MIGHTY WARRIORS FROM DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS RALLIED THEIR UNIFIED SUPPORT FOR DAVID AS KING IN HARMONY WITH HIS DIVINE CALLING
Frederick Mabie: The opening chapters of David’s account (1Ch 11–12) present a clear image of unity in affirming the Lord’s will in David’s rise to power (cf. 11:2–3) and stress the depth and breadth of support enjoyed by David. This introductory unit begins and ends with David’s enthronement at Hebron (1Ch 11:1–3; 12:38–40; see Selman, 137–38).
August Konkel: David was not responsible for uniting the tribes into all Israel, but all Israel came together to make David their king. Hebron becomes the place where all Israel gathers to declare their uncompromising allegiance to David as their king. This purpose is declared repeatedly: 1 Chronicles 11:1–3, 10; 12:23, 31, 38. The account begins and ends with those who came to Hebron to make David king: 11:1–3; 12:38–40. The military success of David is not presented as a personal achievement but as a saving event in the history of the nation.
Mark Boda: The appointment to royal office (or better, dynasty) in the books of Samuel consists of four steps:
– private divine election / anointing (1 Sam 10:1-8; 16:1-13),
– Spirit endowment (1 Sam 10:9-13; 16:13-16),
– great feat (1 Sam 11:1-11; 17:1-58), and
– public confirmation (1 Sam 11:12-15; 2 Sam 2:1-7; 5:1-5).
Andrew Hill: The chiastic structure may be outlined as follows:
A David enthroned in Hebron (11:1–3)
B David conquers Jerusalem (11:4–9)
C Support of David’s mighty men (who came to Hebron) (11:10–47)
D Support of David at Ziklag (12:1–7)
E Men of Gad support of David at his desert stronghold (12:8–15)
E′ Men of Judah and Benjamin support David at his desert stronghold (12:16–18)
D′ Men of Manassesh support David at Ziklag (12:19–22)
C′ Divisions of tribal militia support David at Hebron (12:23–37)
A′ Celebration of David’s enthronement in Hebron (12:38–40)
For the Chronicler, the unity of the Israelite tribes forged under King David is the operative template for a similar reunification of the Jews during the postexilic period as a result of God’s promised restoration of the Davidic dynasty.
(11:1-3) PROLOGUE — DAVID’S CORONATION AT HEBRON
A. (:1) Confession of Israelite Unity
“Then all Israel gathered to David at Hebron and said,
‘Behold, we are your bone and your flesh.’”
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler’s account of David’s reign begins with the clear portrayal of Israelite unity in the gathering of “all Israel” to David. This unity is reinforced with the declaration of the familial-ethnic oneness of the tribes of Israel (“we are your own flesh and blood”).
B. (:2a) Confidence in David’s Leadership
“In times past, even when Saul was king,
you were the one who led out and brought in Israel;”
Frederick Mabie: The people of Israel had ample opportunity to observe God’s hand of blessing on the life of David, particularly in military victories that began in earnest during the reign of Saul (e.g., 1Sa 18:6–9). The people here express recognition that David’s elevation to “shepherd” and “ruler” is an element of divine election and sovereignty. The imagery of David as shepherd reflects the king’s fiduciary role of protecting the flock (i.e., people) and leading them in righteousness (cf. Dt 17:14–20). The theological significance of the shepherd image is also reflected in exilic and postexilic prophetic literature (e.g., Eze 34:1–31) and in Christ’s self-revelation (cf. Jn 10:1–18). The reminder that these are God’s people whom David will lead underscores the reality that David’s authority has been delegated by God.
C. (:2b) Call of God to be Shepherd-King of Israel
“and the LORD your God said to you,
‘You shall shepherd My people Israel,
and you shall be prince over My people Israel.’”
D. (:3) Coronation of David via Covenant Commitment
1. Initiative of All Israelite Elders
“So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron,”
2. Ratification of Covenant Commitment
“and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD;”
3. Anointing of David as King
“and they anointed David king over Israel,”
4. Fulfillment of Divine Prophecy
“according to the word of the LORD through Samuel.”
Andrew Hill: The account of David’s accession to Saul’s throne in Hebron faithfully represents the earlier parallel found in 2 Samuel 5:1–5. The Chronicler omits the record of David’s age at accession (thirty), the length of his reign (forty years, 5:4), and the fact that he ruled in Hebron as the capital of a separate kingdom of Judah for a span of nearly eight years (5:5). The Chronicler assumes that knowledge on the part of his audience since his purpose is to idealize the Israelite unity achieved under David with the hope of instilling similar expectations in postexilic Judah. By way of Old Testament chronology, David’s forty-year reign is dated tentatively from about 1010 to 970 B.C.
According to Wilcock, the Israelites rightfully justify the installation of David as king over Israel for several good reasons.
(1) They recognize their kinship with David as their own “flesh and blood” (11:1).
(2) David has earned the loyalty of the Israelites by his prowess in battle as Saul’s general (11:2).
(3) The people enter a compact with David and accept him as their king by anointing him (11:3).
(4) Finally, the people confess that all has been done in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Samuel (11:3).
I. (11:4-9) CAPTURE OF ZION – THE CAPITAL CITY OF DAVID
August Konkel: Striking in this regard is the inclusion of the conquest and rebuilding of Jerusalem within an extensive account that has its focus on the coronation of the king in Hebron. . .
The main point is to show the support of all Israel for David as king. The Chronicler develops this point by associating the heroic acts of David’s mighty men with the coronation at Hebron. This serves to illustrate the strong support for David as king. Support for David is the theme of the following chapter, as indicated by the introduction to each of its main paragraphs (12:1, 8, 16, 19). Support grew until his army was immense, like the army of God (12:22). The Chronicler’s purpose was to develop an ideal portrayal of Israel united around David as king at Jerusalem (Williamson 1981: 168). Though the coronation was at Hebron, for the Chronicler the kingdom began with Jerusalem as its capital. Chronology is subordinated to the more comprehensive theme of the succession of David as king over all Israel in Jerusalem. The Chronicler has made the bond between David and Jerusalem inalienable.
A. (:4-5a) Confrontation with Jebusites at Jerusalem
“Then David and all Israel went to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus); and the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, were there. 5 And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, ‘You shall not enter here.’”
B. (:5b) Capture of Stronghold of Zion
“Nevertheless David captured the stronghold of Zion
(that is, the city of David).”
August Konkel: The origin of the name “Zion” is unknown, but etymology based on Arabic suggests that it referred to a range of hills serving as a base of security. Geographically it was the southern end of the eastern slopes of Jerusalem. These were built up with a fill to establish an inaccessible fortification. Zion came to refer to a political center, either as a synonym for Jerusalem, or as a reference to the capital of Judah. Perhaps even more important, the location of the temple on Zion made the name representative of divine presence. Zion as the capital of the kingdom of David and the location of the temple quickly became a synonym for the city of God (Ps 48:1–2).
J.A. Thompson: No question of the chronology of events is involved in the placing of the capture of Jerusalem at this point in the story. The focus is rather political than chronological. A united Israel would need a center of government. This was to be Jerusalem. The religious significance of Jerusalem as the site of the temple came later.
C. (:6) Commander of the Military = the Role Earned by Joab
“Now David had said, ‘Whoever strikes down a Jebusite first shall be chief and commander.’ And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became chief.”
D. (:7-8) City of David Established and Strengthened
“Then David dwelt in the stronghold; therefore it was called the city of David.
8 And he built the city all around, from the Millo even to the surrounding area; and Joab repaired the rest of the city.”
J.A. Thompson: Clearly the city of David needed both repair and extension. Joab also was involved in the repair work and is said to have literally “restored to life” the rest of the city.
E. (:9) Critical Factor in David’s Ascending Greatness = God’s Favor
“And David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him.”
Frederick Mabie: The taking of Jerusalem and David’s subsequent transfer of his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem (“the City of David,” v.7) was a significant step in deepening solidarity across the tribes and constituencies of Israel for a number of reasons. It was:
• geographically central to the twelve tribes (in contrast to deep in the territory of Judah, as Hebron was)
• politically neutral, as it was taken from the Jebusites and was not occupied by any particular tribe (cf. Washington, D.C.)
• connected with the patriarch Abraham via the earlier names “Salem” (cf. Ge 14:18–20; Ps 76:2) and “Mount Moriah” (cf. Ge 22; 2Ch 3:1)
• earned by David (reflecting divine blessing; recall vv.2, 9) and advanced the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise to Israel of land (previous efforts at taking Jerusalem [Jebus] were only temporarily successful [see, e.g., Jos 10; 15:63; Jdg 1:8, 21])
• a central location for religious and political power bases (cf. chs. 15–17; 2Sa 6–7)
All these factors worked together to minimize potential tribal jealousies, promote national and religious unity, and demonstrate the tangible blessing of God on the leadership of David. This account also shows the backdrop to the ascendancy of David’s military leader Joab (v.6) and introduces two common synonyms used for Jerusalem, namely “Zion” (v.5) and the “City of David” (v.7).
II. (11:10-47) SUPPORT FOR DAVID AT HEBRON BY THE MIGHTY MEN
A. (:10-14) Mighty Men Supporting David’s Kingship
“Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel. 11 And these constitute the list of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobeam, the son of a Hachmonite, the chief of the thirty; he lifted up his spear against three hundred whom he killed at one time. 12 And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, who was one of the three mighty men. 13 He was with David at Pasdammim when the Philistines were gathered together there to battle, and there was a plot of ground full of barley; and the people fled before the Philistines. 14 And they took their stand in the midst of the plot, and defended it, and struck down the Philistines; and the LORD saved them by a great victory.”
August Konkel: The roster listing chiefs of David’s mighty men names four warriors: Jashobeam (1 Chron 11:11), Eleazar (v. 12), Abishai (v. 20), and Benaiah (v. 22). They are identified by their patronym, their rank, and the exploits that entitled them to be included among the Three (Jashobeam, Eleazar; vv. 11–12) or the Thirty (Abishai, Benaiah; vv. 20–22, 25).
Andrew Hill: These elite troops are professional soldiers, not vulgar mercenaries. They live and die by the military code of their day—a code of honor that even prohibited the enjoyment of personal pleasures while on “active duty” (cf. 2 Sam. 11:11). David’s “mighty men” (haggibborim) are the ancient equivalent of both the modern-day “special forces” military units and the “secret service,” charged with the protection of our highest elected officials (note their roles as both irrepressible warriors in the face of overwhelming odds and as bodyguards to the king, (2 Sam. 23:23; 1 Chron. 11:25).
B. (:15-19) Heroic Loyalty of the Three Mighty Men
“Now three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David, into the cave of Adullam, while the army of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim. 16 And David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 17 And David had a craving and said, ‘Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!’ 18 So the three broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David; nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; 19 and he said, ‘Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.’ Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.”
C. (:20-25) Specific Exploits of Abshai and Benaiah
1. (:20-21) Abshai
“As for Abshai the brother of Joab, he was chief of the thirty, and he swung his spear against three hundred and killed them; and he had a name as well as the thirty. 21 Of the three in the second rank he was the most honored, and became their commander; however, he did not attain to the first three.”
August Konkel: Abishai was one of the three sons of Zeruiah, the sister of David (1 Chron 2:16). These three are distinguished for their ruthless tactics in warfare (2 Sam 3:39; 16:9–10). Abishai was distinguished among the Thirty but was not among the Three (2 Sam 23:18; 1 Chron 11:21).
2. (:22-25) Benaiah
“Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, mighty in deeds, struck down the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion inside a pit on a snowy day. 23 And he killed an Egyptian, a man of great stature five cubits tall. Now in the Egyptian’s hand was a spear like a weaver’s beam, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. 24 These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and had a name as well as the three mighty men. 25 Behold, he was honored among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three; and David appointed him over his guard.”
August Konkel: Benaiah is given pride of place among the chiefs. Three heroic deeds illustrate his achievements as a warrior (1 Chron 11:22–23).
– He killed two ʾariʾel from Moab. The import of the term—literally lion of God—is unclear. Ariel may refer to sons of a man by that name (cf. Ezra 8:16), or this may be a certain term for warrior (HAL 1:80). The meaning “warrior” may be found in a Phoenician inscription (KAI 30), but the context there is not complete.
– Benaiah also killed a lion on a snowy day, an act not associated with war, but simply a daring deed that showed his courage and valor.
– Finally, Benaiah killed an Egyptian over seven feet tall, much as David killed Goliath, by snatching the giant man’s weighty weapon and then using it to kill him.
Benaiah may have been among the later warriors of David. He became commander over the Davidic militia of twenty-four thousand who served during the third month (1 Chron 27:5–6). He was a chief commander instrumental in establishing Solomon as king during the revolt of Adonijah (1 Kings 1–4).
D. (:26-47) List of Additional Mighty Men from Various Tribes Supporting David
“Now the mighty men of the armies were Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 27 Shammoth the Harorite, Helez the Pelonite, 28 Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, Abiezer the Anathothite, 29 Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, 30 Maharai the Netophathite, Heled the son of Baanah the Netophathite, 31 Ithai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the sons of Benjamin, Benaiah the Pirathonite, 32 Hurai of the brooks of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, 33 Azmaveth the Baharumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, 34 the sons of Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shagee the Hararite, 35 Ahiam the son of Sacar the Hararite, Eliphal the son of Ur, 36 Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, 37 Hezro the Carmelite, Naarai the son of Ezbai, 38 Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar the son of Hagri, 39 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Berothite, the armor bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad the son of Ahlai, 42 Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite, a chief of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, 43 Hanan the son of Maacah and Joshaphat the Mithnite, 44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel the sons of Hotham the Aroerite, 45 Jediael the son of Shimri and Joha his brother, the Tizite, 46 Eliel the Mahavite and Jeribai and Joshaviah, the sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, 47 Eliel and Obed and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.”
III. (12:1-22) SUPPORT FOR DAVID WHEN A FUGITIVE IN THE EARLY YEARS
August Konkel: Support to make David king did not begin with the demise of Saul’s reign. The Chronicler goes back in time to show the support that David received while Saul was king and David was a fugitive. This list is to be distinguished from the preceding in that these warriors are not part of all Israel that made David king in Hebron (11:1). The main point of this list is that warriors kept coming to David until they became a vast camp of various tribes, capable of representing all Israel in support for David as king (12:1, 8, 16, 19–20, 22). Their support for David as his helpers is emphasized repeatedly (vv. 1, 17–18, 21–22).
J.A. Thompson: We probably should not be looking for any chronological presentation here but rather the development of a theme, namely, that the men of Israel came as part of a concerted movement to stand with David to ensure that Saul’s kingdom was handed over to him according to the plan and purpose of God (v. 23).
Thomas Constable: Chapter 12 has no parallel in Samuel. Its unique emphases are these: Men from Israel as well as Judah followed David, and there was a very large number of them (v. 22). David also had many other supporters (vv. 39- 40). Even Saul’s relatives followed him (vv. 2, 16, 29). God sanctioned the plan of these men to turn the kingdom of Saul over to David (v. 23).
Hugh Williamson: This section is made up of four short paragraphs, each one of which illustrates the accumulating support for David in the period before his elevation to the throne. The opening sentence of each paragraph makes this theme clear:
– “These are the men who came to David” (1);
– “there went over to David” (8);
– “came . . . to David” (16);
– “deserted to David” (19), while the concluding v. 22 stresses it even more strongly.
It is thus closely related to the aim of chs 11-12 as a whole (cf. 11:1, 3, 9, 10; 12:23, 33, 38).
Tyndale Commentary: Chapters 11-12 are a single unit with a clear design. The programmatic theme of David’s recognition as king by the whole of Israel introduces (11:1-3) and concludes (12:23-40) the whole unit. Significantly, the conclusion to the whole account of David’s reign has an identical emphasis (1 Chr. 29:25-26), and parallels the opening here. The intervening verses (11:4 – 12:37) develop the basic theme. They reveal David’s widespread support, even from those tribes most distant geographically from Judah and those who formerly owed allegiance to Saul.
The emphasis on Israel’s unity under David must have had considerable implications for postexilic Israel. … Although Chronicles reports several attempts at reunification during the Divided Monarchy period (e.g. 2 Chr. 30:1-12), no other passage expresses so clearly that the open commitment of previously separated groups to God’s appointed leader was a vital ingredient in making that unity possible. Though the Chronicler’s hope remained unfulfilled in his own day, it did become a real possibility in Christ. Those Jews and Samaritans who first put their faith in Jesus (John 4:4-42; Acts 8:4- 25) began a reunifying process which is still moving towards its climax. It was accelerated when 3,000 ‘Jews from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5) were joined by Gentiles from many nations in acknowledging the risen Son of David as God’s appointed leader. It remains the church’s privilege and task to break down human barriers and to work towards the final gathering of a ‘great multitude … from every nation, tribe, people and language’ to Jesus as ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS’ (Rev. 7:0; 19:16). Only then will Chronicles’ hope for the Davidic kingship be fully and finally transformed.
Andrew Hill: Chapter 12 divides neatly into two parts: the defectors from Saul’s army who join David while he is a fugitive as the rival king (12:1–22), and the assembly of the Israelite militia at Hebron for David’s coronation (12:23–40). The Chronicler resorts to a familiar structure, the geographical chiasm. In this case, he arranges the tallies of the tribal contingents lending support to David around three geographical locations:
A Hebron (11:10)
B Ziklag (12:1)
C Desert stronghold (12:8)
C′ Desert stronghold (12:16)
B′ Ziklag (12:20)
A′ Hebron (12:23)
A. (12:1-7) Support for David at Ziklag
“Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag, while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men who helped him in war. 2 They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin. 3 The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth, and Beracah and Jehu the Anathothite, 4 and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty. Then Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad the Gederathite, 5 Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah the Haruphite, 6 Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, Jashobeam, the Korahites, 7 and Joelah and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.”
Mark Boda: This section begins with relatives from Saul’s own tribe (Benjamin) and even his own town (Gibeah) who were both expert archers and stone slingers, showing that there was discontent within Saul’s own power base. They came to Ziklag, a town on the southern border of Judah’s traditional territory, which was held by the Philistines during the reign of Saul. At that time it had been given to David as reward for his defection from Saul and loyalty to the Philistine king Achish of Gath (1 Sam 27:1-6). It would become the base of his operations until Saul’s death (2 Sam 1:1), when David’s base would move to Hebron (2 Sam 2:1).
B. (12:8-18) Support for David at the Fortress
1. (:8-15) Gadite Skilled Soldiers Supporting David
“And from the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the gazelles on the mountains. 9 Ezer was the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, 10 Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, 11 Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, 12 Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, 13 Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh. 14 These of the sons of Gad were captains of the army; he who was least was equal to a hundred and the greatest to a thousand. 15 These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks and they put to flight all those in the valleys, both to the east and to the west.”
Andrew Hill: Unlike the archers and slingers from the tribe of Benjamin who are effective in battle from a distance (12:1–7), the Gadite soldiers excel in hand-to-hand combat because of their speed and strength. According to Williamson, the metaphorical comparison of the heroic qualities of warriors with animals (12:8) is commonplace in the ancient world to the degree that such designations often become titles for warriors.
Mark Boda: Next, the Chronicler relates the defection of warriors from Gad who were experts with shield and spear. They approached David while at an unnamed “stronghold in the wilderness.”
2. (:16-18) Defectors from Benjamin and Judah Supporting David
“Then some of the sons of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to David. 17 And David went out to meet them, and answered and said to them, ‘If you come peacefully to me to help me, my heart shall be united with you; but if to betray me to my adversaries, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look on it and decide.’ 18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said, ‘We are yours, O David, And with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to him who helps you; Indeed, your God helps you!’ Then David received them and made them captains of the band.”
Mark Boda: Only then does the Chronicler introduce defectors from David’s own tribe of Judah, who, together with others from Saul’s tribe Benjamin, approached David at the stronghold to join him. . . David’s speech challenged them to reveal their loyalties; it oriented the discussion theologically by calling on “the God of our ancestors” to judge the answer. The response was given by Amasai (12:18), who would later become a leader in “the Thirty” and is probably the later Amasa of Absalom’s revolt (2 Sam 17:25; cf. 1 Chr 2:17). He functions in this narrative as a Spirit-inspired spokesperson (“the Spirit came upon Amasai”).
C. (12:19-22) Support for David at Ziglag from Manasseh Defectors
“From Manasseh also some defected to David, when he was about to go to battle with the Philistines against Saul. But they did not help them, for the lords of the Philistines after consultation sent him away, saying, ‘At the cost of our heads he may defect to his master Saul.’ 20 As he went to Ziklag, there defected to him from Manasseh: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of thousands who belonged to Manasseh. 21 And they helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor, and were captains in the army. 22 For day by day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God.”
Andrew Hill: The theme of “help” joins this passage with the preceding unit (12:16–18). Amasai’s generalized prophecy of God’s help in bringing about success for David’s kingship (12:18) is fulfilled specifically through the loyal “help” of others against the Amalekite bandits (12:21–22). Allen has noted this motif of “help” for David is further emphasized in the wordplay with the noun for “help” (ʿezer) in the names of certain of the soldiers defecting to the rival king (e.g., Ahiezer, 12:3; Joezer, 12:6; Ezer, 12:9).
J.A. Thompson: Seven defectors from Manasseh are listed. These men must have joined David just before the battle of Mount Gilboa, where Saul was killed. David was sent away by the Philistines because they mistrusted him, though Achish did not (cf. 1 Sam 29). Apparently David accompanied the Philistines part of the way, at least as far as Aphek (1 Sam 29:1), which lay near Manasseh. The term “thousand” (1 Chr 12:20) probably denotes a tribal subdivision. These men assisted David in his raids against the Amalekites who attacked Ziklag during David’s absence (1 Sam 30).
IV. (12:23-37) SUPPORT FOR DAVID AT HEBRON
“Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the LORD. 24 The sons of Judah who bore shield and spear were 6,800, equipped for war. 25 Of the sons of Simeon, mighty men of valor for war, 7,100. 26 Of the sons of Levi 4,600. 27 Now Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron, and with him were 3,700, 28 also Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father’s house twenty-two captains. 29 And of the sons of Benjamin, Saul’s kinsmen, 3,000; for until now the greatest part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30 And of the sons of Ephraim 20,800, mighty men of valor, famous men in their fathers’ households. 31 And of the half-tribe of Manasseh 18,000, who were designated by name to come and make David king. 32 And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command. 33 Of Zebulun, there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped David with an undivided heart. 34 And of Naphtali there were 1,000 captains, and with them 37,000 with shield and spear. 35 And of the Danites who could draw up in battle formation, there were 28,600. 36 And of Asher there were 40,000 who went out in the army to draw up in battle formation. 37 And from the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites and the Gadites and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, there were 120,000 with all kinds of weapons of war for the battle.”
(12:38-40) EPILOGUE — DAVID’S CORONATION CELEBRATION AT HEBRON
“All these, being men of war, who could draw up in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one mind to make David king. 39 And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking; for their kinsmen had prepared for them. 40 Moreover those who were near to them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and on oxen, great quantities of flour cakes, fig cakes and bunches of raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep. There was joy indeed in Israel.”
August Konkel: The Chronicler has gone to some length, perhaps through the use of a military census list, to portray an ideal enthronement for David as God’s anointed king. Though no ceremony is mentioned in Samuel, Chronicles has a fitting festival, including the northern tribes assisting in making provisions for a three-day feast. The unfaithfulness of Saul had led to the near dissolution of the nation, but God had intervened. By the time David was made king, a vast and well-equipped army was present to support the new ruler with singular resolve. . .
This symmetry of the divine and human initiatives culminates in a joyful banquet as one of the high points in Israel’s history (1 Chron 12:38b-40). The long-protracted conflict related in 2 Samuel 2:1–4:12, in which David’s army subdued the warriors of Saul, is not included in the Chronicler’s version of David’s rise to power in Hebron. The growing consensus ends in the solidarity of a great celebration at Hebron.
Andrew Hill: It is important to note that all who come to Hebron are “fully determined” to make David king. Literally the assembly of the Hebrews is of a “peaceable mind” or “undivided heart” (12:39). This wholehearted service to God and king is a repeated theme in Chronicles (cf. 28:9; 2 Chron. 19:9; 25:2). The three days of “eating and drinking” with King David are covenantal terms. It was customary in biblical times to conclude covenant ceremonies with celebrations that climaxed in a meal (e.g., Gen. 31:54; Ex. 24:11). The feast ratifies the compact or covenant brokered between David and the elders of Israel (1 Chron. 11:3). The duration of the ratification festival (three days) indicates the strength of Israel’s support for David’s kingship.
The Chronicler is careful to report that the outcome of that tribal unity is “joy in Israel” (1 Chron. 12:40; cf. 29:22; 2 Chron. 7:8–10; 30:21–26). He is hopeful, no doubt, that this recipe for joy will be the experience of post-exilic Judah as well.
Hugh Williamson: The combination of feasting and of joy in Israel on major occasions was clearly regarded as appropriate by the Chronicler. Together with his emphasis on faith, it indicates that his religion was by no means the joyless ritualism that has sometimes been thought; see especially 1 Chr. 29:22; 2 Chr. 7:8-10 and 30:21-26, but also 1 Chr. 15:25 with 16:3; 29:7, 17; 2 Chr. 20:27f.; 23:16-18 and 29:30.