1 Chronicles 24-26: Spirit before brawn

Chapter 24 therefore continues with the children of Aaron (excluding Nadab and Abihu – see Numbers 3:4), organising the priests by sixteen heads under the sons of Eleazar (organised by Zadok), and eight under the sons of Ithamar (organised by Ahimelech) – listed under v.7-19, by casting lots and leaving it to the LORD’s decision (Proverbs 16:33).  David then moves on to organise the musicians in chapter 25.  Note the quality of the men chosen, and their gift of prophecy – (i) the sons of Asaph who prophesied under Asaph (“collector of the people“), and Asaph who prophesied under the direction of the king; (ii) the sons of Jeduthun, under the direction of Jeduthun (“praising“), who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD (v.3); and (iii) the sons of Heman, under the direction of Heman (“faithful“).  Not only were these men prophetic (v.1), but these were skilled (v.7) and were above all compliant with the orders of the king (v.6).  Again, these men were chosen by casting of lots for their small and great duties, reserving these decisions once again to the LORD.  Such men, filled with the Holy Spirit, thus combine their musical talents to worship, to praise, and to prophecy – and they are brilliant models enabling us to see the different corners of the ancient Church doing His work through various means.

Next, chapter 26 re-counts the divisions of the gatekeepers, sons of Meshelemiah (friendship of Jehovah, v.2-3); sons of Obed-edom (servant of Edom, v.4-8; the sons of Shemaiah, son of Obed-edom, in v.7-8); sons of Merari (sad, bitter, v.10) – lots, too, were cast for their duties and gates as follows:

1.  East:  Shelemiah (whom Jehovah repays) (six Levites each day)

2.  North:  Zechariah (Jehovah is renowned / remembered), a shrewd counselor (four Levites each day)

3.  South:  Obed-edom and his sons (four Levites each day, as well as two and two at the gatehouse)

4.  West:  Shuppim (serpents) and Hosah (refuge) (four Levites at the road, and two at the colonnade).

Ahijah (brother / friend of Jehovah) is then described in v.20 as having charge of the treasuries of the house of God and of the dedicated gifts, the sons of Jehieli (treasured of God) (sons of the Gershonites belonging to Ladan – v.21-22) being in charge of the treasuries.

Shelomoth (peaceful), another from the line of Moses (v.25), with his brothers were in charge of all the treasuries of the dedicated gifts (v.26-28).

It is interesting how the description of the gatekeeping comes before the allocation for the gifts; for the temple itself requires gatekeeping not due to the gifts; nor does the temple itself require protection.  Quite the contrary, as was the case with the flaming sword in Eden (Genesis 3:24), the purpose was for our protection (c.f. 1 Chronicles 13:10) so that we do not waltz into the temple without the blood and robe of Christ (Isaiah 61:11).  The temple treasuries and dedicated gifts are but a re-treading of Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7), but it is the gatekeeping of the temple which reminds us that our offer of worship through such gifts are to come after the objective truth of our sin which must be dealt with at the temple by the blood of the Chosen Lamb.

And the other sons of the Kohathites (assembly) (c.f 1 Chronicles 23:12), the Izrahites (descendant of Zerah, rising of the sun) were appointed to external duties; the Hebronites (alliance) had oversight of Israel westward of the Jordan for all the work of the LORD and for the king’s service; Jerijah (people of Jehovah) of the Hebronites in particular was responsible for the genealogy or fathers’ houses – appointing him and his brothers to have oversight of the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of the Manassites.

Thus, chapters 24-26 clarify once again the importance of the Levites in the important works surrounding the temple and also consolidating Israel’s identity as priesthood to all nations (Exodus 19:6) before its military persona (described in chapter 27, after the allocation of roles to the Levites in chapters 23-26) which is but temporary and holds no candle to the peace which the true Solomon shall bring to Israel (1 Chronicles 23).

Concluding these chapters, Matthew Henry comments on David’s allocations of roles in particular in relation to the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe Manassites:

“Either those remote tribes were not so well furnished as the rest with judges of their own, or because they, lying furthest from Jerusalem and on the borders of the neighbouring nations, were most in danger of being infected with idolatry, and most needed the help of Levites to prevent it. The frontiers must be well guarded.  This is said to be done (as were all the foregoing settlements) in the fortieth year of the reign of David (v.31), that is, the last year of his reign. We should be so much the more industrious to do good as we can see the day approaching. If we live to enjoy the fruit of our labours, grudge it not to those that shall come after us.”

One would imagine military allocations would be more fitting if these men were placed on the borders of Israel most susceptible to pagan invasion or influence; yet, in David’s wisdom and in the LORD’s will through His divine allotment, the priests continue to take the higher and preceding role in Israel’s identity to the other nations.  Never once should Israel confuse itself as a neighbouring nation (Deuteronomy 18:9), but to remember that it is a nation chosen to be saved by the grace of the Father through their submission to the Passover Lamb.

1 Chronicles 24-26: Spirit before brawn

1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

The victories of David continue in this prophetic account of the Book of Revelation, where the true David will remain at New Jerusalem (v.1) to orchestrate the judgment on the unbelieving nations.  Joab’s victory over Rabbah is attributed to David’s grand victory over all the cities of the Ammonites (v.3) leading to the meek’s inheritance of the earth (Matthew 5:5) from the first act of David’s taking of the crown from the king’s head.  So also the LORD’s victory over Satan allows us, as His humble servants to achieve countless victories in the true David’s name, redeeming all cities for His glory or otherwise partaking in the judgment against these idolatrous nations.  Ultimately, our home is still found in New Jerusalem – the renewed city of peace (v.3).

And the mark of such miraculous string of victories is hallmarked by our victories over the giants, the descendants of the Nephilim / Rephaim (Genesis 6:4), as consistently recorded through the lives of faithful saints in Christ (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:20-21; Joshua 11:21, 13:12, 15:14; 1 Samuel 17:4)?  So also in v.4-8 of chapter 20, we see Sibbecai the Hushathite striking down Sippai; Elhanan son of Jair striking down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite; and Jonathan the son of Shimea, striking down the giant of Gath (Goliath’s home)?  The key passage is v.8 – “These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants“.  Such relieving humbleness is portrayed in its fullness when juxtaposing the looming strength and towering majesty of these pagan giants with the weak-willed Israelites (Numbers 13:33) whose strength comes simply from the victory of Christ over Satan alone.

However, in spite of such intentions, David fell to Satan’s temptations by counting the LORD’s blessing as David’s own.  Such is a sin which Christ took lengths to avoid, by consistently referring to compliance with the Father’s will (c.f. John 5) and not His own.  Yet, David’s act contradicts Christ’s character of perichoretic love within the Trinity.  Instead, David’s decision to heed Satan and number the armies implies that such impressive numbers of men are cause for David’s pride, though such numbers are only made possible in the LORD’s hand. Note Joab’s expression of bewilderment which reveals the true status of these numbers of Israel – they are (v.3) men whom the LORD has added to David’s people.  Why then should David require a census and be a cause of guilt for Israel?  Joab’s abhorrence is but a foreshadow of the LORD’s displeasure (v.7), hence his decision to not count Levi or Benjamin in the census.  Adam Clarke’s commentary sheds light on the exclusion of the two tribes:

The rabbins give the following reason for this: Joab, seeing that this would bring down destruction upon the people, purposed to save two tribes. Should David ask, Why have you not numbered the Levites? Joab purposed to say, Because the Levites are not reckoned among the children of Israel. Should he ask, Why have you not numbered Benjamin? he would answer, Benjamin has been already sufficiently punished, on account of the treatment of the woman at Gibeah: if, therefore, this tribe were to be again punished, who would remain?

Indeed, the exclusion of Levi is recorded in Numbers 1:47-54; and the exclusion of Benjamin in accordance to what happened in Judges 19-20.  The LORD has indeed greatly multiplied the number of Israel from 603,550 warring men to 1,570,000 men who drew the sword in Israel and Judah – over twice the number from the day of entering Canaan to the height of David’s reign.  Gad’s choices to David were essentially decided by the LORD, with David humbling himself (v.13) and placing himself entirely at the LORD’s great mercy, understanding that it is better to be at the mercy of the LORD than that of man.  Adam Clarke continues:

“Thus the Targum: “And the WORD of the LORD sent the angel of death against Jerusalem to destroy it; and he beheld the ashes of the binding of Isaac at the foot of the altar, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, which he made in the Mount of Worship; and the house of the upper sanctuary, where are the souls of the righteous, and the image of Jacob fixed on the throne of glory; and he turned in his WORD from the evil which he designed to do unto them; and he said to the destroying angel, Cease; take Abishai their chief from among them, and cease from smiting the rest of the people. And the angel which was sent from the presence of the Lord stood at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

So we re-tread the events of 2 Samuel 24, with David sacrificing himself as the scapegoat from the people (v.17) for it was his command to number the people, with the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Jesus, staying His hand upon the Father’s command.  Yet, it is here that we see fuller dialogues between Jesus and Gad, Gad and David, and David and Ornan – all surrounding the altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (v.18).  The king bought Ornan’s symbolic threshing-floor at a price, as David remarkably noted that “…I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” – a welcome reminder of Christ’s command to bear our cross in our walk with Him (Luke 14:27).  David’s decision to sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, which Adam Clarke remarked as Moriah, the place of Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac and thus the place of Christ’s crucifixion, is a more fitting place of sacrifice in light of David’s decision to stand on behalf of Israel to propitiate the LORD’s wrath (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  David is to either hide under the propitiatory sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, or receive the sword of the angel of the LORD (v.30) outside of the future site of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1) and Christ’s work on the cross.

Chapter 22 describes David’s preparation of the materials for Solomon’s fulfillment of the temple, a shadow of the temple which Christ will build – this is most notably distinguished by the prophecy which David recounted to Solomon (v.8-10) and the prophecy the LORD stated to David through Nathan in 1 Chronicles 17:

“10  from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11  When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12  He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14  but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”

Compared with 1 Chronicles 22:8-10, the word having been given to David directly:

“8  But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9  Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10  He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”

The distinctions are that (1) Solomon is a man of peace and of rest (v.9) compared to David, who is a man with blood on his hands (v.8); and (2), more importantly, v.10 – that it is the LORD who will be building a house for us, rather us for him.  The throne which Solomon thus sits on is not established by his own hands; rather, this temple is also a shadow, with Solomon being a more appropriate shadow and type of Christ than David, for the day Christ is given the throne is a day of peace (i.e. “Jerusalem”) rather than that of bloodshed and war.  It is on the day the temple is complete that the Levites no longer are required to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service (Chapter 13 v.26), a picture of the rest which Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:8-10) when he no longer had to carry his tent when the heavenly city has been designed and built by God.  Thus, the work of the Levites has evolved to that of care taking and worship at the temple, in the days of Solomon’s rest.  Although such days were short, they were indeed the glory and golden days of Israel, modeled closely after the eternal days which we enjoy as co-heirs of Christ in new creation.

 

1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

1 Chronicles 16-19: Our Servant

Chapter 16 begins with David’s song of thanks to the LORD, an ode which bears the following elements:

1.  Calling upon the LORD’s name (v.8, 10, 29, 35)

2.  Make known his deeds of salvation (v.8, 9, 12, 21-24, 35)

3.  Remember His covenant (v.15-18, 35)

4.  Ascribing to Him glory in our rejoicing (v. 10, 24, 27-35).

Note especially the last part of David’s song of thanksgiving which combines the four elements together:

Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” (v.35-36)

After this act of worship, the blessing and glory of the LORD does not stay there in one place; rather, He continues to be with them in their households (v.43; c.f. John 17):

“The meaning of glory is offered most fully in John 17—where Jesus spoke aloud to the Father before going to his death.  Jesus received glory from the Father, and he reciprocated that glory to the Father.  As the linkage of glory to sacrificial death in the analogy of the planted-wheat of John 12 made clear, glory was displayed in the Son’s willingness to die for all who would believe

Glory is what Jesus shared with the Father and the Spirit even before there was a creation (17:5).  And what was the eternal motive for this whole exchange?  Love!  The Son’s real mission on earth wasn’t to gain glory but to give access to that eternal Father-Son-Spirit glory which the Father had given him “because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).  So it is that God is not a glory-monger but a glory-sharer.  And when the Spirit coaches us to glorify God—as in 1 Corinthians 10:31—it must be understood in light of 1 Corinthians 13, “the greatest of these is love” so that we love him, and out of that love our own celebration of his goodness—our own giving of glory—is poured out.” – Ron Frost on “Glorifying Glory

Chapter 17 is commonly associated with Solomon, as David looks to continue thanking the LORD by creating a house for the ark of the covenant.  However much David is like the Son, he is not the Son Whom the LORD has anointed (c.f. Isaiah 42:1).  The words, too, do not apply specifically to Solomon; although Solomon eventually built the temple to house the ark of the covenant, his throne did not reign forever either.  Chapter 17 therefore should only truly and firstly apply to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose Name shall indeed reign forever unlike Solomon whose kingdom has vanished for thousands of years already.  Let us now turn to the Father’s prophecy of His Son in (v.8-15):

V.8 – the Father will make for David a “name”;

v.9 – the Father will appoint a place for His people Israel and “be disturbed no more”.  This was clearly not fulfilled in the days of Solomon; and the indication here is that the place is not Canaan, for Canaan was already given to Israel at this stage (despite the intermittent invasions by neighbouring pagan nations);

v.10-11 – the LORD will build a house (not Solomon); and He will establish the kingdom of one of David’s offspring.

v.12-14 – the offspring (Jesus) will build a house for the Father (John 14:2; preparing a place for us), and He will establish the Son’s throne forever.  He will not take his steadfast love from His Son, as He had done so with Saul – and the Son’s throne shall be established forever (Hebrews 1:8 Revelation 22:3).  He will be to him a Father as he will be to him a Son (v.13; quoted in Hebrews 1:5).

Much of these truths are reflected also in Psalm 1-2 and in the book of Hebrews, as prophesied by the vision of Nathan.  David thus went into the tent and sat before the LORD (note, not before the ark!) and again re-counted his thankfulness to the LORD – such recognition of his need to be humble before the One who saves!  There is indeed none like the LORD (v.20), and none like Israel – the one united nation to have been chosen to be redeemed (v.21; note the Hebrew word “echad” used to describe Israel; it is not so much that Israel was the only people chosen to be redeemed, but rather, the only nation as a whole chosen to be redeemed.  This explains the ready salvation of the Gentiles in the Old Testament, such as in Exodus 12:38, although not to the same extent or focus on these nations compared to Israel, the chosen priesthood – c.f. Exodus 19:6).  David thus speaks of Christ as the Servant (v.23) through Whom the Father’s Name shall be established forever (v.24), though at the same time referring to himself as the servant before the LORD, looking forward to the work of the incarnate Servant (Isaiah 42:1).  As Matthew Henry comments:

“That which is there expressed by way of question (Is this the manner of men, O Lord God?) is here an acknowledgment: “Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree. Thou hast made me a great man, and then treated me accordingly.” God, by the covenant-relations into which he admits believers, the titles he gives them, the favours he bestows on them, and the preparations he has made for them, regards them according to the estate of men of high degree, though they are mean and vile. Having himself distinguished them, he treats them as persons of distinction, according to the quality he has been pleased to put upon them. Some give these words here another reading: “Thou hast looked upon me in the form of a man who art in the highest, the Lord God; or, Thou hast made me to see according to the form of a man the majesty of the Lord God.” And so it points at the Messiah; for, as Abraham, so David, saw his day and was glad, saw it by faith, saw it in fashion as a man, the Word made flesh, and yet saw his glory as that of the only-begotten of the Father. And this was that which God spoke concerning his house for a great while to come, the foresight of which affected him more than any thing. And let it not be thought strange that David should speak so plainly of the two natures of Christ who in spirit called him Lord, though he knew he was to be his Son (Ps. cx. 1), and foresaw him lower than the angels for a little while, but afterwards crowned with glory and honour, Heb. ii. 6, 7.”

Immediately thereafter, chapters 18 and 19 once again covers the victories of David after his dialogue and worship of God, just as chapter 14 had done after the narrative in chapter 13.  It seems to be the narrator’s intention to portray the need for the king of Israel to seek the face and Name of the true King of kings before any victory can be achieved, just as Christ sought the Father’s warm embrace (c.f. Matthew 26) before being nailed on the cross to achieve the Victory of victories.

1 Chronicles 16-19: Our Servant

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

Chapter 12 continued with various descriptions of David’s mighty men, from Benjaminites (v.2), Gadites (v.8), men of Judah (v.16) and Manassites (v.19) to the other tribes listed in the divisions of the armed troops who also assisted David in turning the kingdom of Saul over to him (such as Simeon (v.25), Levi (v.26), Jehoiada of the house of Aaron (v.27), Ephraim (v.30), Issachar (v.32), Zebulun (v.33), Naphtali (v.34), Dan (v.35), Asher (v.36), Reuben (v.37) – altogether a large number of men from all the 12 tribes of Israel).  These were men of notable abilities (v.2), the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand (v.14).  Amasai (the “strong“, the chief of the thirty v.18), being filled with the Spirit, thus declares that these men are as follows:

We are yours, O David, and with you, O Son of Jesse!  Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers!  For your God helps you

Indeed, but for David’s LORD, these mighty men would not be David’s subjects to begin with, that they were scatter from Saul’s headship and kingship to be with the one persecuted and rejected by the kingdom at large (v.19).  These are the men who were added day to day to David’s camp, until there was a great army of God (v.22)  indeed, an army of God, not an army of man.  This army had one single purpose:  to make David king over all Israel (v.38), hundreds of thousands of men feasting with David for three days (v.39) on food from afar, celebratory elements of flour, figs, raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep – a shadow of the marriage supper of the Lamb in new creation (v.39-40; Revelation 19:9), for “there was joy in Israel“.

This familial supper is thus combined with the celebratory reclamation of the ark.  Chapter 13 begins with David consulting with the commanders, the leader, and above all – the LORD (v.2), to firstly gather brothers in Christ who were scattered across the land.  Just as the good news was to be brought to the ends of the world as Israel was to be a priest to the nations (Exodus 19:6; Mathew 24:14), Israel must firstly be gathered and seek the LORD as one man (c.f. Judges 20, before the days of Saul).

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7).  It has therefore been over two decades until David has ushered in the symbolic presence of the LORD back into the arms of the Israelites.  This explains why David assembled Israel to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim, as it was brought to that region by the Philistines who had been struck with curses (e.g. 1 Samuel 5:6).  Eleazar (God has helped), the son of Abinadab (father of nobleness) has thus taken care of the ark since it was brought to his father’s house in Samuel’s day.

However, terror struck in v.9, at the threshing floor of Chidon (meaning “javelin“; or Nacon, meaning “prepared“- c.f. 2 Samuel 6:6) when Uzzah unwittingly touched the ark when the oxen stumbled and died there before God.  Although it would seem to be merely a careless mistake that this son of Abinadab had died simply from touching the ark, this family of Levites should have known from Exodus 25:14 that the proper method of transporting the ark is not by a cart but by the poles in the side of the ark.  This proper procedure was not observed with care, and thus the incident – a reminder that such joy for the LORD should not come without proper knowledge of the gospel and worshipping in His will and His direction.  Thus, as shown in the house of Abinadab and in the house of Obed-edom – with proper understanding of our standing before the LORD in our worship of Him, understanding that the work of the priesthood can never be replaced or revised, allows us to remember that the Father has indeed chosen to bless us through the High Priest and not through our devised methods of worship.  This, of course, translates into the Protestant obsession with “faith” and “grace” (sometime with a capital G) rather than with Christ Himself:

“The views to which the Wesleys were led by these means became of historic importance, for these views influenced the beliefs they held throughout life.  They both spoke of ‘seeking Christ’, yet as one analyses the pertinent passages in their Journals it becomes evident that they were actuallly seeking faith more than they were Christ. Faith had become the great desideratum in their thinking, insomuch that they began to look upon it as an entity in itself.  Under [the Moravian] Bohler’s instructions they had forsaken their trust in personal endeavours and works, but faith had become a kind of new endeavour which they substituted for their former endeavours and a work which took the place of their former good works.  They had still learned nothing about receiving Christ in the fullness of His person and the completeness of His saving work, but were concerned about faith itself and what measure of it might be necessary for salvation.  Charles expected that the coming of this faith might be associated with some visible presence of Christ, and John looked for an experience which would be accompanied by an emotional response.  ‘I well saw’, he wrote, ‘that no-one could, in the nature of things, have such a sense of forgiveness and not feel it.  But I felt it not.” – Arnold Dallimore on John Wesley in his George Whitfield, vol 1

Chapter 14 chronicles David’s victories against the Philistines, underscoring God who has broken through David’s enemies by David’s hands; so also it is the Father’s joint victory over the cross through the Son.  As Karl Barth states it in his first volume of his Church Dogmatics – the Father’s work has His own distinguishable personality and mark compared to the Son’s, but should never be separated from the Son.  The Son was indeed the One on the cross, but it is as much the Father’s work in the Son’s overcoming of the sting of death as it is the Son’s.  David’s fame is therefore underlined by the LORD (v.17); not by Saul’s type of might, nor by Abinadab’s type of good works, but simply by seeking Christ Himself.

Note the difference in chapter 15 with the break-out against Uzzah in chapter 13; David has learned from his experience and has chosen the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites to consecrate themselves so that they may bring up the ark of the LORD (v.12).  The proper procedure has been observed, and David understood that the failure came from the fact that they “did not carry it the first time, [so] the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule“.  Exodus 24:15 was thus observed in chapter 15:15.  The LORD thus helped the Levites (who had prepared joyous music in this act of worship, see v. 16-25), and their response was to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams (v.26; c.f. Numbers 23:1; Job 42:8; Ezekiel 45:23) – at the same time, David was dressed as a Levite, robed in fine linen with a linen ephod.  This is a grand picture of the Saviour in His fullness, the salvific work of the Lamb through His sinless sacrifice, the glorious High Priest and King coming in the sound of the horn, trumpets, cymbals, harps and lyres (c.f. Book of Revelation).

Yet, in this wonderful occasion, the chapter ends with Michal’s jealousy for David which is nothing like the jealous love of the LORD.  Her heart for David consumed her above her love for the LORD (2 Samuel 6:23), forgetting what the mystery of marriage truly is about (Ephesians 5:22-33).

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

1 Chronicles 8 begins with the genealogy of Saul with some notable Christians such as Jonathan and Merib-baal (Mephibosheth, the “contender against Baal”, he who was exalted by David in 2 Samuel 21:7).  It is interesting that v.29-40 are repeated in chapter 9, as if to emphasise the mighty descendants of Benjamin, the son of Jacob.  Yet, it is in the prophecy and in their names that we realise the promise of the Seed will not be fufilled through Benjamin.  This “ravenous wolf” who in the morning is devouring its prey, and in the evening dividing the spoil (c.f. Genesis 49:27) is but the proper presupposition with which we see Saul’s lineage.  His genealogy focuses not on Jonathan or Mephibosheth, the significant characters which seemingly redeems Saul’s posterity; rather, it ends with “the sons of Eshek” – which is means the sons of “oppression“.  Ulam, Eshek’s firstborn, being both “their strength“, yet also “their folly“.  These were indeed mighty warriors of Benjamin, having many sons and grandsons – emphasising once again from which son of Israel they descend in v.40.

Yet, almost immediately, we are shown the genealogy of the returned exiles.  From the glory of Saul’s days, his warriors which seem to be his lineage’s stronghold, the focus is not on the returned Benjaminites.  Rather, the focus is firstly the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants (1 Chronicles 9:2).  The meaning of the name of the chief of the gatekeepers, Shallum, is in contrast to Eshek or Ulam.  Where Shallum means retribution or a restoration of sorts, Eshek and Ulam are both folly and oppression – explaining why the Spirit does not inspire the narrator of 1 Chronicles 9 to focus any longer on the folly of Saul’s bloodline, the spirit of whom was followed continuously by the rebellious kings of Israel.  Rather, the Levitical focus of Chronicles reminds us of the importance of the Priesthood and the chosen tribe Levi – such as the Korahites (c.f. Numbers 26:58; 2 Chronicles 20:19 – musicians of the Lord).  Their work of service, their fathers being “in charge of the camp of the LORD” (v.19), their “duty of watching” (v.27) – all summed up in David and Samuel’s joint election (v.22).  Note once again that such genealogies were not elected by Saul – but by the prophet and the first king after the LORD’s own heart, the man who modelled his life after the Second LORD of his worship (c.f. Psalm 110; Matthew 22:45).  So also the work of the kinsmen of Kohathites (who had been the focus of Numbers chapter 4 in their service of the tabernacle), are brought to the fore.  It is not until a full exposition of the glory of the LORD’s restoration of Israel through the priesthood that the narrator seems to strangely return to Saul’s genealogy.  Yet, the purpose is apparent in comparing the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9:35-44 with 1 Chronicles 8:29-40.  Verses 39 and 40 are removed from chapter 9:35-44 – no longer does the narrator focus on Eshek or Ulam or even the warriors or bowmen of Benjamin, for these things are useless in the face of restoring Israel after its captivity in Assyria / Babylon.

The folly of Saul’s lineage is made even more apparent in chapter 10, which opens with the death of Saul and his sons, and Saul’s plan to preserve his ego and reputation by falling upon his own sword rather than being overwhelmed by the Philistines.  Saul is accordingly diminished, whilst David, Samuel and the Levites are appropriately exalted.  The author of Chronicles is clearly intent on remembering the Lord as the Author of Israel’s life, and Refiner of Israel’s rebellion.  Chapter 10 therefore ends with “So Saul died for his breach of faith.  He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.  He did not seek guidance from the LORD.  Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (v.13-14).  Instead of seeking guidance from a medium, he should have sought after the Mediator; instead of satiating his lust of self-preservation, he should have satiated his need to be preserved by Christ in the Father’s wrath.

Thus, as we turn to chapter 11, we come to understand why Jerusalem is not the city of Israel; nor is it the city of Saul.  For the true character of this city was not defined by the physical first king, nor from Israel, but from the LORD of the kings and the LORD of the nation.  David embodies the character of Jesus in taking over Jerusalem, the once city of the Jebusites, with the support of Israel declaring herself as David’s “bone and flesh“, reminiscent of the relationship between Christ and the Church in Genesis 2:23 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Just as Israel submits herself to her king David, so also David’s victory came from seeking the Mediator’s guidance contrary to Saul’s actions – and of all the notable events of David’s life (such as his slaying of Goliath), the narrator opted to focus on the renaming of Jerusalem as the city of David (v.4-9), for this city is essentially not David’s city, but the city of the One Whom David’s worshipped – the city of Jesus.

For David to become such a great man in the LORD (v.9), it was befitting that he was supported too by mighty men as described in the remainder of chapter 11.  The emphasis, however, is not on how mighty they were; contrarily, their efforts cannot hold a candle to David’s sacrifice (c.f. v.18-19).  For it is David’s lifeblood which gives these men their life, not vice versa – “”…Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men?  For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  Therefore he would not drink it.”  Indeed, the only cup that Christ shall drink is the cup of the Father’s wrath, pouring out His lifeblood for the mighty men.  Although the followers of Christ are co-heirs and perhaps mighty kings and mighty men, their exaltation comes from the humbleness of the One who poured His lifeblood out to us, so that we may drink of His blood and feast on His flesh (Matthew 20:28).  It is in this light that we are to read about the lives of such mighty men, their might hinging on the One whose might is in His weakness; whose might does not lie in men’s sacrifice, but in His sacrifice for us first.

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus