1 Chronicles 6 – “A Genealogy of the Levites; Cities of Refuge”

pasture2Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
A lineage of the Levitical family is given. The cities of refuge that they dwelled in are also listed.

II. Photo
The Levites were given cities with accompanying pasturelands: “These are their dwelling-places according to their settlements within their borders: to the sons of Aaron of the families of Kohathites, for theirs was the [first] lot; they gave them Hebron in the land of Judah and its surrounding pasturelands…” (vv. 39-40)

III. Important Verses
vv. 16-17: These were appointed by David to be in charge of song in the House of the LORD, from the time the Ark came to rest. They served at the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting with song until Solomon built the House of the LORD in Jerusalem; and they carried out their duties as prescribed for them.
v. 34: But Aaron and his sons made offerings upon the altar of burnt offering and upon the altar of incense, performing all the tasks of the most holy place, to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.
vv. 39-41: These are their dwelling-places according to their settlements within their borders: to the sons of Aaron of the families of Kohathites, for theirs was the [first] lot; they gave them Hebron in the land of Judah and its surrounding pasturelands, but the fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh.

IV. Outline
1-4. The sons of Levi
5-6. Lineage of Gershom
7-13. Lineage of Kohath
14-15. Lineage of Merari
16-17. Introduction of the Temple’s workers
18-32. The guild of singers
33. The other Levites
34-38. The priests
39-45. Cities for the priests; Cities of refuge
46-66. Cities for the remaining Levites; Cities of refuge

V. Comment
After focusing on the tribe of Judah, the Chronicler turns his attention to the tribe of Levi. Collins writes: “The other tribes [besides Judah] that are accorded prominence in these genealogies are Levi and Benjamin. These were the tribes that remained faithful to the Davidic line, and were also significant in the restoration of the postexilic period. The Levitical line is treated at length in 1 Chron 6:1-[66]. Benjamin is also treated at length in 8:1-40. Saul, the first king of Israel, is listed in the genealogy of Benjamin, but receives no particular emphasis. The Chronicler returns to Saul, however, at the end of the genealogies in 9:35-44, where the notice prepares for the transition to the historical narrative proper, which begins with the death of Saul and the rise of David, in chapter 10.” (446)

Chapter 6 focuses on the Levitical singers. In an interesting study, Gese reconstructs the history behind the various references to the group. De Vries (71) summarizes Gese’s study as follows:

  • At the return from the exile, the singers are simply called ‘sons of Asaph,’ and are not yet reckoned as Levites (Ezr 2:41; Neh 7:44);
  • Neh 11:3-19 and 1 Chr 9:1-18, from Nehemiah’s time. The singers are now reckoned as Levites, and are in two groups, (1) the sons of Asaph, and (2) the sons of Jeduthun;
  • 1 Chr 16:4ff.; 2 Chr 5:12; 29:13f; 35:15. The Levitical singers are now in three groups: (1) Asaph, (2) Heman, and (3) Jeduthun;
  • 1 Chr 6:16ff. and 15:16ff. Jeduthun is replaced by Ethan, and Heman is now more prominent than Asaph.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
De Vries, Simon J. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989).
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