First Chronicles archives David’s reign over Israel’s united kingdom in the 10th century BCE. After filling its first nine chapters with genealogies and lists (I Chronicles 1:1-9:44), the narrative devotes a scant fourteen verses to David’s predecessor, Saul, and then only to focus on his death (I Chronicles 10:1-14). The remainder of the book is concerned with documenting David’s monarchy, remembered as a Golden Age (I Chronicles 11:1–28:30). Fittingly, the book concludes with David’s death (I Chronicles 29:28-30).
First Chronicles’ twenty-seventh chapter catalogs David’s administration: army commanders (I Chronicles 27:1-15), chief tribal officers (I Chronicles 27:16-24), various overseers (I Chronicles 27:25-31) and counselors (I Chronicles 27:32-34).
The Chronicler lists eleven overseers (I Chronicles 27:25-31). Leslie C. Allen (b. 1935) encapsulates:
The list of David’s administrators of crown property is generally recognized as historically reliable. It is arranged in three groups, according to storage places in the capital (implicitly) and in the country (I Chronicles 27:25), agriculture and agricultural products (I Chronicles 27:26-28), and livestock (I Chronicles 27:29-31a). A descriptive summary in I Chronicles 27:31b concludes the list. The royal property was spread out throughout the united kingdom, as I Chronicles 27:28-29 attests. The list illustrates David’s riches (I Chronicles 29:28), painting a beautiful picture of God’s blessing on the land and a nostalgic ideal that implicitly included economic and political hopes for full restoration. (The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume III: 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Tobit, Judith, 457)The last of the overseers listed is Jaziz the Hagrite (I Chronicles 27:31).
Jaziz the Hagrite had charge of the flocks. All these were overseers of the property which belonged to King David. (I Chronicles 27:31 NASB)Though the notation regarding Jaziz occupies I Chronicles 27:31 in many translations (HCSB, KJV, NASB, NIV,NKJV, NLT) it is also chronicled as verse 30 in others (ASV, CEV, ESV, NRSV, RSV).
Many possibilties have been offered regarding the meaning of Jaziz’s name. “Whom God Moves” (Friedrich Heinrich Wilhelm Gesenius [1786-1842]), “Brightness, Departing” (Roswell Dwight Hitchcock [1817-1887]), “Shining or He Me Moves About” (Herbert Lockyer, Sr. [1886-1984]) and “He Will Make Prominent” (David Mandel [b. 1938]) have all been suggested.
Missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) imagines:
Jaziz had a beautiful name —Shining. No dullness, no heavy-heartedness as he tended the flocks. God make us all to be Jazizes—happy shepherds, shining shepherds. (Carmichael, Whispers of His Power: Selections for Daily Readings, 188)Most contemporary scholars admit that the name’s meaning is uncertain. Sara Japhet (b. 1934) conjectures:
The name of the Ishmaelite [I Chronicles 27:30] is most probably a Hebraized form of the Arabic Wabil (cf. Walter Baumgartner [1887-1970], 20) and the same probably holds true for the unique Jaziz of the Hagrites. (Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Old Testament Library, 478)Jaziz is identified as a Hagrite (ASV, CEV, ESV, HCSB, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV RSV) which the King James Version immortalizes with the alternate spelling “Hagerite”. Though hardly definitive, some have seen an etymological connection to Abraham’s concubine, Hagar (Genesis 16:1). As such, Jaziz has been associated with his predecessor in the list of overseers, Obil the Ishmaelite (I Chronicles 27:30).
Roddy Braun (b. 1935) notes:
The presence among the officials named in this of David’s officials of the Ishmaelite Obil, whose name means “camel driver,” and the Hagrite Jaziz, both of whom are associated with the Arabian territories to the south of Judah, has been taken by some (e.g., Wilhelm Rudolph [1891-1987], H.G.M. Williamson [b. 1947]) to point to the early nature of the list. (Braun, 1 Chronicles (Word Biblical Commentary), 263)Sara Japhet (b. 1934) identifies:
The former inhabitants of the conquered area are designated Hagrites – the descendants of Hagar. The main allusions to this Arabian group are found in Chronicles: in this chapter [I Chronicles 5:1-16]...and in David’s administration: Jaziz the Hagrite is ‘over the flocks’ (I Chronicles 27:31), and Mibhar the son of Hagri is one of David’s warriors (I Chronicles 11:38; in II Samuel 23:36, Bani the Gadite. As a people they are mentioned only once more, in Psalm 83:6 (Masoretic Text 83:7), which appropriately numbers them with Edom, Ishmaelites and Moab. They are absent, however, from the main traditions of the Pentateuch describing Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, and are represented in the traditions of Genesis by Hagar, Sarah’s maid and Abraham’s concubine, who, throughout the narrative, retains eponymic characteristics. (Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Old Testament Library, 135-36)Edwin C. Hostetter (b. 1957) describes the Hagrites as:
A pastoralist tribe residing in the region East of Gilead. Psalm 83:6...enumerates Hagrites among other Transjordan enemies of Israel from the preexilic era. In the time of King Saul the Hebrew tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh took control of Hagrite territory (I Chronicles 5:18-22). King David seems to have won the loyalty of at least some of them, since he gave oversight of the royal flocks to Jaziz the Hagrite (I Chronicles 27:31). An ethnographic relationship between the Hagrites and the woman Hagar is uncertain (Baruch 3:23, “the children/descendants of Hagar”). (David Noel Freedman [1922-2008], “Hagrites”, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 541)If Hagrites are descendants of Hagar and Ishmael, this would represent the inclusion of Arabs into Israel’s royal court. Tony Maalouf (b. 1955) observes:
During the united monarchy, Israel’s golden age of prosperity under the Lord, there is...evidence of positive relationships between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ishmael...David’s raids on the Negev during the reign of Saul did not involve the Ishmaelites. They were not listed among his victims, even though his raids “encroached upon their habitat, as is clear from I Samuel 27:8 and Genesis 25:18.” David’s sister was married to “Jether the Ishmaelite,” the father of Amasa who was to replace Joab as a later leader of Israel’s army (II Samuel 20:4-13; I Chronicles 2:17). Furthermore, among those who administrated “crown property” under David were “Obil the Ishmaelite” and “Jaziz thr Hagarite” (I Chronicles 27:30). (Maalouf, Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Prophetic Plan for Ishmael’s Line, 118)Jaziz is responsible for “the flocks” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV). The CEV relays that he oversees “sheep and goats” and the NLT combines these two phrases with “flocks of sheep and goats”.
This specification fits the Hebrew term, tsô‘n. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament defines:
The basic meaning in all the Semitic dialects is “small livestock,” referring primarily to sheep and goats collectively in flocks or as possessions. Hence sō’n frequently parallels ‘ēder (Genesis 29:2-3; Jeremiah 13:20; Ezekiel 34:12, etc.) or is specified more closely by ‘ēder (Genesis 29:2; Joel 1:18; Micah 5:8) or miqneh (Genesis 26:14, 47:17; II Chronicles 33:29). The meaning “flock,” albeit as a metaphor, is emphatically supported by the construct expression sō’n ‘ādām (Ezekiel 36:38). (G. Johannes Botterweck [1917-1981], Helmer Ringgren [1917-2012] and Heinz-Josef Fabry [b. 1944], Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume XII, 198)It is fitting that a Hagrite would oversee the flocks (I Chronicles 27:31) as shepherding was synonymous with the region. Merrill F. Unger (1909-1980) identifies Jaziz as:
A Hagrite and overseer of David’s flocks (I Chronicles 27:31), which were probably pastured east of Jordan where the forefathers of Jaziz had lived for ages (cf. vv. 19-22). (Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary).A modern parallel to selecting Jaziz for this task might be naming a representative from Idaho as secretary of Potatoes.
The name “Hagrite” may actually designate a trade as opposed to an ethnicity. Roger Syrén considers:
‘Ishmaelites’ in the Old Testament, although formally a gentilic adjective, may not refer to any identifiable tribe at all. It is important to note that the Assyrian sources do not mention any ethnic group by the name of Ishmael (cf. Israel Eph‘al [b. 1933], The Ancient Arabs, pp. 166-68). In the Old Testament the term may imply socio-economically distinct, rather than racially related groups. So it seems when it appears in Genesis 37:5 and I Chronicles 27:30 referring to tradesmen and camel-breeders. In the latter usage, the Chronicler states that an ‘Ishmaelite’ and a ‘Hagrite’ were officers at King David’s court. While the other people on the list are identified by the name of their father, or alternatively, by a gentilic name indicating where they came from, the term ‘the Ishmaelite’ for Obil (over the camels) and ‘the Hagrite’ for Jaziz (over small cattle) do not follow any such pattern. It is possible, therefore, that these terms were chosen because of the particular tasks assigned to these persons. Along similar lines see E.A. Knauf [b. 1953], Ismael: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte Palästinas und Nordarabiens im I Jahrtausend v. Chr. (Abhandlungen des deutschen Palästinavereins; Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 2nd edition, 1989), pp. 13-14. (Syrén, The Forsaken First Born: A Study of Recurrent Motif in the Patriarchal Narratives, 27)Assigning Jaziz this task plays to his strengths. He is either from a region known for shepherding or is so adept in this field that he is given the name “Hagrite” to indicate his proficiency. He is the right man for the job.
Is it significant that David crosses ethnic lines in appointing Jaziz the Hagrite (I Chronicles 27:31)? What facets of a person’s background would preclude you from hiring them? What geographic regions are synonymous with a particular profession? What are your strengths? Should you play to your strengths or improve your weaknesses? What do you oversee for your King, Jesus?
For most modern commentators, Jaziz does not merit comment. He is a mere name, nationality and occupation treated little more than a random name, rank and serial number. No stories pertaining to him are relayed in the Bible. In fact, his name appears only in this one isolated verse (I Chronicles 27:31).
Jaziz is remembered because he is part of David’s court, the most revered monarchy in the nation’s history. His legacy is as a member of an extraordinary team. Jaziz is a relic of a Golden Age, an era when the kingdom was united and times were good. The fact that his position exists is a sign of this prosperity.
Clyde T. Francisco (1916-1981) remarks:
The Chronicler presents a list (I Chronicles 27:25-31) of the officers who supervised the king’s crown property. Because David apparently had no direct taxation, he had acquired considerable personal property from which he derived the income that supported the life of his court. This included everything from farming to camel caravans. If crown properties had become so extensive during this one reign, one can imagine how later kings added to their possessions as time went by. This is one reason why Ezekiel recommended that the prince be given an allotted portion which he could not enlarge (Ezekiel 46:16-18). (Francisco, 1 Samuel - Nehemiah (The Broadman Bible Commentary), 356)Jaziz is responsible for a significant portion of the kingdom’s assets. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament recounts:
The sō’n [“flocks”] played an important role in the economy of the royal sphere...According to I Samuel 8:17, the king could claim a tenth of all flocks, and according to I Kings 4:23, Solomon’s court also required “ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed cattle, and one hundred sheep.” It is especially in connection with the temple and cultic celebrations that the Old Testament attests the use of extremely high quantities of both large and small livestock (I Kings 8:63; II Chronicles 7:5, 29:33, 30:24), part of which came from the king’s own possessions (mērekûs, II Chronicles 35:7). Hence in its list of civic officials in charge of the royal Davidic property, I Chronicles 27:31 specifically mentions a certain Hagrite by the name of Jaziz who was in charge of the flocks. (G. Johannes Botterweck [1917-1981], Helmer Ringgren [1917-2012] and Heinz-Josef Fabry [b. 1944], Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume XII, 202)Though often overlooked by modern interpreters, Jaziz and his position are important. In addition to its economic impact, his task may have had a sentimental place in the king’s heart as David himself had been a shepherd (I Samuel 16:11, 17:15). Jaziz is selected for his position not only by the king but also by a peer. Jaziz is the shepherd’s shepherd.
How important is Jaziz’s job? What period in your life represents your golden age? Do you look upon the people in those times with special fondness? Are your past successes cause for hope or lament? Of the groups you have been involved with, which was the best team? Would you rather be the worst player on the best team or the best player on the worst team? When have you been recognized by your peers? Was this more meaningful than acclaim from others?
“Without a shepherd, sheep are not a flock” - Russian Proverb