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1 Chronicles 12


(LXX versing)
David's Supporters in Ziklag The Growth of David's Army David's Ability to Attract Men of Valor David's Early Followers From the Tribe of Benjamin Early Defections to David (one verse different)
12:1-7 12:1-7 12:1-7 12:1-7
David's Followers from the Tribe of Gad 12:2b-8
12:8-15 12:8-15 12:8-15 12:8-13
Followers From Benjamin and Judah
Followers From Manasseh
12:19-22 12:19-22 12:19-22 12:19-22 12:19
Supporters Gathered at Hebron David's Army at Hebron List of David's Forces 12:20-22
12:23-37 12:23-37 12:23-37 12:23-37 12:23
The Warriors Who Assured David's Kingship
12:38-40 12:38-40 12:38-40 12:38-40

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. This chapter is about David's army which came from all of the tribes. This reinforces "all Israel's" whole-hearted (cf. 1 Chr. 12:33,38) support of the new king. In Samuel it developed slowly but in Chronicles it is telescoped. This support is divinely ordained (cf. 1 Chr. 12:18).

  2. It documents the soldiers from different places and tribes who joined David in his wilderness stronghold (i.e., Ziklag).
    1. from Benjamin, 1 Chr. 12:1-7
    2. from Gad, 1 Chr. 12:8-15
    3. from Benjamin and Judah, 1 Chr. 12:16-18
    4. from Manasseh, 1 Chr. 12:19-22
    5. list of the divisions who came to David at Hebron, 1 Chr. 12:23-40

  3. Since the prophecy in poetic form is not repeated in Samuel or Kings, this may be evidence that the Chronicler had extra pieces of information (written and/or oral).


1Now these are the ones who came to David at Ziklag, while he was still restricted because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men who helped him in war. 2They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul's kinsmen from Benjamin. 3The chief was Ahiezer, then Joash, the sons of Shemaah the Gibeathite; and Jeziel and Pelet, the sons of Azmaveth, and Beracah and Jehu the Anathothite, 4and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty. Then Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad the Gederathite, 5Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah the Haruphite, 6Elkanah, Isshiah, Azarel, Joezer, Jashobeam, the Korahites, 7and Joelah and Zebadiah, the sons of Jeroham of Gedor.

12:1 "at Ziklag" This was David's wilderness camp (cf. 1 Chr. 12:8,16; 1 Sam. 27:6; 30:1-31). It was one the cities of the Negev given to the tribe of Simeon (cf. Jos. 15:31; 19:5) but apparently was controlled by the Philistines.

12:2 This verse lists two weapons.

  1. bows (cf. 1 Chr. 8:40)
  2. slings (cf. Jdgs. 20:16)

1 Chronicles 12:8 adds "spear" and "shield."

▣ "they were Saul's kinsmen from Benjamin" David questioned their loyalty at first (cf. 1 Chr. 12:17) but they assured him of their loyalty (1 Chr. 12:18).

8From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the gazelles on the mountains. 9Ezer was the first, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, 10Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, 11Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, 12Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, 13Jeremiah the tenth, Machbannai the eleventh. 14These of the sons of Gad were captains of the army; he who was least was equal to a hundred and the greatest to a thousand. 15These are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks and they put to flight all those in the valleys, both to the east and to the west.

12:8 "the stronghold in the wilderness" This phrase could reflect David's time at

  1. Ziklag (1 Chr. 12:1)
  2. the Cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22)
  3. Engedi (1 Sam. 23:29; 24:1)

▣ "like the faces of lions" This is an idiom for a ferocious warrior. Notice how 2 Sam. 1:23 uses animal characteristics to describe the military actions of Saul and Jonathan.


12:14 This verse, like 1 Chr. 12:8, describes the effectiveness of these warrior officers from Gad.

12:15 This shows the fearlessness and ferocity of these warriors. The Jordan flooded due to snow melt from Mt. Hermon in March ‒ April.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA  "put to flight"
TEV  "scattered"
NJB  "driven out"
REB  "cleared"

The VERB in the MT (BDB 137, KB 156 I, Hiphil IMPERFECT with waw) means "flee." Some scholars (i.e., Rudolph and Tyndale OT Commentary, p. 152) suppose "bar" (i.e., "they barred all the valleys").

  1. flee, ברח (BDB 137, KB 156, NIDOTTE,vol. 1, PP. 743-745)
  2. bar/obstruct, לברח (KB 156 III, NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 746)

16Then some of the sons of Benjamin and Judah came to the stronghold to David. 17David went out to meet them, and said to them, "If you come peacefully to me to help me, my heart shall be united with you; but if to betray me to my adversaries, since there is no wrong in my hands, may the God of our fathers look on it and decide." 18Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said,
 "We are yours, O David,
 And with you, O son of Jesse!
 Peace, peace to you,
 And peace to him who helps you;
 Indeed, your God helps you!"
Then David received them and made them captains of the band.

12:16 "the stronghold" See note at 1 Chr. 12:8.

12:17 "look on it and decide" These are both JUSSIVES

  1. look/see ‒ BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal JUSSIVE
  2. decide ‒ BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil JUSSIVE (i.e., know their true inner thoughts)

This verse is a confession of innocence (lit. "with no violence in my hands") on David's part and a warning/curse about their agenda. God Himself will be their judge.

12:18 "the Spirit came upon " This VERB (BDB 527, KB 519, Qal PERFECT) is normally used for clothing but here as a metaphor for being empowered/inspired by the Spirit (cf. Jdgs. 6:34; 2 Chr. 24:20). A similar usage is Job 29:14.

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1738) has an interesting comment about this verse.

"This reflects Chronicles' innovative view on prophets and prophecy. Whereas many biblical books view prophecy as the exclusive prerogative of "professional" prophets whose activity centers on the monarchy, Chronicles maintains that any individual, even a non-Israelite, may, under the proper circumstances, serve as a conduit for conveying the divine will; hence, Amasai, a military man, experiences ad hoc prophecy. The possession formulae (the spirit seized) introduce the speeches of "non-prophets" only, indicating that Chronicles differentiates between this group and "professional" prophets."


▣ "came upon" There are several ways to describe the special empowering of the Spirit.

  1. "clothed" ‒ BDB 527, KB 519
    1. Gideon (a judge) ‒ Jdgs. 6:34
    2. Amasai (a soldier) ‒ here
    3. Zechariah (a priest) ‒ 2 Chr. 24:20
  2. "came upon" ‒ BDB 224, KB 243
    1. Moses ‒ Num. 11:25,29
    2. Balaam ‒ Num. 24:2
    3. Othniel ‒ Jdgs. 3:10
    4. Samson ‒ Jdgs. 14:6,19; 15:14
    5. Saul ‒ 1 Sam. 10:6,10; 11:6
    6. David ‒ 1 Sam. 16:13
    7. the messengers of Saul ‒ 1 Sam. 19:20,23
    8. Azariah ‒ 2 Chr. 15:1
  3. "rested upon" ‒ BDB 628, KB 679
    1. elders in Israel ‒ Num. 11:25,26
    2. Messiah ‒ Isa. 11:2
  4. "filled" ‒ BDB 569, KB 583
    1. tabernacle artisans ‒ Exod. 28:3; 31:3; 35:31
    2. Joshua ‒ Deut. 34:9
    3. Micah ‒ Mic. 3:8
  5. "stir" ‒ BDB 821, KB 952, Jdgs. 13:25 (Samson)
  6. "rouse" or "wake" ‒ BDB 734, KB 802
    1. Pul ‒ 1 Chr. 5:26
    2. Cyrus II ‒ 2 Chr. 36:22; Ezra 1:1
    3. exiles ‒ Ezra 1:5
    4. Zerubbabel ‒ Hag. 1:14
    5. Joshua ‒ Hag. 1:14
    6. remnant ‒ Hag. 1:14
  7. "entered" ‒ BDB 97, KB, Ezek. 3:24

Be careful of making too much of a distinction between the OT and NT when it comes to being empowered, even indwelt, by the Spirit. The NT is a fulfilment of Jer. 31:31-34, described as "a new spirit" in Ezek. 36:27-38 (cf. Luke 24:49).


▣ "Amasai" This may refer to "Amasa" of 1 Chr. 2:17; 2 Sam. 17:25, because they have the same father. If so, this was Absalom's military commander. David reinstates him to assure the unity of all the tribes in 2 Sam. 19:13-15.

▣ "Peace" The term shalom (BDB 1022) is used in 1 Chr. 12:17 and three times in 12:18.


▣ "your God helps you!" See 1 Chr. 11:9,14.

19From Manasseh also some defected to David when he was about to go to battle with the Philistines against Saul. But they did not help them, for the lords of the Philistines after consultation sent him away, saying, "At the cost of our heads he may defect to his master Saul." 20As he went to Ziklag there defected to him from Manasseh: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu and Zillethai, captains of thousands who belonged to Manasseh. 21They helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor, and were captains in the army. 22For day by day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army like the army of God.

12:19 The account is found in 1 Sam. 29:2-9.

▣ "defected" The MT has the VERB "fell upon" (BDB 656, KB 709, Qal PERFECT, which is usually an idiom of attack (i.e., Jos. 11:7), but here of joining with (cf. 2 Chr. 15:9; Jer. 37:14; 39:9).

NRSV  "rulers"
TEV  "Kings"
NJB  "chiefs"
LXX  "commanders"

The MT has BDB 710 I, which occurs in the OT only in connection to the Philistines. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 295, suggests three options.

  1. Hittite ‒ judge or king
  2. LXX ‒ tyrant, ruler, lord
  3. Indo-Aryan ‒ ruler, commander

The LXX translated it by the same word used for the ruler of a Greek city-state. The Philistines were organized by five city-states on the southern coastal region of Judah (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath, Ekron). I think the term denotes the supreme ruler of a city-state who had judicial, civil, and military authority.

12:20 "at the cost of our heads" This is an oath formula. The other Philistine military leaders were afraid to allow David to fight Saul.

12:21 "the band of raiders" The JPSOA, in a footnote, has "the band of Amalekite raiders," from 1 Sam. 30:8,15.

12:22 This is a summary verse.

▣ "like the army of God" The title "Lord of hosts" has a military connotation. God has thousands of angels at His command (i.e., divine aid, cf. 2 Kgs. 6:17; Ps. 68:17; 103:20,21; 148:2).

The NASB Study Bible, p. 570, has an interesting note about the large numbers used in this chapter which add up to 346,880 supporters at a feast in Hebron. This seems beyond possibility. The NASB Study Bible offers two approaches.

  1. the word "thousand" means a clan or tribal military unit
  2. it is purposeful hyperbole to align with "the arm of God" in 1 Chr. 12:22
  3. the Jewish Study Bible, p. 1738, suggests the numbers are literal, but includes all supporters, not just warriors

It is possible that "God" (Elohim) is used as an idiom meaning "great" or "enormous" (cf. Gen. 23:6; Ps. 68:15; Jon. 3:3; NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 446).



23Now these are the numbers of the divisions equipped for war, who came to David at Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord. 24The sons of Judah who bore shield and spear were 6,800, equipped for war. 25Of the sons of Simeon, mighty men of valor for war, 7,100. 26Of the sons of Levi 4,600. 27Now Jehoiada was the leader of the house of Aaron, and with him were 3,700, 28also Zadok, a young man mighty of valor, and of his father's house twenty-two captains. 29Of the sons of Benjamin, Saul's kinsmen, 3,000; for until now the greatest part of them had kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. 30Of the sons of Ephraim 20,800, mighty men of valor, famous men in their fathers' households. 31Of the half-tribe of Manasseh 18,000, who were designated by name to come and make David king. 32Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command. 33Of Zebulun, there were 50,000 who went out in the army, who could draw up in battle formation with all kinds of weapons of war and helped David with an undivided heart. 34Of Naphtali there were 1,000 captains, and with them 37,000 with shield and spear. 35Of the Danites who could draw up in battle formation, there were 28,600. 36Of Asher there were 40,000 who went out in the army to draw up in battle formation. 37From the other side of the Jordan, of the Reubenites and the Gadites and of the half-tribe of Manasseh, there were 120,000 with all kinds of weapons of war for the battle.

NASB, NRSV, LXX  "to turn"
NKJV  "to turn over"
TEV  "to help make him king in place of Saul"
NJB, JPSOA, REB  "to transfer"

The VERB (BDB 685, KB 738, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is a technical term for transferring kingship to another (cf. 1 Kgs. 2:15). The change of sovereigns was a major event, both civically and religiously. Saul was God's anointed but now David has replaced him as God's royal choice, not based on family or tribe, but on the sovereign choice of Israel's covenant God (cf. 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 15:22-23,28; 1 Chr. 10:13-14).

▣ "according to the word of the Lord" See note at 1 Chr. 11:10.

12:24 "equipped for war" This VERB (BDB 323 II, KB 321, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 157-158) has two connotations.

  1. the removal (i.e., "stripping") of unnecessary clothing to put on battle armament, cf. Num. 32:21,27,29,30,32; Deut. 3:18
  2. fully equipped for battle, cf. Jos. 6:13; 2 Chr. 28:14

There are several Hebrew VERBS used to describe men armed for battle. This shows how common warfare was in the ANE.

12:26-28 It is surprising to me that there were soldiers from the tribe of Levi. Only one family of this tribe became priests and Levites.

Probably it was a literary way of showing total support for David from all tribes.

12:28 "Zadok" Josephus, Antiq. 7.2.2, calls him "the priest," which denotes "the High Priest." If so, this is the earliest information we have on the priest at Gibeon who anointed Solomon king.

During David's day, there were two High Priests, but one (Abiathar) supported a rival of Solomon and was removed from office by Solomon and restricted to his home city.

12:32 This verse is rather unusual. These tribal leaders had knowledge about

  1. their own times (cf. Esther 1:13)
  2. YHWH's patriarchal promises to Israel of "the word of the Lord through Samuel" (cf. 1 Chr. 11:3; 12:23, which may refer to the choice of David over Saul, cf. 1 Sam. 16:1,3,12,13)
NASB  "with an undivided heart"
NKJV  "stouthearted"
NRSV  "with singleness of purpose"
NJB  "staunch-hearted"
JPSOA  "wholehearted"
REB  "bold and single-minded"
LXX  "unwavering"

The MT has a PREPOSITION (ב, "with") plus a negation (לא) and the NOUN for "inner men" (לב , BDB 524) twice. Possibly "without a heart and a heart," which is an idiom for a person who is not totally loyal (cf. Ps. 12:2). David is described in similar idiomatic language (i.e., "had a heart for YHWH"), but Solomon had a divided or half heart (i.e., 1 Kgs. 11:1-8).

Similar idioms for total loyalty are found in 1 Chr. 12:38; 28:9 (i.e., "a perfect heart") and ("of one mind").

38All these, being men of war who could draw up in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one mind to make David king. 39They were there with David three days, eating and drinking, for their kinsmen had prepared for them. 40Moreover those who were near to them, even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought food on donkeys, camels, mules and on oxen, great quantities of flour cakes, fig cakes and bunches of raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep. There was joy indeed in Israel.

NASB  "who could draw up in battle formation"
NKJV  "who could keep ranks"
NRSV, LXX  "arrayed in battle order"
TEV  "ready for battle"
NJB  "in battle array"
JPSOA  "manning the battle line"
REB  "trained for war"
NET Bible  "who were ready to march"

The MT has Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE (עדר, BDB 727 I, KB 793) probably meaning "help." Many translations assume an emendation to עזר (BDB 740, KB 811 I or II), which means "help." The USB Text Project does not mention this verse.

NET Bible assumes an emendation to ערכי (BDB 789), which means "arrange" or "set in order."

The CONSTRUCT FEMININE NOUN (BDB 790) means "battle-line."

▣ "over all Israel" This is a key theological phrase for the Chronicler (see note at 1 Chr. 11:1).

12:39 This describes a covenant meal (i.e., Gen. 31:54; Exod. 24:11). The provisions came from as far as Zebulun and Naphtali (1 Chr. 12:40).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. How many periods of David's life are covered in 1 Chronicles 12?
  2. Why is 1 Chr. 12:2 so important?
  3. Why did David issue an oath in 1 Chr. 12:17?
  4. How do modern scholars deal with the large numbers in this chapter?
  5. Explain in your own words the meaning and significance of the imagery in 1 Chr. 12:33 and 38.
  6. What is the significance of the meal in 1 Chr. 12:38-40?

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