Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Chronicles 24:1
The division of the priests and Levites into classes. - Vv. 1-19. The twenty-four classes of priests. After the statement as to the fathers'-houses of the Levites (1 Chron 23), we have next the arrangements of the priests for the performance of the service in the sanctuary; the priestly families descended from Aaron's sons Eleazar and Ithamar being divided into twenty-four classes, the order of whose service was settled by lot.
Ch1 24:1 contains the superscription, "As for the sons of Aaron, their divisions (were these)." To make the division clear, we have an introductory notice of Aaron's descendants, to the effect that of his four sons, the two elder, Nadab and Abihu, died before their father, leaving no sons, so that only Eleazar and Ithamar became priests (יכהנוּ), i.e., entered upon the priesthood. The four sons of Aaron, Ch1 24:1, as in Ch1 6:3, Exo 6:23.
1 Chronicles 24:2
Cf. Lev 10:1., Num 3:4. These priestly families David caused (Ch1 24:3) to be divided, along with the two high priests (see on 13:16), "according to their service." פּקדּה, office, official class, as in Ch1 23:11.
1 Chronicles 24:4
As the sons of Eleazar proved to be more numerous in respect of the heads of the men than the sons of Ithamar, they (David, Zadok, and Ahimelech) divided them thus: "For the sons of Eleazar, heads of fathers'-houses, sixteen; and for the sons of Ithamar, (heads) of fathers'-houses, eight." הגּברים לראשׁי means neither in respect to the number of the men by the head (cf. Ch1 23:3), nor with respect to the chiefs of the men, divided according to their fathers'-houses (Berth.). The supplying of the words, "divided according to their fathers'-houses," is perfectly arbitrary. The expression הגּברים ראשׁי is rather to be explained by the fact that, according to the natural articulations of the people, the fathers'-houses, i.e., the groups of related families comprehended under the name בּית־אבות, divided themselves further into individual households, whose heads were called גּברים, as is clear from Jos 7:16-18, because each household had in the man, הגּבר, its natural head. הגּברים ראשׁי are therefore the heads, not of the fathers'-houses, but of the individual households, considered in their relation to the men as heads of households. Just as בּית־אב sa tsuJ .s is a technical designation of the larger groups of households into which the great families fell, so הגּבר is the technical expression for the individual households into which the fathers'-houses fell.
1 Chronicles 24:5
They divided them by lot, עם־אלּה אלּה, these with these, i.e., the one as the other (cf. Ch1 25:8), so that the classes of both were determined by lot, as both drew lots mutually. "For holy princes and princes of God were of the sons of Eleazar, and among the sons of Ithamar;" i.e., of both lines of priests holy princes had come, men who had held the highest priestly dignity. The high-priesthood, as is well known, went over entirely to Eleazar and his descendants, but had been held for a considerable period in the time of the judges by the descendants of Ithamar; see above, pp. 444f. In the settlement of the classes of priests for the service, therefore, neither of the lines was to have an advantage, but the order was to be determined by lot for both. קדשׁ שׂרי, cf. Isa 43:28, = הכּהנים שׂרי, Ch2 36:14, are the high priests and the heads of the priestly families, the highest officers among the priests, but can hardly be the same as the ἀρχιερεῖς of the gospel history; for the view that these ἀρχιερεῖς were the heads of the twenty-four classes of priests cannot be made good: cf. Wichelhaus, Comment. zur Leidensgesch. (Halle, 1855), S. 32ff. האלהים שׂרי would seem to denote the same, and to be added as synonymous; but if there be a distinction between the two designations, we would take the princes of God to denote only the regular high priests, who could enter in before God into the most holy place.
1 Chronicles 24:6
"He set them down," viz., the classes, as the lot had determined them. מן־הלּוי, of the tribe of Levi. ול לכּהנים belongs to האבות ראשׁי, heads of the fathers'-houses of the priests and of the Levites. The second hemistich of Ch1 24:6 gives a more detailed account of the drawing of the lots: "One father's-house was drawn for Eleazar, and drawn for Ithamar." The last words are obscure. אחוּז, to lay hold of, to draw forth (Num 31:30, Num 31:47), here used of drawing lots, signifies plucked forth or drawn from the urn. The father's-house was plucked forth from the urn, the lot bearing its name being drawn. זאז ואהז, which is the only well-attested reading, only some few MSS containing the reading אהז ואחד, is very difficult. Although this various reading is a mere conjecture, yet Gesen. (Thes. p. 68), with Cappell and Grotius, prefers it. The repetition of the same word expresses sometimes totality, multitude, sometimes a distributive division; and here can only be taken in this last signification: one father's-house drawn for Eleazar, and then always drawn (or always one drawn) for Ithamar. So much at least is clear, that the lots of the two priestly families were not placed in one urn, but were kept apart in different urns, so that the lots might be drawn alternately for Eleazar and Ithamar. Had the lot for Eleazar been first drawn, and thereafter that for Ithamar, since Eleazar's family was the more numerous, they would have had an advantage over the Ithamarites. But it was not to be allowed that one family should have an advantage over the other, and the lots were consequently drawn alternately, one for the one, and another for the other. But as the Eleazarites were divided into sixteen fathers'-houses, and the Ithamarites into eight, Bertheau thinks that it was settled, in order to bring about an equality in the numbers sixteen and eight, in so far as the drawing of the lots was concerned, that each house of Ithamar should represent two lots, or, which is the same thing, that after every two houses of Eleazarites one house of Ithamarites should follow, and that the order of succession of the single houses was fixed according to this arrangement. To this or some similar conception of the manner of settling the order of succession we are brought, he says, by the relation of the number eight to sixteen, and by the words אהז and אהז ואהז. But even though this conception be readily suggested by the relation of the number sixteen to eight, yet we cannot see how the words אהז and אהז ואהז indicate it. These words would much rather suggest that a lot for Eleazar alternated with the drawing of one for Ithamar, until the eight heads of Ithamar's family had been drawn, when, of course, the remaining eight lots of Eleazar must be drawn one after the other. We cannot, however, come to any certain judgment on the matter, for the words are so obscure as to be unintelligible even to the old translators. In Ch1 24:7-18 we have the names of the fathers'-houses in the order of succession which had been determined by the lot. יצא, of the lot coming forth from the urn, as in Jos 16:1; Jos 19:1. The names Jehoiarib and Jedaiah occur together also in Ch1 9:10; and Jedaiah is met with, besides, in Ezr 2:36 and Neh 7:39. The priest Mattathias, 1 Macc. 2:1, came of the class of Jehoiarib. Of the succeeding names, שׂערים (Ch1 24:8), ישׁבאב (Ch1 24:13), and הפּצּץ (Ch1 24:15) do not elsewhere occur; others, such as חפּה (Ch1 24:13), גּמוּל (Ch1 24:17), do not recur among the names of priests. The sixteenth class, Immer, on the contrary, and the twenty-first, Jachin, are often mentioned; cf. Ch1 9:10, Ch1 9:12. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, belonged to the eighth, Abiah (Luk 1:5).
1 Chronicles 24:19
These are their official classes for their service (cf. Ch1 24:3), לבוא, so that they came (according to the arrangement thus determined) into the house of Jahve, according to their law, through Aaron their father (ancestor), i.e., according to the lawful arrangement which was made by Aaron for their official service, as Jahve the God of Israel had commanded. This last clause refers to the fact that the priestly service in all its parts was prescribed by Jahve in the law.
(Note: Of these twenty-four classes, each one had to perform the service during a week in order, and, as may be gathered with certainty from Kg2 11:9 and Ch2 23:9, from Sabbath to Sabbath. Josephus bears witness to this division in Antt. vii. 14. 7: διέμεινεν οὗτος ὁ μερισμὸς ἄχρι τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας. Herzfeld, on the contrary (Geschichte des Volks Israel von der Zerstrung des ersten Tempels, Bd. i. S. 381ff.), following de Wette and Bramb., has declared the reference of this organization of the priests to David to be an invention of the chronicler, and maintains that the twenty-four classes of priests were formed only after the exile, from the twenty-two families of priests who returned out of exile with Zerubbabel. But this baseless hypothesis is sufficiently refuted by the evidence adduced by Movers, die bibl. Chron. S. 279ff., for the historical character of the arrangements attributed to David, and described in our chapters; but the remarks of Oehler in Herzog's Realenc. xii. S. 185f. may also be compared. An unimpeachable witness for the prae-exilic origin of the division of the priests into twenty-four orders is the vision of Ezekiel (Eze 8:16-18), where the twenty-five men who worship the sun in the priests' court represent the twenty-four classes of priests, with the high priest at their head. In Neh 12:1-7 and Neh 12:12-21 also unimpeachable evidence for the Davidic origin of the division of the priests into twenty-four classes is to be found, as we shall show in treating of these passages.)
1 Chronicles 24:20
The classes of the Levites. - The superscription, "As to the other Levites" (Ch1 24:20), when compared with the subscription, "And they also cast lots, like to their brethren the sons of Aaron" (Ch1 24:31), leads us to expect a catalogue of these classes of Levites, which performed the service in the house of God at the hand of, i.e., as assistants to, the priests. הנּותרים are the Levites still remaining after the enumeration of the priests. We might certainly regard the expression as including all the Levites except the Aaronites (or priests); but the statement of the subscription that they cast lots like the sons of Aaron, and the circumstance that in 1 Chron 25 the twenty-four orders of singers and musicians, in 1 Chron 26:1-19 the class of the doorkeepers, and in Ch1 26:20-32 the overseers of the treasures, and the scribes and judges, are specially enumerated, prove that our passage treats only of the classes of the Levites who were employed about the worship. Bertheau has overlooked these circumstances, and, misled by false ideas as to the catalogue in 1 Chron 23:6-23, has moreover drawn the false conclusion that the catalogue in our verses is imperfect, from the circumstance that a part of the names of the fathers'-houses named in 23:6-23 recur here in Ch1 23:20-29, and that we find a considerable number of the names which are contained in 1 Chron 23:6-23 to be omitted from them. In Ch1 23:20-25, for example, we find only names of Kohathithes, and in Ch1 23:26-29 of Merarites, and no Gershonites. But it by no means follows from that, that the classes of the Gershonites have been dropped out, or even omitted by the author of the Chronicle as an unnecessary repetition. This conclusion would only be warrantable if it were otherwise demonstrated, or demonstrable, that the Levites who were at the hand of the priests in carrying on the worship had been taken from all the three Levite families, and that consequently Gershonites also must have been included. But no such thing can be proved. Several fathers'-houses of the Gershonites were, according to Ch1 26:20., entrusted with the oversight of the treasures of the sanctuary. We have indeed no further accounts as to the employment of the other Gershonites; but the statements about the management of the treasures, and the scribes and judges, in Ch1 26:20-32, are everywhere imperfect. David had appointed 6000 men to be scribes and judges: those mentioned in Ch1 26:29-32 amounted to only 1700 and 2700, consequently only 4400 persons in all; so that it is quite possible the remaining 1600 were taken from among the Gershonites. Thus, therefore, from the fact that the Gershonites are omitted from our section, we cannot conclude that our catalogue is mutilated. In it all the chief branches of the Kohathites are named, viz., the two lines descended from Moses' sons (Ch1 24:20, Ch1 24:21); then the Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites (Ch1 24:23-25), and the main branches of the Merarites (Ch1 24:26-30).
Ch1 24:20 is to be taken thus: Of the sons of Amram, i.e., of the Kohathite Amram, from whom Moses descended (Ch1 23:13), that is, of the chief Shubael, descended from Moses' son Gershon (Ch1 23:16), his son Jehdeiah, who as head and representative of the class made up of his sons, and perhaps also of his brothers, is alone mentioned.
Of the father's-house Rehabiah, connected with Eliezer the second son of Moses (Ch1 23:16); of the sons of this Rehabiah, Isshiah was the head.
Of the Izharites, namely of the father's-house Shelomoth (Ch1 23:18), his sons were under the head Jahath. The heads of the class formed by David mentioned in Ch1 24:20-22, Jehdeiah, Isshiah, and Jahath, are not met with in 1 Chron 23 - a clear proof that 1 Chron 23 treats of the fathers'-houses; our section, on the contrary, of the official classes of the Levites.
Ch1 24:23 treats of the Hebronites, as is clear from Ch1 23:19; but here the text is imperfect. Instead of enumerating the names of the chiefs of the classes into which David divided the four fathers'-houses into which Hebron's descendants fell for the temple service, we find only the four names of the heads of the fathers'-houses repeated, just as in Ch1 23:19, - introduced, too, by וּבני as sons of...Bertheau would therefore interpolate the name חברון after וּבני (according to Ch1 23:19). This interpolation is probably correct, but is not quite beyond doubt, for possibly only the בּני of the four sons of Hebron named could be mentioned as being busied about the service of the sanctuary according to their divisions. In any case, the names of the heads of the classes formed by the Hebronites are wanting; but it is impossible to ascertain whether they have been dropped out only by a later copyist, or were not contained in the authority made use of by our historian, for even the lxx had our text.
The classes of the Merarites. As to Jaaziah and his sons, see the remarks on Ch1 23:31. As Mahli's son Eleazar had no sons, only Jerahmeel from his second son Kish, as head of the class formed by Mahli's sons, is named. Of Mushi's sons only the names of the four fathers'-houses into which they fell are mentioned, the chiefs of the classes not being noticed. The heads mentioned in our section are fifteen in all; and supposing that in the cases of the fathers'-houses of the Hebronites and of the Merarite branch of the Mushes, where the heads of the classes are not named, each father's-house formed only one class, we would have only fifteen classes. It is, however, quite conceivable that many of the fathers'-houses of the Hebronites and Mushes were so numerous as to form more than one class; and so out of the Levite families mentioned in Ch1 24:20-29 twenty-four classes could be formed. The subscription, that they cast the lot like their brethren, makes this probable; and the analogy of the division of the musicians into twenty-four classes (1 Chron 25) turns the probability that the Levites who were appointed to perform service for the priests, were divided into the same number of classes, into a certainty, although we have no express statement to that effect, and in the whole Old Testament no information as to the order of succession of the Levites is anywhere to be found.
וגו דויד לפני, as in Ch1 24:6. In the last clause אבות is used for בּית־אבות, as אבות ראשׁי stands frequently for בּית־אבות ראשׁי in these catalogues. הראשׁ stands in apposition to בּית־אבות, the father's-house; the head even as his younger brother, i.e., he who was the head of the father's-house as etc., i.e., the oldest among the brethren as his younger brethren. The Vulgate gives the meaning correctly: tam majores quam minores; omnes sors aequaliter dividebat.