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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 23

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Oracle Divine saying; a prophecy. This introduction is modeled after the sayings of Balaam in Numbers 24:3-4; Numbers 24:15-16.

Son of Jesse “So he remained to the end; always with his family affections fresh and bright; his father and his early kinsmen never forgotten amidst his subsequent splendour.”

The man exalted on high “This feeling, too, never deserted him the sense of the marvellous change which had placed a shepherd-boy on the throne of a mighty empire.” Stanley. Jehovah’s own word by Nathan had deeply impressed it on his soul. Compare 2 Samuel 7:8.

Anointed of the God of Jacob He was first anointed by Samuel, (1 Samuel 16:13,) next by the tribe of Judah, (2 Samuel 2:4,) and afterwards by all the elders of Israel, (2 Samuel 5:3,) and in these acts he could not but recognise the hand of Jacob’s God. Compare Psalms 89:20.

Pleasant in the songs of Israel Not sweet psalmist, as the authorized version has it, for the word זמרות means songs, not singers. David was tenderly endeared to the people by his long association with their national songs of praise, for among all Hebrew poets his is the greatest name; and of the two words, David and Psalms, it may be said that the one always suggests the other.

Verses 1-7

LAST WORDS OF DAVID, 2 Samuel 23:1-7.

The royal hand that so long had swept the harp of Judah, and been the pride and pleasure of Israel, was becoming palsied with age. But like the dying Jacob when his end was approaching, his heart and memory cling to the words of promise that bespoke for him a glorious future, and, borne along by the Spirit, he looks down the distant years until his vision culminates in the Messianic reign. The prophecy of Nathan, “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee,” (2 Samuel 7:16,) had been for many years the basis of David’s holiest hopes and joys; and it was but natural that his last days and last words should be full of thought and song about that “everlasting covenant.” The gracious pledge that his throne should be established for ever now expands into a rapt vision of a righteous kingdom, whose glory and beneficence would be like the brilliant sunrise of the orient, and continue for ever the blessing and joy of the good and true, but the terror and destruction of the wicked and worthless. To this picture of the righteous ruler we may well point, and say, “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth.” Psalms 2:10.

Verse 2

2. His word is on my tongue He was conscious of divine inspiration.

Verse 3

3. Rock of Israel So called because he was their firm foundation, their sure protection and defence. See Deuteronomy 32:4.

He that ruleth The exact grammatical construction of the word thus translated ( מושׁל it is impossible to decide, for it seems to be left designedly uncertain. The psalmist, by a few master strokes, draws the picture of a righteous, God-fearing ruler, and the blessings of his reign, but he does not say that he himself was that ruler, nor does he say decidedly at all who he was, or when he should appear; but the reference in 2 Samuel 23:5 to the everlasting covenant which God had made with his house makes it very evident that his eye was upon that promised “Seed” of Nathan’s prophecy, of whom Jehovah said: “I will be his father and he shall be my son.” Chap. 2 Samuel 7:14.

Righteous An epithet describing the character and administration of him that ruleth. The inspired singer portrays that coming Ruler by the disconnected exclamatory utterances of an emotional style. The meaning is, however, clear. Under the righteous rule of the person here described, no worthy subject shall go unrewarded, no offender escape the strictest penalties of law. The prominent virtue of the model ruler and magistrate is righteousness.

Verse 4

4. As the light of morning That is, the righteous ruler, on whom the vision of the psalmist rests, commences his reign as grandly and auspiciously as breaks the light of an oriental morning. Travellers describe an eastern sunrise as exquisitely beautiful and grand. After a night of storm the atmosphere becomes transparent as crystal, and the cloudless sky is of a peculiarly deep dark blue, which one never sees in a land of clouds and haze. The twilight is very short, but before the sun becomes visible his beams shed a rich glow over the whole eastern sky, making it gleam like burnished gold. Suddenly he emerges from behind the horizon and all nature starts into life and action, and hills and valleys ring with joy. The sparkling rivulet, the forest glades, and the happy birds, the tender grass of the pastures and the frisking flocks and herds that follow the shepherd forth all seem to exult and sing for joy, and the very trees of the field “clap their hands.”

From clear shining The springing up of the tender grass is a result from the clear sunshine of such a morning. So the auspicious reign of “David’s greater Son” awakens new life in all the universe. And so, too, the clear, unsullied administration of every righteous ruler will be the source of innumerable blessings to his people and to the land he rules.

Verse 5

5. For is not my house so with God By taking this sentence, and also the one with which the verse concludes, interrogatively, we are relieved of the difficulties which have here puzzled interpreters. The meaning then becomes plain. David’s inspired vision of the righteous ruler is based upon the everlasting covenant which God had made with his house. To that covenant he here appeals as the ground of his hopes and oracles.

Arranged in all things Provided with every thing that will augment its glory, or help to establish it.

Guarded Secured against dangers and failure. Even though David’s sons commit iniquity, yet will not Jehovah’s covenant be unfulfilled. See 2 Samuel 7:15.

Will it not become mighty Will not this covenant grow stronger with the passing years, develope, and in the grace and providence of God at last be verified amidst incalculable power and glory? Such was David’s most ardent hope and trust, and well might he call it all his salvation and delight.

Verse 6

6. The worthless Literally, worthlessness, an elliptical expression for worthless or wicked men, depicting the godless as personified worthlessness. He doubtless had in mind the profane and godless enemies who had been to him, all through his own reign, a source of vexation and anxiety, including also such as Saul and his partisans, Shimei and his sympathizers, traitors among his own familiar friends, like Ahithophel, and even the sons of Zeruiah.

As thorns thrust aside As the prickly shrubs which are hated and destroyed by husbandmen; apt illustration of the wicked.

Not in the hand may they be taken As all who have tried it know. So, too, he who carelessly, or without properly guarding himself, meddles with the godless, must suffer injury. David found Joab as a prickly thorn when he injudiciously attempted to transfer his office to Amasa.

Filled with iron That is, defended with some sort of iron armour to protect his flesh against the thorns. The expression is elliptical, and comes from filling one’s hand with any thing; that is, taking in hand, or providing one’s self with, means of defence. So the righteous ruler must be armed with all needful authority and power to make himself a terror to evil doers, and show that he beareth not the sword in vain. See Romans 13:1-6.

Shaft of a spear The long wooden handle or staff by which the husbandman may lop the bush, and cut its roots without being hurt. Thorns thus cut were used for burning lime. Isaiah 33:12. Dr. Thomson saw people in the north of Palestine cutting up thorns with their mattocks and pruning hooks, and gathering them into bundles for the lime-kiln.

Burned in their place That is, the place where they grew. The same observant traveller just referred to says: “It is a curious fidelity to real life that, when the thorns are merely to be destroyed, they are never cut up, but set on fire where they grow.”

Verse 8

8. Tachmonite Better, son of the Hackmonite, as in Chronicles.

That sat in the seat ישׁב בשׁבת , Josheb-basshebeth. This is evidently a corruption of the name Jashobeam, which appears in Chronicles, some transcriber having, as Kennicott supposes, carelessly inserted בשׁבת from the preceding verse in the place of עם .

Captains The original word, שׁלשׁי or שׁלישׁים , shalishim, designates a superior order of soldiers who fought from chariots, (Exodus 14:7; Exodus 15:4,) and were also a part of the royal body-guard. 1 Kings 9:22; 2 Kings 10:25. In 2 Kings 7:2; 2 Kings 7:17; 2 Kings 7:19, it is translated lord. From 2 Samuel 23:18 it appears that Abishai was also a chief among this order of soldiers. Ewald thinks that David’s army had thirty officers of this kind, and hence the name shalishim, a thirty man, or one of thirty.

Adino the Eznite Most recent critics agree that these words are not to be taken as a proper name. Gesenius makes them mean, He brandished it, his spear, but his criticism is too arbitrary. Better is the supposition that it is a spurious reading for עורר את חניתו , lifted up his spear, which agrees with Chronicles.

Eight hundred Chronicles has three hundred. Which is the correct reading it is impossible to decide. The supposition of Kimchi that in one battle he killed eight hundred and in another three hundred is mere conjecture.

Verses 8-39

DAVID’S MIGHTY MEN, 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

This list and that of 1 Chronicles 11:10-47, are substantially the same. This assumes to give the names, and that the number, of David’s heroes; but a comparison of the two records shows numerous discrepancies in the names, and also in the orthography: Chronicles also adds sixteen names after the mention of Uriah the Hittite, with which this list ends. Undoubtedly there are corruptions in the text of both records; and it seems very clear that the writer of Chronicles had access to documents which the writer of Samuel never made use of. “As the names and deeds of Mohammed’s many companions were long held in very distinct remembrance, and special records were devoted to describing them, David’s heroes, too, who had vied with him in valour and self-sacrifice for the community of Israel and the religion of Jehovah, lived on, linked forever with his memory.” Ewald.

This list is divided into three classes: the first composed of three most distinguished heroes, (2 Samuel 23:8-12;) the second composed of two, (2 Samuel 23:18-23;) the third of thirty-two, (2 Samuel 23:24-39;) making thirty-seven in all.

Verse 9

9. Of the three mighty men Referring, doubtless, to the three of this first class, namely, Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah.

When they defied the Philistines According to Chronicles this encounter took place at Pas-dammim, doubtless the same as Ephes-dammim of 1 Samuel 17:1, but it was not the same battle as there described.

The men of Israel were gone away Retreated from him, so that he was left singlehanded before the enemy.

Verse 10

10. He arose Took a bold, defiant position; resolved to maintain his ground.

His hand clave unto the sword So long and so firmly had he grasped its hilt that his hand became benumbed and cramped, yet firmly fixed in its grasp. Some think his hand was stuck fast to his sword by the blood which was on it.

Returned after him only to spoil That is, after they had retreated from him, and he was left alone to fight with the foe, and they saw at a distance the mighty victory wrought through him, they returned again and followed after him, not now to help him, but only to gather up the spoil.

Verse 11

11. Into a troop That is, in a great crowd. Through the error of some copyist several lines are omitted in the parallel place in Chronicles, so that what is here ascribed to Shammah is there attributed to David and Eleazar.

Lentiles עדשׁים Chronicles has שׂעורים , barley. But the Hebrew words are so similar that one might easily have been mistaken for the other. Barley is probably the better reading, as it is more likely that the Philistines would attack and the Israelites defend a field of barley than a field of lentiles.

Verse 13

13. Three of the thirty chief That is, of the thirty whose names are given in 2 Samuel 23:24-39. Their names are not designated here, and this reference to them is too indefinite to be understood of the three just mentioned, namely, Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah.

Came to David Put themselves under his command when he was fleeing before Saul, and had taken refuge in the cave of Adullam. See 1 Samuel 22:1-2.

Pitched in… Rephaim This was in all probability the same battle as that described in 2 Samuel 5:17-21, and occurred after David had been anointed king over Israel, but before he had taken up his settled residence in Jerusalem. See notes at that place. It is not said that this exploit occurred at the time these heroes first joined David’s band of men, as some have assumed.

Verse 14

14. David… in a hold Rather, in the hold; that is, the cave of Adullam.

Verse 15

15. Which is by the gate Well known to David, who had spent all his boyhood near the place. Tradition has given the name of “David’s well” to a cistern a little northeast of Beth-lehem, and Ritter describes it as deep, and supplied with clear, cold water.

Verse 16

16. Poured it out unto the Lord As a drink offering.

Verse 17

17. Be it far from me The tender hearted chieftain felt that it would be like drinking the blood of his men. The event shows both the affection and devotion of David’s soldiers for their leader, and his tenderness towards them.

Verse 18

18. Chief among three Rather, a chief among the captains, as the same words are rendered in 2 Samuel 23:8. All the thirty-seven mentioned in this chapter were chiefs of distinguished rank.

Lifted up his spear against three hundred His great feat resembled that of Jashobeam, though it was not so celebrated.

Verse 20

20. Kabzeel In the south of Judah. Joshua 15:21.

Who had done The who refers to the valiant man of Kabzeel, Benaiah’s ancestor. The margin is more literal, great of acts.

Two lionlike men Fierce, bold, and terrible champions, whom few would dare molest.

In the midst of a pit in time of snow An unusually heavy fall of snow had probably driven the lion into the neighbourhood of human habitations, and it had taken refuge in a pit, or, rather, cistern.

Verse 21

21. A goodly man A man of commanding aspect. Chronicles says: “A man of great stature, five cubits high.”

Went down to him with a staff By the dexterous use of which he made the Egyptian’s sword of no avail to him. “I have seen,” says Clarke, “a parallel instance of a man with his staff being attacked by a soldier with his hanger; he soon beat the weapon out of the soldier’s hand, and could easily have slain him with his own sword.”

Verse 23

23. Set him over his guard Rather, appointed him to his privy council.

Such office David once held under Saul. See note on 1 Samuel 22:14.

Verse 27

27. Mebunnai Or, Sibbechai. Compare Chronicles and 2 Samuel 21:18.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-samuel-23.html. 1874-1909.
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