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In this chapter we have a number of records that have been nowhere else preserved. They serve as interesting supplements to 1 Samuel 22:2; 1 Samuel 27:7; 1 Samuel 29:11; and 2 Samuel 2:3, and inform us of a number of notable heroes who resorted unto David at different periods of his career. First we have a list of those who came to him at Ziklag. 1 Chronicles 12:1-7. Next a list of Gadites, and men of Benjamin and Judah, who joined him in the desert. Vers. 8-18. Then a list of Manassites, who joined him on his return to Ziklag after having accompanied the Philistines to the war against Saul, (vers. 19-22;) and finally a record of the number of those from various tribes who helped to make David king at Hebron. Vers. 23-40.
1. Ziklag See on 1 Samuel 27:5-12.
While he yet kept himself close because of Saul Rather, while he was yet shut up from the presence of Saul; that is, during the time of his exile, when, on account of Saul’s designs against his life, (1 Samuel 27:1,) he dared not appear in the presence of that monarch, nor publicly move through the coasts of Israel.
Helpers of the war Assistants of David in such wars as are referred to in 1 Chronicles 12:15; 1Ch 12:21 ; 1 Samuel 23:5; 1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:8-18.
2. Could use both the right hand and the left Hence their skill had been acquired by long and careful practice. See Judges 3:15; Judges 20:16, notes.
Even of Saul’s brethren That is, who were members of his own tribe. Even these revolted from Saul, and cast in their lot with David.
8. The Gadites… unto David into the hold to the wilderness The “ hold” here referred to is most probably the cave of Adullam; see on 1 Samuel 22:1-2. It may, however, be understood generally of the several holds or fastnesses in which David hid himself at various times.
14. One of the least was over a hundred, and the greatest over a thousand Thus the Vulgate; but the marginal reading gives the sense of the Hebrew: One that was least could resist a hundred, and the greatest a thousand. The least or smallest of these heroes was able to cope with a hundred ordinary men, while the mightiest could maintain battle with a thousand. The expression is to be regarded as proverbial. Comp. Leviticus 26:8; Deuteronomy 32:30; Joshua 23:10.
15. These Namely, these Gadites. The writer thus gives in this verse an instance of their valour.
Went over Jordan in the first month That is, in Abib, (April,) when the river usually overflows all its banks, and the crossing is both difficult and dangerous.
Put to flight all them of the valleys This expedition of the Gadites was, perhaps, a mere scheme of predatory conquest; or, it may have been undertaken to punish the people of these valleys for marauding expeditions they had carried on. If, however, we should understand “the hold” of 1 Chronicles 12:8 to be that of Mizpeh of Moab, where David dwelt awhile, (1 Samuel 22:3-5,) this exploit of the Gadites may have taken place at the time they separated themselves from the rest of the Gadites. In resorting unto David they may have met with opposition from Saul’s partisans, and were therefore obliged to fight their way through the valleys east and west of the Jordan.
17. If ye be come to betray me to mine enemies Here we observe an instance of David’s caution and reserve. He had some suspicion that these men of Benjamin and Judah might be crafty emissaries from Saul.
18. The spirit came upon Amasai Hebrews clothed Amasai, that is, enwrapped him as with armour. See note on Judges 6:34.
Thine are we, David This speech of Amasai is full of emotion, and rises to poetic parallelism.
To thee, O David!
And with thee, O son of Jesse!
Peace, peace unto thee,
And peace unto thy helpers;
For helpeth thee thy God.
19. There fell some of Manasseh to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul On David’s connexion with this war, see 1 Samuel 28:1-2; 1 Samuel 29:1-11. As the march with the Philistines led David through the territory of Manasseh, it was easy for members of this tribe to join him as he returned to Ziklag.
21. They helped David against the band The predatory horde of Amalekites, which, during David’s absence, had fallen upon Ziklag, and taken the women and children captive. See 1 Samuel 30:0.
22. A great host, like the host of God That is, strong, mighty, glorious. Compare “hill of God,” Psalms 68:15, “cedars of God,” Psalms 80:10, margin; “city of God,” Jonah 3:3, margin.
23. The numbers of the bands Literally, the numbers of the heads. This the Septuagint and Vulgate take in the sense of the number of chiefs, or captains; but as the following list is devoted chiefly to the numbers of the warriors, it is better to understand the word ( ראשׂי ) as our translators have rendered it, bands, or companies, as it is rendered in Judges 7:16; Judges 7:20; Judges 9:34; 1 Samuel 11:11.
LIST OF WARRIORS WHO MADE DAVID KING OF ALL ISRAEL, 1 Chronicles 12:23-40.
This list is a most interesting and important document in the annals of David. It indicates the proportion of sympathy and help (the number of votes, so to speak) he received from the various tribes at the time referred to in 1 Chronicles 11:1-3, when “all Israel gathered themselves to David unto Hebron,” to transfer to his hands the kingdom of Saul. Bertheau thinks that we have here only an extract from a complete list which contained the names and number of the chiefs, and also the number of warriors. This, however, is uncertain. The list may, indeed, have undergone some corruption, but it contains so many evidences of genuineness that we may well regard it as in the main a faithful copy.
24. Judah… six thousand and eight hundred It has been thought strange that David’s own tribe should have had so small a representation in comparison with remote tribes like Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher. Compare 1 Chronicles 12:33-34; 1 Chronicles 12:36. But David had already ruled over Judah seven years, and on this occasion it was unnecessary for his own tribe to be present in great numbers. The same remarks apply to the tribe of Simeon, which had already become largely identified with that of Judah.
26. Levi four thousand and six hundred These came from the various Levitical cities. They were not reckoned among the warriors of the nation, (Numbers 1:47,) but came as representatives of their tribe to confirm the covenant with David.
27. Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites Not high priest, but civil ruler and tribal representative.
28. Zadok Not necessarily the high priest of this name.
29. Benjamin… three thousand A very great number could hardly be expected on this occasion from the tribe of Saul. Hence the writer adds, that hitherto, that is, up to that time, the greatest part of them had kept the ward (rather, were keeping charge) of the house of Saul. They still were adhering in sympathy and attachment to the house of their fallen king.
31. Expressed by name These representatives of Manasseh were duly elected and designated by name to go and make David king.
32. That had understanding… to know what Israel ought to do These representatives of Issachar displayed superior judgment on this occasion in estimating the circumstances of the times, and discerning the course of action Israel should pursue.
33. Zebulun… expert in war… fifty thousand Their numbers and prowess were still in keeping with their ancient fame acquired in the war with Sisera, Judges 5:18.
Which could keep rank… not of double heart This should all be taken together as a single sentence, who set the battle in array with no double heart. The word rendered keep rank, occurs only here and in 1 Chronicles 12:38. Our version seems to have hit the true meaning, but not to have expressed it clearly. The thought is, that the Zebulunite warriors were skillful in falling into rank, or arranging themselves in battle array. They were trained to do this without the least wavering or hesitation, (literally, not with heart and heart,) but with a firm and single mind.
38. The rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king That is, they made no opposition, and raised no remonstrance. How much so-ever some lacked sympathy for David, and mourned over the lost cause of Saul, all were convinced in their hearts that David was the divinely chosen king.
39. Three days, eating and drinking It was a day of joy to all the land, and the great assembly at Hebron did well to celebrate it with abundant festivity.
40. Even unto Issachar Not only the tribes near Hebron, but those on the far off northern frontier contributed provisions for this great national feast.
The numbers of this list amount to 340,822, including 8,322 Levites and priests. When now we remember that the nation numbered 600,000 warriors in the time of Moses, (Numbers 1:46,) and 800,000 (besides the 500,000 of Judah) in the last years of David’s reign, (2 Samuel 24:9,) it seems probable that the numbers of the present list, both in the aggregate and in detail, are substantially correct. We need not suppose that all the warriors of all the tribes went to Hebron to make David king, but that about 300,000 appeared on that occasion is every way probable. With this vast host of warriors the newly elected king of “all Israel” proceeded at once to the conquest of Jerusalem. See 1 Chronicles 11:1-9.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany