1 Chronicles 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Most readers of the Scriptures shrink from perusing the lengthy genealogical tables which constitute so large a part of the Books of Numbers and of Chronicles. It is difficult to feel any interest in persons of whom we know nothing but the name. The lists of Hebrew names constitute dry and unattractive reading. Yet, as every man amongst ourselves who has a distinguished pedigree takes pleasure in tracing his own descent by means of "the family tree" which he has in his possession, so it is reasonable to suppose that the Jews regarded their recorded genealogies with pleasure and pride. There are, however, reasons why we also should contemplate these family records with interest.

I. There are GENERAL REASONS why genealogies should be recorded and preserved.

1. Family life is ordained by God. Revelation teaches us that the family is a Divine institution, and society can only prosper and retain stability when fixed upon this basis.

2. Family feeling is consequently natural and Divine. The relationships of the household are bound up with deep, tender, and beneficial sentiments.

3. Family recollections and records are of human interest and moral advantage. When the father tells the story of his boyhood to his son, the grandfather to his grandson, there is a natural interest felt, and a wholesome feeling of family life and community developed.

4. In many instances family history is an important part of national history. The story of the reigning family in a monarchical country, and of families distinguished for hereditary ability and patriotism in all countries, can scarcely be omitted from the chronicles of a nation.

5. The federal family feeling is contributive to the religious life. "One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts."

II. There are SPECIAL REASONS why the genealogies of the Jews should be preserved. The fact that they have been thought worthy of so prominent a place in the canonical Scriptures is indicative of their importance to the national and religious life of the Hebrew people.

1. In some instances these genealogies evince the faithfulness of God in the fulfilment of prophecy. This is especially the case with regard to the character and functions of the several tribes of Israel.

2. In some instances these tables indicate the functions of families in the nation and in the service of the sanctuary. Thus the tribe of Judah is pointed out as the monarchical, the tribe of Levi as the ministerial tribe, and the family of Aaron as the priestly family.

3. One especial purpose of Hebrew genealogy was to provide that the descent of the Messiah should be duly traced, and that the predictions of Scripture should be thus obviously fulfilled. The genealogies of the Evangelists should be read in connection with those of the books of the Old Testament. The Son of David, the descendant of Abraham, is thus shown to be the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind. - T.

It is worth while to read these long lists of names. It is like standing on a river-bank and watching the flow of time. Solemn thoughts of transiency of life, of fame, of importance, are suggested by them. Solemn thoughts of responsibility are started by them, and appeals to act worthily of the past rise from them. They deepen our respect for our grand old world, the nurse of heroes and of saints -

"Where half the soil has trod the rest
In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages." They reconcile us, to some extent, to inevitable evils in the present, showing that wars and conflicts have been the order of the day from the beginning. Observe more particularly -

I. How broadly the writer of this book lays THE BASIS OF HUMAN BROTHERHOOD, He is intensely devoted to the Jewish priesthood - almost certainly one of them. Some, therefore, would expect only narrowness from him. Priest, presbyter, or pastor are all supposed to have more contracted views than neighbours. But he commences his genealogies, not with Moses, nor Jacob, nor Abraham, but with Adam; recognizing at the outset that mankind is of one blood, one essential nature, one need, one capacity. This is one of the grand differences between the Bible religion and all other ancient religions. It recognized a common brotherhood of mankind beneath the common fatherhood of God. Let us learn this lesson, and go back a little further than the Commonwealth or the Conquest, and remember the English race is not made of different clay from the rest of mankind. All had the same origin, and all, therefore, are capable of the same elevation.

II. Observe, secondly, IT BECOMES US TO RECOGNIZE OUR INDEBTEDNESS TO THE PAST. No Jew could read these records without feeling it. If possessing fertile land, they owed it to others - to the Simeonites, five hundred, who occupied Mount Seir (1 Chronicles 4:39-43); to the men of Reuben, extirpating Arab tribes and dwelling in their place for centuries; to Caleb, for possessing Hebron; to Machir and to Jair, and to many such. If enjoying the arts of life, they should remember how much of these were inherited. They would recall with advantage "Joab, the father of the valley of craftsmen" (1 Chronicles 4:14); those who "wrought fine linen of the house of Ashbea' (ver. 21); and "the potters" and "those that dwelt among plants and hedges" (ver. 23). If they rejoice in their exquisite poetry, and their music probably matching it in worth, they should remember David and Heman (1 Chronicles 6:33), Asaph (ver. 39), and Merari (ver. 44). It is well to remember the debt we owe to the past. Science did not begin in the nineteenth century, nor good laws, nor philanthropy, nor even statesmanship. We stand on the shoulders of the past. Some are too confident and presumptuous, as if what we possess had been achieved and not inherited. See that we do something for posterity, and transmit in finer volume the advantages we have enjoyed.

III. Observe THE LONG BLESSING THAT FOLLOWS THE GODLY, The priestly line of Aaron is traced through a thousand years of eminence down to the time of the Captivity, and then it is still strong. The royal line of David is traced down to the Captivity, the crown resting on some member of his family through seventeen generations, and traced subsequently in the eminence of Zerubbabel, who is one of the leaders of the return. Blessing of long lines of progeny, inheriting parents' success, are seen in many other cases, e.g. Caleb's. A grandson of the prophet Samuel (Heman) inherits his poetic fire. Evil extends its traces and its curse to the third or fourth generation of those that hate God; good carries its blessing to "thousands of generations" of those that love him. Do right and do good, and none can limit your power of blessing your fellow-men. Yet observe, lastly -

IV. THE PROMISE OF THE START IS SOMETIMES BROKEN, AND THE UNPROMISING BEGINNING TURNS OUT WELL. Some of Aaron's sons (Nadab and Abihu) have an awful fate; some of Judah's an unhappy character. But sometimes a family, beginning badly, improves; for example, here is Judah's, who in the course of a few generations had in it Er, Onan, and Achan ("the troubler of Israel"); yet it runs itself clear, and gets better, purer, and stronger as it goes on. Therefore despair of none, nor of yourself. Heart within and God overhead, whatever you have been, you may become a blessing to great multitudes. - G.

These verses suggest to us the thought which continually recurs in studying the life of David, viz. -

I. HOW JOY AND SORROW MINGLE IN THE LIVES OF MEN. To David were given many elements of joy: he had the outward dignity, the comfortable and even splendid surroundings, the authority and influence which belong to Oriental sovereignty: he reigned altogether forty years (ver. 4). For this large period of his life the pleasures of regal pomp, wealth, and power were at his command. But his was far from a cloudless day. In the home circle, where the sweetest joys are commonly found, there were abundant sources of trouble and distress. In his "first love," Michal, he was bitterly disappointed, and she was "childless unto the day of her death." His concubines deserted and dishonoured him (2 Samuel 16:22). As we read in these verses (vers. 1-8) the names of his children, we are struck with the thought - how little there was in them to give their father a parent's joy! how much to cause him a profound anxiety, or even poignant grief! If national prosperity or military success elated the king's heart, domestic dissatisfaction, home troubles, must soon have clouded his brow. Thus is it with us all: joy and sorrow may not spring from these two sources, they may not mingle in these proportions, but they are bound up together in the same bundle; they intermingle and interlace in every human life. Bodily gratifications, success, power, the endearments of human love, the hope of higher and greater things, the joy of beneficence, on the one hand; care, loss, toil, disappointment, regret, the "wounded spirit," on the other hand. It is a checkered scene, this plain of human life; sunshine and shadow fall fitfully upon it as we pass on to the far horizon. This aspect of David's household, recalling to us the contrasts of his experience, may lead us to remember -

II. HOW GOD DISCIPLINES OUR HEARTS. David would hardly have been the humble and devout man he was and continued to be, if he had enjoyed an unbroken course of triumph and satisfaction. The best graces of the human soul cannot thrive in perpetual sunshine; they must have the searching winds and the pelting rains of heaven. If God sends us loss and trouble, if he "breaks our schemes of earthly joy," it is to foster in our hearts those virtues of meekness, resignation, lowliness of heart, considerateness of others, etc., which we should not keep alive if the "barns were always filled with plenty," and the cup were always overflowing with earthly joy. We may especially learn here -

III. How GOD PREPARES US FOR HOLY SERVICE. David would never have left us the psalms which proceeded from his pen if his earthly life had not been the checkered thing it was. It was from a troubled if not a broken heart that those deep utterances were poured. It was from a soul that could find no rest and joy but in the faithful God, "the very present Help in trouble," that flowed the precious passages which are the comfort of mankind.

1. God never calls us to any estate so high as that of sacred service - the spiritual help we render our kind.

2. We cannot possibly serve to the full height of our power if we do not learn sympathy by suffering.

3. Therefore God leads his children into deep waters, that, through such baptism, they may comfort, heal, and bless the sorrowing and stricken souls who wait their ministering hand. - C.

Before entering upon the genealogies of the tribes of Israel in their due order, we are directed to fix our attention on the royal line. In vers. 1-9 we have all the sons of David enumerated, viz. six born in Hebron and thirteen in Jerusalem. The number of David's sons born after his removal to Jerusalem was eleven; only nine are mentioned here - two are omitted, either on account of early death or no issue. In vers. 10-16 the line is given from Solomon to Jeconiah and Zedekiah - the time of the Exile. From vers. 17-24 we have the line of the captive and exiled Jeconiah, and other families. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned over forty years. Seven years and a half of these were over Judah in Hebron, and thirty-three over Israel and Judah united in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 5. we have his first public anointing to be king over Israel. This anointing took place at the time that David was king over Judah in Hebron. In 2 Samuel 2. we are told that the men of Judah came to Hebron - to which place David went by the command of God - and there they anointed him king. This, however, was not his first anointing. The Divine call and anointing took place ten years previously, during the reign of Saul, and was carried out at God's command by Samuel the prophet, as is fully recorded in 1 Samuel 16. Of Solomon himself little is said in this chapter. He reigned forty years over Israel in Jerusalem. Our attention is chiefly directed to David. The historian enters into more minute details in his case, both with regard to his family and to his reign. As the head of the royal line, he is brought into greater prominence. As the type of Christ, this is also as it should be. From this fountain-head all blessings flow. David, like David's Son and Lord, has here the pre-eminence. Throughout this chapter three kings of the royal line stand prominently forward in connection with the people of God - David, Solomon, and Zedekiah. Others, such as Josiah and Hezekiah, were distinguished as kings, but it is to these our attention is chiefly directed, on account of their typical bearing in connection with the kingdom of God. We shall look at them in this light, and see the reason why such prominence is given. - W.

Under the reign of David the kingdoms of Israel and Judah may be said to have been established. It was marked from first to last by conflict, war, and bloodshed. Foes on every side, both hidden and open, had to be encountered, battle after battle to be fought. In all this he stood alone, and thus stands before us as the type of Christ. He encountered all our spiritual foes. He fought the great fight. "Oft the people there was none with him." All the powers of darkness were leagued against him. He endured the frown of man, and bore the wrath of God. He fought the fight and won the victory, and the kingdom of God was thus established in the Name of David's Son and Lord. In his sufferings in Gethsemane and on the cross he trod all the powers of darkness down, and in his resurrection from the dead God set his seal to the accomplishment of his work and the establishment of his spiritual kingdom, against which the gates of hell can never prevail. Of him it could be said, as was said of David himself (see 1 Chronicles 22:18), only in an infinitely higher sense, "Hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the Lord, and before his people." But, though David may be said to have founded and established the kingdom, he was not permitted to build the house of God. This was to be Solomon's work. The kingdom, thus established, was passed over to him to erect in it the great temple of God. Solomon, "the peaceful one," as his name signifies, was thus entrusted to complete the great work for which David had made all the preparation. Solomon follows David spiritually as surely as historically. It is but the gospel story in another form. In these early chapters of this book we see these names of David, Solomon, and Zedekiah closely interwoven with those of the twelve tribes, or the entire family of God. They are, in fact, inseparable. As the "vine and the branches," they are one living tree. Not only is it true of David and Solomon spiritually, but of all God's people - it is first conflict, then rest. It is through the former we enter into the latter. "Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." Only they who "fight the good fight of faith," who are the true soldiers of the cross, know how deep is the peace of God that becomes the portion of the soul. There is a peace which flows from the sight of a suffering Saviour bearing our sins. This is not the peace we mean. It is that peace which is the result of being true to Christ, living near to him, being wholly on his side - a marked man - who is not ashamed of his reproach. All this involves a daily, yea, hourly, conflict; and out of this God opens the channels of the soul for a peace to flow in which "passeth all understanding," and to which other Christians are strangers. But not only are David and Solomon the law of the kingdom of God, - it is the law of all things. Before the peace always goes the sword. This was our Lord's teaching when he said, "I am not come to send peace, but a sword." Peace follows. The storm and tempest are absolutely necessary to purify the air. To these both spring and summer owe their beauty. It is first the sorrow and then the joy that is the order of life. "The evening and the morning were the first day," and seem on the very first page of God's Word to reflect this truth. Through the evening the world still passes to its mornings. The first chapter of Genesis is all sunlight. But what a deep, dark cloud passes over all the book of God, what a history of sin and sorrow, crying and tears, till we reach its close, and then the sun rises again, never more to go down! We might go on to show how all life is full of this law; but this will suffice to help the reader's further thoughts. And as every stone of Solomon's temple rested on the work David had finished, and the preparation he had made, so do all the "living stones" of God's spiritual temple rest on the finished work of Christ, and everything really substantial on his conflict, struggle, and cross. And peace deeper than anything Solomon's reign could shadow forth fills their souls, even that peace which was his gift to all his people when he said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." - W.

The important fact is recalled to mind that David's reign was divided into two parts: for some seven years and a half he reigned over a portion of the nation, and then for three and thirty years over the whole. His capital during the first part of his reign was Hebron; and during the second part, Jerusalem. It is evidently a point of interest and instruction that, though designed for the throne, and anointed in his early life, David only attained the throne by gradual stages and steps, and there was a long series of remarkable providences ever tending towards, and at last fully realizing the Divine purpose. From David's story we learn that there may be even prolonged delay in the fulfilment of the Divine promise, but that very delay is used in the ultimate and the more perfect fulfilment of the promise. This may be fully illustrated in the details of David's early history. If God's promise seems "to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not tarry." Immediately on receiving news of the death of Saul, David took action. As long as the anointed of the Lord lived, it was his duty to wait patiently, not to strive, not to assert his pretensions to the throne, not to rebel in any way against the lawful authority. But Saul being removed, no claims remained; he might assert at once his right to the throne. Here, however, the truly religious character of David is seen. The way seemed plain before him, but he would not take a step without inquiry of the Lord. He asks both the when, the how, and the where, desiring simply to follow the Divine lead. And he is directed to Hebron, the sacred city of the tribe of Judah. His removal to that city was the signal for the union of the tribe of Judah under his rule. His ultimately securing the allegiance of the entire people, and removing his capital to Jerusalem, was the result of a train of providential circumstances, which indicated the Divine will as plainly as if words of command had been uttered. Many men sin by trying to force God's will into conformity with their own, and deceiving themselves with the idea that they are doing God's will. Happy are they who, in all simplicity, follow God's lead, and are quite willing to wait for God's time and God's way. The point in David's story recalled by these verses shows us -

I. DELAY AND PARTIAL FULFILMENT TRYING DAVID'S FAITH. Years passed, and the promise of his youth seemed ever further off from fulfilment; and even when the fulfilment came, it was far below his hopes, scarcely worth so many years of waiting and bearing. Yet David fully maintained his trust. He never failed; he would not be persuaded to make his own way, by cutting off Saul's life when the king was in his power. David never lost hope. God's way might be in the sea, but God can make pathways even through seas. And delay has ever been, and still is, one of the most effective agencies for testing faith. So long as we can do something, we can keep trust alive; but it is so hard to "flesh and blood" to be still and wait.

II. DELAY AND PARTIAL FULFILMENT CULTURING DAVID'S FITNESSES. It is always more important that we should be fit for a position than that we should gain it; and so the long years of preparatory waiting and experience in lesser spheres are never wasted years. David in the court, David in the cave, and David in Hebron, was being fitted for full royalty at Jerusalem. Life is, for us all, in stages, each with a view to the next in advance. We want to leap to the best at once. God will not let us, save in judgment. He brings through the lesser trusts slowly to the greater ones. This gives us one of our best assurances of immortality. We are so evidently in this delay-time of earth being fitted for something more and higher. Gain what we may here on earth, we cannot exhaust our spiritual capacities. - R.T.

This list of the names of the sons of David before and after the Captivity suggest three truths -

I. THE BEST REWARDS OF PIETY. To David God gave the promise that his children should sit upon his throne; to Solomon he gave a brilliant court and large exchequer. David had the high and lofty satisfaction of looking forward to future years, and knowing that his descendants would be wielding power and exerting influence for many generations. Solomon had his reward in the "things which are seen and temporal" - in great wealth, in a large harem, in foreign alliances, in growing merchandise, etc. The one reward was elevating, ennobling; the other proved to be hurtful and demoralizing. We are very apt to look for temporal prosperity, earthly honour, material gratification, as the guerdon of devotion; but if this should be given us, it may end at last in spiritual depression and failure. God may give us our request, and send leanness into our soul (Psalm 106:15). We should rather desire mental and spiritual bestowments, delights of the soul, gladness of the heart -

"The joys which satisfy
And sanctify the mind;"

those which have no tendency to enfeeble or to mislead, but which tend rather to enrich and to enlarge the soul.

II. THE VANITY OF HUMAN FAME. It is impossible not to be struck with the obscurity of the names which occur in some of these verses (vers. 10-24). It is something, indeed, that a man's name should find a place, however humble, in such an imperishable record. But these men lived and died without enjoying any such anticipation, and it is nothing to them now. The desire for distinction is natural to noble minds; and if it be honourable fame, and not mere worthless notoriety they seek, we must pay them praise and not accord them blame. But the fact that, as time proceeds, human fame becomes of less account, and that the very names of succeeding kings may become nothing more than a tedious chronicle, only read by way of duty, may well lead us to choose a more worthy and a more lasting portion. There are blessings to be sought and gained, the value of which does not decline with the passage of the years or even of the centuries. It is these which the wise will covet, which the holy will secure.

III. THE EXCELLENCY OF GODLY ZEAL. There is one name in this list which stands out among the rest as that of a man whom all the servants of God "delight to honour" - Zerubbabel (ver. 19). To have been the ancestor or the descendant of such a man was itself an honour. We regard his career as one of the worthiest and most fruitful which even the Holy Scriptures have recorded. His godly zeal did much to carry on the purpose of Jehovah from the return of the captives to the coming of the Lord. To have lived such a life and to have done such a work may satisfy the very largest ambition which the heart of man can hold. To look back from the spiritual world on such a work accomplished must be an increase to heavenly joy. There are few satisfactions, if there be any, which give a truer, deeper, diviner delight to the regenerated soul than the conviction that, by the help and grace of God, we are sowing the seeds of holy usefulness, of which future generations will reap the blessed harvest. - C.

The portraiture of the Holy Spirit would be incomplete without that of Zedekiah. In him we see how every work of God may be undone, how the fairest fabric may become a wreck. If in David and Solomon we have that which will encourage, we have here a note of solemn warning. What is the lesson thus solemnly taught? That sin undid all the work of David and Solomon. Sin ruined the kingdom, and lay desolate the temple of God. And in what did that sin consist? In that which is the fertile source of all sin - idolatry. Idolatry is the heart going after something else than God. Its gross form is image-worship. Its more refined and general form is the love of something lower than Christ. The latter is the guiltier, because done under greater light. From this single source everything follows - loss of peace, darkness of soul, weakness of intellect, immorality of life, judicial blindness, and the entire spiritual wreck of everything, whether it be in an individual soul or in a nation. Let God be supplanted, and there is no abyss into which one and the other will not ultimately fall. God's first law to Israel was," Thou shalt have none other gods before me;" and it is his first law still. Well might the beloved apostle say, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." The utter ruin of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the desolation of the temple, had one source, consummated by Zedekiah - idolatry. This brought down upon them that wrath of God which has been resting like a dark cloud on the nation ever since. If David and Solomon show us how we may pass through conflict to peace, Zedekiah shows us how we may pass from it all to utter desolation. Needful warning to complete this spiritual picture. - W.

It is specially worthy of notice that, according to his promise, God preserved the Davidic line among all the changes through which the kingdom of Judah passed; and this became a public testimony to the Divine faithfulness, and a constant plea against them when they publicly broke their side of the conditions of the national covenant. We may dwell on -

I. WHAT THIS UNFOLDS OF GOD'S LONG-SUFFERING MERCY. For some of the kings of Judah were rebellious and idolatrous; some, as, for instance, Ahaz and Manasseh, so very bad that we marvel at the mercy which held back judgment on the Davidic dynasty. Exactly what we have ever to wonder over is the Divine long-suffering towards us, towards his Church, towards men. God is infinitely jealous of the honour of his Name as the Promise-maker and the Promise-keeper, and we may even think of God as infinitely hopeful concerning his people, waiting on and on, bearing long with them, quite sure that they will yet turn to him and live. But every new impression of God's patient mercy made upon our hearts only shows up the more hatefully our sin in keeping on and "despising the riches of his mercy."

II. WHAT THIS UNFOLDS OF GOD'S WITNESS TO HIMSELF. God's dealings with men are the revelation of God's character. What he does is designed to unfold before us what he is, and so to ensure personal trust in him. Here mercy blends with faithfulness, and we gain the conception of his righteousness blending with his love, justice and mercy going hand in hand, the King and the Father making the sublime unity of the Divine King-Father. Sometimes we gain impressions of Divine justice, at other times impressions of Divine mercy, and we err if we keep these apart. We only conceive God himself aright when we can blend them to make the perfect harmony of him who is faithful, to all his words - faithful to punish and faithful to pity and faithful to preserve.

III. WHAT THIS UNFOLDS OF GOD'S HIGHER AND SPIRITUAL PURPOSES. For from the preservation of a particular dynasty we rise to the promise of the world's Messiah, who was to be recognized by coming in the Davidic line, and bear a royalty which should be a sublime spiritual royalty, and found a kingdom which should be an invisible but everlasting kingdom. David's kingdom was, by the promise, to be continued for ever; and so it is in that Son of David, who yet was David's Lord, and who bath now both an "unchangeable priesthood" and an "unchangeable kingship." His dominion shall yet prove to be an "everlasting dominion;" he "shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." And into the eternal Davidic kingdom we should enter, and we may enter, for the King throws wide the door, and calls "whosoever will" to come. - R.T.

Among the names recorded here, that of Zerubbabel suggests an interesting passage in the Jewish history; and he has a marked individuality, so that his work and his times may be profitably reviewed. It is noticed as a fulfilling of the Divine promise concerning the Davidic dynasty, that Zerubbabel was a prince of the house of David, and so the returned captives resumed their national life under a Davidic leader, and with a fresh and constantly effective remembrance of the Divine promise and faithfulness. From the narrative in Ezra, details of the work of Zerubbabel may be given. His mission concerned three things:

1. The leadership of the liberated captives on their return journey to Palestine. What qualities this demanded - command, courage, patience, cheerfulness, etc., should be fully illustrated.

2. The erection of a new temple from the ruins of that of Solomon, and the restoration of the Mosaic ritual and worship. In this he was aided by Joshua, the high priest. Show what further qualities were demanded by this work - power to inspire others, personal godliness, an enkindling enthusiasm, and, in view of the efforts of the Samaritans, firmness, unswerving loyalty to God, and a holy jealousy that permitted no compromises in religion.

3. The establishment of a national and governmental order among the people. This was the work for which he probably had hereditary genius; and his position and authority, as the Persian Sheshbazzar, enabled him effectively to carry out his schemes. In him may be illustrated the threefold truth:

(1) that circumstances call forth the best that is in men;

(2) that men may to a large extent mould their circumstances; and

(3) that God is ever ready to give his grace and strength, unto the best success, to every man who sincerely wishes to be found faithful. - R.T.

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