Read the Bible Through: 2 Samuel 5, 1 Chronicles 11-12
32 Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command. (1 Chronicles 12:32)
The main function of 1 Chronicles 12:24-37 is to show that all Israel was united behind David as their king. Even the Benjamites, who “to that point kept their allegiance to the house of Saul” (v. 29) were with him. Even the Levites, who normally aren’t numbered among the warriors (see Day 054: On Going to War ) are numbered among the warriors! I can imagine them saying, “Cool! I like this king. I finally get to fight!”
There are some interesting things about the numbers recorded here. For example, you might expect Judah to send the largest number of warriors, since David was of the tribe of Judah, and they were the largest tribe. But out of twelve tribes, they were eighth on how many warriors came to help their kinsman David secure the kingdom. Zebulun was first, which is really fascinating to me, considering that they aren’t even listed among the tribes at the end of the exile (1 Chronicles 4-10, see Day 119: The “Not Like” and the “Almost Like”).
But let’s talk about Isaachar. I want to give them every benefit of the doubt and imagine that “all their kinsmen” in verse 32 meant every Isaacharite answered the call to fight with David. Because if not, then poor Isaachar only counted 200 men who supported King David.
However, these weren’t ordinary men. Verse 32 says that these were men who “had an understanding of the times.” I’m not sure what all that meant. Were they politically astute? Did they pay attention to the movement of the planets? Were they just wise and discerning (all of these are possibilities put forth by gotquestions.org)? No one really knows.
But what is clear is that we need people around us who “understand the times.” Jesus rebuked people of his day for not understanding the times (see Luke 12:54-56). Paul warned in Romans 13 that we all must be aware of our time:
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14
So, again, we aren’t sure what it means that the men of Isaachar understood the times. But whatever it was, it apparently made up for not having as many men equipped for battle. There isn’t a word in Scripture about how they “only” had 200 men, compared to the next smallest number of soldiers– the 3000 men of Benjamin. 200 men who understood the times could fight alongside 50,000 men who didn’t.
What does it mean for you to understand the times?
- It could mean to live with an awareness that “salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).
- It could mean realizing that now is the day of salvation for someone you’ve been meaning to share Christ with (2 Corinthians 6:2)
- It could mean learning how to count your days, that you may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
- Maybe it means to never stop encouraging one another, “as long as it is called today” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
No matter what it might mean, make a commitment today to understand the times, and then to put that discerning spirit to work in the service of the king.
There aren’t many people around who understand the times. The kingdom needs you.