1 Chronicles 23


Organization of the Officials (23:1 –26:32)

        • On chapters 23-26, ESV Study Bible writes, “[These chapters] detail David’s further preparations for Solomon’s rule, in the provision of religious, military, and political leadership. These chapters consist mainly of lists of temple personnel and royal officials, interspersed with narrative and descriptive notes. The primary interest lies in David’s organization of the Levites (23:3-32; 24:20-26:28) and the Aaronic priests (24:1-19) for temple worship and administration. David’s reorganization of the Levites’ work was a necessary consequence of the construction of the temple and central place it would have in the nation’s life. The structures of the temple ritual are shown to rest on royal authority.”

The Divisions of the Levites

      • When David was old and approaching the end of his life, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.

        • Guzik points out, “David had other sons who might also claim the throne of Israel after his death (especially Adonijah). 1 Kings 1:31-40 describes in greater detail how David made sure that Solomon and not Adonijah took the throne after his death.”

      • David assembled all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. The Levites who were 30 years old and above were counted, and there was a total of 38,000 men. David said, “Of all these, 24,000 are to be in charge of the work on Yahweh’s house, 6,000 are to be officials and judges, 4,000 are to be gatekeepers, and 4,000 are to praise Yahweh with the musical instruments I have supplied for worship.” Then David divided them into groups corresponding to Levi’s sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

        • ESV Study Bible explains that this census was, “A legitimate census of the Levites, as in Num 4:1-3. The age of commencing service (thirty…and upward) was later lowered to 20 (1 Chron 23:24, 27)…David organizes the Levites according to their traditional clans: the Gershonites (vv. 7-11), the Kohathites (vv. 12-20), and the Merarites (vv. 21-23).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “…The number of clerics far exceeded the requirements for a single Temple; the divisions provided a necessary time-sharing mechanism that enabled all the priests and Levites to serve in the Temple periodically (cp Luke 1:5, 8).”


        • How exactly we’re supposed to understand the relationship of Gershon’s familial divisions, particularly with respect to the sons of Ladan and Shimei, is perplexing. Here are two different reconciliation attempts:

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible understands there to be one Shimei (Gershon’s son) discussed. Since the NLT is a paraphrase which has more latitude in textual rendering, the translators give the following reading of vv. 7-11:

          • 7 The Gershonite family units were defined by their lines of descent from Libni[a] and Shimei, the sons of Gershon. 8 Three of the descendants of Libni were Jehiel (the family leader), Zetham, and Joel. 9 These were the leaders of the family of Libni. Three of the descendants of Shimei were Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran. 10 Four other descendants of Shimei were Jahath, Ziza,[b] Jeush, and Beriah. 11 Jahath was the family leader, and Ziza was next. Jeush and Beriah were counted as a single family because neither had many sons.

            • Note also that NLT opts for the name “Libni” in place of the Masoretic’s “Ladan.” The footnote explains that “Ladan” is a variant spelling of “Libni,” referencing 1 Chron 6:17 as support.

          • Other Bible versions which are not paraphrases obviously do not have this latitude and just translate the text as it stands. Therefore various commentators attempt to make sense of the passage. Commentators who disagree with the reconciliation that the NLT sides with opt for the understanding that the text is referencing two different individuals with the name Shimei- one who is Gershon’s son and one who is a relative of Ladan. Pulpit Commentary gives the following explanation:

          • Regarding v. 7: “The heads of the houses of the first Levite family, viz., of Gershon, are now enumerated. The subject occupies the five verses that close with the eleventh. The family of Gershon branches into two – the name of the one Laadan (so written again in 1 Chronicles 26:21; but in 1 Chronicles 6:17, 20, as well as in Exodus 6:17 and Numbers 3:18, written Libui), and the name of the other Shimei.”

          • Regarding v. 8: “This verse contains the names of the three so-called sons of Laadan, but (1 Chronicles 26:22) the last two appear to have been grandsons.”

          • Regarding v. 9: “This verse purports to give the three sons of Shimei, but not the Shimei of ver. 7, but of a descendant of Laadan. This is made clear, not only by the remaining clause of this verse, which says, “These were the chief of the fathers of Landau,” and again by the enumeration in ver. 10 of sons of that Shimei who is coupled with Landau in ver. 7, but also by a comparison of 1 Chronicles 24:22; 1 Chronicles 26:21-26. It is, of course, possible that the name stands here in error for some other name, but the supposition is gratuitous.”

          • What the correct reading is is anyone’s guess I suppose. NET Bible offers the following remarks on the most likely reason for the confusion, “Verses 8-10 are confusing. Two different lists of Shimei’s sons appear. In between these lists is the statement ‘these were the leaders of the family of Ladan,’ suggesting that the list just before this includes the sons of Ladan, not Shimei. But verse 8 already lists Ladan’s sons. Apparently the text as it stands is a conflation of differing traditions.”

      • Gershon’s sons were Ladan and Shimei.

      • Ladan’s sons: Jehiel was the first, then Zetham, and Joel- three in all.

      • Shimei’s sons: Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran- three in all.

      • These were the leaders of Ladan’s family.

      • Shimei’s sons: Jahath, Zizah, Jeush, and Beriah. These were Shimei’s sons, four in all.

        • We have another textual issue here with respect to the name I’ve rendered “Zizah” above. The Masoretic text has “Zina” here, but “Zizah” with reference to the exact same person one verse later in v. 11. NET Bible notes, “The MT reads ‘Zina’ here and ‘Zizah’ in v. 11. One Hebrew ms, the LXX, and the Vulgate, harmonizing the form of the name to that found in v. 11, read ‘Zizah’ here.” Some commentators argue that the two names are easily confused in Hebrew. However, Pulpit Commentary disagrees saying, “The Zina of this verse is Zizah in the very next verse, which difference of form cannot be accounted for by any mere clerical explanation.”

      • Jahath was the first, and Zizah was the second. However, Jeush and Beriah didn’t have many sons, so they were counted together as one ancestral house with one assignment.


      • Kohath’s sons were: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel- four in all.

      • Amram’s sons: Aaron and Moses.

      • Aaron and his descendants were set apart forever to consecrate the most holy items, to offer sacrifices before Yahweh, to serve Him, and to pronounce blessings in His name forever.

        • Guzik explains, “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 was not enough to be a priest; one had to be a descendant of this particular family of Aaron. This is a brief but powerful description of the duties of the priests of Israel.”

      • The descendants of Moses, the man of God, were considered Levites.

      • Moses’s sons were: Gershom and Eliezer.

      • The son of Gershom: Shubael was the first.

        • NET Bible notes, “The Hebrew text has the plural ‘sons,’ but only one name appears after this. The attached phrase ‘the oldest’ might indicate that Shubael was not Gershom’s only son, but note v. 17.” So, it could be that the plural refers to his descendants through his only son which are also considered his “sons.”

      • The son of Eliezer was Rehabiah, who was the first. Eliezer didn’t have any other sons, but Rehabiah had many sons.

      • Izhar’s son: Shelomith was the first.

        • Again, NET Bible points out, “The Hebrew text has the plural ‘sons,’ but only one name appears after this. The attached phrase ‘the oldest’ might indicate that Shelomith was not Izhar’s only son, but note v. 17.”

      • Hebron’s sons: Jeriah was the first, Amariah was the second, Jahaziel was the third, Jekameam was the fourth.

      • Uzziel’s sons: Micah was the first, and Ishiah was the second.


      • The sons of Merari were: Mahli and Mushi.

      • Mahli’s sons: Eleazar and Kish.

      • Eleazar died without having any sons, he had daughters only. But their cousins, Kish’s sons, married them.

      • Mushi’s sons: Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth- three in all.

David Changes the Duties of the Levites

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “David appears as the successor to Moses (see Numbers 4) in redefining the Levites’ duties for the new age of the temple. As assistants of the priests, the Levites have responsibility for the temple precincts and vessels, preparing the food for the offerings, and the service of music and praise that accompanies the times of sacrifice.”

      • These were the descendants of Levi by their ancestral houses, that is, the heads of families according to their registration by name in the headcount, who worked in the service of Yahweh’s house, and were 20 years old and above. Because David had said, “Since Yahweh, the God of Israel, has given His people rest and has come to live in Jerusalem forever, the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the items used in its service.” According to David’s last instructions, the Levites from age 20 years old and up were counted.

        • Guzik writes, “David first changed the year when service began for the Levites from 30 to 20…Now that the tabernacle and its furnishings would rest permanently at the temple David planned and Solomon would build, there could and should be a change in the duties of the Levites.”

      • The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in service of Yahweh’s house. They were to take care of the courtyards, the rooms, the ceremonial purification of all the holy items, and other duties related to the service of God’s house. They were also in charge of the showbread that is set out on the table, the fine flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baking and mixing, and all the measurements of quantity and size. They were also to stand every morning and offer thanks and praise to Yahweh. They were to do the same thing in the evening and whenever burnt offerings were offered to Yahweh on Sabbaths, new moon feasts, and appointed festivals. They were to serve before Yahweh regularly, in the proper number, and in the way prescribed for them. They were to carry out their responsibilities to the tent of meeting, to the Holy Place, and to their relatives- Aaron’s descendants- for the service of the house of Yahweh.

        • Guzik writes, “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. This was Holy Spirit guided organization and administration.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, which they accomplished in various ways: maintaining the Temple, setting out the sacred bread and other offerings, singing, and helping the priests with sacrifices. These duties were allotted to different family divisions of Levites (23:4-6).”

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