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David's Wars, Victories, and Ministers of State - 2 Samuel 8
To the promise of the establishment of this throne there is appended a general enumeration of the wars by which David secured the supremacy of Israel over all his enemies round about. In this survey all the nations are included with which war had ever been waged by David, and which he had conquered and rendered tributary: the Philistines and Moabites, the Syrians of Zobah and Damascus, Toi of Hamath, the Ammonites, Amalekites, and Edomites. It is very evident from this, that the chapter before us not only treats of the wars which David carried on after receiving the divine promise mentioned in 2 Samuel 7, but of all the wars of his entire reign. The only one of which we have afterwards a fuller account is the war with the Ammonites and their allies the Syrians (2 Samuel 10 and 11), and this is given on account of its connection with David's adultery. In the survey before us, the war with the Ammonites is only mentioned quite cursorily in 2 Samuel 8:12, in the account of the booty taken from the different nations, which David dedicated to the Lord. With regard to the other wars, so far as the principal purpose was concerned-namely, to record the history of the kingdom of God-it was quite sufficient to give a general statement of the fact that these nations were smitten by David and subjected to his sceptre. But if this chapter contains a survey of all the wars of David with the nations that were hostile to Israel, there can be no doubt that the arrangement of the several events is not strictly regulated by their chronological order, but that homogeneous events are grouped together according to a material point of view. There is a parallel to this chapter in 1 Chron 18.
Subjugation of the Philistines. - In the introductory formula, “And it came to pass afterwards,” the expression “afterwards” cannot refer specially to the contents of 2 Samuel 7, for reasons also given, but simply serves as a general formula of transition to attach what follows to the account just completed, as a thing that happened afterwards. This is incontestably evident from a comparison of 2 Samuel 10:1, where the war with the Ammonites and Syrians, the termination and result of which are given in the present chapter, is attached to what precedes by the same formula, “It came to pass afterwards” (cf. 2 Samuel 13:1). “David smote the Philistines and subdued them, and took the bridle of the mother out of the hand of the Philistines,” i.e., wrested the government from them and made them tributary. The figurative expression Metheg-ammah, “bridle of the mother,” i.e., the capital, has been explained by Alb. Schultens (on Job 30:11) from an Arabic idiom, in which giving up one's bridle to another is equivalent to submitting to him. Gesenius also gives several proofs of this ( Thes. p. 113). Others, for example Ewald, render it arm-bridle; but there is not a single passage to support the rendering “arm” for ammah . The word is a feminine form of אם , mother, and only used in a tropical sense. “Mother” is a term applied to the chief city or capital, both in Arabic and Phoenician (vid., Ges . Thes. p. 112). The same figure is also adopted in Hebrew, where the towns dependent upon the capital are called its daughters (vid., Joshua 15:45, Joshua 15:47). In 1 Chronicles 18:1 the figurative expression is dropped for the more literal one: “David took Gath and its daughters out of the hand of the Philistines,” i.e., he wrested Gath and the other towns from the Philistines. The Philistines had really five cities, every one with a prince of its own (Joshua 13:3). This was the case even in the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 6:16-17). But in the closing years of Samuel, Gath had a king who stood at the head of all the princes of the Philistines (1 Samuel 29:2., cf. 1 Samuel 27:2). Thus Gath became the capital of the land of the Philistines, which held the bridle (or reins) of Philistia in its own hand. The author of the Chronicles has therefore given the correct explanation of the figure. The one suggested by Ewald, Bertheau, and others, cannot be correct, - namely, that David wrested from the Philistines the power which they had hitherto exercised over the Israelites. The simple meaning of the passage is, that David wrested from the Philistines the power which the capital had possessed over the towns dependent upon it, i.e., over the whole of the land of Philistia; in other words, he brought the capital (Gath) and the other towns of Philistia into his own power. The reference afterwards made to a king of Gath in the time of Solomon in 1 Kings 2:39 is by no means at variance with this; for the king alluded to was one of the tributary sovereigns, as we may infer from the fact that Solomon ruled over all the kings on this side of the Euphrates as far as to Gaza (1 Kings 5:1, 1 Kings 5:4).
Subjugation of Moab. - “He smote Moab (i.e., the Moabites), and measured them with the line, making them lie down upon the ground, and measured two lines (i.e., two parts) to put to death, and one line full to keep alive.” Nothing further is known about either the occasion or the history of this war, with the exception of the cursory notice in 1 Chronicles 11:22, that Benaiah, one of David's heroes, smote two sons of the king of Moab, which no doubt took place in the same war. In the earliest period of his flight from Saul, David had met with a hospitable reception from the king of Moab, and had even taken his parents to him for safety (1 Samuel 22:3-4). But the Moabites must have very grievously oppressed the Israelites afterwards, that David should have inflicted a severer punishment upon them after their defeat, than upon any other of the nations that he conquered, with the exception of the Ammonites (2 Samuel 12:31), upon whom he took vengeance for having most shamefully insulted his ambassadors (2 Samuel 10:2.). The punishment inflicted, however, was of course restricted to the fighting men who had been taken prisoners by the Israelites. They were ordered to lie down in a row upon the earth; and then the row was measured for the purpose of putting two-thirds to death, and leaving one-third alive. The Moabites were then made “servants” to David (i.e., they became his subjects), “bringing gifts” (i.e., paying tribute).
Conquest and Subjugation of the King of Zobah, and of the Damascene Syrians. - 2 Samuel 8:3. The situation of Zobah cannot be determined. The view held by the Syrian church historians, and defended by Michaelis, viz., that Zobah was the ancient Nisibis in northern Mesopotamia, has no more foundation to rest upon than that of certain Jewish writers who suppose it to have been Aleppo, the present Haleb. Aleppo is too far north for Zobah, and Nisibis is quite out of the range of the towns and tribes in connection with which the name of Zobah occurs. In 1 Samuel 14:47, compared with 2 Samuel 8:12 of this chapter, Zobah, or Aram Zobah as it is called in 2 Samuel 10:6 and Psalms 60:2, is mentioned along with Ammon, Moab, and Edom, as a neighbouring tribe and kingdom to the Israelites; and, according to 2 Samuel 8:3, 2 Samuel 8:5, and 2 Samuel 8:9 of the present chapter, it is to be sought for in the vicinity of Damascus and Hamath towards the Euphrates. These data point to a situation to the north-east of Damascus and south of Hamath, between the Orontes and Euphrates, and in fact extending as far as the latter according to 2 Samuel 8:3, whilst, according to 2 Samuel 10:16, it even reached beyond it with its vassal-chiefs into Mesopotamia itself. Ewald ( Gesch. iii. p. 195) has therefore combined Zobah, which was no doubt the capital, and gave its name to the kingdom, with the Sabe mentioned in Ptol. v. 19, - a town in the same latitude as Damascus, and farther east towards the Euphrates. The king of Zobah at the time referred to is called Hadadezer in the text (i.e., whose help is Hadad); but in 2 Samuel 10:16-19 and throughout the Chronicles he is called Hadarezer. The first is the original form; for Hadad, the name of the sun-god of the Syrians, is met with in several other instances in Syrian names (vid., Movers, Phצnizier). David smote this king “ as he was going to restore his strength at the river (Euphrates).” ידו השׁיב does not mean to turn his hand, but signifies to return his hand, to stretch it out again over or against any one, in all the passage in which the expression occurs. It is therefore to be taken in a derivative sense in the passage before us, and signifying to restore or re-establish his sway. The expression used in the Chronicles (2 Samuel 8:3), ידו הצּיב , has just the same meaning, since establishing or making fast presupposes a previous weakening or dissolution. Hence the subject of the sentence “as he went,” etc., must be Hadadezer and not David; for David could not have extended his power to the Euphrates before the defeat of Hadadezer. The Masoretes have interpolated P'rath (Euphrates) after “the river,” as in the text of the Chronicles. This is correct enough so far as the sense is concerned, but it is by no means necessary, as the nahar (the river κ. ἐξ. ) is quite sufficient of itself to indicate the Euphrates.
There is also a war between David and Hadadezer and other kings of Syria mentioned in 2 Samuel 10; and the commentators all admit that that war, in which David defeated these kings when they came to the help of the Ammonites, is connected with the war mentioned in the present chapter. But the connection is generally supposed to be this, that the first of David's Aramaean wars is given in 2 Samuel 8, the second in 2 Samuel 10; for no other reason, however, than because 2 Samuel 10 stands after 2 Samuel 8. This view is decidedly an erroneous one. According to the chapter before us, the war mentioned there terminated in the complete subjugation of the Aramaean kings and kingdoms. Aram became subject to David, paying tribute (2 Samuel 8:6). Now, though the revolt of subjugated nations from their conquerors is by no means a rare thing in history, and therefore it is perfectly conceivable in itself that the Aramaeans should have fallen away from David when he was involved in the war with the Ammonites, and should have gone to the help of the Ammonites, such an assumption is precluded by the fact that there is nothing in 2 Samuel 10 about any falling away or revolt of the Aramaeans from David; but, on the contrary, these tribes appear to be still entirely independent of David, and to be hired by the Ammonites to fight against him. But what is absolutely decisive against this assumption, is the fact that the number of Aramaeans killed in the two wars is precisely the same (compare 2 Samuel 8:4 with 2 Samuel 10:18): so that it may safely be inferred, not only that the war mentioned in 2 Samuel 10, in which the Aramaeans who had come to the help of the Ammonites were smitten by David, was the very same as the Aramaean war mentioned in 2 Samuel 8, but of which the result only is given; but also that all the wars which David waged with the Aramaeans, like his war with Edom (2 Samuel 8:13.), arose out of the Ammonitish war (2 Samuel 10), and the fact that the Ammonites enlisted the help of the kings of Aram against David (2 Samuel 10:6). We also obtain from 2 Samuel 10 an explanation of the expression “as he went to restore his power (Eng. Ver. 'recover his border') at the river,” since it is stated there that Hadadezer was defeated by Joab the first time, and that, after sustaining this defeat, he called the Aramaeans on the other side of the Euphrates to his assistance, that he might continue the war against Israel with renewed vigour (2 Samuel 10:13, 2 Samuel 10:15.). The power of Hadadezer had no doubt been crippled by his first defeat; and in order to restore it, he procured auxiliary troops from Mesopotamia with which to attack David, but he was defeated a second time, and obliged to submit to him (2 Samuel 10:17-18). In this second engagement “David took from him (i.e., captured) seventeen hundred horse-soldiers and twenty thousand foot” (2 Samuel 8:4, compare 2 Samuel 10:18). This decisive battle took place, according to 1 Chronicles 18:3, in the neighbourhood of Hamath, i.e., Epiphania on the Orontes (see at Numbers 13:21, and Genesis 10:18), or, according to 2 Samuel 10:18 of this book, at Helam, - a difference which may easily be reconciled by the simple assumption that the unknown Helam was somewhere near to Hamath. Instead of 1700 horse-soldiers, we find in the Chronicles (1 Chronicles 18:4) 1000 chariots and 7000 horsemen. Consequently the word receb has no doubt dropped out after אלף in the text before us, and the numeral denoting a thousand has been confounded with the one used to denote a hundred; for in the plains of Syria seven thousand horsemen would be a much juster proportion to twenty thousand foot than seventeen hundred. (For further remarks, see at 2 Samuel 10:18.) “And David lamed all the cavalry,” i.e., he made the war-chariots and cavalry perfectly useless by laming the horses (see at Joshua 11:6, Joshua 11:9), - “and only left a hundred horses.” The word receb in these clauses signifies the war-horses generally, - not merely the carriage-horses, but the riding-horses as well, - as the meaning cavalry is placed beyond all doubt by Isaiah 21:7, and it can hardly be imagined that David would have spared the riding-horses.
After destroying the main force of Hadadezer, David turned against his ally, against Aram-Damascus, i.e., the Aramaeans, whose capital was Damascus. Dammesek (for which we have Darmesek in the Chronicles according to its Aramaean form), Damascus, a very ancient and still a very important city of Syria, standing upon the Chrysorrhoas ( Pharpar), which flows through the centre of it. It is situated in the midst of paradisaical scenery, on the eastern side of the Antilibanus, on the road which unites Western Asia with the interior. David smote 22,000 Syrians of Damascus, placed garrisons in the kingdom, and made it subject and tributary. נציבים are not governors of officers, but military posts, garrisons, as in 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 13:3.
Of the booty taken in these wars, David carried the golden shields which he took from the servants, i.e., the governors and vassal princes, of Hadadezer, to Jerusalem.
(Note: The lxx has this additional clause: “And Shishak the king of Egypt took them away, when he went up against Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam the son of Solomon,” which is neither to be found in the Chronicles nor in any other ancient version, and is merely an inference drawn by the Greek translator, or by some copyists of the lxx, from 1 Kings 14:25-28, taken in connection with the fact that the application of the brass is given in 1 Chronicles 18:8. But, in the first place, the author of this gloss has overlooked the fact that the golden shields of Rehoboam which Shishak carried away, were not those captured by David, but those which Solomon had had made, according to 1 Kings 10:16, for the retainers of his palace; and in the second place, he has not observed that, according to 2 Samuel 8:11 of this chapter, and also of the Chronicles, David dedicated to the Lord all the gold and silver that he had taken, i.e., put it in the treasury of the sanctuary to be reserved for the future temple, and that at the end of his reign he handed over to his son and successor Solomon all the gold, silver, iron, and brass that he had collected for the purpose, to be applied to the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:14., 1 Chronicles 29:2.). Consequently the clause in question, which Thenius would adopt from the lxx into our own text, is nothing more than the production of a presumptuous Alexandrian, whose error lies upon the very surface, so that the question of its genuineness cannot for a moment be entertained.)
Shelet signifies “a shield,” according to the Targums and Rabbins, and this meaning is applicable to all the passages in which the word occurs; whilst the meaning “equivalent” cannot be sustained either by the rendering πανοπλία adopted by Aquila and Symmachus in 2 Kings 11:10, or by the renderings of the Vulgate, viz., arma in loc. and armatura in Song of Solomon 4:4, or by an appeal to the etymology (vid., Gesenius' Thes. and Dietrich's Lexicon).
And from the cities of Betach and Berothai David took very much brass, with which, according to 1 Chronicles 18:8, Solomon made the brazen sea, and the brazen columns and vessels of the temple. The lxx have also interpolated this notice into the text. The name Betach is given as Tibhath in the Chronicles; and for Berothai we have Chun. As the towns themselves are unknown, it cannot be decided with certainty which of the forms and names are the correct and original ones. מבּטח appears to have been written by mistake for מטּבח . This supposition is favoured by the rendering of the lxx, ἐκ τῆς Μετεβάκ ; and by that of the Syriac also (viz., Tebach). On the other hand, the occurrence of the name Tebah among the sons of Nahor the Aramaean in Genesis 22:24 proves little or nothing, as it is not known that he founded a family which perpetuated his name; nor can anything be inferred from the fact that, according to the more modern maps, there is a town of Tayibeh to the north of Damascus in 35 north lat., as there is very little in common between the names Tayibeh and Tebah. Ewald connects Berothai with the Barathena of Ptol. v. 19 in the neighbourhood of Saba. The connection is a possible one, but it is not sufficiently certain to warrant us in founding any conclusions upon it with regard to the name Chun which occurs in the Chronicles; so that there is no ground whatever for the opinion that it is a corruption of Berothai.
After the defeat of the king of Zobah and his allies, Toi king of Hamath sought for David's friendship, sending his son to salute him, and conveying to him at the same time a considerable present of vessels of silver, gold, and brass. The name Toi is written Tou in the Chronicles, according to a different mode of interpretation; and the name of the son is given as Hadoram in the Chronicles, instead of Joram as in the text before us. The former is evidently the true reading, and Joram an error of the pen, as the Israelitish name Joram is not one that we should expect to find among Aramaeans; whilst Hadoram occurs in 1 Chronicles 1:21 in the midst of Arabic names, and it cannot be shown that the Hadoram or Adoram mentioned in 2 Chronicles 10:18 and 1 Kings 12:18 was a man of Israelitish descent. The primary object of the mission was to salute David (“to ask him of peace;” cf. Genesis 43:27, etc.), and to congratulate him upon his victory (“to bless him because he had fought,” etc.); for Toi had had wars with Hadadezer. “A man of wars” signifies a man who wages wars (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:3; Isaiah 42:13). According to 1 Chronicles 18:3, the territory of the king of Hamath bordered upon that of Hadadezer, and the latter had probably tried to make king Toi submit to him. The secret object of the salutation, however, was no doubt to secure the friendship of this new and powerful neighbour.
David also sanctified Toi's presents to the Lord (handed them over to the treasury of the sanctuary), together with the silver and gold which he had sanctified from all the conquered nations, from Aram, Moab, etc. Instead of הקדּישׁ אשׁר the text of the Chronicles has נשׂא אשׁר , which he took, i.e., took as booty. Both are equally correct; there is simply a somewhat different turn given to the thought.
(Note: Bertheau erroneously maintains that נשׂא אשׁר , which he took, is at variance with 2 Samuel 8:7, as, according to this passage, the golden shields of Hadadezer did not become the property of the Lord. But there is not a word to that effect in 2 Samuel 8:7. On the contrary, his taking the shields to Jerusalem implies, rather than precludes, the intention to devote them to the purposes of the sanctuary.)
In the enumeration of the conquered nations in 2 Samuel 8:12, the text of the Chronicles differs from that of the book before us. In the first place, we find “from Edom” instead of “from Aram;” and secondly, the clause “and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob king of Zobah,” is altogether wanting there. The text of the Chronicles is certainly faulty here, as the name of Aram (Syria) could not possibly be omitted. Edom could much better be left out, not “because the conquest of Edom belonged to a later period,” as Movers maintains, but because the conquest of Edom is mentioned for the first time in the subsequent verses. But if we bear in mind that in 2 Samuel 8:12 of both texts not only are those tribes enumerated the conquest of which had been already noticed, but all the tribes that David ever defeated and subjugated, even the Ammonites and Amalekites, to the war with whom no allusion whatever is made in the present chapter, we shall see that Edom could not be omitted. Consequently “from Syria” must have dropped out of the text of the Chronicles, and “from Edom” out of the one before us; so that the text in both instances ran originally thus, “from Syria, and from Edom, and from Moab.” For even in the text before us, “from Aram” (Syria) could not well be omitted, notwithstanding the fact that the booty of Hadadezer is specially mentioned at the close of the verse, for the simple reason that David not only made war upon Syria-Zobah (the kingdom of Hadadezer) and subdued it, but also upon Syria-Damascus, which was quite independent of Zobah.
“And David made (himself) a name, when he returned from smiting (i.e., from the defeat of) Aram, (and smote Edom) in the valley of Salt, eighteen thousand men.” The words enclosed in brackets are wanting in the Masoretic text as it has come down to us, and must have fallen out from a mistake of the copyist, whose eye strayed from את־ארם to את־אדום ; for though the text is not “utterly unintelligible” without these words, since the passage might be rendered “after he had smitten Aram in the valley of Salt eighteen thousand men,” yet this would be decidedly incorrect, as the Aramaeans were not smitten in the valley of Salt, but partly at Medeba (1 Chronicles 19:7) and Helam (2 Samuel 10:17), and partly in their own land, which was very far away from the Salt valley. Moreover, the difficulty presented by the text cannot be removed, as Movers supposes, by changing את־ארם (Syria) into את־אדום (Edom), as the expression בּשׁבו (“when he returned”) would still be unexplained. The facts were probably these: Whilst David, or rather Israel, was entangled in the war with the Ammonites and Aramaeans, the Edomites seized upon the opportunity, which appeared to them a very favourable one, to invade the land of Israel, and advanced as far as the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. As soon, therefore, as the Aramaeans were defeated and subjugated, and the Israelitish army had returned from this war, David ordered it to march against the Edomites, and defeated them in the valley of Salt. This valley cannot have been any other than the Ghor adjoining the Salt mountain on the south of the Dead Sea, which really separates the ancient territories of Judah and Edom ( Robinson, Pal. ii. 483). There Amaziah also smote the Edomites at a later period (2 Kings 14:7). We gather more concerning this war of David from the text of the Chronicles (2 Samuel 8:12) taken in connection with 1 Kings 11:15-16, and Psalms 60:2. According to the Chronicles, it was Abishai the son of Zeruiah who smote the Edomites. This agrees very well not only with the account in 2 Samuel 10:10., to the effect that Abishai commanded a company in the war with the Syrians and Ammonites under the generalship of his brother Joab, but also with the heading to Psalms 60:1-12, in which it is stated that Joab returned after the defeat of Aram, and smote the Edomites in the valley of Salt, twelve thousand men; and with 1 Kings 11:15-16, in which we read that when David was in Edom, Joab, the captain of the host, came up to bury the slain, and smote every male in Edom, and remained six months in Edom with all Israel, till he had cut off every male in Edom. From this casual but yet elaborate notice, we learn that the war with the Edomites was a very obstinate one, and was not terminated all at once. The difference as to the number slain, which is stated to have been 18,000 in the text before us and in the Chronicles, and 12,000 in the heading to Psalms 60:1-12, may be explained in a very simple manner, on the supposition that the reckonings made were only approximative, and yielded different results;
(Note: Michaelis adduces a case in point from the Seven Years' War. After the battle of Lissa, eight or twelve thousand men were reported to have been taken prisoners; but when they were all counted, including those who fell into the hands of the conquerors on the second, third, and fourth days of the flight, the number amounted to 22,000.)
and the fact that David is named as the victor in the verse before us, Joab in Psalms 60:1-12, and Abishai in the Chronicles, admits of a very easy explanation after what has just been observed. The Chronicles contain the most literal account. Abishai smote the Edomites as commander of the men engaged, Joab as commander-in-chief of the whole army, and David as king and supreme governor, of whom the writer of the Chronicles affirms, “The Lord helped David in all his undertakings.” After the defeat of the Edomites, David placed garrisons in the land, and made all Edom subject to himself. 2 Samuel 8:15-18. David's Ministers. - To the account of David's wars and victories there is appended a list of his official attendants, which is introduced with a general remark as to the spirit of his government. As king over all Israel, David continued to execute right and justice.
The chief ministers were the following: - Joab (see at 2 Samuel 2:18) was “over the army,” i.e., commander-in-chief. Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, of whom nothing further is known, was mazcir , chancellor; not merely the national annalist, according to the Septuagint and Vulgate ( ἐπὶ τῶν ὑπομνημάτην, ὑπομνηματόγραφος ; a commentariis ), i.e., the recorder of the most important incidents and affairs of the nation, but an officer resembling the magister memoriae of the later Romans, or the waka nuvis of the Persian court, who keeps a record of everything that takes place around the king, furnishes him with an account of all that occurs in the kingdom, places his visé upon all the king's commands, and keeps a special protocol of all these things (vid., Chardin, Voyages v. p. 258, and Paulsen, Regierung der Morgenländer, pp. 279-80).
Zadok the son of Ahitub, of the line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:8; 1 Chronicles 6:11-12), and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were cohanim, i.e., officiating high priests; the former at the tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39), the latter probably at the ark of the covenant upon Mount Zion. Instead of Ahimelech, the Chronicles have Abimelech, evidently through a copyist's error, as the name is written Ahimelech in 1 Chronicles 24:3, 1 Chronicles 24:6. But the expression “Ahimelech the son of Abiathar” is apparently a very strange one, as Abiathar was a son of Ahimelech according to 1 Samuel 22:20, and in other passages Zadok and Abiathar are mentioned as the two high priests in the time of David (2 Samuel 15:24, 2 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:12; 2 Samuel 20:25). This difference cannot be set aside, as Movers, Thenius, Ewald, and other suppose, by transposing the names, so as to read Abiathar the son of Ahimelech; for such a solution is precluded by the fact that, in 1 Chronicles 24:3, 1 Chronicles 24:6, 1 Chronicles 24:31, Ahimelech is mentioned along with Zadok as head of the priests of the line of Ithamar, and according to 1 Chronicles 24:6 he was the son of Abiathar. It would therefore be necessary to change the name Ahimelech into Abiathar in this instance also, both in 1 Chronicles 24:3 and 1 Chronicles 24:6, and in the latter to transpose the two names. But there is not the slightest probability in the supposition that the names have been changed in so many passa Ges. We are therefore disposed to adopt the view held by Bertheau and Oehler, viz., that Abiathar the high priest, the son of Ahimelech, had also a son named Ahimelech, as it is by no means a rare occurrence for grandfather and grandson to have the same names (vid., 1 Chronicles 6:4-15), and also that this (the younger) Ahimelech performed the duties of high priest in connection with his father, who was still living at the commencement of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 2:27), and is mentioned in this capacity, along with Zadok, both here and in the book of Chronicles, possibly because Abiathar was ill, or for some other reason that we cannot discover. As Abiathar was thirty or thirty-five years old at the time when his father was put to death by Saul, according to what has already been observed at 1 Samuel 14:3, and forty years old at the death of Saul, he was at least forty-eight years old at the time when David removed his residence to Mount Zion, and might have had a son of twenty-five years of age, namely the Ahimelech mentioned here, who could have taken his father's place in the performance of the functions of high priest when he was prevented by illness or other causes. The appearance of a son of Abiathar named Jonathan in 2 Samuel 15:27; 2 Samuel 17:17, 2 Samuel 17:20, is no valid argument against this solution of the apparent discrepancy; for, according to these passages, he was still very young, and may therefore have been a younger brother of Ahimelech. The omission of any allusion to Ahimelech in connection with Abiathar's conspiracy with Adonijah against Solomon (1 Kings 1:42-43), and the reference to his son Jonathan alone, might be explained on the supposition that Ahimelech had already died. But as there is no reference to Jonathan at the time when his father was deposed, no stress is to be laid upon the omission of any reference to Ahimelech. Moreover, when Abiathar was deposed after Solomon had ascended the throne, he must have been about eighty years of age. Seraiah was a scribe. Instead of Seraiah, we have Shavsha in the corresponding text of the Chronicles, and Sheva in the parallel passage 2 Samuel 20:25. Whether the last name is merely a mistake for Shavsha, occasioned by the dropping of שׁ , or an abbreviated form of Shisha and Shavsha, cannot be decided. Shavsha is not a copyist's error, for in 1 Kings 4:3 the same man is unquestionably mentioned again under the name of Shisha, who is called Shavsha in the Chronicles, Sheva ( שׁיא ) in the text of 2 Samuel 20:25, and here Seraiah. Seraiah also is hardly a copyist's error, but another form for Shavsha or Shisha. The scribe was a secretary of state; not a military officer, whose duty it was to raise and muster the troops, for the technical expression for mustering the people was not ספר , but פּקד (cf. 2 Samuel 24:2, 2 Samuel 24:4, 2 Samuel 24:9; 1 Chronicles 21:5-6, etc.).
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, a very brave hero of Kabzeel (see at 2 Samuel 23:20.), was over the Crethi and Plethi. Instead of והכּרתי , which gives no sense, and must be connected in some way with 1 Kings 1:38, 1 Kings 1:44, we must read הכּרתי על according to the parallel passage 2 Samuel 20:23, and the corresponding text of the Chronicles. The Crethi and Plethi were the king's body-guard, σωματοφύλακες (Josephus, Ant. vii. 5, 4). The words are adjectives in form, but with a substantive meaning, and were used to indicate a certain rank, lit. the executioners and runners, like השּׁלישׁי (2 Samuel 23:8). כּרתי , from כּרת , to cut down or exterminate, signifies confessor, because among the Israelites (see at 1 Kings 2:25), as in fact throughout the East generally, the royal halberdiers had to execute the sentence of death upon criminals. פּלתי , from פלת (to fly, or be swift), is related to פּלט , and signifies runners. It is equivalent to רץ , a courier, as one portion of the halberdiers, like the ἄγγαροι of the Persians, had to convey the king's orders to distant places (vid., 2 Chronicles 30:6). This explanation is confirmed by the fact that the epithet והרצים הכּדי was afterwards applied to the king's body-guard ( 2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:19), and that הכּרי for הכּרתי occurs as early as 2 Samuel 20:23.
כּרי , from כוּר , fodit, perfodit, is used in the same sense.
(Note: Gesenius ( Thes. s. vv.) and Thenius (on 1 Kings 1:38) both adopt this explanation; but the majority of the modern theologians decide in favour of Lakemacher's opinion, to which Ewald has given currency, viz., that the Crethi or Cari are Cretes or Carians, and the Pelethi Philistines (vid., Ewald, Krit. Gramm. p. 297, and Gesch. des Volkes Israel, pp. 330ff.; Bertheau, zur Geschichte Israel, p. 197; Movers, Phönizier i. p. 19). This view is chiefly founded upon the fact that the Philistines are called C'rethi in 1 Samuel 30:14, and C'rethim in Zephaniah 2:5 and Ezekiel 25:16. But in both the passages from the prophets the name is used with special reference to the meaning of the word הכרית , viz., to exterminate, cut off, as Jerome has shown in the case of Ezekiel by adopting the rendering interficiam interfectores (I will slay the slayers) for את־כּרתים הכרתּי . The same play upon the words takes place in Zephaniah, upon which Strauss has correctly observed: “Zephaniah shows that this violence of theirs had not been forgotten, calling the Philistines Crethim for that very reason, ut sit nomen et omen .” Besides, in both these passages the true name Philistines stands by the side as well, so that the prophets might have used the name Crethim (slayers, exterminators) without thinking at all of 1 Samuel 30:14. In this passage it is true the name Crethi is applied to a branch of the Philistine people that had settled on the south-west of Philistia, and not to the Philistines generally. The idea that the name of a portion of the royal body-guard was derived from the Cretans is precluded, first of all, by the fact of its combination with הפּלתי (the Pelethites); for it is a totally groundless assumption that this name signifies the Philistines, and is a corruption of פלשׁתּים . There are no such contractions as these to be found in the Semitic languages, as Gesenius observes in his Thesaurus ( l.c.), “ quis hujusmodi contractionem in linguis Semiticis ferat? ” Secondly, it is also precluded by the strangeness of such a combination of two synonymous names to denote the royal body-guard. “Who could believe it possible that two synonymous epithets should be joined together in this manner, which would be equivalent to saying Englishmen and Britons?” ( Ges. Thes. p. 1107). Thirdly, it is opposed to the title afterwards given to the body-guard, והרצים הכּרי (2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:19), in which the Cari correspond to the Crethi, as in 2 Samuel 20:23, and ha-razim to the Pelethi; so that the term pelethi can no more signify a particular tribe than the term razim can. Moreover, there are other grave objections to this interpretation. In the first place, the hypothesis that the Philistines were emigrants from Crete is merely founded upon the very indefinite statements of Tacitus ( Hist. v. 3, 2), “ Judaeos Creta insula profugos novissima Libyae insedisse memorant ,” and that of Steph. Byz. ( s. v. Γαζά ), to the effect that the city of Gaza was once called Minoa, from Minos a king of Crete, - statements which, according to the correct estimate of Strauss ( l.c.), “have all so evidently the marks of fables that they hardly merit discussion,” at all events when opposed to the historical testimony of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 2:23; Amos 9:7), to the effect that the Philistines sprang from Caphtor. And secondly, “it is a priori altogether improbable, that a man with so patriotic a heart, and so devoted to the worship of the one God, should have surrounded himself with a foreign and heathen body-guard” (Thenius). This argument cannot be invalidated by the remark “that it is well known that at all times kings and princes have preferred to commit the protection of their persons to foreign mercenaries, having, as they thought, all the surer pledge of their devotedness in the fact that they did not spring from the nation, and were dependent upon the ruler alone” (Hitzig). For, in the first place, the expression “at all times” is one that must be very greatly modified; and secondly, this was only done by kings who did not feel safe in the presence of their own people, which was not the case with David. And the Philistines, those arch-foes of Israel, would have been the last nation that David would have gone to for the purpose of selecting his own body-guard. It is true that he himself had met with a hospitable reception in the land of the Philistines; but it must be borne in mind that it was not as king of Israel that he found refuge there, but as an outlaw flying from Saul the king of Israel, and even then the chiefs of the Philistines would not trust him (1 Samuel 29:3.). And when Hitzig appeals still further to the fact, that according to 2 Samuel 18:2, David handed over the command of a third of his army to a foreigner who had recently entered his service, having emigrated from Gath with a company of his fellow-countrymen (2 Samuel 15:19-20, 2 Samuel 15:22), and who had displayed the greatest attachment to the person of David (2 Samuel 15:21), it is hardly necessary to observe that the fact of David's welcoming a brave soldier into his army, when he had come over to Israel, and placing him over a division of the army, after he had proved his fidelity so decidedly as Ittai had at the time of Absalom's rebellion, is no proof that he chose his body-guard from the Philistines. Nor can 2 Samuel 15:18 be adduced in support of this, as the notion that, according to that passage, David had 600 Gathites in his service as body-guard, is simply founded upon a misinterpretation of the passage mentioned.)
And David's sons were כּהנים (“confidants”); not priests, domestic priests, court chaplains, or spiritual advisers, as Gesenius, De Wette, and others maintain, but, as the title is explained in the corresponding text of the Chronicles, when the title had become obsolete, “the first at the hand (or side) of the king.” The correctness of this explanation is placed beyond the reach of doubt by 1 Kings 4:5, where the cohen is called, by way of explanation, “the king's friend.” The title cohen may be explained from the primary signification of the verb כּהן , as shown in the corresponding verb and noun in Arabic (“ res alicujus gerere ,” and “ administrator alieni negotii ”). These cohanim , therefore, were the king's confidential advisers.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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