1 Chronicles 17-20

Good morning! Today’s passage (1 Chronicles 17-20) largely reiterates the military battles and conquests of David that we read in 2 Samuel 7-8, 10 and 21. As you can tell from that list, much of David’s biography is left out of this revised history! What matters to the Chronicler aren’t the “messy details” of David’s life (Jonathan, Bathsheba, Absalom, etc), but David’s unerring faithfulness. The strategic storytelling here illuminates by omission, at least when held up against the 2 Samuel version of these events.

First, a quick summary of what is familiar in these chapters—a lot. David’s prayer in chapter 17, once the ark is “tabernacled” in the heart of Jerusalem, acknowledges God’s sovereignty, displays his humility, and calls on God to fulfill this great promise. We then see in 18 all the military power that David commands against the Philistines, the Arameans, the Ammonites, and other nations, gaining bronze and gold spoil from battles that will be used later by Solomon for building the temple. David’s faithfulness in prayer implicitly leads to why “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” In the last chapter we read about the overthrow of the Ammonite city Rabbah, which I discovered is now referred to by another name: Amman, the capital of Jordan.

If we hold this narrative up to that in 2 Samuel, however, we’ll see a great deal that’s been left out by the Chronicler. These include David’s adultery with Bathsheba and arranged murder of Uriah, followed by Nathan’s rebuke and the death of the child born to Bathsheba. We also hear nothing of the family problems in David’s household—Amnon’s rape of Tamar and death at Absalom’s hand, Absalom’s rebellion against his father, and the threatened king chased by Absalom around Judah until Abasalom dies. It’s as though the writer of Chronicles is only interested in the public and religious aspects of David’s leadership, and everything else is edited out to make for a tidier account.

We have these two versions of David’s life and activity, just as we will read four different gospels of Jesus’ ministry. In both cases, one account copies from others, editing the narrative and adding further information to suit each writer’s needs. Does this mean that one version of a life is more true than another? I’d object to “flattening” these narratives down to just one story, for the same reason that I’d resist someone claiming to offer “the correct version” of a person’s life when speaking at a funeral. Multiple perspectives are valid, though some ring more true than others depending on who is doing the hearing. I’m glad we have these multiple perspectives—public and personal—on David’s life. They help to add complexity and nuance, revealing how multiple generations have attempted to make meaning from David’s example. Would that each of us passed our days in such a way that others argued about the details of our lives many years after we have also gone the way of David. Happy reading!

Read 1 Chronicles 17-20.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Chronicles 21-23. Thanks for reading!

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