The Levites (6:1-81)
Levi had three sons, Gershon, Kohath and Merari. The priesthood in Israel began with Aaron, who was descended from Levi through Kohath. From that time on, all Aaron’s descendants, and no others, were priests. This means that the Levites may be divided into four groups – the priestly Kohathites, the non-priestly Kohathites, the Gershonites and the Merarites.
The Chronicler begins with the priestly line descended from Aaron through his son Eleazar, and traces the line to the time of the captivity (6:1-15). He follows this with genealogies of the Gershonites, the remaining Kohathites and the Merarites (16-30). Next he gives the genealogies of the three who were put in charge of the temple singers – Heman the Kohathite (31-38), Asaph the Gershonite (39-43) and Ethan the Merarite (44-48). (Songs from these three men, and others from a group of Levitical musicians known as the sons of Korah, have been collected in the book of Psalms; e.g. Ps 42; 44-50; 73-85; 87-89.)
Forty-eight cities had been given to the Levites after Joshua’s conquest of Canaan (Josh 21:41), and these also were divided into four groups. The cities for the priestly Kohathites were all in the region around Jerusalem and therefore within easy reach of the temple (49-60). Cities for the other three Levitical groups were more distant from Jerusalem (61-65). The writer then lists the cities for these three groups: first for the non-priestly Kohathites (66-70), then for the Gershonites (71-76) and finally for the Merarites (77-81).