Thoughts on 1 Chronicles 1-21

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Amalek's hand as against the people of Jehovah is against the throne and kingdom of Jehovah. Therefore the LORD said “I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Exodus 17:1414And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. (Exodus 17:14)). The last phase of the world's hatred and opposition to the kingdom of Christ (before it is established in peace and power, and His throne is the throne of Jehovah) will be when the Assyrian leads his hosts to Jerusalem. But his overthrow will be complete and eternal. Amalek is the first enemy that opposes the establishment of the kingdom after the Lord has visibly led out a people for it; the Assyrian is the last before the millennium; afterward the final gathering of Gog and Magog, the host that comes against the camp or city of the saints but to be destroyed forever, their remembrance utterly put out. Do not the words “from generation to generation” include all who dare oppose Christ and His kingdom, thus stamping the name of “Amalek” upon all that is specially opposed to the kingdom of the Son of Man? Therefore the LORD hath sworn that He will have war with the generations of Amalek forever. Balaam's prophecy concerning Amalek may contain the thought that the Amalek spirit will be seen in the latest attempt of Satan against the dominion of Christ. “Amalek was the first of the nations [not in power, but in active opposition after redemption was known, typically] but his latter end shall be that he perish forever” (Numbers 24:2020And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. (Numbers 24:20)). If the “first of the nations” points to Satan's first attack against the people now visibly declared to be the people of God, and manifestly under His protection and guidance, may not the words “latter end” lead our thoughts to that future day when the last hostile gathering against the people of God, but gathered to meet their doom, shall be immediately followed by the casting of all enemies of Christ into the lake of fire? In both the past and the future (i. e. Israel in the wilderness, or the camp of the saints after the thousand years), it is the earthly people of God who are in view, not the church.
But we see another thing; the Lord is gathering His people for Himself, and at the same time noting their enemies. To touch them is to touch Him. And if the people are written up for blessing, so surely are their enemies marked for judgment. The adversary may escape for a time, but his day is coming; “seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:66Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (2 Thessalonians 1:6)). This may not be the highest motive to endurance during this present time, but it is one divinely given to those who with John are fellow-partakers “in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.”
Seir rose to power in the earth (verse 43) even as Nimrod, and the Horim had their dukes. Esau joined himself to them, and after a time his descendants rose apparently to greater power, for kings are named among his posterity. Violence seems to have characterized them, for not one king is succeeded by his son. As one faction prevailed over the other, so from different cities arose different kings, till (as it would appear) the kingly authority was abridged, and they were followed by dukes. And in this change of form of authority, not unseen in our day, there is a characteristic element—we might say flaw—in human power, viz., its instability. Man is unable to retain supreme and sole power in himself, and though there may be the semblance of it (as in some European countries of the present time), yet are there secret springs and influences possessing a power which autocrats dare not disregard. At first the head may be gold, but authority becomes gradually diffused, decentralized (civilization, some say), and will until even the clay will not mingle with the iron, but dare to contend with it, and dispute its authority and power. The vox populi was never in accord with the vox Dei, and soon will be openly antagonistic. All popular commotions and combinations should be distrusted. Let Christians fear and beware.
From the fact that no son succeeded his father, some think the Edomite monarchy was elective. But this supposes sufficient power in the hands of the people to choose their own ruler—a democratic principle which we have no ground to suppose existed in those early days. Violence and lust of power were there, and bore fruit. The ambitious unscrupulous man will seek to sway the masses, and on them ride to power, but this is a different thing from an elective monarchy. What we do see in Esau's descendants, and what has characterized the world, is the contending of adverse factions for power, and where of course the strongest arm wins, God lets the world show itself, and its power, or rather lack of power, first. Then come His purpose and its firm foundation. For there were kings in Edom before any were found in Israel. The Edomite kings are gone, but God's King abideth forever. This special mention of Edom is because of their great hatred of Israel, not the least implacable of all the nations round about them, (Num. 20:14-2114And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: 15How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: 16And when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: 17Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. 18And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. 19And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. 20And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. 21Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him. (Numbers 20:14‑21)), which was seen long years after when the Edomite rejoiced at the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Psalm 137). On this very account they are remembered for judgment (Obadiah 1:1010For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. (Obadiah 10)).
There is no name in this first chapter so prominent or so connected with the purposes of God as that of Abraham, neither that of Adam nor of Noah, standing as these do in solitary grandeur, each in his day, as the heads of the human race. Abraham is the head of a peculiar race. Only three generations are given here, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (mark, not Jacob) in the direct and chosen line (verse 34). Ishmael and Esau have been already noticed (verse 28, &c.). They are dismissed (save to notice Esau's rise to power, and connection with the Horim) and the Holy Spirit returns to Abraham (34) as the true starting-point of the peculiar race. In these three names, i.e. the names themselves as given to these three men, the promise of God is intimately interwoven. It is Abram who is called out from his country and kindred. The name “Abraham” is given, the pledge that he should be the father of many nations, and a witness of the covenant “between Me and thee and thy seed after thee” (Genesis 17). This covenant is repeated to Isaac (Gen. 26). In like manner the name “Israel” is bound up with the promise. God appeared to Jacob, and on two occasions changed his name to “Israel” (Genesis 32:2828And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28) and 35:10). Surely this genealogy is no unmeaning list of names, but where we may read the promise and the ultimate purpose of God.
Turning to the history of these men in Genesis there is a marked difference in the way God speaks of them, a difference indicative of their walk as saints. For God speaks of “Abraham” by his new name after it was once given; but of Jacob for the most part as “Jacob” not as “Israel.” Occasionally he is called Israel, and on each occasion to remind him that, notwithstanding his failures and crooked ways, God was mindful of him and faithful to His promise. Jacob trembles and fears on account of Esau. God appears, and trembling Jacob becomes Israel, a prevailing prince. Weeping Jacob sets a pillar over Rachel's grave, but as Israel pursues his journey. Jacob suffers from want of corn, but it is the sons of Israel who go into Egypt to buy. Jacob may need, but in the name of Israel lay God's pledge to supply all his need; and at the close of his life it is Israel that blesses the sons of Joseph and foretells that God will bring them all again into the land of their fathers. In all these instances and every other, the Holy Spirit tells us, not of Jacob doing his own will, but of Israel the object of nod's care and the depositary of the promise.
May we pause to inquire why no new name is given to Isaac, as was to Isaac's father and to Isaac's son? Abraham was a faithful pilgrim on the earth, and Jacob for the greater portion of his life a failing pilgrim. But as pilgrims both had new names. Historically Isaac was a pilgrim even as they. But a higher truth was to be taught the church of God by means of Isaac. Typically Isaac is a child of resurrection; and teaches us what our place is as risen with Christ, and in Him seated in the heavenlies. No need of a new name there. But as pilgrims and children of God down here on the earth we have a new name given to each of us, that we might know how God sets a mark upon us and distinguishes us from the world, and that we may not forget that we belong to another country, even the heavenly. (Heb. 11:13-1613These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13‑16)).
Chapter 2—Esau with his kings and dukes are outside the chosen line. God's people are now in view. Not all Abraham's sons, not all Isaac's sons, but of Israel's, not one excepted. The offshoots of the elect stem Abraham, Isaac, Israel are lost in the common herd of Gentiles. Nay, even the people themselves are scarcely noticed till the KING is seen: hence the rapid run from Judah the son of Israel to David (verses 3-15). The king is presented with just enough of his line of descent to show that he is of the tribe of Judah, and he is presented in the person of David, who was chosen of God to be a type of the kingly power of Jesus the Messiah, hence for this reason, called a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:1414But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee. (1 Samuel 13:14); Acts 13:2222And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. (Acts 13:22)). The ancestry of David is the human ancestry of our Lord Jesus. Of the twelve sons of Israel, Judah takes the first place, not now to tell us of Judah, but of Him who sprang from Judah, the KING first, afterward the children of the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit hastens to present Him Who is and was ever the Object before God.
Only a list of names from Judah to David! But can we find in the whole book of God a similar space as brief as this which contains so much of grace and of God's unchangeableness in purpose on the one side, and of the vileness of man's nature on the other? For the names here given are inseparably connected with both. The crucifixion of the Lord goes infinitely beyond all in declaring the grace of God and the wickedness of man; but what do we find in this list? Names renowned in the world and honored among men? nay, but associated with the worst corruption and with disobedience to God and dishonor to His name. Like Judah himself married to a Canaanitess, take Er, Tamar, Pharez, what vileness and shame! There is a Hezron and a Boaz, and with them greatness and piety, but there is also an Achar [Achan] who is prominently marked as “the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed.”
Yet what line of the world's most glorious pedigree can be compared to this of divine choice? Their names are linked with God's purposes of glory. Ennobled by a connection with Him Whose Name alone will be exalted in the earth when the world's nobility and glory shall be forgotten, a thing of the past. But now, before the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, if we turn to Genesis 38 we see what Judah is, as he, the head of the tribe, there appears. Would not this dark but brief glimpse of Judah's domestic life have been suppressed if a good estimation of his character by man had been a necessary quality of the tribe, or at least of the head of it, from which the Lord was to come? Even the world would now cry shame upon such a man. But the Lord casts contempt upon the estimation of man.
Of no other son of Israel have we such a picture; and there is no reason to suppose Judah worse than his brethren. But the light is let in on his private life that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ when He humbled Himself to become a man might be more manifest. He chose this tribe of Judah, which is continued not through the honorable tie of marriage but through sin. Look at Pharez, the next link in the chain—a child of incest—the stream was polluted at its source. What honorable man of the world would boast of ancestry like this, with the bar sinister across his escutcheon? The heroes of paganism pretend descent from their gods. All fable and imagination, you say. Most true. But they did imagine even a celestial origin: not one would admit that he spring from the despised and the ignoble. The semi-civilized aborigines of Mexico claimed for their chiefs descent from the sun and the moon, the objects of their worship. The Brahmins claim Brahma—a sort of demi-god—as their ancestor; the Chinese boast of a quasi-celestial origin.
Nearer home we find those who having no honor of their own acquiring, claim it by inheritance. But this phase of pride so natural to man has its corrective (!) in the amazing discovery made by the wisdom of the nineteenth century that neither from the sun nor from the gods are we descended, but from an ape! And have we to choose between gods, or monkeys? Naturally one would prefer a descent from the gods and heroes of antiquity than from the grinning be-tailed ape. But such is this world's wisdom, either among the stars according to ancient fables, or from monkeys according to modern absurdities (and what did monkeys spring from?) Pride is the common source of both the ancient and the modern fable. The modern boasts of profounder wisdom which sweeps away the trash of ancient fable—a small matter—and denies the truth of God, but cannot sweep this away. The ancient fable is simply the pride of birth; the same criterion by which men estimate the value of racehorses and other cattle.
What did the Lord inherit from His human ancestry? But this is the glory of the Lord Jesus. He humbled Himself, made Himself of no reputation, was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. In the likeness of the earth's most honorable would still have been sinful flesh, in the likeness of it. But He came in the line of Judah and Pharez, a tainted line even in the eyes of the world. What ineffable grace! Could the Son go lower? Was there a more degraded family to choose than that of Judah? And Judah is chosen! Truly He humbled Himself, and grace shines from the beginning.