Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 20

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



(1) The siege and storm of Rabbah. Completion of the Ammonite campaign (1 Chronicles 20:1-3). (2) A fragment, relating how three heroes of Israel slew three Philistine giants (1 Chronicles 20:4-8).

Section (1) is parallel to 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26; 2 Samuel 12:30-31. The chronicler omits the long intervening account of David’s guilt in relation to Uriah and Bathsheba, not because he had any thought of wiping out the memory of David’s crimes (an object quite beyond his power to secure, even if he had desired it, unless he could first have destroyed every existing copy of Samuel), but because that story of shame and reproach did not harmonise with the plan and purpose of his work, which was to portray the bright side of the reign of David, as founder of the legitimate dynasty and organiser of the legitimate worship.

Verse 1

(1) After the year was expired.—Heb., at the time of the return of the year: i.e., in spring. (See 1 Kings 20:22; 1 Kings 20:26.)

At the time that kings go out.—See 1 Kings 20:16. Military operations were commonly suspended during winter. The Assyrian kings have chronicled their habit of making yearly expeditions of conquest and plunder. It was exceptional for the king to “remain in the country.”

Joab led forth the power of the army.—Samuel gives details: “David sent Joab and his servants (? the contingents of tributaries, 1 Chronicles 19:19), and all Israel” (i.e., the entire national array).

Wasted the country.—An explanation of Samuel: “wasted the sons of Ammon.”

Rabbah, or Rabbath Ammon, the capital. (See 2 Samuel 11:1; Amos 1:14; Jeremiah 49:2-3.)

But David tarried (Heb., was tarrying) at Jerusalem.—While Joab’s campaign was in progress-In 2 Samuel 11:1 this remark prepares the way for the account which there follows of David’s temptation and fall.

And Joab smote Rabbah, and destroyed it.—A brief statement, summarizing the events related in 2 Samuel 11:27. From that passage we learn that, after an assault which doubtless reduced the defenders to the last stage of weakness, Joab sent a message to David at Jerusalem to come and appropriate the honours of the capture. Our 1 Chronicles 20:2, which abruptly introduces David himself as present at Rabbah, obviously implies a knowledge of the narrative as it is told in Samuel, and would hardly be intelligible without it. Whether the chronicler here and elsewhere borrows directly from Samuel, or from another document depending ultimately on the same original as Samuel, cannot certainly be decided.

Verse 2

(2) The crown of their king.—Or, “of Milcom” or “Moloch,” their god. The Heb. malkâm, “their Melech” (i.e., king), occurs in this sense (Zephaniah 1:5. Comp. Amos 5:26.) The same title is applied by the prophets to Jehovah (Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 44:6, “Jahweh, the king [melech] of Israel.” Comp. Zephaniah 3:15, and John 1:49; John 12:15; 2 Samuel 12:12; Psalms 5:2; Psalms 89:18; Isaiah 8:21; and Jeremiah 10:10). The LXX. here has “Molchom, their king”; Vulg., “Melchom”; Arabic, “Malcha, their god;” all confirming our rendering.

A talent of gold.—The Arabic Version says one hundred pounds. Modern scholars consider the “talent of gold” as about one hundred and thirty-one pounds troy. If the weight was anything like this, the crown was obviously more suited for the head of a big idol than of a man.

And there were precious stones in it.—Samuel includes their weight in the talent.

And it was set (Heb., became) upon David’s head.—Vulg., “he made himself a crown out of it.” This may be the meaning; or else the weighty mass of gold and jewels may have been held over the king’s head by his attendants on the occasion of its capture.

Exceeding much spoil.—Comp. the continual boast of the Assyrian conquerors: “spoils without number I carried off” (sallata la mani aslula).

Verse 3

(3) And he brought.—Better, “And the people that were in it he brought out, and sawed with the saw, and with the iron threshing-drags (Isaiah 41:15), and with the axes.”

Sawed.—The Hebrew is an old word, only found here. Samuel reads, by change of one letter, “set them in,” or “among,” the saws, &c.

With the axes.—So Samuel. Our Hebrew text repeats the word “saw” in the plural, owing to a scribe’s error. The two words differ by a single letter. Samuel adds, “and made them pass through the brick-kiln,” or “Moloch’s fire” (2 Kings 23:10).

Even so dealt David.—Literally, And so David used to do. These cruelties were enacted again at the taking of every Ammonite city. There needs no attempt to palliate such revolting savagery; but according to the ideas of that age it was only a glorious revenge. As David treated Ammon, so would the Ammonites have treated Israel, had the victory been theirs. (Comp. their behaviour to the Gileadites, Amos 1:13; comp. also the atrocities of Assyrian conquerors, Hosea 10:14; and of the Babylonians Psalms 137:7-9.)

Verse 4

II. This section corresponds to 2 Samuel 21:18-22. The chronicler has omitted the history of Absalom’s rebellion, with all the events which preceded and followed it, as recorded in 2 Samuel 13-20; and, further, the touching story of the sacrifice of seven sous of Saul at the demand of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14).

(4) And it came to pass after this.—Comp. Notes on 1 Chronicles 18:1; 1 Chronicles 19:1. The chronicler has omitted, whether by accident or design, the account with which, in 2 Samuel 21:15-17, this fragmentary section begins, and which tells how David was all but slain by the giant Ishbi-benob.

There arose war.—Literally, there stood, an unique phrase, which perhaps originated in a misreading of that which appears in 2 Samuel 21:18, “there became again.”

Gezer.—Samuel, “Gob,” an unknown place. Each word (spelling Gôb fully) has three consonants in Hebrew, of which the first is common to both, and the other two are similar enough to make corruption easy. For “Gezer,” see Joshua 16:3. The Syriac and Arabic here read “Gaza”; but Gezer (so LXX. and Vulg.) seems right.

Sibbechai the Hushathite.—See 1 Chronicles 11:29; 1 Chronicles 27:11.

Sippai.—Samuel, “Saph.”

Of the children of the giant.—See margin. Render, Sippai, of the offspring (a special term—yĕlîdê—see Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14) of the Rephaites. “Rapha” was doubtless the collective tribal designation of the gigantic Rephaim (Genesis 14:5).

And they were subdued—Added by chronicler.

Verse 5

(5) There was war again.—Samuel adds, “in Gob.” The proper name is probably a transcriber’s repetition; the Syriac and Arabic there are without it.

Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite.—The Hebrew text and LXX. of Samuel have the very different statement: “And Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite slew Goliath the Gittite.” There are good critics who maintain that we must recognise here a proof that popular traditions fluctuated between David and the less famous hero Elhanan as slayer of Goliath: an uncertainty, supposed to be faithfully reflected in the two accounts preserved by the compiler of Samuel (1 Samuel 17:0; 2 Samuel 21:19). Other not less competent scholars believe that the text of Samuel should be corrected from the Chronicles. As regards the name Jaarê-oregim (forests of weavers—an absurdity), this is plausible. Whether we proceed further in the same direction must depend on the general view we take of the chronicler’s relation to the Books of Samuel. It is easy, but hardly satisfactory, to allege that he felt the difficulty, which every modern reader must feel, and altered the text accordingly. The real question is whether he has done this arbitrarily, or upon the evidence of another document than his MS. of Samuel. Now, it is fair to say that (1) hitherto we have observed no signs of arbitrary alteration; (2) we have had abundant proof that the chronicler actually possessed other sources besides Samuel. There is no apparent reason why “Lahmi” (i.e., Lahmijah) should not be a nomen individui. (Comp. Assyrian Lahmû, the name of a god, Tablet I., Creation Series.) It is, however, quite possible that Elhanan is another, and, in fact, the original name of David. The appellative David. “the beloved” (comp. Dido), may have gradually supplanted the old Elhanan in the popular memory. Solomon we know was at first named Jodidiah, and it is highly probable that the true designation of the first king of Israel has been lost, the name Saul (“the asked”) having been given in allusion to the fact that the people had ashed for a king. We may compare, besides, the double names Jehoahaz-Shallum, Mattaniah-Zedekiah, and perhaps Uzziah-Azariah. The Targum on Samuel partly supports this suggestion (see the Note there). I would add that Jaare in Hebrew writing is an easy corruption of Jesse; so that the original reading of 2 Samuel 21:19 may have been, “And Elhanan the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, slew Goliath,” &c. In that case, the reading of Chronicles must be considered an unsuccessful emendation, due probably to the compiler whose work the chronicler followed.

Verse 6

(6) Man of great stature.—See Margin. Samuel has a slightly different form.

Whose fingers . . .—The Authorised Version here agrees with the Hebrew text of Samuel. The Hebrew text of Chronicles is abridged: “And his digits six and six—twenty and four.”

Was the son of the giant.Was born to the Rephaite: i.e., the clan so named.

Verse 8

(8) These (’çl), a rare word, found eight times in the Pentateuch with the article, here only without; perhaps an error of transcription. Samuel, “these four.” The chronicler has omitted one giant. (See 1 Chronicles 20:4.)

The giant.The Rephaite: that is, the clan or tribe of Rephaim. They need not have been brothers.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 20". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/1-chronicles-20.html. 1905.
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