Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Division of the Army. Tribal Princes, Administrators of the Domains, and Councillors of State - 1 Chronicles 27
This chapter treats of the organization of the army (Ch1 27:1-15) and the public administration; in Ch1 27:16-24, the princes of the twelve tribes being enumerated; in Ch1 27:25-31, the managers of the royal possessions and domains; and in Ch1 27:32-34, the chief councillors of the king. The information on these points immediately succeeds the arrangement of the service of the Levites, because, as we learn from Ch1 27:23., David attempted in the last year of his reign to give a more stable form to the political constitution of the kingdom also. In the enumeration of the twelve divisions of the army, with their leaders (Ch1 27:1-15), it is not indeed said when David organized the men capable of bearing arms for the alternating monthly service; but the reference in Ch1 27:23. of our chapter to the numbering of the people, spoken of in 1 Chron 21, leaves no doubt of the fact that this division of the people stands in intimate connection with that numbering of the people, and that David caused the people to be numbered in order to perfect the military constitution of the kingdom, and to leave his kingdom to his son strong within and mighty without.
1 Chronicles 27:1
The twelve divisions of the army. - Ch1 27:1. The lengthy superscription, "And the sons of Israel according to their number, the heads of the fathers'-houses, and the princes over the thousands and the hundreds, and their scribes, who swerved the king in regard to every matter of the divisions; which month for month of all months of the year went and came, one division 24,000 men," is towards the end so intimately interwoven with the divisions of the army, that it can only refer to this, i.e., only to the catalogue, Ch1 27:2-15. Since, then, we find in this catalogue only the twelve classes, the number of the men belonging to each, and their leaders, and since for this the short superscription, "the Israelites according to their number, and the princes of the divisions which served the king," would be amply sufficient, Bertheau thinks that the superscription originally belonged to a more complete description of the classes and their different officers, of which only a short extract is here communicated. This hypothesis is indeed possible, but is not at all certain; for it is questionable whether, according to the above superscription, we have a right to expect an enumeration by name of the various officials who served the king in the classes of the army. The answer to this question depends upon our view of the relation of the words, "the heads of the fathers'-houses, and the princes," to the first clause, "the sons of Israel according to their number." Had these words been connected by the conjunction ו (וראשׁי) with this clause, and thereby made co-ordinate with it, we should be justified in having such an expectation. But the want of the conjunction shows that these words form an apposition, which as to signification is subordinate to the main idea. If we take this appositional explanation to mean something like this, "the sons of Israel, according to their number, with the heads of the fathers'-houses and the princes," the emphasis of the superscription falls upon למספּרם, and the number of the sons of Israel, who with their heads and princes were divided into classes, is announced to be the important thing in the following catalogue. That this is the meaning and object of the words may be gathered from this, that in the second half of the verse, the number of the men fit for service, who from month to month came and went as one class, is stated האחת, one at a time (distributive), as in Jdg 8:18; Num 17:6, etc.; cf. Ew. 313, a, note 1. וצא בּוא, used of entering upon and leaving the service (cf. Ch2 23:4, Ch2 23:8; Kg2 11:5, Kg2 11:7,Kg2 11:9). But the words are hardly to be understood to mean that the classes which were in service each month were ordered from various parts of the kingdom to the capital, and there remained under arms; but rather, as Clericus, that they paratae essent ducum imperiis parere, si quid contigisset, dum ceterae copiae, si necesse essent, convenirent.
Over the first division was Jashobeam, scil. commander. The second מחלקתּו על is to be rendered, "in his division were 24,000 men," i.e., they were reckoned to it. As to Jashobeam, see on Ch1 11:11 and Sa2 23:8.
Ch1 27:3 further relates of him that he was of the sons (descendants) of Perez, and the head of all the army chiefs in the first month (i.e., in the division for the first month).
Before דּודי, according to Ch1 11:12, בּן אלעזר has been dropped out (see on Sa2 23:9). The words הנּגיד וּמקלות וּמחלקתּו are obscure. At the end of the sixth verse similar words occur, and hence Bertheau concludes that וּ before מקלות is to be struck out, and translated, "and his divisions, Mikloth the prince," which might denote, perhaps, "and his division is that over which Mikloth was prince." Older commentators have already translated the word in a similar manner, as signifying that Mikloth was prince or chief of this division under the Ahohite Eleazar. All that is certain is, that מקלות is a name which occurred in Ch1 8:32 and Ch1 9:37 among the Benjamites.
Here the form of expression is changed; הצּבא שׂר, the chief of the third host, begins the sentence. As to Benaiah, see Ch1 11:22 and the commentary on Sa2 23:20. ראשׁ does not belong to הכּהן, but is the predicate of Benaiah: "the prince of the ... was Benaiah ... as head," sc. of the division for the third month. This is added, because in Ch1 27:6 still a third military office held by Benaiah is mentioned. He was hero of the (among the) thirty, and over the thirty, i.e., more honoured than they (cf. Ch1 11:25 and Sa2 23:23). - With Ch1 27:6 cf. what is said on the similar words, Ch1 27:4.
From here onwards the mode of expression is very much compressed: the fourth of the fourth month, instead of the chief of the fourth host of the fourth month. Asahel (see Ch1 11:26 and on Sa2 23:24) was slain by Abner (Sa2 2:18-23) in the beginning of David's reign, and consequently long before the division of the army here recorded. The words, "and Zebadiah his son after him," point to his death, as they mention his son as his successor in the command of the fourth division of the army. When Asahel, therefore, is called commander of the fourth division of the host, it is done merely honoris caus, since the division over which his son was named, de patris defuncti nomine (Cler.).
Shamhuth is called in Ch1 11:27 Shammoth, and in Sa2 23:25 Shamma. He was born in Harod; here he is called היּזרח the Jizrahite, = הזּרחי, Ch1 27:13, of the family of Zerah the son of Judah (Ch1 2:4, Ch1 2:6).
Ira; see Ch1 11:28, Sa2 23:26.
Helez: Ch1 11:27; Sa2 23:26.
Sibbecai; see Ch1 11:29, Sa2 23:27.
Abiezer; see Ch1 11:28; Sa2 23:27; he was of Anathoth in the tribe of Benjamin (Jer 1:1).
Maharai (see Ch1 11:30; Sa2 23:28) belonged also to the family of Zerah; see Ch1 27:11, Ch1 27:8.
Benaiah of Pirathon; see Ch1 11:31, Sa2 23:30.
Heldai, in Ch1 11:30 Heled, in Sa2 23:29 erroneously called Heleb, belonging to Othniel's family (Jos 15:17).
1 Chronicles 27:16
The princes of the twelve tribes. - The enumeration of the tribal princes, commencing with the words, "and over the tribes of Israel," immediately follows the catalogue of the divisions of the army with their commanders, because the subjects are in so far connected as the chief management of the internal business of the people, divided as they were into tribes, was deposited in their hands. In the catalogue the tribes Gad and Asher are omitted for reasons unknown to us, just as in 1 Chron 4-7, in the genealogies of the tribes, Dan and Zebulun are. In reference to Levi, on the contrary, the Nagid of Aaron, i.e., the head of the priesthood, is named, viz., Zadok, the high priest of the family of Eleazar.
1 Chronicles 27:18
Elihu, of the brethren of David, is only another form of the name Eliab, Ch1 2:13, David's eldest brother, who, as Jesse's first-born, had become tribal prince of Judah.
1 Chronicles 27:20
Of Manasseh two tribal princes are named, because the one half of this tribe had received its inheritance on this side Jordan, the other beyond Jordan. גּלעדה, towards Gilead, to designate the East-Jordan Manassites.
1 Chronicles 27:23
Ch1 27:23 and Ch1 27:24 contain a concluding remark on the catalogue of the twelve detachments into which the men capable of bearing arms in Israel were divided, contained in Ch1 27:2-15. David had not taken their number from the men of twenty years and under, i.e., he had only caused those to be numbered who were over twenty years old. The word מספּרם points back to למספּרם, Ch1 27:1. מספּר נשׂא as in Num 3:40 = ראשׁ נשׂא, Exo 30:12; Num 1:49, to take up the sum or total. The reason of this is given in the clause, "for Jahve had said (promised) to increase Israel like to the stars of heaven" (Gen 22:17), which cannot mean: For it was impossible for David to number all, because they were as numerous as the stars of heaven, which of course cannot be numbered (Berth.). The thought is rather that David never intended to number the whole people from the youngest to the eldest, for he did not desire in fidem divinarum promissionum inquirere aut eam labefactare (J. H. Mich.); and he accordingly caused only the men capable of bearing arms to be numbered, in order to organize the military constitution of the kingdom in the manner recorded in Ch1 27:2-15. But even this numbering which Joab had begun was not completed, because wrath came on Israel because of it, as is narrated in 1 Chron 21. For this reason also the number, i.e., the result of the numbering begun by Joab, but not completed, is not included in the number of the chronicle of King David, i.e., in the official number which was usually inserted in the public annals. בּמספּר neither stands for בּספר (according to Ch2 20:34), nor does it denote, "in the section which treats of the numberings" (Berth.). היּמים דּברי is a shorter expression for h' דּברי ספר, book of the events of the day.
1 Chronicles 27:25
The managers of David's possessions and domains. - The property and the income of the king were (Ch1 27:25) divided into treasures of the king, and treasures in the country, in the cities, the villages, and the castles. By the "treasures of the king" we must therefore understand those which were in Jerusalem, i.e., the treasures of the royal palace. These were managed by Azmaveth. The remaining treasures are specified in Ch1 27:26. They consisted in fields which were cultivated by labourers (Ch1 27:26); in vineyards (Ch1 27:27); plantations of olive trees and sycamores in the Shephelah, the fruitful plain on the Mediterranean Sea (Ch1 27:28); in cattle, which pastured partly in the plain of Sharon between Caesarea Palestina and Joppa, partly in various valleys of the country (Ch1 27:29); and in camels, asses, and sheep (Ch1 27:30.). All these possessions are called רכוּשׁ, and the overseers of them הרכוּשׁ שׂרי. They consisted in the produce of agriculture and cattle-breeding, the two main branches of Israelitish industry.
1 Chronicles 27:27
Special officers were set over the vineyards and the stores of wine. The שׁ in שׁבּכּרמים is a contraction of אשׁר: "over that which was in the vineyards of treasures (stores) of wine." The officer over the vineyards, Shimei, was of Ramah in Benjamin (cf. Jos 18:25); he who was over the stores of wine, Zabdi, is called השּׁפמי, probably not from שׁפם on the northern frontier of Canaan, Num 34:10, the situation of which has not yet been discovered, but from the equally unknown שׁפמוה in the Negeb of Judah, Sa1 30:28. For since the vineyards, in which the stores of wine were laid up, must certainly have lain in the tribal domain of Judah, so rich in wine (Num 13:23.; Gen 49:11), probably the overseers of it were born in the same district.
1 Chronicles 27:28
As to the שׁפלה, see on Jos 15:33. הגּדרי, he who was born in Geder, not Gedera, for which we should expect הגּדרתי (Ch1 12:4), although the situation of Gedera, south-east from Jabne (see on Jos 12:4), appears to suit better than that of גּדר or גּדור in the hill country of Judah; see Jos 12:13 and Jos 15:58.
1 Chronicles 27:30
The name of the Ishmaelite who was set over the camels, Obil (אוביל), reminds us of the Arab. abila, multos possedit vel acquisivit camelos. המּרנמי, he of Meronoth (Ch1 27:30 and Neh 3:17). The situation of this place is unknown. According to Neh 3:7, it is perhaps to be sought in the neighbourhood of Mizpah. Over the smaller cattle (sheep and goats) Jaziz the Hagarite, of the people Hagar (cf. Ch1 5:10), was set. The oversight, consequently, of the camels and sheep was committed to a Hagarite and an Ishmaelite, probably because they pastured in the neighbourhood where the Ishmaelites and Hagarites had nomadized from early times, they having been brought under the dominion of Israel by David. The total number of these officials amounted to twelve, of whom we may conjecture that the ten overseers over the agricultural and cattle-breeding affairs of the king had to deliver over the annual proceeds of the property committed to them to the chief manager of the treasures in the field, in the cities, and villages, and towns.
1 Chronicles 27:32
David's councillors. This catalogue of the king's officials forms a supplementary companion piece to the catalogues of the public officials, Ch1 18:15-17, and Sa2 8:15-18 and Sa2 20:25-26. Besides Joab, who is met with in all catalogues as prince of the host, i.e., commander-in-chief, we find in our catalogue partly other men introduced, partly other duties of the men formerly named, than are mentioned in these three catalogues. From this it is clear that it is not the chief public officials who are enumerated, but only the first councillors of the king, who formed as it were his senate, and that the catalogue probably is derived from the same source as the preceding catalogues. Jonathan, the דּוד of David. The word דּוד generally denotes a father's brother; but since a Jonathan, son of Shimea, the brother of David, occurs Ch1 20:7 and Sa2 21:21, Schmidt and Bertheau hold him to be the same as our Jonathan, when דּוד would be used in the general signification of "relative," here of a nephew. Nothing certain can be ascertained in reference to it. He was יויץ, councillor, and, as is added, a wise and learned man. סופר is here not an official designation, but signifies literatus, learned, scholarly, as in Ezr 7:6. Jehiel, the son of Hachmon, was with the children of the king, i.e., was governor of the royal princes.
Ahithophel was also, according to Sa2 15:31; Sa2 16:23, David's confidential adviser, and took his own life when Absalom, in his conspiracy against David, did not regard his counsel (2 Sam 17). Hushai the Archite was also a friend and adviser of David (Sa2 15:37 and Sa2 16:16), who caused Absalom to reject Ahithophel's counsel (2 Sam 17).
After Ahithophel, i.e., after his death, was Jehoiada the son of Benaiah (scil. counsellor of the king), and Abiathar. As Benaiah the son of Jehoiada is elsewhere, when named among the public officials of David, called chief of the royal body-guard (cf. Ch1 18:17), Bertheau does not scruple to transpose the names here. But the hypothesis of such a transposition is neither necessary nor probable in the case of a name which, like Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, so frequently occurs (e.g., in Ch1 27:5). Since sons not unfrequently received the name of the grandfather, Jehoiada the son of the hero Benaiah may have been named after his grandfather Jehoiada. Abiathar is without doubt the high priest of this name of Ithamar's family) Ch1 15:11, etc.; see on Ch1 6:1-4), and is here mentioned as being also a friend and adviser of David. As to Joab, see on Ch1 18:15.