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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 5

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



Chapters 5-6. contain the account of the first half of David’s reign over the whole nation. All the events mentioned in them occurred within this period, but are not arranged with a strict regard to chronology within themselves, it being the object of the historian to describe first the internal improvement of the kingdom, and then afterwards the external development of its power.

Verse 1

(1) All the tribes.—Not only as represented by their elders (2 Samuel 5:3), but by the large bodies of their warriors enumerated in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40. It is to be noticed, then, that the “children of Judah” (1 Chronicles 12:24), over whom David was already king, joined in the assembly, and that there were 4,600 Levites with Jehoiada as the leader of the priestly family of Aaron, while Zadok appears only as a conspicuous member of that family (1 Chronicles 12:27-28).

Thy bone and thy flesh.—The Israelites, oppressed by the Philistines and their other enemies, and having seen the utter failure of the house of Saul and the death of their head, Abner, felt the necessity of union under a competent leader, and it is probable that this gathering to David, already prepared for by the negotiations of Abner, took place immediately after the death of Ish-bosheth. They assign three reasons for their action: (1) that they were of the same flesh and bone with David (comp. Genesis 29:14; Judges 9:2; 2 Samuel 19:12)—i.e., were of such common descent that it was unfitting for them to constitute separate nations; (2) that David, even in Saul’s reign, had been their military leader, and hence they knew him and had confidence in his prowess and sagacity; (3) that the Lord had chosen him for their king. The exact language of the Divine promise quoted is not found in the record, but is either (as in the case of Abner’s words, 2 Samuel 3:18) a summary of the communications made to David, or else some unrecorded language of one of the prophets.

Verse 3

(3) Made a league with them.—It would be an anachronism to understand this of the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, but the “league” may have had reference to certain special matters, such as leading them against their enemies, not destroying the remnant of the house of Saul or its late adherents, and not showing partiality (as Saul had done) to the members of his own tribe.

Verse 4

(4) Thirty years old.—This statement of the age and of the length of the reign of David (which is repeated in 1 Chronicles 29:26-27, at the end of the history of David’s life) shows us approximately the length of time since the combat with Goliath as some ten or twelve years. It also proves that the greater part of Saul’s reign is treated very briefly in 1 Samuel, and further shows that David was seventy years old at his death.

Verse 5

(5) Seven years and six months.—The six months is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 2:11; 1 Chronicles 3:4, but, as being only the fraction of a year, is generally omitted in the summary of the length of his reign, as in 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Chronicles 29:27. It was the habit of the sacred historians either to omit such fractions or else to count them as whole years, thus introducing a certain element of indefiniteness into the chronology, which is very marked in the parallel narratives of the kings of Israel and of Judah.

Verse 6

(6) Went to Jerusalem.—The king of Jerusalem had been defeated and slain by Joshua (Joshua 10:23-26; Joshua 12:10), and the city had been subsequently taken and destroyed by Judah (Judges 1:7-8). It was, however, only partially occupied by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Judges 1:21; Judges 15:63), and at a later time fell again entirely into the hands of the Jebusites (Judges 19:11-12). That Jebus and Jerusalem were two names of the same city is stated in 1 Chronicles 11:4. This expedition must have taken place immediately after the coronation, since the length of reign over all Israel and of the reign in Jerusalem are said in 2 Samuel 5:5 to be the same. David doubtless saw the importance of at once uniting the tribes in common action as well as the advantages of Jerusalem for his capital (Hebron being much too far southward), and the necessity of dislodging this remnant of the old Canaanites from their strong position in the centre of the land.

Except thou take away.—A better translation is, Thou shalt not come hither; but the blind and the lame shall keep thee off. The Jebusites, confident in the natural strength of their fortress, boast that even the lame and the blind could defend it. Their citadel was upon Mount Zion, the highest of the hills of Jerusalem, south-west of the temple hill of Moriah, and surrounded on three sides by deep valleys.

Verse 8

(8) Getteth up to the gutter.—The sense of this passage is obscure, partly from the difficulty of the Hebrew construction, partly from the uncertainty of the meaning of the word translated gutter. This word occurs elsewhere only in Psalms 42:7, where it is translated waterspouts. The ancient versions differ in their interpretations, but the most probable sense is watercourses, such as were connected with the precipices around Mount Zion. The two clauses also are unnecessarily transposed in our version, and the word getteth, by a very slight change in the Masoretic vowels, becomes cast or hurl. The whole clause will then read, “Whosoever smites the Jebusites, let him hurl into the watercourses (i.e., down the precipice) the lame and the blind.” David thus applies to all the Jebusites the expression they had just used of those who would suffice to resist his attack. The clause “that are hated of David’s soul,” shows that in this siege no quarter was to be given; the Jebusites were under the old ban resting upon all the Canaanites, and were to be destroyed. The English version inserts the clause, “he shall be chief and captain,” which is not in the original, and is here obscure. In 1 Chronicles 11:6, however, the same statement is made more fully and is important: “David said, Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain. So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up and was chief.” It thus appears that David promised the command of his army to the man who should successfully lead the forlorn hope; Joab did this, and won the place in the armies of all Israel which he had hitherto filled in that of Judah. This fact helps to explain the sense of obligation and restraint which David afterwards felt towards Joab.

Wherefore they said.—Rather, they say. This became a proverbial expression: no intercourse is to be had with such people as the Jebusites, here again called “the blind and the lame.”

Verse 9

(9) The fort.—The same word as strong hold in 2 Samuel 5:7.

Millo.—A word always used in Hebrew with the definite article (except in Judges 9:6; Judges 9:20), the Millo. It is probably an old Canaanitish name for the fortification on the northern end of Mount Zion, “inward” from which the palace was situated. Subsequent kings, as Solomon (1 Kings 11:27) and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:5), saw its importance and added to its strength. On all other sides Zion was protected by precipitous ravines. There is, however, some difference of opinion about the topography of ancient Jerusalem.

Verse 11

(11) Hiram king of Tyre.—This is the same Hiram, variously spelt Hirom and Huram, who was afterwards the friend of Solomon (1 Kings 5:1; 2 Chronicles 2:3),and was still living in the twenty-fourth year of Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 9:10-14; comp. 6:1, 38; 7:1); either, therefore, he must have had a reign of some fifty-seven years, or else his embassy to David must have been some time after the capture of Jerusalem. It is not unlikely that several years may have elapsed between the two events, during which “David went on and grew great” (2 Samuel 5:10), thereby attracting the attention and regard of Hiram. But the statement quoted by Josephus from Menander (100 Apion, i. 18) cannot be correct, that Hiram reigned only thirty-four years; for David was already in his “house of cedar” (2 Samuel 7:2) when he formed the purpose of building the Temple, and this was before the birth of Solomon (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Chronicles 22:9). Huram’s father, however, was also named Huram (2 Chronicles 2:13).

The Israelites evidently had little skill in architecture, since they relied on the Phœnicians for workmen both for this palace and for Solomon’s, as well as for the Temple.

Verse 12

(12) For his people Israel’s sake.—David’s prosperity had not blinded him to the fact that his blessings came to him as the head of the theocracy, and for the sake of God’s chosen people.

Verse 13

(13) More concubines and wives.—In Deuteronomy 17:17, the law had been given for the future king, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself.” David certainly came perilously near a violation of this law, although he did not, like his son Solomon, take wives and concubines in enormous number for the sake of having a great harem—an important element in the Oriental ideas of regal magnificence. Any possible ambiguity in the phrase “out of Jerusalem” is removed by the expression in the parallel place (1 Chronicles 14:3), “at Jerusalem.” Altogether, here and in Chronicles, the names of nineteen sons are mentioned; those of the daughters are not given, although one, Thamar, is mentioned in the story in 2 Samuel 13:0.

Verse 14

(14) These be the names.—The same list, with some variations, is given in 1 Chronicles 3:5-8; 1 Chronicles 14:5-7. According to 1 Chronicles 3:5, the first four were children of Bathsheba (Bath-shua), and were consequently not born until a later period of David’s reign. Solomon and Nathan are the two sons through whom St. Matthew and St. Luke trace our Lord’s genealogy. Although Solomon is placed last in all the lists, he appears, from 2 Samuel 12:24, to have been the oldest of Bathsheba’s sons, and could otherwise hardly have been old enough to take charge of the kingdom at his father’s death. The variations in the names are chiefly mere differences of spelling. The first, Elishama, in 1 Chronicles 3:6, is evidently a copyist’s mistake for Elishua, since Elishama occurs again in 2 Samuel 5:8; and the names of Eliphalet and Nogah, given in both lists in Chronicles, are omitted here, probably because they died young, the name of the former being given again to the last son in all the lists. In 1 Chronicles 3:9, it is said that all these were sons of David’s wives, besides those of his concubines.

Verse 17

(17) When the Philistines heard.—After this general summary, the narrative goes back to take up detailed events in their order. First comes an attack of the Philistines. Their attention had naturally been hitherto occupied with Abner and Ish-bosheth, who ruled over the far greater part of the land; but when they heard that the old nation was united under their old foe, they saw that no time was to be lost in attacking him before his power should be consolidated. Yet their necessary consultations, and the mustering of their forces, allowed time for the conquest of Jerusalem, which David seems to have accomplished with the forces gathered at his coronation.

Went down to the hold.—As David went “down” to this place, and then “up” (2 Samuel 5:19) from it to the attack on the Philistines, it is not likely that “the hold” means the citadel of Zion. It must have been some stronghold near the Philistine army. It could not have been, as some have thought, the cave of Adullam. According to the monastic tradition, this was seven or eight miles S.E. of Bethlehem; according to the more ancient view, it was in the plain of Judah, west of the mountains; thus, in either case, quite remote from the scene of the battle.

Verse 18

(18) Rephaim.—Translated in Joshua 15:8, the valley of the giants. It was a fruitful valley, stretching some three miles S. and S.W. from Jerusalem, and only separated from the valley of Hinnom by a narrow ridge. It gave ample room for a large encampment, and its situation is an additional proof that the capture of Jerusalem had already been made, since the Philistines came here “to seek David.” They had, however, encamped in the same place at earlier times also (see 2 Samuel 23:13).

Verse 20

(20) Baal – perazim = possessor (or lord) of breaches. After David had inquired of the Lord and received a favourable answer (2 Samuel 5:19), he made a sudden attack, like a bursting forth of waters, and carried all before him. The victory was so signal as to give a new name to the locality, and to be remembered centuries afterwards as a memorable instance of Divine aid (Isaiah 28:21). The name has no reference to the heathen deity Baal.

Verse 21

(21) Their images.—The Philistines took their idols with them to battle, as the Israelites had formerly taken the ark, and the suddenness and completeness of their defeat is shown by their leaving them on the field. The statement that David “burned” them is taken from 1 Chronicles 14:12, the Hebrew here being simply “took them away.” (See Deuteronomy 7:5.)

Verse 22

(22) Came up yet again.—As David had not followed up his victory (probably because he was not yet in condition to do so) the Philistines repeated their attack in the same place.

Verse 23

(23) Shall not go up.—The enemy, on the same battle-expound, would have prepared for attack from the same direction as before; consequently David is directed to go round them and attack them unexpectedly from the opposite quarter.

Verse 24

(24) The sound of a going.—After David has gone to the rear of his enemies, he is to wait by “the mulberry trees,” or, as now generally understood, baca-shrubs, a plant resembling the balsam. Here a Divine signal was to be given him in “the sound of a going,” or, rather, of a march. The word is used of the march of the hosts of the Lord in Judges 5:4; Psalms 68:7. Then David was to “bestir himself,” literally, be sharp; he was to act quickly and vigorously.

Verse 25

(25) From Geba . . . to Gazer.—In the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 14:16) it is “from Gibeon to Gazer.” One or the other is a slip of the scribe, and there can be little question that Gibeon is the true reading, since it lies about five and a half miles northwest of Jerusalem, while Geba (Gibeah) is about seven and a half miles north-east. The site of Gazer (or Gezer) has not been exactly identified, but it was certainly just on the edge of the Philistine plain. The distance of the pursuit from Gibeon was about twelve miles, and six miles more must already have been passed over before reaching Gibeon from the valley of Rephaim. The flight of the Philistines was determined in this north-westerly direction at first, from the fact that David had “fetched a compass,” and attacked them from the south. In 1 Chronicles 14:8-17, these battles are placed between the unsuccessful (2 Samuel 13:5-14) and the successful (2 Samuel 15:0) attempts to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. It is impossible now to determine the exact details of the chronology.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-samuel-5.html. 1905.
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