Friday Bible Blogging - 1 Chronicles 11 to 1 Chronicles 20
This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Chapters 11 through 20 of 1 Chronicles are much less focused on genealogy than the first ten chapters. Rather, these chapters are the beginning of a summary of David's reign, which will be continued in later chapters.
As I stated last week, there are numerous discrepancies between the history given in Chronicles and the history given in earlier books. When it comes to David, many of these discrepancies come down to presenting David in a better light. In particular, many of the stories that reveal negative portions of David's character have been omitted. Also as I wrote last week, since there are so many discrepancies, I don't plan to discuss them all. I'll just list a few examples.
It's interesting that 1 Chronicles isn't exactly chronological. The genealogies I discussed last week went through the Babylonian exile, but then in Chapter 10 it was back in time to Saul. Granted, that particular break in chronology is really due to a break in sections - switching from a simple listing of genealogy to a more in-depth narrative. However, even once the narrative got started, there was still a bit of jumping around. For example, Chapter 9 described the death of Saul, but then Chapter 12 was back to David still in conflict with Saul, "The following are those who came to David at Ziklag, while he could not move about freely because of Saul son of Kish..."
Since so much of what's in these chapters is merely summarizing what came before, I won't go into much detail in my review of each chapter.
Chapter 11 started off with the crowning of David as King over Israel. As the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) pointed out, this was one of the discrepancies with 2 Samuel. In 1 Chronicles, David was immediately crowned king over all of Israel, whereas in 2 Samuel, he first became king over just Judah, then Benjamin, and then had to struggle to gain control over the northern tribes.
After mentioning the conquering of Jerusalem, the rest of the chapter was a listing of key people in David's army - chiefs, warriors, several a "doer of great deeds" - along with a brief mention of the exploits of a handful of them.
Chapter 12 also consisted mostly of lists - men that joined David and troop counts. There were a few brief details about what some of these people did, along with a short song from Amasai, chief of the Thirty.
This chapter contained the story of when David first attempted to bring the ark back to Jerusalem, including the death of Uzzah and David's subsequent decision to leave the ark with Obed-edom. This story still strikes me for how unreasonable it makes God appear. Just to refresh your memory, while the ark was being transported, the oxen shook the wagon it was on, so Uzzah put out his hand to catch the ark and keep it from falling. But the ark was sacred, and wasn't supposed to be touched by human hands. So, even though Uzzah was merely trying to keep the ark from being damaged, "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark; and he died there before God."
There was more summary from previous books - from King Hiram of Tyre sending David gifts to build his palace, to David fighting a couple battles against the Philistines. I was struck by how literal God's aid was in this instance. David could actually hear the heavenly host marching above them to go out to battle, "When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then go out to battle; for God has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines."
David had his house built. Then he went to recover the ark, and again, there were lists of all the people involved in this endeavor, from the priests, to "the singers to play on musical instruments". There was a brief mention of Michal at the end of the chapter, but not the in-depth account from 2 Samuel 6.
The chapter started off finishing up the account of the ark, then listing all the people involved with its care. Next came a long song of praise and thanksgiving from David to the Lord. The chapter closed with yet another list of people involved in care of the ark.
Chapter 17 was a summary of when David decided to build a temple to God, but God had the prophet, Nathan, deliver the message that that job was going to fall to David's son. This also included David's thanksgiving prayer to God, and the promise from God to create an everlasting house of David.
This chapter was a summary of several of the battles David fought.
The chapter began with the episode with Hanun, who became king of the Ammonites when his father, King Nahash died. This was the one where David sent emissaries to him, but Hanun was convinced they were spies, so shaved their beards and cut their robes and sent them back in disgrace. And of course, the proper response to a slightly worse version of playground bullying is to gather your army and start a war to kill thousands of soldiers who didn't actually participate in the initial bullying. This is what happened, and David was victorious.
This was a rather short chapter, but there are two interesting aspects worth discussing here. The first part of the chapter dealt with the conquering of Rabbah. If you remember from 2 Samuel 11, David stayed behind from this campaign, and while he was back in Jerusalem, he had his affair with Bathsheba, recalled her husband from battle to try to get him to sleep with her so there wouldn't be any suspicion when she turned up pregnant, and then told his commander, Joab, to make sure that the husband died in battle. Since this story made David look especially bad, it was dropped entirely from Chronicles.
The other interesting aspect had to do with Elhanan. If you recall, 2 Samuel 21 described how Elhanan had killed Goliath, contradicting the story from earlier in the book where David had done it. The most likely explanation is that in the earliest version of the story, Elhanan was the hero, but then later, the story was transferred to David. Well, the Chronicler had to tidy up loose ends and fix the contradiction, while at the same time making David look good, so he changed the story such that Elhanan killed Goliath's brother, Lahmi.
After the first 10 chapters of 1 Chronicles, these subsequent chapters were much better. They were still a little heavy into lists, but at least there was a bit of narrative to interest the reader, even if it is abbreviated compared to earlier books.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.