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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 8

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-18


2 Samuel 8:1

David smote the Philistines. In the previous chapter we have seen that the empire of David not only marked an era in the development of Israel nationally, but was also the reaching of a new stage in the preparation for the advent of the Messiah; and we saw that without this the development of prophecy would have been impossible, and the people have remained unfit for the high mission to which they were called as the witnesses to the unity of Cod. We have in this chapter a brief summary of the wars which raised Israel from the position of a struggling and oppressed race to the possession of widespread empire. With this narrative the first history of David ends, and in the subsequent narratives many of the events referred to here are more fully detailed, and given with additional incidents. David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the Philistines. Metheg-ammah means "the bridle of the mother city." We learn from the parallel place (1 Chronicles 18:1) that the city of Gath is meant by this phrase. Gath was at this time the metropolis of Philistia, and had reduced the other four chief towns to a state of vassalage. Thus by taking Gath, his old city of refuge (1 Samuel 27:2), David acquired also the supremacy which she had previously exercised over the whole country, and by placing a strong garrison there, as previously the Philistines had done in the towns of Israel, he kept that martial race in awe. It denotes great progress in the arts of war that David could besiege and capture a town so strong as Gath.

2 Samuel 8:2

He smote Moab. In the previous history we find David and Moab on such friendly terms that he entrusted his father and mother into their king's keeping (1 Samuel 22:3, 1 Samuel 22:4). Now he not only subjugates them, but puts two-thirds or, according to the ancient versions, half of the captured combatants to death. Compared with the custom of the Romans, and with the attempt to destroy all the males in Edom, this was mild treatment; for we find Caesar in his Gallic wars putting all his prisoners to death, and using for their execution the mere phrase, "he counted them in the number of enemies," as if the killing of enemies was a matter of course. The customs of the Israelites in war were not so cruel, and this treatment of the Moabites seems to be mentioned as showing that they received exceptionally severe treatment. The justification of this is found by Jewish commentators, on the authority of the Midrash, in the supposed fact that the King of Moab had put David's father and mother to death. But as Philippson adds, even so it was an instance of the extreme barbarity of ancient warfare. Casting them down to the ground; Hebrew, making them to lie down on the ground; and so the Revised Version. It is plain that those who were made to lie on the ground were combatants who had been made prisoners, and the Hebrew seems to mean that, while they were thus prostrate, they were measured off into three divisions, whereof two were put to the sword, and one permitted to live. All the versions, however, understand that only half were put to death, making the sense to be that he measured them with two cords, one to kill, and one full cord—one, that is, of larger size, to save alive. We get no help from 1 Chronicles 18:2, where this treatment of the Moabites is omitted. It is probable that it was in this war that Benaiah slew "two lion-like men of Moab" (1 Chronicles 11:22), who were its champions and perhaps members of the royal house. They brought gifts means that they paid an annual tribute; but the phrase shows that, though now they were David's servants, that is, subjects, yet that they were left in possession of their independence, and that their internal affairs were managed by native authorities.

2 Samuel 8:3

Hadadezer. The name is spelt Hadarezer in 2 Samuel 10:16 and in 1 Chronicles 18:3, and such is the reading of the versions here and of many Hebrew manuscripts. The other reading has been defended on the ground that Hadad is the name of the Syrian sun-god, but the cuneiform inscriptions show that his real name was Hadar. The King of Syria, mentioned in 1 Kings 20:1, is called in Assyrian Ben-Hidri. Zobah. Ewald identifies Zobah with the "Sabo" mentioned by Ptolemy. This is uncertain, but evidently Zobah lay northeast of Damascus and south of Hamath, in the region between the rivers Orontes and Euphrates. In 1 Samuel 14:47 it appears as a powerless country governed by a multitude of petty kings; but evidently now Hadarezer had made himself supreme, and become a powerful monarch whose authority extended even across the river into Mesopotamia (2 Samuel 10:16). Having crushed his rivals at home, he had next endeavoured to extend his dominion abroad. As he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. The word "Euphrates" is inserted in the Authorized Version, because the margin says, "Euphrates read but not written." In the Revised Version it is omitted, because the unauthoritative nature of these directions to read something not in the text has been demonstrated. Technically these readings are called K'ri, and the written text K'tib. In 1 Chronicles 18:3 the reading is, "as he went to stablish his dominion by the river"—a change which involves the alteration of only one letter, as the word rendered here "his border," and in 1 Chronicles 18:3 "his dominion," is the same, signifying literally, "his hand." For this reason the Revised Version renders it correctly in both places "his dominion." Now, David never had possessed up to this time any dominion upon the Euphrates, but in the fuller narrative in 1 Chronicles 10:1-14. we learn that these Syrians of Zobah had sent powerful reinforcements to the Ammonites in their war with David; and he might reasonably, therefore, determine to follow up his victory over. them by extending his power up to the river, so as to guard the fords, and prevent all future invasions. And this Hadarezer would resent. As an able and enterprising man, he had succeeded in making Zobah a powerful realm, and was not likely to submit to having a bridle put upon his adventurous spirit by the posting of an Israelitish garrison on the borders. We learn from 2 Samuel 10:19 that David's object was to prevent aid coming to Ammon from Zobah, and that he succeeded in putting a barrier in Hadarezer's way. We can scarcely doubt, therefore, that the reading in the Chronicles is to be preferred. In 1 Samuel 14:47 we read that Saul had waged war with Zobah, and as David had probably served in it, he would have thereby acquired both a knowledge of the country, very useful in this present more serious expedition, and also have learned the necessity of guarding his dominions against perpetual invasions from that quarter.

2 Samuel 8:4

David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen. The word "chariots" is inserted in the Authorized Version after "thousand," from the parallel place in 1 Chronicles 18:4, where also it is said that David captured seven thousand horsemen. The numbers of the Chronicler are more in proportion to one another than those mentioned here, provided we assume that the word "chariots" ought to be supplied, which, as it is not the only difference, is uncertain. Until the Arabs invented our present system of notation, the ancient methods of representing numbers were so liable to error that little dependence can be placed upon them. The Hebrews used their letters for numerals, but after 400 their system breaks down. Any number higher than 400 can be represented only by long sums in arithmetic, or by an intricate system of points above and below, which were sure to get into confusion. David houghed all the chariot horses. There is good reason for concluding that the word used here, recheb, is a collective, and signifies animals used either for riding or driving. What David reserved was not a hundred chariots, but a hundred riding horses, which would be useful to him for rapid communication, and could scarcely be regarded as a violation of the command in Deuteronomy 17:16. Both the Authorized and Revised Versions are wrong, but the Authorized Version at least makes the word recheb have the same meaning in both clauses, whereas the Revised Version makes it signify chariot horses in the first clause, and the chariots themselves in the second. The defeat by David, with infantry only, of an army provided with so powerful a force of cavalry and chariots, proves his great military skill, and their capture hears even more emphatic testimony to his generalship. In the Psalms we find horses often referred to as objects regarded with terror, and which gave a great advantage to their enemies (Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:17; Psalms 76:6; Psalms 147:10), but over which they had triumphed by Jehovah's aid. This method, however, of rendering them useless, though practised by Joshua (Joshua 11:6), was most cruel; as the poor things, unable to move about with the sinews of their hind legs severed, would perish of hunger.

2 Samuel 8:5

The Syrians of Damascus; Hebrew, Aram-Dammesek; that is, Aram-Damascus. The inhabitants of these regions and of Mesopotamia were descended from Aram, the son of Shem (Genesis 10:22), and bore his name. Thus Zobah is called Aram-Zobah in the title of Psalms 60:1-12. As members of a kindred race, and speaking the same language, all the clans of the Aramean family would naturally combine to check the growing power of Israel.

2 Samuel 8:6

Garrisons. This is the word used in 1 Samuel 10:5 and 1 Samuel 13:3. The Arameans were left free to manage their internal affairs themselves, but they had to pay tribute (see on 1 Samuel 13:2); and to prevent the assembling of troops to contest David's authority and shake off his yoke, garrisons were stationed in such places as commanded the country. The Philistines had done the same in Israel when they were masters there.

2 Samuel 8:7

Shields of gold. Probably they were plated with gold, and were borne by Hadarezer's bodyguard. But it is very uncertain whether shields are really meant. The word in Syriac means "quivers." Jerome evidently could not at first find out what it signified, as he in this place translates in the Vulgate "arms," but subsequently he became better, informed. The LXX. renders "bracelets," and adds that they were carried away from Jerusalem by Shishak in the days of Rehoboam. There is no contradiction in this with what is said in 1 Kings 14:26, as what Solomon made were undoubtedly shields, such being the certain meaning of the word in the Hebrew, and its rendering in all the versions. No version renders the word used here "shield." In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 18:7) the Syriac and Vulgate render it "quivers," the LXX. "collars," and the Arabic "plates of gold hung on the trappings of the horses." As they were captured from a Syrian king, they probably retained their Syriac name, and if so they were "quivers."

2 Samuel 8:8

Betah … Barothai. Of these cities nothing certain is known, and in 1 Chronicles 18:8 the names are changed to Tibhath and Chun. An interesting addition is made there, inserted also by the LXX. in this place, that it was from this brass (that is, copper) that Solomon made the great laver, the pillars, and many other vessels for the temple service.

2 Samuel 8:9

Toi, called in Chronicles Tou, King of Hamath. This was a famous city upon the river Orontes, afterwards called by the Greeks Epiphania, and was situated upon the northernmost boundary of Palestine. Its interest in the present day lies in its having been the capital of the Hittites—a race whose very existence was doubted a few years ago, in spite of the testimony of Holy Scripture; but whose marvellous empire has been lately proved to be historical by Egyptian records on the one side, and cuneiform inscriptions on the other. Unfortunately, inscriptions which they have themselves left behind have not yet found any one capable of deciphering them. In the twelfth century B.C. they were the paramount power from the Euphrates to the Lebanon. For many centuries they contended with the Pharaohs for the possession of Egypt, and while Rameses II. had to make an inglorious peace with the Kheta, as they are called, and marry the king's daughter, Rameses III won a great victory over them, and saved Egypt from thraldom. In the cuneiform inscriptions we find the record of a struggle between Assyria and the Hittites, lasting for four hundred years, during which Shalmaneser made thirty campaigns against them, but they were not finally conquered until B.C. 717, during the reign of Sargon. Fuller details will be found in Dr. Wright's 'Empire of the Hittites,' published by Messrs. Nisbet.

2 Samuel 8:10

Joram. In 1 Chronicles 18:10 he is called Hadoram, and this was apparently his real name, Joram being merely the substitution of the nearest Hebrew word for something foreign and therefore unintelligible. So among the descendants of the French refugees settled in England similar changes are common. Thus Pillons becomes Pillow; Chevallier, Shoveller; St. Amour, Stammers. As Hamath bordered upon Zobah, and apparently had waged unsuccessful war with the vigorous Hadarezer, Tel was grateful to David for smiting his rival, and sent this embassy of congratulation for the purpose of ensuring the conqueror's friendship. For this end he also sent rich presents; and as a present is called in the Hebrew a blessing, the phrase used here, to bless him, contains the idea, not only of congratulation, but of offerings. There is something admirable in this high Oriental courtesy. The material value of the gifts is left in the background. Their worth lies in their being the acknowledgment of the Divine favour resting upon David, and in the prayer that that favour may continue. In Psalms 18:43, Psalms 18:44 we have proof of the great pleasure which this embassy from so great a nation gave to David.

2 Samuel 8:11

Which also King David did dedicate. The blessing became more blessed by this use of it, and it shows how strong were David's feelings, that he thus gave to God's house, not only the spoils of war, but also gifts of friendship. It was in this way that he accumulated those large stores of the precious metals enumerated in 1 Chronicles 29:1-30; and employed in making the sacred vessels of the temple. Their vast amount is the more remarkable because Palestine previously was almost destitute of them. Wherever the armies of Israel went, they made diligent search after everything that would serve towards the building of their sanctuary.

2 Samuel 8:12

Of Syria; Hebrew, Aram. The reading in 1 Chronicles 18:11 is Edom, which differs from Aram in only one letter. The two words are constantly confused in manuscripts, and "Edom" is probably right here, first, because it is coupled with Moab and Ammon, which were its neighbours; but chiefly because the spoil of Hadarezer, mentioned at the end of the verse, is the spoil of Aram. It would not be enumerated twice.

2 Samuel 8:13

From smiting of the Syrians; Hebrew, of Aram. Here "Edom" is certainly right (see 1 Chronicles 18:12), unless we accept Keil's conjecture, and suppose that "he smote Edom" has dropped out of the text, and must be inserted. In the superscription of Psalm we find the wars with Aram-Naharaim (Mesopotamia) and Aram-Zobah coupled with this smiting of Edom in the valley of salt, which lay to the south of the Dead Sea, and was a fatal place to the Edomitos in their war subsequently with Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7). Such a double victory over the Arameans first, and immediately afterwards over Edom, would account for the "name," that is, the reputation, which David gained. The course of events seems to have been as follows. The Edomites, believing that David was engaged in a struggle beyond his powers with the Syrians, took the opportunity to invade Israel. But the campaign in Aram was quickly decided, and David was able to send Abishai with a detachment of his forces to repel the Edomites. On hearing of his approach, they retired before him, and, making a stand in their own territories, were defeated in the valley of salt, with the loss of eighteen thousand men (1 Chronicles 18:12). In this place the victory is ascribed to David, because it was won by his general acting under his orders. For some unexplained reason, the feelings of the Israelites against Edom were very vindictive, and Joab followed with larger forces, and not only slew twelve thousand in a second battle (Psalms 60:1-12, title), but remained six months in the country, ruthlessly putting every male to death (1 Kings 11:15, 1 Kings 11:16). From this time the Edomites and Israelites were implacable foes, and in later Jewish literature the Jews gave vent to their intense hatred of the Roman empire by giving it the name of Edom.

2 Samuel 8:14

Throughout all Edom put he garrisons. In a country naturally so strong as Edom, and with neighbouring states ready to give shelter to their fugitives, Joab's attempt would cause great misery, but only a moderate loss of life. And as soon as he withdrew, the exiles would return to their old homes. To keep them, therefore, in entire subjection, the country was. held by strong garrisons, and the Edomites became David's servants, being apparently deprived for the present of any form of independent government. We have, then, in this chapter, a brief summary of David's wars, whereby he established his supremacy ever the extensive region from Hamath on the north to the salt plains on the south of the Dead Sea, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates.

2 Samuel 8:15

David executed judgment and justice. There was very little real truth in Absalom's fault finding with the administration of justice (2 Samuel 15:3, 2 Samuel 15:4), unless we suppose—what is only too probable—that David, after his terrible crimes of murder and adultery, became lax in the discharge of his judicial duties. Here, at this period of his life, he was a zealous judge at home, as well as a brave and skilful general. He was one of those many sided characters who are great in a multitude of ways. Like Julius Caesar and our own Alfred, he was as distinguished in the arts of peace as in those of war. And thus, while his first care was for the establishment of religion, and while even the singing in the sanctuary was not beneath his notice, he also, even in the midst of dangerous wars, gave careful attention to the orderly government of his kingdom and the maintenance of right and law. We have already seen with what consummate skill he selected a capital immediately that he was made king of all Israel. Saul had done much in war. Though finally defeated at Gilboa, he had taught the Israelites their strength, and laid the foundations of David's empire; but he had done nothing to consolidate the tribes, or provide tribunals for the settlement of disputed legal rights or the punishment of crimes. Israel was as loose an aggregate of discordant atoms at his death as it was at his appointment; and the maintenance of order was left to the caprice of local sheiks. Samuel had done far more for the internal development and consolidation of the people than Saul; but it was David who made them into a nation. The continuance of his work was frustrated by the extravagance of Solomon, the folly of Rehoboam, and the ambition of the restless tribe of Ephraim; but the two parts into which his realm was broken at least held together, and there never again was danger of such anarchy and threatened disintegration as existed in the times of the judges.

2 Samuel 8:16

Joab … was over the host. Twice in this book we have lists of David's chief officers—here and at the end of 2 Samuel 20:1-26. The present lint belongs to the period of David's greatest prosperity, when all went well with him in peace and war, and when Jehovah had elevated him to the unique rank of Messianic king—a distinction which belonged to him personally, and was inherited by none of his successors. Between it and the second list there lies a tragic tale of sin and shame, of crime and merited punishment, of the realm rising in rebellion against the adulterous king, and of his own family breaking away from the bends of godly discipline, and giving way to licentiousness, to bloodshed, and to parricidal ambition. But probably David's character had then gained in spirituality and singleness of heart; whereas now prosperity must already have begun its work of sapping the foundations of his moral nature. Joab, who had been stripped of his command for the murder of Abner, had regained it by his bravery at the capture of Jerusalem. We have seen also that David entrusted to him the building of Jerusalem, and apparently he was prime minister in all matters except probably the king's judicial functions. Jehoshaphat … was recorder; literally, remembrancer. It was his office to reduce the king's decrees to writing, and also to see that they were carried into execution. Probably after they had been committed to writing, they were laid before the king for his approval, and, when confirmed by his hand or seal, were entered in the book of remembrance.

2 Samuel 8:17

Zadok … and Ahimelech … were the priests. We have already seen that this was contrary to the letter of the Mosaic Law, and yet that there was no schism, and that by patience matters came back to the right groove. Zadok, of the elder line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:4-8, 1 Chronicles 6:50-53), was high priest at Gibeon, and Ahimelech, of the junior line of Ithamar, was the high priest at Jerusalem. Instead of Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, the Syriac transposes the names, and reads, "Abiathar the son of Ahimelech" This agrees with the list in 2 Samuel 20:25, and it is certain that Abiathar outlived David (1 Kings 2:26), and that he was David's high priest throughout his reign, though Zadok is not only constantly associated with him, but is placed first, as the man of higher rank (2Sa 15:24-35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:11; 2 Samuel 20:25). It is also remarkable that our Lord makes Abiathar the person who gave David the shewbread (Mark 2:26), whereas in 1 Samuel 21:1-15. he is repeatedly called Ahimelech. As both the LXX. and the Vulgate support the Hebrew against the Syriac, and as the reading "Ahimelech" is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 18:16 and 1 Chronicles 24:3, 1Ch 24:6, 1 Chronicles 24:31, we must reject the emendation of the Syriac, and conclude that there was a double tradition respecting these names, some manuscripts making Abiathar the father, and others giving the seniority to Ahimelech. Our Lord made Abiathar the father, but the scribes, in their editing of the Hebrew text, gave that place to Ahimelech, yet did not carry out their restoration so thoroughly as not to leave proof that the names probably ought to be reversed. Seraiah was scribe. His office was similar to that of a secretary of state with us. For Seraiah we have Shavsha in 1 Chronicles 18:16, Shisha in 1 Kings 4:3, and Sheva in 2 Samuel 20:25. This illustrates what has just been said as to the uncertainty about proper names. They are always most difficult to read, as the sense gives no aid, and these various forms of a name that does not occur elsewhere really bear witness to the high antiquity of the manuscripts uses by the scribes in settling the text of the Old Testament; and also to their self-restraint in not making them all forcibly agree.

2 Samuel 8:18

The Cherethites and the Pelethites. As we have already seen (1 Samuel 30:14), the Cherethim were an insignificant tribe inhabiting the southern part of the country of the Philistines. Nor is that place the only proof of this fact; for they are connected with the Philistines also in Ezekiel 25:16 and Zephaniah 2:5. David made their acquaintance when at Ziklag; and probably the Pelethim dwelt in the same neighbourhood, and were a still more unimportant clan or family. Much ingenuity has been expended in finding for their names a Hebrew derivation, and Gesenius explains them as meaning "cutters and runners," though for the latter signification he has to go to the Arabic, where he finds a verb falata, "to run away," "flee." But this craze of explaining the names of aboriginal tribes and their towns by Hebrew words is not only absurd in itself, but bars the way to sounder knowledge. For it is possible that, by the study of names not belonging to the Hebrew language, we might arrive at some correct ideas about the races who had previously occupied Palestine. Instead of this, the whole system of derivation is corrupted, and philology made ridiculous. What can be more ludicrous than to explain these Pelethim as "runners away," unless it be the notion that the Rephaim took their name from the Hebrew word for "a ghost"? In his "mighties" David had a powerful bodyguard of native Israelites, and Saul previously had formed a similar force of three thousand men, not merely for the protection of his own person, but to guard the land from marauding incursions of Amalekites and other freebooting tribes. Such a body of men was of primary importance for police purposes anti the safety of the frontiers. How useful such a force would be we can well understand from the history of the marches between England and Scotland (see also note on 2 Samuel 3:22); but I imagine that the Cherethites and Pelethites were used for humbler purposes. While "the mighties" guarded the frontiers, and kept the peace of the kingdom, these men would be used about the court and in Jerusalem, to execute the commands of the king and his great officers. Native Israelites would refuse such servile work, and the conquered Canaanites might become dangerous if trained and armed; while these foreigners, like the Swiss Guard in France, would be trustworthy and efficient. As for the true-born Israelites, they probably did not form the mass of the population, but, like the Franks in France, were the privileged and dominant race. We read that even from Egypt, besides their own dependents, there went up with Israel "a great mixture". In Numbers 11:4 these are even contemptuously designated by a word which answers to our "omnium gatherum;" yet even they, after the conquest of Palestine, would be higher in rank than the subjugated Canaanites, from whom, together with another "mixed multitude" spoken of in Nehemiah 13:3, are descended the felahin of the present day. David's armies would be drawn from the Israelites, among whom were now reckoned the mixed multitude which went up from Egypt, and which was ennobled by taking part in the conquest of Canaan. In the army "the mighties" would hold the chief place; while the mercenaries, recruited from Ziklag and its neighbourhood, which continued to be David's private property (1 Samuel 27:6), would be most useful in the discharge of all kinds of administrative duty, and would also guard the king's person. In 2 Samuel 20:23 for Cherethi we find Cheri, which word also occurs in 2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:19. In the former passage the spelling is a mistake, the letter t having dropped out, and it is so regarded by the Jews, who read "Cherethi." The versions also translate there just as they do here, namely the Vulgate and LXX; "Cherethi and Pelethi;" and the Syriac by two nouns of somewhat similar sound to the Hebrew, and which signify "freemen and soldiers." In the latter place in Kings it is probable that some other tribe supplied the bodyguard in Queen Athaliah's time. David's sons were chief rulers; Hebrew and Revised Version, priests. Similarly, in 2 Kings 20:1-26, "Ira the Jairite was David's priest," Hebrew, cohen; and in 1 Kings 4:5, "Zabud was Solomon's priest." Gesenius and others suppose that they were domestic chaplains, not ministering according to the Levitical law, but invested with a sort of sacerdotal sacredness in honour of their birth. But if we look again at 1 Kings 4:5 we find "Zabud was priest, the king's friend;" and the latter words seem to be an explanation of the title cohen, added because the word in this sense was already becoming obsolete.

In 1 Chronicles 18:17 the language is completely changed, and we read, "and David's sons were chief at the king's hand." We may feel sure that the Chronicler knew what was the meaning of the phrase in the Books of Samuel, and that he was also aware that it had gone out of use, and therefore gave instead the right sense. Evidently the word cohen had at first a wider significance, and meant a "minister and confidant." He was the officer who stood next to his master, and knew his purpose and saw to its execution. And this was the meaning of the term when applied to the confidential minister of Jehovah, whose duty it was to execute his will according to the commands given in the Law; but when so used it gradually became too sacred for ordinary employment. Still, there is a divinity about a king, and so his confidants and the officers nearest to his person were still called cohens; and we find the phrase lingering on for another century and a half. For Jehu puts to death, not only Ahab's great men and kinsfolk, but also "his cohens," the men who had been his intimate friends (2 Kings 10:11).


2 Samuel 8:1-18

The historic mirror.

The narrative relates a succession of victories and conquests over the Philistines, the Moabites, the Zobahites, the Syrians, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and the Edomites; the placing of garrisons in Syria and Edom; the voluntary recognition of David's supremacy by the King of Hamath; the military, ecclesiastical, and civil appointments of the kingdom; the dedication of treasure won in conquest and diplomacy to the service of God; the maintenance of a righteous administration throughout Israel; and the safe keeping of David in all his undertakings. History is a record of human acts. Sacred history is a record of human acts in some special relation to the working out of the spiritual issues of the kingdom of God. In all history we see mirrored human thought and feeling. It gives us a glimpse of an invisible world of energy, that is ever seeking to find full expression for itself. In this portion of sacred history we see mirrored not only the strivings of the inner nature of men, but also outlines of truth pertaining to the invisible kingdom which is ever being extended over men. The early and lower developments in Davidic times indicate permanent truths for all Christian times.

I. THERE ARE GRADES OF SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The conquest of these alien peoples, the rough and thorough crippling of their powers (2 Samuel 8:2, 2 Samuel 8:4, 2 Samuel 8:8, 2 Samuel 8:14), and the distribution of office among competent men (2 Samuel 8:16-18), was a form of service far below, in the feelings involved, in the tone running through it, the other service rendered by David in the form of a holy, just life amidst his people, and a contribution by speech and song to the spiritual education of Israel. Yet this lower form of service was necessary, and had its proper place in the great scheme of government whereby God was preparing the world for the Prince of Peace. The actual state of mankind, and not some hypothetical state of perfection, conditioned the means by which gradually the final blessing should come. God is not responsible for the imperfect feelings with which David and others may have done certain work. He allows men in his service to apply themselves to the actual circumstances of their position according to the light they have, and then makes their general course of action subservient to the development of his own gracious purposes. The same is true now. In the Church there are higher and lower forms of service. In consequence of the imperfection of some of the workers and of their surroundings, the service draws out, not the highest feelings of which man is capable. There are rough men for rough work. Superior men may do such work, but they are not so much at ease in it as when engaged in purely spiritual efforts. It was more congenial to David to write psalms than to hough horses. The actual state of the world required both just then.

II. THE SUBJUGATION OF EXTERNAL EVILS SHOULD GO ALONG WITH INTERNAL RENOVATION. The first aim of David was, as we have seen, to restore unity, justice, peace, and religion to Israel. He worked on the central spring of national life. But the heathen and restless foes around were an incessant trouble as long as the political and military strength of Israel under the new regime were untested. Their subjugation was therefore the necessary complement of the internal consolidation. Taking the Davidic kingdom as representing in general features the kingdom of Christ, we see the same truth. Its settlement among men means internal change, reformation, and consolidation of all that is good; but it is bound, for its own peace and extension, to make war on all that is alien to the mind of Christ. Hence his Church is militant. He is our Captain. We are soldiers sworn to preserve our heritage and extend his domain by actual destruction of the forces of evil that lie around. The same applies to our own life viewed as a domain over which Christ rules. Internal harmony should be accompanied by an effort to overcome everything in our daily circumstances which, if not overcome, may mar our peace, and possibly gain an unhallowed influence over us.

III. THE DEDICATION OF MATERIAL WEALTH TO THE SERVICE OF GOD IS AN EVIDENCE OF GODLY WISDOM. The prohibition to apply the spoils of war to private uses (Joshua 6:19; cf. 1 Samuel 15:23) was a wholesome restraint on a low class of human feelings. There was a strong temptation for David to enrich himself by conquest, and, reasoning as an ordinary man, he could have made out a good case for himself. But he was a man of God; he saw things, as it were, with the eyes of God, and therefore, apart from specific injunction for each case, acted in harmony with the mind of God. It was godly wisdom thus to devote to the service of God what had been acquired by his own strong arm; for very great wealth brings very great spiritual dangers (Matthew 19:23, Matthew 19:24). The blessed temporal condition does not lie in abundance (Proverbs 30:8, Proverbs 30:9; Luke 41:15). The possession of great wealth, combined with slender gifts to the cause of Christ, reveals a lack of spiritual perception and of sympathy with the heart and purpose of Christ. The devotion of wealth to Christ is the safest investment, for it brings blessings on the donor and on others through all ages. The spiritual results of material wealth, well employed, are beyond calculation. It is said of the true King in Zion, "To him shall be given of the gold of Sheba" (Psa 62:1-12 :15). He also is "worthy to receive riches" (Revelation 5:12). There are thousands of ways in which wealth may now be dedicated to God. The earnest heart will find out the right channel for its devotion. The demand for sanctuaries, labourers, and the claims of Christ's poor, are ever before the rich (cf. Haggai 1:4-6; Matthew 9:36, Matthew 9:37; Romans 10:14,Romans 10:15; Matthew 25:35-40). In so far as Christians enter into the spirit of their Lord will they rejoice in consecrating wealth to him (2 Corinthians 8:9; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:13-15).

IV. THE BLESSING OF GOD IN OUR ENDEAVOURS IS THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF SUCCESS. It is said twice (2 Samuel 8:6, 2 Samuel 8:14) that God "preserved David whithersoever he went." It is obvious that these various enterprises were full of danger to a man like David—danger to his life, his spirituality of mind, his moral conduct, his political reputation. His natural qualities of courage, thoroughness, and his laudable ambition as a monarch, might urge him on to positions of extreme peril; and the incidents of warfare are proverbially prejudicial to piety. The secret of his success lay in his being kept of God. The servant of God, doing rough, dangerous work, not for self-aggrandizement, but for God and his people, is surrounded by an unseen shield which no dart can penetrate. Here we see a truth ever being realized in private and public life—a true man of God, a man of undivided heart, setting himself to necessary but undesirable work, pressing on every day amidst dangers to life and religion, keeping the one thought of pleasing God clear before him, and ever everywhere guarded by him whom he serves. Till our work is done no "arrow that flieth by day" can touch us. It is a fact which should be much insisted on, that God does preserve his saints (Psalms 37:23, Psalms 37:24, Psalms 37:28). No outward sign was visible, yet God was with David. The absence of visible signs with us is no evidence that God is not our Shield and Helper. The chief thing for us is to see that we are his, that we do his will and not our own, and that we have a holy method in our enterprises, be they strictly spiritual or related to ordinary affairs.

V. THE GLORY OF AN ACTIVE MAN LIES IN HIS BEING TRUE TO HIS CALLING. David was a king, bound by virtue of his position to rule in equity and righteousness. A greater distinction could not have been awarded to him in that office than that conveyed in the declaration that "he executed judgment and justice unto all his people" (2 Samuel 8:15). He was true to his vocation. No man can rise higher than that. The glory of a man does not lie in being or doing as others have been and done, for talents, opportunities, and occupations differ; but in performing the part to which Providence has called him thoroughly well. Every star is perfect in its own full lustre. Every man is noble when his whole nature is developed in harmony with the purpose of his Maker. "Well done, good and faithful servant," is said of the lowliest of Christ's servants who has been faithful in "a few things" (Matthew 25:22, Matthew 25:23). A monarch, a bishop, a pastor, a Sunday school teacher, a pious domestic servant, and a day labourer, may each be distinguished by faithfulness to the work in hand. True spiritual honour lies more in the spirit of loyalty to our divinely appointed calling than in the specific deeds transacted. Hence the moral prospects of all Christ's servants. It is extremely important to impress this on the young, and on those who are prone to be discouraged by reason of the lowliness of their position in society and in Christian endeavour.


1. The disorganization produced in the world by the action of sin renders it inevitable that much human suffering, much collision of man against man, be endured even in the historical processes of Providence, by which the blessings of redemption are finally brought into full operation. The woes of the Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2) and of others were humanly necessitated incidents in the ages, giving birth to the promised Christ; and much suffering will yet be endured ere the full triumph of good over evil is achieved (Romans 8:18-22).

2. The most certain of the promises of God should be embraced in full confidence, and yet the most strenuous exertion on our part to bring about their fulfilment is reasonable. David's kingdom had been assured (2 Samuel 7:27). But, nevertheless, he set garrisons in defence of his heritage, and took pains to organize his administration on a judicious basis (2 Samuel 8:16-18). Fatalism or presumption is irreligious as truly as is unbelief.

3. Resources obtained from men not religious may be used in the service of God (2 Samuel 8:9-11). The deference paid by Toi to David is similar to that paid by many men destitute of vital godliness to Christians, and their gifts, though not in the most enlightened spirit, may be employed for the holiest of purposes.

4. There is a prophetic truth in the turning of the golden shields and other instruments of the heathen into the peaceful uses of the sanctuary (2 Samuel 8:7, 2 Samuel 8:9, 2 Samuel 8:10). As a fact, the weapons and splendour of kings will some day be turned into uses subservient to the reign of Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 60:5-11).


2 Samuel 8:1-14

(1 Chronicles 18:1-13). (JERUSALEM.)

David's wars and victories. Summary

(1) The Philistines (2 Samuel 8:1).

(2) The Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2; Numbers 24:17).

(3) The Ammonites (2 Samuel 8:12; 2 Samuel 10:1-19.).

(4) The Syrians of Zobah, under Hadadezer 2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Samuel 10:15, 2 Samuel 10:16). The point here touched (2 Samuel 10:4) in the struggle appears to have been after the Ammonites had commenced hostilities, aided by Hadadezer,

(5) the Syrians of Beth-Rehob,

(6) the King of Maachah, and

(7) the men of Tob; and bad been defeated (in a first campaign) by Joab and Abishai at Medeba (2 Samuel 10:1-14). Hadadezer now recruited his forces in Mesopotamia, and made immense preparations; but he was defeated by David, who took the field in person (in a second campaign), at Helam; his general, Shobach, being slain (2 Samuel 10:15-19).

(8) The Syrians of Damascus (2 Samuel 10:5, 2 Samuel 10:6).

(9) Toi, King of Hamath (2 Samuel 10:9, 2 Samuel 10:10). "Thus the Aramean supremacy, which had in previous centuries become so formidable to the Hebrews, and even to the Ammonites, was now broken once more by the heroic arm of David" (Ewald).

(10) The Edomites, in league with

(11) the Amalekites (2 Samuel 10:12) and others, threatening to render previous victories fruitless, overcome (in a third campaign) by Abishai and by Joab (2Sa 10:13, 2 Samuel 10:14; 1 Chronicles 18:12; 1 Kings 11:15; Psalms 60:1-12; inscription). "David himself came at the close of the campaign to arrange the conquered territory" (Stanley).

(12) The siege of Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites, which still held out, by Joab (in a fourth campaign), while the king remained at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1); and its capture by David (2 Samuel 12:26-31; 1 Chronicles 20:1-3). These wars of Israel with surrounding nations were not ordinary wars (2 Samuel 2:24-29). They were a special embodiment of the great conflict which was ordained from the beginning (Genesis 3:15) and of which the sacred history is a record. They involved principles and issues of vast importance; and they must be considered in the light of the peculiar position of the people of Israel, the measure of Divine revelation vouchsafed to them, and the "ruling ideas in early ages," in order that they may be judged of correctly, and just inferences drawn from them in relation to the conduct of Christian nations. They were waged—

I. WITH POWERFUL ADVERSARIES. Numerous, varied, confederated, selfish, proud, and "delighting in war" (Psalms 68:30). The Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-15) first attacked Israel (as the Philistines and others had previously done), assisted by the Syrians, "for reward." "The first recorded example of mercenary warfare" (Kitto). They "succeeded in girdling the whole eastern frontier with steel." They were idolaters, fought against Jehovah, sought to exterminate his people, and Would have been satisfied with nothing short of their entire subjugation. Never had their peril been more imminent. It was such as is described by the psalmist—

"Why do the nations rage,
And the people imagine a vain thing?
Kings of the earth set themselves up,
And rulers take counsel together
Against Jehovah, and against his anointed:
Let us burst their bonds asunder,
And cast away their cords from us!"

(Psalms 2:1-9.)


1. The defence of person and property, and the preservation of the worship of Jehovah (2 Samuel 10:12). The right of self-defence is a law of nature, extending to the relations of states and kingdoms, as well as of individuals. Without its exercise the destruction of Israel by their fierce and powerful enemies could have been averted only by a continuous miracle.

2. The punishment of evil doers, and the execution of a Divine judgment upon the heathen and their gods. Of this David deemed himself an appointed agent, fulfilling a Divine commission, like that given to Saul concerning Amalek, and the command under which Joshua acted in the conquest of the land.

3. The attainment of the destination of the chosen people to rule over the nations according to former promises and predictions. "The chief aim of the writer is to show the growth of God's kingdom". Psalms 9:1-20.,' The righteous Judge of the heathen'—

"I will praise thee, O Jehovah, with my whole heart;
I will recount all thy wonderful works.
Arise, O Jehovah, let not mortal man he defiant;
Let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O Jehovah;
Let the heathen know that they are but mortal men!"

(Psalms 9:1, Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20.)

III. IN A DEVOUT SPIRIT. Faith in the immediate presence of God, reverence for his righteous laws, dependence upon his mighty arm, zeal for his universal honour; prayerfulness, confidence, thankfulness. "The whole nation was at once a nation of soldiers and a nation of priests. They were the soldiers of God, pledged to a crusade—a holy war; pledged to the extermination of all idolatry and all wickedness wherever existing" (Perowne, in Psalms 110:1-7.). Psalms 20:1-9; 'Going forth to battle'—

"Jehovah answer thee in the day of distress;
The Name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high.
We will shout for joy because of thy salvation,
And in the Name of our God will we raise our banners.
O Jehovah, save the king!
May he hear us in the day we call."

(Psalms 20:1, Psalms 20:5, Psalms 20:9.)

In a reverse, such as may have taken place just before the overthrow of the Edomites, they turned to God in supplication, and girded themselves afresh for the conflict. Psalms 60:1-12, 'Confidence in disaster'—"the most martial of all the Psalms"—partially repeated in Ps 108:7-14.

"O God, thou hast east us off, thou hast broken us;
Thou hast been angry, restore us again.
Thou hast given to them that fear thee a banner,
That they may muster (around it) from before the bow,
Who will conduct me into the fortified city?
Who will bring me into Edom?
Through God shall we do valiantly;
And he will tread down our adversaries."

(Psalms 60:1, Psalms 60:4, Psalms 60:9, Psalms 60:12.)

IV. WITH EXTRAORDINARY SUCCESS; in which the hand of God was manifested, especially in the preservation of David "whithersoever he went" (Psalms 108:6, 14), and was recognized in the dedication to Jehovah of the spoils of war (Psalms 108:7, Psalms 108:10-12) amidst general thanksgiving and praise. One victory rapidly succeeded another until the whole region from the Nile to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18) was subdued, peace was established, and Israel occupied a position of unrivalled power and glory. "David erected, on Joab's return (Psalms 108:13), a monument of thanksgiving for his victory; and we may imagine how brilliant was the triumphant procession in Jerusalem when we recollect the hundred war chariots with their horses which were spared when Hadarezer was conquered" (Ewald). Psalms 21:1-13; 'Returning in triumph'—

"O Jehovah, in thy strength shall the king be glad,
And in thy saving help how greatly shall he exult!
Be thou exalted, O Jehovah, in thy strength;
So will we celebrate with voice and harp thy might."

(Psalms 21:1, Psalms 21:13.)

V. NOT WITHOUT DEPLORABLE CONSEQUENCES. Even when waged on justifiable grounds and from religious motives, war is associated with manifold evils. It was not the loss of life that occurred, nor the cruel severities that were practised (Psalms 21:2; 2 Samuel 12:31), characteristic of the age, in the wars of David, which wrought the mischief, so much as the fierce passions, the pride, ambition, luxury, and vice they engendered, the heavy burdens they imposed, and the neglect of the humbler pursuits and more orderly virtues they involved. "The one blot upon the time is David's lust of war, bringing men like Joab to the front, and debasing David's own character If ever God wrote his verdict plainly upon ambition and aggressive war, he wrote it upon the wars of David. They brought the stain of two foul crimes on David himself; ruined his own domestic peace and happiness; ruined, by the possession of too-great power, the one of his sons who started so wisely and well; and ruined the kingdom, which broke asunder of its own weight". Yet these effects. have not always been considered in later times; while the record of his successes has sometimes been regarded as affording a sanction and an incentive to the martial spirit under different circumstances and a better dispensation. "It was among the Teutonic race that the Church first manifested warlike propensities. They were emphatically men of blood. The chief difficulty of the Church was to teach them to love peace. According to a well-known story, the Gothic bishop, Ulphilas, showed his special sense of the special weakness of his Teuton converts by refraining from translating the Books of Samuel and Kings into their language, as he did the rest of the Scripture. His reason, we are told, was that they contained 'the history of wars;' and the nation was already very fond of war, and needed the bit rather than the spur so far as fighting was concerned". Nevertheless, the wars and victories of David (allowed for "the hardness of men's hearts" until "the times of reformation")—

VI. FORESHADOWED NOBLER CONFLICTS AND TRIUMPHS by One greater than David—the Prince of Peace, and his faithful followers (1 Samuel 13:1-7; 1 Samuel 17:47); in which the elements of good that existed therein are retained and perfected, and those of evil set aside; "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but" spiritual (truth, righteousness, love) and "mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds" of error and unrighteousness (2 Corinthians 10:4; Luke 9:56; John 18:36); and the effects, enduring peace, security, and happiness Isaiah 9:5, Isaiah 9:6). "Since the time that Jesus Christ said, 'Put up thy sword into its scabbard,' Christians ought not to go to war, unless it be in that most honourable warfare with the vilest enemies of the Church—the inordinate love of money, anger, and ambition. These are our Philistines, these our Nebuchadnezzars, these our Moabites and Ammonites, with whom we ought never to make a truce; with these we must engage without intermission till, the enemy being utterly extirpated, peace may be firmly established. Unless we subdue such enemies as these, we can neither have peace with ourselves nor peace with any one else. This is the only war which tends to produce a real and lasting peace" (Erasmus).—D.

2 Samuel 8:11


Dedication of property to God.

According to the custom of the time, the most valuable of the spoils of war became the property of David; and these, along with the presents brought to him, he devoted to a sacred use—in preparation for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 18:8). The spirit which he displayed had been shown at the erection of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:29); and it was participated in by many (1 Chronicles 26:26-28; 1 Chronicles 29:5-9). Other instances occurred at a much earlier period (Genesis 14:1-30; Genesis 28:22). David's act was:

1. Unselfish. The evil of selfishness specially appears in undue attachment to earthly possessions; "which is idolatry," and "a root of all evil." It ofttimes increases with the increase of worldly good, "like the Indian fig tree connecting itself vitally at a hundred spots, with the soil over which it spreads." Hence the injunction, "If riches increase," etc … 62:10). A good man receives that he may give, and feels that "it is more lessed to give than to receive."

2. Grrateful. David recognized the hand of God in his victories; and herein testified his thankfulness to his Divine Helper and Benefactor. Wealth is his gift; so is the power to acquire it (Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18). But how often are its possessors forgetful of this, proud, and unthankful! "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee" (1 Chronicles 29:14).

3. Faithful. Earthly good is not an absolute gift, but a trust; it is put into our power only for a brief season; its possession involves the responsibility of its employment according to the will of the Owner; and its faithful use is conducive to the possession of "the true riches" (Luke 16:9-12). Whilst it should be altogether employed according to his will, a due proportion of it should be set apart as sacred to the claims of the needy, the support of Diane worship, and the spread of the gospel. It would appear that every Jewish family in ancient times devoted as much as a fourth part of its income to religious and charitable purposes. But inasmuch as no definite rule is now enjoined, every man must determine the proportion for himself by earnest thought and prayer, without reference to what others may do, and with a view to giving, not as little, but as much as possible. It has been stated that more wealth has been made in England during the last fifty years than during the preceding eighteen centuries. But notwithstanding numerous examples of noble beneficence, how small a part of it comparatively has been devoted to the highest ends (Deuteronomy 16:17; Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10; Luke 19:13; 1Co 4:2; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15.; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)!

4. Devotional. David's offering was religious; in it he offered himself to God; and sought to fulfil his purposes concerning the welfare of his people and the promotion of his honour and glory in the earth. This is the highest motive; and those who are actuated by it obtain an unspeakable blessing both here and hereafter (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 25:21).

"Largely thou givest, gracious Lord,
Largely thy gifts should be restored;
Freely thou givest, and thy word

Is, 'Freely give.'

He only, who forgets to hoard,

Has learnt to live."

2 Samuel 8:14

God's preserving care. "And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went" (2Sa 8:6; 1 Chronicles 18:6, 1 Chronicles 18:13). The providence, of God (his preservation, and government of all things), which embraces the creation in general (Psalms 36:6; Nehemiah 9:6) and man in particular (Psalms 8:4, Psalms 8:5; Luke 12:7), is exercised with special regard to the good of those that love him (Matthew 6:32; Matthew 10:29, Matthew 10:30). This is evident from his relation and love to them (Deuteronomy 32:9; Luke 12:32), the promises and declarations of his Word (Psalms 37:25; Psalms 121:8), and the facts of observation and experience (Genesis 45:5; Esther 6:1). The life of David is full of illustrations thereof (1 Samuel 19:10; 1 Samuel 23:28). "The Lord preserveth the faithful" (Psalms 31:23)—

I. IS LOYAL OBEDIENCE to his will, such as David exhibited.

"For he will give his angels charge over thee,
To keep thee in all thy ways."

(Psalms 91:11.)

i.e. the ways of duty; not of presumption, like those which the tempter (omitting these words in his quotation) sought to induce the Son of man to pursue (Matthew 4:6). "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely" (Proverbs 10:9), and "shall be saved; but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once" (Proverbs 28:18). We must keep the commandments of God if we would be "kept by the power of God." "Who is he that wilt harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" (1 Peter 3:13; 1 Peter 4:19).

II. AMIDST IMMINENT PERIL, arising from attacks of numerous foes; which must often be met in the path of duty, and cannot be avoided without sin (2 Samuel 4:9-11). "And, indeed, there is a great deal of reason why we should respect him that, with an untainted valour, has grown old in arms and hearing the drum heat. When every minute death seems to pass by and shun him, he is one that the supreme God cared for, and, by a particular guard, defended in the hail of death" (O. Felltham). There is a holy strife (Philippians 1:27; Jud Philippians 1:3; Ephesians 6:12), and in it We may sometimes be exposed to as great danger as David was (2 Samuel 21:16); but the eye of God sees it and his hand wards it off. "No weapon," etc. (Isaiah 54:17).

"O Jehovah Lord, thou Strength of my salvation,
Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle."

(Psalms 140:7.)

III. BY MANIFOLD MEANS. Not without prudence and effort on the part of men; not by direct, extraordinary and miraculous interposition; but by:

1. The salutary influence of a devout spirit on conditions favourable to safety.

2. Special impressions on the minds both of the good and of the bad, conducive to the preservation of the former.

3. A peculiar concurrence of circumstances having the same effect; and other ways, still more wonderful, and not less effectual (Proverbs 21:31). Nothing is more mysterious to our partial comprehension of them than the methods of providence by which God accomplishes his designs. "A mighty maze! but not without a plan."

IV. FOR BENEFICENT ENDS. Not only "the good of his chosen" (Psalms 106:5), whom he preserves; but also the good which they may effect on behalf of others, the manifestation of his great Name, the complete establishment of his kingdom. "We know that all things work together for good," etc. (Romans 8:28). "This is the sun in the heaven of all the promises."—D.

2 Samuel 8:15-18

(1 Chronicles 18:14-17). (JERUSALEM.)

David's administration.

From the wars and victories of David we turn to contemplate his administration of the internal affairs of the kingdom. By his skill and energy, united with the services of many eminent men, and aided by the favour of Heaven, he raised the nation, in an incredibly short period, to a position of extraordinary power and glory. "More than Charlemagne did for Europe, or Alfred for England, David accomplished for the tribes of Israel" (W.M. Taylor). What is here recorded (taken along with what is elsewhere stated) affords an illustration of—

I. A JUST REIGN. "And David executed judgment and justice unto all the people" (1 Samuel 7:15-17; 1 Samuel 10:24). It was as important a part of his office to judge them as to lead them forth to battle (2 Samuel 15:2-4); and, in its fulfilment, he acted:

1. According to the laws of Jehovah, the supreme King and Judge, whose servant he was.

2. With proper discernment, strict equity and impartiality, and great diligence.

3. So that, either by his own decisions or those of judges appointed and superintended by him, right was done to all his subjects, wrongs redressed, and wrong doers punished. He was a king who

"In the royal palace gave
Example to the meanest of the fear
Of God and all integrity of life
And manners; who, august yet lowly; who,
Severe yet gracious; in his very heart
Detesting all oppression, all intent
Of private aggrandizement; and, the first
In every public duty, held the scales
Of justice, and, as the law which reigned in him
Commanded, gave rewards; or with the edge
Vindictive smote now light, now heavily,
According to the stature of the crime."

(Pollok, 'The Course of Time.')

II. A SKILFUL ORGANIZATION, indicated by the mention of the chief officers of state, who formed the king's council and acted as his confidential advisers, along with his sons (2 Samuel 8:18), the prophets, and others (see for later enumeration, 2 Samuel 20:13-26; 1 Chronicles 27:32-34).

1. Military.

(1) The host (1 Chronicles 27:1-15), or national militia (under Joab), consisting of all the males capable of bearing arms, and arranged in twelve bodies of twenty-four thousand each, whose turn of service came every month.

(2) The bodyguard (under Benaiah), Krethi and Plethi (lictors and couriers; Cretans or Carians, and Philistines), "formed at Ziklag, and afterwards recruited from foreigners (2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:23), having their quarters in Jerusalem, not far from the royal castle" (Ewald).

(3) The heroes (Gibborim), mighty men or veterans (under Abishai); the old guard, who had gathered to David in his wanderings, constituting "the first standing army of which we have any special knowledge," the number six hundred being maintained, "divided into three large bands of two hundred each, and small bands of twenty each; the small bands commanded by thirty officers, one for each band, who together formed 'the thirty,' and the three large bands by three officers, who together formed 'the three'" (Stanley).

2. Civil; pertaining to the registering and publication of the royal edicts, the regulation of judicial, financial, and other matters, the management of the royal demesnes, etc. (1 Chronicles 27:25-31), from which the revenue was largely derived. "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). The supreme council of the nation continued to assemble on occasions of great national importance; and, though its influence could not have been so great as it was before the institution of royalty, it remained an integral part of the constitution. Without superseding the tribal governments, David greatly strengthened them by a systematic distribution through the country of a large number of Levites (six thousand) as officers and judges (1Ch 26:20 -33). It is extremely probable that this large and able body of Levites were not limited to strictly judicial duties, but that they performed important functions also in the education, the healing, and the general elevation of the people" (Blaikie).

3. Ecclesiastical; the Levites (1 Chronicles 23:1-32.); the priests, in twenty-four classes, and their attendants (1 Chronicles 24:1-31.); the choristers, in twenty-four courses (1 Chronicles 25:1-31.); the porters and officers (1 Chronicles 26:1-32.). "Order is Heaven's first law." It is an essential condition of peace, safety, and power. "The solemn transfer of the ark of the covenant, at which almost all the people were present, had made a deep impression on their minds, and had awakened them to a sincere adoration of Jehovah. These favourable dispositions David wished to strengthen by suitable regulations in the service of the priests and Levites, especially by the instructive and animating psalms, which were composed partly by himself, and partly by other poets and prophets. By such instructive means, David, without using any coercive measures, brought the whole nation to forget their idols, and to worship Jehovah alone" (Jahn, 'Heb. Com.').

III. AN ABLE EXECUTIVE. The best organization avails little unless there be men of ability to carry it into practical effect. David's reign was singularly rich in such men.

1. Warriors like Joab, Abishai, Benaiah, and other "heroes who had vied with him in valour and self-sacrifice for the community of Israel and the religion of Jehovah," and "whose names lived on, linked forever with his memory" (2 Samuel 23:8-39).

2. Ministers like Jehoshaphat, Sheva, Adoram, Ira the Jairite; counsellors like Ahithophel and Hushai.

3. Priests like Zadok and Abiathar; "masters of the song" like Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun; prophets like Nathan and Gad. "All is now in full movement and almost in its original life, while around the chief hero a crowd of other figures are woven into the mighty drama, and even these are illumined by the bright rays of his sun; nay, even what would be insignificant elsewhere acquires importance here from the conspicuous eminence of Israel's greatest king" (Ewald). A wise ruler discerns the ablest men, attaches them to him, and profits by their wisdom, appoints them to offices in which they can most effectually promote the common good, and upholds and encourages them in their faithful endeavours to that end. It has been said that "a ruler who appoints any man to an office when there is in his dominions another man better qualified for it, sins against God and against the state" (Koran).

IV. A MIGHTY NATION; united, prosperous, powerful, imbued with lofty principles and aims, "as an eagle muing her mighty youth and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam" (Milton). To this many influences contributed, one of which was a just, wise, and strong administration (Psalms 72:1-20.). "David's own moral exaltation, and still more the spirit of fearless justice in which he ruled, had its effect on the nation at large. The theocracy became real to them in a sense in which it had never been before. They saw that an organized system, which was based upon religion and built up of justice, was more truly the embodiment of the Divine government than the fitful inspiration of the judges. Thus they won the might that comes from right: they felt that a war in defence of this new organization was most truly a holy war, and that if David was at the head of it, he was not only the king but the high priest of the people. Animated by this feeling, they forgot all the old 'divisions and searchings of heart,' and flocked around the standard of their king in such numbers and with such a spirit that they crushed the greatest coalition that ever threatened to destroy their religion and their nation" ('The Psalms chronologically arranged'). "The enlargement of territory, the amplification of power and state, leads to a corresponding enlargement of ideas, of imagery, of sympathies; and thus (humanly speaking) the magnificent forebodings of a wider dispensation in the prophetic writings first became possible through the court and empire of David" (Stanley).—D.


2 Samuel 8:6

Divine preservation.

The Revised Version translates, "The Lord gave victory to David;" but in the margin, "saved David," which is equivalent to the translation in the Authorized Version, and is the more literal meaning of the original, from which there is no necessity to depart. In the Psalms, in which David praises God for his help against his enemies, he speaks as much of the protection he experienced as of the victories he won. His preservation in so many perils of war was worthy of special mention. The record is one that might be made in an account of the lives of most of us; in some respects, of all.


1. Physical. That of bodily life and health and of the senses. Protection in perils by land or water. Preservation from serious illnesses, or deliverance from them. The uniformity of good health and wholeness of limbs is a greater blessing than restoration from sickness or repair of fractures, although it does not usually excite so much notice or call forth so much gratitude.

2. Mental. That of the soundness of the mind, of perception, memory, reason. It might be salutary for each of us to pay one visit to a lunatic asylum. Such impressions of the value of our reason may be obtained there as can be obtained nowhere else.

3. Moral and spiritual. That of faith and a good conscience, of principles and habits of religion and virtue. Protection from specially powerful temptations which, yielded to, would have been our ruin.

4. Of reputation. From slander or misunderstanding. A good name is conducive, not only to our comfort, but to our success in life, and to our usefulness. To some, owing to peculiar circumstances, its continuance is marvellous.

5. Prolonged. In many cases for very many years, in which dangers numerous, various, repeated, and imminent, have been met with. The greater the perils and the longer the period, so much the more noteworthy the preservation.

II. TO WHOM IT IS TO BE ASCRIBED. "The Lord." David owed much to faithful friends and brave soldiers, who regarded his life as their special care, and defended it at the peril of their own (see 2 Samuel 21:15-17); but the historian ascribes all to God; and David, when he reviews his life, or any part of it, does the same. In like manner, as we look back, we may remember many who have in various ways ministered to our preservation, and towards whom we rightly cherish gratitude; but these, and all else that has contributed to our well being, we rightly ascribe to God.


1. Gratitude. Expressed in praise and renewed self-dedication.

My life, which thou hast made thy care,

Lord, I devote to thee."

Also in zealous endeavours to preserve others from evil, especially the young and inexperienced (see Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 117:1-2.)

2. Confidence and hope. As to future physical and mental preservation, so far as seems good to the infinite wisdom and goodness; but especially as to the moral and spiritual.

"We'll praise him for all that is past,
And trust him for all that's to come."


2 Samuel 8:11

Dedication of treasure to God.

The dedication in this instance doubtless consisted in placing the spoils of war and other valuables named in the sacred treasury, whether for present use, or, as is probable, with a view to their employment in the erection or services of the future temple. The king presents in this act of piety an example which all should follow.


1. Ourselves. We must begin with this. All true godliness does begin with the surrender of self, with all its powers of soul and body, to God, to be saved and sanctified by him, and devoted to his service. No other gift can be truly presented while this is withheld; none can be a substitute for it; none acceptable without it. True offerings to God are the offerings of his true servants.

2. Our material treasures. Gold and silver, houses and lands. All are to be dedicated to God. What we have inherited, what we have gained by industry and enterprise, and what may have been given to us, as the vessels of gold and silver and brass which the King of Hamath sent to David. But if we have gained aught by fraud, injustice or other iniquity, we may not present this to God, but return it to its rightful owners (see Luke 19:8).

3. Our mental gifts and acquisitions. Spoils won from the heathen, it may be, by victorious study. All our abilities and culture; all our knowledge.

4. Our spiritual acquirements. All we have of spiritual life and power; all the grace given to us. These are bestowed, not to be merely enjoyed, but used for God and the good of our brethren.

5. Our influence. Whether obtained through our abilities, or wealth, or station, or character, all is to be exercised for God. In a word, whatever we are, and whatever we have, are to be devoted to God. Nothing can be rightly withheld.


1. In our ordinary life. By employing our powers and possessions according to God's will, in uprightness and kindness. By enjoying God's gifts with thankfulness and temperance. By "setting the Lord always before us," and doing and enjoying all as his children and servants. Thus the whole of life becomes religion, and common actions are as acceptable to God as prayers. "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD" is written upon everything (see Zechariah 14:20, Zechariah 14:21). But no greater mistake can be made than to think that, in giving a portion of our substance and time to religion, we are set free to use the rest as we please.

2. By devoting a due portion of our powers and possessions to religious and charitable uses. First, to the support of the worship of God in the congregation to which we belong; then to the relief of the poor with whom we are personally acquainted, and the education of the young in our own locality; and then to such religious and charitable institutions as commend themselves to oar judgment, and appear to have a just claim upon our liberality. What proportion of our income should be given away must be left to each person's conscience as in the sight of God. Only we must let conscience decide, not mere inclination. Certainly we ought not to give what belongs to creditors, or the reasonable wants of our families. Our aim should be to ascertain the will of God; and this will vary according to the various circumstances of individuals, and of the same individual at different times. "As he may prosper" (1 Corinthians 16:2, Revised Version) is the general rule; and any special increase of prosperity (as with David at the time spoken of in the text) justly calls for special liberality. In general, our danger does not lie in the direction of excessive generosity. Few give away as much as they ought, on any just interpretation of our Lord's precepts. "The liberal," who "deviseth liberal things" (Isaiah 32:8), is an exceptional person, although there are, thank God, many such.


1. The claims of God. As our Proprietor and the Proprietor of all we possess; by right of creation and redemption. "Ye are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19). "All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee" (1 Chronicles 29:14). As our liberal Benefactor, who gave us his Son, and is ever bestowing good upon us (2 Corinthians 9:15). As our supreme Ruler, who by innumerable commandments enjoins upon us devotement to his service and kindness to our brethren, and to whom we must give account of our use of what he has entrusted to us. As our Father, who desires that we should resemble him, and thus at once prove our sonship and do honour to his Name (Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2).

2. The love of Jesus Christ to us, and the example he has given us. (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 8:9.)

3. Our professions of self-devotement.

4. The good of others.

5. Our own good.. A life of self-dedication is the true, the noblest, the happiest life. We grow in all that is good by the practice of good. Our being is enriched, our happiness increased. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). We have now the testimony of a good conscience, which is the witness of God's approval. We shall hereafter be acknowledged and rewarded by him. In devoting ourselves and our substance to him, we are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), which will reappear transfigured, for our everlasting enrichment. Good done to others as unto the Lord will be reckoned and rewarded as done to himself; good withheld from them, as withheld from him (Matthew 25:34-45). Faithful service now will issue in larger and higher service hereafter Luke 19:17, Luke 19:19). Those to whom we have ministered on earth will welcome us into heaven (Luke 16:9), and our eternal glory and joy will be increased by knowing how much we have contributed to theirs (1 Thessalonians 2:19).—G.W.

2 Samuel 8:13

Getting a name.

"David gat him a name," There appears to have been something special in the campaign against the Syrians (or rather Edomites, 1 Chronicles 18:12), and in David's part therein, which rendered his victory peculiarly signal and memorable. Hence he obtained an honourable "name;" his reputation and fame were greatly increased. A large proportion of the names that men have won have been gained in war. But others more honourable have been obtained by the arts and victories of peace. Most to be valued are those acquired by eminence in goodness and usefulness.


1. A good name—a reputation for what is good. Better than a merely great name. Some names, widely known and for centuries, are so much infamy. Better be totally unknown than have a name for ill doing. All may have some reputation, though in a small circle and for a brief period, for sincere piety and Christian excellence; for unselfishness, benevolence, activity in doing good, liberality, self-denial in helping others, meekness, humility, long suffering, patience, and the like. And such a name is more to be desired than riches (Proverbs 22:1), infinitely more than a great name which has been obtained by unscrupulous ambition.

2. A good name which arises from and represents reality. A mere name conferred through ignorance or flattery, or assumed and pushed into notice to gratify vanity or secure gain, is utterly worthless, and worse than worthless. So it is with a mere name for wisdom, or learning, or liberality (Isaiah 32:5), or public spirit, or philanthropy; worst of all the name which a hypocrite sometimes gets for sanctity. How withering the reproach addressed to the Church at Sardis, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Revelation 3:1)!


1. It is a just source of satisfaction to ourselves, when our own consciousness testifies to its substantial truth. The good opinion of others, especially of the good and discerning, is part of the reward of goodness. It is one of the ways by which God expresses his favourable judgment of us.

2. It sustains and stimulates in the course of conduct from which it has arisen. We are influenced by it to strive more and more to be worthy of it.

3. It is adapted to do good to others. It attracts attention to the excellence it designates, and may lead to imitation. It awakens confidence in those who have won it, which gives force to their instructions or admonitions, and it gives them in other ways greater influence for good. On all these accounts it is a heinous sin to injure or destroy another's deserved good name by slander.

III. HOW IT SHOULD BE SOUGHT. It should scarcely be sought at all. The way to obtain it is, not to seek it, but to practise the virtues from which it arises. To seek it is to set our hearts on the approval of men, which is perilous. Let us labour to be accepted of God, and he will take care of our reputation among men, so far as it is good for us and adapted to honour him and benefit our fellow men. "It is a very small thing to be judged of man's judgment He that judgeth us is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 4:4). At the same time, for the reasons given under division II; we should not needlessly defy or sacrifice the good opinion of others, though we should willingly do so when fidelity to truth and God requires the sacrifice.

In conclusion. The grandest instance of getting a name is that of our Lord and Saviour. By his self-humiliation and self-sacrifice, in love to us and obedience "unto death, even the death of the cross," he obtained "a Name which is above every name," as well in its significance as in its power with God and men (Philippians 2:5-11).—G.W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/2-samuel-8.html. 1897.
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