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Commentary On 1 Chronicles (3).

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons) DD

The Glorious Rise And Reign Of David (9.35-29.30).

The reigns of David and Solomon are seen by the Chronicler as the prototype for the coming King who will establish a kingdom of righteousness, peace and rest, to rule over the everlasting kingdom (17.11-14). Whilst not totally hiding their failures, he removes from the narrative in 2 Samuel/1 Kings most of what was displeasing to God in order to present a picture of almost ideal kingship, on which all Israel could look back, in order to look forward to what would be when the king of the everlasting kingdom arrived.

The rise and reign of David may be summarised as follows;

  • The end of Saul as a consequence of his refusing to hear the word of YHWH with the aim of the kingship being handed over to David (9.35-10.14).
  • By popular acclaim ‘all Israel’ make David king, and he consequently captures Jerusalem (11.1-9).
  • The human resources that God provided for David to make him king (11.10-12.40).
  • The abortive attempt to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem (13.1-14).
  • The initial establishment of David’s kingship. The Philistines are driven out (14.1-17).
  • The Ark of God is brought in triumph into Jerusalem and the worship of YHWH is established there (15.1-16.43).
  • David’s abortive aim to build a house of cedar for God, results in God forbidding such an attempt, and rather promising him a living house through his dynasty which will last for ever (17.1-27).
  • David’s further triumphs in war over the nations (18.1-20.8).
  • Satan deceives David into numbering Israel. Israel is punished with pestilence through the Angel of YHWH, but God shows mercy and cuts it short, resulting in the purchase of the Temple site. Like Daniel 10 this passage brings out the invisible spiritual forces, both evil and good, which are influencing David’s world (21.1-22.1).
  • David prepares to build a Temple for YHWH (contrary to 17.4-6) and exhorts Solomon to that end (22.2-19).
  • David establishes orders of Levites, priests, singers, gatekeepers and treasurers to watch over the worship of Israel at the Tabernacle at Gibeon and the Tent at Jerusalem (23.1-26.32).
  • Description of the monthly courses of the standing army, the princes of the tribes, the officials who watch over the royal possessions, and the king’s closest advisers (27.1-34).
  • Declaration that Solomon is to succeed David as God’s chosen king, and exhortations for the building of the Temple by him and all Israel. Provision is made by David for the enterprise and Solomon is crowned as king (28.1-29.25).
  • Summary of David’s reign emphasising his extended kingship (29.26-30).

Note how this section begins and ends with the idea of the establishing of David’s kingship, which is the prominent theme throughout. It will be noted, however, that there are two interweaving threads, David’s continuing establishment of his kingship and his might, and his determination to advance the worship of YHWH in accordance with God’s pattern.

Central to the whole section is YHWH’s promise to David that He will establish his dynastic house, and that the seed of one of his sons will establish the everlasting kingdom and will build a house for YHWH, not made of cedar, but of living people (chapter 17).

David mistakenly sees this last as an indication that he can, through his son, build a physical house for YHWH, and having sinned high-handedly by numbering Israel, commences providing for the building of the Temple as a kind of penance (there is no indication anywhere that David enquired of YHWH as to whether the Temple, which YHWH had previously refused, should be built.) It is possibly significant that this follows the passage where we learn of Satan’s attempts to deceive David. For there can be no doubt that whilst being at times a blessing, the Temple would certainly be the downfall of Israel time and again. It was Satan’s greatest deception.

But just as YHWH had taken on board Israel’s request for a king, which was contrary to His wishes, and had subsequently been prepared to bless that king if he had been obedient, so He takes on board David’s desire to build a Temple, and gives him advice in that direction, being prepared to bless Israel through it if they will be obedient. His one proviso is that the Temple should be a symbol of the kingdom of peace.

In the same way the history of the Christian church is full of examples where man brings his own ideas into the overseeing of Christ’s church, ideas which God goes along with, but which in the end prove harmful to His people. He allows us to learn through our mistakes.

Saul, And The Ending Of His Dynasty As A Consequence Of His Refusal To Hear The Word Of YHWH With The Aim Of The Kingship Being Handed Over To David (9.35-10.14).

This subsection commences with the genealogy of Saul (9.35-44) and closes with a description of the death of Saul and the ending of his dynasty.

The House Of Saul (9.35-44).

We are probably to see this genealogy (repeated almost verbatim from 8.29-38), as an introduction to the final end of Saul and his sons as described in 10.1-14. Here we have a picture of his rise and fall, and yet of the continued usefulness to Israel of his descendants. It indicates that whilst God had punished Saul and had ended his dynasty, He had not wholly written off his house. This last would be important to many of the returnees from Babylon who were Benjamites.

9.35 ‘And in Gibeon there dwelt the father of Gibeon, Jeiel, whose wife’s name was Maacah.’

The house of Saul had its origin in Gibeon, the city renowned for its deceit in the time of Joshua (Joshua 9.3-27). Perhaps we are to see in this a premonition of what Saul would become. His ancestor, Jeiel, was ‘the father of Gibeon’, that is, its establisher after its inhabitants had been expelled, and its lord. His wife’s name was Maacah, a not uncommon name for a wife in Israel (compare 2.48; 3.2; 7.15, 16; 1 Kings 15.10). The list of Gibeon’s sons here specifically includes Ner and Mikloth. Saul, descended from Ner, was a product of Gibeon.

9.36-37 ‘And his first-born son Abdon, and Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Ner, and Nadab, and Gedor, and Ahio, and Zechariah, and Mikloth.’

The ten sons of Gibeon are here listed. Ner was the ancestor of Kish (named after Ner’s brother), and Kish was the father of Saul. In 1 Samuel 9.1 Kish’s father is named Abiel, but that is because Ner was not the father of Kish but his clan ancestor (in the same way as Amram was probably the clan ancestor of Aaron and Moses and not their father).

9.38 ‘And Mikloth begat Shimeam. And they also dwelt with their brothers in Jerusalem, over against their brothers.’

Mikloth was noted for ‘begetting’ a descendant named Shimeam (Shimeah), who lived in Jerusalem as a clan leader in the days of David, in friendly relations with ‘his brothers’, that is, with the clan leaders of his won and other tribes. He was thus a supporter of the throne of David, dwelling there among his brothers, the tribal and clan leaders of Israel, whilst overseeing from there his brothers the Benjamites. He would appear to have been a faithful servant of King David. But Ner was especially noted in that he was the ancestor of Kish, the father of Saul, the first king of Israel.

It is important to recognise that David had much support in Benjamin even in the time of Saul. Jonathan had made a covenant of lifelong friendship with him (1 Samuel 18.1-4). Many of his captains in exile were Benjamites (12.16-18), together with three of his military units (12.29). Others were no doubt well disposed towards him even though they supported Saul out of tribal loyalty. It was only Saul’s sycophants, and those who were jealous of him, who opposed him. Thus Benjamites could see themselves as an honourable part of ‘all Israel’.

9.39 ‘And Ner begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul; and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchi-shua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal.’

Ner begat Kish, and Kish begat Saul. So was Saul born into the world to become the first king of Israel. But even then he supplanted YHWH as Israel’s king (1 Samuel 8.7). And Saul begat four sons, Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab and Eshbaal (Ishbosheth). The first three were slain on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31.2), where Israel were defeated by the Philistines, and Saul himself died. After that Eshbaal was supported by the Israelite general Abner in opposition to David. The writer in Samuel gave him the name Ishbosheth which means ‘man of shame’, probably because his name included the name of Baal (which was originally also used of YHWH as ‘Lord’, compare Hosea 2.16, but was later seen as a thing of shame), but also possibly partly because he opposed David. Apart from this reference, and the parallel in 8.33, Eshbaal is totally ignored by the Chronicler for, as far as he was concerned, the dynasty of Saul ceased at his death.

9.40a ‘And the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal (Mephibosheth).’

Saul’s son Jonathan, the bosom friend of David, had a son named Meri-baal (Mephibosheth). It was to him that David showed kindness ‘for Jonathan’s sake’ (2 Samuel 9.1). And we are now given in some detail the descendants of Meribaal, almost down to the Exile, a sign that God did not hold Saul’s sins against them. But it was also a hint that Saul’s influence ceased at the Exile.

9.40b-41 ‘And Merib-baal begat Micah. And the sons of Micah: Pithon, and Melech, and Tahrea, and Ahaz.’

Meri-baal had a son whose name was Micah, and Micah had four sons, as named, who were no doubt all ‘mighty men’.

9.42-43 ‘And Ahaz begat Jarah; and Jarah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri; and Zimri begat Moza; and Moza begat Binea; and Rephaiah his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son.’

The descent of the line of Saul and Jonathan continues. Some of the names (but not the persons) are well known elsewhere.

9.44 ‘And Azel had six sons, whose names are these: Azrikam, Bocheru, and Ishmael, and Sheariah, and Obadiah, and Hanan: these were the sons of Azel.’

The line ends with the six sons of Azel, and unless names have been missed out, this was well before the Exile. It is probably deliberate that Saul’s genealogy ends with six sons, while David’s ends with seven (3.24). Six was the number of man, but seven was the number of God. Saul had been man’s favourite, but David was God’s. After this Saul’s line disappears into obscurity having served the house of David well. Thus as we now learn of the end of Saul, it is with a recognition that his end was not the end of his house, which from then on served David, but it was the end of his dynasty.

The End Of Saul (10.1-14).

The great emphasis of the Chronicler is on the house of David which he sees as the foundation of the hopes and worship of Israel. But in order to introduce his reign, and in order to contrast him with his predecessor, he first introduces us to the final days of Saul, whose genealogy has just been provided, ending it with an explanation for his downfall as a man whose failures before God had meant that God gave the kingdom to David, the son of Jesse. He wanted it to be quite clear that Saul’s dynasty was over.

Indeed it is this explanation for his downfall which makes it quite clear why the Chronicler retold a story which was already given in the book of Samuel. It was in order to bring out that when a man rebels against God, and turns to the occult, he brings on himself God’s rejection and judgment. In the Chronicler’s mind Saul failed, not because of the might of the Philistines, but because God had deserted Saul. And it is almost certain that in his mind he paralleled this failure and consequence with the later failure of Judah/Israel and the consequences that it brought.

It is noteworthy that the historical section of his book commences with the failure of a king, and ends with the failure of a king (2 Chronicles 36.11-21). Here that failure was the signal for the rise of David to establish God’s rule. In 2 Chronicles 36 the failure will result in the edict for the restoration of the Temple and of the people to the land, which events would be the prelude to the coming of a greater David, for as we shall see later the Temple became the symbol of the coming kingdom of peace. The inclusion of the edict of Cyrus at this point, which was to result in the building of the Temple (2 Chronicles 36.22-23), which symbolised the coming kingdom of peace (22.9-10), would be seen by all as confirming that after the failure of the Davidic kings the Chronicler was looking for the rise of the greater David, as promised by the prophets (Jeremiah 33.15, 22; Ezekiel 34.23; 37.24-28). No doubt he saw kingship and the Temple as arising together in the same way as the prophets had (see Ezekiel 37.24-28, and compare Haggai 2.7, 15, 18, 22-23; Zechariah 3.8). That is why the genealogy of David was carried on beyond the Exile, right up to the Chronicler’s own time (3.19-24).

What follows in 10.1-12 is almost (but not quite) word for word with 1 Samuel 31.1-13, from which the Chronicler or his source clearly took it. The differences possibly reflect a slightly different textual tradition (as evidenced, for example, at Qumran), or in some cases may merely indicate an abbreviating tendency, or may indicate an attempt to avoid writing down something shameful (the hanging of Saul’s body overnight on the wall of Bethshan, something forbidden in Israel which would bring a curse on the land - Deuteronomy 21.23). Whilst making clear that Saul was rejected, he did not, for his tribe’s sake, want to depict him as cursed.

The Battle Of Mount Gilboa And The Death Of Saul (10.1-7).

The Philistines and the Israelites meet on Mount Gilboa and the Israelites are totally defeated, resulting in the deaths of Saul and his three sons.


  • A Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa (10.1).
  • B And the Philistines followed hard after Saul and after his sons, and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul, and the battle went hard against Saul, and the archers overtook him, and he was distressed by reason of the archers (10.2-3).
  • C Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me.” (10.4a).
  • D But his armour-bearer would not, for he was very much afraid (10.4b).
  • D Therefore Saul took his sword, and fell on it (10.4c).
  • C And when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he likewise fell on his sword, and died (10.5).
  • B So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together (10.6).
  • A And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities, and fled, and the Philistines came and dwelt in them (10.7).

Note that in A the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and in the parallel they did the same. In B the Philistines slew Saul’s three sons, and Saul was in great distress, and in the parallel Saul and his three sons died. In C Saul called on his armour-bearer to slay him, and in the parallel the armour-bearer slew himself. Centrally in D the armour-bearer would not slay Saul, and in the parallel Saul slew himself.

10.1 ‘Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.’

The account begins with the final battle between Israel and the Philistines which resulted in the complete subjugation of Israel west of the Jordan. The battle was fierce and hard fought, and the men of Israel either died or fled. It was total disaster. Compare 1 Samuel 31.1.

10.2 ‘And the Philistines followed hard after Saul and after his sons, and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul.’

Having described the slaughter of Israel we now have described the slaughter of the three mature sons of Saul. It was the end of the influence of his house. The story is building up to its final climax, the death and humiliation of Saul. Compare 1 Samuel 31.2. Saul’s three sons were clearly leading the units that had been deployed to hold back the Philistines whilst the remainder retreated. They were not lacking in courage. Saul with the main force was further back. But even this force was not to escape.

10.3 ‘And the battle went hard against Saul, and the archers overtook him, and he was distressed by reason of the archers.’

Now it was the time for Saul himself to face his destiny. The story is to be told in detail. We are faced up to his final agonies before his death as he flees from the enemy, while fighting a rearguard battle. But his flight was in vain for the archers ‘overtook’ him, letting loose their arrows at the fleeing Israelites, thus bringing on him great distress and making him realise that his end was near. They were unavoidable. Compare 1 Samuel 31.3.

10.4 ‘Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and abuse me.” But his armour-bearer would not, for he was deeply afraid. Therefore Saul took his sword, and fell on it.’

In a slightly abbreviated version of 1 Samuel 31.4 Saul calls on his armour-bearer to draw his sword and kill him because he does not want his body to be abused in death as the Philistines made the most of killing him. They would gloat over the fact that they at last had him at their mercy and express their joy of the moment by mutilating his body. He had been an obstacle to them for years. And now they had him at their mercy. There is a hint here of what was to come, for Saul’s body will be abused. Note Saul’s horror at the thought of being at the mercy of ‘uncircumcised men’, men capable in his view of the deepest infamies. They were seen as not civilised. Circumcision was a Canaanite practise, as well as an Israelite one, but not a Philistine one.

But his armour-bearer would not kill him. Perhaps he was fearful of killing ‘the Lord’s Anointed’. Or perhaps he feared that if Saul was dead and he was found alive the Philistines would be avenged on him as Saul’s armour-bearer. Or perhaps he feared what might happen to him if, after killing Saul he were to survive the battle. All kinds of things might have been flitting through his mind.

10.5 ‘And when his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he similarly fell on his sword, and died.’

Seeing Saul kill himself, his armour-bearer, also surrounded by the archers, similarly fell on his sword and died. In 1 Samuel 31.5 it adds ‘with him’. But the Chronicler wants to remove the armour-bearer from being a part of Saul’s death, for he also excludes him in the next verse. His concentration is on the house of Saul.

10.6 ‘So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.’

Excluding the reference to the armour-bearer and ‘all his men’ (1 Samuel 31.6) the Chronicler concentrates on the house of Saul. It is they on whom retribution is coming for the sins of Saul. It is the end of his dynasty. (He in fact omits any mention of Saul’s son Esh-baal ( Ishbosheth) in what is to come). He is not writing a history of Israel, but an obituary for Saul and his dynasty.

10.7 ‘And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities, and fled, and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.’

This may refer to the people who lived in the valley or it may refer to Saul’s auxiliary troops who had been kept back in reserve whilst Saul and his standing army did the fighting. Either way, all the men of Israel who were in the valley, who had fearfully been watching the battle, saw Saul’s army fleeing before the Philistines in total disarray, and themselves forsook the valley and fled. They knew that the Philistines, full of blood lust, would show no mercy. Saul’s sins had affected the whole of Israel.

But the Chronicler omits reference to ‘those who were beyond Jordan’, who may also have been auxiliaries. Perhaps he had in mind that the men of Jabesh-gilead clearly remained in their city. But above all he wants it to be seen that it was the land that was promised to Abraham that was deserted. (It was to that that the returnees from Exile had returned).

A Description Of What Happened To The Corpses of Saul And His Sons, And The Real Reason For His Death (10.8-14).

The Philistines mutilated Saul’s corpse, and his head was put on display, but his body was given a decent burial due to the bravery of the men of Jabesh-gilead who had good reason to be grateful to Saul who had delivered them from a terrible fate at the hands of Nahash the Ammonite (1 Samuel 11.1-11).


  • A And it came about on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa (10.8).
  • B And they stripped him, and took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry the tidings to their idols, and to the people (10.9).
  • C And they put his armour in the house of their gods (10.10a).
  • C And fastened his head in the house of Dagon (10.10b).
  • B And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days (10.11-12).
  • A So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against YHWH, because of the word of YHWH, which he did not observe, and also in that he asked counsel of one who had a familiar spirit, to enquire (by it), and did not enquire of YHWH, therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse (10.13-14).

Note that in A the dead bodies of Saul and his sons are found, and in the parallel we are given the reason why he died. In B his head and armour were taken in order to be displayed, and in the parallel his body is reverently treated. In C Saul’s armour was put in the house of their gods, and in the parallel his head was put in the house of Dagon.

10.8 ‘And it came about on the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa.’

By his suicide Saul had avoided a miserable end, for the battle clearly passed by him. But it did not mean that his body escaped abuse. For on the next day when the Philistines, as was usual in those days, collected valuables, and armour, and weapons from the dead they came across the bodies of Saul and his sons. Note the emphasis on ‘fallen on Mount Gilboa’. See verse 1. It was a mountain in the area allotted to Issachar near Jezreel (1 Samuel 29.1).

10.9 ‘And they stripped him, and took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry the tidings to their idols, and to the people.’

In a variation of 1 Samuel 31.9 we have their treatment of his body described. They stripped him of his armour and cut off his head. What follows may indicate that they sent it back to their own land to be driven round and displayed to the people, and to their idols (1 Samuel has ‘the house of their idols’), because they wanted their people to be able to celebrate their triumph and to see with their own eyes the head and armour of their long time enemy. Or it may mean that it was only the news of the victory that was sent back, whilst the head and armour were displayed in temples in Beth-shan. It was the usual practise with a prominent fallen foe to strip off his armour and cut off his head. David did the same with Goliath (1 Samuel 17.4).

10.10 ‘And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the house of Dagon.’

Here the Chronicler deliberately alters 1 Samuel 31.10, removing any reference to the displaying of Saul’s body on the wall of Beth-shan. He also removes mention of the house of Ashtaroth and emphasises rather the hanging of his head in ‘the house of Dagon’. For a while, until David arose, it seemed that Dagon had triumphed. Thus it will always be if men refuse to hear the word of YHWH.

It is clear from this that he does not want to bring to his reader’s attention the name of one of the gods who had led Israel astray, or emphasise the humiliation of Saul’s body, especially as its hanging on the wall through the night would be seen as bringing defilement on the land of Israel in the eyes of God (Deuteronomy 21.23). His emphasis is all on Saul’s death. The house of Dagon may have been in Bethshan. Archaeology has revealed that there were two pagan temples in Bethshan, which was a Canaanite city with Philistine connections by the Valley of Jezreel . Or it may have been in Ashdod where the Ark of YHWH had been taken in the days of Eli. There were many houses of Dagon.

10.11-12 ‘And when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.’

The men of Jabesh-gilead had good reason to be grateful to Saul, for in his early days he had saved them from a terrible fate (1 Samuel 11.1-11). Thus out of the love and gratitude that they had for him they determined to save his body from humiliation. But the ‘taking down of his body from the wall of Beth-shan’ (1 Samuel 31.12) is deliberately omitted in his description of the noble act of the people of Jabesh-gilead, in accordance with what we have seen above. They are simply described as taking away the bodies of Saul and his sons and giving them a decent burial. It would be at some risk to themselves, and was no doubt carried out secretly. (1 Samuel tells us that they travelled through the night to accomplish it). The reference to the burning of the bodies is also omitted. To the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead it was a necessity in order to ensure that the Philistines could not find the bodies. But to the Chronicler it added to Saul’s shame, and he is trying his best not to emphasise Saul’s physical shaming. He wanted all the attention to be on the fact that Saul was dead at the hands of God. (‘He who sins will die’).

10.13-14 ‘So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against YHWH, because of the word of YHWH which he did not observe, and also because he asked counsel of one who had a familiar spirit by which to enquire, and did not enquire of YHWH. Therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.’

These words are the added words of the Chronicler (they are not in 1 Samuel) and they bring out the reason for repeating this story. It is in order to underline the fact that the reason for Saul’s death, and the reason for the end of his dynasty, was the trespass he had committed against YHWH. This lay firstly in the fact that ‘he did not observe the word of YHWH’, and secondly in the fact that he sought counsel from one who had a familiar spirit, rather than enquiring of YHWH. That was why he was slain by God and his dynasty was brought to an end.

We know, of course, as did the Chronicler, that Saul did at first seek to enquire of YHWH after his failures, only to receive no answer. But his point is that instead of repenting deeply, as he should have done, Saul then turned away from enquiring of YHWH and sought to enquire of the occult. One of David’s greatest points was that he knew how to truly repent. He really cared that he had let God down.

The book of Chronicles (the two books were one book originally) ends with a similar emphasis on the fact that the Exile and destruction of the Temple came about because Zedekiah had not observed the word of YHWH (2 Chronicles 36.12, 15-16), and because they had turned to the abominations of the heathen in the very house of YHWH (2 Corinthians 36.14). Indeed, this is one of the themes of the Chronicler. And the people of that day no doubt also hoped that it would issue in another David.

Note the final reason for the death of Saul. It was in order to ‘turn the kingdom over to David, the son of Jesse’. It is this which is his main emphasis as becomes apparent throughout 1 Chronicles. He saw David as God’s man who would observe the word of YHWH and who would arrange for true worship on a grand scale, and would finally arrange for the building of a truly holy Temple. He was the forerunner of the coming ideal king.

David, The Son Of Jesse, Receives The Kingdom From God And Possesses Jerusalem As His Own City. (11.1-9).

It will be noted that the Chronicler totally ignored the attempt by Esh-baal, at the instigation of Abner, to take over the kingdom. As far as he was concerned the death of Saul and his three sons had ended the dynasty. The activity of Esh-baal was simply to be seen as an intrusion into God’s purposes which could safely be ignored. What mattered was that David finally received the kingdom as God intended.

So from now on his emphasis will be:

  • First on the glory and strength of David, which had begun even before the death of Saul.
  • Secondly on how he established his extensive rule.
  • And thirdly on his activity which would result in the establishing of the true worship of YHWH, and finally in the building of the Temple.

But why should the Chronicler put such an emphasis on David, if he did not intend the Israel of his day to draw conclusions from it? Had he merely wanted to place the emphasis on the Temple and its worship as the central uniting point of the new Israel he could have done so without exalting David in such a way. The only reasonable conclusion is that he wanted Israel to see in David a model of the coming future ‘David’ who would yet arise to establish His righteous rule, and yet do it without arousing the suspicions of the ruling Persians. That expectation was deeply imbedded in Israel’s faith (e.g. 2 Samuel 7.13, 16; Psalm 2.7-9; 89.27-29; Hosea 3.5; Isaiah 9.5-6; 11.1-4; Jeremiah 23.5-6; 30.9; 33.15; Ezekiel 34.23-24; 37.24-25; Haggai 2.21-23; Zechariah 9.9), and would eventually lead to the conception of the Messiah.

The death of sinful Saul had resulted in the rise of God’s king in glory and strength to rule justly and wisely, and the implication was that the death of the sinful member of the house of David, Zedekiah, as described at the end of the book, would also result in the arising of God’s king in glory and splendour to rule justly and wisely ‘for ever’ (17.12). The edict of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple gave impetus to the idea. That the arrival of the coming King was something eagerly anticipated by the returnees, is apparent from Haggai and Zechariah, even though it seemed long in coming.

We will also discover that the Chronicler omits most of the seedy bits of David’s reign, such as his affair with Bathsheba. He is concerned to depict David as God’s ideal king (in terms of those days), and ignores the failures for which he truly repented, seeing them as aberrations. He does, however, recount David’s failure in the numbering of Israel (chapter 21). As we shall see, he sees Solomon in a similar light and also omits reference to his late failures as well. He is not giving a picture ‘warts and all’. He has removed the warts (he knows that the coming king will not have any). But what he does say is accurate nonetheless.

The Appointing Of David As King Over All Israel (11.1-3).

By popular consent David is anointed as king over all Israel.


  • A Then all Israel gathered themselves to David to Hebron, saying, “Look, we are your bone and your flesh” (11.1).
  • B “In past days, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel,” (11.2a).
  • B “And YHWH your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel’.” (11.2b).
  • A So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before YHWH, and they anointed David king over Israel, in accordance with the word of YHWH by Samuel. (11.3).

Note that in A all Israel came to David in Hebron, and in the parallel all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron. In B David led Israel in and out, and in the parallel he was to be shepherd of them.

11.1 ‘Then all Israel gathered themselves to David to Hebron, saying, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh.’

The point being made is that ‘all Israel’ turned to David as YHWH had purposed. The kingdom of God is handed over by God to David. The story of David commences here with his sweeping to power over ‘all Israel’. His being initially appointed as king over Judah, and his subsequent struggle with Abner and Esh-baal (Ishbosheth) are ignored. 1 Samuel says here ‘the tribes of Israel’, meaning the tribes who had followed Esh-baal as opposed to Judah, but the Chronicler unites them as ‘all Israel’ responding to David. Just as in his day ‘all Israel’ were awaiting their future king. Divisions were a thing of the past.

11.2 ‘In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel, and YHWH your God said to you, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince (nagid) over my people Israel.’

Saul is now pictured as a shadow in the past, someone who had hardly been king at all. The people acknowledged that even when Saul was king over Israel it was David who had led them into battle, and gained the greatest successes. And it was David to whom YHWH had said, ‘you shall be shepherd to My people Israel, and you shall be nagid over them’. The word nagid had especially in mind the appointing and anointing of the king (or the priest) before God as the people’s true servant (1 Samuel 9.16; 10.1; 13.14; 25.30; 1 Kings 1.35; 14.7; 16.2 etc.). In the singular it is only once ever used of a foreigner, and that was one who was claiming to be the anointed of God (Ezekiel 28.2). The word thus indicates a God-appointee. Here the people of Israel are being seen as a whole under God’s appointed king.

11.3 ‘So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before YHWH, and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of YHWH by Samuel.’

The Chronicler wants us to see ‘all Israel’ (both Judah and Israel) as being within David’s covenant with them, and as being under God’s anointed king. The support is seen as wholehearted and undivided. Israel was as one. And it was in accordance with the word of YHWH by Samuel (1 Samuel 13.14). In David YHWH’s word is now receiving a response.

The Taking Of Jerusalem As The City Of David And His Subsequent Greatness (11.4-9).

The points being made are that ‘all Israel’ were now with David, and that it was at this point that Jerusalem itself became the centre of the people of God, and would indeed soon become seen as the dwellingplace of God. For Jerusalem was soon to be the place where the Ark of YHWH was established in its Tent, and finally the place where the Temple was built. It was thus seen as God’s earthly dwellingplace, a significance that made it all important in the Chronicler’s eyes. To him Jerusalem was not just a capital city, but the very centre of the world because YHWH was there, ruling with David as His regent. And that was why who now dwelt there was of such importance (9.2-24), and why his book ends with the promise of the Temple being established there once more. The coming King and the Temple which symbolised the kingdom of peace were the two pillars of Israel.

David Takes Jerusalem (11.4-6).

To every Jew the city of Jerusalem was the city of God. In it the worship of YHWH was established, and His presence was there on the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH. It was God’s dwellingplace on earth. Thus the fact that it was taken by David enhanced his status in the eyes of all. Jerusalem was his city. And he had obtained it for Israel.


  • A And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (the same is Jebus) (11.4a).
  • B And the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, were there (11.4b).
  • C And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You shall not come in here” (11.5a).
  • C Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, the same is the city of David (11.5b).
  • B And David said, “Whoever smites the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander.” (11.6a)
  • A And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, and was made chief (11.6b).

Note that in A David and all Israel went up to Jerusalem, and in the parallel Joab went up first. In B the Jebusites were there and in the parallel the Jebusites were to be smitten. In C the inhabitants of Jebus told David he would not come in, and in the parallel he went in.

11.4 ‘And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (the same is Jebus), and the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, were there.’

In 1 Samuel it was David and ‘his men’ who took Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5.6). But here it is seen as ‘all Israel’, united behind God’s appointed king, who are involved in the task of ejecting the Jebusites from Jerusalem and making it the holy city. The Jebusites were Canaanites and had hitherto resisted all attempts to remove them. But David wanted Jerusalem as his base because it was on the borders of Judah and Israel, and yet fully belonged to neither. It was to be the city ‘of David’ (verse 5). But to the Chronicler it was the centre of everything.

The Jebusites may well have been so named after the name of their city, ‘Jebus’, or it may have been called Jebus because the Jebusites dwelt there (compare Joshua 15.8; 18.16, 28). There is no good reason for questioning whether Jerusalem was ever called Jebus, even though in the Amarna letters it was named Jerusalem. People in those days regularly had different names for a city. No name was standardised.

11.5 ‘And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You will not come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, the same is the city of David.’

The Jebusites foolishly challenged God’s appointed king, and told him that there was no entry. But what followed was inevitable. David swept them aside and took their stronghold and made it his own. So would it always be with God’s appointed king if he was loyal. The account is a revision of 2 Samuel 5.6-7.

11.6 ‘And David said, “Whoever smites the Jebusites first will be chief and captain.” And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, and was made chief.’

But David did not do it alone. He was supported by his men. And we now learn how Joab became David’s ‘chief captain’. It was by leading the first assault on Jerusalem which resulted in the taking of the city (in 1 Samuel we are told how he did it).

David Fortifies Jerusalem (11.7-9).

Having discovered the weaknesses in Jerusalem’s defences while taking it, David determined to make it stronger, so he and Joab set about restoring and fortifying the city.


  • A And David dwelt in the stronghold, therefore they called it the city of David (11.7).
  • B And he built the city round about, from Millo even round about (11.8a).
  • B And Joab repaired the rest of the city (11.8b).
  • A And David waxed greater and greater, for YHWH of hosts was with him (11.9).

Note that in A David dwelt in the stronghold, and in the parallel he grew greater and greater because he dwelt in an even greater STRONGHOLD. In B he fortified the city round about, and in the parallel Joab repaired the rest of the city.

11.7 ‘And David dwelt in the stronghold, therefore they called it the city of David.’

So the stronghold was taken, and David dwelt in it, and from then on it was called the city ‘of David’. It was wholly his, and wholly under his control. It did not belong to either Israel or Judah. The foundation of the kingdom of God on earth had been laid.

After the Resurrection the Jerusalem and the Temple which were acceptable to God would be in Heaven (John 2.19; Galatians 4.25-31; Hebrews 12.22) from where Christ is exercising His kingly rule for the ‘thousand years’ of church history (Matthew 28.18-20; Acts 2.36; Revelation 20.4). A round thousand always indicates an indeterminate length of time (16.15; Deuteronomy 7.9; Psalm 105.8).

11.8 ‘And he built the city round about, from Millo even round about, and Joab repaired the rest of the city.’

Strong the city may have been, but God’s appointed king made it stronger, for he built up and extended the fortress, whilst Joab repaired the rest of the city. The Chronicler’s readers would see the parallel between David’s restoration of the fortress, and Joab’s repairing of the city, with that what was required of the returnees from Exile. But what was lacking for them was the appointed King for Whom they waited with fierce expectancy. The city could not be complete until He came.

Some have suggested that Millo (which possibly means ‘filling’) was a fortress, perhaps filling a gap in the defences. Other have suggested that it was the system of terraces consisting of retaining walls ‘filled in’ so that buildings could be built on it, which have been discovered on the east slope of Ophel hill in Jerusalem.

11.9 ‘And David grew greater and greater, for YHWH of hosts was with him.’

From that point on David grew greater and greater and the reason for that was obvious to all. It was because YHWH of hosts was with him. The one who responded to God received continual response on earth from God, and God was his real stronghold.

The Earthly Secret Of David’s Success (11.10-47).

The secret of David’s success from an earthly point of view was that he was supported by a group of exceptionally powerful warriors, ‘mighty men’, whom God had appointed for him, together with many who had gathered to him. Details of these mighty men are now given. They parallel to a large extent the names in 2 Samuel 23, but not completely. Some of the differences, where it is not just a name variation, may well be the result of warriors having been killed, and having been sometimes replaced, showing that we have lists from two different times. What is also interesting is that the two men whose names are missing from the first and second ‘threes’ here (if there are two threes) are also missing from chapter 27 where we would expect them to feature if they were still alive. Thus the absence of their names may be due to their having been killed, rather than being, as is popularly suggested, due to a copyist’s error.

The lack of mention of Joab is not surprising. He was the commander-in-chief, as we have already been informed (verse 6). What we have here are the names of the officers who were responsible to him.

There is dispute as to whether in what follows there was only one distinguished ‘three’, made up in 2 Samuel 23 of Jashobeam, Eliezar and Shammah, (in Chronicles Shammah is missing), or whether there were two distinguished ‘threes’, the second being made up of Abishai, Benaiah and another. (Although we should note that in the Hebrew text no three is spoken of as a ‘second’ three. That is an interpretative translation). Were it not for verse 21 we would probably consider that there was only one distinguished threesome, over which Abishai was chief, although he was not one of them, with Benaiah simply being mentioned in order to introduce him. Thus the crucial verse is verse 21, which says of Abishai, ‘he was chief of the three --- of the three he was more worthy of honour than the two and was made their captain, however he did not attain to the three.’ The most natural way of reading read this at first sight would be to see it as speaking of a second three. There are, however, two problems with this. Firstly that Abishai does appear elsewhere to be second only to Joab (2 Samuel 10.10), and could therefore be seen as being commander of the first ‘three’, and secondly that the third member of a supposed second three is never mentioned, either in 1 Samuel 23 or here in Chronicles. Only Abishai and Benaiah are introduced to us.

The alternative is to see the verse as speaking of the first ‘three’ suggesting that Abishai was their commander (‘chief of the three’), even though he had not distinguished himself in the way that they had (‘did not attain to the first three’), which may well have been true. This would in fact make sense of his being ‘more important than the two’ (rather than the three) being ‘made commander’ over Jashobeam and Eleazar (Shammah being dead). But some see it as suggesting a second ‘three’, of which he was one. That would mean, however, that the third man of the second ‘three’ was never otherwise mentioned, an unlikely scenario.

11.10 ‘Now these are the chief of the mighty men whom David had, who showed themselves strong with him in his kingship, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of YHWH concerning Israel.’

It was these mighty men, the chief of whom are about to be described, who were the earthly driving force behind David’s becoming king, although necessarily supported by ‘all Israel’. But it is again stressed that this all occurred because of ‘the word of YHWH’. He was the real driving force. All happened because ‘the word of YHWH’ was at work (compare Isaiah 55.11). It was He Who raised up these mighty men.

The First Three (11.11-14).

Initially these three presumably commanded three ‘tens’ of chiefs (divisions of ‘the thirty’), with Jashobeam the overall commander. But all would be under the command of Joab, who clearly gave his brother Abishai a special position under himself. The ‘thirty’ chiefs would then probably divide into three ‘tens’, each with his own company in the standing army, and each under one of ‘the three’. A ‘ten’ was a recognised military division (Exodus 18.21; Deuteronomy 1.15).

So we may see the standing army at this stage as commanded like this. Under Joab and Abishai, Jashobeam was in overall command, along with his two lieutenants (the first ‘three’). Each of them had charge over ten chiefs, along with their companies (making ‘the thirty’ in all), the standing army being divided into three lots of ten companies, each company being under the command of one of the thirty.

But inevitably men would be slain in battle, which might explain why here in Chronicles one of the first three is missing, (no doubt being replaced by his second in command), whilst if there was a second three, then in both 2 Samuel 23 and here one of the second three is also missing. If that is so the assumption must be that they had been slain in battle. This finds support in 27.1-15 where their names are missing from the list of David’s commanders where we would otherwise expect to find them. It is true that Abishai’s name is also missing from that list, but as we are informed elsewhere, in his case he was second in commend to Joab and seems regularly to have commanded a large section of the army when it had to be divided up (2 Samuel 10.10; 18.2). Thus he would not have been a mere commander.

11.11 ‘And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobe-am yashob-‘am, the son of a Hachmonite, the chief of the thirty (sheloshim). He lifted up his spear against three hundred and slew them at one time.’

In 27.2 Jashobe-am (‘people will return’) is called the son of Zabdid, and is of the sons of Perez (son of Judah). There he was in charge of the first course of David’s servants/warriors, who would have been the section of the army on standby for that month, responsible for the safety of the realm. The name Jashobeam is also found in 12.6 of a different person (a Korahite). So it was clearly a recognised name.

Jashobeam was chief of ‘the thirty’, but not of Abishai and Benaiah. Abishai, was seemingly deputy commander-in-chief (2 Samuel 10.10; 18.2), and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was set over David’s personal guard (2 Samuel 23.23), the Cherethites and Pelethites of 2 Samuel 8.18. ‘The thirty’ had probably become a standardised name for David’s group of leading army commanders and warrior chiefs, the original appointments having been of thirty chiefs. But chiefs would be killed, or would be added so that the number of them would be constantly changing. However, they would still be called ‘the thirty’, the name having stuck. Jashobeam was noted for having slain three smaller military units (‘hundreds’) of men with his spear at one particular time, no doubt in some pass or at some strongpoint.

In 2 Samuel 23 this mighty man, or his predecessor or successor, is called Josheb-basshebeth the Tahchemonite, chief of the captains (shalishi). He is said to have slain eight smaller units (hundreds) of men at one particular time, (a larger unit being a ‘thousand’ - Deuteronomy 1.15). The names are tantalisingly similar, and yet different enough for them possibly to refer to two different people (the names, the number slain, the clan roots and what they were captains of are all different). One may have been slain and his place taken by the other, who may indeed have been related to him and in a brother tribe. On the other hand Tahchemonite easily shortens to Hachmonite (by removing the T) and Jashobe-am and Jashob-basshebeth could easily be names given to the same person, the explanatory second half being changed,

11.12 ‘And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, who was one of the three mighty men.’

The second warrior chief was Eleazar the son of Dodo (in 2 Samuel 23.9 ‘Dodai’). He was one of the three leading mighty men. He was an Ahohite. His father was, or had been, in charge of the second course of David’s servants/warriors (27.4). Perhaps by this time things had changed and Eleazar had taken over the position which was seemingly partly hereditary (compare 27.6, 7).

11.13-14 ‘He was with David at Pasdammim, and there the Philistines were gathered together to battle, where was a plot of ground full of barley, and the people fled from before the Philistines. And they stood in the midst of the plot, and defended it, and slew the Philistines; and YHWH saved them by a great victory.’

One of Eleazar’s exploits is described. He was part of a small force, who with David (and Shammah the Hararite) had faced up to the Philistines in a barley field when the auxiliaries had panicked and fled. Together they stood their ground and defended the field, slaying many of the Philistines. YHWH had saved them by a great victory. The Chronicler tells us that this happened at Pasdammim, which was possibly between Socoh and Azekah, the deep red earth there explaining the name. He clearly had another source as well as Samuel.

On the other hand one of the reasons for a Philistine incursion may well have been to steal the ripe barley, something regularly occurring, so that defending barley fields would have been a way of life for the mighty men. So there would have been a number of barley field incidents.

The name of the third warrior chief of ‘the three’ (Shammah the Hararite) is missing here. That may have been because he had been killed in battle and not replaced. Even the three were not invulnerable. Someone else would have taken his place as commander of ‘ten’ chiefs, who would be over ten companies, one third of the army, but he may not have been seen as outstanding enough to join the three, a position of which even Abishai was not seen as worthy. Indeed it may have been Abishai, for he at one stage commanded a third of the army (thus over a ‘ten’ of the thirty commanders). Samuel 23 tells us that Shammah too participated in the battle for the barley field (it does not say that he stood alone although some take it that way. But if he was alone who would watch his back?). Some think that his name was dropped out through a copying error, but it is more likely that he died without a successor and is thus not named in Chronicles. (The problem with claiming copying errors is that the copyists probably knew the Scriptures by heart so that a copying error, even if it occurred, would quickly be picked up).

An Exploit Of Three Of The Thirty (11.15-19).

The description of the ‘three’ is followed by the description of an exploit of three of ‘the thirty’. This exploit may originally have circulated as a story on its own, but the original writer of this whole section, either 1 Samuel or the source from which 1 Samuel and the Chronicler obtained it, placed it before his description of ‘the thirty’ so as to show what manner of men they were.

11.15-16 ‘And three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam, and the host of the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Beth-lehem.’

These brave men are unlikely to have been ‘the first three’, otherwise it would have been made plain. Indeed, the first three were not of ‘the thirty’. They were chiefs over them. But these were ‘three’ of the thirty. And to Israelites threeness signified completeness, so that they would see them as representing the thirty. While to us this description of activity by three of the thirty may seem out of place (we might have expected it at the end, in other words, when once we knew who the thirty were), it may have been seen differently then. The early writers liked to introduce a narrative with a summary. Indeed it seems that the exploits of Eleazar inspired the writer to add this exploit of three of the thirty as a kind of introduction to the thirty in order to bring out that they were all of the same mould. Threeness represented the whole.

These three had joined David in the cave of Adullam at The Rock, whilst the Philistines had been encamped in the valley of Rephaim, with a garrison in Beth-lehem. And they were eager to be of service.

11.17 ‘And David longed, and said, “Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Beth-lehem, which is by the gate!”

Meanwhile David was being nostalgic and thinking of his home town and of how often he had drunk from the sweet waters of the well there by the gate. And he burst out unthinkingly, “Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Beth-lehem, which is by the gate!”, never dreaming what would happen. It was simply wishful and nostalgic thinking. But these men were of such a calibre that David had only to wish for something, for it to be done.

11.18 ‘And the three broke through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem, which was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David.

Thus three of the thirty, who had heard what David was wistfully wishing for, were determined to obtain it for him. (And the writer is indicating that all the thirty were of such calibre that they would have done the same). They broke through the ranks of the Philistines guarding Beth-lehem, possibly more by subtlety and evasion tactics than by force, although no doubt having to deal with some who opposed them, and approached the well by the gate and obtained the water. The Philistines would not, of course, have been expecting such a move and their guard outside the town may have been slack. They probably felt safe against any Israelite incursion, and would feel no real need for guarding the well. Then the three took the water in a vessel and made their way back. Whether they were involved in any actual fighting we are not told. They would after all look like any other Israelites in the captured city, for they no doubt had their weapons concealed. Their real problem lay in leaving the town without arousing suspicions. Then, once they got safely back to the cave, they triumphantly brought the water to David.

11.18a ‘But David would not drink of it, but poured it out to YHWH.’

When David realised what a foolhardy risk these men had taken for his sake, he was deeply moved at their love for him. As a consequence he considered the water far too precious for him to drink and so instead offered it as a solemn drink offering to YHWH. A drink offering was a regular form of offering, and was usually of wine. All would see by this how highly he valued what these men had done. They would not see it as a waste but as a valuable sacrificial offering.

11.19 ‘And he said, “My God forbid it me, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy?” For with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.’

By his words David indicated why he took the action he did. He pointed out that he considered that it would have been sacrilege to drink the water that these men had obtained at such risk to their lives. In his view only God was worthy of such an offering. And he poured it out to Him, saying, “Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy?” His words are a reminder to us that when Israelites spoke of ‘drinking blood’ they had in mind taking advantage of the sacrifice of others who had either died, or risked their lives, on their behalf. There was no thought of actually drinking blood. Jesus would later use the same language of others benefiting by His death for them (John 6.53-56). Again He did not mean literally drinking blood. Note that John 6.35 makes plain what ‘drinking of His blood’ signified. It signified believing on Him (and accepting His sacrifice for us). At that stage it did not have in mind the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) as such. That would come later. Drinking blood was thus a metaphorical term for benefiting by the death or life-risk of others. It was not intended literally.

‘These things did the three mighty men.’ This is what three of them did, and they did it as representatives of the whole.

The Two Men Worthy Of Honour Who Did Not Attain To The First Three (11.20-25).

We are now told of two men who were exceptional, but who did not attain to the first ‘three’ (verse 21). However, in both 1 Samuel and here, when these are mentioned only two names are given. If we are to see the narrative as indicating a second ‘three’ this would suggest that the third representative of the second ‘three’ had been killed, something which could be seen as confirmed by his not being named in chapter 27. And if it were so, this would confirm the reason why the Chronicler similarly drops the third name in the first three, (which is missing in 1 Chronicles alone), here and in chapter 27. But it is well possible that this second group consisted of only two.

Of these two men ‘worthy of honour’, one was Abishai, the brother of the commander in chief Joab. He is described as ‘over the three’. The possibility is that this meant that he was over the first ‘three’, a position he held as Joab’s brother. The other man mentioned as ‘worthy of honour’ was Benaiah, who is stated as being ‘honoured by the three’. In 27.6 he is described as ‘the mighty man of the thirty and over the thirty’.

So Abishai and Benaiah do not appear to have been directly under Jashobeam’s command, both having their own positions, in the case of the former as deputy commander-in-chief to his brother, and in the case of the latter as commander of David’s bodyguard. Abishai may, however, have stepped in when Shammah of the first three was killed, taking responsibility for a third of the army.

11.20 ‘And Abishai, the brother of Joab, he was chief of the three; for he lifted up his spear against three hundred and slew them, and had a name among the three.’

Here we learn that Abishai was ‘chief of the three’. On its own this could mean that, under Joab, he had authority over the first ‘three’ as deputy commander. His special claim to fame was that he slew three military units who came against him at one time, armed only with a spear, although we do not know the full circumstances. Possibly it was in a pass or at a strongpoint. We also know that he came to David’s rescue against Ishbi-benoh, one of the sons of the ‘giant’, a man of huge stature whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, when Abishai slew him (2 Samuel 21.16-17), saving David’s life.

11.21 ‘Of the three, he was superior to the two, and was made their captain, however he did not attain to the three.’

As we consider this verse we need to recognise that the ‘three’ had become ‘two’ (Jashobeam and Eleazar), with the word ‘three’ now being a stereotyped description of the two who remained. On this basis it could be saying that he was superior to two of the three, the other being dead, and was made their commander, although not having attained exploit-wise to the first three.

Indeed, as already mentioned this verse will be the one that determines how we see the possibility of a second ‘three’ who followed the first. For either it is saying that Abishai was superior in rank to ‘the two’ who now composed the first ‘three’ (Jashobeam and Eleazar of the first ‘three’, Shammah being dead), or it is positing a further two over whom he was superior, one of whom is never mentioned. This verse significantly is not drawn from 2 Samuel 23, which might therefore favour the former, especially as no other two are mentioned.

As we saw, ‘the three’ appear to have been formed on the basis of great exploits. They would always be remembered as ‘the three’. The exploits of Abishai are said not to have come up to those of this ‘first three’, exploits which had gone down in history. Thus he did not attain to the honour of being numbered among the first three. But he was also the commander-in-chief’s brother, which put him in a special position over the two of them who remained, even though he did not attain to their level of honour. In modern parlance we might say that the first three gained the Victoria Cross, whilst Abishai only won the Military Cross.

As expressed above, this verse has made some think that there was a ‘second three’. But we should note that such a ‘three’ are never named.

11.22a ‘Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds,’

Named along with Abishai is Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. He was the second man outside the first ‘three’ who was not strictly of the thirty. He was a man who had ‘performed mighty deeds’. In 27.5 his father Jehoiada is described as ‘the priest’, and was thus of the house of Aaron (see 12.27 for his status). He had been a valiant (or wealthy) man in Kabzeel, one of the most southern cities of Judah towards the border of Edom (Joshua 15.21). This was probably the same as "Jekabzeel and its villages," one of the places re-inhabited by the men of Judah after the Exile (Nehemiah 11.25). The site is unknown. It brings out that Benaiah was a man of substance.

11.22b ‘He slew two of ’Ari-el (‘lion of God’) of Moab. He went down also and slew a lion (’ari) in the midst of a pit in time of snow.’

There is a play on words here between these two sentences, the first referring to ‘the lion of God of Moab’ and the second to ‘the lion in the pit’. The fact that the Arabs and Persians later called mighty warriors ‘lions of God’, may illuminate the words here. The two men were ‘of ’Ariel’. Thus they may have been members of an elite squad called ‘the lion of God’, or they may have been elite warriors under Moab’s champion (‘the lion of God’). That is why AV translates the words in the first sentence as ‘lion-like men’. Thus we may see it as indicating that Benaiah slew two of Moab’s mightiest elite warriors. And as well as that he slew a another kind of lion, a lion in a pit in time of snow. Such a lion could well have been mad with hunger, (the herds and flocks being in shelter), seeking prey in the snow and unable to find it, and meanwhile terrorising the neighbourhood. Something like that is required for it to be an exploit worthy of mention. But Benaiah went down into the pit where it was and slew it single handed.

11.23 ‘And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high, and in the Egyptian’s hand was a spear like a weaver’s beam, and he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear.’

He also slew an Egyptian who was two and a third metres (seven and a half feet) tall who was so strong that he was armed with a spear as thick as a weaver’s beam. Benaiah was only carrying a staff at the time, no doubt having lost his spear in battle, but he bravely went down to the Egyptian, plucked his spear from his hands with his staff, and then slew him with his own spear.

11.24 ‘These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had a name among the three mighty men.’

These exploits of Benaiah were such that they gave him a position of respect in the eyes of ‘the three mighty men’. This probably refers to ‘the first three’, although it could refer to the three of the thirty who obtained the water for David.

11.25 ‘Behold, he was superior to the thirty, but he did not attain to the three, and David set him over his guard.’

Benaiah was superior to the ‘thirty’ but was not of sufficient status to be numbered among the first three. Nevertheless he was a valiant warrior in his own right, and David recognised his superiority by making him captain of his guard, that is, over the Cherethites and Pelethites (2 Samuel 8.18), the select group who formed the king’s bodyguard.

The Names Of ‘The Thirty’ Who Commanded The Thirty Companies That Made Up The Standing Army (11.26-47).

We are now given the names of that elite band of warriors who made up ‘the thirty’ under the command of the first ‘three’. These were chiefs over companies in the standing army (for similar positions compare 27.2-15). In 2 Samuel 23.24-39 there were actually 32 chiefs named who formed ‘the thirty’. Here a considerable number of further names are added (verses 41b-47). But they still make up ‘the thirty’, a stereotyped name for the group of David’s chieftains.

The first-named was Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai. He was one of the commanders over one of David’s courses (27.7). He was slain by a reluctant Abner during the initial battles between the forces of David and the forces of Saul’s son Ishbosheth, whilst David was still only king over Judah. Thus these lists come before then. The list also comes before the death of Uriah the Hittite (verse 41), whose wife David so falsely took (a failure ignored by the Chronicler).

Along with Asahel was Elhanan the son of Dodo, who was possibly related to Eleazar of ‘the three’, and was also possibly the Elhanan, son of Jair of Beth-lehem, who slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath (20.5). (Jair could have been his grandfather’s name). His father Dodai was one of David’s commanders over a course (27.4). Another who was famed for his exploits was Sibbecai the Hushathite, who slew Sippai (Saph), one of the sons of the giant of Gath (20.24; 2 Samuel 21.18). He also was a commander over a course (27.11). Other commanders over courses included Ira the Tekoite, Helez the Pelonite, Abiezer the Anathothite, Maharai the Netophathite, Benaiah the Pirathonite, and Heled (Heldai) the Netophathite (27.9-15). These were the mighty men of the armies and commanders over companies.

11.26-31 ‘Also the mighty men of the armies: Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Beth-lehem, Shammoth the Harorite, Helez the Pelonite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, Abiezer the Anathothite, Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, Heled the son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ithai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin, Benaiah the Pirathonite,’

Comparison with 2 Samuel 23 reveals that most of the names above are parallel, although with slight differences, but that Elika the Harodite and Zalmon the Ahohite (2 Samuel 23.25, 28) had since been killed, Zalmon being replaced by Ilai the Ahohite.

11.32-37 ‘Hurai of the brooks of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Baharumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shagee the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sacar the Hararite, Eliphal the son of Ur, Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, Hezro the Carmelite, Naarai the son of Ezbai,’

In this group Shammah the Hararite (2 Samuel 23.33) appears to have been killed, along with Eliam, son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23.34), being replaced by Hepher the Mecherathite and Ahijah the Pelonite.

11.38-41a ‘Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar the son of Hagri, Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Berothite, the armourbearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, Uriah the Hittite.’

In this group Igal, the son of Nathan of Zobah, and Bani the Gadite (2 Samuel 23.36) appear to have been slain, being replaced by Joel the brother of Nathan, and Mibhar the son of Hagri. In both lists Uriah the Hittite was still alive revealing them to be of comparatively early date.

11.41b-47 ‘Zabad the son of Ahlai, Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite, a chief of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, Hanan the son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel the sons of Hotham the Aroerite, Jediael the son of Shimri, and Joha his brother, the Tizite, Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai, and Joshaviah, the sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.’

The names given above, commencing with Zabad, are unique to 1 Chronicles, and must be seen as additional commanders required by David’s expanding army. But note that they are still seen as part of ‘the thirty’. Unique among the names is that of Shiza who is said to have brought with him 30 extra Reubenite warriors (3 small units). David’s army was continually growing apace.

The lesson behind these lists is that from the beginning God provided David with commanders from all parts of Israel, and that He continued to preserve the lives of so many of them. Note also in 27.1-15 the especial support that David had from Ephraimite commanders (verses 10 and 14), and even a Benjamite commander (27.12), who might have been expected to be loyal to the house of Saul (although Saul’s behaviour had seemingly disenchanted them). God was prospering him in all that he did. The references to Asahel, Joab’s brother, slain early on whilst David was only king over Judah, and to Uriah the Hittite, indicates that these were his commanders early in his reign, and possibly even before it. God was with him from the beginning.

Israelite Warriors And Commanders Gather To David From Every Quarter (12.1-23).

In this passage it is made clear that David had support from every quarter, from Benjamite warriors who might have been expected to follow Saul, but had become disenchanted with him; from Transjordanian warriors in the east in the form of Gadites; from warriors of Judah and Benjamin in the south, supported by the words of a prophet; and finally from warriors from Manasseh in the north. ‘All Israel’ were gathering to him, and they came at different times, and no doubt for differing reasons. But all had one thing in common. Disillusionment with Saul. The descriptions of the points of time at which they came demonstrate that the Chronicler had a good knowledge of David’s history prior to his becoming king, and in order to assist the reader we will briefly outline that history:

  • 1). David defeats the Philistine champion, Goliath.
  • 2). David becomes Saul’s most successful commander and receives adulation that makes Saul jealous.
  • 3). David has to flee from Saul’s attempts to kill him, and takes refuge among other places, in the cave of Adullam (near Jezreel) where disenchanted men flock to him, and at oases in the Judean wilderness in the hill country near the Dead Sea, the wilderness of Engedi.
  • 4). Saul’s pursuit is so relentless that in the end David takes refuge among the Philistines and becomes a vassal of Achish, king of Gath, ruling over Ziklag in the south.
  • 5). On Saul’s death David moves to Hebron where all Judah make him king, ruling for seven years whilst the rest of Israel follow Saul’s son Ishbosheth as a consequence of the influence of his powerful general Abner.

    6). After a major civil war David becomes king over all Israel.

However, the writer’s emphasis is not on David’s past but on what God has done during that past, in raising up for him a band of trained and experienced warriors to fight along with him against the oppression of Saul.

It will be noted that this subsection divides into four parts:

  • A The Benjamites who came to David at Ziklag (12.1-7).
  • B The Gadites who came to David at his stronghold in the wilderness (12.8-15).
  • B The men of Judah and Benjamin who came to David at his stronghold (12.16-18).
  • A The Manassites who joined David at Ziklag (12.19-22).

Those who camt to David to his stronghold in the wilderness are enveloped by those who came to him at Ziklag.

The Benjamites Who Came To David Whilst He Was Still A Philistine Vassal Ruling Over Ziklag (12.1-7).

The Chronicler is bringing out that even in the most adverse circumstances God had prepared the way for David. We learn that even whilst he was a Philistine vassal ruling in the small city of Ziklag, God had brought to him those who were to be least expected, a group of Benjamites who chose to follow him rather than Saul, the king of Israel from whom he was taking refuge. It must have given him immense encouragement and have confirmed that God was with him, and, indeed, had plans for the restoration of Israel.

Note the deliberate contrast between them and Saul. David was ‘keeping himself close’ because of Saul the son of Kish (prior to Saul’s death), whilst those of Saul’s brothers of Benjamin (emphasised) came to support David. It was a reminder to all Benjamites, in case there was any discontent over the house of David, that David had had the support of choice men of Benjamin from the start, something which will be emphasised again by prophecy in verse 18.

12.1 ‘Now these are they who came to David to Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish, and they were among the mighty men, his helpers in war.’

Whilst David was taking refuge from Saul in Ziklag (1 Samuel 27.1-6), there came to him a group of Benjamites who came to express their loyalty to him. They became part of his ‘mighty men’, valiant warriors who were his helpers in war. This was quite remarkable because on the whole Benjamin clung closely to Saul (12.29).

12.2 ‘They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in slinging stones and in shooting arrows from the bow. They were of Saul’s brothers of Benjamin.’

These were no fearful fugitives seeking his protection. They were fully armed with bows and slings, and they knew how to use them. They could sling stones and fire arrows equally well with both hands (a feature of Benjamites, compare Judges 3.15; 20.16). And remarkably they were from Saul’s own tribe. David was pleasing YHWH and He was thus making even his ‘enemies’ to be at peace with him.

12.3 ‘The chief was Ahiezer; then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel, and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth; and Beracah, and Jehu the Anathothite, and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty.’

This verse gives us the names of some of the Benjamites who came to David, under their chief Ahiezer. Almost all are unknown to us, but the Azmaveth may be the Azmaveth who was one of David’s commanders (11.33). He was a Baharumite, belonging to a town on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. Ishmaiah the Gibeonite was also ‘one of the thirty and over the thirty’, in other words an important commander, but he was clearly slain before the lists described above were drawn up. Note the mention of important Benjamite towns like Anathoth, Gibeon and Gibeah. All these men were rooted in Benjamin, but all expressed loyalty to David. And that could only be because God was with him. If God is with us we can be sure that He will provide us with all that we need at the right time.

12.4b-7 ‘And Jeremiah, and Jahaziel, and Johanan, and Jozabad the Gederathite, Eluzai, and Jerimoth, and Bealiah, and Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite, Elkanah, and Isshiah, and Azarel, and Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites, and Joelah, and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.’

Some of these further Benjamites appear to have come from areas not seen specifically as Benjamite, such as Gedera (a town in the Judean lowlands), Haruph (unknown) and Gedor (possibly the one in the hill country of Judah, near Hebron). They may themselves have been fugitives from Saul, or they may simply have been more cosmopolitan and have spread more widely. There was no law preventing Benjamites from dwelling in Judean cities. We must presume that the Korahites were probably neither connected with the Judean Korah of 2.43, nor with the sons of Korah, who were Levites, for these were Benjamites. The name Korah appears to have been fairly popular, and there are no real grounds for denying that they were Benjamites. Alternately they could be Korahites who as Levites had taken up dwelling in Benjamite cities in order to be near the Tabernacle, and had become identified as Benjamites. After the slaughter of the priests at Nob genuine Levites would hardly have been enamoured of Saul. Thus did God provide him with officers for his army.

So David, once he was established in Philistia, is portrayed as having strong support from Benjamites right from the beginning. His appeal was to ‘all Israel’, to the whole people of God, and Benjamites who discerned the times were not unwelcome. For David was God’s appointed one, a shadow of the Greater yet to come Who was the final hope of Israel.

The Gadites Who Came To David Whilst He Was In The Stronghold In The Wilderness (12.8-15).

Further officers became available to David in the form of Gadites from the east. These Gadites came to David from east of Jordan, from the land of Gilead, joining with David long before the Benjamites above. It indicated that David’s support was widespread. They probably came whilst he was sheltering in the Judean wilderness, either among the hill tops or in the ‘stronghold of Engedi’ (1 Samuel 23.29). They all appear to have been powerful warriors. Note how the followers of David are portrayed in this passage as coming to him at different periods. It brought home that God was continually building up his strength. What brought them to David we do not know. Perhaps they had suffered at the hands of Saul when he had shown favouritism towards his own tribe, or perhaps they had become disillusioned about him when his mercenaries had retreated among them from the Philistine invasions and had lived at their expense (1 Samuel 13.7), or perhaps they did not like it when they heard how he was seeking David out to destroy him, for some of them may well have fought under David when he was one of Saul’s commanders. Whatever the reason some of them came to David to give him their support. In the same way Gadites would also later be loyal to David when he fled from Absalom to Mahanaim.

12.8 ‘And of the Gadites there separated themselves to David to the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valour, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes on the mountains.’

Men came from east of Jordan to David to his stronghold in the wilderness of Engedi in the Judean hills. They probably felt that he was the best hope for Israel. And these were Gadites, mighty warriors, trained in war, brave as lions, swift as the roes on the mountains, and capable of handling shield and spear, the epitome of what a warrior should be.

12.9-13 ‘Ezer the chief, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh.’

Their details are given by name and head count. Nothing else is known of them. But there were eleven of them, enough for a ‘ten’, a small military unit, under Ezer their chief.

12.14 ‘These of the sons of Gad were captains of the host. He who was least was equal to a hundred, and the greatest to a thousand.’

Indeed these Gadites were not just ordinary warriors. They were military commanders, each of them the equivalent of a small military unit (a ‘hundred’), and the best of them the equivalent of a large military unit (a ‘thousand’)..

12.15 ‘These are the ones who went over the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks, and they put to flight all those of the valleys, both toward the east, and toward the west.’

Their prowess was revealed in that they had swum across the Jordan when it was in flood, taken the enemy by surprise, and had put to flight the invaders who had taken possession of the valleys of Israel, both east and west. These invaders would almost certainly have been Philistines. We have no further details of this incident, which would have been one among many in the war of attrition against the Philistines.

Others, however, see it as referring to their method of reaching David in order to avoid Saul. The idea then is that they swam the Jordan in flood, and fought their way through to David where he was encamped among the hill tops of the Judean wilderness, putting to flight all who tried to stop them in the valleys.

Men Of Benjamin And Judah Come To David, And A Prophet Of YHWH Prophesies Wellbeing And Success To Him, Whereupon He Welcomes Them And Appoints Them As Officers (12.16-18).

When early on in his flight from Saul, men of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to see him David greeted them warily. He was suspicious of their motive. Were they just another of Saul’s attempts to trap him and run him down? But then the Spirit of YHWH came on their leader who prophesied him wellbeing and peace because God was on his side, thus encouraging David to receive them. To him such a prophecy would have been like a refreshing wind in the midst of those desert conditions. ‘The stronghold’ may have been either the one in the wilderness of Engedi, or the cave of Adullam.

12.16 ‘And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the stronghold to David.’

A group of Benjamites and Judeans arrived at David’s stronghold. His words to them confirm that this was at a time when he was evading Saul and very suspicious of strangers. At that stage David always had to be especially careful. He knew that Saul would have been only too pleased to entrap him or have him slaughtered. It is never spiritual to be careless.

12.17 ‘And David went out to meet them, and answered and said to them, “If you are come peaceably to me to help me, my heart will be knit to you; but if you are come to betray me to my adversaries, seeing there is no wrong in my hands, the God of our fathers look on it, and rebuke it.’

So he went out to them to challenge them as to whether they were genuine or not. If they came genuinely as friends in order to assist him he would welcome them warmly. But if they came with falsity in their hearts and with an intention to betray him, let them know that God knew their hearts, and He would requite it of them, no doubt by exposing them, because he was innocent of charges laid against him. So the Chronicler brings out and underlines the righteousness of David. To him he was a precursor of the coming righteous King.

12.18a ‘Then the Spirit clothed himself with Amasai, who was chief of the thirty, and he said,

“We are yours, David,
And on your side, you son of Jesse.
Peace, peace be to you,
And peace be to your helpers,
For your God helps you.”

For the idea of the Holy Spirit clothing Himself with someone compare Judges 6.34. The idea is of the Spirit taking possession of a person in order to speak or act through him. That Amasai was ‘chief of the thirty’ indicates that he had brought with him a good number of warriors, and that he was their chieftain. Once again a ‘thirty’ is a small, complete military unit probably comprising three platoons of ‘ten’.

The essence of the prophecy was simple. God had brought these men to support him and be on his side. And they assured him of peace and wellbeing because God was also on his side and would surely help him.

Such prophecy by the Spirit would have been a great encouragement to David, and worth more than a thousand warriors. For these men had not only come to serve under him, but were clearly God-sent and would therefore be God used.

12.18b ‘Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.’

So David received them gladly, and made them captains within his band of warriors. His numbers and his strength were growing.

Manassites From The North Come To Support David While He Is Ruling As Vassal King In Ziklag (12.19-21).

Benjamites and Judeans from the south (12.1-7, 16-18), Gadites from over the Jordan to the east (12.8-15), and now Manassites from the north all demonstrated their support for David. His appeal was widespread. But this occurred whilst David was in Ziklag as a vassal of Achish, king of Gath. It appears that these Gadites had deliberately chosen to support him against Saul, even to the extent of fighting alongside the Philistines. It suggests that by this time Saul had disaffected a lot of people who were only too willing to get their own back on him.

12.19a ‘Of Manasseh also there fell away some to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle.’

The Manassites must clearly have been aware of what was going on. They would be aware that war with the Philistines threatened, and may have received a call to arms from Saul. But they opted to follow David, even though they knew that he was ready to fight against Saul along with the Philistines. They ‘fell away’ to David. The verb is a clear indication of their deliberate choice to follow David. It suggests that many now saw David as the best option as king of Israel..

12.19b ‘But they did not help them, for the lords of the Philistines, on being told, sent him away, saying, “He will fall away to his master Saul to the jeopardy of our heads.”

But the Chronicler assures us that they did not actually assist the Philistines because the Philistine lords, apart from Achish, did not trust David and had him sent away lest he turn traitor on them.

12.20 ‘As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of thousands who were of Manasseh.’

So as David was returning to Ziklag he was joined by eight Manassite war leaders who were experienced commanders of large military units.

12.21 ‘And they helped David against the band of rovers, for they were all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host.’

As 1 Samuel informs us, on arrival back at Ziklag David discovered that the Amalekites had sacked Ziklag, kidnapped his wives, and stolen men as slaves as well as large herds and flocks. The Amalekites had assumed that David would be kept busy for quite some time with the war against Israel. Thus these Manassite warriors, as brave and powerful men, were able to assist David against the band of roving Amalekites, acting as commanders over part of his army. They had arrived at a convenient time. It was a reminder that God is aware of our needs even before we entreat Him.

David’s Growing Army (12.22-40).

In a condensed history we now learn of the large numbers of men from all the tribes who came to David at Hebron to make him king. Some would have come in his early days at Hebron, when he was crowned king of Judah. Others would have gathered after the bitter civil war with Ishbosheth had suddenly come to an end. But the point is that all the tribes came to him and unanimously he was to be made king over ‘all Israel’. It should be noted that there is no suggestion here that these men were head-counted, which would have been contrary to the Law of Moses. (That was David’s sin at a later time). These ‘numbers’ were obtained in terms of military units, both large and small.

A List Of The Men Of Israel Who Sought Out David At Hebron In Order To Make Him King Of All Israel Followed By A Description Of Their Subsequent Joyful Feasting (12.22-40).

The passage commences with an introductory comment which explains, as we have already seen above, that from day to day men came to offer their services to David until so many had come that they formed ‘a great host, like the host of God’.

It then goes on to deal with how all Israel flocked to David at Hebron, listing in some detail the warriors made available to him by each of the tribes of Israel. This passage is unique in listing fourteen ‘tribes of Israel’ (usually an attempt is made to present Israel as twelve tribes by omitting one or two). This figure was obtained by including in the place of Joseph, Ephraim and the two ‘half-tribes’ of Manasseh. But the Chronicler wanted to make clear that no tribe was missing. They represented ‘all Israel’.

It closes with a description of the great and joyous feast held in order to celebrate the event. The Chronicler may well have intended the returnees from Exile to see in this the precursor to the Messianic feast which would signal the taking away of reproach from Israel and the ‘swallowing up’ of death (Isaiah 25.6-8). The Messianic feast was later an important aspect of Messianic teaching.

Introductory Comment.

12.22 ‘For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great host, like the host of God.’

The Chronicler depicts the flow of men who swarmed to give their loyalty to David. These would form the basis of ‘his men’, David’s private army, who were such a power behind the throne. Right from the beginning of his exile they came from day to day, some out of loyalty to David, having served under his command, others out of resentment for a regime which they felt had let them down, and still others because they were in distress or in debt and had nothing to lose (1 Samuel 22.2). But the final influx, which took place, first when Judah made him king of Judah at Hebron, and then when all Israel gathered to him to make him king of all Israel, added to his private army and made up a great host, ‘like the host of God’, i.e. innumerable. The whole influx from the start at the Cave of Adullam, to the gathering of Israel at Hebron, bore on it the sign of the hand of God. David’s destiny had been determined from the first.

12.23 ‘And these are the head numbers of those who were armed for war, who came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of YHWH.’

The ‘head numbers’ are now given (but in terms of military units) of those who were ‘armed for war’, and they would be needed, for the Philistines would not remain quiet and see a strong Israel established on their borders. Indeed, they looked on Israel west of Jordan as tributary to them, which was why Ishbosheth ruled in Mahanaim, east of Jordan (2 Samuel 2.8). His rule over ‘all Israel’ was nominal. They had been content to see David king of Judah only because he was a vassal of Achish of Gath, but now that he was becoming king of all Israel it was a different matter, and they would soon seek to intervene (2 Samuel 5.17-18). They may well have thought that David would quickly assure them of his allegiance.

So all Israel gathered en masse to turn the kingdom of Saul over to David ‘in accordance with the word of YHWH’. In 10.14 it was YHWH Who had turned the kingdom over to David. Thus the warriors were fulfilling the will of YHWH. Note the stress on the fact that it was YHWH Who had done this. Who else could have taken a helpless renegade and made him into a great king? And what was more, have prophesied it beforehand? (1 Samuel 16.1).

The Men Of Judah, Simeon, Levi And Benjamin (12.24-29).

Descriptions are now given of the military units which joined up with David from Judah, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin.

12.24 ‘The children of Judah who bore shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, armed for war.’

It should be noted that these were the warriors who came to set David on his throne. It is not the sum total of the men of Judah. Those who were of the children of Judah, who were fully armed for war, were six ‘thousands’ (large military units), and eight ‘hundreds’ (smaller military units). In other words the numbering was by military units, which would have differed in regard to the number of literal warriors in them. For the idea of the army divided into ‘thousands’ and ‘hundreds’ see 13.1.

Compare for this use of ‘thousands’ and ‘hundreds’ (and ‘fifties’ and ‘tens’) Exodus 18.21; Deuteronomy 1.15; 1 Samuel 8.12; 2 Kings 1.14. The word for ‘thousand’ also had the meaning of a ‘wider family’ (Judges 6.15) or a large military unit (it has this meaning regularly; compare the use by the Romans of the number words ‘legion’ and ‘century’ to denote military units. They can be compared with ‘thousands’ and ‘hundreds’. The ‘number word’ involved was no longer used accurately, although it still conveyed an idea of quantity).

Later when we come to tribes of Israel who had followed Ishbosheth we notice that their numbers appear to be far larger. But this may simply reflect the fact that, unlike Judah and Simeon, the men of Israel were divided into far smaller ‘thousands’, i.e. military units, by Abner. Possibly they were one third of the size of the Judean ‘thousands’.

12.25 ‘Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred.’

In contrast with the men of Judah who ‘bore shield and spear’ and were ‘armed for war, the Simeonites are depicted simply as ‘mighty men of valour’. The same idea was being depicted in two different ways. Of the Simeonite warriors there were seven large military units and one small. In view of the regularly claimed suggestion that Simeon was merged into Judah we note that the Simeonites probably here numbered more than the men of Judah (seven large military units as opposed to six) depending on how large their military units were.

12.26 ‘Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred.’

Nothing is said about the Levites being armed, thus these may have come simply to support David religiously. But that Levites could be armed for battle comes out elsewhere. They were so in the time of Moses (Exodus 32.26-28) and in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4.16 with 3.17). Note also the details given of Zadok of the house of Aaron, and who came with his captains (see below). And the Levites would certainly have had to help the realm against the Philistines. They could hardly have stood back and refused to fight. Furthermore, until David had ordered the Tabernacle procedures they had no major role to play in the Tabernacle, and would have needed to be able to defend the tithes collected throughout Israel. Thus there could come to David’s support four large military units and six smaller ones. In their eyes it would be important to keep in with the new king.

12.27 ‘And Jehoiada was the leader (nagid) of the house of Aaron, and with him were three thousand and seven hundred.’

The priests, who were of the house of Aaron and by this time quite numerous, also came to David’s support. Jehoiada was the ‘appointed prince’ (military leader) of the house of Aaron, and he brought with him three large military units and seven smaller ones. He was not said to be ‘the Priest’, who would probably at this stage have been Zadok. Note the title nagid which indicated one anointed to YHWH as a priest would be. This may or may not be the Jehoiada who was the father of Benaiah (Benaiah’s father is called ‘the priest’ in 27.5). We have no way of knowing. The priestly connection of Benaiah comes out in that he was able to enter the Tent of YHWH to slay Adonijah.

12.28 ‘And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father’s house twenty and two captains.’

Along with Jehoiada came the young Aaronide warrior Zadok, who brought with him twenty two captains from his father’s household. It is highly questionable whether this was Zadok the High Priest, for that appointment is spoken of as early as 2 Samuel 8.17, and that particular Zadok was quite possibly High Priest under Saul, which would be why he retained the position along with Abiathar who was a Davidic stalwart. (High Priesthood was for life).

12.29 ‘And of the children of Benjamin, the brothers of Saul, three thousand, for previously the greatest part of them had maintained their allegiance to the house of Saul.’

It is made clear that the Benjamites were late-comers in inviting David to be king. For on the whole they had been faithful to the house of Saul. But now that Saul and his sons were dead three large military units of them came to support David. The ‘greatest part’ of them is mentioned because, as we know (12.2-7, 16), some Benjamites had previously followed David. This incidental reference connects this verse with the details in chapter 12.2-7, 16, and thus with that whole passage.

The Men Of Ishbosheth’s Israel: Ephraim, West Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, Dan, Asher, Reuben Gad And East Manasseh (12.30-37).

The seemingly larger numbers that now follow probably result from the fact that in Ishbosheth’s army the ‘thousands’ (large military units) were much smaller than in Judah. It is extremely unlikely that out of Israel (as opposed to Judah) over 300,000 men (excluding Issachar) gathered to David (and that was only the ones who gathered). Apart from the fact that in such terms Judah, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin together would only have had 23,500 between them, such a force would have dwarfed the Philistines, so that Ishbosheth, with Abner as his general, could hardly have failed to defeat them. (When we consider that Pharaoh had taken a force of only twenty thousand men to take on the mighty Hittites it puts the numbers in perspective). But if we see it as around 320 compact military units from Ephraim and the following tribes, that, although still a good quantity, would be a real possibility, for the size of their military units would have been heavily reduced by war with the Philistines, and they would not all have been of the same size.

The comments made about each tribe are probably intended to be seen as true of all the tribes, the spread of them being in order to prevent constant repetition. These are as follows:

  • Ephraim. ‘Men who were mighty warriors, famous in their fathers’ houses’ (12.30).
  • West Manasseh. ‘Men who were expressed by name to come and make David king’ (12.31). Clearly true in every case. That was their purpose in coming.
  • Issachar. ‘Men who had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do’ (12.32). Again true in every case. That was why they were there.
  • Zebulun. ‘Men who were able to go out to the host, who could set the battle in array, with all manner of instruments of war -- and were not of double heart’ (12.33). We have here a summary of the good qualities which will be applied below separately to Dan, Asher and the Transjordanian tribes.
  • Naphtali. ‘A thousand (large number of) captains with men of shield and spear’ (12.34).
  • Dan. ‘Men who could set the battle in array’ (12.35). As in 12.33.
  • Asher. ‘Men such as were able to go out to the host and set the battle in array’ (12.36). As in 12.33.
  • Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh. ‘Men with all manner of instruments of war for battle’ (12.37). As in 12.33.

Thus both the strength and purpose of these troops is made clear. Considering that they had been defeated by David, and had failed to drive out the Philistines, these descriptions must be seen as idealistic. This is what they would become under David.

12.30 ‘And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous men in their fathers’ houses.’

Thus out of Ephraim came twenty large military units and eight smaller ones, and these consisted of mighty and brave warriors, held in high honour in their fathers’ houses. The Chronicler does not want us to see the reality of troops battered by constant civil war and invasion, but rather redoubtable troops who could face up to anything. This was all part of David’s triumph.

12.31 ‘And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king.’

The half-tribe of Manasseh coming from west of the Jordan numbered eighteen military units. And these had specifically (they were ‘mentioned by name’) been appointed by their brother tribesmen to make David king. There was little reluctance on their part. They had been far enough away from Benjamin not to feel so loyal to Saul. And as we know some Manassites had already joined David earlier (12.20).

12.32 ‘And of the children of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. The heads of them were two hundred, and all their brothers were under their orders.’

Of the men of Issachar it is said that they had ‘understanding of the times’ so that they knew what Israel ought to do. They recognised that David’s hour had come. This, indeed, was true of all the tribes, for that was why they were there. But interestingly we are not told of the military units that they brought with them, only that their chieftains numbered ‘two hundred’, who came to David with all their brothers who were under their orders. Perhaps they were not divided into military units but came en masse.

12.33 ‘Of Zebulun, such as were able to go out in the host, who could set the battle in array, with all manner of instruments of war, fifty thousand, and who could order the battle array, and were not of double heart.’

Zebulun is described in full glory. They were fifty military units strong, able to go out to the host (they were equipped and ready), could set the battle in array (they were fully trained) and had all manner of weaponry. These attributes will now be split among those who follow. The final clause is literally ‘who could order the battle array, --- not of double heart’. Their full loyalty is guaranteed.

12.34 ‘And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand.’

In Biblical usage ‘a thousand’ standing by itself signifies a large, undetermined number. So Naphtali had a large number of captains (compare Issachar in verse 32) along with thirty seven large military units armed with shield and spear.

12.35 ‘ And of the Danites that could set the battle in array, twenty and eight thousand and six hundred.’

From the tribe of Dan came twenty eight larger military units and six smaller ones which could ‘set the battle in array’, in other words who were trained warriors. This was not to suggest that they were not equipped for war. It is assumed that they were.

12.36 ‘And of Asher, such as were able to go out in the host, that could set the battle in array, forty thousand.’

From Asher came forty large military units, who were equipped for war and fully trained and ready

12.37 ‘And on the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, a hundred and twenty thousand.’

And from the Transjordanian tribes came one hundred and twenty large military units who were fully equipped and well armed.

The whole picture being presented is of a powerful army given by YHWH to David. ‘All Israel’ had come to support him in accordance with the word of YHWH (verse 23).

The Great Celebratory Feast (12.38-40).

The gathering of Judah and Israel to make David king resulted in a triumphal feast. It is stressed that ‘all Israel’ were of one heart in the matter. The nation was as one. And they were there for a number of days (‘three days’ means ‘a number of days’, somewhat less than a period of seven days). The food was provided by ‘their brothers’, possibly Judah and Simeon, although so great was the feast that extra supplies had to be caravanned in from further afield. All wanted to participate in the provision of food.

Such a great feast was in line with Isaiah 25.8, which may well have been in the Chronicler’s mind. It was a precursor to the celebrations when the coming king arrived (compare Genesis 49.11-12), whose coming all Israel in the time of the Chronicler awaited (Haggai 2.21-23; Zechariah 9.9, 17; Malachi 4.2). It is difficult to avoid seeing in this the expected triumphal arrival of the greater David, of whom David was the precursor.

12.38 ‘All these being men of war, who could order the battle array, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.’

All those who came to make David king were men of war, who were fully trained and equipped for battle. And they came with ‘a perfect heart’, with no guile or restraint. And besides these men of war there were others (‘all the rest of Israel’) who were of one heart to make David king. None held back. It was a time of great triumph and rejoicing.

12.39 ‘And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking; for their brothers had made preparation for them.’

It was a time of great feasting. They ate and drank profusely for a number of days, because their brothers (the men of Judah and Simeon?) had made preparation for them. There was abundance for all.

12.40 ‘Moreover those who were near to them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victuals of meal, cakes of figs, and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in abundance, for there was joy in Israel.’

Moreover the tribes who were near to them, Benjamin, Ephraim, Reuben, Gad and East and West Manasseh, and even those further away like Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, all brought food on asses and camels and oxen so as to ensure that there was a sufficiency for all. Food and drink streamed into Hebron from every quarter, and it consisted among other things of meal (for bread and cakes), fig cakes, raisins, wine, and olive oil, together with cattle and sheep in abundance, which would be slaughtered as thankofferings and peace offerings, and be partaken of by all. Never before had Israel known such a celebration. It was a precursor of the good times coming when the promised king took his throne.

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