1 Chronicles 9: Lessons from the Reunited Israel on the Hope and Purpose That Jesus Offers Believers

Introduction: 1 Chronicles 9 concludes the tribal genealogies with the hope of a united Israel that would serve God as He originally intended. The Jews previously lived lives defined by division, darkness, rebellion, and despair. They could now look forward to a united identity under God. In many ways, this chapter also provides hope for believers today. Believers today frequently find themselves divided by different religious traditions, ethnicities, languages, cultures, and countries. But believers also have hope through Jesus when they live under His leadership as a united people. The hope and purpose that Jesus offers include: (1) spiritual unity, (2) guidance, (3) sanctification, (4) purity, (5) service, (6) worship, and (7) transformation.

First, after the Jews’ divisions and exile, God referred to the reunited Jews as one people under the nation of Israel. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus also promises to unite His people under His reign. Second, God appointed the priests to guide His people. Through the Spirit, Jesus also promises to guide His people. Third, God’s leadership plan for the united nation included an important role for the Levites, who were set apart for His use. Jesus also calls upon His people to be set apart to serve Him. Fourth, God’s plan for the united nation included a role for the Levites to guard the new Temple, the heart of the Jews’ worship, from the corruption that previously plagued both Northern Israel and Judah. Jesus calls on His people to be pure by guarding their hearts. Fifth, God’s plan for the united nation also included a duty for the Levites to serve Him by helping others. Jesus also calls upon His people to serve Him by helping others. Sixth, God’s plan for the united nation also included an obligation for the Levites to lead His people in worship out of gratitude. Jesus also calls upon His people to worship Him in gratitude. Finally, God demonstrated His ability to transform His people by giving new life to the line of Saul that almost died because of his sins as Israel’s first king. Jesus also gives every believer an opportunity to be born again. He calls upon every person who has been given new life through His sacrifice to live transformed lives for His use.

1. Unity: Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Promises to Unite His People. 1 Chr. 9:1-9.

  • The reunification of the 12 tribes into one nation. After tracing the origins of all 12 tribes through their return from exile, the author of Chronicles next looked forward to the unified nation of the Jews as they served God: “1 So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness. Now the first who lived in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites and the temple servants. Some of the sons of Judah, of the sons of Benjamin and of the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem: Uthai the son of Ammihud, the son of Omri, the son of Imri, the son of Bani, from the sons of Perez the son of Judah. From the Shilonites were Asaiah the firstborn and his sons. From the sons of Zerah were Jeuel and their relatives, 690 of them. From the sons of Benjamin were Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, the son of Hassenuah, and Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, and Elah the son of Uzzi, the son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephatiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah; and their relatives according to their generations, 956. All these were heads of fathers’ households according to their fathers’ houses.” (1 Chr. 9:1-9). God allowed the Jews to be deported in waves because they were unfaithful to Him (1 Chr. 1:1). Around 722 B.C., the Assyrians deported the 10 tribes of Northern Israel. Around 597 B.C., the Babylonians deported the two tribes of the nation of Judah. The tribes of Judah, Levi, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh returned in the largest numbers from the exile and first settled around Jerusalem. Yet, all tribes had some number of returning exiles who now existed under the united banner of “Israel” (1 Chr. 9:1-3). To show God’s concern for each of His peoples, He recorded the genealogical records of many of the returning peoples (Neh. 11). Because the Jews’ unfaithfulness caused their exile, the leadership focus of the new nation would be the priests (1 Chr. 9:4-9) (Aaron’s descendants), the Levites (1 Chr. 9:1:13-34) (who assisted in worship), and the temple servants, who are referred to here as the “Nethinim” (1 Chr. 9:2). Many believe that they were gentile Gibeonites who first agreed to serve under the Levites during Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 3-4, 23; Ezra 7:24; 8:16-20; Neh. 10:28). During the days of Ezra, they helped to restore worship in the second Temple. From the returning tribe of Judah, there were 690 chief men who descended from Uthai (aka “Athaniah”), the Shilonites and the Zarhites who first resettled Jerusalem (1 Chr. 9:4-6; Neh. 11:4-6). From the returning tribe of Benjamin, there were 956 chief men who descended from Sallu, Elah, and Meshullam, who also resettled Jerusalem (1 Chr. 9:7-9; 2 Sam. 2:8; 21:1-14; Neh. 11:7). Thanks to one of these lines of brave setters, the apostle Paul was able to trace his lineage back to the tribe of Benjamin almost 450 years later (Ro. 11:1). These Jews were the “first who lived in their possessions.” (1 Chr. 9:2). This means that they took back that which God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.

Through faith, obedience, and submission, the Holy Spirit can unite God’s peoples1

  • Find unity in the body of Christ under the Holy Spirit. The Jews previously saw themselves as divided by their tribes and their different traditions. But God showed that He meant for them to be united as one people. Believers also have different backgrounds and traditions. Many choose to define themselves by their differences. Under the Holy Spirit, however, God gives every believer the chance to live united as part of the body of Christ: “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). Are you living to support the needs of the greater body of Christ or your own needs?

2. Guidance: Through the Spirit, Jesus Promises to Guide His People. 1 Chr. 9:10-13.

  • The valiant priests who guided the reborn nation. Guiding the reborn nation of Israel from falling back into sin were 1,760 “very able” priests: “10 From the priests were Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin, 11 and Azariah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the chief officer of the house of God; 12 and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, and Maasai the son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer; 13 and their relatives, heads of their fathers’ households, 1,760 very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.” (1 Chr. 9:10-13). In addition to providing a means for the people to atone for their sins, the priests also guided the people. The High Priest at this time was Ahitub. The leaders under him included Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, and Jachin (1 Chr. 9:10-11; Neh. 11:10-13). Chronicles previously traced the genealogy of these priests (1 Chr. 6:12-13). The line of these valiant priests would lead to John the Baptist’s father and mother, Zechariah and Elizabeth. These 1,760 men were very able as they served the Lord and guided the people out of their spiritual darkness (1 Chr. 9:13; Neh. 11:11-14). The phrase “very able men” is also translated in other passages as “mighty men of valor.” (Josh. 1:14; Jdgs. 6:12; 1 Sam. 16:18.) One commentator observes that this “shows that when it came to doing the work of the service of the house of God, it takes a man of strength and courage, the same qualities that are needed in a warrior.” (David Guzik on 1 Chr. 9).2

  • Let God guide all your actions. God gave the Jews the priests to guide their actions. After Jesus died, He gave believers His Word and the Holy Spirit to guide our actions. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26). “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” (Prov. 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying for God’s guidance?

  • Be a source of guidance for others who are lost. Jesus is the light of the world: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”’ (Jo. 8:12). His light is also inside of every believer. He therefore calls upon believers to share His light to guide others: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 5:14). “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Prov. 4:18). Are your actions a light to the lost around you?

3. Sanctification: Jesus Calls on His People to Be Set Apart to Serve Him. 1 Chr. 9:14-16.

  • The Levites were also set apart to serve God and the nation. Although there were many valiant priests, God also recorded the other leaders from the tribe of Levi who faithfully set themselves apart to serve Him: “14 Of the Levites were Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari; 15 and Bakbakkar, Heresh and Galal and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zichri, the son of Asaph, 16 and Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, the son of Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites.” (1 Chr. 9:14-16). These Levities descended from Levi’s third son Merari and his descendants. Seven leaders are mentioned including (1) Shemaiah, (2) Bakbakkar, (3) Heresh, (4) Galal, (5) Mattaniah, (6) Obadiah, and (7) Berechiah. According to Nehemiah, there were 284 Levites in Jerusalem and Netophah, which was outside of Bethlehem and within 5 miles of Jerusalem (Neh. 11:15-18). Among other things, the Levites were to be set apart for God’s use to help the people (Nu. 3:11-13).

Like the Levites, be set apart to serve Jesus3

  • Be set apart for God’s use. Like the Levites, God calls upon you to be set apart for His use: “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.” (Ps. 4:3). “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Pet. 2:9). “[A]nd He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:6). Have you kept yourself holy and set apart for God’s use?

4. Purity: Jesus Calls on His People to be Pure By Guarding Their Hearts. 1 Chr. 9:17-27.

  • The Levite also had an appointed role to guard against spiritual corruption. The varied and specific roles for the Levites included guarding God’s Temple from the corruption that previously plagued worship in both Northern Israel and in Judah: “17 Now the gatekeepers were Shallum and Akkub and Talmon and Ahiman and their relatives (Shallum the chief 18 being stationed until now at the king’s gate to the east). These were the gatekeepers for the camp of the sons of Levi. 19 Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his relatives of his father’s house, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent; and their fathers had been over the camp of the Lord, keepers of the entrance. 20 Phinehas the son of Eleazar was ruler over them previously, and the Lord was with him. 21 Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper of the entrance of the tent of meeting. 22 All these who were chosen to be gatekeepers at the thresholds were 212. These were enrolled by genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer appointed in their office of trust. 23 So they and their sons had charge of the gates of the house of the Lord, even the house of the tent, as guards. 24 The gatekeepers were on the four sides, to the east, west, north and south. 25 Their relatives in their villages were to come in every seven days from time to time to be with them; 26 for the four chief gatekeepers who were Levites, were in an office of trust, and were over the chambers and over the treasuries in the house of God. 27 They spent the night around the house of God, because the watch was committed to them; and they were in charge of opening it morning by morning.” (1 Chr. 9:17-27). This section recorded many of the functions of the Levites. Among other things, they were responsible for securing the four entrances to the Temple. They guarded the treasury. They also ensured the people’s access to the Temple during daylight hours. The head gatekeepers for the four gates included Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, and Ahiman. Shallum was the chief of the 212 gatekeepers (1 Chr. 9:17; Ezra 10:24). The descendants Meshelemiah and Zechariah (who guarded the tent of meeting inside the Temple during David’s time) did so again after the exile (1 Chr. 9:21; 26:8-11) As one of the Korahites (the Levities who led worship Ex. 6:24), Shallum’s duties also included supervision of the “work of the service.” (1 Chr. 9:19). These Levites all received God’s blessings that He gave to the former High Priest Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron (Nu. 3:32). God blessed Phinehas for his zeal in protecting the Jews from spiritual contamination from temple prostitution (Nu. 25:7). Because of his many acts of valor, God promised that Phinehas’ descendants would have a perpetual priesthood: ‘“Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’”’ (Nu. 25:12-13).

  • Be pure and holy because God is pure and holy. Like the Levites, God wants you to be pure and holy: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” (Lev. 19:2; Ex. 22:31; 1 Pet. 1:16; Ep. 1:4). “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). You can keep yourself pure by guarding your heart the same way the Levities guarded the Temple: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23). “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Dt. 4:9). Job protected his heart by creating a covenant with his eyes: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:11). Are you taking steps to guard your heart from evil?

5. Service: Jesus Calls Upon His People to Serve Him by Helping Others. 1 Chr. 9:28-32.

  • The Levites had appointed roles for serving the people. In addition to guarding the second Temple, the Levites had assigned roles in preparing for the needs of the people during worship: “28 Now some of them had charge of the utensils of service, for they counted them when they brought them in and when they took them out. 29 Some of them also were appointed over the furniture and over all the utensils of the sanctuary and over the fine flour and the wine and the oil and the frankincense and the spices. 30 Some of the sons of the priests prepared the mixing of the spices. 31 Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the responsibility over the things which were baked in pans. 32 Some of their relatives of the sons of the Kohathites were over the showbread to prepare it every sabbath.” (1 Chr. 9:28-32). Some Levites maintained the worship instruments needed for worship. Others provided the fine flour, wine, oil, frankincense and spices that were used in the various types of worship offerings (Ex. 27:19-20; 35:8, 28; 30:23; Lev. 2:5; 24:2). Everyone had an assigned role. Someone named Mattithiah, for example, was responsible for meats that were baked in pans in connection with the worship ceremonies. As another example, the Kohathites prepared 12 loaves of “shewbread” in the second Temple each Sabbath. The loaves represented God’s provision for His people through His appointed servants. The bread also symbolically represented the body of Jesus Christ (Jo. 6:35).

Use the gifts that God has give you to serve Him4

  • Use your gifts for God’s service. Every believer is called upon to serve God as a co-builder of His Church: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9). To be a co-builder of His Church, God has given every believer gifts to serve Him: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Pet. 4:10). “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Ro. 12:6-8). “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Eph. 4:11-12). “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. . . . .4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:1-7). Every person’s gift is needed in the body because no one person has them all (1 Cor. 12:13-27). There is also no gift labeled “spectator” within the Church. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” (Col. 3:23). Are you using your gifts for Christ?

  • Be obedient by engaging in the good works that God created you for. God called every believer by name before the foundation of the world to do good works for Him: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21). If you claim to be obedient to God, are you responding by volunteering your time, talent, and treasure to help God’s Church?

6. Worship: Jesus Calls Upon His People to Worship Him in Gratitude. 1 Chr. 9:33-34.

  • The Levites had appointed roles leading the people in worship. The Levites also had the important role of leading the people in worship through songs of praise: “33 Now these are the singers, heads of fathers’ households of the Levites, who lived in the chambers of the temple free from other service; for they were engaged in their work day and night. 34 These were heads of fathers’ households of the Levites according to their generations, chief men, who lived in Jerusalem.” (1 Chr. 9:33-34). Many of the families with this assigned worship role are recorded in a prior chapter (1 Chr. 6:31). These Levites had to live in Jerusalem because the worship services were all conducted in the second Temple.

  • Worship God as an act of gratitude. Like the Levites, God wants you to worship Him as led by the Spirit out of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jo. 4:23-24). “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Ps. 145:18). If you are grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, worship Him out of gratitude in the manner He requests.

  • Thank God in songs for your deliverance as well. Many of David’s psalms or Solomon’s proverbs contain tributes to God for His deliverance: “A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. A Psalm of David. I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Ps. 30:1). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). “My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.” (Ps. 144:2). “On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.” (Ps. 62:7). “The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Prov. 18:10). “Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!” (Zeph. 3:14). When God delivers you, don’t take His actions for granted. Instead, give thanks through worship.

7. Transformation: Jesus Calls Upon His People to Live Transformed Lives. 1 Chr. 9:35-44.

  • Saul’s reborn family line. Because the spiritual life of the county was directly impacted by the actions of the political leaders, Chronicles repeats the failed line of leaders giving rise to Israel’s first king and their descendants. Saul’s failed leadership almost caused his line to go extinct. Yet, through God’s grace, his line was reborn and transformed for God’s use: “35 In Gibeon Jeiel the father of Gibeon lived, and his wife’s name was Maacah, 36 and his firstborn son was Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, 37 Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah and Mikloth. 38 Mikloth became the father of Shimeam. And they also lived with their relatives in Jerusalem opposite their other relatives. 39 Ner became the father of Kish, and Kish became the father of Saul, and Saul became the father of Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab and Eshbaal. 40 The son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal became the father of Micah. 41 The sons of Micah were Pithon, Melech, Tahrea and Ahaz. 42 Ahaz became the father of Jarah, and Jarah became the father of Alemeth, Azmaveth and Zimri; and Zimri became the father of Moza, 43 and Moza became the father of Binea and Rephaiah his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 44 Azel had six sons whose names are these: Azrikam, Bocheru and Ishmael and Sheariah and Obadiah and Hanan. These were the sons of Azel.” (1 Chr. 7:35-44). A nearly identical genealogy through Babylonish captivity appears in the prior chapter (1 Chr. 8:29-38). The descendants of Saul are repeated in this chapter to stress that God transformed them and gave them a second chance to serve Him. Saul had three sons, Jonathan, Malchi-shua (aka Melchi-shua), Abinadab, and Eshbaal (aka Ish-bosheth). Because of Saul’s evil actions, he and two oldest sons Jonathan and Malchi-shua/Melchi-shua all died in a single battle. Eshbaal/Ish-bosheth ruled over 11 tribes for 2 years during a civil war against David’s troops until his own captains murdered him in his sleep. The line of Saul could have died out completely when David became king. Only Jonathan’s crippled son Merib-baal (aka Mephibosheth) survived. Yet, David showed both love and mercy to this potential challenger to his throne. Through this last survivor and his son Michah (aka Mica/Micha), God then rebuilt the line of Saul. They survived the exile and returned to help lead the reborn nation of Israel.

  • Live as a new creation by living as transformed life through the Spirit. Like Saul's family line, God offers every believer a new beginning: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.”’ (Jo. 3:7). As a new creation, Jesus provides every believer the opportunity to live a transformed life: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 24:7). As a new creation, you are called upon to walk a transformed life: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--” (Col. 3:10). “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Ro. 6:4). Are you living a transformed life as a new creation?