New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


1Ch 20:1 At the time of the return of the year, at the time when kings go out, Joab led forth the army, and wasted the country of the children of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem-
The record, typical of Chronicles, doesn't record the shameful incident of David sinning with Bathsheba as a result of remaining in Jerusalem. This is the classic example of the devil finding work for idle hands; in 1 Chron. 19:8 David had already skipped one battle in this campaign. His remaining in Jerusalem was the set up for David's sin with Bathsheba. That he was lying down on his bed in the late afternoon rather than working would exemplify the same thing. He appears to recognize his attitude problem in Ps. 30:6: " In my prosperity I said, I shall never be (spiritually) moved" . In the lead up to the sin, God had given him victory after victory- leading him to think that he must therefore be spiritually OK because of his many physical blessings (1 Chron. 18:6 RV). His conscience had been blunted. David may have cleverly alluded to this when he comments that the ark was abiding in a tent, and therefore he would not go down to his house (2 Sam. 11:11). The tension between a tent and a house is surely intended to take David back to his words in 2 Sam. 7:2, where he laments as unacceptable the fact that he lives in a house but the ark is in a tent. And David was ‘tarrying’, living in a settled way, in a house in Jerusalem now. 

David stayed [AV "tarried"] at Jerusalem. This uses a Hebrew word which does not mean to wait, but rather to permanently dwell. It is also translated 'to marry'. The next verse continues "And it came to pass...", indicating that his permanent residence at Jerusalem was connected with his sin. Are we to infer that David remained at Jerusalem because of his relationship with Bathsheba? Even though they had probably got nowhere near consummating it, subconsciously this was behind David's motive in remaining. The word for "tarried" being the same for 'marriage' could imply that David was still actively married to his other wives who were there in Jerusalem.

Joab struck Rabbah and overthrew it-
How the citadel fell is explained in 2 Sam. 12:27. I suggest that 2 Samuel is thematic rather than chronological. This really picks up from 2 Sam. 10, where Syrian support for Rabbah had been cut off, and Rabbah was besieged by Joab. It is unlikely that the siege could have been maintained for a year or so. I suggest therefore that what we read of here happened some time after the sin with Bathsheba, and before David's repentance. The harsh treatment of the captives and proud taking of the crown David hadn't fought for... is all the kind of behaviour to be associated with a man in bad conscience before God.

This may be alluded to in Prov. 16:32: "One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; one who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city". This may refer to the hot headed anger of Joab and the "sons of Zeruiah", who had opposed Solomon and sought the throne for themselves towards the end of David's life. It was Joab who had taken the citadel of Zion and also the city of Rabbah, but this is dismissed by Solomon as cancelled out, as it were, by his hot headed lack of mental self control. 

1Ch 20:2 David took the crown of their king from off his head, and found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there were precious stones in it; and it was set on David’s head; and he brought forth the spoil of the city, a great amount-
As explained on Ps. 20:1; 21:1, Psalms 20 and 21 appear to be David's prayers before going into battle against Ammon, and Psalm 21 is his thanksgiving for the victory. The setting of the gold crown upon his head is specifically referenced in Ps. 21:3. This however was straight after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:30). So David's joy in God's salvation expressed in those Psalms was due to his sense that God had given him this victory by grace when he himself was a sinner. His thanks for giving him eternal life when he put the crown upon him (Ps. 21:4) was therefore in the sense that he believed that despite his sin, he would be eternally saved, and he saw the victory against Ammon as a foretaste of that.

But another take is possible. Soon after the sin with Bathsheba, but before  David's repentance (see on 2 Sam. 12:26), David went to join Joab in the battle for Rabbah- perhaps to give an impression of zeal to Bathsheba and the rest of his people. 'If brave Uriah died there, why, I'm not afraid to be with the boys on the front line either'. After the victory, David proudly placed the crown of Rabbah's king on his own head, pillaging the spoil of the city rather than burning it, and then  cruelly tortured the Ammonites; "he (David personally) brought out the people... and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes" (2 Chron. 20:2,3). How true it is that one sin leads to another. David's own bad conscience with God led him into this fit of bitterness, in which he so needlessly tortured people who at the most only warranted a quick death. One is left to imagine him making a great deal of how he was doing this in vengeance for the death of Uriah. Whenever we detect unreasonable behaviour, pride, materialism or bitterness within our own lives, we need to ask to what degree this is related to our own lack of good conscience with God.  

The extent of David’s fall at this time may be indicated by the way he crowns himself with the 70 pound gold crown of the Ammonite state god Milcom. Whilst retaining his allegiance to Yahweh, this personal association with a pagan god seems inappropriate. See on 2 Sam. 12:26.

1Ch 20:3 He brought forth the people who were therein, and cut them with saws, and with iron picks, and with axes. David did so to all the cities of the children of Ammon. David and all the people returned to Jerusalem-
See on 2 Sam. 12:26. This harsh torture and judgment of others is of the same nature as his harsh judgment of the person in Nabal's parable, demanding the death sentence for a man whom the law of Moses didn't punish with death for what he did. This is a classic case of transference. David is subconsciously transferring his sin and guilt onto others, and then punishing them heavily. This kind of psychological credibility of the narrative encourages us in our faith that it is indeed the inspired word of God.

It’s one thing to obey Divine commands about slaying enemies; it’s another to willfully torture them, Auschwitz-style. It was the same cruelty he showed in 2 Sam. 8:2. These incidents reveal David at his worst. And again- did he really have to ensure that every male in Edom was murdered (1 Kings 11:15,16)- was that really necessary? What about the mums, wives, sisters left weeping, and the fatherless daughters, left to grow up in the dysfunction of a leaderless Middle Eastern home? Those men were all somebody’s sons, brothers, fathers, grandfathers. Was David really obeying some Divine command here, or was this the dictate of his own anger and dysfunctional bloodlust? We get the impression this was another example of his wrong attitude to the shedding of blood (1 Chron. 22:8).

1Ch 20:4 After this, there arose war at Gezer with the Philistines. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, of the sons of the giant; and they were subdued-
We note that the rephaim had children like other human beings (2 Sam. 21:16,18; Dt. 3:11), inhabiting an area known as the valley of Rephaim (Josh. 15:8). The "giants" of Gen. 6:2-4 were therefore humans and not celestial beings. Gezer or "Gob" (2 Sam. 21:18) is LXX Gath; see on :6 for the significance.

1Ch 20:5 There was again war with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam-
Elhanan was from the small village of Bethlehem, and therefore was likely a childhood friend of David's. He like us with the Lord Jesus was inspired by David's victory over Goliath. He saw what was potentially possible for man in faith, just as we are shown through the Lord's victory on the cross what is possible for men apparently saddled with human nature.

1Ch 20:6 There was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, whose fingers and toes were twenty-four, six on each hand, and six on each foot; and he also was born to the giant-
David fought the Philistines at Gath (see on :4), and yet we note that he lived with Achish at Gath for over a year, and some of his most loyal followers were Philistines from Gath like Ittai. His victories over them therefore elicited humility and faith from some of the Philistines there. They realized that David and his men won their victories not in their own strength, but because of Yahweh. And they humbly came into covenant relationship with the God of their enemies, and fellowship with their one time enemies and murderers of their friends and families. It is humility which is the critical requirement in coming to the true God, and no amount of apparently high powered intellectual argument and slick presentation can replace that.

1Ch 20:7 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea David’s brother killed him-
Goliath's defiance of Israel is a major theme (1 Sam. 17:10,25,26,36,45). Later Philistine defiance is described with the same word (2 Sam. 21:21; 23:9). David's victory over Goliath was inspirational to other Israelites, just as the Lord's triumph on the cross should be to us. Jonathan was brother to the crafty Jonadab, who led Absalom into major sin by his subliminal suggestions. We see how faith and unbelief can exist within the same family.

1Ch 20:8 These were born to the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants
David took five stones to kill Goliath but used only one. Was he faithless and doubting that the first one would hit home? Or did he aim to use the other four on Goliath's four giant sons (2 Sam. 21:16-22)?  Do those five stones represent the five books of Moses which Ps. 119 tells us was Christ's study all the day, it being through the word that Jesus overcame the mind of sin? If he did aim to use the other four on Goliath's four giant sons, that shows supreme spiritual ambition. In reality those four were killed later by David's closest followers- and they must have their counterparts amongst us.