1 Chronicles 8:1-28 – Before, After…Before, After

Posted: February 1, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 8:1-28

Descendants of Benjamin

Before aaaannnnd after! It is a famous scene from the 1982 movie, Poltergeist, where shirtless Craig T. Nelson’s character is standing in front of the floor length mirror in his pajama pants at bedtime. There, in that scene, he looks in the mirror standing sideways and exclaims, “before”, and then immediately sucks his middle-aged gut in and exclaims, “after!” He, then, repeats that process several times much to the delight of his wife, played by JoBeth Williams, who roars with laughter each time. Before and after.

That’s the thing that came to mind when I read through the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin is the before and after and the contrasts of good and evil. What lowlights this tribe has but yet it has some highlights as well. The dark side was the horrific rape of an unnamed concubine and then the defense against the perpetrators by the entire tribe. That led to a civil war with the 11 other tribes of Israel. Rather, than offer up the criminal element, they would not admit that members of their tribe had done wrong. And they ended up in war with their fellow Israelites. Although, the tribe of Benjamin was known for its fighting skill, war with 11 other tribes proved to be too much. The tribe of Benjamin ended up being decimated as a result of that civil war. Further, King Saul though a great warrior from this great warrior tribe proved to be an evil king that seemed to shake his fist in the face of God and do often the opposite of what God told him to do. These people and incidents paint a rather unflattering picture of the tribe of Benjamin – of sin, of pride, of arrogance.

On the other hand, there are those from this tribe that stand out and would be nominees for the Old Testament Hall of Fame of Faith. In later Jewish history, many Jews lived in Persia, God used Mordecai and Esther, from the tribe of Benjamin, to deliver the Jews from death (Esther 2:5–7). In the story of Esther, they laid it all on the line for the Lord to save their people from mass execution by their Babylonian captors. Mordecai nailed it when he said, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the royal palace for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14 NIV). God loved the Jewish people. And, he didn’t create Esther’s beauty and finesse for her and her alone. Esther was placed in a royal position to assist in the delivery of God’s divine plan. “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16 NIV). Esther was willing to die to save her people. Sometimes we must stand in courage, even when it is not popular to do so, and risk it all. Esther’s obedience saved God’s people from genocide. The reality is that Esther didn’t know what would happen when she approached the king. She acted in obedience and by doing so she saved a nation and received the best.

Then, there is Paul who was particularly zestful in his persecution of this upstart Jesus movement. He was passionate about believing it was sacrilege to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. Even though Paul was in error when he violently came against the early Christian church, it is undeniable that he was on fire to defend the honor of God’s law. He was dedicated and fierce toward this cause. The Lord did not turn him into a docile, gentle soul once he became a Christian…oh no. God used this same attitude in him to spread The Gospel and Kingdom message to others. God saves us and then sanctifies us for His name’s glory. Don’t think you need to overhaul your unique personality to serve God. He will divinely enhance those existing qualities. Paul become the fiercest and most tireless evangelist/church planter that our faith has ever known. He became the most important person in Christianity behind Jesus himself. With Paul, it’s not the past that matters, it’s how you finish.

It’s the before and after that I thought of this morning. The tribe of Benjamin was a tribe that has some dark moments. Then, there are some brilliant moments where people within this tribe have shaken off their past and become great men and women of God. That’s the thing. God doesn’t hold our “before” against us but looks forward to our “after”. With that in mind, let us read this genealogical passage, 1 Chronicles 8:1-28, about the tribe of Benjamin with that in mind.

Chapter 8

1 Benjamin became the father of Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, Aharah the third, 2 Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. 3 And Bela had sons: Addar, Gera, Abihud,[a] 4 Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, 5 Gera, Shephuphan, and Huram. 6 These are the sons of Ehud (they were heads of ancestral houses of the inhabitants of Geba, and they were carried into exile to Manahath): 7 Naaman,[b] Ahijah, and Gera, that is, Heglam,[c] who became the father of Uzza and Ahihud. 8 And Shaharaim had sons in the country of Moab after he had sent away his wives Hushim and Baara. 9 He had sons by his wife Hodesh: Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malcam, 10 Jeuz, Sachia, and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of ancestral houses. 11 He also had sons by Hushim: Abitub and Elpaal. 12 The sons of Elpaal: Eber, Misham, and Shemed, who built Ono and Lod with its towns, 13 and Beriah and Shema (they were heads of ancestral houses of the inhabitants of Aijalon, who put to flight the inhabitants of Gath); 14 and Ahio, Shashak, and Jeremoth. 15 Zebadiah, Arad, Eder, 16 Michael, Ishpah, and Joha were sons of Beriah. 17 Zebadiah, Meshullam, Hizki, Heber, 18 Ishmerai, Izliah, and Jobab were the sons of Elpaal. 19 Jakim, Zichri, Zabdi, 20 Elienai, Zillethai, Eliel, 21 Adaiah, Beraiah, and Shimrath were the sons of Shimei. 22 Ishpan, Eber, Eliel, 23 Abdon, Zichri, Hanan, 24 Hananiah, Elam, Anthothijah, 25 Iphdeiah, and Penuel were the sons of Shashak. 26 Shamsherai, Shehariah, Athaliah, 27 Jaareshiah, Elijah, and Zichri were the sons of Jeroham. 28 These were the heads of ancestral houses, according to their generations, chiefs. These lived in Jerusalem.

In Genesis 49 the patriarch Jacob, sensing his impending death, gathers his sons to his bedside to bless them. Each son became the progenitor of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Benjamin, as the youngest, receives his father’s blessing last: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil” (Genesis 49:27). The warlike nature of the small tribe of Benjamin became well known, as exhibited in their swordsmen (Judges 20:15–16; 1 Chronicles 8:40, 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:8, 17:17) and in their ungodly defense of their extreme wickedness in Gibeah (Judges 19—20).

Benjamin’s blessing has three parts. Compared to a wolf, his blessing has two time frames, morning and evening; it has two actions, devouring and dividing; and two outcomes, prey and spoil. This sets up a type of “before and after” experience for Benjamin and his offspring.

Scripture shows that at least four great people came from Benjamin’s tribe, even though it was the smallest of the twelve tribes (1 Samuel 9:21). First, Ehud, a great warrior who delivered Israel from Moab (Judges 3:12–30). Next, Saul becomes the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:15–27). In later Jewish history, many Jews lived in Persia, God used Mordecai and Esther, from the tribe of Benjamin, to deliver the Jews from death (Esther 2:5–7). Finally, in the New Testament the apostle Paul affirms he, too, came from Benjamin. “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). Paul repeats this affirmation in Philippians 3:4–5.

Yet Benjamin’s tribe had its dark side. Their warlike nature came out not only in defense of their country but also in depravity within their country. In Judges 19—21 Benjamin takes up an offence against the other eleven tribes of Israel, and civil war ensues. This period had the reputation of everyone doing what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). What led to the civil war was the horrific abuse and death of an unnamed Levite’s concubine (Judges 19:10–28). The eleven tribes turned against the tribe of Benjamin and nearly annihilated them because of their refusal to give up the perpetrators (Judges 20:1—21:25). Eventually, the tribes restored Benjamin’s tribe, greatly diminished due to the war, and the country reunited.

In Jewish culture the day begins at evening. Here begins the “after” for Benjamin. Benjamin’s prophecy ends in the evening, the beginning of a new day, in which he will “divide the spoil.” This has two aspects. First, through the apostle Paul, who testifies, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). In the apostle Paul Benjamin’s tribe had a citizen who served God mightily, as he says of himself, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith“ (2 Timothy 4:7).

But Benjamin’s “dividing of the spoil” has another fulfillment yet future. In Revelation 7:8, during the tribulation period, 12,000 men from Benjamin, along with 12,000 from each of the other tribes of Israel, will reach the world’s population with the gospel. The result will be a multitude of the saved “that no man could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9). The second dividing of the spoil for Benjamin comes in the millennial kingdom when they will have a place in the land of Israel, along with a gate that has their name on it in the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:32). They, along with the other tribes of Israel, will find the ultimate dividing of the spoils in the New Jerusalem as each gate has a name of one of the tribes, Benjamin included (Revelation 21:12–13). What a glorious finish! What grace is this!

Benjamin has great truths to teach. First, God doesn’t see as men see, for God looks on the heart. God saw a warrior inside of Benjamin. Outwardly, others saw him as the youngest son and his tribe as the smallest tribe. But God saw more, a man who would both devour and divide. The second lesson for us lies in the two Sauls who came from the tribe of Benjamin. King Saul, the epitome of the sin nature and its war against God, and Saul/Paul whose nature was changed by God from a murderous Pharisee to the apostle of grace. Paul is the example of what God does for those who come to Christ in faith.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. God does not hold our “before” against us when we come to Christ in repentance and recognize Him as our Savior and Lord. He is concerned with the “after”. He is concerned with how we finish. Since it is only He who knows WHEN we are to finish our race, Jesus awaits right now for you to end your “before” life and begin your life of the “after” – after salvation in Jesus Christ. Begin your life of the “after” today. We don’t know when our race is over. Come to Him before it’s too late.

Amen and Amen.

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