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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 5

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-2

1 Chronicles 5:1-2

Now the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel.

Reuben’s rights transferred to Joseph

This incident is worth dwelling upon, only because it elucidates a special phase of the Divine government. God is not bound by arbitrary laws. Primogeniture can be changed in the court of heaven. Conduct is the only absolute guarantee of real and enduring primogeniture. “Once in grace, always in grace,” may be a glorious truth, but everything depends upon what is meant by being “in grace.” They are not all Israel that are called Israel. We can only prove that we were once in grace by continually living in grace. Any vital breach in the continuance will throw discredit upon the supposed reality of the origin. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 2

1 Chronicles 5:2

And of him came the Chief Ruler.

The Chief Ruler

I read of “the rulers of the darkness of this world”; “the rulers of synagogues”; the rulers that “set themselves against the Lord and against His Anointed”; but none of them are “Chief.” Christ is the “Chief Ruler.”

His appointment to office (Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalms 2:6-9).

1. He rules in the Church.

2. He rules in the hearts of His people.

His essential qualifications for that office.

1. Infinite wisdom.

2. Invincible power.

3. Order.

The mercies unfolded in it.

1. By it is maintained the truth of God.

2. His empire is secured through it. He must rule until every enemy submits (Psalms 72:11; Isaiah 11:7).

3. Triumphs are secured to us and repeatedly realised by our Chief Ruler.

(1) Over temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13).

(2) Over every difficulty in providence (Isaiah 13:16). (Joseph Irons.)

Verse 20

1 Chronicles 5:20

And they were helped against them.


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 close alliance with the King of kings.” (Sword and Trowel.)

Verse 22

1 Chronicles 5:22

Because the war was of God.

God’s war

When a man fights against himself, in his lusts, passions, and unauthorised aspirations, he fights a war approved of God, and if he fights that war in the name of God he shall be none other than a victor at the close. When a man fights for the poor, the oppressed, the helpless, he is engaged in a battle over which God holds the banner, and the holding of that banner is the guarantee of triumph. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The war is of God

In speaking on temperance principles and trying to help and encourage temperance workers, this story of Bible history will well illustrate our theme. Consider:

The warriors.

1. They were courageous men--“valiant men,” sons of valour as the original has it.

2. They were skilful.

3. They were united.

The weapons which these warriors used.

1. The buckler. This was a weapon of defence, a small hand shield that was fastened to the wrist or to the hand itself, with which the warriors parried the blows of their enemies. “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”

2. The sword. If temperance workers would take the Bible as their sword, they would get on better than with the wooden swords which so many are inclined to use.

3. Bows and arrows. The spiritual parallel is the “arrow of conviction.”

Their warfare. It was distinguished--

1. By faith.

(1) Personal. They trusted in God; we must also have a personal faith in Christ as our Saviour.

(2) Also in the power of the gospel to change the hearts and lives of men.

2. By prayer. “They cried to God in the battle.”

The victory. (Thomas Spurgeon.)

Verse 25

1 Chronicles 5:25

And they transgressed against the God of their fathers.

The transgressions of the people

If we turn to the Book of Kings we shall be surprised to find how the fatal sin of Israel was often of an intellectual kind, as distinguished from the baser iniquities which corrupt and overthrow the soul. There were three instances in which the intellectual sins of the people were conspicuous--

1. In the worship of the holy places.

2. In adoration of the heavenly bodies.

3. In the practice of magic and divination.

There we find nothing of adultery, drunkenness, theft, or licentiousness of any kind. There are sins and sins. One man is simply a sinner of the coarse type, a criminal seen and known of all men and cast out by society; another man sins intellectually--that is to say he mentally deposes God, and more or less secretly endeavours to live without Him, never breaking any of the great social commandments, and thereby forfeiting social confidence, yet all the while committing the sin against the Holy Ghost. In this way men write their own bibles, invent their own deities, banish from the mind all the old orthodoxies, and in hidden vanity walk after the council of their own hearts. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/1-chronicles-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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