The account of the religious organisation (1 Chronicles 23-26) is naturally followed here by a sort of outline of the military and civil administration, given in the form of a catalogue of officers and ministers of the king.
I. THE TWELVE ARMY CORPS AND THEIR COMMANDERS (1 Chronicles 27:1-15).
After their number.—The stress lies on this phrase. It refers to the twelve courses of twenty-four thousand warriors each.
Chief fathers.—Heads of the clans.
Captains of thousands and hundreds.—See 1 Chronicles 13:1.
Their officers.—Scribes, who kept the muster-rolls, and did the work of recruiting sergeants.
The courses.—Here, military divisions, corps d’armée. The same Hebrew term (mahlĕqôth) was used of the Levitical classes in the preceding chapters.
Which came in and went out.—Scil. The class or corps which came in and went out. Render: That which came in and went out every month, for all the months of the year, i.e., the single corps, was twenty and four thousand. As regards construction, the whole verse, from “the chief fathers” to “of every course,” is a long apposition to “the children of Israel.”
Came in and went out month by month.—Every month, the division whose turn it was stood under arms, as a sort of national guard, ready for immediate service.
In his course.—Heb., upon his course.
The chief of all the captains of the host for the first month.—This notice about Jashobeam is obscure. The “captains of the host” (Heb., hosts) seem to be the twelve generals of division. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 27:5.) Jashobeam, as the first of David’s heroes, may have enjoyed a kind of precedence among the commanders of the army corps; although he was not commander-in-chief of the entire national forces, which was the function of Joab. Or perhaps it is meant merely to emphasise the fact that Jashobeam was “the first” in the rotation of the generals; so that the phrase “for the first month” explains what precedes it. Or “the captains of the hosts” may possibly mean the officers of the subdivisions of the first army corps, of whom Jashobeam was, of course, the chief. The context appears to favour this last explanation.
And of his course was Mikloth also the ruler.—Literally, and his course, and Mikloth the prince (nāgîd); which appears meaningless. Perhaps the “and” before Mikloth is spurious. (Comp. end of 1 Chronicles 27:6.) The sense may then be that this division included Mikloth “the prince,” an unknown personage; or that Mikloth was the chief man in the division. (See 1 Chronicles 8:32; 1 Chronicles 9:37, where Mikloth is a Benjamite name.) The LXX. and Vulg. agree with Authorised Version; the Syriac and Arabic are wanting in this chapter.
Benaiah.—See 1 Chronicles 11:22.
The son of Jehoiada, a chief priest.—Rather, son of Jehoiada the priest, as head, viz., of the third army corps. The term “chief,” or “head,” belongs to Benaiah, not to his father. But perhaps it is an erroneous gloss on Jehoiada. (Comp. 2 Chronicles 23:8.) Both LXX. and Vulg. make Benaiah the priest.
And in his course.—Heb., and his course. Ammizabad his son. Comp. the second clause of 1 Chronicles 27:4. Here, as there, the LXX. and Vulg. give the sense “over his course,” as if Ammizabad were coadjutor with his father. The text may be defective in both places.
Asahel the brother of Joab.—1 Chronicles 11:26. Asahel was slain by Abner at the beginning of David’s reign (2 Samuel 2:18-23). The added clause, “And Zebadiah his son after him,” evidently refers to this fact. Perhaps the difficult statements about Mikloth and Ammizabad in 1 Chronicles 27:4; 1 Chronicles 27:6 were originally similar to this one about Zebadiah. The fourth division “may have been called by the name of the fallen hero in honour of his memory” (Bertheau).
The Izrahite.—Heb., ha-yizráh, which is probably a mistake for ha-zarhî, “the Zarhite” (comp. 1 Chronicles 27:11; 1 Chronicles 27:13), i.e., a member of the Judean clan called Zerah. Harod was his town.
Of Othniel.—Of the clan so called. (Comp. Joshua 15:17.) His town was Netophah, near Bethlehem.
Of the whole list of twelve generals, it is noticeable that eight—viz., the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth—belonged to the royal tribe of Judah. Of the remaining four, the second perhaps, and the ninth certainly, was a Benjamite; the seventh and eleventh were Ephraimites.
(16) Furthermore over the tribes of Israel. Literally, and over the tribes of Israel . . . the Reubenites had as prince (nāgîd) Eliezer, etc.
Eliezer the son of Zichri.—Originally the emir of the tribe was its leader in war, as well as its chief authority in times of peace. David, as appears by the list (1 Chronicles 27:1-15) made the important change of nominating the chief commanders himself. The emirs would still manage the internal affairs of their tribes.
Omri the son of Michael.—Omri was, perhaps, an ancestor of the successful adventurer who founded the dynasty of Ahab (1 Kings 16:16; Micah 6:16).
Iddo the son of Zechariah.—The prophet Ze-chariah was a son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, and may have descended from this Iddo.
Jaasiel the son of Abner, was, doubtless, a son of Saul’s famous marshal.
These were the princes.—The same word as “captains” in the former list (sārîm).
Because the Lord had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens.—The reason why David restricted the census to those who were capable of bearing arms (see Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17). The idea implied seems to be that to attempt to number Israel would be to evince a distrust of Jehovah’s faithfulness; and, perhaps, that such an attempt could not possibly succeed.
Because there fell wrath for it.—The same phrase recurs in 2 Chronicles 19:10; 2 Chronicles 24:18. (Comp. for the fact, 1 Chronicles 21:7, seq.) The sense of the Hebrew may be brought out better thus: “Joab son of Zeruiah had begun to number, without finishing; and there fell,” &c.
Neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of king David.—Literally, and the number came not up (‘ālāh), was not entered. (Comp. 1 Kings 9:21; 2 Chronicles 20:34.) The number which Joab ascertained was not recorded, as might have been expected, in the official annals of the reign, here designated as “the account of the chronicles of king David” (mispar dibrê ha-yāmîm). It is implied that the chronicler had these annals before him in some form or other, probably as a section of the “History of the Kings of Judah and Israel,” and that he found the lists of this chapter in that source. Those of 1 Chronicles 23-26 may have been derived from the same authority. In 2 Kings 12:20; 2 Kings 13:8; 2 Kings 13:12, and all similar instances, the phrase for “book of the Chronicles” is not mispar, but sēpher dibrê ha-yāmîm. Some suppose that the text here should be altered accordingly; others would render mispar dibrê ha-yāmîm, “the statistical section of the annals.” But mispar in Judges 7:15 means the telling or relation of a dream, and the transition from such a sense to that of written relation is easy. The phrase rendered “Chronicles” is the same as the Hebrew title of these books.
The number of these officers is noticeable, twelve being a normal number in Israelite institutions.
(25) And over the king’s treasures.—That is, those of the palace on Zion.
And over the storehouses.—The Hebrew has the same word “treasures.” The treasures “in the fields” (sādèh), or the country, in the cities, the villages and the “castles” (migdālîm), or towers (2 Chronicles 26:10; Micah 4:8), include all that belonged to David outside the walls of Jerusalem.
Jehonathan was comptroller-general of the revenues from these sources.
Zabdi.—Zebadiah (the New Testament Zebedee), of the south Judean town Shiphmoth (1 Samuel 30:28), was “over that which is in the vineyards for the treasures (stores) of wine,” i.e., the wine-cellars. So Vulg., cellis vinariis. The territory of Judah was famous as a winegrowing land (Genesis 49:11). The memorable “grapes of Eshcol” were gathered there (Numbers 13:23).
The sycamore trees that were in the low plains.—The sycomores that were in the Shephelah or lowland of Judah, between the hills and the sea (Joshua 15:33). The Ficus sycomorus, or fig-mulberry, a beautiful evergreen tree, indigenous to Egypt, was once abundant in Palestine, as appears from 1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15. Its small sweet figs were much eaten by the poor. (Comp. Amos 7:14.)
Baal-hanan (“The Lord bestowed” ).—An older form of Jehohanan. (Comp. the Phœnician Hannibal.)
The Gederite.—Of Geder, or Gedor, a town in the hill-country of Judah (Joshua 12:13; Joshua 15:58).
Over the cellars of oil.—Heb., treasures, or stores of oil. The oil was that of the olives. (Comp. Judges 9:9.)
Shitrai.—Hebrew margin, Shirtai.
Over the herds that were in the valleys.—Apparently the valleys of the highlands of Judah. Another reading is “in valleys.”
The asses.—The she-asses. (Comp. Genesis 49:14; Judges 5:10; Zechariah 9:9.)
Jehdeiah the Meronothite.—Of Merōnōth, a town perhaps near Mizpah (Nehemiah 3:7). The LXX. has Merathon, or Marathon.
Jaziz the Hagerite.—See 1 Chronicles 5:10-19, for the conquest of East Gilead, the home of the Hagrim, or “Hagerites,” by the tribe of Reuben, in the days of Saul. David’s herds of camels and flocks of small cattle may have grazed in the pastures east of the Jordan, under the charge of his Bedawi overseers.
All these were the rulers of the substance which was king David’s.—The word rendered “rulers” is sārîm, “captains” or “princes.” (See 1 Chronicles 27:22.) The same term is translated “stewards” in 1 Chronicles 28:1.
Substance (rĕkûsh) is an old word, denoting especially the moveable wealth of a nomad chief. (Comp. Genesis 12:5; Genesis 14:21.) The wealth of David consisted partly of flocks and herds, but partly also of the produce of husbandry, and, no doubt, of commerce. (See 1 Chronicles 14:1; 1 Chronicles 22:4.) The period of the kings saw Israel a settled nation, that had exchanged the purely nomad life for an ordered social existence.
(32) Also Jonathan David’s uncle was a counsellor.—A son of David’s brother Shimeah was named Jonathan (1 Chronicles 20:7; 2 Samuel 21:21). Nothing further is known of the present Jonathan than what is here related.
A wise man, and a scribe.—Rather, a sage and a scholar was he. The word rendered “scribe” (sôphēr) usually answers to the γραμματὲυς of the New Testament, and so the LXX. gives it here. We may remember that in the rude epochs of society mere writing has been esteemed an art, so that a king of England who could write was dubbed Beauclerc, “fine scholar.” Charles the Great never got so far as signing his own name, though he made great efforts to do so. But writing goes back to a very ancient period among Semitic races, and sôphēr probably means here, as in Ezra 7:6, “a man of letters,” or “skilled in the sacred law.” (See 1 Chronicles 2:55; Isaiah 33:18; Psalm 45:2.) David’s official sôphēr, or scribe, was Shavsha (1 Chronicles 18:16).
Jehiel the son of Hachmoni.—Rather, son of a Hachmonite. (Comp. 1 Chronicles 11:11.)
With the king’s sons—That is, their tutor. The similar lists in 2 Samuel 8:15-18, 1 Chronicles 18:15-17, and 2 Samuel 20:23-26, lack representatives of the two offices mentioned in this verse. Obviously this account is independent of those.
(33) And Ahithophel was the king’s counsellor.—Rather, a counsellor of the king’s—Ahithophel, the faithless adviser, who committed suicide when his treachery proved unsuccessful (2 Samuel 15:31 seq., 2 Samuel 17:23).
Hushai the Archite.—The faithful counsellor, who baffled the wisdom of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17).
(34) And after Ahithophel—After his death, Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar, the Ithamarite high priest, were David’s advisers. Benaiah’s father was named Jehoiada (see 1 Chronicles 27:5, and 1 Chronicles 11:22; 1 Chronicles 18:17), so that David’s counsellor Jehoiada bore the name of his grandfather—a common enough occurrence. Others assume that the right reading is “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada,” who may have been an adviser of David, as well as captain of his guard.