In the Chronicler’s genealogical records, he underscored the prominence of the Levites amongst the exiles who had returned to the Promised Land. In 1 Chronicles 6, one of the most extensive genealogical lists of the Old Testament, the Chronicler recorded several significant details about the Levites. Although not always meeting God’s standards (for example, Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10), the Levites did much to maintain Israel’s national identity both at the tabernacle and temple, and as they were scattered to their allotments amongst the tribes.
The Chronicler noted that Aaron and Moses were Levites (1 Chron 6:3). These two figured prominently in the history of Israel. Mention of their names would have reminded those now back in Judea that their God was the God of the exodus. The Levitical history included great leaders and great musicians (1 Chron 6:31-46). The Chronicler credited David with initially administrating the work of these who “ministered with song in front of the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem, and they performed their task according to the regulations given to them” (1 Chron 6:32). The Chronicler’s words here motivated the Israelites to sing again; though their songs had been mocked during the exile, their God was yet alive.
At the core of Levitical life was the task of making atonement for the sins of the people, which was initially the work of Aaron and his sons (1 Chron 6:48-53). The Chronicler was thus reminding his audience of the prominence of sacrifices from a pure heart. The Chronicler recalled that the Levites had no inheritance in the land and were thus given property amongst the tribes (1 Chron 6:54-81). Accordingly, no Israelite was without access to God. Having concluded a historical panorama of the Levites, the Chronicler wrote of more recent days (1 Chron 9:14-34). After a brief list of post-exilic Levites (Nehemiah 11), he set out the duties ascribed to the cultic tribe. The Chronicler connected his audience with the faithful Levites of the past. He wrote that the Korahites guarded the tabernacle just as the ancestors of the Korahites guarded the entrance of the camp of Israel. “In earlier times,” the Chronicler wrote, “Phinehas son of Eleazar had been their leader and the LORD was with him. Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was the gatekeeper at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (1 Chron 9:20-21; Num 25:7-13).
One of the author’s concerns in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles was to legitimize the returned exiles as part of members of the historical people of God. By solidifying his contemporaries within the family tree of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he implicitly demonstrated that they were heirs of the promises the Lord had made to the patriarchs. Because of King Cyrus’s decree, participation in the covenant of land and lineage was yet possible for all who would live faithfully under the law of Moses. Centuries after the Chronicler wrote, Jews employed the same rubric to argue that being in the line of Abraham would result in eternal salvation. Jesus and Paul countered that the true descendants of Abraham were those who believe in Jesus and have been born again by the Spirit.
(1) When Jews opposed Jesus, claiming that Abraham was their father, Jesus replied that if they were truly Abraham’s descendants, they would rejoice in Him (John 8:56). When Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), they took up stones to throw at Jesus. In Jesus alone is salvation.
(2) Some of Paul’s Jewish opponents employed the Chronicler’s reasoning in an attempt to convince the young Christians of the region that their faith in Christ did not legitimize them as the people of God if it were not accompanied by a lifestyle consistent with the law. Paul wrote the Epistle of Galatians to counter their claims. For Paul, faith in Christ—brought about by the Spirit (Gal 3:1-5)—was itself the only means for one’s legitimacy as a descendant of Abraham. He wrote, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:27-29).