II Samuel 8

 

1 “And after this it came to pass that David smote the Philistines, and

subdued them: and David took Methegammah out of the hand of

the Philistines.” David smote the Philistines. In the previous chapter we have

seen that the empire of David not only marked an era in the development

of Israel nationally, but was also the reaching of a new stage in the

preparation for the advent of the Messiah; and we saw that without this the

development of prophecy would have been impossible, and the people have

remained unfit for the high mission to which they were called as the

witnesses to the unity of God. We have in this chapter a brief summary of

the wars which raised Israel from the position of a struggling and

oppressed race to the possession of widespread empire. With this narrative

the first history of David ends, and in the subsequent narratives many of the

events referred to here are more fully detailed, and given with additional

incidents. David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the

Philistines. Metheg-ammah means “the bridle of the mother city.” We

learn from the parallel place (I Chronicles 18:1) that the city of Gath is

meant by this phrase. Gath was at this time the metropolis of Philistia, and

had reduced the other four chief towns to a state of vassalage. Thus by

taking Gath, his old city of refuge (I Samuel 27:2), David acquired also

the supremacy which she had previously exercised over the whole country,

and by placing a strong garrison there, as previously the Philistines had

done in the towns of Israel, he kept that martial race in awe. It denotes

great progress in the arts of war that David could besiege and capture a

town so strong as Gath.

 

2 “And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them

down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to

death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites

became David’s servants, and brought gifts.” He smote Moab. In the

previous history we find David and Moab on such friendly terms that he

entrusted his father and mother into their king’s keeping (I Samuel 22:3-4).

Now he not only subjugates them, but puts two-thirds or, according to the

ancient versions, half of the captured combatants to death. Compared with the

custom of the Romans, and with the attempt to destroy all the males in Edom,

this was mild treatment; for we find Caesar in his Gallic wars putting all his

prisoners to death, and using for their execution the mere phrase, “he counted

them in the number of enemies,” as if the killing of enemies was a matter of

course.  The customs of the Israelites in war were not so cruel, and this

treatment of the Moabites seems to be mentioned as showing that they received

exceptionally severe treatment. The justification of this is found by Jewish

commentators, on the authority of the Midrash, in the supposed fact that

the King of Moab had put David’s father and mother to death. But as

Philippson adds, even so it was an instance of the extreme barbarity of

ancient warfare. Casting them down to the ground; Hebrew, making

them to lie down on the ground; and so the Revised Version. It is plain that

those who were made to lie on the ground were combatants who had been

made prisoners, and the Hebrew seems to mean that, while they were thus

prostrate, they were measured off into three divisions, whereof two were

put to the sword, and one permitted to live. All the versions, however,

understand that only half were put to death, making the sense to be that he

measured them with two cords, one to kill, and one full cord — one, that

is, of larger size, to save alive. We get no help from I Chronicles 18:2,

where this treatment of the Moabites is omitted. It is probable that it was in

this war that Benaiah slew “two lion-like men of Moab” (I Chronicles

11:22), who were its champions and perhaps members of the royal house.

They brought gifts means that they paid an annual tribute; but the phrase

shows that, though now they were David’s servants, that is, subjects, yet

that they were left in possession of their independence, and that their

internal affairs were managed by native authorities.

 

3 “David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as

he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates.”  Hadadezer.

The name is spelt Hadarezer in ch. 10:16 and in I Chronicles 18:3, and such

is the reading of the versions here and of many Hebrew manuscripts. The other

reading has been defended on the ground that Hadad is the name of the Syrian

sun-god, but the cuneiform inscriptions show that his real name was Hadar.

The King of Syria, mentioned in I Kings 20:1, is called in Assyrian Ben-Hidri.

Zobah. Ewald identifies Zobah with the “Sabo” mentioned by Ptolemy.

This is uncertain, but evidently Zobah lay northeast of Damascus and south

of Hamath, in the region between the rivers Orontes and Euphrates. In

I Samuel 14:47 it appears as a powerless country governed by a

multitude of petty kings; but evidently now Hadarezer had made himself

supreme, and become a powerful monarch whose authority extended even

across the river into Mesopotamia (ch. 10:16). Having crushed

his rivals at home, he had next endeavored to extend his dominion abroad.

As he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. The word

Euphrates” is inserted in the Authorized Version, because the margin

says, “Euphrates read but not written.” In the Revised Version it is

omitted, because the unauthoritative nature of these directions to read

something not in the text has been demonstrated. Technically these

readings are called K’ri, and the written text K’tib. In I Chronicles

18:3 the reading is, “as he went to stablish his dominion by the river” — a

change which involves the alteration of only one letter, as the word

rendered here “his border,” and in (ibid.) “his dominion,” is

the same, signifying literally, “his hand.” For this reason the Revised

Version renders it correctly in both places “his dominion.” Now, David

never had possessed up to this time any dominion upon the Euphrates, but

in the fuller narrative in ch. 10. we learn that these Syrians of Zobah had

sent powerful reinforcements to the Ammonites in their war with David;

and he might reasonably, therefore, determine to follow up his victory

over them by extending his power up to the river, so as to guard the fords,

and prevent all future invasions. And this Hadarezer would resent. As an

able and enterprising man, he had succeeded in making Zobah a powerful

realm, and was not likely to submit to having a bridle put upon his

adventurous spirit by the posting of an Israelitish garrison on the borders.

We learn from ch. 10:19 that David’s object was to prevent aid

coming to Ammon from Zobah, and that he succeeded in putting a barrier

in Hadarezer’s way. We can scarcely doubt, therefore, that the reading in

the Chronicles is to be preferred. In I Samuel 14:47 we read that Saul

had waged war with Zobah, and as David had probably served in it, he

would have thereby acquired both a knowledge of the country, very useful

in this present more serious expedition, and also have learned the necessity

of guarding his dominions against perpetual invasions from that quarter.

 

4 “And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred

horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all

the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.”

David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven

hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen. The word

chariots” is inserted in the Authorized Version after “thousand,” from the

parallel place in I Chronicles 18:4, where also it is said that David

captured seven thousand horsemen. The numbers of the Chronicler are

more in proportion to one another than those mentioned here, provided we

assume that the word “chariots” ought to be supplied, which, as it is not

the only difference, is uncertain. Until the Arabs invented our present

system of notation, the ancient methods of representing numbers were so

liable to error that little dependence can be placed upon them. The

Hebrews used their letters for numerals, but after 400 their system breaks

down. Any number higher than 400 can be represented only by long sums

in arithmetic, or by an intricate system of points above and below, which

were sure to get into confusion. David houghed all the chariot horses.

There is good reason for concluding that the word used here, recheb, is a

collective, and signifies animals used either for riding or driving. What

David reserved was not a hundred chariots, but a hundred riding horses,

which would be useful to him for rapid communication, and could scarcely

be regarded as a violation of the command in Deuteronomy 17:16.

Both the Authorized and Revised Versions are wrong, but the Authorized

Version at least makes the word recheb have the same meaning in both

clauses, whereas the Revised Version makes it signify chariot horses in the

first clause, and the chariots themselves in the second. The defeat by

David, with infantry only, of an army provided with so powerful a force of

cavalry and chariots, proves his great military skill, and their capture hears

even more emphatic testimony to his generalship. In the Psalms we find

horses often referred to as objects regarded with terror, and which gave a

great advantage to their enemies (Psalm 20:7; 33:17; 76:6; 147:10), but

over which they had triumphed by Jehovah’s aid. This method, however, of

rendering them useless, though practiced by Joshua (Joshua 11:6), was

most cruel; as the poor things, unable to move about with the sinews of

their hind legs severed, would perish of hunger.

 

5 “And when the Syrians of Damascus came to succor Hadadezer

king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand

men.”  The Syrians of Damascus; Hebrew, Aram-Dammesek; that is,

Aram-Damascus. The inhabitants of these regions and of Mesopotamia

were descended from Aram, the son of Shem (Genesis 10:22), and bore

his name. Thus Zobah is called Aram-Zobah in the title of Psalm 60. As

members of a kindred race, and speaking the same language, all the clans

of the Aramean family would naturally combine to check the growing

power of Israel.

 

6 “Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians

became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the LORD

preserved David whithersoever he went.”  Garrisons. This is the word

used in I Samuel 10:5 and 13:3. The Arameans were left free to manage their

internal affairs themselves, but they had to pay tribute (see on v. 2); and to

prevent the assembling of troops to contest David’s authority and shake off

his yoke, garrisons were stationed in such places as commanded the country.

The Philistines had done the same in Israel when they were masters there.

 

7 “And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of

Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem.”  Shields of gold. Probably they

were plated with gold, and were borne by Hadarezer’s bodyguard. But it is very

uncertain whether shields are really meant. The word in Syriac means “quivers.”

Jerome evidently could not at first find out what it signified, as he in this place

translates in the Vulgate “arms,” but subsequently he became better informed.

The Septuagint renders “bracelets,” and adds that they were carried away from

Jerusalem by Shishak in the days of Rehoboam. There is no contradiction

in this with what is said in I Kings 14:26, as what Solomon made were

undoubtedly shields, such being the certain meaning of the word in the

Hebrew, and its rendering in all the versions. No version renders the word

used here “shield.” In the parallel place (I Chronicles 18:7) the Syriac

and Vulgate render it “quivers,” the Septuagint “collars,” and the Arabic

plates of gold hung on the trappings of the horses.” As they were captured

from a Syrian king, they probably retained their Syriac name, and if so they

were “quivers.”

 

8 “And from Betah, and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, king

David took exceeding much brass.”   BetahBarothai. Of these cities

nothing certain is known, and in I Chronicles 18:8 the names are changed to

Tibhath and Chun.  An interesting addition is made there, inserted also by

the Septuagint in this place, that it was from this brass (that is, copper) that

Solomon made the great laver, the pillars, and many other vessels for the

temple service.

 

9 “When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the

host of Hadadezer,”  Toi, called in Chronicles Tou, King of Hamath. This was

a famous city upon the river Orontes, afterwards called by the Greeks

Epiphania, and was situated upon the northernmost boundary of Palestine.

Its interest in the present day lies in its having been the capital of the

Hittites — a race whose very existence was doubted a few years ago, in

spite of the testimony of Holy Scripture; but whose marvelous empire has

been lately proved to be historical by Egyptian records on the one side, and

cuneiform inscriptions on the other. Unfortunately, inscriptions which they

have themselves left behind have not yet found any one capable of

deciphering them. In the twelfth century B.C. they were the paramount

power from the Euphrates to the Lebanon. For many centuries they

contended with the Pharaohs for the possession of Egypt, and while

Rameses II. had to make an inglorious peace with the Kheta, as they are

called, and marry the king’s daughter, Rameses III won a great victory

over them, and saved Egypt from thraldom. In the cuneiform inscriptions

we find the record of a struggle between Assyria and the Hittites, lasting

for four hundred years, during which Shalmaneser made thirty campaigns

against them, but they were not finally conquered until B.C. 717, during

the reign of Sargon. Fuller details will be found in Dr. Wright’s ‘Empire of

the Hittites,’ published by Messrs. Nisbet.

 

10 “Then Toi sent Joram his son unto king David, to salute him, and to

bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer, and smitten

him: for Hadadezer had wars with Toi. And Joram brought with

him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass:”

Joram. In I Chronicles 18:10 he is called Hadoram, and

this was apparently his real name, Joram being merely the substitution of

the nearest Hebrew word for something foreign and therefore

unintelligible. So among the descendants of the French refugees settled in

England similar changes are common. Thus Pillons becomes Pillow;

Chevallier, Shoveller; St. Amour, Stammers. As Hamath bordered upon

Zobah, and apparently had waged unsuccessful war with the vigorous

Hadarezer, Toi was grateful to David for smiting his rival, and sent this

embassy of congratulation for the purpose of ensuring the conqueror’s

friendship. For this end he also sent rich presents; and as a present is called

in the Hebrew a blessing (I Samuel 25:27; 30:26, margin), the phrase

used here, to bless him, contains the idea, not only of congratulation, but of

offerings. There is something admirable in this high Oriental courtesy. The

material value of the gifts is left in the background. Their worth lies in their

being the acknowledgment of the Divine favor resting upon David, and in

the prayer that that favor may continue. In Psalm 18:43-44 we have

proof of the great pleasure which this embassy from so great a nation gave

to David.

 

11 “Which also king David did dedicate unto the LORD, with the

silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he

subdued;”  Which also King David did dedicate. The blessing became

more blessed by this use of it, and it shows how strong were David’s

feelings, that he thus gave to God’s house, not only the spoils of war, but

also gifts of friendship. It was in this way that he accumulated those large

stores of the precious metals enumerated in I Chronicles 29, and

employed in making the sacred vessels of the temple. Their vast amount is

the more remarkable because Palestine previously was almost destitute of

them. Wherever the armies of Israel went, they made diligent search after

everything that would serve towards the building of their sanctuary.

 

12 “Of Syria, and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the

Philistines, and of Amalek, and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of

Rehob, king of Zobah.”  Of Syria; Hebrew, Aram. The reading in I Chronicles

18:11 is Edom, which differs from Aram in only one letter. The two words

are constantly confused in manuscripts, and “Edom” is probably right here,

first, because it is coupled with Moab and Ammon, which were its

neighbors; but chiefly because the spoil of Hadarezer, mentioned at the

end of the verse, is the spoil of Aram. It would not be enumerated twice.

 

13 “And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the

Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.” 

From smiting of the Syrians; Hebrew, of Aram. Here “Edom” is certainly right

(see I Chronicles 18:12), unless we accept Keil’s conjecture, and suppose that

he smote Edom” has dropped out of the text, and must be inserted. In the

superscription of Psalm we find the wars with Aram-Naharaim (Mesopotamia)

and Aram-Zobah coupled with this smiting of Edom in the valley of salt, which

lay to the south of the Dead Sea, and was a fatal place to the Edomites in their

war subsequently with Amaziah (II Kings 14:7). Such a double victory over the

Arameans first, and immediately afterwards over Edom, would account for the

name,” that is, the reputation, which David gained. The course of events

seems to have been as follows. The Edomites, believing that David was

engaged in a struggle beyond his powers with the Syrians, took the

opportunity to invade Israel. But the campaign in Aram was quickly

decided, and David was able to send Abishai with a detachment of his

forces to repel the Edomites. On hearing of his approach, they retired

before him, and, making a stand in their own territories, were defeated in

the valley of salt, with the loss of eighteen thousand men (I Chronicles

18:12). In this place the victory is ascribed to David, because it was won

by his general acting under his orders. For some unexplained reason, the

feelings of the Israelites against Edom were very vindictive, and Joab

followed with larger forces, and not only slew twelve thousand in a second

battle (Psalm 60, title), but remained six months in the country, ruthlessly

putting every male to death (I Kings 11:15-16). From this time the

Edomites and Israelites were implacable foes, and in later Jewish literature

the Jews gave vent to their intense hatred of the Roman empire by giving it

the name of Edom.

 

14 “And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons,

and all they of Edom became David’s servants. And the LORD preserved

David whithersoever he went.”  Throughout all Edom put he garrisons. In a

country naturally so strong as Edom, and with neighboring states ready to give

shelter to their fugitives, Joab’s attempt would cause great misery, but only

a moderate loss of life. And as soon as he withdrew, the exiles would

return to their old homes. To keep them, therefore, in entire subjection, the

country was held by strong garrisons, and the Edomites became David’s

servants, being apparently deprived for the present of any form of

independent government. We have, then, in this chapter, a brief summary

of David’s wars, whereby he established his supremacy ever the extensive

region from Hamath on the north to the salt plains on the south of the

Dead Sea, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates.

 

15 “And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment

and justice unto all his people.”  David executed judgment and justice. There

was very little real truth in Absalom’s fault finding with the administration of

justice (ch. 15:3-4), unless we suppose — what is only too probable —

that David, after his terrible crimes of murder and adultery, became lax in

the discharge of his judicial duties. Here, at this period of his life, he was a

zealous judge at home, as well as a brave and skilful general. He was one

of those many sided characters who are great in a multitude of ways. Like

Julius Caesar and our own Alfred, he was as distinguished in the arts of

peace as in those of war. And thus, while his first care was for the

establishment of religion, and while even the singing in the sanctuary was

not beneath his notice, he also, even in the midst of dangerous wars, gave

careful attention to the orderly government of his kingdom and the

maintenance of right and law. We have already seen with what

consummate skill he selected a capital immediately that he was made king

of all Israel. Saul had done much in war. Though finally defeated at Gilboa,

he had taught the Israelites their strength, and laid the foundations of

David’s empire; but he had done nothing to consolidate the tribes, or

provide tribunals for the settlement of disputed legal rights or the

punishment of crimes. Israel was as loose an aggregate of discordant atoms

at his death as it was at his appointment; and the maintenance of order was

left to the caprice of local sheiks. Samuel had done far more for the internal

development and consolidation of the people than Saul; but it was David

who made them into a nation. The continuance of his work was frustrated

by:

 

·         the extravagance of Solomon,

·         the folly of Rehoboam, and

·         the ambition of the restless tribe of Ephraim;

 

but the two parts into which his realm was broken at least held together, and there

never again was danger of such anarchy and threatened disintegration as existed

in the times of the judges.

 

16 “And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of

Ahilud was recorder;”   Joab... was over the host. Twice in this book  we have

lists of David’s chief officers — here and at the end of ch. 20. The present list

belongs to the period of David’s greatest prosperity, when all went well

with him in peace and war, and when Jehovah had elevated him to the

unique rank of Messianic king — a distinction which belonged to him

personally, and was inherited by none of his successors. Between it and the

second list there lies a tragic tale:

 

·         of sin and shame,

·         of crime and merited punishment,

·         of the realm rising in rebellion against the adulterous king, and

·         of his own family breaking away from the bonds of godly discipline, and

giving way to:

Ø      licentiousness,

Ø      bloodshed, and

Ø      parricidal ambition.

 

But probably David’s character had then gained in spirituality and singleness of

heart; whereas now prosperity must already have begun its work of

sapping the foundations of his moral nature. Joab, who had been stripped

of his command for the murder of Abner, had regained it by his bravery at

the capture of Jerusalem. We have seen also that David entrusted to him

the building of Jerusalem, and apparently he was prime minister in all

matters except probably the king’s judicial functions. Jehoshaphat… was

recorder; literally, remembrancer. It was his office to reduce the king’s

decrees to writing, and also to see that they were carried into execution.

Probably after they had been committed to writing, they were laid before

the king for his approval, and, when confirmed by his hand or seal, were

entered in the book of remembrance.

 

17 “And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar,

were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;”  Zadok… and Ahimelech...

were the priests. We have already seen that this was contrary to the letter of the

Mosaic Law, and yet that there was no schism, and that by patience matters came

back to the right groove. Zadok, of the elder line of Eleazar  (I Chronicles 6:4-8,

50-53), was high priest at Gibeon, and Ahimelech, of the junior line of

Ithamar, was the high priest at Jerusalem. Instead of Ahimelech the son of

Abiathar, the Syriac transposes the names, and reads, “Abiathar the son of

Ahimelech” This agrees with the list in ch.  20:25, and it is certain

that Abiathar outlived David (I Kings 2:26), and that he was David’s

high priest throughout his reign, though Zadok is not only constantly

associated with him, but is placed first, as the man of higher rank

(ch. 15:24-35; 17:15; 19:11; 20:25). It is also remarkable that our Lord

makes Abiathar the person who gave David the shewbread (Mark 2:26),

whereas in I Samuel 21 he is repeatedly called Ahimelech. As both

the Septuagint and the Vulgate support the Hebrew against the Syriac, and as

the reading “Ahimelech” is confirmed by I Chronicles 18:16 and 24:3, 6, 31,

we must reject the emendation of the Syriac, and conclude that there

was a double tradition respecting these names, some manuscripts making

Abiathar the father, and others giving the seniority to Ahimelech. Our Lord

made Abiathar the father, but the scribes, in their editing of the Hebrew

text, gave that place to Ahimelech, yet did not carry out their restoration

so thoroughly as not to leave proof that the names probably ought to be

reversed. Seraiah was scribe. His office was similar to that of a secretary

of state with us. For Seraiah we have Shavsha in I Chronicles 18:16,

Shisha in I Kings 4:3, and Sheva in here in ch. 20:25. This illustrates

what has just been said as to the uncertainty about proper names. They are

always most difficult to read, as the sense gives no aid, and these various

forms of a name that does not occur elsewhere really bear witness to the

high antiquity of the manuscripts uses by the scribes in settling the text of

the Old Testament; and also to their self-restraint in not making them all

forcibly agree.

 

18 “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites

and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers.”

The Cherethites and the Pelethites. As we have already seen

(I Samuel 30:14), the Cherethim were an insignificant tribe inhabiting

the southern part of the country of the Philistines. Nor is that place the only

proof of this fact; for they are connected with the Philistines also in

Ezekiel 25:16 and Zephaniah 2:5. David made their acquaintance

when at Ziklag; and probably the Pelethim dwelt in the same

neighborhood, and were a still more unimportant clan or family. Much

ingenuity has been expended in finding for their names a Hebrew

derivation, and Gesenius explains them as meaning “cutters and runners,”

though for the latter signification he has to go to the Arabic, where he finds

a verb falata, “to run away,” “flee.” But this craze of explaining the names

of aboriginal tribes and their towns by Hebrew words is not only absurd in

itself, but bars the way to sounder knowledge. For it is possible that, by the

study of names not belonging to the Hebrew language, we might arrive at

some correct ideas about the races who had previously occupied Palestine.

Instead of this, the whole system of derivation is corrupted, and philology

made ridiculous. What can be more ludicrous than to explain these

Pelethim as “runners away,” unless it be the notion that the Rephaim took

their name from the Hebrew word for “a ghost”? In his mightiesDavid

had a powerful bodyguard of native Israelites, and Saul previously had

formed a similar force of three thousand men, not merely for the protection

of his own person, but to guard the land from marauding incursions of

Amalekites and other freebooting tribes. Such a body of men was of

primary importance for police purposes and the safety of the frontiers.

How useful such a force would be we can well understand from the history

of the marches between England and Scotland (see also note on ch. 3:22);

but I imagine that the Cherethites and Pelethites were used

for humbler purposes. While “the mighties guarded the frontiers, and kept

the peace of the kingdom, these men would be used about the court and in

Jerusalem, to execute the commands of the king and his great officers.

Native Israelites would refuse such servile work, and the conquered

Canaanites might become dangerous if trained and armed; while these

foreigners, like the Swiss Guard in France, would be trustworthy and

efficient. As for the true-born Israelites, they probably did not form the

mass of the population, but, like the Franks in France, were the privileged

and dominant race. We read that even from Egypt, besides their own

dependents, there went up with Israel “a great mixture” (Exodus 12:38, margin).

In Numbers 11:4 these are even contemptuously designated by a word which

answers to our “omnium gatherum” (a miscellaneous collection of persons)

yet even they, after the conquest of Palestine, would be higher in rank than the

subjugated Canaanites, from whom, together with another “mixed multitude”

spoken of in Nehemiah 13:3, are descended the felahin of the present day.

David’s armies would be drawn from the Israelites, among whom were

now reckoned the mixed multitude which went up from Egypt, and which

was ennobled by taking part in the conquest of Canaan. In the army “the

mighties would hold the chief place; while the mercenaries, recruited from

Ziklag and its neighborhood, which continued to be David’s private

property (I Samuel 27:6), would be most useful in the discharge of all

kinds of administrative duty, and would also guard the king’s person. In

ch. 20:23 for Cherethi we find Cheri, which word also occurs in

II Kings 11:4, 19. In the former passage the spelling is a mistake, the

letter t having dropped out, and it is so regarded by the Jews, who read

Cherethi.” The versions also translate there just as they do here, namely

the Vulgate and Septuagint, Cherethi and Pelethi;” and the Syriac by two

nouns of somewhat similar sound to the Hebrew, and which signify

“freemen and soldiers.” In the latter place in Kings it is probable that some

other tribe supplied the bodyguard in Queen Athaliah’s time. David’s sons

were chief rulers; Hebrew and Revised Version, priests. Similarly, in ch.

20:26, “Ira the Jairite was David’s priest,” Hebrew, cohen; and in I Kings 4:5,

Zabud was Solomon’s priest.” Gesenius and others suppose

that they were domestic chaplains, not ministering according to the

Levitical law, but invested with a sort of sacerdotal sacredness in honor of

their birth. But if we look again at I Kings 4:5 we find Zabud was

priest, the king’s friend;” and the latter words seem to be an explanation of

the title cohen, added because the word in this sense was already becoming

obsolete.  In I Chronicles 18:17 the language is completely changed, and we

read, “and David’s sons were chief at the king’s hand.” We may feel sure

that the Chronicler knew what was the meaning of the phrase in the Books

of Samuel, and that he was also aware that it had gone out of use, and

therefore gave instead the right sense. Evidently the word cohen had at

first a wider significance, and meant a “minister and confidant.” He was the

officer who stood next to his master, and knew his purpose and saw to its

execution. And this was the meaning of the term when applied to the

confidential minister of Jehovah, whose duty it was to execute His will

according to the commands given in the Law; but when so used it

gradually became too sacred for ordinary employment. Still, there is a

divinity about a king, and so his confidants and the officers nearest to his

person were still called cohens; and we find the phrase lingering on for

another century and a half. For Jehu puts to death, not only Ahab’s great

men and kinsfolk, but also “his cohens,” the men who had been his intimate

friends (II Kings 10:11).

 

 

 

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