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By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons) DD
The Descendants Of Levi - the High Priestly House, the Levites, The Singers, The Sons of Aaron, All Their Dwellingplaces (6.1-81).
In this chapter the descendants of Levi, through his sons Kohath,Gershon and Merari, are detailed, commencing with the descend of the High Priestly line of Eliezer. This is followed by details of those who were set over the ministry of song, and the activities of Aaron and his son. Full details are then supplied of their dwellingplaces.
THE DESCENT OF THE HIGH PRIESTLY LINE FROM LEVI AND AARON (6.1-15).
In introducing the sons of Levi the Chronicler’s first concern is to demonstrate the High Priestly line as descended from Levi (tribe), Kohath (sub-tribe), Amram (clan) and Aaron (first High Priest). In view of the fact that one of Levi’s sons is called Gershon here, and Gershom from verse 16 onwards, it would appear that verses 1-15 were taken from a separate record, and that the Chronicler was loth to alter it.
The Sons Of Levi (6.1).
Note that these details are given again in verse 16 as a preparation for the introduction of all three sons. Initially the emphasis will be on the line of High Priests from Aaron to the High Priest at the time of the Exile.
6.1 ‘The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.’
Levi had three sons, Gershon (from now on called Gershom), Kohath and Merari. It was from the line of Kohath that Aaron came.
The Sons Of Kohath, the High Priestly Line Through Aaron (6.2-15).
After introductory words briefly outlining the family of Amram, the ancestor of Aaron and Moses, we will now have a list of the line which would eventually monopolise the High Priesthood down to the Exile. The High Priest was, in fact, usually called ‘the Priest’ in line with usage elsewhere, but see Numbers 35.25, 28 and compare 35.32.
Initially the High Priesthood was passed on to Eliezer, the eldest surviving son of Aaron, followed by Phinehas and his descendants (the ‘sons of Eleazar’). But at some point in time it passed into the hands of ‘the sons of Ithamar’. This was possibly due to a time when the descendant of Eleazar was too young to take office. Josephus tells us that the change took place at the death of Uzzi. The ‘sons of Eleazer’ would continue to be seen as priests, although possibly not acting at the Central Sanctuary, but the primacy now rested with the ‘sons of Ithamar’. Thus there are names known to us from the book of Samuel, who were High Priests and sons of Ithamar, e.g. Eli (1 Samuel 1.9); Ahi-jah ben Ahitub, and thus also Ahitub before him (1 Samuel 14.3); Ahi-melech ben Ahitub (probably identical with Ahi-jah, with Melech replacing Jah -1 Samuel 21.1; 22.11); Abiathar ben Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22.20; 23.9); and Ahimelech ben Abiathar (24.6; 2 Samuel 6.17) were seen as high priests, the last two alongside Zadok. But they are not included in the list here because they were ‘sons of Ithamar’.
Then when Abiathar fled to David, and Ahimelech ben Ahitub was murdered, Zadok, a ‘son of Eliezer’, was presumably made high priest by Saul, with his descendants continuing in office. Thus when David triumphed there were two high priests, Abiathar and Zadok. Under Solomon both Zadok and Ahimelech ben Abiathar were named as high priests, but the latter was secondary due to his father’s error in supporting Adonijah. Or it may be that he had deputised for Zadok at the Day of Atonement, and thus have received the title ‘High Priest’. Confusion can arise because Ahitub, the father of Ahimelech, had the same name as his nephew, Ahitub the father of Zadok. But it was quite common for an uncle and his nephew to have the same name as we have seen previously.
The Sons Of Kohath.
6.2 ‘And the sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel.’
Kohath the son of Levi, had four named descendants, Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel, but only the descendants of Amram will be detailed. Whether Amram was the direct son of Kohath, or was the direct father of Aaron and Moses we do not know, but in view of the time scale he could not have been both (compare the number of men in the genealogy of Joshua from Ephraim to Joshua - 7.20-27 - which confirms this).
The Sons Of Amram.
Amram may be named because he was clan leader, or it may be because he was their actual father of Moses and Aaron (in which case he was not the actual son of Kohath. This is also evident from the fact that at the time of the Exodus the Kohathites numbered 8.600 (Numbers 3.28), which, even granted that some were family servants and slaves, could hardly have occurred in two generations).
6.3a ‘And the children (‘sons’) of Amram: Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam.’
Those descended from Amram were Aaron, Moses and Miriam. Notice the use of ‘sons’ to include a female. But the emphasis here is all on Aaron as the God-chosen ‘Priest’. Moses is mentioned because of his importance. Miriam is mentioned as a prophetess, and as a well known Biblical figure. But neither feature further.
The Sons Of Aaron.
6.3b ‘And the sons of Aaron: Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.’
Aaron had four sons, but Nadab and Abihu were slain for offering ‘false fire’ before YHWH. Thus Aaron’s mantle passed, initially, to Eliezer and his descendants. Eliezer was High Priest when the land of Canaan was divided up by lot (Joshua 14.1; 21.2). He died some time after Joshua (Joshua 24.33), and was replaced by Phinehas (Judges 20.27-28).
The Line Of Eleazar.
We now have a list of Eliezer’s descendants, but there is no suggestion that all became High Priests. Certainly Phinehas succeeded him as High Priest, but after that we are left to ‘surmise’, for at some stage Eli, son of Ithamar, became High Priest, and he was followed by Ahitub, Ahimelech, Abiathar and Ahimelech II.
The genealogy of Ezra in Ezra 7.1-5 omits the names from Meraioth to the second Azariah, and also the name of Jehozadak. (It also omits Joshua the High Priest). This was presumably in order to prevent the list becoming too long. Furthermore, Ezra could not have been literally the son of the Seraiah mentioned below, because that Seraiah was executed before the final Exile (2 Kings 25.18-21) whereas Ezra was born considerably later. Thus either ‘son’ must mean ‘descendant’, or alternatively there was another Seraiah of whom Ezra was son, but in that case the first Seraiah is omitted.
Once again we have evidence that in genealogies what were considered unimportant names for the purpose for which the genealogy was prepared were omitted. Furthermore it must also be in doubt as to whether this list that follows is complete. In terms of the length of time which passed there would appear to have been deliberate omissions. (And note that in the list words in brackets are not part of the text).
What the does this list consist of? It very probably consists of a list of the direct descendants of Eliezer (although ‘begat’ could include adoption) in order to demonstrate that certain High Priests were legitimate ‘sons of Eliezer’. It does not claim to be a list of High Priests, although it possibly becomes so later on in the list. Indeed, the list omits (or includes under another name) such well known High Priests as Jehoiada (22.10; 24.12; 2 Kings 11), Urijah (2 Kings 16.10), and possibly Azariah (under Hezekiah - 2 Chronicles 31.10).
Note the high point and the low point. Azariah II (or Johanan) executed the Priest’s office in the house which Solomon built in Jerusalem, the first Temple (whilst it does not actually say that he did it in the days of Solomon that would appear to be the purpose of the note). Jehozadak executed the Priest’s office at the Exile, when the Temple was deserted. He was the father of Joshua (Jeshua) the High Priest (Haggai 1.1, 12, 14; 2.2, 4; Zechariah 6.11; Ezra 3.2), but as Joshua is not mentioned the Chronicler clearly wants to lay the emphasis on the sad end that came to the High Priesthood. The Temple lay in ruins.
It will be noted that if Azariah II was the High Priest in the time of Solomon, there are only eight names up to the time of the Exile to cover roughly 380 years, an unlikely possibility. It is clear that a number of names have been omitted.
From information provided in the book of Ezra we could possibly extend this list as follows:
Jehozadak, Joshua ben Jehozadak, Seraiah, Ezra ben Seraiah, although ‘Ezra, the son of Seraiah’ may simply be referring back to the Seraiah listed above.
Note On Azariah.
It will be noted from the list that Azariah I was the grandson of Zadok, whilst Azariah II (Azariah I’s grandson) is probably seen as acting as High Priest in the Temple in the time of Solomon (although it may have been Johanan). Some have questioned whether this could have been so. But if Zadok begat Ahimaaz when he was, say, sixteen, before Zadok became High Priest in the latter part of Saul’s reign (presumably as the oldest male member of his family), at the advent of David Ahimaaz could have been twenty six years old, and Azariah I ten years old. Thus when Solomon came to the throne Ahimaaz’s son, could have been around fifty years old (David reigned for forty years), with Zadok still surviving (1 Kings 4.4) and being around eighty two. Johanan could have been thirty four and Azariah II eighteen. If 1 Kings 4.2 refers to Azariah I, and that is by no means certain, he seemingly became a prince/governor in Solomon’s kingdom which would tie in with him being fifty years old. (It could, however, refer to Azariah II as ‘a son (descendant) of Zadok’ or to Azariah I’s uncle as a direct son of Zadok). If both Azariah I and Johanan died before the aged Zadok, (who died during Solomon’s reign), Johanan’s son Azariah II could have become High Priest on the death of Zadok at say the age of twenty eight upwards (we do not know what age limit applied at that time). Azariah I was not necessarily ever High Priest. He might have died before Zadok did. Of course, if the note referred to Johanan there is even less problem
End of Note.
THE SONS OF THE THREE SONS OF LEVI (6.16-19a).
Having established the line of the High Priestly family of the ‘sons of Eliezer’ the Chronicler now concentrates on the next generation of the three sons of Levi.
The Sons Of Levi (6.16).
6.16 ‘The sons of Levi: Gershom, Kohath, and Merari.’
Once again we are given the names of the sons of Levi. Compare verse 1. They are Gershom, Kohath and Merari, and they are now dealt with in that order. Note the change to GershoM. This suggests that the information was obtained from a different record.
The Sons Of Gershom, Son Of Levi (6.17).
6.17 ‘And these are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei.’
We are now given the names of the sons of Gershom, which are Libni and Shimei (compare Exodus 6.17; Numbers 3.18). The name Shimei was popular in Israel, especially among the Levites. This Shimei was the father of the Shimeites (Numbers 3.21). His sons are not listed here but it is possible that it is his descendants who are listed in 23.10. (However, 23.9 gives us the names of the sons of a Shimei who was of the house of Ladan in the time of David, as is apparent from that verse, and 23.10 may in fact be listing his later descendants (‘sons’)).
Libni’s descendants are listed below (verses 19-20). Libni was the ‘father’ of the Libnites (Numbers 3.21; 26.58). (There is no good reason for linking him with Ladan in 23.7-8). Libni was also the name of a grandson of Merari (again demonstrating the way in which the same name was given to uncle and nephew).
The Sons Of Kohath, Son Of Levi (6.18).
6.18 ‘And the sons of Kohath were Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel.’
This is a repetition of the information in 6.2. We are again given the names of the four sons of Kohath, who formed four major clans, the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites and the Uzzielites (Numbers 3.27). From Amram and the Amramites came the family of the Aaronides. From Izhar and the Izharites came the family of Korah, and the sons of Korah (Exodus 6.21; Numbers 16.1; Psalms 42-49 etc.).
The repetition with 6.2 may arise from using different ancient records in each case, and not wanting to meddle with them. Or it may be that having mentioned the sons of Gershom he wanted to reintroduce the sons of Kohath along with him, which he will then follow by listing the sons of Merari, thus giving the names of the descendants of all three together.
The Sons Of Merari, Son Of Levi (6.19a).
6.19a The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.’
The sons of Merari are now stated to be Mahli and Mushi. From them came the families of the Mahlites and the Mushites (Numbers 3.33). The descendants of Mahli are given in verses 29-30.
THE FAMILIES OF THE LEVITES (6.19b-30).
We are now given details of the further descendants of the Levites.
6.19b ‘And these are the families of the Levites according to their fathers.’
The further descent of the leading men of the families of Levi are now given.
The Descendants Of Gershom, Son of Levi (6.20-21).
The families springing from Gershom are now given in terms of the names of their ‘fathers’ who are descendants of Gershom through Libni.
6.20-21 ‘Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, Jeatherai his son.’
Nothing further is known about these descendants of Gershom
The Descendants Of Kohath, Son Of Levi.
The families springing from Kohath are now given in terms of the names of their ‘fathers’ who are descendants of Kohath through Amminadab. Previously we have seen that the sons of Kohath were Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel, and that Korah was the descendant of Izhar. It is thus clear that Amminadab is either another name for Izhar, or is an omitted descendant of Izhar in the period between him and Korah (As with Amram and Aaron, Korah could not be the actual son of Izhar, the time gap between them (the stay in Egypt) is too great. Thus Korah may have been the actual son of Amminadab, who was a descendant of Izhar and Kohath).
It is true that in verses 37-38 where we have a similar genealogy, the name of Amminadab is also not present in the lineage of Korah, for it reads ‘the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel.’ But as names are certainly omitted, as the time gaps reveal, this is not conclusive. All it brings out is that in verse 22 the Chronicler was concerned to emphasise the name of Korah’s actual father. And we note that in the lineage in verses 37-38 the name of Elkanah is also dropped, leaving Ebiasaph as ‘the son’ of Korah, whereas earlier he was said to be the ‘son of Elkanah’. But this causes no problem for as we know ‘son of’ is not to be taken literally but as meaning ‘descendant of’. Thus again there is no problem with Amminadab’s name being absent. It was the consequence of a foreshortened genealogy.
6.22-24 ‘The sons of Kohath: Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, ELKANAH his son, and Ebiasaph his son, and Assir his son, Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son.’
Here then Korah is seen to be the actual son of Amminadab and descended from Kohath. The Chronicler is concerned to give us this extra information.
Note that in this line of descent of Levi we find the name of Elkanah. This Elkanah is ‘the son of’ Assir who was one of the ‘sons of Korah’ (Exodus 6.24) who ‘did not die’ in the catastrophe, as mentioned in Numbers 26.11. But we know also of an Elkanah who was directly a son of Korah. As so often Elkanah received the name of his father’s brother. His son’s name was Ebiasaph. But he had other descendants who will be next to be dealt with. This may be because the Chronicler saw him as one who had escaped catastrophe, a salutary lesson to the returnees from Exile, but more importantly it was because he was the ancestor of Samuel.
A further problem in this list of descent is that Tahath had a son named Uriel, who had a son named Uzziah, who had a son named Shaul. In contrast, in verses 33-38 Tahath has a son named Zephaniah, who had a son named Azariah, who had a son named Joel. This could have arisen:
The Descendants Of Elkanah, Descendant of Kohath.
This slightly cryptic passage must be handled carefully. It is possible that the sons in verse 25 are the sons of the Elkanah who was the direct son of Korah (Exodus 6.24). The Chronicler has this habit of suddenly leaping to a descendant who has not been mentioned. He may have expected his readers to realise this because of his sons’ names (note the words ‘as for’ which suggest that he is speaking of a second Elkanah). . The next verse would then deal with the descendants of his nephew Elkanah, Elkanah the son of Assir.
Alternately verse 25 may be referring to Elkanah’s actual sons, and verse 16 to his later descendants.
6.25 ‘And the sons of Elkanah: Amasai, and Ahimoth.’
As mentioned this may be Elkanah, the son of Korah, who escaped the catastrophe (Numbers 26.11). His sons names were Amasai and Ahimoth (whose name ‘my kinsman is death’ may be a salutary reminder of the catastrophe).
6.26 ‘As for Elkanah, the sons of Elkanah: Zophai his son, and Nahath his son, Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son.’
If the above be correct then here we have a list of descendants of Elkanah the son of Assir (verse 23) through a second son Zophai (his first being Ebiasaph). It will be noted that his final descendant is also named Elkanah, who is the son of Jeroham. Elkanah the son of Jeroham was the name of Samuel’s father (1 Samuel 1.1). And the name of Samuel follows next here. This would certainly explain why Elkanah is seen as so important in the genealogy. He was the ancestor of Samuel, the prophet and judge of Israel. It is also noteworthy that Samuel’s two sons were named Joel and Abijah (1 Samuel 8.2) as here.
It is no bar to this that Elkanah, Samuel’s father was an ‘Ephrathite’, for Levites often identified themselves with the people among whom they sojourned. He could have been a Levite and an Ephrathite. The main problem lies in the fact that we have a detailed genealogy of Samuel’s father in 1 Samuel 1.1 which appears to differ from those here. In 1 Samuel 1.1 He was:
The last two are parallel genealogies in 1 Chronicles 6 referring to the same people, and yet it is immediately apparent that the last is closest to the first. This suggests that the names are simply variations on each other. Ziph, Zophai, and Zuph have the same main consonants (zph) which could be played with in name play. If we reverse Nahath and remove the initial N we get Tah which makes the likeness with Tohu and Toha even closer (letters in names were often deliberately reversed to get over a point). More difficult is that Elihu means ‘my God is he’, Eliab means ‘my God is father’, and Eliel means ‘my God is God’, although we can see how they might connect. An original ‘my God is He’ might well be altered to ‘my God is father’ or ‘my God is God’ in order to bring out its significance. Our conclusion must therefore be that they all refer to the same persons.
The differences in the names bring out the fact that the information is from different sources which the Chronicler has made use of.
The Sons Of Samuel (6.28).
The sons of Samuel are now listed but with the firstborn’s name omitted. This may have been deliberate, making the firstborn anonymous in order to place the emphasis on Abijah. Or it may be a consequence of that favourite resort of scholars, the copyist’s error (which occur less often than is often suggested).
6.28 ‘And the sons of Samuel: the first-born, (who according to verse 33 is named Joel), and the second Abijah.’
These parallel the names of the sons of Samuel as found in 1 Samuel 8.2.
The Descendants Of Merari, Son Of Levi.
Having supplied details of the descendants of Gershom (verses 20-21) and Kohath (verses 22-28), we are now supplied with the details of the descendants of Merari, through his son Libni.
6.29-30 ‘The sons of Merari: Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzzah his son, Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, Asaiah his son.’
Merari had a son named Mahli, who had a son named Libni. It will be noted that Merari’s grandson is named Libni after his uncle (verse 17), a regular feature of the time. Libni’s son is then called Shimei after Libni’s other uncle (verse 17). If there are gaps in the genealogy Asaiah may be one of the Levites who helped to bring the Ark to Jerusalem in the time of David (15.11). This would tie in with verse 31.
THE LEADING SINGERS OF THE HOUSE OF GOD.
The Names Of Those Whom David Set Over The Service Of Song In The House Of YHWH (6.31-47).
The names of those set over the service of song in the house of YHWH were Heman, the singer, the son of Joel, the Kohathite (verse 33), his ‘brother’ Levite Asaph, the son of Berechiah, the Gershomite, and Ethan, the son of Kushaiah, the Merarite. In other words they were the lead singers and possibly the choirmasters and conductors of music and instruments (see 15.17). But they would be joined in their worship by the secondary singers as verse 44 suggests.
6.31 ‘And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of YHWH, after that the ark had rest.’
The names are now to be given of those responsible to lead the singing in the house of YHWH, that is, in the first place, in the Special Tent that David set up in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the covenant YHWH (2 Samuel 6.17). It was there that the Ark ‘found rest’ after all its travels. No longer would it be moved around from place to place. Possibly this was seen as indicating to Israel that at last YHWH was ‘home’.
6.32 ‘And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of YHWH in Jerusalem: and they waited on their office according to their order.’
It is stressed that initially they ministered with song (and music) ‘before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting’. It was their privilege to lead and encourage the worship of YHWH. This description of the house of YHWH could indicate the official Tabernacle set up first in Hebron then in Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1.3). But it is far more likely that it means the Tent which David set up in Jerusalem where the Ark was now at rest.
‘They waited on their office according to their order.’ Seemingly they each had responsibility at different times, in order to ensure a continual flow of music, although at the great Feasts they would probably operate together.
6.33a ‘And these are they who waited, and their sons.’
The names are about to be given of the chief singers. First was Heman, son of Joel, who was descended from Samuel, and therefore shared his genealogy. He was the leading singer. Asaph stood on his right hand (verse 39), and Ethan on his left (verse 44). His genealogy is now given in order to demonstrate that he was a Levite.
Leading Singer Heman, son of Joel, son of Kohath, son of Levi (6.33b-38).
6.33b-38 ‘Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel (Eliab), the son of Toah (Nahath), the son of Zuph (Zophai), the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath (Ahimoth), the son of Amasai, the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel (Shaul), the son of Azariah Uzziah), the son of Zephaniah (Uriel), the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, (Asir and Elkanah missing), the son of Korah, (Amminadab missing), the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel.’
It will be noted that his genealogy is that of Samuel, as extended. Theoretically is should parallel verses 22-28. The words in brackets are not part of the text but demonstrate how verses 22-28 differ. The missing names may simply have been deliberately omitted as not required. The differences in names we have already considered above on verses 34-35 and on verses 22-24.
Second Leading Singer Asaph, son of Berechiah son of Gershom, son of Levi (6.39-43).
Asaph stood on Heman’s right hand at important events. He was therefore the second leading singer, slightly below Heman. The main purpose of the genealogy was in order to demonstrate that he was a true born Levite.
6.39-43 ‘And his brother Asaph, who stood on his right hand, even Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea, the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah, the son of Malchijah, the son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei, the son of Jahath, (Libni is missing), the son of Gershom, the son of Levi.’
Asaph too is demonstrated to be a true born Levite by his genealogy. But it will be noted that Gershom’s own son Libni is missing, no doubt deliberately. The genealogy jumps straight to his grandson. It is thus shown to be an incomplete genealogy, although sufficient for its purpose. A contrast can be made with verses 20-21 which reveal a very shortened genealogy as follows: Levi, Gershom, Libni, Jahath, Zimmah, Joah, Iddo, Zerah, Jeatherai. As both genealogies are admitted to be incomplete it is difficult to be dogmatic about them. The genealogy in verses 20-21 possibly includes names omitted in that of verse 39-43 and vice versa. Indeed, two different Zerahs may be in mind, and with Joah to Jeatherai in verses 20-21 the genealogy may take the line well beyond the time of David. Or it may be that Ethan and Joah were different sons of Zimmah. Both lists warn us that names are missing from most genealogies of the ancients.
The Third Leading Singer, Ethan the son of Kishi, the son of Merari, the son of Levi (6.44-47).
Ethan stood on Heman’s left hand. He was the third leading singer, probably a little lower than Heman but equal with Asaph. It would appear to be suggested that some of his fellow Merarite Levite singers stood with him. He was thus the leader of a choir. His genealogy is now given in order to prove that he was a son of Levi.
Elsewhere the third singer is named as Jeduthun, compare 25.1; 2 Chronicles 35.15; Nehemiah 11.17, which may well be an alternative name for Ethan, with Yah introduced into the name.
6.44-47 ‘And on the left hand their brothers the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi, the son of Abdi, the son of Malluch, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Amaziah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of Amzi, the son of Bani, the son of Shemer, the son of Mahli, the son of Mushi, the son of Merari, the son of Levi.’
This genealogy differs with that in 39-30 from Mahli onwards. Shemer and Libni may both have been sons of Mahli, and the genealogy of Ethan thus took a different line. But it proves what is necessary, that Ethan was a true born son of Levi..
THE GENERAL SERVICE OF THE LEVITES.
The remainder of the Levites had the responsibility for all the service at the house of God apart from the priestly functions.
6.48 ‘And their brothers the Levites were appointed for all the service of the tabernacle of the house of God.’
This would include acting as security, checking those who entered, and watching over the Temple treasures (doorkeepers is a slight understatement).
THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD.
In verse 49 ‘Aaron and his sons’ indicates also his descendants. From Aaron onwards only Aaronides were permitted to act as sacrificing priests, under the leadership of ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest).
6.49 ‘But Aaron and his sons offered on the altar of burnt-offering, and on the altar of incense, for all the work of the most holy place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.’
The offering up of offerings and sacrifices on the brazen altar, and of incense on the altar of incense, was to be the sole prerogative of Aaron and his descendants. They alone could enter the Holy Place, that is the Sanctuary itself, called here ‘the most holy place’ in contrast to the outer courts. They alone could offer offerings and sacrifices in order to make atonement of Israel. And the Priest alone, or his appointed deputy, could enter the Most Holy Place in order to present the offerings on the Day of Atonement. All this was in accordance with the command of Moses.
The Sons Of Aaron (6.50-53).
The descent of the leading sons of Aaron is now given. It parallels 6.3-8 exactly, showing the care with which the genealogy was treated. The emphasis here is on the legitimacy of the High Priesthood.
6.50 ‘And these are the sons of Aaron: Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son, Abishua his son, Bukki his son, Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son, Meraioth his son, Amariah his son, Ahitub his son, Zadok his son, Ahimaaz his son.’
The fact that it ends at Ahimaaz may suggest that the record used by the Chronicler dates from that time when he was still High Priest in the time of Solomon. Note that he does not seek to add to it. He presents his sources exactly.
THE ALLOTMENTS OF CITIES TO THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES OUT OF THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL.
We are now given details of what cities were allotted to the priests and Levites so that they could carry out their functions of teaching the widespread people, watching over their religious life, and the gathering of the tithes as necessary. This would be an assurance to the returnees from Exile that God was able to make provision for all their religious life and activities, and remind them of their responsibility to pay their tithes as laid down in the Law of Moses. As Malachi brings out, this was a weak point among the returnees (Malachi 3.8).
6.54a ‘Now these are their dwelling-places according to their encampments in their borders:’
Details of the dwelling places of the priest and Levites will now be given. They had to be scattered throughout Israel as sojourners in order to fulfil their functions.
Allocation To The Sons Of Aaron (6.54b-60).
The sons of Aaron were allocated cities in the tribal areas of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. The Chronicler refers to these as ‘cities of refuge’ because they were the cities in which the priests found refuge. He is not using the phrase in the technical sense, although Hebron was also technically a City of Refuge. These cities were given to the priests as a refuge together with their ‘suburbs’, that is the land immediately around the city for their flocks and herds (see Numbers 35.4-5).
6.54b-55 ‘To the sons of Aaron, of the families of the Kohathites (for theirs was the first lot), to them they gave Hebron in the land of Judah, and its suburbs round about it; but the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh.’
The first example is Hebron in the land of Judah. This was given to the priests, with its near surrounding land. But the land outside that restricted area, the countryside (‘fields’), was given to Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, along with the neighbouring towns and villages. This is basically loosely based on Joshua 21.10-12, and may well be an accurate rendering of his source, a source which had utilised Joshua 21.. And, indeed, Hebron would be too large for just the priests in the time of Aaron’s literal sons. Thus occupation of the city would be shared with the men of Judah, which explains why David could later occupy it (2 Samuel 2.1-4).
Cities Allotted To The Priests As ‘Cities Of Refuge’ In Judah (6.57-59).
6.60 ‘And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Geba with its suburbs, and Allemeth with its suburbs, and Anathoth with its suburbs. All their cities throughout their families were thirteen cities.’
This continues to be a loose extraction from Joshua 21.17-19, or a copy of a record made from Joshua 21.17-19. It will be noted that Gibeon is omitted. This may well have been deliberate because of the stain on Gibeon’s name due to its original deceitfulness. Along with the omission of Juttah it prevents the number of cities from being literally thirteen, but the number may have been retained as an indication that not all the cities have been mentioned, and that two have been deliberately omitted.
The Cities Allotted To The Sons Of Levi (6.61-64).
The sons of Kohath, apart from the priests, were given ten cities among the half-tribe of Manasseh, that is Manasseh west of Jordan (and also Ephraim). The sons of Gershom were given thirteen cities in northern Israel and in Bashan. The sons of Merari were given twelve cities in Reuben, Gad and Zebulun. This information was originally obtained from Joshua 21.5-7 as deliberately amended, probably by the Chronicler’s source.
6.61 ‘And to the rest of the sons of Kohath were given by lot, out of the family of the tribe, out of the half-tribe, the half of Manasseh, ten cities.’
To the remainder of the sons of Kohath were given ten cities. This is very much an emended form of Joshua 21.5. All reference to Ephraim and Dan has been deliberately omitted although the number of their cities has been retained (and compare verse 66). Interestingly the same trait is found in Revelation 7.5-8. Reference to Dan has also been omitted by the Chronicler in chapters 1-9. This can be put down to the fact that Dan was at the forefront in establishing a rival Tabernacle (Judges 18.30), and later in housing in that Tabernacle the golden calf (1 Kings 12.29-30). In other words they were an encouragement to the very syncretism which was abhorred by the returned Exiles and had to be eschewed.
6.62 ‘And to the sons of Gershom, according to their families, out of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.’
To the sons of Gershom were given thirteen cities. This verse is a loose rendering of Joshua 21.6, again probably copied from the Chronicler’s source. It is a reminder of God’s provision for His servants.
6.63 ‘To the sons of Merari were given by lot, according to their families, out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.’
To the sons of Merari were given twelve cities out of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.
6.64 ‘And the children of Israel gave to the Levites the cities with their suburbs.’
Thus the Levites, God’s servants, were fully provided for by the children of Israel. They received both cities and grazing land. And the strong hint is that the returnees should in the same way maintain the priests and Levites.
THE PROVISION FOR THE LEVITES IS DESCRIBED IN DETAIL NAMING THE CITIES.
Having previously given a summary of what was given to the Levites it is now spelled out in detail. Only the provision for the priests is not detailed because that has already been done in verses 57-60. But it is also mentioned here so as to give the complete picture in one place.
Provision Of Cities For The Priests (6.65).
Reference is now made back to verses 57-60.
6.65 ‘And they gave by lot out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, and out of the tribe of the children of Benjamin, these cities which are mentioned by name.’
That is which were mentioned by name in verses 57-60. They were the allotment from Judah, Simeon and Benjamin.
Provision Of Cities For The Other Sons Of Kohath (6.66-70).
Once again the Chronicler speaks of these cities as cities of refuge. But he does not mean by that the technical Cities of Refuge for the refuge of a manslayer (listed in Joshua 20.7-8 as Shechem in Ephraim, Kedesh in Galilee, Hebron in Judah, Bezer in Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead and Golan in Bashan). He is rather referring to cities in which the priests and Levites will find refuge.
6.66 ‘And some of the families of the sons of Kohath had cities of their borders out of the tribe of Ephraim.’
Some of the families of the sons of Kohath received cities in the tribal area of Ephraim, in order to fulfil their responsibilities there. The remainder received them in the half tribe of Manasseh. No mention is made of Dan.
6.67-69 ‘And they gave to them the cities of refuge, Shechem in the hill-country of Ephraim with its suburbs; Gezer also with its suburbs, and Jokmeam with its suburbs, and Beth-horon with its suburbs, and Aijalon with its suburbs, and Gath-rimmon with its suburbs.’
The cities to be received by the Kohathites in Ephraim according to Joshua 21.21-22 were: Shechem, Gezer, Kibzaim and Beth-horon. Both Aijalon and Gath-rimmon were in Dan. Here in Chronicles Gibzaim is either alternatively named Jokmeam, or was replaced by Jokmeam because Gibzaim was not accessible to the Kohathites due to its Canaanite inhabitants. Cities did regularly have a number of names as they were viewed from the viewpoints of different peoples. There were no maps and no fixed designations. The Danite cities Aijalon and Gath-rimmon are here described as Ephraimite, which indeed they may have become when a large part of Dan moved northward to Laish because of Philistine pressure (Judges 18.11, 27-29). However, the name of Dan may have been avoided because, as we have already seen, the Chronicler, and possibly his source, go to great efforts to avoid referring to Dan.
6.70 ‘And out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Aner with its suburbs, and Bileam with its suburbs, for the rest of the family of the sons of Kohath.’
The remainder of the Kohathites received as cities in Manasseh Aner and Bileam. Joshua 21.25 names these as Taanach (possibly known popularly as Aner?) and Gath-rimmon (shared with Dan (verse 69) and possibly known locally as Bileam?). The names Aner and Bileam (also possibly known as Ibleam?) presumably come from his source. Aner and Taanach may have been two names for the same city. Alternatively it is possible that circumstances may have forced Israel to offer alternative sites. Taanach was, for example, for a long time a large Canaanite city, and would not initially have been accessible to the Levites (Joshua 17.12-13). It was some considerable time before Israel were strong enough to take over these large cities which guarded the trade route to Egypt. But the important point that comes out in all this is that God’s servants were provided for.
‘Bileam’ is possibly the same city as Ibleam on the borders of Manasseh (Joshua 17.11), 16 kilometres (10 miles) SE of Megiddo. If so it was on the road to Beth-shean (2 Kings 19.27, and occurs in Egyptian lists as Ybr‘m. It is now known as Khirbet Bil‘ameh.
Provision For The Gershomites (6.71-76).
We are now given details of the cities which were provided for the Gershomites, for which compare Joshua 21.27-32. Where they are different the names used in Joshua 21.27-32 are given in brackets.
6.71 ‘To the sons of Gershom were given, out of the family of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its suburbs, and Ashtaroth (Be-eshterah) with its suburbs.’
The sons of Gershom were responsible for the region of Bashan, and in order to fulfil their responsibilities were given two cities, Golan and Ashtaroth. In Joshua 21 the latter is known as Be-eshterah, which is simply an alternative name (ashteroth is the plural of ashterah).
6.72-73 ‘And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kedesh (Kishion) with its suburbs, Daberath with its suburbs, and Ramoth (Jarmuth) with its suburbs, and Anem (En-gammin) with its suburbs.’
In the territory of Issachar the Gershomite Levites were given four cities. It is possible that in the contrasting names we have the original Canaanite names, and the names first given to the same cities by the Israelites. Ramoth and Jarmuth are very similar in the Hebrew consonants (rmth and jrmth). It may be that the Israelites added Yah onto the name to show that the city was now YHWH’s. Anem and En-gammin are also similar in that Anem means ‘two springs’ whilst En-gannim means ‘the spring of gardens’. The springs of the city were clearly prominent and caused the city to be looked at in two ways.
6.74-75 ‘And out of the tribe of Asher, Mashal (Mishal) with its suburbs, and Abdon with its suburbs, and Hukok (Helkath) with its suburbs, and Rehob with its suburbs.’
In the territory of Asher the Gershomites were given four cities. Two have identical names with Joshua 21. Mashal/Mishal have the same consonants (mshl). Hukok (‘an appointed place’) and Helkath (a ‘smooth or bare place’) may have been the differing names given by the Canaanites and Israelites, or the name in Chronicles may have been altered later.
6.76 ‘And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its suburbs, and Hammon (Hammoth-dor) with its suburbs, and Kiriathaim (Kartan) with its suburbs.’
In the territory of Naphtali the Gershomites were given three cities. (In Joshua 21.32 they are numbered, discounting any theory that a name has dropped out). Kedesh is said to be ‘in Galilee’ in order to distinguish it from Kedesh in Issachar (verse 72). Hammon (Hammoth-dor in Joshua 21) is possibly the Hammath of Joshua 19.35 and the Hammatu of the Karnak lists. Hammon (Hammath) means ‘warm (springs).’ Dor means ‘habitation’ or ‘circle’. Thus Hammoth-dor is the ‘circle of warm (springs)’. These are represented by modern el-Chammam which is about 2 kilometres (one and a half miles) south of Tiberias. The hot springs still exist. Kartan is a fore-shortening of Kiriathaim (closer in Hebrew than in English)
Joshua 21.33 confirms that thirteen cities in all (2 + 4 + 4 + 3) were given to the Gershomites.
Provision For The Merarites (6.77-81).
We are now given details of the cities which were provided for the Merarites in order to enable them to carry out their duties of giving religious guidance and collecting the tithes. For these compare Joshua 21.34-40. Apart from verse 77 which see, where there is a difference the name used in Joshua 21.34-40 is given in brackets. It will be noted that in verse 63 the Merarites were said to be given twelve cities, but in what is outlined below they only receive ten. This is explained by the fact that originally they were allocated twelve cities as outlined in Joshua 21, but in the event only took residence in ten for the reasons now to be explained.
6.77 ‘To the rest of the Levites, the sons of Merari, were given, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Rimmono with its suburbs, Tabor with its suburbs.’
Joshua 21.34 reads, ‘out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs, four cities’. It will be noted that namewise there is little resemblance with verse 77. This underlines the fact that the Chronicler was not using Joshua 21 as it now stands as his source, but rather a record which had utilised Joshua 21 but had updated it.
We must remember that these cities were allocated, at least in some cases, prior to their possession. It now appears that Zebulun had possibly been unable to oust the Canaanites or had suffered at the hands of intruders with the consequence that the four Levitical cities allocated in Joshua 21 had either never been occupied, or had been deserted, having then been replaced by Rimmono and Tabor. Perhaps the Canaanites in the four cities had resisted Israel for so long that new cities had to be appointed because the Merarites had nowhere from which to carry out their duties.. Consider the situation in Judges 1.30 (comparing 27-28) which mentions Kitron (Kartah?) and Nahalol as resistant because of their Canaanite occupants. It is interesting that unlike the Kohathites and the Gershomites, the cities of the Merarites were not said to be allocated by divine lot (Joshua 21.7 - compare verse 5-6), possibly because of the failure to take them. Both Rimmono and Tabor are unidentified. ‘Rimmon’ in Zebulun is, however, mentioned in Joshua 19.13. Tabor was also the name of a prominent height in Issachar (Judges 4) and a border city in Issachar (Joshua 19.22). Zebulun may have shared this city with Issachar.
6.78-81 ‘And beyond the Jordan at Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, were given to them, out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer in the wilderness with its suburbs, and Jahzah (Jahaz) with its suburbs, and Kedemoth with its suburbs, and Mephaath with its suburbs. And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its suburbs, and Mahanaim with its suburbs, and Heshbon with its suburbs, and Jazer with its suburbs.’
There was no similar problem in Reuben and Gad, and the Merarites settled in happily in the cities allocated to them.
Thus under the hand of God the Levites took up their habitation in the cities provided by God, with one or two exceptions because of the failure of Israel. This was an indication to the returnees that God would provide for their religious instruction and the collection of the tithes, as he had done previously, but contained the warning that if they were faithless it would not be so.
The Northern Tribes (7.1-40).
The tribes to the north of Judah and Simeon west of Jordan are now dealt with together, having been separated off from them by the information concerning the sons of Levi. The information provided is fairly brief, in some cases very brief, but the important lessons have already been emphasised. It will be noted that for the first time we have reference to the size of their contribution to the hosts of Israel, although it had been done briefly and more indirectly concerning Reuben, Gad and Manasseh (5.18). These tribes are mainly mentioned in order to establish that God’s purposes extend to ‘all twelve tribes’. The first to be mentioned are the sons of Issachar.
The Sons Of Issachar (7.1-5).
Only fairly brief details are given of the sons of Issachar. They were not seen as having much to add to the lessons already taught. Thus no mention is made of the cities that they possessed. But it is emphasised that they too contained among them mighty men of valour, and that they continually made a satisfactory contribution towards the host of Israel.
The Direct Sons of Issachar (7.1).
7.1 ‘Now with regard to the sons of Issachar: Tola, and Pu’ah, Jashub, and Shimron, four.’
The use of li-bene (‘re the sons’) emphasises that this is a new section, and the names of the four sons of Issachar are now given. They are Tola, Pu’ah, Jashub and Shimron. Their numbering confirms that they are brothers. But the emphasis will be on the firstborn. The names are given as they are found in Numbers 26.23, apart from Pu’ah/Puvah, where their sub-tribes are also named as the Tolaites, the Punites, the Jashubites, and the Shimronites, but differ slightly from Genesis 46.13 where their names are given as Tola, Parva, Iob and Shimron. Iob is a foreshortening of Jashub.
The Descendants of Tola, the son of Issachar (7.2).
7.2 ‘And the sons of Tola: Uzzi, and Rephaiah, and Jeriel, and Jahmai, and Ibsam, and Shemuel, heads of their fathers’ houses, to wit, of Tola; mighty men of valour in their generations: their number in the days of David was two and twenty thousand and six hundred.’
The reference to the days of David suggests that we are to see these as descendants of Tola rather than as direct sons. They were ‘heads of their fathers’ houses’, that is, ‘of Tola’s’ house. The ‘house’ indicated the wider family, and it would seem probable that each in turn was head of the wider family, that is of the Tolaites. Each of them was a ‘mighty man of valour’, a great warrior, in his generation. And in the days of David they were able to provide to the host of Israel twenty two large military units, and six smaller ones. Thus had they prospered under God’s hand.
The Descendants of Uzzi, the Descendant of Tola, the Son of Issachar (7.3-4).
Except when there is a special lesson to learn the Chronicler tends to select the firstborn and give his history, the assumption to be drawn being that, unless it is stated otherwise, God blessed the other sons in the same way. Here, over the generations, Uzzi is seen as having produced ‘five chief men’, important to the welfare of Issachar.
7.3 ‘And the sons of Uzzi: Izrahiah. And the sons of Izrahiah: Michael, and Obadiah, and Joel, Isshiah, five; all of them chief men.’
Uzzi’s son (or descendant) was Izrahiah, and he begat Michael, Obadiah, Joel and Isshiah, all good solid Hebrew names. And what was important was that they were all leaders of men and good commanders. Once more God had provided for His people.
7.4 ‘And with them, by their generations, after their fathers’ houses, were bands of the host for war, six and thirty thousand; for they had many wives and sons.’
And these good commanders were commanders over thirty six military units from their own households which were ready to support the host of Israel. This was a consequence of their having many wives and sons, (and, of course, a good quantity of servants).
7.5 ‘And their brothers among all the families of Issachar, mighty men of valour, reckoned in all by genealogy, were eighty seven thousand.’
Together with the other families of Issachar they were able to provide eighty seven large military units. It is apparent that at this stage we are talking about the strength provided to Israel by its mighty and numerous warriors. And the returnees from Exile were intended to recognise that what God had done once, He could do again.
We can compare with this the fact that during the initial advance on Canaan in the days of Moses Issachar’s tribal war strength had been 54 large military units and four smaller ones, and that after their wilderness wanderings that had risen to 64 large military units, and three smaller ones. So Israel had gone from strength to strength.
The Benjamin Sub-tribes (7.6-12).
The tribe of Benjamin was unique among the twelve tribes in that a large part of it had been wiped out in the massacre in the time of the Judges (Judges 20-21). Thus we would not anticipate coming across the name of all Benjamin’s ten sons. Furthermore it is significant that only in the case of Benjamin do we not read of ‘the sons of’. This is further evidence that we are not dealing with an invented genealogy.
It would appear from what follows that the remnant of Benjamin who escaped came from the sub-tribe of Bela-Becher (see Genesis 46.21). These would have been supplemented by others who took advantage of the emptied land to make it their home. Many of them would have been adopted by the sub-tribe of Bela-Becher, but it appears that some formed a new sub-tribe, naming it Jediael, ‘God makes known’. Jediael was not a known son of Benjamin, but the sub-tribe was seemingly adopted by ‘Benjamin’ and thus became a part of Benjamin and ‘a son of Benjamin’. It would appear that one of David’s warriors came from that sub-tribe (11.45). We have here then details of the two sub-tribes that arose from the massacre of the Benjamites.
That is why, instead of following the usual pattern, the Chronicler introduces us immediately to the sub-tribes by name, and necessarily ignores the names of most of the ten sons of Benjamin. He deliberately does not speak of ‘the sons of’. Rather he concentrates on the sub-tribe of Bela-Becher because they alone survived. This is what we would expect after such a catastrophe as was described in Judges 20-21.
7.6 ‘Benjamin: Bela, and Becher, and Jediael, three.’
Rather than relating the names given back to Benjamin the Chronicler basically says ‘Benjamin was now composed of Bela and Becher, who together formed the sub-tribe that had minimally survived (there was no separate sub-tribe of Becherites in Numbers 26), and Jediael, another sub-tribe.’ He then goes on to deal with the descendants of those sub-tribes.
7.7 ‘ And the descendants of Bela: Ezbon, and Uzzi, and Uzziel, and Jerimoth, and Iri, five; heads of fathers’ houses, mighty men of valour; and they were reckoned by genealogy twenty two thousand and thirty four.’
The descendants of Bela (which would include those adopted by the sub-tribe) were headed by five men of military stature, Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth and Iri. They were ‘mighty warriors’ and heads of clans. And when a genealogy was made their men numbered 22 large military units, and thirty four specialists. (This may or may not have been in the time of Jeroboam II). ‘Ezbon’ was also the name of a son of Gad (Genesis 46.16). Uzzi was the name of an early descendant of Aaron (6.5). Uzziel was the name of a son of Kohath (6.2, 18), and also of a Simeonite captain (4.42). Jeremoth was the name of a Benjamite who joined David at Ziklag (12.5), and of a Levite musician in David’s time (25.4). Iri is similar to Uriah. Thus these are all early names.
7.8 ‘And the descendants of Becher: Zemirah, and Joash, and Eliezer, and Elioenai, and Omri, and Jeremoth, and Abijah, and Anathoth, and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Becher.’
Next come further descendants of the sub-tribe of Bela-Becher who were related to Becher. These were named Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth, and Alemeth. These are mainly good, sound pre-exilic names, although Zemirah is otherwise unknown. Joash was the name of Gideon’s father (Judges 6.11), one of David’s men (12.3) and of a king of Judah (2 Kings 11.2). Eliezer was the name of a servant of Abraham (15.2), of a son of Moses (Exodus 18.4), and of a priest who assisted in the bringing up of the Ark from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem (15.24). Elioenai was the name of a Simeonite (4.36), and of a gatekeeper in David’s house of YHWH (26.3). Omri was the name of a king of Israel, Ahab’s father (1 Kings 16.23), and a prince of Issachar in the time of David (27.18). Jeremoth was the name of a Benjamite who joined David at Ziklag (12.5), and of a Levite musician in David’s time (25.4). Abijah was the name of the second son of Samuel (1 Samuel 8.2), and the leader of the eighth course of priests in David’s time (24.10). Anathoth was a town in Benjamin to which Abiathar, David’s priest, belonged (1 Kings 2.26). It had been known from ancient times (Joshua 21.18). Many men would have been named after it. Alemeth was the name of a town near Anathoth (6.60). Thus all the names were ancient.
7.9 ‘And they were reckoned by genealogy, after their generations, heads of their fathers’ houses, mighty men of valour, twenty thousand and two hundred.’
These men too were mighty warriors and heads of clans in Benjamin, and had under their orders twenty large military units and two smaller ones.
7.10 ‘And the sons of Jediael: Bilhan. And the sons of Bilhan: Jeush, and Benjamin, and Ehud, and Chenaanah, and Zethan, and Tarshish, and Ahishahar.’
This may have been the Jediael who was one of David’s experienced warriors (11.45). Or it may have been the name of the sub-tribe from which he came (see above). Either way the well known Bilhan was descended from him/it and had seven warrior descendants, Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish, and Ahishahar.’
Bilhan was also the name of an ancient Horite chieftain (1.42; Genesis 36.27). Jeush was the name of a son of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.19) and of a Levite in the course of Gershon in David’s day (23.10). Benjamin was, of course, the tribal name. Many sons would be called Benjamin. Ehud was the name of a Benjamite Judge who delivered Israel (Judges 3.15-0). Chenaanah was the name of the father of the false prophet who opposed Micaiah in Ahab’s time (1 Kings 22.11, 24). Tarshish was an ancient name Zethan and Ahishahar are otherwise unknown. Once again, where checkable the names are ancient.
7.11 ‘All these were sons of Jediael, according to the heads of their fathers’ houses, mighty men of valour, seventeen thousand and two hundred, that were able to go forth in the host for war.’
All these too were mighty warriors and heads of clans, having under them seventeen large military units and two smaller ones.
7.12 ‘Shuppim also, and Huppim, the sons of Ir, Hushim, the sons of Aher.’
Two further Benjamites are named, Ir and Aher. Ir may be the Iri of 7.7. Aher is otherwise unnamed. These names are clearly tacked on and were probably added from a fragment discovered by the Chronicler. Their descendants were Shuppim, Huppim and Hushim. Shuppim was also the name of one of the gatekeepers in the House of YHWH (26.16), and also the name of a son of Machir (verse 14). Huppim was the name of one of the sons of Benjamin (Genesis 46.21), but this one was not the same Huppim, for he was a son of Ir who was probably given the name of his famous ancestor. Hushim was the name of a son of Dan (Genesis 46.23), and of one of the wives of the Benjamite Shaharaim (8.8, 11), but neither were sons of Aher. These were simply additional names of the aristocrats of Benjamin.
The Sons Of Naphtali (7.13).
It would appear that the Chronicler and his source had no information about the tribe of Naphtali apart from what is found in Genesis. Nevertheless in order to make up the number of the recorded tribes to twelve he used the information supplied in Geneses 46.23-24 (differences in brackets).
7.13 ‘The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel (Jahzeel), and Guni, and Jezer, and Shallum (Shillem), the sons of Bilhah.’
All we know is that these were the sons of Naphtali and that Naphtali’s mother was Bilhah. They were thus descendants of Bilhah. They make up the number of the twelve tribes indicating that God is concerned for the descendants of all the tribes.
The Sons Of Manasseh (7.14-19).
In reading this passage it is helpful to be aware of the relationships involved. Numbers 26.28 ff only mentions one son of Manasseh whose name was Machir. Machir then had a son named Gilead. After that Gilead had six sons who each ‘fathered’ a clan:
7.14 ‘The sons of Manasseh: Asriel, whom his concubine the Aramitess bore: she bore Machir the father of Gilead.’
It will be noted that here the emphasis is on Asriel, the third son of Gilead, the son of Machir, and on the fact that he was a true born descendant of Manasseh. The point is being made that by bearing Machir, Manasseh’s Aramite concubine had, as it were, ‘borne’ Asriel (because Asriel was Machir’s grandson). Israelites saw all descendants as ‘being in the loins of’ their ancestors. The Chronicler (or his source) thus forcibly introduces us to Asriel whilst at the same time preparing the way for what he will say about Machir.
This focus on Asriel, who is not again mentioned in the passage, and about whom we know nothing apart from the fact that he established a clan in the tribe of Manasseh, brings out how powerful and effective Asriel must have been. Clearly the Chronicler expected the returnees to know who he was, and to be impressed by him. (There may have been a lot more about him in the Chronicler’s source). This is a reminder to us that there are men who have done great things who have now been forgotten by everyone but God, and that what is important is that God raised them up in order to fulfil His purposes. We do not know what Asriel did, but we can rejoice in the fact that he did something great in God’s service.
Having mentioned Machir, the Chronicler goes on to tell us more about him. (We have already learned something about him in 2.21-23).
7.15 ‘And Machir took a wife of Huppim and (the result was the birth of) Shuppim, whose sister’s name was Maacah; and the name of the second was Zelophehad: and Zelophehad had daughters.’
As we have seen Huppim (Genesis 46.21) and Shuppim (26.16) are familiar names from the past This Huppim may or may not be the Huppim of verse 12. Indeed here it may be the name of a sub-clan. As well as the Aramite concubine mentioned in verse 14 Machir is here said to have married a wife ‘of Huppim’ (who was either her father or her sub-clan). The wife’s name was Maacah (verse 16). In view of the fact that Zelophehad was ‘the second’ (son) someone must have been ‘the first’, so Shuppim must clearly have been the name of the ‘first’. That is why we have introduced the words ‘the result was the birth of’ which are not in the Hebrew text. The two then balance in the sentence by referring to womenfolk, for Shuppim is said to have had a sister named Maacah (named after her mother (verse 16), unless she was Shuppim’s half sister) whilst Zelophehad is said to have had daughters. The daughters of Zelophehad were famous for having established a new principle of inheritance in Israel (Numbers 36.1-12), which is probably why they have deserved mention. (This was before Manasseh divided into two). Their forthright faith would have been a further encouragement to the returnees from Exile, especially the women.
7.16 ‘And Maacah the wife of Machir bore a son, and she called his name Peresh; and the name of his brother was Sheresh; and his sons were Ulam and Rakem.’
Machir seemingly had two more sons, Peresh and Sheresh, both the sons of his wife Maacah. (Genesis 50.23 confirms that Machir had other sons, and besides most of these great men would have had concubines so that they would have many unnamed sons). Ulam and Rekam were presumably the sons of Sheresh. Maacah was not an unusual name. One of David’s wives was also named Maacah, as was the concubine of Caleb, son of Hezron, in Egypt (2.48). The mention of the names of Machir’s further sons, unmentioned in Genesis except as a brief note, demonstrates that the Chronicler had access to very ancient records.
7.17a ‘And the sons of Ulam: Bedan.
Ulam the descendant of Makir then had a son or descendant named Bedan, who, being named last must have been outstanding. He may well have been the Judge Bedan who helped to deliver Israel from her enemies (1 Samuel 12.11).
7.17b ‘These were the sons of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh.’
The fruitfulness of Machir and Gilead is emphasised. Compare for this sentence the words in 2.23. God had proved faithful to those who were in a tough situation, often faced with invasion from the north (see 2.23).
7.18 ‘And his sister Hammolecheth bore Ishhod, and Abiezer, and Mahlah.’
Gilead’s sister Hammolecheth must have been mentioned because she was a remarkable woman. It is no coincidence that her name means ‘the queen’. That is why we are given the names of her ‘sons. They were probably great men who helped to establish the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. Gilead also had a son whom he called Abi-ezer (see introduction to the passage).
7.19 ‘And the sons of Shemida were Ahian, and Shechem, and Likhi, and Aniam.’
Shemida, like Asriel, was one of the sons of Gilead (see introduction to this passage). He was also productive and produced leaders of men, one of whom was named Shechem. One of the other sons of Gilead was also named Shechem, so once again we have the uncle nephew syndrome which was so popular.
The Sons Of Ephraim (7.20-29).
We now have genealogies related to the sons of Ephraim. But here a problem arises as to whom the Ephraim in verse 22 is. Is it a descendant of Joseph’s son Ephraim, or does it in fact refer to Joseph’s son (mentioned in verse 20) himself? The lack of mention of another Ephraim elsewhere in the genealogy (or indeed anywhere else as related to Ephraim) suggests that it must refer to Ephraim, the son of Joseph. On the other hand the activities in Canaan might point to an Ephraim who lived in Canaan. We will consider both possibilities.
7.20-21a ‘And the descendants of Ephraim: Shuthelah, and Bered his son, and Tahath his son, and Eleadah his son, and Tahath his son, and Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son.’
In Numbers 26.35-36 we have somewhat similar genealogy of Ephraim which tells us that Ephraim had three sons who formed sub-tribes, Shethulah, Becher and Eran, and that Shethulah had a son/descendant who was also called Eran (another uncle/nephew having the same name situation which appears to have been quite popular). This raises the problem that there is no Eran in the genealogy here in verses 20-21a. On the other hand we have become so used to names being missed out in genealogies that it cannot be said to be a serious problem. Eran might have been a later descendant who formed his own clan, or Bered may have been Shuthelah’s grandson. Alternately Bered and Eran may have been two names for the same person.
Both Shuthelah and Tahath are mentioned twice in the genealogy, but repetition of names in a family seems to have been quite popular in those days, as indeed it is today (my father was called Hubert and so was my elder brother. My grandfather was called Peter and so was I).
7.21b ‘And Ezer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath who were born in the land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle.’
The question here is as to whether ‘and Ezer and Elead’ should be tacked on to the first Shuthelah, indicating that they too were sons of Ephraim, or on to the second Shuthelah indicating that they were the second Shuthelah’s half-brothers. (In a list where ‘his son’ is so prominent, the lack of ‘his son’ must mean that they cannot be seen as descendants of Shuthelah). Either is possible.
The suggestion that they were sons of Ephraim ben Joseph would fit well with verse 22. It also fits in with the fact that if it was not referring to Joseph’s son Ephraim, the name of the father of Ezer and Elead would be an Ephraim not otherwise mentioned. Besides, if their father’s name was Ephraim this would also rule out their being brothers of the second Shethulah whose father’s name was Zabad.
The suggestion that they were brothers of the second Shuthelah would pose the question as to why the genealogy of Joshua, from verse 20 to verse 27, has been so abruptly interrupted. It also poses the question as to why they had a different father. Certainly ancient genealogies did tend to suddenly introduce glimpses of history, but it was usually as expanding on one of the names in the genealogy. Here, however, the piece of history is not of one in the genealogical line. Furthermore it is introducing the birth of Beriah, which suggests that we do not have one long genealogy.
Taking all these factors into account it seems most likely that both Ephraims are one and the same person.
We might then ask, if these two were sons of Ephraim, what were they doing in Canaan? They should have been in Egypt. But that is not really a problem. Like Esau they might have been adventurers. As Ephraim’s sons living in Egypt they would certainly have had the facilities for carrying out foraging raids on Canaan, and the rustling of cattle was a common enough feature of those days (compare 5.21). For such people it was a kind of sport. Indeed Pharaohs did it regularly, although usually with the aim of booty much more valuable than that of cattle. Thus there is no problem with our seeing them as operating from Egypt. Gath was within easy reach of Egypt. And on such expeditions people did tend to get killed, especially daring ones.
The fact that the men of Gath were ‘born in the land’ merely indicates that they were Canaan born, as we would expect. It was prior to the major invasion by the Philistines (the Philistines whom Abraham and Isaac dealt with were probably more of a large trading post) so the Philistines were not involved. ‘The land’ used in this way would normally indicate the land in which they were, and in this case might even have the connotation ‘the land which was promised to Israel’. Thus there is a strong argument for saying that this Ephraim was the son of Joseph.
It is no argument against this interpretation to suggest that the word ‘go down’ could not refer to moving from Egypt to Canaan. Egyptians probably always saw leaving Egypt as ‘going down’.
Thus we have the tragedy that two of Ephraim’s sons were killed on a raiding expedition into Canaan to the great grief of their father. His exalted position did not make him any less vulnerable to grief over the loss of sons. But good was to come of it, for the end result would be the birth of Joshua, ‘the servant of YHWH’.
7.22 ‘And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brothers came to comfort him.’
Ephraim clearly loved his sons and was deeply grief-stricken at their loss. He mourned for them many days. And his brothers comforted him. If it be argued that Ephraim had only one brother it would be to take the word ‘brother’ too literally. The word for ‘brother’ could equally mean kinsmen. And besides, if Joseph did not have a harem he would have been a most unusual Egyptian aristocrat, so Ephraim probably had many half-brothers.
7.23 ‘And he went in to his wife, and she conceived, and bore a son, and he called his name Beriah, because it went evil with his house.’
Ephraim’s wife would also no doubt have been grief-stricken at the loss of her sons, and it would appear that they comforted each other in the time honoured way, by having sexual relations. And the consequence was that they had another son whom they named Beriah (br‘h), a name suggestive of calamity in that it contains within it the consonants of r‘h (evil) seen as preceded by the preposition be. This was a play on words (a common thing when related to names) rather than an exact etymology.
7.24 ‘And his daughter was Sheerah, who built Beth-horon the nether and the upper, and Uzzen-sheerah.’
In contrast with the bad news was the good news. It is a reminder that God so often brings us blessing in the midst of tragedy. In contrast with the death of the sons, Sheerah successfully completed the task of embellishing the cities which she had been given.
Sheerah may have been Ephraim’s daughter, or Beriah’s. Either way she was the daughter of an Egyptian aristocrat, and may well therefore have been given cities in Canaan as gifts. Beth-horon upper and nether guarded the trade route in the Valley of Aijalon and were therefore valuable cities. They regularly saw the passage of armies. Egypt tried to keep control of such cities. They were on the southern border of Ephraim (Joshua 18.13-14). These Sheerah improved and fortified (‘built’ often means ‘fortified’) in order that her possessions might be protected. Later Beth-horon the nether would be refortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9.17) and that is mentioned in a context of Pharaoh possessing a city in Canaan. Nothing is known of Uzzen-sheerah which may have been anywhere, but was probably near Beth-horon, and was possibly built specifically at Sheerah’s request and named after her.
From the Chronicler’s point of view this was another case of God acting to make Canaan a worthwhile object of Israel’s attention with its powerful cities, already belonging to an Egyptian Israelite, waiting to be inhabited.
If, however, our view is that Ephraim was a descendant of Ephraim ben Joseph then again it would be quite natural for him, as an Ephraimite aristocrat, to give cities to his daughter.
The Birth of Joshua (7.25-27).
If we see the Ephraim who lost his sons as the Ephraim who founded one of the twelve tribes and was the son of Joseph, then the genealogy of Joshua begins with Beriah and covers ten generations following Ephraim. This would serve to confirm that Moses’ genealogy of four generations (6.1-3) was abbreviated and incomplete. If, however, we take the Ephraim mentioned in verse 22 as a later descendant of Ephraim, the son of Joseph, then we have at least seventeen generations from Ephraim to Joseph. However, if we see Israel as having been in Egypt for four hundred years (Genesis 15.13), that is roughly twenty generations, then either is possible.
7.25 And Rephah was his son, and Resheph, and Telah his son, and Tahan his son, Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, Non his son, Joshua his son.’
Here we have the finalising of Ephraim’s genealogy as far as Joshua. ‘And Resheph’ (without ‘his son’) seems to indicate that Resheph was a brother of Rephah. This would then mean that from Ephraim to Joshua was ten generations (Ephraim, Beriah, Rephah, Telah, Tahan, Ladan, Ammihud, Elishama, Non (Nun), Joshua).
Of these Elishama was probably the same Elishama the son of Ammihud who was a contemporary of Moses (Numbers 1.10), and was a prince of the house of Ephraim (Numbers 7.48; 10.22). Non was an unusual alternative, found only here, for Nun.
At the end of the genealogy comes Joshua on whom these verses are focused. The returnees from Exile are being reminded of what God did for Israel once their sin had been purged by the deaths in the wilderness. They were to recognise that God could raise up such leaders again if only they looked faithfully to Him.
Ephraim’s And Manasseh’s Habitations (7.28-29).
The following are said to be the dwelling places of ‘the children of Joseph the son of Israel’. They therefore include towns in both Ephraim and Manasseh, which explains why no details of the dwellingplace of Manasseh were provided above. The first described are those in Ephraim.
7.28 ‘And their possessions and habitations were Beth-el and its towns (literally ‘daughters’), and eastward, Naaran, and westward, Gezer, with their towns; Shechem also and its towns, as far as Azzah (or Ayyah per some MS) and its towns.’
The possessions and habitations of Ephraim were:
7.29 ‘And by the borders of the children of Manasseh, Beth-shean and its towns, Taanach and its towns, Megiddo and its towns, Dor and its towns.’
According to Joshua 17.11 these four cities belonged to Manasseh. They formed its northern border. But none were immediately taken, being still possessed by the Canaanites (Judges 1.27). ‘There remained much land to be possessed’. However, all were in Israelite hands in the time of David. What mattered to the Chronicler was that the returnees recognise that even these mighty cities had eventually had to submit to Israel as God worked His purposes out.
7.29b ‘In these dwelt the children of Joseph the son of Israel.’
This final verse in the passage makes clear that the writer is including here the dwellings of ‘the sons of Joseph’, that is of both Ephraim and Manasseh. The thought of the mighty cities which were in Canaanite hands for so long, but eventually succumbed, would be a great encouragement to the returnees from Babylon as they considered their own precarious condition.
The Sons Of Asher (7.30-40).
The catalogue of the ‘twelve tribes’ now ends with information concerning the sons of Asher, each of whom formed sub-tribes. This is followed by tracing their descendants. The aim is to bring out how God built up and developed the tribe, and as a consequence Israel.
In providing us with the names of the descendants of Asher, the Chronicler is also supplying to us details of the mighty warrior chiefs who headed the tribes, sub-tribes and clans of Asher (verse 40), established them in the land, and ruled over them.
The fulness with which the genealogies are given may indicate that the Chronicler knew that a good number of Asherites returned from Exile as a consequence of Cyrus’ decree, and indeed it may indicate that they brought with them their ancient records. We must remember that we do not have the full story of who eventually returned in Ezra and Nehemiah. Many Israelites must have returned from around the ancient world.
The Sons Of Asher.
7.30 ‘The sons of Asher: Imnah, and Ishvah, and Ishvi, and Beriah, and Serah their sister.’
Asher had four sons. These names for the sons of Asher, together with that of Serah his daughter, are as found in Genesis 46.17 and Numbers 26.44-46, apart from the fact that the name of Ishvi only occurs in Genesis and here. Numbers also adds the information that three of the sons formed sub-tribes, the Imnites, the Ishvites and the Beriites. Thus Ishva and Ishvi were probably twins who formed their sub-tribe together. The continual mention of Serah (also no doubt in the Chronicler’s source) brings out what an important person she must have been. Nevertheless, as in Genesis and Numbers, it is only Beriah whose line is continued, possibly because it was only his sons who formed further sub-tribes.
The Sons Of Beriah The Son Of Asher.
7.31 ‘And the sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel, who was the father of Birzaith.’
These names of the sons of Beriah, Heber and Malchiel, are also as in Genesis 46.17 and Numbers 26.44-46. Numbers 26.45 mentions their sub-tribes, the Heberites and the Malchielites as well. The Chronicler, however, provides us with the additional information that Malchiel had a son named Birzaith, information which must have come from an ancient record’ (‘Father of Birzaith could in other contexts signify that Malchiel established and controlled a city named Birzaith, and if a city was involved it may well have been the same as modern Bir ez-Zait (the well of olive trees) which is not far from Tyre. But in view of the isolation of the statement the Chronicler’s aim may simply have been to briefly mention Malchiel’s son about whom he would say nothing further).
The Sons Of Heber, The Son Of Beriah ben Asher.
Beriah’s son Heber produced three sons and a daughter. Each of the three sons appears to have been prominent enough for their lines to be provided.
7.32 And Heber begat Japhlet, and Shomer, and Hotham, and Shua their sister.’
Beriah’s line continued on through Heber, whose sons were named Japhlet, Shomer and Hotham. He also had a daughter named Shua. Women appear to have been prominent in Asher. We are now given the lines of all three of his sons. All this is new information obtained from ancient records, and not found in Biblical sources.
The Sons Of The Three Sons Of Heber
We now have listed the names of the sons of all three of Heber’s sons. The aim is to bring out the rapid expansion of the family.
7.33 ‘And the sons of Japhlet: Pasach, and Bimhal, and Ashvath. These are the children of Japhlet.’
The first of Heber’s sons, Japhlet, begat three sons, Pasach, Bimhal and Ashvath. Nothing further is known of them.
7.34 ‘And the sons of Shemer: Ahi, and Rohgah, Jehubbah, and Aram.’
The second son of Heber, whose name was originally given as Shomer (verse 32), is now called Shemer. The change in such close proximity suggests that it was deliberate (either by the Chronicler or his source). In the consonantal text the second is simply an abbreviation of the first with the waw dropping out. The names of his four sons are given. It is possible that this Shemer is connected with the Shemer who originally owned the hill on which Samaria (Shomeron) was built (1 Kings 16.24).
7.35 ‘And the sons of Helem his brother: Zophah, and Imna, and Shelesh, and Amal.’
The name of the third son in verse 32 was Hotham. That Helem is the same person is confirmed by the fact that it is stressed that Helem is the brother of Shemer. The names are closer in the Hebrew, and again a waw drops out. But this time tau become lamed. It was probably an abbreviation (compare John becoming Jack). Again the names of his four sons are given.
The Sons of Zophah The Son Of Helem (Hotham) ben Heber.
Helem’s son Zophah was even more prolific, begetting eleven sons, which is possibly why he was selected for mention..
7.36-37 The sons of Zophah: Suah, and Harnepher, and Shual, and Beri, and Imrah, Bezer, and Hod, and Shamma, and Shilshah, and Jithran, and Beera.’
The Sons Of Jether (Jithran) ben Zophah (7.38).
The proliferation of sons continues with Jethran. But we are intended to see that most of the sons were producing warrior chiefs.
7.38 ‘And the sons of Jether: Jephunneh, and Pispa, and Ara.’
Jether is almost certainly Jithron with the ‘n’ dropped off, a shortening of the name. As we have seen, this presenting of two names is an especial feature of this genealogy. We cannot just put it down to the copyist having a bad night. It was apparently a trait of the Asher recorders.
The Sons Of Ulla (7.39).
Ulla was clearly a famous descendant of Asher’s, although his direct connection with the above is not explained. He also had three sons. We have previously come across names appearing ‘out of the blue’ like this, so this should come to us as no surprise. His sons may well have been renowned in warfare.
7.39 ‘And the sons of Ulla: Arah, and Hanniel, and Rizia.’
7.40 ‘All these were the children of Asher, heads of the fathers’ houses, choice and mighty men of valour, chief of the princes. And the number of them reckoned by genealogy for service in war was twenty and six thousand men.’
We are now provided with an explanation of the importance of these men. They were heads of the clans, the finest of their mighty warriors, and chiefs of the princes.
Quite possibly this census was prepared in the days of Ulla and his sons, and at that time Asher could provide twenty six large military units to the host of Israel. The comparatively small number may indicate the tribulations that Asher had been through. They had had to fight to survive. Some, however, see the number as only reflecting the military units provided by the family of Heber. Unfortunately we do not know what provoked the census. Compare for similar censuses 7.1-5, 6-12.
This brings us to the end of the summing up of the ‘twelve tribes of Israel’, who are seen, as so often, as summing up the whole of Israel. It has depicted the growth of Israel under the hand of God, and shown what God can do for those who trust in Him. It provided for the returnees from Exile a solid foundation on which to build, and with which to identify. They could feel that they knew who they were, and have a sense of solid worth, and find in these ancestors an incentive to maintain their identity and discover for themselves what God could do for them.
Additional Information Concerning The Tribe Of Benjamin (8.1-40).
It is impossible for us to enter the Chronicler’s thoughts and guess why he now included further details of the tribe of Benjamin. Indeed, we may ask, why did he not incorporate this material with what he said in 7.6-12? There are a number of possible answers.
The Sons of Benjamin (8.1-2).
In Genesis 46.21 the ‘sons of Benjamin’ are listed as: Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard. What is more there they are numbered so that we know that there were ten. (Along with Joseph, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh they numbered fourteen sons of Rachel).
In Numbers 26.38-40 they are listed as: Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shephupham, Hupham, whilst Ard and Naaman are said to be sons of Bela. But these names are given as having formed sub-tribes. Thus those who did not form sub-tribes are omitted. With regard to Ard and Naaman it would be quite usual for sons of Bela to bear the same names as Bela’s brothers, so that it does not exclude an Ard and a Naaman from also being direct sons of Benjamin. But Numbers is interested in those who formed sub-tribes. Thus the writer’s omitting of names is understandable. He is only interested in sons and grandsons who formed the sub-tribes named after them. It will be noted that Numbers lists five sons like Chronicles, and like Chronicles omits Becher.
8.1-2 ‘And Benjamin begat Bela his first-born, Ashbel the second, and Aharah the third, Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth.’
Note how specific the Chronicler is in numbering the five ‘sons’. This ties in with Numbers as listing five sons (who formed sub-tribes), and the first three are parallel, Bela, Ashbel and Aharah (Ahiram). This would suggest that Shephupham and Hupham are included by the Chronicler under other names, viz Nohath and Rapha. A change of name was not an unusual feature for a man of Israel at an important point in his life. We can compare Jacob and Israel.
However, the only son in whom the Chronicler expresses further interest is Bela. As in Numbers it is he whose sons are named next. But whereas Numbers 36 only lists those who formed sub-tribes (Ard and Naaman), the Chronicler lists them all, including Ard (Addar) and Naaman, although the list may include descendants as well as direct sons, collecting up those who followed later (no further details of descent are given).
The Sons Of Bela (8.3-5).
8.3-5 ‘And Bela had sons: Addar, and Gera, and Abihud, and Abishua, and Naaman, and Ahoah, and Gera, and Shephuphan, and Huram.’
We note that Ard is here named Addar (the reversal of the r and d. The changing of a man’s name by reversing the letters was a regular practice, being often cited as a copyist’s error. But it occurs too often for that to be a reasonable assumption. The scribes did not just copy, they knew the material by heart). Note that Bela not only named his sons Naaman and Ard after his brothers, but also Shephuphan. However, of these sons only Addar and Naaman formed sub-tribes. But it brings out how prolific Bela was, a worthy son of Benjamin (Benjamin had ten sons and Bela nine). In contrast with these 7.7 gives the sons/descendants of Bela as Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth and Iri. But these were probably rather war leaders descended from Bela (‘sons of’ is a very loose term simply indicating descent).
The Sons Of Ehud (8.6-7).
A new name is now introduced with no obvious connection with the previous ones. This is a feature of the Chronicler’s style, even if it does not agree with our modern desire for exactness and connection. This Ehud may have been the famous Judge of Judges 3, and his ‘removal’ of some of his sons may have been in order to protect them. Alternately their ‘removal’ may have been because they were taken as hostages by Moab. If it was another Ehud then we do not know the circumstances of their ‘removal’.
8.6a ‘And these are the sons of Ehud: these are the heads of fathers’ houses of the inhabitants of Geba, and they carried them away to Manahath, even Naaman, and Ahijah, and Gera, he carried them away.’
That Ehud was descended from Benjamin we need not doubt, even if we do not have his line of descent. His sons Naaman, Ahijah and Gera, who were heads of father’s houses (of sub-clans) over the inhabitants of Geba (see 1 Samuel 13.16), were carried away to Manahath, possibly as hostages. Manahath was the name of one of the sons of Shobal, the son of Seir the Horite who were merged into Edom (1.40; Genesis 36.23). Thus this might have been an Edomite city In the days of Ehud the Judge, Moab may have been in league with Edom, or even have captured some of their territory. The king of Moab was clearly expanding his borders. Or it may be that Manahath was a town in the country of Moab, compare verse 7. Thus the ‘they’ may be the Moabites, and the ‘he’ the king of Moab.
8.6b ‘And he begat Uzza and Ahihud.’
These are further sons of Ehud additional to Naaman, Ahijah and Gera, possibly born in happier times. Ehud too was prolific, and God provided him with sons in the place of the ones he had lost (as He would also for the returnees from Exile).
The Sons Of Shaharaim (8.8-11).
Shaharaim may have been the son of one of the three who were taken away to Manahath. Of he may have been a separate hostage. But even there God was with His people and Shaharaim begat sons.
8.8 ‘And Shaharaim begat children in the country of Moab, after he had sent them away; Hushim and Baara were his wives.’
The ‘he’ who sent them away was again probably the king of Moab or his representative. But Shaharaim prospered under the hand of God in his captivity, for he begat children in the country of Moab. And his wives were Hushim and Baara.
8.9-10 ‘And he begat of Hodesh his wife, Jobab, and Zibia, and Mesha, and Malcam, and Jeuz, and Shachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of fathers’ houses.’
It was customary in those days for a woman to receive a new name on their wedding day. We can compare the wives of Esau. Thus Hodesh (‘new moon’) may well be the married name of Baara (his sons by Hushim are listed next). And she bore him ‘sons’. This list is probably a list of Shaharaim’s descendants through Baara, who were later heads of father’s houses in Benjamin. God had not forgotten His servant even in trying conditions and had already provided for his future. This was something that the returnees from Babylon had already experienced.
Note the name Mesha which was a Moabite name, later given to one of its kings (2 Kings 3.4). But it was also found in Israel (2.42).
8.11 ‘And of Hushim he begat Abitub and Elpaal.’
His other wife Hushim also bore him children named Abitub and Elpaal. Elpaal was the most influential one for we are informed next about his descendants.
The Descendants Of Elpaal, the Son of Shaharaim (8.12-28).
We are now provided with a long list of the descendants of Elpaal and his sons. Mighty indeed, under the hand of God, were the descendants of Shaharaim.
8.12 ‘And the sons of Elpaal: Eber, and Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod, with its towns,’
Some of the descendants of Elpaal rebuilt and fortified Ono and Lod with its ‘daughters’ (its surrounding villages). These may well have been the ancestor of the returnees from Exile who again took up residence in Ono and Lod (Ezra 2.33; Nehemiah 7.37; 11.35). In a sense history was repeating itself. The God Who had delivered Shaharaim and his descendants, was the One Who had also delivered the returnees from Exile.
8.13 ‘And Beriah, and Shema, who were heads of fathers’ houses of the inhabitants of Aijalon, who put to flight the inhabitants of Gath.’
Others of his descendants were sub-clan leaders in Aijalon, who proved their might by putting to flight the inhabitants of Gath. This may have been as the consequence of a Philistine incursion into Benjamite territory, or they themselves may have sought to despoil Gath. The former seems more likely. There is no good reason for linking this Beriah (a common name) with the Beriah in 7.23.
Further descendants are now named, some related to Beriah, some to Elpaal himself, some to Shimei (Shema), and some to Shashak and Jeroham, the sons of Beriah. These would be chieftains in Benjamin. The inclusion again of Elpaal suggests that these were heads of sub-clans, the Beriahites, the Elpaalites, the Shimeites, the Shashakites and the Jerohamites. Beriah is mentioned first because his sons also will form sub-clans.
1). The Descendants Of Beriah.
8.14-16 ‘And Ahio, Shashak, and Jeremoth, and Zebadiah, and Arad, and Eder, and Michael, and Ishpah, and Joha, the sons of Beriah.’
2). The Descendants Of Elpaal.
8.17-18 ‘And Zebadiah, and Meshullam, and Hizki, and Heber, and Ishmerai, and Izliah, and Jobab, the sons of Elpaal.’
3). The Descendants Of Shimei (Shema).
8.19-21 ‘And Jakim, and Zichri, and Zabdi, and Elienai, and Zillethai, and Eliel, and Adaiah, and Beraiah, and Shimrath, the sons of Shimei.
4). The Descendants Of Shashak, The Son Of Beriah.
8.22-25 ‘And Ishpan, and Eber, and Eliel, and Abdon, and Zichri, and Hanan, and Hananiah, and Elam, and Anthothijah, and Iphdeiah, and Penuel, the sons of Shashak.’
5). The Descendants Of Jeroham (Jeremoth?), the Son Of Beriah.
8.26 ‘And Shamsherai, and Shehariah, and Athaliah, and Jaareshiah, and Elijah, and Zichri, the sons of Jeroham.’
Many of these names occur elsewhere. They were regular names in Israel. But it is doubtful if we can link such with any of the people mentioned here.
This summary refers to 8.14-26. It indicates that these names were the heads of sub-clans in Benjamin in the days of David and afterwards.
8.28 ‘These were heads of fathers’ houses throughout their generations, chief men: these dwelt in Jerusalem.’
The names cited above are now confirmed as ‘heads of father’s houses’ and ‘chief men’ through a number of generations. Once David had established his rule in Jerusalem it would be natural for tribal and clan leaders to represent their tribes and clans in Jerusalem, living there with their households, although they would be expected to keep their eye on their tribes and clans, and be ready to supply men for the host of Israel.
The Ancestry And Descendants Of Saul (8.29-39).
Whilst the Chronicler sees Saul as deserted by God because of his sins against God (10.13-14), he still honours him as one who had fought valiantly for Israel, before he was finally defeated. Thus he lists his ancestry, and his descendants who took their place in the hosts of Israel along with their warriors. God did not allow Saul’s disobedience to prevent his descendants being a powerful influence on behalf of Israel. Out of bad came good. It would give hope to the returnees from Exile that God had not given them up because of the sins of their ancestors.
This passage is repeated almost verbatim in 9.35-44. The latter supplies us with the name of Jeiel (verse 29) which is not in the Massoretic text here. It also adds to the sons of Gibeon the names of Ner (between Baal and Nedab) and of Mikloth, which are missing here. If it was accidental it is a strange coincidence that the two sons whose names are missing are the ones whose descendants are then given. It may be that they were deliberately omitted from the general list so that they could be added on later ‘and Mikloth -- and Ner’. We have translated accordingly.
8.29 ‘And in Gibeon there dwelt the father of Gibeon, (Jeiel), whose wife’s name was Maacah.’
The house of Saul had its origin in Gibeon, the city renowned for its deceit in the time of Joshua (Joshua 9.3-27). Perhaps we are to see in this a premonition of what Saul would become. And his ancestor was ‘the father of Gibeon’, that is, its establisher after its inhabitant had been expelled, and its lord. The name Jeiel is not found in the Massoretic text but has been incorporated in the translation from 9.35. It may have been deliberately omitted here in order to put the stress on the fact that he was lord of Gibeon. His wife’s name was Maacah, a not uncommon name for a wife in Israel (compare 2.48; 3.2; 7.15, 16; 1 Kings 15.10). The list of Gibeon’s sons in 9.36-37 includes Ner and Mikloth. This suggests that we should read as we have translated, with ‘and Mikloth -- and Ner’ being an intrinsic part of the list of Gibeon’s sons.
8.30-33a ‘And his first-born son Abdon, and Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Nadab, and Gedor, and Ahio, and Zecher, and Mikloth, he begat Shimeah, and they also dwelt with their brothers in Jerusalem, over against their brothers, and Ner, he begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul.’
The ten sons of Gibeon are listed with comments being added after the names of Mikloth and Ner. Ner was the ancestor of Kish (named after Ner’s brother), and Kish was the father of Saul. In 1 Samuel 9.1 Kish’s father is named Abiel, but that is because Ner was not the father of Kish but his clan ancestor (as Amram was probably the clan ancestor of Moses and not his father).
Mikloth was noted for ‘begetting’ a descendant named Shimeah (Shimeam), who lived in Jerusalem as a clan leader in the days of David, a supporter of the throne of David, dwelling there among his brothers, the tribal and clan leaders of Israel, whilst overseeing from there his brothers the Benjamites, a faithful servant of King David.
But Ner was noted in that he was the ancestor of Kish, the father of Saul, the first king of Israel.
8.34b ‘And Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchi-shua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal.’
Saul bore four sons, Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab and Eshbaal (Ishbosheth). The first three were slain on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31.2), where Israel were defeated by the Philistines, and Saul himself died. After that Eshbaal was supported by the Israelite general Abner in opposition to David. The writer in Samuel gave him the name Ishbosheth which means ‘man of shame’, probably because his name included the name of Baal (which was originally also used of YHWH as ‘Lord’, compare Hosea 2.16, but was later seen as a thing of shame).
8.34a And the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal (Mephibosheth).’
Saul’s son Jonathan, the bosom friend of David, had a son named Meri-baal (Mephibosheth). It was to him that David showed kindness ‘for Jonathan’s sake’. And we are now given in some detail the descendants of Meribaal, almost down to the Exile, a sign that God did not hold Saul’s sins against them. But it was a hint that Saul’s line ceased at the Exile.
8.34b-35 ‘And Merib-baal begat Micah. And the sons of Micah: Pithon, and Melech, and Tarea, and Ahaz.’
Meri-baal had a son whose name was Micah, and Micah had four sons, as named who were no doubt ‘mighty men’.
8.36 ‘And Ahaz begat Jehoaddah; and Jehoaddah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri; and Zimri begat Moza.’
The descent of the line of Saul and Jonathan continues. Some of the names (but not the persons) are well known elsewhere.
8.37-38 ‘And Moza begat Binea; Raphah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son, and Azel had six sons, whose names are these: Azrikam, Bocheru, and Ishmael, and Sheariah, and Obadiah, and Hanan. All these were the sons of Azel.’
The line continues down to Azel who had six sons as named. God continues to bless the line. But it is Azel’s brother, Eshek, rather than Azel, who has the last word.
8.39 ‘And the sons of Eshek his brother: Ulam his first-born, Jeush the second, and Eliphelet the third.’
For Eshek had three sons , of which the firstborn was Ulam, and it was Ulam whose sons were to be especially mighty warriors.
8.40 ‘And the sons of Ulam were mighty men of valour, archers, and had many sons, and sons’ sons, a hundred and fifty.’
For Ulam’s descendants were great warriors and skilled bowmen, and developed into a skilled fighting force comprising a larger unit of bowmen (a hundred) and a smaller unit (a fifty).
It will be noted that there were fourteen generation from Jonathan to Ural (inclusive), although Ural’s sons and his son’s sons would take us further. If we take a generation as 25 years this would take us down approximately to the reign of Hezekiah, a reign in which Ulam and his sons would have a chance to prove themselves. The sons and son’s sons take us closer to the Exile but by their anonymity demonstrate that Saul’s importance was coming to an end. As 9.1 says, after this Judah was carried captive to Babylon.
8.40b ‘All these were of the sons of Benjamin.’
These words basically sum up the whole chapter.
The Chronicler indicates here his main, but probably not his only, source. It was ‘the book of the kings of Israel’ a record no doubt maintained by the king’s recorders.
9.1 ‘So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel.’
This book is mentioned again in 2 Chronicles 20.34). It clearly included genealogies of the tribes, but no doubt also other information of which the Chronicler would make use.
9.1b ‘And Judah was carried away captive to Babylon for their transgression.’
These words both close the genealogies, indicating that on the whole they ended at the Exile (the exception was David’s line), and also introduce what is about to come. There is a clear recognition here that the Exile was a due punishment for sin. Note that it was Judah who went into Exile, but Israel who returned (verse 2). God was bringing about a renewal of Israel. The return offered new hope for all, and we have no reason to doubt that many from the other tribes also responded. They saw themselves as part of the new Israel. God had preserved for Himself those who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
The Return From Exile. The New Beginning.
In the previous seven chapters we have read of the way in which Israel, and the priests and Levites, were initially established in their cities, dwelling in their possessions (4.28-33; 5.8-9; 6.54-81; 7.28-29), and how Jerusalem had been populated (8.28, 32). Now after the Exile we are told of those who once more dwelt in their possessions in the cities, and of those who once more dwelt in Jerusalem, in line with the previous familiar pattern. Israel was once more being established. It was springing up anew.
To the Chronicler it must have seemed like a miracle. All had been lost. Israel had been crushed and lay in the dust. But now it had been raised up and was alive again. The land was again populated with true worshippers of YHWH, and Jerusalem itself was once more inhabited.
There is good reason for thinking that this was written before the coming of Nehemiah, when Jerusalem was still in a period of transition. The ruined unwalled city was slowly being restored, but it contained large parts still not inhabited and in ruins, and the numbers who dwelt there permanently were comparatively few (Nehemiah 7.4). Furthermore it was open to the depredations of brigands, and of local enemies of the Jews (Ezra 4.4; Nehemiah 1.3; 4.8). (Which was why Nehemiah determined to have it fully populated). Nevertheless the Temple service required the presence of leading priests and Levites, and whilst they were on duty they resided in the city. But once their duties were over they retired to their local towns and villages to be replaced by those who had responsibility for the next shift. Of the Temple personnel only certain of the Nethinim (Temple under-servants) lived there permanently as a whole for they were constantly required to fulfil the menial duties of the Temple. And along with them in Jerusalem lived certain noble souls who were determined that Jerusalem should live again. This is the picture described here. The point is being made that Jerusalem was living again, and the Temple activities had been fully restored.
Later, once Nehemiah had returned, and the walls of Jerusalem had been built, he would arrange for Jerusalem to be fully and permanently occupied and made defensible (Nehemiah 11). But that time was not yet.
9.2 ‘Now the first inhabitants who dwelt in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the Nethinim.’
Mentioned first is that of ‘Israel’ dwelling in their possessions, together with the priests, the Levites and the Nethinim (Temple servants). This was a necessary beginning after the return from Exile. The gatekeepers, who are mentioned later, are here included among the Levites (verse 26)
9.3 ‘And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim and Manasseh.’
But in time, as in the days of David, Jerusalem was ready to be inhabited and awaited the arrival of God’s people, despite its ruined state, and to the Chronicler this was clearly important. Jerusalem was God’s city. Following the analogy in verse 2 those mentioned here are those who ‘first dwelt in Jerusalem’. This time it was indwelt by people from Judah, people from Benjamin, and people from Ephraim and Manasseh, who would set about building themselves houses amidst the ruins of the city. Many would have been families that had previously dwelt in Jerusalem before the Exile and saw it as ‘home’. But there would be huge gaps and much of the city would remain unoccupied. Others would have had a vision of a restored Jerusalem and have been determined to bring it about, even though progress was slow. These two kinds of people would form the main bulk of those who settled in Jerusalem prior to Nehemiah’s injunction. The tribes mentioned were the tribes who were of old nearest to Jerusalem. But they would turn out to be insufficient to ensure the safety of Jerusalem and its Temple treasures.
The Sons Of Judah And Benjamin (9.4-9).
Those who had taken up residence in the city are now described, men who were determined to raise it from its ruined state. We do not know at what point in time this census was taken, but it was prior to the coming of Nehemiah, for Nehemiah 11 tells us of further people who took up residence in the city at Nehemiah’s injunction.
9.4-6 ‘Uthai the son of Ammihud, the son of Omri, the son of Imri, the son of Bani, of the children of Perez the son of Judah. And of the Shilonites: Asaiah the first-born, and his sons. And of the sons of Zerah: Jeuel, and their brothers, six hundred and ninety.’
Those of Judah who had taken their place in Jerusalem at this stage were chiefs of the sons of Perez, headed by Uthai the son of Ammihud; chiefs of the sons of Shiloh headed by Asaiah the firstborn, and the sons of Zerah in larger numbers under the chieftainship of Jeuel. In other words Jerusalem was partially inhabited by leading representatives of the descendants of Judah’s three surviving sons, with their households (which would be numerous), and by a larger number of Zerahites. The long genealogy following Uthai’s name illustrates his importance. The six hundred and ninety sons of Zerah were probably picked by lot to become inhabitants of Jerusalem, leaving the Shilonites and the Perezites to continue to inhabit the land. Alternately they might have been enthusiasts who volunteered.
In the time of Nehemiah’s injunction to inhabit Jerusalem more effectively (described in Nehemiah 11), a good number of Perezites would join the Zerahites (468 Perezite warriors - Nehemiah 11.6). These would be accompanied by further Perezite chieftains over whom were Athaiah the son of Uzziah, and Maaseiah the son of Baruch (Numbers 11.4-5). This was necessary at that stage in order to fully defend what had been a sparsely inhabited Jerusalem.
9.7-9 ‘And of the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, the son of Hassenuah, and Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, and Elah the son of Uzzi, the son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephatiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah, and their brothers, according to their generations, nine hundred and fifty and six. All these men were heads of fathers’ houses by their fathers’ houses.’
Of the sons of Benjamin, along with their chieftain Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, 956 warriors took up their residence with their wider families. Later under Nehemiah they would be joined by another Sallu, the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed (Note that they had different grandfathers. Both Sallu and especially Meshullam were popular names in Benjamin). This Sallu would be accompanied by Gabbai, Sallai, and Joel the son of Zichri, along with 928 warriors over whom he was overseer (Nehemiah 11.7-8), thus strengthening the numbers.
Nothing is said about the Ephraimites and the Mannassites. They probably settled in smaller numbers and were simply mentioned in order to make clear that the whole of Israel had an interest in Jerusalem. The bulk of returnees were from Judah and Benjamin.
The Priests (9.10-13).
The priests would necessarily establish themselves in Jerusalem from the start for they had to carry out their priestly duties. But a battered and partly ruined Jerusalem was no place to live permanently. Thus they had residences both in Jerusalem and in their cities. They apparently dwelt outside Jerusalem when not on duty. They could, however, be seen as ‘residing in Jerusalem’, for they did so part of the time. However, whilst this ensured the smooth running of the Temple it meant that, if attacked, there would be a shortage of warrior priests to deal with the attackers. Thus under Nehemiah the same priests were required to become permanent residents of Jerusalem in order to enable the city to be defended. This is why, in the case of the priests and they alone, the lists in Chronicles and Nehemiah coincide with regard to the Chief Priests.
9.10 ‘And of the priests: Jedaiah, and Jehoiarib, Jachin.’
The three leading priests who initially operated in Jerusalem once the Temple was up and running were Jedaiah, Jehoiarib and Jachin. Jedaiah was Jehoiarib’s son, and being named first had presumably at some stage taken over the High Priesthood from an ailing father. Thus by the time of Nehemiah’s injunction Jehoiarib had died. In Nehemiah 11.10 the leading priests were Jedaiah, the son of Joiarib, and Jachin. It will be noted that these were all priestly names. They are found of heads of courses of priests in the time of David (1 Chronicles 24.7, 17).
It would appear that they took it in turns to oversee the priesthood in Jerusalem, residing in Jerusalem when they were on duty, and retiring to their estates when they were not. Later Nehemiah required their full time presence in Jerusalem so that they could organise the defences around the Temple area when it was required. They were after all the two men to whom the priests looked.
9.11 ‘And Azariah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the ruler of the house of God.’
Next to them came Azariah the ruler of the house of God, the one who in general presided over the Temple (in 2 Chronicles 35.8 three men were ‘rulers of the house of God’, probably necessary in the time of Josiah’s reformation). Azariah too was one of the ‘chief priests’. His line of descent compares with that of the High Priestly line in 6.7-14. He was thus probably also a son of Jehoiarib, along with Jedaiah. In Nehemiah 11.11 he is named as Seraiah, but Seraiah and Azariah are regularly parallel names for the same person (they are closer in Hebrew than in English). Compare Ezra 2.2 with Nehemiah 7.7, and our use of John and Jack which can both refer to the same person.
Azariah also appears to have resided in Jerusalem when performing his duties, whilst living outside when his deputy was standing in for him. He too was called on by Nehemiah to make his presence in Jerusalem permanent.
9.12a ‘And Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah.’
Adaiah is also mentioned in Nehemiah 11.12 although here his line of descent is foreshortened (an interesting and certain example of a shortened genealogy with names missing). The fact that in Nehemiah 11 he follows reference to the ‘brothers who did the work of the House’, indicates that while important, he was of lesser importance than the four mentioned above.
9.12b ‘And Maasai the son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer.’
At this point the parallel with Nehemiah 11 diverges. It would appear that by the time of Nehemiah Maasai had died, to be replaced by Amashsai, who be it noted had a different father. Their lines of descent coincide at the beginning but then take two different paths. Both were descendants of Meshillemith and Immer (compare Ezra 2.37 where the sons of Immer were among the priests who returned from Exile) but from then on their line of descent diverged.
Both Azariah and Maasai resided partly in Jerusalem and partly outside, possibly taking it in turns to serve as priests, until Nehemiah called on them to make their presence permanent.
9.13 ‘And their brothers, heads of their fathers’ houses, one thousand, seven hundred and sixty very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.’
These men may well have dwelt in Jerusalem full time in order to look after the Temple permanently, although even some of them may have worked shifts, coming to Jerusalem from surrounding villages as they were required. Note the mention in Nehemiah of the bringing in of ‘mighty men of valour’. Brave warriors were required to defend the Temple area when attacks took place. So the fact that these were reinforced by a lesser number of men (822 + 242 + 128) suggests that they were being reinforced to make up a much larger force. As a consequence of Nehemiah’s activity their numbers would be almost doubled.
The Levites (9.14-16).
Notice that at this stage these leading Levites, or at least some of them, are said to have dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites round about Jerusalem. In other words they came and resided in Jerusalem as and when required. This meant that Jerusalem was undermanned when attacks took place, a problem that Nehemiah in Nehemiah 11 was seeking to resolve.
9.14 ‘And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari.’
As the chief Levite Shemaiah is also mentioned in Nehemiah 11. Here he resided in Jerusalem when on duty, but would leave for his permanent residence when his stint was ended. He was possibly one of those who ‘dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites (verse 16). Under Nehemiah he was required to take up full time residence in Jerusalem. He would be very necessary in rallying the Levites if Jerusalem came under attack. Here it is made clear that he was of the sons of Merari, who was a son of Levi. Merari was one of the three main sub-tribes of Levi. Shemaiah was one of those who could trace his line back to its earlier days, a man of great authority.
It is noteworthy that Shabbethai and Jozabad, chief Levites who looked after the ‘outward business of the house of God’ are not mentioned here whereas they are in Nehemiah 11.16. That would be because it was not necessary for them to reside in Jerusalem in order to carry out their duties. Being external business it could be conducted without residence. Their presence was only required later in order to ensure sufficient inhabitants for defensive purposes at the injunction of Nehemiah.
9.15a ‘And Bakbakkar, Heresh, and Galal,’
These three Levites are not mentioned in Nehemiah 11. It is doubtful if Bakbakkar is the same as Bakbukiah, because here he is mentioned before Mattaniah, whilst in Nehemiah 11.17 Bakbukia is mentioned after Mattaniah as ‘the second among his brothers’. From what has been said above strict protocol appears to be being observed. Possibly they had died. But more probably they already dwelt permanently in Jerusalem and are therefore not in Nehemiah’s list. It may only have been Mattaniah and Obadiah who dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites.
9.15b ‘And Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zichri, the son of Asaph, and Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, the son of Elkanah, who dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites.’
Both of these are mentioned in Nehemiah 11.17. Both would appear to be musicians (one is descended from Asaph, the other from Jeduthun). Here they only resided temporarily in Jerusalem when required. Otherwise they dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites. Later Nehemiah required them to take up full residence in Jerusalem. Obadiah is there called Abda (note the similarity of the consonants) and Shemaiah is Shammua.
The Gatekeepers And Their Duties (9.17-29).
The position of gatekeeper was an important one and a position of great trust. The chief gatekeepers would not be at the gates but would rather be supervising those who were. They had heavy responsibilities. They had to ensue that no one entered the Temple who was not qualified to do so. They also took responsibility for the Temple treasury and furniture, and watched over the use of the Temple chambers.
9.17-18 ‘And the gatekeepers: Shallum, and Akkub, and Talmon, and Ahiman, and their brothers (Shallum was the chief), who were previously in the king’s gate eastward, they were the gatekeepers for the camp of the children of Levi.’
There were four chief gatekeepers because they had to watch over gates to north, south, east and west (verse 24). Their brothers were their fellow-helpers as gatekeepers. Shallum was chief over the four. He and his brother under-gatekeepers watched the east side of the Temple where ‘the king’s gate’ was, a name brought forward from the previous Temple. This was the most important gate. Akkub, Talmon and Ahiman watched the other gates. The gatekeepers had responsibility for the security of the Temple, and of what was in it.
It will be noted that in Nehemiah 11 there is no mention of Shallum, or of Ahiman. They were probably already in full time residence in the city in order to fulfil their duties. This was especially necessary for Shallum who was the chief gatekeeper. It was Akkub and Talmon, who resided in Jerusalem when on duty, but otherwise dwelt elsewhere, who were there required to take up full time residence in Jerusalem, along with their 172 ‘brothers’.
9.19 ‘And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brothers, of his father’s house, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent, and their fathers had been over the camp of YHWH, keepers of the entry.’
Here we learn more about Shallum. He was a Korahite, for it was they who were responsible for oversight of the Temple and for ensuring that the Temple servants did their work properly (‘over the work of the service’). They had been entrusted with its security. So he and his wider family were keepers of the threshholds, guarding the entrances, and checking those who moved in and out lest a stranger be found among them. They were ‘keepers of the threshholds of the tent.’ The Temple was still seen as the tent of YHWH. In the same way their fathers before them had watched over the camp of YHWH, and had guarded the entry to the Tabernacle.
9.20 ‘And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was ruler over them in time past, and YHWH was with him.’
Their status was enhanced by the fact that looking back in history, the godly Phinehas, the son of Eliezer the High Priest, had been responsible for them, and YHWH had been with him in it, just as He was now.
9.21 ‘Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper of the door of the tent of meeting.’
Around that time also Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah had been gatekeeper at the door of the Tent of Meeting. He is mentioned in 26.2 as living in the time of David. The aim is to link these present gatekeepers with their prestigious history. As in the idealistic time of David, so for them
9.22 ‘All these who were chosen to be gatekeepers in the thresholds were two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their office of trust.’
The number who had been chosen to be gatekeepers at the threshholds of the Temple area was two hundred and twelve. They had been carefully vetted, and their genealogies had been checked. No stranger must take on this solemn task. After all it was originally Samuel and David who had, at different times, ordained the original gatekeepers. Once again prestige is added to their position. They were not just ‘doormen’. They were official gatekeepers in the line of the gatekeepers appointed in the time of Phinehas and in the time of David. They had to ensure that Levitical regulations were observed, and they had important responsibilities in the Temple. They had an office of trust.
9.23 ‘So they and their children had the oversight of the gates of the house of YHWH, even the house of the tent, by wards.’
At all times, in shifts, they had oversight of the entries into the house of YHWH. None must be allowed to enter who was not qualified.
9.24 ‘On the four sides were the gatekeepers, toward the east, west, north, and south.’
This continues the description in the previous verse. These permanently dwelling gatekeepers fulfilled their duties in every direction.
9.25 ‘And their brothers, in their villages, were to come in every seven days from time to time to be with them.’
Here the situation is made clear. Their assistants did not reside in Jerusalem, but lived in villages outside Jerusalem, and they came to Jerusalem for seven day periods from time to time, in order to fulfil their obligations and assist the chief gatekeepers. We are not told how far Nehemiah pressed them to become permanent residents.
9.26-27 ‘For the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were in an office of trust, and were over the chambers and over the treasuries in the house of God. And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge of it was laid on them, and to them pertained the opening of it morning by morning.’
The four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, necessarily dwelt permanently in Jerusalem. They were in an office of trust and permanently resided around the house of God because they were responsible for its security. They not only kept under observation those who sought to enter the Temple, but also watched over the various chambers in the Temple which were used by Temple officials and for storage, and they watched over the treasuries of the house of God. And each day it was their responsibility to open the gates morning by morning. They did all this, of course, with the aid of their staff.
9.28 ‘And certain of them had charge of the vessels of service, for by count were these brought in and by count were these taken out.’
Some selected from among them were responsible to ensure the safety of the vessels used in the Temple, and each day they were counted out, and then counted in again when they were returned for storage. Everything was watched over meticulously. Nothing must go missing.
9.29 ‘Some of them also were appointed over the furniture, and over all the vessels of the sanctuary, and over the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices.’
Their responsibilities were wide. Others were appointed to take charge of the Temple furniture, and the vessels of the Sanctuary, and to store and protect the fine flour, wine, oil, frankincense and spices which would be used by the priests. They would not, of course, be allowed into the Holy Place. That was for the priests alone. But they would take charge of them once they were outside the Sanctuary.
Responsibilities Of The Other Levites (9.30-34).
We now have briefly explained some of the activities of the other Levites. These included being responsible for what was baked in pans, for the showbread, and for its preparation every Sabbath. These did not require to be made by the priests. It was sufficient that it was done by Levites. Others were responsible for, and were solely set apart for, the presentation of the music in the house of God.
9.30 ‘And some of the sons of the priests prepared the confection of the spices.’
In leading up to the responsibilities of the other Levites, other than the gatekeepers, it was important to make clear that there were certain tasks that they could not fulfil because they were the reserve of the priests. And one of these was the making up the holy spices used in worship and the preparation of the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30.22-38).
9.31 ‘And Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the first-born of Shallum the Korahite, had the office of trust over the things that were baked in pans.’
Mattithiah, who was the firstborn son of Shallum the chief gatekeeper, was responsible for what was baked in pans (e.g. meal offerings), a position of great trust as he had to ensure that the correct procedures were followed. We note again that the gatekeepers were acknowledged as Levites.
9.32 ‘And some of their brothers, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the showbread, to prepare it every sabbath.’
The preparation of the showbread was in the hands of the Kohathites. They prepared it every Sabbath.
9.33 ‘And these are the singers, heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, who dwelt in the chambers and were free from other service, for they were employed in their work day and night.’
A further activity of the Levites was that of the music for the Temple. A certain section of them were ‘singers’ (and musicians), here represented by the heads of father’s houses. They dwelt in the Temple chambers, and therefore in Jerusalem, being free from other service because they were employed in their work day and night. But whilst the heads of the families of musicians resided permanently in Jerusalem, it was not necessarily so with their families (there would not be room in the Temple chambers).
9.34 ‘These were heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, throughout their generations, chief men, these dwelt at Jerusalem.’
It was seen as the responsibility of the heads of father’s houses of the Levites, their chief men, to reside in Jerusalem from the beginning, although not necessarily permanently.
This long description of the servants of the Temple, from priest to Levite, demonstrated that once again the Temple was active and flourishing. This too would have been an encouragement to the returnees from Exile.
It is at this point that we are probably to see the Introduction from 1.1 onwards, ending. In it the Chronicler has demonstrated the activity of God from the beginning, as linked with the activity of his day. What God had begun He was continuing in those who had returned from Exile. Thus they had nothing to fear.
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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH--- ESTHER--- PSALMS 1-58--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS