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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 8

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2964. B.C. 1040.

David subdues the Philistines and Moabites, 2 Samuel 8:1 , 2 Samuel 8:2 . Smites Hadadezer, and the Syrians, 2 Samuel 8:3-8 . Dedicates the presents he had received and the spoils to God, 2 Samuel 8:9-12 . Conquers the Syrians again, and the Edomites, 2 Samuel 8:13 , 2 Samuel 8:14 . His administration of justice, and chief officers, 2 Samuel 8:15-18 .

Verse 1

2 Samuel 8:1. David smote the Philistines, and subdued them In the beginning of his reign they had invaded Israel twice, and were successfully repulsed. But now David invaded their country, made a conquest of it, and brought it under subjection to the Israelites. David took Metheg-ammah That is, Gath and her towns, as it is expressed in the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 18:1, which are called Metheg-ammah, or the bridle of Ammah, because Gath was situate in the mountain of Ammah; and because this being the chief city of the Philistines, and having a king, which none of the rest had, was the bridle which had hitherto kept the Israelites in subjection.

Verse 2

2 Samuel 8:2. He smote Moab For although the king of Moab, out of hatred to Saul, gave protection to David’s parents, 1 Samuel 22:3-4; yet the Moabites were perpetual and sworn enemies to the Israelites, who therefore were forbidden to admit them into the congregation of the Lord. God indeed commanded the Israelites, in their march to Canaan, to spare the Moabites for the sake of their progenitor Lot, but afterward they became such fierce enemies to him and his people, that he was provoked to treat them in a different manner. Now was fulfilled the prophecy of Balaam, Numbers 24:17-18. “A sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners,” or princes, “of Moab.” See the note on that passage. And measured them with a line That is, having conquered the country, he took an exact survey, and made an estimate of it, distributing the towns and people into three parts. Casting them down to the ground Destroying the fortified cities and strong holds of the whole land, and levelling them with the ground, as far as he thought necessary to humble them and secure himself. With two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive This passage, it must be acknowledged, is extremely obscure. But the most probable sense of it seems to be, that upon the taking and demolishing of those forts and strong holds, which made an obstinate resistance, he discriminated between those who were hardy and determined in refusing all offers of mercy, made upon their submission, and those who were unwillingly withheld by their rulers and commanders from accepting the mercy offered them; preserving the latter alive, and putting the others to death. “Agreeable to this sense,” says Dr. Delaney, “the Hebrew text may, and I think ought, to be understood thus: With two lines measured he, namely, one to put to death those obstinate few who rejected all offers of mercy; and with one full line (in the original, one line of plenitude) to keep alive; that is, to save all those who would have submitted and accepted proffered mercy, had they been suffered. David was a prophet, and thoroughly versed in the Scriptures; and when he had there learned that a king was to arise out of Jacob who should one day smite and subdue Moab, it was not hard for him to discern, in the spirit of prophecy, that he himself was that king, especially after the message delivered to him by Nathan, from the word of the Lord. And there is no doubt but he executed the sentence denounced against Moab, in the prophecy of Baalam, in that sense in which the Spirit of God denounced it, which I apprehend to be that now explained. But, supposing David destroyed two-thirds of the Moabites on this occasion, and saved only one- third, (for so some understand the text,) the severity of this chastisement was no greater than that which God himself denounces against his own people for their sins, Zechariah 13:8. And why might not the sins of the Moabites deserve this chastisement now, as those of the Jews did at the time referred to in this prophecy? The greatest sins the Jews ever committed against God were those corruptions which they copied from their neighbour nations, the most abominable of all which were practised by the very nation we are now speaking of; and therefore there is good reason to believe that they now deserved the same severity of vengeance from the justice of God, which he afterward inflicted upon his own people.” And so the Moabites became David’s servants Were made subject to him; and brought gifts Or paid a constant tribute, which they continued to do all his days, and in the reign of Solomon. And after the kingdom was divided, it was paid to the kings of Israel, till after the death of Ahab, when they refused to pay it, 2 Kings 3:4-5.

Verse 3

2 Samuel 8:3. King of Zobah Zobah was a part of Syria, whose eastern border was Euphrates, as the western was the land of Canaan, and the kingdom of Damascus. As he went to recover his border That is, as David went to extend the limits of his kingdom toward the river Euphrates, he smote this king, who probably came out to oppose him. David remembered the grant which God had made to his people of all the land, as far as that river; and, having subdued his neighbouring enemies, went to recover his rights, according to the divine promise and gift.

Verse 4

2 Samuel 8:4. David took from him a thousand chariots The word chariot is not in the Hebrew, but is well supplied by our translators from 1 Chronicles 18:4, in which book many things are explained which are briefly related here; seven hundred horsemen Or rather, seven hundred companies of horsemen, that is, in all, seven thousand, as it is 1 Chronicles 18:4, there being ten in each company, and each ten having a ruler or captain. David houghed all the chariot-horses That is, cut the sinews of their legs, or their hamstrings, that they might be of no use in war; but reserved of them for a hundred chariots Probably, as a monument of his victory, not for war; God having forbid them to multiply horses, Deuteronomy 17:16.

Verses 5-6

2 Samuel 8:5-6. The Syrians of Damascus That is, that were subject to Damascus, the chief city of Syria. Put garrisons in Syria of Damascus Hebrew, in Aram Damasek. This was that part of Syria which lay between Libanus and Antilibanus. The Syrians brought gifts By way of tribute, in token of their subjection. The Lord preserved David whithersoever he went Kept him from all the dangers to which he was exposed in these wars.

Verse 7

2 Samuel 8:7. The shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer It hath been the practice of many princes to make the arms of their soldiers ornamental and precious, partly from the love of splendour and magnificence, and partly to influence the courage of those, that carried them: since nothing else could secure them from becoming a property and a prey to the enemy. Some think, however, the meaning here is, Which were with the servants; that is, committed to their custody, as being kept in the king’s armory; for it is not probable, they think, that they carried shields of gold into the field.

Verse 8

2 Samuel 8:8. From Betah, &c. In 1 Chronicles 18:8, it is, from Tibhath, and from Chun. Either therefore the same cities were called by several names, as is usual, the one by the Hebrews, the other by the Syrians; or those were two other cities, and so the brass was taken out of these four cities.

Verses 9-11

2 Samuel 8:9-11 . King of Hamath This city was also in Syria, and lay north of Judea. To salute him, and bless him To congratulate him on his good success in the war with Hadadezer, and to wish him continued prosperity. Joram brought with him vessels, &c. As a present to King David, whose friendship he sought by this embassy. Which David did dedicate to the Lord These words seem to import, that he was so far from multiplying silver and gold for himself, (which Moses forbade, Deuteronomy 17:16,) that he put all his spoil, or the greatest part of it, into God’s treasury, for the building of the temple, which he designed, and his son was to accomplish, chap. 2 Samuel 7:13. A rare instance of his piety and gratitude to God, by whose aid he conquered; too seldom imitated by kings!

Verse 14

2 Samuel 8:14. Throughout all Edom put he garrisons Having conquered the whole country, he garrisoned the strongest places in it with his own men, to keep them in subjection to him. Some of the Jews interpret these words, He put captains, or commanders, in Edom, that is, great men to govern them, and, as his deputies, to raise a tribute from them. Now began to be fulfilled the extraordinary prediction to Rebekah, recorded by Moses, Genesis 25:22, but not begun to be accomplished till many centuries after his death, namely, The elder shall serve the younger. Then also was fulfilled that prophecy of Balaam, mentioned Numbers 24:0., Edom shall be a possession, &c. The Lord preserved David, &c. God, in his providence, still watched over and protected him, as before, (2 Samuel 8:6,) in all these expeditions. All David’s victories were typical of the success of the gospel over the kingdom of Satan, in which the Son of David rode forth, conquering and to conquer, and will reign till he has brought down all opposing rule, principality, and power.

Verse 15

2 Samuel 8:15. David reigned over all Israel He has no disturbance at home, while he was engaged in wars abroad: but all Israel obeyed him. And David executed judgment and justice That is, either, 1st, Having now finished his foreign wars, he applied himself to the civil government of his people, according to the law of God, which he executed duly by himself, or his judges: or, rather, 2d, Even while he was engaged in so many wars abroad, he did not neglect his people at home; but took care that justice should be administered to them, according to that divine admonition recorded in his last words, 2 Samuel 23:3, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

Verse 16

2 Samuel 8:16 . Jehoshaphat was recorder That is, the remembrancer, or writer of chronicles, as is generally thought; “an employment,” says Dr. Delaney, “of no mean estimation in the eastern world, where it was customary with kings to keep daily registers of all the transactions of their reigns; and a trust which, whosoever discharged to purpose, must be let into the true springs and secrets of action; and, consequently, must be received into the utmost confidence.” Some, however, rather suppose, that by the recorder, the treasurer is intended, who examined all the accounts, and kept records of them.

Verse 17

2 Samuel 8:17. Zadok and Ahimelech were the priests That is, as some think, Zadok was the high-priest, and Ahimelech his sagan or vicar; or, according to others, neither of these was the high-priest, but they were both only the vicars of Abiathar, and heads of the sacerdotal families, the second priests, to use the language of Scripture, 2 Kings 25:18. The former was of the family of Eleazar, (1 Chronicles 6:8,) the other of Ithamar. The family of Eli was now declining fast; and in the next reign the other family was advanced to the high-priesthood, Abiathar and his posterity being quite thrown out. Seraiah was the scribe Or secretary of state, as we now speak. But Bishop Patrick observes, that as the word ספר sopher, which we translate scribe, imports something of learning, as the word scribe, so often occurring in the New Testament, also does, he takes Seraiah to have been the king’s prime counsellor in the law. And others think there were two of this character, one an ecclesiastical and the other a civil scribe. Thus “the sacred writer no sooner gives us an account of David’s executing justice and judgment, but he immediately adds a list of the great officers then employed by him. For a principal part of a king’s wisdom, as well as of his felicity, consists in the choice of able ministers to discharge the great offices of the state.” Delaney.

Verse 18

2 Samuel 8:18. Benaiah, &c. Benaiah was one of David’s three worthies of the second order; eminent for many great exploits, of which three only are recounted by the sacred historian. Was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites These were undoubtedly soldiers of some kind, and even such as were eminent for their valour and fidelity to the king, as is evident from 2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:7; and 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Kings 1:44; yet they were not common soldiers, but probably the constant guards of David’s person; like the Prætorian bands among the Romans. Josephus calls them keepers of the body, or body-guards, who never departed from the place where the king was. That Cherethites is sometimes another word for Philistines, appears plainly from Zephaniah 2:5, and Ezekiel 25:16; But, “that David’s guards were native Philistines, of his mortal enemies, is not to be imagined, even although we should suppose them proselytes. For how could their being proselyted more effectually recommend the fidelity of any men to him than being natives of his own country, and known and tried subjects? The only question, then, is, why any of his own subjects should be called Cherethites; and the answer is obvious. They were called so from their having gone with him into Philistia, and continued there with him all the time that he was under the protection of Achish. These were they who resorted to him from the beginning, in his utmost distress; and clave to him in all his calamities; and it is no wonder if men of such approved fidelity were in a more intimate degree of favour and confidence with the king, and enjoyed, among other privileges, an exemption from the authority of the captain-general, and were placed under peculiar commanders. And it will be no uncommon thing in the history of any country, to find legions and bands of soldiers, denominated, not from the place of their nativity, but that of their residence; as General Monk’s troops, who sojourned with him in Scotland, were called Coldstreamers.” Delaney. The same author apprehends the Pelethites to have been another body of troops, made up of those valiant men who resorted to David when he resided at Ziklag, among whom we find one Pelet, the son of Azmaveth, (1 Chronicles 12:3,) who, it is supposed, became their captain, and from whom they were called Pelethites, as the soldiers disciplined by Fabius and Iphicrates were called Fabians and Iphicratians. “Now, as the Cherethites adhered to David and followed his fortune from the beginning, they justly held the first degree of favour with him, and therefore they are always placed before the Pelethites, who only resorted to him when he was in Ziklag; and for that reason were only entitled to the second degree of favour.” See 1 Samuel 30:14. It must be observed, however, that the Chaldee interpretation of these terms is, archers and slingers, an interpretation which is defended by a learned professor abroad, deriving the name Cherethite from Caratha, which, in the Arabic language, signifies to hit the mark, and Pelethite, from pelet, which in the same language, among other things, signifies to be alert, to leap, to run swiftly. The latter, therefore, he thinks, were soldiers chosen for their speed, and were light armed, like the Roman velites, who, with their other weapons, carried very light arrows, which were called pelles, and the use of which came from the East. And David’s sons were chief rulers For so the Hebrew word, כהנים , cohanim, generally translated priests, must often be interpreted. Indeed it signifies any ministers, either of God or of man. David’s sons, being of the tribe of Judah, and not of the posterity of Aaron, could not be priests, according to the law. But they were among the principal officers of his court, the prime ministers of his household. Upon the whole, we find by this chapter that so long as David was zealous for the honour of God, and faithful in the discharge of his duty, God defended and protected him against his enemies, and blessed him with glory and happiness; but the scene changed when he provoked God by his sins, as we see in the sequel of his history.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-samuel-8.html. 1857.
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