Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

1 Chronicles 1

Verses 1-54

The Second Adam—The Mighty Dead

1 Chronicles 1

This chapter should be taken as one lesson from beginning to end, and having read it through the reader will certainly be filled with wonder at the list of strange and even marvellous names. The first question that will arise must naturally be, What do we know of these people? The answer is that we know next to nothing about them, and yet there is the fact that they actually lived, exerted an influence, concluded their mission, and then passed away. It is always of importance vividly to realise the fact that there are other people in the world beside ourselves. This may seem to be commonplace, but in reality it is full of deep suggestion. How difficult it Isaiah, for example, for an Englishman to believe that there are other countries besides England! As a geographical matter he would not doubt it for a moment, for the Englishman keeps his atlas and looks at it from time to time for various purposes. But this is not the question. It is not enough to admit that the geography includes within its limits a great number of nations; we must so realise the nationalities in their variety and in their unity as to feel more and more that the human race is one, and is under the same beneficent providence. The last idea that will be driven out of the mind of an Englishman is that he is the superior person of the world. He looks upon all other languages as but signs of ignorance on the part of those who speak them. He smiles at the civilisation of other countries with which he is unfamiliar. He rudely comments upon the habits of people who do not belong to his own empire. Who can understand the smile of ignorance? Who can utterly exhaust all the meaning of the contempt which is even civilly suppressed? In order to overcome all this there must be much more intercourse between nationalities, and greatly enlarged sphere of education, much deeper study of history and national polity than we have yet entered upon. However great may be the name of an Englishman, the word Man is greater than any epithet which can be attached to it, whether the epithet refer to nationality, to personal attraction, or to social position. Jesus Christ came into the world to teach us the value of the word Man: he himself was the Son of man—a title the full meaning of which we have not yet realised, but when we do realise it there will be great advances made in positive democracy, and more attention will be paid to the consolidated wisdom of the ages than to the arbitrary authority of single persons or officers.

The next effect of a perusal of this chapter will probably be something of the nature of wonder that we should have become connected with the extraordinary personalities given in this great list. What have we to do with Enosh, Jered, Meshech, or Gomer? Now, this is the miracle of Christ, that we should come to be related to all these names, not perhaps in any explicable way, which can be stated and defended in words, but mysteriously, yet vitally, as receiving atmospheric impressions, or inheriting intellectual estates, or entering upon the possession of new territories of thought. Jesus Christ came to claim the whole world in its unity, to be indeed the second Adam, carrying forward all the meaning of the first to its highest expressions. He was not one of a multitude, but the Head of the new race. It is suggestive that the very name Adam is applied to him by the Apostle Paul. He is called "the second Adam" which is the Lord from heaven. Other nations have had more or less imperfect visions of ancient history and of the unity of the race, but in the Bible alone do we find an authoritative declaration made concerning the antiquity and unity of man and the ultimate destiny of the human race. The Chaldeans had a tradition of ten antediluvian patriarchs or kings. They made the duration of this first period of human history four hundred and thirty-two thousand years. All other chronicles have been bewildered by their polytheism, whereas in the Hebrew history we have all the sublime unity which would seem to be necessitated by the monotheism of the writers. They who believed in one God were likely to believe in one humanity. Monotheism accounts for the two commandments which relate first to God, and then to man. There is no theological diversity, multitudinousness, and consequent confusion: the Hebrews knew but one God, one fountain and origin of things, and they were consistent with their philosophy and their theology in tracing the human race back as it is traced in the Book of Genesis. It cannot but be an intellectual blessing, to take the very lowest ground, that we should accustom ourselves to think of all nationalities as one. Out of this practice will come an enquiry as to the varieties of habit which are discoverable in all human history—how to account for such variety, how to account for the difference in colour, stature, language, and usage of all people? Ethnology has some answer to give, but the only complete answer which covers the entire area of the question is to be found in the Bible. Not only is it an intellectual blessing to realise the unity of the human race, it has the effect of an inspired prophecy upon our whole thinking and outlook. How are these varieties to be brought into conscious reconciliation and brotherhood? That they can never bring themselves to such an issue has been abundantly proved by the abortive efforts which have covered the space of innumerable centuries. The Christian"s hope is in Christ. The Son of man makes all men one. To touch him is to enter into the mystery and joy of universal brotherhood. To know the Son is to be made free; if the Son shall make us free we shall be free indeed. All gropings, endeavours, attempts, and efforts in the direction of bringing the world into conscious unity, are but so many prophecies, all but inspired, that there must be One somewhere, who holds the answer to this mystery, and who can bring to consummation this sacred and beneficent miracle.

Another effect arising from a thoughtful perusal of this chapter will be an awful familiarity with what may be called the death-roll of the human race. What a crowded cemetery is this! Kings, princes, leaders, mighty men, fair women,—hunters living upon the mountain, citizens dwelling in the plain,—statesmen, legislators,—all have come and gone; all have been laid in the common dust. When one man dies a solemn feeling is produced by his decease: but let another die, and a whole family be added to the number of those who have departed, then a whole township, then an entire county, then a complete nation; and let this process of addition go on from century to century, and at last we come to expect death, to be familiar with it, and to care nothing about it, except at the point where it happens to affect us personally. Who could bear to look at once upon all the deaths which are occurring during any one hour of the world"s history? We do but see our own dead. The father only knows of one dead child, and that child is his own. He hears of the death of others, he reads the death-list day by day as an item of general intelligence, but no man realises the dreadful extent of the ravages of death during any one hour of the world"s career. The literature of our tombstones would fill a great library. Who could calculate the acreage of paper that would be needed to have copied upon it all the writing that is to be found in the cemeteries of the world? Yet, notwithstanding this continual removal of men, there is a continual influx of successors, so that the earth abideth for ever, even as to its human phases and relationships. Men go down in the nighttime and are not missed in the morning. The greatest names in history pass away into partial oblivion, and new energies come to occupy the attention of the world. Blessed be God, no man can put away from him the thought of his own personal death. A right acceptance of that fact should lead to religious consideration and religious preparation. Death is not something that occurred long ago, or something that will transpire in distant ages: death will come as a guest to every house, and as a guest, if we may so say it, to every heart; and every man must make his own acquaintance with the last grim enemy. We cannot tell how we may die, but, thanks be to God, it is in our power to say in some measure at least how we may live. Christ has ennobled us by the thought that we may so live in him and for him as actually to abolish death, in so far as it is either a penalty or a degradation. Living in the Lord Jesus Christ, serving him diligently, acknowledging only his mastery over all our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we may come to long for death, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better; and in that sublime ecstacy we shall know nothing of the bitterness of death, but shall recognise in the last messenger one who is sent to introduce us into the presence of the King.

What havoc is made in this chapter of the grandeur of titular dignity; what brilliant names are here; and yet they have become the names of the dead. The dukes of Edom, duke Timnah, duke Aliah, duke Jetheth, duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon, duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar, duke Magdiel, duke Iram,—what are they now? where are their robes? where the pomp and circumstance that made them figures in their time? And as for the kings of Edom, and Bela, and Jobab, and Husham, and Hadad, and Samlah, and Shaul, and Baalhanan,—is there not one of them left to represent the dignity of the house of Edom? are they clean gone for ever? Can spaces that have been occupied by kings be emptied of all glory and renown, and throw themselves open to uses of the people? We know that such things do happen as a mere matter of fact, but we seldom allow them to come so near to us as to produce a deeply religious impression upon our thought and feeling. If all these mighty men have come and gone, let us not attempt to put away from ourselves the commonplace fact that we shall also go, and the place which knows us now shall know us no more for ever. The difference between the kings and the dukes of Edom and ourselves Isaiah, that they have a name on historical pages, whilst we have no names but in our own family Bible or on our own particular tombstone. But a fame is open to us: the fame of doing good is a renown which any man may enjoy, and though it may make but little figure as to historical importance, it will be recognised at the last by the words—"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

The writer of this chapter shows us how necessary it is to understand the whole, if we would really understand the part. He boldly puts down the name of Adam at the head of his list. But is not the writer going to furnish the history of the kings of Israel and of Judah; is he not in the last resort to occupy a still narrower ground? Why, then, does he begin at the very beginning? Simply because in order to understand any one man we must understand the whole Prayer of Manasseh, or humanity. This gives importance to every individual. He is not self-contained and self-measureable, as if he had no relation to any who have gone before; every man may be said to be the sum-total of all the men that have preceded him upon the stage of history. If he is not so consciously, yet he is more or less so unconsciously. The man who is born today is born under infinite responsibilities: he has but few experiments to make, for all experiments have been made before he was born; it may come that the very last man who enters into this state of being may have nothing to do but to accept conclusions, for the little earth has been understood through and through, in every line and particle, so that nothing further remains to be discovered by science or argued by philosophy. Think of it—the little world utterly exhausted; every atom of dust has been examined, every insect has been anatomised, every flower has been made to give up its secret, and there is nothing now to be done on what we call "the great globe itself" but to accept the conclusions which other men have discovered. Think of the exhaustibleness of time and space, as these terms are now known to us! Is there then no sphere that may be described by the word "infinity"? Is there no duration to which the term "eternity" alone is applicable? It is our joy to believe that this world is a mere letter in the great alphabet of stars and planets, and that all we know of time is less than a syllable in the infinite literature of the revelation which is yet to be made. "We are not ignorant of the past, nor are we ungrateful for it, but we shall best show our wisdom and our thankfulness by doing what we now can to make the future rich in thought and energetic in beneficence. The true use of the present is to brighten the darkness and lighten the burden of the future.

Verses 5-8

1 Chronicles 11:5

"And the inhabitants of Jebus [Jerusalem, which is Jebus ( Joshua 15:8; Judges 19:10),] said [for the full speech of the Jebusites on this occasion see2Sam, 1 Chronicles 5:6] to David, Thou shalt not come hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion [the "stronghold" of 2 Samuel 5:7 is better than the "castle" of this place. The Hebrew word means "a fortified place,"] which is the city of David." [This name is applied in Scripture to two different places. (1) In2Samuel5 we read that David having taken Jerusalem, and stormed the citadel on Mount Zion, "dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David" ( 1 Chronicles 11:7). After that time the castle and palace of Zion appear to have been called "the city of David," as contradistinguished alike from Jerusalem generally, and from Moriah and other sections of it ( 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 8:1; 2 Chronicles 5:2). In it David and most of his successors on the throne were buried ( 1 Kings 2:10; 2 Chronicles 9:31, etc.). Mount Zion, or the city of David, is on the south-west side of Jerusalem, opposite Moriah, or the temple-mount, with which it was connected by a bridge spanning the deep valley of Tyropoean. The tomb of David on Zion is to this day one of the most honoured sanctuaries of the Mohammedans; and the square keep, called the Castle of David, on the northern end of Zion,

Spiritual Portresses

"The castle of Zion."

THIS beautiful expression may be so accommodated as to yield some useful spiritual suggestions. Understand, however, the difference between accommodation and exposition. In the present instance we avail ourselves exclusively of the uses of accommodation. Every Christian dwells in the castle of Zion; that is to say, he does not dwell in a wilderness, in an uncertain place, in a temporary cloud, but in a fortress or stronghold. Men should always dwell upon the strong points, and not upon those that are doubtful or half-proved in connection with Christian experience and speculation. For example, it is possible for a man to have the distinctest conviction of the existence and government of God, and yet to be quite unable to give any metaphysical explanation of the nature of the Godhead. Be very careful about making clear distinctions here. A child is absolutely sure that such and such a man is his father, and yet he may be wholly unable to give an account of the psychology of that Prayer of Manasseh,—that is to say, to represent the attributes, the forces, the mysteries, which constitute the mental genius or peculiarity of his father. A man may be perfectly sure that the earth will do certain things in relation to growth and production, and may operate upon that faith, without having the slightest instruction in geology or chemistry. So it is possible to believe God, to love God, to obey God, and to wait patiently for God, without being a scientific theologian, or a metaphysician who can talk long words and construct lofty and intricate arguments. A man must work, therefore, according to his capacity and power. This suggestion applies also to the true uses of the Bible. It is not every man who can have a distinct and complete theory of inspiration, and be able to defend that theory by ingenious and learned evidences. It is possible for a man to know that the Bible contains the word and will of God, and for him to seek the word and will amid all the miscellaneous contents of the Bible. If some men were to attempt to clear up mysteries in biblical expression, to reconcile discrepancies, or to defend certain historical and other references, they would feel themselves utterly unfit for the work they had rashly taken up; but these very men may have absolute confidence, in traversing the moral line which unites the whole Bible, that they are communing with the spirit of divine righteousness and divine purity. Some parts of the Bible are strong as a castle, mighty as a fortress built by eternal hands; and other parts of the Bible may be felt by untrained or half-trained men to be wholly beyond their power of thorough and useful appropriation. Their wisdom will be to keep within the castellated parts of the Bible: to store their minds with its moral principles and spiritual exhortations and exceeding great and precious promises.

It is the same also with regard to the acceptance of any doctrine respecting Jesus Christ. No one of any authority in Christian literature has successfully disputed the historical existence of Christ. That is a strong point to begin with. It having been certified that such a man as Jesus Christ really lived, the next inquiry will relate as to his spirit, purpose, and doctrine. Thus will arise the noble edifice of the character of Jesus Christ,—his patience, compassion, love, philanthropy; his evident desire to do men good; his practical service in the direction of the ignorance, weakness, and suffering of the people round about him. Here all is strong, impregnable, everlasting. It is the lot of some people to remain upon this ground, and not to venture beyond it. Other men can take a larger view, and commit themselves to larger responsibilities, in the matter of statement and defence; as a rule, however, speaking of Christian people in the bulk, it is wise for them to remain within well-defined lines, and to take their stand upon actual experience as tested by themselves. Outside all specifically religious mysteries there stands the great castle of an evident Providence in human life. Here there ought to be no mistake or uncertainty of mind. Look back upon history, altogether apart from the Bible, and see how it has shaped itself: how kingdoms have risen, flourished, decayed: how civilisation has marched in certain directions beyond all control, brightening some places for a time, then deserting them, passing on to other regions, making new disclosures and advances, abandoning them also, and fleeing beyond the sea like an invisible spirit, and there repeating its silent or tumultuous miracles. Look at the individual life: mark its feeble beginnings: note its rise, progress, action, influence, destiny: see how ambition is foiled, how the victor is overthrown, how evil purposes come up to a given degree, and just when they are about to assume all the honour and pride of conquest they are turned back and overwhelmed in confusion: see how the plans we thought the wisest have been turned into cloud and wind, and how things which we were least certain about have become the most energetic factors in life: see what uses have been made of little things, trivial events, unimportant or unrecognised occurrences: let all these be taken into view, then let the man say whether the whole does not suggest the interposition of a wise Mind, a moulding guiding, sustaining Hand. Every man must fix his own strong points. The man in the gospel of John who was cured of blindness steadfastly asserted the one thing which he did know, and therein became a strong man and most dangerous to the enemy—"Whether he be a sinner, or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." This is precisely the case in religious experience. It is not necessary in order to be a genuine and a happy Christian to be able to answer every question which may be propounded either by ignorance or candour: here indeed is great scope for what is with proud modesty called agnosticism: the humble Christian does not so much care to know intellectually as to feel morally, lovingly, compassionately, or, in other words, as to enjoy profound and often silent communion with God. Innumerable are the temptations which lie along the purely intellectual line. Men are tempted to be clever, ingenious, superior to their brethren, and are thus led on into a kind of priestly assumption without any official designation or limitation of authority. The thing that is most valued in the Bible, set above all rubies and all precious substances, is the broken and contrite heart, the meek and lowly spirit, the docile and modest mind. Nowhere is mere genius praised or idolised in the Scriptures. Never is God attracted by great intellectual power or dazzling mental acquisitions; but again and again, so to say, he turns aside that he may linger with the contrite in spirit, and hold sweet fellowship with the broken heart. From eternity he bends down to hear the prayer of modesty, and out of heaven he looks to watch the ways of those who have lost confidence in themselves, and are bowed down by the spirit of penitence.

Some men are always living in what Bunyan calls "Doubting Castle." That indeed, is not so much a castle as a dungeon. Verily, it is strong enough: the walls are high and thick, and windows there would seem to be none. Mere strength, therefore, in any castle is not enough: there must be elevation, light, a sense of enjoyment as well as a sense of security—and indeed arising out of the sense of security. Others again are dwelling in castles in the air. They are full of speculation: they are always going to be something more than they are at present: they feed upon the wind: they tempt themselves with impossible promises: they tell lies to their own hearts, and force themselves into dancing and merriment, not knowing that their follies portend their ruin. Many castles there be, but only one in Zion, built by the living Lord, founded upon the eternal rock, and designed for the protection of worthy souls. When a Prayer of Manasseh, therefore, imagines himself to be in a castle, let him ask what kind of castle it Isaiah, whether it be darkened by the spirit of doubt, or whether it be unsubstantial as the passing wind or the fading cloud. "Rock of Ages, cleft for me"—that is the fortress in which we must hide, if we would calmly survey the storm, or triumphantly defy the spirit of ruin.

Let such as need it comfort themselves with the thought that whilst some men are called to pursue high adventures in theological thinking and in religious argument, others are called upon to remain at home, and do a humbler but hardly less useful kind of work. At the same time let us not forget that there is a great chase work to be done; some men are called upon to be mighty hunters before the Lord, to go out under what to others would be desperate circumstances, scouring the country, fighting wild beasts, and driving off all things which threaten and alarm. There is a great war to be conducted and to be carried on to happy issues. Let not those therefore who remain at home undervalue those who are called to go out to danger and suffering. When a nation is at war some must fight and some must remain at home. Let those who so remain in comparative security and quietude prayerfully think of those who have gone forth with their lives in their hands to uphold the honour of their country. And let not those on the field, whose blood is up, whose temper is heated by contest, look sneeringly upon those who are unable to take part in the war. We must recognise the great divisions appointed by Providence, and each work according to his own undoubted vocation. Let every man say to himself from a spiritual point of view, Am I dwelling in the castle of Zion? Am I steadfast in those few or many principles about which I have no doubt? Do I delight in the certainties of my faith? or am I troubled as by an evil spirit, and moved in the direction of doubt, speculation, hesitancy, compromise? I am not fitted for high speculation; it was never the purpose of God that I should lead hosts to war; I was meant to do a quieter work; yea, God hath surely chosen me to the enjoyment of some of the highest privileges of the Christian life—namely, to communion with himself, to pursue in quietness the most tender portions of the Holy Book; I am not called upon to answer the trumpet of battle, but to wait patiently at the altar of prayer. Work within the lines of your strength. Do not imagine that you are nothing because you are not everything. Abide in the station appointed of God, and though it be not on the highest hill which first catches the morning light, yet God will not leave you without visitation and succour and comfort.

Verse 44

"Handfuls of Purpose,"

For All Gleaners

"... reigned in his stead."1 Chronicles 1:44.

This expression occurs again and again in this chapter, and is full of spiritual instruction.—The picture is both gratifying and depressing: so long as the man reigns, we have light, and joy, and music; as soon as he dies, we have darkness, and sorrow, and silence. Yet when the man dies there comes in the announcement almost at once that some one "reigned in his stead."—We say the king never dies. What is said of the king may be said of all true institutions and policies: they change their forms, but the essence remains the same, and is always open to Revelation -adaptation according to circumstances.—Never let it be supposed that Providence is limited to any one man in the matter of kingship and dominion. The kings are all living at once, though only one can enjoy the nominal dignity.—We often wonder where the next man is to come from, forgetting that he is standing in our very midst at the time when we are asking the ignorant question.—Men who are reigning should lay to heart the reflection that their reign is to come to an end.—Every man is bound to consider his successor; it is not enough to vacate an office; every man should leave behind him a character worthy of imitation, an example that will stimulate in all highest directions, and traditions which will almost compel themselves to be respected, being so noble in chivalry, so generous in spirit, and so beneficent in action.—Let the king who reigns take heed, knowing that he will surely die.—Let every man prepare himself to succeed the king—in the family, in the state, in the social circle: we should always be preparing ourselves for some higher office, and the best way of so preparing is to fill with faithfulness the office which we have at present assigned to us.—There is only one king who shall have no successor, and that king"s name is Jesus Christ.—Throughout this book what a multitude of kings have we seen coming and going; no one man could fill the whole occasion and rule all time, every one drooped and died by reason of human frailty; but all these transient kings were so many indications of a King who would abide for ever, the King for whom the ages had been waiting, sometimes in meek, and sometimes in almost turbulent expectation; he shall reign from the river unto the ends of the earth; of his dominion there shall be no end.—No partial king can be eternal.—The very fact that his kingdom, however large, is limited, is as a sentence of death in the man himself. When he comes who can reign over all, comprehend all, and hold all in his right hand with the ease of almightiness, he will, by the very fact of his universality of dominion, abide evermore.

Verse 54

"Handfuls of Purpose,"

For All Gleaners

"These are the dukes of Edom."1 Chronicles 1:54.

Of how small consequence is this announcement to the men of to-day!—Importance, however, is not to be denied simply because it is limited.—Every man must look upon his importance from his own point of view,—a father may be important in a family, and yet may be nobody in the state; a man may be of some importance in one state, and hardly known in the next province.—Then there is an importance which is limited by time.—Men walked according to the light they had.—We are not to blame the dukes of Edom because they were not as intelligent as the children of this day.—If they walked according to the degree of light which was given to them, they faithfully fulfilled their responsibilities.—The great lesson teaches the transitori-ness of all human dignity and glory. Where are the dukes of Edom now? Who knows the names of Timnah, Aliah, Jetheth?—Yet we must not mock these names because we do not know them.—How far are our own names known? What will be thought of them in the next century?—Men are not to be estimated by their renown, but by their personal goodness and their local usefulness.—Not every man can handle a state, yet the man who can help us to carry our daily burden may be quite as useful to us as if he had been entrusted with genius of the highest order.—All our words should tend to the encouragement of simplicity, modesty, local utility, and should show the hollowness of mere fame, or splendour, or titular elevation.—In the Christian Church we have come to a higher order of names than was ever known in secular history.—Men may now be called the sons of God, saints, slaves of Jesus Christ, inheritors of the world of light: let us aspire after these higher titles, for they never perish; we are not born to their enjoyment; verily, these are not hereditary dignities, but we are introduced to them by the right of the new birth, by the creation of a spiritual aristocracy.—The titles which men give soon expire: the titles which God confers are vital with his own eternity.—It would be a poor thing to have been a duke of Edom as compared with being a child of pious parentage, if in the one case the dignity has been but a name, and in the other has been a discipline and a stimulus.—Aim after the highest designation.

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Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 1". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://pro.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jpb/1-chronicles-1.html. 1885-95.