New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


1Ch 5:1 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn; but, because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright-
These records seem to stress the weakness and occasional strength of these children of God. This is one of the major lessons from Chronicles. Every now and then, the list of names is interrupted by a piece of information which indicates God's awareness of their spirituality. For example, the fact some men had more than one wife or a wife from a nation other than Israel is often recorded (1 Chron. 1:32; 2:3,26,35,48; 4:18; 5:1; 7:14; 8:8). The way these interruptions occur in the lists of names stands out. This is surely to indicate two things: that many faithful men (e.g. Abraham and Caleb, 1 Chron. 1:32; 2:46) made mistakes in this area of life, and secondly that all down the centuries God has not forgotten that they married out of the faith, or that they allowed the pressures of their surrounding world to influence them to break away from the ideal one man: one woman standard of Eden. These two facts provide us with both warning and comfort, in that although God is sensitive to failure, He is still able to justify men, to count them as if they are righteous for the sake of their covenant relationship with Him, even though (e.g.) their married life was not completely in order.

1Ch 5:2 For Judah prevailed above his brothers, and of him came the prince; but the birthright was Joseph’s)-
"Prince" or "captain" is God's term for the king of His people (1 Sam. 9:16; 10:1). Israel's true king was to be from Judah, and God therefore didn't accept those of the ten tribe kingdom as the true kings of Israel.

1Ch 5:3 the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi-
Hanoch [s.w. Enoch] was named after the son of Cain (Gen. 4:17) and means "initiated", rather hinting at unspirituality and paganism.

1Ch 5:4 The sons of Joel: Shemaiah his son, Gog his son, Shimei his son-
Gog was an apostate Jew who went away from the God of Israel, attracted by the grazing grounds to the north east of Israel, and who eventually ended up living permanently in the land of Israel's enemies, the land of the Hagarenes (sons of Hagar, i.e. the Arabs) and Assyria. The Gog of Ez. 38 may well be an apostate Jew (after the pattern of Rabshakeh) who leads an invasion of his ancient homeland. He attacks because he loves cattle (Ez. 38:11,12)- which was a characteristic of the Gog of 1 Chron. 5.  

1Ch 5:5 Micah his son, Reaiah his son, Baal his son-
Naming a Hebrew child "Baal" surely indicates unspirituality and the besetting weakness of idolatry which dogged the generations.

1Ch 5:6 and Beerah his son, whom Tiglath Pilneser king of Assyria carried away captive: he was prince of the Reubenites-
We have to ask why these genealogies were prepared. It is quite likely that they were first formalized in the time of Hezekiah, but I would suggest that they were completed at the time of the restoration, when there was a problem in finding a High Priest and priesthood because it was hard to prove who was descended from Aaron, presumably because the genealogies were destroyed when the temple was burnt. The genealogies give much emphasis to the descendants of Aaron, far more than to the other tribes. There are a number of references to faithless men being punished by invasions (e.g. 1 Chron. 5:6).

1Ch 5:7 His brothers by their families, when the genealogy of their generations was reckoned: the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah-
Ezra 2:62 records Judah being ‘reckoned by genealogies’, using the same Hebrew word which is the hallmark of the Chronicles genealogies (1 Chron. 4:33; 5:1,7,17; 7:5,7,9,40; 9:1,22). And in this context, Is. 40:26 compares God’s ‘bringing out’ of Judah from Babylon with His ‘bringing out’ the stars by their individual names, all wonderfully known to Him. Ps. 87:6 had prophesied something similar about the restoration of Zion’s fortunes: “The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there”. The Kingdom of God was to be the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom- but they had to actually get on and restore it rather than wait for it to come.

1Ch 5:8 and Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who lived in Aroer, even up to Nebo and Baal Meon-
Aroer was on the east of Jordan, and these areas were always associated with Moab in later scripture. "Nebo" continued to be the name used for that town, and it was the name of an idol. "Baal Meon", habitation of Baal, likewise suggests that these Reubenites were ill advised to go so far into pagan territory in search of material advantage. And they ended up drifting into the Gentile world and losing their identity as God's people. All the time we see this sad drift going on in lives.

1Ch 5:9 and eastward he lived even to the entrance of the wilderness from the river Euphrates, because their livestock were multiplied in the land of Gilead-
This continues the theme of 1 Chron. 4, that the men of Simeon likewise went away from their tribal allotment in search of pasture for their flocks. And it drove them away from the sanctuary and the teaching priests, until they assimilated into the Gentile world on the edges of the land promised to Abraham.

1Ch 5:10 In the days of Saul, they made war with the Hagrites, who fell by their hand; and they lived in their tents throughout all the land east of Gilead-
God so seeks for faith, and some of the ‘flash’ victories He granted in the Old Testament were to otherwise unspiritual men who in their desperation turned to Him. He so respects faith that He responded (e.g. 1 Chron. 5:10-20). Perhaps more details follow in :18-22, although that may refer to later conflict.

1Ch 5:11 The sons of Gad lived over against them, in the land of Bashan to Salecah-
The boundaries of Gad appear to in practice encroach upon that given to Manasseh (1 Chron. 5:11 cp. Josh. 13:8,7,11,25,30; Dt. 3:10-13). But the tribe of Manasseh had extended their borders northward (1 Chron. 5:23). The territory was given to Israel as their intended inheritance in the Kingdom of God; but God was open to some flexibility about this. We think of Caleb and Othniel asking for territory as an inheritance. And so it is with our dialogue with God's and His eternal intentions for us. 

1Ch 5:12 Joel the chief, Shapham the second, Janai and Shaphat, in Bashan-
LXX "Janai the scribe".

1Ch 5:13 Their brothers of their fathers’ houses: Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jacan, Zia and Eber, seven-
These may have been a group of seven who were the effective governing body of the tribe. It is unclear when these people lived, but we could guess they were the leaders at the time of the war with Hagrites in Saul's time (:10, 18-22).

1Ch 5:14 These were the sons of Abihail, the son of Huri, the son of Jaroah, the son of Gilead, the son of Michael, the son of Jeshishai, the son of Jahdo, the son of Buz-
The seven ruling brothers of :13 were sons of Abihail, and we then have a very long genealogy for that man. To have seven sons who formed the ruling elite of a tribe was a significant achievement, and so his name was Abihail, 'father of might'. But this exemplifies how names were often given to people appropriate to their character and life experience, and are not necessarily their birth names.

1Ch 5:15 Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of Guni, chief of their fathers’ houses-
Ahi was perhaps the leader in Gilead (:16) whereas Joel was the chief in Bashan generally (:12).

1Ch 5:16 They lived in Gilead in Bashan, and in its towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, as far as their borders-
There is no Sharon known on the east of Jordan, although there may have been. If the Sharon near Carmel is intended, then we have the picture of these people so obsessed with their cattle that they herded them from the east of Jordan to territory they controlled in Sharon.

1Ch 5:17 All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel-
Perhaps these kings took a census of their people, in seeking to calculate their military might. This material has been worked into these records.
Jeroboam was full of works, of activity in fighting the Lord's battles. He was active in the Truth, as we would say. In 1 Kings 12:32 we read of Jeroboam ordaining a feast "Like  unto the feast which was in Judah". He ordained a new feast on the 15th day of the 8th month, no doubt copying the feast of tabernacles, on the 15th of the 7th month. So Jeroboam lacked an attention to detail, despite an appearance of spirituality. 1 Chron. 5:17 says that in Jeroboam's reign, the genealogies we read in the early chapters of Chronicles were written. So in some ways, he gave great attention to detail- when it suited him.

1Ch 5:18 The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skilful in war, were forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty, that were able to go forth to war-
"Bow" and "sword" often occur together as almost an idiom for human strength (Gen. 48:22; Josh. 24:12; 2 Kings 6:22; 1 Chron. 5:18; Hos. 1:7).

1Ch 5:19 They made war with the Hagrites, with Jetur, Naphish and Nodab-
These were all descendants of the twelve sons of Ishmael. These twelve tribes make them a pseudo Israel, and yet also, as Paul develops in Gal. 4, representatives of unbelieving Israel after the flesh. God gave His people victory against them in fulfilment of the promises about Ishmael and His favour for the chosen seed; but not necessarily because the chosen seed at the time were great believers in Him. These are the same peoples we read of in Ps. 83, which appears to be a prophecy of God's latter day conflict with these people, which has as its prototype this victory of a spiritually weak Israel against them, empowered by God by grace.

1Ch 5:20 They were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them; for they cried to God in the battle, and He was entreated of them, because they put their trust in Him-
This could imply that they began to lose the battle, but as Jehoshaphat cried out to God in the midst of a battle he shouldn't have been fighting and was saved, so it seems these Israelites did. I suggested on :19 that there were reasons for the victory within God's broader narrative. "The war was of God" (:22). Although it began by Israelites wanting more pasture land for their flocks.   

1Ch 5:21 They took away their livestock; of their camels fifty thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of donkeys two thousand, and of men one hundred thousand-
The motive of the war was to find more pasture land. But not only did these Israelites want more lebensraum, they also stole a huge amount of cattle. Yet God worked through this because He wanted to vindicate His chosen seed over that of Ishmael. At times victories or blessings can be given to us which are part of a wider Divine narrative, and should not be seen as a blessing upon us for our spirituality.

1Ch 5:22 For there fell many slain, because the war was of God. They lived in their place until the captivity-
There was a wider narrative going on here (see on :19-21). God's Spirit works in human life according to that narrative, and not simply in direct response to faith. The Spirit teaches that in our time of dying, human beings are the same as animals. It is tragically sad that animals are tortured and exterminated. But is there any higher degree of tragedy, in God's sight, in the suffering of unenlightened men? Because the Reubenites cried to God in faith, "there fell down many slain (of the Hagarites), because the war was of God" (1 Chron. 5:22). And consider how millions live and die or die in the womb, with God's full knowledge and allowance, never to have the invitation of the Gospel. Short of believing in a universal 'second chance', we just have to accept that human death does not mean to God what it does to us as men.

1Ch 5:23 The children of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land: they increased from Bashan to Baal Hermon, Senir and Mount Hermon-
"The land" is presumably that taken from the Ishmaelites of :19, east of Jordan. Yet as discussed on :19-22, the blessing of increase was not necessarily in response to their spirituality; for they turned away from Yahweh (:25). We recall how Isaac was greatly blessed with increased flocks immediately after he had lied about his wife and behaved shamefully. Blessing and cursing do not necessarily come immediately in response to faith or unbelief. 

1Ch 5:24 These were the heads of their fathers’ houses: even Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel, mighty men of valour, famous men, heads of their fathers’ houses-
They had names reflective of a belief in Yahweh, but worshipped other gods (:25). This was Israel's constant weakness, as it can be ours; to claim to worship God through worshipping the flesh, to mix flesh and spirit.  

1Ch 5:25 They trespassed against the God of their fathers, and played the prostitute after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God destroyed before them-
These particular peoples of the land would refer to the land of :23, presumably that taken from the Ishmaelites of :19, east of Jordan. Covenant relationship with Yahweh is as marriage to Him; unfaithfulness to Him is as adultery. And they were not only adulterers, but as Hosea shows, they acted as prostitutes, as if sexually addicted to going after as many other gods as they could. And gods whom they had seen defeated before Yahweh when they took their land in the first place. This is the utter idiocy of idolatry, and yet human nature is not at all logical when it comes to faithfulness to God.

1Ch 5:26 The God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath Pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor and Hara, and to the river of Gozan, to this day
God worked by stirring up the spirit of Gentile kings. He can work directly on the human mind, placing thoughts and inserting motivations, in order to achieve His will. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our minds, if we are open to it. "Stirred up" is s.w. "open the eyes". Our eyes / hearts can be opened, as Lydia's was, through the sovereign and direct operation of God on the human heart. "To this day" suggests these genealogies were rewritten at the time of the exile.