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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 5

Verse 2

2 Samuel 5:2. Thou shalt feed my people Bishop Patrick observes, that this is the first time we meet with any ruler or governor of a people characterised under the idea of a shepherd, though it was afterwards very familiar both with the Greeks and Romans; and I cannot but think it remarkable, that the first man so characterised, was at first, in fact, a shepherd: and when we find him, after his advancement to the throne, still characterised by God himself under the same idea; what can be a clearer inference, than that God's raising him to be a king was but exalting him to a nobler office of the same nature with his first? How fine a document is this to princes, that they are not, in the intention of Providence, the tyrants, but the guardians of their people; that their business is the preservation and well-being of the flock, from the duty they owe to the great Lord and owner of both! And how fully is this document confirmed to us, when we find bad princes set forth in the prophetic style, under the character of roaring lions, hungry bears, and devouring wolves! It was a noble maxim of Cyrus, that every man, aspiring to the government of others, should take care to be a better man than those whom he ruled.

Verse 6

2 Samuel 5:6. The king and his men went to Jerusalem David was of an enterprising genius, which he always employed for the honour and interest of his country. His siege of Jerusalem was founded in justice, and the taking it was necessary to the safety of his government and people. It was situated in the middle of the tribe of Benjamin, and taken by the Hebrews soon after Joshua's death; not indeed the whole of it, but the lower city: for the Jebusites kept possession of the fortress of Zion, the Hebrews and Jebusites dwelling together in the other part of the city after it was rebuilt. The Hebrews dwelt in it in the reign of Saul; for David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem, 1 Samuel 17:54. But the whole city, as well as the fort, was now in the hands of the Jebusites; for, when David demanded the restitution of the city, the Jebusites said, Thou shalt not come in hither. Josephus also affirms, that they were in possession both of the city and the fortress. How it came into the possession of the Jebusites, is not said: probably, they seized it during the war between Saul and the Philistines, or the contest between David and Ish-bosheth, which lasted for above seven years. David, therefore, had a right to recover it, as the ancient possession and property of his people; and would have been an impolitic, negligent prince, had he suffered so strong a fortress, in the midst of his dominions, to have remained in the hands of his enemies. And what fixed David the more in his resolution to become master of it, was the insult offered him by the Jebusites in the town and fortress, upon the supposition that it was impregnable. See Joseph. Antiq. l. vii. c. iii. sect. 1.

Except thou take away the blind, &c.— Some imagine, that by the blind are to be understood the Jebusite deities, called the blind and lame by way of derision. Yet it is not likely that the Jebusites should revile their own deities; and we must remember, that these deities are supposed to be here called blind and lame by the Jebusites themselves. But, admitting them to be idol deities, what meaning can there be in the Jebusites telling David, he should not come into the city unless he took away the deities upon the walls? If he could scale the walls, so as to reach these guardian deities, he need not ask leave of the Jebusites to enter the citadel. And what can be the meaning of the latter end of 2Sa 5:8 wherefore they said, &c.? For, who said? Did the Jebusites say their own deities should not come into the house,—should not come where they were; or should not come into the house of the Lord? Or could these deities say that David and his men should not come into the house? The absurdity of such a speech attributed to these idols, whose known character is, that they have mouths, and speak not, needs no illustration. But though the deities could not enounce these words, some imagine the Jebusites might; that it is possible the blind and the lame may signify the Jebusites, and that the Jebusites in general are called blind and lame, for putting their trust in blind and lame idols. This seems too refined a sense; and the blind and lame means the same both in the 6th and 8th verses. It is farther observed, that the words, 2 Samuel 5:8. Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, shew, that they are spoken of as different from the Jebusites. Perhaps, then, they were so; perhaps they were, in fact, a few poor creatures who laboured under the infirmities of blindness and lameness, and therefore were different from the general body of the Jebusites. But we may ask, How we can rationally account for that bitterness which David expresses against these blind and lame; and how it was possible for a man of David's humanity to detest men for mere unblameable, and, indeed, pitiable infirmities? The Jebusites looked upon David's attempt as vain, and fit to be treated with insolence and raillery. Full of this fond notion, they placed the blind and lame upon the walls, and told David he should not come in thither, for the blind and the lame were sufficient to keep him off; which they should effect only by their shouting, David shall not come hither,—No! David shall not come hither. That the blind and the lame were contemptuously placed upon the walls by the Jebusites, as before described, we are assured by the concurrent testimony of Josephus. Now, that these blind and lame, who appear to have been placed upon the walls, were to insult David in the manner before mentioned, seems evident, from the impossibility of otherwise accounting for David's indignation against these naturally pitiable people. The Hebrew particles אם כי ki im, rendered nevertheless, should be rendered for, as in Proverbs 23:18. The Hebrew verb הסירךֶ hesirka, translated thou take away, should be translated shall keep thee off: the LXX have rendered it plural. Should it be objected, that the word is, in the original, in the preter tense, still it may be asserted, that it should be rendered as if it were in the future; it being agreeable to the genius of the Hebrew language, frequently to speak of events yet future, as having actually happened, when the speaker would strongly express the certainty of such events. It is very remarkable, that the sense affixed to this passage is confirmed by Josephus; and it is further remarkable, that the same sense is given to these words in the English Bible of Coverdale, printed in 1535, where they are rendered, Thou shalt not come hither, but the blynde and lame shal dryve the awaie. That it was improperly rendered before that edition, appears from Wickliffe's Manuscript version of 1383, where we read, Thou shalt not entre hidur; no, but thou do awaie blynd men and lame, &c. According to these emendations, this verse will be, "And the inhabitants of Jebus said, Thou shalt not come hither; for the blind and the lame shall keep thee off, by saying, David shall not come in hither." See Kennicott's Dissert. vol. 1: p. 32, &c.

Verse 8

2 Samuel 5:8. Whosoever, &c.— Dr. Kennicott observes, that the Hebrew word צנור zinnor, gutter, occurs but once more in the Bible, and does not seem commonly understood in this place. The English version calls it a gutter; the Vulgate, pipes; Vatablus, channels; Junius and Tremellius, a common sewer; Poole, a pipe for water; and Bochart, a bed or channel of a river. But most interpreters agree in making the words signify something hollow, and in applying it to water; which might well be applied to a subterraneous passage, or great hollow, through which men could pass and repass for water. That this zinnor, in the text, was such an under-ground passage, might be strongly presumed from the text itself; but it is proved to have been so by Josephus. For, speaking of this very transaction, he says, "The citadel being as yet in possession of the enemy, the king promised that he would make any one general of all his forces who should ascend into the citadel through the subterraneous cavities." Here, then, we have the subterraneous cavities most remarkably answering to zenur, and putting this interpretation upon a very solid footing. I shall only add upon this point, that the true sense of the obscure word צנור zinnor in this place, remarkably occurs in the commentary of Hugo de Vienna; where it is explained by "subterraneous passages through which there was a communication to the town." That the preposition ב beth, prefixed in the Hebrew to zinnor, sometimes signifies through, is evident from Noldius; and that it signifies so in this place, is certain from the nature of the context, and the testimony of Josephus. See Antiq. lib. 7: cap. 3. Thus far Dr. Kennicott; upon which Dr. Chandler has the following remarks: "I am perfectly of his mind, that the blind and the lame were really such. But when David attacked the fort, he gave orders, that, 'whoever should smite the Jebusites, וינע veiiggng, let him smite also בצנור bezinnor, εν παραξι φιδι with the sword, as the LXX render it, both the lame and the blind.' And I think some instrument or weapon seems plainly to be intended by the very construction. And it may be observed, that and this word in the Arabic dialect signifies the handle of a shield, or a shield itself; and accordingly the Arabic and Syriac render the word in this very place by a shield; and this gives a good sense: 'Let him also strike with a shield both the blind and the lame.' We may observe also, that the word is rendered by the Chaldee, a strong hold; by Kimchi, the fortress, or strong place; and if we understand the word in this sense, the version will be, 'Whoever smites the Jebusites, let him also strike at, or in, the fortress, the lame and the blind.' If we understand by בצנור bezinnor, a canal, an aqueduct, water-pipe, or channel, we may then render the words, 'Whoever smites the Jebusites, let him also strike into the channel or brook, the blind and the lame.' That the future tense in the Hebrew is used for the imperative mood, is too well known to need any proof. Dr. Kennicott's conjecture, who renders the word by subterraneous passage, is certainly very ingenious, but I want authority for it." See Rev. p. 176. These lame and blind are said to be hated of David's soul. But certainly, as Houbigant well observes, they should rather be rendered, conformably to the Hebrew, as well as the LXX, who hate David's soul. The words, he shall be chief and captain, are not in the Hebrew. David's proposal to the army is begun, and a circumstance or two mentioned; but the reward proposed, and the person rewarded, are totally omitted. The words in the coinciding chapter of Chronicles, regularly fill up this omission; and we may add, that St. Jerome expressly asserts, that they are to be understood. Houbigant, however, does not see any such necessity. He translates the verse thus: But on the same day David gave this command, Whoever is about to kill a Jebusite, let him rush with a dagger upon the lame and the blind, who hate the soul of David: therefore came this proverb, the blind and the lame shall not enter the house. He renders the word zenur, a dagger, with the LXX, and herein agrees with Dr. Chandler; and he thinks that David calls the Jebusites the lame and the blind in contempt. Pfeiffer, in his Dubia Vexata, gives us the following interpretation of the text, 2 Samuel 5:6. "And the king and his men went to Jerusalem; (undertook an expedition against the Jebusites, who possessed that land) but they said to David, Thou shalt not come in hither unless thou shalt first remove these lame and these blind (pointed at, as it were, with the finger, by way of reproach; as much as to say, it is impossible for David to come in hither; for, as he cannot remove the blind and the lame from their station, we may be secure for the rest). 2 Samuel 5:7. But David took the fortress of Zion, which otherwise is called the city of David. 2 Samuel 5:8. And David said on that day, (having heard the taunt of the Jebusites,) Whoever shall smite the Jebusites, and shall reach to the canals of the city, and at the same time shall smite those lame and blind, (placed there by way of reproach,) hateful to David, because of that reproach; he shall be chief: (as it is supplied, 1 Chronicles 11:6.) Therefore they say (proverbially) the blind and the lame must not enter this house, the proverb being taken from those blind and lame who were besieged and were afterwards killed, never to return to their home." Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that the 115th Psalm was written by David as a triumphal song of thanksgiving for this victory.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 5:9. David built round about from Millo David, having possessed himself of the castle of Zion, joined the castle to the town beneath it, by building houses from one to the other, and made thereby one regular city. Millo is a word that has greatly perplexed the commentators: but it seems to have been the name of the castle of Zion, or the fortress of the city of David. The LXX generally render it, as in the text, by ακρα, a citadel. And in 2Ch 32:5 we read, he fortified Millo in the city of David; or rather, "he fortified the castle or citadel of the city of David." Thus Dr. Lightfoot tells us, Millo was a part of Zion, vol. 2: p. 25 and Josephus uses the word ακρα, for Millo, when he speaks of this very circumstance. Antiq. lib. 7: cap. 3: What we render and inward, the LXX render and his house. See 1 Chronicles 11:8. 2 Kings 12:20. According to Dr. Kennicott, this passage should be translated, and David built a circuit from Millo, and round to the house; i.e. even to the house of the citadel, or to Millo, from which the works were first begun. What puts this interpretation (says he) out of all doubt, is the use of this word at the end of the preceding verse; and as it there most certainly means the house of Millo, or the citadel, from the walls of which the blind and lame shouted, David shall not come into this house; so it must mean the same house of Millo here. See Kenn. diss. 1: p. 50.

Verse 11

2 Samuel 5:11. Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers The accounts left us of this king are but short; it is evident, however, that he was a magnificent and generous prince, and a believer in the true God, as appears from the form of his congratulation to Solomon upon his accession to the throne, 1 Kings 5:7. And this character well fitted him to enter into, and to cultivate an alliance with David, as he did, with uncommon friendship and affection, as long as David lived, and continued it to his son for his sake. See Josephus against Appion, book 1:

REFLECTIONS.—1. David, with thankfulness, perceived the establishment of his kingdom, every competitor removed, himself beloved by his subjects, courted by his neighbours, and feared by his enemies; and this he ascribes to God's love to his people, whom he regards, not as given to be his slaves, but as intrusted with him to be made happy under his wise and prudent administration. Happy the nation that has such a king!

2. Many wives and concubines increased his family, and seemed to strengthen his kingdom, though it is to be feared they hurt his heart. Having once suffered his eye to wander on various objects, his neighbour's wife was not safe at last: so dangerous is the first step from the path of duty; for we know not then where we shall stop.

Verse 24

2 Samuel 5:24. The sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry-trees "This may be rendered, among the first of the mulberry-trees; i.e. among the trees which were the first in order, and by which they entered into the grove; so that God gives David for a sign, the sound of many men's feet, walking on the ground amidst the trees, though nobody should be seen among those trees, which were before the eyes of all David's army." Houb. The Hebrew might be rendered, when thou hearest the sound of a moving in the tops, &c. Which implies nothing more than a ruling and extraordinary sound among the trees, which was to be the signal for David's attack.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Philistines, alarmed at David's success, the union of the kingdoms under him, and the friendship of Hiram, thought it high time to fall upon him before he was thoroughly settled in his throne, lest afterwards they should attempt it too late. They invade Israel with a numerous army, and pitch near Jerusalem, in the valley of Rephaim. David is ready to receive them, and goes down to the hold, some fortress which was below Jerusalem, where probably was the general rendezvous of his army. Before he goes forth, however, he inquires of God, and is sent with assurance of success. Confidently, therefore, he attacks and defeats their army, seizes their gods, whom they had brought into the field as their protectors, and, according to the Divine command, cast them into the fire. From this signal victory, the place is called Baal-perazim; God having broken forth as a resistless torrent upon his enemies, and thrown them down slain before him. Note;

(1.) Though the enemies of God's people think to crush them with their numerous forces, they assemble only to their own confusion. (2.) When we inquire of God upon our knees, we may expect an answer of peace, and go forth with confidence to oppose our spiritual enemies, assured that God will bruise sin and Satan shortly under our feet. (3.) They who put their trust in creature-supports, will find them as vain as the images of the Philistines.
2nd, One repulse abates not their courage, but rather kindles their desire of revenge. They dare a second time renew their invasions, and encamp on the very spot where they had been before routed: so foolishly and wilfully do sinners rush on their own destruction. David again has recourse to God for direction; and, as before he was ordered to march and meet them with the drawn sword, now he must fetch a compass behind them, and God will fight for him; so that he shall have nothing to do, but pursue their flying hosts. A rushing noise among the trees is to be the signal for him to fall on; he obeys, and the Philistines are smitten and pursued to their borders, as far as Gazer. Note; (1.) When we wait God's motions, our warfare must prosper. (2.) The repeated efforts of corruption and temptation in the faithful soul, though grievous for the present, weaken the root of sin, lead to an entire conquest, and strengthen the graces in the hearts of believers. (3.) On a sound like a rushing mighty wind, the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, and then Satan's kingdom fell before the sword of the Spirit, the word of God in their mouths.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.