The first law of holes — 1 Chronicles 18-20

Greetings, fellow Bible reader! If you’re reading this as part of a morning routine, I hope it helps you with what challenges your day holds for you. If you’re reading this at lunch, I hope it helps you make some midcourse corrections. And if you’re reading this at the close of your day, I hope that it will help you reflect on your day and what you’ll need to change for a better discipleship to Jesus.

So, what do we have to consider for today’s reading?

Who killed Goliath? — Let’s begin with an apparent contradiction. Everyone’s familiar with the famous story of David killing Goliath (1 Sam. 17). Yet, interestingly enough, in 2 Samuel we can read that “There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.” 2 Samuel 21:19, NAS95. But in our reading today, we find that “… 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.” 1 Chronicles 20:5, NAS95. So, which is the right story? And why does there appear to be contradictory statements?

What happened here is what is called a scribal error. In our world of computer copy/paste, photocopies, and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get), it’s hard for us to appreciate how difficult it was to get an errorless copy of something. Everything was hand copied. As manuscripts were copied, the scribes sometimes made mistakes — spelling, reading the wrong line, etc. What most textual scholars believed happened here is that in 2 Samuel, as the scribe was copying one line, word by word, he accidentally skipped down one line and picked up a word from the next line below before continuing. There was likely a bit  of confusion with the copyist, too, about the name of Elhanan — there was one from Bethlehem, the son of Dodo (2 Sam. 23:24), and the other is the son of Jairi (1 Chron. 20:5). So, here is what really happened: David did kill Goliath and Elhanan the son of Jairi killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath. This does not make the text unreliable. I wish I could get more into this to demonstrate the textual integrity of the Scripture, but space is limited here — there are plenty of great books on the subject. That said, however, I would like to point out how the science of archaeology is constantly turning up evidence of the Bible’s reliability, and how textual comparisons prove over and again how very extremely accurate the copyists were the vast majority of the time. Do not worry about whether or not you have the accurate word of God; you do.

Hanun’s miscalculation — It happens a lot; people misjudge what others mean, because they are suspicious, prideful, and believe everyone else is thinking like them. David sent emissaries to Ammon’s new king Hanun, to wish him well, because Hanun’s father Nahash had been kind to David (we’re not told exactly what happened). But young king Hanun’s advisors suspected espionage rather than well wishes, and they decided with Hanun’s permission to set a tough diplomatic tone by humiliating the emissaries. They shaved them and cut off their robes high enough to expose their private parts. This made them “odious” to David and Israel, which seems to have surprised them a little (“When the sons of Ammon saw that they had made themselves odious to David…” 1 Chronicles 19:6, NAS95) — sometimes we don’t realize how “over the top” our behavior is, until we have to face the consequences. At this point, Hanan could have saved himself a lot of blood, treasure, and embarrassment by apologizing and offering reparations, but Hanan and his advisors opted for the expense of buying mercenaries from Mesopotamia, Aram, and Zobah. In the ensuing battle between Ammon (and their hired armies) and Israel Ammon was defeated and the mercenaries were so badly defeated that they made peace with David and never helped the Ammonites again.

This has a lesson for us, too, doesn’t it? The first rule of holes, they say, is that when you find yourself in one, you stop digging. Hanun found himself in a hole of his own foolish digging, but instead of putting down the shovel, he just dug a little harder. And who hasn’t found himself / herself in such a hole? My experiences in marriage counseling have provided plenty of examples of one or both spouses that have said terribly offensive things, unChristian things, or done very offensive things; but instead of apologizing and making amends, they opt for excuses, accusations, justification, and sometimes more offensive words or behavior, because “That’ll teach ’em not to mess with me”. They just keep digging and digging and digging until they completely and irreversibly lose everything, just like Hanun.

Dedicated to the Lord — David expanded the rule of Israel as far as the Euphrates (18:3) and his victories garnered substantial riches from his enemies. But instead of padding his personal “bank account”, David gave it to the Lord. David understood how much he could depend on God to meet all His needs, and David realized that God was responsible for all his successes. Who would be more deserving of all these riches?

Who do you owe your success and prosperity to? I hope you’re not thinking, “What prosperity?”! Because let’s face it, no matter how poor you think you might be, you (if you live in the USA, and I assume most of my readers are) are rich by almost any standard in the entire world. We really should be generous to the Lord, because He’s been so generous with us — financially, spiritually, and more. Jesus would have called what David was doing “… [storing] up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” Matthew 6:20, NAS95. What do you need a fat bank account for, unless it is to use it generously for the Lord and His cause?

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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One Response to The first law of holes — 1 Chronicles 18-20

  1. Anna says:

    I just finished reading A Hole in our Gospel,
    and wholeheartedly agree that we in the US are rich!

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