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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 8

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-14


We are not to suppose that these victories all occurred after the events recorded in the last chapter, nor that they are here recorded in exact chronological order. No such rigid method of writing history was known when these books of Samuel were compiled. Some of these wars occurred before and some after David purposed to build the temple. This list is a convenient summary, and stands as a monument to David’s military ability.

Verse 2

2. Smote Moab The occasion and details of this war are unknown, though some Jewish writers have conjectured that it was undertaken to retaliate the death or ill-usage of David’s parents. See note on 1 Samuel 22:4. The fearful slaughter to which David put the Moabites shows that they had wantonly provoked his wrath, and that of Israel. The incident related of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20, and 1 Chronicles 11:22, probably occurred at this time.

Measured them with a line A barbarous but convenient method of numbering the captives, and in accordance with the customs and spirit of that age.

Casting them down to the ground Rather, causing them to lie down. They were made to lie down in a row so as to be more conveniently measured with the line.

Two lines… to put to death… one full line to keep alive That is, two thirds were marked off for death, and one full third to be kept alive. “That they might not suffer by the roughness of this mode of marking them out, the line was so drawn as palpably to make the proportion marked off to be spared much the largest of the three thirds, which is doubtless the meaning of the full line to keep alive.” Kitto.

Brought gifts Paid tribute.

Verse 3

3. Smote also Hadadezer In 2 Samuel 10:16; 2 Samuel 10:19 and 1 Chronicles 18:3 called Hadarezer. Owing to the fragmentary character of the accounts, and it being no design, of the writer in either place to give all the details of these Aramean wars, the relation of this defeat of Hadadezer to that recorded in chap. x cannot be positively decided. The mere fact that the account of chap. x stands after this decides nothing in the case. Probably the Syrians’ interference in the Ammonitish war, as recorded in chap. x, was the occasion of David’s first battle with them, and the account of this chapter is a condensed statement of the results of that same war. By calling out his forces from beyond the Euphrates, (2 Samuel 10:16,) Hadadezer seems to have lost his dominion in that quarter. But after his defeat by the Israelites, as soon as he could gather up his scattered army he went to recover that border, ( ידו of this verse,) and then David straightway pursued and gained the victories here recorded. So the order of these Syrian wars we take to be the following. The Syrians, hired by Hanun, come and fight with Joab before Medeba. 2 Samuel 10:8, see note. Being defeated they gather up again, and, being reinforced by fresh troops from beyond the Euphrates, they suffer a second defeat at Helam. 2 Samuel 10:15-19. The officers of the army, including several petty kings of Syria, make peace with David, but as soon as Hadarezer can recruit a new army he goes to recover his border beyond the river, when David pursues and defeats him a third time, and also the Syrians of Damascus, who interfere to help the king of Zobah. On Zobah see note on 1 Samuel 14:47. It was a great and powerful province of ancient Syria, and its kings were bitter foes of the Israelitish monarchy. It was rich in brass and gold, and seems to have extended over the vast plains that stretch off northeast of Damascus towards the Euphrates.

His border Hadadezer’s border the outskirts of his kingdom on the east. This he seems to have lost by going to assist the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 10:16.

Verse 4

4. Houghed all the chariot horses Cut the tendons of the ham, or the sinews of the hinder hoofs a practice of ancient warfare. See Joshua 11:6; Joshua 11:9. But the word horses is not in the Hebrew, and עקר , to root up, may also mean to destroy. Hence Clarke, Parkhurst, and Furst render:

David destroyed (or disjointed) all the chariots. Josephus also says: “He took a thousand of his chariots and destroyed the greater part of them, and ordered that no more than one hundred should be kept.” He would not have Israel trust in chariots. Compare Psalms 20:7; Isaiah 30:1. Keil translates and explains as follows: “David lamed all the cavalry; that is, he made the war chariots and cavalry perfectly useless by laming the horses.”

Verse 5

5. Syrians of Damascus Damascus was the metropolis of the Syrian empire, (see note on Genesis 15:2,) and confederate with Zobah. According to Josephus, the king of Syria who reigned at this time at Damascus was called Hadad.

Verse 6

6. Garrisons Large military forces. David wisely took measures to preserve order and maintain his authority over the subjugated provinces.

Verse 7

7. Shields of gold Golden plated shields; an evidence of the wealth of the kingdom of Zobah.

Verse 8

8. Betah and Berothai Places now unknown. The name Berothai seems naturally to point to the ancient Berytus, the modern Beyroot, on the seacoast of northern Phenicia, but this was far away from the line of David’s conquests. Instead of these names we have in Chronicles Tibhath and Chun.

Much brass “Wherewith Solomon made the brazen sea, and the pillars, and the vessels of brass.” 1 Chronicles 18:8.

Verse 9

9. Hamath A very ancient city of Syria situated on the Orontes river, about sixty miles southeast of Antioch. See on Numbers 13:21, and Joshua 13:5. Its king was glad to have David for an ally.

Verse 11

Metheg-ammah Margin, the bridle of Ammah; literally, the bridle of the mother. It is not a proper name, but a figurative expression for the capital city of a province the government of the mother city. So Gesenius and Furst. There is an Arabic proverb: “I give thee not my bridle,” that is, I do not yield the control of myself to thee. Instead of this expression we have in 1 Chronicles 18:1: Gath and her towns; Hebrew, Gath and her daughters. On this capital city of the Philistines see on Joshua 11:22. Ewald explains it as the bridle of the arm; that is, David tore from the Philistines the power by which they curbed Israel, as a rider curbs his horse by the bridle which his arm controls.

Verse 13

13. Gat him a name Or, made him a monument, for שׁם , name, is sometimes used in this sense. On his return he erected a memorial of his triumphs, and probably also celebrated them with a grand triumphal procession and a splendid exhibition of his spoils.

From smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt But the Syrians were not smitten in the valley of salt, for this valley is undoubtedly the great plain to the south of the Dead Sea, which abounds in rock salt and brackish springs and streams. Here, at a later day, Amaziah slew ten thousand Edomites. 2 Kings 14:7. The text of this verse is therefore faulty, and to be corrected from the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 18:12, which says that Abishai, the brother of Joab and a distinguished warrior of David’s army, “slew of the Edomites in the valley of salt eighteen thousand men.” The difference between את אדם , the Edomites, and את ארם , the Syrians, is so slight that a copyist might easily mistake one for the other. Read therefore: From smiting the Edomites in the valley of salt. 1 Kings 11:15-16, affords a few more items of this Edomite war. Joab remained there with the host of Israel for six months, until he had smitten every male. So David, Joab, and Abishai are all spoken of as engaged in the conquest of Edom: David, as the royal head of the army and the nation; Joab, as captain or chief general; and Abishai, as having in this war signalized his valour by daring exploits, and leading his division of men into positions which met the chief brunt of the battle. To celebrate these victories David composed Psalms 60:0.

Verse 16

DAVID’S OFFICIALS, 2 Samuel 8:15-18.

16. Joab See notes on 2 Samuel 2:13; 2 Samuel 2:18.

Jehoshaphat… recorder This was an officer of high rank in the ancient Eastern courts, whose especial duty was to preserve such records as are referred to in Ezra 6:1; Esther 6:1. He kept an accurate record of all the items of importance that occurred in the kingdom.

Verse 17

17. Zadok… and Ahimelech… priests The one officiating at Gibeon, the other at the new tabernacle in Jerusalem. See on 2 Samuel 6:17.

Son of Abiathar But in 1 Samuel 22:20, Abiathar is called the son of Ahimelech; who, then, is this Ahimelech the son of Abiathar? Some have supposed that the names in the text have been transposed by the mistake of some copyist. Others, that Abiathar, son of the slain Ahimelech, had also a son named Ahimelech who performed the duties of high priest in connexion with his father. This latter supposition is strengthened by the fact that the associate priest of Zadok is called Ahimelech in 1 Chronicles 24:3; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 24:31, but the former supposition seems to us more plausible.

The scribe Persons of this order were, before the Babylonish exile, private secretaries of the king. Their work was distinct from that of the recorder in this, that the scribe first provided the materials which the recorder afterwards transcribed and preserved among the archives. Heeren, in his “Historical Researches,” thus speaks of the secretaries of the ancient Persian kings: “Whatever the monarch said or did was, of course, worthy of being recorded; and to this intent his person was usually surrounded by scribes or secretaries, whose office it was to register his words and actions. They were in almost constant attendance upon the sovereign, and especially when he appeared in public, on occasion of festivals, of public reviews, and even in the midst of the tumult of battle, and noted down the words which fell from him on such occasions. This institution was not peculiar to the Persians, but prevailed among all the principal nations of Asia. The king’s scribes are mentioned in the earliest records of the Mongol conquerors; and it is well known that Hyder Ali usually appeared in public surrounded by forty such secretaries.” At a later period the work of the scribes among the Jews was to write copies of the Scriptures and interpret the same.

Verse 18

18. The Cherethites and the Pelethites The Syriac and Arabic versions render these words, nobles and soldiers; the Targum of Jonathan, archers and slingers. Josephus simply says: “He committed the command over his body guards to Benaiah,” and this agrees with chap. xxiii, 23, where it is said that Benaiah was set over the guard, or privy council, of the king. The Hebrew words are in the form of adjectives, and may be translated by executioners and runners, and such offices they probably served in David’s army. But the words seem to refer most naturally to the nationality of the men, and to indicate that they were composed principally, if not altogether, of foreigners Cretans and Philistines. A common and prevailing opinion is, that the Philistines were originally colonists from Crete, and perhaps numerous immigrants from that earlier home of the race were continually coming into Philistia during David’s residence at Ziklag. These later immigrants may have been called Cherethites in distinction from the older Philistine settlers. See note on 1 Samuel 30:14. The fact that David had a considerable body of Gittites in his army (2 Samuel 15:18) forbids our assuming that he would never have composed his body-guard of foreigners, He may have had peculiar reasons for so doing of which we are now ignorant. And, as Ewald well says, “This small body could at no time become a source of danger to the State. Far more was to be apprehended from the Gibborim, (mighty men,) who obviously formed the commencement of a sort of milites praetoriani, or janissaries, and were already of sufficient importance to play a part at Solomon’s accession. 1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 1:10. To this must be added that they might also be chosen from foreigners as soon as they conformed to the religion of the country. Uriah was a Hittite, but, as far as religion went, a good Israelite; Zelek was an Ammonite, (2 Samuel 23:37,) and Ithmah a Moabite, (1 Chronicles 11:46;) and Ittai of Gath, who was appointed commander of one of the three divisions of the army in the battle against Absalom, is expressly designated as a foreigner by David. 2 Samuel 15:19.”

David’s sons were chief rulers Literally, priests; margin, princes. The word has been explained as domestic priests, court chaplains, or spiritual advisers. The parallel passage in Chronicles seems to give the true sense, chief at the hand of the king; that is, his most intimate counsellors and confidants. See note on 1Ki 4:2 ; 1 Kings 4:5.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-samuel-8.html. 1874-1909.
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