Sunday, October 19
1 Chronicles 19: The Ammonite kings, apparently slow learners, demonstrated a consistent penchant for bad decisions. It was this same Nahash, we recall, whose rash treatment of Jabesh-Gilead provoked the crisis that brought Saul to power more than twenty years earlier (1 Samuel 11). Now, Nahash having died (repentant), his son also acts irresponsibly, in curing the wrath of David (verses 1-5). The provocation described here differs only slightly from the account in 2 Samuel 10:1-9.
Even before David had time to react, the Ammonites began to prepare for war. This was not DavidŐs first time to be thus provoked by a stupid man. One recalls his prompt wrath at an earlier incident when the churlish Nabal treated DavidŐs emissaries with disdain (1 Samuel 25).
The ensuing war against the Ammonites and Syrians was the occasion on which David and Joab conspired to murder Uriah the Hittite, but we have already noticed that the Chronicler tends to keep his work innocent of such seamy behavior.
Monday, October 20
1 Chronicles 20: This chapter, which treats mainly of trouble with the Philistines , begins by completing the ChroniclerŐs treatment of the Ammonites. In verse 2 the expression "their king" (malkom) should probably be read as the "Milkom," who was the major Ammonite god (cf. 1 Kings 11:5). (The error here doubtless occurred when later Jewish copyists inserted the wrong vowel marks into the text.) This suggested textual emendation is bolstered by the Septuagint, which gives the equivalent Greek name, "Molchol" (known elsewhere as Moloch).
Between verses 3 and 4, the Chronicler skips over the entire story of Amnon and Absalom and the rebellion, all the material in 2 Samuel 13:1Ń21:17. Sparing the reader that entire scandalous episode, he continues in verse 4, which corresponds to 2 Samuel 21:18.
Tuesday, October 21
1 Chronicles 21: With their nearly identical stories of the census, we perceive the great difference between the Chronicler and the author of Samuel. Whereas in 2 Samuel 24 the account of the census appears to be set apart, as it were, and treated outside the sequence of the narrative, the Chronicler puts it right here in the middle of DavidŐs career.
This difference is only apparent, however. In Chronicles the story only seems to come earlier in the reign of David, because the Chronicler has skipped so much of that reign. On the other hand, in these next nine chapters he will include a great deal of material that is not found in 2 Samuel, material that relates entirely to DavidŐs plan for the coming temple.
The Chronicler ascribes DavidŐs temptation to "Satan" (verse 1), a demonic figure with whom the Jews became familiar during the Babylonian Captivity and the Persian period. This "Shatan" (as he is called in Zoroastrian literature of that time) appears in the post-exilic books of Job and Zechariah. The name means "adversary," as in Numbers 22:22. In due course Satan will be recognized as identical with the serpentine tempter who seduced our first parents (cf. Wisdom 2:24; John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; 20:2).
As an expression of DavidŐs pride, ambition, and hubris, the census is regarded by both 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles as something less than his finest hour. Even Joab, hardly a moral giant, recognizes that something is not quite right about it (verses 3,6; compare 2 Samuel 24:3).
Wednesday, October 22
1 Chronicles 22: In 2 Samuel 24:30 the plague story is followed immediately by DavidŐs old age and death, but here in Chronicles David is just getting started, as it were. (Yet, we are dealing with exactly the same time-frame!) DavidŐs real and best work, for the Chronicler, still lies aheadŃnamely, the temple. He promptly begins to assemble the material for this great enterprise (verses 2-3).
Solomon is still young (verse 5). We can only guess how old he was at his accession. Not even the Jews could agree; Josephus estimated that Solomon was fourteen, and Rashi said twelve. 1 Kings, on the other hand seems to make him fully an adult. In any case, David gives the young man proper instruction with respect to the temple (verses 7-16). Moses passed on to his successor, Joshua, the authority to conquer the Promised Land, so David here authorizes his successor to build the LordŐs house.
In verse 9 there is a play on various words have to do with "peace" (shalom). SolomonŐs name, ShŐlomo, means "his peace," and Shalem is an ancient variant for Jerusalem. This emphasis on peace in DavidŐs last exhortation to Solomon stands in sharp contrast to the final instructions about blood-vengeance that David gives to Solomon in 1 Kings.
Thursday, October 23
1 Chronicles 23: This chapter begins by elaborating the scene in 1 Kings 1 into a full blown co-regency, as it were. Then comes a long section on the Levites. After telling us (in 21:6) that the Levites were not counted, the Chronicler now gives us a detailed count of them.
The high quality of the liturgy in the temple may be gauged by the fact that it had an orchestra of four-thousand (verse 5). (With respect to DavidŐs interest in musical instruments, see 7:6; 29:26; Nehemiah 12:36; Josephus, Antiquities 7.12.3.) This figure suggests massive, continuous praise (verse 6). In verse 30 we find early evidence for the beginning of those two major hours of daily Christian prayer, Matins and Vespers.
Verses 21-22 demonstrate the common biblical meaning of the expression "brothers and sisters." In these verses it is logically impossible for the young ladies, who are described as having no brothers, to marry their brothers, if we depended on the standard English use of those terms. Clearly these women are marrying their cousins, for which there is no special word in either Hebrew or Aramaic. This usage must be borne in mind when we read about the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus in the New Testament. The expression is properly interpreted in accord with the traditional view, held by the entire Christian tradition (including the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century) that the Mother of Jesus, whose very body was consecrated by the Divine SonŐs becoming incarnate in her womb, remained a virgin all her life.
Friday, October 24
1 Chronicles 24: The Chronicler now runs through the courses of the priests, who took their turns at the various liturgical functions in the sanctuary. There "the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services" (Hebrews 9:6). There they stood, "ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices that could never take away sins" (10:11).
All of this worship was symbolic of the liturgy of heaven, where the true high priest, Jesus the Lord, "entered into the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (9:12). Accordingly the twenty-four courses of the priests in this chapter of 1 Chronicles corresponds to the heavenly sanctuaryŐs twenty-four elders who worship day and night before the Throne (Revelation 4:4,10), offering the prayers of the saints (5:8).
Particularly to be noted in this list is the eighth course, that of Abijah (verse 10). In due time one of the priests of AbijahŐs course, Zachary (Luke 1:5), would draw the lot to offer incense in the sanctuary (1:8-9). It was the beginning of all good things.
Saturday, October 25
1 Chronicles 25: Corresponding to the twenty-four courses of the officiating priests we now have an equal number of groups of temple musicians.
Particularly to be noted in this chapter is the ease with which the Chronicler associates music with prophecy. Thus, the musicians are said to "prophesy with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals" (verse 1), and the author speaks of "their father Jeudthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord" (verse 3). Earlier, in Chapter 15, we observed that the very expression "to lift up the voice" suggested that music was a burden of some kind. Indeed, the word employed there, massaŐ, which comes from the root nsŐ ("to lift"), also means "oracle." So often in the prophetic writings we find the expression "the burden of the Lord" in the sense of a prophetic statement. No one in antiquity questioned the relationship between prophecy and music, not even Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 10:5). It was not unknown, "when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him" (2 Kings 3:15). In the Bible one moves easily from the prophets to the psalms (cf. Luke 24:44), and the BibleŐs chief musician, David, is also called a prophet.