Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bible Commentary - 1 Chronicles 14

In this chapter, David starts to build his house and defeats the Philistines twice.

The material in this chapter is substantially copied from 2 Samuel 5:11-25 with very little modification.  I think the biggest difference I can find between these two passages is that in the present chapter, v. 12 says that David ordered for the idols to be burned with fire, while in 2 Samuel 5:21, the men of David "carry away" the idols*.  This is probably (but not certainly) another instance of the Chronicler whitewashing the record from Samuel.  "Carrying away" the idols has a much more idolatrous connotation, like if David and his men take the idols in order to worship them or bring them to the temple of something.  Although there is nothing overtly idolatrous in the Samuel account, the Chronicler seemed to want to clarify that David only had his men destroy the idols and they were never worshiped.

I think the more significant change is that this material is copied from 2 Samuel 5, while the story in the previous chapter was from 2 Samuel 6, inverting the order.  I think the overall effect in Chronicles is that it associates David's victories in this chapter with his retrieval of the ark in the previous chapter.  It establishes David as a more pious man (seeking first the symbol of God's presence) and that David's devotion to the LORD results in his present blessings.  This connection appears even stronger as David inquires of the LORD before each of his victories (this is also part of the Samuel narrative).

Besides presenting David positively, I think this is also intended to show that devotion to the LORD is rewarded with victories as well as Israel being "highly exalted".  This connection is present throughout the OT (for instance, Deuteronomy 28 makes it crystal clear), but in this case it looks like the author of Chronicles has reordered the story to make it more obvious.  This is perhaps a product of the Chronicler's time.  With the people returning from the exile, they would possibly feel like they are recipients of the LORD's blessing, and returning to a desolate and hostile land, they would almost certainly feel a strong need for the LORD's blessing.

Similar to the narrative in Samuel, this chapter details David's rise onto the international stage, both with his newfound alliance with Tyre (v. 1) and with the immediate hostilities of the Philistines (v. 8).  The effect of both is to cement his place as the king of Israel.  Not only has Israel themselves recognized David as king, now the other nations recognize him as king - both the nations that support him and those that want to destroy him.  At this point, David is the undisputed ruler over Israel.

The list of children in verses 3-7 is also copied from Samuel with little alteration.  But there is an omission you may not have noticed.  These are all the children who were born in Jerusalem, but David also had sons when he was in Hebron.  At that time he had Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah.  These three sons all commit horrible crimes of different kinds, and both Absalom and Adonijah rebel against David.  However, because of how Chronicles is structured, all of the parts of Samuel that discuss these three men are omitted.  All three of them are referenced in the genealogy (1 Chron 3), but none of them are mentioned anywhere in the narrative portions of Chronicles.  So basically all of the "bad guys" who were born in Hebron are conveniently left out.

Lastly, similar to the narrative of Samuel, Chronicles maintains the parallelism between how the LORD "breaks out" against Uzzah in the previous chapter (1 Chron 13:11) and how the LORD "breaks out" against the Philistines in this chapter (v. 11).  In the previous case, he broke out against a man who did not honor him, and in this chapter he breaks out against the nations that oppose his people.  It goes to show that even when the LORD is breaking out, he is not trying to harm his people: in this case, he breaks out on behalf of his people to bring them victory.

In the next chapter, David realizes that he should not be afraid of the ark and he brings it back to Jerusalem, for real this time.

* For those concerned, the KJV also translates that phrase in 2 Samuel 5:21 as "burned", perhaps because "carrying away" can possibly have the connotation of "dispersing into smoke", but most modern translations disagree with the KJV interpretation.  On the other hand, the phrase in 1 Chron 14:12 is extremely clear that not only were the idols burned, they were "burned with fire".

No comments: