Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish: and they were among the mighty men, helpers of the war.
This chapter is composed wholly of matter that is new to us, no corresponding accounts occurring in Samuel. It comprises four lists:
(1) One of men, chiefly Benjamites, who joined David at Ziklag 1 Chronicles 12:1-7;
(2) A second of Gadites who united themselves to him when he was in a stronghold near the desert 1 Chronicles 12:8-15;
(3) A third of Manassites who came to him when he was dismissed by the Philistines upon suspicion 1 Chronicles 12:19-22; and
(4) A fourth of the numbers from the different tribes who attended and made him king at Hebron 1 Chronicles 12:23-40.
They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow, even of Saul's brethren of Benjamin.
The skill of the Benjamites as archers is noted in 1 Chronicles 8:40, and 2 Chronicles 14:8. Their proficiency in using the left hand appears in the narrative of Judges (Judges 3:15, and marginal reference) where their special excellency as slingers is also noticed.
Even of Saul's brethren - Compare 1 Chronicles 12:29. Even of Saul's own tribe there were some who separated themselves from his cause, and threw in their lot with David.
The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel, and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth; and Berachah, and Jehu the Antothite,
And Ismaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty; and Jeremiah, and Jahaziel, and Johanan, and Josabad the Gederathite,
Eluzai, and Jerimoth, and Bealiah, and Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite,
Elkanah, and Jesiah, and Azareel, and Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korhites,
And Joelah, and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.
And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains;
Into the hold to the wilderness - Rather, "into the hold toward the wilderness." Some understand by this Ziklag, some En-gedi 1 Samuel 24:1-2; but it seems most probable that here and in 1 Chronicles 12:16 the stronghold of Adullam is intended 1 Chronicles 11:15-16.
Ezer the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third,
Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth,
Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh,
Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth,
Jeremiah the tenth, Machbanai the eleventh.
These were of the sons of Gad, captains of the host: one of the least was over an hundred, and the greatest over a thousand.
The marginal rendering is preferable. (Compare Leviticus 26:8).
These are they that went over Jordan in the first month, when it had overflown all his banks; and they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east, and toward the west.
On the danger of the exploit, see the marginal reference note.
This passage 1 Chronicles 12:8-15 seems to be taken verbatim from an ancient source, the poetical expressions in 1 Chronicles 12:8, 1 Chronicles 12:14, being especially unlike the usual style of our author.
And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David.
And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it.
Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.
Amasai - The marginal reference identifies him with Amasa, David's nephew, but it seems unlikely that David would have misdoubted a band led by his own nephew.
The passionate earnestness of Amasai's speech is strongly marked in the original, and will be better seen by omitting the words which our Version adds in italics. Here, as in 1 Chronicles 12:8-15, we have manifestly the actual words of a very ancient record.
And there fell some of Manasseh to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle: but they helped them not: for the lords of the Philistines upon advisement sent him away, saying, He will fall to his master Saul to the jeopardy of our heads.
As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zilthai, captains of the thousands that were of Manasseh.
And they helped David against the band of the rovers: for they were all mighty men of valour, and were captains in the host.
The band of the rovers - See the marginal reference.
For at that time day by day there came to David to help him, until it was a great host, like the host of God.
And these are the numbers of the bands that were ready armed to the war, and came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD.
Rather, "These are the numbers of the men, ready equipped for the host, that came to David, etc."
In the list which follows such points as
(1) The large mumber sent by the trans-Jordanic tribes;
(2) The large numbers from Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan, all tribes somewhat remote, and generally speaking undistinguished;
(3) The small size of the contingent from Judah, which is generally represented as numerically superior to every other tribe, and which might have been expected to be especially zealous on behalf of its own prince and tribesman; throw some doubt upon the numbers, which may be suspected of having in some instances undergone corruption.
The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, ready armed to the war.
Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred.
Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred.
And Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites, and with him were three thousand and seven hundred;
And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father's house twenty and two captains.
And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul.
For hitherto ... - Rather, "For still the greatest part of them maintained their allegiance to the house of Saul." This is given as the reason for so few coming to Hebron. It shows us that, even after the death of Ishbosheth, the Benjamites had hopes of furnishing a third king to the nation.
And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers.
And of the half tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name, to come and make David king.
And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.
Men that had understanding of the times - This is best interpreted politically. Compare the marginal reference
Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.
Expert in war ... - Rather "arrayed for battle with all harness of battle, who set the battle in array with no double heart," excelling, that is, in the matter of their arms and accoutrements. The writer notes in each tribe the point in which it was most admirable.
And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand.
And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred.
And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand.
And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand.
All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.
And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them.
Moreover they that were nigh them, even unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel.