through with satisfaction. “Method,” said the Rev. R. Cecil, “is like packing things in a box: a good packer will get in half as much again as a bad one.” Cecil’s despatch of business was extraordinary, his motto being, “The shortest way to do many things is to do one thing at once” [Smiles].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19