- The chief of Judah, Benjamin. Ephraim and Manasseh, who returned from captivity and dwelt at Jerusalem, verse 1-9.
- The priests, verse 10-13.
- The Levites, verse 14-16.
- Their various offices in the temple, verse 17-34.
- The family of Saul, verse 35-44.
The book - In the publick records, wherein there was an account of that kingdom, and of the several families in it.
The first - After the return from Babylon. Dwelt - That took possession of their own lands and cities, which had been formerly allotted them; but of late years had been taken from them for their sins, and possessed by other people. Israelites - The common people of Judah and Israel, called here by the general name of Israelites, which was given them before that unhappy division of the kingdoms, and now is restored to them when the Israelites are united with the Jews in one and the same commonwealth, that so all the names and signs of their former division might be blotted out. And though the generality of the ten tribes were yet in captivity, yet divers of them upon Cyrus's general proclamation, associated themselves, and returned with those of Judah and Benjamin. Levites - These took possession of the cities belonging to them, as they had need and opportunity. Nethinims - A certain order of men, either Gibeonites or others joined with them, devoted to the service of God, and of his house, and of the priests and Levites; who, that they might attend upon their work without distraction, had certain places and possessions given to them; which they are now said to repossess.
Ammihud - That there is so great a diversity of names between this catalogue and that of Nehemiah 11:4-36, may be ascribed to two causes: 1. to the custom of the Hebrews, who used frequently to give several names to one person: and, 2. to the change of times; for here they are named who came up at the first return but many of those in Nehemiah might be such as returned afterward, and came and dwelt either instead of the persons here named, or with them.
And fifty-six - They are reckoned but nine hundred and twenty-eight in Nehemiah 11:8, either because there he mentions only those that were by lot determined to dwell at Jerusalem, to whom he here adds those who freely offered themselves to it; or because some of the persons first placed there were dead, or removed from Jerusalem upon some emergent occasion.
The ruler - Or, a ruler in the house of God: not the high-priest, who was Ezra, Ezra 3:8, but a chief ruler under him.
Able men - Heb. mighty men of valour: which is here noted as an excellent qualification for their place; because the priests might meet with great opposition in the discharge of their office, in the execution of the censures upon all impure persons without exception, and in preserving sacred things from violation by the touch of forbidden hands.
Porters - Whose office it was to keep all the gates of the temple, that no unclean person or thing might enter into it.
King's gate - In the east-gate of the temple, which was so called, because the kings of Judah used to go to the temple through that gate. Under this gate he comprehends all the rest, which also were guarded by these porters. Companies - Or, according to the courses. They kept the gates successively, according to that method into which the Levites were distributed, for the more convenient management of their several offices; among which this of the porters was one.
Tabernacle - Namely, in time past, when the tabernacle was standing, before the temple was built. Fathers - The Kohathites. Host - When the Israelites were in the wilderness, encamped in a military manner round about the tabernacle, with whom these were then placed. Entry - Of the veil by which they entered into the tabernacle; which he calls the entry because then there were no gates. The meaning is, that all things were now restored to their primitive order; and the several persons took those offices upon them, which their ancestors had before them.
Was - In the time of David, as the following verse sheweth. Porter - Chief porter. The door - Of the door which led out of the priests court into the tabernacle, in which the ark was placed. Before the temple was built, they had a mean and moveable tent, which they made use of in the mean time. They that cannot yet have a temple, let them be thankful for a tabernacle, and make the best use of it. Never let God's work be left undone, for want of a place to do it in.
Villages - Where their usual residence was, and whence they came to Jerusalem in their courses. Ordain - In the times of the judges there was much disorder both in the Jewish state and church, and the Levites came to the tabernacle promiscuously, and as their inclinations or occasions brought them. But Samuel observing they were greatly increased, began to think of establishing order in their ministration. And these intentions of his probably were communicated to David, who after his own peaceable settlement in his throne, revived and perfected Samuel's design, and took care to put it in execution.
The oversight - Namely, in David's time. Tabernacle - This is added to explain what he means by the house of the Lord, not that tabernacle which David had set up for the ark; but that more solemn tabernacle, which Moses had made by God's express command; which in David's time was at Gibeon; in which God was worshipped until the temple was built. Wards - By turns or courses.
To come - From their several villages to the place of worship. Seven days - Every seventh day the courses were changed, and the new comers were to tarry 'till the next sabbath day. With them - To be with them, with the chief porters, who alway's abode in the place of God's worship.
Set office - These were constantly upon the place, in the execution of their office, that they might oversee the inferior porters in their work. Treasuries - In which the sacred utensils and other treasures belonging to the temple, were kept.
The ointment - This is added to shew, that though the Levites were intrusted with the keeping of this ointment, yet none but the priests could make it.
The pans - Was to take care that fine flour might be provided, that when occasion required they might make cakes in pans.
These - Others of the Levites; of whose several offices he had spoken before. Are - Or rather, were; which is understood, all along in the foregoing and following verses. Chambers - That they might be ready to come whensoever they were called to the service of God in the tabernacle. Free - From all trouble and employment, that they might wholly attend upon the proper work. That work - Either composing or ordering sacred songs; or actually singing; or teaching others to sing them. Day and night - Continually, and particularly in the morning and evening, the two times appointed for solemn service. Thus was God continually praised, as it is fit he should be, who is continually doing us good.
Jerusalem - Upon their return from Babylon they were not suffered to chuse their habitations in the country, as others were, but were obliged to settle themselves at Jerusalem, that they might constantly attend upon God's service there.
Maachah - In this and the following verses, he repeats Saul's genealogy, that he might make way for the following history.