1 Chronicles 26:1-19: The Levite Gatekeepers Of The Sons Of Korah

Among the most notable and most obvious opportunities for service for the Sons of Korah was serving as gatekeepers for the tabernacle and temple of God. Unlike many other places in scripture where the identity of the people as Sons of Korah must be determined in one place before a reference can be made elsewhere, 1 Chronicles 26:1-19 makes it obvious that the sons of Korah were predominant among a specific duty within the tabernacle and temple, the position of gatekeeper.

A gatekeeper has a very important job that is worthy of some comment. Such a person has to be able to distinguish between friend and foe, between those who are a threat and those who are acceptable. Furthermore, a gatekeepr has to be fiercely protective of what he defends, since the gate is the weakest part in any defense, since it allows access into a city or institution. Therefore gatekeepers must be chosen very wisely and must be people both of ferocity as well as the keen ability to distinguish between friend and foe and to react quickly and decisively in the face of attack. The fact that the Sons of Korah excelled at this job speaks highly of their character.

1 Chronicles 26:1-19 reads as follows: “Concerning the divisions of the gatekeepers: of the Korahites, Meshelemiah the son of Kore, of the sons of Asaph. And the sons of Meshelemiah were Zechariah the firstborn, Jediael the second, Zebadiah the third, Jathniel the fourth, Elam the fifth, Jehohanan the sixth, Eliehoenai the seventh. Morever the sons of Obed-Edom were Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethenel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peulthai the eighth; for God blessed him. Also born to Shemaiah his son were sons born who governed their fathers’ houses, because they were men of great ability. The sons of Shemaiah were Othni, Rephael, Obed, and Elzabad, whose brothers Elihu and Semachiah were able men. All these were of the sons of Obed-Edom, they and their sons and their brethren, able men with strength for the work: sixty two of Obed-Edom. And Meshelemiah had sons and brethren, eighteen able men. Also Hosah, of the children of Merari, had sons: Shimri the first (for though he was not the firstborn, his father made him the first), Hilkiah the second, Tebaliah the third, Zechariah the fourth; all the sons and brethren of Hosah were thirteen. Among these were the divisions of the gatekeepers, among the chief men, having duties just like their brethren, to serve in the house of the Lord. And they cast lots for each gate, the small as well as the great, according to their father’s house. The lot for the East Gate fell to Shelemiah. Then they cast lots for his son Zechariah, a wise counselor, and his lot came out for the North Gate; to Obed-Edom the South Gate, and to his sons the storehouse. To Shuppim and Hosah the lot came out for the West Gate, with the Shallecheth GAte on the ascending highway–watchman opposite watchmen. On the east were six Levites, on the north four each day, on the south four each day, and for the storehouse two by two. As for the Parbar [court or colonnade] on the west, there were four on the highway and two at the Parbar. These were the divisions of the gatekeepers among the sons of Korah and among the sons of Merari.”

Let us comment briefly on some of the important elements of this rather obscure passage. Let us first note that this is one of many passages that speaks of the sons of Korah, and that most of them are obscure, in large part because the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles have not received a great deal of positive attention or thorough examination. 1st and 2nd Chronicles focus heavily on the temple, and on the continuity of service within the temple establishment from generation to generation. What they do, in addition to giving a lot of great information about the identity of the Levite servants of the temple and all of their activities, is to provide us with an example of how godly service was passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.

In addition, this particular account also demonstrates (along with Acts 1) a way that the will of God can be determined without outright policking, through the use of lots. All of the families (two from the Sons of Korah and one from the Sons of Merari) received a place to serve and which they could staff by rotation from their families, and no one had to pull rank or use political means to ensure a particularly sought after position, allowing everyone to serve withour rancor or hostility (something that I have found is quite rare when it comes to service arrangments).

Of the three groups of people who served as the gatekeepers of the temple, two of them were among the sons of Korah. One grouping was of the family of Meshelemiah, of the sons of Ebiasaph, and the other grouping was of the family of Obed-Edom, who is among the Bible’s more famous sons of Korah for his role in housing the Ark of the Covenant in the days of King David. The other grouping was of the family of Hosah, of the family of Merari. Judging from the divisions of work, it would appear that about 2/3 of the assignments (depending on how they are viewed) belonged to the Sons of Korah, who daily had sixteen of the twenty-two gatekeepers among their number year after year, generation after generation, as long as the temple was in operation.

In addition, it is worthwhile to note at least briefly that among the tasks of the gatekeepers was to be the watchmen of the temple. The Levites as well as prophets were called to be watchmen [1] in the defense of Jerusalem and the people of God. This duty was one to be taken seriously, and the Bible’s careful account of the wisdom of the various sons of Korah, including Zechariah being a “wise counselor” and the sons of Obed-Edom being “able men” and “men of great ability” suggests that God took careful care in choosing among them through the means of the lot. When we look at the care that was taken for those who were essentially on security detail for the temple we ought to recognize the immense importance of faithfulness and ability when it comes to choosing those who defend the Church of God, be it physically (in defending Church services) or rhetorically and doctrinally. Great care and abilities are required in such matters.

We see therefore here, as we have seen elsewhere, that the Sons of Korah held extremely trustworthy positions within the temple and tabernacle establishment, passed these positions on by generation, and were chosen by lot indirectly by God with considerable care. We therefore ought to read this account and others like it in 1st and 2nd Chronicles with the understanding that they contain useful examples as well as models for our own practice and examination. And once again, as is often the case in this part of the Bible, the sons of Korah play a largely unheralded but biblically important role in the life of ancient Israel.

[1] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/the-town-watchman/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Sons of Korah and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 1 Chronicles 26:1-19: The Levite Gatekeepers Of The Sons Of Korah

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