Biblica 79 (1998) 91-96

1 Chronicles 9,26-33: Its Position in Chapter 9 1

       1 Chr 9 lists the first returnees from the exile who resettled on their ancestral property 2, (lay-)Israelites, priests, Levites and gatekeepers. The distinction between Levites and gatekeepers has been taken over from the source text, which was the list preserved in Neh 11, 11-19. There can, however, be no doubt that the Chronicler, though maintaining the form of his source, considered the gatekeepers as Levites. In this very chapter he makes this clear in the passage he added to the list, vv. 17-26. In this passage he argues that the high position and the Levitical status of the gatekeepers go back to the desert period (vv. 18.19b.20) and the Davidic era (vv. 19a.21.23). In v. 19 the author explicitly states that the gatekeepers function hdfbo(jhf tke)lem; l(a, "in the cultic service" (cf. v. 13).

       In the following passage, vv. 28-33, some other Levitical tasks are listed. These tasks, however, have no connection with the foregoing list of inhabitants of Jerusalem nor with the additional passage on the gatekeepers. It is an isolated passage, alien to its context, which raises the question as to its position in this chapter.

       Scholars do not see a literary-critical issue here, and just note that there is an additional list of cultic duties. A few examples may suffice. Rudolph 3 sees in vv. 26b-32 a new passage which mentions additional Levitical duties: supervisors of the chambers and treasuries (v. 26c), gatekeepers (v. 27), and those responsible for the various types of vessels (vv. 28-29) respectively. Williamson observes that "the shift from the specific duties of the gatekeepers to those of a more general Levitical nature is slightly obscured", but finds a possibility of remedying this by translating v. 26b as "They were the Levites who...". There is no comment on the strangeness of the passage in this context. Japhet sees in vv. 26b-29 a sequel to vv. 23-26a, the latter passage dealing with the arrangements of the guards at the temple gates, the first with "specific items of responsibility" of the gatekeepers.


       A literary-critical approach is presented by G. Steins 4, but the passage he denies to the Chronicler is not vv .26b-33, but vv. 17-33, which he attributes to the "gatekeepers-singers redaction", to which a number of other passages are attributed as well, among them ch. 26 5. Steins rightly notes that in ch. 9 a tension is caused by the fact that in the second part no inhabitants of Jerusalem are listed. However, on the one hand there is no reason to deny that the Chronicler is the author of an apologia of the gatekeepers as an addition to a list in which they are featured; on the other hand it is improbable that this passage comes from the same hand as ch. 26. In ch. 26 the Levitical position of the gatekeepers is no longer at issue, but rather seems to be well-established. The situation is different in ch. 9. There the apologia of the Levitical status of the gatekeepers suggests a period of transition. It is the unsettled position of the gatekeepers which induced the Chronicler to add to the list his defense of their status. Chapters 9 and 26 reflect two different situations. Ch. 9 must precede that of ch. 26, and there is no reason to see in that earlier hand another writer than the Chronicler. To this it may be added that the continuity between tabernacle and temple as expressed in this passage is a theme characteristic of the Chronicler 6.

       Vv. 26b.28-33 (for v. 27 see below), however, are no part of the apologia, nor can they be considered a further specification of the gatekeepers' task, because the functions involved just do not belong to those of the gatekeepers.

       This by itself should be sufficient reason to suspect that this passage is a later addition to the list of returnees. There are some further arguments which strongly point in the same direction: (1) the unevenness of vv. 26-27, which can be best explained as a literary seam, (2) parallel redactional additions elsewhere in Chronicles, and (3) some other exegetical details. In this order these three points will now be clarified.

       1) V. 26 reads "For the four principal gatekeepers were on permanent duty [for be)e0mu=na= see below] ; they were the Levites, and they had the supervision over the chambers and the treasuries of the house of God". The short middle sentence (26b) is rather awkward. The statement that the four principal gatekeepers [see v. 17] were (the) Levites is, certainly after the preceding passage, unexpected. The use of the article seems out of place if the sentence is meant to say that the four are Levites. The subject of the following we5ha4yu= is not expressed. Is it "the Levites", or the four gatekeepers? In the latter case there is the difficulty that the supervision over the chambers and the treasuries (treasures?) is not the task of the


gatekeepers (cp. 23,28-29; 26,20-28). Illustrative of the problems is the approach of Rudolph in his great commentary. He thinks that v. 26b must be read either as he3m min halle0wiyyi=m or (gam) he3m le0wiyyi=m. Because "some of them" in vv. 28-29 cannot refer back to the gatekeepers, we have to assume that v. 26c begins a new passage which concerns the Levites in general. To judge from the contents of v. 27, the first group of Levites referred to must be the gatekeepers, which means that also v. 26c must deal with them. Therefore v. 26c does not speak of supervision, which is not the gatekeepers' task, but of guarding. This leads him to the translation "Und sie sind an [indicating place, instead of "over"] den Zellen und an den Schatzkammern". This is perhaps as far as one can get without making literary-critical decisions, but it is not altogether satisfactory. Somewhat forcedly v. 26c is made to accomodate the gatekeepers, but the text itself gives no hint that the gatekeepers are involved. Then, in vv. 28-29 "some of them" all of a sudden no longer refers to the gatekeepers, but to Levites in general.

       The only solution which takes into account the problems of these verses seems to be a literary-critical one. After the long passage on the gatekeepers the redactor missed a mention of cultic functions, which he then added. To integrate this addition in the existing text (as he did elsewhere; see below) he made a transition from gatekeepers to the Levites in general in v. 26b. It is this "the Levites" that (u) me3hem in vv. 28-29 refers to. Also v. 26c is most probably from his hand. The most natural translation is "over"; cp. e.g. vv.; 28,22; this refers to supervision, which, as noted above, is simply not the task of the gatekeepers. If we consider 26b-c as redactional, then v. 27 connects perfectly with v. 26a. After having said that the gatekeepers from the villages are working in week-long shifts "with them" [viz., the four principal gatekeepers] the writer adds an explanation of this "with them": "For the four principal gatekeepers were on permanent duty and they lodged around the house of God, because they had to guard it and it was they who had to open it every morning".

       In the emphatical "it was they who" a small emendation is presupposed. In the Masoretic text the waw in we]labbo3qer is strange. Rudolph proposes the emendation wa (a]le3hem mipta3h[o= labbo3qer labbo3qer, "and on them was the task to open it every morning". This provides a good translation, but at a cost: the mem must be doubled and the personal pronoun hem deleted, while mipta3h[ has to be translated in a very unusual way, with perhaps Prov 8,6 as the only comparable case. It is simpler to modify Rudolph's proposal and to read without changing the consonantal text we0he3m (a]le3hem pith[o= labbo3qer labbo3qer 7. For defective (a]le3hem compare, e.g., Gen 47,20; Exod 5,14. It is, moreover, tempting, but not necessary, to follow Rudolph in reading mis0marto= for mis0meret, the waw being dropped by haplography.


       2) This literary-critical solution is strengthened by the occurrence of other redactional additions in 1 Chronicles, which betray the same features as the passage under discussion, both in form and in content.

       Redactional activity in Chronicles has been recognized by a number of scholars, although in detail there are many differences. Two examples may suffice. Williamson8 thinks that parts of chapters 23–27 are secondary and go back to a priestly reviser who expressed his pro-priestly leanings also in some additions elsewhere to the Chronicler's text; v. 30 may derive from that reviser. G. Steins finds in Chronicles various redactional layers, each with its own thematic characteristics, of which one, the "Musiker-Torwächter-Schicht" derives from a redactor who had a particular interest in gatekeepers and singers. As mentioned above, he holds that vv. 17-33 belong to this layer.

       In, two articles I have argued that the hand which added chapters 23–26 was also responsible for 15,4-10.17-18.24b, and a gloss in v. 18 9, and for 28,12b-18a 10. This redactor was very much interested in the genealogical background of temple personnel, in cultic order, and in listing cultic details (e.g. 23,28-32). Where in his view the existing text was lacking in these respects he added the necessary information. In doing so he did his best to integrate his additions with the existing text, if necessary at the expense of smooth syntax. Especially ch. 28 offers a close parallel to the passage under discussion in that the redactor adds a number of cultic details which are alien to the Chronicler's context, in which David offers to Solomon the design (tabnît) of the temple building, the courts, and, as the climax, of the resting place of the ark (18b). Likewise, in ch. 9 the redactor is not satisfied with the mere mention of the Levites and the attention paid to the gatekeepers, without any reference to the cultic tasks. He fulfills this need in vv.26c.28-33, which he connects with the existing text by means of the transition from gatekeepers to Levites in v. 26b.

       In this connection it is worth noting that the following words/expressions occur only here and in another text by the same redactor: so3let (v. 29; 23,29), ke0le= ha3(a0bo=da= (v. 28; 28,14; cp. 28,13), be0mispa3r (v. 28; 23,31, and six times elsewhere), leh[em hamma (a0reket (v. 32; 23,29; moreover Neh 10,33).

       3) The assumption that a redactor's hand is at work in vv. 26b.28-33 is corroborated by the fact that it serves to elucidate a few obscurities.

       The first is the expression be)e0mu=na=, which occurs also in v. 26, and with suffix in v. 22. For all three places different translations are given. In v. 22 a number follow Rothstein-Hänel in the translation "Amtspflicht", e.g. Curtis-Madsen ("office of trust"), NRSV (the same), NIV ("position of trust"). On the basis of v. 26 TOB has "dans leur fonction


permanente"; cp. HALAT "ständige Amtspflicht". The problem with this translation, however, is that, leaving aside these disputed verses, )e0mu=na= never carries the meaning "office". The usual meaning is "faithfulness", and, accordingly, be)e0mu=na= means "faithfully", and with suffix "in/because of my/your/his/their faithfulness". For be0 = "because of" in this expression compare Hab 2,4. This translation fits this verse well. It is given e.g. by Rudolph, Myers, REB. The verse then says that David installed the gatekeepers "because of their faithfulness". There had been gatekeepers since the desert period, but when David is making preparations for the (future) temple cult their assignment is not automatically continued, but reconfirmed on the basis of their proven faithfulness.

       V. 26 is more difficult. Braun gives as an option "because of their faithfulness"; cp. REB with "chosen for their trustworthiness". Apart from hardly being meaningful here, this translation is virtually precluded by the lack of a suffix in the Hebrew. Most translators opt for "permanently", on the basis of the context, e.g. Curtis-Madsen ("in continual office"), Rudolph ("dauernd"), TOB ("en permanence"). This is indeed the only meaningful translation here: contrary to the gatekeepers who work in shifts and live outside Jerusalem, the four principal gatekeepers are on permanent duty. Only with this translation does the following verse makes sense as an elucidation ( = "for") of "with them" in v. 26. The meaning "permanently", although unique, is not unrelated to the basic meaning of the root )mn. For such a derived meaning we may compare Exod 17,12, where Aaron and Hur are supporting Moses' hands so that these remain )e0mu=na=, "unmoved", "steady".

       In v. 31 the meaning is still more problematic. Some translations are based on "office", e.g. Curtis-Madsen ("in the office of trust"); Galling ("beordert zum Dienst"), NRSV ("was in charge of"). A translation parallel to that in v. 26 is given, e.g., by Myers ("regularly"), and TOB ("en permanence"). Neither of these two meanings, however, applies. The only alternative is the usual meaning "in faithfulness, faithfully". This meaning makes good sense, but then some explanation is in order for the fact that one and the same expression occurs in two very different meanings only a few verses apart. If vv. 26 and 31 are thought to be from the same hand, this is a real difficulty, and it is understandable that translators try some way or another to harmonize the translation in the two verses. On the premise, however, that v. 31 is part of a later addition this difficulty no longer exists. The redactor overlooked the unique meaning of be)e0mu=na=, in v. 26, and understood it in its usual meaning, which – certainly after v. 22 – is hardly surprising. He then says in v. 31 that Mattithiah, no less than his father Shallum, did his work "faithfully".

       V. 31 is remarkable in that all of a sudden it mentions a specific name, Mattithiah, in the midst of a list of Levitical functions. What led the writer to single out Mattithiah? It cannot have been the prominence of either this person or his office. The explanation must lie in the parenthesis "he was the first-born of Shallum the Korahite". The redactor apparently missed any indication of the Levitical descent of the head of the gatekeepers in v. 17 and felt a need to supply it. He could, however, not introduce Shallum


directly in this context, so he did so indirectly, by mentioning him as the father of Mattithiah. That indeed he meant Shallum of v. 17 and not the one of v. 19 is clear from the fact that the first-born of the latter is Zechariah (v. 21; 26,1). It also follows from the fact that with be)e0mu=na=, he was alluding to v. 26, which also deals with the four gatekeepers of v. 17.

       A tentative solution, finally, may be suggested for a problem which has been seen in v. 33. The beginning, we0)e3lleh hams0o3re0ri=m suggests that a list of singers is to follow, but there is none. For this reason it is often assumed that the author has abruptly broken off his source 11. However, what follows is a statement about the singers being exempt from the type of duties just mentioned. This means that we0)e3lleh hams0o3re0ri=m cannot have been the title of a list of singers which has been left out here. V. 33 is sufficient in itself. The predicate in this sentence is not "the singers" but pe0ti=ri=m, "exempt", and hams0o3re0ri=m is in apposition to we0)e3lleh: "those, the singers ". This construction of a pronoun followed by a word in apposition occurs several times, both in the Chronicler's own text (e.g. v. 26) and in that of the redactor (e.g. 26,26) 12. In one case we have a close parallel to the case under discussion, viz. in 26,12, also from the redactor's hand: le0 )e3lleh mah[le0qo=t has0s0o3(a0ri=m, "these, the divisions of the gatekeepers (had duties...)".

       What made the writer refer to the singers? An answer to this question may be found in the immediate context. In v. 32 the Kohathites are mentioned as responsible for the shewbread. The writer wants to avoid the misunderstanding of this being the main occupation of the Kohathites, since they feature prominently as singers (6,18 [transl. v. 33]; 2 Chr 20,19). So, after having mentioned that some of the Kohathites are taking care of the shewbread he adds that the majority of them, who are singers, are free from these menial cultic duties. we0)e3lleh hams0o3re0ri=m, "but those, the singers", would then refer to the Kohathites in general, with the exclusion of those involved in the menial duties just mentioned.

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© 1998 Biblica


1 I am indebted to my former missionary colleague, Dr. John G. Lorimer, New Wilmington, PA., for correcting the English of this article at a number of points.

2 Some scholars, e.g. Galling and japhet, translate ha3ri^s0o3ni^m in v. 2 not with "the first" but with "the former", and accordingly hold that the list refers to the preexilic inhabitants of Israel. This point is not at issue here since it would not affect the argument.

3 Names of authors without title refer to the following commentaries: R. BRAUN, 1 Chronicles (WBC; Waco, Texas, 1986); E. L. CURTIS – A.A. MADSEN, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Chronicles (ICC; Edinburgh 1910); K. GALLING, Die Bücher der Chronik, Esra, Nehemiah (ATD; Göttingen 1954); S. JAPHET, I & II Chronicles (OTL; London 1993); J.M. MYERS , I Chronicles (AB; Garden City  1973); W. ROTHSTEIN – J. HÄNEL, Das erste Buch der Chronik (KAT; Leipzig 1927); W. RUDOLPH Chronikbücfier (HAT; Tübingen 1955); H.G.M. WILLIAMSON, 1 and 2 Chronicles (NCBC; Grand Rapids 1982).

4 G. STEINS, Die Chronik als kanonisches Abschlussphänomen (BBB 93; Weinheim 1995) 398-400.

5 I am in agreement with those scholars, e. g, Rudolph and Braun, who consider 1Chr 23–26 a later redactional insertion, ch. 27 deriving from a still later hand. Some scholars, e.g. Williamson, attribute part of ch. 23–26 to the Chronicler, some other scholars, e.g. Japhet, the whole of it.

6 See R. MOSIS, Untersuchungen zur Theologie des chronistischen Geschichtswerkes (FThSt 9; Freiburg 1973) 136-146, and T. VAN SETERS, "The Chronicler's Account of Solomon's Temple-Building: A Continuity Theme", The Chronicler as Historian (eds. M. P. GRAHAM et al.) (JSOTSS 238; Sheffield 1991) 283-300; cf. also 1 Chr 16,37-42.

7 For a personal pronoun being placed before a preposition with the corresponding suffix for emphasis, see GK § 135g.

8 Apart from his commentary see his article 'The Origins of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses. A Study of 1 Chronicles xiii-xxvii", VTS 30 (1979) 251-268.

9 "The Development of the Text of I Chronicles 15: 1-24", Henoch 17 (1995) 267-277.

10 "1 Chronicles XXVIII 11-18: its textual development", VT 46 (1996) 429-438.

11 So, e.g., BRAUN, 1 Chronicles, 137: "either an accidental omission..., or a rigid type of dependence upon his Vorlage"; and WILLIAMSON, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 91: "... the Chronicler was not composing freely here, but following a source that has been broken pff rather abruptly".

12 A. KROPAT, Die Syntax des Autors der Chronik (Giessen 1909) § 18, III, speaks only with respect to this construction. In some cases one may, however, wonder whether the pronoun should not rather be labelled as demonstrative, e. g. in 26,26, hu=) s0e=lo3mo=t, "that [person,] Shelomoth". Kopat does not mention 26,12.