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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 6

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-81

CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter refers wholly to tribe of Levi. Gives the family of Aaron, 1 Chronicles 6:1-15; the descendants of Gershom, Kohath, and Merari, 1 Chronicles 6:16-30; the pedigrees of the song-masters, 1 Chronicles 6:31-48; the line from Aaron to Ahimaaz, 1 Chronicles 6:49-53; and the towns assigned to the tribe, 1 Chronicles 6:54-81.

1 Chronicles 6:1-3.—The sons of Levi. The genealogy of Levi follows (Exodus 6:16-25), as far as Phinehas, after which the writer must have had documents before him which have not come down to us [Speak. Com.].

1 Chronicles 6:4-15.—Line of priests unto Captivity. This list must have been obtained from the priestly registers. It is given in inverse order (Ezra 7:1-5), with omission of names between Meraioth and Azariah II. It wants the name Meraioth between Ahitub II. and Zadok II. (1 Chronicles 9:11). It is not a succession of high priests, but simply the line from Eleazar to Jehozadak [cf. Murphy]. Zadok, 1 Chronicles 6:8, priest with Abiathar (2 Samuel 8:18), one probably in Gibeon, the other in Zion. Azariah, 1 Chronicles 6:9, grandson of Zadok, in the court of Solomon (1 Kings 4:2). Temple, 1 Chronicles 6:10, first to distinguish it from second existing in days of writer. Amariah, 1 Chronicles 6:11, high priest under Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:11). Shallum, ch. 1 Chronicles 9:11 (Nehemiah 11:11). Hilkiah, 1 Chronicles 6:12, in office under Josiah, took part in reformation then (2 Kings 22:4-14; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Chronicles 34:9-22). Seraiah, 1 Chronicles 6:14, put to death by Nebuchadnezzar at time of Captivity (2 Kings 25:18-21; Jeremiah 52:24-27).

1 Chronicles 6:16-30.—Sons of Levi. Having traced high priestly line from Levi to Jehozadak (1 Chronicles 6:1-15), writer returns to fountain head and gives general account of branches of tribe of Levi as far as materials allow. 1 Chronicles 6:16-21. The Gershomites, after first-born of Moses (Exodus 2:22). 1 Chronicles 6:17-19. These appear in Exodus 6:0. 1 Chronicles 6:20-21. This line appears to coincide with part of that of Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:39-43), except in Jeaterai, who may have been another son of Zerah. 1 Chronicles 6:22-28. The Kohathites. The same as that of Heman (1 Chronicles 6:33-38). Object of list to trace genealogy of Samuel, prophet and judge of Israel. 1 Chronicles 6:29-30. The Merarites.

1 Chronicles 6:31-48.—Pedigrees of the three song-masters. Asaph, Heman, Ethan, or Jeduthan (Psalms 89:0), sons of Korah, set over departments of musical service. House, a tent erected by David to receive the ark, considerable time before building of the Temple. Waited in order, instituted by David, doubtless directed by Holy Spirit, for regulation of worship.

1 Chronicles 6:33. Shemuel, i.e., Samuel. 1 Chronicles 6:48. Levites employed in door-keeping or attending to priests.

1 Chronicles 6:49-53.—Office of Aaron and his sons (cf. 1 Chronicles 6:3-8). Eleazar, third son, chief of Levites (Numbers 3:32), ministered with his brother Ithamar, before death of Aaron, and succeeded him (Numbers 20:28). In Eleazar’s family high priesthood remained till the time of Eli, who was descended from Ithamar. It returned to Eleazar in Zadok, fulfilling the words of 1 Samuel 2:30.

1 Chronicles 6:54-81.—The cities given to priestly families and to other Levites. Joshua 21:0, its parallel.

1 Chronicles 6:54-60. Cities given to Aaron’s family. Castles, places of defence against robbers or beasts of prey. 1 Chronicles 6:61-81. Cities of the Levites, their number and distribution: 13 cities to Gershom, 1 Chronicles 6:62; 1 Chronicles 12:0; 1 Chronicles 12:0 to Merari, 1 Chronicles 6:63, as in Joshua 21:34-40; cities of other Kohathites, 1 Chronicles 6:66-70; of Gershomites, 1 Chronicles 6:71-76; and of Merarites, 1 Chronicles 6:77-81. 1 Chronicles 6:80-81, agree with those in Joshua. Ten only of twelve named. Only 42 out of 48 named, and some different from original cities assigned to Levites. This proof of accuracy of author. He remembers whole numbers in time of Joshua. But political arrangements readjusted in course of ages. State of things given which had supervened in time of David (1 Chronicles 7:2) [cf. Murphy].


A GLANCE OF HISTORY.—1 Chronicles 6:1-15

In these verses we have a glance from deliverance in Egypt to bondage in captivity. Notice two or three features of the period.

I. The inequalities of men. Inequalities physical, mental, and social appear in whatever light we regard mankind. In this list some exalted to sacred office and perform noble deeds. Others fall into sin and disgrace. Vast differences in character and career! Royalty and beggary, grandeur and wretchedness, palaces and slums! “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.”

II. The vicissitudes of families. Aaron a priest, but Aaron’s sons terrors of divine justice. Samuel a prophet, but Samuel’s sons perverted justice and dishonoured religion. According to political and religious feeling, ancestors exalted and descendants rejected.

III. The events of Providence. Deliverance from bondage. Scenes of conflict and triumph. Times of revival, relapse and punishment. Accession and dethronement of kings. Providences, special, striking, and constant. “He hath not dealt so with any nation.”

THE SONS OF LEVI.—1 Chronicles 6:16-30

I. Their chief Fathers. Gershom the eldest, Kohath the second, and Merari the youngest son accompanied Levi into Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:11), and became heads of three great divisions of Levites.

II. Their numerous descendants. Many unknown or passed over. Others eminent in character, distinguished in service, and remarkable in career. Children of privilege and monuments of judgment, born in sunshine and dying in shadows. What a mixture of good men and bad men in life! What a contrast between character and circumstances, beginnings and ends!

THE MINISTRY OF SONG.—1 Chronicles 6:31-48

Song a divine gift, has a mission or ministry.

I. Song an element of Christian worship. “The service of song in the house of the Lord.” A branch of natural and revealed religion in all ages, prevalent in Jewish and heathen worship. A duty reverently to be performed. Its decay a mark of desolation (Ezekiel 26:13).

II. Song an expression of human feeling. Joy and sorrow, gratitude and prayer, must have appropriate and audible expression. When the ark is in captivity, in times of darkness and depression, our harps are hung upon the willows. When the ark finds rest and fixed residence in times of revival, we sing praise to God (David’s joy, 2 Samuel 6:17-21; 2 Samuel 16:1-3). “Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”

III. Song a power for which its possessors are responsible. In pagan and Jewish nations recognised as a divine gift. It is a talent entrusted to individuals; a faculty to be cultivated, for which there is room, and which should be consecrated to God. The duty of all who have the gift to lay it upon the altar of God, in the home, the school, and the sanctuary.


1 Chronicles 6:1. Three chief Fathers. Their names, history, and pedigree.

1 Chronicles 6:3. Nadab and Abihu. Improper spirit in worship; unlawful method and awful judgment. Perished on day of consecration! (Leviticus 10:0).

1 Chronicles 6:4. Phineas, a memorable name (Numbers 25:7-13; Joshua 22:10-33; Psalms 106:30-31).

1 Chronicles 6:10. Azariah’s important service. High priest in temple of Solomon. “Executed,” &c. Some think that he withstood King Uzziah, and thus risked life in faithful reproof (2 Chronicles 26:17-18).

1 Chronicles 6:13. Hilkiah most celebrated of seven bearing this name as priest and reformer. He discovered “the Book of the Law” (2 Kings 22:8); was zealous in reformations of Josiah (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Kings 23:4-27); and prominent in observing the Passover (2 Chronicles 25:1-19).

1 Chronicles 6:15. Jehozadak. Three forms of this name (see Ezra 3:2; Haggai 1:1; and this verse). Only two forms in original. Jehozadak full form, and Jozadak contracted. The meaning is, “Jehovah is righteous.” It is noted as remarkable that the heads of both the priestly and the royal stock carried to Babylon should have had names (Zedekiah and Jehozadak) composed of the same elements, and assertive of the “justice of God,” which their sufferings showed forth so signally [Speak. Com.].

1 Chronicles 6:22. Korah’s sin and punishment (Numbers 16:1-33).


RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.—1 Chronicles 6:32-53

The order of song a matter of importance in time of David. The ark had a settled place. Choral service was established in the Temple, and chief singers were appointed.

I. Worship varied in its forms. Music and singing, prayer and praise, must not become formal and stereotyped “All manner of service.”

II. Lively in its spirit. Dulness and despondency dishonouring to God and unprofitable to men. “This duty must be our delight.” Then it becomes attractive and helpful. “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.”

III. Orderly in its method. “They waited on their office according to their order.” Things not left to chance; arrangements made with care and thought. Each his own work, place, and time in keeping up the service. “The order of the sanctuary.” “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

IV. Universal in its participation. They “waited with their children” in the choir The service of song for the whole “congregation” not left to the choir to sing, nor to the preacher to pray. All hearts and all lips must join. Congregational worship must be sought and cultivated. “Let the people praise thee, let all the people praise thee.”

THE ANCIENT PRIESTHOOD.—1 Chronicles 6:49-53

Aaron and his sons, “the house of Aaron,” appointed to the priestly office. Other Levites given to them and performed subordinate duties.

I. Its sacred dignity Not the investure of man; endowments for the work from God. The office not a personal assumption, but in obedience to divine call, manifest in Providence, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the help of friends. “No man taketh this honour unto himself.”

II. Its solemn duties. On the brazen altar, the golden altar and the mercy seat in the holy of holies, they performed their functions. This chiefly “to make an atonement for Israel” (1 Chronicles 6:49). A constant need for this; the life of the individual and the nation imperilled by sin; covenant relations must be restored. “The day of atonement,” an impressive scene and a typical truth.

III. Its typical Character. The high priests in öfficial character, the ceremony of sprinkling blood were figures of good things to come. Under the gospel all believers are priests, ministering to God in his spiritual temple. Each has an appointed service which contributes to the perpetual worship and benefit of the whole. Only in fulfilment of prescribed ordinance can we secure the presence and favour of Jehovah.


First cities given to the priestly family of Aaron (1 Chronicles 6:54-60). Next the number and distribution of those assigned to other Levites (1 Chronicles 6:61-81). Regard them as—

I. A fulfilment of prediction. Jacob’s dying prophecy was accomplished and this tribe was “scattered in Israel” (Genesis 49:7). God’s people are preserved, and events are arranged for their possessions.

II. An arrangement of providence. These cities wisely ordered, a provision of mercy and safety.

1. To facilitate the administration. Centres of justice and law, freeing individuals from avenging themselves, fixing authority and promoting peace and order.

2. To disseminate light. Each city the centre of light and instruction, the place where law was expounded and administered. A school of learning and social influence to the people.

3. To support the ministry. Cities allotted to priests and Levites for residence and maintenance. Certain provisions made for spiritual service. Men set apart for God, dependent upon the people they serve. Those who “preach the gospel” may reasonably expect “to live of the gospel.” “Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things.”


1 Chronicles 6:31. The vicissitudes of the Ark. Without a proper resting-place from victory over Philistines in time of Eli till the tabernacle of David, about fifty years (1 Samuel 4:0; 2 Samuel 6:0; 2 Samuel 6:0).

1 Chronicles 6:32-33. Waited on their office.

1. Each an office or work, fixed in choir, leading in service of song, officiating at the altar, and waiting at the door.
2. Each responsible for the performance of his work—not envying his neighbour, waiting for something better; but with diligence, order, and delight each fills his position and renders his service.

1 Chronicles 6:31-48. Three chief song-masters. Heman’s pedigree (1 Chronicles 6:33-38). Pedigree of Asaph, the Gershonite (1 Chronicles 6:39-43). He stood on right hand. Pedigree of Ethan, the Merarite (1 Chronicles 6:44-47). He stood on the left of Heman.

1 Chronicles 6:49-53. Priests and Levites, two orders of ministry in the Jewish Church. Their divine appointment, special duties, and worldly provision.


1 Chronicles 6:31. Service. The three intentions of song: To improve the understanding, to improve the heart, and to soothe the mind. The three things which ought to pervade song: Perfect learning, perfect vigour, perfect nature [Catherall].

1 Chronicles 6:32. Waited in office. Man hath his daily work of body or mind appointed [Milton].

“A servant with this clause

Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,

Makes that and the action fine”

[Geo. Herbert].

1 Chronicles 6:54. Cities. If the history of cities and their influence on their respective territories be deducted from the history of humanity, the narrative remaining would be of no very attractive description. If anything be certain, it would seem to be certain that man is constituted to realise his destiny from his association with man, more than from any contact with places. The great agency in calling forth his capabilities, for good or for evil, is that of his fellows. The picturesque may be with the country, but the intellectual, generally speaking, must be with the town [Dr. Vaughan’s Age of Cities].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-chronicles-6.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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