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.