THE TWENTY-FOUR CLASSES OF SINGERS, OR MINSTRELS.
(1) Moreover (and) David and the captains of the host.—The latter (“the princes” of 1 Chronicles 24:6), were also concerned in the arrangement of the priestly classes (1 Chronicles 23:2).
Separated to the service of the sons of Asaph.—Rather, separated for service the sons of Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun. These formed three guilds of sacred minstrels, famous to all after times. (Comp. the headings of many psalms in which these names occur, and also 1 Chronicles 6:33, sqq., whence it appears that Asaph belonged to the sub tribe of Gershon, Heman to that of Kohath, and Ethan-Jeduthun to that of Merari, so that all the branches of Levi were represented among the musicians.)
Separated.—So Numbers 16:9, and Genesis 1:7. (Comp Acts 13:2.)
Who should prophesy with harps.—In Hebrew, the verb to prophesy is a reflexive form, implying utterance under a spiritual influence. The ancients regarded musical utterance as an effect and proof of direct inspiration, and we still speak of the higher results of genius as inspired, however we may choose to explain the term away as a mere figure of speech. The power of moving sounds, whether of voice or instrument, is not to be gained by mere study or training; it is commonly spoken of as a “gift,” and its products are called “inspirations.” Whence come they, if not from the Divine source of life, and of all that makes life glad and beautiful? (James 1:17; 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 16:16; 1 Samuel 18:10).
Harps, with psalteries.—Lutes and harps.
And the number of the workmen according to their service was.—Literally, And the number of them—that is, of the men of work—for their service proved (as follows).
Men of work.—A remarkable appellation. The term “work” is popularly restricted to what is called productive labour, but it is not difficult to see that persons engaged, like these minstrels, in singing and playing to the praise of God are actually helping to produce one of the best of real results, viz., the conservation of the religious spirit: that is, of the right attitude of man towards the Power upon whom his entire welfare absolutely depends.
Asarelah.—This singular name is spelt “Jesharelah” in 1 Chronicles 25:14. Ewald identifies it with “Israel,” the unaccented ending ah having the force belonging to—literally, towards, unto—so that Jesharelah is in effect the modern Jewish surname Israels. (Comp. “Jaakobah,” 1 Chronicles 4:36, to Jacob, i.e., Jacobs.)
Under the hands of Asaph.—Rather, at the hand of Asaph. It is implied that the four leaders here named were subordinate to Asaph, and under his direction. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 25:3; 1 Chronicles 25:6; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 29:27; Ezra 3:10.)
Which prophesied according to the order of the king.—Literally (Asaph), who prophesied (or should prophesy, the participle, as in 1 Chronicles 25:1) at the hands of the king: that is, either according to the royal arrangements (2 Chronicles 23:18), under David’s own appointment, or under the royal direction.
Prophesied.—That is, made music. (See 1 Chronicles 25:1.)
Zeri.—The “Izri” of 1 Chronicles 25:11 is probably right. (Comp. Numbers 26:49.) The error here is as old as the ancient versions.
Six.—Only five names are now read in the text; that of “Shimei” (1 Chronicles 25:17) has fallen out, the only name in 1 Chronicles 25:9-31 which does not occur in 1 Chronicles 25:2-4. The Alex. LXX. inserts the name between Jeshaiah and Hashabiah.
Jeshaiah.—Elsewhere spelled Isaiah.
Under the hands (see last verse) of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp.—Literally, according to the Hebrew punctuation, at the hands of their father Jeduthun, with the lute (i.e., provided with lutes, 1 Chronicles 15:16), who prophesied (or was to prophesy) for giving thanks and praise to Jehovah. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 16:4).
At the hands of their father.—Under the direction of their conductor.
“God has come; I have exalted and extolled the help;
I have spoken abundance of visions.”
Such words are very suitable in the mouth of a seer, as Heman is called in the next verse, but the arrangement of the names in this order is perhaps only a mnemonic device
Uzziel.—Power of God (Exodus 6:18); called “Azareel” in 1 Chronicles 25:18 ( God hath helped, 1 Chronicles 12:6). The words differ in Hebrew by one letter only. The Syriac has “Uzziel” (Azael) in both places. But the difference appears in the LXX. and Vulg.
Shebuel.—In 1 Chronicles 25:20, “Shubael,” which the LXX. reads in both places. The Syriac and Vulg. keep the distinction. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 24:20.)
Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer.—That is, perhaps, Giddalti-ezer and Romamti-ezer. But in 1 Chronicles 25:29 “Giddalti” occurs again without any such addition, and the name as it stands may be compared with “Mallothi.” The two verbs, giddaltî and romamtî, occur together in Isaiah 1:2 : “1 have nourished and brought up.”
The king’s seer in the words of God.—Or, in the things of God, in Divine (that is, liturgical) matters. Heman was a prophet as well as a minstrel. (For the connection between music and prophecy, comp. 1 Samuel 10:5-6; 2 Kings 3:15; Exodus 15:20.) Comp. also Note on 1 Chronicles 25:1, above.
Seer.—Heb., hōzèh. Literally, gazer. The word rendered “seer” in 1 Chronicles 26:28 and 1 Samuel 9:9 is different (rō’èh). Gad was called “David’s seer” (1 Chronicles 21:9); so also Jeduthun is “the king’s seer” (2 Chronicles 35:15).
To lift up the horn.—That is, according to Bertheau, “to blow the horns loudly.” With this he connects the preceding phrase, which he renders “by God’s commands.” (Comp. 2 Chronicles 29:15.) But the horn does not appear elsewhere among the instruments of the Temple musicians, and the phrase “to lift up the horn” of a person is a well-known Hebrew metaphor. (Comp. 1 Samuel 2:10 : “May he give strength to his king, and lift up the horn of his anointed.”) Thus it seems that the meaning is that God gave all these “sons”—i.e., proficient disciples—to Heman in order to strengthen him for his work by providing him with a strong body of able assistants.
And three daughters.—The mention of “three daughters” is interesting, as an indication that women sustained a part in the service of song. (Comp. Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6.) The Syriac omits the whole verse.
According to the king’s order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman.—Rather, under the directions of the king (and), Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun. The meaning is that the arrangement of the duties of the minstrels was accomplished by David with the assistance of the three chief musicians, just as, in the classification of the priests, the king had been helped by the chief priests Zadok and Ahimelech (1 Chronicles 24:3).
All these.—That is, the twenty-four leading minstrels, enumerated in 1 Chronicles 25:2-4. Each performed under the supervision of his own “father,” i.e., director.
As well the small as the great.—Heb., exactly as the small (or, the younger), so the great (or, the elder). (Comp. the Vulg., “ex aequo tam major quam minor.”) But perhaps leummath is here used absolutely: “They cast lots in like manner” (1 Chronicles 24:31). The senior houses, or guilds, had no advantage over the juniors, the order of rotation being decided by lot. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 24:31.)
The teacher as the scholar.—Literally, cunning (1 Chronicles 25:7) with learner. According to 1 Chronicles 23:5, the whole number of Levites appointed for the service of song was 4,000. These were all included in the twenty-four classes, 288 of them being “cunning” men, that is, masters in their art, and the remaining 3,712 forming the rank and file of the choirs under the training of the proficients. The Aramaic word talmid (scholar) occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. It is the term used of the disciples of the Rabbis in the Talmud, and is the exact equivalent of the New Testament word, μαθητής.
The second to Gedaliah, who with his brethren and sons were twelve.—Rather, Gedaliah was the second, he and his brethren and his sons—twelve. The “brethren” and “sons” of the chiefs, in this and the following verses, are the eleven masters, or proficients, in each class.
Brethren.—Fellow-clansmen, or associates.
Sons.—Disciples, or subordinates.
Perhaps, however, we should think of elder and younger families, grouped together in one class.
Spelling, and probably pronunciation, fluctuated between Jeremoth and Jerimoth (1 Chronicles 25:4). (Comp. 1 Chronicles 23:23; 1 Chronicles 24:30.) The LXX. and Vulg. spell “Jerimoth” in both places here; Syriac, “Jarmûth”; Arabic, “Jārāmāth” and “Jarmûth.”
It appears evident that all the lots were thrown into a single urn, and that the Asaphite and Ethanite names were all drawn, as the chances made it likely, before the Hemanites were exhausted. As it happened, only Hemanite names were left after the fourteenth drawing.