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1 Chronicles 8 Summary

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, November 3, 2023

Chapter 8 deals exclusively with the ancient ancestry of the tribe of Benjamin. While the tribe has already been covered as far as its population (7:6-12), this chapter focuses on two main points: the geography of the tribe and its cities, and the ancestry or pedigree of King Saul. We will visit two parts of the chapter that show this most clearly.

Some Society and Geography of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:8-13)

8 Sons were born to Shaharaim in Moab after he had divorced his wives Hushim and Baara. 9 By his wife Hodesh he had Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, 10 Jeuz, Sakia and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of families. 11 By Hushim he had Abitub and Elpaal. 12 The sons of Elpaal were Eber, Misham, Shemed (who built Ono and Lod with its surrounding villages), 13 and Beriah and Shema, who were heads of families of those living in Aijalon and who drove out the inhabitants of Gath.

The name Shaharaim seems to me to mean “Two Twilights.” We meet this man like a punch in the nose, being told (1) that he was a Benjamite living in Moab, and (2) that he had divorced two of his wives (we cannot say why). These details do not present the life of a peace loving gentleman. His is one of the rare cases of divorce ever mentioned in the Scriptures apart from the national repentance after the return from exile when so many men had married ubelieving Canaanite, Amorite, Hittite, and other wives and were commanded to put them away by Ezra (Ezra chapters 9-11). The family of the first divorced wife, Hushim, included the enterprising Shemed, who built Lod (called Lydda in the New Testament, Acts 9:32-38) on one of the streams leading west to the sea, and Ono, just downstream and not far from the coastal city of Joppa (Jonah 1:3). The places were important in later years. The heretic Pelagius was tried before a council of bishops at Lydda, and England’s hero St. George was born in Lydda and was also buried there. A lovely church built by Richard the Lionheart still stands there among the groves of palm trees. The establishment of these places within the territory of Benjamin are just about as far away as a man could get from Moab and a disagreeable father. “Fathers,” Paul warns, “do not embitter your children, so that they do not become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).

Two of the grandsons (or further descendants) of the same divorced wife were also involved in the wars with the giant Philistines and their more typically-sized confederates, “the inhabitants of Gath.” The vey last mention of Gath comes from the time of King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:3). It was after Uzziah’s attack on the Philistines there that the prophet Amos asked the sinning royalty of Samaria, “Go down to (the ruins of) Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than them?” (Amos 6:2). To this day, the general location of Gath is understood to be about ten miles southeast of Ekron. A modern village is in that place with some ruins in the area, and a precise identification is uncertain.

The Pedigree of King Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33)

33 Ner was the father of Kish, Kish was the father of Saul, and Saul was the father of Jonathan, Malki-Shua, Abinadab and Esh-Baal.

This is the Saul who became Israel’s first true king (an attempt was made by Abimelech in the days of the Judges which failed, Judges 9:6, 9:54-55). Another Saul, who was also called Paul in the New Testament, was probably named for King Saul (a thousand years separate the two men). They were from the same tribe of Benjamin.

King Saul was a capable military commander, but he had a distrust of people that betrayed an underlying unbelief. He was willing to go through with what he considered the rituals of Israelite worship (such as sacrifice) but he set up a monument “in his own honor” (1 Samuel 15:12) and did not obey the instructions the Lord gave to him through the prophet Samuel.

There is bound to be some confusion over the names of Saul’s sons. They are sometimes listed as they are here, and sometimes listed this way: “Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malki-Shua.” The three who died with their father in battle were Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua (1 Chronicles 10:2). I think that Ishvi is probably the same as Abinadab, since the fourth son, Esh-Baal (Man of Baal), is surely the same as Ish-Bosheth (Man of Shame), who survived his father and who tried to set himself up as a rival king to David for two years (2 Samuel 2:9-10). But Ishvi seems like a euphemism (Man of Yahweh) for Esh-Baal (Man of Baal), so the question remains as to who was who. But it is certain that, even without knowing who Ishvi truly was, that Abinadab died alongside his father Saul and his brothers Jonathan and Malki-Shua when they fought against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1-8).

No Psalms praise King Saul, although five Psalms (18, 52, 54, 57 and 59) mention him in their headings as part of the trouble that serves as the context for those songs of David. It is a dangerous and dreadful thing to seek the power of secular government. Very few should pursue it, and fewer still are really cut out for it. Those in secular government are held to account by the people they govern and by God. Saul sinned by showing mercy to Agag the king of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:4-24), and God rejected him as king because of it. No ruler is loved by all his people. It is enough responsibility for most of us to be good parents, and the way we parent our children speaks volumes to the world about what kind of people we are. Remember the praise of the Heroic Wife in Proverbs: “She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all of them are clothed in double layers” (Proverbs 31:21), and “she watches over how things go in her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (31:27).

Do your duty as a child of God in whatever task you face. Jeremiah warns, “Honor the LORD your God before he brings darkness” (Jeremiah 13:16), and Peter reminds us to “Honor everyone” and “fear God” (1 Peter 2:17). His mercy endures forever—and he wants us to be merciful to one another.

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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