Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Section (1) is parallel to 2Samuel 11:1; 2Samuel 12:26; 2Samuel 12:30-31. The chronicler omits the long intervening account of David’s guilt in relation to Uriah and Bathsheba, not because he had any thought of wiping out the memory of David’s crimes (an object quite beyond his power to secure, even if he had desired it, unless he could first have destroyed every existing copy of Samuel), but because that story of shame and reproach did not harmonise with the plan and purpose of his work, which was to portray the bright side of the reign of David, as founder of the legitimate dynasty and organiser of the legitimate worship.
And it came to pass, that after the year was expired, at the time that kings go out to battle, Joab led forth the power of the army, and wasted the country of the children of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried at Jerusalem. And Joab smote Rabbah, and destroyed it.(1) After the year was expired.—Heb., at the time of the return of the year: i.e., in spring. (See 1Kings 20:22; 1Kings 20:26.)
At the time that kings go out.—See 1Kings 20:16. Military operations were commonly suspended during winter. The Assyrian kings have chronicled their habit of making yearly expeditions of conquest and plunder. It was exceptional for the king to “remain in the country.”
Joab led forth the power of the army.—Samuel gives details: “David sent Joab and his servants (? the contingents of tributaries, 1Chronicles 19:19), and all Israel” (i.e., the entire national array).
Wasted the country.—An explanation of Samuel: “wasted the sons of Ammon.”
But David tarried (Heb., was tarrying) at Jerusalem.—While Joab’s campaign was in progress-In 2Samuel 11:1 this remark prepares the way for the account which there follows of David’s temptation and fall.
And Joab smote Rabbah, and destroyed it.—A brief statement, summarizing the events related in 2Samuel 11:27-27. From that passage we learn that, after an assault which doubtless reduced the defenders to the last stage of weakness, Joab sent a message to David at Jerusalem to come and appropriate the honours of the capture. Our 1Chronicles 20:2, which abruptly introduces David himself as present at Rabbah, obviously implies a knowledge of the narrative as it is told in Samuel, and would hardly be intelligible without it. Whether the chronicler here and elsewhere borrows directly from Samuel, or from another document depending ultimately on the same original as Samuel, cannot certainly be decided.
And 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 upon David's head: and he brought also exceeding much spoil out of the city.(2) The crown of their king.—Or, “of Milcom” or “Moloch,” their god. The Heb. malkâm, “their Melech” (i.e., king), occurs in this sense (Zephaniah 1:5. Comp. Amos 5:26.) The same title is applied by the prophets to Jehovah (Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 44:6, “Jahweh, the king [melech] of Israel.” Comp. Zephaniah 3:15, and John 1:49; John 12:15; 2Samuel 12:12; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 89:18; Isaiah 8:21; and Jeremiah 10:10). The LXX. here has “Molchom, their king”; Vulg., “Melchom”; Arabic, “Malcha, their god;” all confirming our rendering.
A talent of gold.—The Arabic Version says one hundred pounds. Modern scholars consider the “talent of gold” as about one hundred and thirty-one pounds troy. If the weight was anything like this, the crown was obviously more suited for the head of a big idol than of a man.
And there were precious stones in it.—Samuel includes their weight in the talent.
And it was set (Heb., became) upon David’s head.—Vulg., “he made himself a crown out of it.” This may be the meaning; or else the weighty mass of gold and jewels may have been held over the king’s head by his attendants on the occasion of its capture.
Exceeding much spoil.—Comp. the continual boast of the Assyrian conquerors: “spoils without number I carried off” (sallata la mani aslula).
And he brought out the people that were in it, and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.(3) And he brought.—Better, “And the people that were in it he brought out, and sawed with the saw, and with the iron threshing-drags (Isaiah 41:15), and with the axes.”
Sawed.—The Hebrew is an old word, only found here. Samuel reads, by change of one letter, “set them in,” or “among,” the saws, &c.
With the axes.—So Samuel. Our Hebrew text repeats the word “saw” in the plural, owing to a scribe’s error. The two words differ by a single letter. Samuel adds, “and made them pass through the brick-kiln,” or “Moloch’s fire” (2Kings 23:10).
Even so dealt David.—Literally, And so David used to do. These cruelties were enacted again at the taking of every Ammonite city. There needs no attempt to palliate such revolting savagery; but according to the ideas of that age it was only a glorious revenge. As David treated Ammon, so would the Ammonites have treated Israel, had the victory been theirs. (Comp. their behaviour to the Gileadites, Amos 1:13; comp. also the atrocities of Assyrian conquerors, Hosea 10:14; and of the Babylonians Psalm 137:7-9.)
And it came to pass after this, that there arose war at Gezer with the Philistines; at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Sippai, that was of the children of the giant: and they were subdued.II. This section corresponds to 2Samuel 21:18-22. The chronicler has omitted the history of Absalom’s rebellion, with all the events which preceded and followed it, as recorded in 2 Samuel 13-20; and, further, the touching story of the sacrifice of seven sous of Saul at the demand of the Gibeonites (2Samuel 21:1-14).
(4) And it came to pass after this.—Comp. Notes on 1Chronicles 18:1; 1Chronicles 19:1. The chronicler has omitted, whether by accident or design, the account with which, in 2Samuel 21:15-17, this fragmentary section begins, and which tells how David was all but slain by the giant Ishbi-benob.
There arose war.—Literally, there stood, an unique phrase, which perhaps originated in a misreading of that which appears in 2Samuel 21:18, “there became again.”
Gezer.—Samuel, “Gob,” an unknown place. Each word (spelling Gôb fully) has three consonants in Hebrew, of which the first is common to both, and the other two are similar enough to make corruption easy. For “Gezer,” see Joshua 16:3. The Syriac and Arabic here read “Gaza”; but Gezer (so LXX. and Vulg.) seems right.
Of the children of the giant.—See margin. Render, Sippai, of the offspring (a special term—yĕlîdê—see Numbers 13:22; Joshua 15:14) of the Rephaites. “Rapha” was doubtless the collective tribal designation of the gigantic Rephaim (Genesis 14:5).
And they were subdued—Added by chronicler.
And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam.(5) There was war again.—Samuel adds, “in Gob.” The proper name is probably a transcriber’s repetition; the Syriac and Arabic there are without it.
Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite.—The Hebrew text and LXX. of Samuel have the very different statement: “And Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite slew Goliath the Gittite.” There are good critics who maintain that we must recognise here a proof that popular traditions fluctuated between David and the less famous hero Elhanan as slayer of Goliath: an uncertainty, supposed to be faithfully reflected in the two accounts preserved by the compiler of Samuel (1 Samuel 17; 2Samuel 21:19). Other not less competent scholars believe that the text of Samuel should be corrected from the Chronicles. As regards the name Jaarê-oregim (forests of weavers—an absurdity), this is plausible. Whether we proceed further in the same direction must depend on the general view we take of the chronicler’s relation to the Books of Samuel. It is easy, but hardly satisfactory, to allege that he felt the difficulty, which every modern reader must feel, and altered the text accordingly. The real question is whether he has done this arbitrarily, or upon the evidence of another document than his MS. of Samuel. Now, it is fair to say that (1) hitherto we have observed no signs of arbitrary alteration; (2) we have had abundant proof that the chronicler actually possessed other sources besides Samuel. There is no apparent reason why “Lahmi” (i.e., Lahmijah) should not be a nomen individui. (Comp. Assyrian Lahmû, the name of a god, Tablet I., Creation Series.) It is, however, quite possible that Elhanan is another, and, in fact, the original name of David. The appellative David. “the beloved” (comp. Dido), may have gradually supplanted the old Elhanan in the popular memory. Solomon we know was at first named Jodidiah, and it is highly probable that the true designation of the first king of Israel has been lost, the name Saul (“the asked”) having been given in allusion to the fact that the people had ashed for a king. We may compare, besides, the double names Jehoahaz-Shallum, Mattaniah-Zedekiah, and perhaps Uzziah-Azariah. The Targum on Samuel partly supports this suggestion (see the Note there). I would add that Jaare in Hebrew writing is an easy corruption of Jesse; so that the original reading of 2Samuel 21:19 may have been, “And Elhanan the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, slew Goliath,” &c. In that case, the reading of Chronicles must be considered an unsuccessful emendation, due probably to the compiler whose work the chronicler followed.
And yet again there was war at Gath, where was a man of great stature, whose fingers and toes were four and twenty, six on each hand, and six on each foot: and he also was the son of the giant.(6) Man of great stature.—See Margin. Samuel has a slightly different form.
Whose fingers . . .—The Authorised Version here agrees with the Hebrew text of Samuel. The Hebrew text of Chronicles is abridged: “And his digits six and six—twenty and four.”
Was the son of the giant.—Was born to the Rephaite: i.e., the clan so named.
These were born unto the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.(8) These (’ēl), a rare word, found eight times in the Pentateuch with the article, here only without; perhaps an error of transcription. Samuel, “these four.” The chronicler has omitted one giant. (See 1Chronicles 20:4.)
The giant.—The Rephaite: that is, the clan or tribe of Rephaim. They need not have been brothers.