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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 8

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Second Samuel - Chapter 8 and First Chronicles - Chapter 18

Summary of Conquests: Philistines, Syrians, 2 Samuel 8:1-8 AND 1 Chronicles 18:1-8

The present chapter under study are a summation of David’s conquest in his many wars. Some of them are more fully discussed in later chapters of the book of Second Samuel. The first has to do with David’s complete subjection of the Philistines. The ultimate defeat of them was his conquest of Gath and its tributary towns. This is called Metheg-ammah in the Samuel account. These Hebrew words should have been translated. They mean "bridle of the mother city". David took the bridle of conquest over the chief city of the Philistines, meaning that he utterly vanquished them and put them under his dominion.

The second nation conquered by David was Moab. The Samuel account tells of a very harsh practice of ancient times employed by David at this time. The defeated Moabites were drawn up in three lines, lots cast to put to death two lines and let the other live. Belligerent nations were thus kept peaceful. Though this seems very cruel today it seemed necessary in order to curb their ability to wage war.

David’s most profitable venture was against the Syrians. In a move to extend his frontier to the Euphrates he was opposed by the king of Zobah, Hadad-ezer (Samuel), or Hadar-ezer (Chronicles). The spoil consisted of a thousand chariots, seven thousand (seven hundred, Samuel) horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen. It cannot now be known which number of horsemen is correct. It is probable that a copyist in the long ago made an error in transcribing the record from the original, inspired account. When the Syrians of Damascus came to the aid of their kindred nation they were also defeated, with the loss of twenty-two thousand men.

Like the Moabites the Syrians became tributary to David. He also took shields of gold which were on them, and brought them to Jerusalem. From the towns of Hadad-ezer’s kingdom David took a great amount of brass, which was later used by Solomon in the temple. This notice about the temple is found in the Chronicles, another indication of its later appearance after the account of Samuel.

These wars resulted in another infraction of the law of Moses concerning kings (De 17:16). David began to accumulate horses, setting a precedent continued by his successors, until the requirement was totally disregarded.

Verses 9-18

Summary of Conquests: Hamath, Edomites, 2 Samuel 8:9-18 AND 1 Chronicles 18:9-17

Hamath was one of the leading city states of Bible times. It was located more than a hundred miles north of Damascus, in what was known as upper Syria. At one time it controlled some ninety smaller, tributary cities. David’s gaining the friendship of the king of this country added great prestige to his kingdom. Hamath had been at war with Hadad-ezer and was pleased with David’s defeat of his enemy. He sent his son with tributary gifts to congratulate David in the victory. Thus he brought his own realm into that of David and wisely avoided war with him. Toi (in Chronicles, Tou) sent rich presents of silver, gold, and brass, which David dedicated to the Lord for later use in construction of the temple. The spoil of all the nations David overcame was dedicated to the Lord.

Notice is made next of Abishai’s defeat of Edom, in which eighteen thousand were slain. David celebrated this defeat in Psalms 60, wherein it is revealed he suffered an initial setback, but turned to the Lord and won the victory. There the victory is ascribed to Joab, and the number slain given at twelve thousand. This probably notes a second battle which occurred after Abishai’s victory, with Joab coming to the rescue of the besieged David and slaying an additional twelve thousand.

David occupied the land of Edom and stationed his garrisons there. The Edomites were tributary to Judah for several centuries thereafter. The Samuel account relates that "David gat him a name" from this incident. This means that he acquired fame among the nations because of it. It was clearly the hand of God which enabled David to accomplish these great victories, and is so noted in 2 Samuel 8:14. But he did not rule despotically, justice and right being the intent of his government (see 2 Samuel 23:3; cf. 1 Timothy 1:12).

The passage concludes with a listing of David’s chief officers. Joab, the captain of the host, has been considered before. Jehoshaphat, the recorder, had the responsibility of preserving the annals of the kingdom. He continued into the reign of Solomon, and is not further notable. Zadok continued in the office of high priest, jointly with Abimelech (or Ahimelech) the son of Abiathar,.who succeeded his father. Seraiah (Shavsha in Chronicles) was scribe, or secretary. Here is the first mention of Benaiah, captain of the special forces known as the Cherethites and Pelethites.

These elite forces served as David’s personal guard and were around him at all times. In Solomon’s time Benaiah replaced Joab as captain of the host. The many sons of David were appointed to positions of rulership under their father.

There are lessons to be gleaned from this factual account: 1) The complete subjugation of the Philistines proves that God’s promises ultimately come to pass, though they seem long in coming. 2) one’s material accumulations should be put at the Lord’s disposal; 3) in the will of the Lord one can always win the victory (2 Corinthians 10:4); 4) leaders should employ those capable of helping in the Lord’s service.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-samuel-8.html. 1985.
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