Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
I CHRONICLES CHAPTER 5
Vv 1-10: Lineage of the tribe of Reuven and their habitations.
As mentioned a number of times, the primary purpose of DIVREY HAYAMIM was to establish the credentials of the House of David and the royal line that came from him. Accordingly, pride of place was given to the genealogy of the tribe of Judah from which David came. The tribe of Shimon was mentioned next (at the end of the previous chapter) because they initially lived in territories that were part of the tribal inheritance of Judah .
The chronicler now continues with the genealogy of the tribe of Reuven, because Reuven was actually Jacob's firstborn and should thus have taken precedence over all the other tribes. Our text notes that the birthright was taken from Reuven because "he defiled his father's bed" (see Genesis 35:22f). The "double share" of the inheritance that is due to the firstborn (Deut. 21:17) was given instead to Joseph (from whom came TWO tribes, Ephraim and Menasheh), but the "birthright" itself - the kingship - was given to Judah , whose traits of character made him uniquely fit for the kingship (see Rashi on vv 1 & 2 of our present chapter).
As recounted in Numbers ch 32, the tribe of Reuven took their tribal inheritance EAST of the River Jordan in territories that were taken from Sichon king of the Emorites.
It is interesting to note that the war waged by the Reuvenites in the time of King Saul (verse 10 of our present chapter) was against the HAGRI'IM, who were none other than Ishmaelites (descendants of HAGAR, see Rashi ad loc.) - indicating that the Middle East conflicts of today are an ongoing recycling of a very ancient conflict (see below on vv 18ff). The area of Gil'ad that was occupied by the Reuvenites lies to the east of the River Jordan between the River Yarmoukh (which flows into the Jordan a few kilometers south of the Sea of Tiberias/Kinneret) and the River Yabok (which enters the Jordan further south at the Adam Bridge).
Vv 11-17: The tribe of Gad and their place of habitation. In the time of Moses the tribe of Gad joined with that of Reuven in requesting their tribal inheritance east of the Jordan . The region of Bashan where they took their lands lies to the east of the Kinneret in the hinterlands of the Golan, north of Gilead .
Vv 18-22: Wars of the tribes east of the Jordan with other nations. The tribes of Reuven, Gad and half Menashe were living on the border and had no option but to practice the martial arts (v 18). These they combined with faith and trust in God, and in the wider war they made in the later First Temple period against the Ishmaelite Hagri'im and other related nations (Yitur and Nafeesh v 19 were tribes founded by sons of Ishmael, Gen. 25:15), they turned to God for salvation, which was granted to them (v 22).
Vv 23-24: The half of the tribe of Menasheh who settled east of the Jordan took their territories in the Bashan, Golan Heights and Mt Hermon.
Vv 25-26: Our text laconically relates that the tribes east of the Jordan fell into idolatry and were exiled by the king of Ashur. Whereas the book of Kings deals at length with the idolatry of the Ten Tribes and the moral that must be learned from their resulting exile, the purpose of DIVREY HAYOMIM is different and accordingly the exile is mentioned only in passing.
Vv 27-41: Lineage of the High Priests. This begins a new section devoted to the tribe of Levy. It is introduced here because the previous section dealt with the pedigree of Reuven, who came next in order of precedence after Judah since he was Jacob's biological firstborn. (The tribes of Gad and half Menasheh were mentioned with Reuven only because they took their territories adjacent to those of Reuven east of the Jordan .) After Reuven and Shimon (whose genealogy was given in Chapter 4), Leah's third son was Levy, and the most prestigious of the scions of Levy were the Cohanim-Priests, who were an elite separate from the rest of the tribe of Levy since they alone were authorized to conduct the Temple sacrificial rites and they were bound by unique laws of ritual purity and marital restrictions that did not apply to the other Levites.
The line of the High Priests given in this section traces the priesthood down to S'rayah (v 40) who was the father of Ezra the Scribe, the author of DIVREY HAYAMIM, as well as of Yeho-tzadok mentioned in vv 40-41. Yeho-tzadok did not serve as High Priest in the Temple but his son, Yehoshua, led the first return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem, and served there as the High Priest (see Rashi on v 41).
Vv 1-6: The lineage of the sons of Gershom son of Levy. Gershom was Levy's firstborn, but the lineage of his descendants is given only after that of the priestly descendants of his younger brother Kehath (previous chapter vv 27-41) since the latter took precedence, being the ancestor of Moses, Aaron and the priestly line.
Vv 7-13: Lineage of the sons of Kehath, Levy's second son. Kehath had other sons besides Amram father of Moses and Aaron. Among the most famous (or infamous) of Kehath's descendants was Korach, (son of Kehath's second son, Yitzhar) who was swallowed up alive by the earth after fomenting conflict against Moses (Numbers ch 16). Nevertheless Korach's sons were saved from the depths of hell, and his most illustrious descendant was the prophet Samuel, mentioned in our present text in v 13.
Vv 14-15: Lineage of the sons of Levy's third son, Merari.
Vv 16-17: It was necessary to re-organize the Levites in the time of King David because he had brought the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem , marking the end of the era when the Sanctuary had traveled from place to place prior to reaching its final resting place. As long as the Sanctuary was "portable", it was the task of the Levites to carry its component parts and vessels, but as soon as it came to rest, their role changed, and now they became the Temple singers and gate-keepers. These roles were allocated to specific families and it was not permitted to change from one role to another.
Vv 18-23: The most prestigious of the Levitical roles was that of the Temple singers since music contains the deepest wisdom. The genealogy of Heyman the Temple Singer - mentioned as author of Psalm 86 - is traced back through Korach all the way to Jacob (see Rashi on Genesis 49:6).
Vv 24-28: Lineage of Asaph the Gershomite, author of Psalms 50 and 73-83. Note that Asaph stands to the RIGHT (Chessed) of Heyman the Kehati, who is in the middle (Tiferet).
Vv 29-32: Lineage of the sons of Merari. They are positioned to the LEFT (Gevurah) of the Kehati singers.
Vv 33-34: Functions of the Levites and the Cohanim. Besides their functions as Temple singers and gate-keepers, the Levites also skinned the sacrificial animals (see II Chron. 35:11). None of the Levites were permitted to take part in the actual burning of the sacrifices or other Temple rites that were "holy of holies", as these were restricted entirely to the Cohanim.
Vv 35-38: The abbreviated line of the High Priests in these verses is traced down only to the time of King Solomon.
Vv 39-45: Names of the cities of the Priests in the territories of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. First among the priestly cities was Hebron (cf Joshua 21:11). The fact that this was in the territory of Judah underlies the close bond between the royal tribe and the priesthood. The priests also received habitations in some of the cities of refuge for unwitting killers - the presence of the priests in these cities was a beneficial influence helping to rehabilitate such people.
Vv 46-66: Names of the cities of the Levites among the other tribes. The cities of the Levites were scattered throughout the inheritances of the Tribes - this was how Jacob's curse of "I will scatter them in Israel " (Genesis 49:7) was fulfilled in the case of Levy. In addition, the presence of the Levites throughout the land was intended to ensure that teachers of Torah were at hand in all the different population centers since the Levites were given their MAASER tithes in order to be freed from the burden of earning a living so as to be able to devote themselves to the study and teaching of Torah.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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