Chapter 27: The Sinful Census and Church Ministries in Israel
Given the LORD’s expression to David that His reason for electing Solomon to build the temple is due to David’s hands being stained with blood and riddled with war (re-iterated in 1 Chronicles 28:3), it is unsurprising that the narrator of 1 Chronicles has explicitly focused on the priesthood aspect of this elected nation. The “military divisions” is the final allotment to be described in this book, indicating that though this is important, the priestly aspect is far more significant.
In chapter 27, we see the 12 military divisions (from v.1-15), each numbering 24,000 – amounting to 288,000 – an impressive number, though significantly less than the number taken from the census in chapter 21. The 12 leaders as follows:
1. Jashobeam (of Perez), chief of all the commanders – the 1st month;
2. Dodai the Ahohite – the 2nd month;
3. Benaiah, son of Jehoiada the chief priest (a mighty man of the thirty, commanding the thirty), and his son Ammizabad in charge of his division – the 3rd month;
4. Asahel (brother of Joab) and his son Zebadiah after him – the 4th month;
5. Shamhuth the Izrahite – the 5th month;
6. Ira, the Tekoite – the 6th month;
7. Helez, of Ephraim – the 7th month;
8. Sibbecai of the Zerahites – the 8th month;
9. Abiezer of Benjamin – the 9th month;
10. Maharai of the Zerahites – the 10th month;
11. Benaiah of Ephraim – the 11th month;
12. Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel – the 12th month.
This is followed by the allocations for the leaders of the tribes from v.16-22:
1. Eliezer – over Reuben (as chief officer);
2. Shephatiah – over Simeon;
3. Hashabiah – over Levi;
4. Zadok – over Aaron;
5. Elihu (one of David’s brother) – over Judah;
6. Omri – over Issachar;
7. Ishmaiah – over Zebulun;
8. Jeremoth – over Naphtali;
9. Hoshea – over Ephraim;
10. Joel – over half-tribe of Manasseh;
11. Iddo – over half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead;
12. Jaasiel (son of Abner) – over Benjamin
13. Azarel – over Dan.
Just as the descendants of Abraham are meant to be as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5). Abraham was challenged by the LORD then that his descendants shall be of such number, if such can be counted. David was therefore presumptuous to merely refrain from counting those below 20 years of age, when he should not have needed to count at all. Joab’s futility in counting, alongside his disgust at David’s arrogance as tempted by Satan, is met with the LORD’s wrath – as if David is the man who should be given glory for Israel’s multiplication. Rightfully so, the number was not (nor could it have been!) entered into King David’s chronicles (v.24).
Then, the descriptions of the stewards of King David’s property (v.25-31):
1. Azmaveth – over the king’s treasuries;
2. Jonathan son of Uzziah – over the treasuries in the country, the cities, villages and in the towers;
3. Ezri – over those who did the work of the field for tilling the soil;
4. Shimei the Ramathite – over the vineyards;
5. Zabdi the Shiphmite – over the produce of the vineyards for the wine cellars;
6. Baal-hanan the Gederite – over the olive and sycamore trees in Shephelah;
7. Joash – over the stores of oil;
8. Shitrai the Sharonite – over the herds that pastured in Sharon;
9. Shaphat the son of Adlai – over the herds in the valleys;
10. Obil the Ishmaelite – over the camels;
11. Jehdeiah the Meronothite – over the donkeys;
12. Jaziz the Hagrite – over the flocks.
Finally, the miscellaneous allocations:
1. Jonathan (David’s uncle) and Jehiel – attending the king’s sons;
2. Ahithophel (succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar) – the king’s counselor;
3. Hushai the Archite – the king’s friend; and
4. Joab – commander of the king’s army.
Upon the various allocations from chapters 23-27, David assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of Israel, of the tribes, and of the divisions, and the commanders, the stewards of the king’s property / livestock / sons, the palace officials, and the mighty men / seasoned warriors. And this gathering draws us back to chapter 22, the promise of the temple to be built by the true Solomon.
Chapter 28: Israel’s Foremost Duty
This chapter is very much a reiteration of the purpose of the nation Israel (Exodus 19:6) – that it is a priesthood to the other nations. It was never an imitation of its neighbours, nor did it seek to be a kingdom on earth; rather, it is an imitation of one neighbour – the kingdom of heaven. However, it should also remember that it is but an imitation of the heavenly kingdom, at most an incarnation of the taste of new creation. Yet, it should be remembered as a shadow to the New Jerusalem. In v.1-8 of this chapter, David provides a short autobiography to the assembled people (a summary of the content from 1 Samuel onwards regarding David), with the LORD’s command to David in 1 Chronicles 22 being the core message of this assembly (v.2-3), that Solomon is David’s promised son and future king of Israel (reflecting what had been stated in 1 Kings 1:30 and the establishment of Solomon’s headship in 1 Kings 2:12).
This is followed by Solomon’s duty, proclaimed from David to Solomon before the assembled men of Israel, commanding Solomon to seek after the LORD truly to best resemble the relationship between the Holy Father and the Holy Son. However much a type of Christ Solomon is, he is still but a follower of Jesus, and prone to the type of apostasy described in Hebrews 6:4-6 (v.9 – “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever“). This is in contrast to the LORD’s persisting love (v.20 – “Be strong and courageous and do it [the building and service of the temple]. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished“). This is a defining moment for Solomon and his predestined role in life as the very first priest-king of Israel, just as Christ was both Melchizedek and High Priest of all men.
It is interesting how David in v.11-19 provides the plans and the blueprint of the temple to Solomon, when the LORD could have provided such plans and blueprint to Solomon directly (c.f. the detailed blueprint of the tabernacle provided to Moses directly – Hebrews 8:5). However, David’s speech to Solomon is itself a glimpse of the relationship between the Holy Father and the Son before Genesis 1:1 – the Father planning and mapping the salvation of mankind, and the Son being the executor of such plan as the chosen heir to the Father’s throne (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 22:3).
Chapter 29: Worshipful Response
After David’s wonderful speech in chapter 28 to Israel, and his command to Solomon as heard by the assembled people, he poses this question to the crowd – “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” (v.5). This evoked a sensational freewill offering from the leaders of fathers’ houses, leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. This resembles the awesome freewill offering provided in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35-36) – and “the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD” (emphasis included). Such is the essence of Christian worship, that we give freely as bondservants of Christ and not with hands tied to our guilt and shame in bondage to the father of liars!
David goes further to prevent any Israelite to boast in their giving (v.14). For all things come from the LORD, and of His own we have given Him. Truly, what “glory” could we possibly give to the LORD except that which is already His? Even the gift of faith is not a work in itself, for the circumcised heart also comes from the LORD (v.19). This beautiful assembly surrounding the theme of the Temple and Solomon’s exaltation was not recorded in 1 Kings, an indication again at priestly as opposed to the deuteronomist source of Chronicles. Hence, Solomon’s anointing to be the king of Israel and prince for the LORD is very different from the opening verses of 1 Kings 2 (and certainly does not seem to be the same as the first anointing described in 1 Kings 1:39), which does not specify whether Solomon was made king a “second” time. The narration in Chronicles places his reign in a better context, the context of the covenant promise the LORD has made with Israel from the day of the exodus from Egypt, and provides a fitting background as to why Solomon and David, of all the other kings after them, are the most obvious types of Christ in Israel’s history. They are not only kings of Israel, examples of Christ to Israelites, but the books of Chronicles considered also the circumstances of all the kingdoms of the countries – a reminder of the wide-reaching implications of salvation through Israel and the promised Messiah especially in these Old Testament pages.