Study Guide

1 Chronicles Rules & Order

Rules & Order

These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite; the third Absalom, son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; the fourth Adonijah, son of Haggith; the fifth Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth Ithream, by his wife Eglah; six were born to him in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years and six months. And he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem. These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, daughter of Ammiel; then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. All these were David's sons, besides the sons of the concubines; and Tamar was their sister. (1 Chronicles 3:1-9, NRSV)

These were the sons of David, which were born unto him in Hebron; the firstborn Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess: The third, Absalom the son of Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur: the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith: The fifth, Shephatiah of Abital: the sixth, Ithream by Eglah his wife. These six were born unto him in Hebron; and there he reigned seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years. And these were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shimea, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, four, of Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel: Ibhar also and Elishama, and Eliphelet, And Nogah, and Nepheg, and Japhia, And Elishama, and Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. These were all the sons of David, beside the sons of the concubines, and Tamar their sister. (1 Chronicles 3:1-9, KJV)

This is typical of the orderly lists in 1 Chronicles—literally everybody and their mother are specified.

Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense, doing all the work of the most holy place, to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded. (1 Chronicles 6:49, NRSV)

But Aaron and his sons offered upon the altar of the burnt offering, and on the altar of incense, and were appointed for all the work of the place most holy, and to make an atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded. (1 Chronicles 6:49, KJV)

Right away, David looks to the old rules to figure out how to run the Temple. This is how they did it back in the old days, so it must be good. David is so old school. It wasn't too difficult to figure out how to arrange everything, because the description of the tabernacle in Moses' day was painfully detailed. David knew that God was in the details—literally, in this case. This is the Chronicler giving implicit instructions to his contemporaries about how to behave.

To the rest of the Kohathites were given by lot out of the family of the tribe, out of the half-tribe, the half of Manasseh, ten towns. To the Gershomites according to their families were allotted thirteen towns out of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Manasseh in Bashan. To the Merarites according to their families were allotted twelve towns out of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun. So the people of Israel gave the Levites the towns with their pasture lands. They also gave them by lot out of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin these towns that are mentioned by name. (1 Chronicles 6:61-65, NRSV)

Unto the sons of Kohath, which were left of the family of that tribe, were cities given out of the half tribe, namely, out of the half tribe of Manasseh, by lot, ten cities. And to the sons of Gershom throughout 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. Unto the sons of Merari were given by lot, throughout their families, out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities. And the children of Israel gave to the Levites these cities with their suburbs. 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 called by their names. (1 Chronicles 6:61-65, KJV)

This is just a small part of one big long section all about how land was divided up in Israel. God couldn't just have everyone claiming any old portion. He had to decide who got what. Without rules about who owns what land, it could end up in constant fighting. Although that would never, ever happen today, right? Two things are going on here. First, everything is very specifically organized. Second, the Chronicler is making a point about the fair distribution of real estate. When everyone got back from Babylon, this could have been a contentious issue. His message: your leaders will tell you how to handle this.

These were the gatekeepers of the camp of the Levites. Shallum son of Kore, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, and his kindred of his ancestral house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, guardians of the thresholds of the tent, as their ancestors had been in charge of the camp of the Lord, guardians of the entrance. And Phineas son of Eleazar was chief over them in former times; the Lord was with him. Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper at the entrance of the tent of meeting. All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were two hundred twelve. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and the seer Samuel established them in their office of trust. (1 Chronicles 9:18-22, NRSV)

They were porters in the companies of the children of Levi. And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, being over the host of the Lord, were keepers of the entry. And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was the ruler over them in time past, and the Lord was with him. And Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was porter of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. All these which were chosen to be porters in the gates were two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office. (1 Chronicles 9:18-22, KJV)

And how do jobs get assigned? Based on old rules. David and Samuel appoint gatekeepers for the Temple based on the tribe they were born into and who their father was. Maybe it made sense—you'd learn the job from your father if he held it. It was probably simpler than giving everyone the Meyer-Briggs Personality Inventory and a math test.

When they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. David was angry because the Lord had burst out against Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. (1 Chronicles 13:9-11, NRSV)

When they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perezuzza to this day. (1 Chronicles 13:9-11, KJV)

This is what happens when you don't follow the rules. No one is allowed to touch the Ark of the Covenant. Even Steven Spielberg knew that. Uzzah does touch it and pays the price. Doesn't seem fair in this case, though; it actually seems like Uzzah put his hand on the Ark accidentally. The oxen shook it and he was just trying to steady it. But apparently, it doesn't matter how innocent your intentions though. Rules are rules. In another quote, we learn that the problem was that God was unhappy that the Levites weren't in charge of the transport to begin with. Still.

David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. He said to them, "You are the heads of families of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your kindred, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God burst out against us, because we did not give it proper care." So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 15:11-15, NRSV)

David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab, And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 15:11-15, KJV)

Moving the Ark: Take 2. This time, David is careful to make sure he gets it right. By following the original rules, the Ark can safety enter the city and no human hands ever have to touch it. This was only a job for the Levites.

David left Asaph and his kinsfolk there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister regularly before the ark as each day required, and also Obed-edom and his sixty-eight kinsfolk; while Obed-edom son of Jeduthun and Hosah were to be gatekeepers. And he left the priest Zadok and his kindred the priests before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, according to all that is written in the law of the Lord that he commanded Israel. (1 Chronicles 16:37-40, NRSV)

[David] left there before the ark of the covenant of the Lord Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day's work required: And Obededom with their brethren, threescore and eight; Obededom also the son of Jeduthun and Hosah to be porters: And Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon, To offer burnt offerings unto the Lord upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the law of the Lord, which he commanded Israel. (1 Chronicles 16:37-40, KJV)

As charismatic and revolutionary as David might have seemed early in his reign, he's extremely conservative in how he governs the nation. Hey, it worked for Moses.

Aaron was set apart to consecrate the most holy things, so that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the Lord, and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever; but as for Moses the man of God, his sons were to be reckoned among the tribe of Levi. (1 Chronicles 23:13-14, NRSV)

Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever. Now concerning Moses the man of God, his sons were named of the tribe of Levi. (1 Chronicles 23:13-14, KJV)

The Levites are responsible for taking care of the Ark and the Temple, but only guys who are personally descended from Aaron (Moses' brother) get to be high priests and make offerings in the Temple. So David sticks with the program. The reasoning seems to be that God had his reasons for assigning things this way, so they can't be questioned.

David said, "The Lord, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people; and he resides in Jerusalem forever. And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service"—for according to the last words of David these were the number of the Levites from twenty years old and upward—"but their duty shall be to assist the descendants of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God; to assist also with the rows of bread, the choice flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the baked offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. And they shall stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, and whenever burnt offerings are offered to the Lord on sabbaths, new moons, and appointed festivals, according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord. Thus they shall keep charge of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary, and shall attend the descendants of Aaron, their kindred, for the service of the house of the Lord." (1 Chronicles 23:25-32, NRSV)

David said, The Lord God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever: And also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof. For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above: Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God; Both for the shewbread, and for the fine flour for meat offering, and for the unleavened cakes, and for that which is baked in the pan, and for that which is fried, and for all manner of measure and size; And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even: And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the Lord in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the Lord: And that they should keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the holy place, and the charge of the sons of Aaron their brethren, in the service of the house of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 23:25-32, KJV)

Since the Ark has found a permanent resting place in Jerusalem, the Levites don't need to carry tent poles or fold up curtains. They get modified duties that are in keeping with the spirit of God's original job descriptions for them.

David gave his son Solomon the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; and the plan of all that he had in mind: for the courts of the house of the Lord, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts; for the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, and all the work of the service in the house of the Lord; for all the vessels for the service in the house of the Lord, the weight of gold for all golden vessels for each service, the weight of silver vessels for each service, the weight of the golden lampstands and their lamps, the weight of gold for each lampstand and its lamps, the weight of silver for a lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each in the service, the weight of gold for each table for the rows of bread, the silver for the silver tables, and pure gold for the forks, the basins, and the cups; for the golden bowls and the weight of each; for the silver bowls and the weight of each; for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. "All this, in writing at the Lord's direction, he made clear to me—the plan of all the works." (1 Chronicles 28:11-19, NRSV)

David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat, And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things: Also for the courses of the priests and the Levites, and for all the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and for all the vessels of service in the house of the Lord. He gave of gold by weight for things of gold, for all instruments of all manner of service; silver also for all instruments of silver by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service: Even the weight for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold, by weight for every candlestick, and for the lamps thereof: and for the candlesticks of silver by weight, both for the candlestick, and also for the lamps thereof, according to the use of every candlestick. And by weight he gave gold for the tables of shewbread, for every table; and likewise silver for the tables of silver: Also pure gold for the fleshhooks, and the bowls, and the cups: and for the golden basons he gave gold by weight for every bason; and likewise silver by weight for every bason of silver: And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern. (1 Chronicles 28:11-19, KJV)

David did not leave anything to chance. Even though he's not going to be the one to build the Temple, he and God came up with detailed blueprints for it. Now David can die knowing everything is in perfect order. Pretty accurate models of the Temple can be made today based on these detailed plans. But fleshhooks—ew. And speaking of Moses (were we speaking of Moses?), it's interesting that just as Moses wasn't permitted to enter the promised land because of one episode of disregarding one of God's suggestions, David won't be allowed to see the Temple built.

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