This article offers some comments on 1 Chronicles 9-12 which brings us to an end of the genealogical part of the book and the beginning of the story of David. Things don’t actually begin with David but with the death of King Saul and all his house. At that point all Israel rallied to crown David king. Now if you are thinking that is not how you remember the story it is because you may have Samuel more freshly ingrained than Chronicles. Chronicles gives us quite a different portrait of events because the Chronicler has a different purpose in telling the story.
1 Chronicles 9
1 Chronicles 9 begins, ”So all Israel was enrolled by genealogy” or ”recorded in genealogies.” Here we have the Chronicler’s record of those exiles who returned. While the historical notices generally brought the story before this up to the exile, now the historical notice takes us to the restoration from exile: ”And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith. Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants” (1 Chron 9:1-2) and it continues with those of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh who lived in Jerusalem.
Now Braun notes that 1 Chronicles 9 resembles Nehemiah 11 except for the historical context given in the respective passages (Nehemiah concerning filling the city with people, compared to Chronicles shifting from exile to post-exile), the extensive info about gatekeepers and other Levitical roles in 1 Chron 9, and Nehemiah lists other places outside Jerusalem where Judah and Benjamin descendants lived but this was left out of Chronicles in favor of a couple lists concerning Benjamin that prepare us for 1 Chronicles 10.
I am thinking that 1 Chronicles 9 also in some sense answers 1 Chronicles 1. Consider this: 1 Chronicles 2-8 is the genealogy of all Israel while 1 Chronicles 1 and 9 form an inclusio around it. 1 Chronicles 1 concerns the Gentiles and 1 Chronicles 9 concerns the Jews. The former concerns the dwelling places of the Gentiles and the latter the dwelling places of the Jews – especially ”all Israel” in Jerusalem. Notice the way that the text includes ”all Israel” without mentioning all twelve tribes: ”some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh” (1 Chron 9:3).
By listing these four tribes the Chronicler can say the heart of the southern kingdom (Judah & Benjamin) and the heart of the northern kingdom (Ephraim and Manasseh) without suggesting that they be divided any more. Yet the account of 1 Chronicles 9 includes some historical notes emphasizing the legitimacy of the lesser Levites – ”And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was the chief officer over them in time past; YHWH was with him” (1 Chron 9:20) and ”David and Samuel the seer established them in their office of trust” (1 Chron 9:22). Notice the historical progression from Phinehas to David to the Chronicler’s day.
The Chronicler’s interest in the temple is also apparent the way the first part of 1 Chronicles 9 ends: ”Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night. These were heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, according to their generations, leaders. These lived in Jerusalem” (1 Chron 9:33-34). The amount of text given to each group is interesting with the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh living in Jerusalem about the same length as the priests but the bulk of the chapter going to other Levites.
Then in place of the villages in Nehemiah 11 we have this for Benjamin in 1 Chronicles 9:35-44. Nevertheless, the focus of ”all Israel” in 1 Chronicles 9 is Jerusalem. The people of Benjamin lived opposite Jerusalem. Perhaps it is worth noting that Jerusalem is a border city identified with the tribe of Benjamin in earlier Scripture and only identified with Judah due to David making it the capital. But although the chapter mentioned David earlier, the story goes first to Saul – and thus the repetition of Saul’s genealogy here at the end of 1 Chronicles 9.
1 Chronicles 10
The Chronicler then appears to summarize the story of King Saul through the genealogy unit we discussed last time, the genealogy at the end of 1 Chronicles 9, and with the story in 1 Chronicles 10. 1 Chronicles 10 is about the death of Saul and all his house. This is curious language given the way that the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9 traces the lineage of Saul maybe even to the exile. Thus either the Chronicler is trying to summarize the phrase found in Samuel at this point regarding Saul’s armorbearer and his men or the Chronicler is saying that all potential rivals to the throne died at Gilboa.
The latter supposition is not technically historically accurate as Ish-boseth was a rival to David to the throne, which we discussed last time as a reason for the grouping of Saulide tribes in the genealogies, but the story of Ish-boseth is not included in Chronicles. All historical writing is necessarily selective and the author of Chronicles, knowing that you know what the book of Samuel says, chose to present things in a much more simplified way to pave the road for King David.
Let me note something else though. Remember when we saw the trans-Jordan tribe genealogy how the end said that they were sent into Assyrian exile because they had broken faith. 1 Chronicles 9 also begins noting that Judah was taken into Babylonian exile because they had broken faith. This too is said concerning Saul: ”So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with YHWH in that he did not keep the command of YHWH, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from YHWH. Therefore YHWH put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chron 10:13f.).
The text just quoted is the Chronicler’s own conclusions regarding Saul. It is here that we find the greatest divergence from the text of 1 Samuel 31, which did not include this paragraph. There are two important notes to make about the Chronicler’s interpretation of Saul: first, Saul died because of his own sin and, second, Saul was killed by YHWH (the Philistines merely being the tool YHWH used to execute judgment on Saul). But I would argue that the Chronicler wants us to understand that this truth is not limited to Saul but to all Israel.
Thus all Israel has been the object of God’s holy war – the northern kingdom (represented by the trans-Jordan tribes when they broke faith), the southern kingdom (represented by Judah when they broke faith), and the Saulide kingdom (here in the person of Saul who broke faith). Thus no matter how you divide the kingdom into two – all Israel has broken faith with YHWH and experienced His wrath. The basic application of the story of Saul is that God may punish breaking faith in the very generation that does it and then raise up a new leader around which He will gather a new people. This is a different way of telling the story we read about in books like Kings where it seemed that God often did not punish the generation that sinned but that judgment awaited a later generation.
1 Chronicles 11
In any case, the Chronicler now moves to the rule of King David. Here we’ve already noted we do not see anything about the rival claim to the throne of Israel by Ish-boseth. Instead, David and Solomon are presented in Chronicles as ”the David and Solomon of the Chronicler’s eschatological hope” (to quote the Dillard-Longman introduction). Thus he describes the David and Solomon of history the way that he hopes the future will unfold. It is for this reason then that the whole of Israel is described as very supportive of David in 1 Chron 11 rather than to repeat the history that shows that happened slow.
We are meant to compare Saul and David in light of Saul’s breaking faith with YHWH and David’s faithfulness to YHWH. That is, Saul died for his breach of faith as a target of YHWH’s holy war and David won the holy war against the Jebusites at Jerusalem and ”David became greater and greater, for YHWH of Hosts was with him” (1 Chron 11:9). The Chronicler wants to emphasize at every point here that ”all Israel” is thoroughly behind David. Therefore, 1 Chronicles 11 shows ”all Israel” anoint him king, ”all Israel” went to Jerusalem to conquer it for David, and ”all Israel” strongly supported David (cf. 1 Chron 11:10).
1 Chron 11:10 says, ”Now these are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of YHWH concerning Israel.” The word of YHWH was also mentioned back in 1 Chron 11:3 regarding anointing David king of Israel. Thus the word of YHWH comes to pass. But also we have following 1 Chronicles 11:10 a list of the mighty men who fought for King David. A similar list is found almost as an appendix to Samuel (cf. 2 Sam 23). Yet Chronicles has apparently supplemented that list with another source.
The Chronicler is offering such a long list of mighty men who fought for King David in order to emphasize how ”all Israel” strongly supported David. Thus the Chronicler is imagining a world where the Jewish people will all ”strongly” follow the Messiah. It is in light of that expectation that Paul wrote about his future hope for ”all Israel” to one day be saved. The fact that ”all Israel” did not become Christians was a big theological issue in New Testament times. Of course, Chronicles also lends itself to seeing the coming Messiah as a conquering king like the kings of the nations.
1 Chronicles 12
Chronologically the list we find in the opening of 1 Chronicles 12 took place before the opening of 1 Chronicles 11. The text of Chronicles makes it clear that this was from the day when David was not yet king and Saul was king. Surprisingly the list begins with Benjaminites, those who were Saul’s own kin, who supported David from the very beginning. Thus the author of Chronicles goes back to this earlier time, as Braun says, ”not to catalog opposition to David’s reign, but instead to do the opposite.”
Supporters from Benjamin are accompanied in this list by those from far-north tribes of Gad and Manasseh to make this point that ”all Israel” was coming over to David even at that time. This second climaxing with the following acclamation: ”For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God” (1 Chron 12:22). The idea here is that David was gathering a great host like the heavenly host for his army. Indeed, David’s army is to be understood as YHWH’s army supported by the word of YHWH uttered by Amasai (1 Chron 12:18).
1 Chronicles 12:23ff includes a long list of those who came to David at Hebron to crown him king of all Israel. This unit has an introduction and a conclusion. This overlaps with earlier lists, but that doesn’t seem to bother the Chronicler because he wants more support for his point rather than less. Interestingly, the numbers reported in the text increase as one moves away from Judah to the northern tribes to the trans-Jordan tribes.
The introduction to this list reads as follows: ”These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of YHWH” (1 Chron 12:23). This list seems to resume the thought of 1 Chronicles 11:10 – ”Now these are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of YHWH concerning Israel.” Thus the list that followed there and the list that follows here are separated by the list of mighty men that joined David at Ziklag (12:1ff).
Here is the arrangement of these lists:
One might argue that these lists are chiastic because the first and last mention when David was made king ”according to the word of YHWH” and the one in the center was from an earlier time. But there are really multiple ways to relate these lists for the first two lists involve ”mighty men.” Moreover, one might understand 1 Chron 11:10 as the title for all of the lists. Thus 1 Chron 11:11a is the title for the first list, 1 Chron 12:1 for the second, and 1 Chron 12:23 for the third. Therefore, one must add all three lists to see what the Chronicler was introducing in 1 Chron 11:10.
Most intriguing to me is how the Chronicler communicates the involvement of all Israel in the crowning of David as king by listing all thirteen or fourteen(?) tribes: Judah, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin, Ephraim, half-tribe of Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, Dan, Asher, and the Reuben/Gad/half-tribe of Manasseh from beyond the Jordan. But note that it equals 12 tribes if you count the trans-Jordan tribes as one as this list appears to suggest. This is the most extensive list of the tribes found in the Old Testament, which usually finds ways to leave out a tribe to make 12.
In conclusion: ”All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with a whole heart to make David king over all Israel. Likewise, all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king. And they were there with David for three days, eating and drinking, for their brothers had made preparation for them. And also their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen and sheep, for there was joy in Israel” (1 Chron 12:38-40). Thus all Israel (13 or 14 tribes, or 12 if the trans-Jordan tribes are one) has gathered for a Messianic banquet feast at Hebron.