I Chronicles 5





1 “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the

firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was

given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to

be reckoned after the birthright.  2  For Judah prevailed above his

brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)”

The tribe of Reuben is now taken third in order by the compiler, though Reuben

was the first of all the sons of Israel. The distinct statements of vs. 1 and 2,

respecting the degradation of Reuben and his loss of the rights of primogeniture,

are not to be understood, however, as mentioned in any way to account for his

standing third here. That Judah takes in any genealogy the first place needs

no other apology than that contained in this passage, Judah prevailed

above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler” (i.e. David, and in him

“David’s greater Son and Lord”). And that Simeon is taken immediately

after Judah was natural enough, both because the second place belonged to

him, and because his tribe, in journeying, in settlement, and in

acknowledged friendship, was so nearly related to that of Judah. It is as an

important historical fact, a lesson and stern memento of crime, that the tale

of Reuben is here as elsewhere told. Indeed, in the remarkably exalting

language applied to Reuben (Genesis 49:3-4) by the dying father in those

blessings” of his sons which were so marvelously living with prophecy,

that “blessing” seemed weighted with hard reality, and may really carry

this meaning: “O Reuben!  Though thou art my firstborn, though my might

and the beginning of my strength, though the excellency of dignity and the

excellency of power,” yet, because of thy boiling lust (Genesis 35:22)

thou shall not excel.” In that endowing charter of the patriarch’s deathbed,

the birthright of Reuben is not in so many words given to Joseph and

his sons, but what is given to Joseph is so abundant above the lot of all the

others, that we find no difficulty in accepting the formal statement of the

fact here first found in this passage. The large measure of promise meted to

Judah (Genesis 49:8-12) rests, no doubt, upon the title already referred

to. There would seem to be also a righteous moral reason in Joseph after

all becoming heir to the birthright, inasmuch as he was the eldest child of

her who was Israel’s real love, and who, but for deception and sharp

practice, would have been his first wife. How he remembered her, and with

what determined practical consequence, the affecting passage, Genesis

48:1-7,16,21-22, sufficiently reveals; yet compare Deuteronomy 21:15-17.

The meaning of the last clause of v. 1 is evidently that, though thus

Reuben was the natural firstborn, and Joseph had really the birthright, the

registration did not proceed in this instance (probably partly for the very

reason of the ambiguity) by the order of birthright, but everything yielded

to the special call for precedence on the part of Judah (v. 2).



Judah’s Preeminence (v.2)


The tribe of Judah holds the first and most prominent place in these

genealogies. Reuben was the firstborn, and Joseph had the birthright; but

precedence was given to Judah. This was foretold in the remarkable

language in which Jacob, upon his dying bed, spoke of this one of his

sons and the tribe of which he was the progenitor. (Genesis 49:8-12).



When the tribes were numbered under Moses, that of Judah was found

to exceed all the others in number. When the Israelites were organized

for the war against the Canaanites, Judah was divinely appointed to be

the vanguard of the army. A similar precedence is accorded to the tribe

of Judah in this Book of Chronicles.



ROYAL HOUSE. Of Israel the Lord chose Judah, and of that tribe the

family of Jesse, and of that family the youthful David. The great King of

Israel and his glorious son shed a splendor upon the national annals. And

when the separation of the kingdoms came about, the kingdom of Judah

was distinguished in many ways, both civil and religious, above the sister

kingdom of Northern Palestine.


  • The greatest distinction and privilege of Judah was this: FROM THIS


DAVID was a descendant from Judah. This was the true “Lion of the

tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5; Genesis 49:9; Hebrews 7:14)


Mark the hand of God in family history. Providence raises up one house

and sets down another. Families are sometimes selected to fulfill high

purposes; and when they are found faithful to their vocation honor is put

upon them by Him who says, “them that honor me I will honor.”

(I Samuel 2:30)


3 “The sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were, Hanoch, and

Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.” The four sons of Reuben here given are first

enumerated in Genesis 46:9; then in Exodus 6:14; and again in Numbers 26:5-7,

where are also found the corresponding chief families of the tribe, the

total of their fighting numbers amounting to 43,730, compared with 46,500

at the time of the Sinai census (Numbers 2:11), a diminution due to the

plague for the idolatry of Baal-peor (Numbers 25:9).


4 “The sons of Joel;” – From which of the four sons of Reuben the line came

in which Joel would appear, we do not know. Juntas and Tremellius say

Hanoch, others Carmi, while the Syriac Version has Carmi vice Joel. It is

to be remarked that in Numbers 26:8-10 a line of descent through

Pallu is given, but reaching only to the second generation, “Shemaiah his son,

Gog his son, Shimei his son,  5  Micah his son, Reaia his son, Baal his son,

6  Beerah his son,” -  Beerah in the present list will be only ninth at furthest

from Reuben, so that it is evident that it is a very fragmentary genealogy,

whether the hiatus be only one, viz. between Reuben’s son (whichever it may

be in question) and Joel, or whether both there and elsewhere also. Of none

of the eight persons beginning with Joel and ending with Beerah is anything

else known, unless either Shemaiah or Shimei may be identical with the

Shema of v. 8, in which case it might be also that the Joel of v. 8 is identical

with that of v. 4.   In this passage and ch.8:30 Baal appears as the name

of a man. In this passage, and in v. 26 and II Chronicles 28:20, we

have a different form in each part of the word, of the Tiglath-pileser of

II Kings 15:29; 16:7. These slight differences in the position of the

radicals, with the introduction or omission of the a, make as many as four

different readings in the Hebrew - “whom Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria

carried away captive: he was prince of the Reubenites.” Tiglath-pileser,

the second Assyrian king who came into conflict with the Israelites, reigned

about B.C. 747-727.  Gesenius thinks that the former half of the word is the

same as Diglath, i.q. Tigris; and that the latter, a root occurring also in the name

Nabo-polasaris, is from an Assyrian verb meaning “to guard.” He translates

the word as “Lord of the Tigris.” The Assyrian reproduction of the name is

Tigultipal- tsira (Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary’), or Tukulti-pal-zara (‘Speaker’s

Commentary,’ in loc.). The Captivity is spoken of further in the last verse

of this chapter and in II Kings 15:27-31. The Septuagint reads vs. 4-5

differently: “The sons of Joel, Semei and Banaea his son; and the

sons of Gog the son of Semei,” etc., and this in all three editions —

Vatican, Alexandrine, and Aldine.


7 “And his brethren by their families, when the genealogy of their

generations was reckoned, were the chief, Jeiel, and Zechariah,

8  And Bela the son of Azaz, the son of Shema, the son of Joel, who

dwelt in Aroer, even unto Nebo and Baalmeon:”  Of Jeiel, Zechariah,

Bela, and Asaz nothing further is known. Shema and Joel may be those

of v. 4, as above. The expression, his brethren, i.e. the brethren of Beerah,

must be read generally. The intimation, when the genealogy of their

generations was reckoned, is probably explained by the contents of v. 17

(of which hereafter). Aroer (r[ero[} or r[ewOr[]); a place east of the Jordan,

overhanging the torrent of Arnon, which was a boundary between Moab

and the Amorites, and afterwards between Moab and Reuben. There is

 little doubt that Burckhardt has identified the ruins of Aroer (see Numbers

32:38; Deuteronomy 2:24, 36; 3:8, 12, 16; Joshua 12:1-2; 13:9, 16;

Judges 11:13, 26, where note transposition of letters in the Hebrew;

II Kings 10:33). Moab seems to have regained it later (Jeremiah 48:1-47; see

“Arnon” and “Aroer,” Smith’s’ Bible Dictionary’). Nebo and Baal-meon

are also mentioned together in Numbers 32:38; and Baal-meon with Moab in

Ezekiel 25:9. This Nebo, the town, is distinct from Mount Nebo. It is remarkable

that it is not mentioned, unless under one of the “changed” names (Numbers

32:38), in the list of the towns of Reuben (Joshua 13:15-23). Nebo was the

name of a heathen deity, known among the Chaldeans (Isaiah 46:1),

Babylonians, and Assyrians; and this constituted one reason, if not the

reason, for changing its name when it had been affixed to the Moabite city.



Birthrights and Supremacies (v. 2)


A significant fact of the early history of the patriarchs is here brought to

remembrance. It is one so curious as to carry suggestions and lessons for

all the ages, and so is recorded for our instruction. By providential

arrangement the tribal birthright was Reuben’s; he, however, lost it

through his wrongdoing, and his father shifted it from the eldest son of his

first wife to the eldest son of his second but really his own chosen wife —

from Reuben to Joseph. Man’s adjustments of the Divine order are not

always sealed by God. Jacob’s were not in this case. As the years passed

on, Judah came to the front, ultimately gained the sovereignty, and from

this tribe came the permanent Davidic dynasty. Joseph, represented by the

tribe of Ephraim, struggled, age after age, to keep the birthright place, but

in vain; and in the conflict of the two tribes we may find illustration of the

hopelessness of pressing mere human adjustments against the

providential order. Neither the individual nor the community may ever

hope to “resist God and prosper.” It is ever ILL WORK  running

upon the bosses of Jehovah’s buckler.” (Job 15:26)



is exactly what we, in our self-will, are ever striving to do. Even

when we know what is God’s will, we try to get it twisted about so

 that it may at least seem to conform to our will. This is a very

common but very subtle form of Christian error and sin. We know

what we wish or want, so we deceive ourselves into the idea that this

is what God wishes or wants for us, and fail in that simple openness to

Divine lead which is the right spirit to cherish. Scripture illustrations may

be found in Rebekah, whose will was to gain the birthright and blessing

for her favorite son, so she took the Divine order into her own adjustment,

and won those things for him by deceptions which, very properly, brought

heavy penalties on her and on him (Genesis 27).  Or in Balaam, who

professed to do exactly what God wished him to do, and yet evidently did

what he himself planned to do, forcing from God that fatal “Go.”

(Numbers 22:20,35; see 31:8).  Or in Saul, who could not simply wait

God’s time and the arrival of his prophet, but, arranging the Divine order

according to his own self-will, must himself offer the sacrifice. (I Samuel

15)  The forms in which nowadays men take the ordering of their lives

into their own hands may be illustrated, and, as a contrast, mention

may be made of David, who, though tempted to slay King Saul, would

not interfere with the Divine order, though he might easily have seemed

to himself to have been only fulfilling the Divine promise. WE MUST




ORDER. Not in the helplessly passive way of poor aged Eli, but in an

active and loyal way, we may say, “It is the Lord; let him do what

 seemeth Him good.” (I Samuel 3:18) Keble expresses the right state

of mind for the child of God, in his picture of the man sanctified by affliction,

wishing, no longer struggling, to be free.” The Divine order for our life may

differ wholly from the order of our own planning. It may even seem to flesh

and blood painful and humiliating. Still let life unfold, and it proves the way

of best blessing for us and for others through us. (“And we know that

all things work together  for the good to them that love God, to

them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

 Let eternity unfold, and we sing through all the ages of the “good way

wherein the Lord our God led us.”  David shows us the attitude to

which the Divine order is revealed. “The meek will He guide in

 judgment, and the meek will He teach his way.”  (Psalm 25:9)




Judah, and from cases of men born in the disabilities of poverty, or of the

weakness of hereditary disease, who have been led in God’s providence to

high place, powers, and usefulness. Let us find our faculty and endowment.

It is THE KEY TO GOD’S PURPOSE IN OUR LIFE,  let us develop it.

Life will then bring to us its best. Let us but follow on along the line of our

Divine endowment, and even the “least may become the first.”



Reuben (vs. 1-8)


Reuben was the eldest son of Jacob. The birthright which was his, included

dominion and a double portion; both of these were forfeited by sin (see

Genesis 49:3-4) and were transferred to Joseph. But as Joseph’s

posterity was not mentioned first, the historian explains by saying that the

genealogy was not to be reckoned by birthright, as the superior honor

and privilege had been previously conferred on Judah. This tribe had the

preeminence over all the tribes, not on account of Judah himself, but

because Christ, “the chief Ruler” (see v. 2), was to come out of it.

Reuben’s sin comes in here as a parenthesis. God will brand sin wherever

He sees it. It is no trifle with Him, nor does He ever forget it. Only one thing

can blot it outTHE BLOOD OF THE LAMB!   We may forget it, but

He will make it to come in as a parenthesis in OUR OWN LIFE  or in

that of our posterity, that we may learn what an evil and bitter thing it is, and that

He will not trifle with it. But these fruits of sin, these parentheses, how they

come in ages after:


o       marring the brightest escutcheon,

o       hindering our blessing, and

o       tarnishing God’s glory!


The curse of our crime is handed down through generations, and the innocent

child is humiliated and thrown back and its fairest prospects blighted. Again

we have Christ brought before us, at the opening of this chapter, in the

prominence given to the tribe of Judah. The natural birthright is set aside. It is

so always. Nature’s order is reversed in the kingdom of God. “The last shall

be first, and the first shall be last”  (Mark 9:35).   This is the law of God’s

kingdom. Man’s rejected is God’s chosen. Grace, and not nature, takes the lead.

Little did Reuben’s posterity judge of the chief reason why he was set aside. Little

did Judah’s posterity know the chief reason for his preeminence. God was putting

down one and raising up another with reference to the future manifestation

and glory of His dear Son. To human eye this did not appear. Thus was

God working behind the scenes, working out the counsels of His own will,

and all with a view to the glory of Christ. So it is now. We see the sin of

man as in Reuben; we see the counterworking of Satan, crossing, to all

human appearance, the purposes of God; but BEHIND ALL GOD IS

WORKING!  God is raising up one and putting down another, and all with

reference to the advancement of the kingdom and glory of His dear Son. It does

not appear so to our short-sighted judgment, but we are no judges of God’s

ways and thoughts: “His ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our

thoughts(Isaiah 55:8-9).  Behind every little event in your daily life

 God is working. And He is never more really carrying out His purposes of

wisdom and grace and love than when those events seem to run counter to this

end. Judge of God’s ways by the opposite. The more apparently opposed the

more really He is there.


Reuben might have had a far more honorable and influential position than he and

his posterity enjoyed. Circumstances favored it; God would have been willing to

sanction it. But he forfeited it by his sin (v. 1). His shameful incontinence lowered

the level of his fortunes and of those of his children. Had he been a better man he

would have held a larger share of prominence and power. Character is a

strong thread in the cord of human destiny. What we shall be in the world, to what

we shall rise, and what heritage we shall leave to our children, — all this

depends in very large part indeed on the character we form in youth;


o       purity,

o       sobriety,

o       honesty,

o       diligence,

o       sagacity,

o       courage,

o       civility (pleasantness of address),


these are the constituents of success. When these are absent, life must be a

failure; when present, it is almost certain to be a success. But there is one

thing not to be overlooked, viz. that we may make sure and must make

sure of the destiny of the good and holy — “the heritage of them that fear

God’s Name.” Apart from this, success is short-lived and superficial. With

this, temporal misfortunes may be calmly borne, for beyond is an everlasting

portion which will make these soon to be forgotten.


9 “And eastward he inhabited unto the entering in of the wilderness

from the river Euphrates: because their cattle were multiplied in

the land of Gilead.”  Keil and others refer this verse to the people of Bela;

yet others apply it to Joel It would seem nearest the facts to apply it to the

main subject of the paragraph — Reuben. Gilead (Deuteronomy 3:12-16)

had for its boundaries, on the north Bashan, on the south Moab, on the

east the Arabian desert. Its situation evidently exposed it to Assyrian

invasion and frequent encounter with desert tribes (Joshua 17:1;

Numbers 26:29-30).


10 “And in the days of Saul they made war with the Hagarites, who fell

by their hand: and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the east

land of Gilead.”  Among such conflicts, one with a people descended

presumably from Hagar or Ishmael (though ch. 27:30-31, and Psalm 78:6 are

somewhat needlessly interpreted to be opposed to this) is here alluded to.

It takes us to the time of Saul, and from that time up to the time of “the

Captivity” (v. 22) the victorious Reubenites, Gadites, and people of the

half-tribe Manasseh had the benefit of enlarged domain at their expense:

“They dwelt in their steads,” after seizing great spoil. It is exceedingly

likely that we have the perpetuation of the name Hagarenes in the Agraeei

(modern Hejer) of Strabo, 16:767; Pliny, ‘Hist.  Nat.,’ 6:32; Dionysius, ‘Perieg.,

956; Pt. 5:2.  Hagarenes, Hagarites: (named after Hagar), a people dwelling to

the east of Palestine, with whom the tribes of Reuben made war in the time of

Saul. (vs. 10,18-20) The same people, as confederate against Israel, are

mentioned in (Psalms 83:6) It is generally believed that they were named

after Hagar, and that the important town and district of Hejer , on the

borders of the Persian Gulf, represent them.  (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)P



The Tribe of Gad (vs. 11-17)


The tribe of Gad occupies but few lines. Gad was born seventh in order of all

the sons of Jacob (Genesis 30:9- 12), and first of the children of Leah’s maid

Zilpah. The compiler seems to pass easily on to Gad, from the mere circumstance

of the name of the tribe being so constantly linked with that preceding, in the

matter of local settlement on the east of Jordan, after the journeyings of the

wilderness (Joshua 13:7-8). The geography in vs. 11 and 16 offers very little

difficulty. Compared with the time of the first settling of the Gadites

(Deuteronomy 3:10-13; Joshua 13:25, 30), it is evident that they

had pushed their borders further to the north, trenching somewhat upon the

lot of the half-tribe Manasseh, as they also in turn extended their limits

northward to Hermon (v. 23). This reconciles Joshua 13:30 with the

present passage.


11 “And the children of Gad dwelt over against them, in the land of

Bashan unto Salchah: Salchah (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 13:11), is

probably to be identified as the modern Sulkhad, at the extreme eastern

point of the plain Hauran, which is bordered by the desert. “In Gilead in

Bashan” may be read, with some, as two coordinate places, separating them

by a stop; or may point to a time when Bashan included the upper half of

Gilead. Sharon, which Keil, quoting Reland, ‘Pal. Ill.,’ 370, would make

the well-known Sharon of Carmel and the Mediterranean, is, though

unmentioned elsewhere, probably distinguished sufficiently from it by the

absence of the article, which is invariably prefixed to the other. Stanley’s

suggestion (‘Sinai and Palestine,’ edit. 1866, pp. 484, 485, 260) would seem

exceedingly apt, that it is one in fact, as one in derivation and meaning, with

the Mishor (i.e. “level ]ands,” “table-land”) of Gilead and Bashan. With this

explanation, however, the term “suburbs” does not so well agree. Upon the

other side, distant as the well-known Sharon is, a link of connection might

be found with it, in that the other Manasseh half-tribe stretched into its

plains; and in that case the last word of the verse, μt;wOa[]wOT, might

mean (Joshua 17:9) “the outgoings” of the land or regions in question to

the “sea”-coast.


12 “Joel the chief, and Shapham the next, and Jaanai, and Shaphat in

Bashan.”  The four proper names in this verse are not known in

connection with the same persons elsewhere. The Septuagint translates

Shaphat as “the scribe,” applying the description to the foregoing Jaanai.


13 “And their brethren” -  This chapter (see v. 7) seems to introduce the use

of this word, which must be understood generically. The seven persons are

nowhere else mentioned - “of the house of their fathers were, Michael, and

Meshullam, and Sheba, and Jorai, and Jachan, and Zia, and Heber, seven.”


14 “These are the children of Abihail” -  i.e. the seven “brethren” of the

preceding verse. A rapid line of descent, or rather of ascent, consisting of ten

generations, from Abihail to Guni, here follows -“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 division between these verses has

unfortunately cut in half one name, i.e. Buzahi. The translators of the Septuagint

saw that the two verses composed one line of ascent, but instead of piecing

“Ahi” to “Buz,” translated it as “brother.” Though this line takes us some way

back, we find nowhere else any clue or identification of any of these ten persons.

Of the twenty-one persons in all, therefore, named as belonging to the tribe of

Gad, nothing else is known; and we have nothing to guide us to connect

them with any one rather than another of the original “sons of Gad”

(Genesis 46:16; Numbers 26:15-18)  15  Ahi the son of Abdiel, the son of

Guni, chief of the house of their fathers.  16  And they dwelt in Gilead in

Bashan, and in her towns, and in all the suburbs of Sharon, upon their



17 “All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king

of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.”  The very form of

the language of this verse would indicate that two genealogies are intended.

This quite tallies with the fact that there were two chronicles, one for each

division of the nation, i.e. “the chronicles of the kings of Judah (II Kings

15:6) and “the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (Ibid. v.11), in which same

chapter both Jeroboam II of Israel and Jotham of Judah are spoken of, the

latter beginning to reign in Judah some twenty years (the exact chronology is

very confused here) after the death of the former. Although presumably it

would be an object of closer interest with Israel than with Judah to effect

the registration of the Gadite genealogy, yet it was most just that Judah

should do so as well. This would both vindicate Judah’s own right place

and be a happy omen of the continued predominance of her position

compared with that of Israel. Independently of the question of effecting the

actual registration, however, it is quite possible that, so long as history ran

by the side of history. Israel would gather and keep all it could of Judah,

and Judah all it could of Israel.


The next five verses appear to be the fuller development of the war in Saul’s time,

mentioned in v. 10 — the account apparently there delayed till the genealogy of

the tribe of Gad had been given, and which still seems premature till the contents

of vs. 23 and 24 should have been given.


18 “The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of

Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and

to shoot with bow, and skilful in war, were four and forty thousand

seven hundred and threescore, that went out to the war.  19 And they made

war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab.  20  And they

were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand,

and all that were with them: for they cried to God in the battle, and He was

intreated of them; because they put their trust in Him.”  The name of Nodab

we have not elsewhere; but those of Jetur and Nephish are names from the very

origin of the tribe of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13-16; ch.1:29-31). It would be

possible to consider them here as in apposition with the description, the Hagarites

(respecting whom see note on v. 10); but they may more probably be regarded as

favorite names, still repeated in the descendants of the tribe.  The people of

Nephish have not made their mark deep on the page of ethnographic history;

but the people of Jetur have done so. Their stinted territory appears in the name

Ituraea (Luke 3:1). Their people reappear also (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 13. e. 11, § 3;

Strabo, 16:518, 520). Nor is it an unnoticeable contribution to the truth of our

history here to put, side by side with the description of the qualities and of the

 arms and weapons of warfare of the Manassites and their helpers of Reuben

and Gad (v. 18), those of the Ituraeans, their antagonists (Virgil, ‘Georg.,’

2:448; Cicero, ‘Philippians,’ 2:44; Luean, ‘Pharsalia,’ 7:230).


21 “And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty thousand, and

of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand, and

of men” – literally, of the soul, i.e. life of men (compare II Kings 7:7 with

Jeremiah 44:7, in illustration of the twofold application of vp,n,; see also

Numbers 31:19, 28, 32-35) -  an hundred thousand.  22  For there fell

down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their

steads until the captivity.”



The Half Tribe of Manasseh (vs. 23-24)


 “The half-tribe of Manasseh” is here very briefly mentioned.  Manasseh and

his brother Ephraim stand in the place of Joseph, both the children of Joseph’s

Egyptian wife, Asenath, and born before the famine. Though Manasseh was

the elder, Jacob gave the chief blessing (Genesis 48:10-22) to Ephraim. The

Manassites were descended from Manasseh through his son Machir, born of a

Syrian concubine (Septuagint, Genesis 46:20; 50:23; Numbers 26:28-34;

Joshua 17:1-3; ch. 7:14-15). Machir evidently was spes gregis (hope of the

flock),  though apparently not the only son, for see Asriel, or Ashriel, in

above references), and is repeatedly mentioned with his son Gilead. It is

probable that the division of the tribe was determined partly according

to the energy of those who composed it at the time of division — the more

warlike being more adapted to the east of Jordan. Nevertheless Machir is

distinctly mentioned westward, as well as with Gilead eastward (compare

Judges 5:14-17; Joshua 13:29-31). (For the further prosecution of this part

of the subject, see Exposition on ch.7:14-19.)


23 “And the children of the half tribe of Manasseh dwelt in the land:

they increased from Bashan unto Baalhermon” -  These three names

need scarcely be read as different names for exactly the same region, but

as designating different sides or heights of what was essentially one and

the same well-known mountain district, with which would agree Psalm

42:6, “Therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan and of the

Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.’ So Deuteronomy 3:8-10 tells us that

Hermon was called Sirion by the Sidonians; Shenir, i.q. “and Senir,”

(rynic], exactly the same word in the Hebrew text in all the four places

of its occurrence — Song of Solomon 4:8; Ezekiel 27:5), by the Amorites.

And the suggestion of Grove is likely enough, that Baal-hermon was the

Phoenician cast of the name. If any point were to be gained by reading

the names, however, as intended to cover exactly the same tract, it may be



  • that the Hebrew conjunction will perfectly admit of being translated

even;” and

  • that the order of the names, going from the foreign to the native

Hermon itself, would so far favor it.


and unto mount Hermon.”


24 “And these were the heads of the house of their fathers, even Epher,

and Ishi, and Eliel, and Azriel, and Jeremiah, and Hodaviah, and

Jahdiel, mighty men of valour, famous men, and heads of the

house of their fathers.”  Epher; same root with Ophrah (Judges 6:11, 15).

Of the seven heads of this half-tribe here quoted, no individual mention is

made elsewhere.  Chapter 12:19-22 confirms their renown for valor.


The “transgressors” here described include manifestly not this half-tribe

Manasseh alone, but the other tribes of Israel of whom this chapter has treated.


25 “And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a

whoring” –   (Wnz]Y"w"); so II Chronicles 21:11, 13. This verb, in one form

of its root or another, occurs as many as ninety-seven (97) times in the

Pentateuch, Judges, Joshua, Psalms, Proverbs; and prophets, for only

twice in Kings and four times in Chronicles, in all the rest of the Old Testament

writings - “after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed

before them.”


26 “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and

the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria,” – Pul and Tilgath-pilneser.

These two were chosen ministers of God’s will, if not ministers of Himself.

We can identify the date of this punishment which befell the transgressing

Israelites east of the Jordan. The visit of the former, in the reign of Menahem

(II Kings 15:15-20), may be interpreted and might have operated as a lesson

and a warning. He was bought off with a thousand talents of silver. It seems

to be said with significance, “So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed

not there in the land.” It was in the reign of Pekah, the usurping successor of

Menahem’s son Pekahiah, that the completer punishment fell, and

Tilgathpilneser effected the captivity spoken of here and in II Kings 15:27-29.

The name Pul cannot, it would appear, be a pure Assyrian name, and there

is reason to think it may be identified with Vul-lush (grandson of the

Shalmaneser who warred with Benhadad, etc.), a name found on Assyrian

monuments, and belonging to a king who reigned at Calah, B.C. 800-750

(see “Pul,” Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary’). Tilqath-pilneser (see notes on

v. 6) was probably the founder of the lower dynasty of Assyria, and first

king of the new empire. His first invasion was one chiefly of Israel and

Samaria (II Kings 15:29; Isaiah 9:1). His second was of a much

more significant character. Called in to aid Judah under Ahaz against Pekah

of Israel and Rezin of Syria in alliance, he both conquered these latter and

brought into vassalage Judah itself (II Kings 15:37; 16:9-10; II Chronicles

28:6-8; Isaiah 9:1).  and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and

the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto

Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan,”   This

enumeration exceeds that of II Kings 17:6 by the addition of Hara,

important as helping with consistent witness to the antiquity of the region

described. Halah (not the “Calah” of Genesis 10:11) is believed to be

identifiable with Chalcitis, its verbal resemblance to which comes out a

little more evidently in its Hebrew form (jl"j}). A trace of it possibly

remains in the name of a hill, Gla, on the Khabour, i.q. Habor of this

passage, an important tributary of the Euphrates, and not the “Chebar” of

Ezekiel. This name Khabour is found in an Assyrian inscription dating

upwards of eight centuries before Christ. The mention of Habor in

II Kings 17:6 and 18:11 is, in the Authorized Version, made to convey the

impression of a place “by ”the “river of Gozan,” instead of being, what the

Hebrew says, the river of Gozan.” Here, on the other hand, Gozan is, in

the Authorized Version, incorrectly translated as a river itself, instead of

the region of a river. It is, according to the testimony of Layard (‘Nineveh

and Babylon,’ pp. 270-312), a remarkably fertile tract, being the

Gauzanitis of Ptolemy, and substantially the Mygdonia of Polybius and

Strabo. Hara; hr;j;, with little doubt, the same as ˆr;j;,Haran, or Charran

(Genesis 11:31), the ancient adopted home of Abraham, in Padan-aram,

in Mesopotamia, on the Belik, a small tributary of the Euphrates. It is the

Greek Carrhae of Strabo and Polybius. These four names purport to give

us, probably in brief, the information that those of the Captivity here

alluded to were divided — some to settle at Halab on one river, some in

Hara on another, and the rest in the district called Gauzanitis. The region

called Halah and that called Gauzanitis, however, were both watered by

the Khabour, and therefore the insertion of the name Haran where it is

inserted occasions some difficulty - “unto this day.”



Devotion, Declension, and Doom (vs. 18-26)


In this brief story we have a painfully characteristic piece of human history

first, spiritual soundness; then consequent prosperity; then laxity and

sin; then punishment and disaster. We trace the steps.



These two tribes and a half were brave and godly men: “valiant men” (v.18);

godly men also, for they “cried to God in the battle, and they put their

trust in Him” (v. 20); and it is clear that they were acting so much under

the direction and in the service of Jehovah that it could be said of their

struggle “the war was of God” (v. 22). It is possible that a war of the

same kind, a struggle between contending armies, may now be “of God,”

and that godly soldiers may cry, with genuine and acceptable devotion, for

Divine succor. But such engagements are rare. The illustration of this

truth is found now in other fields:


Ø      in the battle of life;

Ø      in the struggle against particular evils, such as drunkenness, impurity,

Ø      in the great missionary campaign.


Here are three principal virtues in all moral and spiritual warfare — valor (v. 18),

prayer (v. 20), and trust in His Word (Ibid).



helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand,”

(Ibid). Beside the security and joy of victory came possessions (Ibid. v.21)

and a home (vs. 22-23). Those who, in the battles they fight under God,

strive in accordance with His will, manfully, prayerfully, and expectantly,

will certainly be rewarded with


Ø      the joy of victory,

Ø      increase of power and spiritual wealth, and

Ø      the approval and reward of the Divine Captain.




  • SPIRITUAL DECLENSION. “They transgressed against the God of

their fathers,” (v. 25). Their comfortable prosperity led to free

intercourse with ungodly neighbors, and this to laxity of thought and

word, and this, ultimately, to defection and rank disobedience. So is it

only too often in the history of men, of Churches, of nations. Their early

piety leads to an enjoyable prosperity; this leads to intimate association

and intercourse with those LESS DEVOUT AND PURE  and this to

CONTAMINATION and CORRUPTION  It is the course which

humanity has taken in every dispensation, in every land, in every Church;

not necessarily, but with a lamentable frequency. So common is the case

that all prosperous piety may well hear a loud voice bidding it BEWARE!

(Deuteronomy 6:10-12).  Spiritual declension is unperceived in its

beginning; spreads through the soul — through the ranks — with perilous

subtlety; grows with gathering rapidity; is increasingly hard to overcome; is

fatal in its final issues. (The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they

are too strong to be broken) - It leads to:


  • A MISERABLE DOOM. It ended, in the case of these Israelites, in


It ends, with us:


Ø      In utter defeat and failure; so that the purpose of our life, whether

individual or collective, is wholly thwarted.


Ø      In spiritual exile; in DISASTROUS SEPARATION FROM

GOD.   He is no longer with us as He once was; (Consider the

case of Samson – “he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I

will go out as at other times before, and shake myself.

And he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.”-

Judges 16:20).  He is no longer in us. (Because we no longer

keep His commandments – John 14:23 – CY – 2012)  We live

apart from Him in a far country (like the prodigal son – Luke 15)


Ø      In saddest disappointment. The Master is grieved that His

church (his disciple) has fallen from its (his) high estate; the good

 and wise grieve over one more deplorable defection.



The Sin of Idolatry and Its Judgments (v. 25)


In the Divine wisdom it had been planned that the idolatrous Canaanites

should be wholly dispossessed, so that no remnants of the race should

exert an evil influence on God’s people when settled in their lands. Such a

plan distinctly intimates the Divine sense of the peril in which the contact

of idolatry would place an unsophisticated people. And such the Israelites

were, for though their fathers had known Egyptian idolatry, the race that

entered Canaan had been entirely isolated in the desert districts. They failed

to carry out fully the Divine plan. Some of the Canaanites were left

unconquered through the hurry of the tribes to locate themselves on their

alloted lands. Some were left because the people had not faith in God

enough to conquer them. And these remnants became a snare and a trap to

the simple people, who were easily fascinated by ceremonial and licence.

We learn:


  • THE TEMPTATION OF IDOLATRY. From the standpoint of our

spiritual Christianity, we sometimes wonder how any one can be attracted

by the helpless and often hideous idols of heathen nations, or deceived by

the claims of their priests; and yet the appeal of idolatry being to certain

marked features of human nature, a little searching might show idolatry, in

a skilful disguise, even imperiling our spiritual Christianity, and it is not

quite certain that any of us could claim the right to “cast the first stone.”

To what in man does idolatry make its appeal?


Ø      To the sensuous element. We want everything brought within

the sphere of the senses, and we only consider that we know what

the senses can apprehend. So it is ever attractive to man to offer

him his God as within the grasp of his senses. He will delude himself

into the idea that the sense-form only helps him to realize the spiritual

and invisible Being, the great Spirit, but almost inevitably the sense-

hold becomes a slavery, and the thing seenis accepted as the reality.


Ø      To the aesthetic element, or taste, the love of the beautiful. A

Spiritual and invisible God asks from His creatures a spiritual and

invisible worship, with a material expression held within careful

limitations. A God within sense-limits only asks sense-service,

and man satisfies himself with making it ornate, elaborate,

and the perfection of taste, according to the sentiment

of the age. Illustrate from refined Greek humanism.  (Humanism

has again raised its ugly head in our day in the form of

secular humanism.”  It is hardly any more than a form of

“SELF-WORSHIP” – CY – 2012)


Ø      To the active element. Idolatry has something for its votaries to do,

many prayers to say, pilgrimages to take, sacrifices to bring, good

works by which to win favor.


Ø      To the sensual element. All idolatrous systems are more or less

immoral, and give licence to the bodily lusts and passions. The

purity of the claims of spiritual religion constitute, for man as he is,

one of its chief disabilities.


  • THE SIN OF IDOLATRY. Take the case of nations outside the

covenant; what may be known of God by them declares Him as above

His creation, and naturally claiming first and sole allegiance (see Paul’s

speech at Athens (Acts 17 and Romans 118-32). Take the case of the nation

within the covenant; a special aggravation is its sin against light and against

its own pledge. Idolatry is a rash sin, for it sins against the basis commandment,

which requires us to love God first. Its sinful character is sufficiently

revealed and declared in its corrupting and debasing influence. It “brings

forth death.” (James 1:15)


  • THE JUDGMENT OF IDOLATRY. This is always spiritual; seen in

the deterioration of the nations that serve idols. It is usually also

MATERIAL and is seen in the mental, moral, and governmental slavery

of the nations where idol-gods are sought. Divine judgments often — we

can hardly say always — take their character from the sins which they judge.

John’s counsel, is “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

(I John 5:21)



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