Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 12

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In our prior Bible study (1 Chronicles 11), we reviewed the names of the “mighty men,” the great warriors of Israel, when that nation joined with Judah and crowned David king. 1 Chronicles 12 continued a registry of the names of those warriors who distinguished themselves on the battlefield and were loyal to David.

Four Groups of Men and Tribes who Swore Allegiance to David (1 Chronicles 12:1-40)

Defectors from the Tribe of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 12:1-7)

The men of Benjamin had served David when he was exiled from Israel and lived among the Philistines in Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:1-7), David’s stronghold during his fugitive years. 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” (1 Chronicles 12:2; Judges 20:16). Recalling Saul was a Benjaminite, the betrayal of skilled warriors from his tribe must have disheartened the king.

Defectors from the Tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 12:8-15)

Warriors from the tribe of Gad (1 Chronicles 12:1-7) joined those of Benjamin and came to David in the wilderness. We read that “the Gadites separated themselves unto David into the hold [i.e., stronghold] to the wilderness men of might” (1 Chronicles 12:8). They were a welcome addition to David’s band of fugitives.

The Gadites were skilled warriors and prepared for hand-to-hand combat, for the buckler was a small shield used in sword warfare (1 Chronicles 12:8). They were aggressive warriors, and in battle, the faces of the Gadites displayed the fierceness of lions. They were also light of foot, as “swift as the roes [gazelles] upon the mountains” (1 Chronicles 12:8). Eleven great men of Gad were named (1 Chronicles 12:9-13), and they are remembered for swimming across the Jordan River in flood stage to join David (1 Chronicles 12:15).

Other Defectors from Benjamin and Gad (1 Chronicles 12:16-18)

Joining at a later date were other “children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David” (1 Chronicles 12:16). To prove the credibility of the latecomers, David 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” (1 Chronicles 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).


Defectors from the Tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 12:19-22)

1 Chronicles 12:19-22 reminds us of when David and his men sought refuge from King Saul and lived among the Philistines (1 Samuel 29-30). When the Philistines went to battle with Israel, their leaders refused to permit David and his men to be numbered among them. They feared that amid the fight with King Saul’s army, David would turn his men against them and be reconciled to Saul (1 Chronicles 12:19; 1 Samuel 29).

When David withdrew from the battle, many men of Manasseh deserted Saul and joined him (1 Chronicles 12:20). Like others of Israel, they were men of war and strengthened David’s hand in Israel (1 Chronicles 12:21-22).


Soldiers Who Rallied to David After Saul’s Death (1 Chronicles 12:23-40)

The names of the tribes and the number of armed men who came to Hebron after Saul’s death are recorded in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40. They came to align with David and “to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 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. I do, however, invite you to consider the character of the men who were confident that God had chosen David to be king of Israel.

Judah’s men came bearing “shield and spear.” They were ready for battle (1 Chronicles 12:24). The men of Simeon were described as “mighty men of valour for the war” (1 Chronicles 12:25). The men of Issachar had insight and discernment (1 Chronicles 12:32). Those of Zebulun were “expert in war, with all instruments of war” (1 Chronicles 12:33). They did not break rank in battle, and flee. They were “not of double heart” but were stable and trustworthy (1 Chronicles 12:33).

The Rally to Support and Crown David King (1 Chronicles 12:38-40)

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” (1 Chronicles 12:38).

The tribes of Israel celebrated David’s coronation with a three-day festival (1 Chronicles 12:39). They enjoyed meats, cakes, wine, and oil that were supplied by the nearest tribes, Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali (1 Chronicles 12:40).


Closing thoughts

1 Chronicles 12 concluded on a memorable note–The men of Israel were “of one heart to make David king” (12:38), and “there was “joy in Israel” (1 Chronicles 12:40). 

Yet, like us, David lived in a fallen world and served a nation of sinners. 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. Tragically, the next chapter in David’s life will prove tragic (1 Chronicles 13).

Believer, there is joy when the hearts of God’s people and their leaders are intertwined and dedicated to the glory of God. Yet, such joy is temporal and fleeting. Nevertheless, we should encourage one another, 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 © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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