One conversation: two versions
b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk
Mon Mar 5 13:34:44 EST 2001
From Harold to Ian, earlier..
>>It seems likely that David would have secured a site before drawing up
>You cannot get beyond the text, but I was dealing with the text. I was
>making what may be called a reasonable hypothesis for correlating the data
>from 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles.
Well, Harold, I go away for a week-end and you have been busy! Let me just,
then, return to the point about 2 Samuel 24 and 1st Chronicles 21 (i.e. the
price paid by David for 'something' from Ornan/Araunah the Jebusite). Here
is a translation of the two accounts, in part. The altar/site differential
is noted in the text, of course, and you write as if to show that out could
be enough to settle the issue, but that is not the point: It is this: they
are variant accounts of the same event and the variations are significant.
so that even if 'reconciled' they raise redactional issues.
A COMPARISON OF 2Sam 24 and 1Chron 21.
1] The Simple Agenda.
And Gad came that day to David, and said
unto him, Go
up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the
Araunah the Jebusite.
1 Chron 21:18
Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to
David, that David should go up, and set
up an altar unto
the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan
This introduces a single event: David is to buy the threshing floor of
Araunah/Ornan in order to set up an altar there. If you say the other
account means he buys the site too, that is beyond what the Lord actually
orders him to do, because Chronicles, at first, simply repeats the
instruction of the 2nd Samuel version. It would be a convenient, but
unconvincing interpretation to argue for two almost identical
speech-events, and there seems little or no evidence - apart from the
discrepancies themselves - that it is not one occasion.
Here, then, is David's stated agenda, as given, expressed with a little
variation, as in the following verses:
And David, according to the saying of
Gad, went up as
the LORD commanded.
And David went up at the saying of Gad,
spake in the name of the LORD.
Both suggest David dropped everything and went, in the same emergency
event, at the plague moment.
2] Seeing the king:
And Araunah looked, and saw the king and
coming on toward him: and Araunah went
bowed himself before the king on his face
And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel;
and his four
sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan
And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked
David, and went out of the
threshingfloor, and bowed
himself to David with [his] face to the
In both cases, the owner of the threshing-floor is in the floor itself.
Chronicles tells us helpfully that he was engaged in using it for the
purpose for which it was built. Chronicles emphasises the angel for
effect, but Araunah/Ornan's reaction to David is the same: as he comes out,
he bows himself with face to the ground
3] The Opening of The Transaction:
And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord
the king come
to his servant? And David said, To buy the
threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar
unto the LORD,
that the plague may be stayed from the
Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the
place [maqom] of [this]
threshingfloor, that I may build an altar
therein unto the
LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full
price: that the
plague may be stayed from the people.
Here, the writer is quite awkward. He has to honour the source, and he
cannot be cavalier in changing it, but he also wants to add to the
dimension of the sale. He omits the question of Araunah, perhaps since it
seems to the Chronicler - having emphasised the angel - that Ornan could
not exactly ignore its presence, nor therefore be in any doubt that the
presence of the king might have soemthing to do with it, a factor which
Samuel doesn't take into account: the presence of the angel is not so
emphasised there. Or maybe he simply misses it out because he wishes to
stress the pro-active authority of David the hero/victim. This last element
is because Chronicles represents the event not as a work of God but of
Satan (see both, v1).
Introduction of the word maqom (place) enlarges the reference; maqom may
also have a cultic implication, but still the specific request is to build
an altar. No reference is made here to any Temple-building vision or
plans, because after all this is an emergency response to divine command,
not to an evolved long-term policy. The agenda above is clearly to buy an
altar, and the ambiguous maqom appears a subtle editorial modulation
allowing the writer to build into a later version of events tradition(?)
that Samuel doesn't have.
4] The Courtesies.
And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord
the king take
and offer up what [seemeth] good unto
[here be] oxen for burnt sacrifice, and
instruments and [other] instruments of
the oxen for
wood. All these [things] did Araunah,
[as] a king, give unto the
king. And Araunah said unto the king, The
God accept thee.
And Ornan said unto David, Take [it] to
thee, and let
my lord the king do [that which is] good
in his eyes: lo, I
give [thee] the oxen [also] for burnt
offerings, and the
threshing instruments for wood, and the
wheat for the
meat offering; I give it all.
Araunah/Ornan's response is about the same, with elaborate courtesies seen
also in buying the cave of Machpelah (Gen 23:11) where an owner pretends to
give it away and a buyer insists on a fair price. David's request, in both
cases, focuses on an altar; the templar extension is prepared for by
This is done so that the Chronicler can adapt the text without wholesale
changes to the sacred passage in view. The writer is opening up the
reference, to allow a later, Temple dimension to David's purchase, in the
purchasing of a larger site than the narratives themselves require in
either case, since it is the clear aim of the Chronicler to edit the story
in order to form a bridge to the grandiose Davidic Temple plans of
later. It is notable here that 2 Samuel 24 ends the Books of Samuel,
whereas, 1 Chronicles 22-29 is a lengthy coda in which the son of david,
Solomon, is made king in a smooth succession in which the fratricidal
troubles of Samuel-Kings little intrude. Then again, David continues to
organise the Temple with a robustness that is absent in 1 Kings 1 where he
is a sad, regretful, pathetic old man pleading for revenge, and requiring
the presence of a young woman, Abishag, to keep warm at nights. Kings
contrast with the robust visionary of Chronicles could not be more
obvious. In the Chronicler, while the Temple is central the kingship has
been rehabilitated too, so that David, weak and vicious at the end, and
touchy Solomon too, are securely great.
5] The Price:
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but
I will surely
buy [it] of thee at a price: neither will
I offer burnt
offerings unto the LORD my God of that
cost me nothing. So David bought the
the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I
will verily buy
it for the full price: for I will not
take [that] which [is]
thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt
cost. So David gave to Ornan for the
place six hundred
shekels of gold by weight.
NOTE AGAIN: The point is that the one conversation has been changed in
order to expand the reference for the editor's purpose. This is an obvious
redaction, building on the ambiguity of the word maqom, place.
The later price is intended to reflect the prestigious Babylonian number,
600, in the context of gold, and the extension to the maqom built into the
text gives the writer the excuse to introduce this higher value. Yet all
this is done without any internal reason in the text for that extension,
which seems to contradict the first instruction which was to build an
altar. In the Samuel version, David is not to build a Temple: all is to be
left to his son after his death. The Chronicler wants an idealised David
associated with the temple because he is going to elevate David so much in
planning the Temple, Solomon will be reduced to a mere proxy. It is clever,
but because the writer is so respectful of his source text he dare not
change it enough to hide what he is doing, which is giving David a site for
the Future Temple, with (as you say) the site preparation one would expect
for the building program. The problem is that this is an invention of the
Chronicler to give the building program an apparent genesis in events in
David's life, which Samuel contradicts (2 Sam 7:1-17). In fact, even
Chronicler's David is forced to refer (1 Chron 28:3) to this after a
fulsome description of his role in creating the cultic life of Israel all
while his son is ruling, apparently because he is young (1 Chron 29:1).
6] The Result.
The result of the transaction is tellingly in keeping with the source, not
the extension of meaning, because when all is said and done the Chronicler
wants to introduce maqom avoiding merely blatant contradiction.
And David built there an altar unto the
offered burnt offerings and peace
offerings. So the
LORD was intreated for the land, and the
stayed from Israel.
And David built there an altar unto the
offered burnt offerings and peace
offerings, and called
upon the LORD; and he answered him from
fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
In Chronicles, there is an added dimension which seems to confer priestly
grandeur on David, linking the figure around whom Messianism grew, in
literary terms, to a specifically religious vision. The fire coming from
heaven is part of the new, elevated position that idealised kingship is to
have in some later traditions.
Thus, the result of the transaction is not a Temple, of course, but an
altar. The end of both accounts is to fulfil the agenda set earlier, which
includes no mention of a site for anything else. All is the introduction of
the Chronicler, grafting onto his source a subtle hook on which to hang his
next set of chapters, without changing the structure of the story as he
found it in his source, only alteringa detail in midrashic style, as a
prelude to what - to me - is an obvious midrash on the relationship between
ideals of Kingship and Temple.
Contradiction? Not exactly. Revision. Revision which tries to affirm the
past but move on from limitations that past traditions impose. Of course,
looking at the versions of David's end, as with the two versions of
Solomon's (the wise and the foolish) both ethical and literary arguments
can be used to reconcile then. It is the nature of life itself that human
beings are weak and contradictory, and the Christian tradition regards such
conflicts as part of its theological bread and butter. So, no. It's not
difficult to get round it, especially as the HB/OT itself was plainly, to
some extent, a unified tradition which accepted these different inputs.
But that is quite a different thing from a scholar closing his eyes to the
obvious. And I suppose, when I think of you, Harold, and Dan, with your
reasonableness and sane comment, the one question which I have is: are you
capable of concluding that there is ever a ripple in the text, ever an
editorial hand and a different theological perspective? The fact that you
might not ever be, well, that's what I find disturbing, because it means
that you are theologically fortified only to deny that which must be
denied, rather than prepared to look at the evidence as you would if it
were any other book than the Bible which is before you, because - to me -
if a person enters in a debate with a counter-analytical agenda, he is an
apologist but not a true scholar. He has a prior agenda, of which others
might well approve, but which betrays honest sight, and evangelicals have
become expert in inventing pseudo-scholarship to prove what they already
Department of Divinity and Religious Studies,
University of Aberdeen,
b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk
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