THIS WEEK’S STUDY: 1 Chronicles 1:1 – 17:27
MEMORY TEXT: “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:8-9).
GOD REMEMBERS THE GOOD: While all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, our God forgives. And when he has forgiven, he also forgets, and tells the world of the good things his children have done. David was a great sinner before the Lord. But the Lord forgave. And in the Book of Chronicles he remembers the good that David did.
OVERVIEW: The House of a Great King
I. GENEALOGIES: 1 Chronicles 1-9
II. DAVID ESTABLISHES HIS HOUSE: 1 Chronicles 10-16
III. A GENEROUS GIFT REFUSED: 1 Chronicles 17
BAD MAN, GOOD MAN, GOD’S MAN: When we were children, our parents told us stories. Sometimes they frightened us with stories that told of the horrible consequences of sin. But at other times they told us stories to comfort us, to make us feel warm, cozy, and accepted. Still other stories inspired us with lofty goals and high ambitions. Our parents knew what they were doing, for stories are powerful means for motivating and transforming lives. They selected and used them wisely.
As children, we scarcely thought about how our parents adapted stories to our varied needs. But with maturity, we began to realize that stories are told for a purpose. Especially those entrusted with the responsibility for shaping lives — parents, pastors, and teachers — constantly struggle with the questions of when to tell which stories and how.
Something similar happened when God planned his book. The stories in sacred history are not just a string of events, but are stories and history applied to life. When Scripture gives us two accounts covering the same time period and the same events, we have an excellent opportunity to see how the Spirit can lead two different writers to shape the same history in different ways. For the life of David, Samuel-Kings and Chronicles provide us with just that kind of opportunity.
The story of David in Samuel-Kings is a somber one — almost sordid. It lays out in vivid detail David’s escapades, shortcomings, and failures. The lesson is sobering: even the mightiest of God’s men fall far short of the mark.
But the same story can be told in quite a different way, omitting much of the ugliness and testifying to the good that comes from a committed life. That’s the way the Spirit guided the Chronicler to write his story of David, a story of a forgiven Bad Man, a Good Man, God’s man. Yet even with the Chronicler’s polish, the story is still troublesome, for a great gulf is fixed between David’s era and ours. But blessings are there for us today if we will seek them.
I. GENEALOGIES (1 Chr. 1-9; Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38)
For the Chronicler, genealogies were an important preparation for telling the story of David. But why nine chapters? Most anyone who has attempted to read the Bible through can testify that genealogies are a challenge, indeed a discouragement. No modern book would hit the best seller list with that kind of introduction. Yet these chapters are part of Scripture and we need to explore ways to make them meaningful even if they aren’t exciting reading. Fortunately, other (shorter!) genealogies in Scripture can help us discover how to bring meaning to the large chunk of names in Chronicles.
- In the New Testament, Matthew and Luke are as keenly interested in the line of David as the Chronicler for that is Jesus’ line of ancestors. Compare Matthew 1:1-17 with Luke 3:23-38 and try to determine why Matthew traces Jesus’ line back to Abraham, while Luke goes all the way back to Adam.
- What do the four women in Matthew’s list have in common? Why do you think Matthew included them?Since Matthew was writing for Jews, he focused on Abraham. Luke traced Jesus’ line back to Adam because he was addressing an audience that included Gentiles. Matthew’s inclusion of tarnished and foreign women indicates a real interest in outcasts and sinners. In short, a genealogy is more than a list of names — it is part of the story and has something to say.
- As you scan through the lists in 1 Chronicles 1 – 9, which tribes are most prominent? Why?
- For a Jew living at a time when there was no Davidic king, and the temple, though rebuilt, was only a shadow of its former self (Ezra 3:10-13), in what way would 1 Chronicles 9:1-3 be an encouragement?
By taking the genealogies through the exile to the restoration and by stressing the continuity of the Davidic line and the presence of Levites in the temple service, the Chronicler struck a note of hope for his readers. The line of David was still alive. The Messiah of the line of David could still come and find them worshiping faithfully with the priests and Levites in the temple. The genealogies were the link that tied past, present, and future together. The devout Jew could read the lists and find hope.
Can those same lists bring hope to us today? Possibly. But not everyone will be equally blessed by every passage of Scripture. Ellen White observed that “often the same truth is more strikingly presented” by one inspired writer than by another (Great Controversy, p. vi [Introduction]). She also noted that one of the reasons why God has given us several Gospel writers instead of just one, is because “the minds of men differ. Not all comprehend things in exactly the same way. Certain Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of some than of others” (Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 432).
Some may never be blessed by a genealogy. But for others, a name in a genealogy may suddenly glisten like a jewel, bringing courage and hope. So let’s be patient with the first nine chapters of Chronicles. For some, it could be the field which hides the great treasure.
Ask yourself: Do I plan my reading of Scripture so that my best soul-food comes first? If so, do I still have time for those portions of Scripture (genealogies, perhaps?) which do not seem nearly so promising, but which might contain a buried gem?
II. DAVID ESTABLISHES HIS HOUSE: (1 Chr. 10 – 16 [1 Sam. 31 – 2 Sam. 6]).
This portion of the Chronicler’s history illustrates how he develops a more soothing and encouraging message than the parallel account in Samuel. While Chronicles does describe Saul’s death, it omits any reference to several of the violent events connected with David’s rise to power: the slaying of the messenger who claimed to have killed Saul (2 Sam. 1:1-27), the killing of Asahel, Joab’s brother (2 Sam. 2:8-32), the defection and murder of Abner (2 Sam. 3:6-39), and the murder of Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 4:1-12). The long war between the house of Saul and the house of David (cf. 2 Sam. 3:1) is simply passed over. The Chronicler has better things to say.
The better things are good news items. While describing Uzzah’s disaster with the ark in much the same way as found in Samuel, the Chronicler adds a section carefully detailing David’s preparation for taking the ark to Jerusalem according to the full provisions of the law. David organizes and instructs the priests and Levites. Then, after describing the glorious arrival of the ark in Jerusalem, the Chronicler includes a beautiful piece of music in his record, a psalm, composed of Ps. 105:1-15, Ps. 96:1-13, and Ps. 106:1, 47-48.
For all David’s faults, he still worships his God humbly and wholeheartedly. He learns from his mistakes. That is the message the Chronicler wants to present.
- Both David and Uzzah seem to have had honest motives, yet Uzzah died when he reached out to steady the ark. Does human motive ever make a difference in God’s judgment on sin? If so, why not in this instance? Are there any clues in 1 Chronicles 13:1-14 or 2 Samuel 6:1-11 that point toward an answer? What light do Luke 12:47-48 and Acts 17:30 shed on the topic?
1 Chronicles 13 ______________________________2 Samuel 6 _________________________________
Luke 12:47-48 _______________________________
Acts 17:30 __________________________________
Scripture records many incidents of swift judgment falling upon sin. Yet the story of Uzzah is as unsettling as any. Even when the Philistines first brought the ark back to Israel, many of the men of Bethshemesh were slain “because they looked into the ark of the Lord” (1 Sam. 6:19). Most Hebrew manuscripts have 50,070 being slaughtered, a few have 70, the reading preferred by the RSV and NIV.
But even at the lower figure of 70 dead, the Bethshemesh incident causes nowhere near the difficulty as the one dead man, Uzzah. The reason is that the Bethshemesh judgment seems to involve deliberate disobedience; by contrast, the Bible gives the distinct impression that Uzzah was attempting to do good, not evil. Does motive make no difference with God?
“The times of ignorance God overlooked” (Acts 17:30, RSV; see also Rom. 2:14-16). Luke 12:47-48 suggests that ignorance can lessen one’s guilt. Ellen White once wrote a comforting message to a believer who was suffering from remorse because he had attempted to help a brother by sharing a testimony, only to have his trust betrayed: “I have not one thought of censuring you, and no one should cast the least blame upon you concerning the matter. If I should misjudge and censure you when your motives and intentions were good, I should incur the displeasure of God. If the brother you desired to help has taken liberties, and has betrayed your confidence, do not blame yourself and grieve over the results of his unfaithfulness” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 34).
As for Uzzah, two possible explanations present themselves. First, his motives may not have been as pure as they appear. According to 2 Samuel 6:3, he was son of Abinidab, the man in whose home the ark had rested since the Philistines brought it back. In other words, Uzzah had “grown up” with the ark. Had he been harboring some secret wish to touch the ark? And when the oxen stumbled, did he suddenly find his heart’s desire fulfilled? We don’t know.
The other possible explanation is to see the judgment on Uzzah as a response to an emergency in the community rather than to an act of individual sin. God’s refusal to allow Moses to enter the promised land was a symbolic act which had meaning for the entire community (Deut. 3:23-29). The judgment on Achan had similar value (Josh. 7:22-26). At the time of Uzzah, it was not at all clear that God would still act in behalf of his holy objects. The judgment against Uzzah, as uncomfortable as it may be for us, settled the matter: the Lord still reigned in heaven and on earth.
Western individualism recoils sharply against the sacrifice of a person for the good of the community. But in biblical times, the community was paramount. In many parts of the world today, it still is.
- How should we react to the possibility that Obededom the Gittite, who assumed responsibility for the ark after the Uzzah tragedy, may have been a Philistine? See 1 Chronicles 13:11-14.
It is possible that Obededom was a native Israelite from Gath-rimmon (cf. Josh. 21:20, 24; see SDABC on 1 Chr. 13:13 [vol. 3, p. 165]). Most commentators, however, hold the view that Obededom was indeed a Philistine. A Gittite was an inhabitant of Gath and Gath was one of the chief Philistine cities. The giant Goliath, who had challenged Israel, was a Gittite (1 Sam. 17:23; 1 Chr. 20:5). When fleeing from Saul, David had found refuge with Achish, King of Gath (1 Sam. 27). A number of the native Philistine inhabitants of Gath were attracted to David and his God. At the time of Absalom’s rebellion, 600 Gittites were among David’s most steadfast supporters (2 Sam. 15:18). The fact that Obededom is called a Gittite suggests that the Lord was as willing to bless a faithful Philistine convert as he was a native Israelite.
- Is the beautiful composite psalm found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 more meaningful (for you) when it appears in a historical setting as it does here, or when it appears in its more traditional setting in the book of Psalms as Psalm 105, 96, and 106?
Ask yourself: Scripture says that David was “angry because the Lord had broken forth upon Uzzah” (1 Chr. 13:10). In this world of sin, when is anger appropriate for a Christian? Did David set a right example for us when he showed anger at God’s judgment on Uzzah?
III. A GENEROUS GIFT REFUSED (1 Chr. 17)
An eager but inappropriate gift and a hasty, backtracking prophet are the focus of our attention in 1 Chronicles 17. David wanted to do great things for God, but God had other plans.
- What explanation does David give in 1 Chronicles 22:6-10 and 28:2-10 as to why Solomon, not David, would build the temple?
- The more familiar reason for the Lord’s refusal to allow David to build the temple (see previous question) is not mentioned when Nathan speaks for the Lord in 1 Chronicles 17 or its parallel in 2 Samuel 7. What is the reason given in 1 Chronicles 17?
Was David’s pride becoming a threat to his spiritual life? The Lord had blessed him and had made him a mighty king. But to be known as the one who built the temple, too, might have been more than he could handle. The Lord responded graciously to David’s generosity, but told him that a permanent house for Israel’s God was no urgent need. After all, God had managed quite nicely for centuries with only a temporary one.
What was important, however, was for David to understand the meaning of grace and trust. A warrior learns to rely on his own strong right arm; he does everything for himself. But in this instance, David would have to trust in the Lord to do it for him through David’s son Solomon. In a sense, the temple would be God’s gift to David, not David’s gift to God.
- What conclusions about the reliability of a prophet’s message would it be safe to draw on the basis of Nathan’s experience in 1 Chronicles 17:1-15?
We should note that David’s confidence in Nathan was not at all shaken by the prophet’s apparent “mistake.” David was as willing to follow Nathan’s counsel the second time as he was the first. A prophet is trained and nurtured by the Lord through many experiences. Apparently, a prophet is expected to rely on his own sanctified reason — unless the Lord sees a need to intervene through a vision as he did here.
While parents encourage their maturing children to think and act for themselves on the basis of “sanctified reason,” they also feel free to offer special counsel in emergency situations. God apparently handles prophets in the same way.
Nathan’s willingness to adjust his thinking on the basis of a fresh revelation was admirable. In this connection Ellen White’s caution is appropriate: “Some have feared that if in even a single point they acknowledge themselves in error, other minds would be led to doubt the whole theory of truth. . . . We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible — He who is the way, the truth, and the life” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 105).
It would be unwise to conclude, however, that a prophet can only speak with authority on the basis of a direct vision. With reference to her own experience, Ellen White remarked that it would be a dishonor to her Maker to claim that she were “so dull a scholar” that her judgment had not improved through her years of experience. She could not hold her peace just “because each individual case has not been pointed out to me in direct vision” (Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 686-87).
Ask yourself: Am I as willing as David to let the Lord overrule and re-channel my gifts to safer and more appropriate projects? Am I as willing as David to trust a prophet who has changed his mind? Or will my whole house of faith collapse?
FOR FURTHER STUDY AND MEDITATION: The story of how the monarchy was established in Israel is told in some detail in First and Second Samuel. Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 569-674, provides comments on that same period.
This week’s lesson (1 Chronicles 1 to 17) only occasionally parallels Samuel. Chronicles skips most of the early history of the monarchy, beginning instead with genealogies (1 Chr. 1-9), then picking up the story in earnest with the death of Saul (1 Chr. 10). Read the pages in Patriarchs and Prophets which cover this week’s lesson (pp. 675-713), and then turn to Chronicles again, noting which parts of the story the Chronicler does not include. What effect do those omissions have on the overall tone of the story?
Ellen White is also selective, not exhaustive, when commenting on Scripture. What parts of the biblical account does she not mention? Can you think of any practical reasons why she tells the story the way she does?
Adventists believe that the author of Samuel, the author of Chronicles, and Ellen White were all writing under the special guidance of the Spirit. While all were writing to bless God’s people, they wrote to different audiences at different times. The two canonical authors wrote to Jews at two different points in Old Testament times. Ellen White is addressing Christians some 2500 years later. Does that help explain some of the differences between them?
“The Creator of all ideas may impress different minds with the same thought, but each may express it in a different way, yet without contradiction. The fact that this difference exists should not perplex or confuse us. It is seldom that two persons will view and express truth in the very same way. Each dwells on particular points which his constitution and education have fitted him to appreciate. The sunlight falling upon the different objects gives those objects a different hue.
“Through the inspiration of His Spirit, the Lord gave His apostles truth, to be expressed according to the development of their minds by the Holy Spirit. But the mind is not cramped, as if forced into a certain mold” (Selected Messages 1:22 [Letter 53, 1900]).
SUMMARY: The Chronicler makes a point of showing how God led David in establishing the kingdom in Jerusalem. Rather than stressing David’s mistakes, he points to God’s grace and forgiveness. David was a great sinner, but by God’s grace, also a saint and a great king.