Structure in 1 Chronicles 26

1 Chronicles 26:1-19 lists the names and positions of gatekeepers at Solomon’s temple. The passage is framed by references to the “allotment” or “apportionment” of assignments to Korahites (v. 1) and sons of Korah and Merari (v. 19). Within this frame, the text moves in a complex parallel fashion through different subclans of gatekeeping Levites, with a few verses in the center describing the casting of lots:

A. Meshelemiah (Kohathite) and sons, vv. 1b-3

B. Obed-edom (Kohathite), sons, and grandsons, vv. 4-8

C. Hosah (Merarite) and sons, vv. 10-11


A’. Assignment for (Me)Shelemiah and son, v. 14

B’. Assignment of Obed-edom and sons, v. 15

C’. Assignment of Hosah and sons, v. 16

There is a wrinkle in the text at verse 9, which returns to Meshelemiah (vv. 1-3) after listing descendants of Obed-edom. Verses 1-9 thus form a small chiasm of their own: A. Meshelemiah; B. Obed-edom; A’. Meshelemiah.

The Levitical subclans form one of the structural principles of verses 14-16; geographic designations form another, as the text moves from east ([Me]Shelehmiah) to north (Zechariah, son of Shelemiah) to south to west. Verses 17-18 run through those same positions in the same order, now enumerating the assigned Levites in each position. Thus, verses 14-19 are a parallel-patterned text that spins off from the parallel-pattern of verses 1-16:

Verses 14-16Verses 17-18
Shelemiah on east, v. 14aSix Levites on east, v. 17a
Zechariah on north, v. 14bFour Levites on north, v. 17b
Obed-edom and sons on south, v. 154 + 2 Levites on south, v. 17c
Hosah on west, v. 16Four on west, v. 18

We can correlate these positions and Levitical clans with the furniture of the sanctuary: On the east, Shelemiah is associated with the court and the altar; stationed to the north, Zechariah is linked with the table of showbread; Obed-edom and sons are a menorah-clan of the Levites; Hosah on the west is connected with the ark-throne. The overall liturgical movement of the list is from east to west, from altar to throne, from court to inner sanctuary (perhaps marked by the reference to the “ascent” on the west, v. 16). The four-faced tribe of Levi takes the position of Eden’s cherubim, guarding the holy place. Cherubically, the movement is from the altar-ox of sacrifice toward the throne-lion of royalty.

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