The final chapter of the first Book of Chronicles ends with David’s death. “And he died in a good old age, full of days, wealth, and honor, and his son Solomon reigned in his stead (Chronicles I 29:28).” It’s one of the most simple, yet beautiful eulogies that I can recall reading in Tanakh. It’s the way that I think everyone hopes to ultimately end their days – content in ones own experiences, and in the ability of the next generation to ensure a legacy. It’s the end of a chapter, and a pivot point for both the literal book, and for the story of Israel in general. In terms of the literal, this marks the end of the first book of Chronicles. We only have one more book to go in this project, and just over seven weeks left of reading. It’s a bittersweet march for me towards the end of this journey, and I so appreciate all of you going on it with me. Tomorrow picks up where today leaves off, so I look forward to the poetic nature of looking at the next chapter just as the story does as well.
David is passing the torch of leadership to his son, Solomon. “And David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and of good courage and do; do not fear and be not dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will neither forsake you nor abandon you, until the completion of all the work of the service of the House of the Lord (Chronicles I 28:20).'” The words of wisdom that he shares with his son and successor are echoed elsewhere in Tanakh, notably in other iconic leadership transitions. I remember Moses saying them to Joshua and the people, and I like this cycle and repetition. I’m always a sucker for tradition, and I love occasions when iconic words are used in every generation, always infused with new meaning and timelessness all at once.
Most of this chapter deals with the inheritance and responsibilities of the Levites, and the different respective clans of the priestly tribe. However, it starts with a different kind of inheritance. “Now David was old and full of days, and he made his son Solomon king over Israel (Chronicles I 23:1).” So many good things in this verse! First, I love that David is described as being full of days, which I’m taking to mean that he lived fully. The years didn’t just pass by, but were actively and completely lived, and as he neared the end of his life, he could do so with satisfaction. That’s how I hope to be one day. And second, he crowns his successor while he’s still alive, which I think is so important. It’s easy to want to hold on to something, particularly something like power, until the last possible second. However, transitions, while difficult, are necessary, and by consciously making that choice and knowing when it was time to embrace a new leader for the people, David didn’t let ego or comfort-zone get in the way of doing the right thing. Transitions are often hard, and it’s easy to cling to the familiar, but doing the opposite, like David, is where I see true grace and bravery.
The king of Ammon died, and David had a good relationship with him, so he send emissaries to comfort the new king after the loss of his father. In a classic example of ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ the courtiers and princes in Ammon planted conspiratorial ideas in the new king’s head. They said something to the effect of implying that David actually sent the emissaries as spies rather than comforters. Hanun, the new king, was easily convinced. “And Hanun took David’s servants, and he shaved them, and he cut their garments in half up to their groin and he sent them away (Chronicles I 19:4).” This seems to have escalated the situation greatly, and in a really disgusting way. A gesture of goodwill was taken as sinister, which already says something sad about how easily Hanun was manipulated, and then he lashed out in a manner that was literally below the belt. It’s one thing to be concerned about someone, but to actively humiliate them just to make a point is beyond the pale in my mind.
We’re still on the recap of the story of King David at this point. It’s interesting to think about what parts of Tanakh are glossed over in this version, and which ones merit a complete deep-dive. Today, we learned that “David reigned over all Israel, and he administered justice and charity for all his people (Chronicles I 18:14).” I like that we’re hearing that as a leader, David worked to be just and charitable, not just within a slim margin, but somehow for all of the people. While I assume this isn’t actually universal, as it’s impossible to meaningfully meet the needs of each individual at the same time, the premise is lovely. There are so many neglected or underserved facets of society, both today, and I imagine back in biblical times. So by including the key word all, I see this text as telling us that David was trying not to overlook those silenced minorities.
“And the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord came up to the City of David, and Michal the daughter of Saul peered through the window, and she saw King David dancing and playing, and she scorned him in her heart (Chronicles I 15:29).” I’m not sure what my reflection is going to be on this verse, but as soon as I saw Michal, an oft-overlooked woman, mentioned at the end of this chapter, I was immediately drawn to it. One of my favorite books growing up was Queenmaker by India Edghill, a novelization of Queen Michal’s life. [So yes, for anyone interested, I’ve always been this cool] I loved biblical fiction that gave voice to women, who were so often silenced in the text itself. So I want to understand the motivation of Michal in this moment. I have some ideas, but rather than contributing to the cacophony of voices speaking for her, I’m going to keep them to myself, and just say that there’s a complexity behind every silent face. So let’s look beneath the surface in our own lives and see who we’re overlooking, and rectify that.
More recaps of King David. “And David’s fame went forth throughout all the lands, and the Lord placed the fear of him upon all the nations (Chronicles I 14:17).” This information comes after we get a throwback narrative of David’s battles with the Philistines. What interests me about this is that David’s reputation seems to really have been built based on his actions during these battles. We hear that he listened to God when determining what kind of military action to take in each circumstance, and subsequently his fame became well-known. I’m taking this to mean that it’s our actions that truly build our reputations, something that can have either positive or negative consequences depending on the choices that we make. If your name is going to be known, you hopefully want it to be for something good, so being mindful of that path that you take to getting there is of great importance.
“And David conferred with the officers of the thousands and the hundreds, with every leader (Chronicles I 13:1).” David is the king, the supreme and ultimate ruler, and yet in this verse, we see an example of a leader who doesn’t rely only on his own judgment. Particularly with a monarch, I’d imagine it would be pretty easy to become enamored with ones own opinion, but instead, David actively seeks out the thoughts of both major and more minor sub-leaders. I want to keep this message close to my heart. It’s so easy, even for me, someone with exponentially less power than a king, to act unilaterally and to think that my way is automatically the right way. But if the most high ranking leader can be confident enough to ask for advice and input, all the more so I should too.
We’re getting some more throwbacks to King David’s reign, and everyone is flocking to him to support him in battle. “And David came out before them, and he answered and said to them, ‘If you have come to me in peace to help me, my heart will be upon you as one, but if you have come to betray me to my adversaries although there is no injustice in my hands, may the God of our forefathers see and reprove (Chronicles I 12:17).'” What I love about this verse is that it demonstrates that both intention and action are needed in order to fulfill a mission or obligation. David wasn’t satisfied if people came to support him with malicious intent, and only wanted followers who also had loyalty in their hearts. We regularly hear that actions speak louder than words, which is true, but is the most accurate when they’re augmented by intent.
I’m doing a slight switch-up today, and instead of focusing on what’s in the text of today’s chapter, I want to actually focus on what – or in this case, who – isn’t there. This chapter continues the trend of delving into the genealogy of our favorite biblical characters, and this time focuses on King David. We get shoutouts to each of his wives for the sons they produced for him. For example, “The fifth, Sephatiah, to Abital; the sixth, Ithream, to Eglah his wife (Chronicles I 3:3).” Fine. However, I can’t help but notice that someone is missing from the chapter. Michal, David’s first wife and queen, King Saul’s daughter, doesn’t even get a mention in this chronology of David. And the sad reason is that it’s because she was barren, and without contributing to his line, seems to have been erased from his life. We see throughout Tanakh that there are women who experience fertility issues, but part of the reason that we even know their stories is that those issues are somehow overcome and they do have the longed-for children (i.e. sons) that they were praying for. But what about Michal? She’s left childless to the end, and now her very existence seems to be ignored. I know we have to read through the context of the time, but it actually breaks my heart that this woman was so brushed aside just because she didn’t give the king sons. So I’m remembering Michal, and all other voiceless women, removed from the pages of text and history because they didn’t do what others expected of them.