I Chronicles 23

The Word Made Fresh

1When David was old and at the end of his days, he made his son Solomon king of Israel. 2He summoned all the leaders of Israel, along with the priests and the Levites. 3The Levites who were thirty years old or older were counted, and there were thirty-eight thousand of them. 4David decreed that twenty-four thousand of them would be on duty in the LORD’s house; six thousand would serve as magistrates and as judges; 5four thousand would be gatekeepers; and four thousand would be musicians to offer praise to the LORD using the praise instruments David had made. 6He then organized them in three divisions consisting of those who were descendants of Levi: Gershom, Kohath, and Merari.

7The sons of Gershom were Ladan and Shimei. 8Ladan’s three sons were Jehiel, Zetham, and Joel. 9They were family heads of the clan of Ladan. Shimei’s sons were Shelomoth, Haziel and Haran. 10Shimei also had four other sons: Jahath, Zina, Jeush, and Beriah. 11Jahath became the head of his clan and Zina the second. Jeush and Beriah had few sons, so they were all enrolled as one family.

12Kohath’s sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 13Amram’s sons were Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart to handle the most sacred duties, and he and his descendants were the ones to always present the offerings to the LORD and be the LORD’s ministers and pronounce blessings in the LORD’s name. 14The sons of Moses, the man of God, were to be employed with the tribe of Levi. 15Moses’ sons were Gershom and Eliezer. 16Gershom’s son was Shebuel. 17Eliezer’s son was Rehabiah. He had no other sons, but Rehabiah had many sons.

18Izhar’s son was Shelemith. 19Hebron’s sons were Jeriah, Amariah, Hahaziel, and Jekameam. 20Uzziel’s sons were Micah and Isshiah.

21The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. Mahli’s sons were Eleazar and Kish. 22Eleazar had no sons, only daughters. The sons of Kish married them. 23Mushi’s sons were Mahli, Eder, and Jeremoth.

24These were Levi’s sons in their family groups according to the lists of individuals twenty years old and older who were to handle duties of keeping the LORD’s house. 25David said, “The LORD God of Israel has given the people rest, and now resides in Jerusalem forever. 26Now, however, the Levites no longer need to pack and carry the most sacred objects” 27(this referred to the Levites David had listed who were twenty years old and older). 28“So, their responsibility shall be to assist the priests in their service in the LORD’s house. They will care for the courtyards and rooms. They will clean all the sacred objects and do whatever work is needed to maintain the services in the house of God. 29They will also assist with attending to the rows of bread, the choice flour used in the grain offerings, the baked items, the offerings mixed with oil, and also will assist in measuring weights and portions. 30They shall gather every morning and evening to give thanks and praise to God, 31and do the same whenever burnt offerings are brought to the LORD on sabbaths, new moons and regular festivals according to however many of them are required. 32In this way they shall be responsible for the meeting tent and the sanctuary and serve Aaron’s descendants, who are their relatives, in the service of the LORD’s house.”


1: David elevates Solomon to the throne before he dies, an act of succession that won’t be repeated by any of his successors – they will all die before their successors are crowned. The reason for the early succession of Solomon is found in 1 Kings chapter 1 – that another of David’s sons, Adonijah, is conspiring to overthrow his father. David, old and increasingly weakening in authority, is persuaded by the prophet Nathan and Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, to act immediately to crown Solomon in order to thwart Adonijah’s attempted coup. The chronicler mentions none of this, possibly to avoid having to explain Bathsheba’s presence.

2-6: Another interest of the chronicler is to justify the priesthood of his own day – several centuries removed from David – by showing how it was authorized by David himself. So, one of David’s last official acts is to organize the priesthood and the religious organization surrounding the temple that Solomon will build. The chronicler, much more than the other sources, credits David with setting up the religious establishment of Israel. Although Joab had refused to count the Levites in the recent census (21:6), David now has them counted and divides them into administrative groups corresponding to the arrangement first made by Moses in the wilderness. This time God doesn’t punish him, which begs the question of why the previous census provoked God’s wrath but this one does not. The three primary divisions are modeled after the instructions given by Aaron to the descendants of Levi’s three sons: Gershom (sometimes listed as Gershon), Kohath, and Merari.

7-11: Gershom had originally been given responsibilities for maintaining the sanctuary and its apparatus (see Numbers 3:21-26). The genealogy given here is modeled on the earlier one.

12-20: Kohath is the family to which Moses and Aaron belonged. They are to serve as the priests who manage the sacrificial rituals and the ministry of the tabernacle (Numbers 3:27-32).

21-23: Merari was the family that was given responsibility for all the tabernacle excepting the sanctuary – the wall panels and frames, etc. (Numbers 3:33-37).

24-32: David reasons that, with a permanent temple being built, their duties need to be redefined. They are to attend the tabernacle in Gibeon until the temple is built, then they are to assist the priests in the administration of the temple in Jerusalem.


There is probably nothing more foreign to our religious experience than the system of animal and other sacrifices which received so much attention in the Old Testament and even to the time of Jesus. Jesus was not fond of the way such things were handled and referred to the priests and Levites in the temple as a “den of robbers” (see Luke 19:46). That system of sacrifices finally came to an end around 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the temple in the process of putting down a rebellion.