1 Chronicles 20 – Ammon is Defeated at Rabbah
A. The defeat of Ammon.
1. (1) Joab goes back out the next year to get Rabbah of Ammon.
It happened in the spring of the year, at the time kings go out to battle, that Joab led out the armed forces and ravaged the country of the people of Ammon, and came and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. And Joab defeated Rabbah and overthrew it.
a. In the spring of the year, at the time kings go out to battle: In that part of the world, wars were not normally fought during the winter months because rains and cold weather made travel and campaigning difficult. Fighting resumed in the spring.
b. Joab led out the armed forces…. But David remained at Jerusalem: David should have been out at the battle but he remained behind. In 1 Chronicles 19 Joab and the army of the mighty men were preserved against the Syrians and the Ammonites but they did not win a decisive victory. The decisive victory came when David led the battle at the end of 1 Chronicles 19. Both through custom and experience God told David, “You need to be at the battle.” But David remained at Jerusalem.
i. What happened when David remained at Jerusalem was so well known that the Chronicler did not need to record it. In his leisure he saw a woman bathing, acting upon his feelings of lust he committed adultery with her making her pregnant, and conspired with Joab to murder her husband (Uriah, one of David’s mighty men) to cover up his crime. A lot happened between David stayed at Jerusalem and Joab defeated Rabbah.
ii. “Beware of moments and hours of ease. It is in these that we most easily fall into the power of Satan. The sultriest summer days are most laden with blight…. If we cannot fill our days with our own matters, there is always plenty to be done for others…. Watch and pray in days of vacation and ease, even more than at other times.” (Meyer)
iii. “There is nothing more full of subtle danger in the life of any servant of God than that he should remain inactive when the enterprises of God demand that he be out on the fields of conflict.” (Morgan)
c. Joab defeated Rabbah: The account in 2 Samuel 12:26-31 tells us that Joab essentially conquered Rabbah, but called David to help with the final conquest of the city after David’s sin and subsequent repentance. Then, 2 Samuel 12:29 tells us, David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah. This was the final phase of David’s restoration. He went back to doing what he should have done all along – leading Israel out to battle, instead of remaining in Jerusalem. This means that David was in victory once again. His sin did not condemn him to a life of failure and defeat. There was chastisement for David’s sin, but it did not mean that his life was ruined.
i. “David’s fall should put those who have not fallen on their guard, and save from despair those who have.” (Augustine)
2. (2-3) David wears the crown of Ammon.
Then David took their king’s crown from 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. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance. And he brought out the people who were in it, and put them to work with saws, with iron picks, and with axes. So David did to all the cities of the people of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
a. David took their king’s crown.… it was set on David’s head: David’s sin didn’t take away his crown. Had David refused the voice of Nathan the prophet it might have. Because David responded with confession and repentance, there was still a crown for David’s head.
i. “David’s rule over Ammon seems to be part of a complex four-stage system of administration of the empire outside the land of Israel…. Ammon was most restricted of all, apparently demoted to provincial status.” (Selman)
b. He brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance…. David and all the people returned to Jerusalem: David again increases in might and in wealth, bringing the riches back to Jerusalem for the sake of later building the temple.
i. This example of extending Israel’s security with its neighbors fits in with the Chronicler’s broader purpose of showing how David prepared the way for his son to build the temple.
B. Other Israeli victories over Philistine giants.
1. (4-7) Three victories over three giants.
Now it happened afterward that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines, at which time Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Sippai, who was one of the sons of the giant. And they were subdued. Again there was war with the Philistines, 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. Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, with twenty-four fingers and toes, six on each hand and six on each foot; and he also was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.
a. Now it happened afterward: This description of victory over Philistine giants shows that Israel could slay giants without David. Sibbechai.… Elhanan.… Jonathan: These men accomplished heroic deeds when David was finished fighting giants. God will continue to raise up leaders when the leaders of the previous generation pass from the scene.
i. David’s legacy lay not only in what he accomplished but in what he left behind – a people prepared for victory. David’s triumphs were meaningful not only for himself but for others who learned victory through his teaching and example.
ii. “The compiler of these books passes by also the incest of Amnon with his sister Tamar, and the rebellion of Absalom, and the awful consequences of all these. These should have preceded the fourth verse. These facts could not be unknown to him, for they were notorious to all; but he saw that they were already amply detailed in books which were accredited among the people, and the relations were such as no friend to piety and humanity could delight to repeat. On these grounds the reader will give him credit for the omission.” (Clarke)
b. With twenty-four fingers and toes, six on each hand and six on each foot: This described an unnamed man of great stature from Gath. Commentators like Adam Clarke can’t resist reminding us that this is a known phenomenon. “This is not a solitary instance: Tavernier informs us that the eldest son of the emperor of Java, who reigned in 1649, had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot…. I once saw a young girl, in the county of Londonderry, in Ireland, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, but her stature had nothing gigantic in it.”
i. The shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam: This was true of Lahmi, a brother of Goliath. “Also has known parallels and is not the unhistorical creation which some have alleged. It was actually a javelin with a loop and cord round the shaft for greater distance and stability, and was known in the Aegean area from the twelfth century B.C. Even the Old Testament reports one in the possession of another non-Israelite (1 Chronicles 11:23).” (Selman)
2. (8) Summary of the victories over the Philistine giants.
These were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
a. These were born to the giant in Gath: Since Goliath was from Gath (1 Samuel 17:4) these were Goliath’s sons or brothers.
i. “The Philistine warriors are also all called ‘Rephaites’ (RSV) or descendants of Rapha (‘giants’, NRSV), who were one of the pre-Israelite groups in Canaan (e.g. Genesis 15:20) and famous for their size.” (Selman)
b. Fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants: Part of the idea is that David is conquering enemies now so it will be better for Solomon in the future. Our present victory is not only good for us now but it passes something important on to the next generation.
i. The defeat of these four giants is rightly credited to the hand of David and the hand of his servants. David had a role in this through his example, guidance, and influence.
ii. “Let those who after long service find themselves waning in strength, be content to abide with the people of God, still shining for them as a lamp, and thus enabling them to carry on the same Divine enterprises. Such action in the last days of life is also great and high service.” (Morgan)