Joy in Israel

Joy in Israel August 10, 2016

I Chronicles 12:23-40 describes David’s king-making at Hebron. The Chronicler lists the number of mighty men from each tribe, those who constitute a host, a set of constellations, around the king as Yahweh’s angels are a host around his throne (vv. 23-38). There’s nothing about an anointing or crowning ceremony. Instead, all the warriors assemble at Hebron to eat and drink with David for three days (v. 39). Food is brought from as far as Zebulun and Naphtali (regions that will later see the establishment of another festive kingdom, Matthew 4:12-17). Verse 40 describes the caravan and the food.

Four animals bear food to Hebron: donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. Four suggests the faces of the cherubim or the four corners of the land. But the animals themselves hint at a wider horizon. Three of of the four animals are unclean; one is a hybrid horsedonkey. Together, they form a caravan of Israelites and Gentiles. It’s a hint of a future pilgrimage, and feast, of the nations. Not for nothing is the region of Zebulun and Naphtali later called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1, quoted in Matthew 4).

Verse 40 lists seven foods: Flour, figs, raisins, wine, oil, oxen, sheep. English translations obscure this by adding “cakes” of this and “bunches” of that. In Hebrew, the list consists of only seven words. It’s the sort of list one finds in temple texts. They are going to make David king, but the material they use is the same as the material for celebrating Yahweh’s kingship.

Seven, one notices, and then:

Day 1: Flour

Day 2: Figs from trees that spread a canopy-firmament between heaven and earth. Figs like stars (cf. Revelation 6).

Day 3: Raisins that spring up from the dry land that appears on the third day of creation.

Day 4: Wine, grapes glorified. Wine, the drink of kings who shine like stars in the heavens.

Day 5: Oil pressed from olives, oil that spread like a glistening swarm.

Day 6: Oxen, which were actually created on Day 6.

Day 7: David is shepherd of the flock of Israel, entering his Sabbath enthronement at Hebron.

Even if the details are wrong, the sevenfold list hints at the cosmic scope of this celebration: 12 tribes of Israel gathers to enjoy 7 kinds of food carried by 4 animals.

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