Abijahs Course

During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron.” (Luke 1:5 NET)



  • There were so many Levitical priests that a rotating structure was developed: “David, Zadok (a descendant of Eleazar), and Ahimelech (a descendant of Ithamar) divided them into groups to carry out their assigned responsibilities. The descendants of Eleazar had more leaders than the descendants of Ithamar, so they divided them up accordingly; the descendants of Eleazar had sixteen leaders, while the descendants of Ithamar had eight.” (1 Chronicles 24:3-4 NET)

  • During their rotation the priests would perform the many duties associated with the temple: “Their job was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the Lord’s temple. They were to take care of the courtyards, the rooms, ceremonial purification of all holy items, and other jobs related to the service of God’s temple.” (1 Chronicles 23:28 NET)

  • The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary states, “Of these twenty-four classes, each one had to perform the service during a week in order … from Sabbath to Sabbath[1].”

  • The Baker Exegetical Commentary states, “Each division was further subdivided into orders, and each order served a daily rotation during its week of service at the temple. Each rotation consisted of four to nine priestly houses or families”[2]



The cycle for the 24 courses was repeated TWICE each year, with the first cycle beginning in the first month and the second cycle beginning in the seventh month.

  • The Bible Exposition Commentary states, “The priests were divided into twenty-four courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year”[3]

  • The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible states, “Each division served in the temple at Jerusalem two weeks every year.”[4]

  • The Jewish New Testament Commentary states, “Each served for a week at a time; thus the members of a division did Temple duty twice a year. All divisions were present for Sukkot[5]

  • The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB) states, “The temple priesthood was organized into 24 divisions, with each division serving twice a year for one week”[6]

  • The NET Bible Notes states, “Zechariah’s division would be on duty twice a year for a week at a time.”[7]

  • The Homan New Testament Commentary states, “During the three major Jewish festivals (Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles) all priestly divisions served at the temple as pilgrims swelled Jerusalem’s population. Each priestly order or division had two other weeks a year when they carried out the daily temple sacrifices and rituals.”[8]

  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary states, “Twenty-four “orders” (NRSV, TEV) or “divisions” (NIV, NASB) of priests (1 Chronicles 24:7–18, especially v. 10) took turns serving in the temple, two nonconsecutive weeks a year.”[9]

  • The NIV Application Commentary states, “As a priest he served at the temple for two one-week periods a year”[10]

  • The Tyndale New Testament Commentary states, “Each division was on duty twice a year, for a week on each occasion”[11]

  • The article “Christmas – Was Jesus really born December 25th?” states, “By means of this arrangement, after the 24th course was completed, the cycle of courses would repeat, so that in a given year each group of priests would serve in the Temple twice per year[12]

  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary states, “The priesthood in Israel was divided into twenty-four courses, each providing temple service for one week twice a year”[13]


Each priestly division would actually serve FIVE times a year, for in ADDTION to the two courses a year, they would also serve during the three feasts.

  • The College Press NIV Commentary states, “During Zechariah’s day each division would serve alone for two weeks each year in the temple, and all divisions would serve during the festivals when huge numbers of people would be present”[14]

  • The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states, “Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, twice a year, as well as at the major festivals”[15]

  • Lenski wrote, “Each class served a week in the Temple and alternated so that each class served twice a year; the whole class did duty on the Sabbath, and all 24 classes were present at the Feast of Tabernacles.”[16]

  • Lightfoot states, “However, by the whole series of the discourse it appears, that the beginning of the double circulation of the courses was with the twofold beginning of the year, Nisan and Tisri: as also that all the courses performed their ministry together in the feasts. Here, indeed, is mention only as to the Passover; but we do not want for authorities to make it out, that as they did so then, so also at the feast of Pentecost and Tabernacles. Let Jehoiarib, therefore, begin the first course in the beginning of the month Nisan; and (remembering, that all the courses together performed their service at the Passover and Pentecost) the courses will all have run out in half the year; for so (taking in those two feasts) six-and-twenty weeks are spent off. Then let Jehoiarib begin again with the month Tisri; and suppose all the courses jointly ministering at the feast of Tabernacles, and they will have finished their round (excepting one week over) by the month Nisan again.”[17]

  • The New American Commentary states, “During the major religious festivals (Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles) all the divisions served”[18]

  • The Preaching the Word Series states, “Each division numbered about 300 priests. Zechariah’s division, the eighth division of Abijah, served for two one-week periods per year, as did the others”[19]