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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 12

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-40

CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter entirely new matter—supplementary to Samuel—contains a list of those who joined David in time of Saul (1 Chronicles 12:1-22), and of those who came to make him king over Israel (1 Chronicles 12:23-40).

1 Chronicles 12:1-7.—Benjamin and Judah came to Ziklag. A town which belonged to Simeon (Joshua 19:5), but given to David for residence it fell to Judah. Close, hidden (cf. 1 Samuel 17:30). Brethren, i.e., Benjamites, i.e., members of the same tribe; disgusted with his treatment of David or persuaded that God was with him. 1 Chronicles 12:3. Azmav. (1 Chronicles 8:13; 1 Chronicles 8:30; 1 Chronicles 11:33). 1 Chronicles 12:4. Geder. (Joshua 15:36). 1 Chronicles 12:5. The Haruph., sons of Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24), probably Benjamites. 1 Chronicles 12:6. Korahites, not of tribe of Levi, but descendants of some Korah of Judah. 1 Chronicles 12:7. Gedor (ch. 1 Chronicles 4:4).

1 Chronicles 12:8-15.—Gadites aided David. Hold, cave of Adullam, or a fort in wilderness of Judah (1 Samuel 22:5); faces (cf. 2 Samuel 1:2-3; 2 Samuel 2:18); buckler, lance or spear (1 Chronicles 12:24). 1 Chronicles 12:15. Jordan, to help brethren (cf. Joshua 3:15), first month, in spring, when river is swollen; valleys, literally all the valley on both sides Jordan. 1 Chronicles 12:14. Over, equal to (as in margin).

1 Chronicles 12:16-18.—Men of Judah and Benjamin. 1 Chronicles 12:17. Meet. David reason to suspect perhaps, feared treachery and required a solemn declaration. 1 Chronicles 12:18. Came upon, literally clothed. A. spoke not of himself, but as the Spirit of God prompted him.

1 Chronicles 12:19-22.—Men of Manasseh. Seven are given who joined David, when dismissed by Philistines from their army (cf. 1 Samuel 29:1-11). 1 Chronicles 12:21. Band, the troop of Amalek (1 Samuel 30:8), which sacked Ziklag during absence of David. 1 Chronicles 12:22. Host of God, a formula for great things.

1 Chronicles 12:23-40.—Different tribes who attended and made David king at Hebron. 1 Chronicles 12:24-25. Judah and Simeon, two southern tribes, had already acknowledged David. 1 Chronicles 12:26-28. Many of the Levites closely associated with these tribes. Jehoiada, father of Benaiah (1 Chronicles 11:22); leader, commander of priestly troops. Zadok became high-priest at a later time (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 1:8). 1 Chronicles 12:29. Benjamites few, for greater part still in service of Saul’s house. 1 Chronicles 12:30. Famous, men of name or renown. 1 Chronicles 12:31. Expressed, i.e., nominated and deputed by the rest of the tribe to go to Hebron and make David king [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 12:32. Understanding, best interpreted politically (Esther 1:13) [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 12:33. Not of double heart, falling into rank not with double heart, i.e., with firm and faithful mind. Naphtali decided, Dan in full strength, and Asher in great force. 1 Chronicles 12:37. A large contingent from eastern tribes.

1 Chronicles 12:38-40.—Great majority enthusiastic, agreed in heart, i.e., had a common wish (2 Chronicles 30:12) to make David king. 1 Chronicles 12:40. Tribes, near and distant, brought provisions on beasts of burden; every one made it a festival of joy.


THE ASSEMBLY AT ZIKLAG.—1 Chronicles 12:1-22

These joined David in the time of Saul, were early helpers in the time of exile and danger.

I. The ingenious tribe (1 Chronicles 12:1-7). Benjamites, Saul’s kinspeople, and for some reason not satisfied with his rule. Several leading men given. Men of great dexterity.

1. Skilful archers. “Shooting arrows out of a bow.”

2. Famous slingers. “Hurling stones.”

3. Well disciplined. Active and wonderful in “use of right hand and left.”

II. The courageous tribe (1 Chronicles 12:8-14). Gadites.

1. Able-bodied. “Men of might and men of war fit for battle.”

2. Specially trained. “Could handle shield and buckler.”

3. Remarkably fleet. “Swift as the roes upon the mountains,” not in flying from the foe, but in pursuing, so that none escaped. “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, &c.” (2 Samuel 22:34; Habakkuk 3:19).

4. Splendidly courageous. (a) They went over Jordan in time of floods. (b) They put to flight the people of the valley.

5. Awfully determined. “Whose faces were like the faces of lions.” Saul and Jonathan “swifter than eagles and stronger than lions” (2 Samuel 1:23).

III. The suspected tribes (1 Chronicles 12:16-18). Some of Benjamin and Judah. Benjamites probably invited Judahites to go with them to prevent suspicion; their anticipations well founded, as seen by results. David thought they were secret emissaries of Cush (Psalms 7:0 inscription), but soon persuaded otherwise, by (a) their entire submission, “Thine are we David and on thy side;” (b) their earnest prayer for his success, “Peace be unto thee.”

IV. The volunteer tribe (1 Chronicles 12:19-22). These “fell” not by lot, but by desertion from one to another. These persons left the service of Saul for that of David. Transfer allegiance from a bad to a good master, from a losing to a winning cause. Nothing else known of these seven captains. But one noble act may immortalise.


Saul’s brethren. Some akin to Saul came over to David.

1. A testimony to unblemished character.
2. A protest against grievous wrong (done to David).
3. A determination to share the fortunes of the king. “It is God who worketh men’s hearts and fashioneth their opinions. Paul had friends in Nero’s court, and Luther in the Pope’s” [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 12:2. Both right hand and left. The word “left-handed” (in Septuagint) in Judges 3:15 is rendered both-handed.

1. Some are left-handed, weak and awkward in every good work.

2. Others are right-handed, active, but single-handed after all.

3. Both hands required. Head, hands, heart, and all for Christ. “Both hands earnestly” for good, not for evil.

“Take my hands; and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.”

1 Chronicles 12:8. Separated themselves.

1. From what connections? Service of Saul and other Gadites who remained with him.
2. For what purpose? To serve David, the anointed king.
3. At what time? When David was in distress and danger. We must come out of the world, separate from evil company, and never be ashamed of Christ and his cause. Thus shall we be renowned and registered with his people.

1 Chronicles 12:17-18. Notice—I. The earnest appeal.

1. In its spirit. He does not imprecate nor condemn.
2. In its purpose. What are you come for, peace or war?
3. In its requirement. Loyalty to me. II. The grounds of the appeal.

1. Their intimate relation. Both parties descended from the same ancestors and dependent upon the same God. “The God of our fathers.”
2. His solemn declaration of innocence. “Seeing there is no wrong in mine hands.”
3. His reliance upon divine interposition. An appeal to God as righteous and omniscient judge to rebuke, avenge, and help. III. The response to the appeal. Amasai gave a beautiful, prompt, and earnest reply.

1. In unconditional submission to the king. “Thine, David.”
2. In sincere pledge of their services. “With thee, son of Jesse.”
3. In wishing success to his cause. “Peace to thee,” everything thy heart desires. “Peace to thy helpers,” among whom we wish to be numbered.
4. In assurance of divine help. “For thy God helpeth thee.” IV. The results of the appeal. When David saw the passionate earnestness and the loyal surrender—

1. He received them heartily. “Then David received them.”
2. He trustfully promotes them. “And made them captains of the band.” Submit to God, follow him implicitly, and you shall be promoted to honour.

1 Chronicles 12:14-15. Sons of Gad. Honourable mention.

1. High in command. “Captains of the host.”
2. Physically strong. “Least could resist an hundred, &c.” (cf. margin and Leviticus 26:8).

3. Brave in danger. Exploit well known in crossing Jordan, only needed simple allusion.
4. Victorious in fight. They overcame all in the valleys, east and west of the river.

“I sing the warrior and his mighty deeds.”

1 Chronicles 12:18. The spirit came upon (clothed) Amasai. An unusual expression. We hear constantly in O. T. of “the Spirit of God,” but only here (and possibly in 1 Chronicles 28:12) of “the Spirit” absolutely. Clear, however, the two expressions mean the same (cf. Judges 6:34 and 2 Chronicles 24:20). A. spoke not of himself, but as God’s spiritual influence moved him [Speak. Com.]. The need of the Holy Spirit to submit to Christ and recognise him king—to preach his word and carry on his cause. Tarry until ye be endued (clothed) with power from on high (Luke 24:49).

“Angels give thee in command
What to the smallest tittle thou shalt say.”


THE HOST OF GOD.—1 Chronicles 12:22

In distress David had few friends, 600 who served as guards. When he had to act for God many were disposed to help from different tribes. All welcome. So the army grew “like the host of God,” great in numbers, valour, and success.

I. Animated by the presence of God. David counted for something. “How many do you reckon me?” said a leader to his fainting soldiers. What inspiration and strength to have” the Captain of salvation” with the Church! Wellington, one day in battle, rode into the midst of his wavering men. One who saw him cried, “There’s the Duke; God bless him!” Then followed a tremendous cheer, and the tide was turned. “I am with you always.”

II. Increased by the grace of God. God only makes “willing in the day of power” (Psalms 110:3); the power of his Spirit and word. Numbers not always increase and efficiency. Many desert or weaken the cause. Grace adds such as are being saved (Acts 2:47). “The Lord make his people a hundred times so many more as they be.”

III. Successful through the help of God.

1. In gathering numbers. Confederates came to David in successive bands “day by day,” as emergencies required. A gradual, constant accession, incessant progress in the army and cause of Christ.

2. In gaining victories. Everything possible to David’s captains, counsellors, and friends. “Men of might and men of war.” In service of God warriors numerous as dewdrops of the morning; strong in the strength of the Lord of Hosts; certain to overpower all opposition. “There is no disputing,” said one to Cæsar, “with him that commands legions.” “For the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.”

THE ASSEMBLY AT HEBRON.—1 Chronicles 12:23-40

This was seven years after Saul’s death. “They should have come sooner,” says Trapp; “but better late than never.” Briefly classify and describe different tribes.

1. Judah, the equipped tribe. “Ready armed” (1 Chronicles 12:24); expecting and prepared to fight. Though fewer than others, they entertained those from afar. “Given to hospitality.”

2. Simeon, the tribe of valour. “Mighty men of valour for the war” (1 Chronicles 12:25).

3. The Levites, the priestly tribe (1 Chronicles 12:26-28). Earnest, led by famous men and recognised the providence of God in call of David. “Priestly troops” required now to fight and to pray.

4. Benjamites, the tribe small in number. Affection for their kin and jealousy for their honour kept many in army of Saul. All must be left for Christ. “Kindred should never over-rule conscience.”

5. Ephraim, the renowned tribe. “Famous throughout the house of their fathers” (1 Chronicles 12:30).

6. Manasseh, the deputed tribe. “Expressed by name” (1 Chronicles 12:31). “Deputed by the rest of the tribe to represent them” [Speak. Com.].

7. Issachar, the intelligent tribe (1 Chronicles 12:32).

(1) Men of political sagacity. “Had understanding of the times.” No longer “a strong ass” (Genesis 49:14).

(2) Men of insight. Knew “what Israel ought to do” in their critical condition.
(3) Men of authority. For “all their brethren were at their command.” Some knew how to rule and the rest how to obey.

8. Zebulon, the enthusiastic tribe (1 Chronicles 12:33).

(1) Sincere in heart. “Not of double heart,” not of doubtful and divided mind.

(2) Fixed in purpose. Not of distracted mind, divided purpose, and half a heart; but one in effort and interest.

(3) United in discipline. They “could keep rank,” in the march and on the field. Ever obedient to command and united with the companies.

9. Other tribes are given (1 Chronicles 12:34-37). Naphtali very decided (1 Chronicles 12:34). Dan in great strength (1 Chronicles 12:35). Asher expert, able to marshal war (1 Chronicles 12:36). Eastern tribes grouped together, make a large contingent and well-equipped (1 Chronicles 12:37). Thus came friends and adherents, to make David king and render loyal obedience to him.


Each tribe noted for some special quality. Sum all up and describe qualifications needful in God’s service.

I. Intelligence is required. Knowledge enough for personal salvation and for communication. Ignorance is unfitness and must never be excused. Knowledge must be the mind’s nutriment, “vigour of mind;” must become wisdom and power in action. Many generals opposed to Napoleon were acquainted with military science, but he excelled where victory depended upon wise movement and sudden thought. We must understand the times in which we live and the duties we have to perform.

II. Courage is required. “Woe be to fearful hearts and faint hands,” says the son of Sirach. A stout heart a great blessing. Cheering to see men in humble life and public conflict suffering in patience and triumphing in their integrity. Instances of courage in daily life and fields of action. “The heroic example of other days is in a great part the source of the courage of each generation; and men walk up composedly to the most perilous enterprises, beckoned onwards by the shades of the brave that were” [Helps]. “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”

III. Unity is required. Divided counsel leads to broken ranks. Party spirit and envy will frustrate design. Rank must be kept in Christian efforts and co-operation given in national interests. “United we stand,” broken we are scattered from the field. Tacitus said of Germans what the world says of Christians, “Whilst fighting separately, all are conquered together.” “One body, one spirit.”

IV. Enthusiasm is required. This makes up for lack in numbers and weapons. Ardour is a help in life, a useful and energetic motive-power. How often does it cool down by time, get repressed by toil and sneers! To succeed, enthusiasm must be contagious in our ranks and never die out. “Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm” [Emerson]. “Stir up (blow up, keep alive, as a dull fire) the gift of God within thee” (2 Timothy 1:6). Thus are we to qualify and equip ourselves for the warfare of life. “Men of understanding,” “mighty men of valour,” and “ready armed;” unity, spiritual sagacity and enthusiasm, all needful in leaders of tribes and soldiers of the “host of God.”


From the character here given of the men of Issachar we shall take occasion to show—I. That our conduct must often be affected by times and circumstances of whatever nature. 1, Civil; 2, Social; 3, Personal. But your conduct must be influenced by them in temporal matters. There is still reason to inquire—II. How far it may be properly affected by them in the concerns of religion.

1. That we may attend to times, &c., is certain (example of Christ and apostles).
2. But how far is not easy to determine. III. What there is in the times, &c., of the present day to affect our conduct. Application: suggest a caution or two.
1. Guard against yielding to any corrupt bias.
2. The future judgment will be according to motives.
3. Seek for wisdom that is profitable to direct [C. Simeon, M.A.].

THE JOYOUS ENTERTAINMENT.—1 Chronicles 12:38-40

Supplies of provisions furnished in abundance by neighbours and others from distant parts. All enthusiastic for David, and wished to feast on a liberal and magnificent scale worthy of the occasion.

I. The cause of joy. Three reasons for it.

1. United under one king. End of divided rule. Prospect of settlement under strong government.

2. A king chosen of God. Divine frown, clouds and darkness taken away. A king given under different circumstances, “a man after God’s own heart.”

3. Universal loyalty to the chosen king. All joined in the choice, submission, and gratitude.

II. The manifestation of joy. A cause or religion without expression or room for joy neither suits the wants of man nor accords with the will of God.

1. In unity of purpose. “To make David king.”

2. In sincerity of feeling. “With a perfect heart.” No deception, no half-hearted, no double-hearted. “Were of one heart and one soul.” This oneness expressed in thought and act towards each other and towards their sovereign.

3. In social fellowship. Three days feasting. Not selfish, individual joy; but domestic, social, and national.

III. The extent of the joy. “All the men of war” and “all the rest of Israel” (1 Chronicles 12:38). The soldier and the priest, the weak and the strong—all ages, all classes participated—none shut out from national feasting and rejoicing. This suggests the pure and unmixed joy in crowning and serving Christ as our king—the perfect happiness and order when he shall become the chosen of all nations, kindreds, and tribes. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.”


1 Chronicles 12:28. Zadok the warrior priest (cf. 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 1:8). Notice—

1. His profession. A soldier and priest. The cause, a “holy war.”
2. His qualifications. (a) “A young man.” (b) “Mighty of valour.” The need of young, valiant men, religious and devoted to God. “The history of heroes is the history of youth” [Lord Beaconsfield].

1 Chronicles 12:32. Understanding. Noscentes scite tempora, such as well knew what was to be done and when to do it, by a singular sagacity, gotten by long experience, rather than by skill in astrology. See Esther 1:13. David set a high price upon these; so doth God on such as regard and use the season of well-doing [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 12:33. Not of a double heart. Heb., without a heart and a heart; plain-hearted; non aliud in ore promptum, aliud in pectore conclusum habentes; downright dealers [Trapp].

1. Men of fluctuating sentiments. “A double-minded man” (having two minds) “is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7).

2. Men of compromising habits. “Woe be to the sinner that goeth two ways” (Sir. 2:12).

3. Men of hypocritical worship. “Come not unto the Lord with a double heart” (Sir. 1:28).

Unity of purpose. Its strength and advantage. “Napoleon gained his victories by consolidation. Austria and Russia attacked in columns and separate bodies; he concentrated his forces and fell on one point like an avalanche. So it must be with the Church. Scepticism will never be broken, Popery will never be dissipated, till the whole Christian Church is more thoroughly at one with each other” [Dr. Cumming].

1 Chronicles 12:38. Under discipline. I. What keeping rank involves.

1. Obedience to authority.
2. Regard to the general peace of the whole.
3. Mutual help. II. The importance of keeping rank in church life and action [Bib. Museum].


1 Chronicles 12:1. These came to David. The good and the great draw others after them; they lighten and lift up all who are within reach of their influence. They are so many living centres of beneficent activity. Let a man of energetic and upright character be appointed to a position of trust and authority, and all who serve under him become, as it were, conscious of an increase of power [S. Smiles].

“Whose spirit lent a fire

Even to the dullest peasant in his camp”


1 Chronicles 12:8. Separated themselves.

“The man whom I

Consider as deserving of the name,
Is one whose thoughts and actions are for others,
Not for himself alone; whose lofty aim,
Adopted on just principles, is ne’er
Abandoned while earth or heaven afford
The means of its accomplishment”


1 Chronicles 12:32. Men of understanding. Happy are those that, knowing in their births they are subject to uncertain changes, are still prepared and arm’d for either fortune; a rare principle, and with much labour learn’d in wisdom’s school [Massinger].

1 Chronicles 12:40. Joy in Israel. Joy is regarded as a happy accident of the Christian life, an ornament and luxury rather than a duty [Dr. Dale]. Joy in the Lord is strength, positive actual power for ministry. It creates around us the most favourable atmosphere for evoking our resources; raises our entire nature to the highest pitch of energy, and gives unwonted elasticity and capacity of tension to all our faculties. When the heart is brimming over with gladness, labour is acceptable, opposition helpful, duty a delight, and responsibility a privilege [Dr. Clifford]. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” [stronghold, marg.] (Nehemiah 8:10).

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-chronicles-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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