In this chapter David worked with the commanders of the armies to set aside men for the ministry of prophesying accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. I find it interesting that for this role he worked with the commanders and not the high priests. For me it shows how important David saw the role of prophecy and the music for the temple of God. Also how the ministry of prophesying was directly linked to temple music.
Again since these were Levites who were appointed, I would have expected Zadok to be involved but he is not recorded as being there. Then we have the men themselves: sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun. The duties were allocated by lots again. The writer of Chronicles emphasises that teacher and pupil, although they were all skilled and trained in music, were divided by lot without preference to age. It is not clear exactly what their roles were but I suppose it created a hierachy because there had to be order in the temple and everyone couldn’t be playing in their own corners, and perhaps an allocation around times to ensure their were fresh musicians ready for every occasion in the Temple.
But it is one of the musicians who I come back to – Asaph in verse 2 is noted as having supervised his sons and prophesied under the king’s supervision himself. I did a little search on Asaph and it reminded me of when I had seen his name often. Asaph is the author of a number of Psalms. I realised that I have accepted that David wrote some of the Psalms and I am accustomed to David’s presence in our lives today without considering that he lived almost 3 millenia ago. But I am amazed at the vastness of our heritage when I read of Asaph and his family being appointed to the temple. This man from the Bronze Age wrote Psalms that lead us in worship of God! Psalms that bring us into His presence as perfectly today as they did for David and Solomon, and all the faithful who have worshiped across the centuries in so many countries.
David ensured that the sanctuary duties of the sons of Aaron were also clearly managed. He had Aaron’s descendants divided by lot into divisions and appointed to minister before God. The lots decided the order of their duties ministering before God. It is also highlighted in this chapter that the other Levites who were allocated ministries were done by lot too with no preference to older sons. David ensured that the process was overseen by Zadok, Ahimelech and the heads of the families of priests so that there was no space for disagreement later. He also had the scribe Shemaiah son of Nethaniel, a Levite, record everything.
This is another chapter of David’s last instructions. David was thorough in his organising – making sure the right people witnessed it and it was recorded by a Levite. We have learnt of David the poet, David the warrior, David the musician, David the worshiper, David the king, but here we have David the administrator. Not a role we often associate with David but he must have been efficient in organising government because he had been an effective king. His stock piling for the temple construction also shows how he planned and organised projects. David was as efficient an administrator as he had been a warrior.
After David had made his son Solomon king, he focused on the Levites for his last instructions. Since the Ark no longer needed to be carried and the tent of the tabernacle cared for, they needed new job descriptions. David re-aligned their roles as follows:
- 4,000 were to be gatekeepers
- 4,000 were to praise God with musical instruments
- others were to be in charge of the courtyards and side rooms
- the purification of all sacred things
- support Aaron’s descendants with the other duties in the temple
- take charge of the bread on the table
- the flour for the grain offerings
- the unleavened wafers
- the baking and mixing and measuring
- to stand each morning and thank and praise God
- to stand each evening to thank and praise God
- they were to thank and praise God at every offering given.
Whilst this chapter starts with the emphasis on these being David’s last instructions – they do go on for quite a few more chapters. I wonder whether David was trying to finish everything he could or simply following God’s instructions to the last. Perhaps he knew that re-arranging the temple staff would not have been top of Solomon’s list when he, David, died and he wanted God’s service to be uninterrupted?
I wonder what would my last instructions? Would they be for God’s service on earth? I could not be as fundamental to His service as David was – David was king and had been lead worshiper of God. Did he know that few people and not even his son would meet his high standards of a life focused on God until Jesus came and surpassed them all.
David made a lot of preparations for the building of the temple including finding stone masons and collecting stone, iron and bronze for it. But the part of this chapter that I value are David’s instructions for Solomon and the leaders of Israel:
“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God as He said you would. May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when He puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord you God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed.” (verses 11 to 13)
“Is not the Lord your God with you? And has He not granted you rest on every side? For he has handed the inhabitants of the land over to me, and the land is subject to the Lord and to His people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the Sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.” (verses 18 and 19)
I don’t know about you but I can take guidance from David’s words to his son – I need to have discretion and understanding, to be strong and courageous and to carefully observe the decrees and laws of the Lord. I also note the sentence in the middle of David’s words to the leaders :”Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” All wisdom and knowledge are to be found through seeking God with all your heart and soul. We should do it not because God says so, or because we gain immeasurable peace through but because it is the purpose of our existence – God is the Alpha and Omega of the universe and the beginning and end of our selves. Simple words that are so incredibly difficult to follow.
We have heard the story before in 2 Samuel 24, but in this version Joab was recorded as arguing with David about it. David decided to record how big his army was and God punished him for it. Unfortunately the punishment was upon Israel even though this was specifically David’s choice.
Even though David repented and begged God’s forgiveness, God sent word via Gad with a choice of punishments:
- 3 years of famine
- 3 months of being swept away by your enemies
- 3 days of plague from God
David made the choice of number 3. He reasoned that being at God’s mercy was better than any of the others. Neither in 2 Samuel nor here, is it suggested that he picked this option because it was the shortest. David chose well to place Israel at God’s mercy because God Himself stopped the angel with the plague over Jerusalem after 70,000 men had died. He gave David a chance to atone by buying the threshing floor under the angel and making a sacrifice there. God sent fire to consume the sacrifice as He had done for prophets and Abraham. David decided that the temple would be built on Aruanah’s threshing floor in Jerusalem, and it was.
For me there are two key points in this story. Firstly David is shown as human and capable of great foolishness again even though he tries to follow God’s heart. This is a source of relief for me because David is not perfect but he can show us God’s mercy and how to repent. Secondly, the temple was and still is built on a place which is a symbol of a national tragedy, human weakness and God’s great mercy. That is amazing.
Hunan really started something with his stupidity because this time Joab did not go back to Jerusalem after their victories. He went on into the land of the Ammonites. The Israelites captured Rabbah and laid waste to the lands. They took great treasures back to David and made the people labourers with saws, picks and axes.
There is also a section covering a number of victories against the Philistines, each of them including a story about a great fight between one of David’s men and a Philistine giant.
I wonder whether Hunan’s advisers were right and David had sent men as spies? The writer of Chronicles does not suggest this in any way but a bit of deception was not beneath David – he had used deception whilst living with the Philistines. But a suppose the difference in that case is that in the latter example David was on the run and his life was in danger at all sides whereas in this situation David is in a position of power and already has won great victories against the Ammonites. Surely he does not need to send a high profile delegation to spy? If he had wanted to send spies Hunan would not have known about it. I think David genuinely wanted to be peaceful and constructive with a king who he considered his ally. Even though it happened thousands of years ago I am saddened by this story because it reflects our very human ability to create war out of nothing.
This whole story starts with David being kind to the new king of the Ammonites. When king Nahash died, David sent a delegation to Hunan his son to show sympathy.
Hunan has bad advisers who suggested David had a devious reason for sending the delegation in order to spy on the land. They recommended something which definitely prevented the men spying on the land – not. They shaved half the men’s beards off and cut their clothes so their buttocks were exposed.
David told the men to stay in Jericho and let their beards regrow. Verse 6 is what happened next:
“When the Ammonites realized that they had become a stench in David’s nostrils, Hanun and the Ammonites sent a thousand talents of silver to hire chariots and charioteers from Aram Naharaim, Aram Maacah and Zobah.” Hunan and his officials started a war.
Joab and Abishai faced battle on two fronts against the Arameans and the Ammonites and they routed both nations, and Joab went back to Jerusalem. David clearly did not see the point in pursuing the matter. But he soon got word that the Arameans had sent more troops under Shophach commander of Hadadezer’s whole army. In the battle that ensured the Arameans were defeated and Shophach killed. The Aramean allies all made peace with David an become subject to him.
The conclusion of the story is that the Arameans were not willing to help the Ammonites anymore. What a disastrous situation for the Ammonites and all because their king took bad advice.