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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 12:39-40 There was joy in Israel

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, December 8, 2023

39 The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking. Their families had supplied provisions for them.  40 Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep. There was joy in Israel.

This passage does not mention the covenant David made with Israel at his coronation (berith, 2 Samuel 5:3), but the meal is described here in great detail. This is a good illustration of the Holy Spirit working through different writers to record the word of God for us, using their gifts and grammar, but his words. It might be useful to recognize various details by themselves, one by one.

1, The covenant meal lasted three days. Probably this included a gathering day, a main banquet day, and a day of farewells. The number three is often used figuratively in visions and dreams in Scripture to illustrate the Trinity (Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel 40:10; Revelation 4:8, 21:13).

2, David enjoyed the banquet with his warriors, their families, and their neighbors from far away. Their families were happy to pack supplies for them, and since many neighbors came, we can expect that in many cases, the soldier’s families came with them, although this may not have been typical since there were long distances to travel for a lot of the men. This reminds me of the degrees of glory that we will observe in heaven. My sainted, holy and blessed wife may be called forward regularly in heaven to enjoy special opportunities for prayer, song, and service to the Lord closer to his holy Presence and to receive kind and complimentary words from Jesus our Lord, and we will not begrudge her any of that. On the contrary, we will rejoice with her at her greater glory! “These are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

3, The tribes of Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali are mentioned in particular. These are the tribes of Galilee. Nazareth and Cana were in Zebulun. Issachar was on the banks of the Jordan where John baptized. And Naphtali was the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, with familiar villages like Magdala and Capernaum. The very last reference to Galilee in the Bible is in Acts, when Paul was preaching about the resurrection of Jesus: “God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people” (Acts 13:30-31). Those who followed Jesus in Galilee are often held out for special and honorable mention. “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1-2). The author of Chronicles did not live in David’s time, but in the days of the return from exile. He knew Isaiah’s words and searched for their special meaning; their divine proclamation of the coming of the Christ.

4, The transport by donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. Donkeys were the mount favored by Israel’s judges (Judges 10:4, 12:13) and was prophesied by Zechariah to be ridden by the Savior (Zechariah 9:9; John 12:14-15). It was upon a camel that Israel’s mother met his father (Genesis 24:64), and it was upon camels that the mothers of the children of Israel rode into Canaan when they left Laban in Syria (Genesis 31:34). In David’s time, mules were favored by the kings of Israel (2 Samuel 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33). Bull oxen were the pinnacle of all the animal offerings (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:5). Other animals were substituted for oxen, but an ox was not a substitute for any offering apart from prefiguring Christ himself (Leviticus 16:11).

5, The menu included bread (flour), fruit (fig and raisin cakes), wine, condiments (oil), beef (cattle) and mutton (sheep). This was indeed a banquet, not the kind of rations David’s men were used to having. The meal was similar to the supplies Abigail took to David to intercede for the rash words of her foolish husband Nabal (1 Samuel 25:18). At that time, Abigail said about David and his men: “Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding out sheep near them” (1 Samuel 25:16). She was grateful for David’s protection, and God’s protection through David: “the wall around the daughter of Zion” (Lamentations 2:8), for God’s Angel says: “I myself will be her surrounding wall of fire,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will be the glory within her’” (Zechariah 2:5).

6, There was joy in Israel. Joy is the reaction of God’s people to being restored. “I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel… Sing with joy!” (Jeremiah 31:4,7). “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever” (Isaiah 65:17-18). “You will grieve,” Jesus told his Apostles, “but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20). Christians have joy when they love each other out of faith (Philemon 1:7), and by the simple fellowship of shared faith (2 Timothy 1:4).

7, The meal illustrates and echoes other covenant meals, such as the Lord’s Supper and the eternal covenant in heaven. Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah when he said: “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all people, the sheet that covers the nations” (Isaiah 25:6-7). The shroud is the covering of man’s sinfulness, destroyed by Jesus “on this mountain” when he was crucified for our sins. And the banquet? Surely this is the covenant meal, the banquet of the Passover, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Peter demonstrates what our writer has in mind: “The prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing to when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11). Knowing what Moses and Isaiah and the others had said, he was carefully noticing how these things were displayed for the people of Israel even here in the historic chronicles of their history. He praised God with his faithful study, his reading, and his writing. May we do the same today, and give God glory with each act and with every gesture.

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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