The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Now Benjamin begat Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, and Aharah the third,Valiant Men—Ingratitude—a Torrent of Names
1 Chronicles 7, 1 Chronicles 8
In these chapters we have summaries of the great clans of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, West Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, the families of Gibeon, especially the royal house of Saul, with innumerable and collateral allusions.
In 1Chronicles 7:2 of chapter 7 there is a sentence which presents an excellent family record—"They were valiant men of might in their generations;" while the reference is to the sons of Issachar, and is therefore the more notable because in pronouncing upon each member of his family, Jacob had represented Issachar as a "strong ass," a figure not suggestive of fire and courage, and love of battle. Sometimes the man's sons are better than the man himself. It is important to notice this, lest some who are conscious of an unfavourable ancestry should lose heart and resign themselves to the tyranny of mere fate. History abounds in striking instances of men who, being socially low born, have conquered all opposing circumstances and entered into great estates of character and influence. If the sons of Tola had said, "A curse rests upon the whole house of Issachar, every man of us is reckoned as belonging to the nature of the 'ass,' and throughout all Israel the ass has been held in contempt; it is useless for us to endeavour to secure any high position, or do any noble work"—they never would have made a name in history. We must beware of what may be termed historical superstition, and rid ourselves for ever of the unhappy and irrational thought that history has a grudge against us. A beautiful record is this truly,—"valiant men of might in their generations;" it did not therefore follow that every generation would be as valiant; each generation creates its own records and cannot live upon the excellence or fame of preceding days.
In the third verse of the same chapter we are introduced to a whole family of chieftains—
"And the sons of Uzzi; Izrahiah: and the sons of Izrahiah; Michael, and Obadiah, and Joel, Ishiah, five: all of them chief men." (1Chronicles 7:3)
Here we come again upon a series of names each of which contains a divine element. Izrahiah means "God riseth like the sun," and Michael means "who like God?" We cannot get rid, even if we would, of social diversities. From the beginning to the end of time "chief men" and lowly men, men of power and men of weakness, will divide the human family. In this division or classification there may be an element of sovereignty neither to be foreseen nor overruled. What may be termed an arbitrary distribution of talents is distinctly laid down in one of the parables of our Lord, wherein one servant has five talents, another two, and another one. But while there is a sovereignity in the distribution of the talents, there is a justice in the recognition of industry. The man was not honoured because he had ten talents, but because he had doubled the talents with which he began. We may be separate at the point of genius, but we may be one at the humbler point of industry. Never do we find that it is mere genius that is rewarded, but always the fidelity which is possible even to the humblest grade of mind. We cannot all be "chief men," but we can all be lowly followers of the Lord, each doing his best to hold the light aloft and make known the good news of God's redeeming love. From the second to the fifth verses of the seventh chapter it would seem as if a procession of giants were passing before us; thus we read of valiant men of might, chief men, bands of soldiers, and again is repeated the expression in verse five, "valiant men of might." That there have been such men in the world is obvious from innumerable proofs of their capacity and skill. Who subdued the beasts of the forest and turned the sites of jungles into the foundations of cities? Who ventured across the sea to discover lands afar off and established with them profitable commerce and exchange? Whose chisel formed the all but living image of man in shapeless blocks of marble? Who painted the pictures of which the world is proud? Who gathered into one orchestra countless instruments and trained voices which make the very wind eloquent with music? Who tunnelled the mountains? In short, who created the complex and glorious civilisation which satisfies every want and gratifies every taste of man? Truly there have been chief men, valiant men of might, and bands of soldiers in olden history. Sometimes it would seem as if all the great work had been done before we came into the world, and nothing is left for us to do but to admire or use or enjoy. A marvellous thought too is it that civilisation is self-exhausting; that it can fill all the space allotted to it and, having done that, can only go back again into decay or barbarism. The great thing which it is possible for us to do is to quicken the mind, to destroy superstition, to preach the doctrine of the endless development of life, and to hold up the cross of Christ amid the tumult of time as the explanation and meaning of all things.
In chapter 7, 1Chronicles 7:11, we read of "seventeen thousand and two hundred soldiers, fit to go out for war and battle." Blessed are they who are really qualified for any needful work in this weary world! A beautiful character is this—"fit to go out." How many men go out before they are fit,—how many go out to preach, to teach, to lead, who have no qualification for the office which they have assumed! Men should not go out until they are sent; in other words, men should not go out to warfare at their own charges. There are controversialists whom God has specially qualified and inspired "to go out for war and battle." They are men of combative mind, their very sentences like Luther's are half battles; they never realise the extent of their capacity or the energy of their character until they are called upon to take arms in a great cause. Other men are fit to go out to sing sweet music to the weary and sad; on no occasion could they fight; they have a perfect horror of war; but their voice is music, every tone is a revelation of sympathy, when they breathe, men are conscious of the descent of a benediction. Others again are fit to go out to. preach; they are workmen not needing to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; they combine both the foregoing classes, the controversial and the musical. How they denounce wrong! How they burn against injustice! How nobly they encourage virtue! How sweetly they administer consolation, with what energetic music they proclaim that the Living God would have all men saved! We must find out what we are fit for, and do that particular work with both hands earnestly. Do not let us foolishly wait under the impression, that by some dazzling sign God will point out the speciality of our gift. We must put ourselves into practice, and let revelation come through experience. "Stir up the gift that is in thee." "Put on thy strength." "Awake, awake." "Arise, shine." There is something for us to do; we must begin where we can; if we cannot speak to a kingdom, we may be able to speak to a family; if we dare not address a whole family, we may venture to speak some word of instruction or hope to a little child. "He that doeth the will, shall know the doctrine;" in other words he who is obedient in all directions and at all times, will soon come to discover what he can best do, and how he best can do it.
"And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle. And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him" (1Chronicles 7:21-22).
We here see how sons brought their father to grief. The sons were slain because they went down to Gath to steal cattle. There is nothing unreasonable in the supposition of some commentators that the young men may have gone out on this felonious business against their father's judgment and will. Where is the unreasonableness of such a statement? Look around and see how today fathers are treated by their sons! How experience goes for nothing! How venerableness is regarded as senility! How good advice is treated as worthless sentiment! The aged Ephraim still mourned over his sons notwithstanding their obstinacy. The influence of evil actions cannot be confined to the actors. The drunkard does not injure himself alone, he degrades his children and fastens a stigma on their name. Ingratitude does not punish itself, but it breaks the hearts of benefactors. We may have killed many men whom we have never violently assaulted. There is a murder of the heart, there is a man-slaughter that is not recognised as such by the law of the land. Strange it will be if many who have claimed to be respectable should at last be proved to have been slayers of men.
In 1Chronicles 7:24, chapter 7, we actually find a woman doing something! "And his daughter was Sherah, who built Beth-horon, the nether, and the upper, and Uzzen-Sherah." Into the local details of this statement we cannot enter, but many may take encouragement from the fact that Ephraim's daughter Sherah built the nether and upper Beth-horon. What builders women may be! What character they can build in their sons and daughters! What influence they can build around themselves, and be as a beacon light amid surrounding darkness. Women can do a work which men cannot even attempt. It is not only unjust but absurd to assign to all women the same occupation. It is true that women have been painters, musicians, authors, and even devotees of the highest science, but whilst few can follow in that great train all women should be resolved according to the peculiarity of their circumstances to build up a sweet home, and train dependent lives to intelligence, justice, patriotism, and religious fidelity.
From this point and onward to the end of the eighth chapter we may be said to have little but a torrent of names. How the cataract rushes whilst we read! Whilst the torrent is fullest it is most difficult to select instances of special worth and excellence. The historian himself does not attempt to specialise. Where names are fewer, character stands out in bolder relief. This is so in every department of life; were there but one book in the world, how it would be sought after and perused with eager interest; but because there are innumerable multitudes of books many are affrighted by the very extent of the library and hardly dare begin to read. Where but one or two distinguished persons claim attention, profound respect is paid to their presence and claims, but when the units become tens, and the tens swell into hundreds, even conspicuous men may become of no account, as miracles by their multiplication may be reduced to mere common-places.