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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 7 Summary

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 2, 2023

Chapter 7 is the Chronicler’s summary of the tribes that made up the northern kingdom on the west side of the Jordan. They were deported by the Assyrians in the days of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. The exile of Judah came later, and the exiles of Judah (together with portions of Benjamin, Simeon and Levi) began to return beginning in 538 BC. The northern exiles did not, for the most part, return from their exile. Rather than comment on every verse of chapters 7 and 8, we will just touch on some of the details.

Issachar (1 Chronicles 7:1-5).

5 The relatives who were fighting men belonging to all the clans of Issachar, as listed in their genealogy, were 87,000 in all.

The number here is more than the subtotals given in verses 2 and 4, and probably comes from David’s census of the fighting men that resulted in the plague of God’s wrath, which we will read about in chapter 21. Issachar (southern Galilee) was one of the largest tribes at that time. They had occupied towns such as Shunem, where Elisha raised a child from the dead (2 Kings 4:8-37) and Endor, famous for its witch (1 Samuel 28:7).

The Tola of this section (verse 1) is not the judge from Judges 10:1, but a descendant of Issachar whose grandfather was named Dodo.

Benjamin (1 Chronicles 7:6-11)

11 There were 17,200 fighting men ready to go out to war.

The next family is Benjamin, whose sons are sometimes given as three (as here in verse 6); but in chapter 8 there will be five (8:1-2), and yet in Numbers 26:38-39 there are ten. Bela is always given as the eldest. It seems likely that some of the sons may have died, and certainly, based on the account of the war against Benjamin in Judges 20:1-48, many whole clans died out in the days before Saul was king. In one day, 25,000 Benjamite swordsmen fell, “all of them valiant fighters” (Judges 20:46). It was the time “when Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

Within the list of names we find an Ehud (verse 10), but not the judge Ehud, the left handed man. Although the judge was from Benjamin, he was from the clan of Gera in the early days of the Judges. This Ehud was the son or descendant of Bilhan, most likely in the days of King David.

The Assyrians certainly didn’t care which tribes they grabbed when they deported people. Some of the Benjamites, especially in the northern towns such as Bethel and Ai, surely went away in the days of Sennacherib. Benjamin was the tribe of King Saul (as we will see in greater detail in chapters 8 and 9) and were often the opponents of David (2 Samuel 19:16, 20:1).

Dan ? (1 Chronicles 7:12)

12 The Shuppites and Huppites were the descendants of Ir, and the Hushites the descendants of Aher.

Dan is not mentioned in this verse, but Dan comes after Benjamin in the lists of Genesis 46 and Numbers 26, and Hushim is the only son of Dan (Genesis 46:23). The “Hushites” are perhaps the descendants of this Hushim, and Dan was the son of Bilhah just as Naphtali was (verse 13). But we can’t say for certain that Dan is remembered here at all.

Naphtali (1 Chronicles 7:13)

13 The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem—the descendants of Bilhah.

This is the same list of Naphtali’s sons that we find in Genesis 46:24 and in Numbers 26:48-49, except that “Shillem” here is really spelled more like the word ‘shalom’ (peace) in this verse. Names change over the centuries (the family of the 45th US President was originally spelled “Drumpf”).

Manasseh (1 Chronicles 7:14-19)

15 Makir took a wife from among the Huppites and Shuppites. His sister’s name was Maacah. Another descendant was named Zelophehad, who had only daughters.

We have already seen the account of Makir in connection with Hebron in 1 Chronicles 2:21-24 and the account of Zelophehad’s daughters in Numbers 36. Whether the Huppites and Shuppites were from Benjamin or Dan (see above), Makir took one of them as a wife. The mention of a sister named Maacah is to be sure to distinguish her from Makir’s wife Maacah (who is mentioned in verse 16). I have performed more than one wedding for young men whose wives happened to have the same name as their sisters.

Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:20-29)

20 The descendants of Ephraim: Shuthelah, Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son and Shuthelah his son. Ezer and Elead were killed by the native-born men of Gath, when they went down to seize their livestock.  22 Their father Ephraim mourned for them many days, and his relatives came to comfort him.  23 Then he lay with his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named him Beriah, because there had been misfortune in his family.

The name Beriah comes from the phrase “in disaster” or “in trouble,” as when Esther said to the king, “How can I bear to see disaster fall on my family?” (Esther 8:6); and often in Psalms (50:19; 107:26 “peril”) and Proverbs (17:20; 28:14; 24:16 “calamity”). The trouble that came to this Ephraim, the descendant of the patriarch Ephraim, was when some of his sons went on a raid into Philistia. While there is a legend in the Talmud that this raid happened before the Exodus, one would not say “they went down” to Philistia from Egypt, but it is precisely what one would say about a raid from up in Ephraim about a raid on either the Philistine city of Gath (Goliath’s home) or the village of “Second Gath” (Gittaim) about four miles north of there (see 2 Samuel 4:3; Nehemiah 11:33). The reference to “native men of Gath” in either case strongly suggests the old race of Philistine giants. It is thought that this raid, a disaster for Ephraim, is behind the cryptic words of Psalm 78: “The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law” (Psalm 78:9-10). The law would have been to destroy the Philistines, not just to rob them of some cattle. After the disaster, the father of the dead warriors was comforted by his family.

Asher (1 Chronicles 7:30-40)

40 All these were descendants of Asher—heads of families, choice men, brave warriors and outstanding leaders. The number of men ready for battle, as listed in their genealogy, was 26,000.

In the days of Moses, the army of Asher numbered 41,500 (Numbers 1:41). In the second census under Moses, it had grown to 53,400 (Numbers 26:47). At David’s coronation (four hundred years later) the number from Asher had dropped once again to about 40,000 (1 Chronicles 12:36). Using the last number available, probably from just before the deportation or a muster for war in the time of Jeroboam II or Pekah, the number was reduced to 26,000. The report of their abilities, however, is glowing: “choice men, brave warriors and outstanding leaders.”

The scene of the father grieving for his sons is the stirring moment of this chapter. God certainly permits troubles to come into our lives to test us: sickness, poverty, disease, persecution, overwhelming changes in life and in the world around us, and finally death. Peter says: “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:16-17). So while troubles come to the ungodly as a taste of God’s punishment for sin (but the full punishment is reserved for their eternity in hell), “in the godly they (such troubles) have another and better purpose, that is, to exercise them so that in their temptations they may learn to seek God’s help and to acknowledge the unbelief in their hearts” (Apology). And about that, Paul says, “In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Isaiah says the same thing (Isaiah 26:16). So with troubles and even the threat of approaching death, God wipes away our smugness, our self-righteousness, and any last glimmer of confidence any one of us might have left spooking around in the shadows of his heart, and scouring them away with the acid of his anger over our sin, so that we will trust only in God, and only in his Son Jesus our Lord (John 14:1), so that we will become the sons of light (John 12:36), receiving everything promised by God in his grace.

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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