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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter relates to the number and offices of the singers (1 Chronicles 25:1-8); a list of the choirs divided by lot into 24 orders (1 Chronicles 25:9-31).
1 Chronicles 25:1-8.—The families of singers. Captains, chiefs who preside over the order of service; those mentioned, 1 Chronicles 23:2; 1 Chronicles 24:6. Separated, divided or distributed for the service. Prophesy, publicly recite the sacred service, sing psalms; a reference to the praising element. 1 Chronicles 25:2. Hands, direction of A., who prophesied as an inspired poet, composed psalms (Psalms 50:13-23). 1 Chronicles 25:3. Six, only 5 names given; entire list only 23, which should be 24 according to the account of lots (1 Chronicles 25:8-31); supply a name (as Sept.), Shimei, which appears in 1 Chronicles 25:17. 1 Chronicles 25:4-5. Uz. (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:18); Sheb. (1 Chronicles 25:20). King’s seer, not to distinguish H. above his brethren (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Chronicles 35:15). All three possessed prophetic gifts. Words, matters (marg.). Lift up horn. Blow with horn or trumpet loudly, a fig. expression for honour and dignity (1 Samuel 2:1; 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalms 75:10; Psalms 89:17). 1 Chronicles 25:6. These refers to Heman. According, the reading should be, “At the king’s hands were Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman,” or under the direction of the king, of A., of Jed., and of H. 1 Chronicles 25:8. Ward formerly signified a class or division; the term is still used in hospitals: trans. “for the ward (charge) for as well the small as the great, the teacher with the scholar” [Murphy].
1 Chronicles 25:9-31.—The list of choir leaders. Asaph was given the precedence over his brethren, and his four courses were assigned the first, and then each alternate place. Jeduthun took rank next, and received alternate places, first with Asaph, and then with Heman, until his courses were exhausted. After this, all the later places fell necessarily to Heman, whose courses continue without interruption from the 15th to the 24th. This scheme for the apportioning of the courses among the three families must have been a matter of formal arrangement. What the lot decided was simply, on each occasion, which course of the family, whose term it was, should fill the place [Speak. Com.]. “The series is so determined by the lot, that the four sons of Asaph hold the first, third, fifth, and seventh places; the six sons of Jeduthun the second, fourth, eighth, tenth, twelfth, and fourteenth places” [Keil].
THE CLASSIFICATION OF SINGERS AND MUSICIANS.—1 Chronicles 25:1-8
David had settled the courses of Levites who attended to the priests in their ministrations; now he arranges those appointed to sing and play. Three families of choristers.
I. Their solemn consecration. “Separated to the service.” No disputing, nor taking by force; no self-electing, nor promotion by favour; each carefully appointed to his place and work. No small honour to be separated from the world and called into the family and service of God. Greater honour and responsibility to be further “separated from the congregation of Israel,” to be brought nearer to God, and “to stand before the congregation and minister unto them” (Numbers 16:9).
II. Their sacred employments. These manifold and necessary.
1. Prophets with harps. To reveal the will of God in song; sing psalms indited by the spirit of God. Musical instruments to rouse and quicken the prophetic spirit. This often the method to soothe the mind, to prepare for the work of praise and prayer. Room for instruments yet in service of God; above all, be filled with the spirit, sing with the spirit, and make melody with the heart (Ephesians 5:18-19).
2. Players of instruments. Heman presided over the wind instruments, and Jeduthun over the harp, to keep time and observe order. Music may help song; refine and educate the worshippers of the sanctuary. “As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there.”
3. Superintendents of order. “Captains of the host” (1 Chronicles 25:1), those who helped David to arrange and superintend the order of worship; leaders of the courses of priests and Levites, before whom lots were cast; chiefs of the sacred order. Captains of armies held responsible positions; to be leaders in God’s house a more distinguished privilege and honour.
4. All this designed to honour God. Music, instrumental and vocal; choirs and leaders “instructed” (1 Chronicles 25:7) and employed “to give thanks and praise the Lord” (1 Chronicles 25:3). This delightful and “comely to the upright.” Fresh cause for praise every time we enter God’s house. If no other theme than the love of Christ, which employs the tongues of heaven, this enough to stir up and perpetuate grateful emotion on earth.
III. Their astonishing number. Every choir, with its leader, consisted of 12, and the 24 choirs contained 288 choristers (288 = 12 × 24), who served a week in rotation. “These, half of whom officiated every week with a proportionate number of assistants, were skilful and experienced musicians, capable of leading and instructing the general musical corps, which comprised no less than 4,000 (ch. 1 Chronicles 23:5)” [Jamieson].
THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF SERVICE.—1 Chronicles 25:1-31
Many special elements of worship set forth. I. Pleasing variety. Male and female (1 Chronicles 25:5), small and great, teacher and scholar” (1 Chronicles 25:8), prophesying with harps, psalteries, and cymbals (1 Chronicles 25:1). Variety helps to discriminate and recognise persons, to classify into systems and impersonate with names. “Variety is charming,” attractive and beneficial in natural scenery and Christian worship. II. Hearty-thanksgiving. Most solemn and delightful to hear a large assembly sing and praise the Lord. May be “like a little heaven below,” or the sweet earnest of the “song of Moses and the Lamb.” III. Cultured song. “They were instructed in the songs of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 25:7). If a regular trained or cultured choir is impossible, there is no excuse for the slovenly songs which dishonour many sanctuaries. If spirituality of subjects and proper frame of heart be an apology, on the same principle may we tolerate bad reading and wretched delivery. Why should harmonious themes of devotion be rendered unpleasant to the outward ears, when a little care and culture, spirit and energy might correct many defects in religious assemblies? IV. Orderly performance. This observed and insisted upon. All classes and ages co-operated; instruction imparted and music regulated for desired end. Order is economy of time and work, for without it both are lost. The world began and is ruled with order. Method should characterise our studies, habits, and worship. V. Kindly feeling. Some dutiful and obedient as sons; others acted and loved as brethren. No partiality, dissatisfaction, nor uncharitableness. All united in feeling, purpose, and effort “for the service of the house of God.” “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Let us learn to adapt these ancient rules to modern requirements. Worship should not be stereotyped, lawless, nor irreverent, but room for improvement in psalmody, arrangement, and spirituality.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 25:1. Workmen according to their service.
1. Each a part in worship. None silent, none idle.
2. Work no drudgery, no slavery, no reluctance to perform it.
3. “It intimates that it is our duty to make a business of it, and stir up all that is within us to it; and that in our present state of corruption and infirmity it will not be done as it should be done, without labour and struggle. We must take pains with our hearts to bring them and keep them to this work, and to engage all that is within us.” The workmen. The use of this noble word in association with the choral service of the sanctuary is a warning against regarding such service as a dilettante employment. It is a work and labour in the honourable service of the Lord, and one that was anciently dignified with the name of prophecy. The use of the word for His ministers was adopted by our Lord when He said, “The workman is worthy of his meat” (Matthew 10:10); and was among the last injunctions that fell from the one who “laboured more abundantly than you all,” when he exhorted the young bishop Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15) [Blunt]. Psalteries. Psalmody in God’s house. Spiritual in its nature, metrical (musical) in its form, cultured in its development. The bearing of these subjects on selection of hymns and tunes, training of choirs, and irreverent singing.
1 Chronicles 25:5-6. A family choir. The fathers Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman presided, and their children were under the hands of their father (1 Chronicles 25:2-3; 1 Chronicles 25:6). This
(1) an example of parental training,
(2) of obedience in children,
(3) of younger submitting to elder in judgment and conduct. This gives order and honour to families, churches, and communities. In the words of God (1 Chronicles 25:5). “I wish the time were come,” says Andrew Fuller, “when we could lay aside all men’s compositions and sing only the words of Scripture in the praises of God.” When shall we find the poet and “the chief musician”?
1 Chronicles 25:7. Number. A number competent, skilful, orderly, and devout. What a pattern choir! All may imbibe their spirit and follow their example. “As it is commanded of God that all should sing, so all should make a conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing that cannot be done decently without learning. Those, therefore, who neglect to learn to sing live in sin, as they neglect what is necessary to their attending one of the ordinances of God’s worship” [President Edwards].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 25
1 Chronicles 25:1. Harps, &c. History reminds us that great religious reformations have been associated with revived interest “in the service of song in the house of the Lord.” Owing to worldliness in the Jewish Church, the beautiful musical service of the Temple declined; but at the revival in the reign of Hezekiah, “the kings and the princes commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord, with the words of David and Asaph the seer.” Concerning the great American revival in his day, President Edwards writes: “Our public praises were greatly enlivened. In our psalmody God was served in the beauty of holiness. There has been no part of divine worship in which good men have had grace so drawn forth and their hearts so lifted up in the ways of God as in singing his praise. The people sang with unusual elevation of heart and voice” [J. S. Pearsall].
1 Chronicles 25:3. To praise the Lord. He praiseth God best that serveth and obeyeth him most; the life of thankfulness consists in the thankfulness of life [Burkitt].
1 Chronicles 25:7. Number. “Nothing promoted the Reformation more,” says Bp. Jewel, “than inviting the common people to sing psalms, and that sometimes there would be six thousand persons at St. Paul’s Cross singing together, which was very grievous to the Papists.”
“From every place below the skies,
The grateful song, the fervent prayer,
The incense of the heart may rise
To heaven, and find acceptance there.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20