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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 23

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-39



The title of this section is that which Spurgeon gives the psalm which constitutes it. The psalm is numbered 18 in the book of Psalms, and will be found to contain variations in the text. A common explanation of these is that David sung it, or caused it to be sung, often, and hence revised it for final use in the tabernacle.

The second and forty-ninth verses of the psalm are quoted in the New Testament as the words of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:9 ; Hebrews 2:13 ), which gives it a right to be classed as a Messianic psalm. Such psalms are those in which the psalmist is either referring to the Messiah, or in which the latter, by His Spirit, is speaking in the first person through the psalmist. There is a sense, therefore, in which all through this psalm we may think of Jesus as referring to His own sorrows while on the earth, His deliverance from His enemies, and His triumphs over opposition.

To speak of the psalm more in detail, verse 1 gives its occasion; verses 2 and 4, its theme; 5-19 speak poetically of deliverances obtained through the power of God; 20-28, the reason for them as based on the psalmist’s righteousness; 29-43, the preparation and girding the psalmist himself received; and 44-51 mingle praise for the past and prophecy for the future.

It is the fourth division, 20-28 more than any other, that makes it difficult to apply the psalm to David except in a highly poetical sense, and which gives it a Messianic significance.

THE LAST WORDS (2 Samuel 23:1-7 )

What is meant by the first sentence of this chapter is difficult to say. It reads like a note of some editor and may mean that the verses following, although poetical, are not part of the preceding song.

The whole section is expressive of trust in God. The second verse is a strong testimony to the divine inspiration of David’s words.

David’s house had not been what it should have been (2 Samuel 23:5 ), yet God’s covenant was sure, and for His own Name’s sake it would be carried forward until the Messiah should sit upon the throne. He was David’s desire and salvation.

A CATALOGUE OF THE MIGHTY (2 Samuel 23:8-39 )

David’s great human helpers are here designated and short sketches given of them. Space will not permit any enlarge documentary on the text, nor is it necessary. But note the supernatural character of their achievements “the Lord wrought a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:12 ).

There were three classes of these men. The first consisted of the first three named, 2 Samuel 23:8-17 ; the second, of the next three, Abishai, Benaiah and Asahel, apparently, 2 Samuel 23:18-24 ; and the third of the last thirty, of whom, it would appear, Asahel was chief.

NUMBERING THE PEOPLE (2 Samuel 24:1-9 )

When this took place is not easy to determine, but it is disappointing to note that it was a testing of David’s character in which he failed.

“He” before “moved” in 2 Samuel 24:1 , refers to Satan, as will be seen from 1 Chronicles 21:3 , and shows that although God does not tempt any man (James 1:13 ), yet, sometimes He permits the adversary of souls to do it. In this case He withdrew His supporting grace and the king fell (2 Samuel 24:3-4 ).

How long did it take to obtain this census, and what was its report (2 Samuel 24:8-9 )?

There is an apparent discrepancy between the record here and 1 Chronicles 21:0 , which, however, can be explained.

Samuel says, “there were in Israel 800,000 valiant men”; while Chronicles says, “And all they of Israel were a thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword” 300,000 more. The words in the second case, “all they of Israel,” suggests the key to the difficulty. Chronicles gives the full number of the military belonging to Israel, while Samuel omits the special guards of the king and the princes who were in actual service as militia, and which were just 300,000.

In like manner, Samuel says, “the men of Judah were 500,000 men,” while Chronicles records that “Judah was 470,000 that drew sword.” The difference is explained by the army of observation on the frontiers of Philistia (2 Samuel 6:1-2 ) which were not included in the author of Chronicles though they were by the author of Samuel. In this case the first- named does not say “all they of Judah,” as he had of Israel.

A CHOICE OF CHASTISEMENT (2 Samuel 24:10-25 )

God graciously leads David to repentance (2 Samuel 24:10 ), but He can by no means clear the guilty (2 Samuel 24:11-12 ), yet mercy mingles with justice (2 Samuel 24:13-14 ).

Note the difference between David’s spirit in 2 Samuel 24:17 , and that of Saul in corresponding circumstances (1 Samuel 15:15 ).

Do not overlook Araunah’s kingly generosity on the one hand (2 Samuel 24:23 ), or David’s conscientiousness on the other (2 Samuel 24:24 ). Of course, the name “Ornan” in Chronicles is only another pronunciation of Araunah in Samuel.

Observe from 1 Chronicles 21:28 to 1 Chronicles 22:5 , that the threshing floor subsequently became the site of Solomon’s temple.


1. In what part of the Bible are the contents of chapter 22 again found?

2. How may the variations be explained?

3. What are Messianic Psalms?

4. Give a proof of verbal inspiration in this lesson.

5. What shows the supernatural character of the achievements of David’s worthies?

6. Quote James 1:13 .

7. How might the discrepancy in the census be explained?

8. How famous did Araunah’s threshing-floor become?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/2-samuel-23.html. 1897-1910.
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