We have here a further account of the good posture which the affairs of religion were put into immediately upon the return of the people out of Babylon. They had smarted for their former neglect of ordinances and under the late want of ordinances. Both these considerations made them very zealous and forward in setting up the worship of God among them; so they began their worship of God at the right end. Instances hereof we have here.
I. Before the house of the Lord was built they had the house of the tabernacle, a plain and movable tent, which they made use of in the mean time. Those that cannot yet reach to have a temple must not be without a tabernacle, but be thankful for that and make the best of it. Never let God’s work be left undone for want of a place to do it in.
II. In allotting to the priests and Levites their respective employments, they had an eye to the model that was drawn up by David, and Samuel the seer, 1 Chron. 9:22. Samuel, in his time, had drawn the scheme of it, and laid the foundation, though the ark was then in obscurity, and David afterwards finished it, and both acted by immediate direction from God. Or David, as soon as he was anointed had this matter in his mind and consulted Samuel about it, though he was then in his troubles, and the plan was formed in concert between them. This perhaps had been little regarded for many ages; but now, after a long interruption, it was revived. In dividing the work, they observed these ancient land-marks.
III. The most of them dwelt at Jerusalem (1 Chron. 9:34), yet there were some that dwelt in the villages (1 Chron. 9:16, 22), because, it may be, there was not yet room for them in Jerusalem. However they were employed in the service of the tabernacle (1 Chron. 9:25): They were to come after seven days from time to time. They had their week’s attendance in their turns.
IV. Many of the Levites were employed as porters at the gates of the house of God, four chief porters (1 Chron. 9:26), and, under them, others, to the number of 212, 1 Chron. 9:22. They had the oversight of the gates (1 Chron. 9:23), were keepers of the thresholds, as in the margin (1 Chron. 9:19), and keepers of the entry. This seemed a mean office; and yet David would rather have it than dwell in the tents of wickedness, Ps. 84:10. Their office was, 1. To open the doors of God’s house every morning (1 Chron. 9:27) and shut them at night. 2. To keep off the unclean, and hinder those from thrusting in that were forbidden by the law. 3. To direct and introduce into the courts of the Lord those that came thither to worship, and to show them where to go and what to do, that they might not incur punishment. This required care, and diligence, and constant attendance. Ministers have work to do of this kind.
V. Here is one Phinehas, a son of Eleazar, that is said to be a ruler over them in time past (1 Chron. 9:20), not the famous high priest of that name, but (as is supposed) an eminent Levite, of whom it is here said that the Lord was with him, or (as the Chaldee reads it) the Word of the Lord was his helper—the eternal Word, who is Jehovah, the mighty one on whom help is laid.
VI. It is said of some of them that, because the charge was upon them, they lodged round about the house of God, 1 Chron. 9:27. It is good for ministers to be near their work, that they may give themselves wholly to it. The Levites pitched about the tabernacle when they marched through the wilderness. Then they were porters in one sense, bearing the burdens of the sanctuary, now porters in another sense, attending the gates and the doors—in both instances keeping the charge of the sanctuary.
VII. Every one knew his charge. Some were entrusted with the plate, the ministering vessels, to bring them in and out by tale, 1 Chron. 9:28. Others were appointed to prepare the fine flour, wine, oil, etc., 1 Chron. 9:29. Others, that were priests, made up the holy anointing oil, 1 Chron. 9:30. Others took care of the meat-offerings, 1 Chron. 9:31. Others of the show-bread, 1 Chron. 9:32. As in other great houses, so in God’s house, the work is likely to be done well when every one knows the duty of his place and makes a business of it. God is the God of order: but that which is every body’s work will be nobody’s work.
VIII. The singers were employed in that work day and night, 1 Chron. 9:33. They were the chief fathers of the Levites that made a business of it, not mean singing-men, that made a trade of it. They remained in the chambers of the temple, that they might closely and constantly attend it, and were therefore excused from all other services. It should seem, some companies were continually singing, at least at stated hours, both day and night. Thus was God continually praised, as it is fit he should be who is continually doing good. Thus devout people might, at any hour, have assistance in their devotion. Thus was the temple a figure of the heavenly one, where they rest not day nor night from praising God, Rev. 4:8. Blessed are those that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.