One conversation: two versions

Bruce Gardner b.gardner at
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.

  2Sa 24:18

                                  And Gad came that day to David, and said 
unto him, Go
                                  up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the 
threshingfloor of
                                  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 
the Jebusite.

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:

                                 2Sa 24:19
                                  And David, according to the saying of 
Gad, went up as
                                  the LORD commanded.
1Ch 21:19

                                  And David went up at the saying of Gad, 
which he
                                  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:

                                 2Sa 24:20
                                  And Araunah looked, and saw the king and 
his servants
                                  coming on toward him: and Araunah went 
out, and
                                  bowed himself before the king on his face 
upon the

1Ch 21:20

                                  And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; 
and his four
                                  sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan 
was threshing

                         1Ch 21:21
                                  And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked 
and saw
                                  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:

                                 2Sa 24:21
                                  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 
1Ch 21:22

                                  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.

                             2Sa 24:22-23
                                  And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord 
the king take
                                  and offer up what [seemeth] good unto 
him: behold,
                                  [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 
LORD thy
                                  God accept thee.

                           1Ch 21:23
                                  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 
implication only.

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:

                         2Sa 24:24
                                  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 
which doth
                                  cost me nothing. So David bought the 
threshingfloor and
                                  the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

                         1Ch 21:24-25
                                  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 
offerings without
                                  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.

                         2Sa 24:25
                                  And David built there an altar unto the 
LORD, and
                                  offered burnt offerings and peace 
offerings. So the
                                  LORD was intreated for the land, and the 
plague was
                                  stayed from Israel.

                         1Ch 21:26
                                  And David built there an altar unto the 
LORD, and
                                  offered burnt offerings and peace 
offerings, and called
                                  upon the LORD; and he answered him from 
heaven by
                                  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 


Bruce Gardner,
Department of Divinity and Religious Studies,
University of Aberdeen,
Scotland. UK.
AB24 3UB.

Bruce Gardner
b.gardner at
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list