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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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The Men Who Came to David During His Days at Ziklag, and in His Days in the Wilderness Strongholds. Also the Military Strength that Came to Him at Hebron


Verses 1-7
Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag, while he yet kept himself close because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, his helpers in war. They were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in slinging stones and in shooting arrows from the bow: they were of Saul's brethren of Benjamin. 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, and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty, and Jeremiah, and Jahaziel, and Johanan, and Jozabad the Gederathite, Eluzai, and Jerimoth, and Bealiah, and Shemariah, and Shephatiah the Haruphite, Elkanah, and Isshiah, and Azarel, and Joezer, and Jashobeam, the Korahites, and Joelah, and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.

The significance of this paragraph is that some of Saul's kinsmen defected to David at Ziklag, even a prominent citizen of Saul's home town, a Gibeonite. The material in this chapter is found nowhere else in the Scriptures. The men named here were competent and able soldiers. We reject the snide unbelieving comment of Curtis and Madsen that, "Since on the death of Saul, the tribe of Benjamin remained faithful to his house, how much less can we believe that such desertions to David took place during his lifetime."F1 Such a comment is important only because it alerts us to the fact that the authors of it were unbelievers in the ultimate sense of the word. Foolish indeed are those who trust such writers to interpret the Holy Scriptures for them.

The occasions for these desertions to the cause of David was the period of David's residence at Ziklag, as related in 2 Sam. 27--30. (See my commentary under those references.)

The Chronicler stressed the skill, training, competence and high social standing of several of the persons mentioned. Some writers have attempted to downgrade David's `six hundred men' as "Debtors, discontented and desperate men,"F2 but this is merely a part of their evil campaign against the whole Book of Chronicles. Why? Chronicles is an effective denial of their favorite fairy tale that denies the Books of Moses.

Myers pointed out the real reason for the desertion of many of the very best men in all Israel to the cause of David, as follows: "The best and most capable men became his followers, because they recognized in him the chosen vessel of Jehovah."F3


Verses 8-15
And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David to the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, that could handle shield and spear; whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the roes upon the mountains; Ezer the chief, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh. These of the sons of Gad were captains of the host: he that was least was equal to a hundred, and the greatest to a thousand. These are they that went over the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east, and toward the west.

To the stronghold in the wilderness
(1 Chronicles 12:8). This was prior to David's days at Ziklag. The particular stronghold is not mentioned, but it might have been either Engedi or Adullam.

Faces like the faces of lions. as swift as the roes on the mountains
(1 Chronicles 12:8). No human being can outrun a deer; and the figures of speech used by the Chronicler here suggest that other figures of speech also appear in the chapter.

"The names of persons in these verses (1 Chronicles 12:9-13) are all found elsewhere in the Bible, but none of them as designating the same persons."F4

They went over the Jordan in the first month
(1 Chronicles 12:15). The time here was the same as our month of March/April.F5 The historical setting may have been that of the Conquest under Joshua; but the event here given is not elsewhere reported in the Bible.


Verses 16-18
And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the stronghold unto David. And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, my heart shall be knit unto you; but if [ye be come] to betray me to mine adversaries, seeing there is no wrong in my hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it. Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the thirty, [and he said], Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thy helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.

David had every right to fear betrayal by those who approached him in this episode. He had suffered betrayal by Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 21--22), by citizens of Keilah (1 Sam. 23), and by the Ziphites (1 Sam. 26).

It is of special interest that the Holy Spirit reassured David in the words of Amasai.


Verses 19-22
Of Manasseh also there fell away some to David, when he came with the Philistines against Saul to battle: but they helped them not; for the lords of the Philistines upon advisement sent him away, saying, He will fall away to his master Saul to the jeopardy of our heads. As he went to Ziklag, there fell to him of Manasseh, Adnah, and Jozabad, and Jediael, and Michael, and Jozabad, and Elihu, and Zillethai, captains of thousands that were of Manasseh. And they helped David against the band of rovers: for they were all mighty men of valor, and were captains in the host. For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great host, like the host of God.

When he (David) came with the Philistines against Saul
(1 Chronicles 12:19). A full account of what is here mentioned is given in 1 Sam. 29. (See that reference for our notes regarding it.) It was upon that occasion that some of the tribe of Manasseh united with David. It was a timely addition to David's forces, because he fought a battle against the Amalekites immediately afterward.

Captains of thousands
(1 Chronicles 12:20). This evidently refers to positions these defectors to David had with the tribe of Manasseh; but there is no statement here that they brought their `thousands' with them to David's cause. Nevertheless, the death of Saul that followed very quickly very likely afforded an opportunity for adding many thousands to David's army.

They helped David against the band of rovers
(1 Chronicles 12:21). This band of rovers was that of the Amalekites who had plundered Ziklag during David's trip with the Philistines to mount Gilboa. (See my commentary on 1 Sam. 30 for a full discussion of that Amalekite raid on Ziklag and David's victory over them afterward.)

Until there was a great host, like the host of God
(1 Chronicles 12:22). This is a reference to the ultimate rally of all Israel to the kingship of David and should not be understood as applicable to the period of David's long contest against Saul.

The remaining verses of this chapter leap forward seven years and a half to the crowning of David as king over all Israel, completely ignoring his seven and a half years as king in Hebron.


And these are the numbers of the heads of them that were armed for war, who came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of Jehovah. The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, armed for war. Of the childen of Simeon, mighty men of valor for the war, seven thousand and one hundred. Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred. And Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron; and with him were three thousand and seven hundred, and Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father's house twenty and two captains. And of the children of Benjamin, the brethren of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greater part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valor, famous in their fathers' houses. And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king. And of the children of Issachar, 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. Of Zebulun, such as were able to go out in the host, that could set the battle in array, with all manner of instruments of war, and that could order the battle array, and were not of double heart. And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand. And of the Danites that could set the battle in array, twenty and eight thousand and six hundred. And of Asher, such as were able to go out in the host, that could set the battle in array, forty thousand. And on the other side of the 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.

"All these, being men of war, that could order the battle array, 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. And they were there with David three days, eating and drinking; for their brethren had made preparations for them. Moreover they that were nigh unto them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victuals of meal, cakes of figs, and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in abundance: for there was joy in Israel."

Critical writers, lacking any real reason to press their denials regarding the authenticity of Chronicles, seize upon the numbers of the armed men coming to Hebron to make David king, declaring them to be unreaonable, exaggerated, "magnified,"F6 unhistorical, inaccurate, etc. To all such allegations, there is one single word: NONSENSE! The conclusion announced by Curtis (Madsen) that, "Our chapter (this one) has no real historical worth,"F7 betrays the bias and essential ignorance of all such allegations. Curtis pointed out that the numbers given here in 1 Chr. 12:23-40 come to a sum total of 339,600 men. There is nothing whatever suspicious, unreasonable, or difficult in the coming of such a crowd to Hebron for the coronation of King David.

There are a number of historical references to the Jewish Passover, held every year in Jerusalem, indicating that in excess of 60,000 lambs were often slain at each celebration of the Passover; and there is one citation in which over 250,000 lambs were killed at the Passover.F8 Counting ten persons for each lamb, as prescribed in Exodus, indicates that crowds in Jerusalem were frequently in excess of half a million in number; and that in some instances, crowds of over a million came to the Holy City. In this light, there is every reason to hold the numbers given here as absolutely accurate, nor should any Christian allow some unbelieving enemy of God's Word to cast any doubt whatever upon them.

Footnotes for 1 Chronicles 12
1: International Critical Commentary, Chronicles, p. 195.
2: Ibid., p. 194.
3: The Anchor Bible, Chronicles, p. 97.
4: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 6a, p. 175.
5: Ibid.
6: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 203.
7: Ibid., p. 194.
8: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 5. p. 2257.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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