2 Samuel 8:1-14
And after this it came to pass that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them…
(1) The Philistines (ver. 1).
(2) The Moabites (ver. 2; Numbers 24:17).
(3) The Ammonites (ver. 12; ch. 10.).
(4) The Syrians of Zobah, under Hadadezer ver. 3; 2 Samuel 10:15, 16). The point here touched (ver. 4) in the struggle appears to have been after the Ammonites had commenced hostilities, aided by Hadadezer,
(5) the Syrians of Beth-Rehob,
(6) the King of Maachah, and
(7) the men of Tob; and bad been defeated (in a first campaign) by Joab and Abishai at Medeba (ch. 10:1-14). Hadadezer now recruited his forces in Mesopotamia, and made immense preparations; but he was defeated by David, who took the field in person (in a second campaign), at Helam; his general, Shobach, being slain (ch. 10:15-19).
(8) The Syrians of Damascus (vers. 5, 6).
(9) Toi, King of Hamath (vers. 9, 10). "Thus the Aramean supremacy, which had in previous centuries become so formidable to the Hebrews, and even to the Ammonites, was now broken once more by the heroic arm of David" (Ewald).
(10) The Edomites, in league with
(11) the Amalekites (ver. 12) and others, threatening to render previous victories fruitless, overcome (in a third campaign) by Abishai and by Joab (vers. 13, 14; 1 Chronicles 18:12; 1 Kings 11:15; Psalm 60., inscription). "David himself came at the close of the campaign to arrange the conquered territory" (Stanley).
(12) The siege of Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites, which still held out, by Joab (in a fourth campaign), while the king remained at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1); and its capture by David (2 Samuel 12:26-31; 1 Chronicles 20:1-3). These wars of Israel with surrounding nations were not ordinary wars (2 Samuel 2:24-29). They were a special embodiment of the great conflict which was ordained from the beginning (Genesis 3:15) and of which the sacred history is a record. They involved principles and issues of vast importance; and they must be considered in the light of the peculiar position of the people of Israel, the measure of Divine revelation vouchsafed to them, and the "ruling ideas in early ages," in order that they may be judged of correctly, and just inferences drawn from them in relation to the conduct of Christian nations. They were waged -
I. WITH POWERFUL ADVERSARIES. Numerous, varied, confederated, selfish, proud, and "delighting in war" (Psalm 68:30). The Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-15) first attacked Israel (as the Philistines and others had previously done), assisted by the Syrians, "for reward." "The first recorded example of mercenary warfare" (Kitto). They "succeeded in girdling the whole eastern frontier with steel." They were idolaters, fought against Jehovah, sought to exterminate his people, and Would have been satisfied with nothing short of their entire subjugation. Never had their peril been more imminent. It was such as is described by the psalmist -
"Why do the nations rage,
And the people imagine a vain thing?
Kings of the earth set themselves up,
And rulers take counsel together
Against Jehovah, and against his anointed:
Let us burst their bonds asunder,
And cast away their cords from us!"
II. ON JUSTIFIABLE GROUNDS. For:
1. The defence of person and property, and the preservation of the worship of Jehovah (2 Samuel 10:12). The right of self-defence is a law of nature, extending to the relations of states and kingdoms, as well as of individuals. Without its exercise the destruction of Israel by their fierce and powerful enemies could have been averted only by a continuous miracle.
2. The punishment of evil doers, and the execution of a Divine judgment upon the heathen and their gods. Of this David deemed himself an appointed agent, fulfilling a Divine commission, like that given to Saul concerning Amalek, and the command under which Joshua acted in the conquest of the land.
3. The attainment of the destination of the chosen people to rule over the nations according to former promises and predictions. "The chief aim of the writer is to show the growth of God's kingdom" (see the martial Psalm 9, 10, 18, 20, 21, 44, 60, 68, 110.). Psalm 9.,' The righteous Judge of the heathen' -
"I will praise thee, O Jehovah, with my whole heart;
I will recount all thy wonderful works.
Arise, O Jehovah, let not mortal man he defiant;
Let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O Jehovah;
Let the heathen know that they are but mortal men!"
(Psalm 9:1, 19, 20.)
III. IN A DEVOUT SPIRIT. Faith in the immediate presence of God, reverence for his righteous laws, dependence upon his mighty arm, zeal for his universal honour; prayerfulness, confidence, thankfulness. "The whole nation was at once a nation of soldiers and a nation of priests. They were the soldiers of God, pledged to a crusade - a holy war; pledged to the extermination of all idolatry and all wickedness wherever existing" (Perowne, in Psalm 110.). Psalm 20., 'Going forth to battle' -
"Jehovah answer thee in the day of distress;
The Name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high.
We will shout for joy because of thy salvation,
And in the Name of our God will we raise our banners.
O Jehovah, save the king!
May he hear us in the day we call."
(Psalm 20:1, 5, 9.) In a reverse, such as may have taken place just before the overthrow of the Edomites, they turned to God in supplication, and girded themselves afresh for the conflict. Psalm 60, 'Confidence in disaster' - "the most martial of all the Psalms" - partially repeated in Psalm 108:7-14
"O God, thou hast east us off, thou hast broken us;
Thou hast been angry, restore us again.
Thou hast given to them that fear thee a banner,
That they may muster (around it) from before the bow,
Who will conduct me into the fortified city?
Who will bring me into Edom?
Through God shall we do valiantly;
And he will tread down our adversaries."
(Psalm 60:1, 4, 9, 12.)
IV. WITH EXTRAORDINARY SUCCESS; in which the hand of God was manifested, especially in the preservation of David "whithersoever he went" (vers. 6, 14), and was recognized in the dedication to Jehovah of the spoils of war (vers. 7, 10-12) amidst general thanksgiving and praise. One victory rapidly succeeded another until the whole region from the Nile to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18) was subdued, peace was established, and Israel occupied a position of unrivalled power and glory. "David erected, on Joab's return (ver. 13), a monument of thanksgiving for his victory; and we may imagine how brilliant was the triumphant procession in Jerusalem when we recollect the hundred war chariots with their horses which were spared when Hadarezer was conquered" (Ewald). Psalm 21., 'Returning in triumph' -
"O Jehovah, in thy strength shall the king be glad,
And in thy saving help how greatly shall he exult!
Be thou exalted, O Jehovah, in thy strength;
So will we celebrate with voice and harp thy might."
(Psalm 21:1, 13.)
V. NOT WITHOUT DEPLORABLE CONSEQUENCES. Even when waged on justifiable grounds and from religious motives, war is associated with manifold evils. It was not the loss of life that occurred, nor the cruel severities that were practised (ver. 2; 2 Samuel 12:31), characteristic of the age, in the wars of David, which wrought the mischief, so much as the fierce passions, the pride, ambition, luxury, and vice they engendered, the heavy burdens they imposed, and the neglect of the humbler pursuits and more orderly virtues they involved. "The one blot upon the time is David's lust of war, bringing men like Joab to the front, and debasing David's own character If ever God wrote his verdict plainly upon ambition and aggressive war, he wrote it upon the wars of David. They brought the stain of two foul crimes on David himself; ruined his own domestic peace and happiness; ruined, by the possession of too-great power, the one of his sons who started so wisely and well; and ruined the kingdom, which broke asunder of its own weight" ('Prophecy a Preparation for Christ,' p. 216). Yet these effects. have not always been considered in later times; while the record of his successes has sometimes been regarded as affording a sanction and an incentive to the martial spirit under different circumstances and a better dispensation. "It was among the Teutonic race that the Church first manifested warlike propensities. They were emphatically men of blood. The chief difficulty of the Church was to teach them to love peace. According to a well-known story, the Gothic bishop, Ulphilas, showed his special sense of the special weakness of his Teuton converts by refraining from translating the Books of Samuel and Kings into their language, as he did the rest of the Scripture. His reason, we are told, was that they contained 'the history of wars;' and the nation was already very fond of war, and needed the bit rather than the spur so far as fighting was concerned" (British Quarterly Review, January, 1881). Nevertheless, the wars and victories of David (allowed for "the hardness of men's hearts" until "the times of reformation") -
VI. FORESHADOWED NOBLER CONFLICTS AND TRIUMPHS by One greater than David - the Prince of Peace, and his faithful followers (1 Samuel 13:1-7; 1 Samuel 17:47); in which the elements of good that existed therein are retained and perfected, and those of evil set aside; "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but" spiritual (truth, righteousness, love) and "mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds" of error and unrighteousness (2 Corinthians 10:4; Luke 9:56; John 18:36); and the effects, enduring peace, security, and happiness Isaiah 9:5, 6). "Since the time that Jesus Christ said, 'Put up thy sword into its scabbard,' Christians ought not to go to war, unless it be in that most honourable warfare with the vilest enemies of the Church - the inordinate love of money, anger, and ambition. These are our Philistines, these our Nebuchadnezzars, these our Moabites and Ammonites, with whom we ought never to make a truce; with these we must engage without intermission till, the enemy being utterly extirpated, peace may be firmly established. Unless we subdue such enemies as these, we can neither have peace with ourselves nor peace with any one else. This is the only war which tends to produce a real and lasting peace" (Erasmus). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.