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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 23

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-7

D. David’s Last Testament 23:1-7

The combination of David’s final song (in the text, ch. 22) followed by his last testament (2 Samuel 23:1-7) recalls the similar combination of Moses’ final song and his last testament (Deuteronomy 32, 33). This was David’s final literary legacy to Israel.

"Whereas the psalm in the previous chapter celebrates the delivering acts of Yahweh by which the Davidic supremacy was established, this little poem is composed around the theme of the dynastic covenant through which the continued prosperity of the Davidic house was vouchsafed." [Note: Gordon, p. 309.]

This poem also has a chiastic structure focusing on the Lord speaking (2 Samuel 23:3-4). His words describe the ideal king. They are messianic. However the passage also anticipates all of David’s successors.

The same great spiritual themes come through here as in the previous chapter and in the whole historical account recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel. The ancients regarded the last words of any person as especially significant. The last words of Israel’s great leaders were even more important. The last words of prophets were extremely important (cf. Genesis 49; Deuteronomy 33; Acts 20:17-38; et al.). They often expressed lessons those who had walked with God for many years had learned.

The writer described David as simply the son of Jesse, a common Israelite, and as someone whom God had raised up, in contrast to a self-made man (2 Samuel 23:1; cf. Daniel 4:29-33). David always viewed himself as one whom God had chosen and anointed for his role in life (2 Samuel 23:1). He was the Lord’s anointed and the sweet psalmist. These four descriptions of David picture his leadership in relation to his family, his political administration, his military forces, and his spiritual influence.

David claimed that the words that he had spoken had been received from God (2 Samuel 23:2). He thus gave God the credit for his inspiration. He also recognized God as the real ruler of Israel (2 Samuel 23:3). Many ancient as well as modern interpreters of this book have understood David’s description of Israel’s ruler in 2 Samuel 23:3-4 as a reference to Messiah. It probably also describes David and his royal descendants. The figure of the dawning sun pictures the righteous ruler as a source of promise, joy, and blessing to his people (2 Samuel 23:4). The figure of the sprouting grass describes him as a source of prosperity, new life, and fertility (2 Samuel 23:4). David viewed his dynasty this way because God had made an everlasting covenant (the Davidic Covenant) with him (2 Samuel 23:5). This resulted in order, security, deliverance, and fulfillment of desire (2 Samuel 23:5). David believed that the covenant would result in increased blessing for his house (2 Samuel 23:5). The worthless would suffer the reverse fate, however, and even be burned up as useless (cf. Matthew 13:30). [Note: For a linguistic analysis of this pericope, see H. Neil Richardson, "The Last Words of David: Some Notes on 2 Samuel 23:1-7," Journal of Biblical Literature 90:3 (1971):257-66.]

To summarize, David believed that the Lord sovereignly initiates blessing, and those who value it cause His blessings to increase on themselves and others.

Verses 8-23

1. Selected adventures of outstanding warriors 23:8-23

There were three warriors who received higher honor than all the rest (2 Samuel 23:8-12): Josheb-basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. What their relationship to The Thirty was is hard to determine. [Note: B. Mazar, "The Military Elite of King David," Vetus Testamentum 13 (1963):310-20.] One writer assumed they were over The Thirty. [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 282.] Three unnamed men from The Thirty received special mention (2 Samuel 23:13-17). Two others also received great esteem (2 Samuel 23:18-23): Abishai, and Benaiah. This was evidently the same Benaiah who became the head of David’s bodyguard (2 Samuel 20:23), a position similar to the one that David had occupied in Saul’s army (1 Samuel 22:14).

Josheb-basshebeth is an example of a spiritual warrior with exceptional strength (cf. Ephesians 6:10). Eleazar demonstrated unusual stamina and persistence (cf. Isaiah 40:31). Shammah’s greatness lay in his supernatural steadfastness (cf. Ephesians 6:14). The three warriors who took David’s wish for water as their command and took a calculated risk (not wild recklessness) showed remarkable sacrifice, dedication, and loyalty (cf. Matthew 6:33). These are all qualities necessary in, and available to, spiritual warriors of all ages by God’s grace. Perhaps the writer also mentioned the feats of Abishai and Benaiah because they feature in the preceding narrative. As Jesus had his circles of intimates (Peter, James, and John, the Twelve, and the Seventy), so did David.

Verses 8-39

E. Thirty-seven Mighty Men 23:8-39

One might conclude from 1 Samuel 22:2 that David’s army, made up as it was of malcontents and distressed debtors, would not have been able to accomplish anything. This list testifies to God’s blessing on David and Israel militarily by enabling his warriors to accomplish supernatural feats and to become mighty men in war. Again, God’s supernatural blessing is what this section illustrates.

Verses 24-39

2. A list of notable warriors among The Thirty 23:24-39

Thirty-two more soldiers obtained special distinction (2 Samuel 23:24-39), including Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 23:39). The writer referred to them as "The Thirty." This designation seems to have been a title for their exclusive group (cf. 2 Samuel 23:18). Since more than 30 names appear in this list of "The Thirty" it may be that when one died, someone else took his place. Asahel, the first name listed, and Uriah, the last, had, of course, already died by the end of David’s reign.

The Thirty may have been "a kind of supreme army council which was largely responsible for framing the internal army regulations, deciding on promotions and appointments, and handling other military matters." [Note: Yadin, p. 277.]

Compared with the list in 1 Chronicles 11 there are several variations in spelling, which occurs occasionally in the Hebrew Bible. Also some of the differences may be because some soldiers had replaced others. Perhaps in some cases the same man had two different names. [Note: See the comparative chart in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 478-79.]

Note that each of these spiritual warriors received individual honor by God (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30). Each had a different background reflected in his identification in this list; his background did not determine his success. Each was a special blessing to David because David chose to follow the Lord faithfully. Conspicuous by its absence is the name of Joab, David’s commander-in-chief.

The whole pericope (2 Samuel 23:8-39) illustrates the fact that God enables those who follow His anointed faithfully and wholeheartedly to do great works of spiritual significance for Him.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-23.html. 2012.
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