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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 22

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

Verses 1-19




2 Samuel 18:1-20:26; 1 Kings 1:1-2:10; 1 Chronicles 22:1-19

We should continually bear in mind that in order to interpret the inner life of David, the Davidic psalms must be studied in connection with the history. I never got a true insight into the character of this man, into his religious life, into his staying powers, until I studied the history very carefully in connection with the Psalms. I spent one whole summer studying the history of David in the Psalms.

David stopped at Mahanaim; that is the place where Jacob met the angelic host, as the name signifies. While Absalom was making his muster, David was also mustering a host; while Absalom was godless and prayerless, David was penitent for his sins, humble toward God, and courageous toward men. Absalom appointed as his commander-in-chief a nephew of David, a son of Abigail; David had for his commanders Joab, Joab’s brother Abishai, and the Gittite, Ittai.

One of the most touching things in connection with David’s atay at Mahanaim is the coming together from three different directions of three friends to help: "Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse, and honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat." It is noticeable always, however, that a man of strong character will draw to him friends whose friendship cannot be broken. David’s character developed friendship so that people would come to him and stand by him to the very last extremity. Of course there were some traitors. Absalom could draw men to him, but could not hold them.

The battle between the opposing armies took place in what is called the "Wood of Ephraim," a very considerable forest somewhere near the banks of the Jordan. David’s army was in three divisions. He wanted to lead in person, but they objected and he stayed over the gate of the city, with one concern in his heart, deeper than all others, and that was about the fate of his son, Absalom, he was very much devoted to him, foolishly so, as the charge that he gave to each officer as each division marched through the gate indicates: "For my sake deal gently with Absalom." Absalom’s army was utterly routed.

I remember preaching a sermon in 1887, when canvassing the state for prohibition, on the text: "Do thyself no harm," basing my argument upon this thought, that no man can cause a harm that he does to terminate in himself. A man might be somewhat excused for doing harm to himself, if he harms only himself. I illustrated Absalom’s banning himself in two scenes. First, on that battlefield 20,000 men lay dead; a man goes over the field and tries to identify the slain. He turns over a victim whose face is to the ground, and feels in his pockets to see if he can find anything to identify him, and perhaps finds a letter from his wife stained with his heart’s blood. It reads: "When are you coming home? The children every evening sit out on the gatepost and look toward the scene of war until their eyes fill with tears, then come in and say, ’Mamma, whenever is papa coming home?’ " Never! There are 20,000 men like him, 20,000 wives like that wife, and 40,000 children like those children, all harmed because Absalom did harm to himself! The other scene of the picture was the old man, the father, at the gate of the city, listening for news of the battle, and when the message is received, colder than lead and sharper than the dagger, it strikes his heart. Stripping off the crown and purple robe, he wraps himself in sackcloth, and puts ashes on his gray head. It breaks his heart. He wrings his hands and sobs: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God that I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" In view of the father’s unspeakable grief, it was not right for that young man to harm himself, since the harm did not terminate in him.

That sermon changed more votes than all the speeches that had been made. Power in preaching consists in having an imagination that will enable you to make a scene live before you,

I preached another sermon in Waco that I think I shall never forget. It was an afternoon sermon, when all the churches in the city were united. I took a double text: "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." That was the first part of the text. The other part was, "Absalom, my son, my son, would God that I had died for thee." I contrasted the sorrow of David over his two children; the separation between him and his baby was temporary; they would soon be together forever, but the separation from Absalom was an eternal separation. He knew his child was lost forever, which accounts for his inconsolable grief. The power of that sermon was in vivid stress of two things: holding one picture up and saying, "Look at that," and holding up the opposite picture and saying, "Look at that."

The rebellion perished with the death of Absalom, but David was so utterly overwhelmed with his grief that he did not follow up his victory, and really he became sinful in his grief. It took the heart out of his own people. They became ashamed and sneaked back to town, feeling that their victory was dreadful to their king. Joab, though his heart was as hard as iron, was right in his rebuke; but it was very unfeelingly done, especially as he had been the one, in violation of orders to take the life of Absalom. This is what he said "Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; in that thou lovest them that hate thee, and hatest them that love thee. For thou hast declared this day, that princes and servants are naught unto thee: for this day I perceive, if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants; for I swear by the Lord, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry a man with thee this night." That was pretty straight talk, but it was successful, and it waked David up. He was so stunned by his grief that he took no steps to follow up his victory.

The question of his restoration came up with the people this way: "Shall we now take the king back to his throne? Absalom is dead and there is no other king." And then David made overtures to Judah, his own tribe; he sent to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, saying that the tribe of Judah was his own flesh and blood, and they had said nothing about his coming back. He then made this promise: "As the Lord God liveth I will make Amasa, Absalom’s general, commander-in-chief of my armies." It would have been all right to dismiss Joab, but it certainly was impolitic to put a rebellious general at the head of his army. We will see directly that it cost Amasa his life.

The men who stood by David and won his victory for him felt like they were strangers here with these people who had been against him and the enemies’ general made their commander. Whenever a strong feeling of resentment exists there will always be somebody to give voice to it, hence the shout of Sheba: "To your tents, O Israel!" You will hear that cry again in the days of Rehoboam, when the same ten tribes say, "To your tents, O Israel! What have we in the son of Jesse?" The tribes were always loosely held together, and it was easy for them to separate and disintegrate. For some reason, not stated, Amasa was very dilatory to take command and subdue Sheba, and David commands Abishai, not Joab, to take command and pursue Sheba until he is caught and destroyed. Joab goes along as a volunteer, and on the way he meets Amasa whom he thus addressed: "Art thou in health, my brother?" And then stabs him under the fifth rib, Just as he had killed Abner; then he usurps command, Abishai giving way to him, and put down the rebellion very speedily. David did not feel strong enough to displace him again, so after that Joab was commander-in-chief, too big a man to be put out!

In going back to Jerusalem there were several touching things: In the first place that cursing man, Shirnei, comes out and makes submission and asks to be forgiven. David forgives him for the present. You will see later how he made provision for bringing him to judgment, but he forgave him for the present. The darkest blot on David, outside of the sin against Uriah, is in this paragraph, the meeting with Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth comes to meet him and David sternly asks why he had not gone out with him when he left Jerusalem. He gently explains that he was crippled and could not walk, and that he ordered his beast to be saddled and his servants went off and left him; that he is now glad to welcome David back, and that it was a falsehood that he ever intended to profit by David’s misfortunes. David then restores to him part of his property and lets that rascal Ziba keep half of it. In all this transaction Mephibosheth comes out in a much more favorable light than David: "Let him take it all forasmuch as my lord, the king, has come in peace unto his own house." This does not show off David very well. It is customary for everybody in going over this part of the history, to speak with great favor of old Barzillai. Everything he did was pure disintereetedness. David offers compensation, offers to give him a permanent home in Jerusalem. He says this would not be a favor to him, as he is old and blind and cannot taste anything or discriminate. Then David asks him if there is not somebody in his house that he can promote, and the son of old Barzillai is promoted.

We will now consider the preparation David made for the succession to guard against any other rebellion. He wanted the succession established in his lifetime. If you are familiar with English history you know that a nation is in a great stir every time its king gets sick, unless it is clearly established who shall succeed him. The question for succession was a serious one when Queen Elizabeth died, and again at Queen Anne’s death, when the kingdom was transferred to the house of Hanover. Some of the most thrilling pages in history are devoted to these transition periods. David wanted no trouble about the succession; so he assembled the great convocation, consisting of princes, captains of thousands, and hundreds, etc., and caused them to recognize Solomon as his successor, and he was so announced. Every officer in the kingdom was precommitted to Solomon. And yet, notwithstanding this precaution, Adonijah, the third son prominent in history, now the oldest, since Absalom is dead, determined that he should be king. He adopted Absalom’s expedients, prepared chariots and men to run before him. He got Abiathar, one of the priests, and Joab to stand with him and went off to a place called En-rogel and there to be announced as king. David was too old and feeble to do anything, but the prophet Nathan sent the mother of Solomon to him to let him know what was impending. David took steps instantly to have Solomon crowned king, and proclamation made. Adonijah, when he heard that Solomon was king, returned to Jerusalem and begged for mercy, and the rebellion was ended. This led to the displacement of Abiathar as priest, and led to the permanency of the high priest in the line of Zadok, who stood firmly with David.

The crowning act of David’s life, the one most profitable in its lesson to us, was his provision for the erection of the great Temple. All the devoted treasure from Saul’s wars and his own, all the spoils of many nations subdued by him, immense treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, precious metal, and cloth were stored up for this purpose. Then by revelation from God the plans and specifications of the building and its furniture received by him were given to Solomon, accompanied by a solemn charge to build the house. But yet the gathered material was not sufficient for so great an enterprise. So David at this great convocation engineered the most remarkable public collection known to history – the most remarkable in its method, its principles, and in the amount raised.

Method. – First of all he, himself, out of his own proper fund, made a cash donation never equalled since, not even by Carnegie nor Rockefeller. The princes, and then all subordinate officers) followed the lead of their rulers.

Principles. – (1) It was a "prepared" donation. (2) The preparation was "with all his might." (3) The donation was for God’s house and cause. (4) It was prompted by "affection for God’s cause." (5) It was purely voluntary. (6) It was preceded by a "willing consecration of himself to God." (7) It was followed by great joy because a willing and not an extorted offering.

Amount. – It staggers credulity to accept the vast total. The total, by any fair method of calculation, goes beyond anything else known to history. No offhand, impulsive collection could have produced such a result. It was a long-purposed, thoroughly prepared contribution flowing from the highest possible motives.

Lesson. – Our preachers today should lay it to heart. We need the lesson particularly in times of financial stringency. We see our preachers scared to death without cause and our people demoralized. We need the application intensely. We should know that God is never straightened in himself – that today, if we willingly consecrate ourselves to God first of all, like the Philippians who first gave themselves to the Lord, and if we have true affection for God’s cause, and if we purpose great things in our hearts, and prepare a collection, with all our might appealing to the voluntary principle in the loving hearts of God’s people, and ourselves have strong faith in God who is able even to raise the dead, then the stringency of the times will only brace us and call out our courage. But if we are whipped inside, if we feel that we are butting our heads against a stone wall, if we take counsel with our fears and become timid and hesitating moral cowards when we should be heroes, of course we will miserably fail. We will become grasshoppers in the sight of opposing giants, and grasshoppers in our own eight. Hard times, difficult situations, are methods of providence to prepare us. They are touchstones of character, revealing who are weaklings and who are heroes. Go off to thyself; shut out the world. Shut up thyself alone with God, fight the battle to a finish once for all in thine own heart, and then with the sublime audacity of faith, do thy work for the Lord.


1. Contrast Absalom and David as to character.

2. Who were chosen as commanders by Absalom and David respectively?

3. What was the touching incident at Mahanaim?

4. Give an account of the battle between David’s army and Absalom’s.

5. How did David show his concern for Absalom?

6. Show in two ways how Absalom in banning himself, harmed others.

7. Contrast David’s sorrow upon the death of his infant with that upon the death of Absalom.

8. How did the rebellion end?

9. Give Joab’s rebuke, and its effect on David.

10. How was David restored as king of the people?

11. What was his mistake, and its result?

12. What were the touching events on David’s return to Jerusalem?

13. What preparation did David make for a successor?

14. Who at once became competitor for the kingship?

15. What was his method?

16. How did this episode end?

17. What was the crowning act of David’s life?

18. How was the provision made?

19. What was the method?

20. What were the principles?

21. What was the amount?

22. What was the lesson, and its application?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 22". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-chronicles-22.html.
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