1 Chronicles 20

I Chronicles 20
by Pastor Mark Hudson

In chapters 18-20 we see the military victories of David.  Or did I state that incorrectly?  If we keep talking about David, we could be missing the point.  Doesn’t the Bible make it abundantly clear that David, like other great leaders, were flawed, sinful, selfish human beings?  God is the one who is handing out victories to Israel through David. The key verse regarding this is 18:6,13, “The Lord gave victory (delivered, make wide or spacious, deliver from peril) David wherever he went”  This is what chapter 17:8 teaches us, “I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you.  And I will make for you a name . . . .”  God is the one doing this.  If we concentrate on David too much, we lose sight of what the author is saying.  The author does not want us to be like David (in one sense of the phrase) rather, he wants us to look to God like David or any great leader does.

As you read the Old Testament,  we read of Israel’s military achievements.  This is what we read in this brief chapter.  We are not meant to start our own militia though.  Since our enemies are spiritual and not physical (II Cor. 10:3), our battle is not in the political area, any area of land, etc.  Yet, like David, we are in a battle but ours (and theirs) is primarily a spiritual battle  Even though it may get discouraging for us and appear like we are losing, God will be victorious and God’s Kingdom will grow.  Just like we read in I Chronicles.  We will further that growth in a similar way that David did: by seeking God, putting Him at the center, and striving to trust and obey.  If you read the Old Testament and all you learn is where cities are, a few stories about wars, and Israel had lots of kings, you are missing the point.

The Chronicler is telling the story of David for people hundreds of years later.  They knew the story but they needed a fresh reexamination of these stories for encouragement for their struggles.  The author is telling of the things God did for Israel and what faithful leaders did for God’s kingdom.  These readers lived around 539-330 B.C; we are 2000 years after Christ.

When the chapter begins we are ready for the story of Bathsheba but since everyone knew the story why repeat it now?  We are hearing about David’s successes.  Verses 2-3 underscores his success militarily.  We see the same in verses 4-8.  Interestingly enough, this brief chapter covers II Samuel 11, 12, 13, and 21.

Since this is such a short chapter, we should look at who wrote Chronicles and when.  Some think Ezra but here are the reasons that suggest otherwise.  1. The date of Chronicles composition cannot be limited to Ezra’s lifetime. 2. Chronicles ties kingship and temple worship together in ways that do not appear in the teaching of Ezra.   3. Chronicles largely avoids a central issue in Ezra’s ministry, intermarriage between Israelites and foreign women (Ezra 9:10-12).

The date is not easily determined.  The earliest possible date is 539/8 B.C. because this is the date of the edict from Cyrus for the Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon which is dated at 539/8 B.C.  This is referenced in II Chr. 36:21-23.  Compare theses verses with Ezra 1:1-4.  The latest date is 330 B.C. probably. That is because Alexander the Great’s influence in Palestine begins at this date.  Alexander’s cultural and linguistic influence is the Hellenization of the area.  Which means in our case, the Hebrew written on 330 or earlier would show a Greek influence which is not evident.

So this is the range of possible composition dates.  So this means there is a resurgence of temple activity, focus on worship and the people were fighting discouragement.  Here are the major events of this period:

539/8               Return from exile

536                  altar and foundation of the temple laid

520                  Haggai and Zechariah

515                  completion of the temple

458-430           Ezra and Nehemiah

330                  Alexander the Great

The construction of the temple started but stopped due to the irritations of the foreigners, economic hardship, and discouragement.  Yet through the preaching and encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, they completed the rebuild of the temple in 515 B.C. A generation later, few returnees had actually returned to Jerusalem.  Because of intermarriage with non-believers wide spread apostasy existed in Israel.

Haggai and Zechariah prophesied during this time (Ezra 5:1-2).  Both of these prophets encouraged Zerubbabel to continue the work on the temple.  As Ezra 6:14-15 narrates, they finally complete the work of the temple in 515 B.C.

Some think the Chronicler wrote as early as the ministries of Haggai and Zechariah.  Why?

  1. Chronicles presents the temple in close partnership with the line of David.  This dual emphasis on king and temple suggest a composition time near Zerubbabel (Hag. 1:4-2:9; Zech 3:1-4).  By the next generation there is little evidence for hope of an imminent rise of the Davidic line.
  2. The Chronicler gave much attention to the details of priestly and Levitical duties.  This also argues for this same time period.
  3. The striking omission of Solomon’s downfall due to intermarriage (I Kings 11:1-40) stands in sharp contrast with Nehemiah’s appeal to the terrible results of Solomon’s foreign marriage (Neh. 13:26).  This suggests the Chronicler wrote before intermarriage became a problem in the post-exilic community.  (Richard L. Pratt.  1 and 2 Chronicles  pp. 9-11).

The majority of recent scholars think the final composition took place during the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah.  The main reason is the genealogy of I Chr. 3:17-24 extends to a number of generations after Zerubbabel.

Dear heavenly Father, You make sure that Your promises reach their fulfillment.  You provide all the grace we need.  Thank you for Your faithfulness to David from whose line we receive the Messiah.  Your forgiveness of our sins is beyond our understanding.  Redirect our minds and hearts to pursuit and extension of Your kingdom.  In Christ’s victorious name.  Amen.