Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Chronicles 25:1
The twenty-four classes of musicians. - Ch1 25:1. "David and the princes of the host separated for the service the sons of Asaph," etc. הצּבא שׂרי are not princes of the Levite host; for although the service of the Levites is called צבא צבא in Num 4:23, yet the princes of the Levites are nowhere called הצבא שׂרי. This expression rather denotes either the leaders of the army of the chiefs of Israel, as the host of Jahve, Exo 12:17, Exo 12:41, etc. Here it is used in the last signification, as synonymous with princes of Israel (Ch1 23:2); in Exo 24:6 we have simply the princes, along with whom the heads of the fathers'-houses of the priests and the Levites are mentioned. לעבדה הבדּיל, separate for the service; cf. Num 16:9. The ל in אסף לבני is nota acc. Since Asaph was, according to Ch1 6:39-43, a descendant of Gershon, Heman, according to Ch1 6:33-38, a descendant of Kohath, and Jeduthun (= Ethan) a descendant of Merari (Ch1 6:44-47), all the chief families of Levi had representatives among the singers. The Kethibh הנביאים is an orthographical error for הנּבּאים (Keri), partic. Niph., corresponding to the singular הנּבּא, Ch1 25:2 and Ch1 25:3. נּבּא, prophetare, is here used in its wider signification of the singing and playing to the praise of God performed in the power of the Divine Spirit. In reference to the instruments of these chief musicians, cf. Ch1 15:16. The suffix in מספּרם refers to the following noun, which is subordinated to the word מספּר as genitive; cf. the similar construction עצל נפשׁו, his, the sluggard's, soul, Pro 13:4, and Ew. 309, e. "Their number (the number) of the workmen for the service, i.e., of those who performed the work of the service, was (as follows)."
1 Chronicles 25:2
With אסף לבני the enumeration beings: "Of Asaph's sons were, or to Asaph's sons belonged, Zacchur," etc. Four are here named, but the number is not stated, while it is given in the case of the sons of Jeduthun and Heman, Ch1 25:3 and Ch1 25:5. על־יד, at the hand, alternates with על־ידי (Ch1 25:3 and Ch1 25:6), and אסף יד על does not of itself express a different relationship to Asaph than that expressed by המּלך ידי על with reference to the king. It signifies only "under (according to) the direction of;" and in Ch1 25:6 the king, Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman are co-ordinated, inasmuch as the musical part of the worship was arranged by David and the three chief musicians in common, although only the latter were concerned in its performance. In Ch1 25:3 לידוּתוּן is placed at the beginning, because the choir of singers led by him bore his name; and so also in the case of Heman, Ch1 25:4. "As to Jeduthun, were sons of Jeduthun." The word sons in these catalogues denotes not merely actual sons, but those intellectually sons, i.e., scholars taught by the master. This is clear from the fact that the twenty-four classes, each of which numbered twelve men, consist of sons and brothers of the leaders. The names given as those of the sons of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman, in Ch1 25:2-5, do not represent the whole number of the scholars of these masters, but only the presidents of the twenty-four classes of Levites who were engaged under their leadership in performing the sacred music. Only five sons of Jeduthun are named in our text, while according to the number given there should be six. A comparison of the names in vv. 9-31 shows that in Ch1 25:3 the name שׁמעי (Ch1 25:17) has been dropped out. בּכּנּור belongs to ידוּתוּן: under the direction of their father Jeduthun (the master), upon the kinnor (see on Ch1 15:16), who was inspired to sing praise, i.e., who played inspiredly to bring praise and honour to the Lord; cf. Ch1 16:4; Ch1 23:30, etc.
1 Chronicles 25:4
Fourteen sons of Heman are enumerated. עזר רממתּי is one name, cf. 31, although עזר is without doubt to be supplied also after גּדּלתּי. Probably also מחזיאות is to be supplied in thought after the names. מלותי, I made full, and הותיר, increased.
(Note: On these names Ewald ways, ausf. Lehrb. der Hebr. Sprache, 274, S. 672, der 7 Ausg.: "It is thought that the utterance of a great prophet is to be found cut up into names of near relatives, when the words,
עזר רממתּי גּדּלתּי
מחזיאות הותיר מלותי
'I have given great and lofty help,
I have to fulness spoken oracles,'
which manifestly form a verse, and may have been the commencement of a famed ancient oracle, are found transferred to the five musical sons of Heman, Giddalti(ezer), Romamtiezer, Mallothi, Hothir, and Machazioth.")
Heman is called in Ch1 25:5 the seer of the king in the words of God, because he, along with his gift of song, was endowed also with the prophetic gift, and as seer made known to the king revelations of God. In Ch2 35:15 the same thing is predicated also of Jeduthun, and in the same sense the prophet Gad is called in Ch1 21:9 David's seer. קרן להרים the Masoretes have connected with the preceding, by placing Athnach under the קרן, and the phrase has been wholly misunderstood by the Rabbins and Christian commentators. Berth., e.g., connects it with האלהים בּדברי, and translates, "to sound loud upon horns, according to the divine command," referring to Ch2 29:15, where, however, both meaning and accentuation forbid us to connect יהוה בּדברי with what follows. This interpretation of the words is thoroughly wrong, not only because the Levites under Heman's direction did not blow horns, the horn not being one of the instruments played by the Levites in connection with the worship, but also because on linguistic grounds it is objectionable. קרן הרים קרן .el never has the signification to blow the horn; for to elevate the horn signifies everywhere to heighten the power of any one, or unfold, show power; cf. Sa1 2:10; Lam 2:17; Psa 148:14; Psa 89:18; Psa 92:11, etc. That is the meaning of the phrase here, and the words are to be connected, according to their sense, with what follows: "to elevate the horn," i.e., to give power, God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters; i.e., to make Heman's race mighty for the praise of God, God gave him so many sons and daughters.
1 Chronicles 25:6
Ch1 25:6 is the subscription to the enumeration, Ch1 25:2-5. כּל־אלּה are not the fourteen sons of Heman, but all the sons of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman. All these were under the direction of their fathers for song in the house of Jahve, with cymbals ... for the service in the house of God under the direction of the king, etc. אביהם is used distributively of each father of the sons named. Bertheau supplies after אביהם the name Heman, and thereby the first half of the verse contradicts the second, which he correctly understands to refer to the twenty-four persons enumerated. - In Ch1 25:7 the total number is given. Their number (the number) of the sons of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman (i.e., of the twenty-four 4 + 6 + 14 mentioned by name), with their brethren, was 288 (24 x 12); whence we learn that each of those named had eleven אחים, all of them שׁיר מלמּדי שׁיר, learned, practised in song for Jahve. In כּל־המּבין the sons and the brothers are both included, in order to give the total number. מבין, having understanding, knowledge of a thing, denotes here those who by education and practice were skilled in song - the accomplished musicians. Their number was 288, and these were divided into twenty-four choirs (classes). David had, according to Ch1 23:5, appointed 4000 Levites for the performance of the music. Of these, 288 were מבינים skilled in song; the others were scholars (תּלמידים), as Ch1 25:8 shows, where מבין and תּלמיד are the two categories into which the musicians are divided.
1 Chronicles 25:8
They cast lots, משׁמרת גּורלות, κλήρους ἐφημερίων (lxx), by which the משׁמרת, the waiting upon the service, was fixed, that is, the order of their succession in the official service. לעמּת is variously translated. As no name follows, R. Shel. and Kimchi would repeat the preceding משׁמרת: one class as the other; and this is supported by Ch1 26:16 and Neh 12:24, and by the fact that in Ch1 17:5, after ממּשׁכּן, the words משׁכּן אל have been dropped out. But according to the accentuation משׁמרת belongs to גּורלות, and so the proposed completion is at once disposed of. Besides this, however, the thought "class like class" does not appear quite suitable, as the classes were only formed by the lots, and so were not in existence so as to be able to cast lots. We therefore, with Ewald, 360, a, and Berth., hold the clause כּגּדול כּקּטן to be the genitive belonging to לעמּת, since עמּת is in Ecc 5:15 also connected with a clause: "in the manner of, as the small, so the great," i.e., the small and the great, the older as the younger. This is further defined by "the skilled as the scholars." From these words it is manifest that not merely the 288 cast lots, for these were כּל־מבין (Ch1 25:7), but also the other 3712 Levites appointed for the service of the singers; whence it further follows that only the 288 who were divided by lot into twenty-four classes, each numbering twelve persons, were thoroughly skilled in singing and playing, and the scholars were so distributed to them that each class received an equal number of them, whom they had to educate and train. These, then, were probably trained up for and employed in the temple music according to their progress in their education, so that the ἐφημερία which had at any time charge of the service consisted not only of the twelve skilled musicians, but also of a number of scholars who assisted in singing and playing under their direction.
1 Chronicles 25:9
The order of succession was so determined by lot, that the four sons of Asaph (Ch1 25:3) received the first, third, fifth, and seventh places; the six sons of Jeduthun, the second, fourth, eighth, twelfth, and fourteenth; and finally, the four sons of Heman (first mentioned in Ch1 25:4), the sixth, ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth places; while the remaining places, Ch1 25:15-24, fell to the other sons of Heman. From this we learn that the lots of the sons of the three chief musicians were not placed in separate urns, and one lot drawn from each alternately; but that, on the contrary, all the lots were placed in one urn, and in drawing the lots of Asaph and Jeduthun came out so, that after the fourteenth drawing only sons of Heman remained.
(Note: Bertheau, S. 218, draws quite another conclusion from the above-mentioned order in which the lots were drawn. He supposes "that two series, each of seven, were first included in the lot: to the one series belonged the four sons of Asaph and the three sons of Heman, Mattaniah, Uzziel or Azarel, and Shebuel or Shubael; to the other, the six sons of Jeduthun and Bukkiah the son of Heman. A lot was drawn from each series alternately, commencing with the first, so that the four sons of Asaph and the three sons of Heman obtained the places 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13; while to the six sons of Jeduthun, and the son of Heman added to them, fell the places 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. The still remaining ten sons of Heman were then finally drawn for, and received the placed from the 15th to the 24th." This very artificial hypothesis explains, indeed, the order of the lots, but we cannot think it probable, because (1) for the supposed dividing of the lots to be drawn into divisions of 10 and 14 no reason can be assigned; (2) by any such division the sons of Heman would have been placed at a disadvantage from the beginning as compared with the sons of Asaph and Jeduthun, since not only Asaph's four sons, but also all Jeduthun's six sons, would have been placed in the first rank, while only four sons of Heman accompany them, Heman's ten remaining sons having had the last place assigned them.)
As to the details in Ch1 25:9, after Joseph we miss the statement, "he and his sons and his brothers, twelve;" which, with the exception of the הוּא, used only of the second lot, and omitted for the sake of brevity in all the other cases, is repeated with all the 23 numbers, and so can have been dropped here only by an error. The words ליוסף לאסף are to be understood thus: The first lot drawn was for Asaph, viz., for his son Joseph. In the succeeding verses the names are enumerated, sometimes with and sometimes without ל. Some of the names diverge somewhat in form. Izri, Ch1 25:11, stands for Zeri, Ch1 25:3; Jesharelah, Ch1 25:14, for Asarelah, Ch1 25:2; Azarel, Ch1 25:18, for Uzziel, Ch1 25:4 (like the king's names Uzziah and Azariah, Ch1 3:12, and Ch2 26:1); Shubael, Ch1 25:20, for Shebuel, Ch1 25:4 (cf. Ch1 23:16 with Ch1 24:20); Jeremoth, Ch1 25:22, for Jerimoth, Ch1 25:4; Eliyathah, Ch1 25:27, for Eliathah, Ch1 25:4. Besides these, the fuller forms Nethanyahu (Ch1 25:12), Hashabyahu (Ch1 25:3), Hananyahu (Ch1 25:23), are used instead of the shorter Nethaniah, etc. (Ch1 25:2, Ch1 25:19, Ch1 25:4). Of the 24 names which are here enumerated, besides those of Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman, only Mattithiah recurs (Ch1 15:18, Ch1 15:21) in the description of the solemnities connected with the bringing in of the ark; "but we are not justified in seeking there the names of our twenty-four classes" (Berth.).