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Families of the Levites and Their Functions


When David was old and full of days, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.

2 David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were counted, and the total was thirty-eight thousand. 4“Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord, six thousand shall be officers and judges, 5four thousand gatekeepers, and four thousand shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.” 6And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

7 The sons of Gershon were Ladan and Shimei. 8The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the chief, Zetham, and Joel, three. 9The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran, three. These were the heads of families of Ladan. 10And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Zina, Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. 11Jahath was the chief, and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, so they were enrolled as a single family.

12 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. 13The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to consecrate the most holy things, so that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the Lord, and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever; 14but as for Moses the man of God, his sons were to be reckoned among the tribe of Levi. 15The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. 16The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. 17The sons of Eliezer: Rehabiah the chief; Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous. 18The sons of Izhar: Shelomith the chief. 19The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the chief, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, and Jekameam the fourth. 20The sons of Uzziel: Micah the chief and Isshiah the second.

21 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish. 22Eleazar died having no sons, but only daughters; their kindred, the sons of Kish, married them. 23The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder, and Jeremoth, three.

24 These were the sons of Levi by their ancestral houses, the heads of families as they were enrolled according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of the Lord. 25For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people; and he resides in Jerusalem forever. 26And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service”— 27for according to the last words of David these were the number of the Levites from twenty years old and upward— 28“but their duty shall be to assist the descendants of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God; 29to assist also with the rows of bread, the choice flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. 30And they shall stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, 31and whenever burnt offerings are offered to the Lord on sabbaths, new moons, and appointed festivals, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord. 32Thus they shall keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and shall attend the descendants of Aaron, their kindred, for the service of the house of the Lord.”

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1Ch 23:1. David Makes Solomon King.

1. when David was old … he made Solomon … king—This brief statement, which comprises the substance of 1Ki 1:32-48, is made here solely to introduce an account of the preparations carried on by David during the latter years of his life for providing a national place of worship.

1Ch 23:2-6. Number and Distribution of the Levites.

2. he gathered together all the princes of Israel—All important measures relating to the public interest were submitted for consideration to a general assembly of the representatives of the tribes (1Ch 13:1; 15:25; 22:17; 26:1-32).

3. the Levites were numbered … thirty and eight thousand—Four times their number at the early census taken by Moses (see on Nu 4:1-49; 26:1-51). It was, in all likelihood, this vast increase that suggested and rendered expedient that classification, made in the last year of David's reign, which the present and three subsequent chapters describe.

by their polls, man by man—Women and children were not included.

4. twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the Lord—They were not to preside over all the services of the temple. The Levites were subject to the priests, and they were superior to the Nethinim and other servants, who were not of the race of Levi. But they had certain departments of duty assigned, some of which are here specified.

5. praised the Lord with the instruments which I made—David seems to have been an inventor of many of the musical instruments used in the temple (Am 6:5).

6. David divided them into courses among the sons of Levi—These are enumerated according to their fathers' houses, but no more of these are mentioned here than the twenty-four thousand who were engaged in the work connected with the Lord's house. The fathers' houses of those Levites corresponded with the classes into which they [Josephus, Antiquities] as well as the priests were divided (see on 1Ch 24:20-31; 1Ch 26:20-28).

1Ch 23:7-11. Sons of Gershon.

7-11. the Gershonites—They had nine fathers' houses, six descended from Laadan, and three from Shimei.

1Ch 23:12-20. Of Kohath.

12. The sons of Kohath—He was the founder of nine Levitical fathers' houses.

13. Aaron was separated—as high priest (see on 1Ch 25:1-19).

14. concerning Moses—His sons were ranked with the Levites generally, but not introduced into the distinctive portion of the descendants of Levi, who were appointed to the special functions of the priesthood.

1Ch 23:21-23. Of Merari.

21-23. The sons of Merari—They comprised six fathers' houses. Summing them together, Gershon founded nine fathers houses, Kohath nine, and Merari six: total, twenty-four.

1Ch 23:24-32. Office of the Levites.

24-27. These were the sons of Levi … that did the work … from the age of twenty years and upward—The enumeration of the Levites was made by David (1Ch 23:3) on the same rule as that followed by Moses (Nu 4:3), namely, from thirty years. But he saw afterwards that this rule might be beneficially relaxed, and that the enrolment of Levites for their proper duties might be made from twenty years of age. The ark and tabernacle being now stationary at Jerusalem, the labor of the Levites was greatly diminished, as they were no longer obliged to transport its heavy furniture from place to place. The number of thirty-eight thousand Levites, exclusive of priests, was doubtless more than sufficient for the ordinary service of the tabernacle. But this pious king thought that it would contribute to the glory of the Lord to employ as many officers in his divine service as possible. These first rules, however, which David instituted, were temporary, as very different arrangements were made after the ark had been deposited in the tabernacle of Zion.