1 ChroniclesRead Scripture
Why and by Whom Were 1–2 Chronicles Written?
First and Second Chronicles provide the spiritual and historical DNA of the Jewish people at a time when such deep ancestral and genealogical information was more than just a fascinating discovery or an interesting hobby, but an essential aspect of survival. These books were written to a nation whose people had mostly been deported to a distant location for a cumulative 70 years. During that time, they worked as slaves under an oppressive regime. Previous social standing and calling, though not forgotten, did not mean much. Now they are back home, and they must reestablish who they are as a nation and its citizens. Also, they need to re-implement the rules for their religion—a slow process. Between constantly having to guard themselves against their neighbors, a sagging economy, and a generally cynical attitude, many decades later things are still not what they should be. Such was the status of the Hebrew people upon their release from captivity in Babylonia as they began to assimilate back into what had been the kingdom of Judah.
Prospects finally look up when a new group of people comes back to their homeland under the leadership of a priest named Ezra. But as he gets acquainted with the circumstances, he becomes distraught. The temple is functional, but still not complete. Men are marrying women who practice idolatry. A general malaise is besetting the population. Clearly, they have not been taught God’s Law, as revealed to Moses.
Among various measures, Ezra holds a public reading of the Law. He persuades the people to break their social ties with their pagan neighbors. And, in order to remind the people of who they are, he writes a lengthy book that details their heritage as God’s chosen people and its implications for how they should live. In doing so, he describes the ups and downs of the ancient kingdom, first unified under Saul, David, and Solomon, then split into two domains for about two centuries, each one ending by a siege and deportation, the northern one (Israel) by Assyria in 722 BC and the southern one (Judah) by Babylon in 586 BC. Ezra focuses almost entirely on Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple. He brings up Israel only insofar as it impinges on what happens in the south.
How Did Ezra Recount Events before His Lifetime?
Some chapters in Chronicles and Samuel/Kings (e.g., 1Kgs 22, 2Chr 18) are virtually identical, so Ezra must have used them or a common source. A non-biblical text (2Mac 2:13) tells us that Ezra’s friend, Nehemiah, had a large library, making it possible for Ezra to research his subject. He refers to some authors whose writings we know (e.g., Isaiah), some by people who appear in the stories (e.g., Nathan), and some of whom we know nothing else (e.g., Iddo).
What Are the Events and Dates Covered in 1–2 Chronicles?
The same timeframe is also covered by the books of Samuel and Kings. Here is how they roughly parallel each other on events they share.
|Kingdom of Saul||1Chr 10||1Sam 13–31|
|Kingdom of David||1Chr 11–29||2Sam 1–1Kgs 2|
|Kingdom of Solomon||2Chr 1–11||1Kgs 2–11|
|Divided Kingdom||2Chr 1–28||1Kgs 12–2Kgs 17|
|Remaining Kingdom||2Chr 29–39||2Kgs 18–25|
Readers should be aware of two important observations surrounding these timeframes and dates:
1. The word “son” may be ambiguous. It can refer to someone’s direct offspring or cover numerous generations, as exemplified by 2 Chronicles 34:2–3.
2. The actual dates of many of the kings have not been settled with finality, and so, for the most part, we will give only approximate figures when we do so at all.
1 Chronicles reminds the people of Judah, who are resettling after the Babylonian captivity, of their heritage as God’s children, the Lord’s commitment to King David, and their need to trust God for their future.
“Your name will be established and magnified forever, saying, ‘Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God.’”
— 1 Chronicles 17:24 ESV
I. Beginnings: From Adam to Benjamin (1:1–9:44)
A. From Adam to the Edomites (1:1–54)
B. Judah (2:1–4:23)
C. Simeon (4:24–43)
D. The Tribes of the East Bank (5:1–26)
E. Levi (6:1–81)
F. Seven More Tribes (7:1–40)
G. Saul’s Family (8:1–40)
H. Return from the Exile (9:1–44)
II. Failure: Saul’s Death (10:1–14)
III. David’s Kingdom (11:1–29:30)
A. The Kingdom Reunified (11:1–12:40)
B. The Kingdom Fortified (13:1–18:17)
C. The Kingdom Preserved (19:1–22:1)
D. The Kingdom’s Future (22:2–29:30)
Beginnings: From Adam to Benjamin (1:1–9:44)
From Adam to the Edomites (1:1–54)
1:1–4 We begin by joining Ezra in his quarters, just a short walk down from the temple. We find him sitting at his writing desk, the first blank page of a new scroll before him. He mouths an inaudible prayer as he dips his pen into the black ink and starts writing:
“Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, . . .”
Ezra begins as far back as is possible. He informs us that Seth was Adam’s son (1:1) and then enumerates Seth’s descendants down to Noah (1:2–3). This small section concludes with the names of Noah’s sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth (1:4). Shem is clearly the most important one of the three because it is through him that the Hebrew people will eventually arise. But before further addressing Shem’s line, he lists the descendants of Japheth and Ham. This is Ezra’s method throughout: mention all the parties involved, discuss the less important ones first, and then elaborate on the most important one in order for the story to progress from there.
Now, why would someone begin the genealogy of a specific group with Adam? Surely everyone knows that he was the first human being. And certainly, most of Ezra’s readers knew that, after the debacle involving Cain and Abel, the human race continued through Seth, and that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were the sons of Noah.
We can discern a reason for Ezra to begin in this grand fashion. He asserts that in the final analysis we are all the offspring of the same man, namely Adam. Thanks to Noah and his family, the human race survived the flood. The rest of the chapter as well as the entire book is going to be occupied with splits and divisions. Ezra’s opening declaration, however, should prohibit us from thinking that some people are inherently superior to others. This point is particularly appropriate in its original context. We are about to read about God’s dealings with his chosen people. But God’s choice of them, as well as his choice of the elect in the present age, is not based on some inherent superiority. In fact, as we read in Deuteronomy 7:6–8,
. . . There are many nations on this earth, but he chose only Israel to be his very own. You were the weakest of all nations, but the LORD chose you because he loves you and because he had made a promise to your ancestors.
Ezra does not mention the line stemming from Cain (Gen 4:17–24). His progeny made several advances in human culture, e.g., nomadic livestock herding, constructing musical instruments, and casting objects of bronze and iron. Some of their inventions may have perished alongside them in the flood and were of no consequence for the people of Ezra’s time.
1:5–16 As the human population expanded and migrated after the flood, different clans wound up claiming geographical regions as their own “kingdoms,” usually named for their original ancestors. Thus, we see ancestors and the nations that are named after them. First there are the descendants of Japheth (1:5–7), and then those of Ham (1:8–16). The Hamites, in particular, include names that are recognizable to us and make up a large part of biblical history: Egypt, Ethiopia, Phoenicia (called “Put”), and Canaan. One of Ethiopia’s descendants was Nimrod, whose reputation as a hunter, warrior, and ruler had become proverbial. From a longer description in Genesis 10:8–11 we learn that Nimrod’s empire included Mesopotamia and Assyria.
1:17–27 Saving the most important link for last, Ezra now turns to Shem and his progeny. Shem’s great-grandson was a man named Eber, whose name, according to some interpreters, may have been the root for the word “Hebrew,” referencing those who came after him. Eber had two sons. He named one of them Peleg, which means “divided,” and the “division of tribes” may refer to the incident at the Tower of Babel. Peleg had a brother named Joktan, and Ezra gives his records for his offspring. Then he returns to Peleg and lists his descendants, which progresses through a few names that quickly move from obscurity to a high degree of familiarity: Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abraham.
1:28–33 So, we have arrived at Abraham and his descendants. Isaac will be the most important one, but first we must look at the others. We find Ishmael, the son of Hagar, who had twelve sons (Gen 16:1–16). Then we learn about the sons that Abraham had with Keturah after Sarah’s death. The name of Midian foreshadows the battles Israel will have with his descendants (e.g., Judg 6–7).
Finally, Ezra mentions Isaac, but only in passing as the father of Jacob and Esau and then devotes the rest of the chapter to Esau and those who came after him. Jacob, who is of greater interest, must wait for the next chapter.
As Isaac had prophesied (Gen 27:39–40), Esau wound up leading a hard life, but he became successful as a sheep and goat herder (Gen 33:9). Because his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, disdained the local Canaanite women he had married, he also took the daughter of Ishmael as wife (Gen 28:6–9). Thus, the lineage of Ishmael and Esau were joined. After a dramatic encounter with his brother Jacob, Esau moved to the area that would become the kingdom of Edom (Gen 33:16).
1:34–54 The chapter concludes with four short lists. First, there are the descendants of Esau (1:34–37). Then we find a genealogy of the founding fathers of Edom, followed by a record of Edomite kings, and finally an enumeration of the tribes that had come to make up the Edomite population. The various kings mentioned are associated with different locations; it would seem that the title was earned by strong leaders and their notable deeds.
Ezra does not dwell on either Isaac or Jacob. Of far greater interest to him and his audience, would have been the twelve sons of Jacob and the tribes derived from them. We need to be aware of the fact that there was not a one-to-one correspondence between Jacob’s offspring and the names of the tribes.
No tribe is named “Joseph.” Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, each of whom became the forefathers of tribes in their own right. When Jacob blessed his grandsons, he placed them on a level with his sons and elevated Ephraim, the younger of the two, to a higher position. (Gen 48:5, 18). Furthermore, upon reaching the promised land, the tribe of Manasseh split, with one half remaining on the East Bank of the Jordan while the other half settled on the Western side. First Chronicles 2:1–2 includes both Ephraim and Manasseh under the heading of “Joseph” for the sake of convenience, but they were separate tribes.
Of particular importance was the tribe of Judah, the majority tribe of the returning exiles in Ezra’s time, though we must recognize that, contrary to the idea of the “ten lost tribes,” a number of people from northern tribes also returned from Babylon (1Chr 9:3; Luke 2:36).
In the following chapters it may look as though Ezra has abandoned his typical format when he starts with Judah, the most important member in the long run; however, in the present section the weightier tribe was Benjamin, the tribe of Saul, the first king, and thus, in this instance Benjamin is mentioned last.
Judah was Jacob’s fourth-born son, but the three oldest had forfeited their position: Reuben by violating Bilhah who was Jacob’s concubine (1Chr 5:1–2; Gen 35:22; 49:3–4), and Simon and Levi for an inhumane act of retribution for the rape of their sister Dinah (Gen 34:25–31). When Jacob blessed his sons, he predicted that Simeon and Levi would be scattered among the other tribes (Gen 49:5–7). This prophecy was fulfilled, though in different ways for each of them. Much of Simeon’s population was gradually absorbed into other tribes, while Levi became the tribe of priests and did not have a territory of its own. Even though the honor due to a first-born belonged to Joseph, Judah wound up being the leader.
i. An Overview of Judah (2:1–8)
We begin with a quick overview of Judah’s descendants. The list mentions certain people who are associated with scandalous events. For one thing, the fact that Judah’s main wife was a Canaanite went against the principles of his father and grandfather. Furthermore, we read in Genesis 38 how Judah wound up having children by his daughter-in-law, Tamar. She gave birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah. In another reversal of older versus younger, Zerah’s hand first emerged from the womb but then retracted it, and Perez preceded him.
Ezra mentions Perez, and his sons, Herzon and Harmul, to whom he will return, and gives a quick run-down of Zerah’s descendants. He highlights a much later member of that clan, namely, the notorious Achan, who had not obeyed the command to destroy valuable Canaanite items during the conquest of the promised land and thereby caused the deaths of a number of Israelites (Josh 7:10–26). Then he switches back to Hezron and his descendants. He gives us two lists: the first one is streamlined in order to record the line leading directly to Jesse, King David’s father. David’s family was complex. Jesse had been widowed once and remarried. In this record, seven of Jesse’s sons are mentioned, including David, without pointing out which of the two women were their mothers. Also, 27:18 mentions a certain Elihu as David’s brother, and, although he must have been older than David, we do not know where he fit-in otherwise.
The two daughters that are mentioned, Zeruiah and Abigail, had sons who were near David in age, so the second wife probably had them with her late husband. Both of David’s stepsisters had sons who could then be considered “step nephews” of David. We do not know the name of Zeruiah’s husband, but her offspring were the three military leaders Abishai, Joab, and Asahel. Abigail married an Ishmaelite called Ithra and gave birth to Amasa, who later on became one of David’s opponents during Absalom’s rebellion (2Sam 17:26).
ii. A More Detailed List (2:9–2:55)
The second list has many more names, as it recounts a number of other prominent members among Hezron’s offspring. We need to point out that the “Caleb” mentioned in 2:9 and 2:18, who married his father’s widow, is not the same Caleb as, the spy, who along with Joshua, trusted God to enter the Promised Land (Num 14). That later Caleb comes up in 2:42 and then again in 4:15. The Rechabites referred to in 2:55 were a clan well known for their obedience to a vow made by their ancestor, Jonadab son of Rechab (1Kgs 10:15), according to which they would never settle in firm houses, take up agriculture, or drink wine (Jer 35).
iii. The Descendants of David (3:1–9)
Ezra continues with David’s descendants in chapter 3. The reign of David, here and elsewhere, is broken up into two segments. There were about seven years in Hebron, at which time he was King of Judah. When members of other tribes signed up under his rule, he became King of Israel and moved his capital to Jerusalem.
These two places were also associated with different wives and their offspring. In Hebron, David had six sons, each with a different woman for a mother. Then, in Jerusalem, other children were born to him by yet other wives. One set of names stands out: Solomon and his mother Bathsheba. Ezra does not mention the affair that David had with Bathsheba of which we know from 2 Samuel 11; she is simply one member of the list, which includes Solomon.
As we look at the list of David’s sons, it might surprise us that Solomon would be the heir. Presumably, the crown prince should have been Amnon, the oldest son. But the reason why things did not go this way is hidden in 3:9 with the reference to another woman named Tamar, David’s daughter, who had been raped by Amnon (2 Sam 13). Absalom, her full brother killed Amnon, and David exiled Absalom him for a time, during which time he became his father’s rival. During the subsequent civil war, Absalom was killed (2Sam 14–19). Daniel, the second oldest may have died as a child. Adonijah, the fourth oldest son had counted on the throne once David was gone or incapacitated (1Kgs 1); however, God had designated Solomon.
iv. Solomon’s Descendants—A List of Kings (3:10–24)
Ezra catalogs the most important descendants of Solomon. Since God had promised David that his line would continue on the throne of Judah, this list begins by citing all of the subsequent kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah. After Zedekiah the people went into exile, and there was no longer any official king. Of course, there were descendants, and the royal line continued, just not with a crown. The name that jumps out at us is Zerubbabel (3:19) because he became one of the leaders among those who returned after the exile and sought to rebuild the city and the temple. This genealogy would have been crucial for Ezra’s audience, as it was helping them to clear-up who among them had royal blood.
v. More Descendants of Judah (4:1–23)
Some of Judah’s further descendants take up the first half of chapter 4. We have already seen Perez and Hezron. Now we meet Carmi, Hur, and Shobale, though the last of these gets little attention. Two sections of this list merit a closer look.
a. Jabez (4:9–10)
In 4:10 we meet Jabez, a man who encountered some obstacles in his life but knew how to deal with them. His mother apparently had a great amount of pain during his birth, so she named her son “Pain,” or “Jabez” in Hebrew. Given popular superstitions, then and now, some people believe that a person’s name can influence their destiny, and Jabez was afraid that he was destined to bring pain to others. Apparently, he had brothers who were not well-liked in the community, but he stood out for his respectable life. Concerned with how others might see him, he asked the Lord for some favors that would be evidence of God’s blessings. Specifically, he prayed with three requests:
- “Lord, give me land.” Being able to increase his pasture lands would be seen as a sign of God’s approval.
- “Be with me.” Jabez wanted to be sure that he was not seeking anything on his own but wanted God to be his companion and guide.
- “Keep me from harm.” This phrase can also be understood as “Keep me from causing harm.”
Jabez prayed from his heart and God granted him what he prayed for. His attitude is the lesson we should learn from this episode. As we struggle through life at times, we are free to come to God with whatever is bothering us; there is no point in merely repeating the prayer that Jabez prayed. God knows us and will not be surprised by anything we may ask of him. This is the privilege of God’s children as they relate to their heavenly father (Matt 6:8).
b. Two Men with Moabite Wives (4:22)
Two men, Joash and Saraph, had settled in Bethlehem with Moabite wives. Ezra points out that there were ancient records documenting their story. The fact that Ezra makes this kind of reference, along with his frequent mentions of sources throughout the book, demonstrate that he is not just inventing a history but working faithfully on the basis of documents before him. Perhaps Ezra brings up the two Moabites because David’s grandmother was Ruth, the Moabitess, who had come to live in Bethlehem.
Although, as indicated above, Simeon would not retain its status as a tribe on an even par with the others, some of its members distinguished themselves by defeating enemies and establishing safe places of refuge. See, for example, the short narrative of 4:41. The timeframe for this escapade is given as the days of Hezekiah (ca. 700 BC). Those were tumultuous times when Assyria, the dominant power in the Middle East, was decimating the land of Israel. During this time a band of Simeonites moved into a fertile area, previously occupied by non-Israelites, and set up residence. Then, in a truly brazen maneuver, 500 of these men made their way to the land of Edom, where they defeated some traditional enemies of the Hebrews and continued to live there.
The Tribes of the East Bank (5:1–26)
After the conquest of the promised land by Joshua and the Hebrew army, not everyone stayed on the western side of the Jordan river. Reading south to north, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh occupied the eastern side. Their men were a part of Joshua’s army who then returned to the other side of the Jordan when the conquest was complete (Josh 22:1–10). These trans–Jordanian tribes contributed significantly to the history of Israel prior to the monarchy, but then their influence faded, and they were among the first people conquered and deported by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, sometimes called “Pul” (1Chr 5:6, 26).
i. Reuben (5:1–10)
Reuben’s territory was located east of the Dead Sea and further north along the Jordan. In distinction to most of the Israelites who embraced an agricultural life once they were settled, the Reubenites apparently maintained the nomadic culture of cattle herding. They were quite successful doing so, and their pastures went all the way east to the edge of the desert that intervenes between Palestine and Mesopotamia (5:9). The genealogy we have here is clearly abridged; it ends with Beerah (5:3–5), the leader of the tribe at the time of the Assyrian conquest. Almost as an afterthought, Ezra says some positive things about the tribe, including their earlier defeat of the Hagrites (“descendants of Hagar”) when Saul was king (5:10).
ii. Gad (5:11–22)
5:11–17 Just north of Reuben, along the east bank of the Jordan, lived the tribe of Gad. The genealogy provided in 5:11–15 does not seem to hold much useful information for us; however, 5:17 is extremely important for all of Chronicles because it tells us of the censuses that were used to secure the numbers and standings of people living in various tribal regions.
5:18–22 Speaking of numbers, Ezra takes a few moments to tell us about the erstwhile strength of the trans-Jordanian tribes. He returns to the aforementioned military action against the Hagrites and other enemies. The Hebrew tribes won and made away with much loot, and we are told why they were successful: They called on God during the battle (5:19), and God made the battle his own (5:22).
iii. Eastern Manasseh (5:23–26)
A constant issue throughout Chronicles is that, although various people may know of and even have directly experienced the power of God, they still pick up the idolatrous practices of their neighbors. Such is the case with the eastern half-tribe of Manasseh, whose residence was east and north of the Sea of Galilee. Ezra presents us with a paltry list of chiefs, seven in all. He praises them for their courage and other achievements and then pronounces judgment over them. They had forsaken God and taken up pagan religions.
From the very beginning of the conquest of the promised land, there was tension between the tribes on the two sides of the river (Josh 22:11–34). For the first five centuries, it was acceptable for worship and sacrifices to be carried out anywhere in the land. When Solomon built the temple, however, it became the only place where sacrifices were legitimate (Deut 12:13–14), which put the three eastern tribes at a geographical disadvantage. Thus, the inclination to seek false gods increased, and they forsook the worship of the one true God. Even though Ezra places this information under the heading of Manasseh, the other two tribes were just as guilty. Note in 1 Chronicles 5:26 that God himself incited King Tiglath-Pileser to conquer and exile the three tribes. The Assyrian king would not have known that he was God’s tool, but God used this idolatrous, violent man to punish his people who had forsaken him.
The lists in this chapter are long and intimidating. For the Jews who had returned home from exile and were now in the process of stabilizing their lives, however, they were crucial. Who was supposed to serve in the temple and in what capacity? These lists might help people either find their connection or instill a new sense of purpose for their work. So, a lengthy set of names and traditional locations awaits us here.
Still, let us make things a little easier on us and look at the big picture first. The tribe of Levi is often thought of as the priestly tribe, and that association is correct. In order to be a priest, one had to be a Levite, but most Levites were not priests. They worked in and around the tabernacle and later the temple, but they were not permitted to perform sacrifices or other kinds of offering. Looking at the list of names, we can recognize the following rule: In order to be a full-fledged priest, you had to be of the tribe of Levi, of the clan of Kohath, of the family of Amram, and descended from his oldest son, Aaron.
Most Levites had duties other than the priesthood. The tabernacle was a busy place needing a lot of support staff, and, once the temple had been built, it needed even more personnel for record keeping, accounting, cleaning, consultation, guarding, and so forth. Also, as Ezra brings up in this chapter, when David laid out the basic administrative structure, he made sure that there would be musicians.
6:1–15 The first section of the chapter gives us a list of Aaron’s descendants, who would have been high priests in their day. Two names that will come up again are Zadok, who was a high priest during David’s time, and Hilkiah, who precipitated a revival at the time of King Josiah.
6:16–30 Next, we see another short list of names of people who were descended from Levi but are not included in the descendants of Aaron and, thus, could not be legitimate priests. Each of the two short sections devoted to the clan of Kohath, contains an interesting figure. In 6:22, we read of Korah. During the time of the Exodus from Egypt, he challenged Aaron’s exclusive right to the priesthood (Num 16–17) and was severely punished by God for it. Also, in 6:27–28, we find Samuel, his father Elkanah, and Samuel’s two sons, Joel and Abijah. Some of the Israelites reading or listening to Ezra’s book might remember that the latter two men were corrupt and unfit for continuing Samuel’s leadership and thereby provoked the cry for a king.
6:31–48 Then, there is a summary of the three main musicians under David and their pedigrees. Heman belonged to the Kohath clan, Asaph was a Gershomite, and Ethan, also called Jeduthun, belonged to the Merarites. These men were skilled musicians who wrote and sang psalms. Heman’s name appears in the heading for Psalm 88; Asaph is linked to Psalms 50 and 83–87; Ethan/Jeduthun is associated with Psalms 39, 62, and 77.
6:49–53 Aaron’s descendants are then repeated in short-form. Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu used to assist him, but lost their lives when they brought a contaminated offering into the tent of worship (Lev 10:1; compare Lev 16:12; Exod 30:34–38). So, we move directly from Aaron to his younger son, Eleazar.
6:54–81 The rest of the chapter gives us the locations where Levites were living. Joshua assigned them to towns and villages scattered all over the land, as predicted by Jacob (Gen 49:7). Unless it was their turn to perform specific duties at the tabernacle or later at the temple they lived among Israelites of other tribes, supporting themselves by farming or other trades as everyone else. In the process, they picked up local customs and became known by their place of residence. Thus, Elkanah, Samuel’s father, whom we just saw above as a Levite, became widely known as hailing from Ephraim (1Sam 1:1).
Seven More Tribes (7:1–40)
Six of the seven tribes mentioned in this chapter would later align with the northern kingdom. The map above demonstrates that Benjamin was caught between Judah and Ephraim, but for the most part Benjamin sided with the South. It is, of course, also the home tribe of Saul, who would soon become the first king. In this section Ezra focuses on the military strength of these tribes.
i. Issachar (7:1–5)
Other than a few names of distant descendants, we are given the number of well-trained warriors. We must remember here that by the time these words were written, even if some people belonging to Issachar returned from the exile, the tribe no longer had an autonomous existence, and that these numbers belong to the past.
ii. Benjamin (7:6–12a)
There is not much information in this section, but in the next chapter Benjamin will receive a much richer genealogy, tracing the descent of King Saul.
iii. Dan (7:12b)
Ezra only gives one sentence to the tribe of Dan, telling us that he had a son named Hushim. At that, he never says anything in this context about Zebulun. Since Ezra is quite punctilious about mentioning his sources of information, the obvious inference is that this was all of what he knew about Dan and that there were no records available to him on Zebulon. Both tribes come up in other sections (1Chr 2:1–2; 6:63–77; 12:33–40; 27:19–22; 2Chr 2:14; 30:10–18), but since Dan eventually became the sanctuary for golden-calf worship in direct opposition to the temple of God, we cannot rule out that perhaps Ezra was deliberately snubbing him.
iv. Naphtali (7:13)
The single line devoted to Naphtali includes the fact that the patriarch of this tribe was the son of Jacob by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid.
v. Manasseh (7:14–19)
The list of names among Manasseh’s descendants begins with the fact that Manasseh’s wife was Aramean. The door for Gentiles who would worship the true God was always open. It was the fact that many times non-Israelites caused a lack of commitment to God, even idolatry, which warranted the general exclusion of marrying outside of Israel.
vi. Ephraim (7:20–29)
Joseph’s son Ephraim experienced a personal tragedy. Before the time that the Israelites were confined to Egypt, when they were still allowed to roam about freely, two of his sons were victims of a livestock raid by the Philistines who came from their city of Gath. He mourned their death, and when he had another son, he gave him the name Beriah, which is a play on the word “disaster” in Hebrew (7:23). A few verses further down, we run across the familiar name of Joshua, son of Nun, the leader of the army invading the Promised Land and famous for the “Battle of Jericho.” The members of the tribe of Ephraim were imbued with the notion that their tribe alone and neither Judah nor anyone else should have leadership in Israel (see, for example, Judg 12:1–6).
vii. Asher (7:30–40)
The chapter closes-out with the descendants of Asher and their military strength. Much later, when Jesus was presented in the temple as an infant, one of the two people who immediately praised God was Anna, who belonged to the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36–38).
Ancestors and Descendants of Saul (8:1–40)
This genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin differs from the previous one, not only by its length, but also because it is directly focused on Saul, the first king. Along the way, we run across two men, one of whom is interestingly also called Beriah and the other one Shema, who resided with their households in the valley of Ajalon, west of Jerusalem. In a conflict not otherwise described, they apparently caused the residents of the Philistine city of Gath to vacate their area for a while.
Even though it is clear that this list is intended to display Saul’s pedigree, his name appears without comment. In 8:33, Ezra takes us without pause from Saul’s grandfather Ner, to his father Kish, Saul himself, and on to his sons. Among the sons we see two important names: Jonathan, who became David’s best friend, and Eshbaal, also known as Ishbosheth, who became David’s rival for the throne after Saul’s death (2Sam 2:8–11).
Return from the Exile (9:1–44)
Before Ezra relates the story of Saul’s death, he takes his readers to recent history, namely the first group of Israelites who returned home after the Babylonian exile. Since it had been decades since that time, a quick refresher would have been helpful in giving the people perspective on the matter. The list in this section consists only of heads of families, not of every individual person. We find a representation from five tribes (which does not mean that there were no others). There were people of Levi, Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The latter two had been a part of the northern kingdom of Israel, but they did not return to their ancestral land and settled in Jerusalem with the others.
When the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon, he gave the Jews the explicit command to rebuild their temple (2Chr 36:23; Ezra 1:2–3). Thus, it is not surprising that this first small wave of those who returned included a solid representation of priests and Levites. We are given three numbers; the families with their roots in Judah and Benjamin numbered 690 and 956 respectively, totaling 1,646. The number of priests alone was 1,760. There is no count of members from the other tribes or of the non-priestly line of Levites.
Ezra’s list includes some historical reflections going back to King David’s instructions, which come in-full later in this book (1Chr 23–26). Among the Levites the gatekeepers—security guards—receive special notice. Not only were they necessary to protect the spiritual purity of the tent and the temple (2Chr 23:19) but also to secure the treasures that were devoted to God and kept in the place of worship. These duties, we are told, go all the way back to the descendants of Korah (Num 16–17), who had usurped the privileges reserved for priests and suffered for it; his offspring over the generations received the mission to safeguard the sacred places. In addition to the gatekeepers, we learn that some of the Levites’ jobs were to keep track of the tools necessary for sacrifices; others were charged with keeping track of the necessary supplies, mixing spices, baking the sacred bread, and, of course, providing music for worship. Since the last-named group was on-call around the clock, they did not have to perform other chores.
Finally, in this chapter Ezra once more prepares us for the upcoming narrative by reminding us of Saul’s ancestors and his sons.
Failure: Saul’s Death (10:1–14)
The outlook was bleak, and the odds were against Saul and his army. The Philistines had pulled off a maneuver that left the Israelites helpless. The Philistine home territory was along the southern coast of Palestine, where they lived in five main cities (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza) and various villages, just west of the land occupied by Simeon and Judah. Their sizable army had managed to march up the Mediterranean coast and set up to the north of Saul’s army in the Valley of Jezreel. They were able to close-off any escape routes to the north and west, while to the south of and east, there were mountains. No wonder Saul had been worried prior to this battle, even consulting a witch to predict the probable outcome. (See 1Sam 28 for more details on Saul’s prior actions.)
The actual battle was short and hardly worth the name. In fact, an important point to be aware of as we read of various military clashes throughout Chronicles is that actual battles only last as long as both armies are roughly equally matched. If it turns out that one side is superior, human nature dictates that the obvious losers will not stand and let themselves be butchered but will turn and flee, often to no avail. In most ancient battles with a high casualty rate, the carnage did not occur during the engagement at the battle lines but during the pursuit and slaughter of the losers by the winners.
As soon as Saul and his army realized that they were outnumbered and outmaneuvered, they tried unsuccessfully to escape. It was a rout, and the Philistines annihilated the Israelite army. Saul’s sons were killed, and he was mortally wounded by an arrow. The king knew that he would not survive; the Philistines would find him and finish him off, maybe even torture and mock him first. This thought was so repugnant to Saul that he asked his armor bearer to pierce him with a sword to end it all. The young man refused to harm his lord, and so Saul fell on his sword. The armor bearer followed suit.
The Philistines found his body the next day as they were looting the fallen soldiers. Beside themselves at their easy victory, they cut off Saul’s head and displayed it in the temple of Dagon, their chief god. We read in 1 Samuel 31:10 that the rest of his body and those of his fallen sons were hung from the walls of the town of Beth Shan. The residents of nearby Jabesh-gilead owed their lives to Saul (1Sam 11) because he had rescued them from the Ammonites in his first act as military leader, and so a group of men from that place took the risk of recovering the corpses and giving them a proper burial. The Philistines attempted to establish themselves in the region by occupying the formerly Israelite towns.
It may be surprising that this account is the only story that Ezra gives us about Saul and his kingdom. 1 Samuel 10–31 covers the details of Saul’s reign and events connected to it. Maybe Ezra assumed that his readers already knew of them, or—more likely—they were irrelevant to his purpose. It sufficed to show that the hero from the tribe of Benjamin was not able to hold the kingdom together.
Most importantly, what Ezra relates to us is that Saul had placed himself outside of God’s covenant with his people. The Lord expected his people to obey him, and Saul, as their leader, should have been a role model for them. Sadly, he willfully disobeyed clear instructions from God in several cases. It may be ironic that Saul’s sins seem relatively small compared to future kings who would do such things as sacrifice their children to an idol (e.g., Ahaz and Manasseh). He carried out a sacrifice when he should have waited for Samuel to do so (1Sam 13:8–15); he did not kill every single Amalekite as God had commanded him to do (1Sam 15); and he consulted a witch for advice (1Sam 28). But Thus, his story was over very quickly. No matter how many more years he might have physically worn the crown, in God’s eyes the house of Saul had been rejected and would be replaced by the house of David.
Finally, looking at the battle more than three millennia later, it appears that Saul made a questionable tactical decision. He decided to confront the Philistines in a pitched battle on the ground that they had just conquered, a tactic that was, indeed, hopeless. A much more fruitful strategy would have been to cut-off the Philistines’ supply lines along the coast. So, why would Saul have made such a questionable maneuver? The answer is that what occurred was not just the result of poor judgment or misfortune, let alone “instant karma,” as some use the phrase today. Rather, it was God himself who saw to Saul’s punishment.
David’s Empire (11:1–29:30)
The Kingdom Reunified (11:1–12:40)
David was a well-known figure among the twelve tribes. His military successes had become proverbial: “Saul struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1Sam 18:7). Ezra skips over at least two years in 11:1–3, when he mentions the conclave of representatives from Israel, whose consensus was that David would be king over all of Israel—all twelve tribes. Immediately after Saul’s death, the tribe of Judah anointed David as their king, but it took some time for all of the other tribes to come aboard. Ishbosheth, the only one of Saul’s sons who had not perished in the battle of Gilboa, became a pretender to the throne even though God had dismissed the entire house of Saul (2Sam 1–4). He wound up “reigning” over a virtually anarchic collection of tribes until he himself was killed. Then all the tribes united under David.
For the first seven years, David reigned from Hebron, which is about 18 miles or 29 kilometers south of Jerusalem, a bit remote from most of the other tribes. He needed a new capital city that would be closer to the people of Israel and relatively neutral. The solution was to capture Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been under Israelite rule (Josh 12:10; Judg 1:8), except that a group of Canaanites, called the Jebusites, had maintained a citadel on top of the highest spot on the mountain for centuries (Josh 15:18; Judg 1:21), and no one had been able to dislodge them. David challenged his military leaders with the offer that whoever would be the first to penetrate the fortification would become the chief of his troops. The winner was Joab, who served as top general for the rest of David’s life.
i. David’s Heroes (11:10–47)
During the time that David had to flee from Saul, he drew to himself a number of powerful warriors who were loyal to him, though Samuel does not hesitate to call at least a portion of them “wicked and worthless” (1Sam 30:21). Once he was king of Judah, many others jumped at the chance of going to war on his behalf. Among them were some outstanding fighters. The list in this section once again should not be considered complete; nor should one assume that all of these men served David together at one time. This is an accumulated list compiled over David’s lifetime. For example, Ahasel, brother of Joab, was killed before David became king of all of Israel (1Sam 2:23). We also find non-Israelites in this group, for example, Uriah the Hittite (11:41) and Ithmah the Moabite (11:46).
Joab’s brother Abishai gets special mention. Despite his valiant deeds, including killing 300 Philistines at one time, he did not qualify for the same level as the “Three.” In this list (11:20) he is called the “chief” of the Thirty, but the flexibility of the list over time is evidenced by the fact that the same title is also ascribed to Ishmaiah of Gibeon (12:4) and Amasai (12:18).
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in a similarly ambiguous position. His various feats included killing a lion single-handedly and capturing the spear of a 7.5-foot- or 2.3-meter-tall Egyptian and killing him with it. We shall encounter Benaiah several more times. As commander of the bodyguard, he was in charge of non-Israelites protecting the Israelite king, a common measure to ensure that the bodyguards would be less likely involved in a palace plot to overthrow the king than subjects of the same kingdom.
ii. David Gains a Following (12:1–40)
12:1–22 We shuttle back in time to when Saul was still king and David was in hiding with his core troops in the Philistine town of Ziklag. Achish, king of the Philistine City of Gath, had given the town to David, and David pretended to make war on places in Judah while actually annihilating towns of Judah’s enemies, killing all their residents, and coming home with much booty. Among the people who first joined David were:
a. An elite unit of ambidextrous sling shot marksmen from the tribe of Benjamin (12:2–6).
b. Ferocious warriors from the tribe of Gad. They had to cross the Jordan to get from there to where David was hiding, and they did so during the coldest month of the year (12:8–15).
c. A number of delegates from Benjamin and Judah, who received a rather wary reception from David. Under the guidance of God’s Spirit, Amisai, who would eventually be counted as a chief of the Thirty, pledged loyalty to David, who then welcomed them (12:16–18).
d. A number of men from Manasseh, who were going to fight alongside David when David was pretending to be with the Philistines. By God’s grace, the Philistines would allow neither David nor the Manassites to join them, so they did not actually take up arms against their own countrymen. But these men stuck with David in his various military excursions (12:19–22).
12:23–40 We move up again in time to David’s coronation as king over all of Israel. Ezra gives us a list of how many soldiers each tribe provided. The numbers vary dramatically. The three tribes from across the Jordan mustered a combined 120,000 men (12:37). Benjamin, Saul’s tribe, understandably contributed only 3,000 troops (12:29). The Levites did not hold back with a total of 8,300 warriors, of which 3,700 were from the priestly clan of Aaron, including a young man named Zadok, the high priest in waiting (12:26–28). For Issachar, we do not get an actual count, just the information that this tribe supplied 200 commanders (12:32) along with their relatives. In 12:34 we see that Naphtali had 1,000 chiefs and 37,000 troops. That makes 37 men per commander, so, if we apply that ratio conservatively to Issachar, we get 3,700 fighters. Then the total of combat-ready soldiers that mustered at Hebron comes to 353,400 men, not a paltry number. Everyone was relieved that the civil war was over, and that the nation was united once again under a highly qualified king. As soon as word went out that everything was under control, more men joined the army, and people from all over Israel sent supplies for a lengthy feast.
The Kingdom Fortified (13:1–18:17)
i. Moving the Ark of the Covenant: First Try (13:1–14)
David was a man of God. He was constantly aware of God’s presence and help. This attitude manifested itself when he decided to move the central location for worship to Jerusalem. Doing so would be a lengthy process, though, since David did not just want to move the worship tent to the new capital; he had some very serious plans for building a permanent temple, and that would require several years. In the meantime, as a first step, at least the ark of the covenant should be transported to Jerusalem. This large wooden chest at one time contained the stone tablets on which the ten commandments were inscribed (Exod 34:1), the staff of Aaron which had miraculously sprouted blossoms and almonds (Num 17:8), and a jar of manna (Heb 9:4). Now only the two tablets were left (2Chr 5:10). Ideally, it should have been within the holiest compartment of the worship tent in Shiloh, but after the Philistines had captured and returned it, it was on the property of Abinadab and his sons Eleazar, Uzzah, and Ahio (1Sam 7:1–2).
David called a council of all Israelites, and they went along with his plan. A second council, which even included Israelites living in Gentile territory from Egypt to northern Lebanon, agreed on the day and method of transfer. Priests and Levites were consulted, though unfortunately not very thoroughly.
The procession was a parade to remember. There were singers, dancers, and musicians who plucked string instruments, blew trumpets, and kept the rhythm with tambourines and cymbals. A huge crowd tried to get a glimpse of the ark, and undoubtedly, many people simply followed behind the official group singing and chanting. Uzzah was the main driver, assisted by his brother Ahio.
As the oxen were negotiating the steep path up to Jerusalem, they came to a threshing floor and one of them lost its footing and stumbled. It did not fall, but for a moment it looked as though the ark would slide off the cart and tumble on the ground. It was a natural reaction for Uzzah to reach back and steady the ark with his hand, but doing so was not permitted. He had violated the sanctity of the ark, and, thereby, also God’s holiness, and he was immediately struck dead.
So much for the festivities! From one moment to the other rejoicing had turned into shock, grief, and anger. David was fuming. How was he supposed to transport the ark to Jerusalem if God punished those who tried to help make the move a success? The ark was left at the house of Obed-edom who was called “a Gittite,” a “resident of Gath,” which may mean that he was a Philistine, but more likely, given his later activities, he was a Levite who had some unstated relationship with the town.
This event carries a message for us. We can call God our savior, our friend, our father, even our lover, but we should not treat this relationship casually because God is also the holy sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe.
ii. David’s New Home (14:1–6)
Kind Hiram of Tyre was a shrewd ruler. He supplied the building materials and skilled workers for the palace David wanted to build in Jerusalem. Thereby he recognized David as Israel’s legitimate ruler and gave him a sample of what he could supply for further building projects. The bottom line: David was constructing an empire, and the text specifies that he was doing so for the benefit of all of Israel, not just his own personal glory.
iii. Defeating the Philistines (14:8–17)
As suggested in the comment on chapter 10, the Philistines were unable to establish a permanent position in the northern area of Israel. Though we do not know the details, sometime during the interregnum between Saul and David, they must have withdrawn south to their homeland. Once they found out that Israel was united again, however, and worse yet, under their archenemy and deceiver David, they attempted to conquer Jerusalem.
In contrast to Saul, David did not make a military move against the Philistines until he knew it was God’s will. Then he engaged the enemy head-on and routed their army. The Philistines thought that carrying their gods with them would give them greater power; however, when they fled, they left their gods on the battlefield. David was wise enough not to try to see if those talismans might help him; instead, he had them burned to ashes.
The Philistines made yet another attack. This time God instructed David to attack the opposing army by encircling them from behind. The Lord told David not to start fighting until he heard a sound as though an army was marching through the nearby balsam trees. David followed God’s direction, and once again the Philistines suffered a humiliating defeat. Hostilities between Philistia and Judah would continue off-and-on for the next few centuries, but they would never be of the same intensity again.
iv. Moving the Ark of the Covenant: Success (15:1–29)
As we saw, David had been furious when the first transport of the ark to Jerusalem had ended catastrophically. But then he turned his anger into a quest for the cause of the disaster. A look at the Scriptures and a serious discussion with Levites and priests made it obvious. The ark should never have been placed on a cart to begin with. It should only be carried by Levites (Deut 10:8) and then by means of poles threaded through rings, so that the ark should not come into direct contact with people or the ground.
This time there was no oxcart, but a sizeable group of Levites and priests, who followed the correct method of carrying the ark.
Obed-edom, who had prospered during the three months while the ark rested on his property, received the position as guard of the ark (15:18, 24), and during the procession he played the lyre as a part of the band (15:25). Everyone was definitely excited, and it appears that, given the correct knowledge on how to do this, the people were pretty sure of success this time.
At the beginning of the parade, David had worn a light robe over an ephod, which is the breast plate the priests usually wear, and apparently nothing much else. In this skimpy attire he led the parade, dancing and singing with abandon, baring his thighs at time in the process. Almost every person was caught up in the same enthusiasm, except Michal, David’s first wife, whom David had earned, first by slaying Goliath and then by killing 200 Philistines and providing evidence of his deed to Saul (1Sam 17–18). Michal had loved David, but David never treated her as anything but a piece of property. As she saw David leading the procession with a somewhat risqué dance, she lost all respect for him, and David returned the disdain.
As we look over the list of the various participants, an important point strikes our eyes: There are two high priests mentioned, Zadok and Abiathar (15:11), when there should only be one. Of the two, the authorized one was Zadok, whom we had met just a short while ago as ready to support David militarily. He officiated at the worship tent. Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech, the priest who was killed by Saul’s men when he gave food to David (1Sam 21:1–6; 22:11–23), and he became David’s steady companion in fight and flight. For the time being, it worked out fine because Zadok returned to the worship tent, which was now in Gibeon, and Abiathar remained in Jerusalem in charge of the ark.
v. Celebrating the Presence of the Ark (16:1–7)
A long celebration ensued. After David had overseen many sacrifices to God, he treated the crowd to some special food items. Each person present received some bread, raisins, and meat, the latter undoubtedly the end product of the sacrifices. David made sure that there was plenty of music praising God. The orchestra consisted of nine men playing lyres and harps, two on trumpets, and Asaph as the director playing the cymbals. David composed a special psalm for the occasion, parts of which are now included in various sections of the book of Psalms (Pss 105:3–15; 96:1–13; 106:1, 47–48), praising the Lord for his greatness demonstrated in his Creation as well as in affording protection to his people.
After the celebration, David sent those whose place was at Shiloh back to their work at the worship tent. Among them were Zadok, the priest, as well two of the main musicians, Heman and Jeduthun (Ethan). Jeduthun had some sons, who must have been quite young at the time, and they received a spot with the welcoming personnel at the front gate of the fence surrounding the tent. Asaph remained in Jerusalem with the ark.
vi. God’s Covenant with David (17:1–27)
17:1–2 To understand this chapter, one must come to grips with the fact that David never forgot the fate of Saul and feared that he might also fall into the same errors. The previous king had sinned, and God had removed his spirit, which was then replaced by an evil spirit. Finally, God had taken the throne away from Saul and his descendants. No wonder David prayed in Psalm 51:11 after the prophet Nathan had exposed his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah: “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”
The ark was now situated in Jerusalem in a tent; the main place of worship was in Gibeon—in another tent. David, on the other hand, was living in a palace constructed by the best builders in the land with cedar wood from Lebanon and other fancy materials. It occurred to David that God should have the same kind of luxurious quarters that he enjoyed. As mentioned in connection with chapter 13, it was probably a part of David’s overall plan: First the Ark of the Covenant, then a firm building for worship rather than the tent. He checked with Nathan, the prophet, who was all for the idea. “If you think this is the right thing to do, go ahead. You are God’s man and God will be with you.”
17:3–9 Unfortunately, Nathan had spoken too quickly without finding out God’s own will in this matter. During the subsequent night, God gave him a lengthy message to convey to David. It consisted essentially of three parts. First God had not asked for a temple and was not interested in one at this time. Second, one of David’s sons (we know in retrospect that it was Solomon), would become king and build a temple. And third, David’s line will continue on the throne of Judah; unlike the ephemeral house of Saul, the house of David will be permanent.
17:10–27 When Nathan had communicated this message to David, the king was disappointed that he was not allowed to build a temple, but he rejoiced in the fact that his dynasty would not be annihilated, as Saul’s had been, and that one of his sons would definitely be the next king as well as the person who would build a temple. He prayed to God a prayer of thanks for promising the continuity of his offspring on the throne, for all that God had done for him, and that the building of a temple by his son was guaranteed.
vii. David’s Conquests (18:1–17)
18:1–2 At the same time as David was contemplating building projects in Jerusalem, he extended his kingdom into an empire. He directed his army south, once more against the Philistines, and blended much of their land into his, including the city of Gath, former home to Goliath as well as to Achish, the king whom he had fooled for more than a year.
He turned to the southeast and defeated the Moabites, so that they had to pay an annual tribute and were considered slaves. As is true so often in these situations, Ezra does not give us any more information than a newspaper headline. Still, what we do read is a relatively mild outcome, rather than the drastic endings to David’s other campaigns, as depicted in the next few verses.
18:3–8 David moved northeast and engaged the Syrians (referred to as “Arameans” in other translations). This nation consisted of several kingdoms extending from Damascus to the Euphrates river. One of these kings was Hadadezer who ruled over an area called Zobar, adjoining a region by the name of Hamath. Hadadezer appears to have enjoyed quite a bit of success in his conquests. He was on a grand tour to his eastern boundary when David and his army appeared. He lost a thousand chariots, 7,000 riders, and 20,000 infantry men, and all of his horses were hamstrung. These statistics may strike us as cruel, but you cannot make war and defeat your enemy without inflicting serious harm on him. Another 22,000 deaths followed when those Syrians who stemmed from Damascus tried to aid Hadadezer, and Damascus came under David’s control. Wherever David went with his troops, God granted him victory. There were many spoils, and David took the biggest “large-ticket” items, such as big hoards of gold, to keep safe for future building projects.
18:9–11 Tou, king of Hamath had been at odds with Hadadezer, most likely because Hadadezer wanted to annex Hamath, but King Tou was of a different persuasion. He saw what was happening and thought through the situation. He could be defeated by David’s army and pay tribute, or he could just offer to pay tribute without risking an almost certain military defeat. He chose the latter option and sent his son Hadoram to negotiate. David gladly accepted the precious items and added them to the temple building fund.
18:12–13 In the meantime, Abishai went on a separate campaign to Edom. His troops slaughtered 18,000 Edomites in the area of the Dead Sea, making Edom one of David’s vessel states as well.
18:14–17 Ezra allows us a quick glimpse into David’s cabinet. Joab was his chief of staff. His keeper of the records went by the name of Jehoshaphat. The two main priests were Zadok and Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar and grandson of Ahimelech, David’s benefactor. Benaiah son of Jehoiada, was the head of David’s bodyguards, which, as mentioned above, consisted of non-Israelites. Finally, we read that the sons of David were “chief officials of the king.” That title is, of course virtually meaningless, particularly since, as we shall see later, the actual system of justice was in the hands of the Levites (23:4b). They ranked high on the social scale, but there do not seem to be any specific duties connected to the position for them. As is true for many princes, they had to find ways of making their time on earth enjoyable and waiting for their father or older brother to die to inherit the throne. Other than that, they had prestige, but no power. We saw above how King Tou employed his son as ambassador. There do not seem to have been similar opportunities for David’s sons.
David’s Kingdom Preserved (19:1–22:1)
Having established the kingdom, David still had to engage in military actions in order to keep it safe. Furthermore, David needed to repent for a sin which had a severe impact not only on himself but on his people.
i. Lapses in Judgment by the Ammonite King (19:1–9)
Nahash, a king of the Ammonites, was a cruel and vicious man. During Saul’s first year as king, Nahash besieged the city of Jabesh-gilead and allowed the people who lived there to choose between either surrendering at the cost of everyone having an eye poked out or being killed when his soldiers broke in. Saul, in his first military action, routed the Ammonite army. Now we read in 19:2 that at one time Nahash had been kind to David, an event that is not recorded anywhere.
Because they had enjoyed a courteous relationship, when David heard that Nahash had died, he sent a delegation to convey his condolences to Hanun, who was the new king. Hanun’s skills in diplomacy were severely deficient. He listened to the opinion of his advisors that these men were spies, preparing for a military invasion by David’s army. Given David’s success on the battlefield, we cannot blame him for thinking so, but what he did was utterly counterproductive. He ordered that the Israelite men should get their beards shaved off (2Sam 10:4 specifies half of each man’s beard), cut off their clothes so that their private parts were exposed, and be sent back to Judah. David met the men in Jericho. By that time, they must have found replacement clothes, and David gave them all the time they needed to regrow their beards.
Shortly thereafter, it occurred to Hanun that he might have made a serious mistake. Having feared the possibility of an invasion by David at first, he could now count on it. Thereby, he availed himself of the opportunity to make a second, even bigger error. He quickly gathered 10,000 talents (ca. 750,000 pounds or 340 metric tons) of silver, and one might think for a moment that he was going to send this treasure to David to mend fences. But no, he used this wealth to hire a Syrian army for the inevitable battle to come.
ii. Joab’s Faith
David sent Joab and Abishai to lead an army against the enemy coalition which had set itself up in the vicinity of the town Medeba in Ammonite territory. The Ammonites used their “home field advantage” to try squeezing the Israelite army in a pincer maneuver. The Ammonites took their places with their backs against the city, and the rather huge Syrian army stood a little way out in the desert facing the city. When the Israelite army would arrive, they would converge on them from both sides, encircle them, and then slaughter them. Hunan and his Syrian allies had not counted on God’s intervention or on Joab’s faith in him.
When Joab and Abishai arrived with their troops at the impending battle grounds, they immediately recognized the potential danger of the enemy’s tactics. They would have to fight on two fronts with their backs to each other. Joab conferred with Abishai: “I’m going to take an elite corps of soldiers and face the Syrians while you can go up against the Ammonites. If one or the other should get into problems, we will let each other know and help each other. Other than that, all we can do is to trust the Lord.”
Joab and his uncle David were roughly the same age and perhaps even played together until David was sent out to mind the sheep. Still, they could not have been more different in their personalities. Do not expect Joab ever to write a psalm or get into abstract theological speculations. There was no space for sentimentality in his soul. But he knew the rules and stuck to them. His declaration to Abishai reveals a simple, uncomplicated faith that God is in charge and he will direct all outcomes.
Apparently, the battle did not last very long. Many of the Syrians may already have known of David’s army, if not by experience then by hearsay. Once Joab’s troops came charging at them, they turned and fled. Now the entire Israelite army could face the Ammonites, and, seeing that the Syrians had excused themselves from the battle already, they copied them and ran from Abishai and the soldiers under his command.
iii. The Syrians Strike Back (19:16–19)
Joab and Abishai returned to Jerusalem, but only for a short while. The Syrians, having lost the battle in aid of the Ammonites, now felt humiliated and sought to avenge themselves. Hadadeser, who had already once lost to David, conscripted a large army from all Syrian locations, going as far east as the boundary at the Euphrates. Now David sounded the general mobilization alarm and collected an army from all parts of Israel. They crossed the Jordan river and clashed head-on with the Syrian army, who took enormous losses of 47,000 men, including foot soldiers and chariot drivers. Hadadezer had no choice but to raise the white flag and become David’s vassal.
iv. Ammon Defeated Once More (20:1–3)
Ezra spares us the events relating to David’s adultery and subsequent murder of Uriah, her husband, which would have occurred right about here (2Sam 11). While David stayed at home, Joab went on a mopping-up mission to secure the submission of the Ammonites. As long as he was there, he besieged the Ammonite capital city of Rabbah. After he had accomplished his goal, David came down and removed the crown from the head of the king and put it on himself. This extra-large piece of head gear weighed one talent (ca. 75 pounds or 34 kilograms) and could have been used for ceremonial purposes only. Then David commanded all the people of the city to find themselves picks and axes and destroy their own buildings. This was one example, we are told (20:3), of David’s method in general.
v. Taking on Some Giants (20:4–8)
There were giants (“nephilim,” Gen 6:4) on the earth prior to the flood. Since Noah’s family members were of standard size, they apparently carried some recessive genes which led to renewed races of giants (again “nephelim,” Num 13:33) in Canaan. The giants of Philistia had descended from another set of ancestors, the Raphaites.
And so, once again, the Philistines tried to make war on Israel, and, just as before, they brought their giants with them as a means of intimidation and display of brute power. A skirmish broke out at the city of Gezer, where Sippai lived, a Rephaite descendant of the enormous Og, who needed a 13-foot- or 4-meter-long bed (Deut 3:11). He was dispatched by Sibbecai the Hushathite, who was one of David’s “Mighty Thirty” (1Chr 11:29) and later was designated as the leader of the temple guards for the eighth month of the year (27:11). We learn that Goliath had a brother who also lived in Gath. His end came by the hands of Elhanan the son of Jair, another member of the “Thirty” (11:26). Also residing in Gath was an unnamed giant, who most definitely had genetic issues, as shown by his extra fingers and toes. Goliath must have been his role model because he pursued the same pastime of jeering the Israelites. David’s brother Shimea had a son named Jonathan, and this Jonathan became the slayer of this scoffer. The Philistines had become a minor power, and their giants were of no help to them.
vi. A Lapse in Judgment by David (21:1–22:1)
Ezra does not tell us much about the turmoil that marked David’s reign, such as Absalom’s rebellion (2Sam 13–19), or David’s own sins, most prominently his affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11–12). But he does mention one event when David clearly disobeyed God. Why does Ezra choose this one? Most likely because it involves the location of the temple.
God allowed Satan to tempt David into taking a census of all of the men in Israel who could theoretically serve as his soldiers. In other words, he did not want to count soldiers, but potential soldiers, and doing so was wrong. There were several injunctions that David violated in taking this census. First, he ignored the fact that, should another war break out, a number of men would be exempt from military service: someone who had just built a new house, planted a new vineyard, gotten engaged, or who is so fearful that he might harm the morale of any fellow soldiers (Deut 20:5–7). Furthermore, a census must be tied to a tax to the sum of half a shekel for each man to the sanctuary as a sign of being spiritually clean and devoted to God. Should the priests or rulers not take these conditions into account, a plague would break out in the country (Exod 30:11–16).
David ignored these rules and commanded Joab to be in charge of recording the numbers. Joab immediately saw the folly in doing so and asked David to rescind his order because it would have repercussions for everyone. David was firm, however, and Joab oversaw what must have been a tedious and obnoxious job for him. When he was done, he reported that Judah and the other tribes together had more than one and a half million potential conscripts, not including any Levites or Benjamites.
When all was done, David realized that he had sinned and repented. But saying “sorry” was not enough this time. His court prophet Gad stopped by to give him a choice among three forms of punishment: either three years of famine or three months of letting David’s enemies ravage the land or three days of pestilence. David selected the third option, which was the one tied to the command in Exodus 30. God sent a plague that eventually killed 70,000 people.
Feeling very unhappy, guilty, and distressed, David looked up from his palace at the hill close by where a Jebusite named Ornan had a threshing floor. There he saw an angel hovering in the air who was brandishing a sword. The angel was about to get to work spreading the plague throughout Jerusalem. But God heard David’s desperate prayers, and he stayed the angel’s hands.
David was not the only person who could see the angel. Ornan and his four sons saw him as well. The sons bolted immediately, but Ornan remained as he saw David approaching his property. The king had received orders from God to build an altar and perform a burnt sacrifice in that location. He offered to buy the piece of land from Ornan at a fair-market price, but at first Ornan would not hear of it. Undoubtedly disturbed by the appearance of an armed angel, he was willing to give David the site, an altar, the animals, and anything else without charge. But David was adamant. What good would it be to demonstrate his personal repentance to God by staging a sacrifice with other people’s property?
He paid Ornan the going rate for the real estate and the materials, built the altar, and carried out the sacrifice. Once everything was in place, God sent fire from heaven to consume the offering, showing his approval and restoring David. The impromptu altar became David’s regular place of worship, and a few decades later the threshing floor of Ornan would become the site of the temple (22:1).
Future Plans for the Kingdom (22:2–29:30)
David was not permitted by God to build a temple, but he did everything to prepare for it. He accumulated building materials and structured what we nowadays call the “human resources” so that there would be a minimum of confusion once it was open for service. Notwithstanding the futile effort by Adonijah to become the next king (1Kgs 1–2), David made it clear for a long time before he died that his second son by Bathsheba, Solomon, would be his successor and the one who would build the temple. Thus, from this point on, the rest of the chapters of 1 Chronicles focus on the eventual transition from David to Solomon.
i. Materials for Solomon’s Temple (22:2–19)
22:2–5 In 22:5, David refers to Solomon as “young and inexperienced.” How old would Solomon have been at that time? There is no consensus on the exact dates for the reigns of David and Solomon. A plausible approximation places David’s reign from 1010 BC to 970 BC and Solomon’s from 970 BC to 930 BC. Solomon was one of the younger sons of David, the second one born to him by Bathsheba. If we allow a reasonable amount of time for David’s campaigns and other pursuits once he had settled in Jerusalem, it seems that a time for Solomon’s birth around 990 BC seems plausible. Given these possible numbers, Solomon would have been barely twenty years old when he took the throne, and at this point in the narrative he would have been somewhere in his teens. So, indeed, he was pretty young, and, as we remarked earlier, David did not give his sons many chances to gather a lot of experience. See also the comments on 2 Chronicles 1:1.
The context of the remark is, of course, David’s acquisition of materials that Solomon can use to build the temple. There was cedar wood from Tyre and Sidon (22:4), stones cut by non-Israelite (“resident aliens”) forced labor (22:2), and a lot of iron nails (22:3). There is a particular significance to these nails because there was a time during the reign of Saul, when the Philistines had the upper hand, when they kept iron and smitheries away from Israelites lest they make themselves swords. Now there was iron aplenty, even for nails.
22:6–16 Then David discussed these matters with young Solomon. He shared with his son that God would not let him build the temple because he was a man of war with blood on his hands (22:7–8). God had promised him, however, that his heir would do so and that he would be a man of peace, the exact meaning of “Solomon.” God will be his Father and his throne will continue to be secure (22:9–10). After continuing an exhortation to Solomon to be wise and follow God’s laws, he enumerated some of the materials he had already stored for erecting the temple (22:11–13). The idea of 7.5 million pounds or 3,400 metric tons of gold, along with all of the other resources, must take anyone’s breath away. In addition, there was a good supply of workers who would contribute their skills to the project, so that Solomon would only have to give the starting signal, and the temple would be underway (22:14–15). Still, David informed Solomon that he needed to procure more material (22:14b) and not waste any time (22:16b).
22:17–19 From there, David rallied the leaders of Israel to support Solomon in this endeavor. He appealed to their devotion to the Lord and their gratitude for living in a time of peace. David expected that they had the same desire to have the ark of the covenant housed once again inside the worship building together with all the other sacred implements, which at this time were still in the tent at Gibeon.
ii. Structuring the Levites’ Duties (23:1–32)
According to verse 1, the fact that David was turning over the kingdom to Solomon was a given fact. Whether this transfer happened either before or after the deplorable events of 1 Kings 1 is not clear.
This chapter mentions two surveys among the Levites: those who were aged twenty or more and those whose age was at least thirty. This distinction was important because the older group was more likely to have already served at the worship tent or in some other capacity while the younger ones needed to be initiated into their jobs.
At the time when David was making these announcements, Levites still could serve the Lord in many places in Israel. Once the temple was up and running, it would be the only legitimate place of worship (Deut 12:13–14). So, even though the temple would bring new work, some other assignments, such as carrying the tent (1Chr 23:26), would no longer be necessary. The 38,000 currently active Levites needed to be organized along fairly specific job descriptions. The large group of 24,000 included the much smaller Aaronic line of priests who are treated separately in the next chapter. Further groups are 6,000 officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 musicians.
The work of the 6,000 is more fully described and implied in Leviticus 13–17 and Deuteronomy 17:8–13. In the former passage we find the rules concerning ritual purity, for example, the differences between clean and unclean food and the diagnosis of leprosy. Many people would have needed help in following the correct protocol for their sacrifices and offerings. Then, in Deuteronomy, we find that they also functioned as a “superior court.” They would not only pass judgment on whether a homicide was intentional or due to negligence or whether capital punishment was called for in sexual transgressions. Their job also included trying cases that were too difficult to resolve on a lower level. The Levitical court had the final authority, and anyone who did not abide by their decisions was risking his life (Deut 17:10–13).
What follows is of crucial importance for Ezra’s audience. He enumerates the divisions among the Levites according to the three family lines, those descended from Gershon, Kohath, or Merari. This information would assist readers and hearers to identify whether they were, indeed, Levites, and—if so—whether they might belong to a special clan with specific callings.
a. Gershon: There are only a few names mentioned as his descendants, and two of them needed to be counted together since they did not have much male offspring (1Chr 23:7–11).
b. Kohath: After mentioning only four names as descended from Kohath, son of Levi, Ezra skips to the time of the exodus and gives a nod to Aaron, and the line of priests stemming from him. Then he emphasizes that Moses and his descendants were counted among the other Levites. Moses’s greatness as prophet and leader did not entitle him, let alone his descendants, the right for priestly functions. Anyone thinking that they were privileged to offer sacrifices because they could trace their lineage back to Moses would be disappointed (23:12–20).
c. For the line of Merari, we also have just a few family names, presumably enough for some people to use in their self–identification (23:21–23).
Once again David gives thanks to God for a time of peace and, assuming the building of the temple to be as good as finished, he states that “God dwells forever in Jerusalem.” Then Ezra lists some of the duties of the non-priestly Levites, which contribute to the work of the priests (23:28a, 36):
a. Janitorial services for the temple and the various buildings and rooms that were connected to it. There must have been some places that served as offices, information booths, and storerooms. With the constant stream of worshipers and their sacrifices during good years, someone needed to be in charge of simply keeping the place clean (23:28a, 28d).
b. Making sure that the sacred objects are not only physically clean but are also ritually pure. Not that the objects themselves were holy or contained spiritual power, but they were uniquely devoted to the service of God (23:28b).
c. Assist with the baking and display of the showbread. For details on what was involved see Leviticus 4:5–9 (23:29a).
d. Preparing the various mixtures for non–animal offerings: grain offerings, unleavened bread, baked offerings, and offerings mixed with oil. There were standards of precision involved to which they had to adhere (23:29).
e. Presenting themselves as worshipers during the twice-daily regular sacrifices and on special days (23:30).
iii. Establishing the Priestly and Levitical Divisions (24:1–31)
24:1–6 Ezra now tells us more about the actual priests, the descendants of Aaron. As we mentioned above, during David’s reign there were two main priests, Zadok by the rules of succession and Abiathar, son of the murdered Ahimelech and David’s comrade in arms (15:11). They represented the lines of the two younger sons of Aaron: Zadok from Eleazar and Abiathar from Ithamar (Exod 6:23). Aaron’s older sons, Nadab and Abihu, had died when making an inappropriate offering in the worship tent (Lev 10).
There were a whole lot more family clans of Eleazar than of Ithamar. David and the two priests decided to establish 24 cohorts, 16 from the Eleazar group and 8 from the Ithamar branch. The assignments to the specific cohorts were made by lot on the assumption that it was under God’s control since some men in both branches were already dedicated to God’s service. Once again, Ezra certifies his account, this time by citing a scribe called Shemaiah who kept a record of these assignments (24:6).
24:7–19 Here is Ezra’s list of the 24 divisions and their leaders. Before leaping over the names, one might want to notice that at least some of David’s cohorts maintained their identity for a millennium and more. In Luke 1:5 we read that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest of the division of Abijah, mentioned here in 24:10 as the eighth cohort.
24:20–31 The Levites followed suit and divided themselves into 24 by lot, just as the priests had done.
iv. Bands of Musicians (25:1–31)
King David was a musician. When he was yet a boy, he provided music therapy for Saul (1Sam 16:14–23), but when Saul went to war against the Philistines, David went back home. After he had killed Goliath, David moved permanently into Saul’s house, serving as a leader of Saul’s troops in times of war and playing the harp in the palace for Saul whenever the king was tortured by an evil spirit. Furthermore, it is impossible to think of David without having his psalms come to mind immediately. They were not only sung by his contemporaries but have been a part of the church’s hymnody to this day.
Once again, we meet the three directors of music: Asaph, Heman, and Ethan, the last of the three now going by his other name, Jeduthun (25:2–4). Ezra gives us the names of their sons, including fourteen by Heman, though we do not get any information about his three daughters. It is hard to imagine that these girls, having grown up in such a musical family, would not have shared the talent; however, the service in the temple was reserved for men. Each of the three musicians taught their sons to play various instruments and sing, and each one became a leader of a group of twelve musicians. The word “brothers” in the list (25:9–21) must be understood in the sense of “colleagues” or “brothers-in-arms,” as it were. Twenty-four multiplied by twelve gives us the number 288 mentioned in 25:7 as the total of dedicated musicians.
With Jeduthun and Asaph together supplying ten more sons, we wind up with exactly twenty-four leaders of groups of twelve, and the members of each group were chosen by lot. Each cohort would take turns providing music in the temple. Ezra introduces a puzzle here by describing their performances as “prophesying” (25:1–2), and Heman is also referred to as “seer.” That word choice does not mean that whenever one of them played the lyre, he went into a trance and uttered divine revelation—though we cannot completely exclude such a thing from happening at times. For the most part, “prophesying” means declaring the word of God, and that is what they were certainly doing in the form of music.
David was innovative in the way he incorporated music into the regular temple worship as a permanently structured aspect. He, however, did not invent worship music. After all, after the ark had been transported to Jerusalem, only Asaph stayed there, while Heman and Jeduthun returned to the worship tent and must already have had official musical functions. Nor would it make any sense to think that the three principal musicians trained their sons in music merely on the contingency of their employment sometime in the future after the temple had been built.
v. The Security Detail (26:1–19)
The temple complex and its ongoing activity needed to be guarded from harm. There were many valuable items stored in the facility; priests and other Levites needed to be able to carry out their work without unnecessary distractions. People who wanted to worship at the temple, including Gentiles, were entitled to feel protected and safe as they came. So, David appointed a number of Levites to serve as security guards. Among them we find the ever-present, multi-talented Obed-Edom. As mentioned above, a significant number of these guards came from the branch of Levites descended from Korah, who had unsuccessfully rebelled against Moses and Aaron (1Chr 6:22; Num 16–17), indicating that a portion of his descendants stepped back and did not fall under God’s judgment.
Ezra follows the same pattern here as he did with the musicians. Having identified the group that would be eligible for this duty, he then fills in their specific positions, in this case locations at the temple they would oversee.
vi. Treasurers and Officials (26:20–32)
Once the temple was built, it would become the repository for a great amount of wealth. Many valuable items came from the spoils of war and as contributions from the king and his generals. In addition to the security guards, there needed to be officials who would log-in items and keep track of them; these were also from the tribe of Levi. It would not do much good if you had, say, a well-protected valuable gold crown, but nobody knew where they had last seen it. Many of these assets were earmarked to be spent in the process of building the temple; others had to be held in reserve for ongoing expenses and eventual repair. The people in charge of finances constituted a revenue service, who made sure that the religious donations and government taxes (not necessarily as money but also in kind) would find their way to Jerusalem. The department was headed up by one Ahijah.
Now we are also given the names of some of the “officials” who were mentioned back in 23:4. These overseers and judges were divided into two groups, those who were responsible for the western side of the Jordan, the area we usually designate as Israel, and the side east of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh. It is telling for the greater difficulty in administering the tribes on the other side of the Jordan that, whereas 1,700 officials were installed for the West, the East required 2,700. Ezra notes that a number of the latter group were not discovered as suitable men for the job until David’s last year as king, his fortieth.
vii. Military Commanders (27:1–9)
Armies are expensive. They need quarters to live and sleep. They need food and water. They need weapons, armor, and shields. They need some kind of distinctive article of clothing so as to distinguish them from their enemies. Furthermore, a competitive army at the time of David needed horses and chariots, which also meant stables and sheds. At David’s disposal were around 288,000 troops (27:1–2). It would be a huge burden to care for all of these men simultaneously, particularly in times of peace when they were much better off at home, raising food or cattle, or pursuing their crafts and did not need government support.
Still, one could not leave the kingdom unprotected. There had to be a military presence that did not require days or weeks to mobilize. So, David set up yet another system of rotation. He established twelve divisions of 24,000 men each, and each one of them would serve for a month and then be able to go home again. Obviously, if the army was actually needed for combat, everyone would be called up.
Ezra gives us the names of each of the twelve generals in charge of their 24,000 troops, but this is not an exhaustive list of all officers. Joab was the chief of staff but does not get mentioned until later in 27:34, and Abishai, his second-in command does not appear at all. Among these twelve division leaders are some names that have come up before. Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel (27:2) was the leader of David’s mighty “Three” (11:2). We find Benaiah son of Jehoiada (27:5), whose accomplishments include victory over a lion in a snow-filled pit and an oversized Egyptian (11:22–24). We also know that Benaiah headed up David’s bodyguard (11:25), and, thus, we see that his son Ammizadab actually commanded his division. Once we understand that point, we can also apply it to Asahel (27:7), who had been killed decades earlier (2Sam 2:23). The division was named after him, but his son Zebediah was really in charge. One other name stands out, namely that of Sibbecai the Hushathite (27:11), slayer of Sippai the Giant (20:4).
viii. Tribal Governments (27:16–24)
An orderly society requires government, and each tribe had its representative leader. Actually, there are thirteen districts mentioned, and a little math is needed to sort it out. Start with the original 12 sons of Jacob. Joseph divides into Ephraim and Manasseh, so we have 13. Manasseh divides into its two half-tribes, which are far enough apart to need two different administrations, so the number of provinces is now 14. But then, look at 27:17. There are two separate governors for the Levites: Hashabia for the tribe of Levi in general, and a separate division for the priests (the sons of Aaron) under Zadok, which now means that there must be 15 leaders. Perhaps because Ezra’s records may have been incomplete, the tribes of Asher and Gad are not included, and so we can only count 13 governors on the basis of this passage. That fact does not mean anything more than that these two tribes are not mentioned here; the records do not contain an error here, just a reflection of what sources Ezra had at hand. In fact, these kinds of phenomena in 1 and 2 Chronicles are signs that, contrary to the opinion of many unbelieving scholars, Ezra did not invent many of his details but based them on available records. If he had made them up, surely, he would not have forgotten to refer to Asher or Gad. The section ends with an allusion, just in précis form, to David’s misadventure in sending Joab out for the prohibited census.
ix. David’s Property Managers (27:25–31)
The previous list of treasurers and officials (26:20–32) referred to the Levites who were responsible for religious obligations. Here we are getting a list of David’s personal property and those who were in charge of it. The humble shepherd boy had become a person of wealth. All of the following concerns had supervisors who reported to David: his local treasure, his treasure in various locations throughout the land, agriculture, vineyards, wine production, olive and sycamore trees, oil storage, one each for his cattle herds in Sharon and Shaphat, his camels, his donkeys, and his flock of sheep.
x. David’s Inner Circle (27:32–34)
In contrast to the cabinet members in 18:14–17, these men were David’s personal advisors. They were headed up by Jonathan, David’s uncle, who had some strong qualifications as a writer and thinker. He, along with a man named Jehiel, was also in charge of educating the king’s sons. The next person mentioned is Ahithophel, who was known as a wise person and good advisor to the king. Ezra mentions that Ahithophel was eventually replaced, but does not go into the reason why, which happens to coincide with the next person: Hushai, David’s friend (2Sam 17:1–14). Ahithophel had sided with Absalom in his rebellion and given him some potentially effective advice, but Hushai pretended to support Absalom and countermanded Ahithophel’s ideas, thereby bringing about a disastrous end for Absalom. Ahithophel had committed suicide, and his place was taken by Jehoiada son of Benaiah along with Abishai, Joab’s brother and David’s general. The list concludes with Field Marshal Joab.
xi. David’s Farewell Address (28:1–8)
Picturing the mighty David as a feeble old man is difficult, but at this point David is described exactly that way in 1 Kings 1. He had called all the important people of the kingdom to come hear his last speech. The audience would have consisted of everyone mentioned in the lists from chapter 11 on (28:1) who could make the trip to Jerusalem.
Perhaps some servants carried old David in a chair to the crowded area where he would give his final speech. It would not have been easy for him to stand up, but he managed it despite the constant tremors to which he was subject. We do not know how strong his voice was, but his message was clear and memorable. We can divide it into five parts:
a. God had not permitted him to build a temple in Jerusalem because of the blood on his hands (28:2–3).
b. God at his pleasure had chosen him and his descendants to be on the throne of the kingdom (28:4).
c. God has designated Solomon to be his successor, a role which combined the offices of king and temple builder (28:5–6).
d. God will uphold Solomon and the kingdom forever, as long as he will stick to all divine commandments (28:7).
e. Therefore, the people should support the new king by abiding by God’s laws as well (28:8)
xii. David’s Exhortation to Solomon (28:9–21)
28:9–10 The ceremony continued as David called Solomon to the front and charged him in front of all of these witnesses to live according to God’s laws, not just outwardly, but also in his heart and mind. David never forgot about Saul’s fate, and he warned Solomon that if he departed from God’s expectations of him, the kingdom could be taken from him.
28:11–19 Then, in front of the assembled dignitaries, David handed Solomon all of the plans that he had made for his reign and, particularly, for building the temple. It included the blueprints, an inventory of the available building materials and their intended use, and the assignments of priests and Levites into various cohorts—the lists in our chapters 23–26. The only comment David made in this context was that these plans did not just come from his own mind, but that he had written down what God had communicated to him.
28:20–21 Finally, David encouraged Solomon by reminding him that the Lord was with him, and that he could count on the support of the priests and Levites who naturally were also keen on seeing a completed temple.
xiii. David’s Fundraiser (29:1–9)
29:1–5 We already saw that, as large as the accumulated resources for the temple were, David did not think that they were enough (22:14–16). Still addressing the assembly of Israel’s leaders, he publicly announced making a further addition to the fund, so that whenever a certain substance was needed, whether it be gold, silver, bronze, or iron, the right material would be available. Having enumerated his contributions, he now invited the members of this gathering to freely contribute whatever they wished to the fund.
29:6–9 There was an immediate joyful response, and the people contributed huge amounts of the metals needed. Since they probably did not carry all of these materials to the meeting, they probably made pledges to be fulfilled shortly. Jehiel the Gershonite, whose sons were treasurers of the temple (23:8; 26:22), collected the donations of precious stones.
xiv. David’s Benediction (29:10–22)
David closed the proceedings with a lengthy prayer. We can outline it in three points.
a. All honor and praise belong to God. We are thankful to him for all that he has done (29:10–13).
b. There is a paradox when we humans make donations to God’s cause because he is the creator of everything that exists, and he owns all things. We can only give out of a sense of devotion to him (29:14–17).
c. We ask God to help us retain that sense of dependence on him (29:18–19).
The entire assembly bowed before God in worship. Sacrifices of many cattle, goats, and sheep followed, after which they held a big and happy feast (29:20–22).
xv. The Transition (29:23–30)
Solomon, like his father (1Sam 16:13; 2Sam 2:4; 5:3), was anointed to be king several times (1Chr 29:29b; 1Kgs 1:39). The most important fact was, of course, that he was God’s choice. We also read that Zadok was officially designated as the high priest; his erstwhile colleague Abiathar had sided with Adonijah’s attempted coup and was now in exile (1Kgs 2:26–27). The words of praise for Solomon here (1Chr 29:23–25) will be amplified in the next section.
Ezra makes sure to credit his sources: Samuel for the background information and Nathan and Gad for direct accounts of life with David.
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1 Chronicles 1
From Adam to Abraham
1:1 Adam, Seth, Enosh; 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; 4 Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
5 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 6 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath,1 and Togarmah. 7 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.
8 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 9 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush fathered Nimrod. He was the first on earth to be a mighty man.2
11 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 12 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
13 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 14 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 15 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 16 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites.
17 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. And the sons of Aram:3 Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech. 18 Arpachshad fathered Shelah, and Shelah fathered Eber. 19 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg4 (for in his days the earth was divided), and his brother’s name was Joktan. 20 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Obal,5 Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
24 Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah; 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu; 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah; 27 Abram, that is, Abraham.
From Abraham to Jacob
28 The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael. 32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. 33 The sons of Midian: Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the descendants of Keturah.
34 Abraham fathered Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel. 35 The sons of Esau: Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. 36 The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, Kenaz, and of Timna,6 Amalek. 37 The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.
38 The sons of Seir: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. 39 The sons of Lotan: Hori and Hemam;7 and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 40 The sons of Shobal: Alvan,8 Manahath, Ebal, Shepho,9 and Onam. The sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah. 41 The son10 of Anah: Dishon. The sons of Dishon: Hemdan,11 Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 42 The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan.12 The sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran.
43 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel: Bela the son of Beor, the name of his city being Dinhabah. 44 Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. 45 Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. 46 Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, reigned in his place, the name of his city being Avith. 47 Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. 48 Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates13 reigned in his place. 49 Shaul died, and Baal-hanan, the son of Achbor, reigned in his place. 50 Baal-hanan died, and Hadad reigned in his place, the name of his city being Pai; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab. 51 And Hadad died.
The chiefs of Edom were: chiefs Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 52 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Magdiel, and Iram; these are the chiefs of Edom.