For nine chapters, the Chronicler catalogued the family tree of the faithful with great care. His concern was to legitimize the returning exiles within the framework of redemptive history. The remainder of 1 Chronicles is devoted to the life of the great King David and the initial phase of the Golden Age of Israel. The Chronicler’s purpose was to give the returned-exiles a theological vision of all that they could become, in the steps of their ancestors.
In 1 Chronicles 10, the author provided a succinct record of Saul’s defeat at the hand of the Philistines. The author of 1 Samuel described the same period in twenty-three chapters (1 Samuel 9-31). The Chronicler was not concerned with an extensive account of Saul’s days and decline, a simple summary would suffice. He wrote, “Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the LORD because he did not keep the LORD’s word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1 Chron 10:13-14). The Chronicler so briefly recorded Saul’s downfall in order to provide a foil for the contrasting greatness and faithfulness of Israel’s next leader, the great King David.
After succinctly explaining David’s rise to power, including the fortification of Jerusalem (1 Chron 11:1-9), the Chronicler got right to the point. David was successful because “the LORD of Hosts was with him” (1 Chron 11:9) and because of the military forces under David’s command. David’s men were so devoted to him that they risked their lives simply to get the drink of water he so desired “from the well at the city gate of Bethlehem!” (1 Chron 11:17). Chronologically, this event happened near the end of David’s life (2 Sam 23:13-17), but the Chronicler was not concerned with the historical progression of David’s reign. He arranged the material of Israel’s history to remind his audience, as effectively as possible, of Israel’s glorious past under David. The valor David’s men demonstrated in getting a drink of water for the king demonstrated just that.
The catalogue of David’s warriors in 1 Chron 11:26-47, whose exploits were left unexplained, served to show the breadth of David’s military strength. David’s greatness was also seen in the diversity of groups that gathered to anoint David (1 Chron 12:1-40). When David rose to power, the Chronicler reported to his audience that “Saul’s relatives from Benjamin” (1 Chron 12:2), “some Gadites” (1 Chron 12:8), “other Benjaminites” (1 Chron 12:16), and “some Manassites” (1 Chron 12:19) all recognized God’s selection of David to be king. As if that was not enough, the Chronicler noted, “In addition, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen—abundant provisions of flour, fig cakes, raisins, wine and oil, oxen, and sheep. Indeed, there was joy in Israel” (1 Chron 12:38-40).
The Chronicler recorded that when David was anointed king following Saul’s death, with one voice Israel exalted David above Saul, saying, “Even when Saul was king, you led us out to battle and brought us back. The LORD your God also said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over My people Israel’” (1 Chron 11:2). David’s military shepherding of Israel anticipates Jesus’ military victory later in the storyline of Scripture. In Matt 2:6, the author recorded the chief priests and scribes’ answer to Herod’s concerns about the birthplace of Messiah. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea…because this is what was spoken by the prophet, ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel’” (Matt 2:6, quoting Mic 5:2). Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of David’s greatness, the true shepherd of Israel. Even though Herod and the Jewish leadership of the day failed to recognize Jesus’ greatness at His coming, Jesus was the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for His flock (John 10:11-19). And in doing so, He defeated “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), the Devil.