Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 12:31

He also brought out the people who were in it, and set them under saws, sharp iron instruments, and iron axes, and made them pass through the brickkiln. And thus he did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ammonites;   Ax;   Brick;   Brick-Kiln;   Captive;   David;   Harrow;   Iron;   Prisoners;   Rabbah;   Saw;   Thompson Chain Reference - Axes;   Cruelty;   David;   Horrors of War;   Kindness-Cruelty;   Saws;   War;   War-Peace;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Agriculture or Husbandry;   Ammonites, the;   Iron;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Bricks;   Captives;   Nathan;   Parable;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Ammon;   Rabbah;   Slave;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ammonite;   Bricks;   Captive;   Fire;   Harrow;   Iron;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ambassador;   Ammon;   Brick;   Hanun;   Harrow;   Iron (2);   Jehoahaz;   Moloch;   Punishments;   Zebulun;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ax, Ax Head;   Brick;   Brickkiln;   Harrow;   Minerals and Metals;   Samuel, Books of;   Tools;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ammon, Ammonites;   Brick;   Cruelty;   David;   Harrow;   Samuel, Books of;   War;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - House (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ammon, Ammonites, Children of Ammon;   Ax, Axe;   Brick-Kiln;   Punishment;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Nathan;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - David;   Handicraft;   Harrow;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Brick;   Da'vid;   Handicraft;   Ha'nun;   Harrow;   Punishments;   Rab'bah;   Saw,;   War;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Floor;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ammon;   Ax (Axe);   Brick-Kiln;   Cruel;   David;   Harrows;   Iron (1);   Molech;   Punishments;   Rabbah;   Samuel, Books of;   Tools;   War;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ammonites;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ammon, Ammonites;   Brick;   Cruelty;   David;   Fire;   Furnace;   Iron;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

He brought forth the people - And put them under saws. From this representation a great cry has been raised against "David's unparalleled, if not diabolic, cruelty." I believe this interpretation was chiefly taken from the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 20:3, where it is said, he cut them with saws, and with axes, etc. Instead of וישר vaiyasar, he sawed, we have here (in Samuel) וישם vaiyasem, he put them; and these two words differ from each other only in a part of a single letter, ר resh for ם mem . And it is worthy of remark, that instead of וישר vaiyasar, he sawed, in 1 Chronicles 20:3, six or seven MSS. collated by Dr. Kennicott have וישם vaiyasem, he put them; nor is there found any various reading in all the MSS. yet collated for the text in this chapter, that favors the common reading in Chronicles. The meaning therefore is, He made the people slaves, and employed them in sawing, making iron harrows, or mining, (for the word means both), and in hewing of wood, and making of brick. Sawing asunder, hacking, chopping, and hewing human beings, have no place in this text, no more than they had in David's conduct towards the Ammonites.

It is surprising, and a thing to be deplored, that in this and similar cases our translators had not been more careful to sift the sense of the original words by which they would have avoided a profusion of exceptionable meanings with which they have clothed many passages of the sacred writings. Though I believe our translation to be by far the best in any language, ancient or modern, yet I am satisfied it stands much in need of revision. Most of the advantages which our unbelievers have appeared to have over certain passages of Scripture, have arisen from an inaccurate or false translation of the terms in the original; and an appeal to this has generally silenced the gainsayers. But in the time in which our translation was made, Biblical criticism was in its infancy, if indeed it did exist; and we may rather wonder that we find things so well, than be surprised that they are no better.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For the saw as an implement of torture compare Hebrews 11:37.

Harrows of iron - Or rather thrashing-machines (Isaiah 28:27; Isaiah 41:15, etc.).

Axes - The word so rendered occurs only here and in 1 Chronicles 20:3. It evidently means some cutting instrument.

Made them pass through the brick-kiln - The phrase is that always used of the cruel process of making their children pass through the fire to Moloch, and it is likely that David punished this idolatrous practice by inflicting something similar upon the worshippers of Moloch. The cruelty of these executions belongs to the barbarous manners of the age, and was provoked by the conduct of the Ammonites 2 Samuel 10:1-4; 1 Samuel 11:1-2, but is utterly indefensible under the light of the Gospel. If Rabbah was taken before David‘s penitence, he may have been in an unusually harsh and severe frame of mind. The unpleasant recollection of Uriah‘s death would be likely to sour and irritate him to the utmost.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-12.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And he brought forth the people that were therein,.... Not all the inhabitants of the place, but the princes of the children of Ammon, the counsellors of Hattun, who advised him to use David's ambassadors in so shameful a manner, and others that expressed their pleasure and satisfaction in it:

and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron; whereby they were cut asunder, as some were by the Romans and othersF14Suetonius in Vita Caii, c. 27. Vid. Herodot. l. 2. c. 139. , or their flesh torn to pieces, and they put to extreme pain and agony, and so died most miserably; see 1 Chronicles 20:3,

and made them pass through the brickkiln; where they burnt their bricks, by which they were not only scorched and blistered, but burnt to death; so the word in the "Keri", or margin, signifies, which we follow; but in the text it is, they caused them to pass through Malcem, the same with Milcom or Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon, 1 Kings 11:5; unto which they made their children pass through the fire, and burnt them; and now in the same place they themselves are made to pass through, and be burnt, as a righteous punishment of them for their barbarous and wicked idolatry. The word used in the Greek version, according to SuidasF15In voce πλινθιον. , signifies an army, or a battalion of men drawn up in a quadrangular form, like a brick; and in the same sense JosephusF16Antiqu. l. 13. c. 4. sect. 4. uses it; hence a learned manF17Menochius de Repub. Heb. l. 8. c. 3. col 752. conjectures that David's army was drawn up in the like form, through which the Ammonites were obliged to pass, and as they passed were assailed with darts, and killed; a like punishment to which is what the Italians call "passing through the pikes":

and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon; to the inhabitants of them; that is, the chief, who bad expressed their joy at the ill usage of his ambassadors: this he did to strike terror into other nations, that they might fear to use his ambassadors in such like manner. This action of David's showing so much severity, is thought by most to be done when under the power of his lust with Bathsheba, in an hardened and impenitent state, when he had no sense of mercy himself, and so showed none; which is too injurious to his character; for this was a righteous retaliation of this cruel people, 1 Samuel 11:2. Which may be observed in other instances, Judges 8:6; but the charge of cruelty in David will be easily removed by following the translation of a learnedF18Danzii Commentat. de miligat. David in Ammon. crudel. Jenae 1710, apud Michael. in 1 Chron. xx. 3. Vid. Stockium, p. 392. man, and which I think the words will bear, "and he obliged the people that were in it to go out, and put them to the saw", to cut stones; "and to the iron mines", to dig there; "and to the axes of iron", to cut wood, with; "after he had made them to pass with their king" out of the city.

So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem; in triumph, and with great spoil.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And he brought forth the people that [were] therein, and put [them] under t saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

(t) Signifying that as they were malicious enemies of God, so he put them to cruel death.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-samuel-12.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

and put them under saws, etc. — This excessive severity and employment of tortures, which the Hebrews on no other occasion are recorded to have practiced, was an act of retributive justice on a people who were infamous for their cruelties (1 Samuel 11:2; Amos 1:13).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-samuel-12.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

He also had the inhabitants executed, and that with cruel tortures. “He sawed them in pieces with the saw and with iron harrows.” בּמּגרה ויּשׂם, “he put them into the saw,” does not give any appropriate sense; and there can be no doubt, that instead of וישׂם we should read ויּשׂר (from שׂוּר ): “he cut (sawed) them in pieces.” הבּרזל וּבמגזרות, “and with iron cutting tools.” The meaning of the ἁπ. λεγ. מגזרות cannot be more precisely determined. The current rendering, “axes or hatchets,” is simply founded upon the circumstance that גּזר, to cut, is applied in 2 Kings 6:4 to the felling of trees. The reading in the Chronicles, וּבמּגרות, is evidently a copyist's error, as we have already had בּמּגרה, “with the saw.” The meaning of the next clause is a disputed point, as the reading itself varies, and the Masoretes read בּמּלבּן instead of the Chethibh במלכן, “he made them go through brick-kilns,” i.e., burnt them in brick-kilns, as the lxx and Vulgate render it. On the other hand, Thenius takes the Chethibh under his protection, and adopts Kimchi's explanation: “he led them through Malchan, i.e., through the place where the Ammonites burned their children in honour of their idol.” Thenius would therefore alter בּמלכּם into בּמלכּם or בּמּלכּם : “he offered them as sacrifices in their image of Moloch. ” But this explanation cannot be even grammatically sustained, to say nothing of the arbitrary character of the alteration proposed; for the technical expression למּלך בּאשׁ חעביר, “to cause to go through the fire for Moloch” (Leviticus 18:21), is essentially different from בּמּלך חעביר, to cause to pass through Moloch, an expression that we never meet with. Moreover, it is impossible to see how burning the Ammonites in the image of Moloch could possibly be “an obvious mode of punishing idolatry,” since the idolatry itself consisted in the fact that the Ammonites burned their children to Moloch. So far as the circumstances themselves are concerned, the cruelties inflicted upon the prisoners are not to be softened down, as Daaz and others propose, by an arbitrary perversion of the words into a mere sentence to hard labour, such as sawing wood, burning bricks, etc. At the same time, the words of the text do not affirm that all the inhabitants of Rabbah were put to death in this cruel manner. בּהּ אשׁר העם (without כּל ) refers no doubt simply to the fighting men that were taken prisoners, or at the most to the male population of the acropolis of Rabbah, who probably consisted of fighting men only. In doing this, David merely retaliated upon the Ammonites the cruelties with which they had treated their foes; since according to Amos 1:13 they ripped up women who were with child, and according to 1 Samuel 11:2 their king Nahash would only make peace with the inhabitants of Jabesh upon the condition that the right eye of every one of them should be put out. It is sufficiently evident from this, that the Ammonites had aimed at the most shameful extermination of the Israelites. “Thus did he unto all the cities of the Ammonites,” i.e., to all the fortified cities that resisted the Israelites. After the close of this war, David returned to Jerusalem with all the men of war. The war with the Syrians and Ammonites, including as it did the Edomitish war as well, was the fiercest in which David was ever engaged, and was also the last great war of his life.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/2-samuel-12.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(31) And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

The harsh method David here adopted to the Ammonites, serves to confirm the observation made before. Spiritually considered, God's people should bring indeed the corruptions of their own desperately wicked hearts under saws of iron, and make them pass through the fires to consume them; for these are the Ammonites with which our souls are most severely exercised and assaulted. Toward these I would show no mercy.

REFLECTIONS

Lord! give me grace in the perusal of this chapter to gather all the precious instructions thine Holy Spirit mercifully intended, in the publishing such a record for thy church and people. Do thou, Holy Spirit, graciously accompany thy written word with the influences of thy divine power, that it may be profitable to my soul, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

And here, first, cause me to learn, from this view of thy servant David, what my nature is, even in its highest attainments. The best of men, if left to themselves, may fall into the worst of sins. So I behold it here, and let the view of it humble my soul to the dust before thee.

In the next place; Lord, teach me also, from what I here discover, that a child of God when fallen cannot arise of himself. The first advance towards a recovery must come from thee. The conviction of this most certain truth is enough to make a soul go humbly all his days.

And, blessed God, when thou hast wrought these truths in their own living characters in my heart, oh! lead us to see that from the nature of thy blessed covenant, in the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son, thou wilt not leave thy fallen children in their low state, but wilt recover them for thy name's sake, and for thy righteousness sake thou wilt heal them. Thou wilt send some Nathan, some heavenly messenger; nay, blessed Jesus, thou wilt come thyself, and by the sweet influences of thy Holy Spirit, in convincing of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, thou wilt heal their backslidings, and love them freely. And though by afflictions thou mayest bring them down, yet for thine own sake thou wilt not cast them off. Unworthy, Lord, as we are in ourselves, yet in Jesus thou beholdest us with complacency. Though thou visit our offences with a rod, and our iniquities with stripes, yet thy loving-kindness wilt thou not take from him, nor suffer thy faithfulness to fail.

Here then, Lord, let my soul rest. And when I have gathered all these sweet and precious instructions from the relation the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to give of David's fall and recovery, in the instances before me; when I have beheld everything connected with it in a way of improvement, as it refers to his case, and as it concerns my own; let the whole have this blessed effect on my poor, fallen, corrupt, and sinful nature; to endear yet more and more the Lord Jesus to my heart, and to form him there, the one only sure and certain hope of glory. Yes! thou dear Immanuel! thou art the Lord our righteousness! for other righteousness the whole race of fallen Adam can have none. In thee do I trust; on thee do I lean; to thee do I come, and with thee pray everlastingly to be found. Be thou made of God to me, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that (according as it is written) he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-12.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

The people — The words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people; but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors of that villainous action against David's ambassadors, and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which, they deserved severe punishments. Altho' indeed there seems to have been too much rigour used; especially, because these deaths were inflicted not only upon those counsellors, who were the only authors of that vile usage of the ambassadors; but upon some number of the people. And therefore it is probable, David exercised this cruelty whilst his heart was hardened, and impenitent; and when he was bereaved of that good spirit of God, which would have taught him more mercy.

Saws — He sawed them to death of which punishment, we have examples both in scripture, and in other authors.

Brick-kiln — Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen: that is, of Moloch; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they had inflicted upon their own children.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-12.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 12:31 And he brought forth the people that [were] therein, and put [them] under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

Ver. 31. And he brought forth the people that were therein.] The ring leaders especially, who had been chief in abusing David’s messengers. The Corinthians abused certain Roman ambassadors, and were therefore burnt to the ground by L. Mummius: (a) for irasci populo Romano nemo sapienter possit, saith Livy. No wise man will wrong the people of Rome: much less the people of God: and least of all the ambassadors of Christ. Hath any one ever waxed fierce against him and prospered? [Job 9:4] I think not.

And put them under saws, and under harrows of iron.] This was a kind of most terrible torture, [Amos 1:3 Hebrews 11:37] when

"Tribulaeque, trahaeque et iniquo pondere rastri," - Virg. Georg. i.

saws, harrows, axes were used in this sort, for punishment of offenders. Whether David did not herein overdo, the doctors are divided. Certain it is, that what miseries soever impenitent sinners suffer here, they are but a typical hell, a praeludium to the wrath to come, a beginning of sorrows, a foretaste of torments without end and past imagination.

And made them pass through the brickkiln.] Per fornacem Moleci, through Molech’s furnace; where they made their children to pass through the fire, as Junius judgeth.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-12.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 12:31. And he brought forth the people, &c.— This treatment of the Ammonites having shocked some unthinking readers, it will not be unseasonable to inform them, that the words will bear a milder interpretation. Literally, they may be rendered thus: And he brought forth the people, and placed them by, [ במגרה וישׂם vaiiusem bamgerah,] or, more nearly, put them to the saw, and to iron harrows, or mines, and to axes of iron, and made them pass by, or to, the brick-kilns; i.e. made them slaves, and put them to the most servile employments; sawing, harrowing, or making iron harrows, or mining, and hewing of wood, and making of bricks. That the prefix ב beth, signifies to, in numerous places, may be seen in Noldius; and it does so in construction with this very verb במגרה bamgerah, in the place before us; let not the king [ ישׂם iasem] put this thing [ בעבדוע beabdo] to his servant; 1 Samuel 22:15 and in several other instances which might be mentioned. It may also be observed, that the Syriac and Arabic versions give a more favourable interpretation of this passage, and render it, he brought them out, and threw them into chains, and iron shackles, and made them pass before him in a proper measure, or by proper companies at a time. The version of the LXX is not so clear. He put them in, or to, the saw, &c. and made them pass by the brick-kiln, which may well be interpreted of his putting them to these servile employments. The words הברזל בחרצי bacharitzei habbarzel, rendered harrows of iron, signify iron mines; which will determine the meaning in this more favourable sense. Thus חרוצ charutz, signifies gold, as being deeply dug out of the mines, from חרצ cheretz, to dig; Proverbs 3:14. But what shall we say to the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 20:3 which our version renders, he cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes? Why, first, the verb does not agree in sense with the several punishments mentioned; for if נשׂר nasar be the root of ושׂיר vaiiasar, as our version makes it to be, it properly signifies he cut with a saw; and therefore cannot be applied either to the ax, or harrow, or mine. But though this be the original sense of nasar, yet it is used in the Arabic in a more general sense, to signify, he dispersed, divided, separated, and the place may be rendered, he divided or separated them to the saw, harrows, or iron mines, and axes; i.e. to these servile employments, some to one, and some to another. It may be farther observed, that the root ישׂר iasar, may be שׂור sur; the meaning of which is, he ruled, or governed them, viz. by the saw, the harrows, or mines, and axes; made them slaves, and condemned them to these servile employments. The word is thus rendered by Schmidius, he ruled by the saw, &c. And this interpretation is far from forced, agreeable to the proper sense and construction of the words, and will vindicate David from any inhumanity which can be charged upon him in this instance. The Syriac version is, he bound them with iron chains, &c. and thus he bound them all: and the Arabic, he bound them all with chains, killing none of the Ammonites. This account may be farther confirmed by the next clause, thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon: for, had he destroyed all the inhabitants by these or any methods of severity, it would have been an almost total extirpation of them: and yet we read of them as united with the Moabites, and the inhabitants of Seir, and forming a very large army to invade the dominions of Jehoshaphat. It may be added, that if the punishments inflicted on this people were as severe as our version represents them, they were undoubtedly inflicted by way of reprisals. Nahash the father of Hanun, in the wantonness of cruelty, would admit the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead to surrender themselves to him, upon no other condition than their every one consenting to have their right eye thrust out, that he might lay it as a reproach upon all Israel. If these severities of David were now exercised by way of retaliation for former cruelties of this nature, it will greatly lessen the horror which may be conceived on account of them, and in some measure justify David's using them, considering more especially the dispensation of grace under which he lived: and as the sacred writers, who have transmitted this history to us, do not pass any censure on David as having exceeded the bounds of humanity in this punishment of the Ammonites, we may reasonably conclude, either that the punishment was not so severe as our version represents it; or, that there was some peculiar reason which demanded this exemplary vengeance, and which, if we were acquainted with it, would induce us to pass a more favourable judgment concerning it; or, that the law of nations then subsisting admitted such kind of executions upon very extraordinary provocations, though there are scarcely any which can justify them.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-12.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The people that were therein: the words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people; for it had been barbarous to use women and children thus; but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors or abettors of that villainous action against David’s ambassadors, (which was contrary to the law of nature, and of nations, and of all humanity,) and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which they might seem to deserve the severest punishments. Although indeed there seems to have been too much rigour used; especially, because these dreadful deaths were inflicted not only upon those great counsellors, who were the only authors of that vile usage of the ambassadors; but upon a great number of the people, who were innocent from that crime. And therefore it is probably conceived that David exercised this cruelty whilst his heart was hardened and impenitent, and when he was bereaved of that free and good Spirit of God which would have taught him more mercy and moderation.

Put them under saws: he sawed them to death; of which punishment we have examples, both in Scripture, Hebrews 11:37, and in other authors. Under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron; he caused them to be laid down upon the ground, and torn by sharp iron harrows drawn over them, and hewed in pieces by keen axes. Made them pass through the brick-kiln, i.e. to be burnt in brickkilns. Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen, i.e. of Moloch, called also Milchom, and here Malchen; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they inflicted upon their own children: see 2 Kings 16:3 23:10 Leviticus 18:21 20:2 Deuteronomy 18:10.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-12.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

31.Put them under saws — That is, as 1 Chronicles 20:3 explains it, cut them with saws. They were sawn asunder, as Isaiah is said to have been tortured. Hebrews 11:37. Shaw, in his Travels, describes a case of sawing asunder by placing the criminal between boards, and then beginning at the head. The above cut of ancient saws is from paintings found at Herculaneum.

Harrows of iron — Rather, as the cognate Hebrew word is rendered in Amos 1:3, Threshing instruments of iron. The victims were probably made to lie down on the ground, as were the Moabites when David measured them with a line, (2 Samuel 8:2,) and a heavy threshing instrument, with jagged iron rollers underneath, was drawn over them.

Axes of iron — For cut of ancient axes see on 1 Samuel 13:21. But it is not clear that the word מגזרות, which occurs here only, means axes. Keil renders it simply iron cutting tools, and we incline to believe with him that “the meaning cannot be more precisely determined.”

Made them pass through the brick-kiln — Burned to death vast numbers of them by forcing them into the fires of brick-kilns. By these various instruments and methods of torture did David execute the captive Ammonites, thus retaliating upon them cruelties equivalent to what they themselves were accustomed to impose upon their captives. Many have cried out against these terrible cruelties, and thought it impossible that David could have been barbarous enough to authorize them. Hence has arisen another interpretation, which makes the text mean that David enslaved the people, and set them at sawing and hewing wood, making or using iron instruments, and burning brick. But this interpretation accords not well with the words, has the text in Chronicles decidedly against it, and is also open to the objection that the Hebrew people had little or no need of these kinds of labour. Their houses were of stone, or else simply tents, their iron instruments were comparatively few, and they certainly made no such use of wood as required so many sawyers and hewers as all these cities of the Ammonites afforded. But if we consider the customs of that age, and the barbarous character of these Ammonites, we will see the ground and reason of David’s severity. They were wont to rip up women with child, (Amos 1:13;) they would not covenant with the men of Jabesh except that they might thrust out all their right eyes, (1 Samuel 11:2,) and they had provoked this war by their most shameful treatment of David’s friendly ambassadors. 2 Samuel 10:4. If, then, it was proper barbarously to mutilate Adoni-bezek because he had thus mutilated other kings, (Judges 1:6-7,) and to hew Agag in pieces because his sword had made women childless, (1 Samuel 15:33,) and utterly destroy the idolatrous nations of Canaan, (Deuteronomy 7:2; Joshua 6:21; Joshua 8:25-26; 1 Samuel 15:3,) it is surely a strange inconsistency to cry out against this retaliatory severity of David, as if it were unparalleled and diabolical. The measure was strictly in accordance with the military customs of the age.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-12.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Samuel 12:31. He brought forth the people — The words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people, but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors of that villanous action against David’s ambassadors, and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which they deserved severe punishments. Indeed, since David left Shobi in the government of Rabbah, (2 Samuel 17:27,) it must be presumed that he left some besides female subjects under his dominion; and it is most likely that the bulk of the people were received to mercy, and only the king, and the accomplices and instruments of his tyranny, suffered the chastisements due to their guilt. And put them under saws, &c. — The Hebrew, וישׂם במגרה, vajasem bammegeerah, &c., may be literally and properly rendered, and he put them to the saw, and to iron harrows, or mines, and to axes of iron, and made them pass by, or to, the brick-kilns; that is, he made them slaves, and put them to the most servile employments, namely, sawing, harrowing, or making iron harrows, or mining, hewing of wood, and making brick. The version of the Seventy, though not very clear, may be interpreted to the same purpose. The Syriac and Arabic versions render the passage, He brought them out, and threw them into chains, and iron shackles, and made them pass before him in a proper measure, or by companies at a time. If the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 20:3, which our version renders, He cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes, be objected, it must be observed, the Hebrew, וישׂר, vajasser, may be rendered, He separated to the saw, &c.; or, He ruled or governed by the saw, harrows, mines, and axes; made them slaves, and condemned them to these servile employments. Thus the words are rendered by Schmidius. And “this interpretation,” says Dr. Dodd, “is far from being forced, is agreeable to the proper sense and construction of the words, and will vindicate David from any inhumanity that can be charged upon the man after God’s own heart. The Syriac version is, He bound them with iron chains, &c.; and thus he bound them all. And the Arabic, He bound them all with chains, killing none of the Ammonites, This interpretation may be further confirmed by the next clause: Thus did he unto all the children of Ammon — For had he destroyed all the inhabitants by these, or any methods of severity, it would have been an almost total extirpation of them; and yet we read of them as united with the Moabites, and the inhabitants of Seir, and forming a very large army to invade the dominions of Jehoshaphat. It may be added, that if the punishments inflicted on this people were as severe as our version represents them, they were undoubtedly inflicted by way of reprisals. Nahash, the father of Hanun, in the wantonness of cruelty, would admit the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead to surrender themselves to him upon no other condition than their every one consenting to have their right eye thrust out, that he might lay it as a reproach upon all Israel. If these severities of David were now exercised by way of retaliation for former cruelties of this nature, it will greatly lessen the horror that may be conceived upon account of them, and, in some measure, justify David’s using them; and as the sacred writers, who have transmitted this history to us, do not pass any censure on David for having exceeded the bounds of humanity in this punishment of the Ammonites, we may reasonably conclude, either that the punishment was not so severe as our version represents it, or that there was some peculiar reason that demanded this exemplary vengeance, and which, if we were acquainted with it, would induce us to pass a more favourable judgment concerning it; or that the law of nations, then subsisting, admitted such kind of executions upon very extraordinary provocations, though there are scarce any that can justify them.” See Delaney and Chandler, p. 178. But in whatever light we view these severities exercised upon the Ammonites, they ought, in no manner, to be proposed as an example to Christians, nor be pleaded as a precedent for any people to do the like. For the divine laws are the rules of our conduct, and not the actions of any men whomsoever.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-12.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Sawed. Hebrew, "he put them under saws, and under rollers of iron, and under knives," &c. (Haydock) --- The Jews say that Isaias was killed by being sawed asunder; to which punishment St. Paul alludes, Hebrews xi. 37. (Menochius) --- Brick-kilns, or furnaces, Psalm xx. 10. (Muis) --- David and his companions were thrown into the fiery furnace, Daniel iii. 6, 11., and Esther xiii. 7. (Calmet) --- Some condemn David of excessive cruelty on this occasion. (Tirinus; Sanctius) --- But the Scripture represents his conduct as irreproachable, except in the affair of Urias; (3 Kings xv. 5,) and at this distance of time, we know not the motives which might have actuated him to treat his enemy with such severity. The Ammonites had probably exercised similar cruelties on his subjects. See 1 Kings xi. 2., and Amos i. 13. (Calmet) --- They had shamefully violated the law of nations, and had stirred up various kings against David. (Menochius) --- Salien blames Joab for what may seem too cruel. But, though he was barbarous and vindictive, we need not condemn him on this occasion, no more than his master; as we are not to judge of former times by our own manners. (Haydock) --- War was then carried on with great cruelty. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

put = appointed, appointed over, set, &c. Hebrew. sum (Genesis 2:8; Genesis 45:8, Genesis 45:9; Genesis 47:6. Exodus 2:14; Exodus 5:14. 1 Samuel 8:11; 1 Samuel 7:10. 2 Kings 10:24. Psalms 78:5; Psalms 81:5. Hosea 1:11, &c.)

under = with, especially to work with. Hebrew letter (Beth), prefixed as preposition = in, within, with. When the preposition "under " = beneath, then it is either part of a verb or one of four distinct words: "el (2 Samaritan Pentateuch 2 Samuel 2:23); mattah (1 Chronicles 27:23); tehoth" (Jer. 2 Samuel 10:11. Daniel 4:12, Daniel 4:21; Daniel 7:27, "under the heavens "); tahath (Daniel 4:14, "under a tree "). Beth, when translated "under", is only in the sense of within (as "under (or within the shelter of) the wing", or "under (or within) the earth "). Otherwise, used with a tool or weapon or instrument, it always means "with". See "with an axe "(Deuteronomy 19:5. Jeremiah 10:3); "with axes" (Jeremiah 46:22. Ezekiel 26:9. Psalms 74:6); "with nails and with hammers" (Jeremiah 10:4); "with an ox-goad "(Judges 3:31); "with mattock "(Isaiah 7:25; "with sword and with bow "(Genesis 48:22. Joshua 24:12. 2 Kings 6:22); "with a graving tool "(Exodus 32:4), &c.

pass through = pass by or before. Hebrew. "abar, as in Ezekiel 37:2; Ezekiel 46:21. Deuteronomy 2:30. Exodus 33:19. 1 Samuel 16:8, 1 Samuel 16:9, 1 Samuel 16:10, &c.

brickkiln = brick-work; hence, brick pavement or paved area (Revised Version margin) Not brickkiln; no brickkilns in Palestine. All bricks there are sun-dried. Only once spoken of as burnt--as being a strange thing (Genesis 11:3, and margin) Hebrew. malben, occurs only here, Jeremiah 43:9, and Nahum 3:14, the former at "entry" of royal palace, the latter said to be "fortified". Both out of the question, and quite incongruous for a brickkiln. The very paved area of Jeremiah 43:9 was discovered at Tahpanhes by Flinders Petrie in 1886, where. Nebuchadnezzar did exactly what David did here and in Ch. 2 Samuel 8:2 and 1 Chronicles 20:3.

thus did he: i.e. as in 2 Samuel 8:2, with Moab, s(here; he caused the captives to pass by before him, he seated on a pavement of brick-work, or paved area where he appointed them to the various departments of labour for which they were suited. Compare Jeremiah 43:9-11 These were the "strangers" (i.e. foreigners) and the "abundance of" workmen" referred to in 1 Chronicles 22:2, 1 Chronicles 22:15. Compare Deuteronomy 29:11. Joshua 9:27. See notes on 1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 9:15, 1 Kings 9:21, 1 Kings 9:22.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-samuel-12.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

He brought forth the people ... and put them under saws ... This excessive severity and employment of tortures which the Hebrews on no other occasion are recorded to have practiced, must have been resorted to as an act of retributive justice on a people who were infamous for their cruelties (1 Samuel 11:2; Amos 1:13). Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 7:, sec. 5), who gives the same account as in our version, speaks of the conqueror torturing the Ammonites before putting them to death. But for the sake of humanity, and the honour of David's name, there is reason to believe that no such barbarities were inflicted, and that the language of the sacred historian is susceptible of a meaning consistent with the infliction of much milder punishment. He put them (to labour) in saws, iron mines, and brick-kilns. In other words, he reduced the captive Ammonites to the condition of slaves, employing them in such manual services, as sawyers, miners, hewers of wood, and similar exhausting occupations, as were suited only to the most humble and menial condition (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 20:3).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-12.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(31) Put them under saws.—The literal translation of the Hebrew (put them with, or into, the saw) does not give any good sense, and no doubt a single letter of the text should be changed, bringing it into agreement with 1 Chronicles 20:3, “cut them with saws.” (Comp. Hebrews 11:37.)

Harrows of iron.—These are the heavy iron tools, often armed with sharp points on the lower side, which were used for the purposes of threshing the grain and breaking up the straw.

The brick-kiln.—This is the reading of the Hebrew text, and there is no sufficient reason to call it in question. The Hebrew margin, however, has “through Malchan; “and hence some have supposed that David made the Ammonites pass through the same fire by which they were accustomed to consecrate their children to Molech.

In the infliction of these cruelties on his enemies David acted in accordance with the customs and the knowledge of his time. Abhorrent as they may be to the spirit of Christianity, David and his contemporaries took them as matters of course, without a suspicion that they were not in accordance with God’s will.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.
and put them
Rather, as the particle [b] frequently signifies, "And he put them to saws, and to harrows, and to axes," etc., as we say, to put a person to the plough, to the anvil, to the last, etc.
1 Chronicles 20:3
Also
8:2; Psalms 21:8,9; Amos 1:3 Reciprocal: Genesis 11:3 - brick;  Deuteronomy 23:6 - Thou shalt;  1 Samuel 14:44 - thou shalt;  2 Chronicles 16:10 - the same time;  2 Chronicles 25:12 - cast them;  Proverbs 20:26 - bringeth;  Jeremiah 43:9 - in the brickkiln

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:31". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-12.html.