David, having settled the courses of these Levites that were to
attend the priests in their ministrations, proceeds, in this chapter, to put
those into a method that were appointed to be singers and musicians in the
temple. Here is, I. The persons that were to be employed, Asaph, Heman, and
Jeduthun (v. 1), their sons (v. 2-6), and other skilful persons (v. 7). II. The
order in which they were to attend determined by lot (v. 8-31).
Observe, I. Singing the praises of God is here called prophesying
(v. 1-3), not that all those who were employed in this service were honoured
with the visions of God, or could foretel things to come. Heman indeed is said
to be the king's seer in the words of God (v. 5); but the psalms they
sang were composed by the prophets, and many of them were prophetical; and the
edification of the church was intended in it, as well as the glory of God. In
Samuel's time singing the praises of God went by the name of prophesying
(1 Sa. 10:5; 19:20), and perhaps that is intended in what St. Paul calls prophesying,
1 Co. 11:4; 14:24.
II. This is here called a service, and the persons
employed in it workmen, v. 1. Not but that it is the greatest liberty and
pleasure to be employed in praising God: what is heaven but that? But it
intimates that it is our duty to make a business of it, and stir up all that is
within us to it; and that, in our present state of corruption and infirmity, it
will not be done as it should be done without labour and struggle. We must take
pains with our hearts to bring them, and keep them, to this work, and to engage
all that is within us.
III. Here were, in compliance with the temper of that
dispensation, a great variety of musical instruments used, harps, psalteries,
cymbals (v. 1, 6), and here was one that lifted up the horn (v. 5),
that is, used wind-music. The bringing of such concerts of music into the
worship of God now is what none pretend to. But those who use such concerts for
their own entertainment should feel themselves obliged to preserve them always
free from any thing that savours of immorality or profaneness, by this
consideration, that time was when they were sacred; and then those were
justly condemned who brought them into common use, Amos 6:5. They invented to
themselves instruments of music like David.
IV. The glory and honour of God were principally intended in all
this temple-music, whether vocal or instrumental. It was to give thanks, and
praise the Lord, that the singers were employed, v. 3. It was in the
songs of the Lord that they were instructed (v. 7), that is, for songs in
the house of the Lord, v. 6. This agrees with the intention of the
perpetuating of psalmody in the gospel-church, which is to make melody with
the heart, in conjunction with the voice, unto the Lord, Eph. 5:19.
V. The order of the king is likewise taken notice of, v. 2 and
again v. 6. In those matters indeed David acted as a prophet; but his taking
care for the due and regular observance of divine institutions, both ancient and
modern, is an example to all in authority to use their power for the promoting
of religion, and the enforcing of the laws of Christ. Let them thus be ministers
of God for good.
VI. The fathers presided in this service, Asaph, Heman, and
Jeduthun (v. 1), and the children were under the hands of their father,
v. 2, 3, 6. This gives a good example to parents to train up their children, and
indeed to all seniors to instruct their juniors in the service of God, and
particularly in praising him, than which there is no part of our work more
necessary or more worthy to be transmitted to the succeeding generations. It
gives also an example to the younger to submit themselves to the elder
(whose experience and observation fit them for direction), and, as far as may
be, to do what they do under their hand. It is probable that Heman, Asaph,
and Jeduthun, were bred up under Samuel, and had their education in the schools
of the prophets which he was the founder and president of; then they were
pupils, now they came to be masters. Those that would be eminent must begin
early, and take time to prepare themselves. This good work of singing God's
praises Samuel revived, and set on foot, but lived not to see it brought to the
perfection it appears in here. Solomon perfects what David began, so David
perfects what Samuel began. Let all, in their day, do what they can for God and
his church, though they cannot carry it so far as they would; when they are gone
God can out of stones raise up others who shall build upon their foundation and
bring forth the top-stone.
VII. There were others also, besides the sons of these three
great men, who are called their brethren (probably because they had been
wont to join with them in their private concerts), who were instructed in the
songs of the Lord, and were cunning or well skilled therein, v. 7. They were
all Levites and were in number 288. Now, 1. These were a good number, and a
competent number to keep up the service in the house of God; for they were all
skilful in the work to which they were called. When David the king was so much
addicted to divine poesy and music many others, all that had a genius for it,
applied their studies and endeavours that way. Those do religion a great deal of
good service that bring the exercises of devotion into reputation. 2. Yet these
were but a small number in comparison with the 4000 whom David appointed thus to
praise the Lord, ch. 23:5. Where were all the rest when only 288, and
those but by twelve in a course, were separated to this service? It is probable
that all the rest were divided into as many courses, and were to follow as these
led. Or, perhaps, these were for songs in the house of the Lord (v. 6),
with whom any that worshipped in the courts of that house might join; and the
rest were disposed of, all the kingdom over, to preside in the country
congregations, in this good work: for, though the sacrifices instituted by the
hand of Moses might be offered but at one place, the psalms penned by David
might be sung every where, 1 Tim. 2:8.
Twenty-four persons are named in the beginning of this chapter
as sons of those three great men, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. Ethan was the
third (ch. 6:44), but probably he was dead before the establishment was
perfected and Jeduthun came in his room. [Or perhaps Ethan and Jeduthun were two
names for the same person.] Of these three Providence so ordered it that Asaph
had four sons, Jeduthun six [only five are mentioned v. 3; Shimei, mentioned v.
17, is supposed to have been the sixth], and Heman fourteen, in all twenty-four
(who were named, v. 2-4), who were all qualified for the service and called to
it. But the question was, In what order must they serve? This was determined by
lot, to prevent strife for precedency, a sin which most easily besets many that
otherwise are good people.
I. The lot was thrown impartially. They were placed in
twenty-four companies, twelve in a company, in two rows, twelve companies in a
row, and so they cast lots, ward against ward, putting them all upon a
level, small and great, teacher and scholar. They did not go according to their
age, or according to their standing, or the degrees they had taken in the
music-schools; but it was referred to God, v. 8. Small and great, teachers and
scholars, stand alike before God, who goes not according to our rules of
distinction and precedency. See Mt. 20:23.
II. God determined it as he pleased, taking account, it is
probable, of the respective merits of the persons, which are of much more
importance than seniority of age or priority of birth. Let us compare them with
the preceding catalogue and we shall find that, 1. Josephus was the second son
of Asaph. 2. Gedaliah the eldest son of Jeduthun. 3. Zaccur the eldest of Asaph.
4. Izri the second of Jeduthun. 5. Nethaniah the third of Asaph. 6. Bukkiah the
eldest of Heman. 7. Jesharelah the youngest of Asaph. 8. Jeshaiah the third of
Jeduthun. 9. Mattaniah the second of Heman. 10. Shimei the youngest of Jeduthun.
11. Azareel the third of Heman. 12. Hashabiah the fourth of Jeduthun. 13.
Shubael the fourth of Heman. 14. Mattithiah the fifth of Jeduthun. 15. Jeremoth
the fifth of Heman. 16. Hananiah the sixth of Heman. 17. Joshbekashah the
eleventh of Heman. 18. Hanani the seventh of Heman. 19. Mallothi the twelfth of
Heman. 20. Eliathah the eighth of Heman. 21. Hothir the thirteenth of Heman. 22.
Giddalti the ninth of Heman. 23. Mehazioth the fourteenth of Heman. And, lastly,
Romamti-ezer, the tenth of Heman. See how God increased some and preferred the
younger before the elder.
III. Each of these had in his chorus the number of twelve,
called their sons and their brethren, because they observed them as sons,
and concurred with them as brethren. Probably twelve, some for the voice and
others for the instrument, made up the concert. Let us learn with one mind and
one mouth to glorify God, and that will be the best concert.