Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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 (1Chronicles 27:1-15).
Now the children of Israel after their number, to wit, the chief fathers and captains of thousands and hundreds, and their officers that served the king in any matter of the courses, which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, of every course were twenty and four thousand.(1) Now the children of Israel.—This first verse is the heading or superscription of the list which follows.
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 1Chronicles 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.
Over the first course for the first month was Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(2) Over the first course.—Jashobeam son of Zabdiel was commander of the army corps appointed to be ready for service during the first month of the year. (See 1Chronicles 11:11.) The names of the twelve generals of division have already occurred in the list of David’s heroes contained in that chapter.
In his course.—Heb., upon his course.
Of the children of Perez was the chief of all the captains of the host for the first month.(3) Of the children of Perez.—The reference is to Jashobeam. He belonged to the branch of Judah called Perez, or Pharez, to which David himself belonged.
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. 1Chronicles 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 over the course of the second month was Dodai an Ahohite, and of his course was Mikloth also the ruler: in his course likewise were twenty and four thousand.(4) Dodai an Ahohite.—The Ahohite. 1Chronicles 11:11 proves that the right reading is Eliezer son of Dodai the Ahohite.
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 1Chronicles 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 1Chronicles 8:32; 1Chronicles 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.
The third captain of the host for the third month was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, a chief priest: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(5) The third captain of the host.—Heb., captain of the third host. So Vulg.
Benaiah.—See 1Chronicles 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. 2Chronicles 23:8.) Both LXX. and Vulg. make Benaiah the priest.
This is that Benaiah, who was mighty among the thirty, and above the thirty: and in his course was Ammizabad his son.(6) This is that Benaiah, who was mighty among the thirty.—Literally, he, Benaiah, was a hero of the thirty. (Comp. 1Chronicles 11:25; 2Samuel 23:23.)
And in his course.—Heb., and his course. Ammizabad his son. Comp. the second clause of 1Chronicles 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.
The fourth captain for the fourth month was Asahel the brother of Joab, and Zebadiah his son after him: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(7) The fourth captain for the fourth month.—Heb., the fourth, for the fourth month; an abridged mode of expression, which is preserved from this point to the end of the list.
Asahel the brother of Joab.—1Chronicles 11:26. Asahel was slain by Abner at the beginning of David’s reign (2Samuel 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 1Chronicles 27:4; 1Chronicles 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 fifth captain for the fifth month was Shamhuth the Izrahite: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(8) The fifth captain for the fifth month.—Rather, the fifth, for the fifth month, was the captain Shamhuth. Shamhuth is called “Shammoth the Harorite” in 1Chronicles 11:27, and “Shammah the Harodite” in 2Samuel 23:25.
The Izrahite.—Heb., ha-yizráh, which is probably a mistake for ha-zarhî, “the Zarhite” (comp. 1Chronicles 27:11; 1Chronicles 27:13), i.e., a member of the Judean clan called Zerah. Harod was his town.
The sixth captain for the sixth month was Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(9-14) Comp. 1Chronicles 11:27-31 for the names here given.
The twelfth captain for the twelfth month was Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel: and in his course were twenty and four thousand.(15) Heldai (living).—The same as “Heled” (life) in 1Chronicles 11:30.
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.
Furthermore over the tribes of Israel: the ruler of the Reubenites was Eliezer the son of Zichri: of the Simeonites, Shephatiah the son of Maachah:II. THE PRINCES OR EMIRS OF THE TWELVE TRIBES (1Chronicles 27:16-24).
(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 (1Chronicles 27:1-15) made the important change of nominating the chief commanders himself. The emirs would still manage the internal affairs of their tribes.
Of the Levites, Hashabiah the son of Kemuel: of the Aaronites, Zadok:(17) Of the Levites, Hashabiah.—Levi has two princes, one for the tribe and one for the great Aaronite branch. The literal rendering would be: To Levi, Hashabiah . . . to Aaron, Zadok. Zadok was the high priest (1Chronicles 24:3).
Of Judah, Elihu, one of the brethren of David: of Issachar, Omri the son of Michael:(18) Of Judah, Elihu, one of the brethren of David.—The LXX. reads “Eliab.” Eliab was David’s eldest brother (1Chronicles 2:13). He, therefore, was tribal prince by right of the firstborn, assuming that the house of Jesse was the leading family of Judah. (See Ruth 4:17-20.)
Of the children of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Azaziah: of the half tribe of Manasseh, Joel the son of Pedaiah:(20) Of the half tribe of Manasseh.—That on the west of Jordan, between Ephraim and Issachar.
Of the half tribe of Manasseh in Gilead, Iddo the son of Zechariah: of Benjamin, Jaasiel the son of Abner:(21) Of the half tribe of Manasseh in Gilead.—Rather, towards Gilead, Gilead-ward: i.e., on the east of the Jordan, in Gilead and Bashan.
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.
Of Dan, Azareel the son of Jeroham. These were the princes of the tribes of Israel.(22) Of Dan.—Dan and Zebulun, omitted in the tribal registers of 1 Chronicles 4-7, are both mentioned in the present list. On the other hand, Gad and Asher are unnoticed here; why, we cannot say. The total—“twelve”—is made by counting Manasseh as two and Joseph as three tribes. The order of the first six names is that of Genesis 35:23. Why Dan is mentioned last is not clear: some have thought it indicates the chronicler’s reprobation of the idolatry of the tribe (1Kings 12:29-30; comp. Judges 18:30; Amos 8:14); but he has probably kept the order of his source.
These were the princes.—The same word as “captains” in the former list (sārîm).
But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the LORD had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens.(23) But David took (Numbers 3:40, nāsā’mispar) not the number of them.—This and the next verse contain concluding remarks on the two lists communicated in 1Chronicles 27:1-22. The heading of the chapter professes that the “sons of Israel, according to their number,” is the subject in hand. This appended note limits that statement to those who were above “twenty years old,” that is, to those who were of the military age. The reference is undoubtedly to the census, of which 1 Chronicles 21 gave the account; and it is evident that one of the main objects of that census was the military and political organisation here so scantily and obscurely described.
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.
Joab the son of Zeruiah began to number, but he finished not, because there fell wrath for it against Israel; neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of king David.(24) Joab the son of Zeruiah began.—Or, had begun. This clearly refers to 1Chronicles 21:6. Joab omitted to number Levi and Benjamin.
Because there fell wrath for it.—The same phrase recurs in 2Chronicles 19:10; 2Chronicles 24:18. (Comp. for the fact, 1Chronicles 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. 1Kings 9:21; 2Chronicles 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 2Kings 12:20; 2Kings 13:8; 2Kings 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.
And over the king's treasures was Azmaveth the son of Adiel: and over the storehouses in the fields, in the cities, and in the villages, and in the castles, was Jehonathan the son of Uzziah:III.—THE TWELVE OVERSEERS OF THE ROYAL ESTATES AND PROPERTY (1Chronicles 27:25-31).
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 (2Chronicles 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.
And over them that did the work of the field for tillage of the ground was Ezri the son of Chelub:(26) And over them that did the work of the field.—Ezri was steward of the arable domains.
And over the vineyards was Shimei the Ramathite: over the increase of the vineyards for the wine cellars was Zabdi the Shiphmite:(27) Shimei of Ramah-Benjamin (Joshua 18:25) was overseer of the vineyards.
Zabdi.—Zebadiah (the New Testament Zebedee), of the south Judean town Shiphmoth (1Samuel 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 wi wing land (Genesis 49:11). The memorable “grapes of Eshcol” were gathered there (Numbers 13:23).
And over the olive trees and the sycomore trees that were in the low plains was Baalhanan the Gederite: and over the cellars of oil was Joash:(28) Olive trees.—The same word (zéthîm) is rendered “olive yards” in Joshua 24:13; 1Samuel 8:14, and elsewhere in the Authorised version.
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 1Kings 10:27; 2Chronicles 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.)
Over the cellars of oil.—Heb., treasures, or stores of oil. The oil was that of the olives. (Comp. Judges 9:9.)
And over the herds that fed in Sharon was Shitrai the Sharonite: and over the herds that were in the valleys was Shaphat the son of Adlai:(29) And over the herds that fed in Sharon.—Heb., the oxen that grazed in the Sharon. The Sharon (i.e., “the Level”) was a fertile strip of pasture-land running along the coast of the Mediterranean, between Cæsarea and Joppa. (See Song of Solomon 2:1; Isaiah 33:9.)
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.”
Over the camels also was Obil the Ishmaelite: and over the asses was Jehdeiah the Meronothite:(30) Over the camels also was Obil the Ishmaelite.—Obil’s name means either “owner of camels” or “a good manager of camels,” answering exactly to the Arabic ‘âbil. (Comp. Genesis 37:25; Judges 7:12.) An “Ishmaelite,” i.e., an Arab, would be the fittest person for looking after camels.
Jehdeiah the Meronothite.—Of Merōnōth, a town perhaps near Mizpah (Nehemiah 3:7). The LXX. has Merathon, or Marathon.
And over the flocks was Jaziz the Hagerite. All these were the rulers of the substance which was king David's.(31) And over the flocks.—Of sheep and goats.
Jaziz the Hagerite.—See 1Chronicles 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 1Chronicles 27:22.) The same term is translated “stewards” in 1Chronicles 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 1Chronicles 14:1; 1Chronicles 22:4.) The period of the kings saw Israel a settled nation, that had exchanged the purely nomad life for an ordered social existence.
Also Jonathan David's uncle was a counseller, a wise man, and a scribe: and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni was with the king's sons:IV.—DAVID’S PRIVY COUNCIL 1Chronicles 27:32-34).
(32) Also Jonathan David’s uncle was a counsellor.—A son of David’s brother Shimeah was named Jonathan (1Chronicles 20:7; 2Samuel 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 1Chronicles 2:55; Isaiah 33:18; Psalm 45:2.) David’s official sôphēr, or scribe, was Shavsha (1Chronicles 18:16).
Jehiel the son of Hachmoni.—Rather, son of a Hachmonite. (Comp. 1Chronicles 11:11.)
With the king’s sons—That is, their tutor. The similar lists in 2Samuel 8:15-18, 1Chronicles 18:15-17, and 2Samuel 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 (2Samuel 15:31 seq., 2Samuel 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 1Chronicles 27:5, and 1Chronicles 11:22; 1Chronicles 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.