1 Chronicles 23–27 (NIV)✞: more lists!
I started off the book of Chronicles “cheating” by posting a huge, multi-chapter section of the book in one post because it was full of lists. And now I’m doing the same! (Only five chapters this time, as opposed to the nine I included together at the beginning.) I just don’t get a lot of value out of reading these lists in a detailed manner, so… I skip over them or skim through them.
So here’s what is included in 1 Chronicles 23–27.
23:1–6✞ is kind of an introduction to the section: David makes Solomon king over Israel, and counts all of the Levites who are going to be in charge of the work of the Temple (when it gets built). We’re told that he divides them into divisions corresponding to the sons (or clans) of Levi: Gershon (23:7–11✞), Kohath (23:12–20✞), and Merari (23:21–23✞). As part of the listing of Kohath, the author(s) also call out Aaron’s role in particular:
15 … 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. 14 The sons of Moses the man of God were counted as part of the tribe of Levi.
He also gives some thoughts as to how (and why) the Levites are to serve:
25 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, 26 the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service.” …
28 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. 29 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. 30 They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening 31 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.
32 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 23:25–32 (NIV)✞, some verses elided
In Chapter 24✞ we’re given a full list of the Levites. (I think; the NIV headings list 24:1–19 as “The Division of Priests” and 20–31 as “The Rest of the Levites.”) Interestingly, in giving the list, it’s mentioned that “Nadab and Abihu died before their father did, and they had no sons,” (24:2✞), which is a very anodyne summary of the events of Leviticus 10!
Knowing what we know of David, and how much music was a part of his life, it shouldn’t surprise us that Chapter 25✞ gets dedicated to a very detailed list of musicians.
Then, in Chapter 26✞, we get a listing of Gatekeepers and Treasurers (and other officials). While Chapter 25 makes perfect sense—of course David is going to devote time and energy to outlining the musicians for the Temple—but Chapter 26 feels, to the modern reader (or maybe just me?) a bit dry and overly detailed. I can think of three options as to why this much detail might be given:
- Because the Temple is important – so much so that no detail is insignificant to the Israelites
- Because the role of Gatekeeper is something more significant than what I think of when I hear the term “gatekeeper”
- Maybe both: A “gatekeeper” might very well be more than just someone who’s standing at the gate, but the Temple is also important enough that no detail is insignificant!
Finally, in Chapter 27✞, we get some additional lists, having nothing to do with the Temple:
- Verses 1–15 list the divisions of the army
- Verses 16–24 list the leaders of the tribes of Israel
- Verses 25–34 list the king’s overseers
And, in case we’re wondering why sometimes a census is good and sometimes it’s bad, the author(s) cover this as well:
23 David did not take the number of the men twenty years old or less, because the LORD had promised to make Israel as numerous as the stars in the sky. 24 Joab son of Zeruiah began to count the men but did not finish. God’s wrath came on Israel on account of this numbering, and the number was not entered in the book of the annals of King David.
Given that the book of Chronicles is transitioning from the reign of David to that of Solomon, chapters 23–26 are obviously in anticipation of Solomon beginning work on the Temple, while Chapter 27 feels like a summary of the kingdom that David is handing over to his son.
What feels like a dry list of names to us would have been much more interesting to God’s people when this book was first written: coming back home to the Promised Land, where the Temple had been—where God Himself dwelt with His people!—was going to be a big deal. Most of these people would have never seen the Temple in the first place. (I’m sure I remember a time when God’s people rebuild the Temple, and some of the older people there weep because they were old enough that they had seen the original, but I can’t remember where it was…) So I won’t go as far as to say that 1 Chronicles 23–27 would be exciting for them to read, but it would be interesting at the very least! For the church-going Christians who read this blog, imagine a law is passed in your country that immediately bans all church services, and all the churches get locked, so you never see the inside of a church again for 70 years, and then you’re told church services are going to be allowed again, and someone writes a book about how everyone used to take part in the services in your local church before it had been shut down. The specific names of the people wouldn’t matter much to you, except that it makes the experience more real.
That analogy falls down in the modern context because every local church works differently, but for the Israelites the Temple was the place where God dwelt, and where the Levites ministered before Him.