Monday, August 28, 2023

1 Chronicles 18-20

1 Chronicles 18–20 (NIV)✞: David’s Victories, David’s Officials, David Defeats the Ammonites, The Capture of Rabbah, War With the Philistines


In the last passage David had given thought to building a temple for the LORD, but God told him no, David wasn’t the one who’d build Him a temple, David’s son would. And then, in a complete reversal, God told David that He would build a house for him (metaphorically speaking): God would make sure to keep someone from the line of David’s son on the throne forever.

As I read through the book of Chronicles, remembering that this book was written while the people of God were in exile—there was no king from the line of David on the throne of their nation; there wasn’t even a nation anymore!—I have to wonder what original readers were thinking when they were reminded of this covenant.

In chapters 18–20 the author(s) cover some more of David’s rule as king, mostly about the many enemies he defeated.

First, 18:1–13✞ cover some of David’s victories, which I won’t go into in detail since I blogged about these incidents for 2 Samuel 8. One thing I do notice is that the way the author(s) of Chronicles edited the story there feels like more emphasis on David contributing his “spoils of war” to the LORD than there did in the Samuel passage; that’s not completely valid, it’s mentioned in both places, but it feels like it has more emphasis in Chronicles. (Or maybe it just seems that way because so much of the story of Chronicles is centred on the Temple, so I see it everywhere?)

18:14–17✞ then summarise David’s officials, and is word-for-word the same as 2 Samuel 8:15–18✞. The only difference is that the NIV puts a footnote on one of the names in Chronicles, saying that some transcripts have the name spelled differently, whereas there is no such footnote on the Samuel version. I find that especially interesting since Samuel would have been an older book than Chronicles, and yet it’s the later book that has the inconsistencies. (Does it matter, in a spiritual sense, whether the man’s name was Ahimelek or Abimelek? I don’t think so.)

19:1–20:3✞ then covers David’s defeat of the Ammonites, and here we have material from a few places in 2 Samuel: Chapter 10✞; 11:1✞; 12:26✞, and 12:30–31✞. (With thanks to the ESV Study Bible for pointing out all of these cross-references!) For the most part, once again, the author(s) of Chronicles are staying very close to the story as told in Samuel – except for the obvious omission of the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah, which comes right in the middle of these events but is left out of the story in Chronicles.

And finally, in 20:4–8✞, there is an account of war with the Philistines, which is covered in 2 Samuel 21:18–22✞.


I don’t have much to say about these passages; I essentially already blogged about them as I went through 2 Samuel; since the events here so closely mirror the events in Samuel, I’m not seeing a lot of additional things to say. Except, of course, that there is the obvious omission of the story of David and Bathsheba/Uriah in the Chronicles version.

Which raises the question: are the author(s) of Chronicles trying to gloss over his mistakes?

I don’t think so. There was every expectation that the readers of Chronicles would already know that story, so there was nothing to hide. The author(s) of Chronicles are writing for a specific reason so they’re highlighting the parts of the story that are relevant; in this instance, following the incident in which God makes a covenant with David, we see hints of that covenant coming into fruition.

The author(s) of Samuel and Kings were trying to tell a comprehensive history of the kings of Judah and Israel, while the author(s) of Chronicles are trying to tell the story of God taking care of His people. It’s a story His people really needed as some of them started returning home to the Promised Land after their captivity in Babylon/Persia and wondering where they stood with Him. Part of that story is based on the line of David, and part is also based on His Temple, for which David, in this chapter, is starting to make preparations.

I do think that original readers of Chronicles would feel the omission of the Bathsheba/Uriah story as much as modern-day readers do. With so much of the book of Chronicles focused on the Davidic Dynasty1 and the Temple, the original readers—who would already be feeling in their bones the lack of a Davidic king on the throne—might be giving thought to the fact that even David himself wasn’t a perfect king. In fact, maybe they’d even be thinking that they couldn’t rely on a king to have perfect obedience to God, they’d need to do that themselves…

Or perhaps I’m getting anachronistic2.


  • “Davidic Dynasty” just means the “dynasty” of King David – that is, the line of David, and the covenant God had made with him that it would last forever.
  • I mean “anachronistic” in the sense of reading modern sensibilities into older texts; that is, expecting the original readers of Chronicles to think like I do.

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