Friday, October 7

1 Chronicles 11: The Chronicler greatly abbreviates the lengthy, difficult, and complicated story of David’s gaining control over all the tribes. We note that the material in the first four chapters of 2 Samuel is simply missing. There is no mention of the brief reign of Ishbosheth, the crisis of Abner, the subsequent negotiations, and Joab’s hand in Abner’s death.

Instead, the story skips immediately to the gathering of the tribes at Hebron (David’s first capital, prior the capture of Jerusalem) to make David the king. There is no suggestion that Israel was politically divided between north and south (a division that would reappear at Solomon’s death in 922). Indeed, in place of “all the tribes of Israel” in 2 Samuel 5:1, we now have simply “all Israel” in verse 1. That is to say, the nation is completely united; even the tribal distinctions are lost. Thus, Jerusalem is captured by “David and all Israel” (v. 4).

Having thus described David’s rise to power and the taking of Jerusalem in a bare nine verses of narrative, the Chronicler returns to what we have begun to suspect he does best: he provides more lists of names!

This time, however, the lists are in large part derived from 2?Samuel 23:8–39.

First, there are David’s “three mighty men” (vv. 10–14). Since only two names are given, however, we might suspect that Joab, treated in the previous verses, was to be understood as included among them. It is more plausible, however, to suspect a copyist’s omission, since the name given in 2?Samuel 23:11 is Shammah.

Second, there is a list of thirty other warriors of renown (vv. 20– 47). Whereas the corresponding list in 2?Samuel ends with Uriah the Hittite, the Chronicler adds several names more (vv. 41–47). Since these men appear to come predominantly from the east side of the Jordan, we may presume that the Chronicler received their names from a Transjordanian source not available to the author of Samuel.

Such lists of combatants reflect the period when much combat was hand-to-hand. In our own times, when weapons are employed from great distances, it is difficult to imagine the impression of ongoing hand-to-hand combat. Indeed, Shelby Foote, the preeminent historian of the Civil War, remarked that that war produced relatively few casualties from the bayonet; most wounds were inflicted by gunfire at a distance. In very ancient accounts of combat, however, such as that between David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 and many places in Homer, the reader sometimes has the impression that any given battle was just a series of private fights between individuals. These biblical lists of warriors reflect that same setting. In fact, even Josephus, writing during the period of the New Testament, saw no reason to include these lists.

Saturday, October 8

1 Chronicles 12: The military lists go on! As we reflected in the previous chapter, in the days when hand-to-hand combat was the normal way of warfare, it was normal that a certain individual notoriety attached to warriors of great skill with sword, javelin, and battle-ax. This is why we find lists of famous warriors in the ancient literature of warfare.

We may take the Iliad as a well-known instance. In his descriptions of the various battles at the gates of Troy Homer emphasized the valor and prowess of individual warriors, such as Achilles, Hector, Ajax, and so on. One-on-one combat was the rule, and the stories of the combat delineate the efforts of individual brave men.

Holy Scripture comes from that same era and demonstrates that same preoccupation. The story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, for example, complete with the speeches of each man prior to their engagement, will support comparison with the accounts of Patroclus and Hector, Diomede and Aeneas, and so on.

What we have at the end of 1 Chronicles 11 and here through Chapter 12 are similar lists of outstanding famous warriors who threw in their lot with David. They are drawn, as we can see, from among the cream of their own tribes, Benjamin (verses 1-7), Gad (verses 8-15), Manasseh (verses 19-22), and so on. This attention to the individual tribes represented in David’s band helps to emphasize that David was the choice of “all Israel.”

Because they came to David from Saul’s own tribe, the warriors of Benjamin are mentioned first (verses 1-7). In fact, when the other tribes eventually rebel against the House of David in 922 (an event that the Chronicler will not honor with so much as mention), the tribe of Benjamin remained loyal. In the present text, attention is given to the very specialized and ambidextrous skills of the Benjaminites.

The warriors of Gad (verses 8-15), who may have joined David during his sojourn at Engedi (1 Samuel 24:1), had the “faces of lions,” an expression that probably means they looked fierce to their opponents. It was not all show, however, because these warriors, in addition to their speed, were accomplished swimmers, able to cross the cold, swollen waters of the Jordan at flood stage.

All these men came to strengthen the army of David and secure his throne over all Israel (verse 38). This union of all the tribes remained for the Chronicler an ideal that King Hezekiah would later attempt to restore (2 Chronicles 30—31). In the midst of this impressive list, and in order to make him the representative of the whole lot, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amisai, chief of the thirty” (verse 18). “We are yours, O David” expresses the enthusiasm of the whole kingdom.

Sunday, October 9

1 Chronicles 13: In 2 Samuel 5:11-25 David first builds his own house and does combat against the Philistines, before beginning to make Jerusalem the religious center of the kingdom. The Chronicler, however, more interested in theological principle than in historical sequence, postpones that narrative in order to concentrate on Jerusalem’s theological importance: He first tells the story of David’s attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Since the destruction of the ancient shrine at Shiloh, when Samuel was but a child, the Ark had apparently been a bit neglected (verse 3). As a religious and historical symbol, however, it was an object without peer in Israel’s experience. It evoked Moses and the Exodus and the Covenant and a thousand things in Israel’s deepest memory. David, then, was anxious to secure it for his new capital.

In this chapter the author begins an implicit contrast of David with Saul. Whereas the Ark had been little consulted in Saul’s time (verse 3), David will consult it. Perhaps this is why Michal, Saul’s daughter, will scoff at David’s devout treatment of the Ark (15:29).

Twice in the next chapter we will find David’s consulting the oracle at the Ark of the Covenant. Unlike Saul, who “also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance of the Lord” (10:13-14), David will be guided only by God’s revelation of His will. The Chronicler returns to this theme in the following chapter.

Though he had no trouble getting the Israelites to agree with his plans for the Ark, David found that getting God’s cooperation in the project was a tad more complicated. Although he arranged for the most elaborate of processions to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (verse 8), the event ended in tragedy because of an unforeseen mishap (verses 9-10). David’s own reaction was a mixture of anger and fear (verses 11-12).

The interest of the Chronicler here, however, is deeper. He knew that the Ark was not being carried in the proper way—that is, by the appointed Levites. The accident occurred on the road because the Ark was being carried on a cart drawn by oxen. In the next chapter (15:2), David will see to it that this sort of thing never happens again.

Monday, October 10

1 Chronicles 14: The three months’ delay in the execution of David’s plan (13:14) now permits the author to treat of the geopolitical matters contained in 2 Samuel 5, which he had earlier postponed. From a literary perspective this arrangement allows the author, not only to state explicitly that a certain time period elapsed between David’s two attempts to introduce the Ark into Jerusalem, but also to “fill in” those three months with other activity that suggests the passage of time.

The narrative thus provides the chief character, David, some breathing space, as it were, some opportunity, while engaged in other business, to reflect on the tragedy contained in the preceding chapter. Hence, when the Chronicler again turns our attention to the Ark in the next chapter, we find David gifted with a new and important insight about the meaning of that tragedy (15:12-13).

The reference to David’s multiple wives (verse 3) is the one place in Chronicles which may reflect badly on the king, but even here the author omits the reference to David’s concubines in 2 Samuel 5:13. Although he also excises David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, he does here include a reference to Solomon, Bathsheba’s son (verse 4). Given the importance of Solomon to this whole history, the Chronicler could hardly fail to take note of him!

In Josephus (Antiquities 7.4.1) this attack of the Philistines is expanded into an international coalition of enemies, which (in spite of the testimony of verses 1-2)) included the Phoenicians. It is more likely the case that David’s defeat of the Philistines, who were part of a larger body of European invaders (from Crete and Greece) known in antiquity as “the Sea Peoples,” proved to be beneficial to the mercantile aspirations of the Phoenicians. Only with David’s defeat of the Sea Peoples does Phoenicia rise again to become a great mercantile power. That is to say, David was every bit as helpful to Hiram, king of Tyre, as the latter was to him. The defeat of these enemies leads to an international recognition of David’s stature and prestige (verse 17).

It is clear that the Chronicler had in mind to suggest a contrast between Saul and David. He does this by contrasting the Battle of Gilboa (10:1) with the Battle of Baalperazim (verses 11-12). In the latter case David took care to “inquire of” the Lord (darash, verse 13), whereas Saul, who had not “inquired of” the Lord (darash, 10:14), “inquired of” (darash, 10:13) a medium instead. Indeed, apparently it was Saul who had put a stop to “inquiring of” the Lord (darash, 13:13). Josephus perceived this contrast, remarking that David “never permitted himself to do anything without prophecy and the command of God, and without depending on Him as a safeguard for the future” (Antiquities 7.4.1).

Adhering closely to the narrative in 2 Samuel 5:17-25, the Chronicler speaks of a second victory over the Philistines (verses 13-16).

Tuesday, October 11

1 Chronicles 15: To house the Ark, David provides a tent, presumably on the model of the Tabernacle that Moses constructed in the desert (Numbers 1:50). When the Ark was brought to Jerusalem this time, it was borne on the shoulders of the Levites (verses 2,15), as Moses determined (Numbers 4:2,15; Deuteronomy 10:8; 31:25; 1 Samuel 6:15). From now on, David insists, there are to be no mistakes on such matters (verse 13).

David perceived what must be perceived by any who would approach God in worship: God determines the nature, structure, and spirit of the worship. Correct (“orthodox”) worship is not the uninformed, spontaneous outpouring of human activity, and the worshipper must be on guard against identifying his own impulses with the agency of the Holy Spirit. Undisciplined, uninformed people are far more likely to act under the impulse of suspect and impure spirits than under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Mere spontaneity and a “sense of fulfillment” are not adequate indications of the agency of the Holy Spirit.

The Chronicler’s introduction of a different subject hints that some time was needed for David to arrive at the perception of this truth. Whereas in 2 Samuel (6:12) David’s motive in again attempting to move the Ark was a response to the blessings poured out on the family of Obed-edom, himself a Levite (16:5,38; Josephus, Antiquities 7.4.2), here in Chronicles David is credited with a deeper perception. He perceived that the real problem was the people’s relative nonchalance and carelessness in the proper conduct of the worship (verses 12-13). He discerned that in worship it is God that measures man, not the other way round.

David perceived that correct worship is not directly and immediately concerned with the religious needs and aspirations of human beings, but with the glory of God, which is inseparable from His holiness. The fundamental ground of true worship is not the religious nature of man, but the manifestation of God. Indeed, any worship that is not a response to God’s Self-revelation must of necessity be idolatrous, the worship of something that man himself creates from the resources of his own religious nature.

For worship to be authentic and true, God Himself takes the initiative. God must be revealed in order for man to worship correctly. Otherwise, man is simply worshipping the works of his own hands, the ideas of his own imagination and reason. Two chapters earlier the divine revelation was of a particularly disturbing kind, resulting in a man’s death, but it was a true revelation nonetheless, and David properly regarded it as such. He perceived that correct worship does not consist in the attempt to express man’s religious aspirations, but in meeting in faith the manifestation of God in His truth. David concluded, therefore, that from now on, everything would be done decently and in order, as determined in the rules that the Lord had given to Moses on the mountain.

This principle pertained first of all to the proper arrangement of the sacred music (verse 16), a matter about which David, himself a musician, took special care. This included instrumental music as well as vocal. This entire section on music (verses 15-24) we owe to the Chronicler.

The references to “Alamoth” and “Sheminith”(verses 20-21) may indicate the high (soprano) chords of the harp and the low (baritone) chords of the lyre. The Hebrew word translated as “music” (verse 22) literally means a “burden.” This sense is suggested even by the expression “to lift the voice” and is indicated in our modern way of saying that someone must “carry a tune.” There will be more about this in Chapter 25.

“All Israel” (verse 38) brought the Ark to the resting place (Psalms 131 [132]:8,14). Once it became clear to this whole assembly—the catholicity of Israel at worship—that the Lord, not man, determines the proper structure and spirit of man’s worship, then the Lord assisted and strengthened the worshippers (verse 26, a detail not found in 2 Samuel).

David himself supervised the worship and took an energetic role in its execution (verses 27,29).

Michal’s scorn of the worship (verse 29) is now contrasted with the enthusiasm of the others, especially the Levites, priests, and singers. Continuing the Chronicler’s contrast between Saul and David, Michal represents the family of Saul, who had failed to “inquire of” the Lord at the Ark.

Wednesday, October 12

1 Chronicles 16: The first three and the final verses of this chapter are the only parts paralleled in 2 Samuel. Josephus himself has none of the material in this chapter.

The psalms appointed for this inaugural celebration of the Ark, sometimes referred to in modern scholarship as “The Enthronement of the Lord,” correspond very closely to texts contained in the Book of Psalms. Thus, verses 8-22 are substantially identical to Psalm 104 (105):1-15, verses 23-34 to Psalm 95 (96):1-13, and verses 35-36 to Psalm 105 (106):47-48.

In deed, verse 36 corresponds to the closing verse of Book 4 of the Psalter. If we were to take that verse apart from that context, forgetting its earlier history in the Book of Psalms, we would imagine that the Babylonian Exile preceded the reign of Solomon!

The title of Psalm 95 (96), which ascribes its composition to David himself, records that it was also used at the dedication of the Second Temple “after the Captivity.” The Chronicler appreciated the significance of its also having been sung at the Ark’s first appearance in Jerusalem more than a half-millennium earlier.

In verse 4 we observe three kinds of prayer: invocation, thanksgiving, and praise.

David’s offering of the sacrifices (verse 2) should be understood in the same sense as his construction of the ritual tent. That is to say, he caused these things to be done by others (verse 1; cf. 15:26). David no more “sacrificed” in the sense of taking the place of the priest than he “built” his house in the sense that he grabbed the chisel to replace the stonemason or the adze to replace the carpenter.

The tent at Jerusalem is distinguished from the one at Gibeon (verse 39), which was instituted by Moses (21:29). It is clear from 1 Kings 3 that the shrine at Gibeon continued to be held in high regard in Israel. This means that for a while Israel had two centers of national worship, and after the translation of the Ark to Jerusalem David took care that the regular sacrifices were still to be offered at Gibeon, along with the sacred chants (verses 40-42). It was to Gibeon that Solomon would have recourse to the Lord at the beginning of his reign.

Thursday, October 13

1 Chronicles 17: In the view of the Chronicler, the Temple was supremely David’s idea. Whereas in 1 Kings its construction is ascribed to Solomon as the fulfillment of a prophecy made to David, in Chronicles Solomon’s role is reduced to carrying out David’s own detailed plans.

This view of David’s place in the planning of the Temple was fixed in Israel’s memory by the insertion of Psalm 131 (132) near the end of the Psalms of Ascent, that section of the Psalter (Psalms 119—133 [120---134]) chanted by the pilgrims as they climbed Mount Zion to worship in the Temple on the high holy days. In this Psalm they called to mind how the construction of God’s house had been David’s idea. Indeed, Solomon is not so much as named in this psalm. Thus, there is a close historical link between this psalm and the theology of the Chronicler.

This present chapter of Chronicles, which is profitably supplemented with 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 88 (89), and Josephus (Antiquities 7.4.4), describes how those plans of David were delayed.

In this scene David wants to build a house (bayith) for the Lord, but in fact God also intends to build a house (bayith) for David (verse 10), a house, which is the lineage of the royal family that will form the Davidic dynasty (verse 12). Only then will there be built a house for the Lord (verse 13). David’s own heir will be established in the Lord’s house (verse 14). In his prayer of response to this oracle of Nathan, David again refers to his own house in the context of that promise (verses 16-17,23-25,27).

Thus, the “house of the Lord,” which is the Temple, and the “house of David,” which is the Davidic throne, are united by an indissoluble theology. We observe how the Chronicler changes “your house and your kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:16) to “My house and My kingdom” (verse 14). God is Lord of it all.

David, in the prayer that he offers in response to this promise, is said to “sit” before the Lord (verse 6; 2 Samuel 7:18). Since this is the only place in the Hebrew Scriptures when someone is said to sit in prayer, it is not surprising that Josephus (loc. cit.) changes the verb to “prostrate.’ The uniqueness in this case, however, suggests that the act of sitting was symbolic, perhaps suggesting a sense of rest in God’s presence, of acquiescence in God’s decision.

It is also possible that this verb was chosen to parallel the Lord’s own “rest” in the Temple that David will design. Thus the psalm we cited earlier: “Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place (menuchah), You and the ark of Your strength. . . This is My resting place (menuchah) forever” (Psalms 131 [132]:8,14). Later on here in 1 Chronicles (28:2), David will use the same Hebrew word for “resting place” that we find in this psalm: “I had it in my heart to build a house of rest ( beth menuchah) for the ark of the covenant of the Lord.”

Later on, the Chronicler will tell us that the reason David was prohibited from actually building the Temple was all the blood he had shed as a warrior (22:8; 28:3). In order to warrant that explanation of the matter, the author proceeds, in this next chapter, to describe David’s military exploits.

Friday, October 14

1 Chronicles 18: These next three chapters are devoted to David’s military campaigns. First comes a mention of his conquest of the Philistines (verse 1), already narrated in detail in 14:9-16. Next are the Moabites (verse 2), whose defeat is told here less graphically than in 1 Samuel 22:3. Moving north, David defeats the Zobahites (verse 3) and the Syrians (verse 5). Subjecting all of these nations to his authority, David really did rule eastward to the Euphrates.

Much of this material, with variations, was available to the Chronicler from 2 Samuel 18:1-14, but not the detail about the bronze shields from Syria. It is entirely consistent with the Chronicler’s interest in Israel’s worship that he should write of Solomon’s use of this bronze in the appointments of the Temple (verse 8).

Turning south, David conquered the Edomites (verses 12-13), gaining thereby a port on the Gulf of Aqaba, opening on to the Red Sea and beyond. In due course Solomon will exploit that seaway for vast commercial ventures.

With respect to the slaying of all those Edomites in verse 12, it must be said that several men seem to have been credited with the feat. Here it is ascribed to Abishai, whereas in Psalms 60 (59):1 it is said of Joab, and in 2 Samuel 8:13 David gets the credit.

With respect to David’s “court” three items are worth mentioning: First, the “Shavsha” who serves as secretary in verse 16 is called “Seriah” in 2 Samuel and “Seisan” by Josephus. Second, the Cerethites and Pelethites in verse 17 are mercenaries in David’s employ. The Cerethites are Cretans, and Pelethites is another name for Philistines.

Third, with respect to David’s sons, whom that same verse calls “chief officials in the service of the king,” there is also some confusion. 2 Samuel 8:18 says they were “priests,” while Josephus (Antiquities 7.5.4) makes them “bodyguards.” Perhaps various of them functioned in various ways at various times, though it is difficult to understand how they could have been priests, since they were of the tribe of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14). It may also be the case, one suspects, that the biblical writers simply never could agree on just what David sons might be good for. Indeed, eventually David had to appoint two other men just to keep an eye on them (27:32).