Friday, October 4

1 Chronicles 9: We have now completed the genealogies of “all Israel,” the name the Chronicler prefers in to distinguish the whole Chosen People as distinct from the Northern Kingdom, known as “Israel” in the Books of Kings. For the Chronicler this word is full of deep religious feeling, as when it serves to describe the religious reforms of King Hezekiah three centuries later (2 Chronicles 30:1,5).

As we have seen, the author of Chronicles was careful to treat last the tribe of Benjamin and the house of Saul among the sons of Israel, because this sequence permitted him to move, almost seamlessly, from mere lists to real narrative. Likewise, this order is an easy step for him now to go to Jerusalem, which sat on the southern border of the tribe of Benjamin.

Jerusalem had not been part of the land inherited by the twelve tribes at the time of Joshua. It remained a Canaanite (or, more specifically, a Jebusite) stronghold until taken by David’s forces in 992 B.C. and made the capital of the united kingdom (2 Samuel 5:6-7). This is why we find Jerusalem, unlike the other cities of the Promised Land, inhabited by Israelites from several of the tribes (verse 3).

Because the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to Jerusalem shortly after it became David’s capital, the city was quickly transformed into a religious center, a whole generation before Solomon’s construction of the Temple there. Hence, it is scarcely surprising that the capital was home to a high number of priest, Levites, and other liturgical ministers (verses 10-22).

The Chronicler describes their several responsibilities (verse 23-34). In this inventory the Chronicler gives special prominence to the Temple’s musicians (verses 14-16), who are listed immediately after the priests (verses 10-13). The Chronicler leaves no doubt about his great respect for the ministry of the Temple choir. Its leaders (6:39; 16:14) were Asaph (verse 15) and Jeduthan (verse 16).

The gatekeepers, especially delegated to preserve the holiness within the Temple, were to emulate that great champion of Israel’s holiness, the priest Phineas (verse 20).

The sections on the singers and gatekeepers, we note, are arranged in chiastic order: A—singers (verses 14-16), B—gatekeepers (verses 17-27), B’—duties of gatekeepers (verses 28-32), and A’—duties of singers (verses 33-34).

In verse 35 the author returns to the genealogy of Saul, in order to prepare for the Battle of Gilboa (1000 B.C.) at the beginning of the next chapter. It is at the death of Saul at that battle that David assumes the throne.

October 5

Luke 9:28-36: Only Luke among the evangelists refers to Jesus speaking of his
suffering and death within the Transfiguration account. Luke writes, “And behold, two men talked with him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to fulfill (pleroun) at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30-31).

In his picture of Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets—discussing
Jesus’ exodus at Jerusalem, Luke touches a major theme of his theology;
namely, the fulfillment (pleroun) of Holy Scripture in Jesus’ sufferings and death in Jerusalem.

Jesus discourses with these major Old Testament characters his coming
fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the very subject on which he will
discourse to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus symbolically correspond to Moses and Elijah here on the mountain.

In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, then, the two representatives of the Law and the Prophets are described as discussing with Jesus his fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. This scene on the mountain brings to perfection Jesus’ early study of the Law and the Prophets in the synagogue at Nazareth.

2 Corinthians 10:12—11:4: Paul engages an obvious irony (verse 12), translated by one scholar as “Well, I really cannot muster the courage to pair myself [enkrinai] or compare myself [synkrinai] with certain persons who are distinguished by much self-commendation [synistano–3:1; 4:2; 5:12; 10:12,18; 12:11].” Unlike these persons, nonetheless, Paul has special claims on the Corinthians as the founder of their congregation (verse 14; 1 Corinthians 3:6,10).

Paul then begins his self-defense against the criticisms of certain roaming preachers who have stirred up controversy at Corinth since his last visit to the place. From Acts and 1 Corinthians we know that Apollos and Cephas had done some evangelization in the city, but it is clear that Paul does not have these men in mind. It is impossible to determine who his critics were.

Was Paul accused of jealousy with respect to those critics? Evidently so, but he explains the motive, nature, and justice of this jealous (verse 2). This jealousy is for Christ, not himself; it is an expression of loving pastoral concern, for he fears the spiritual seduction of the Corinthians (verse 3). After all, the latter have shown themselves disposed to receive and accept new versions of the Good News (verse 4),

Sunday, October 6

Luke 9:37-50: Sometimes two Gospel stories are placed in sequence to illustrate an irony. Long recognized as an example of this style is the juxtaposition of the Lord’s Transfiguration on the mountain with his healing of the little boy at the base of the mountain.260 Perhaps the most famous observation of this parallel is found in Rafael’s portrait of the Transfiguration, where the bottom half of the canvas depicts the chaotic scene of the little boy
and his distressed father, surrounded by a crowd and the Apostles, who are unable to help them.

Jesus inquires about the little boy’s medical history: “How long has he been like this?” This is not a medical inquiry, however, but a pastoral question. What Jesus is really saying is, “Talk to me about the child.”

This is significant: Jesus wants to hear the story. It is important to him to hear the story, so he invites the boy’s father to tell the story. Each person who comes to Jesus has a personal narrative, and Jesus, who already knows the story, still wants to listen to it. To Jesus it is important that each person tells him his own story.

Divine revelation is conveyed, not only in what God says to man, but also in what man says to God. God’s story does not exclude men’s stories. It contains them, rather. What Jeremiah says to God is part of what God reveals to us through Jeremiah. The questions Habakkuk addresses to God are just as revelatory as the answers God gives to Habakkuk. So, too, with Job. The prayers of the Psalmist contain the narrative that God wants to hear from the human soul. Revelation is a two-way street.

2 Corinthians 11:5-21: It appears that Paul’s humble demeanor at Corinth, where he was supported by his own labor (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 9:18) and the financial support received from Macedonia (verse 9; Philippians 2:25; 4:10-20), made him the object of derision among his critics (verse 7). This suggests that Paul’s critics at Corinth may have enjoyed a higher social status, even as they accepted the support of the Corinthians. Since Paul did, in fact, accept support from other churches, it would seem that he had early sized up the spirit of the Corinthians and concluded that to accept their support would not be prudent in this case. Sometimes, after all, financial support comes with certain undisclosed obligations that will eventually render the recipient a debtor.

Paul’s language concerning his critics contains some of the harshest expressions to come from his pen.

Then, Paul commences his autobiographical apologetic, recounting at length the various sufferings and trials attendant on his ministry, aware that his readers may regard his comments only as an exercise in foolishness (verse 16).

With sarcasm Paul comments that the Corinthians are already accustomed to tolerating foolishness, themselves being so wise (verse 19; 1 Corinthians 4:10). Their tolerance is so great that they have already been outrageously treated by the false itinerant teachers (verse 20). Their enslavement (katadouloi) at the hands of these teachers puts us in mind of the earlier situation in Galatia, where “false brothers” brought free Christians back under the slavery of the Law (katadoulousin–Galatians 2:4). The Corinthians have been similarly mistreated.

Monday, October 7

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 dhe 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.

Tuesday, October 8

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.

With respect to Uzziah, the man who stretched forth his hand to steady the Ark so that it would not fall, it will seem to many modern readers that he got a sort of bum rap. After all, his intentions (to the extent that he could be said to have any) were not reprehensible. Generations of commentators have tried to find some moral failing in the man that would explain the severity of his punishment.

For example, Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 7.4.2) believed that Uzziah died because he was assuming the rights of the priesthood (cf. Numbers 4:15; Hebrews 5:4). This is an unnecessary interpretation. There is nothing in the Sacred Text to suggest a moral failing on Uzziah’s part.

The forgotten premise in such an interpretation of the story is that, according to the Bible, holiness is a very physical thing. And it is also a very dangerous thing. Uzziah learned that truth the hard way. Like the Corinthians later on, he died because he failed to “discern” what he was dealing with when he touched the sacred (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The things of God are not what we want or understand them to be. God Himself determines what they are, and God has not the slightest concern for our own interpretations of them. Someone approaching the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner may or not believe that he is receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. If he receives that Mystery without faith, it is still the Body and Blood of the Lord, and the receiver will partake of damnation.

The holiness is real and objective. It has nothing to do with man’s recognition of it. The trespasser who is electrocuted when climbing too high on a high voltage tower perishes without regard to his own understanding of what he is about, or his personal theories on electricity, or his perhaps laudable intentions. “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow” (Hebrews 12:20).

Wednesday, October 9

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 suggest 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).

Thursday,. October 10

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 no 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 around.

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.

Friday, October 11

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 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 constructing 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.