David's Foreign Wars
2 Samuel 8:1-18
And after this it came to pass that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them…

The first series of David's wars, on the termination of which it is said that he enjoyed "rest round about from all his enemies" (2 Samuel 7:1), was concluded before his proposal to build the temple. These seem to have been wars with such remnants of the ancient inhabitants as combined to molest his people within the limits of the twelve tribes. The wars now undertaken were chiefly against neighbouring nations, including the occupants of that large territory between Palestine and the Euphrates, which God had promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). The nations against which David now went forth were most of them extremely warlike; they seem, too, to have been banded together in leagues or confederacies; so that the enterprise was attended with difficulties and dangers which only a heart, made brave and fearless by trust in the Invisible, could have ventured to face. The 20th Psalm may have been written for the occasion, and left behind for the Levites, to be sung in the name of the nation, when they remembered the perils to which their king and his troops had gone forth. It is an instructive fact that the history of these wars occupies so small a portion of the Bible. A single verse is all that can be afforded to most of them. Had they been narrated at length, they would probably have forced a narrative that would have placed David, as a captain, on a level with Cyrus, Hannibal, or Caesar. It is one of the less noticed proofs of the inspiration of the Old Testament, that such dazzling transactions as these are passed over so briefly. There is no other history in the world where more space would be occupied in describing the carrying of an ark to its permanent resting-place, than in narrating seven great military campaigns. It would be beyond the power of human nature to resist the temptation to describe great battles — the story of which is always read with such interest, and which reflect so much earthly glory on one's nation, and create in the mind of the national reader such a feeling of satisfaction and pride.

(1) The first campaign was against David's old friends, the Philistines. In former battles, David seems to have been content with driving them out of his territories — now he attacked them in their own. The town which he took, called Metheg-ammah, or the bridle of Ammah (so named from its situation), appears, from 1 Chronicles 18:1, to have been Gath itself. It was now David's lot, amid the vicissitudes of the world, to attack the place where he had once been sheltered — to hurl his weapons against the king (if he was still alive) whose hospitality he had experienced.

(2) Much the same thing had to be done in his next campaign — that against Moab. The king of Moab had protected his father and mother when it became apparently unsafe for them to remain in their native land — and, through Ruth, Moabite blood ran in David's veins. Jewish writers have a tradition that, after a time, the king put his parents to death, and that this occasioned the war which David carried on against them. The severity practised against Moab was very great; it was a terrible blow, intended to cripple them for a whole generation, and make it physically impossible for them to take up arms again.

(3) The third of David's conquests was over a more distant enemy, Hadadezer, the king of Zobah, in the direction of the Euphrates. It appears that in the course of this campaign another enemy had to be encountered — a vast mass of Syrians came out against him. It is evident that this campaign Was a very remarkable one, for the slaughter of the Syrians amounted to the prodigious number of 22,000; and the victory, besides giving David possession of Damascus and the whole of Syria, was followed by the voluntary submission of Tel, the king of Hamath (ver. 10), in the valley of Lebanon.

(4) Of the wars with the Ammonites and Amalekites (ver. 12) nothing is recorded, nor is it certain whether these wars were carried on at the same time with the other campaigns, or whether (as we are inclined to think) the war with Amalek was that which took place while David was at Ziklag, and the war with Ammon that which is described in a subsequent chapter.

(5) The last enemy specified is Edom; arid it is evident that the contest with that ferocious people was peculiarly bloody and critical. There is a degree of indistinctness in the narrative of this event, when it is attempted to harmonize the three passages that contain allusions to it — in Samuel and Chronicles, and in the introduction to the 60th Psalm. In one place, it is said that it was 18,000 Syrians that fell in the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:18); in another they are said to have been Edomites (1 Chronicles 8:12); the introduction to the Psalm makes the number of Edomites 12,000; in Samuel, the victory is ascribed to David — in Chronicles, to Abishai — and in the Psalm, to Joab. It is probable that the war with Edom was carried on at the same time as the war with the Syrians; that while David and his army were in the north a detachment of the Syrians was sent to co-operate with the Edomites in attacking the southern part of Judah; that hearing of this, David despatched Abishai with a portion of his troops to encounter them; that Abishai completely defeated the confederate armies in the Valley of Salt (near Edom), much about the same time as David routed the Syrians in the neighbourhood of Damascus. If the Edomites and Syrians were confededate, it is not surprising that in one.place it should be said it was 18,000 Syrians that fell, and in another 18,000 Edomites. The psalm (60th), gives us a glimpse of the state of things in David's army at this time, revealing the frightful difficulties and dangers of the enterprise, and the singularly lofty efforts of prayerful courage which were needed to carry him through the crisis, It appears that his army, far from home, and engaged with a very powerful foe, had sunk to the lowest ebb, and had even, for a time, been visited with the most direful reverses. The effect of these victories must have been very striking. Nor, only were the people now freed from all the harassing attacks to which they had been subject at every moment and on every side, but the Hebrew kingdom was elevated to the rank of a first-rate Power. Garrisons were placed in all the surrounding strongholds; the accumulated hoards of Eastern wealth were transferred to Jerusalem; and streams of tribute rolled their golden waters into the treasury of David. The secret of David's success is expressed once and again in the narrative: "The Lord was with David, and preserved him whithersoever he went." It is one of the great lessons of the Old Testament that the godly man can and does perform his duty better than any other, because the Lord is with him — whether he be steward of a house, or keeper of a prison, or ruler of a kingdom, like Joseph; or a judge and lawgiver, like Moses; or a warrior, like Samson or Gideon or Jephthah; or a king, like David or Jehoshaphat or Josiah; or a prime minister over a hundred and twenty provinces, like Daniel. This is one of the prominent lessons of the Book of Psalms — it is inscribed upon its very portals; the godly man "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." In all these warlike expeditions King David fulfilled his typical character — was an emblem of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, going forth "conquering and to conquer."

(W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: After this it happened that David struck the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took the bridle of the mother city out of the hand of the Philistines.

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