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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 5:11-22 The value of prayer

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 23, 2023

11 The sons of Gad lived beside them in the land of Bashan as far as Salecah. 12 Joel was the chief, Shapham the second, and Janai and Shaphat in Bashan. 13 And their relatives according to their clans were Michael, Meshullam, Sheba, Jorai, Jakan, Zia, and Eber, seven in all. 14 These were the sons of Abihail son of Huri, son of Jaroah, son of Gilead, son of Michael, son of Jeshishai, son of Jahdo, son of Buz. 15 Ahi son of Abdiel, son of Guni, was chief in their clan. 16 They lived in Gilead, in Bashan and in its towns, and in all the pasturelands of Sharon to their farthest limits. 17 All of these were enrolled by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.

The tribe of Gad lived to the north of Reuben, on the east side of the Jordan River. Bashan was further north, on the east of the Sea of Galilee, and once had been the land ruled by the giant Amorite king Og (Numbers 21:33). Strictly speaking, the land of Bashan belonged to the half tribe of Manasseh, not Gad (Joshua 20:8). But Manasseh probably stayed north of the Yarmuk River which flows into the Jordan just south of the Sea of Galilee. The land of Bashan extended beyond this, and whether or not “Shaphat” was a location, it would seem that the northern boundary of Gad was somewhere around the Yarmuk River. It’s possible that the word Shaphat might be translated “Judge,” so that Janai would be a Judge in the land of Bashan—not one of the twelve Judges of the book of Judges, however, unless Jair of Gilead is the same as this Janai (but see my comments on 1 Chronicles 2:22-23).

Salecah, the eastern border of Gad, was very far away indeed. Salecah was almost 500 miles east of the southern end of the Sea of Galilee (as far as Detroit or Toledo are from New Ulm, the city where I serve). It marked one of the boundaries of the land of Og, King of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 12:4).

Verse 16 confirms that there was more than one area called Sharon (see comments on Song of Solomon 2:1). This one was on the eastern or Trans-Jordan side of Galilee. The construction of the passage makes it sound as if this grassland extended far into the east; the desert may not have been as desolate then as it is today.

The word for “limits” in verse 16 (totse’oth) is remarkable. It can be used for the beginning of a thing, “the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23), or the very end of a thing; even death(!): “From God the LORD comes escape from death” (Psalm 68:20), or the “exits” of a city (Ezekiel 48:30). But “boundary” or “limit” is the usual meaning (Numbers 34:8).

Verse 17 mentions King Jotham of Judah and Jeroboam (that is, Jeroboam II) of Israel. Should this verse be used to synchronize those two kings? Did they reign at the same time? Not necessarily. All our Chronicler is saying is that his information came from genealogies from the days of those two kings. There were people enrolled in the days of Jeroboam II (who, we are fairly sure, ruled from 793-753 BC, first alongside his father and then by himself, 2 Kings 14:23), and there were others enrolled in the days of Jotham of Judah, who reigned from 750-732 BC. The two kings did not overlap at all; there is a three year gap between them. But it means that their records cited here came from a 66-year period. There would have been scanty records at best about Gad in the annals of Judah, since Gad was no longer a part of Judah, but knowing what records were made during the chaotic, murderous mess following Jeroboam would have been hard to say. If Zechariah, for example, ordered a census, it would probably not have been completed until Menahem’s time, just a few months later but skipping the reign of Shallum, since Zechariah reigned six months and Shallum reigned just one month before he was assassinated by Menahem (2 Kings 15:8,13-14). It would be easier to say “during the reign of Jotham” than to know which thug in the north had ordered what before his blood was spilled in Samaria.

18 The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men in military service. There were those who carried shield and sword, and those who drew the bow. They were trained for war. 19 They made war on the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. 20 They were helped in fighting them: The Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands. For they cried to God during the battle, and he answered their prayer because they trusted in him. 21 They captured the livestock of the Hagrites: fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep, and two thousand donkeys. They also captured one hundred thousand captives. 22 Many fell slain, because the battle was God’s. And they lived in their land until the exile.

Two participles seem to divide the soldiers into two groups: Infantry, or “those who carried shield and sword,” and artillery, or “those who drew the bow.” The word for “drew” is actually the word for stepping on something. The heavy compound or composite, qeshet bows used by the Israelites used bone and more than one kind of wood, with bone reinforcing the handle. Many soldiers needed to step on the handle and draw the bowstring up before fitting an arrow. It was a clumsy procedure but an effective long-range weapon.

In the days of Moses, the combined military strength of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh was more than 100,000 warriors (Numbers 1:21,25,37).  At the time of Jeroboam II (793-753 BC, also the time of the prophet Jonah), the combined strength of the Trans-Jordan tribes was about a third what it had been under Moses.

We have already heard about the war on the Hagrites. Here we see that although the Hagrites had aid from other groups, the Lord himself fought for Israel due to the faithful Gadites’ prayer for help. Our author says simply and plainly, “The battle was God’s.”

Regarding prayer, we can remember these things among others:

  • Prayer is the highest form of worship. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). There the inspired writer Asaph declares that calling upon God in prayer is truly worshiping and honoring him.
  • Prayer consecrates whatever we pray for. Paul says that marriage, food, and similar things are are consecrated by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5). By the word, the conscience is assured that God approves; by prayer, because faith uses the gift gratefully as a gift of God.
  • God wants mankind to pray and petition him for many things, and even for great things (John 16:24; Matthew 21:22; James 4:3; 1 John 3:22, 5:15. “Ask for God’s favor so that he may be gracious to us” (Malachi 1:9). Our confession states: “Because he is God, he claims the honor of giving far more abundantly and liberally than anyone can comprehend—like an eternal, inexhaustible fountain which, the more it gushes forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. He desires of us nothing more ardently than that we ask many and great things of him; and on the contrary, he is angered if we do not ask and demand confidently” (Large Catechism).
  • God hears and answers the prayers of his people (Job 22:27, 34:28; Psalm 4:3, 34:17, 65:2; Proverbs 15:29; Zechariah 13:9). Many passages proclaim that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked (Job 35:13; Proverbs 6:16-19, 28:9; Isaiah 1:15, 59:2; Zechariah 7:13; John 9:31; Romans 10:14; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 3:12).
  • Prayer gives strength against the devil (Matthew 6:13, 17:21; Mark 9:29). “For it is he (the devil) who obstructs everything that we pray for: God’s name or glory, God’s kingdom and will, daily bread, a good and cheerful conscience, etc.”
  • Therefore, prayer has a great influence on God’s government, that is, his governing of the world (Philippians 1:19; Philemon 1:22; James 5:14-18).
  • From eternity, God has woven the prayers of his children into his plan for governing the world (Luke 11:2-4; James 5:17-18).
  • Prayers are the free exercise of the Christian’s daily intercourse or communication with his heavenly Father (John 16:26-27; Romans 8:14,28).
  • Christians, having God’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:16), naturally pray according to God’s will (John 16:23; 1 John 5:14).
  • God prearranges the course of events according to his foreknowledge of his children’s prayers (Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14; Acts 27:24,31. “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
  • All prayers stand on God’s promise and Christ’s merit (John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-26). “Trust in God’s promise and Christ’s merits must be the basis for prayer. We must be completely certain that we are heard for Christ’s sake and by his merits we have a gracious Father.”

What a delight to know how God blessed the prayers of his people in Gad when they prayed to him in faith. “The Lord is good,” the prophet says, “a refuge in a time of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). “You will pray to him, and he will hear you” (Job 22:27).

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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