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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 12

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

First Chronicles Chapter 12

1 Chronicles 12:1 "Now these [are] they that came to David to Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish: and they [were] among the mighty men, helpers of the war."

Ziklag was where David stayed, just before the death of Saul. David was in Ziklag for a year and a half. Saul wanted to kill David, and David just stayed away from Saul. David had loyal men with him all the time he was running from Saul. David could have killed Saul several times, but would not, because he was God’s anointed. Achish had given Ziklag to David as a place to live.

1 Chronicles 12:2 "[They were] armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in [hurling] stones and [shooting] arrows out of a bow, [even] of Saul’s brethren of Benjamin."

These particular men had been with Saul, until they determined he was not fair in his dealings. They were some of the choice fighters who could use both hands in battle. They determined that David was right in the problem with Saul, and they came to serve David. Saul was a Benjamite, but they could not follow him, because of his cruelty toward David.

1 Chronicles 12:3 "The chief [was] Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel, and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth; and Berachah, and Jehu the Antothite,"

The list of men, who helped David at this time, would not be the same as the later list. Some will die in battle and be replaced. This is the beginning of the earliest list.

1 Chronicles 12:4 "And Ismaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty; and Jeremiah, and Jahaziel, and Johanan, and Josabad the Gederathite,"

David had about 600 men with him who had been with him from the time he had to flee from Saul. The men, listed in the verses above and the next few verses, are the men who were over that 600.

1 Chronicles 12:5 "Eluzai, and Jerimoth, and Bealiah, and Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite,"

1 Chronicles 12:6 "Elkanah, and Jesiah, and Azareel, and Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korhites,"

1 Chronicles 12:7 "And Joelah, and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor."

1 Chronicles 12:8 "And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness men of might, [and] men of war [fit] for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces [were like] the faces of lions, and [were] as swift as the roes upon the mountains;"

These men, that followed David, were not just from Judah. They were valiant men from several of the tribes. They followed David, because they believed in him and his God. They knew what Saul was doing was wrong. These were all brave men who were willing to fight for the right, even if they were greatly outnumbered. They were strong as lions. They were even better than what their physical power would let them be, because God strengthened them for battle. God was with David and his men.

1 Chronicles 12:9 "Ezer the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third,"

1 Chronicles 12:10 "Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth,"

1 Chronicles 12:11 "Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh,"

1 Chronicles 12:12 "Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth,"

1 Chronicles 12:13 "Jeremiah the tenth, Machbanai the eleventh."

1 Chronicles 12:14 "These [were] of the sons of Gad, captains of the host: one of the least [was] over an hundred, and the greatest over a thousand."

This is a list of the men of Gad that came to serve with David. Verse 14, says that the least of these men were over 100 and the greatest was over 1,000. This could have been the number they were over, when they served with the tribe of Gad. It could, also, be saying that the least of these men were like 100 and the greatest like 1000. The third thing it could mean, is that David’s army of 600 had grown mightily, and they were over the larger army.

1 Chronicles 12:15 "These [are] they that went over Jordan in the first month, when it had overflown all his banks; and they put to flight all [them] of the valleys, [both] toward the east, and toward the west."

There is a mention of the Jordan overflowing in Joshua 3:15. That is not the same instance as this, however. That just shows that sometimes around March, or April, the Jordan does overflow. There is no reference that I find to this particular time, however.

1 Chronicles 12:16 "And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David."

1 Chronicles 12:17 "And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if [ye be come] to betray me to mine enemies, seeing [there is] no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look [thereon], and rebuke [it]."

These of Benjamin and of Judah are in addition to those already mentioned. David had been deceived and betrayed so many times, that he was very cautious here. He would welcome them, if they were on his side; but if they were there to destroy, he warned them that God would destroy them. David knew the LORD was with him, even though he was in hiding from Saul.

1 Chronicles 12:18 "Then the spirit came upon Amasai, [who was] chief of the captains, [and he said], Thine [are we], David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace [be] unto thee, and peace [be] to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band."

Amasai is, probably, the same as Amasa. He would have been David’s nephew by his sister, Abigail. This Amasai was led by the Spirit. He spoke as the Spirit gave him utterence. David believed the words that he said, and welcomed him. He even made him a captain of some of the men.

1 Chronicles 12:19 "And there fell [some] of Manasseh to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle: but they helped them not: for the lords of the Philistines upon advisement sent him away, saying, He will fall to his master Saul to [the jeopardy of] our heads."

David had gone to the battlefront with the Philistines, but some of the Philistines did not trust David. They thought David would turn against them, and help Saul. David did not fight against Saul, but went back home. It appears, that some of Manasseh went back home with him.

1 Chronicles 12:20 "As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zilthai, captains of the thousands that [were] of Manasseh."

These men of Manasseh that fell to David had been captain over thousands. They were, now, part of David’s army.

1 Chronicles 12:21 "And they helped David against the band [of the rovers]: for they [were] all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host."

When David got back to Ziklag, there had been a raid, and they had taken the women and the children captive. David, now, pursued them, and got the people back. These men of Manasseh helped with the raid on the rovers to get the families of David and his men back. He not only recovered all they had taken, but took all they had of their own, as well. David divided the spoil with his 600 men.

1 Chronicles 12:22 "For at [that] time day by day there came to David to help him, until [it was] a great host, like the host of God."

At the time of the raid in verse 21 above, there were just 600 fighting men with David. In verse 22, it seems, that many came to join David, and they were growing in number every day. The army would eventually be a huge force.

1 Chronicles 12:23 "And these [are] the numbers of the bands [that were] ready armed to the war, [and] came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD."

Now, we will see how the LORD sent men to the extent for David’s army, that they became a huge army. The following are a list of those who came to Hebron to help David become sole king of all of Israel. Notice, all of it was according to the Word of God.

1 Chronicles 12:24 "The children of Judah that bare shield and spear [were] six thousand and eight hundred, ready armed to the war."

1 Chronicles 12:25 "Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred."

We have already read that some of the tribe of Judah and of Simeon were following David. Now, it seems the entire army had come to serve David. The men of Judah bearing arms were 6,800, and the men of Simeon 7,100.

1 Chronicles 12:26 "Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred."

1 Chronicles 12:27 "And Jehoiada [was] the leader of the Aaronites, and with him [were] three thousand and seven hundred;"

All of the Levites were in the service of the Lord. It is unusual to see the priestly line of Aaron separated here. There were 4,600 who were not from the family of Aaron and 3,700 that were from the family of Aaron. Jehoiada was leader of the priests. We must remember, that they are all coming to show their allegiance to David at Hebron.

1 Chronicles 12:28 "And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father’s house twenty and two captains."

This is, possibly, the high priest, Zadok, mentioned here. His sons would have been priests. Twenty-two captains could, also, mean leaders.

1 Chronicles 12:29 "And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul."

Saul was a Benjamite. It would have been natural for most of the Benjamites to have followed Saul. Now at his death, they put their lot in with David. There were just 3,000 fighting men of Benjamin. The small number of men of Benjamin could be because of their being nearly annihilated at one time.

1 Chronicles 12:30 "And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers."

Ephraim had a large standing army of 20,800. Even they gave their loyalty to David.

1 Chronicles 12:31 "And of the half tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name, to come and make David king."

We see from this, that it was not just the elders and the priests that came to make David king, but vast numbers of people. These 18,000 were from the western side of the Jordan river.

1 Chronicles 12:32 "And of the children of Issachar, [which were men] that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them [were] two hundred; and all their brethren [were] at their commandment."

It appears that, in the case of Issachar, they sent 200 men who were their leaders to represent them before David. There seemed to be a large army that this 200 represented.

1 Chronicles 12:33 "Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: [they were] not of double heart."

It is the opposite with Zebulon who brought their entire army to crown David king. They numbered 50,000. These men seemed to be of one mind and one accord. They were not divided in their allegiance.

1 Chronicles 12:34 "And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand."

1 Chronicles 12:35 "And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred."

1 Chronicles 12:36 "And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand."

A thousand captains was an unusually large number for the 37,000 men of Naphtali that came. Dan had 28,600. Asher brought 40,000 men. Just these three tribes would have made up a vast army by themselves.

1 Chronicles 12:37 "And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand."

These were the three tribes that lived on the eastern side of the Jordan River. They had 120,000 men of war. These were not just a large number, but well equipped for war, as well.

1 Chronicles 12:38 "All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel [were] of one heart to make David king."

We can see from the verses which go before this verse, that David was unanimously accepted by all 12 tribes. He would be the second king to rule over all Israel. They were a mighty force to reckon with when they were united. David would pull them together again. He was blessed of God, and they would be blessed of God, as well.

1 Chronicles 12:39 "And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them."

1 Chronicles 12:40 "Moreover they that were nigh them, [even] unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, [and] meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for [there was] joy in Israel."

The huge celebration lasted three days and nights. It appears from this that, all of Israel was in a time of celebration of the crowning of their king, David. The neighboring area brought food and drink to the celebration. There had to be a tremendous amount of food to feed these hundreds of thousands of people. One lesson we can learn from David, is to wait upon the LORD. When He is ready to bless, He will. David had not tried to overthrow Saul. He did not even demand to be king of all Israel. God made him king.

1 Chronicles 12 Questions

1. Where had David stayed for over a year, before the death of Saul?

2. Why did David not kill Saul, when he had the opportunity?

3. What was unusual about the men of Benjamin, that came to David (spoken of in 1 Chronicles 12:2)?

4. Why had they come to David?

5. About how many men did David have with him at Ziklag?

6. Where were the valiant men from?

7. Why were these men with David so strong?

8. The least of the men of Gad were over __________.

9. What are three different things that 1 Chronicles 12:14 could be speaking of?

10. What time of the year did the Jordan generally overflow?

11. When these extra men of Judah and Benjamin came to David, what did David ask them?

12. What happened to Amasai, that made him answer David?

13. Why did David not fight with the Philistines against Saul?

14. What did David find, when he got back to Ziklag?

15. Who did David divide the spoil with?

16. When David was at Ziklag, how many men were with him?

17. Just after this, so many came to join David, they were just like a ________ ________.

18. Where did all of these men come to join in with David?

19. How many came of the tribe of Judah?

20. Why is there a difference in the Levites and the Aaronites?

21. Who was Zadok?

22. Why were there so few men of Benjamin?

23. How do we know the ones who came to anoint David king, were not just elders and priests?

24. What is different about the group from Issachar?

25. Who were the tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan.

26. How many men did they bring?

27. David would be the _________ king to reign over all Israel.

28. How long did the huge celebration last?

29. Who brought food to help?

30. What is one lesson we can learn from David here?

31. Who really made David king?

Verses 1-7

1Ch 12:1-7

Introduction

The Men Who Came to David During His Days at Ziklag, and in His Days in the Wilderness Strongholds. Also the Military Strength that Came to Him at Hebron

1 Chronicles 12:1-7

THE GIBEONITES COME TO DAVID

"Now these are they that came to David at Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, his helpers in war. They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in slinging stones and in shooting arrows from the bow: they were of Saul’s brethren of Benjamin. The chief was Ahiezer; then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite, and Jeziel, and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth, and Beracah, and Jehu the Anathothite, and lshmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty, and Jeremiah, and Jahaziel, and Johanan, and Jozabad the Gederathite, Eluzai, and Jerimoth, and Belaiah, and Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite, Elkanah, and Isshiah, and Azarel, and Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites, and Joelah, and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor."

The significance of this paragraph is that some of Saul’s kinsmen defected to David at Ziklag, even a prominent citizen of Saul’s home town, a Gibeonite. The material in this chapter is found nowhere else in the Scriptures. The men named here were competent and able soldiers. We reject the snide unbelieving comment of Curtis and Madsen that, "Since on the death of Saul, the tribe of Benjamin remained faithful to his house, how much less can we believe that such desertions to David took place during his lifetime." Such a comment is important only because it alerts us to the fact that the authors of it were unbelievers in the ultimate sense of the word. Foolish indeed are those who trust such writers to interpret the Holy Scriptures for them.

The occasions for these desertions to the cause of David was the period of David’s residence at Ziklag, as related in 2 Samuel 27-30. (See my commentary under those references.)

The Chronicler stressed the skill, training, competence and high social standing of several of the persons mentioned. Some writers have attempted to downgrade David’s `six hundred men’ as "Debtors, discontented and desperate men," but this is merely a part of their evil campaign against the whole Book of Chronicles. Why? Chronicles is an effective denial of their favorite fairy tale that denies the Books of Moses.

Myers pointed out the real reason for the desertion of many of the very best men in all Israel to the cause of David, as follows: "The best and most capable men became his followers, because they recognized in him the chosen vessel of Jehovah."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 12:1. David had fled to the land of the Philistines as a final escape from Saul, and had been given Ziklag as his own residence (1 Samuel 27:1-7). It was natural that many of his asso dates would come to him, to render whatever service they could.

1 Chronicles 12:2. It is noteworthy that some of these men were relatives of Saul, the very man from whom David had fled. This shows the sentiment that was held for him in his flight from Saul.

1 Chronicles 12:3. These men were of the tribe of Benjamin, but the "ite" appellative is added to designate the town or other location of each one’s residence.

1 Chronicles 12:4. Ismaiah is named as a special man in that he outranked the 30 of whom he was one.

1 Chronicles 12:5-7 - No particulars are given as to the deeds or rank of these men, but their being included by the inspired writer is proof of their importance.

Verses 8-15

1Ch 12:8-15

1 Chronicles 12:8-15

THE GADITES DEFECT TO DAVID IN HIS WILDERNESS DAYS

"And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David to the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, that could handle shield and spear; whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountains: Ezer the chief, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, Mishmammah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, Attai the sixth, and Eliel the seventh, Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh. These of the sons of Gad were captains of the host: he that was least was equal to a hundred, and the greatest to a thousand. These are they that went over Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east and toward the west."

"To the stronghold in the wilderness" (1 Chronicles 12:8). This was prior to David’s days at Ziklag. The particular stronghold is not mentioned, but it might have been either Engedi or Adullam.

"Faces like the faces of lions ... as swift as the roes on the mountains" (1 Chronicles 12:8). No human being can outrun a deer; and the figures of speech used by the Chronicler here suggest that other figures of speech also appear in the chapter.

"The names of persons in these verses (1 Chronicles 12:9-13) are all found elsewhere in the Bible, but none of them as designating the same persons."

"They went over the Jordan in the first month" (1 Chronicles 12:15). "The time here was the same as our month of March/April." The historical setting may have been that of the Conquest under Joshua; but the event here given is not elsewhere reported in the Bible.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 12:8 - The tribe of Gad was situated east of the Jordan, yet these came over to David in a goodly number. The character of the tribe as described here, is borne out by Smith’s Bible Dictionary as follows: "The character of the tribe is throughout strongly marked--fierce and warlike." A shield was a defensive piece, held at the left side to ward off the darts of the enemy. A buckler was a similar piece, but used more as a shield for the front of the body. The reference to lions is for comparison only, indicating the boldness of the men- The roe was a kind of deer that was very swift on foot, hence the comparison.

1 Chronicles 12:9-13. Having given a description of the Gadites in genera! in the preceding verse, this paragraph names some of the men who came.

1 Chronicles 12:14. The men named above were so able in war they were given a position over others- Their qualifications were indicated by the fact that the least of them could manage 100 men.

1 Chronicles 12:15 - At harvest time the Jordan overflowed all its banks (Joshua 3:15)- The fact is mentioned in this place to indicate the rugged character of the Gadites. Being on the east of the river, they had to get across the torrent in some way in order to get to David.

Verses 16-18

1Ch 12:16-18

1 Chronicles 12:16-18

MEN OF BENJAMIN AND JUDAH COME TO DAVID IN THE STRONGHOLD

"And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the stronghold unto David. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, my heart shall be knit unto you; but if ye be come to betray me to mine adversaries, seeing there is no wrong in my hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it. Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the thirty, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be on thy helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band."

David had every right to fear betrayal by those who approached him in this episode. He had suffered betrayal by Doeg the Edomite (1 Samuel 21-22), by citizens of Keilah (1 Samuel 23), and by the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26).

It is of special interest that the Holy Spirit reassured David in the words of Amasai.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 12:16. Judah and Benjamin were adjoining tribes, and men from their territories went over to the land of the Philistines to offer their services to David.

1 Chronicles 12:17. Since Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, it is understandable why David would question these men as to their purpose in coming.

1 Chronicles 12:18 - Amasai was spokesman for the group- He assured David that they wished him peace, and indicated they were ready to fight for him. He then received them and enlisted them in his service.

Verses 19-22

1Ch 12:19-22

1 Chronicles 12:19-22

SOME OF THE TRIBE OF MANASSEH COME TO DAVID

"Of Manasseh also there fell away some to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle: but they helped them not; for the lords of the Philistines upon advisement sent him away, saying, He will fall away to his master Saul to the jeopardy of our heads. As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozebad, and Elihu, and Zilethai, captains of thousands that were of Manasseh. And they helped David against the band of rovers: for they were all mighty men of valor, and were captains in the host. For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great host, like the host of God."

"When he (David) came with the Philistines against Saul" (1 Chronicles 12:19). A full account of what is here mentioned is given in 1 Samuel 29. (See that reference for our notes regarding it.) It was upon that occasion that some of the tribe of Manasseh united with David. It was a timely addition to David’s forces, because he fought a battle against the Amalekites immediately afterward.

"Captains of thousands" (1 Chronicles 12:20). This evidently refers to positions these defectors to David had with the tribe of Manasseh; but there is no statement here that they brought their `thousands’ with them to David’s cause. Nevertheless, the death of Saul that followed very quickly very likely afforded an opportunity for adding many thousands to David’s army.

"They helped David against the band of rovers" (1 Chronicles 12:21). This band of rovers was that of the Amalekites who had plundered Ziklag during David’s trip with the Philistines to mount Gilboa. (See my commentary on 1 Samuel 30 for a full discussion of that Amalekite raid on Ziklag and David’s victory over them afterward.)

"Until there was a great host, like the host of God" (1 Chronicles 12:22). This is a reference to the ultimate rally of all Israel to the kingship of David and should not be understood as applicable to the period of David’s long contest against Saul.

The remaining verses of this chapter leap forward seven years and a half to the crowning of David as king over all Israel, completely ignoring his seven and a half years as king in Hebron.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 12:19 - When David was preparing to light in the Philistine army against Israel (1 Samuel 28:1-2; 1 Samuel 29:1-10) these men offered to fight by his side. However, since David was rejected from the Philistine army, we have no further information as to the activities of these Manassehites.

1 Chronicles 12:20. Ziklag was the city that had been given to David by the Philistine king of Gath. (1 Samuel 1-7.) Fell to him means they became friendly to him. These men of the tribe of Manasseh were not ordinary persons, but were captains. This shows the standing that David had in those troublous times.

1 Chronicles 12:21-22. Rovers is not in the original, but band is, and is defined in the lexicon, "a crowd (especially of soldiers)." Moffatt’s translation gives us "the raiders." These men who came to David from the tribe of Manasseh were themselves men of experience as soldiers, and were able to help him against the hostile bands. Encouraged no doubt by the favorable appearances, the number of men coming over to David’s side increased daily, until it became a great host, which means it became an army.

Verses 23-40

1Ch 12:23-40

1 Chronicles 12:23-40

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DAVID AS KING OF ALL ISRAEL

"And these are the numbers of the heads of them that were armed for war, who came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of Jehovah. The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, armed for war. Of the childen of Simeon, mighty men of valor for the war, seven thousand and one hundred. Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred. And Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron; and with him were three thousand and seven hundred, and Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father’s house twenty and two captains. And of the children of Benjamin, the brethren of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greater part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valor, famous in their fathers’ houses. And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king. And of the children of Issachar, men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment. Of Zebulun, such as were able to go out in the host, that could set the battle in array, with all manner of instruments of war, and that could order the battle array, and were not of double heart. And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand. And of the Danites that could set the battle in array, twenty and eight thousand and six hundred. And of Asher, such as were able to go out in the host, that could set the battle in array, forty thousand. And on the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, a hundred and twenty thousand.

"All these, being men of war, that could order the battle array, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king. And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking; for their brethren had made preparations 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, victuals 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."

Critical writers, lacking any real reason to press their denials regarding the authenticity of Chronicles, seize upon the numbers of the armed men coming to Hebron to make David king, declaring them to be unreaonable, exaggerated, "magnified," unhistorical, inaccurate, etc. To all such allegations, there is one single word: NONSENSE! The conclusion announced by Curtis (Madsen) that, "Our chapter (this one) has no real historical worth," betrays the bias and essential ignorance of all such allegations. Curtis pointed out that the numbers given here in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40 come to a sum total of 339,600 men. There is nothing whatever suspicious, unreasonable, or difficult in the coming of such a crowd to Hebron for the coronation of King David.

There are a number of historical references to the Jewish Passover, held every year in Jerusalem, indicating that in excess of 60,000 lambs were often slain at each celebration of the Passover; and there is one citation in which over 250,000 lambs were killed at the Passover. Counting ten persons for each lamb, as prescribed in Exodus, indicates that crowds in Jerusalem were frequently in excess of half a million in number; and that in some instances, crowds of over a million came to the Holy City. In this light, there is every reason to hold the numbers given here as absolutely accurate, nor should any Christian allow some unbelieving enemy of God’s Word to cast any doubt whatever upon them.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 12:23. The reader is taken back to the time David was king in Hebron. At that time he reigned only over the tribe of Judah as a whole. But there were individuals who had friendly feeling for him and came to his aid. They believed that David was the rightful ruler, and that the attempts to hold the kingdom for Saul’s family were unlawful.

1 Chronicles 12:24. It would be expected that men of Judah would be in sympathy with David in the controversy- Yet it sometimes occurs that professed sympathy is all the assistance one gets, while these men of the home tribe where David was reigning showed their sincerity by being ready armed to the war.

1 Chronicles 12:25-26. Here we see that some men of the tribes who were supposed to be under Saul’s son came over to David’s side- They were not just those who might have been considered the weaklings seeking some recognition. They were mighty men of valor, which means they were strong men.

1 Chronicles 12:27. The previous verse had mentioned the children of Levi. That would mean the tribe as a whole which consisted of three important groups from the three sons of Levi. The present verse considers one family of Levi only, the Aaronites. They were the priests since only the family of Aaron was eligible for the priesthood.

1 Chronicles 12:28. There were several men named Zadok, some of them in the priesthood. The one in this verse is different from all of them, and is known simply as a young man of much strength. He led 22 captains, or military leaders, in the service for David.

1 Chronicles 12:29. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. It is significant, therefore, that 3,000 men of that tribe adhered to David, for the most of the tribe still clung to the house of Saul.

1 Chronicles 12:30. Almost if not quite all of the tribes furnished men who were faithful to David, even while the tribes as a whole held with the conspiracy for Saul’s house for some years. But special reasons for mentioning the particular ones are often given. The men of Ephraim are said to have been famous. Strong defines the original word, "an appellation [or name] as mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character."

1 Chronicles 12:31. Mention of the half tribe of Manasseh does not mean that part of the tribe was opposed to David. Half of that tribe had settled on the east side of the Jordan River, which would explain why they had not taken active part in the movements. 1 Chronicles 12:20 had already mentioned 7 men of this tribe who came to David’s side, and they were captains. Our present paragraph refers to 18,000 of that tribe who, though not as prominent as the ones in 1 Chronicles 12:20, were men of sufficient importance that when they came to David they were all named out to him.

1 Chronicles 12:32. Understanding of the times means they were men of good judgment, to know what to do in all emergencies; the less efficient men cooperated with these.

1 Chronicles 12:33. These men are mentioned because of their expert ability in battle. They could make formations for the actions that were helpful towards victory. Not of double heart means they were not wavering in their purposes.

1 Chronicles 12:34. The men of this tribe are mentioned because of their expertness in handling the shield and spear. The spear was a long rod or pole with a sharp, heavy head, and used by hurling with the hand at the enemy. This was done with the right hand, and the shield was a plate of metal held in the left hand to ward off the spears thrown by the enemy.

1 Chronicles 12:35. The simple statement that these men were expert in war is the motive for taking note of this group of the Danites.

1 Chronicles 12:36. In this and two other verses above the word expert is used to describe the quality of the men referred to. The particular meaning of the original word is defined by Strong thus: "A primitive root; to set in a row, i. e. arrange, put in order (in a very wide variety of applications)." The practical meaning of the word is ability to keep in order under the excitement of battle.

1 Chronicles 12:37. Other side of Jordan means the east side, because the author is writing from the main part of the Jewish territory which is Palestine proper, west of Jordan.

1 Chronicles 12:38. The writer extends the date of his narrative to the time when David was to be accepted as king of the whole nation. Many of the men cited above had shown their sympathy for him before; now they are taking an active part in the developments. The qualification could keep rank is the same as being "expert" which was defined at 1 Chronicles 12:36. Came with a perfect heart means they were wholehearted in their friendship for David. The various tribes were sincere in their offer to recognize him, although some of the individuals had been slow in seeing the injustice of the usurpation of the house of Saul after his death.

1 Chronicles 12:39. The people had come to Hebron because that was the place where David had been located during his restricted reign. They had been expected, and preparations were made for a feast that lasted 3 days.

1 Chronicles 12:40. This verse describes a gathering of many people of Israel. It was a joyous time because the opposition to David had subsided, and the outward expressions of support for him caused all to nave a sense of relief. The general feeling of joy prompted these men of the tribes mentioned to contribute the food for the entertainment, so that the three-day feast was an occasion of great joy.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 12". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/1-chronicles-12.html.
 
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