This chapter intimates to us that one end of recording all these
genealogies was to direct the Jews, now that they had returned out of captivity,
with whom to incorporate and where to reside; for here we have an account of
those who first took possession of Jerusalem after their return from Babylon,
and began the rebuilding of it upon the old foundation. I. The Israelites (v.
2-9). II. The priests (v. 10-13). III. The Levites and other Nethinim (v. 14-26).
IV. Here is the particular charge of some of the priests and Levites (v. 27-34).
V. A repetition of the genealogy of king Saul (v. 35-44).
The first verse looks back upon the foregoing genealogies, and
tells us they were gathered out of the books of the kings of Israel and
Judah, not that which we have in the canon of scripture, but another civil
record, which was authentic, as the king's books with us. Mentioning Israel
and Judah, the historian takes notice of their being carried away to Babylon
for their transgression. Let that judgment never be forgotten, but ever be
remembered, for warning to posterity to take heed of those sins that brought it
upon them. Whenever we speak of any calamity that has befallen us, it is good to
add this, "it was for my transgression," that God may be justified and
clear when he judges. Then follows an account of the first inhabitants, after
their return from captivity, that dwelt in their cities, especially in
Jerusalem. 1. The Israelites. That general name is used (v. 2) because with
those of Judah and Benjamin there were many of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the
other ten tribes (v. 3), such as had escaped to Judah when the body of the ten
tribes were carried captive or returned to Judah upon the revolutions in
Assyria, and so went into captivity with them, or met them when they were in
Babylon, associated with them, and so shared in the benefit of their
enlargement. It was foretold that the children of Judah and of Israel
should be gathered together and come up out of the land (Hos. 1:11), and
that they should be one nation again, Eze. 37:22. Trouble drives those together
that have been at variance; and the pieces of metal that had been separated will
run together again when melted in the same crucible. Many both of Judah and
Israel staid behind in captivity; but some of both, whose spirit God stirred up,
enquired the way to Zion again. Divers are here named, and many more numbered,
who were chief of the fathers (v. 9), who ought to be remembered with
honour, as Israelites indeed. 2. The priests, v. 10. It was their praise that
they came with the first. Who should lead in a good work if the priests, the
Lord's ministers, do not? It was the people's praise that they would not
come without them; for who but the priests should keep knowledge? Who but the
priests should bless them in the name of the Lord? (1.) It is said of one of
them that he was the ruler of the house of God (v. 11) not the chief
ruler, for Joshua was then the high priest, but the sagan, and the next under
him, his deputy, who perhaps applied more diligently to the business than the
high priest himself. In the house of God it is requisite that there be rulers,
not to make new laws, but to take care that the laws of God be duly observed by
priests as well as people. (2.) It is said of many of them that they were very
able men for the service of the house of God, v. 13. In the house of God
there is service to be done, constant service; and it is well for the church
when those are employed in that service who are qualified for it, able
ministers of the New Testament, 2 Co. 3:6. The service of the temple was
such as required at all times, especially in this critical juncture, when they
had newly come out of Babylon, great courage and vigour of mind, as well as
strength of body; and therefore they are praised as mighty men of valour.
We have here a further account of the good posture which the
affairs of religion were put into immediately upon the return of the people out
of Babylon. They had smarted for their former neglect of ordinances and under
the late want of ordinances. Both these considerations made them very zealous
and forward in setting up the worship of God among them; so they began their
worship of God at the right end. Instances hereof we have here.
I. Before the house of the Lord was built they had the house of
the tabernacle, a plain and movable tent, which they made use of in the mean
time. Those that cannot yet reach to have a temple must not be without a
tabernacle, but be thankful for that and make the best of it. Never let God's
work be left undone for want of a place to do it in.
II. In allotting to the priests and Levites their respective
employments, they had an eye to the model that was drawn up by David, and Samuel
the seer, v. 22. Samuel, in his time, had drawn the scheme of it, and laid the
foundation, though the ark was then in obscurity, and David afterwards finished
it, and both acted by immediate direction from God. Or David, as soon as he was
anointed had this matter in his mind and consulted Samuel about it, though he
was then in his troubles, and the plan was formed in concert between them. This
perhaps had been little regarded for many ages; but now, after a long
interruption, it was revived. In dividing the work, they observed these ancient
III. The most of them dwelt at Jerusalem (v. 34), yet there were
some that dwelt in the villages (v. 16, 22), because, it may be, there was not
yet room for them in Jerusalem. However they were employed in the service of the
tabernacle (v. 25): They were to come after seven days from time to time.
They had their week's attendance in their turns.
IV. Many of the Levites were employed as porters at the gates of
the house of God, four chief porters (v. 26), and, under them, others, to the
number of 212, v. 22. They had the oversight of the gates (v. 23), were keepers
of the thresholds, as in the margin (v. 19), and keepers of the entry.
This seemed a mean office; and yet David would rather have it than dwell in
the tents of wickedness, Ps. 84:10. Their office was, 1. To open the doors
of God's house every morning (v. 27) and shut them at night. 2. To keep off
the unclean, and hinder those from thrusting in that were forbidden by the law.
3. To direct and introduce into the courts of the Lord those that came thither
to worship, and to show them where to go and what to do, that they might not
incur punishment. This required care, and diligence, and constant attendance.
Ministers have work to do of this kind.
V. Here is one Phinehas, a son of Eleazar, that is said to be a ruler
over them in time past (v. 20), not the famous high priest of that name, but
(as is supposed) an eminent Levite, of whom it is here said that the Lord was
with him, or (as the Chaldee reads it) the Word of the Lord was his
helperthe eternal Word, who is Jehovah, the mighty one on whom help is
VI. It is said of some of them that, because the charge was upon
them, they lodged round about the house of God, v. 27. It is good for
ministers to be near their work, that they may give themselves wholly to it. The
Levites pitched about the tabernacle when they marched through the wilderness.
Then they were porters in one sense, bearing the burdens of the sanctuary, now
porters in another sense, attending the gates and the doorsin both instances
keeping the charge of the sanctuary.
VII. Every one knew his charge. Some were entrusted with the
plate, the ministering vessels, to bring them in and out by tale, v. 28. Others
were appointed to prepare the fine flour, wine, oil, etc., v. 29. Others, that
were priests, made up the holy anointing oil, v. 30. Others took care of the
meat-offerings, v. 31. Others of the show-bread, v. 32. As in other great
houses, so in God's house, the work is likely to be done well when every one
knows the duty of his place and makes a business of it. God is the God of order:
but that which is every body's work will be nobody's work.
VIII. The singers were employed in that work day and night,
v. 33. They were the chief fathers of the Levites that made a business of
it, not mean singing-men, that made a trade of it. They remained in the chambers
of the temple, that they might closely and constantly attend it, and were
therefore excused from all other services. It should seem, some companies were
continually singing, at least at stated hours, both day and night. Thus was God
continually praised, as it is fit he should be who is continually doing good.
Thus devout people might, at any hour, have assistance in their devotion. Thus
was the temple a figure of the heavenly one, where they rest not day nor
night from praising God, Rev. 4:8. Blessed are those that dwell in thy
house; they will be still praising thee.
These verses are the very same with ch. 8:29-38, giving an
account of the ancestors of Saul and the posterity of Jonathan. There it
is the conclusion of the genealogy of Benjamin; here it is an
introduction to the story of Saul. We take the repetition as we find it; but if
we admit that there are in the originals, especially in these books, some errors
of the transcribers, I should be tempted to think this repetition arose from a
blunder. Some one, in copying out these genealogies, having written those words,
v. 34 (These dwelt in Jerusalem), cast his eye on the same words, ch.
8:28 (These dwelt in Jerusalem), and so went on with what followed there,
instead of going on with what followed here; and, when he perceived his mistake,
was loth to make a blot in his book, and so let it stand. We have a rule in our
law, Redundans non nocetRedundancies do no harm.