Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 12
We considered 1 Chronicles 11 in our prior Scripture reading, and the names of the mighty men, the great men of war, who were the leaders of the tribes of Israel when David was ordained king of a united Israel. 1 Chronicles 12continues a registry of the names of warriors who distinguished themselves on the battlefield, and were loyal to David.
Consider four groups of men and tribes who swore allegiance to David (12:1-40)
The first, the men of Benjamin who joined David when he was exiled from Israel, and living among the Philistines in Ziklag (12:1-7). Ziklag served as David’s stronghold during his fugitive years. Recalling Saul was a Benjaminite, the betrayal of skilled warriors from his own tribe had to have been discouraging for the king. The men of Benjamin were skilled, formidable warriors, and “could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow” (12:2; Judges 20:16).
Joining David’s band of men earlier than the Benjamites (12:1-7), were the men of the tribe of Gad. They came to David while he lived in the wilderness. “The Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold [i.e., stronghold] to the wilderness men of might” (12:8). They were a welcome addition to David’s band for they brought with them skills that had been proven in battle. Strong and powerful, they were prepared to battle hand-to-hand (for the buckler was a small shield used in sword warfare). In battle, the faces of the Gadites displayed the fierceness of lions, and they were flight of foot, as “swift as the roes [gazelles] upon the mountains” (12:8). Eleven great men of Gad were named (12:9-13), and they are remembered for swimming across the Jordan River in flood stage to join David (12:15).
Coming at a later date than the Benjamites and Gadites, were other “children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David” (12:16). David went out to prove the credibility of those latecomers, and proposed a treaty, saying, “If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it” (12:17). Speaking on behalf of the men of Benjamin and Judah, Amasai swore his allegiance to David, saying, “Thine are we, David, And on thy side, thou son of Jesse [who was of the tribe of Judah]: Peace, peace be unto thee, And peace be to thine helpers; For thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band” (12:18).
1 Chronicles 12:19-22 is a reminder of the time that David and his men had sought refuge from King Saul, and lived among the Philistines (1 Samuel 29-30). When the Philistines went up to battle Israel, their leaders refused to allow David to be among them, fearing he would lead his men turn on them in the midst of the battle with King Saul’s army (12:19; 1 Samuel 29). When David withdrew from the battle, there were many men of Manasseh who deserted Saul, and joined with David (12:20). They, like others of Israel, were men of war, and strengthened David’s hand in Israel (12:21-22).
1 Chronicles 12:23-40 gives us the names of the tribes, and the number of men who came together at Hebron to “to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord” (12:23; 2 Samuel 5:1-5). I will not take time to enumerate the tribes and the thousands of men who swore their allegiance to David, but I invite you to consider the character of those men who were confident that God had chosen David to be king of Israel.
Judah’s men came bearing “shield and spear,” and were ready for battle (12:24). The men of Simeon were “mighty men of valour for the war” (12:25). The men of Issachar had insight and discernment (12:32), and those of Zebulun were “expert in war, with all instruments of war” (12:33). They did not break rank in battle, and flee. They were “not of double heart,” but were stable and trustworthy (12:33).
One hundred thousand men from Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, tribes on the east side of the Jordan River came to Hebron, “to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king” (12:38).
The tribes of Israel celebrated David’s coronation with a three-day festival (12:39), enjoying meats, cakes, wine, and oil that were supplied by the nearest tribes, Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali (12:40).
Closing thought – Our Scripture reading ends on a memorable note, “for there was joy in Israel” (12:40).
Though there was “one heart,” and “joy in Israel,” David lived in a sinful, fallen world, and in the midst of a sinful people. While children’s storybooks sometimes end with the phrase, “They lived happily ever after,” that summary is beyond man’s reach in this mortal life. In fact, the next chapter in David’s life will prove tragic (1 Chronicles 13).
There is joy when the hearts of God’s people, and their leaders are intertwined and dedicated to the glory of God; however, know such joy is fleeting. I encourage you: Embrace the joy of unity, and love one another! (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:7).
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith