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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

2 Samuel 23

Verses 1-7

The psalm of thanksgiving, in which David praised the Lord for all the deliverances and benefits that he had experienced throughout the whole of his life, is followed by the prophetic will and testament of the great king, unfolding the importance of his rule in relation to the sacred history of the future. And whilst the psalm may be regarded (2 Samuel 22) as a great hallelujah, with which David passed away from the stage of life, these “last words” contain the divine seal of all that he has sung and prophesied in several psalms concerning the eternal dominion of his seed, on the strength of the divine promise which he received through the prophet Nathan, that his throne should be established for ever (2 Samuel 7). These words are not merely a lyrical expansion of that promise, but a prophetic declaration uttered by David at the close of his life and by divine inspiration, concerning the true King of the kingdom of God. “The aged monarch, who was not generally endowed with the gift of prophecy, was moved by the Spirit of God at the close of his life, and beheld a just Ruler in the fear of God, under whose reign blessing and salvation sprang up for the righteous, and all the wicked were overcome. The pledge of this was the eternal covenant which God had concluded with him” (Tholuck: die Propheten and ihre Weissagungen, p. 166). The heading “ these are the last words of David ” serves to attach it to the preceding psalm of thanksgiving.

2 Samuel 23:1-2

2 Samuel 23:4 describes the blessing that will proceed from this ruler. The idea that 2 Samuel 23:4 should be connected with 2 Samuel 23:3 so as to form one period, in the sense of “when one rules justly over men (as I do), it is as when a morning becomes clear,” must be rejected, for the simple reason that it overlooks Nathan's promise (2 Samuel 7) altogether, and weakens the force of the saying so solemnly introduced as the word of God. The ruler over men whom David sees in spirit, is not any one who rules righteously over men; nor is the seed of David to be regarded as a collective expression indicating a merely ideal personality, but, according to the Chaldee rendering, the Messiah himself, the righteous Shoot whom the Lord would raise up to David (Jeremiah 23:5), and who would execute righteousness and judgment upon earth (Jeremiah 33:15). 2 Samuel 23:4 is to be taken by itself as containing an independent thought, and the connection between it and 2 Samuel 23:3 must be gathered from the words themselves: the appearance (the rise) of this Ruler will be “ as light of the morning, when the sun rises.” At the same time, the Messiah is not to be regarded as the subject to בּקר אור (the light of the morning), as though the ruler over men were compared with the morning light; but the subject compared to the morning light is intentionally left indefinite, according to the view adopted by Luther in his exposition, “In the time of the Messiah it will be like the light of the morning.” We are precluded from regarding the Messiah as the subject, by the fact that the comparison is instituted not with the sun, but with the morning dawn at the rising of the sun, whose vivifying effects upon nature are described in the second clause of the verse. The words שׁמשׁ יזרח are to be taken relatively, as a more distinct definition of the morning light. The clause which follows, “ morning without clouds,” is parallel to the foregoing, and describes more fully the nature of the morning. The light of the rising sun on a cloudless morning is an image of the coming salvation. The rising sun awakens the germs of life in the bosom of nature, which had been slumbering through the darkness of the night. “The state of things before the coming of the ruler resembles the darkness of the night” (Hengstenberg). The verb is also wanting in the second hemistich. “ From the shining from rain (is, comes) fresh green out of the earth.” נגהּ signifies the brightness of the rising sun; but, so far as the actual meaning is concerned, it relates to the salvation which attends the coming of the righteous ruler. ממּטר is either subordinate to מנּגהּ , or co-ordinate with it. In the former case, we should have to render the passage, “from the shining of the sun which proceeds out of rain,” or “from the shining after rain;” and the allusion would be to a cloudless morning, when the shining of the sun after a night's rain stimulates the growth of the plants. In the latter case, we should have to render it “from the shining (and) from the rain;” and the reference would be to a cloudless morning, on which the vegetation springs up from the ground through sunshine followed by rain. Grammatically considered, the first view (? the second) is the easier of the two; nevertheless we regard the other (? the first) as the only admissible one, inasmuch as rain is not to be expected when the sun has risen with a cloudless sky. The rays of the sun, as it rises after a night of rain, strengthen the fresh green of the plants. The rain is therefore a figurative representation of blessing generally (cf. Isaiah 44:3), and the green grass which springs up from the earth after the rain is an image of the blessings of the Messianic salvation (Isaiah 44:4; Isaiah 45:8).

In Psalms 72:6, Solomon takes these words of David as the basis of his comparison of the effects resulting from the government of the true Prince of peace to the coming down of the rain upon the mown grass.

2 Samuel 23:5

In 2 Samuel 23:5, the prophecy concerning the coming of the just ruler is sustained by being raced back to the original promise in 2 Samuel 7, in which David had received a pledge of this. The first and last clauses of this verse can only be made to yield a meaning in harmony with the context, by being taken interrogatively: “ for is not my house so with God? ” The question is only indicated by the tone ( &#לא כּי הלא כּי : 2 Samuel 19:23), as is frequently the case, even before clauses commencing with לּא (e.g., Hosea 11:5; Malachi 2:15: cf. Ewald, §324, a.). לא־כן (not so) is explained by the following clause, though the כּי which follows is not to be taken in the sense of “ that.” Each of the two clauses contains a distinct thought. That of the first is, “Does not my house stand in such a relation to God, that the righteous ruler will spring from it?” This is then explained in the second: “for He hath made an everlasting covenant with me.” David calls the promise in 2 Samuel 7:12., that God would establish his kingdom to his seed for ever, a covenant, because it involved a reciprocal relation-namely, that Jehovah would first of all found for David a permanent house, and then that the seed of David was to build the house of the Lord. This covenant is בכּל ערוּכה , “ equipped (or provided) with all ” that could help to establish it. This relates more especially to the fact that all eventualities were foreseen, even the falling away of the bearers of the covenant of God, so that such an event as this would not annul the covenant (2 Samuel 7:14-15). וּשׁמוּרה , “ and preserved,” i.e., established by the assurance that even in that case the Lord would not withdraw His grace. David could found upon this the certainty, that God would cause all the salvation to spring forth which had been pledged to his house in the promise referred to. כּל־ישׁעי , “ all my salvation,” i.e., all the salvation promised to me and to my house. כּל־חפץ , not “all my desire,” but “ all the good pleasure ” of God, i.e., all the saving counsel of God expressed in that covenant. The כּי before לא is an energetic repetition of the כּי which introduces the explanatory thought, in the sense of a firm assurance: “ for all my salvation and all good pleasure, yea, should He not cause it to spring forth?

2 Samuel 23:6-7

6 But the worthless, as rejected thorns are they all;

For men do not take them in the hand.

7 And the man who touches them

Provides himself with iron and spear-shaft,

And they are utterly burned with fire where they dwell.

The development of salvation under the ruler in righteousness and the fear of God is accompanied by judgment upon the ungodly. The abstract בליּעל , worthlessness, is stronger than בליּעל אישׁ , the worthless man, and depicts the godless as personified worthlessness. מנד , in the Keri מנּד , the Hophal of נוּד or נדד , literally “ scared ” or hunted away. This epithet does not apply to the thorns, so well as to the ungodly who are compared to thorns. The reference is to thorns that men root out, not to those which they avoid on account of their prickles. כּלּהם , an antiquated form for כּלּם (see Ewald, §247, d.). To root them out, or clean the ground of them, men do not lay hold of them with the bare hand; but “ whoever would touch them equips himself ( ימּלא , sc., ידו , to ' fill the hand ' with anything: 2 Kings 9:24) with iron, i.e., with iron weapons, and spear-shaft ” (vid., 1 Samuel 17:7). This expression also relates to the godless rather than to the thorns. They are consumed בּשּׁבת , “ at the dwelling,” i.e., as Kimchi explains, at the place of their dwelling, the place where they grow. For בּשּׁבת cannot mean “on the spot” in the sense of without delay. The burning of the thorns takes place at the final judgment upon the ungodly (Matthew 13:30).

Verses 8-39

The following list of David's heroes we also find in 1 Chron 11:10-47, and expanded at the end by sixteen names (1 Chronicles 11:41-47), and attached in 1 Chronicles 11:10 to the account of the conquest of the fortress of Zion by the introduction of a special heading. According to this heading, the heroes named assisted David greatly in his kingdom, along with all Israel, to make him king, from which it is evident that the chronicler intended by this heading to justify his appending the list to the account of the election of David as king over all the tribes of Israel (1 Chronicles 11:1), and of the conquest of Zion, which followed immediately afterwards. In every other respect the two lists agree with one another, except that there are a considerable number of errors of the text, more especially in the names, which are frequently corrupt in both texts, to that the true reading cannot be determined with certainty. The heroes enumerated are divided into three classes. The first class consists of three, viz., Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah, of whom certain brave deeds are related, by which they reached the first rank among David's heroes (2 Samuel 23:8-12). They were followed by Abishai and Benaiah, who were in the second class, and who had also distinguished themselves above the rest by their brave deeds, though they did not come up to the first three (2 Samuel 23:18-23). The others all belonged to the third class, which consisted of thirty-two men, of whom no particular heroic deeds are mentioned (vv. 24-39). Twelve of these, viz., the five belonging to the first two classes and seven of the third, were appointed by David commanders of the twelve detachments into which he divided the army, each detachment to serve for one month in the year (1 Chron 27). These heroes, among whom we do not find Joab the commander-in-chief of the whole of the forces, were the king's aides-de-camp, and are called in this respect השּׁלשׁי (2 Samuel 23:8), though the term השּׁלשׁים (the thirty, 2 Samuel 23:13, 2 Samuel 23:23, 2 Samuel 23:24) was also a very customary one, as their number amounted to thirty in a round sum. It is possible that at first they may have numbered exactly thirty; for, from the very nature of the case, we may be sure than in the many wars in which David was engaged, other heroes must have arisen at different times, who would be received into the corps already formed. This will explain the addition of sixteen names in the Chronicles, whether the chronicler made us of a different list from that employed by the author of the books before us, and one belonging to a later age, or whether the author of our books merely restricted himself to a description of the corps in its earlier condition.

2 Samuel 23:8-12

Heroes of the first class. - The short heading to our text, with which the list in the Chronicles also beings (1 Chronicles 11:11), simply gives the name of these heroes. But instead of “the names of the mighty men,” we have in the Chronicles “the number of the mighty men.” This variation is all the more striking, from the fact that in the Chronicles the total number is not given at the close of the list as it is in our text. At the same time, it can hardly be a copyist's error for מבחר ( selection), as Bertheau supposes, but must be attributable to the fact that, according to 2 Samuel 23:13, 2 Samuel 23:23, and 2 Samuel 23:24, these heroes constituted a corps which was named from the number of which it originally consisted. The first, Jashobeam, is called “the chief of the thirty” in the Chronicles. Instead of ישׁבעם ( Jashobeam), the reading in the Chronicles, we have here בּשּׁבת ישׁב ( Josheb-basshebeth), unquestionably a spurious reading, which probably arose, according to Kennicott's conjecture, from the circumstance that the last two letters of ישׁבעם were written in one MS under בּשּׁבת in the line above (2 Samuel 23:7), and a copyist took בשׁבת from that line by mistake for עם . The correctness of the reading Jashobeam is established by 1 Chronicles 27:2. The word תּחכּמני is also faulty, and should be corrected, according to the Chronicles, into בּן־חכמוני ( Ben-hachmoni); for the statement that Jashobeam was a son (or descendant) of the family of Hachmon (1 Chronicles 27:32) can easily be reconciled with that in 1 Chronicles 27:2, to the effect that he was a son of Zabdiel. Instead of השּׁלשׁים ראשׁ ( head of the thirty), the reading in the Chronicles, we have here השּׁלשׁי ראשׁ ( head of the three). Bertheau would alter our text in accordance with the Chronicles, whilst Thenius proposes to bring the text of the Chronicles into accordance with ours. But although the many unquestionable corruptions in the verse before us may appear to favour Bertheau's assumption, we cannot regard either of the emendations as necessary, or even warrantable. The proposed alteration of השּׁלשׁי is decidedly precluded by the recurrence of השּׁלשׁי ראשׁ in 2 Samuel 23:18, and the alteration of השּׁלשׁים in the Chronicles by the repeated allusion to the שׁלשׁים , not only in 2 Samuel 23:15, 42; 2 Samuel 12:4, and 1 Chronicles 27:6 of the Chronicles, but also in 2 Samuel 23:13, 2 Samuel 23:23, and 2 Samuel 23:24 of the chapter before us. The explanation given of שׁלשׁי and שׁלשׁים , as signifying chariot-warriors, is decidedly erroneous;

Helez the Paltite; i.e., sprung from Beth-pelet in the south of Judah (Joshua 15:27). He was chief of the seventh division of the army (compare 1 Chronicles 27:10 with 1 Chronicles 11:27, though in both passages הפּלטי is misspelt הפּלני ). Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoah in the desert of Judah (2 Samuel 14:2), chief of the sixth division of the army (1 Chronicles 27:9).

2 Samuel 23:27

Abiezer of Anathoth (Anata) in Benjamin (see at Joshua 18:24), chief of the ninth division of the army (1 Chronicles 27:12). Mebunnai is a mistake in spelling for Sibbechai the Hushathite (compare 2 Samuel 21:18 and 1 Chronicles 11:29). According to 1 Chronicles 27:11, he was chief of the eighth division of the army.

2 Samuel 23:28

Zalmon the Ahohite, i.e., sprung from the Benjaminite family of Ahoah, is not further known. Instead of Zalmon we find Ilai in the Chronicles (2 Samuel 23:29); but which of the two names is the correct one it is impossible to decide. Maharai of Netophah: according to Ezra 2:22 and Nehemiah 7:26, Netophah was a place in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, but it has not yet been discovered, as Beit Nattif, which might be thought of, is too far from Bethlehem (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. p. 344, and Tobler, Dritte Wanderung, pp. 117-8). According to 1 Chronicles 27:13, Maharai belonged to the Judahite family of Serah, and was chief of the tenth division of the army.

2 Samuel 23:29

Cheleb, more correctly Cheled (1 Chronicles 11:30; or Cheldai, 1 Chronicles 27:15), also of Netophah, was chief of the twelfth division of the army. Ittai ( Ithai in the Chronicles), the son of Ribai of Gibeah of Benjamin, must be distinguished from Ittai the Gathite (2 Samuel 15:19). Like all that follow, with the exception of Uriah, he is not further known.

2 Samuel 23:30

Benaiah of Phir'aton in the tribe of Ephraim, a place which has been preserved in the village of Fer'ata, to the south-west of Nablus (see at Judges 12:13). Hiddai (wrongly spelt Hudai in the Chronicles), out of the valleys of Gaash, in the tribe of Ephraim by the mountain of Gaash, the situation of which has not yet been discovered (see at Joshua 24:30).

2 Samuel 23:31

Abi-Albon (written incorrectly Abiel in the Chronicles) the Arbathite, i.e., from the place called Beth-haarabah or Arabah (Joshua 15:61 and Joshua 18:18, Joshua 18:22) in the desert of Judah, on the site of the present Kasr Hajla (see at Joshua 15:6). Azmaveth of Bahurim: see at 2 Samuel 16:5.

2 Samuel 23:32-33

Eliahba of Shaalbon or Shaalbin, which may possibly have been preserved in the present Selbit (see at Joshua 19:42). The next two names, יהונתן ישׁן בּני and ההררי שׁמּה ( Bneyashen Jehonathan and Shammah the Hararite), are written thus in the Chronicles (2 Samuel 23:34), ההררי בּן־שׁגא יונתן הגּזוני השׁם בּני : “ Bnehashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Sage the Hararite, ” The text of the Chronicles is evidently the more correct of the two, as Bne Jashen Jehonathan does not make any sense. The only question is whether the form השׁם בּני is correct, or whether בּני has not arisen merely through a misspelling. As the name does not occur again, all that can be said is that Bne hashem must at any rate be written as one word, and therefore should be pointed differently. The place mentioned, Gizon, is unknown. שׁמּה for בּן־שׁגא probably arose from 2 Samuel 23:11. Ahiam the son of Sharar or Sacar (Chron.) the Ararite (in the Chronicles the Hararite).

2 Samuel 23:34

The names in 2 Samuel 23:34, Eliphelet ben-Ahasbai ben-Hammaacathi, read thus in the Chronicles (2 Samuel 23:35, 2 Samuel 23:36): Eliphal ben-Ur; Hepher hammecerathi. We see from this that in ben-Ahasbai ben two names have been fused together; for the text as it lies before us is rendered suspicious partly by the fact that the names of both father and grandfather are given, which does not occur in connection with any other name in the whole list, and partly by the circumstance that בּן cannot properly be written with המּעכתי , which is a Gentile noun. Consequently the following is probably the correct way of restoring the text, המּעכתי חפר בּן־אוּר אליפלט , Eliphelet (a name which frequently occurs) the son of Ur; Hepher the Maachathite, i.e., of Maacah in the north-east of Gilead (see at 2 Samuel 10:6 and Deuteronomy 3:14). Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, the clever but treacherous counsellor of David (see at 2 Samuel 15:12). This name is quite corrupt in the Chronicles.

2 Samuel 23:35

Hezro the Carmelite, i.e., of Carmel in the mountains of Judah (1 Samuel 25:2). Paarai the Arbite, i.e., of Arab, also in the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:52). In the Chronicles we find Naarai ben-Ezbi: the latter is evidently an error in writing for ha-Arbi; but it is impossible to decide which of the two forms, Paarai and Naarai, is the correct one.

2 Samuel 23:36

Jigal the son of Nathan of Zoba (see at 2 Samuel 8:3): in the Chronicles, Joel the brother of Nathan. Bani the Gadite: in the Chronicles we have Mibhar the son of Hagri. In all probability the names inf the Chronicles are corrupt in this instance also.

2 Samuel 23:37

Zelek the Ammonite, Nacharai the Beerothite (of Beeroth: see at 2 Samuel 4:2), the armour-bearer of Joab. Instead of נשׂאי , the Keri and the Chronicles have נשׂא : the latter reading is favoured by the circumstance, that if more than one of the persons named had been Joab's armour-bearers, their names would most probably have been linked together by a copulative vav.

2 Samuel 23:38

Ira and Gareb, both of them Jithrites, i.e., sprung from a family in Kirjath-jearim (1 Chronicles 2:53). Ira is of course a different man from the cohen of that name (2 Samuel 20:26).

2 Samuel 23:39

Uriah the Hittite is well known from 2 Samuel 11:3. “ Thirty and seven in all.” This number is correct, as there were three in the first class (2 Samuel 23:8-12), two in the second (2 Samuel 23:18-23), and thirty-two in the third (vv. 24-39), since 2 Samuel 23:34 contains three names according to the amended text.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.