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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 5

Verses 1-5

David at Jerusalem (5:1-8:18)

The King of All Israel (5:1-5)

In this brief section we have some repetition. Verses 1 and 2 represent the same event as verse 3. Verse 3 seems more authentic, since the elders of the tribes rather than all the tribes would have met David at Hebron. The early tradition did not regard David as general over all Israel under Saul but as captain of a thousand (1 Samuel 18:13). The terms of the covenant agreement between David and the elders are not recorded. The chronological details are editorial but probably are as nearly accurate as we can expect for this early period.

Verses 6-16

The Capture of Jerusalem (5:6-16)

Jerusalem was a stronghold which geographically and strategically dominated both the north and the south. Its occupation would give David a tremendous advantage, and he needed this, since the Philistines were probably planning a fresh campaign to prevent him from consolidating his new power. David could see the obvious value of the city as a permanent seat of government, and he set about securing it. The city, occupied by the Jebusites, had been so strong that the invading Israelites had left it alone (Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:21). Indeed, the inhabitants were so sure of their defenses and their secure position that they taunted David, claiming that even a defending force of the lame and the blind could keep his army out.

The details of the capture of the stronghold are obscure and the Hebrew text of verse 8 is particularly difficult. The confusion appears also in Chronicles, which gives a quite different and equally obscure account of the capture (1 Chronicles 11:5-6). Reading between the lines, we may presume that the invading force used the tunnel that connected the rock of Zion with the "Virgin’s Spring" at Gihon, which provided the city’s water supply. Archaeologists have discovered a vertical shaft in the rock up which the inhabitants may have raised water from the pool below, fed from the spring. Some daring Israelites, possibly led by Joab, may have climbed up this shaft and taken the defenders by surprise. Apparently the Jebusites were not destroyed but were absorbed, like so many other Canaanites, into the Israelite stock. The Deuteronomic editor of the Book of Judges declared that the Jebusites dwelt in the midst of Israel until his own time (Judges 1:21).

David now set about building his city, starting at "the Millo." This word means "filling" and it may represent some kind of earthwork, although the nature of the Millo remains a matter of speculation. Difficulty is further raised by the statement in 1 Kings 11:27 that Solomon built the Millo. It is best to leave speculation on one side at this point, and to content ourselves with the fact that David extended and strengthened the Jebusite city.

The reference to Hiram in verse 11 is probably anticipatory, since this king of Tyre was not ruling at the time of the capture of Jerusalem. Undoubtedly cultural relations with Tyre began early, long before Hiram helped Solomon build his Temple, and we are told elsewhere that Hiram had established friendly relations with David (1 Kings 5:1). We may presume that David’s success over the Philistines would stimulate such an alliance and that assistance with building and materials was available to David from Tyre at an early time. David’s first governmental buildings contained Phoenician features.

In verses 13-16 there is an editorial list of David’s harem and family.

Verses 17-25

The End of Philistine Power (5:17-25)

Some historians would place this campaign before the capture of Jerusalem. This city is not specifically mentioned here, but it is emphasized that David was king of all Israel. It is quite possible, however, that David, knowing what he wanted, had secured Jerusalem before the Philistines were fully aware that he had become the leader of all Israel and that they were now facing a united nation. At any rate, David’s increasing power presented a major threat to the Philistine control. As the Philistine host advanced, David went to "the stronghold" (vs. 17). This may refer to Jerusalem. There he inquired of the divine oracle, and received instruction to go up against the advancing enemy. It is noteworthy that the questions asked in such consultations could always receive the simple answer "yes" or "no," showing that this inquiry of the Lord was by the method of sacred lot associated with the ephod.

The Philistines gathered on the fertile plain of Rephaim near Jerusalem. In the first battle, David raided the Philistines at Baal-perazim, literally "Lord of breaking through" and probably so called from David’s victory, which could be likened to the breaking forth of flood waters. If this be so, the Lord is at this stage given the title "Baal" borrowed from the local fertility cult. As we have seen (comment on 2:8-32), it was only later that the title was dropped in Hebrew religious circles, and then because of the paganization of Israelite faith and practice under the influence of the fertility rites. The Philistines had taken their gods with them into battle, as the Israelites had earlier taken the Ark, and in the rout they left these idols behind them. David carried away the images and, according to the Chronicler, burned them (1 Chronicles 14:12).

A renewed attack by the Philistines led to a fresh consultation of the divine oracle by David. The Lord’s instruction was to attack in the rear, and the answer is stated in such a complicated form that we may presume that a cultic prophet was consulted rather than the ephod. The sound of marching in the top of the balsam trees was to be the sign for attack. Probably the idea was that the movement of the wind was the indication of the Lord’s presence, since the wind was often, in early days, identified with God’s Spirit. This time the Philistines were thoroughly defeated.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-5.html.