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1 Chronicles 18:1-20:8 – David’s Wars

Summary

David gains victory when he trusts God and gains wealth with which to build the temple.

Analysis

These chapters condense the extensive material of 2 Samuel 8-21. Some of the distillation has been understood in terms of the Chronicler's supposed idealization of David:
  • The Ammonite War (2 Samuel 11-12) is omitted, possibly because of the derogatory nature of David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah, that the Samuel account contains.
  • In a similar attempt to overlook negative portrayals of David, the struggles in David's family that arose as a result of his sin (2 Samuel 13-21) fail to appear.

But then how does one account for the positive aspects of David's story that are also eliminated in this distillation, such as David's kindness toward Jonathan and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9), the birth of Solomon--the Chronicler's other "hero" (2 Samuel 12:24-25)--and David's splendid psalms (2 Samuel 22; 23:1-7)? Moreover, the Chronicler's retelling of David's census portrays David much more negatively (1 Chronicles 21). A more satisfying explanation, granting that the Chronicler was not interested in highlighting negative portrayals, is that the remaining material concerned with David's military victories serves as the necessary transition between God's promise to subdue all David's enemies (17:10a) and the preparations for the building of the temple.

Since David's military exploits disqualify him from building the temple (1 Chronicles 22:8; 28:3; compare 1 Kings 5:3), the possibility that David is being punished or blamed has often been raised. The narrative, however, is peppered with positive evaluations such as, "The LORD gave David victory wherever he went" (1 Chronicles 18:13b; see also 18:6b, 14; 19:13; 20:3, 4, 8). Rather, these materials may have been included to explain why David's extensive preparations for the building of the temple were not fully realized in its actual construction. The wars did provide funding for the temple, as well as a continuing attestation of God's blessing, but David's role was to prepare; Solomon's was to build.

1 Chronicles 18:1-20:8

David’s Kingdom Established and Extended

18Some time afterwards, David attacked the Philistines and subdued them; he took Gath and its villages from the Philistines.

2 He defeated Moab, and the Moabites became subject to David and brought tribute.

3 David also struck down King Hadadezer of Zobah, towards Hamath,* as he went to set up a monument at the river Euphrates. 4David took from him one thousand chariots, seven thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand foot-soldiers. David hamstrung all the chariot horses, but left one hundred of them. 5When the Arameans of Damascus came to help King Hadadezer of Zobah, David killed twenty-two thousand Arameans. 6Then David put garrisons* in Aram of Damascus; and the Arameans became subject to David, and brought tribute. The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went. 7David took the gold shields that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. 8From Tibhath and from Cun, cities of Hadadezer, David took a vast quantity of bronze; with it Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the vessels of bronze.

9 When King Tou of Hamath heard that David had defeated the whole army of King Hadadezer of Zobah, 10he sent his son Hadoram to King David, to greet him and to congratulate him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him. Now Hadadezer had often been at war with Tou. He sent all sorts of articles of gold, of silver, and of bronze; 11these also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he had carried off from all the nations, from Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, and Amalek.

12 Abishai son of Zeruiah killed eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13He put garrisons in Edom; and all the Edomites became subject to David. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.

David’s Administration

14 So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and equity to all his people. 15Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 16Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelech son of Abiathar were priests; Shavsha was secretary; 17Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.

Defeat of the Ammonites and Arameans

19Some time afterwards, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him. 2David said, ‘I will deal loyally with Hanun son of Nahash, for his father dealt loyally with me.’ So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. When David’s servants came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites, to console him, 3the officials of the Ammonites said to Hanun, ‘Do you think, because David has sent people to console you, that he is honouring your father? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?’ 4So Hanun seized David’s servants, shaved them, cut off their garments in the middle at their hips, and sent them away; 5and they departed. When David was told about the men, he sent messengers to them, for they felt greatly humiliated. The king said, ‘Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.’

6 When the Ammonites saw that they had made themselves odious to David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent a thousand talents of silver to hire chariots and cavalry from Mesopotamia, from Aram-maacah and from Zobah. 7They hired thirty-two thousand chariots and the king of Maacah with his army, who came and camped before Medeba. And the Ammonites were mustered from their cities and came to battle. 8When David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the warriors. 9The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, and the kings who had come were by themselves in the open country.

10 When Joab saw that the line of battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the picked men of Israel and arrayed them against the Arameans; 11the rest of his troops he put in charge of his brother Abishai, and they were arrayed against the Ammonites. 12He said, ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13Be strong, and let us be courageous for our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what seems good to him.’ 14So Joab and the troops who were with him advanced towards the Arameans for battle; and they fled before him. 15When the Ammonites saw that the Arameans fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, Joab’s brother, and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.

16 But when the Arameans saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they sent messengers and brought out the Arameans who were beyond the Euphrates, with Shophach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17When David was informed, he gathered all Israel together, crossed the Jordan, came to them, and drew up his forces against them. When David set the battle in array against the Arameans, they fought with him. 18The Arameans fled before Israel; and David killed seven thousand Aramean charioteers and forty thousand foot-soldiers, and also killed Shophach the commander of their army. 19When the servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with David, and became subject to him. So the Arameans were not willing to help the Ammonites any more.

Siege and Capture of Rabbah

20In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army, ravaged the country of the Ammonites, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Joab attacked Rabbah, and overthrew it. 2David took the crown of Milcom* from his head; he found that it weighed a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone; and it was placed on David’s head. He also brought out the booty of the city, a very great amount. 3He brought out the people who were in it, and set them to work* with saws and iron picks and axes.* Thus David did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.

Exploits against the Philistines

4 After this, war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, who was one of the descendants of the giants; and the Philistines were subdued. 5Again there was war with the Philistines; and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. 6Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great size, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; he also was descended from the giants. 7When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. 8These were descended from the giants in Gath; they fell by the hand of David and his servants.

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10 February 2011

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