II Samuel 5

 

(vs. 1-10)  The facts are:

 

1. The tribes of Israel come to Hebron to formally acknowledge David as

rightful king.

2. They assign three reasons for their united action.

  1. That David was of their kindred.
  2. That he had rendered valuable services in times of need.
  3. That God had expressed His will.

3. A solemn league being made between David and the tribes, they anoint

him king over Israel.

4. The question of the crown being settled, David applies himself to the

acquisition of Jerusalem as the seat of government.

5. Being proudly defied by the Jebusites, on account of the strength of their

position, he challenges his officers to take the lead in the subjugation of the

fortress.

6. Acquiring possession, he calls the place after his name, and extends the

fortifications.

7. The continued favor of God ensures to him great prosperity.

 

1 “Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying,

Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.”  Then came all the tribes of Israel.

As Ishbosheth reigned only two years, and David’s reign at Hebron lasted for

seven years and a half, there is an interval of more than five years to be accounted

for; and we have given reason for believing (see note on ch.  2:10) that it

must be placed after the death of Ishbosheth. The treacherous murder of

Abner, and the tragic fate of Ishbosheth following upon it so rapidly, must

have filled all Israel with horror, and made them look upon David as “a

bloody man” (ch. 16:8). But gradually his innocence became

clear to all except inveterate partisans, and as the prejudice against him

passed away, the evident advantage of union under so able a ruler would

force itself upon their attention, and their decision would be hastened by

the advantage which the Philistines would be sure to take of their anarchy.

How much they had profited by it we gather from the haste with which

they endeavored to crush David’s kingdom. The enormous gathering at

Hebron to anoint David king proves not merely the unanimity of the tribes,

but that his election was the result of long preparation and arrangement.

We have fuller details of it in I Chronicles 12:23-40, where we learn

that the people assembled in large numbers, the total being computed in the

‘Speaker’s Commentary’ at 348,222; and it is remarkable that of this vast

array only sixteen thousand nine hundred came from the tribes of Judah,

Simeon, and Benjamin, which were situated in the neighborhood of

Hebron. On the other hand, the two and a half trans-Jordanic tribes sent no

less than a hundred.and twenty thousand men, and the three unimportant

tribes of Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali mustered a hundred and eighteen

thousand; while Issachar was content to send only two hundred, who were

all, however, “men that had understanding… and their brethren were at

their commandment.” These words suggest the probable explanation of the

disparity in the numbers, which to many seems so strange that they think

they must be corrupt. Each tribe settled for itself in what way it would be

represented, and the more distant sent a large proportion of their men of

military age on what would be an enjoyable holiday. As they spent three

days at Hebron, the expedition would occupy, even for those most remote,

little more than a week; and it was well worth the while of the tribes thus

to come together. It made them feel the value of unity, and gave them a

knowledge of their strength. Their tribal independence during the time of

the judges had made them too weak even to maintain their liberty; but now,

welded by the kingly power into a nation, they soon, not only won freedom

for themselves, but placed their yoke upon the shoulders of their

neighbors. As for the difficulty of supplying them with food, all would

bring victuals from home; and the neighboring tribes showed great

hospitality. Especially we read that those who were nigh unto Hebron,

“even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses,

and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victual of meal, cakes of figs,

and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in

abundance: for there was joy in Israel (I Chronicles 12:40). It was a

grand national festival, joyously kept because the people saw in the

election of David an end to all their troubles; and so vast a gathering

overbore all opposition, and gave both to them and their king the

consciousness of their might. But while we find in the Book of Chronicles

the account of this mighty multitude, it is here (v. 3) expressly said that it

was the elders who made a league with David, and anointed him king. The

people by their presence testified their joyful assent to what was done; but

David’s election was made legitimate by the decision of the constituted

authorities in each tribe. It would be most interesting to know the various

steps taken, and how the agitation grew and spread from tribe to tribe,

until all hesitation and resistance were overcome. But the object of this

book is to show us the great qualities, the sin, the repentance, and the

punishment of the man who added to the old routine of sacrifice bright

services of song, and who was the author of that book of devotion which

to this day best expresses the feelings of the heart, as well in the joys as in

the sorrows of life. (Psalms)  The manner of his election throws no light upon his

character, and is passed over. Enough to know that in those five years after

Ishbosheth’s murder David won the approval of all Israel, and that his

appointment to the kingdom was by the free choice of the tribes, acting in a

legitimate manner, and sending each their elders to Hebron to notify to

David their consent; and that their decision was ratified by this joyful

gathering of a mighty multitude from all parts of the land. Three reasons

are given by the elders for David’s election, and we may be sure that they

represent the arguments used in their popular assemblies.

 

  • The first, that they were David’s bone and flesh. In other words, the

tribes were all of one race, and united by the closest ties of relationship.

For the descendants of a common ancestor to be at war with one another

was both morally and politically wrong.

 

  • The second, that David had been their actual leader in war even in

Saul’s time. His personal qualities, therefore, justified their choice of

him to be their deliverer from the evils which had overwhelmed

the land after the disastrous defeat at Gilboa, when Saul had no longer

the aid of David’s presence.

 

  • The third, that Jehovah had by the mouth of His prophet given the throne

to David.

 

It is remarkable that the elders place this last. Their view probably was that the

Divine command must be proved by outward circumstances, that so reason might

confirm faith. So Saul’s public appointment by Samuel was ratified by the people

only after he had shown himself worthy to be a king by the defeat of the Ammonites.

 

2 “Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest

out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed

my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.”  Thou shalt feed.

In biblical language the pastoral office is that of the civil and not of the spiritual

ruler. Captain; Hebrew, nagid, prince; so the Revised Version (and see note on

I Samuel 9:16). The word refers not to military matters, but to the civil

administration. David had proved himself a competent leader in war when

Saul was king. What Jehovah now gives is the government of Israel in time of

peace. The Authorized Version renders “captain” from not perceiving that the

Divine promise ensured to David far more than a military chieftainship.

 

3 “So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king

David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and

they anointed David king over Israel.”   A league. The early kings of Israel

were not invested with despotic power. Thus, on Saul’s appointment, “Samuel

wrote in a book the manner of the kingdom” (I Samuel 10:25, made most emphatic

in the Revised Version by the note in the margin, that the Hebrew is “the book”).

The revolt against Rehoboam was the result of the too great extension of

the royal power in the days of Solomon (I Kings 12:4). Though subsequently

the kings seemed to have retained their supremacy, yet when the good and

patriotic Jehoiada restored the family of David to the throne, he reverted to

the old ways, and “made a covenant between the king and the people”

(II Kings 11:17). Besides personal rights, the tribes, accustomed to their

own leaders, and unused to yield obedience to a central authority, would

certainly stipulate for a large measure of tribal independence, and the

management of local matters by themselves. They anointed David king.

This was the public ratification of Samuel’s anointing, and by it David

became de facto, as well as de jure, king. The prophets could not give any

right over the people without the consent of the people themselves. But all

religious men would see in the Divine command an obligation upon their

conscience to accept as their king the man whom the prophet had anointed;

and Saul acted in an irreligious manner in seeking to frustrate God’s will.

And this impiety culminated in his murder of the priests at Nob, which was

the open avowal that he would trample all scruples of conscience underfoot.

 

4 “David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned

forty years.  5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months:

and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.”

David was thirty years old. As David was probably about eighteen or nineteen

years of age at the time of his combat with Goliath, the events recorded in

I Samuel 17-31, must have occupied about ten or eleven years.

 

6 “And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the

inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except

thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in

hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.”   The king and his men went

to Jerusalem. This expedition took place immediately after David’s coronation,

and probably he was moved to it by the presence of so large a number of the

warriors of Israel.  He had long foreseen the arrival of the time when he would be

king of all the tribes, and must have debated in his mind the problem of his future

capital. He could not remain in Hebron, as it was too far to the south, nor

would haughty tribes such as Ephraim have consented to be merged into

Judah. On the other hand, he could not move far away, as Judah was his

main strength. But living in its neighborhood, he must often have noticed

the remarkable position of the city of Jebus, and admired its rock girt

strength (Psalm 48:2). Though the Jebusites had been conquered by

Joshua (Joshua 11:3), and Jerusalem captured (Judges 1:8), yet, as

the children of Judah did not occupy it, but “set the city on fire,” it seems

to have been soon re-peopled by its old inhabitants, who there maintained

their independence, and, owing to the impregnable nature of its site, could

not be treated as Saul treated the Gibeonite inhabitants of Beeroth. Even

subsequently, the Jebusite chief who possessed what probably was Mount

Moriah, still bore the titular rank of king; for the words in ch. 24:23

literally are, “All this did Araunah the king give unto the king.” The

explanation of this long independence of the Jebusites is to be found not

only in the feebleness of the tribes during the troubled times of the judges,

but even more in the conformation of the site of their stronghold. Jerusalem

is situated on the edge of the precipitous wall which forms the western

boundary of the valley of the Jordan, and occupies a promontory, on three

sides of which are ravines so abrupt and steep that, were it not for their

vast depth, they might seem to have been the work of man. On the north

side alone it is open to attack, but even there, when the besieger has

obtained an entrance, he finds the city divided by another ravine into two

parts; whereof the western portion contains the strong citadel of Mount

Zion, while the eastern and smaller portion contains the less elevated

mountain of Moriah. Though actually raised above the sea level several

hundred feet less than Hebron, it seems to the eye more emphatically a

mountain-city; and being well nigh encircled by the valleys of Ben-Hinnom

and Jehoshaphat, it seems to sit enthroned above the Jordan valley,

compared with which it enjoys a cool and refreshing climate. To its

inhabitants it was “beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth”

(Psalm 48:2, Revised Version); to the exiles it was “the city of God,”

to which their hearts ever turned; to us Christians it is the type of Christ’s

Church on earth, and of His kingdom in heaven. It was an act worthy of

David’s genius to foresee the great future of the place, and to inaugurate

his kingdom by its capture. We gather from Ezekiel 16:45 that at the

time when the Hittites were the dominant race in Syria, Jerusalem was one

of their fortresses. The name is a dual, literally Yerushalaim, and probably

the town was so called because it consisted of two parts — the upper and

the lower city. Shalaim means the “two Salems,” thus carrying our minds

back to the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). In Psalm 76:2

Salem is apparently contrasted with Zion, and so would be the lower town,

containing Mount Moriah. Of the other part of the word, Yeru, numerous

derivations are given, of which the only probable one is that which

connects it with “Yehovah-yireh” — “God will see to it,” the name given

to the spot where Abraham on this mountain offered a vicarious sacrifice

for his son. We must, however, bear in mind that towns retain the names

which they bore in primitive times, and that the name of a Hittite fortress

belongs probably to the language of that people. Except thou take away

the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither. These words have

been a sore puzzle to commentators, and many strange explanations have

been given. Rashi says that the blind meant Isaac, and the lame Jacob, and

that the words referred to an old compact by which Abraham gave

Jerusalem to the Jebusites, and that Isaac and Jacob had confirmed this

agreement. Unless, then, David was prepared to violate this covenant, he

must abstain from the attack. We get no help from I Chronicles 11:5,

as the words are there omitted, probably because they were not supposed

to have any important meaning. The Orientals delighted in dark sayings,

and possibly there was here some local reference which the people of

Jerusalem would understand, but which is lost for us. But evidently it was a

boastful defiance, and may mean that the Jebusites pretended that it would

be enough to post only their feeblest men, the blind and the lame, for

defense, and that David would try in vain to break through them.

Thinking; Hebrew, to say; answering to our phrase “that isIt should be

translated, “meaning.”

 

7 “Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the

city of David.”  The stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David.

Zion was the hill on the southwestern side of the city; but we learn from v. 9

that the Jebusites had not occupied the whole of it, but a part only, which

was their stronghold, round which there would be scattered dwellings, as

the whole tribe dwelt there. The total area of the hill top was about sixty

acres, and it was now quickly covered with houses, and called “the city of

David,” after its captor. The view of Dr. Birch and others, that the

stronghold of Zion was Ophel, is rendered untenable by the fact that this

southern tongue of Mount Moriah is completely commanded by other parts

of the hill. According to Gesenius, Zion means “sunny;” others render it

“the dry hill;” others, “lofty;” and Furst, “the castle.” None of these

derivations is of any real value, as the word is probably Hittite.

 

8 “And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter,

and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind that are hated

of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said,

The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”  

Whosoever getteth up to the gutter. The word rendered

“gutter” occurs elsewhere only in Psalm 42:7, where it is translated

“waterspout.” Josephus thinks that it was an underground passage or drain.

Ewald argues that it was a precipice, and others that it was a dent or

hollow in the rocky face of the ravine, which David had noticed and

thought practicable. The view of Josephus, suggested to him probably by

his knowledge of the way in which the site of Jerusalem is honeycombed by

tunnels, has been wonderfully confirmed by the discoveries made by Sir C.

Warren (‘Recovery of Jerusalem,’ pp. 240, sqq.). At the northern end of

the Pool of Siloam he found an arched passage gradually narrowing down

from a considerable height, till finally there was a passage of only fourteen

inches, and as there was a depth of ten inches of water, there were left but

four inches of space for breathing. But through this his men struggled, and,

at the end of four hours’ labor, they reached the light of day at the spring

called the Virgin’s Fount. Beginning here on a subsequent day, they went

along a passage sixty-seven feet in length, and came to a perpendicular

shaft leading up through the solid stone of the hill; and, having scaled this,

they next came upon a sloping passage, which finally conducted them to a

spot on the hill of Ophel within the fortifications. Now, there are reasons

for believing that this passage is older than the wall built by Solomon, and

through it, or some such tunnel, Joab and a few men may have worked

their way, and so have effected an entrance into the city, which otherwise

was impregnable. It was probably the entrance near the Virgin’s Fountain

which they had observed, and David’s words mean, “Whoever will

undertake this dangerous enterprise, let him try this underground passage,

and when he has entered the fortifications by its means, let him smite the

lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul,” because of the boast of

the Jebusites, that their cripples were a match for his heroes. It must be

noticed, however, that the K’tib, or written text, has “who hate David’s

soul;” and as this is what the Jewish Massorites found in the manuscripts, it

has more authority than their correction. These Jebusites had probably, in

their boastful insult, spoken of David with contempt, and even said, like

Goliath, that they would give his flesh to the vultures (I Samuel 17:44).

We learn from I Chronicles 11:6 that David promised the office of

commander of the host to the man who undertook this exploit; and when

Joab had volunteered and succeeded, he regained thereby the post which

he had forfeited by the murder of Abner. The blind and the lame shall

not come into the house. The proverb is one of contempt for these poor

cripples, and forbids the exercise of hospitality to them. Such people, if

they took to mendicancy, were to meet with refusal, though at their own

homes they were fit objects of charity. This way of describing tramps as

“the blind and lame” arose, we are here told, from this Jebusite taunt.

 

9 “So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And

David built round about from Millo and inward.”   David dwelt in the fort.

It was the stronghold or citadel of Zion which David took for his abode; but as

he needed space for the dwellings of his mighty men, and for those who would

soon flock for trade and security to the capital, David proceeded to fortify the

whole of the summit. His works began from “the Millo,” rendered “the citadel”

by the Septuagint. Many, deriving the name from a Hebrew root signifying to fill,

think that it was a mound, but Nature had herself supplied fit heights for defense,

and it is evident that the place was called “the Millo” when David captured

the city. We find “Beth-Millo” also in Judges 9:6, 20, where it signifies

those who held the citadel of Shechem; and this Mills at Jerusalem was

without doubt the old Jebusite keep, and the explanation of its name must

be sought in the Jebusite language. As it formed one of the strongest

defenses of the city, it was rebuilt by Solomon (I Kings 9:24; 11:27),

and repaired by Hezekiah (II Chronicles 32:5) in preparation for the

Assyrian attack. Probably it stood at a corner, whence the phrase, “round

about from the Millo and inward,” or, as it is expressed in I Chronicles

11:8, “from the Millo inward,” that is, starting from. the Millo, the walls

enclosed the space behind it. In the parallel place (ibid.)

we find an interesting addition to the narrative, namely, that “Joab repaired

the rest of the city.” It appears from this that the Jebusites had occupied a

good deal of the ground with their habitations, though probably the number

of the tribe was not great; or possibly there remained old buildings which

were the remains of the Hittite city, and which, being of massive

construction, were easily made fit once again for human habitation. We see

also proof of Joab’s great ability in peace as well as in war. He it was who

had captured the stronghold, and it was now his office to arrange the

streets and plan of the city, and to assign dwellings to David’s mighty men.

This would be a work sure to cause jealousy and heart burnings, and no

one but Joab, their old commander, could have satisfied them. We find that

he assigned to one of them, Uriah the Hittite, a space of ground for a

dwelling close to the royal palace. We may suppose, then, that David was

now fully reconciled to the “hard sons of Zeruiah” (ch. 3:39),

and in the stern wars which followed David’s election, he needed and had

the full benefit of their vigor and ability.

 

10 “And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts

was with him.”  David went on, and grew great. This is the Hebrew phrase

for “David grew greater and greater.” In this and the six following verses

(10-16) we have a summary of David’s reign, telling us how he increased

in prosperity because of the blessing of “Jehovah God of hosts.” The birth

of Solomon even is recorded in it, though it took place long afterwards.

The insertion in this summary of Hiram’s acknowledgment of David proves

that this event made a great impression upon the minds of the people.

 

(vs. 11-25)  The facts are:

 

1. The King of Tyre, being friendly with David, supplies him with means of

building his house on Mount Zion.

2. David regards the varied successes of his enterprises as confirmation of

his belief that he was indeed appointed by God to reign over Israel.

3. He establishes a court on a larger scale, after Oriental style.

4. The Philistines, hearing of his accession to the throne, prepare for an

attack upon him, whereupon he seeks guidance of God, defeats them at

Baal-Perazim, and destroys their images.

5. Subsequently the Philistines come to a second attack, but on inquiring of

God, David is not allowed to assail them in front.

6. Adopting the strategy recommended him, David secures the overthrow

of the enemy unto Gazer.

 

11 “And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees,

and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house.” 

Hiram King of Tyre. At first sight it seems as if the Hiram

who so greatly aided Solomon in the building of the temple was the same

person as David’s friend (I Kings 5:10; II Chronicles 2:3), but this

identification is disproved by the express statement in ibid. v.13, and by the

chronology. For granting that this account of Hiram’s

embassy occurs in a general summary, yet David would not long defer the

erection of a palace, and in the history of Bathsheba we find, as a matter of

fact, that it was then already built (ch.11:2). But as Solomon

was grown to manhood at his father’s death, David’s sin must have been

committed not more than nine or ten years after he became king of all

Israel. Now, we are told by Josephus (‘Contr. Apion,’ 1:18), on the

authority of Menander of Ephesus, that Hiram reigned in all thirty years.

But in I Kings 9:10-13 we have an account of a transaction with Hiram

in Solomon’s twentieth year. In another place (‘Ant.,’ 8:3. 1) Josephus tells

us that Hiram had been King of Tyre eleven years when Solomon, in the

fourth year of his reign, began the building of the temple. He would thus

have been a contemporary of David for only the last seven or eight years of

his reign. But the history of this embassy is given as a proof of David’s

establishment in his kingdom, and cannot therefore be referred to so late a

period in his lifetime, when it would have lost its interest. The

improbability of two successive kings having the same name is not, after

all, so very great, especially as we do not know what the word Hiram, or

Haram, exactly means. Nor is Menander’s statement conclusive against it,

where he says that Hiram’s father was named Abibal — “Baal is my

father.” This would probably be an official name, borne by Hiram as the

defender of the national religion, or as a priest king. There is, therefore, no

real reason for rejecting the statement in II Chronicles 2:13 that Hiram,

or as he is there called Huram, David’s friend, was the father of the Huram

who was Solomon’s ally. Cedar trees. Cedar wood was greatly valued

both for its fragrance and durability, owing to the resin which it contains

preserving it from the attacks of insects. Its color also is soft and pleasing

to the eye, as may be seen in the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster

Abbey, the panels of which are of cedar. It did not grow in the Antilibanus,

or eastern part of Lebanon, which belonged to Israel, but only in the

western part, which belonged to Tyre. Cedar from the time of David

became the favorite material at Jerusalem for the interior of houses

(Jeremiah 22:14), and Isaiah charges the people of Samaria with pride

for not being content with the native sycamores which had satisfied their

fathers, but substituting for it this costly foreign timber (Isaiah 9:10).

Carpenters and masons. The necessity of importing “workers of wood,

and workers of stone for walls,” as the words literally mean, proves how

miserable was the social state of Israel in David’s time. Though they had

been slaves in Egypt, yet at the Exodus the Israelites had men capable of

working in the precious metals and jewelry, in weaving and embroidery, in

wood carving, and even in the cutting of gems (Exodus 35:30-35).

During the long anarchy of the judges they had degenerated into a race of

agricultural drudges, whom the Philistines had debarred from the use of

even the simplest tools (I Samuel 13:19). Possibly in Saul’s time there

was a faint restoration of the arts of civilized life (ch. 1:24); but

when we find Joab killing Absalom, not with darts, but with pointed stakes

(ch. 18:14), the weapons probably of most of the foot soldiers,

we see that not much had been done even then in metallurgy; and here

earlier in his reign David has to send to Tyre for men who could saw a

plank or build a wall. When, then, we call to mind the high state of culture

and the magnificence of Solomon’s reign, we can form some idea of the

vigor with which David raised his subjects from a state of semi-barbarism.

 

12 “And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over

Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for His people Israel’s

sake.”  And David perceived. We may well believe that David had

many seasons of despondency and misgiving after he became king. His

subjects were brave and energetic, but turbulent, unwilling to obey, and but

half-civilized. His election had put an end to civil war at home, but only to

arouse the hatred of the enemies who had long oppressed them. The

tragical fate, too, of Saul, who, after so many heroic struggles, had seen

the earlier glories of his reign fade away, and had sought deliverance from

his misery by suicide; all this must have often depressed his spirits. But

gradually his fears passed away; and when he had twice defeated the

Philistines, and been able to establish his rule, and with it some degree of

orderly government throughout the twelve tribes, David saw in all this, and

in the embassies from foreign nations, the proof, not of his own ability, but

of Jehovah’s purpose to exalt His kingdom for His people Israel’s sake.

In this David was still a man after God’s own heart, in that he felt himself

to be only an instrument for the doing, not his own will, but the purpose of

his Divine Master.

 

13 “And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after

he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to

David. 14 And these be the names of those that were born unto him in

Jerusalem; Shammuah, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon,

15 Ibhar also, and Elishua, and Nepheg, and Japhia,

16 And Elishama, and Eliada, and Eliphalet.”  

David took him more concubines. Thus with increase of power came also the

increased gratification of David’s weakness and sin. Well for him would it

have been if, like Saul, he had been content with one wife. But this

enlargement of his harem was gradual, and the list includes

all the sons born at Jerusalem. Of these four, namely, Shammuah, Shobab,

Nathan, and Solomon. were his children by Bathsheba (see I Chronicles 3:5,

where the names are differently spelt). Besides a variation in the spelling,

two sons are mentioned in Chronicles, Nogah and an earlier Eliphelet,

whose names are not given here, perhaps because they died

young. From ibid. v. 9 we learn that only the names of the sons

of wives are given in these tables.

 

17 “But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king

over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David

heard of it, and went down to the hold.”  But when the Philistines heard.

After the battle of Gilboa the Philistines became the virtual rulers of much of

the country west of the Jordan, and probably even David and Judah paid them

tribute. On its eastern bank, though Abner kept them from molesting Ishbosheth’s

kingdom, yet the rule of Saul’s house in Ephraim and Benjamin must have

been nominal only, and the Philistines would have seen him with pleasure

wasting his strength in civil war. After Ishbosheth’s death they had

tightened their grasp over the central districts of Palestine, though probably

content with exacting tribute. They must now have seen with displeasure

the consolidation of the tribes under one able ruler. Even in their divided

state, the natural strength of the country and the bravery of the people had

made it a task too great for the Philistine power entirely to crush Israel’s

independence. But if they could destroy David before he had had time to

establish himself in his kingdom, they would at least prolong indefinitely

that feebleness of Israel which had made it so long subject to their

dominion. Of this supremacy the Philistines have handed down a token

forever in giving to the whole country the name of Palestine, the

Philistines’ land. David... went down to the hold. Many commentators

identify the hold with the cave of Adullam, and certainly the account of the

brave deed of three of David’s heroes, in breaking through the Philistine

garrison of Bethlehem to bring him water thence, gives great probability to

this view. For we read there that “the Philistines were encamped in the

valley of Rephaim, and that David was then in the hold” (ch. 23:1-14, where

note that the word “hold” has the definite article). There are, however, many

difficulties connected with this view; for the cave of Adullam was in the valley

of Elah, on the road from Hebron to Philistia (I Samuel 22:1), but the valley of

Rephaim is close to Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8), abutting, in fact, upon the valley of

Ben-Hinnom. Baal-Perazim also is in the same neighborhood, being the rocky

height which forms the border of Ben-Hinnom, and bounds the valley of Rephaim

on the north. Still, the passage in ch. 23:13-14 seems too precise to be

lightly set aside, and we must suppose, therefore, that the Philistines,

alarmed by the gathering of half a million of men and women at Hebron,

sent messengers throughout their country to assemble their warriors. It was

the weakness of ancient warfare that its vast hosts of people melted away

as rapidly as they had gathered. For provisions were soon spent, and the

men had to return to their farms and their cattle. Thus David, having used

some of that large concourse of strong men for the capture of Jerusalem,

was left immediately afterwards with no other protection than that of his

“mighty men.” Saul had endeavored to have always round him three

thousand trained men (I Samuel 13:2), and David subsequently had

probably quite as many (ch.15:18); but at this early stage he had

probably not many more than he had brought with him from Ziklag to

Hebron. He could not, therefore, make head against the Philistines coming

with all the militia of their land; but, leaving his wives and the wives of his

mighty men in the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, we may well believe

that he sped away to gather the warriors of Israel. But what seems strange

is that he should have gone to the rear of the Philistines, especially as they

had come in such vast numbers as to occupy the whole country — a

garrison, for instance, being posted at Bethlehem, and doubtless at other fit

spots. Still, this country was well known to David, and he could gather

there old friends, whose bravery he had often tried before. And while thus

waiting for the mustering of such as God would move to help him, in deep

distress at so terrible a reversal following so quickly upon his exaltation, a

strange longing for water from the well of his native town seized him. He

was suffering apparently from fever of body as well as from distress of

mind, and soon there was relief from both. For three of his heroes heard

the words burst from his parched lips, and, hastening to Bethlehem, broke

through the Philistine garrison, and filled a water-skin from the well at the

gate of the city. Such an act naturally made a great impression upon David.

What room was there for despair when he had such men around him?

Pouring out, then, the water as a drink offering to Jehovah, his heart was

now filled with hope, and inquiring of the Lord whether he might attack

the Philistines, he received the assurance which he had already gathered

from the exploit of his heroes, that God would deliver them into his hand.

 

18 “The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of

Rephaim.  19 And David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up to the

Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the LORD

said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines

into thine hand.”  The valley of Rephaim. This fruitful valley (Isaiah 17:5) is

about three miles in length, and two in breadth. Occupying it in vast

numbers, the Philistines sent out bodies of men to plunder the whole

country, while a sufficient force watched Jerusalem, intending to take it by

famine. The Rephaim were an aboriginal race, first mentioned in

Genesis 14:5, and evidently in early times very widely spread in

Palestine. The idea that they were giants has no more to be said in its

favor than that they were ghosts — the meaning of the word in Isaiah

26:14, 19. No sensible philologist (a person who deals with the historical

development of languages) will endeavor to explain the names of

these primitive races and of their towns by Hebrew roots, though there has

been too much of this craze in past times. The Rephaim seem however, to

have been physically a well-developed people, and several races of Canaan

of great stature are described in Deuteronomy 2:11 as having belonged

to them, as did Og, who was a man of extraordinary dimensions (His bed

was 13˝ ft by 6 ft. - Deuteronomy 3:11).

 

20 “And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and

said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me,

as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place

Baalperazim.”  Baal-Perazim; literally, possessor of breaches, that is, the

place where the attack burst forth. It is called Mount Perazim, “the hill of

breaches,” in Isaiah 28:21, and as we have seen, it was the rocky height

on the north of the valley of Rephaim. David must, therefore, have stolen

round the army of the Philistines, creeping, probably by night, up to this

ridge of Ben-Hinnom, and thence at the dawn of day have rushed down

upon the camp. And his onset was sudden and irresistible, like the rush of

the waters of some mountain lake when, swollen with rains, it bursts

through the opposing dam, and carries hasty destruction to everything that

lies in its way.

 

21 “And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.” 

They left their images. This is a further proof of the suddenness of the attack,

and the completeness of the Philistine discomfiture. For images we find “gods”

in the parallel place in I Chronicles 14:12, and the word used here is rendered

idols” in I Samuel 31:9. As the Philistines supposed that these images of their

deities would ensure their victory, they would set great store by them, as the

Israelites did by the ark (I Samuel 4:4), and the French by the

oriflamme. Their capture, therefore, was a feat as great as the winning of

the eagle of a Roman legion. David and his men burned them; Hebrew,

took them away. This translation of the Authorized Version, made to force

the words into verbal agreement with I Chronicles 14:12, is utterly

indefensible; and, like most wrong things, it is absurd. The Bible cannot be

improved by frauds, and really the two narratives complete one another.

David and his men carried off these images as trophies, just as the

Philistines carried off the ark (I Samuel 4:11). But the ark proved

mightier than the Philistine gods, and in terror the people restored it to

Israel. But no avenging hand interfered to rescue these gods, and, after

being paraded in triumph, they were made into a bonfire.

 

22 “And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in

the valley of Rephaim.”  The Philistines came up yet again. Their first defeat

had probably not been accompanied by much slaughter; for David’s men were

few in number, though brave as lions. Retreating then to some distance, the

Philistines called in their garrisons, and waited also for reinforcements from

home, and then advanced again to the same spot. And as David was

prepared to attack them in front, he also must now have gathered round

him the chivalry of Israel.

 

23 “And when David enquired of the LORD, He said, Thou shalt not go

up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over

against the mulberry trees.”  Thou shalt not go up. The attack in front is

forbidden, and the answer shows that the priest with the ephod did more than give

a mere affirmative or negative reply. For David receives full instructions. Taking

advantage of the valleys, he is to creep round into the rear of the

Philistines, and approach them under cover of a thicket of baca trees.

Mulberry trees; Hebrew, baca trees. This suggests the idea that David’s

place of attack was the Baca valley (Psalm 84:6), and that there was

such a valley, though this is not certain. For the Revised Version translates

“valley of weeping,” concluding that baca is not there a proper name. By

baca trees the Septuagint and Vulgate “pear trees,” but as bacah means “to

weep,” it is probably some balsamic shrub, from which a resin exudes. The

Revised Version puts here in the margin, “balsam trees.” Dr. Tristram

thinks it was a sort of aspen, but the authority of the Vulgate is great in

such matters, as Jerome obtained his information in Palestine itself.

 

24 “And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of

the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall

the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.”

The sound of a going; Hebrew, a marching. Under the cover

of this thicket David was to wait until he heard the sound as of the regular

tramp of an army in the tops of the baca trees. It would be in the morning

that the wind would shake the treetops, but the sound was to be something

more than the soft whispers of a gentle breeze. A gale was to put them into

sudden motion, and then the soldiers would know that their JEHOVAH

HAD GONE FORTH TO BATTLE, and David must immediately bestir

himself. The enthusiasm of his men must not cool down, but as soon as the

wind rustled he must charge the enemy, and his warriors, feeling that they

were going with the host of God, would break down all resistance by their

impetuous onset.

 

25 “And David did so, as the LORD had commanded him; and smote the

Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.”  From Geba until thou

come to Gazer. In I Chronicles 14:16 “Gibeon” is substituted for “Geba,” and it is

one of those corrections which a commentator is inclined to adopt, because it

makes all things easy.  For Gibeon lay directly on the road from the Rephaim

valley towards Gazer, and the armies must have passed it in the fight. But if

“Geba” be the right reading here, then the battle must have been most sternly

contested.  For it is the “Gibeah of Benjamin,” Hebrew, “Geba of Benjamin,”

described in I Samuel 13:16. The Philistines had a garrison there in

Saul’s time (ibid. v. 3), and had probably again occupied it as a

military post after their victory at Gilboa. To reach it the line of retreat

would go nine miles northward over difficult ground; but this was not

disadvantageous to a retreating army as long as it remained unbroken, and

the Philistines would expect to be able to make a successful defense at a

strong citadel like Geba, held by a garrison of their own troops. But when

driven by David’s “mighty men” from this fortified hill, being hemmed in by

the defile of Michmash on the east, they would have no choice but to hurry

down the valleys to the west, and, still passing by Gibeon, so flee to Gazer.

Thus the reading “Geba” implies a stout and long resistance ending in a

most complete victory. And confessedly this was a decisive battle, fought

with larger forces, and causing far larger loss to the Philistines than that at

Baal-Perazim, where, attacked by only a few men, they were seized with

panic, and saved themselves by a headlong flight. Gazer lay upon the

border of Ephraim, and was one of the royal cities of the Canaanites, and

so strong that it was left in the hands of its old possessors (Joshua 16:3,10;

Judges 1:19). Subsequently Solomon fortified it (I Kings 9:17),

as being the key of the defiles which led from Ekron and the plain of

Philistia up to Jerusalem. We also find it mentioned as an important

military post in the days of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 9:52). The pursuit

would naturally stop here, as the fugitives would now be in their own

country, and succor would be close at hand. Probably, too, the Canaanites

who held the fortress were friendly to them, and gave them shelter.