The organization of the Levites from Numbers 3 – 4 has to change because: “The LORD, the God of Israel, has given rest to his people, and he dwells in Jerusalem forever. And so the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service” (1 Chronicles 23:25-26). But the same
organization by generation will continue for the responsibilities in their new setting.
For example, the priestly ministry will continue in Aaron’s family: “Aaron was set apart to dedicate the most holy things, that he and his sons forever should make offerings before the LORD and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever” (1 Chronicles 23:13). They are identified by the families of Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons, and divided into 24 groups that serve in turns (1 Chronicles 24:3-19). They will be organized under the high priest that comes from Zadok’s family for reasons that we saw in 1 Samuel 2:27-36; 3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:25-26, 38-39; 2:26-27.
The other Levites serve under the authority of Aaron’s family, just as we read in the book of Numbers:“So the LORD said to Aaron… ‘With you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die’” (Numbers 18:1, 2-3). The temple will function the same way: “For their duty was to assist the sons 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. Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the 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 were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening” (1 Chronicles 23:28-30). All that we studied in the book of Numbers about the Levites’ service as insulation between Yahweh’s holiness and the people’s sin pertains to the new temple as well.
But the Levitical responsibilities are not limited to the offerings; they serve other functions, too. For example, in another instance of protection against Yahweh’s devastating holiness: “They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of
meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you”
(Numbers 18:4). Therefore they assign gatekeepers, so no one will enter to perform some task that doesn’t correspond to them and cause Yahweh’s wrath to break forth against the nation. We find their assignments in 1 Chronicles 26:1-19.
For the first time in the historical narratives we examine praise of Yahweh through music, both in the temple and in the army, by both instrument and voice: “David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals” (1 Chronicles 25:1). They also serve in 24 groups by turn. This chapter
extends our vision of the tabernacle services, and following that, those of the
Then there is another group of Levites that oversee the treasuries and dedicated gifts (1 Chronicles 26:20). Their responsibilities include the administration of resources for temple maintenance (1 Chronicles 26:26-27). The groups mentioned last are those Levites who judge in Israel itself and in the territory of the two and a half tribes on the other side of the Jordan (1 Chronicles 26:29-32).
This brief review of Levitical ministry covers a lot. They fulfilled responsibilities with the sacrifices and offerings, in protecting the temple from contamination, in praising Yahweh by instruments and by voice, in the administration of the treasuries and oversight of villages. In their attention to
ministry explained in 1 Chronicles 23 – 26, the Levites tell us that Yahweh is holy and glorious, worthy of worship not only among the people but from generation to generation.