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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Chronicles 25

 

 

Verses 1-31

EXPOSITION

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

The families of the three chiefs in song.

1 Chronicles 25:1

The twenty-four courses of those who were to be engaged in the temple service as singers and musicians fill up this chapter. They are to be taken from the three great families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. For the captains of the host, as designating those who superintended the order of temple worship, see 1 Chronicles 22:17; 1 Chronicles 23:2; 1 Chronicles 24:6; as also Numbers 4:3; Numbers 8:23. The sons of Asaph. (For a clear instance of the use of the preposition (lamed) prefixed, as here, see Ezra 8:24.) The English should appear "the sons of Asaph." Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun belonged respectively to the Gershon, Kohath, and Merarite families (1 Chronicles 6:18-32). Thus these singers and musicians were drawn from each great branch of Levi; viz. from Gershon, four through Asaph; from Kohath, six through Jeduthun; and from Merari, fourteen through Heman; while the whole number of those trained to sing was two hundred and eighty-eight. Who should prophesy. The Hebrew הַגִּבְּאִים (Jeremiah 14:14, Jeremiah 14:16) stands for Niphal participle plural, the singular of which ( חַנּבָּא ) appears in the following two verses. These were the utterers in song of the Divine mind and will. The essential meaning of the expression evidently is to use the voice in sacred service, more or less under Divine impulse. With cymbals. These instruments were used to regulate the time (compare this verse with 1 Chronicles 13:8). For some particulars respecting these and other musical instruments used in Israel at this time, the article "Music" in Smith's 'Bible Dictionary' may be consulted with advantage. And the number, etc. The literal translation of the last clause of this verse is, And was their number, the men of work, for their service, i.e. "And the number of workmen for the service was." The workmen intend, of course, those who performed the service.

1 Chronicles 25:2

Four sons of Asaph are hero given, the number, however, not being ex. pressed, although it is expressed in the cases of Jeduthun and Heman (1 Chronicles 25:3, 1 Chronicles 25:5). "For Asaph," we find twelve psalms inscribed, viz. Psalms 1:1-6.; 73-83.; of some of which he was himself the inspired composer. When it is said "for Asaph," the meaning is for those "under his hand," or direction, and who as a band bore his name, and performed among other odes those which he prophesied. Zaccur. A descendant after the Return is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:35. Asarelah. This last of the four sons of Asaph is called in Nehemiah 12:14, Jesharelah. Under the hands of… according to the order of. The Hebrew words are "to the hand of" and "to the hands of." Between the signification of these two forms, the one expressed in the singular number and the ether in the plural, there does not seem to be any distinction, and accordingly they might be better translated, under the direction of… under the directions of. The latter form is that found in Nehemiah 12:3, Nehemiah 12:6.

1 Chronicles 25:3

Six sons are here said to be under the direction of Jeduthun (or Ethan, 1 Chronicles 6:44). The name missing is Shimei, supplied by 1 Chronicles 25:17, and which the Alexandrine Septuagint places fourth in this list. This is clear from the list of 1 Chronicles 25:9-31, which contains all the same names as are found in the present 1 Chronicles 25:2-4, and one more, Shimei, which therefore offers to supply the place vacant here. The name Zeri reappears in 1 Chronicles 25:11 as Izri. Who prophesied (see headings to Psalms 39:1-13.; 62.; 77.: we do not know, however, that Jeduthun composed any of these, nor does the word "prophesy" necessitate it).

1 Chronicles 25:4

The two names Uzziel and Shebuel, in this verse, reappear respectively in 1 Chronicles 25:18, 1 Chronicles 25:20, as Azareel and Shubael. It is remarkable that the ninth and tenth names of this list, with the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth, when put together, run into two lines of verse, which may be translated, "These bestowed great and high help; I have abundantly uttered oracles." Ewald suggests that these may be the commencing lines of some ancient prophet's oracles.

1 Chronicles 25:5

For the expression, the king's seer, and as other instances of the office, see 1 Chronicles 21:9; 2 Chronicles 35:15, in neither of which places, however, have we the attendant phrase, in the words of God. Yet we have the same sense strictly implied in 1 Chronicles 21:9, 1 Chronicles 21:19. The expression needs not to be generalized into "in the matters of God," but evidently describes the seer (Heman, Gad, or Jeduthun) as the authorized medium of verbal communication between God and the king. There is difficulty in assigning the right place of the clause, to lift up the horn. There can be no doubt at all that it contains no allusion whatever to the horn as an instrument of sound (the almost solitary approach to which use of the word is found in Joshua 6:5), but that it falls in with the very frequent figurative use of the phrase as it occurs in the very same words (Psalms 75:5, Psalms 75:6; Psalms 89:18, Psalms 89:25; Psalms 92:12; Psalms 112:9; 1 Samuel 2:1, 1 Samuel 2:10, etc.), and which means "to add to the strength" or "honour" of any one. The allusion is to the number of Heman's children being a mark of the honour God set on him. The words cannot go with the latter part of the verse, while the conjunction (vau) in וַיִּתֵּן opens it. The possible order may be, All these sons were to Heman, the king's seer, by the words of God, to lift up the horn. The absence of the third personal pronoun suffix to קֶרֶן is noticeable, place the clause where we will The statement of the fourteen sons and three daughters belonging to Heman, in this verse, shows that up to this point the word "sons" is used in its stricter sense, however true it may be that the sense is amplified in 1 Chronicles 21:10 -31.

1 Chronicles 25:6

This verse needs nothing except exact translation to make its meaning clear and consistent, All these (i.e. the names of 1 Chronicles 25:2-4) were under the directions of their father, in the song of the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, under the directions of the king, Asaph, and Jeduthun and Heman.

1 Chronicles 25:7

This verse introduces a large additional number of those called for the present brethren of the foregoing twenty-four. These brethren (partly composed of their sons, as appears from 1 Chronicles 25:9-31) were to aid in the songs of the Lord, and were apparently under instruction for that purpose. Each one of the twenty-four had eleven associated subordinates with him, and for whose instruction and service he was probably answerable. These would, of course, multiply up to the two hundred four score and eight mentioned in the verse. This verse appears (contrary to the interpretation of Keil, Bertheau, and others) with sufficient precision to mark two classes מְלֻמְּדֵי־שִׁיר, and הַמֵּבִּין, the latter not embracing the former, but the two together making up the two hundred and eighty-eight spoken of. These two classes will surely satisfy the "teacher and the scholar" classification of the following verse; the classes are denoted by the same Hebrew roots. In 1 Chronicles 25:7 the passive Pual participle of the instructed and the Hiphil participle of the cunning, or skilled, correspond exactly with the "scholar" ( תַלְמִיד ) and the "teacher" ( מֵּבִין) of 1 Chronicles 25:8. The contents of 1 Chronicles 25:9-31 point to the same, being as they are without an allusion to any other outsiders—to any but the already introduced names of "sons" and "brethren." The supposing, therefore, of any allusion here to the "four thousand" of 1 Chronicles 23:5 seems unnecessary and unnatural in whatever way they were distributed—and probably enough it was in an analogous manner—no distinct reference is made to them here.

1 Chronicles 25:8

This verse should be translated, And they cast lots of attendance, small and great equally, teacher with scholar. The Septuagint translates גוֹרָלוֹת מִשִׁמֶרֶת by the words κλήρους ἐφημεριῶν.

1 Chronicles 25:9-31

List of the choirs in the order in which their lots came. The formula, his sons, and his brethren, which follows twenty-two out of the twenty-four leaders' names which now come before us, is absent from 1 Chronicles 25:9, where we should have looked for it, viz. after the name Joseph. It has been supposed that this is a mere omission of carelessness. But this can scarcely be asserted conclusively. It is observable, for instance, that the order of the formula in the same verse, on occasion of its very first occurrence, is not identical with the other twenty-two instances of it, the word "brethren" preceding "sons," and the pronoun "he" being expressed. The preposition () ל is sometimes expressed and sometimes not expressed before both the proper names and the ordinal numerals of the list. Examination of the contents of these verses shows, either that it was due to the Divine direction of the lot (Proverbs 16:33) that an issue resulted which looks so unlike mere chance, and the system of which is so methodical and traceable; or that the lot-taking was not one of families and sons, all thrown together from the first. This supposition would, of course, leave room for some such ingenious hypothesis as that of Berthean, too artificial by far to be defensible except as a theory that would indeed work out the result. He suggests that the modus operandi was by two urns, one for the first seven odd numbers, into which were put the names of Asaph's four sons and of the second, third, and fourth of Heman; the other for the first seven even numbers, into which were put the six sons of Jeduthun and the first of Heman. Turning from such a concocted theory to these verses, we find that the first cast brings to the surface the second son of Asaph, and the second cast brings up the eldest son of Jeduthun. At the end of the seventh all of Asaph's sons are exhausted, and what would have been his next place (the ninth) is occupied by the second son of Heman, whose eldest had just taken the sixth place so thrown out by the lot. At the end of the fourteenth throw Jeduthun's six sons are all used up, and all the remaining places belong to Heman's sons, but still in the order in which they are thrown out by the lot.

1 Chronicles 25:21

Mattithiah (see 1 Chronicles 15:18, 1 Chronicles 15:21). No other of these twenty-four names is found elsewhere out of this chapter in the history, a just indication of the trustworthiness rather than the contrary of this table.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

1 Chronicles 25:7.-Instruction in songs.

It was according to the king's order that schools of psalmody were appointed in connection with Levitical ministrations. He was himself fitted by temperament, by genius, by piety, by proficiency in art, to found such schools, and to give them an impulse and inspiration. In the skill and system with which he gave himself to this work, he showed his far-sighted wisdom. For out of his labour and care sprang, directly, all Hebrew minstrelsy of later times, and, indirectly, in no small measure, all Christian psalmody.

I. THE SPIRITUAL SUBSTANCE OF PSALMODY. If the singing of hymns, the chanting of psalms, the vocal rendering of carols, canticles, and anthems, be mere musical exercise and enjoyment, it is no psalmody in God's ear. In acceptable praise the heart is the all-essential element. David felt this when he exclaimed, "Sing ye praises with understanding;" and Paul when he admonished Christians to "make melody with their heart unto the Lord."

II. THE METRICAL AND MUSICAL FORM OF PSALMODY. The utterance of praise may be spontaneous. But if it is to be social, such as many may join in, it must be prepared. Thanksgiving, when it assumes a permanent shape and finds a social utterance, must come under the control of the rules of art. Metrical language and melody and harmony thus became the body of which adoration and gratitude, confidence and love, are the soul. We see an illustration of these principles in the sacred minstrelsy of David. He composed devout and spiritual odes, and directed that these should be sung by trained choirs to the accompaniment of instrumental music. However different may be the language and the music of our social praise, we cannot dispense with art. The choice in psalmody does not lie between spontaneity and art, but between bad art and good. Hence the perpetual importance of what is called in the text "instruction in the songs of the Lord." There must be teaching and teachers, labour and skill, adaptation to persons and seasons—all alike penetrated by the spirit of true devotion.

CONCLUSION

1. The importance of a due attention to "the service of song in the house of the Lord."

2. The danger, on the one hand, of carelessness and slovenliness, which spring from and conduce to irreverence; and, on the other hand, of losing the spirit in exaggerating the importance of the form.

3. The desirableness of cultivating a devout and grateful spirit towards him who "inhabiteth the praises of Israel," and who receives the unceasing adoration of the heavenly hosts.—T.

1 Chronicles 25:8.-Small and great, teacher and scholar.

We have here an enumeration of the several courses of the Levites, appointed by lot to minister in due order. In the words which precede the enumeration, we have summarized the variety of ages and classes, all of whom were employed and accepted by the Lord in his service.

I. AN EPITOME OF HUMAN SOCIETY AS CONSTITUTED BY God. Our common humanity is consistent with great variety and intermixture of elements. It has pleased God not only that generation should succeed generation, but that members of the human race of all ages should exist together in human society. It is obviously his will that mankind should be composed of those who teach and those who learn.

II. AN ARRANGEMENT TO WHICH THE PROVISIONS OF REDEMPTION EXACTLY CORRESPOND. If the same God rules in providence and saves in redemption, we may expect to find a suitable provision made for the varied wants of varied classes. Accordingly we find that the Bible is equally adapted to young and old; that the redemption of Christ is limited to no age or class; that the Holy Spirit is poured out from above without regard to the distinctions Upon which men often lay an undue stress; that religion is equally intended for the benefit of all mankind.

III. THAT SOCIETY SHOULD BE SO CONSTITUTED IS PRODUCTIVE OF MUTUAL ADVANTAGE. The great serve the small, and the small the great; the scholar is indebted to the teacher, who in turn derives many benefits from his pupils. There is no member of the human race who is not both a benefactor and a beneficiary. It is well that all should live in voluntary and cheerful compliance with this Divine ordinance.

IV. ALL CLASSES AND AGES MAY CO-OPERATE FOE THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL AND THE SERVICE OF GOD. The cause of Christ is one which the feeblest child may help to advance, and which may employ the abilities of the greatest and most learned. Our Lord disdains not the lowliest service; and the loftiest are honoured in being permitted to do his will and glorify his Name.—T.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

1 Chronicles 25:1-31.-The service of the house of God.

In this chapter, which gives the musical arrangements made for the "service of the house of the Lord," we have suggestions which take our thoughts over the wider ground of public worship. We have —

I. TWO ELEMENTS WHICH IT SHOULD INCLUDE. Divine service is felt to be essentially incomplete without:

1. Praise. All who love the house of God delight "to give thanks and to praise the Lord" (1 Chronicles 25:3). We have such a God for our God that we can "give thanks, and praise" him whenever we remember him. The devotees of heathen deities cannot do so; they can only prostrate themselves abjectly before their gods, or deprecate their capricious wrath: there is nothing in the beings they worship worthy of their honour. In the only wise God, in the holy and pitiful Father of our spirits, in the righteous Lord of all, in the merciful Redeemer of mankind, in the patient, striving, cleansing Spirit of God, in this God who is our God, we have One whom we can praise continually, and with all the energies and faculties of our nature, and then feel that we have failed to render unto him "the glory which is due unto his Name."

2. Instruction. There were to be workmen "who should prophesy "(1 Chronicles 25:1), and they" prophesied with a harp;" i.e. their function was to utter sacred, instructive, inspiring words in their capacity as choristers. The music of the sanctuary was to be subordinated to the utterance of Divine truth, the sound to the sense, the ear to the soul. One musical leader was even spoken of as "the king's seer in the words of God" (1 Chronicles 25:5). Here we have an argument a fortiori. If in the act of praising, when the first end in view is the offering thus presented to God himself, we are to use words which will be instructive and elevating to the worshippers, how much more are we to provide that other ports of Divine service shall be full of sacred instruction, shall tend to edify, to enlighten, to sustain!

II. FOUR FEATURES BY WHICH IT SHOULD BE CHARACTERIZED.

1. Order. The whole chapter is an argument for this; the division into choirs, with their respective leaders, and the arrangement as to their turn of service, speak of careful orderliness. The beauty of holiness in which we should worship requires that there be no confusion, embarrassment, disorder (1 Corinthians 4:1-21 :33, 40).

2. Excellency. They were duly "instructed in the songs of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 25:7). No doubt they were taught to take their parts well "under the hands of their father," or of some competent teacher. In everything we do in God's house we should aim at excellency. Whether it be in offering prayer, or in reading, or in preaching, or in singing, every one should do his very best. There is no place where men and women should be so desirous of putting forth their utmost talents as in the house of him from whom all faculty and all opportunity have been received.

3. Variety. The instruments of music used were various—"cymbals, psalteries, and harps." Doubtless others would have been used if they had been known and found fitting. We may do better to use one instrument of music only, but we do not well to make God's service monotonous. We should make it as attractive with variety of engagements, freshness of thought and newness of method as is consistent with reverence and propriety.

4. Amity. "They cast lots… as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar." The arrangement was 'made so that there should be no partiality in the appointment made, and, if possible, no dissatisfaction with the place taken. We should shun giving offence, and also taking it. Happy the Church where there is concord from the choir and no discord within it.—C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

1 Chronicles 25:1, 1 Chronicles 25:3.-Prophesying with a harp.

"Prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals;" "Who prophesied with a harp." The point suggested is that music, which is skill of hand, may help song, which is skill of voice. The term" prophesying" is variously employed in the Scriptures. Sometimes it seems to stand, in a very general way, for sharing in religious worship. At other times the idea of instructing people in the will of God, as it had been immediately revealed to the speaker, is prominent. And at yet other times there is reference to the fore-announcing of coming events. Here, in the passages before us, the element of instruction is the prominent thing, or the exerting of a gracious influence on others by music, which should bear direct relation to the culture of their spiritual life. And this is the proper and the high function of religious music. Consider —

I. INSTRUCTION AS THE EQUIVALENT OF CULTURE. This involves a large view of instruction, as bearing relation to the whole man—heart and feeling as well as mind. For the purpose of a man's instruction—edification, soul-culture—there need not be a direct appeal to his intelligence, because his receptive faculties are not limited to his intellect; a man receives even more through feeling than through brain and mind. But in an age when there is an extravagant worship of knowledge, this point needs consideration and prominence, in order that better attention may be paid to the means for reaching the religious sensibility. John Howe has a sentence which may bear on this possibility of culture otherwise than through a man's mind. He says, in one of his most serious moods, "Nor do I believe it can ever be proved that God never doth immediately testify his own special love to holy souls without the intervention of some part of his eternal Word, made use of as a present instrument to that purpose; or that he always doth it in the way of methodical reasoning therefrom." It is plain that in our general education a thousand other influences than the intellectual reach us and aid us, and other men than those who can be called intellectual influence us; and we may be sure that the same is true of the education of our soul's spiritual life. Let our idea of instruction pass into the larger, broader thought of culture, edification, and then we see that —

II. MUSIC MAY BECOME AN IMPORTANT AGENCY IN SOUL-CULTURE. By many and various illustrations the refining, ennobling, educative influence of music may be shown.

1. Childhood songs implant the first seeds of good.

2. Rhyme bears direct relation to memory, and materially aids the retention of good sentiments and thoughts.

3. Music has a soothing power, as seen in King Saul; and often becomes a moral preparation for the due reception of instruction in the milder aspects of truth and the gentler forms of duty.

4. Music often finds relieving expression for emotions, either of joy or of sorrow, which are too intense for language.

"Music I Oh how faint, how weak —

Language fades before thy spell I

Why should feeling ever speak,

When thou canst breathe her soul so well?"

Illustrate by Mendelssohn's 'Songs without Words.'

5. Music bears direct relation to religions feeling. Sounds of music bear a twin influence with the sights of nature: both bring home to human hearts some sense of the eternal harmonies and beauties of the worlds unseen, and of the glorious God who is above and in them all. Then the gift of music, as well as song, must lie on God's altar. Of the earth-temple, as well as of the heavenly, it must be true, "As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there."—R.T.

1 Chronicles 25:7.-Consecrated song.

"Instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning." The general subject of the consecration of song to the Lord's service has been dealt with in previous homilies. Here two points gain prominence. Men who serve with song must be

I. MEN WITH A GIFT. "Cunning," clever, skilled, having this as a natural endowment. Dwell on the importance of fully recognizing the Divine distribution of gifts in our times, as truly as in the age of the apostles; and then the practical importance of looking out the men and women among us who have a Divine endowment. Each one of us should be anxious to find his or her own gift, and each one should be quick to observe his brother's gift. The thing which lifts a man above commonplace is his gift, and in honouring it we honour God in him.

II. MEN WITH THE GIFT CULTURED. In this matter our responsibility comes to view. In our service to God we are bound to see to it that the men and women of gifts among us have their chance of due instruction and culture. Worldly men are keen to discover talent, and train it. But this needs to be more fully done within Christ's Church, and in respect especially of the gifts of preaching, music, and song.

Dealing with the song-gift, it may be shown how dependent it is upon culture; how it responds to instruction and practice, and what a power it exerts on men, as hymn-power, anthem-power, chorus-power, song-power. The ancient legend of Eurydice did but declare the wondrous spell that ever goes with beauteous song —

"Perchance at last,

Zeus willing, this dumb lyre and whispered voice

Shall wake, by love inspired, to such clear note

As soars above the stars, and swelling, lifts

Our souls to highest heaven."

R.T.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 25:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/1-chronicles-25.html. 1897.

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