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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 17-18

C. The Establishment of the Kingdom 5:17-8:18

"As the story of David’s accession to kingship over Judah (2 Samuel 1:1 to 2 Samuel 3:5) parallels that of his accession to the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 3:6 to 2 Samuel 5:16), each concluding with a list of his sons (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13-16), so the account of his powerful reign (2 Samuel 5:17 to 2 Samuel 8:18) parallels that of his court history (chs. 9-20), each concluding with a roster of his officials (2 Samuel 8:15-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26)." [Note: Ibid., p. 861.]

Verses 1-18

4. The security of David’s kingdom ch. 8

"From the religious heights of chapter 7 we descend again to the everyday world of battles and bloodshed in chapter 8. The military action picks up where the story left off at the end of chapter 5." [Note: Payne, p. 193.]

Chapter 8 evidently describes the conquest of David’s enemies that took place before David brought the ark into Jerusalem (ch. 6) and received the Davidic Covenant (ch. 7). An apparent problem with this view is the statement, "Now after this," in 2 Samuel 8:1. However, since 2 Samuel 7:1 says God had given David rest from all his enemies, chapter 8 must precede chapter 7 and probably chapter 6. "After this" most likely refers to the battles with the Philistines the writer recorded in 2 Samuel 5:17-25. Following those battles David had one or more other conflicts with the Philistines described in 2 Samuel 8:1. The chief city of the Philistines (2 Samuel 8:1) was Gath (cf. 1 Chronicles 18:1). The writer described David’s military campaigns from west (2 Samuel 8:1), to east (2 Samuel 8:2), to north (2 Samuel 8:3-11), to south (2 Samuel 8:13-14), suggesting victory in every direction, total success thanks to Yahweh (2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:14).

"The Philistines considered themselves the legitimate heirs of the Egyptian rule in Palestine and their defeat by David implied the passage of the Egyptian province of Canaan into the hands of the Israelites." [Note: Abraham Malamat, "The Kingdom of David & Solomon in its Contact with Egypt and Aram Naharaim," Biblical Archaeologist 21:4 (1958):100.]

In the east, David defeated the Moabites, executed one-third of their soldiers, and obligated them to pay tribute (2 Samuel 8:2).

To the northeast, David subdued the king of Zobah (2 Samuel 8:3). The antecedent of "he" is probably Hadadezer. [Note: See Keil and Delitzsch, p. 358.] The "River" is probably a reference to the Euphrates, the most important river in that area. There is a discrepancy in the number of horsemen David took in battle (2 Samuel 8:4). Probably the figure in 1 Chronicles 18:4 is correct. 2 Samuel 8:4 has suffered a textual corruption. [Note: Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 184; Keil and Delitzsch, p. 360.] There are many minor textual corruptions in the Hebrew text of 1 and 2 Samuel, probably more than in any other book of the Old Testament. [Note: For an introduction to the study of this subject, see Martin, pp. 209-22.] David evidently captured 7,000 horsemen and preserved enough horses for 1,000 chariots. Hamstringing the horses involved severing the large tendon above and behind their hocks, which correspond to human ankles, to disable them. Evidently David had plenty of horses and did not need to use all that he captured in war. [Note: See Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archaeological Discovery, p. 285.]

The word "Syrian" (2 Samuel 8:5-6) is a later word that came to replace "Aramean." At the time of David’s conquest, people called the residents of the area around Damascus, Arameans, and the area, Aram. Damascus at this time was not as powerful as it became later. Aram was northeast of Canaan. David had previously defeated these people. [Note: See my note on 10:15-19.]

"Whether they [the gold shields, 2 Samuel 8:7] were made of solid gold or simply bossed with gold or supplied with golden fittings is impossible to say (contrast the shields mentioned in 1 Kings 10:16-17; 1 Kings 14:26)." [Note: Youngblood, p. 906.]

Hamath (2 Samuel 8:9) was farther northwest than Zobah and Aram. Solomon later used the bronze, silver, and gold articles that David captured to build his temple (2 Samuel 8:8; 2 Samuel 8:10-12).

The battles summarized in 2 Samuel 8:3-12 probably occurred after the ones reported in chapters 10-12. [Note: Ibid., p. 904; John A. Bright, A History of Israel, p. 202, n. 38; and Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel’s History, p. 226.]

There is another textual omission in 2 Samuel 8:13. Perhaps while Israel was at war with the Arameans, the Edomites seized the opportunity to invade Israel and proceeded toward Israel as far as the Valley of Salt. This valley lay at the south end of the Salt (Dead) Sea. David evidently defeated the Edomites there after defeating the Arameans (cf. Psalms 60:1; 1 Chronicles 18:12). [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 364.] Edom, of course, was Israel’s neighbor to the southeast. The writer of Samuel could have written much more about David’s military victories, but he chose to move on to emphasize other things in the chapters that follow.

"Recapitulating David’s military victories during his years as king over Israel and Judah in Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 8:1-14 parallel the account of the defeat of the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:17-25) in the overall structure of the narrative of David’s powerful reign (2 Samuel 5:17 to 2 Samuel 8:18; . . .). The summary may not be intended as all-inclusive, since other wars and skirmishes are mentioned later in the book (cf. ch. 10; 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 2 Samuel 23:8-23).

"The section leaves no doubt about the fact that David’s armies were invincible and that no nation, however numerous or powerful its fighting men, could hope to withstand the Israelite hosts." [Note: Youngblood, p. 901.]

The real reason for David’s success emerges clearly, however: "The Lord helped David wherever he went" (2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:14).

2 Samuel 8:15-18 constitute a summary of David’s administration and conclude this section of Samuel (2 Samuel 5:17 to 2 Samuel 8:18) that records the major important features of David’s reign (cf. 2 Samuel 20:23-26). God established his empire firmly. He had relocated his capital, subdued his enemy neighbors, brought the ark into Jerusalem, and received the Davidic Covenant. The writer probably listed David’s military victories last in chapter 8 because the formal record of a king’s accomplishments normally ended this way in the official records of ancient Near Eastern monarchs. [Note: See my note on 1 Samuel 14:47-52.] The writer of the Book of Kings followed the same procedure in recording the reigns of the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel. These selected events from David’s reign show God’s blessing on him and on Israel through him. Because he was the Lord’s anointed who followed God faithfully, Yahweh poured out blessing and fertility.

"The recorder (Heb. mazkir [2 Samuel 8:16]), whose title derived from the Hebrew ’to remember’ had a most important role at court, with responsibility for keeping the king informed, advising him, and communicating the king’s commands. Interestingly, the Lord is also depicted, like the human king, as having ’recorders’, though the word is translated ’remembrancers’ (RV, AV mg.); their responsibility was to keep reminding him of his stated intentions until they were completed (Isaiah 62:6). This is an aspect of prayer which is easily overlooked, though it is implicit in the Lord’s prayer: ’thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . .’" [Note: Baldwin, pp. 224-25. See also J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, p. 153.]

Obviously God does not need people to remind Him of anything since He is omniscient. Reminding God of things does more for the person reminding than for the One reminded, and this is the primary intent of the figure. The "secretary" (2 Samuel 8:17) was similar to a secretary of state. [Note: Youngblood, p. 911.] The Cherethites and Pelethites formed David’s private bodyguard (cf. 2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:7; 2 Samuel 20:23; 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Kings 1:44; 1 Chronicles 18:17). The Cherethites were evidently Cretans and the Pelethites, Philistines. Though both groups came to Canaan from Crete, the Cherethites were native Cretans and the Pelethites had only passed through Crete during their migration from their original homeland, Greece. [Note: See The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Cherethites," by T. C. Mitchell.] Together they constituted a core of foreign mercenaries that served as David’s bodyguard (cf. 1 Samuel 30:14).

"Royal bodyguards were often made up of foreigners whose personal loyalty to the king was less likely to be adulterated by involvement in national politics (cf. 1 Samuel 28:2)." [Note: Gordon, p. 247.]

David’s sons were in some sense priests. "Chief ministers" (2 Samuel 8:18) is literally "priests." [Note: See Armerding, pp. 75-86; and J. Barton Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles," in I Kings-Job, vol. 4 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 399.] Apparently they functioned in a mediatory capacity but not by carrying out sacerdotal functions that were the exclusive responsibilities of the Levitical priests. Gordon Wenham believed "priests" is a mistranslation and that the proper reading should be "administrators (of the royal estates)" (cf. 1 Chronicles 18:17). [Note: G. J. Wenham, "Were David’s Sons Priests?" Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 87:1 (1975):79-82.] Perhaps these priestly duties resulted from David’s sons’ connection with the Melchizedekian priesthood (cf. 2 Samuel 6:12-15). [Note: Merrill, "2 Samuel," p. 234.]

David’s kingdom stretched from the Gulf of Aqabah and the Wadi of Egypt, on the southeast and southwest respectively, to the Euphrates River on the northeast. [Note: See the map "The Kingdom of David" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 462.] David did not have complete sovereignty over all this territory, however. Some of his neighbor kingdoms were tribute-paying vassal states. Israel lost control of most of this territory later. Since God had promised Abraham’s descendants permanent possession of the Promised Land (Genesis 13:15), David’s kingdom did not constitute a fulfillment of the land promise in the Abrahamic Covenant.

Five major conflicts and reversals of fortune occur in chapters 2-8. Saul’s men conflicted with David’s men (2 Samuel 2:1 to 2 Samuel 3:5), Saul’s kingdom conflicted with David’s kingdom (2 Samuel 3:6 to 2 Samuel 5:16), and the Philistines conflicted with David (2 Samuel 5:17-25). Saul’s line conflicted with David and the ark (chs. 6-7), and the nations conflicted with David (ch. 8).

God’s blessing came on Israel when the people had a proper attitude toward Him, which their proper attitude toward the ark symbolized (2 Samuel 6:12-19). Preceding this attitude a series of conflicts resulted in David’s forces gaining strength and Saul’s forces losing strength. God reduced Saul’s line to one crippled boy (2 Samuel 4:4), and He condemned Michal to remain childless (2 Samuel 6:20-23). Later He cut off the rest of Saul’s line (2 Samuel 21:1-14). On the other hand, God promised David descendants who would endure and reign forever (ch. 7). In the fullness of time the ultimate Anointed One, Jesus Christ, issued from him (cf. Galatians 4:4).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-8.html. 2012.
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