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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 5

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch

Verses 1-3

The families of the tribe of Reuben. - 1 Chronicles 5:1, 1 Chronicles 5:2. Reuben is called the first-born of Israel, because he was the first-born of Jacob, although, owing to his having defiled his father's bed (Genesis 49:4), his birthright, i.e., its privileges, were transferred to the sons of Joseph, who were not, however, entered in the family register of the house of Israel according to the birthright, i.e., as first-born sons. The inf. התיחשׂ with ל expresses “shall” or “must,” cf. Ew. §237, e., “he was not to register,” i.e., “he was not to be registered.” The subject is Joseph, as the Rabbins, e.g., Kimchi, have perceived. The clauses after הוּא כּי form a parenthesis, containing the reason of Reuben's being called ישׂראל בּכור , which is still further established by its being shown (in 1 Chronicles 5:2) how it happened that Joseph, although the birthright was given to him, according to the disposition made by the patriarch (Genesis 48:5.), yet was not entered in the family registers as first-born. The reason of this was, “for Judah was strong among his brethren, and (one) from him became the Prince;” scil. on the strength of the patriarchal blessing (Genesis 49:8-12), and by means of the historic fulfilment of this blessing. The “prevailing” of Judah among his brethren showed itself even under Moses at the numbering of the people, when the tribe of Judah considerably outnumbered all the other tribes (cf. t. i. 2, S. 192). Then, again, it appeared after the division of the land of Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Judah being called by a declaration of the divine will to be the vanguard of the army in the war against the Canaanites (Judges 1:1.); and it was finally made manifest by the נגיד over Israel being chosen by God from the tribe of Judah, in the person of David (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:4 with 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 25:30). From this we gather that the short, and from its brevity obscure, sentence ממּנוּ וּלנגיד bears the signification we have given it. “But the birthright was Joseph's;” i.e., the rights of the progenitor were transferred to or remained with him, for two tribal domains were assigned to his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, according to the law of the first-born (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

After this parenthetic explanation, the words “the sons of Reuben, the first-born of Israel,” 1 Chronicles 5:1, are again taken up in 1 Chronicles 5:3, and the sons are enumerated. The names of the four sons correspond to those given in Genesis 46:9; Exodus 6:14, and Numbers 26:5-7.

Verses 4-6

From one of these sons descended Joel, whose family is traced down through seven generations, to the time of the Assyrian deportation of the Israelites. But we are neither informed here, nor can we ascertain from any information elsewhere given in the Old Testament, from which of the four sons Joel was descended. For although many of the names in 1 Chronicles 5:4-6 frequently occur, yet they are nowhere met with in connection with the family whose members are here registered. The last-named, Beerah, was לראוּבני נשׂיא , a prince of the Reubenites, not a prince of the tribe of Reuben, but a prince of a family of the Reubenites. This is expressed by ל being used instead of the stat. constr.; cf. Ew. §292, a. In reference to the leading away of the trans-Jordanic tribes into captivity by Tiglath-pilneser, cf. on 2 Kings 15:29. The name of this king as it appears in the Chronicles is always Tiglath-pilneser, but its meaning has not yet been certainly ascertained. According to Oppert's interpretation, it = תּגלת־פּלּא־סחר , i.e., “worship of the son of the Zodiac” (i.e., the Assyrian Hercules); vid., Delitzsch on Isaiah, Introd.

Verses 7-8

“And his brothers,” (each) according to his families in the registration, according to their descent (properly their generations; vide for תּולדות on Genesis 2:4), are (were) the head (the first) Jeiel and Zechariah, and Bela, ... the son of Joel,” probably the Joel already mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:4. “His (i.e., Beerah's) brothers” are the families related to the family of Beerah, which were descended from the brothers of Joel. That they were not, however, properly “brothers,” is clear from the fact that Bela's descent is traced back to Joel as the third of the preceding members of his family; and the conclusion would be the same, even if this Joel be another than the one mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:4. The singular suffix with למשׁפּחתיו is to be taken distributively or אישׁ may be supplied before it in thought; cf. Numbers 2:34; Numbers 11:10. The word ראשׁ , “head,” for the first-born, stands here before the name, as in 1 Chronicles 12:3; 1 Chronicles 23:8; elsewhere it stands after the name, e.g., 1 Chronicles 5:12 and 1 Chronicles 9:17. The dwelling-places of Bela and his family are then given in 1 Chronicles 5:8, 1 Chronicles 5:9. “He dwelt in Aroer,” on the banks of the brook Arnon (Joshua 13:9; Joshua 12:2), now the ruin Araayr on the northern bank of the Mojeb ( vide on Numbers 32:34). “Until Nebo and Baal-meon” westward. Nebo, a village on the hill of the same name in the mountains of Abarim, opposite Jericho (cf. on Numbers 32:38). Baal-meon is probably identical with the ruin Myun, three-quarters of an hour south-east from Heshbon.

Verse 9

“Eastward to the coming to the desert (i.e., till towards the desert) from the river Euphrates,” i.e., to the great Arabico-Syrian desert, which stretches from the Euphrates to the eastern frontier of Perea, or from Gilead to the Euphrates. Bela's family had spread themselves so far abroad, “for their herds were numerous in the land of Gilead,” i.e., Perea, the whole trans-Jordanic domain of the Israelites.

Verse 10

“In the days of Saul they made war upon the Hagarites, and they fill into their hands, and they dwelt in their tents over the whole east side of Gilead.” The subject is not determined, so that the words may be referred either to the whole tribe of Reuben or to the family of Bela (1 Chronicles 5:8). The circumstance that in 1 Chronicles 5:8 and 1 Chronicles 5:9 Bela is spoken of in the singular ( יושׁב הוּא and ישׁב ), while here the plural is used in reference to the war, is not sufficient to show that the words do not refer to Bela's family, for the narrative has already fallen into the plural in the last clause of 1 Chronicles 5:9. We therefore think it better to refer 1 Chronicles 5:10 to the family of Bela, seeing that the wide spread of this family, which is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:9, as far as the desert to the east of the inhabited land, presupposes the driving out of the Hagarites dwelling on the eastern plain of Gilead. The notice of this war, moreover, is clearly inserted here for the purpose of explaining the wide spread of the Belaites even to the Euphrates desert, and there is nothing which can be adduced against that reference. The אחיו in 1 Chronicles 5:7 does not, as Bertheau thinks probable, denote that Bela was a contemporary of Beerah, even if the circumstance that from Bela to Joel only three generations are enumerated, could be reconciled with this supposition. The spread of Bela's family over the whole of the Reubenite Gilead, which has just been narrated, proves decisively that they were not contemporaries. If Bela lived at the time of the invasion of Gilead by Tiglath-pileser, when the prince Beerah was carried away into exile, it is certainly possible that he might have escaped the Assyrians; but he could neither have had at that time a family “which inhabited all the east land,” nor could he himself have extended his domain from “Aroer and Nebo towards the wilderness,” as the words יושׁב הוּא , 1 Chronicles 5:8, distinctly state. We therefore hold that Bela was much older than Beerah, for he is introduced as a great-grandson of Joel, so that his family might have been as widely distributed as 1 Chronicles 5:8, 1 Chronicles 5:9 state, and have undertaken and carried out the war of conquest against the Hagarites, referred to in 1 Chronicles 5:10, as early as the time of Saul. Thus, too, we can most easily explain the fact that Bela and his brothers Jeiel and Zechariah are not mentioned. As to הגרעים , cf. on 1 Chronicles 5:19.

Verses 11-17

The families of the tribe of Gad, and their dwelling-places. - 1 Chronicles 5:11. In connection with the preceding statement as to the dwelling-places of the Reubenites, the enumeration of the families of Gad begins with a statement as to their dwelling-places: “Over against them (the Reubenites) dwelt the Gadites in Bashan unto Salcah.” Bashan is used here in its wider signification of the dominion of King Og, which embraced the northern half of Gilead, i.e., the part of that district which lay on the north side of the Jabbok, and the whole district of Bashan; cf. on Deuteronomy 3:10. Salcah formed the boundary towards the east, and is now Szalchad, about six hours eastward from Bosra (see on Deuteronomy 3:10).

1 Chronicles 5:12-14

The sons of Gad (Genesis 46:16) are not named here, because the enumeration of the families of Gad had been already introduced by 1 Chronicles 5:11, and the genealogical connection of the families enumerated in 1 Chronicles 5:12., with the sons of the tribal ancestor, had not been handed down. In 1 Chronicles 5:12 four names are mentioned, which are clearly those of heads of families or fathers'-houses, with the addition “in Bashan,” i.e., dwelling, for ישׁבוּ is to be repeated or supplied from the preceding verse. - In 1 Chronicles 5:13 seven other names occur, the bearers of which are introduced as brothers of those mentioned (1 Chronicles 5:12), according to their fathers'-houses. They are therefore heads of fathers'-houses, but the district in which they dwelt is not given; whence Bertheau concludes, but wrongly, that the place where they dwelt is not given in the text. The statement which is here omitted follows in 1 Chronicles 5:16 at a fitting place; for in 1 Chronicles 5:14 and 1 Chronicles 5:15 their genealogy, which rightly goes before the mention of their dwelling-place, is given. אלּה , 1 Chronicles 5:14, is not to be referred, as Bertheau thinks, to the four Gadites mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:12 and 1 Chronicles 5:13, but only to those mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:13. Nothing more was known of those four (1 Chronicles 5:12) but that they dwelt in Bashan, while the genealogy of the seven is traced up through eight generations to a certain Buz, of whom nothing further is known, as the name בּוּז occurs nowhere else, except in Genesis 22:21 as that of a son of Nahor. The names of his ancestors also are not found elsewhere among the Gadites.

1 Chronicles 5:15

The head of their fathers'-houses (i.e., of those mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:13) as Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, who is conjectured to have lived in the time of King Jotham of Judah, or of Jeroboam II of Israel, when, according to 1 Chronicles 5:17, genealogical registers of the Gadites were made up.

1 Chronicles 5:16

The families descended from Buz “dwelt in Gilead,” in the part of that district lying to the south of the Jabbok, which Moses had given to the Gadites and Reubenites (Deuteronomy 3:12); “In Bashan and her daughters,” that is, in the villages belonging to the cities of Bashan and Gilead inhabited by them (for the suffix in בּבנותיה is to be referred distributively to both districts, or the cities in them). “And in all the pasture grounds ( מגרשׁ , cf. on Numbers 35:2) of Sharon unto their outgoings.” שׁרון , Sharon, lay not in Perea, but is a great plain on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from Carmel to near Joppa, famed for its great fertility and its rich growth of flowers (Song of Solomon 2:1; Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 55:10). “ A Caesarea Palaestinae usque ad oppidum Joppe omnis terra, quae cernitur, dicitur Saronas .” Jerome in Onom.; cf. v. Raumer, Pal. S. 50, and Robins. Phys. Geog. S. 123. It is this plain which is here meant, and the supposition of the older commentators that there was a second Sharon in the east-Jordan land is without foundation, as Reland, Palestina illustr. p. 370f., has correctly remarked. For it is not said that the Gadites possessed cities in Sharon, but only pastures of Sharon are spoken of, which the Gadites may have sought out for their herds even on the coast of the Mediterranean; more especially as the domain of the cis-Jordanic half-tribe of Manasseh stretched into the plain of Sharon, and it is probable that at all times there was intercourse between the cis-and trans-Jordanic Manassites, in which the Gadites may also have taken part. תּוצאותם are the outgoings of the pastures to the sea, cf. Joshua 17:9.

1 Chronicles 5:17

“And these ( כּלּם , all the families of Gad, not merely those mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:13.) were registered in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.” These two kings did not reign contemporaneously, for Jotham ascended the throne in Judah twenty-five years after the death of Jeroboam of Israel. Here, therefore, two different registrations must be referred to, and that carried on under Jotham is mentioned first, because Judah had the legitimate kingship. That set on foot by Jeroboam was probably undertaken after that king had restored all the ancient boundaries of the kingdom of Israel, 2 Kings 14:25. King Jotham of Judah could prepare a register of the Gadites only if a part of the trans-Jordanic tribes had come temporarily under his dominion. As to any such event, indeed, we have no accurate information, but the thing in itself is not unlikely. For as the death of Jeroboam II was followed by complete anarchy in the kingdom of the ten tribes, and one ruler overthrew the other, until at last Pekah succeeded in holding the crown for ten years, while in Judah until Pekah ascended the throne of Israel Uzziah reigned, and raised his kingdom to greater power and prosperity, the southern part of the trans-Jordanic land might very well have come for a time under the sway of Judah. At such a time Jotham may have carried out an assessment and registration of the Gadites, until his contemporary Pekah succeeded, with the help of the Syrian king Rezin, in taking from the king of Judah the dominion over Gilead, and in humbling the kingdom of Judah in the reign of Ahaz.

Verses 18-22

War of the trans-Jordanic tribes of Israel with Arabic tribes. - As the half-tribe of Manasseh also took part in this war, we should have expected the account of it after 1 Chronicles 5:24. Bertheau regards its position here as a result of striving after a symmetrical distribution of the historical information. “In the case of Reuben,” he says, “the historical information is in 1 Chronicles 5:10; in the case of the half-tribe of Manasseh, in 1 Chronicles 5:25, 1 Chronicles 5:26; as to Gad, we have our record in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22, which, together with the account in 1 Chronicles 5:25, 1 Chronicles 5:26, refers to all the trans-Jordanic Israelites.” But it is much more likely that the reason of it will be found in the character of the authorities which the author of the Chronicle made use of, in which, probably, the notes regarding this war were contained in the genealogical register of the Gadites.

1 Chronicles 5:18

חיל מן־בּני belongs to the predicate of the sentence, “They were the sons of Valour,” i.e., they belonged to the valiant warriors, “men bearing shield and sword (weapons of offence and defence), and those treading (or bending) the bow,” i.e., skilful bowmen. מלחמה למוּדי , people practised in war; cf. the portrayal of the warlike valour of Gad and Manasseh, 1 Chronicles 12:8, 1 Chronicles 12:21. “The number 44,760 must be founded upon an accurate reckoning” (Berth.); but in comparison with the number of men capable of bearing arms in those tribes in the time of Moses, it is somewhat inconsiderable: for at the first numbering under him Reuben alone had 46,500 and Gad 45,650, and at the second numbering Reuben had 43,730 and Gad 40,500 men; see on Num 1-4 (1:2, S. 192).

1 Chronicles 5:19

“They made was with the Hagarites and Jethur, Nephish and Nodab.” So early as the time of Saul the Reubenites had victoriously made war upon the Hagarites (see 1 Chronicles 5:10); but the war here mentioned was certainly at a later time, and has no further connection with that in 1 Chronicles 5:10 except that both arose from similar causes. The time of the second is not given, and all we know from 1 Chronicles 5:22 is that it had broken out before the trans-Jordanic Israelites were led captive by the Assyrians. הגריאים , in Psalms 83:7 contracted into הגרים , are the Ἀγραῖοι , whom Strabo, xvi. p. 767, introduces, on the authority of Eratosthenes, as leading a nomadic life in the great Arabico-Syrian desert, along with the Nabataeans and Chaulotaeans. Jetur, from whom the Itureans are descended, and Nephish, are Ishmaelites; cf. on Genesis 25:15. Nodab, mentioned only here, is a Bedouin tribe of whom nothing more is known.

1 Chronicles 5:20

The Israelites, with God's help, gained the victory. יעזרוּ , “it was helped to them,” i.e., by God “against them” - the Hagarites and their allies. שׁעמּהם contracted from עמּהם אשׁר . נעתּור is not an uncommon form of the perf. Niph., which would not be suitable in a continuous sentence, but the inf. absol. Niph. used instead of the third pers. perf. (cf. Gesen. Heb. Gramm. §131, 4): “and (God) was entreated of them, because they trusted in Him.” From these words we may conclude that the war was a very serious one, in which the possession of the land was at stake. As the trans-Jordanic tribes lived mainly by cattle-breeding, and the Arabian tribes on the eastern frontier of their land were also a shepherd people, quarrels could easily arise as to the possession of the pasture grounds, which might lead to a war of extermination.

1 Chronicles 5:21

The conquerors captured a great booty in herds, 50,000 camels, 250,000 head of small cattle (sheep and goats), 2000 asses, and 100,000 persons - all round numbers; cf. the rich booty obtained in the war against the Midianites, Numbers 31:11, Numbers 31:32.

1 Chronicles 5:22

This rich booty should not surprise us, “for there fell many slain,” i.e., the enemy had suffered a very bloody defeat. “For the war was from God,” i.e., conducted to this result: cf. 2 Chronicles 25:20; 1 Samuel 17:47. “And they dwelt in their stead,” i.e., they took possession of the pasture grounds, which up to that time had belonged to the Arabs, and held them until they were carried away captive by the Assyrians; see 1 Chronicles 5:26.

Verses 23-26

The families of the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, and the leading away of the East-Jordan Israelites into the Assyrian exile. - 1 Chronicles 5:23. The half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan was very numerous ( רבוּ המּה ), “and they dwelt in the land of Bashan (i.e., the Bashan inhabited by Gad, 1 Chronicles 5:12) (northwards) to Baal Hermon,” - i.e., according to the more accurate designation of the place in Joshua 12:7 and Joshua 13:5, in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon, probably the present Bânjas, at the foot of Hermon (see on Numbers 34:8), - “and Senir and Mount Hermon.” שׂניר , which according to Deuteronomy 3:9 was the name of Hermon or Antilibanus in use among the Amorites, is here and in Ezekiel 27:5 the name of a part of those mountains ( vide on Deuteronomy 3:9), just as “mount Hermon” is the name of another part of this range.

1 Chronicles 5:24

Seven heads of fathers'-houses of the half-tribe of Manasseh are enumerated, and characterized as valiant heroes and famous men. The enumeration of the names begins strangely with ו ( ואפר ); perhaps a name has fallen out before it. Nothing has been handed down as to any of these names.

1 Chronicles 5:25-26

1 Chronicles 5:25 and 1 Chronicles 5:26 form the conclusion of the register of the two and a half trans-Jordanic tribes. The sons of Manasseh are not the subject to ויּמעלוּ , but the Reubenites and Manassites, as is clear from 1 Chronicles 5:26. These fell away faithlessly from the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God had destroyed before them, i.e., the Amorites or Canaanites. “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of the Assyrian kings Pul and Tiglath-pilneser, and he (this latter) led them away captives to Halah and Habor,” etc. את־רוּח ויּער , Lavater has rightly rendered, “ in mentem illis dedit, movit eos, ut expeditionem facerent contra illos; ” cf. 2 Chronicles 21:16. Pul is mentioned as being the first Assyrian king who attacked the land of Israel, cf. 2 Kings 15:19. The deportation began, however, only with Tiglath-pileser, who led the East-Jordan tribes into exile, 2 Kings 15:29. To him ויּגלם sing. refers. The suffix is defined by the following acc., וגו לרעוּבני ; ל is, according to the later usage, nota acc.; cf. Ew. §277, e. So also before the name חלח , “to Halah,” i.e., probably the district Καλαχήνη (in Strabo) on the east side of the Tigris near Adiabene, to the north of Nineveh, on the frontier of Armenia (cf. on 2 Kings 17:6). In the second book of Kings (1 Chronicles 15:29) the district to which the two and a half tribes were sent as exiles is not accurately determined, being only called in general Asshur (Assyria). The names in our verse are there (2 Kings 17:6) the names of the districts to which Shalmaneser sent the remainder of the ten tribes after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. It is therefore questionable whether the author of the Chronicle took his account from an authority used by him, or if he names these districts only according to general recollection, in which the times of Shalmaneser and of Tiglath-pileser are not very accurately distinguished (Berth.). We consider the first supposition the more probable, not merely because he inverts the order of the names, but mainly because he gives the name הרא instead of “the cities of Media,” as it is in Kings, and that name he could only have obtained from his authorities. חבור is not the river Chaboras in Mesopotamia, which falls into the Euphrates near Circesium, for that river is called in Ezekiel כּבר , but is a district in northern Assyria, where Jakut mentions that there is both a mountain Χαβώρας on the frontier of Assyria and Media (Ptolem. vi. 1), and a river Khabur Chasaniae, which still bears the old name Khâbur, rising in the neighbourhood of the upper Zab, near Amadijeh, and falling into the Tigris below Jezirah. This Khâbur is the river of Gozan ( vide on 2 Kings 17:6). The word הרא appears to be the Aramaic form of the Hebrew הר , mountains, and the vernacular designation usual in the mouths of the people of the mountain land of Media, which is called also in Arabic el Jebâl (the mountains). This name can therefore only have been handed down from the exiles who dwelt there.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 5". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/1-chronicles-5.html. 1854-1889.
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