Thoughts on 1 Chronicles

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
1 Chron. 6-9
The inspired writer begins again with the sons of Levi (chap. 6:16). The special line of the priesthood, the sons of Aaron, are as prominent in Levi, as the line of kings, the sons of David, are in Judah. Here (ver. 16) the three branches of the tribe, Gershom, Kohath, and Merari, the sons of each, and the appointment of one from each family to be a leader in the service of song.
The importance of song as part of the service to be rendered to God is seen in the particular care taken that the leaders in that choir should have a sort of double witness or attestation of their right to the name of Levi, and therefore of their qualification to be leaders of song, and to the privileges of the Levitical tribe. Of the sons of Kohath, Heman; of Gershom, Asaph; and of Merari, Ethan. These had been included in the general list of descendants (16-19) now the genealogy of each is traced backward to Levi (33-47). There is no such care manifested for any other branch of Levitical service. Why such particular care about the singers? Because none must be allowed to sing, but those who have the right. And who now have the right to sing? Redemption gives the right. Should there be songs for slaves? Whether to a willing or a groaning slave, deliverance must first come, and in that comes the appointment to sing. The care with which God by David assigns the service of song to these three leaders has a meaning for the church now, where all are, or should he, singers, making melody in the heart.
Song is the outward expression of melody in the heart, and could not be omitted in the order of temple worship. What melody there will be in the millennial temple, what a “joyful noise” from all lands when Messiah reigns, when the ark shall rest in its place prepared by the true David, Who will appoint the singers then, and set them over the service. The scene given in 1 Chronicles is but a transient glimpse of what the earth shall see and hear. The psalmist looks over the (to him) unknown gloom and darkness of intervening years to that brightness which will in Messiah's reign rest upon the temple and upon the land of God, and exclaims, “Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion” (Psa. 65). What a service of song will be then! Above will be the twenty-four elders, saying, “We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned” (Rev. 11:1717Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. (Revelation 11:17)). On earth will be the shouts of responsive joy; the courts of Zion will answer to the courts of heaven. Our hymn says, “Let earth and heaven agree “; and so they will then, when He Who is the joy of heaven is the object of praise on earth. No agreement till He reigns. What a wondrous thing to look forward to is this, angelic voices and human choirs blending together and singing the same song!
We hear now of “service of song,” where the mixed multitude join, where those who are not reconciled to God, whose hearts are at enmity against Him, pretend to sing His praise! It is mockery. Israel did not sing till they were redeemed. There is no song for this world before He comes Who will purge His kingdom from all things that offend. Then acceptable song will burst from all, a universal hallelujah from heaven and earth.
But is there no song now? Yea, truly the choicest of songs, which more than anticipates that to come. When that future song is heard, all the surroundings will be in harmony with it; now we sing surrounded with evil, by things out of tune, the discords of sin and sorrow and death. But our song is the melody of the heart that knows redemption, a present redemption through His blood. Song in the heart is what God now looks for, and without this, however sweet the song may be as mere fruit of the lips, it cannot be acceptable to Him. The melody which rises from the church of God is richer and sweeter than that from Israel in the future, even as faith is a closer link with God than the sight of the glory.
The line of priests had been already given down to the captivity (4-15). Here (49) we have them again but only to Zadok and Ahimaaz, to the time of David, the period when authority in the things of God was transferred from the priest to the king. David takes the supremacy which had previously been vested in the priest, and the picture is complete of the time when Christ the true King is present; Who, when here in humiliation, rejected by His own people, gave a momentary glimpse of His authority and power when He drove out from the temple of God all those who had made it a den of thieves. Nothing human can account for this, that a crowd of sellers and buyers see their tables overturned, and yet all flee from One! He came as the prophet announced, “Behold thy King cometh unto thee; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:99Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)), and so Matthew describes His entry into Jerusalem. But it was thy King Who was coming. And the first place in the city that the Lord goes to (Matt. 21) is the “temple of God.” And as King the crowd flee before Him. It was the power and authority of God's great King, and the throne and the temple are in accord. When the King came first, He was lowly, meek, no pomp of earthly glory, riding on an ass, and a crowd of humble followers. When He comes the second time, it will not be in humiliation, but in the brightness of the glory of God, and creation will flee before Him. Not on an ass but on the clouds of heaven He will ride; not then to cleanse the temple only, but to purge His kingdom, to take vengeance, and destroy His enemies.
Chapter 7. gives the remaining tribes with the chief men among them. The two divinely important things, the throne and the temple having been given with care and detail, all other tribes not so immediately connected with them as were Judah and Levi respectively are passed over with exceeding brevity. One event is recorded in connection with Ephraim which is not given elsewhere, namely, the disaster that befell some of the sons of Ephraim (ver. 2 l). The men of Gath slew them “because they came down to take away their cattle.” This happened during Ephraim's life, perhaps before that Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. The land of Goshen bordered upon the land of Gath (the Philistine's land). And no doubt, the inhabitants of each land made inroads upon the other, and in one the sons of Ephraim were slain. The moral state of the children of Ephraim was no better than that of the Philistines. The law had not yet said, “Thou shalt not steal.” It is not probable that this could have happened when the Israelites were slaves under the last Pharaoh. A son was born to Ephraim after this, whose name, Beriah, was commemorative of their death, “because it went evil with his house.” And there was blessing in his daughter Sherah, and other sons were born to him. This was a healing of the breach.
Benjamin has a second notice in chapter 8, and stands next as to detail to Judah and Levi. What was there in, or connected with, Benjamin to make his tribe prominent in these genealogies? Judah is connected with the throne—the king; Levi with the priest and temple service, it was fitting that these two tribes should stand out prominent before the others. But what had Benjamin? It was from that tribe came Saul, the hater and persecutor of God's chosen man, and he has a fearful prominence among them. He was approved of men, but given of God in anger (Hos. 13:1111I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. (Hosea 13:11)). He brought the kingdom to ruin. It was right in the wisdom of God when He is presenting the true King in David that the enemy should also be seen (typically) in Saul. And even as Saul the man of the people ruled when David appeared, and as Cæsar ruled when Christ was born, so when the rightful King appears by-and-bye the usurper will still occupy the throne, but to be hurled thence into the abyss. All will be in arms against God's King then, as it was in time past.
From the opening of chapter 9, we learn that these genealogies were compiled after the return from Babylon, and “the first inhabitants of the land” are those who returned first, and the chief among them are named. There are the children of Judah and of Benjamin with remnants of Ephraim and Manasseh. The two tribes that slave to the house of David, and the representatives of the children of Joseph. So that in this comparatively small remnant, there are both the royalty and the birthright. And before they were driven out again, He appeared Who is both King and the Firstborn. Who alone is such before God. By rejecting Him, this favored remnant lost both. Grace will at the right time restore both, and bring all Israel, the ten lost tribes together with the Jewish remnant into the privileges and glory flowing from both.
We see that vers. 29-38 of chapter 8 are repeated in chapter 9:35-44. In the former it is as the sons of Benjamin, though on account of Saul the false king coming from that tribe, with more detail than in chap. vii. 6, &c. But in chap. 9 it is simply the false king's family and connections, his immediate ancestors. And they are joined with the ruin of the kingdom. The sacred penman leads from the enumeration of Saul's sons to the condition of Israel, utterly broken, and flying from the Philistines, compare chap. 8:38 and 9:44. The former part of chapter 9, 1-34, is a kind of parenthesis, stating those who returned from Babylon, and their employment; and we see that those who were necessary for the due temple service are carefully mentioned. We return to Saul's family (chap. 9:35) and plunge into Israel's ruin.
A remnant is brought back not for the sake of history, but that history may tell how sovereign grace interposed, and is yet to interpose when Christ comes: else irreparable ruin in common with the Gentile. But God was foreshadowing His great purpose of all Israel's restoration. The remnant's return is the pledge of the nation's return. The worship of Jehovah is (nominally and outwardly) re-established. The old men might weep at the diminished splendor and glory of the house, but there it was, an immense fact for this lost world, where idol temples abounded. One temple to Jehovah! It was the link then between God and His rebellious people, and through them with man. What is it now? Not the temple, but the cross.
All who are necessary for the service of the temple are there, priests, Levites, and porters. Of the priests it is said, “very able men for the work of the service of the house of God” (chap. 9:13). If Solomon's temple exceeded this in glory, so that old men wept when they thought of it, so and much more will the future temple exceed that of Solomon. There will be no old men to weep then.