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David’s Army at Hebron

23 These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of the Lord.

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David's Army. (b. c. 1048.)

23 And these are the numbers of the bands that were ready armed to the war, and came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord.   24 The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, ready armed to the war.   25 Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred.   26 Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred.   27 And Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites, and with him were three thousand and seven hundred;   28 And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father's house twenty and two captains.   29 And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul.   30 And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers.   31 And of the half tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name, to come and make David king.   32 And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.   33 Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.   34 And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand.   35 And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred.   36 And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand.   37 And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, a hundred and twenty thousand.   38 All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.   39 And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them.   40 Moreover they that were nigh them, even unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel.

We have here an account of those who were active in perfecting the settlement of David upon the throne, after the death of Ishbosheth. We read (ch. xi. 1, and before 2 Sam. v. 1) that all the tribes of Israel came, either themselves or by their representatives, to Hebron, to make David king; now here we have an account of the quota which every tribe brought in ready armed to the war, in case there should be any opposition, v. 23. We may observe here,

I. That those tribes that lived nearest brought the fewest-Judah but 6800 (v. 24), Simeon but 7100 (v. 25); whereas Zebulun, that lay remote, brought 50,000, Asher 40,000, and the two tribes and a half on the other side Jordan 120,000. Not as if the next adjacent tribes were cold in the cause; but they showed as much of their prudence in bringing few, since all the rest lay so near within call, as the others did of their zeal in bringing so many. The men of Judah had enough to do to entertain those that came from afar.

II. The Levites themselves, and the priests (called here the Aaronites), appeared very hearty in this cause, and were ready, if there were occasion, to fight for David, as well as pray for him, because they knew he was called of God to the government, v. 26-28.

III. Even some of the kindred of Saul came over to David (v. 29), not so many as of the other tribes, because a foolish affection for their own tribe, and a jealousy for the honour of it, kept many of them long in the sinking interest of Saul's family. Kindred should never over-rule conscience. Call no man Father to this extent, but God only.

IV. It is said of most of these that they were mighty men of valour (v. 25, 28, 30), of others that they were expert in war (v. 35, 36), and of them all that they could keep rank, v. 38. They had a great deal of martial fire, and yet were governable and subject to the rules of order—warm hearts but cool heads.

V. Some were so considerate as to bring with them arms, and all instruments for war (v. 24, 33, 37), for how could they think that David should be able to furnish them?

VI. The men of Issachar were the fewest of all, only 200, and yet as serviceable to David's interest as those that brought in the greatest numbers, these few being in effect the whole tribe. For, 1. They were men of great skill above any of their neighbours, men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. They understood the natural times, could discern the face of the sky, were weather-wise, could advise their neighbours in the proper times for ploughing, sowing reaping, &c. Or the ceremonial times, the times appointed for the solemn feasts; therefore they are said to call the people to the mountain (Deut. xxxiii. 19), for almanacs were not then so common as now. Or, rather, the political times; they understood public affairs, the temper of the nation, and the tendencies of the present events. It is the periphrasis of statesmen that they know the times, Esth. i. 13. Those of that tribe were greatly intent on public affairs, had good intelligence from abroad and made a good use of it. They knew what Israel ought to do: from their observation and experience they learned both their own and others' duty and interest. In this critical juncture they knew Israel ought to make David king. It was not only expedient, but necessary; the present posture of affairs called for it. The men of Issachar dealt mostly in country business, and did not much intermeddle in public affairs, which gave them an opportunity of observing others and conversing with themselves. A stander-by sees sometimes more than a gamester. 2. They were men of great interests; for all their brethren were at their commandment. The commonality of that tribe having bowed their shoulder to bear (Gen. xlix. 15), the great men had them at their beck. Hence we read of the princes of Issachar, Judg. v. 15. They knew how to rule, and the rest knew how to obey. It is happy indeed when those that should lead are intelligent and judicious, and those who are to follow are modest and obsequious.

VII. It is said of them all that they engaged in this enterprise with a perfect heart (v. 38), and particularly of the men of Zebulun that they were not of double heart, v. 33. They were, in this matter, Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile. And this was their perfection, that they were of one heart, v. 38. None had any separate interests, but all for the public good.

VIII. The men of Judah, and others of the adjacent tribes, prepared for the victualling of their respective camps when they came to Hebron, v. 39, 40. Those that were at the least pains in travelling to this convention, or congress of states, thought themselves obliged to be at so much the more charge in entertaining the rest, that there might be something of an equality. A noble feast was made (was made for laughter, Eccl. x. 19) upon this occasion, for there was joy in Israel, v. 40. And good reason; for when the righteous bear rule the city rejoices. Thus, when the throne of Christ is set up in a soul, there is, or ought to be, great joy in that soul: and provision is made for the feasting of it, not as here for two or three days, but for the whole life, nay, for eternity.