Structure in 1 Chronicles 17

Structure in 1 Chronicles 17 November 14, 2016

David wants to build Yahweh a house, and Nathan the prophet approves (1 Chronicles 17:1-2). That night, the word of Yahweh comes to Nathan to correct him. When Nathan delivers the oracle, David is a new Abraham, to whom the “Word of the Lord came” to promise the land (Genesis 15:1, 4). Nathan is a Samuel, who was also given a word to correct a king (1 Samuel 15:10). Nathan is the first to be designated a “prophet” within Chronicles, linking him with the later writing prophets to whom “the Word of the Lord came.”

The oracle is part historical review, part reminder of Yahweh’s commitment to David, part promise. It is framed by “Go and tell David my servant (17:4) and “according to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David” (17:15). Within that frame is a chiasm:

A. You shall not build a house; I have never dwelt in a house or asked for one, 17:4-6

B. Yahweh has been with David; promises great name, 17:7-8

C. Promises to Israel: appoint place, plant, no more waste, 17:9-10a

B’. Promise to David: I will subdue enemies, 17:10b

A’. Yahweh will build a house for David and his son will build a house 17:10c-14

House appears three times in verses 4-6 and another three times in 17:10-14. The whole oracle is enclosed by “not build house” (in v. 4, a prohibition to David; at the end of v. 6, part of a question. B describes Yahweh’s commitment to David, and the reference to victory in 17:10 links back to those promises. The promises to David circulate around the central section, which contains promises not to David but to Israel in general.

After the initial “you shall not build me a house,” section A forms a small chiasm of its own:

a. I have not dwelt in a house,

b. but have gone from tent to tent.

b’. In all my walking with Israel

a’. have I asked any shepherd-judge, why have you not built me a house of cedar?

A’ is also a chiasm:

a. Yahweh will build a house for David, 17:10c

b. Yahweh will establish kingdom of David’s son, 17:11

c. He shall build a house for Yahweh, 17:12a

b’. Yahweh will establish his throne as son, 17:12b-13

a’. Yahweh will settle David’s son in Yahweh’s own house and kingdom, 17:14

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