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2 Samuel 8:1-18
David smote the Philistines and subdued them.
The victorious king
These years of war gave birth to some of the grandest of the psalms, amongst which may be numbered, 2., 20., 21., 60., 110.
I. The foe. They trust in chariots and in horses; their kings think that they will be saved by the multitude of their hosts. They inspire fear through the hearts of Israel, so that the land trembles as though God had rent it, and the people drink the wine of staggering and dismay. So tremendous is their assault, so overwhelming their numbers, that all help of man seems vain. It is thus in every era of the history of God’s people, that Satan has stirred up their foes. Right behind the coalitions of men lies the malignity of the fallen spirit, who ever seeks to bruise the heel of the woman’s seed.
II. The attitude of faith. Whilst the Serried ranks of the foe are are in sight, the hero-king is permitted a vision into the unseen and eternal. There is no fear upon the face of God, no change in his determination to set his king upon his holy hill. In fact, it seems that the day of his foe’s attack is that in which he receives a new assurance of sonship, and is bidden to claim the nations for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. In perfect peace he anticipates the result, the Lord will send forth the rod of His strength out of Zion, and strike through kings in the day of His wrath, and make His enemies His footstool, so that in all after-days he may combine the office of priest and king, as Melchizedek did on that same site centuries before.
III. The warriors of the priest-king. Catching the contagion of his faith, they triumph in God’s salvation, and in His Name set up their banners. They believe that God, as a Man of War, is going forth with their, hosts, and will tread down their adversaries. They are characterised by the willingness of their service. No mercenaries are pressed into their ranks; they gladly gather around the standard, as the warriors of whom Deborah sang, who willingly offered themselves. They are clad not in mail, but in the fine linen of the priests; “the beauties of holiness,” a phrase which suggests that the warfare was conducted by religious men as an act of worship to God. They are numerous as the dewdrops that bespangle the morning grass, when every blade has its own coronet of jewels, and the light is reflected from a million diamonds (Psalms 110:1-7.) What an exquisite conception of David’s ideal for his soldiers, and of the knightly chivalry, of the purity, truth, and righteousness, in which all the soldiers of the Messiah should be arrayed!
IV. The completeness of the victory. The armies of the alien cannot stand the onset of those heaven-accoutred soldiers. Kings of armies flee apace. They are bowed down and fallen in bitter, hopeless defeat. They are made as a fiery furnace in the time of God’s anger, and swallowed up in His wrath. Their dead bodies strew the battlefield, and the valleys are choked with slain. In David we have a type of the Messiah. For, of a truth, against the Holy Servant Jesus, whom God has anointed, both the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel have gathered together. Men have refused His sway, and do refuse it; but God hath sworn, and will not repent, that to Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess: and it is more sure than that to-morrow’s sun will rise that, ere long, great voices shall be heard in Heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15-18.) (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
David’s foreign wars
The first series of David’s wars, on the termination of which it is said that he enjoyed “rest round about from all his enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1), was concluded before his proposal to build the temple. These seem to have been wars with such remnants of the ancient inhabitants as combined to molest his people within the limits of the twelve tribes. The wars now undertaken were chiefly against neighbouring nations, including the occupants of that large territory between Palestine and the Euphrates, which God had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). The nations against which David now went forth were most of them extremely warlike; they seem, too, to have been banded together in leagues or confederacies; so that the enterprise was attended with difficulties and dangers which only a heart, made brave and fearless by trust in the Invisible, could have ventured to face. The 20th Psalm may have been written for the occasion, and left behind for the Levites, to be sung in the name of the nation, when they remembered the perils to which their king and his troops had gone forth. It is an instructive fact that the history of these wars occupies so small a portion of the Bible. A single verse is all that can be afforded to most of them. Had they been narrated at length, they would probably have forced a narrative that would have placed David, as a captain, on a level with Cyrus, Hannibal, or Caesar. It is one of the less noticed proofs of the inspiration of the Old Testament, that such dazzling transactions as these are passed over so briefly. There is no other history in the world where more space would be occupied in describing the carrying of an ark to its permanent resting-place, than in narrating seven great military campaigns. It would be beyond the power of human nature to resist the temptation to describe great battles--the story of which is always read with such interest, and which reflect so much earthly glory on one’s nation, and create in the mind of the national reader such a feeling of satisfaction and pride.
(1) The first campaign was against David’s old friends, the Philistines. In former battles, David seems to have been content with driving them out of his territories--now he attacked them in their own. The town which he took, called Metheg-ammah, or the bridle of Ammah (so named from its situation), appears, from 1 Chronicles 18:1, to have been Gath itself. It was now David’s lot, amid the vicissitudes of the world, to attack the place where he had once been sheltered--to hurl his weapons against the king (if he was still alive) whose hospitality he had experienced.
(2) Much the same thing had to be done in his next campaign--that against Moab. The king of Moab had protected his father and mother when it became apparently unsafe for them to remain in their native land--and, through Ruth, Moabite blood ran in David’s veins. Jewish writers have a tradition that, after a time, the king put his parents to death, and that this occasioned the war which David carried on against them. The severity practised against Moab was very great; it was a terrible blow, intended to cripple them for a whole generation, and make it physically impossible for them to take up arms again.
(3) The third of David’s conquests was over a more distant enemy, Hadadezer, the king of Zobah, in the direction of the Euphrates. It appears that in the course of this campaign another enemy had to be encountered--a vast mass of Syrians came out against him. It is evident that this campaign Was a very remarkable one, for the slaughter of the Syrians amounted to the prodigious number of 22,000; and the victory, besides giving David possession of Damascus and the whole of Syria, was followed by the voluntary submission of Tel, the king of Hamath (verse 10), in the valley of Lebanon.
(4) Of the wars with the Ammonites and Amalekites (verse 12) nothing is recorded, nor is it certain whether these wars were carried on at the same time with the other campaigns, or whether (as we are inclined to think) the war with Amalek was that which took place while David was at Ziklag, and the war with Ammon that which is described in a subsequent chapter.
(5) The last enemy specified is Edom; arid it is evident that the contest with that ferocious people was peculiarly bloody and critical. There is a degree of indistinctness in the narrative of this event, when it is attempted to harmonize the three passages that contain allusions to it--in Samuel and Chronicles, and in the introduction to the 60th Psalm. In one place, it is said that it was 18,000 Syrians that fell in the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:18); in another they are said to have been Edomites (1 Chronicles 8:12); the introduction to the Psalm makes the number of Edomites 12,000; in Samuel, the victory is ascribed to David--in Chronicles, to Abishai--and in the Psalm, to Joab. It is probable that the war with Edom was carried on at the same time as the war with the Syrians; that while David and his army were in the north a detachment of the Syrians was sent to co-operate with the Edomites in attacking the southern part of Judah; that hearing of this, David despatched Abishai with a portion of his troops to encounter them; that Abishai completely defeated the confederate armies in the Valley of Salt (near Edom), much about the same time as David routed the Syrians in the neighbourhood of Damascus. If the Edomites and Syrians were confededate, it is not surprising that in one.place it should be said it was 18,000 Syrians that fell, and in another 18,000 Edomites. The psalm (60th), gives us a glimpse of the state of things in David’s army at this time, revealing the frightful difficulties and dangers of the enterprise, and the singularly lofty efforts of prayerful courage which were needed to carry him through the crisis, It appears that his army, far from home, and engaged with a very powerful foe, had sunk to the lowest ebb, and had even, for a time, been visited with the most direful reverses. The effect of these victories must have been very striking. Nor, only were the people now freed from all the harassing attacks to which they had been subject at every moment and on every side, but the Hebrew kingdom was elevated to the rank of a first-rate Power. Garrisons were placed in all the surrounding strongholds; the accumulated hoards of Eastern wealth were transferred to Jerusalem; and streams of tribute rolled their golden waters into the treasury of David. The secret of David’s success is expressed once and again in the narrative: “The Lord was with David, and preserved him whithersoever he went.” It is one of the great lessons of the Old Testament that the godly man can and does perform his duty better than any other, because the Lord is with him--whether he be steward of a house, or keeper of a prison, or ruler of a kingdom, like Joseph; or a judge and lawgiver, like Moses; or a warrior, like Samson or Gideon or Jephthah; or a king, like David or Jehoshaphat or Josiah; or a prime minister over a hundred and twenty provinces, like Daniel. This is one of the prominent lessons of the Book of Psalms--it is inscribed upon its very portals; the godly man “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” In all these warlike expeditions King David fulfilled his typical character--was an emblem of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, going forth “conquering and to conquer.” (W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)
2 Samuel 8:6-14
And David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus.
The garrison of the graces
“He that buildeth a ship doth not make his work of such a sort that it may avoid all waves and billows, that is impossible; but he so builds it that it may be tight and staunch, and able to endure all weathers.” Even so the very frame and construction of the spiritual life were formed with a view to trials. Jerusalem was walled because enemies were expected; David built towers and armouries because he looked for war; and what mean the graces of faith and patience unless affliction is to be reckoned on? Our glorious Leader would never have armed and armoured all his followers if there had not been allotted to them a wrestling with principalities and powers. See how Paul, in the same chapter in which he tells us of the panoply of God, reminds us of the adversaries whom we shall surely encounter. Has the Lord made thee to be strong in faith and brave in heart? Then be not surprised if thy stout ship is sent to traverse stormy seas. God doth not throw away strength by putting it where it will never be needed. Storms will surely come where grace is given to bear them, and through these storms grace will develop into glory (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.--
God over man
I. The employment in which David was engaged.
(1) In the service of God, in which he was engaged
(2) with a single eye to God’s glory
(3) with all his heart,
(4) and under the Divine direction.
II. The care which David experienced.
(1) Special, as to his person, circumstances, etc.
(2) Complete, in going out, returning, etc.
(3) Constant, by day and by night, in youth, manhood, age, health, sickness, etc.
Application. “Who will this day consecrate his service unto the Lord?” Those who do so will find it
(4) profitable. (Pulpit Analyst.)
2 Samuel 8:15-18
David reigned over all Israel.
Administration of the kingdom
I. The first thing pointed out to us here is the catholicity of his kingly government; embracing all Israel, all people. He did not bestow his attention on one favoured section of the people to the neglect or careless oversight of the rest. He did not, for example, seek the prosperity of his own tribe, Judah, to the neglect of the other eleven. In a word, there was no favouritism in his reign. In this he reflected that universality of God’s care on which we find the Psalmist dwelling with such complacency: “The Lord is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works.” In the next place, we have much to learn from the statement that the most prominent thing that David did was to “execute judgment and justice to the people.”
II. That was the solid foundation on which all his benefits rested. For it is never said that Saul did anything of the kind. And most certainly they are not words that could have been used of the ordinary government of Oriental kings. This idea of equal justice to all, and especially to those who had no helper, was a very beautiful one in David’s eyes. It gathered round it those bright and happy features which in the seventy-second Psalm are associated with the administration of another King. “Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness to the king’s son. He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment.” And in all this we find the features of that higher government of David’s Son which shows so richly His most gracious nature. The cry of sorrow and need, as it rose from the dark world, did not repel, but rather attracted, Him. All were in the lowest depths of spiritual poverty, but for that reason His hand was the more freely offered for their help. We are not to think of David, however, as being satisfied if he merely secured justice to the poor and succeeded in lightening their yoke. His ulterior aim was to fill his kingdom with active, useful, honourable citizens.
III. The remaining notices of David’s administration in the passage before us are simply to the effect that the government consisted of various departments, and that each department had an officer at its head.
1. There was the military department, at the head of which was Joab, or rather he was over “the host” the great muster of the people for military purposes. A more select body, “the Cherethites and the Pelethites,” seems to have formed a bodyguard for the king, or a banal of household troops, and was under a separate commander. The troops forming “the host” were divided into twelve courses of twenty-four thousand each, regularly officered, and for one month of the year the officers of one of the courses, and probably the people, or some of them, attended on the king at Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 27:1.)
2. There was the civil department; at the head of which were Jehoshaphat the recorder and Seraiah the scribe or secretary. While these were in attendance on David at Jerusalem they did not supersede the ordinary home rule of the tribes of Israel. Each tribe had still its prince or ruler, and continued, under a general superintendence from the king, to conduct its local affairs (1 Chronicles 27:16-22). This home-rule system, besides interesting the people greatly in the prosperity of the country, was a great check against the abuse of the royal authority; and it is a proof that the confidence of Rehoboam in the stability of his government, confirmed perhaps by a superstitious view of that promise to David, must have been an absolute infatuation, the product of utter inexperience on his part, and of the most foolish counsel ever tendered by professional advisers.
3. Ecclesiastical administration. The capture of Jerusalem and its erection into the capital of the kingdom made a great change in ecclesiastical arrangements. For some time before it would have been hard to tell where the ecclesiastical capital was to be found. Shiloh had been stripped of its glory when Ichabod received his name, and the Philistine armies destroyed the place. Nob had shared a similar fate at the hands of Saul. The old tabernacle erected by Moses in the wilderness was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29), and remained there even after the removal of the ark to Zion (1 Kings 3:4). At Hebron, too, there must have been a shrine while David reigned there. But from the time when David brought up the ark to Jerusalem that city became the greatest centre of the national worship. There the services enjoined by the law of Moses were celebrated; it became the scene of the great festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. We are told that the heads of the ecclesiastical department were Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar. These represented the elder and the younger branches of the priesthood. It is scarcely possible to say how far these careful ecclesiastical arrangements were instrumental in fostering the spirit of genuine piety. But there is too much reason to fear that even in David’s time that element was very deficient. The bursts of religious enthusiasm that occasionally rolled over the country were no sure indications of piety in a people easily roused to temporary gushes of feeling, but deficient in stability. The systematic administration of his kingdom by King David was the fruit of a remarkable faculty of orderly arrangement that belonged to most of the great men of Israel. We see it in Abraham, in his prompt and successful marshalling of his servants to pursue and attack the kings of the East when they carried off Lot; we see it in Joseph, first collecting and then distributing the stores of food in Egypt; in Moses, conducting that marvellous host in order and safety through the wilderness; and, in later times, in Ezra and Nehemiah, reducing the chaos which they found at Jerusalem to a state of order and prosperity which seemed to verify the vision of the dry bones. We see it in the Son of David, in the orderly way in which all His arrangements were made: the sending forth of the twelve Apostles and the seventy disciples, the arranging of the multitude when He fed the five thousand, and the careful gathering up of the fragments “that nothing be lost.” In the spiritual kingdom, a corresponding order is demanded, and times of peace and rest in the Church are times when this development is specially to be studied. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
A just governor
The people of Khartoum (after giving General Gordon an enthusiastic welcome as their new Governor-General), anxiously awaited a speech in return. It came characteristic of the man: “With the help of God I will hold the balance level.” It was what they wanted, a just ruler and judge, and at last they had got one. Governors formerly could only be approached by bribery of the officials around them. General Gordon had a letter-box made in the door of his palace, for all petitions, and they received his personal attention.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany