|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
20:23-26 Here is the state of David's court, after his restoration. It is well when able men are appointed to discharge public duties; let all seek to perform those duties, as faithful servants to the Son of David.
Verse 26. - Ira... was a chief ruler; Hebrew, cohen, priest, minister (see on this term, 2 Samuel 8:18). We there find David's sons holding this confidential office; but the feuds which resulted from David's sin had destroyed the concord of the family, and the usefulness of David's children. In their degradation from this office we see also a preparation for their being set aside from the succession, and the throne given to Solomon. ADDITIONAL NOTE. With this chapter ends the second section of David's history; for, as we have already seen, the last four chapters are not arranged in chronological order, but form an appendix remarkable both for the singularly varied nature of its contents, and also for its omissions. The Second Book of Samuel is so thoroughly a history of David, that we should naturally have expected some account of his latter years, and of his manner of government after his return to power. But such details would have been interesting politically rather than spiritually, and the two narratives which have gone before are complete each in itself; and in each David is regarded from an entirely distinct point of view. In the first eight chapters we have the history of David as the theocratic king. As such he takes the heathen for his inheritance, and founds an empire. Even more remarkable are the alterations he makes in the worship of Jehovah. To the old Levitical sacrifices he added a far more spiritual service of psalms and minstrelsy, without which Judaism would have been unable to develop the evangelical realities which lay embedded in its ritual and legal ordinances. And it is important to notice that his service of sacred song is called "prophecy" (1 Chronicles 25:1-3), from which we learn two things. The first that David's service was essentially the same as that established by Samuel at Ramah. There, too, we read of the company of the prophets prophesying (1 Samuel 19:20), their service undoubtedly being one of minstrelsy (1 Samuel 10:5, 10, 11); and without Samuel's authority David would scarcely have ventured upon so great an innovation. Even so, this consecration of music by Samuel, and David's ordinance whereby there was established a daily service, morning and evening, of thanksgiving and praise (1 Chronicles 23.30; Nehemiah 12:24), is a most remarkable step forward; and by it the service of God ceased to be mere ritual, and became "a reasonable service" (Romans 12:1), such as was repeatedly commended by St. Paul to the members of the Christian Church (Colossians 3:16, etc.). But secondly, it drew the minds of the people to the evangelic meaning of the Levitical ordinances. To this day hymns form a most important part of our solemn services, and seem especially adapted to draw out the inner and deeper meaning of rites and doctrines. They did not, indeed, begin with David. There are psalms older than his reign; but this consecration of them to the public daily service of God led to an outburst of Divine psalmody which raised the minds of the people above the material and grosset elements of their worship, and taught them the true nature of God, and made them ascribe to him high and spiritual attributes in wonderful contrast with the grovelling frivolities of heathenism. The Levitical worship was necessarily typical: in the psalms the people learned that God desireth not sacrifice, but the offering of a broken and contrite heart. Even prophecy, in its sense of speaking for God, would scarcely have reached the high eminence of future days but for the psalms. For only in a nation deeply imbued with poetry and song could an Isaiah have arisen, capable of giving in so perfect an outward form the mysteries of Christ's incarnation, his vicarious sacrifice, and universal kingdom. In the second section, neither the theocratic nor the prophetic element is in the forefront. It is the history of a fearful sin, and of its stern punishment. The sinner is the theocratic king: the punishment is the pollution of his house by incest and murder; the ruin of the glory of his realm, the rending asunder of his empire, begun in his days and consummated in those of his grandson; his own disgrace and flight; and his sorrowful return to his throne, impotent to avenge either the murder of his son or that of the man whom he had chosen in the hope that he would release him from the stern grip of the ruthless Joab. The moral lessons of this sad story are beyond number. We see the saint changed into a sinner. No privileges save him from hateful crime; no repentance from draining the last dregs of the bitter cup of retribution. But never was the power of repentance in cleansing the heart and giving peace to the conscience more clearly shown; and the psalms written by David as a penitent, and during his flight from Absalom, are the most spiritual and choice and edifying of the whole Psalter. Without them the depths of self-abasement would have been left without inspired expression. The sinner in his greatest need, when crushed with the conviction of sin, when earnestly longing for forgiveness, when thirsting for the restored presence of God within his soul, and when feeling that, vile as he was, yet that he was not shut out from mercy, but that access to God's presence was still permitted him; - at all such times he would have gone to his Bible, and it would have been silent. These psalms are still the sinner's comfort, and give him the words which best express what is present in his heart. Without them the Jewish Church would never have reached that fervid purity of spiritual feeling which so animated the prophets; and even the Christian Church would possibly have stopped short of that full doctrine of repentance which she now holds. It is, indeed, the Christian's privilege to unite the doctrine of repentance with the thought of all that Christ has done and suffered for us, and so to understand why repentance avails to cleanse the heart; but even with this knowledge no Christian writer has ever reached so high a level of spirituality as David, though we may thankfully acknowledge that many of our best hymns do not fall far short of it. It is easy, then, to see that these two histories are not only of primary importance, but that no narrative after the time of the Exodus equals them in value. They form the very kernel of the Book of the Earlier Prophets, giving us, in the first, the true meaning and spiritual import of the settlement of Israel in Palestine; and setting before us, in the second, the nature of repentance, and so preparing the way for the revelation of the gospel of pardon and peace. They are followed by an appendix containing several narratives recorded apparently for their intrinsic value. Commentators have endeavoured to trace a connection between them, but their arguments are farfetched, and their conclusions unsatisfactory. It is better to regard them as separate and complete, each one in itself. They are six in number:
(1) the visitation of famine because of Saul's cruelty to the Gibeonites;
(2) some incidents in the war with the Philistines, illustrating the heroic character of David's worthies;
(3) David's psalm of deliverance;
(4) David's last words;
(5) a list of the Gibborim, with special records of acts of bravery and devotion;
(6) the visitation of pestilence because of David's numbering the people. The third and fourth sections especially are of the highest interest; while the second makes it plain that David's bravery in encountering the giant of Gath lit up an equally bright flame of patriotic heroism in the armies of Israel.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Ira also the Jairite,.... Which some take to be the same with Ira the Ithrite, 2 Samuel 23:38; a son of Jether or Ithra the Israelite, 2 Samuel 17:25; though others suppose he was Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, 2 Samuel 23:26; and so the Targum here calls him Ira the Jairite, which was of Tekoah; and Tekoah being the chief place in Israel for oil olive (d), with which the lamps were lighted, Jarchi thinks he had the name of Jairite from Jair, which signifies to enlighten; but rather he was a descendant from Jair the Gileadite, and perhaps was a great friend to David when in Gilead, and from whence he brought him and promoted him: for he
was a chief ruler about David; a prime minister, an intimate friend, the chief of his privy council; perhaps he succeeded Ahithophel; it is much we hear nothing of Hushai.
(d) Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 3.
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