Lectures on 1 Chronicles 10-12

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers” (chap. 10.). And then we find his death and his armor-bearer's death “So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.” This is the introduction to the book of Chronicles.
The consequence was that all the men of Israel fled. Their hope was gone. But God was able to bring in the dawn of a better day; and although the Philistines triumphed, and Saul was stripped, and his head was taken, and his armor, and sent to the land of the Philistines, carrying tidings to their idols and to the people; and although they put his armor in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon, and it seemed as if they had entirely their own way, yet the triumph of the wicked is for a very brief season. There were those who had sufficient respect for Saul to arise—certain valiant men of Jabesh-Gilead. “They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” It was a noble act, and acceptable to God, and yet it was not but what Saul was an offense to God.
This is beautiful, this is grace, that God should specially single out the deed of these men, even for a king with whom he was so deeply offended. How little we enter into the mind of God! Very likely we should have thought the men of Jabesh Gilead were very foolish. Why should they meddle? No doubt there was many a follower of David that would have blamed the men of Jabesh-Gilead. David did not. David understood the mind of God; and David is nowhere more noble than when he pours out his lament over not only Jonathan but Saul. Indeed, it was what he had lived in, for if Saul envied and hated David, never did David so feel towards king Saul. “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against Jehovah, even against the word of Jehovah, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it.”
There was both the disobedience of God's word and the seeking of the word that was not of God but of the devil. “And inquired not of Jehovah: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” But all the intervening circumstances are left out. It is the purpose of God that is the point here—not history, not responsibility, but purpose, divine purpose. This is the key to the difference between Kings and Chronicles.
“Then all Israel gathered themselves to David unto Hebron, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. And moreover in time past, even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and Jehovah thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel. Therefore came all the elders of Israel to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before Jehovah; and they anointed David king over, Israel, according to the word of Jehovah by Samuel” (chap. 10.). But further, David and all Israel went to Jerusalem—another grand point of the book. “And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, Thou shalt not come hither.” That is, they defied him. “Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David.”
He had offered it as a great prize that whosoever took that stronghold should be captain of the host.
It is remarkable that Joab steps forward—not Abishai, not anyone of those most honorable three, not Eleazar or Jashobeam, or any of the others—the thirty, those worthies that were with him in the cave. None of them, but Joab. Joab was not among them. The truth is Joab was an ambitious man. He did not care to expose his person more than was necessary, but when there was anything to be got, Joab was the man. Joab was ready for action then, not to suffer but to gain. Joab therefore goes forward and takes the stronghold, and becomes chief. So it will always be till the true David comes. There will be no Joabs then. His people shall be all righteous; but till then every type has its failure, and it is a very important thing in scripture to see first that which is natural—afterward that which is spiritual. It is the purpose of God, but it is the purpose of God in David, and not in Christ. It is the purpose of God in one that looked for Christ, loved Christ, waited for Christ, but nevertheless was not Christ. When Christ comes all will be according to the mind of God. “So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up, and was chief. And David dwelt in the castle; therefore they called it the city of David. And he built the city round about, even from Millo round about: and Joab repaired the rest of the city. So David waxed greater and greater: for Jehovah of hosts was with him.”
Then follow the true worthies of David, the true warriors, not for what was to be got, but for David.
And these are most minutely brought before us to the end of the chapter, not only their great deeds in cutting down the enemy, but their intense love for David. Hence the Spirit of God tells the tale of how “David was in the hold, and the Philistines' garrison was then at Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate!” He knew his native place, and longed after the water that he had, no doubt, often drunk. He uttered this without a thought of anything further; but these three men “brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David.”
This was beautiful. It was no purpose of war. It was entirely outside the expedition. It was love. But David's act was more beautiful. “But David would not drink of it, but poured it out to Jehovah, and said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing; shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.” There are others however—not, it is true, among the three mightiest, but who were most honorable. God loves to mention what is an honor to His people, and hence, therefore, after each of their names we find a record of their deeds. The Lord will do this and more for those who now and ever have lived and suffered for the name of the Lord. This then introduces to us David with his citadel Zion, and his warrior band.
In the 12th chapter we have another account, deeply interesting—not those that had been the companions so signal for their mighty deeds, but those that gathered round him. First of all, “These are they that came to David to Ziklag,” that is, just before the close of all, when the kingdom was upon the point of turning. And a very beautiful thing it is to see that when God is about to work anything special on the earth, —He knows how to give the secret of it to His people., There was a providential working on God's part, but there was a spiritual working in the hearts of His people.
It is the very same thing now in the consciousness that the kingdom of the Lord is at hand, in the deeper feeling of it, in the way in which it affects souls, far beyond anything that was ever known; not excitement, not people merely in a panic because the end is at hand, or persons fixing a date, to be disappointed and perhaps give up their faith; but persons who calmly rest upon His word. Perhaps they could not particularly say why, but this they know, that, whereas they did not attach any importance to the Scriptures that speak of His coming, now they do. This is not without the Spirit of God. So with the men of Israel. There was a movement of heart even while Saul was still alive. There was a rush to David after Saul was dead; but I do not speak of that. That is a very different and a lower thing altogether. But the movement of heart to gather the men of Israel to David in sympathy, before it could be a matter of external allegiance, is a matter much to be noted. These then are described.
“Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, helpers of the war. They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow, even of Saul's brethren of Benjamin” (chap. 12). The first men that are named were the very last that man would have expected—the men of Benjamin. It is not that there were so many. They were slow afterward. Even when David came to the throne the men of Benjamin still hung on to the house of Saul. They were slow as a whole, as a tribe, but God showed His sovereignty and His gracious purpose by calling “of Saul's brethren,” from out of that very tribe, and who are the very first that He names as “of Benjamin.” Thus we must never be disheartened, we must never suppose that any circumstances can hinder the way of God. God will bring out to the name of the Lord Jesus in the very last spot that you expect. We must leave room for the power of the word of God, and also, above all, for His own grace, His own magnifying of Himself and His call. The men of Benjamin are the first, then, that are named as having joined themselves to David. “The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite.”
Then further we find Gadites. “And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness men of might, and, men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like, the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains..... These are they that went over Jordan in the first month, when it had overflown all his banks.” It was even more difficult then than at any other time. “And they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east, and toward the west. And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you; but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine bands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it. Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse; peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David, received them, and made them captains of the band.” Then we find of Manasseh also they helped David, “for at that time,” we are told, “day by day there came to David to help him.”
But from the 23rd verse we have another. The crisis was come; Saul was gone. “And these are the numbers of the bands that were ready armed to the war, and came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of Jehovah.” Now it was not so much the anticipation of faith; it was the manifest following of the word of the Lord. Saul was gone. There was no question that ought to have exercised a heart. And we find, singular to say, “The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred.” One of the greatest of the tribes, taken all and all, the greatest tribe of the twelve, the very one, too, that David belonged to; yet there were only “six thousand and eight hundred ready armed to the war.” “Not by might nor by power.” How different where man is in question. Take the false prophet of Mecca. Who were those that were his first band? His own family. Take any that are false; it is their own friends, their own companions, some tie of flesh and blood. But with David the first band, we are taught, were those who were most opposed; and, further, the least comparatively in numbers were those that were of his own kith and kin—only six thousand eight hundred; and when you come to look at the others, you will find it is more remarkable. Why even of Simeon, a tribe not to be named with Judah, there were “mighty men of valor for the war seven thousand and one hundred.” “Of the children of Levi,” although they were properly outside such work, and were more connected with the service of the temple, “four thousand and six hundred. And Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites.” Even they, you see, felt the all-importance of this that was at hand. “And with him were three thousand and seven hundred,” so that between the two there were more evidently. “And Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father's house twenty and two captains. And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand; for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul"; that accounts for the smallness of number there.
But there is no account given of Judah; it is simply left out. The fact is that God would not have his king trust to links of flesh and blood. “And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valor, famous throughout the house of their fathers. And of the half tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name, to come and make David king. And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” a great change in Issachar. In the prophecy of Jacob he was merely “an ass couching down between two burdens,” but now the men of Issachar had profited. They were men that had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. “The heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” Of Zebulun, comparatively unimportant tribe in Israel, there were no less than fifty thousand “such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war.... which could keep rank. They were not of double heart.” And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand. And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred. And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand. And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand.”
It is very evident that, excepting Benjamin, which, for the reason that is stated, was altogether exceptional and who held fast in the greater part to the house. of Saul. Judah stands extremely short in all this list. So it was that God would not permit that the king of his purpose should be beholden to the strength of man or the ties of nature. But whatever might be the shortcoming here and there, and the differences among them, “All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.” That is, it was not a divided heart. It was set upon God's purpose; and not only those who were there, but those who through circumstances were absent. “And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking; for their brethren had prepared for them.” And so the scene of festivity and joy is brought before us. There was joy in Israel.
[W.K.]
(To be continued)