Sunday, October 12
1 Chronicles 12: 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.
Take the Iliad, for instance. The descriptions of the various battles at the gates of Troy emphasize 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, in the Iliad.
What we have at the end of 1 Chronicles 11 and here through Chapter 12 are similar lists of outstanding famous warriors who through 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), Manesseh (verses 19-22), and so on. This attention to the individual tribes represented in DavidŐs band helps to emphasize that David was the choice of all Israel.
In the midst of this 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 your, O David" expresses the enthusiasm of the whole kingdom.
Monday, October 13
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 JerusalemŐs theological importance. He first tells the story of DavidŐs 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 been somewhat neglected (verse 3). As a religious and historical symbol, however, it was a thing without peer in IsraelŐs experience. It evoked Moses and the Exodus and the Covenant and a thousand things in IsraelŐs 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 SaulŐs time (verse 3), David will consult it. Perhaps this is why Michal, SaulŐs daughter, will scoff at DavidŐs devout treatment of the Ark (15:29). Twice in the next chapter we will find DavidŐs 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 GodŐs revelation of His will.
Though he had no trouble getting the Israelites to agree with his plans for the Ark, David found that getting GodŐs cooperation in the project was a bit 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). DavidŐs 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 Ń 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 UzziahŐs 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. 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).
Tuesday, October 14
1 Chronicles 14: The three monthsŐ delay in the execution of DavidŐs plan (13:14) now permits the author to treat of the geopolitical matters contained in 2 Samuel 5, which he had earlier postponed.
The reference to DavidŐs 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 DavidŐs concubines in 2 Samuel 5:13. Although he also excises DavidŐs adulterous affair with Bathsheba, he does here include a reference to Solomon, BathshebaŐs son (verse 4).
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 DavidŐs 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. 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 DavidŐs stature and prestige (verse 17).
Wednesday, October 15
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 is brought to Jerusalem this time, it is 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). Everything will be done decently and in order.
This principle pertains 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 includes instrumental music as well as vocal. 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.
Thursday, October 16
1 Chronicles 16: MichalŐs scorn of the worship (15:29) is now contrasted with the enthusiasm of the others, especially the Levites, priests, and singers. The psalms appointed for this celebration correspond to texts contained in the Book of Psalms. Thus, verses 8-22 are substantially identical to Psalm 105 (104):1-15, verses 23-34 to Psalm 96 (95):1-13, and verses 35-36 to Psalm 106 (105):47-48. In deed, verse 36 corresponds to the closing verse of Book 4 of the Psalter. The title of Psalm 96 (95), 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 ArkŐs first appearance in Jerusalem more than a half-millennium earlier.
In verse 4 we observe three kinds of prayer: invocation, thanksgiving, and praise.
DavidŐs 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).
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.
Friday, October 17
1 Chronicles 17: In the view of the Chronicler, the temple was supremely DavidŐs idea. Whereas in 1 Kings its construction is ascribed to Solomon as the fulfillment of a prophecy made to David, in Chronicles SolomonŐs role is reduce to carrying out DavidŐs own detailed plans.
This present chapter, which is profitably supplemented with 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 89 (88), and Josephus (Antiquities 7.4.4), describes how those plans were delayed.
David want to build a house (bayith) for the Lord, but in fact God also to build a house (bayith) for David (verse 10), a house which is the lineage of the royal family that will form his dynasty (verse 12). Only then will there be built a house for the Lord (verse 13). DavidŐs own heir will be established in the LordŐs 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).
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 justify that account of the matter, the author proceeds, in this next chapter, to describe DavidŐs military exploits.
Saturday, October 18
1 Chronicles 18: These next three chapters are devoted to DavidŐs military campaigns. First comes his conquest of the Philistines (verse 1), already narrated 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.
Turning south, he conquered the Edomites (verses 12-13), gaining thereby a port on the Gulf of Aquaba, opening on to the Red Sea and beyond. In due course Solomon will exploit that seaway for commercial purposes. With respect to the slaying of all those Edomites in verse 12, it must be said that several men seem to have claimed credit for the feat. Here it is ascribed to Abishai, whereas in Psalms 60 (59):1 it is said of Joab, while in 2 Samuel 8:13 David gets the credit.
The "Shavsha" who serves as secretary in verse 16 is called "Seriah" in 2 Samuel and "Seisan" by Josephus.
The Cerethites and Pelethites in verse 17 are mercenaries. The Cerethites are Cretans, and Pelethites seems to be another name for Philistines.
With respect to DavidŐs sons, whom that same verse calls "chief officials in the service of the king," there is also some apparent 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 that the biblical writers simply never could agree on just what David sons might be good for. Indeed, eventually David had to appoint two men just to keep an eye on them (27:32).