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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 11:7-9 The Millo

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 21, 2023

7 Then David lived in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. 8 He built up the city all around, from the supporting millo to the surrounding wall, while Joab made the rest of the city inhabitable. 9 And David became greater and greater, because the LORD of Armies was with him.

David and his new chief army officer Joab began a building program right away after the city was conquered. There were two main issues to address, and each man took over one of the two projects. David seems to have given Joab a free hand.

Joab’s role was to “make the rest of the city inhabitable” (NIV “restore(d) the rest of the city”). After a battle and a great slaughter of people, there would be people to bury, burned out buildings to be razed and other ruins to be cleared up. Joab was also thinking of the defense of the city from future attackers, and his choices about the strength, shape, and height of Jerusalem’s walls impacted sieges and battles for centuries to come.

David moved in right away. He lived there, and either David or his people began to call it Ir David, “the City of David.” The foundations were his project as well as the reconstruction of homes and other buildings. A special item in verse 8 is often called “the supporting terraces.” I have left the Hebrew word intact, calling it “the supporting millo.” Millo means “the fill,” but it should not be understood as some haphazard pile of dirt and hunks of wood, stone, and junk to even out the backyard. In order for heavy stone structures (like David’s house, eventually, and in the decades to come, the Temple) to stand, the slopes of Mount Zion needed support. David’s millo was an engineering project that took time, mathematics, skill, and a massive amount of specialized work.

We had something happen here at St. Paul’s Church a couple of years ago. This part of town is built on a long, sloping hill a few miles long and about two miles from the river to the crest of the hill where Martin Luther College sits. Down here at the church (about midway between the college and the river), the original site of the church is now a parking lot due to the destruction from a nineteenth century tornado. The downhill side of that parking lot caved in after it was repaved a few years ago, because the new platform allowed heavier cars and trucks to park further back. The lot had to be shortened, and an escarpment or slope of specially laid stones had to be built to keep the whole thing from happening all over again. I privately call the stone slope our “millo,” but it’s not a joke that gets much of a laugh.

The steep slope (scarp) of Mount Zion had to be taken care of with large limestone blocks extending from the bottom of the steep (almost dramatic) slope all the way to its top. To imagine this, readers must differentiate between the “ophel” or mound between the lower City of David and the upper Temple Mount, and this Millo, which was the supporting terrace to the east (or right, from our point of view) that supported the structures above and probably ran to the very corner of the ophel as it climbed to the summit of Mount Moriah.

Another way of visualizing this is to set your left fist, knuckles down, on a table. In front of your hand, place something like a pair of books (say, a Bible and a hymnal) there or an overturned bowl. This was the City of David (your fist and forearm) below the summit of Mount Moriah (the bowl or books). David filled in the gap between your fist and the bowl (open your fingers now to do this and touch the books or bowl), and this was known as the Ophel or mound. But downhill to the right, where your left thumb is, there was a space that had to be carefully terraced: this was the Millo. Archaeological evidence places this construction to the time of David, in the transition between the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, or about the tenth century BC—which is just when David lived.

Archaeology does not prove the truth of the Bible, but archaeological finds always support the truth of the text of the Bible. We know what David did because the Bible says he did it, not because it has been discovered. There has never been a find in the stones and ruins of the past that caused a scholar to say, “Aha! David never existed. The Bible is wrong.” To the contrary, when the Bible itself is carefully mined and searched for all of its marvelous details, the record left over by the past has always merely said, “Yes, that’s what happened.” But we accept it because the Scripture itself is true, as Jesus says: “Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). As for the historical account of King David, Jesus always treats every part of the Old Testament as simple fact, such as when he asked: “Haven’t you read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3, Matthew 22:43-45, etc.), and refers to Bethlehem as “the town where David lived” (John 7:42).

Just as David strengthened his city with stone walls and terraces, we, too, have a faith to be firmed up and supported. God does this with his Word, just as he brought us to faith through his word in the first place. Our preaching and teaching is “a message of encouragement for the people” (Acts 13:15). We study the Scriptures to prepare for the siege of the devil’s arguments and the doubts he flings at us like cannonballs. “Strengthen your defenses!” the prophet cries (Nahum 3:14), and the Lord sends the gospel “to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Consider what the gospel does: It brings to us genuine forgiveness from God’s own lips directly to our ears and hearts. It is the voice of Jesus himself, gentle and humble in his heart (Matthew 11:29), telling us that he is here to help us carry all of our burdens—now and to the very end of the age.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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