1 Chronicles 23 – “David Prepares the Levites”

israel22Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
David appoints Solomon as king over Israel. He then counts the Levites and differentiates them according to their families. The chapter ends with a description of the following Levitical responsibilities: assisting the priests, guarding the temple, praising God, and taking care of the sacrificial ingredients.

II. Photo
Waking up early was one of the Levitical responsibilities: “[The Levites were charged] to be present every morning to praise and extol the LORD, and at evening too.” (v. 30)

III. Important Verses
v. 1: When David reached a ripe old age, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.
v. 13: The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart, he and his sons, forever, to be consecrated as most holy, to make burnt offerings to the LORD and serve Him and pronounce blessings in His name forever.
vv. 14-17: As for Moses, the man of God, his sons were named after the tribe of Levi. The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. And the sons of Eliezer were: Rehabiah the chief. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous.
vv. 27-32: Among the last acts of David was the counting of the Levites from the age of twenty and upward. For their appointment was alongside the Aaronites for the service of the House of the LORD, to look after the courts and the chambers, and the purity of all the holy things, and the performance of the service of the House of God, and the rows of bread, and the fine flour for the meal offering, and the unleavened wafers, and the cakes made on the griddle and soaked, and every measure of capacity and length; and to be present every morning to praise and extol the LORD, and at evening too, and whenever offerings were made to the LORD, according to the quantities prescribed for them, on sabbaths, new moons and holidays, regularly, before the LORD; and so to keep watch over the Tent of Meeting, over the holy things, and over the Aaronites their kinsmen, for the service of the House of the LORD.

IV. Outline

1. David appoints Solomon king
2-5. Counting the Levites
6-27. The three divisions
    6. Introduction
    7-11. The Gershonites
    12-20. The Kohathites
    21-23. The Merarites
    24-27. Summary statement
28-32. Levitical duty

V. Comment
Chapter 23 describes both David’s appointment of Solomon as king and his counting of the Levites. It also contains a list of the Levitical duties. The chapter and the six that follow it have no parallel in the books of Samuel or Kings. Collins writes that they “reflect the concerns of the Chronicler and his time. David ensures that the kingdom is fully organized before he passes it on to Solomon. The priorities of the Chronicler are shown by the relative space given to cultic and secular matters. The organization of the Levites and of the temple cult occupies chapters 23-26. We are told that 24,000 Levites are given charge of the work in the house of the Lord. There are 6,000 officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 musicians.” (449) Collins also notes two unique characteristics about the Levitical responsibilities: “First, the role of the Levites is to attend the Aaronide priests. The subordination of Levites to priests was a consequence of the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem. We have already seen that it was a contentious issue at the time of the restoration after the exile (see specifically Ezekiel 44). Second, the priests are divided into twenty-four courses, to take turns at the temple service. This was a new development after the Babylonian exile. It was made necessary by the number of priests in Jerusalem in the Second Temple period.” (ibid.)

Collins referenced the contention between the Levites and the priests in Ezek 44, and that passage reads as follows:
Thus said the Lord GOD: Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary — no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel. But the Levites who forsook Me when Israel went astray — straying from Me to follow their fetishes — shall suffer their punishment: They shall be servitors in My Sanctuary, appointed over the Temple gates, and performing the chores of My Temple; they shall slaughter the burnt offerings and the sacrifices for the people. They shall attend on them and serve them. Because they served the House of Israel in the presence of their fetishes and made them stumble into guilt, therefore — declares the Lord GOD — I have sworn concerning them that they shall suffer their punishment: They shall not approach Me to serve Me as priests, to come near any of My sacred offerings, the most holy things. They shall bear their shame for the abominations that they committed. I will make them watchmen of the Temple, to perform all its chores, everything that needs to be done in it. But the levitical priests descended from Zadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from Me — they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood — declares the Lord GOD. They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge. (vv. 9-16)

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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