1 Chronicles 12 – David’s Army
“Every word of this chapter carries the mind on to great David’s greater Son, and the men He gathers about Him.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
A. The devotion of David’s army.
1. (1-2) Even the Benjaminites, the tribal relatives of Saul, come to David.
Now these were the men who came to David at Ziklag while he was still a fugitive from Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, helpers in the war, armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows with the bow. They were of Benjamin, Saul’s brethren.
a. Now these were the men who came to David at Ziklag: David’s time in Ziklag is described in 1 Samuel 27 and 1 Samuel 30. This was a time when David lived in the territory of the Philistines to escape the murderous pursuit of King Saul.
b. They were among the mighty men, helpers in the war, armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left: During David’s time in Ziklag, certain mighty warriors came and expressed their allegiance to David and his cause. This was especially remarkable because they were of Benjamin, Saul’s brethren and therefore had much to gain from Saul’s continued reign. They chose David over Saul because they knew that God was with David.
i. Judges 3:15 and 20:16 make special reference to left-handed warriors; how much more if the soldiers can use both the right hand and the left!
2. (3-15) David’s diverse army.
The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; Jeziel and Pelet the sons of Azmaveth; Berachah, and Jehu the Anathothite; Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty; Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, and Jozabad the Gederathite; Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite; Elkanah, Jisshiah, Azarel, Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites; and Joelah and Zebadiah the sons of Jeroham of Gedor. Some Gadites joined David at the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains: Ezer the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, Jeremiah the tenth, and Machbanai the eleventh. These were from the sons of Gad, captains of the army; the least was over a hundred, and the greatest was over a thousand. These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.
a. A mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty: As mentioned in the previous chapter, David’s army seemed to be organized in groups of thirty or the leaders of thirty. In the same way, a Roman centurion was supposedly a leader of one hundred soldiers.
i. “Certainly ‘Thirty’ is not to be understood in precise numerical terms, as the lists demonstrate, and either is a rather elastic number, or refers to a special kind of military leader. The word ‘Thirty’ may in fact mean an officer of some kind, either an ‘officer of the third rank’ or a member of a special three-man squad directly answerable to the king.” (Selman)
b. Mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains: These Gadites were impressive soldiers.
· Mighty men of valor: They were men of courage and of a warrior spirit.
· Men trained for battle: They were men who patiently received the training they needed to be mighty warriors.
· Who could handle shield and spear: They were men who were skilled in the use of their essential weapons (both defensive and offensive), with skill gained from their training.
· Whose faces were like the faces of lions: They had the calm demeanor of men who were confident in God; they had the countenance of fierce and calm warriors. “Undaunted, fierce, and terrible to their enemies. They durst look death itself in the face upon great adventures in the field.” (Trapp)
· And were as swift as gazelles on the mountains: They were mobile, active men, ready to fight wherever they were needed.
i. “The grace of God can make us like them. The grace of God can make us brave as lions, so that, wherever we are, we can hold our own, or rather can hold our Lord’s truth, and never blush nor be ashamed to speak a good word for him at all times. He can make us quick and active too, so that we shall be like the roes upon the mountains.” (Spurgeon)
c. These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks: As an example of the might of these men, the Chronicler records an instance when these brave warriors crossed the Jordan at a dangerous time (Joshua 3:15 and 4:18).
i. Adam Clarke on the first month: “Perhaps this was the month Nisan, which answers to a part of our March and April. This was probably before the snows on the mountains were melted, just as Jordan began to overflow its banks, it made their attempt more hazardous, and afforded additional proof of their heroism.”
ii. “These Gadites likewise furnish us with a noble example of strong devotion. When the eleven men determined to join David, they were living the other side of a deep river, which at that season of the year had overflowed its banks, so that it was extremely deep and broad. But they were not to be kept from joining David, when he wanted them, by the river. They swam through the river that they might come to David.” (Spurgeon)
3. (16-22) David receives loyal soldiers at the stronghold.
Then some of the sons of Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said to them, “If you have come peaceably to me to help me, my heart will be united with you; but if to betray me to my enemies, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look and bring judgment.” Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said:
“We are yours, O David;
We are on your side, O son of Jesse!
Peace, peace to you,
And peace to your helpers!
For your God helps you.”
So David received them, and made them captains of the troop. And some from Manasseh defected to David when he was going with the Philistines to battle against Saul; but they did not help them, for the lords of the Philistines sent him away by agreement, saying, “He may defect to his master Saul and endanger our heads.” When he went to Ziklag, those of Manasseh who defected to him were Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of the thousands who were from Manasseh. And they helped David against the bands of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor, and they were captains in the army. For at that time they came to David day by day to help him, until it was a great army, like the army of God.
a. And David went out to meet them: This shows both David’s large heart and his trust in God. He received these soldiers whom he had some reason to suspect. In his words to the sons of Benjamin, he appealed to God for wisdom and righteousness.
b. Then the Spirit came upon Amasai: Literally, this “The Spirit clothed Amasai.” This Old Testament phrase is only used in Judges 6:34 and 2 Chronicles 24:20, but it may have been in the mind of Jesus when He promised that His followers would be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).
i. “Amasai might be identified with Amasa, Absalom’s army commander who was later reinstated by David (2 Samuel 19:13).” (Selman)
c. For your God helps you: Whatever the sons of Benjamin knew about David, they knew that God helped David. This made them want to follow him.
i. “We have observed God’s singular and gracious care of thee, and kindness to thee, and if we should oppose thee, we should be fighters against God and his word and providence.” (Poole)
d. The lords of the Philistines sent him away by agreement: During his time in Ziklag, David attempted to fight with the Philistines against Saul and the army of Israel. The Philistine lords, fearing that David planned to defect to his master Saul, refused to allow David and his mighty men to fight in the battle (1 Samuel 27).
e. Until it was a great army, like the army of God: Under the hand of God and His servant David, these mighty men – who began as disaffected people with nowhere else to go (1 Samuel 22:1-2) – developed into an amazing force. David and his mighty men needed each other and were each nothing without the other.
B. The royal army at Hebron.
1. (23-37) The army of the tribes of Israel.
Now these were the numbers of the divisions that were equipped for war, and came to David at Hebron to turn over the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD: of the sons of Judah bearing shield and spear, six thousand eight hundred armed for war; of the sons of Simeon, mighty men of valor fit for war, seven thousand one hundred; of the sons of Levi four thousand six hundred; Jehoiada, the leader of the Aaronites, and with him three thousand seven hundred; Zadok, a young man, a valiant warrior, and from his father’s house twenty-two captains; of the sons of Benjamin, relatives of Saul, three thousand (until then the greatest part of them had remained loyal to the house of Saul); of the sons of Ephraim twenty thousand eight hundred, mighty men of valor, famous men throughout their father’s house; of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, who were designated by name to come and make David king; of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command; of Zebulun there were fifty thousand who went out to battle, expert in war with all weapons of war, stouthearted men who could keep ranks; of Naphtali one thousand captains, and with them thirty-seven thousand with shield and spear; of the Danites who could keep battle formation, twenty-eight thousand six hundred; of Asher, those who could go out to war, able to keep battle formation, forty thousand; of the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, from the other side of the Jordan, one hundred and twenty thousand armed for battle with every kind of weapon of war.
a. Of the sons of Levi four thousand six hundred: Some think that the Levites were prohibited from going to war, but this is not specifically stated. Numbers 1:47-53 says that in that census they were not to be counted among the other tribes when the men ready for war were numbered, but it does not say that they could never fight for Israel.
i. “The Levites were never prohibited from engaging in the military activity, despite their religious duties.” (Selman)
b. The sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do: Some ancient traditions attribute this understanding of the times to skill in astrology, yet there is no foundation for this speculation. Instead, we should simply see that these sons of Issachar were men who supported King Saul up until the right time and at the right time gave their support to David.
i. “And particularly they showed this point of their wisdom at this time; for as they had adhered to Saul whilst he lived, as knowing the time was not yet come for David to take possession of the kingdom.” (Poole)
ii. “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 astrology.” (Trapp)
c. Stouthearted men who could keep ranks: The idea behind the word stouthearted is that these were men of a single or whole heart in their devotion to King David. This is reflected in several other translations:
· They were not of double heart (KJV).
· To help David with undivided loyalty (NIV).
· Helped David with an undivided heart (NASB).
· Completely loyal to David (NLT).
i. “We read in verse 33 of Zebulon, whose warriors were not of a double heart; the margin says that they were ‘without a heart and a heart.’ The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; he is not to be relied upon in his loyalty or service to his king.” (Meyer)
ii. Because they were completely committed to their king, they could also keep ranks – that is, they stayed tight in their formations even in the heat of battle. Their single devotion to their king made them able to stay together as a single unit.
iii. “Too many like to break the ranks, and do God’s work independently. Fifty men who act together will do greater execution than five hundred acting apart…. Unity is strength; and in their efforts to overthrow the kingdom of Satan it is most essential that the soldiers of Christ move in rank and keep step.” (Meyer)
2. (38-40) Their great support of Israel’s great king
All these men of war, who could keep ranks, came to Hebron with a loyal heart, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were of one mind to make David king. And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking, for their brethren had prepared for them. Moreover those who were near to them, from as far away as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, were bringing food on donkeys and camels, on mules and oxen; provisions of flour and cakes of figs and cakes of raisins, wine and oil and oxen and sheep abundantly, for there was joy in Israel.
a. To make David king over Israel: This celebration came late (some seven years after the death of Saul), but it did come. The people of God together recognized David as their king. Significantly, David would not force his reign upon the people; he waited until they were willing to make David king over Israel.
i. “From the whole it appears most evident that the great majority of the tribes of Israel wished to see the kingdom confirmed in the hands of David; nor was there ever in any country a man more worthy of the public choice.” (Clarke)
b. For there was joy in Israel: Receiving their rightful and anointed king brought joy to Israel.
i. “The paragraph as a whole, however, shows that the people of God are the real heroes of the chapter. Those Israelites exemplify the principle that when God’s people become committed to one another in obedient service to God’s chosen king, they find both unity and joy.” (Selman)
ii. “The enthroning of David was the uniting of the kingdom. Herein is the secret of the unity of the Church. We shall never secure it by endeavouring to bring about an unity in thought, or act, or organization. It is as each individual heart enthrones the Saviour that each will become one with all kindred souls in the everlasting kingdom.” (Meyer)