I Chronicles 20

The Word Made Fresh

1In the spring, the time of year when kings went to war, Joab led the army and devastated the land of the Ammonites. They laid siege to the city of Rabbah and conquered it while David stayed behind in Jerusalem. 2David was awarded the Ammonite king’s crown of gold, set with precious stones. It weighed about seventy-five pounds when they placed it on David’s head. He also took all the wealth of the city. 3He made slaves of the people and put them to work with saws and picks and axes. He did that with the people in all the Ammonite cities. Then David and the Israelites returned to Jerusalem.

4After that there was war with the Philistines at Gezer. Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, a descendant of the giants, and the Philistines withdrew. 5In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear shaft was as thick as a weaver’s beam. 6Another battle was at Gath, where there was another giant enemy soldier with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. 7He taunted Israel, and Jonathan, son of David’s brother Shimea, killed him. 8These three were descendants of the giants of Gath, and David’s men overcame them.


1-3: “While David stayed behind in Jerusalem,” is the same setting as 2 Samuel 11:1. The part that has Joab’s troops overthrowing Rabbah picks up the narrative from 2 Samuel 12:26. What the chronicler omits is the whole story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her unwanted pregnancy, the plot to kill her husband Uriah, the death of David and Bathsheba’s child, and the subsequent birth of Solomon to David and Bathsheba.

From 2 Samuel 12:26 the chronicler again omits part of the narrative to 2 Samuel 12:30. Those verses told us that Joab set up Rabbah for the taking and sent for David to finish the job, making it appear that David was the victorious leader of the battle. In 2 Samuel David is clearly losing his edge. The chronicler will have none of that and gives David credit for subduing the Ammonites when all he actually did was to send Joab.

4-8: These verses record skirmishes with Philistines in which individual Israelites distinguish themselves by besting an enemy champion. It is essentially the same as 2 Samuel 21:18-22, although in that account Elhanan was said to have killed Goliath while the chronicler says it was Lahmi, a brother of Goliath. Since David is supposed to have killed Goliath as a lad the chronicler’s version is most likely correct, which is a curious thing because David’s conquest of Goliath is not reported in 1 Chronicles.


Another interesting difference between the account in 2 Samuel and that of 1 Chronicles is that 1 Chronicles omits the paragraph 2 Samuel puts immediately before these exploits (2 Samuel 21:15-17). In it, David took part in the battle and one of his men had to rescue him from a Philistine giant named Ishbi-Benoth. The episode so concerned his men that they begged him not to go into battle with them any longer. The chronicler omits this as well as the entire story of the rebellion of Absalom. These are further examples of how the chronicler tidies up David’s reign so as to remove any defects from his character.