Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Chronicles 6

I have two items for my blog post today about I Chronicles 6.

1.  The note on v 8 in the HarperCollins Study Bible states that the high priest Zadok “is made a descendant of Aaron by identifying his father as Ahitub (the grandfather of Abiathar, another high priest at the time of David…).”

This confused me.  I was aware of the scholarly view that Zadok was a Jebusite who became a high priest under David and Solomon, and the Chronicler tied Zadok to the line of Aaron out of the conviction that only sons of Aaron could be high priests.  But I was unaware that the Chronicler was saying that Zadok’s father was the grandfather of Abiathar, the other high priest during David’s reign, whom the Zadokites would fully supplant after Abiathar sided with Adonijah rather than Solomon for the monarchy of Israel (I Kings 2).  My impression was that Zadok and Abiathar were descended from different sons of Aaron, not that they had the common descendant of Ahitub.  Zadok was descended from Aaron’s son, Eleazar whereas Abiathar was descended from Aaron’s son Ithamar (I Chronicles 24:3).  Granted, this does create some bumps in the Bible.  You have God promising Eleazar’s son Phinehas an everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:13), and Phinehas is the prominent priest in Joshua and Judges.  Yet, you also have God saying that he appointed the father of Eli, who descends from Ithamar, to be priest back when Israel was in Egypt (I Samuel 2:28).  Abiathar was descended from Eli, and so, when Abiathar lost the high priesthood, that fulfilled the prophecy that the house of Eli would lose the high priesthood on account of the sins of Eli’s sons (I Kings 2:27).  So which son of Aaron did God originally prefer for the high priesthood over Israel: Eleazar or Ithamar?  It seems to me that one perspective in the Bible said Eleazar, whereas another perspective said Ithamar.  I suppose that one can harmonize, if one wishes: it was never promised that Phinehas would be high priest, and the father of Eli in I Samuel 2:28 could be Levi (from whom Aaron and all of the Levites descended), not Ithamar specifically.  But I think that there is good reason to believe that there are two perspectives in the Hebrew Bible about whom God originally chose to be high priest.

I disagree with the note on I Chronicles 6:8 in the HarperCollins Study Bible, for I do not think that the Ahitub who was the father of Zadok was supposed to be the same Ahitub who was the grandfather of Abiathar.  There is no indication in I Chronicles 6 that such was the case, for Abiathar is not mentioned there.  Rather, I believe that the father of Zadok and the grandfather of Abiathar were two different Ahitubs.  Why not?  The same names pop up more than once in I Chronicle’s genealogy, so two people could have had the same name!

2.  In I Chronicles 6, Elkanah the father of Samuel is said to descend from the tribe of Levi, whereas I Samuel 1:1 depicts Elkanah as an Eprathite who lived in Ephraim.  I think that I have read some commentators who have suggested that the Chronicler ties Samuel to the Levites because he did not think that a non-Levite could do the priestly sorts of things that Samuel did in I Samuel.  I am not entirely convinced by that, though.  Samuel in I Chronicles 6 does not descend from Aaron, the only family from whom high priests could come, according to P.  Actually, Samuel descends from Korah, the Levite who launched a revolt against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16!  (Korah’s father in I Chronicles 6 has a different name from what he has in the Pentateuch, but there is enough overlap between Korah’s genealogy in I Chronicles 6 and his genealogy in Exodus 6:24, that they are probably the same Korah.)

The note on I Samuel 1:1 in the HarperCollins Study Bible states that Samuel is given a Levitical Kohathite ancestry in I Chronicles 6 because that would entitle Samuel to perform the responsibilities that he does in I Samuel 2-3, specifically surrounding the Ark of the Covenant.  Maybe, but does that entitle Samuel to offer the sacrifices that he does?  Was that right not restricted to Aaronides, according to P and the Chronicler?  I did a search, and there are passages in I Chronicles in which only Aaronides sacrifice whereas the other Levites do grunt work, help with the slaughter, or perform other responsibilities (i.e, carrying, music), whereas there are other passages in which Levites minister to God, which presumably includes sacrificing.  I wrote a post about that here.  Perhaps the Chronicler is making Samuel a Levite to make his priestly work acceptable, though I think that he would have done so more effectively had he made Samuel an Aaronide.  Or maybe the Chronicler was not trying to address how Samuel could do priestly things.  I read in Roddy Braun’s Word Biblical Commentary on I Chronicles that the Chronicler may have noticed that Exodus 6:24 mentions an Elkanah who was the son of Korah, and so he decided to attach Elkanah the father of Samuel to Korah’s line.  You may notice all those Elkanah’s in I Chronicles 6!

Another note: Elkanah, the father of Samuel, lived in Ephraim.  According to I Chronicles 6:66, there were Kohathites—-the Levitical family with which I Chronicles 6 associates Elkanah the father of Samuel—-who lived in Ephraim.  Maybe the Chronicler is trying to explain how Elkanah could be a Levite yet live in Ephraim, or perhaps Elkanah really was a Levite who lived in Ephraim, but I Samuel, for some reason, did not tell us that Elkanah was a Levite.

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