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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 20

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-8

CRITICAL NOTES.] This extract from the ancient records tells of Rabbah taken (1 Chronicles 20:1-3); and three sons of the giant of Gath slain (1 Chronicles 20:4-8). It covers 2 Samuel 11-21. [Murphy].

1 Chronicles 20:1-3.—Rabbah taken. Year, at the return or beginning of the year, setting in of spring. Time, when kings of Israel were accustomed, after winter season, to go out to war. Rabbah besieged to complete chastisement of Ammon for insult to David’s messengers. Tarried, his presence not required in the war, more needful in seat of government (cf. 2 Samuel 12:26-31). Crown. When citadel was taken, the king captured or killed; David took the crown from his head and set it upon his own, to represent himself lord of the Ammonite territory. Cut (1 Chronicles 20:3, cf. margin, made them sawers of stone, diggers of iron, and cutters of wood, i.e., condemned them to forced labour; cf. 2 Samuel 12:30-31).

1 Chronicles 20:4-8.—Giants slain. Gezer, Gob (2 Samuel 21:19). Sibb. (chap. 1 Chronicles 11:29). Sippai, Saph. They, the Philistines. Elh. (2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 11:26). Gath (1 Chronicles 20:6; Joshua 11:22). Man (2 Samuel 20:6-7). Fell (1 Chronicles 20:8, cf. 2 Samuel 20:22, where an account of a conflict between David and a son of Rapha is given).


THE CAPTURE OF RABBAH.—1 Chronicles 20:1-3

Punishment of Ammon for treatment of embassy of condolence, hindered by inclement season, now to be completed. The chief city taken, and its fall the crowning act of David’s conquests. From the manner of its capture and the punishment of its people we learn—

I. That in spiritual warfare there must be no cessation. Rest gives advantage to the enemy, and may delay or frustrate the end in view. “Forwards, children, forwards!” urged Blucher, in meeting Wellington at Waterloo.

1. Make needful preparation. Count cost, and fail not through lack of forethought and preparation. Enterprises break down, plans wrecked in every department of labour, through neglect of this principle. “What king going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?”

2. Be ready for every advantage. “The time to go out” must be discovered and seized. Many such seasons given to a watchful Christian. “Take the instant by the forward step.” “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

II. That in conducting spiritual warfare opportunity is given for the display of virtuous qualities. Joab had besieged the capital, taken lower part of town, or “city of waters,” and knowing that it would soon fall, sent for the king to come in person and have the honour of taking it himself (cf. 2 Samuel 12:26). Taking this act as that of an adroit courtier, unwilling to run the risk of exciting the king’s envy by his success, it was wise. But the act of a devoted servant, denying himself, honouring his master, and shielding him from popular disfavour (through his conduct with Bathsheba). Room for us to help the weak, admire the successful, and, above all, to transfer the glory of our conquests to our gracious “Commander and Leader.”

III. That all things in spiritual warfare will be subdued under God’s power. The city was taken, and the people subdued. In Christian warfare, every evil thought in heart, every besetting sin, and every vicious principle in life, overcome by grace; every stronghold of Satan, and every enemy to Christ eventually subdued. “He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Great the punishment of those who resist. Ammonites suffered severely, but “woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with him.”

THE HEROES AND THE GIANTS.—1 Chronicles 20:4-8

Individual exploits here given marvellous. Sibbechai, Elhan, and Jonathan slew their men, sons of Rapha, descendants of the race of Raphaim at Gath, remains of pre-Canaanitish inhabitants, distinguished by their gigantic size (cf. 2 Samuel 21:15-22). Learn—

I. The enemies of God’s people are most powerful. Giants in appearance and reality.

1. Splendid in equipment. Armed with shields and spears, mighty in stature, and conspicuous among their fellows. Our enemies often powerful in material advantages, learning, and all appliances of modern science.

2. Defiant in attitude. “He defied Israel” (1 Chronicles 20:7). Thinking much of themselves, highly esteemed, perhaps, by contemporaries; men of “a high look and a proud heart.” “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled,” &c.

II. God’s people are ever victorious in God’s strength. Inferior in number and unequal in outward equipment, yet a match for giants of ignorance, vice, and sin. Shepherd boys have overthrown kingdoms, and striplings slain giants of evil. Men of faith, with “lamps and pitchers.” with “the jawbone of an ass,” with the meanest instruments, have overcome men of might and stature. “Never let the church’s friends be disheartened by the power and pride of the church’s enemies. We need not fear great men against us while we have the great God for us. What will a finger more on each hand do, or a toe more on each foot, in contest with Omnipotence?”


1 Chronicles 20:1. David tarried at Jerusalem. Out of the way of temptation if he had gone with the army in active duty. Temporary rest from work and fight leads often to (a) moral indolence or spiritual sloth; (b) carelessness in office, or unfaithfulness in calling; (c) temptation and disgrace. “Idle hours bring forth idle thoughts, and idle thoughts are nothing but dry, kindling wood, that waits only for a spark to be suddenly a blaze. All have had painful experience that our sins often have their roots in indolence and unfaithfulness in our calling. As long as we walk and work in our office, we are encompassed with a wall; as soon as we fall out of our office, we fall away from our fortunes, and become a prey to the enemy” [Disselhoff].

1 Chronicles 20:2. Crown from off his head.

1. Earthly crowns and kingdoms may be lost and transferred to others. By war, wickedness, and death. When Richard II. was deposed, he was brought forth, says the historian, in a royal robe, and a crown upon his head. Never was a prince so gorgeous with less glory and more grief.
2. Heavenly crowns may be gained. David set store on this crown from the King of Ammon. Better far the crown of God’s favour, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory. These untarnished by blood and severities, real ornaments to character, and unfading with time, &c.

1 Chronicles 20:4-8. The conflict of the world-power against God’s kingdom is

(1) a continual conflict ever again renewed (There was war again, 1 Chronicles 20:5);

(2) a conflict carried on with malicious cunning, frightful power, and mighty weapons (1 Chronicles 20:5);

(3) a conflict perilous to the people of God, demanding all the power given them by the Lord, and their utmost bravery;
(4) a conflict that by God’s help at last ends in the victory of his kingdom [Lange].


1 Chronicles 20:2. An incorruptible crown. A French officer, a prisoner on parol at Reading, met with a Bible; he read it, was so impressed with its contents that he was convinced of the folly of sceptical principles and of the truth of Christianity, and resolved to become a Protestant. When rallied by gay associates for taking so serious a turn, he said in vindication, “I have done no more than my old schoolfellow Bernadotte, who has become a Lutheran.” “Yes, but he became so,” said his associates, “to obtain a crown.” “My motive,” said the Christian officer, “is the same; we only differ as to the place. The object of Bernadotte is to obtain a crown in Sweden; mine is to obtain a crown in heaven” [Bib. Museum].

1 Chronicles 20:3. A lesson to conquerors. When Edward the Confessor had entered England from Normandy to recover the kingdom, and was ready to give the Danes battle, one of his captains assured him of victory, adding, “We will not leave one Dane alive.” To which Edward replied, “God forbid that the kingdom should be recovered for me, who am but one man, by the death of thousands. No; I will rather lead a private life, unstained by the blood of my fellow-men, than be a king by such a sacrifice.” Upon which he broke up his camp, and again retired to Normandy, until he was restored to his throne without bloodshed [Percy Anecdotes].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-chronicles-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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