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1 Chronicles 20


(LXX versing)
War With the Philistine Giants Rabbah Is Conquered The Conquest of Ammon. Further Wars with the Philistines David Captures Rabbah The Second Ammonite Campaign
20:1-3 20:1-3 20:1-3 20:1-3 20:1-3
Philistine Giants Destroyed Battles Against Philistine Giants Various Exploits Against the Philistines
20:4-8 20:4-8 20:4-8 20:4 20:4
20:5 20:5
20:6-7 20:6-7
20:8 20:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. 1 Chronicles 18-20 deals with David's military victories which were accomplished by YHWH's power (cf. 1 Chr. 17:10).

  2. These chapters seem to be out of chronological order.

  3. They follow, to some extent, the parallels in 2 Samuel 11-12.

  4. The final defeat of the Ammonites was summarized in 1 Chr. 18:11, continued in 1 Chronicles 19, and finalized in 1 Chr. 20:1-3.

  5. The account of David's sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah are omitted (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12). This is characteristic of the Chronicler's literary purposes of magnifying David and his dynasty.

  6. The last literary unit of this chapter documents a victory over the giants. This would demonstrate God's power and promise through David and by association, his military.



1Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that Joab led out the army and ravaged the land of the sons of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. And Joab struck Rabbah and overthrew it. 2David took the crown of their king from his head, and he found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there was a precious stone in it; and it was placed on David's head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. 3He brought out the people who were in it, and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.

20:1 It is possible that the reason Joab did not attack the capital of Ammon after the defeat of its army and mercenaries was due to the weather (cf. 2 Sam. 11:1; i.e., spring; see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, pp. 190, 251) or agricultural necessities.

▣ "David stayed at Jerusalem" This was the occasion of his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12).

20:2 This is the only crown David took to himself. Why is uncertain.

David gave the spoils of his earlier victories to the temple treasury for the building of the future temple of YHWH, but this spoil he apparently retained for himself.

The parallel is in 2 Sam. 12:30. Also note that 2 Sam. 12:27-29 records Joab's request that David come and personally take credit for the victory.

▣ "their king" The same Hebrew consonants (BDB 572 I, cf. 2 Sam. 12:30) can also refer to the god, Milcom (BDB 575, cf. 1 Kgs. 11:5; Zeph. 1:5; LXX, Vulgate, NJB). The UBS Text Project gives "Milcom" a "B" rating (some doubt).

In 1 Kgs. 11:7 another fertility god, Molech, is named. The Hebrew consonants MLK are the root of

  1. king
  2. Milcom
  3. Molech


▣ "to weigh a talent" This would have been too heavy for a human to wear on his head. This is one reason why it may be the head ornament of an idol.


20:3 Ancient warfare was terrible and vindictive. Whole populations were killed in shocking ways or were taken into slavery (cf. 2 Sam. 12:31).

It is possible that 2 Sam. 12:31 really refers to "putting them to work" in construction. But this is conjecture (cf. JPSOA footnote).

The VERB is "sawed" (BDB 965, KB 1313, Qal IMPERFECT with waw). The text mentions three objects.

  1. saws ‒ BDB 176
  2. sharp instruments ‒ BDB 358 CONSTRUCT BDB 137, occurs only here and 2 Sam. 12:31
  3. axes ‒ BDB 176 (notice how the translations change the name of the tool because of redundancy with #1), see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 982

4Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. 5and there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. 6Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. 7When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother, killed him. 8These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

20:4-8 There are several references to the "giants."

  1. "giants," 1 Chr. 20:4, Rephaim (BDB 952 II, NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 1173-1180)
  2. "brother of Goliath," 1 Chr. 20:5 (cf. 1 Sam. 17:4-7; 2 Sam. 21:16,19)
  3. "giants," 1 Chr. 20:6 ‒ a different descendant of Raphah
  4. "giant," 1 Chr. 20:8 ‒ a race of tall, powerful men from Gath

This is the type of people that the ten spies, sent by Moses, feared in Num. 13:28 (i.e., sons of Anak; also note Deut. 1:26-28; 2:10-11,20).


20:5 This seems to be

  1. a textual corruption
  2. a contradiction with David's defeat of Goliath

There are several textual issues involved, as well as the presuppositions of the commentators. For a good brief discussion, see Martin T. Selman, Tyndale OT Commentaries, p. 207 or AB, p. 136. I think the accounts can be reconciled. David killed Goliath, one of his warriors killed his brother (see Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 212).

For a good, brief discussion of the textual problems between 2 Sam. 21:19 and here, see the Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p, 404, or Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 178-179.

20:7 "taunted" This giant did what Goliath did in 1 Sam. 17:10, 25, 36, 45. Possibly it reflects the Greek/Philistine tradition of two warriors settling a battle instead of two armies, thus saving many lives. However, this is speculation.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Whose crown did David wear in 1 Chr. 20:2?
  2. Did David enslave in hard labor or kill the inhabitants of Rabbah?
  3. Who are the giants?
  4. Why is 1 Chr. 20:5 so confusing when compared to 1 Samuel 17?

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