1 Chronicles 23


Gill, in his commentary, gives us a useful summary of this chapter.

‘In this chapter David makes Solomon king, 1 Chronicles 23:1, calls together the princes, priests, and Levites, numbers the latter, and assigns them their proper work, 1 Chronicles 23:2, divides them into three classes, 1 Chronicles 23:6, when the number of them was taken from twenty years of age, and upwards; the reasons of which are given, partly from the rest the land enjoyed, and partly from the several branches of their work and office in the temple, 1 Chronicles 23:24.’

The Levites

‘When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel. He also gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted, and the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand. David said, “Of these, twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work of the temple of the LORD and six thousand are to be officials and judges. Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.” David separated the Levites into divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.’ 1 Chronicles 23:1-5

When David was old, Solomon, his son became king over Israel. David then proceeds to organise Israel, first the leaders of Israel, 1 Chronicles 23:3-26 / 1 Chronicles 23:32. He then proceeds to organise the civil and military leaders, 1 Chronicles 27:1-34.

David organised the Levites who served from the age of 30 to 50, Numbers 4:3 / Numbers 4:23 / Numbers 4:47. Notice that David not only made preparations for the building of the temple before he died but also for the administration of temple affairs.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning musical instruments.

‘David’s actions in this had no prior command of God to justify it. He violated the divine instructions that, Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, Deuteronomy 4:2. David’s invention of instruments of music and his introduction of them into the worship of God was specifically condemned by the prophet Amos, Amos 5:23 Amos 6:5.’


‘David separated the Levites into divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Belonging to the Gershonites: Ladan and Shimei. The sons of Ladan: Jehiel the first, Zetham and Joel—three in all. The sons of Shimei: Shelomoth, Haziel and Haran—three in all. These were the heads of the families of Ladan. And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Ziza, Jeush and Beriah. These were the sons of Shimei—four in all. Jahath was the first and Ziza the second, but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons; so they were counted as one family with one assignment.’ 1 Chronicles 23:6-11

David now separates the Levites into three classes, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, Exodus 6:16. Ladan and Shimei were the immediate posterity of Gershon, the heads of families, Exodus 6:17. From the sons of Ladan, Jehiah was first, then Zetham, and Joel. They were not Ladan’s immediate sons, rather they descended from him.

Shelomith, Haziel, and Haran, were the first of the fathers of Ladan. Jahath, Zina, 1 Chronicles 23:10, Jeush, and Beriah were the sons of Shimei, descendants of his in the times of David.


‘The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel—four in all. The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart, he and his descendants forever, to consecrate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices before the LORD, to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in his name forever. The sons of Moses the man of God were counted as part of the tribe of Levi. The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. The descendants of Gershom: Shubael was the first. The descendants of Eliezer: Rehabiah was the first. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous. The sons of Izhar: Shelomith was the first. The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth. The sons of Uzziel: Micah the first and Ishiah the second.’ 1 Chronicles 23:12-20

Among the Levites, the descendants of Aaron were chosen for the priestly duties described in these verses. Being a member of the tribe of Levi wasn’t enough to be a priest, they had to be a descendant of this particular family of Aaron.

The priest’s duties were to sanctify the most holy things, burn incense before the Lord, minister to Him, Deuteronomy 10:8, and give the blessing in His name forever, Numbers 6:23.

The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer, Exodus 18:3. Aaron’s sons were priests, but the sons of Moses, his brother, were reckoned as simple Levites, and therefore their houses are here enumerated.

The Pulpit Commentary, says the following, concerning Moses, the man of God.

‘This title is distinguished by the presence of the article. The Speaker’s Commentary mentions it as occurring only nine times, of which five instances belong to Moses, Deuteronomy 33:1 / Joshua 14:6 / 2 Chronicles 30:16 / Ezra 3:2, with the present place, three instances show the title applied to David, 2 Chronicles 8:14 / Nehemiah 12:24 / Nehemiah 12:36, and once it is applied to Shemaiah, 1 Kings 12:22. Although the sons of Moses belonged, as is here said, to the tribe of Levi, they did not belong to that portion which discharged priestly duties.’


‘The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli: Eleazar and Kish. Eleazar died without having sons: he had only daughters. Their cousins, the sons of Kish, married them. The sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder and Jerimoth—three in all.’ 1 Chronicles 23:20-23

Ellicott, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The sons of Uzziel constituted two houses and classes. The nine clans of Kohathite Levites are again rehearsed in 1 Chronicles 24:20-25. The sons of Merari, Mahli, and Mushi, are mentioned in Exodus 6:19 / Numbers 3:33 / 1 Chronicles 6:19.

Eleazar dies, and had no sons and so, his house merged with that of the sons of Kish, who married his daughters according to the Law, Numbers 36:6-9. The sons of Mahli, then, were represented in David’s day by the house of Kish, 1 Chronicles 24:29.

The Pulpit commentary, says the following.

‘Here we read about the houses of Merari, contributing four houses, and, with the nine Gershonite and eleven Kohathite, adding up to twenty-four. Merari is the third son of Levi, Genesis 46:11. The Mahli and Mushi of above verse were possibly grandson and son of Merari, if we follow the guidance of 1 Chronicles 6:47. Yet it would seem far more natural to explain this last-quoted passage by our 1 Chronicles 6:23, which would then parallel it. Otherwise, we must account for the name of Mahli habitually standing first, as here, as in 1 Chronicles 6:19, also, and 1 Chronicles 24:26, as also in Exodus 6:19 / Numbers 3:20 / Numbers 3:33, etc., in all of which places the statement is as distinct as in this verse, that Mahli and Mushi were sons. This and the following verse must be compared particularly with 1 Chronicles 24:26-29, the Jaaziah of which passage was evidently no son of Merari, on a par with Mahli and Mushi, but a later descendant. His descendants were three, Shoham, Zakkur, and Ibri, Beno being no proper name, but signifying ‘his son’.

‘These were the descendants of Levi by their families—the heads of families as they were registered under their names and counted individually, that is, the workers twenty years old or more who served in the temple of the LORD. For David had said, “Since the LORD, the God of Israel, has granted rest to his people and has come to dwell in Jerusalem forever, the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service.” According to the last instructions of David, the Levites were counted from those twenty years old or more. The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the temple of the LORD: to be in charge of the courtyards, the side rooms, the purification of all sacred things and the performance of other duties at the house of God. They were in charge of the bread set out on the table, the special flour for the grain offerings, the thin loaves made without yeast, the baking and the mixing, and all measurements of quantity and size. They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals. They were to serve before the LORD regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them. And so the Levites carried out their responsibilities for the tent of meeting, for the Holy Place and, under their relatives the descendants of Aaron, for the service of the temple of the LORD.’ 1 Chronicles 23:24-32

Although it was stated that a Levite must be 30 years old to serve in the temple, 1 Chronicles 23:3, it appears that at the age of 20 years old, they could still qualify for certain work within the temple. It’s very possible this was some form of appreciation training until they got to 30 years of age, Numbers 8:24 / 2 Chronicles 31:17 / Ezra 3:8.

Notice that the duties for the sons of Aaron were very specific. They were to focus on everything that involved the sacrifices, from the gathering of the wood, preparing the animals to be sacrificed, and carrying out the actual sacrifices. All ceremonial washings and offerings were also in their care, Numbers 3:5-10 / Numbers 18:1-7.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Though the Levites were not allowed by themselves to offer sacrifice, yet there were many respects in which they assisted the priests when the sacrifice was offered, 2 Chronicles 29:34 / 2 Chronicles 35:11-12.’

2 Chronicles 29:25 tells us that David commanded this arrangements as he worked together with Gad, the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet. It also tells us that these arrangements were the commandment of the Lord by His prophets.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The Gargantuan significance of this chapter lies in the proof that during the life of David king of Israel, all of the extensive instructions and details written in the Book of Moses, The Pentateuch, were well known in Israel. As any good reference Bible will demonstrate, there is hardly a line in this chapter that does not tie in specifically with instructions in the Pentateuch. Furthermore, all of these instructions, except David’s use of instruments of music, were ancient, dating back to the times of Moses. They were not invented by David but honoured by him.’

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