2 Samuel 8


David’s Victories

        • ESV Study Bible provides this helpful note for those trying to maintain some sort of chronological flow of events, “Chapter 8 is a catalog of David’s military victories, from the old enemies, the Philistines, to the Transjordan nations of Moab and Ammon, through the Syrian countries, and all the way to ‘the River’ (the Euphrates), ending with a statement about his administration. The varied events of this chapter are not necessarily chronological with the rest of the book. The Ammon wars of chs. 10-12 may have been the prelude to David’s defeat of the important kingdom of Zobah in this chapter…”

      • Later, David defeated the Philistines, subdued them, and took Metheg-ammah from the Philistines.

        • Cursory comparison of Bible translations reveals confusion over the meaning of the Hebrew “Metheg-ammah.” I’ll include the following relevant information from various sources:

        • First, NET Bible’s text critical notes say, “Heb ‘the bridle of one cubit.’ Many English versions treat this as a place name because the parallel text in 1 Chr 18:1 reads ‘Gath’ (which is used by NLT here). It is possible that ‘the bridle of one cubit’ is to be understood as ‘the token of surrender,’ referring to the Philistine’s defeat rather than a specific place (cf. TEV, CEV).”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “Whether Metheg Ammah is to be understood as a proper place-name or as two simple common nouns is unclear. If the former, the site is only attested here…and its location remains unknown. If, following the second option, one takes the combination as two common nouns, various readings are possible. One might read the words as ‘the reigns of the forearm,’ an idiomatic usage suggesting control or supremacy, in this instance over the Philistines. Or, with slight emendation, one might read ‘the common lands,’ yielding the sense that David took control of the outlying (nonurban) lands from the Philistines. The parallel phrase in 1 Ch 18:1 reads ‘Gath and its surrounding villages [or daughters].’ Gath was viewed by early rabbinical scholars as the foremost of the Philistine cities, so that supremacy over Gath constituted effective supremacy over the Philistines.”

      • He defeated the Moabites, and after making them lie down on the ground, he used a length of cord to measure them off. Every two lengths of them were killed and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became David’s servants and brought tribute.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Moab was on the east side of the Dead Sea. Earlier, the people of Moab had provided David’s parents with refuge during Saul’s reign (1 Sam 22:3-4); David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was from Moab. For whatever reason, no such fraternal relationship existed any longer. This is the only time in 2 Samuel that David executed captives taken in battle…”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Unparalleled in Biblical and extra-Biblical literature, David’s method of casting lots to reduce the soldiers of Moab by two-thirds strikes modern readers as cruel and arbitrary…A case could be made, however, that, in an ancient Near Eastern context, in which combatants were often either all sold into slavery or all executed, the sparing of one third of the enemy soldiers to return to their homes was not without mercy. Furthermore, even when defeated combatants were retained as slaves, they were often mutilated (e.g., blinded) to keep them under control; long-term imprisonment of large numbers of prisoners was not an option, though brief internment was sometimes practiced where repatriation or political negotiations were anticipated…In the ancient Near East, subjugated territories were typically expected to send tribute in the form of various kinds of payment (e.g., precious metals and other goods, agricultural produce, livestock, even labor forces)…”

      • David also defeated the king of Zobah, Hadadezer, who was Rehob’s son, when he went to restore his monument at the Euphrates River. David captured 1,000 chariots, 7,000 charioteers, and 20,000 foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but 100 of the chariot horses.

        • HCSB points out another likely error in the Masoretic text here, “English versions of this passage, following variant translators’ judgements, disagree on whether David captured 1,700, 700 or 7,000 horsemen from Hadadezer. In the 1 Ch 18:4 parallel passage, the total is 7,000, with some additional factual differences. The KJV and NKJV apparently try to reconcile the discrepancy by stating that David captured 1,000 chariots and 700 horsemen. The NIV rejects the MT here, following the reading of the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls which agrees with 1 Ch 18:4. A copyists’s error in pre-Christian times can be assumed for either this verse of 1 Ch 18:4. Most probably the alteration occurred in 2 Sm after the wring of 1 Ch, which preserves the original wording.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Ambiguity regarding the antecedent of ‘he’ has given rise to debate as to whether it was David or Hadadezer who went to ‘restore his monument’ (or possibly ‘restore his control’)…On one hand, it can be argued that, because David would have passed through the territory of Hadadezer en route to the Euphrates River (probably in the vicinity of Emar) and would otherwise not likely have encountered Hadadezer so far north, it may have been David who went to ‘restore his monument.’ On the other hand, however, if it was Hadadezer who had to restore order in his northern territories, David may have seized the opportunity of Hadadezer’s preoccupation with the north to attack him from the south.”

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “When David took the throne, Zobah was the most powerful Aramean state in southern and central Syria. It was highly prized…for its strategic location on major trade routes…The parallel in 1 Ch 18:3 states that Hadadezer went to the Euphrates region ‘to set up his monument,’ i.e., to erect a victory stela in the conquered region as a visible sign and reminder of the region’s subjugation to him. The two Hebrew readings (referring to the debate above of whether it was David or Hadadezer who was setting up his monument) differ by a single, similar sounding letter. The difference, however, does not obscure the point that Hadadezer was in control of this particular region.”

      • NET Bible’s text critical notes provide this interesting information, “The MT does not have the name ‘Euphrates’ in the text. It is supplied in the margin (Qere) as one of ten places where the Masoretes believed that something was ‘to be read although it was not written’ in the text as they had received it. The ancient versions (LXX, Syriac Peshitta, Vulgate) include the word. See also the parallel text in 1 Chr 18:3.”

      • When the Arameans of Damascus came to help King Hadadezer of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans. Then he placed garrisons in Aram of Damasus. The Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. Yahweh gave David victory everywhere he went. David took the golden shields that Hadadezer’s carried and brought them to Jerusalem. David also took large quantities of bronze from Tebah and Berothai, which were cities that belonged to Hadadezer.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Hadadezer’s neighbors, Arameans from Damascus (aka Syrians of Damascus), were of no help to him in repelling David. They would later be more helpful against Solomon (1 Kgs 11:23-25) but less successful in their attack of Samaria during the days of King Ahab of Israel (1 Kgs 20)…David established army garrisons in Aram but not in Moan (8:2), which suggests that Aram was a more formidable force and that David needed a military presence there to maintain control…God was the real source of David’s growth and power.

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “During David’s reign, Damascus was of secondary importance in Syria, ranking behind Zobah in power and prominence. However, it became the capital of a unified Aram and by the mid-ninth century BC was the dominant power in the Levant and head of a coalition of Syrian states against the ever-expanding Assyrian Empire.”

      • NET Bible’s text critical notes include this interesting information, “The LXX includes seventeen words (in Greek) at the end of v. 7 that are not found in the MT. The LXX addition is as follows: ‘And Sousakim king of Egypt took them when he came up to Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam the son of Solomon.’ This Greek reading now finds Hebrew support in 4QSam. For a reconstruction of this poorly preserved Qumran text see E. C. Ulrich, Jr., The Qumran Text of Samuel and Josephus (HSM), 45-48.”

      • HCSB points out, “From which of Hadadezer’s cities did David obtain bronze? The city names listed here do not agree with those given in the corresponding verse in 1 Ch (1 Ch 18:8). The differences may be evidence of a damaged text in this chapter, or the writer of 2 Sm may have mentioned two other cities in Hadadezer’s territory, not mentioned in the Chronicler’s account, from which David obtained bronze. (This is the third time a significant disagreement occurs between this chapter and 1 Ch 18.).”

      • When Toi, the king of Hamath, heard that David had defeated Hadadezer’s entire army, he sent his son Joram to King David to congratulate him and to pronounce a blessing on him for his victory over Hadadezer, because Toi had often been at war with Hadadezer. He brought various items made of silver, gold, and bronze with him. King David dedicated these things to Yahweh, along with the silver and gold he had dedicated from all the nations he had subdued- Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek, and from the plunder taken from Hadadezer, king of Zobah, Rehob’s son.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “King Toi dispatched the crown prince rather than another entourage on this mission because he considered it vital to stay properly connected with David.”

      • On the name “Joram” the same source notes, “The prefix Jo- is an abbreviated form of Yahweh; Joram means ‘Yahweh is exalted.’ In 1 Ch 18:10 the prince’s name is Hadoram, which means ‘Hadad [a Canaanite god] is exalted.’ It is possible that Toi changed the prince’s name for diplomatic reasons, to make it more agreeable to David.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible mentions this relevant information, “…[the name] Hadadezer…means ‘(the god) Hadad is (my) helper…”

      • David became famous when he returned from killing 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He placed garrisons throughout Edom and the Edomites became David’s subjects. Yahweh protected David everywhere he went. David reigned over all of Israel, doing what was just and right for all of his people.

      • HCSB again drawing attention to a scribal error, “The Hebrew text here states that David struck down the Arameans; other ancient versions, as well as 1 Ch 18:12, indicate that his forces defeated the Edomites. As with the three previous problems in this chapter, it is probable that a scribal error has occurred here and that 1 Ch 18:12 preserves the original reading. The error could have arisen from confusion of the Hebrew ‘r’ (resh) with ‘d’ (daleth), which resembles it in both ancient and later script.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Edomites is more likely…because the Valley of Salt (the Dead Sea area) was adjacent to Edomite, not Aramean, territory.

David’s Officials

      • Joab, Zeruiah’s son, was over the army. Jehoshaphat, Ahilud’s son, was secretary. Zadok, Ahitub’s son, and Ahimelech, Abiathar’s son, were priests. Seraiah was scribe. Benaiah, Jehoiada’s son, was over the Kerethites and Pelethites. David’s sons were priests.

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “…Each of these titles designates a high-ranking official in David’s government… The fact that in the list of David’s officers the chief military commander, Joab, is named first, is typical of ancient Near Eastern governments, in which the military leader ranked second only to the king himself.”

      • On “recorder” (rendered “secretary” above, along with other translations), the same source notes, “The title has led some to assume that this official’s primary responsibilities must have included keeping state records, but the Hebrew word might better…be rendered ‘remembrancer’ or ‘herald.’ The ‘recorder,’ like the Egyptian ‘herald,’ probably had two functions: (1) the task of handling the communications between the king and country, and (2) the care of the ceremonial tasks at the royal audiences. Thus, Jehoshaphat as ‘recorder’ might be compared to both a modern press secretary and a chief of protocol. Jehoshaphat continued his service in this capacity during the administration of Solomon (1 Ki 4:3).”

      • Continuing on, “David’s court also included two priests: Zadok, mentioned here for the first time in the OT, and Abiathar (1 Sa 22:20). While Zadok and Abiathar both functioned as priests during David’s reign, the latter was removed from office by Solomon (1 Ki 1:7-8), thus fulfilling the judgment pronounced on the house of Eli in 1 Sa 2:31.”

        • And here again we confront the Ahimelech/Abiathar conundrum of who was father to whom? This passage and 1 Chronicles say Ahimelech was Abiathar’s son, while various 1 Samuel passages say the opposite. Jesus Himself even gets drawn into the controversy as per His statement in Mark. Rather than re-hash the issue here, the interested reader may refer to the notes for 1 Samuel 21 for discussion and links on this topic.

      • On the “secretary” (rendered “scribe” above, along with other translations), our source continues, “Would have been one of the highest-ranking civil servants…His duties likely including presiding over the secretariat, where official documents were written and where the state’s records were kept. The name of David’s ‘secretary,’ Seraiah, is spelled in several different ways elsewhere in the OT…which may suggest a non-Israelite origin- perhaps Egypt, where the scribal and administrative traditions were well established.”

      • On Benaiah, “A man of outstanding military credentials (23:20-22). Kerethites and Pelethites (were) professional troops who served apparently as David’s personal army…Using foreign mercenaries for a personal army such as this provided trained military personnel who would not be inclined to take sides politically or to get involved in court intrigue.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds here, “The Cherethites (rendered Kerethites above) were probably from the island of Crete, while ‘Pelethite’ is thought to be related linguistically to ‘Philistine.’”

      • On to quite an odd statement indeed, that David’s sons were priests:

        • NET Bible notes, “That David’s sons could have been priests, in light of the fact that they were not of the priestly lineage, is strange. One must assume either (1) that the word ‘priest’ (kohen) during this period of time could be used in a broader sense of ‘chief ruler’ (KJV); ‘chief minister’ (ASV, NASB), or ‘royal adviser’ (NIV), perhaps based on the parallel passage in 1 Chr 18:17 which has ‘the king’s leading officials’, or (2) that in David’s day members of the king’s family could function as a special category of ‘priests’ (cf. NLT ‘priestly leaders’). The latter option seems to be the more straightforward way of understanding the word in 2 Sam 8:18.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “…Alongside the traditional priesthood, David might have inaugurated a religious class specifically tied to his dynasty, probably to serve the royal court…”


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