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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 8

Verse 1

2 Samuel 8:1. Metheg-ammah Some learned men think this should be translated, Metheg, and her mother; i.e. the daughter and the mother city; Metheg, and Gath her metropolis: though others choose to translate these words, the bridle of the angle, apprehending that Gath was so called, on account of its being a garrison which kept all the contiguous country of Judea in awe. This is certain, that it was the metropolis of one of the five Philistine principalities, the seat of their kings, and the mother of giants.

Verse 2

2 Samuel 8:2. He smote Moab It is frequent in the sacred writings to put the inhabitants of a country for the country itself: see Isaiah 15:4. The LXX favour this interpretation, and thus Grotius understands it. And to this the Psalmist seems plainly to refer, when, speaking of the wars of David with Moab, Edom, and other nations, he says, I will divide Sechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth, viz. in order to divide it. Psalms 60:6. He measured them with a line. The measurement of lands was formerly by the line, as now it is generally done by the rod; and because lands were divided into certain tracts and portions by the line, hence the line is often put for the tract marked out by it, or even where the line had never been made use of at all. Thus, all the region of Argob, Deu 3:4 is in the original חבל כל kal chebel, all the line of Argob. So the line of the sea, Zep 2:5-7 is the sea-coast. Thus in the place before us, he measured them by line, i.e. divided the country of the Moabites into several parts, that he might the better know what towns it was most proper to demolish, to level with the ground, and to extirpate the inhabitants of them. Even with two lines, &c. The ancient versions read differently from our present text. The Vulgate, he measured two lines, one to kill, and one to keep alive. The Septuagint differently, but to the same sense, there were two lines for putting to death, and two for taking alive; according to which accounts, one half of the inhabitants only were put to death. And it appears from the text itself, that it should be thus understood. The words in the original are, חבלים שׁני וימדד vaimadded shenei chabalim, And he measured two lines. Repeat from the foregoing words, חבל chebel, a line, להמית lehamith, to put to death, להחיות החבל ומלא umlo hachebel lehachayoth; and the fulness of a line to keep alive. This supplement is natural and agreeable to the language. Many instances may be produced. Thus, Psa 110:3 what we render, almost without any sense, from the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth, becomes an elegant expression if we repeat the word dew. The dew of thy youth is as the dew from the womb of the morning. The verse here then should be rendered, "And he measured two lines; i.e. divided the country into two parts; a line, i.e. a tract for death; and the plenitude of the line, i.e. a very large tract of the country for life, to destroy the inhabitants of the one, and preserve the inhabitants of the larger part." The first clause of the verse, he measured them with a line, &c. signifies no more than that David smote Moab, i.e. the country and its inhabitants, and measured them with a line; i.e. took an exact survey of the towns, and cities, and strongholds of the whole land, ארצה אותם השׁכב hashkeb otham artzah, to throw them down to the ground; i.e. to destroy and level them to the ground, as far as he thought necessary to humble them, and to secure himself. The expression, fulness of a line, seems to denote a very large tract of country, and might be a larger than that where the inhabitants were ordered to be put to death.

The Moabites became David's servants Who was the aggressor in these two last actions, is not said; but it may be collected from Psalms 83:0 that Edom, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, and others, consulted together to cut off Israel from being a nation, which seems to refer to the wars mentioned in this chapter. However, it may be remarked, that the Philistines, Moabites, and other neighbouring nations, were perpetual enemies of the Jews, and invaded them whenever they were able; and that therefore the Jews thought they had a right to make reprisals, and to attack them upon every occasion. See Numbers 24:17; Num 24:25 where this event is foretold.

Verse 3

2 Samuel 8:3. To recover his border at the river The Hebrew ידו להשׁיב lehashib yado, may be literally rendered, as he went to turn back his hand, &c. David smote Hadadezer, when he, David, went to turn back his, Hadadezer's, hand, by the Euphrates; i.e. to repel Hadadezer and his forces at the river, and prevent the intended invasion of his dominions. Here then Hadadezer was also the aggressor. In the parallel place, 1Ch 18:3 it is ידו להציב lehatzib yado, to establish his hand, or power, at the Euphrates. He wanted to extend his dominions to the Euphrates; and in order to it, designed to invade those of David which lay nearest to that river. David, therefore, had a right by force to prevent it.

Verse 4

2 Samuel 8:4. A thousand chariots The word chariots, though not in the Hebrew, is rightly supplied from the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 18:4. Instead of seven hundred horsemen, says Houbigant, I read also as in the parallel place seven thousand, for the horses were always more than the chariots. These are in the number of those parts of the sacred writings, which to my apprehension demonstrate their divine origin. It is utterly abhorrent from all the principles of human policy, to make either creatures or utensils, when once become our own secure property, either wholly useless, or less useful to all the purposes for which either human contrivance has fitted, or Providence appointed them; and therefore David's burning so many chariots, and maiming so many horses taken from the enemy in battle, could only arise from a principle of obedience to the commands of Almighty God, expressly enjoining such a conduct to his people.

Verse 7

2 Samuel 8:7. The shields of gold See Solomon's Song, chap. 2 Samuel 4:4. Note; (1.) The enemies of God's church may associate themselves, but they shall be broken to pieces. (2.) Better to be relied on than shields of gold, is God, the shield and the defence of every spiritual Israelite.

Verse 13

2 Samuel 8:13. David gat him a name, &c.— To get a name, in the Eastern style, does not mean to be called by this or that particular name, but to be celebrated as a happy and glorious person. Thus it is joined with praise, Zephaniah 3:20. It is said of God himself, upon account of the signs and wonders he wrought in Egypt, thou hast made thee a name; which our version in Dan 9:15 renders, thou hast gotten thee renown. And thus David got him a name; i.e. as God tells him by Nathan, ch. 2 Samuel 7:9. I was with thee, &c.—and have made thee a great name, &c. i.e. made thee esteemed and reverenced in all the countries round about, as a mighty prince and a successful warrior; a name which he must have had from the Syrians as well as Jews, and from all his enemies whom he subdued by his valour. Houbigant translates the passage thus: Moreover David, having conquered Syria, when he returned, waged war with the Edomites in the valley of Salt, and slew of them eighteen thousand men. His note is ingenious, and his criticisms, to which we refer the reader, seem very just. Dr. Delaney supposes, that upon this occasion David wrote the 99th Psalm. See the 4th verse of which, and compare with the 15th of this chapter. Note; (1.) Whatever is great or good in us, let God alone have the praise of it. (2.) These conquests typify the greater ones of David's Son and Lord. He must reign till he has put all his enemies under his feet, subdued sin, and destroyed death and hell; when, having rescued his people from all their enemies round about, he shall make them princes and kings in glory, where they shall reign with him.

Verse 16

2 Samuel 8:16. Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder i.e. as is generally believed, remembrancer, or writer of chronicles: an employment of no mean estimation in the Eastern world, where it was customary with kings to keep daily registers of all the transactions of their reign; and a trust, which whoever discharged efficiently must be let into the true springs and secrets of action, and consequently must be received into the inmost confidence. The sacred Writer no sooner gives us an account of David's executing judgment and justice, but he immediately adds a lift 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.

Verse 17

2 Samuel 8:17. Seraiah was the scribe Supposed to be the king's secretary of state, or prime counsellor in the law. Bishop Patrick says, that as the Hebrew word סופר sopher, which we translate scribe, imports something of learning, as the word scribe does in the New Testament, he takes Seraiah to have been the king's prime counsellor in the law; and others think there were two of this character, an ecclesiastical and a civil. See 1 Chronicles 27:32. It has been supposed by some, that Zadok was the high-priest, and Ahimelech his סגן segan, or vicar; while others think, that neither of these was the high-priest, but the vicars of Abiathar, and the heads of the sacerdotal families.

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, but of which three only are particularly recounted by the sacred historian. There seems to have been something in the fortitude of Benaiah similar and congenial to that of David, which, possibly, was the reason why he made him commander of the Cherethites and the Pelethites, concerning whom the opinions of the critics have been various. That כרתי Cherethi is another word for Philistine, appears clearly from Zep 2:5 and Ezekiel 25:16. 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. There 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 immediate 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: I believe, 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, and some of the same corps, I believe, are still called by the same name, from a place in Scotland where they had resided for some time, notwithstanding that they were native English. Now as the Cherethites were, I apprehend, the body of troops which clave to David from the beginning, and went with him into Philistia; the פלתי Pelethi I apprehend to have been the body of troops made up of those valiant men who resorted to him when he was there (I mean when he resided at Ziklag, but still under the protection of Achish); among whom I find one Pelet, the son of Azmavith, 1Ch 12:3 who, as I presume, became their captain, and from whom they were called Pelethites; as the soldiers disciplined by Fabius and Iphicrates were called Fabians and Iphicratians (see Corn. Nep. in Iphicrate); and as under the later emperors the soldiers were commonly denominated from their commanders: unless we suppose them rather denominated from Peleth, the son of Jonathan, 1Ch 2:33 who was of the king's own tribe. Now as the Cherethites adhered to David, and followed his fortunes 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. A learned professor abroad strongly defends the Chaldee interpretation; which is, that Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, was over the archers and slingers: and he observes, that, in the Arabic language, Caratha signifies to hit the mark, to strike it with an arrow (which probably might occasion the giving the name of Cretans to the inhabitants of the island of Crete, so famous in antiquity for their skill in handling the bow); and that in the same language Pelet, among other things, signifies to be alert, to leap, to run swiftly; so that the Pelethites were possibly soldiers chosen for their speed, and light armed, as were the Velites of the Romans, who, with their other weapons, carried very light arrows, which were called peltes, and the use of which came from the East. The Romans commonly associated their archers and light soldiers together; the Gauls did the same; but what is of most importance, is, that in after times, under the successors of David, and particularly under the cruel Athaliah, the body-guards went by the name of כרי Chari and רצים Ratzim: the former were, doubtless, our Cherethites: and the name of the second literally points out runners, men very active and swift; or possibly couriers, appointed continually to carry the prince's orders; which answers the idea which we have given of the Pelethites. The guards of Saul were heretofore so called. Accordingly, the author of the Vulgate renders the names Cheri and Retzim, 2Ki 11:19 by Cherethites and Pelethites; and the Syriac interpreter, as well there as in the 4th verse of the same chapter, by the runners and couriers. Possibly the Cherethites, called also cheri and couri, (from whence the name runners seems to have been formed,) were employed to carry verbal orders from the prince, where it was necessary to do it expeditiously; and the others, that is to say, the Pelethites, or Retzim, were charged with his letters occasionally. In a day of battle, the former handled the bow; the latter made use of the sling, or a light dart, and had shields which were of the same kind. In fine, it is observable, that in our days the Ottoman emperors have among their guards two orders of soldiers that nearly resemble those who were about the person of David. The first, called soulaks, are chosen out of the bravest of the Janissaries: there are three hundred of them, who draw the bow both with the right and left hand. The second, in number sixty, are called paicks, and perform the duty of runners and lacqueys. They fly to all parts charged with the sultan's letters, holding a short pike in their hand, and wearing a poinard at their waist. The emperor never goes out unaccompanied with two of his soulaks. The paicks are, for the most part, Persians, and so swift of foot as to keep up with the strongest and lightest horses. See Rycaut's State of the Ottoman Empire, p. iii. c. 7.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

David dispensing to his subjects the blessings of an upright government, as well as subduing their foes before them. All Israel felt and owned his gentle sway; the meanest have access to him, and justice is without partiality dispensed by him: well may it be said, Happy art thou, O Israel! Note; We cannot be thankful enough for the blessing of a mild government, and an incorrupt administration of justice.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.