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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 18

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verse 1



2 Samuel 5:11-25; 2 Samuel 8:1; 2 Samuel 10:1-19; 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 1 Chronicles 12:8-15; 1 Chronicles 14:1-2; 1 Chronicles 14:8-17; 1 Chronicles 18:1; 1 Chronicles 19:1-19; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8

Our last chapter intimated that the union of the nation under such a king as David, in such a capital, would naturally excite the jealousy and alarm of all neighboring heathen nations. This section commences thus: "And when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David."

Your attention has already been called to the necessity of breaking the power of the hostile heathen nations lying all around Judah, if ever the Jewish nation is to fulfil its mission to all other nations. The geographical position of Judah, which is the best in the world for leavening the nations with the ideas of the kingdom of God, if it maintained its national purity and adherence to Jehovah, also made it the most desirable possession for other peoples having far different ideals. As the salvation of the world including these very hostile nations, depended on the perpetuity and purity of Israel, these nations, through whom came idolatry and national corruption, must be broken, hence the seeming cruelty and partiality of Jehovah’s order through Moses to destroy the Canaanites, root and branch, and to avoid the corruptions of the other nations, were meant as mercy and kindness to the world.

The nations against which David successfully warred, so far as our text records them, were the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Syrians of Zobah, the Syrians of Damascus, the Moabites, and the Edomites. He had previously smitten the Amalekites of the Negeb. On these wars in general the following observations are noteworthy:

1. He was never the aggressor.

2. He never lost a battle.

3. His conquest filled out the kingdom to the boundaries originally promised to Abraham.

4. The spoils of all these wars, staggering credulity in their variety and value, were consecrated to Jehovah, making the richest treasury known to history.

5. By alliance without war he secured the friendship of Hiram, king of Tyre, most valuable to him and to his son Solomon. As Phoenicia, through the world-famous fleets of Tyre and Sidon, commanded the Mediterranean with all its marine commerce, and as David ruled the land through whose thoroughfares must pass the caravans carrying this traffic to Africa, Arabia, India, Syria, and Mesopotamia, it was of infinite value to both to be in friendly alliance. To these merchant-princes it was of incalculable advantage that all the land transportation of their traffic should lie within the boundaries of one strong and friendly nation rather than to have to run the gauntlet between a hundred irresponsible and predatory tribes, while to David, apart from the value of this peaceful commerce, the whole western border of Judah along the Mediterranean coast was safe from invasion by sea so long as friendship was maintained with Hiram, king of the sea.

6. By the voluntary submission of Hamath after his conquest of Damascus, he controlled the famous historic "Entrance into Hamath," the one narrow pathway of traffic with the nations around the Caspian Sea, thus enabling David to reach those innumerable northern hordes so graphically described in later days by Ezekiel, the exile-prophet.

7. By the conquest of Damascus he controlled the only caravan route to the Euphrates and Mesopotamia, since the desert lying east of the trans-Jordanic tribes was practically impassable for trade and army movement from a lack of water, We have seen Abraham, migrating from Ur of the Chaldees, low down on the Euphrates, compelled to ascend that river for hundreds of miles in order to find an accessible way to the Holy Land through Damascus. In his day, also Chedorlaorner’s invasion had to follow the same way, as we will see later invasions do in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, which at last conquered David’s Jerusalem.

8. By the conquest of Ammon, Moab, and Edom, all the Arabah passed into his hands, checkmating invasion by Arabian hordes, as well as barring one line of invasion from Egypt. By the conquest of the Philistines and Amalekites the other two ways of Egyptian invasion were barred. You should take a map, such as you will find in Huribut’s Atlas, and show how David’s wars and peaceful alliances safeguarded every border, north, east, south, and west.

Besides these general observations, we may note a special feature characterizing these, and indeed all other wars, prior to the leveling invention of gunpowder and other high explosives, namely, much was accomplished by individual champions of great physical prowess and renown. David himself was as famous in this respect as Richard, the Lionhearted, until in a desperate encounter, related in this section, his life was so endangered that a public demand justly required him to leave individual fighting to less necessary men and confine himself to the true duty of a general – the direction of the movements of the army.

Your text recites the special exploits of Jashobeam, Eleazer, Shammah, Abishai, Benaiah, or Benajah, after whom my father, myself, and my oldest son were named. With them may be classed the ten Gadites whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were as swift as the mountain deer, the least equal to 100 and the greatest equal to 1000. These crossed the Jordan at its mighty flood and smote the Philistines in all its valley, east and west.

Quite to the front also, as giant-killers, were Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan’s nephew. Of others, all mighty heroes, we have only a catalogue of names as famous in their day as Hercules, Theseus, and Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, Horatius, and .King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, but, as philosophizes Sir Walter Scott in lvanhoe concerniog the doughty champions at the tourney of Ashby de la Zouch: "To borrow lines from a contemporary poet, ’The knights are dust, And their good swords rust, Their souls are with the saints, we trust,’while their escutcheons have long mouldered from the walls of their castles; their castles themselves are but green mounds and shattered ruins; the place that once knew them knows them no more. Nay, many a race since theirs has died out and been forgotten in the very land which they occupied with all the authority of feudal proprietors and lords. What then would it avail to the reader to know their names, or the evanescent symbols of their martial rank?"

One exploit of three of these champions deserves to live forever in literature. It thrills the heart by the naturalness of its appeal to the memory of every man concerning the precious things of his childhood’s home. David was in his stronghold, the Cave of Adullam, weary and thirsty. Bethlehem and his childhood rise before him: “O that one would give me water to drink of the Well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!" His exclamation thrills like Woodworth’s famous poem, “How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood, As fond recollections presents them to view! The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wildwood, And ev’ry loved spot which my infancy knew”.

David’s longing for water from that particular well, and Woodworth’s "Old Oaken Bucket" harmonize with my own experience whenever I am delirious with fever. I always see a certain spring on my father’s plantation issuing from the mosscovered, fern-bordered rocks, and filling a sucken barrell. Hard by, hanging on a bush, is the gourd which, when dipped into the cold, clear spring, is more precious to thirsty lips than the silver tankards or gold drinking cups of kings; only in my fever-thirst I never am able to get that gourd to my lips. Three of David’s mighty men heard the expression of his longing for that water out of the Well of Bethlehem, and slipping quietly away, not caring that a Philistine garrison held Bethlehem, the three men alone break through the defended gate and under fire draw water from the well and bring a vessel of it over a long, hot way to thirsty David. It touched his heart when he saw their wounds. He could not drink water purchased with their blood, but poured it out as a libation to such great and devoted friendship.

Some other incidents of the Philistine war are worthy of comment:

1. So great was the defeat of the Philistines in their first battle, where David, under divine direction, attacked the center of their army, the scene is named "Baal-Perazirn," i.e., "The place of breaking forth." Splitting their column wide open at its heart, he dispersed them in every direction. They even sat their gods behind them to be burned by David’s men. We need not be startled at the burning of such gods, for history tells of one nation that ate their god, made out of dough, in times of famine. This breaking of a battle-center was a favorite method with Napoleon later, and vainly attempted by Lee at Gettysburg.

2. In the second great battle, again following divine direction, he avoided the center where they expected his attack as before and were there prepared for him this time, and "fetched" a compass to their rear, sheltered from their view by a thick growth of balsam trees, and on hearing "a sound of a going" in these trees, struck them unawares and overthrew them completely.

So Stonewall Jackson, his movements sheltered from observation by the trees of the wilderness, marched and struck in his last and greatest victory at Chancellorsville. And so did that master of war, Frederick the Great, screened by intervening hills, turn the Austrian columns and win his greatest victory at Leuthen. Major Penn, the great Texas lay-evangelist, preached his greatest sermon from "This fetching a compass," and "When thou hearest the sound of a going in the mulberry trees, bestir thyself." His application was: (a) Let great preachers attack the center, as David did at Baal-Perazim. (b) But as I am only a layman I must fetch a compass and strike them in the rear where they are not expecting attack. (c) As the signal of assault was the sound of a going in the mulberry trees, which we interpret to mean the power of the Holy Spirit going before, we must tarry for that power, for without it we are bound to fail. (d) But that power being evident, let every member of the church bestir himself. On this last point his zealous exhortation put every man, woman, and child to working.

3. The third incident of this war was its culmination. He pressed his victory until "he took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines;" that is, he captured Gath and the four other cities, or daughters, that had gone from it. To take the bridle of a horse from the hand of a rider is to make that horse serve the new master, so Gath and her daughters paid tribute to David and served him – quite a new experience for the Philistines.

4. The result of these great achievements is thus expressed: "And the fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him on all nations."

The occasion of his next war, the one with Ammon, was remarkable. Nabash, the king of Ammon, held very friendly relations with David. The fact is that he may have ’been the father of Amasa, a son of David’s sister, Abigail. Anyway, the relations between them had been very pleasant, so when Nahash died, David, out of the kindness of his heart, always remembering courtesies shown him, sent a friendly embassy to Hanun, the son of Nahash, but the princes of Ammon said to the young king, "Do you suppose that love for your father prompted David to send these men? He sent them to spy out the land so that he can make war successfully against us." This evil suggestion led the young king to do a very foolish thing, and one that violated all international policy. He arrested these ambassadors and subjected them to the greatest indignity. Their venerable beards were cut off. I don’t know whether that means cut off half-way or just shaved off one side of the face. Then he cut off their long robes of dignity so they would be bob-tailed jackets striking about the hips, and sent them home. No mortification could exceed theirs. Somebody told David about it and he sent this word to them: "Tarry at Jericho until your beards grow out."

A deacon of the First Church at Waco, when I was pastor, whenever a young member of the church would propose some innovation on the customs of the church, would draw up his tall figure – he was quite tall – and would reach out his long arm and point at the young man and say, "My young brother, you had better tarry at Jericho until your beard grows out." It was very crushing on the young brother, and I used to exhort the deacon about his curt way of cutting off members who, whether young or old, had a right equal to his own to speak in conference.

Having practiced that unpardonable indignity upon the friendly ambassadors, the Ammonites know they must fight, since they have made themselves odious to David, so they raise an enormous sum of money, 1,000 talents of silver, and hire 33,000 men from the Syrians, the different branches of the Syrians. Some of them were horsemen from across the Euphrates, some from Tob, some from Maacah, and the rest of them from Zobah. David sends Joab at the head of his mighty army of veterans to fight them. The Ammonites remain in their fortified city of Rabbah, and as Joab’s army approaches, 33,000 Syrians come up behind them, and Joab sees that there is a battle to be fought in the front and in the rear, so he divides his army and takes his picked men to attack the Syrians, and commands Abishai, his brother, to go after the Ammonites as they pour out of their city to attack in front. Joab says to his brother, "If the Syrians are too strong for me, you help me, and if the Ammon-ites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you," and so they fight both ways and whip in both directions with tremendous success. Joab destroys the Syrians, and Abishai drives the Ammonites back under the walls of their city.

That victory leads to another war. When the Syrians heard of the overthrow of the contingent sent to succor Ammon, they sent across the Euphrates again for reinforcements and mobilized a large home army to fight David. David met them in battle and blotted them off the map, and having disposed of the Syrians, at the return of the season for making war, he sent Joab with a mighty army to besiege the city of Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites. Joab besieges them and when he sees them about to surrender he sends for David to come and accept the surrender and David puts the crown of the king of Ammon on his own head. Then having destroyed the Ammonites, he marches against their southern ally, Moab, and conquers them. Following up this victory he leads his army against Edom, and conquers all that country. This war lasts six months. He gains a great victory over the Edomites and through Abishai, his leader, 18,000 of the Edomites were slain. The heir of the king escapes with great difficulty to Egypt, and is sheltered there. Joab remained six months to bury the dead and gather up the spoils. So ends this period of conquest.

The text tells you, in conclusion, who were the administration officers during this period. You will find it on page 122 of the Harmony. Joab was over the host, Jehoshaphat was recorder, Zadok and Ahimelech were priests, Seraiah was scribe, Benaiah, or Benajah, was over the Cherethites and Pelethites and David’s sons were chiefs about the king.

That great round of successes is followed by the magnificent song of thanksgiving, which needs to be analyzed specially and which is transferred to the Psalter as Psalm 18.

That you may have a connected account of these wars, the consideration of three periods is deferred to the next chapter:

1. The great sin of David, with its far-reaching consequences, 2 Samuel 11:2-12:24.

2. His treatment of the Ammonites after the fall of Rabbah, 2 Samuel 12:31 and 1 Chronicles 20:3.

3. His treatment of the Moabites, 2 Samuel 8:2.


1. What is the necessity of breaking the power of the hostile nations within and around Judea?

2. Show why the geographical position of Judea was favorable to its mission of leavening all nations with the ideas of the kingdom of God, and why Judea was a desirable possession to those nations.

3. What event brought a tide of war on David?

4. According to the record, with what nations did he wage successful war?

5. What eight general observations on these wars?

6. What special feature characterized them and all other ancient wars, and what modern inventions have now divested war of this feature?

7. Cite the names of some of David’s champions and their exploits.

8. How does Sir Walter Scott, in Ivanhoe, philosophize on the speedy oblivion coming to great champions?

9. Recite one exploit that deserves to live in literature, and why?

10. Cite the notable characteristic of the battle of Baal-Perazirn.

11. Name the more decisive battle which followed, and give illustrations from history of the different methods of attack in those two battles.

12. Give Major Penn’s text and sermon outline on some words concerning this battle.

13. Explain: ’’He took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines."

14. What was the result of these great achievements?

15. Recite the occasion of the war with Ammon and its results, and describe the first battle.

16. Give a brief statement of wars with Syria, Moab, and Edom.

17. With a map before you, show just how by these wars and alliances David safeguarded all his borders.

18. How did he commemorate his victories?

19. How did he celebrate them?

20. Into what other book was his thanksgiving song transferred, and how numbered there?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 18". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-chronicles-18.html.
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