Avraham ben Yaakov


Our present chapter gives us the details of King David's organization of the Levite Temple singers into twenty-four divisions corresponding to the twenty-four divisions of the Cohanim. The organization of the Levite Temple gate-keepers and keepers of the Temple treasures is then set forth in the following chapter.

V 1: "And David and the captains of the army SEPARATED for the service.." "The service" refers to the sublime service of song that accompanied the performance of the sacrificial offerings by the Cohanim and which was the element of GEVURAH, "might," that "elevated" the sparks of holiness to the Almighty. [Levy=GEVURAH.] It takes focused strength and understanding - left column attributes - in order to really sing! David "separated" the Temple choristers from the other Levites. They were a hereditary order drawn exclusively from three Levite lines headed in the time of David by Asaph, Heyman and Yedoothoon, as detailed in verse 1.

According to the KSIV (the Massoretic Hebrew text as written in the scroll), they are called HANEVI'IM, "the prophets", but the KRI (traditional pronunciation) is HANIB'EEM, which is a verbal adjective meaning that "they used to prophesy with harps and lyres and the cymbals" (i.e. the KRI emphasizes the action and not the person). In the words of Rashi (ad loc.): "When they would play with these instruments they would prophesy, as we find with Elisha, who said 'Bring me a player, and it was when the player played that the hand of HaShem was upon him'" (II Kings 3:15). RaDaK (on our verse here in Chronicles) adds: "The children of Asaph would play the instruments and then holy spirit would rest on Asaph and he would start singing with his mouth to the sound of the harps. Likewise Heyman and Yedoothoon were all prophets with musical instruments. For the book of Psalms was composed with holy spirit and it contains prophecies and visions of the future dealing with the exile and the redemption."

".and the number of the workmen according to their service was:" (v 1). These closing words of verse 1 introduce the following section (vv 2-7) which enumerate the four sons of Asaph, the six sons of Yedoothoon and Heyman's fourteen sons - a total of twenty-four. These became the heads of the twenty-four divisions of Levite singers, each of which consisted of twelve singers in the time of David, making a total of two hundred and eighty-eight, as we find in verse 7.

V 3: "The children of Yedoothoon. SIX." - "But in the verse you only find FIVE. This is because at that time [i.e. in David's fortieth year, when all these arrangements were made, see chapter 26 v 31] his wife was pregnant with Shim'i and Yedoothoon saw with holy spirit that he too was destined to be a head of a division, and this is why the verse says six" (Rashi ad loc. cf. RaDaK).

V 5: "All these were the sons of Heyman, the king's seer, according to the word of God, who bade to lift up his horn." Heyman's "horn" was the SHOFAR of prophecy that spoke through him to the king (cf. Rashi). ".and God gave to Heyman fourteen sons and three daughters" - "That is to say, If not for the fact that God gave him these children it would not have been possible for him to have fourteen sons and three daughters, with all his sons fit to be divisional heads" (Rashi ad loc.). Heyman and his large family were all descended from Korach, as was the prophet Samuel. Indeed, "It was when Korach saw the illustrious lineage was to come from him that he thought he would be able to stand up against Moses - but while he saw, he did not see well enough, because he did not understand that only on account of his children's repentance would these illustrious descendants arise" (Yalkut Shimoni).

V 7: "And their number with their brothers. was two hundred and eighty-eight." Since there were twenty-four rotating divisions each consisting of twelve choristers, there was a total of 288 Temple singers. The number 288 is of great significance kabbalistically. As a result of the "breaking of the vessels", 288 holy sparks fell into the realm of the unholy. This is alluded to in Genesis 1:2, "and the spirit of God was HOVERING (MERACHEPHES) over the face of the depth". The first and last letters of MeRaChePHeS spell out MEIS - "dead", while the sum of the numerical values of the three middle letters Reish (200), Chet (8) and Peh (80) is 288. It is these holy sparks that vitalize the realm of the unholy to perform its assigned task in creation. These sparks are redeemed through the spread of God's CHESSED, loving kindness. This comes about through its successive revelation in each of the four basic expansions of the name of HaVaYaH - AV, SaG, MaH and BaN - through the expansion of the AVs specific to each one in turn. The gematria of AV is 72. 4 x 72 = 288. Thus as the succession of twenty-four divisions of the Levites sang in the Temple week by week, their prophetic songs elevated and redeemed all the sparks that had fallen into the realm of unholiness. The order that David instituted for the Temple singers derives from the World of Tikkun (Repair).

V 8: "And they cast lots." As in the case of the priestly squadrons, the order in which the divisions of the Levite Temple singers sang week after week was determined not on account of seniority or expertise but purely through the will of God as expressed through the lots.

V 9: "And the first lot came out for Asaph to Yoseph; the second to Gedaliah: he with his brothers and sons were TWELVE." From the fact that the original divisions of the Levite Temple singers as organized by King David consisted of twelve choristers each, our sages taught: "There should never be fewer than twelve Levite singers standing on the platform [although there could be more]. Twelve corresponding to what? Rav Papa said, Corresponding to the nine harps, two lyres and one cymbals. As it says, '.he and his brothers and sons were TWELVE'" (Erchin 13b. The cited sugya in Erchin is the most detailed of our Talmudic sources relating to the Temple music.)


The Levite Temple gate-keepers did not serve in rotation. Rather, specified Levitical families were allocated by lot to specific Temple locations, where members of the families in question performed their guard duties constantly throughout the year (see Rashi on v 1).

The leaders of the families of the Levite gate-keepers are enumerated in vv 1-11.

Vv 4-5: "And the children of Oveid-Edom. for God blessed him." Oveid-Edom was blessed in virtue of his having given his home to house the Ark of the Covenant for three months after David's first unsuccessful attempt to bring it up to Jerusalem when Uzza died setting his hand forth to steady it on the wagon (I Chron. 13:14).

V 12: The divisions of the Temple gate-keepers were twenty-four in number corresponding to the divisions of the Temple singers, except that they did not serve in rotation week by week as did the singers. Instead each division was assigned its own hereditary location in the Temple through the casting of lots, as detailed in vv 14-19. The total of four thousand gatekeepers in the time of David (I Chron. 23:5) were distributed more or less evenly among the twenty-four divisions (see Metzudas David on v 12).


V 20: "And of the Levites, Ahiya was over the treasures." - "He was in charge of the funds with which sacrificial animals etc. were purchased for the Temple" (Rashi ad loc.).

V 24: "And Shevoo'el the son of Gershom, the son of Moses was ruler over the treasures." According to rabbinic tradition, Shevoo'el is identical with Yehonathan, the Levite who ministered before Michah's idol (Judges ch's 17-18, see the KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary there). He was called SHEVOO-EL because he returned to God with all his heart. King David saw that he had a very great affection for money and appointed him over the Temple treasures (Bava Kama 110a). This shows the greatness that can be attained when one learns to elevate the very thing that caused one to stumble so as to use it in the service of God, and also David's greatness in perceiving clearly how to help and elevate Baaley Teshuvah! It is noteworthy that no less than Moses' own grandson was appointed to the office of chief Temple treasurer, which was one that involved enormous responsibility.

V 29: "Of the family of Yitzhar, Kenanyahu and his sons were for the outward business over Israel , for officers and judges." This "outward business" refers to the work that had to be done outside the city for the sake of the Temple , such as preparing the timber and stones. These Levites provided the officers in charge of supervising this work (Metzudas David).

V 31: ".in the fortieth year of the kingship of David they were sought for." This verse indicates that all of the organization of the Cohanim and Levites described from chapters 23 until our present chapter was carried out in the very last year of King David's life. This shows his extraordinary vitality and power to the very end!

V 32: ".and King David appointed them over the Reubenites, Gaddites and the half tribe of Menashe." These tribes lived in the territories east of the Jordan stretching from those to the east of the Dead Sea all the way up into the Golan Heights . Officers were required to supervise the preparation of materials from these areas for use in the forthcoming Temple building project.



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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