2 Samuel 8 – The Wars of David
A. David’s many wars.
1. (1) David subdues the Philistines.
After this it came to pass that David attacked the Philistines and subdued them. And David took Metheg Ammah from the hand of the Philistines.
a. David attacked the Philistines and subdued them: The Philistines had troubled Israel for centuries, and they often dominated the people of God. In 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. David took Metheg Ammah: This was another name for the famous Philistine city of Gath (compare 1 Chronicles 18:1). 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.
2. (2) The Moabites put under tribute.
Then he defeated Moab. Forcing them down to the ground, he measured them off with a line. With two lines he measured off those to be put to death, and with one full line those to be kept alive. So 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 seemed 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, thus recognizing their strength and dominance.
3. (3-8) David conquers a Syrian alliance.
David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his territory at the River Euphrates. David took from him one thousand chariots, seven hundred 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. The LORD preserved David wherever he went. And David took the shields of gold that had belonged to the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. Also from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a large amount of bronze.
a. As he went to recover his territory at 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 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 had belonged to the servants of Hadadezer: David took what was the glory of the enemy and transformed them into trophies of the power and goodness of God. Those shields of gold were set in the temple and testified to God’s work in and through David.
i. God loves to take people and things that are “trophies” for the Devil and make them trophies to His power and grace.
4. (9-14) The glory of David’s kingdom.
When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer, then Toi sent Joram 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 Toi); and Joram brought with him articles of silver, articles of gold, and articles of bronze. King David also dedicated these to the LORD, along with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued; from Syria, from Moab, from the people of Ammon, from the Philistines, from Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah. And David made himself a name when he returned from killing eighteen thousand Syrians in the Valley of Salt. He also put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the LORD preserved David wherever he went.
a. Toi sent Joram 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.
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 Syria, from Moab, from the people of Ammon, from the Philistines, 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. (15) A general description of David’s government.
So David reigned over all Israel; and David 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. David 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. (16-18) 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 Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests; Seraiah was the scribe; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers.
a. Joab… Jehoshaphat… Zadok… Ahimelech… Seraiah… Benaiah: No great ruler succeeds by himself. Only the smallest organizations are governed well without a gifted and committed team. Part of David’s success as a ruler was found 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, helping us become more like the LORD.
iii. Nothing is accomplished in God’s kingdom without working through order and organization. While it may seem so, it is only an illusion. Behind the scenes God is moving with utmost order and organization though sometimes we cannot see it.
b. 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)
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