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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 5

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-26

CRITICAL NOTES.] This ch. contains Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh east of Jordan, with two episodes, one on the wars of these tribes, and the other on the removal by Tilgath-pilneser. The upper Assyrian monarchy began 1273 B.C., the lower 747 B.C. [Murphy].

1 Chronicles 5:1-10.—Reuben lost his birthright. The priesthood given to Levi; the double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17) to Joseph, whose sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, reckoned as distinct tribes. Judah had supremacy, 1 Chronicles 5:2. Chief ruler, prince, i.e., David, and eventually Messiah (Micah 5:1). 1 Chronicles 5:3, sons four, as Genesis 46:9; Exodus 6:14. 1 Chronicles 5:4-6. The line of Joel. 1 Chronicles 5:7. Brethren, kinsmen of Joel, chief was Jeiel. 1 Chronicles 5:10. Hagarites, Hagarenes (Psalms 83:6), a tribe of North Arabia, perhaps Agraioi of Strabo [Speak. Com.], or Ismaelites as descendants of Hagar.

1 Chronicles 5:11-17.—Gad. Chiefs, 1 Chronicles 5:12, and seven others, 1 Chronicles 5:13. “Their pedigree traced back ten generations. For Buz and Ahi are really parts of one name, Buzahi, for which Sept. has Ahibuz by transposing parts. Not informed to what family Guni belonged” [Murphy], must have been contemporary with Solomon or David, therefore before the secession of ten tribes.

1 Chronicles 5:18-22.—Wars of Eastern tribes with Arabs. Jetur and Nephish (Naphish) among descendants of Ismael in Chr. 1 Chronicles 1:31, and in Genesis 25:15. Of Nodab, nothing known. Hagarites made raids from desert. Hence war in self-defence. Confederate tribes prevailed over invaders. Booty indicates dense population and extensive campaign; “may be compared with that from Midianites (Numbers 31:32-35), and does not exceed amount which kings of Assyria constantly carried off in raids upon tribes of no great note or name” [Speak. Com.]. Captivity of Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29).

1 Chronicles 5:23-26.—Half Manasseh, north of Gad. Three names given of three parts or “summits” of Antilebanon. Valour or special bravery of Manassites (cf. ch. 1 Chronicles 12:21). Famous, i.e., “men of names,” celebrated men. Transgressed, a long description in 2 Kings 17:0. He carried, i.e., Tilgath. Pul only levied tribute on the land. Deported to places named, as parts of region to which remainder of ten tribes removed by Shalmaneser.


THE FORFEITED BLESSING.—1 Chronicles 5:1-3

Reuben, rash and impulsive, lost splendid position and power through passion (Genesis 49:4).

I. The sin through which the blessing was lost. A most abominable and iniquitous act, worthy of death under law of Moses (Leviticus 18:8), and not to be mentioned among Christians (1 Corinthians 5:1). Sin dethrones from excellency, stamps disgrace upon character, and entails loss upon posterity.

II. The persons to whom the blessing was bestowed. Taken from one and given to another.

1. Joseph’s sons had double portion. Ephraim and Manasseh reckoned distinct tribes; blessed by the expressed will of Jacob (Genesis 48:22) and in the partition of Canaan (Joshua 16, 17).

2. Judah had pre-eminence. Honour to Judah, and birthright to Joseph. One need not envy the other. (a) In power. The sceptre assigned to Judah (Genesis 49:10). (b) In dignity. From him came chief ruler David first, and afterwards the Saviour. Those related to Christ, the Prince of Peace, have a better portion than men endowed with wealth and perishing honour.

III. The principle on which the blessing was given. The writer careful to explain why Judah was made supreme. “The genealogy not reckoned after the birthright;” not in natural, but in providential order; “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

THE LINE OF REUBEN.—1 Chronicles 5:1-10

I. The chief of the tribe. The genealogy traced to Beerah, the head of the clan, when carried into Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:6). What are termed “unfortunate positions” and “evil days” are controlled, if not created, by God. “My times are in thy hand.”

II. The privileges of the tribe. Degraded, but not entirely disinherited. Sullied honour not always lost happiness. Reuben’s sons had their share of honour and estate, were “valiant” in war, and “helped” in victory. Their inheritance received before Judah or Ephraim.

III. The enlargements of the tribe (1 Chronicles 5:9-10). They increased in cattle and population, crowded out their neighbours, and extended conquests into the wilderness and near the Euphrates.

IV. The disinheritance of the tribe. The prediction exactly fulfilled in history, “Thou shalt not excel.” Reuben made no figure, and produced no judge, prophet, or eminent person. He lingered among the sheepfolds, preferred the shepherd’s pipe to the trumpet of battle. Robbed of pre-eminence, his individuality fades away. Remote from the centre of government and religion, he lost faith in Jehovah, “went after other gods,” and finally carried off into captivity.

UNITY AND ITS ACHIEVEMENTS.—1 Chronicles 5:11-22

The three tribes united went to war and gained victory.

I. A description of the army (1 Chronicles 5:18).

1. Courageous in character. “Sons of valour.”

2. Skilful in the use of weapons. “Men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with the bow and skilful in war.”

3. Aggressive in spirit. “Went out to war.”

4. Great in number. “Four and forty thousand seven hundred and threescore.”

II. The method in which they fought (1 Chronicles 5:20).

1. United in rank. “Men who could keep rank” (1 Chronicles 12:3).

2. Earnest in prayer. “For they cried to God in the battle.”

3. Thoroughly reliant upon God. “They put their trust in him.” “They cried unto thee and were delivered; they trusted in thee and were not confounded.”

III. The success they achieved. Not only “helped” and “delivered,” but enriched.

1. The booty enormous. “They took away their cattle,” &c. (1 Chronicles 5:21).

2. The slain numerous. “There fell down many slain,” &c. The Church united, courageous, and prayerful, ever victorious.

THE APOSTATE TRIBES.—1 Chronicles 5:23-26

Special attention paid to this great sin of the tribes, this beginning of national evil and national suffering.

I. Shameful apostasy. A full description in 2 Kings 17:0 of idolatries, heathen and native.

1. Beginning in forgetfulness of God. “They transgressed against the God of their fathers” (1 Chronicles 5:25). One known to them as a nation, venerated by their fathers and worthy of their service.

2. Ending in forsaking God. “Went a whoring after the gods of the people.” Forsaking their own God, they worshipped idols of the heathen. Man must have a god, will worship something, even if he adores himself. Whoring, a strong, emphatic word, indicative of special aggravation and intense jealousy.

II. Merited judgment. We have a full and impressive vindication of divine procedure. Patience exhausted, and God, whom they had forsaken, permitted captivity to cure national evils.

1. Utter defeat. (a) First God stirred up Pul, King of Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:26). The first of northern sovereigns who invaded Palestine was bribed by silver to return (2 Kings 15:16-20). Tribute was imposed, which caused prophetic protest, great dissatisfaction, and impoverished the kingdom by reducing its territory and its inhabitants. (b) Then Tiglath inflicted utter defeat. Valour and numbers of no avail. When God has left us, defence is gone.

2. Helpless exile. They were “carried away” into distance and slavery. God’s instruments, many and varied, to chastise. Idolatry most destructive sin to people loved and led by Jehovah. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”


1 Chronicles 5:2. Judah prevailed.

1. God in family history.
2. Persons giving pre-eminence to families, David and Messiah from Judah.
3. Grace distinguishing families in civil and religious matters, in national and individual life.

1 Chronicles 5:18-20. Cried in battle. So did Jabez (ch. 4); Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:0); the thundering legion; the late King of Sweden, whose prayer before the great battle of Lutzen, where he fell, was, “Jesus, vouchsafe this day to be my strong helper, and give me courage to fight for the honour of thy name.” Prayer alone he held the surest piece of his whole armour [Trapp].

1 Chronicles 5:25. Transgressed.

1. Danger of proximity to the world. The tribes on the borders had intercourse with neighbouring people, then drawn into sin.

2. Fearful consequences of yielding to enticements of the world. Cast off by God, invaded by enemies, and displaced by Providence. Be governed by faith, not by sense. Lot.

1 Chronicles 5:26. Stirred up.

1. God’s influence over men’s spirit. Stirred up, moved, prompted. “The king’s heart,” the most absolute and uncontrollable will, “is in the hand of the Lord as rivers of water” (Proverbs 21:1).

2. God’s control over man’s conduct. Despotic rule, political projects, and ambitious wars directed to the fulfilment of his purpose. Pul restrained in conduct. “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few” (Isaiah 10:7).


1 Chronicles 5:2. Judah’s pre-eminence.

“Some must be great. Great officers will have
Great talents. And God gives to ev’ry man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordained to fill”


1 Chronicles 5:18. Valiant men. It is not the will of God that his people should be a timorous people [Mt. Henry].

1 Chronicles 5:20. Helped. We are like William of Orange, with a few followers and an empty purse, making war against the master of half the world with the mines of Peru for a treasury. But like William, too, when questioned concerning our resources, we can reply, “Before we took up this cause we entered into a close alliance with the King of Kings” [Sword and Trowel].

1 Chronicles 5:26. Carried away. When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into his quiver for deadly arrows. Abuse of mercy ripens us for judgment [Nicholls].

“Heaven gives the needful but neglected call.
What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts
To wake the soul to sense of future scenes?”


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-chronicles-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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