1 Chronicles 18 – The Security of David’s Kingdom
A. David conquers neighboring nations.
1. (1) David subdues the Philistines.
After this it came to pass that David attacked the Philistines, subdued them, and took Gath and its towns from the hand of the Philistines.
a. David attacked the Philistines, subdued them: The Philistines had troubled Israel for centuries, and often dominated Israel. Under the reign of David, he both attacked and subdued these troublesome enemies.
i. David didn’t avoid fighting the Philistines because Israel had lost to them so many times before. “The thing that fascinates me about this complete victory is the utter contempt with which David treated the great power of his adversaries.” (Redpath)
b. And took Gath: When David became king, the Philistines were taking territory from God’s people. Under his leadership, God’s people began to take territory from the enemy.
i. “Evidence for David’s conquest of Gath and its surrounding villages is found in the presence of 600 Gittites in David’s entourage (2 Samuel 15:18).” (Selman)
2. (2) The Moabites put under tribute.
Then he defeated Moab, and the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought tribute.
a. He defeated Moab: David’s war against Moab and his harsh treatment of their army seems out of place considering that David’s great-grandmother was a Moabite (Ruth) and that he entrusted his mother and father into the care of the Moabites (1 Samuel 22:3-4). It may be that the Moabites killed or mistreated David’s parents.
b. Brought tribute: God did not want Israel to destroy every neighbor nation. Generally, God wanted Israel to be so blessed and strong that other nations were “taxed” by Israel, in recognition of their strength and dominance.
3. (3-8) David conquers a Syrian alliance.
And David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his power by the River Euphrates. David took from him one thousand chariots, seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers. Also David hamstrung all the chariot horses, except that he spared enough of them for one hundred chariots. When the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David killed twenty-two thousand of the Syrians. Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus; and the Syrians became David’s servants, and brought tribute. So the LORD preserved David wherever he went. And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. Also from Tibhath and from Chun, cities of Hadadezer, David brought a large amount of bronze, with which Solomon made the bronze Sea, the pillars, and the articles of bronze.
a. As he went to establish his power by the River Euphrates: The king of Zobah (a Syrian kingdom) ran into David on his way to capture territory to the Euphrates. David’s dominance extended all the way to the Euphrates River.
i. “The border of Israel was carried to the line of the Euphrates, so that promise made by God to Abraham was fulfilled: ‘Unto thy seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.’ “ (Meyer)
ii. “Then there was Syria, the great heathen nation to the north, divided into two groups with capitals at Zobah and Damascus. They united together for protection but found themselves helpless against the might of David.” (Redpath)
b. David also hamstrung all the chariot horses: This was military necessity instead of mere animal cruelty. David could not care for so many horses while on military campaign and he could not give them back to the enemy.
c. He spared enough of them for one hundred chariots: That David kept such a small number shows remarkable self-control and trust in God. David obeyed the principle of Deuteronomy 17:15-16 and absolutely refused to trust in horses as military weapons. His trust was in God instead (Psalm 20:7 and 33:16-17).
d. David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer: David took what was the glory of the enemy and transformed it into trophies of the power and goodness of God. David displayed those shields of gold, testifying to God’s work in and through David.
e. David brought a large amount of bronze, with which Solomon made the bronze Sea, the pillars, and the articles of bronze: The gathering of this treasure to Jerusalem, later used in the building of the temple, shows the reason why the Chronicler chose particular events from the records of 2 Samuel to emphasize.
i. “At first glance, this is a somewhat artificial record of David’s military successes, which has been produced by leaving out the more interesting narratives and those less favourable to David. This view is rather inaccurate, however, since positive elements such as the birth of Solomon, David’s magnanimity to Saul’s family, and David’s psalms are omitted…. The reason is that Chronicles has chosen to focus on the relationship of David’s wars with the Davidic covenant and the temple preparations.” (Selman)
ii. One needed two things to build the temple: security and money. These chapters show how David, though he could not build the temple himself, obtained the security and money necessary for his son to build the temple.
iii. “In view of the desire of the king to build the Temple of God, the chapter is of special interest; it shows how in these wars he was amassing treasure with that purpose in view, not for himself, but for his son.” (Meyer)
iv. Even when God shuts the door for us to do a work, we may still be vitally involved in it – often by amassing treasure for that work, as David did for the temple his son would build. “To be willing to do the work of preparation, when not permitted to undertake the principal service, is proof of real devotion.” (Morgan)
4. (9-13) The glory and security of David’s kingdom.
Now when Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer king of Zobah, he sent Hadoram his son to King David, to greet him and bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him (for Hadadezer had been at war with Tou); and Hadoram brought with him all kinds of articles of gold, silver, and bronze. King David also dedicated these to the LORD, along with the silver and gold that he had brought from all these nations; from Edom, from Moab, from the people of Ammon, from the Philistines, and from Amalek. Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah killed eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He also put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD preserved David wherever he went.
a. Tou…sent Hadoram his son to King David, to greet him and bless him: Neighboring nations saw the hand of God on David and brought him honor and gifts. They knew that a strong, godly leader of Israel was good for the whole community of nations, not just good for Israel itself.
i. Not every pagan nation surrounding Israel was hostile to Israel or their God, and David did not treat them as if they were hostile. We make a mistake if we treat every unbeliever as an openly hostile enemy of the Lord.
ii. “Tou’s son was probably called Hadoram rather than ‘Joram’ (2 Samuel 8:10), since the latter’s Yahwistic form is unlikely in a non-Israelite state.” (Selman)
b. King David also dedicated these to the LORD: When David received this acclaim from the nations he dedicated it all to the LORD. He knew that the praise and glory belonged to God, not himself. David could handle success as well as apparent failure.
c. From Edom, from Moab, from the people of Ammon, from the Philistines, and from Amalek: By citing these subdued nations we learn that David’s victories were complete. God used David to lead Israel to victory over enemies in every direction.
i. Israel possessed more of the land God promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21) under David’s reign than at any other time.
ii. David was able to accomplish so much against God’s enemies because he, unlike Saul, was not consumed with fighting against the people of God.
d. The LORD preserved David wherever he went: This is the summary of this whole chapter. Every victory and every enemy subdued was a testimony to the Lord’s preserving power in the life and reign of David.
B. David’s administration.
1. (14) A general description of David’s government.
So David reigned over all Israel, and administered judgment and justice to all his people.
a. So David reigned: This chapter of victory, blessing, and prosperity describes the national life of Israel during the reign of David. This is one reason why he is generally regarded as the greatest king or ruler Israel ever had.
i. This is how God wanted to reign in the life of Saul, but Saul resisted the Lord and rejected His Spirit. Because David allowed God to subdue Him, the nations were subdued before David.
b. Administered judgment and justice to all his people: This shows that David was a great king to his own people, not only against neighboring nations. He fulfilled what is the fundamental duty of government – to administer judgment and justice (Romans 13:1-7).
2. (15-17) Key people in David’s government.
Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests; Shavsha was the scribe; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers at the king’s side.
a. Joab…Jehoshaphat…Zadok…Abimelech…Shavsha…Benaiah: No great ruler succeeds by himself. Only the smallest organizations can be governed well without a gifted and committed team. Part of David’s success as a ruler was in his ability to assemble, train, empower, and maintain such a team.
i. We never find such a list regarding the organization of King Saul’s government. This is because David’s government had much more form and structure than Saul’s.
ii. There is a limit to what we can be and what we can do for the LORD without order and organization. It isn’t that order and organization are requirements for progress in the Christian life; they are progress in the Christian life; in becoming more like the LORD.
iii. Nothing is accomplished in God’s kingdom without order and organization. While it may not seem so to us, it is only an illusion – behind the scenes God is moving with utmost order and organization though sometimes we cannot see it.
b. Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests: There were two priestly centers at this time, thus two priests. One was at Gibeon, with the tabernacle of Moses and the altar of burnt offering. The other was at Jerusalem, with the special tent David made for the ark of the covenant. Thus there were two priests, Zadok and Abiathar.
c. The Cherethites and Pelethites: These were hired soldiers from Crete. “By employing foreign guards to ensure the safety of the king, David would minimize the possibility of becoming the victim of inter-tribal rivalries; these men from Crete could give whole-hearted allegiance to him.” (Baldwin, commentary on 2 Samuel 8:18)