Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. came in and went out month by month--Here is an account of the
standing military force of Israel. A militia formed, it would seem, at
the beginning of David's reign (see
was raised in the following order: Twelve legions, corresponding to the
number of tribes, were enlisted in the king's service. Each legion
comprised a body of twenty-four thousand men, whose term of service was
a month in rotation, and who were stationed either at Jerusalem or in
any other place where they might be required. There was thus always a
force sufficient for the ordinary purposes of state, as well as for
resisting sudden attacks or popular tumults; and when extraordinary
emergencies demanded a larger force, the whole standing army could
easily be called to arms, amounting to two hundred eighty-eight
thousand, or to three hundred thousand, including the twelve thousand
officers that naturally attended on the twelve princes
Such a military establishment would be burdensome neither to the
country nor to the royal treasury; for attendance on this duty being a
mark of honor and distinction, the expense of maintenance would be
borne probably by the militiaman himself, or furnished out of the
common fund of his tribe. Nor would the brief period of actual service
produce any derangement of the usual course of affairs; for, on the
expiry of the term, every soldier returned to the pursuits and duties
of private life during the other eleven months of the year. Whether the
same individuals were always enrolled, cannot be determined. The
probability is, that provided the requisite number was furnished, no
stricter scrutiny would be made. A change of men might, to a certain
degree, be encouraged, as it was a part of David's policy to train all
his subjects to skill in arms; and to have made the enlistment fall
always on the same individuals would have defeated that purpose. To
have confined each month's levy rigidly within the limits of one tribe
might have fallen hard upon those tribes which were weak and small. The
rotation system being established, each division knew its own month, as
well as the name of the commander under whom it was to serve. These
commanders are styled, "the chief fathers," that is, the hereditary
heads of tribes who, like chieftains of clans, possessed great power
captains of thousands and hundreds--The legions of twenty-four
thousand were divided into regiments of one thousand, and these again
into companies of a hundred men, under the direction of their
respective subalterns, there being, of course, twenty-four captains of
thousands, and two hundred forty centurions.
and their officers--the Shoterim, who in the army performed the duty
of the commissariat, keeping the muster-roll, &c.
2, 3. Jashobeam the son of Zabdiel--(See on
Hachmoni was his father, Zabdiel probably one of his ancestors; or
there might be different names of the same individual. In the rotation
of the military courses, the dignity of precedence, not of authority,
was given to the hero.
4. second month was Dodai--or, "Dodo." Here the text seems to require
the supplement of "Eleazar the son of Dodo"
7. Asahel--This officer having been slain at the very beginning of
his name was probably given to this division in honor of his memory,
and his son was invested with the command.
PRINCES OF THE
16. over the tribes of Israel: the ruler--This is a list of the
hereditary chiefs or rulers of tribes at the time of David's numbering
the people. Gad and Asher are not included; for what reason is unknown.
The tribe of Levi had a prince
as well as the other tribes; and although it was ecclesiastically
subject to the high priest, yet in all civil matters it had a chief or
head, possessed of the same authority and power as in the other tribes,
only his jurisdiction did not extend to the priests.
18. Elihu--probably the same as Eliab
23. But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and
under--The census which David ordered did not extend to all the
Israelites; for to contemplate such an enumeration would have been to
attempt an impossibility
and besides would have been a daring offense to God. The limitation to
a certain age was what had probably quieted David's conscience as to
the lawfulness of the measure, while its expediency was
strongly pressed upon his mind by the army arrangements he had in
24. neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of
King David--either because the undertaking was not completed, Levi
and Benjamin not having been numbered
or the full details in the hands of the enumerating officers were not
reported to David, and, consequently, not registered in the public
the chronicles--were the daily records or annals of the king's reign.
No notice was taken of this census in the historical register, as from
the public calamity with which it was associated it would have stood as
a painful record of the divine judgment against the king and the
25. over the king's treasures--Those treasures consisted of gold,
silver, precious stones, cedar-wood, &c.; those which he had in Jerusalem as distinguished from others without the city.
the storehouses in the fields--Grain covered over with layers of straw
is frequently preserved in the fields under little earthen mounds, like
our potato pits.
27. the vineyards--These seem to have been in the vine growing
districts of Judah, and were committed to two men of that quarter.
wine-cellars--The wine is deposited in jars sunk in the court of the
28. olive trees and the sycamore trees . . . in the low plains--that
is, the Shephela, the rich, low-lying ground between the Mediterranean
and the mountains of Judah.
29. herds that fed in Sharon--a fertile plain between Cæsarea and
30. camels--These were probably in the countries east of the Jordan,
and hence an Ishmaelite and Nazarite were appointed to take charge of
31. rulers of the substance that was king David's--How and when the
king acquired these demesnes and this variety of property--whether it
was partly by conquests, or partly by confiscation, or by his own
active cultivation of waste lands--is not said. It was probably in all
these ways. The management of the king's private possessions was
divided into twelve parts, like his public affairs and the revenue
derived from all these sources mentioned must have been very large.