The twelve tribes of Israel contribute to David’s army (1 Chr 12:23-12:37)

“These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops, who came to David in Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of Yahweh. The people of Judah bearing shield and spear were six thousand eight hundred armed troops. Of the Simeonites, mighty warriors, there were seven thousand one hundred. Of the Levites, there were four thousand six hundred. The prince Jehoiada, of the house of Aaron, had with him three thousand seven hundred. Zadok, a young man mighty in valor, had twenty-two commanders from his own father’s house. Of the Benjaminites, the kindred of Saul, there were three thousand, of whom the majority had hitherto kept their allegiance to the house of Saul. Of the Ephraimites there were twenty thousand eight hundred, mighty men of valor famous men in their fathers’ houses. Of the half-tribe of Manasseh there were eighteen thousand, who were expressly named to come and make David king. Of Issachar men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, there were two hundred chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. Of Zebulun fifty thousand seasoned troops came, equipped for battle with all the weapons of war, to help David with singleness of purpose. Of Naphtali there were a thousand commanders with whom were thirty-seven thousand men armed with shield and spear. Of the Danites there were twenty-eight thousand six hundred men equipped for battle. Of Asher there were forty thousand seasoned troops ready for battle. Of the Reubenites and Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh from beyond the Jordan, there were one hundred and twenty thousand men armed with all the weapons of war.”

Up to now, there was a lot about the leaders and officer, here there is remarkable gathering of ground troops. The numbers from the northern tribes and the east Jordan tribes are staggering unrealistic, equaling over 300,000 troops, while the southern tribes are small in comparison, around 20,000. In fact, it would have been difficult to sustain this large gathering of troops. Each tribe, including the Levites, contributed to the army of Israel with ground troops. Here are the numbers:

  • Judah = 6,800 troops
  • Simeonites = 7,100 troops
  • Levites = 4,600 troops
  • Benjaminites = 3,000 troops
  • Ephraimites = 20,800 troops
  • Half tribe of Manasseh = 18,000 troops
  • Issachar = 200 chiefs and their men
  • Zebulun = 50,000 troops
  • Naphtali = 1.000 commanders and 37,000 troops
  • Danites = 28,000 troops
  • Asher = 40,000 troops
  • Reubenites, Gadites, half tribe of Manasseh = 120,000 troops.

The wars of the Transjordan people (1 Chr 5:18-5:22)

“The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men, who carried shield and sword and drew the bow. As experts in war, forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty men were ready for service. They made war upon the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. When they received help against them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands. They cried to God in the battle. He granted their entreaty because they trusted in him. They captured their livestock, fifty thousand of their camels, two hundred and fifty thousand sheep, two thousand donkeys, and a hundred thousand captives alive. Many fell slain, because the war was of God. They lived in their territory until the exile.”

These Transjordan people were great warriors with a standing army of about 44,760 armed men with shields, swords, bows and arrows. The exact number is a little strange. The 3 groups were the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They prayed to God and God heard their cry. They defeated the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. The Reubenites had also defeated the Hagrites, an Arab tribe, supposedly the descendants, of Ishmael, based on his mother’s name Hagar, Sarah’s slave. Jetur and Naphish were the sons of Ishmael also. Nodab is only mentioned here but he may have been connected to the Ishmael clan in some way. They really seem to be against the descendents of Ishmael. They captured their land, their livestock with 50,000 camels, 250,000 sheep, and 2,000 donkeys. They also captured about 100,000 men. Once again, we have some amazing numbers. It is not clear what they did with these 100,000 captives. Of course, all this lasted until the 8th century BCE exile.

The half tribe of Manasseh (Josh 13:29-13:33)

“Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh. It was allotted to the half-tribe of the Manassites according to their families. Their region extended from Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of King Og of Bashan. This includes all the settlements of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty towns, and half of Gilead, with the towns of Ashtaroth, and Edrei, the towns of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. These were allotted to the people of Machir son of Manasseh according to their clans, half of the Machirites.”

The half tribe of Manasseh got the biggest portion of this captured land. There is no explanation on why only half the tribe stayed here and got this northern part of the Bashan area, the kingdom of Og. However, the clan of Machir gets this land.

“These are the inheritances that Moses distributed in the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan east of Jericho. But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance. Yahweh God of Israel is their inheritance, as he said to them.”

Once again, there is a mention that this was Moses’ idea that the Levites get no property. Moses also made this agreement with the 2 ½ tribes, not Joshua.