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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 12

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-7



1 Samuel 27:1-31:13; 2 Samuel 4:4; 1 Chronicles 10:14; 1 Chronicles 12:1-7

Let us analyze David’s sin of despair, and give the train of sins and embarrassments that follow. The first line tells us of his sin of despair, 1 Samuel 27:1: "And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." It is a sad thing to appear in the life of David, this fit of the "blues" that came on him, and was utterly unjustifiable. In fact, he is done with Saul forever. Saul will never harm him again, and he is very late in fearing that he will one day perish by the hand of Saul. It reminds us of Elijah under the juniper tree, praying that he might die in his despair, when God never intended him to die at all – but to take him to heaven without death. It was unjustifiable because the promises to him were that he should be king, and he should not have supposed that God’s word would fail. It is unjustifiable because up to this time he had been preserved from every attack of Saul, and the argument in his mind should be, "I will be preserved unto the end."

The distrust of God sometimes comes to the best people. I don’t claim to be among the best people. I am an average kind of a man, trying my level best to do right, and generally optimistic – and no man is ever whipped until he is whipped inside, and it is a very rare thing that I am whipped inside. Whenever I am it lasts a very short time. I don’t stay whipped long. But we may put it down as worthy of consideration in our future life that whenever we get into the state of mind the Israelites were in about the Canaanites – that we are "mere grasshoppers in their sight and in our own sight," then our case is pitiable. Let us never take the grasshopper view of ourselves.

That was the first sin, the succumbing of his faith; the temporary eclipsing of his faith. The next sin is this: "There is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines." Had he forgotten about God? Had he forgotten that he had tried that Philistine crowd once and had to get away from there without delay? Had he forgotten when he went over into Moab and was told by the prophet to get back to his own country? God would take care of him. That sin is the child of the other.

His third sin was that before taking such a decisive step he didn’t ask God – a very unusual thing for him. Generally when anything perplexed him he called for the Ephod and the high priest and asked the Lord what he should do, but he is so unnerved through fear of Saul that he does not stop to ask what God has to say, and so that is a twin to the second sin, that was born of the original one. Without consulting anybody he gathers up his followers with their women, children, and everything that they have, and goes down to Gath, and there commits his next sin. He makes an alliance with the king of Gath and becomes tributary to him.

That in turn leads to another sin. He is bound to fight against the enemies of God’s cause, and so, occupying a town, Ziklag, bestowed upon him by the Philistine king, he marches out secretly and makes war on the Geshurites and Ginzites and Amalekites, and for fear that somebody would be spared to tell the Philistines that he was killing their allies, he kills them all, men, women, and children. Now, if he had been carrying out a plan of Jehovah he would have been justified, but the record says that he did it for fear that if he left any one of them alive they would report the fact to King Achish of Gath. His next sin is to tell a lie about it. We call it "duplicity," but it was a sure-enough lie. He made the impression on Achish’s mind when he went out on this expedition that he was going against Judah, which pleased the Philistine king very much, for if he was fighting against Judah, then Judah would hate him and the breach would be widened between him and his own people.

We now come to another sin. Each sin leads to another. The Philistines determined to make a decisive war against Saul, and not to approach him in the usual way, but to follow up the boundary of the Mediterranean Sea and strike across through the very center of Palestine and cut the nation in two from the valley of Esdraelon. So Achish says to David, "You must go with us. You are our guest and ally and occupying a town I gave you." So David marches along with his dauntless 600, and evidently against the will of his own men, as we will see later. He does go with the Philistines to the very battlefield, and when they get there the Philistines, seeing that he is with the court of the king, object to’ his presence and will not allow him to go to the battle with them. So he returned to the land of the Philistines.

I have no idea that he ever intended to strike a blow against Saul. I feel perfectly sure of it. When the battle was raging he would have attacked the Philistines in the flank with his 600 men, but he made the impression on the mind of the king that he would fight with them against Saul. The providence of God kept him from committing that sin.

These are the six sins resulting from getting into the wrong place just one time. I don’t say he won’t get into the place again, but this time he certainly was cowed. A man can’t commit just one sin. A sin can outbreed an Australian rabbit. The hunter sometimes thinks he sees just one quail, but when he flushes him, behold there is a pair or maybe a covey! There is a proverb that whoever tells a lie ought to have a good memory, else he will tell some more covering that one up, forgetting his first statement. I am sorry to bring out this charge against David, but I will have a much bigger one to bring out before we are done with him. He is one of the best men that ever lived, but all the good men that I know have their faults.

I have never yet been blest with the sight of a sinless man. I know there are some people who claim to be perfect and sinless, but I don’t know any who really are. A great modern sermon was preached on this despair of David, taking that first line as a text: "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." The preacher was John McNeil, who is called the "modern Spurgeon." He has charge of one of the livest churches in London and has published several volumes of sermons. This is the first in one of his books, and it is a great one.

This sin of David was punished in two ways. While he was off following the Philistines to the battlefield, these same Amalekites that he had been troubling so much, swooped down on Ziklag – the town given to David by Achish – and there being no defenders present, nobody but the women and children, they burned the town. They didn’t kill any one, but they took all the women and the children and the livestock and the furniture and everything – made as clean a sweep as you ever saw, including both of David’s wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. The second punishment was that his own men, who didn’t want to go up with the Philistines, wanted to stone him for what bad happened when he was gone. His life was in danger.

But he recovered himself from this sin. When he saw the destruction of Ziklag and the temper of his men, the text says that David "greatly encouraged his heart in God and called for the high priest and the Ephod." What a pity he hadn’t called for him sooner! But God is quick to answer readily, and forgive his erring children, and to put away their sin, and the answer comes through the Ephod to David’s questions: "Shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them?" and God’s answer comes as quick as lightning, "Pursue them, for you shall overtake them and you shall recover all." That was a very fine reply for a sinner to get when his troubles arose from his own sin, and so he does pursue them with his 600 men, and David in pursuit of a foe was like the Texas rangers. If a man’s horse gave out they left it. If a man himself gave out they left him. They just kept pursuing until they found and struck the enemy. That was the way with David.

A third of his force, 200 of his brave men, when they got to a certain stream of water, could not go any farther. He had to leave them and go with just 400 men. Out in the desert he finds a slave of one of the Amalekites, an Egyptian, starving to death. He had had nothing to eat for three days. David fed him, and asked him if he would guide them to the camp of the Amalekites. He said he would if they would never let his master get him again, and David came upon them while they were feasting and rejoicing over the great spoils. He killed all of them except about 400 young men who rode on camels. They got away. Camels are hard to overtake by infantry. They are very swift. And your record says that David recovered every man, woman, and child and every stick of furniture, besides all the rich spoils these desert pirates bad been gathering in for quite a while, cattle and stock of every kind.

David made the following judicious uses of the victory:

1. On the return, when they got to where those 200 were left behind, certain tough characters in his army did not want the 200 men to share in the spoils. They could have their wives and children, but nothing else. David not only refused to follow that plan, but established a rule dating from that time, that whoever stayed behind, with the baggage must share equally with those that went to the front. These men did not want to stay, but they couldn’t go any farther.

At the battle of San Jacinto, Houston had sternly to detail a certain number of his men to keep the camp, and they wept because they were not allowed to go into the battle. Those men that were detailed to stay in camp ought to be counted as among the victors of the battle of San Jacinto, and history go counts them.

2. The second judicious use that he made of the spoils captured from these Amalekites was to send large presents to quite a number of the southern cities of Judah that had been friendly to him and his men. He was always a generoushearted man. That made a good deal of capital for David. Even had he been acting simply as a politician, that was the wisest thing he could have done. But he simply followed his heart.

There were great accessions to David at Ziklag. The text tells us, 1 Chronicles 12:1-7, that there were about twenty-three mighty men, some of whom were Benjamites, who had come from Saul’s tribe, and they were right-handed and left handed. They could shoot an arrow with either hand. They could use either hand to sling a stone, and among these twenty-three were some of the most celebrated champions of single combat ever known in the world’s history. One of them, Jashobeam, in one fight killed 300 men with one spear.

It is important for us to note just here the Mosaic law against necromancy, or an appeal to the dead by the living through a medium, i.e., a wizard, if a man, or a witch, if a woman, and wherein lies the sin of necromancy, which relates exclusively to trying to gather information from the dead. The law of Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, is very explicit that no Israelite should ever try to gather information from the dead through a wizard or a witch, and the reason is that hidden things belong to God and revealed things to us and our children. The only lawful way to information concerning what lies beyond the grave is an appeal to Jehovah, and if God does not disclose it, let it alone. The prophetic teaching on this subject is found in the famous passage in Isaiah: "Woe to them that seek to wizards and witches that chirp and mutter. Why should the living seek unto the dead instead of unto the living God?"

Early in his reign Saul had rigidly enforced the Mosaic law putting the wizards and witches to death, or driving them out of the country.

There are several theories of interpretation concerning the transaction in 1 Samuel 28:11-19, but I will discuss only three of them. Saul himself goes to the witch of Endor and asks her to call up Samuel, making an inquiry of the dead through a medium, wanting information that God had refused to give him. These are the theories:

1. Some hold that there was no appearance of Samuel himself nor an impersonation of him by an evil spirit; that there was nothing supernatural, but only a trick of imposture by the witch, like many modern tricks by mediums and spirit rappers, and that the historian merely records what appeared to be on the surface. That is the first theory. That is the theory of the radical critics, who oppose everything supernatural, and you know without my telling you what my opinion is of that theory. There are indeed many tricks of imposture by pretended fortunetellers, and some of them are marvelous, but such impostures do not account for all the facts.

2. Others hold that there was a real appearance of Samuel, but -the witch didn’t bring him up; she was as much if not more, startled than Saul when he came; that God himself interfered, permitting Samuel to appear to the discomfiture of the witch, who cried out when she saw him, and to pronounce final judgment on Saul. They quote in favor of this theory Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 14:7-8: "Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? . . . For every one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that separateth himself from me, and taketh his idols into his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet to inquire for himself of me; I, Jehovah, will answer him by myself; and I will set my face against that man, and will make him an astonishment, for a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people." They interpret this passage to mean that when a man violated God’s law,. as Saul and this witch did, that God took it upon himself to answer, and answered through Samuel.

That theory is the Jewish view throughout the ages. According to the Septuagint rendering of 1 Chronicles 10:13, "Saul asked counsel of her that had a familiar spirit, and Samuel made answer to him." It further appears to be the Jewish view by the apocryphal book Sirach 46:20, which says, "After his death Samuel prophesied and showed the king his end, and lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy." The Jewish view further appears in Josephus who thinks that Samuel was really there, but that God sent him; not that the witch had brought him up or could do it. This view was adopted by many early Christian writers; for example, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Augustine, all great men, and this view is held more and more by modern commentators, among them, for instance, Edersheim, in his History of Israel, and Kirkpatrick in the "Cambridge Bible," and Blaikie in the "Expositor’s Bible," and Taylor in his History of David and His Times. All those books I have recommended; they all take that second view.

3. Now here is the third theory of interpretation. First, there is such a thing as necromancy, in which, through mediums possessed of evil spirits which spirits do impersonate the dead and do communicate with the living. This theory holds that the case of Saul and the witch of Endor is in point – that an evil spirit (for this woman is said to have had a familiar spirit; she was possessed with an evil spirit and the business of these evil spirits in their demoniacal possession is to impersonate dead people;) caused the semblance of Samuel to appear and speak through his mouth. This theory claims that the scripture in Job 3:17, to wit: "When the good man dies he goes where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest," would be violated if this had really been Samuel, who said, "Wherefore hast thou disquieted me?" And whoever this man was that appeared did say that.

If God had sent him he could not very well have used that language. God had a right to do as he pleased, but Saul had no right to try to call back a dead man to get information from him. This theory also claims that the prophecy pronounced by that semblance of Samuel was not true, but it would have been true if Samuel had said it. That prophecy says, "Tomorrow thou and thy sons shall be with me," but Saul didn’t die until three days later; on the third day the battle of Gilboa was fought, and that Samuel, neither dead nor alive, would have told a falsehood. Very many early Christian writers adopt this theory, among them Tertullian and Jerome, the author of the Vulgate or Latin version of the Bible, and nearly all of the reformers, Luther, Calvin, and all those mighty minds that wrought out the reformation. They took the position that the evil spirit simulated Samuel. Those who hold to this theory further say that unless this is an exception, nowhere else in the Word of God is any man who died mentioned as coming back with a message to the living except the Lord; that he is the first to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel after he had abolished death. They do not believe that the circumstances in this case warrant an exception to the rule that applies to the whole Bible, and particularly they quote the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man asks that Lazarus might go back to the other world with a message to his brethren, and it was refused on the ground that they have Moses and the prophets, and if a man won’t hear Moses and the prophets neither would he hear though one rose from the dead. That makes a strong case.

Certainly the first theory is not true, and the other two theories are advocated with such plausibility and force that I will leave you to take whatever side you please. My own opinion is that Samuel was not there, but on a matter of this kind let us not be dogmatic. Let us do our own thinking and we will be in good company no matter which of these last theories we adopt.

A great many years ago, when spirit rapping was sweeping over the country, it was a custom among Methodist preachers to tell about visitations they had from the dead, and warnings that they had received, and J. R. Graves fought it. He said that it was against the written law of God, the law of Moses and the prophets, and our Lord and his apostles, and that we didn’t need any revelations from dead people, whereupon a Methodist preacher named Watson challenged him to debate the question and they did debate it. Graves stood on this position: There isn’t a case in the Bible where one who died was allowed to come back with a message to the living but Jesus only, and he is the only traveler that has ever returned from that bourne to throw light on the state of the dead. In the debate, of course, the central case was that of Saul, the witch of Endor and Samuel. If Watson couldn’t maintain himself on that it was not worth while to go to any other case. Watson quoted the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Graves said, "Yes. They did appear, but they had no message for living people; none for the apostles." Then he finally made all of his fight on this case. I read the debate with great interest. It was published, but it is out of print.

The description of the battle and the results are so explicit in the text that I refer the reader to the Bible account of this great battle. But we need to reconcile 1 Samuel 31:4-6, and 1 Chronicles 10:4-6. Both of these assert that Saul committed suicide – fell on his sword and died – and that he did die (2 Samuel 1:6-10), where that Amalekite who brought the news to David of the battle says that he found Saul wounded, and that Saul asked the Amalekite to kill him, and that the Amalekite did kill him. The Amalekite brought also to David a bracelet and a crown that belonged to Saul. You are asked to reconcile these two statements. Did Saul commit suicide? We know he tried to do it, but did he actually commit suicide, or did that Amalekite, after Saul fell on his sword, find him still alive and kill him? My answer is that the Amalekite lied. The record clearly says that Saul did kill himself, and his armor-bearer saw that he was dead, and every reference in the scriptures is to the death by his own hand except this one. This Amalekite, knowing that Saul and David were in a measure rivals, supposed that he might ingratiate himself with David if he could bring evidence that he had killed Saul.

There is no doubt that this Amalekite was there and found Saul’s body, and no doubt he stripped that dead body of the bracelet and the crown, but his story was like the story of Joe in the "Wild Western Scenes." An Indian had been killed, stabbed through the heart, and the heart blood gushing all over the man who slew him. The fight was so hot that Joe, being a coward, stayed there fighting the dead Indian, and so they found him there stabbing and saying that the man that had first stabbed him through thought he had killed him, but that he was not dead and had got up and attacked him, and he had been having a desperate fight with the Indian.

The news of this battle sadly affected Jonathan’s son. Everybody that heard of the battle started to flee across the Jordan, and the nurse picked up Jonathan’s child and in running dropped him and he fell, and became a cripple for life. We will have some very interesting things about this crippled child after a while.

The gratitude and heroism of the men of Jabeshgilead are worthy of note.

The Philistines had cut off Saul’s head and sent it back to the house of their god, and took his armor and hung up his body and the body of his son Jonathan and the bodies of the two brothers of Jonathan on the wall of Bethshan, and when the men of Jabeshgilead (who had been delivered by Saul as the first act of his reign, and who always remembered him with gratitude) heard that Saul was killed, they sent out that night their bravest men and took those bodies down, carried them over the Jordan, burned them enough to escape recognition, and buried their bones under a tree. A long time afterwards David had the bones brought and buried in the proper place. I always think kindly of those men of Jabeshgilead.

David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan is found in 2 Samuel 1. That lamentation, expressed in the text, is one of the most beautiful elegaic poems in the literature of the world. It is found on page 104 of the textbook. It is not a religious song. It is a funeral song, an elegy, afterward called "The Bow," and David had "the song of the bow" taught to Israel, referring to Jonathan’s bow. I give just a little of it: Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet delicately, Who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!

Now the tribute to Jonathan: Jonathan is slain upon thy high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: Very pleasant hast thou been unto me. Thy love to me was wonderful, Passing the love of women.

Every admirer of good poetry bears tribute to this exquisite gem, and it has this excellency: It forgets the faults and extols the virtues of the dead. Saul had done many mighty things. That part of Gray’s Elegy, "No further seek his merits to disclose," compares favorably with this. It is the only elegy equal to David’s.


1. Analyze David’s sin of despair, and in order, the train of sins and embarrassments that follow.

2. What great modern sermon was preached on the despair of David, taking this line for a text: "I shall one day perish by the and of Saul"?

3. How was this sin of David punished?

4. How does he recover himself from this sin?

5. What judicious uses of the victory did he make?

6. What were the great accessions to David at Ziklag?

7. What is the Mosaic law against necromancy, or an appeal to the dead by the living through a medium, i.e., a wizard, if a man, or a witch, if a woman, and wherein lies the sin of necromancy?

8. What is the prophetic teaching on this subject?

9. What had Saul done to enforce the Mosaic law?

10. What are the theories of interpretation concerning the transaction in 1 Samuel 28:11-19?

11. Describe the battle of Gilboa and the results.

12. Reconcile 1 Samuel 31:4-6 and 1 Chronicles 10:4-6.

13. How did the news of the battle affect Jonathan’s son?

14. Describe the gratitude and heroism of the men of Jabeshgilead.

15. How did David lament over Saul and Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1?

Verses 8-15



2 Samuel 5:11-25; 2 Samuel 8:1; 2 Samuel 10:1-19; 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 1 Chronicles 12:8-15; 1 Chronicles 14:1-2; 1 Chronicles 14:8-17; 1 Chronicles 18:1; 1 Chronicles 19:1-19; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8

Our last chapter intimated that the union of the nation under such a king as David, in such a capital, would naturally excite the jealousy and alarm of all neighboring heathen nations. This section commences thus: "And when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David."

Your attention has already been called to the necessity of breaking the power of the hostile heathen nations lying all around Judah, if ever the Jewish nation is to fulfil its mission to all other nations. The geographical position of Judah, which is the best in the world for leavening the nations with the ideas of the kingdom of God, if it maintained its national purity and adherence to Jehovah, also made it the most desirable possession for other peoples having far different ideals. As the salvation of the world including these very hostile nations, depended on the perpetuity and purity of Israel, these nations, through whom came idolatry and national corruption, must be broken, hence the seeming cruelty and partiality of Jehovah’s order through Moses to destroy the Canaanites, root and branch, and to avoid the corruptions of the other nations, were meant as mercy and kindness to the world.

The nations against which David successfully warred, so far as our text records them, were the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Syrians of Zobah, the Syrians of Damascus, the Moabites, and the Edomites. He had previously smitten the Amalekites of the Negeb. On these wars in general the following observations are noteworthy:

1. He was never the aggressor.

2. He never lost a battle.

3. His conquest filled out the kingdom to the boundaries originally promised to Abraham.

4. The spoils of all these wars, staggering credulity in their variety and value, were consecrated to Jehovah, making the richest treasury known to history.

5. By alliance without war he secured the friendship of Hiram, king of Tyre, most valuable to him and to his son Solomon. As Phoenicia, through the world-famous fleets of Tyre and Sidon, commanded the Mediterranean with all its marine commerce, and as David ruled the land through whose thoroughfares must pass the caravans carrying this traffic to Africa, Arabia, India, Syria, and Mesopotamia, it was of infinite value to both to be in friendly alliance. To these merchant-princes it was of incalculable advantage that all the land transportation of their traffic should lie within the boundaries of one strong and friendly nation rather than to have to run the gauntlet between a hundred irresponsible and predatory tribes, while to David, apart from the value of this peaceful commerce, the whole western border of Judah along the Mediterranean coast was safe from invasion by sea so long as friendship was maintained with Hiram, king of the sea.

6. By the voluntary submission of Hamath after his conquest of Damascus, he controlled the famous historic "Entrance into Hamath," the one narrow pathway of traffic with the nations around the Caspian Sea, thus enabling David to reach those innumerable northern hordes so graphically described in later days by Ezekiel, the exile-prophet.

7. By the conquest of Damascus he controlled the only caravan route to the Euphrates and Mesopotamia, since the desert lying east of the trans-Jordanic tribes was practically impassable for trade and army movement from a lack of water, We have seen Abraham, migrating from Ur of the Chaldees, low down on the Euphrates, compelled to ascend that river for hundreds of miles in order to find an accessible way to the Holy Land through Damascus. In his day, also Chedorlaorner’s invasion had to follow the same way, as we will see later invasions do in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, which at last conquered David’s Jerusalem.

8. By the conquest of Ammon, Moab, and Edom, all the Arabah passed into his hands, checkmating invasion by Arabian hordes, as well as barring one line of invasion from Egypt. By the conquest of the Philistines and Amalekites the other two ways of Egyptian invasion were barred. You should take a map, such as you will find in Huribut’s Atlas, and show how David’s wars and peaceful alliances safeguarded every border, north, east, south, and west.

Besides these general observations, we may note a special feature characterizing these, and indeed all other wars, prior to the leveling invention of gunpowder and other high explosives, namely, much was accomplished by individual champions of great physical prowess and renown. David himself was as famous in this respect as Richard, the Lionhearted, until in a desperate encounter, related in this section, his life was so endangered that a public demand justly required him to leave individual fighting to less necessary men and confine himself to the true duty of a general – the direction of the movements of the army.

Your text recites the special exploits of Jashobeam, Eleazer, Shammah, Abishai, Benaiah, or Benajah, after whom my father, myself, and my oldest son were named. With them may be classed the ten Gadites whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were as swift as the mountain deer, the least equal to 100 and the greatest equal to 1000. These crossed the Jordan at its mighty flood and smote the Philistines in all its valley, east and west.

Quite to the front also, as giant-killers, were Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan’s nephew. Of others, all mighty heroes, we have only a catalogue of names as famous in their day as Hercules, Theseus, and Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, Horatius, and .King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, but, as philosophizes Sir Walter Scott in lvanhoe concerniog the doughty champions at the tourney of Ashby de la Zouch: "To borrow lines from a contemporary poet, ’The knights are dust, And their good swords rust, Their souls are with the saints, we trust,’while their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their castles; their castles themselves are but green mounds and shattered ruins; the place that once knew them knows them no more. Nay, many a race since theirs has died out and been forgotten in the very land which they occupied with all the authority of feudal proprietors and lords. What then would it avail to the reader to know their names, or the evanescent symbols of their martial rank?"

One exploit of three of these champions deserves to live forever in literature. It thrills the heart by the naturalness of its appeal to the memory of every man concerning the precious things of his childhood’s home. David was in his stronghold, the Cave of Adullam, weary and thirsty. Bethlehem and his childhood rise before him: “O that one would give me water to drink of the Well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!" His exclamation thrills like Woodworth’s famous poem, “How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood, As fond recollections presents them to view! The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wildwood, And ev’ry loved spot which my infancy knew”.

David’s longing for water from that particular well, and Woodworth’s "Old Oaken Bucket" harmonize with my own experience whenever I am delirious with fever. I always see a certain spring on my father’s plantation issuing from the mosscovered, fern-bordered rocks, and filling a sucken barrell. Hard by, hanging on a bush, is the gourd which, when dipped into the cold, clear spring, is more precious to thirsty lips than the silver tankards or gold drinking cups of kings; only in my fever-thirst I never am able to get that gourd to my lips. Three of David’s mighty men heard the expression of his longing for that water out of the Well of Bethlehem, and slipping quietly away, not caring that a Philistine garrison held Bethlehem, the three men alone break through the defended gate and under fire draw water from the well and bring a vessel of it over a long, hot way to thirsty David. It touched his heart when he saw their wounds. He could not drink water purchased with their blood, but poured it out as a libation to such great and devoted friendship.

Some other incidents of the Philistine war are worthy of comment:

1. So great was the defeat of the Philistines in their first battle, where David, under divine direction, attacked the center of their army, the scene is named "Baal-Perazirn," i.e., "The place of breaking forth." Splitting their column wide open at its heart, he dispersed them in every direction. They even sat their gods behind them to be burned by David’s men. We need not be startled at the burning of such gods, for history tells of one nation that ate their god, made out of dough, in times of famine. This breaking of a battle-center was a favorite method with Napoleon later, and vainly attempted by Lee at Gettysburg.

2. In the second great battle, again following divine direction, he avoided the center where they expected his attack as before and were there prepared for him this time, and "fetched" a compass to their rear, sheltered from their view by a thick growth of balsam trees, and on hearing "a sound of a going" in these trees, struck them unawares and overthrew them completely.

So Stonewall Jackson, his movements sheltered from observation by the trees of the wilderness, marched and struck in his last and greatest victory at Chancellorsville. And so did that master of war, Frederick the Great, screened by intervening hills, turn the Austrian columns and win his greatest victory at Leuthen. Major Penn, the great Texas lay-evangelist, preached his greatest sermon from "This fetching a compass," and "When thou hearest the sound of a going in the mulberry trees, bestir thyself." His application was: (a) Let great preachers attack the center, as David did at Baal-Perazim. (b) But as I am only a layman I must fetch a compass and strike them in the rear where they are not expecting attack. (c) As the signal of assault was the sound of a going in the mulberry trees, which we interpret to mean the power of the Holy Spirit going before, we must tarry for that power, for without it we are bound to fail. (d) But that power being evident, let every member of the church bestir himself. On this last point his zealous exhortation put every man, woman, and child to working.

3. The third incident of this war was its culmination. He pressed his victory until "he took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines;" that is, he captured Gath and the four other cities, or daughters, that had gone from it. To take the bridle of a horse from the hand of a rider is to make that horse serve the new master, so Gath and her daughters paid tribute to David and served him – quite a new experience for the Philistines.

4. The result of these great achievements is thus expressed: "And the fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him on all nations."

The occasion of his next war, the one with Ammon, was remarkable. Nabash, the king of Ammon, held very friendly relations with David. The fact is that he may have ’been the father of Amasa, a son of David’s sister, Abigail. Anyway, the relations between them had been very pleasant, so when Nahash died, David, out of the kindness of his heart, always remembering courtesies shown him, sent a friendly embassy to Hanun, the son of Nahash, but the princes of Ammon said to the young king, "Do you suppose that love for your father prompted David to send these men? He sent them to spy out the land so that he can make war successfully against us." This evil suggestion led the young king to do a very foolish thing, and one that violated all international policy. He arrested these ambassadors and subjected them to the greatest indignity. Their venerable beards were cut off. I don’t know whether that means cut off half-way or just shaved off one side of the face. Then he cut off their long robes of dignity so they would be bob-tailed jackets striking about the hips, and sent them home. No mortification could exceed theirs. Somebody told David about it and he sent this word to them: "Tarry at Jericho until your beards grow out."

A deacon of the First Church at Waco, when I was pastor, whenever a young member of the church would propose some innovation on the customs of the church, would draw up his tall figure – he was quite tall – and would reach out his long arm and point at the young man and say, "My young brother, you had better tarry at Jericho until your beard grows out." It was very crushing on the young brother, and I used to exhort the deacon about his curt way of cutting off members who, whether young or old, had a right equal to his own to speak in conference.

Having practiced that unpardonable indignity upon the friendly ambassadors, the Ammonites know they must fight, since they have made themselves odious to David, so they raise an enormous sum of money, 1,000 talents of silver, and hire 33,000 men from the Syrians, the different branches of the Syrians. Some of them were horsemen from across the Euphrates, some from Tob, some from Maacah, and the rest of them from Zobah. David sends Joab at the head of his mighty army of veterans to fight them. The Ammonites remain in their fortified city of Rabbah, and as Joab’s army approaches, 33,000 Syrians come up behind them, and Joab sees that there is a battle to be fought in the front and in the rear, so he divides his army and takes his picked men to attack the Syrians, and commands Abishai, his brother, to go after the Ammonites as they pour out of their city to attack in front. Joab says to his brother, "If the Syrians are too strong for me, you help me, and if the Ammon-ites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you," and so they fight both ways and whip in both directions with tremendous success. Joab destroys the Syrians, and Abishai drives the Ammonites back under the walls of their city.

That victory leads to another war. When the Syrians heard of the overthrow of the contingent sent to succor Ammon, they sent across the Euphrates again for reinforcements and mobilized a large home army to fight David. David met them in battle and blotted them off the map, and having disposed of the Syrians, at the return of the season for making war, he sent Joab with a mighty army to besiege the city of Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites. Joab besieges them and when he sees them about to surrender he sends for David to come and accept the surrender and David puts the crown of the king of Ammon on his own head. Then having destroyed the Ammonites, he marches against their southern ally, Moab, and conquers them. Following up this victory he leads his army against Edom, and conquers all that country. This war lasts six months. He gains a great victory over the Edomites and through Abishai, his leader, 18,000 of the Edomites were slain. The heir of the king escapes with great difficulty to Egypt, and is sheltered there. Joab remained six months to bury the dead and gather up the spoils. So ends this period of conquest.

The text tells you, in conclusion, who were the administration officers during this period. You will find it on page 122 of the Harmony. Joab was over the host, Jehoshaphat was recorder, Zadok and Ahimelech were priests, Seraiah was scribe, Benaiah, or Benajah, was over the Cherethites and Pelethites and David’s sons were chiefs about the king.

That great round of successes is followed by the magnificent song of thanksgiving, which needs to be analyzed specially and which is transferred to the Psalter as Psalm 18.

That you may have a connected account of these wars, the consideration of three periods is deferred to the next chapter:

1. The great sin of David, with its far-reaching consequences, 2 Samuel 11:2-12:24.

2. His treatment of the Ammonites after the fall of Rabbah, 2 Samuel 12:31 and 1 Chronicles 20:3.

3. His treatment of the Moabites, 2 Samuel 8:2.


1. What is the necessity of breaking the power of the hostile nations within and around Judea?

2. Show why the geographical position of Judea was favorable to its mission of leavening all nations with the ideas of the kingdom of God, and why Judea was a desirable possession to those nations.

3. What event brought a tide of war on David?

4. According to the record, with what nations did he wage successful war?

5. What eight general observations on these wars?

6. What special feature characterized them and all other ancient wars, and what modern inventions have now divested war of this feature?

7. Cite the names of some of David’s champions and their exploits.

8. How does Sir Walter Scott, in Ivanhoe, philosophize on the speedy oblivion coming to great champions?

9. Recite one exploit that deserves to live in literature, and why?

10. Cite the notable characteristic of the battle of Baal-Perazirn.

11. Name the more decisive battle which followed, and give illustrations from history of the different methods of attack in those two battles.

12. Give Major Penn’s text and sermon outline on some words concerning this battle.

13. Explain: ’’He took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines."

14. What was the result of these great achievements?

15. Recite the occasion of the war with Ammon and its results, and describe the first battle.

16. Give a brief statement of wars with Syria, Moab, and Edom.

17. With a map before you, show just how by these wars and alliances David safeguarded all his borders.

18. How did he commemorate his victories?

19. How did he celebrate them?

20. Into what other book was his thanksgiving song transferred, and how numbered there?

Verses 23-40



2 Samuel 5:1-10; 1 Chronicles 11:1-9; 1 Chronicles 12:23-40

This section is short, but intensely important. Please observe the method of the harmonist in arranging the text of the reign of David into periods of war, rest, and internal dissensions. This arrangement is admirable for topical discussion, but does not follow a strict chronological order of events. It is a characteristic of the histories themselves to intersperse here and there in the details of the story a comprehensive summary extending far beyond the specific details which precede or follow – for example, 2 Samuel 5:4-14.

The first notable event of this section is that David is made king over all Israel, at Hebron. For this consummation David himself deserves unstinted praise. There was nothing in his own conduct while Saul lived or after his death to make it difficult for any surviving partisan of Saul’s house to come over to David. Under persecution he had been loyal; in opportunities for vengeance he had been merciful; in the hour of triumph his spirit was not arrogant but conciliatory; in the long postponement of the divine purpose he was not impatient, never seeking, as some of his ancestors had done, to hasten by his own meddling the ripening of Jehovah’s prophecies and promises. And when some of his too zealous or more vengeful partisans took short cuts toward the destined end on lines of their own passions, he made it evident by signal rebuke that he was not personally responsible for their wrong-doing. He never rewarded a traitor for assassinating a member of the house of Saul except with instant execution and with expressions of the most pronounced abhorrence of their crimes. In impassioned and evidently sincere elegy he bore high tribute to the merits of the dead, mingled with a matchless charity that was silent as to their demerits, while sending benedictions to those who befriended them. So the remnants of Saul’s following and family had no grievances against David to forget or to forgive.

When we place over against this conduct of David the conduct of Philip II of Spain, the contrast is awful. Philip openly and habitually offered large rewards to assassins who by any means would murder his enemies, and sang, Te Deum Laudamus when they succeeded. His nature was as cold as a frog, poisonous as a snake, treacherous as a coyote, cruel as a panther. In wholesale murder, arson, and confiscation he was the prince of criminals, eclipsing the infamy of both Nero and Herod, and in stark unctuous hypocrisy none in the annals of time might dare to claim equality with him, much less pre-eminence over him. He was the Monster of the centuries. It certainly must have caused Satan himself to put on a sardonic grin when hearing Philip called "His most Christian majesty." Spain, at Philip’s accession, was the dominant world-power; he left it with none so poor to do it reverence. Judea, at David’s accession, was at the bottom place among the nations; he left it on top, the glory of the world. The contrast spells just this: David was a saint, Philip was a devil.

It is to be regretted that so little reason prompted those tribes, now eager for union, to promote the defection which this union healed. Under the dominant influence of a selfish leader they set up Ishbosheth against the known will of Jehovah. They warred in open aggression against the choice of Jehovah. They made no decisive effort toward pacification while they had a leg to stand on, and when they did come back into the union their expressed reasons for return, while evidently now sincere, were all equally strong against their making the original breach. Look at these reasons and see. They assign three reasons for their return: (1) "Behold we are thy bone and thy flesh." (2) "In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was thou that leddest out and broughtest in Israel." (3) "Jehovah said to thee, Thou shalt be shepherd of my people, and thou shalt be prince over Israel." In view of these cogent reasons, one may well inquire, Why, then, a long and bloody war of division?

The steps of the national reunion were these:

1. An armed host of all the tribes came simultaneously to David at Hebron to make him king.

2. Their elders, as representatives, enter into solemn covenant with him before Jehovah.

3. They anoint him king over all Israel.

4. A three-day’s festival of great joy celebrates the event. All these steps were profoundly significant, and are worthy of comment.

Concerning the first step – the gathering of the armed host to Hebron – some remarks are pertinent:

1. The total number of armed men who came together simultaneously from all of the tribes was enormous. Apart from the captains, and with the contingent of Issachar not stated, the total is 339,000, but assuming Issachar’s contingent to be somewhat between Zebulun’s and Napthali’s say 40,000, and adding the captains which are enumerated, the total would be 380,221.

2. The very large contingent from the house of Aaron of both branches shows how thoroughly the priesthood which Saul had hated stood by David.

3. The contingents from the least prominent tribes, Manaseeh, Zebulun, Napthali, Asher, Reuben, and Gad, were all out of proportion greater than the near-by tribes.

4. The small contingent from Benjamin is explained by the fact that even yet the greater part were attached to the house of Saul, but the reason of Judah’s small number is not given. The trans-Jordanic two-and-a-half tribes send a third of the total.

5. The remark concerning the contingent of the western half – Manasseh – is that they came instructed to make David king.

6. The remark concerning the two hundred leaders of Issachar has been the theme of many a sermon: "Men that had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do." Oh, that such men were multiplied in our day!

7. Concerning Zebulun’s 50,000, it is said they were "not of double heart." May such men flourish in this unstable, twisting, and turning generation!

8. Indeed, concerning all of them, it is said, "They came with perfect heart to make David king." It was quite in accord with the patriarchal and representative constitution of the nation that the princes and elders of the tribes should act for them in entering into covenant with David. It must have been an imposing sight, to see nearly half a million armed men in fifteen distinct corps waiting at Hebron, while their statesmen, prophets, priests, and generals deliberated on the terms of the covenant.

The Covenant. – The covenant itself doubtless was based on the charter of the kingdom as defined by Moses and Samuel, which safeguarded the rights of all parties concerned, to wit: Jehovah, the king, the national assembly, the religion, and the people at large. It was an intensely religious act, seeing it was "before Jehovah." Following this covenant came –

The Anointing. – David had already been twice anointed, first at Bethlehem privately by Samuel as an expression of Jehovah’s choice, and as a symbol of the Spirit-power that rested on him. A second time here at Hebron his anointing was expressive of Judah’s choice, but now this third more public and imposing anointing on such a grand occasion, following such a covenant, takes on a wider and most charming significance so appropriately expressed by David himself in Psalm 133 that it seems to have been occasioned by this event: Behold, how good and bow pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, That ran down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard; That came down upon the skirt of his garments; Like the dew of Hermon, That cometh down upon the mountains of Zion: Fur there Jehovah commanded the blessing, Even life forevermore.

It is certain that never before nor since was there such a thorough and joyous unity of the nation, and such brotherly love among the Jews, nor ever will be until erring and dispersed Israel, long exiled from Jehovah’s favor, shall be gathered out of all nations and turn in one momentous day with such penitence as the world has never known to David’s greater Son, according to the prophecies of Zechariah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Paul. Then, indeed, in one sense, will the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" be "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows" because he sees "the travail of his soul" concerning Israel and is satisfied. We might well look to a greater fulfilment when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, at which time more appropriately than ever before in the history may a redeemed and united world unite in singing the greatest human coronation hymn, Bring forth the royal diadem And crown Him Lord of all!

The festival. – Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the whole occasion is the provision made for entertaining a half million people for three days. Our text says, "And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had made preparation for them. Moreover, they that were nigh unto them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victual of meal, cakes of figs, and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in abundance: for there was joy in Israel." This great festival of joy not only reminds us of the sacrificial feast following the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 24:1-11), but prefigures the one announced in later days by Isaiah thus: "And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He hath swallowed up death forever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth," Isaiah 25:6-8, or that greater festival adverted to by our Lord when he said concerning the salvation of the multitudinous thousands of the Gentiles, "Many shall come from the East and the West, and the North and the South, and shall recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

The auspices for the nation were all propitious. They have a king over them, not like other nations, but a king after God’s own heart. The rights, powers, and privileges of all parties interested were all clearly defined and solemnized by imposing ceremonies of religion. Here was God’s choice of the man, the ratification by the national assembly, bonds of charter and covenant, the presence and concurrence of prophet and priests, to which may be added, in the words of our text, "And all the rest also of Israel were all of one heart to make David King." The plan of the kingdom, and its start are perfect. If failure shall come in later days, as come it will, it will be no fault in the plan.

The taking of Jerusalem. – David’s first act of royalty tends to promote and perpetuate the union, namely, the securing of a central capital, strong for defense or aggression, and not likely to promote tribal jealousy. It would not do to make Hebron, distinctly a city of Judah, the national capital, nor yet Gibeah of Benjamin, where Saul had reigned. It must be a new place which commanded the Arabah, the Negeb, the Mediterranean coast, and all the highways from north to south and east to west. To meet these conditions there was but one place, the city whose citadel was held by the Jebusites; part of it lay in Judah’s allotted territory and part in Benjamin’s, but neither had driven the Jebusites from the citadel which overawed the city.

Memories of the place. – It had been the city of Melchizedek, king of peace and righteousness, priest of the Most High God, to whom Abraham had paid tithes, and type of our Lord, David’s greater son. There, also, on Mount Moriah, in the greatest typical act of the ages, Abraham came to offer up his well-beloved son, Isaac, the child of promise, and there, in a type of our Lord’s resurrection, was Isaac saved. The authority of Moses still cried, "Drive out these Jebusites," so David called the united nation to arms.

The selection of a capital for a nation made up of varied and jealous constituencies calls for the highest wisdom and the broadest spirit of compromise. Every student of our national history will recall what a perplexing thing it was for our fathers to agree on the site of a national capital. Philadelphia, the continental capital, would not do, nor would Annapolis, where Washington returned his sword at the close of the war, nor New York, with its Wall Street, where Washington was inaugurated. A district, ceded by Virginia and Maryland as an inalienable national possession, was the compromise, just as here Jerusalem, lying partly in Judah and partly in Benjamin, becomes the capital, and yet to be conquered by united force of the nation, giving all a special interest in it. "For similar reasons," says a fine commentator, "promotive of national union, we have seen Victor Emmanuel made king of a united Italy, change his capital, first from Turin in Lombardv to Florence in Tuscanv and then to Rome, the ancient imperial city." So now, David the wisest and most prudent of monarchs, avails himself of the enthusiasm of a united nation and the presence of a great army to lead them to storm the citadel of the Jebusites.

Two incidents of that great victory are worthy of note: (1) the scornful greeting of the Jebusites, confident in the impregnability of their fortress: "Even with the blind and the lame to hold the walls he cannot come hither." (2) David’s offer to reward the one who would scale the wall, the position of commander-in-chief of his army, won by his nephew Joab. Following the conquest comes the fortification.

Rapid fortification. – He lengthened, strengthened, and connected the walls of the city. Indeed, there was reason for haste, as storms of war were gathering from every point of the horizon.

Two results follow the union of the nation under such a king, and the rapid conquest and fortification of such a capital: (1) David waxed stronger and stronger; (2) neighboring nations, jealous and alarmed, prepare to pour on him a tide of war.

And now, before we dip into the bloody pages of these wars, two remarks are timely: (1) Throughout David’s reign, every act of his administration is promotive of the national unity centered at Jerusalem; (2) Jerusalem from this date forward to the end of time and throughout eternity will be the world’s chief city, either in type or antitype. Its vicissitudes in subsequent history are the most remarkable in the annals of time. On account of David’s work and preparation it became in Solomon’s day the joy of the whole earth. The Psalms proclaim its glory in worship, and after its fall they voice the exile’s lament: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth." Babylon captured it; Persia restored it; Greece, through Alexander the Great, honored it; Antiochus Epiphanes defiled it, the Asmoneans took it; the Messiah heard its hosannabs one day and its "Crucify Him" another day; Rome destroyed it; the Saracens captured it; the Crusader re-captured it; the Turk holds it and Germany covets it: its desolation has lasted nearly 2000 years and will last until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in. Its greatest glory is that its temple symbolized the churches of the living God, and the city itself symbolized the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of all the saints. [The author’s reference to Germany’s desire to acquire Jerusalem was written long before World War I which has witnessed the Germanic-Turkish alliance. The words seem prophetic. – EDITOR.]


1. What was the method of the harmonist in arranging the text of David’s reign?

2. What is a characteristic of the histories themselves?

3. What is the first notable event of this section?

4. What credit was due David himself in this great consummation?

5. Contrast David’s course in this matter with the character and polity of Philip II of Spain.

6. What reasons are assigned by the tribes for their return to David, and the bearing of their reasons on their defection?

7. What are the several steps of this national reunion?

8. What are the notable particulars of the armed hosts who assembled?

9. What tare he representative act of the elders?

10. What of the covenant itself?

11. What of the anointing?

12. What of the three days’ festival?

13. What was the first kingly act of David to strengthen and perpetuate this national union?

14. What place was selected for the capital, its advantages, and memories?

15. What are the incidents of its capture?

16. What were the steps taken to fortify it?

17. What two results naturally followed this union of the nation under such a king in such a capital?

18. What is the position of Jerusalem henceforward among the cities of the world?

19. Relate some of its vicissitudes in subsequent history.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 12". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-chronicles-12.html.
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