Now Benjamin begat Bela his first-bornI. THAT ALLIANCES OFTEN END IN ENTANGLEMENTS AND ENTAIL UNCONSIDERED CONSEQUENCES. Shaharaim went into Moab and there married a Moabitess, having children of her (ver. 8). The names of his sons (ver. 9) were Moabitish — Mezha (see 2 Kings 3:4), Maleham (an idol of Moab; see 1 Kings 11:33 and Jeremiah 49:1, 2). This fact points clearly to the evil influence under which his children came through this matrimonial alliance. If we "make affinity" with those who are not of like mind and like principles with ourselves, we must be prepared for serious spiritual consequences.
II. THAT HUMAN ACTIVITY MAY HAVE VERY LONG RESULTS. Shamed, the son of Elpaal, built two cities; one of them was Led (ver. 12). This is identical with the Lydda of our New Testament (Acts 9:32), and with the modern Ludd. Here we have an instance of the results of one man's activity being witnessed more than thirty centuries after he has been gathered to his fathers. Who can say how far down the stream of time our influence will go?
III. THAT VIOLENCE IS A BAD FOUNDATION OF REST AND POWER. In ver. 13 we learn that, by a noteworthy coincidence, Beriah with Shema "drove away the inhabitants of Gath." In the previous chapter (ver. 21) we read that the inhabitants of Gath slew the sons of Ephraim. Truly "they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Violence seizes on a neighbour's land, and by violence is itself dispossessed.
IV. THAT IT IS WISE TO STAMP BAD THINGS WITH AN EVIL NAME. Esh-baal (ver. 33) is the Ishbosheth of 2 Samuel 11:21; while Merib-baal (ver. 34) is the Mephibosheth of 2 Samuel 4:4. In these two cases Baal is turned into Bosheth, which signifies shame. Thus, by a simple name, the heathen deity was branded with public reprobation. The evil thing was made to seem the ugly and offensive thing it was. Nothing can be more perilous to the community than the wrapping up of a sin in some pleasant euphemism; e.g., if a daughter has been sinful she should not be called "unfortunate." Vice does not lose half its evil by losing all its grossness. If we label sin with a name that passes current in society, we are co-workers with the tempter himself.
V. THAT FAITHFUL REMEMBRANCE IN THE DAY OF POWER IS AN EXCELLENT GRACE. The line of Jonathan is traced to many generations (ver. 34, etc.). Is not the hand of David here? Is this not a sign that his vow (1 Samuel 20:15)was honourably filled? What we promise as we are rising we should scrupulously discharge when we have attained the summit of our desires. It is the mark of a true man to carry out with generous fulness all that he undertook when he was a long way from the goal and the prize.
VI. THAT THE THOUGHT OF A WORTHY ANCESTRY IS AN HONOURABLE INDUCEMENT TO WELL-DOING. "These dwelt in Jerusalem" (vers. 28-82). When the captives returned from Babylon there was a lack of men to populate the sacred city. In the country were inviting fields waiting for cultivation, while in the city was danger to be dared and civic duty to be discharged. So that "the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem" (Nehemiah 11:2). The fact that their ancestors dwelt in the city would probably operate as a powerful inducement to lead many to offer themselves as citizens, and these would thus be led to serve their country in a very serious crisis. The knowledge of the honourable position taken by our ancestry is a very lawful motive to obedience and aspiration.