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CRITICAL NOTES.] We have captains of monthly divisions of the army (1 Chronicles 27:1-15), princes of tribes (1 Chronicles 27:16-24), stewards of treasures and possessions of the king (1 Chronicles 27:25-29), and David’s counsellors (1 Chronicles 27:30-34).
1 Chronicles 27:1-15.—Captains of divisions. Arrangements for army similar to those for priests and Levites. Military force consisted of 12 companies of 24,000 each, a company serving a month at a time (2 Samuel 23:8; 1 Chronicles 11:11). Chief fathers, princes of tribes and chief officers of state. Captains, subordinate to commanders of monthly divisions. Officers, scribes who performed duty of commissariat, and kept muster-roll in army. This verse heads the chapter. “It may be safely assumed that the heading originally referred to a more elaborate description of the classes and their different officers, for which we have here only a shorter extract” [Keil]. 1 Chronicles 27:2. Jash., son of Hachmoni (ch. 1 Chronicles 11:11; 2 Samuel 23:8); Zab., one of his ancestors, or these may be different names of the same person. 1 Chronicles 27:3. Perez, Pharez. 1 Chronicles 27:4. Dod., read Eleazar, son of Dodo (ch. 1 Chronicles 11:12; 2 Samuel 23:9). 1 Chronicles 27:5. Ben. (2 Samuel 23:20-23). Chief priest, i.e., chief prince. Abiathar chief priest, but Jehoiada head of Aaronite family. 1 Chronicles 27:7. Asahel, slain by Abner (2 Samuel 2:18-23; 2 Samuel 23:24); his name given in honour of his memory. 1 Chronicles 27:8. Sham. (cf. 2 Samuel 23:11; 1 Chronicles 11:27). 1 Chronicles 27:11. Sibb, for different spelling see ch. 1 Chronicles 20:4; 2 Samuel 21:18. 1 Chronicles 27:15. Oth., a descendant of the judge in succession to Joshua (Judges 3:9-11).
1 Chronicles 27:16-24.—Princes of the tribes. This a civil institution, in contrast to the military ruler. “Rulers” or “princes” of the tribes appear to have been the eldest lineal descendants of the patriarchs, according to the law of primogeniture [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 27:18. Elihu, for “Eliab,” eldest son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:6). 1 Chronicles 27:21. Abner, Saul’s general. 1 Chronicles 27:22. These, princes of most of the tribes, for “Gad and Asher omitted. Similarly, Dan and Zebulon omitted from the genealogical survey of the tribes in chs. 4–7. We can only suppose that the lists, as they came down to the writer of Chronicles, were incomplete” [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 27:23. Took not, but only those above twenty years, or of those that drew sword (1 Chronicles 21:5). Said, therefore to number all above and under twenty years old would have been immense trouble and offensive to God. 1 Chronicles 27:24. Finished not (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:6). Chronicles. The census was not completed; full details not reported to David by enumerators, and therefore not registered in public archives or daily records.
1 Chronicles 27:25-31.—Stewards of royal possessions. Treasures, those in royal palace, private accumulations. Storehouses, scattered in country, for taxes paid in kind, not in money. Castles, watch-towers in border distriots exposed to raids from plundering tribes in the desert (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4). 1 Chronicles 27:31. Substance, consisting of money, fruits, labourers, flocks, and land. “David had become, by some means or other, a large landed proprietor, as well as a capitalist, possessed of much moveable wealth” [Speak. Com.].
1 Chronicles 27:32-34.—David’s ministers. Compare in contents and style with its counterpart in 2 Samuel 8:15-18; 1 Chronicles 18:15-17; 2 Samuel 20:23-26. “The list is chiefly supplemental, the officers mentioned being, in the main, such as have not been noticed before—e.g., king’s counsellor, king’s friend, companion of the king’s sons. The list cannot belong to a very late part of David’s reign, since it contains the name of Ahithophel, who slew himself during Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 17:23)” [Speak. Com.]. 1 Chronicles 27:32. Uncle, David’s “nephew,” as word often used (cf. ch. 1 Chronicles 20:7 and 2 Samuel 21:21). 1 Chronicles 27:33. Ahith., only mention made by writer of Chronicles. Companion, “king’s friend” (1 Kings 4:5). 1 Chronicles 27:34. Jehoiada, son of Ben., named probably alter his grandfather.
THE MILITARY FORCE OF DAVID.—1 Chronicles 27:1-15
Here an account of the army, the militia, with its officers and regulations. The organisation in part inherited from Saul, but greatly developed by David.
I. The strength of its numbers. Twelve legions, each 24,000 men; divided into regiments of 1,000, and these again into companies of 100 men, under the command of their respective subalterns, there being 24 captains of thousands and 240 centurions. This a sufficient force for ordinary purposes of State; for putting down sudden attacks or popular tumults, and repelling invasion. “When extraordinary emergencies demanded a larger force, the whole standing army could easily be called to arms, amounting to 288,000 or 300,000 including the 12,000 officers that naturally attended on the twelve princes” (1 Chronicles 27:16-24). “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host (by the greatness of his warlike might). A mighty man (a warrior) is not delivered by much strength” (Psalms 34:16).
II. The limited period of its service. “Month by month.” This monthly course would not be burdensome to the country nor royal exchequer; would be a training and discipline; and would permit every soldier to return to the pursuits and duties of private life for eleven months in the year. None compelled to serve, nor at expenses for more than a month, which could easily be borne. Every wise king will contribute for public safety, with as little expense as possible to the people. “The prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by oppression.”
III. The officers by which it was commanded. These termed “the chief fathers,” the hereditary “heads of tribes, who, like chieftains of clans, possessed great power and influence.”
1. Men of great experience. Not ignorant and unaccustomed to warfare. They are mentioned among David’s worthies in 2 Samuel 23:0 and 1 Chronicles 11:0. “At the head of his army were officers of consummate experience, and what was more highly esteemed in the warfare of the time, extraordinary personal activity, strength, and valour. His heroes remind us of those of Arthur or Charlemagne, excepting that the armour of the feudal chieftains constituted their superiority; here main strength of body and dauntless fortitude of mind” [“Hist. of Jews,” Milman].
2. Men promoted by merit. Tried and distinguished by great actions, then advanced to great preferments. Favoritism had no influence. Each appointed to office for which best qualified. Men of worth thus encouraged, and public efficiency promoted. “Many seek the ruler’s favour” in social servility; to whom a smile from superiors is like a sunbeam. But princes find it good policy to promote men of truth and incorruptible honesty rather than sycophants and time-servers. “The king’s favour is towards a wise servant.” The great King will finally promote “the faithful and wise servant” who has improved his talents, been diligent in his work, and is ready for his account.
THE CIVIL OFFICERS OF DAVID.—1 Chronicles 27:16-22
Here a list of hereditary chiefs or rulers of tribes—tribal princes—at the time of David’s census. Gad and Ashar for some reason excluded. Take the record—
I. As illustrating the optimist style of the writer. David pictured in his struggles, elevation, and grandeur. His wars and conquests, the extension of his kingdom, and the list of his officers. Arrangements sacred and civil, and the use of symbolic numbers illustrate the same tendency. A preference for brilliant scenes. Parts omitted chiefly dark. “Such as would disturb and in some points obscure the lustre of the picture. He collects all that is fitted to represent the hero-king in his greatness, and the activity of his reign as an uninterrupted chain of splendid theocratic events. To finish a picture that presents David in the meridian height of his glory and mighty achievements is the obvious aim of all that our author adds in the way of supplement on the ground of his resources to the life-picture of the great king as given in the Books of Samuel” [Lange].
II. As upholding ancient institutions. Moses gave to every tribe its chief. Many references to the Pentateuch, Levitical rites, and prescriptions of the law. A few changes are made to meet the exigencies of the time; but constant regard is paid to “the command of the Lord God of Israel” in ancient days. Institutions educational and industrial, social and religious, have a wonderful energy, re-duplicate human strength, embody and perpetuate the acquisitions of society in sacred forms. There is much to conserve as well as create. The spirit of reverence must ever be joined with the spirit of invention; the old and the new must be inseparably linked together in the work of the legislator and social reformer. “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it.”
THE RESTRAINTS OF GOD ON THE WILL of MAN.—1 Chronicles 27:23-24
God restrained David from completing the census, and often controls men’s actions for the accomplishment of his will. His sway most absolute and indisputable. He could not fulfil his designs without this. But no interference with human volition and responsibility. Divine restraint over the human will difficult to understand, but involves no absurdity. How does God restrain man’s will?
I. By revealing his own will. “The Lord had said, &c.” We are apt to do what we think is right; hence need for a clear, distinct revelation from God. This is given.
1. God’s will should be our law. It is best, the safest and only guide.
2. To disobey his law is rebellion. David knew God had promised that his people should be innumerable, yet was determined to number them, though regarding the custom not to include those under twenty. A full and unmistakable revelation of duty should induce to its performance and check, as intended, in disobedience.
II. By restraining man’s will. David, unchecked by Joab, determined to carry out his own wish and make arrangements for political and military purposes. God restrained him and kept him in bounds.
1. By inward conviction of wrong-doing. “I have sinned.” Wounded to the quick, as if struck by an arrow. Conscience roused, accused, and checked. We cannot fly in the face of God without moral rebuke and self-accusation.
2. By outward restraints. When Joab’s reluctance and natural delay produced no impression, God sent the plague. This answered the end. Thus God controls the human heart. (Abimelech, Pharaoh, and Babylonish monarchs.) “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, &c.”
DAVID’S POSSESSIONS.—1 Chronicles 27:25-31
I. What they consisted of. “The king’s treasures,” royal possessions in palace, and stores in other places.
1. Treasures, gold, silver, &c., in Jerusalem.
2. Goods in the provinces, grain and stores in castles, cities, villages, and in the fields (1 Chronicles 27:25).
3. Cultivators of the ground (1 Chronicles 27:26).
4. Vineyards and their produce (1 Chronicles 27:27).
5. Olive-trees and their produce, and sycamore plantations (1 Chronicles 27:28).
6. Flocks and herds in different districts.
7. Camels and asses (1 Chronicles 27:30). As younger son, David had not much private property (1 Samuel 16:11-20). Now a large landed proprietor, and a capitalist owning moveable wealth.
II. How they were gained. By successful wars. During Saul’s lifetime he had made raids and gained wealth (1 Samuel 27:8-9; 1 Samuel 30:20). He received much spoil, and acquired newly conquered countries (2 Samuel 8:4). “His olive grounds and sycamore plantations were in the ‘low plain,’ which was the country of the Philistines (1 Chronicles 27:28); camels and flocks were pastured by Arabs (1 Chronicles 27:30-31); probably on lands formerly belonging to Arabs. No doubt he derived considerable revenue from subject kings (1 Samuel 8:2; 1 Samuel 10:19), as Solomon did (1 Kings 4:21), and he may have bought or rented lands in different places. There may possibly have been a certain quantity of public unassigned land in Palestine at the time when he became king, which would naturally fall into his hands to be dealt with as he chose. Further, he enjoyed, of course, the usual rights of a Jewish king over the landed property of his subjects, and was thus entitled to receive a tithe of the produce (1 Samuel 8:15-17). He would also from time to time obtain those ‘benevolences’ which were expected from all on certain occasions” [Speak. Com.].
III. How they were guarded. “All these were rulers of the substance” (1 Chronicles 27:31). The king divided his private possessions into twelve departments, like his public affairs. In these departments were choice men, able to manage and guard his treasure. No officers for state and display, none for sport, but all for service. Men loyal and obedient, in whom the king could put confidence. “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule.”
THE MINISTERS OF DAVID’S COURT.—1 Chronicles 27:32-34
In this list David’s counsellors, seven men of high position, worthy apparently of special mention. Four or five known in other capacity (cf. lists ch. 1 Chronicles 18:14-17; 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26).
1. The counsellors of the king. First Jonathan, kinsman of David, a politician, scribe, and eminent for wisdom. Then Ahithophel, cunning; held in great estimation, and generally followed in counsel. After death of Ahith., Jehoiada and Abiathar succeeded in the privy council.
2. The companion of the king. “Hushai was the king’s companion,” the friend whom he entrusted with secrets, and whose conversation was acceptable (2 Samuel 16:17). H. an opponent of Ahithophel, but honest and faithful.
3. The tutor of the king’s sons. Jehiel, the Hachmonite, filled this position; an office mentioned only here.
4. The commander-in-chief to the king. Joab, as generalissimo, would be in some sense minister of war, and belong to rank of counsellor. As such he appears to act in taking the census of the people (ch. 21). Such men eminent for wisdom and integrity, most honourable and trusty advisers, but David preferred his Bible above all, says one. “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors” (men of counsel) (Psalms 119:24). A privilege to be counsellor to such a king; but Jehovah has friends whom he admits to his audience. “The secret (privy council met for deliberation) of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant” (Psalms 25:14).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 27:1 to 1 Chronicles 22:1. David as a powerful prince, a type of Christ. Thousands trained as regular militia for his service. His kingdom well defended, and secure against all assault. Christ’s kingdom and Church well guarded—never wants champions; legions of angels at his command.
2. David’s soldiers a type of Christ’s subjects. They are bound to fight, should never desert, and will be sure to win if faithful.
1 Chronicles 27:23-24. “The Lord said he would increase Israel.” The wonderful promise.
1. Embodied in the tradition of the nation.
2. The ground of hope for the people.
3. Fulfilled by the providence of God. Or, An innumerable people (cf. Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4).
1. In actual existence.
2. In future calculations. The actual number of the people living at a given time is not the sum of the Lord’s people. In the Divine estimate those gone before and those coming after are taken into account. Can we count the stars? then may we number God’s children! They are perpetually increasing!
1 Chronicles 27:27. A remembered name. Asahel, captain of the fourth course, died early in David’s reign (2 Samuel 2:12-23). But greatly respected, and gave name to family or regiment. The value of a good name. A good reputation inseparable from man, outlasts every worldly blessing. “The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”
1 Chronicles 27:33. The King’s companion. Heb., friend or companion. A great privilege and distinction. “Hushai’s is not obscurely indicated in the questions which Absalom addressed to him, “Is this thy kindness to thy friend?” Why wentest thou not with thy friend? (2 Samuel 16:17). On his devotion to David, see 2 Samuel 15:32-37; 2 Samuel 17:5-16)” [Speak. Com.]. Abraham “a friend of God.” “Ye are my friends,” says Christ, “if ye do what I command you.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 27
1 Chronicles 27:1-15. Captains. An English captain in the year 1759, who was beating up for recruits in the vicinity of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, met one day a Moravian Indian, and asked him whether he had a mind to be a soldier. “No,” answered he, “I am already engaged.” “Who is your captain?” asked the officer. “I have a very brave and excellent captain,” replied the Indian. “His name is Jesus Christ. Him will I serve as long as I live. My life is at his disposal.” Reproved by the Indian’s answer, the officer left him unmolested [Baxendale].
1 Chronicles 27:25-29. Our treasures. If every man works at that which nature fitted him for, the cows (1 Chronicles 27:26) will be well attended [La Fontaine]. Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom [Carlyle].
1 Chronicles 27:32-34. Counsellor. The best friends are those who stimulate us to that which is good (Hebrews 10:24) [Nicholls]. Every friend is to the other a sun and a sunflower also; he attracts and follows [Richter]. “A faithful friend is a strong defence, and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure” (Sir. 6:14). “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany