Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The battle was set against him before and behind.—Literally, the front of the battle had become towards him, front and rear. The order of words is different in Samuel, and a preposition added (“on front and on rear”). The Ammonites lay in front of the city, their Aramæan allies at some distance away, in the plain. For Joab to attack either with his entire army would have been to expose his rear to the assault of the other. He therefore divided his forces.
The choice of Israel.—Literally, the chosen or young warriors (singular collective) in Israel (i.e., in the Israelitish army). These Joab himself led against the Aramæans, as the most dangerous enemy, while he sent a detachment, under his brother Abishai, to cope with the Ammonites.Exodus 14:7; 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chronicles 12:3. The largest force which an Assyrian king ever speaks of encountering is 3,940. The words "and horsemen" have probably fallen out of the text after the word "chariots" (compare 1 Chronicles 19:6). The 32,000 would be the number of the warriors serving on horseback or in chariots; and this number would agree closely with 2 Samuel 10:6, as the following table shows:
2 Samuel 10:6 Men Syrians of Beth-rehob and Zobah 20,000 Syrians of Ish-tob 12,000 Syrians of Maachah 1,000 Total 33,000 1 Chronicles 19:7 Men Syrians of Zobah, etc. 32,000 Syrians of Machah ( number not given) 1,000 Total 33,000
the kings that were come were by themselves in the field—The Israelitish army being thus beset by the Ammonites in front, and by the Syrian auxiliaries behind, Joab resolved to attack the latter (the more numerous and formidable host), while he directed his brother Abishai, with a suitable detachment, to attack the Ammonites. Joab's address before the engagement displays the faith and piety that became a commander of the Hebrew people. The mercenaries being defeated, the courage of the Ammonites failed; so that, taking flight, they entrenched themselves within the fortified walls.Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. he chose out of all the choice] R.V. he chose of all the choice men. The Syrians were the more formidable because of the chariots they had; Joab therefore opposed to them the flower of his army.Verse 10. - The meaning in brief of this Terse is that, as Joab found there were practically two enemies, and two armies to face, he avoided the mistake of being shut up between them more than necessary, and divided his own hosts. He took the flower of all, under his own command, to face the Syrians in the field, who were the most formidable of the enemy. The rest he put under his brother Abishai, to face the Ammonites at the gate, i.e. of the city Medeba. The plan succeeded, for if Abishai had only done as much as hold back the Ammonites awhile, so soon as they saw the Syrians break and flee they knew that Joab and his army would be free to "help" Abishai. 2 Samuel 8, in such a manner as to afford a general view of the whole, all the wars which David carried on victoriously against all his enemies round about in the establishment of the Israelitish rule, with a short statement of the results, followed by a catalogue of David's chief public officials. In 1 Chronicles 19 and in 2 Samuel 10 we have a more detailed account of the arduous war against the Ammonites and Syrians, and in 1 Chronicles 20:1-3 and 2 Samuel 12:26-31 the conclusion of the war with the capture of Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites; and finally, in 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, we have a few short accounts of the victories of the Israelitish heroes over giants from the land of the Philistines, which are inserted in 2 Samuel 21:18-22 as a supplement to the last section of David's history. Apart from this last section, which is to be regarded even in the Chronicle as an appendix, we find the arrangement and succession of the events to be the same in both books, since the sections which in 2 Samuel 9:1-13 and 2 Samuel 11:1-12, 2 Samuel 11:25, stand between the histories of the wars, contain sketches of David's family life, which the author of the Chronicle has, in accordance with his plan, omitted. Even as to individual details the two narratives are perfectly agreed, the divergences being inconsiderable; and even these, in so far as they are original, and are not results of careless copying, - as, for instance, the omission of the word נציבים, 1 Chronicles 18:6, as compared with 1 Chronicles 18:13 and 2 Samuel 8:6, and the difference in the numbers and names in 1 Chronicles 18:4, 1 Chronicles 18:8, as compared with 2 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 4:8, are, - partly mere explanations of obscure expressions, partly small additions or abridgments. For the commentary, therefore, we may refer to the remarks on 2nd Samuel, where the divergences of the Chronicle from the record in Samuel are also dealt with. With 1 Chronicles 18:1-13 cf. 2 Samuel 8:1-14; and with the register of public officials, 2 Samuel 18:14-17, cf. 2 Samuel 8:15-18.
Examples of paraphrastic explanation are found in 1 Chronicles 18:1, where the figurative expression, David took the bridle of the mother out of the hands of the Philistines, i.e., deprived them of the hegemony, is explained by the phrase, David took Gath and her cities out of the hands of the Philistines, i.e., took from the Philistines the capital with her daughter cities; and in 1 Chronicles 18:17, כּהנים is rendered by, the first at the king's hand. Among the abridgments, the omission of David's harsh treatment of the Moabites who were taken prisoners is surprising, no reason for it being discoverable; for the assertion that the chronicler has purposely omitted it in order to free David from the charge of such barbarous conduct, is disposed of by the fact that he does not pass over in silence the similar treatment of the conquered inhabitants of Rabbah in 1 Chronicles 20:3. Instead of this, the chronicler has several historical notes peculiar to himself, which are wanting in the text of Samuel, and which prove that the author of the Chronicle has not derived his account from the second book of Samuel. Such, e.g., is the statement in 1 Chronicles 18:8, that Solomon caused the brazen sea and the pillars and vessels of the court of the temple to be made of the brass taken as booty in the war against Hadadezer; in 1 Chronicles 18:11, the word מאדום, which is wanting in Samuel, as מארם, which in 1 Chronicles 18:11 of that book is used in place of it, probably stood originally in the Chronicle also. Such also are the more accurate statements in 1 Chronicles 18:12 as to the victory over the Edomites in the Valley of Salt (see on 2 Samuel 8:13).
The same phenomena are met with in the detailed account of the Ammonite-Syriac war, 1 Chronicles 19:1-2; 1 Chronicles 20:3, as compared with 2 Samuel 10:1-11:1, and 2 Samuel 12:26-31. In 1 Chronicles 19:1 the omission of the name הנוּן after בּנו is merely an oversight, as the omission of the name נחשׁ in 2 Samuel 10:1 also is. In 1 Chronicles 19:3 there is no need to alter וגו ולהפך לחקר into וגו וּלרגּלהּ את־העיר חקר, 2 Samuel 10:3, although the expression in Samuel is more precise. If the actual words of the original document are given in Samuel, the author of the Chronicle has made the thought more general: "to search and to overthrow, and to spy out the land." Perhaps, however, the terms made use of in the original document were not so exact and precise as those of the book of Samuel. In 1 Chronicles 19:6, 1 Chronicles 19:7, at least, the divergence from 2 Samuel 10:16 cannot be explained otherwise than by supposing that in neither of the narratives is the text of the original document exactly and perfectly reproduced. For a further discussion of the differences, see on 2 Samuel 10:6. The special statement as to the place where the mercenaries encamped, and the Ammonites gathered themselves together from out their cities (1 Chronicles 19:7), is wanting in 2nd Samuel. The city Medeba, which, according to Joshua 13:16, was assigned to the tribe of Reuben, lay about two hours southeast from Heshbon, and still exists as ruins, which retain the ancient name Medaba (see on Numbers 21:30). In 1 Chronicles 19:9, העיר פּתח, "outside the city" (i.e., the capital Rabbah), more correct or exact than השּׁער פּתח (2 Samuel 10:8). On אליהם ויּבא, as compared with חלאמה ויּבא (2 Samuel 10:17), cf. the discussion on 2 Samuel 10:16-17.
The account of the siege of Rabbah, the capital, in the following year, 1 Chronicles 20:1-3, is much abridged as compared with that in 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26-31. After the clause, "but David sat (remained) in Jerusalem," in 2 Samuel 11, from 2 Samuel 11:2 onwards, we have the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba, and the events connected with it (2 Samuel 11:3-12:25), which the author of the Chronicle has omitted, in accordance with the plan of his book. Thereafter, in 2 Samuel 12:26, the further progress of the siege of Rabbah is again taken up with the words, "And Joab warred against Rabbah of the sons of Ammon;" and in 2 Samuel 12:27-29 the capture of that city is circumstantially narrated, viz., how Joab, after he had taken the water-city, i.e., the city lying on both banks of the upper Jabbok (the Wady Ammn), with the exception of the Acropolis built on a hill on the north side of the city, sent messages to David, and called upon him to gather together the remainder of the people, i.e., all those capable of bearing arms who had remained in the land; and how David, having done this, took the citadel. Instead of this, we have in the Chronicle only the short statement, "And Joab smote Rabbah, and destroyed it" (1 Chronicles 20:1, at the end). After this, both narratives (1 Chronicles 20:2, 1 Chronicles 20:3, and 2 Samuel 12:30, 2 Samuel 12:31) coincide in narrating how David set the heavy golden crown of the king of the Ammonites on his head, brought much booty out of the city, caused the prisoners of war taken in Rabbah and the other fenced cities of the Ammonites to be slain in the cruellest way, and then returned with all the people, i.e., with the whole of his army, to Jerusalem. Thus we see that, according to the record in the Chronicle also, David was present at the capture of the Acropolis of Rabbah, then put on the crown of the Ammonite king, and commanded the slaughter of the prisoners; but no mention is made of his having gone to take part in the war. By the omission of this circumstance the narrative of the Chronicle becomes defective; but no reason can be given for this abridgment of the record, for the contents of 2 Samuel 12:26-31 must have been contained in the original documents made use of by the chronicler. On the differences between 2 Samuel 12:31 (Sam.) and 1 Chronicles 20:3 of the Chronicle, see on 2 Samuel 12:31. ויּשׂר, "he sawed asunder," is the correct reading, and ויּשׂם in Samuel is an orthographical error; while, on the contrary, בּמּגרות in the Chronicle is a mistake for בּמגזרות in Samuel. The omission of בּמּלבּן אותם והעביר is probably explained by the desire to abridge; for if the author of the Chronicle does not scruple to tell of the sawing asunder of the prisoners with saws, and the cutting of them to pieces under threshing instruments and scythes, it would never occur to him to endeavour to soften David's harsh treatment of them by passing over in silence the burning of them in brick-kilns.
The passages parallel to the short appendix-like accounts of the valiant deeds of the Israelitish leaders in 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 are to be found, as has already been remarked, in 2 Samuel 21:18-22. There, however, besides the three exploits of which we are informed by the chronicler in 2 Samuel 21:15-17, a fourth is recorded, and that in the first place too, viz., the narrative of David's fight with the giant Jishbi-Benob, who was slain by Abishai the son of Zeruiah. The reason why our historian has not recounted this along with the others is clear from the position which he assigns to these short narratives in his book. In the second book of Samuel they are recounted in the last section of the history of David's reign, as palpable proofs of the divine grace of which David had had experience during his whole life, and for which he there praises the Lord in a psalm of thanksgiving (2 Samuel 22). In this connection, David's deliverance by the heroic act of Abishai from the danger into which he had fallen by the fierce attack which the Philistine giant Jishbi-Benob made upon him when he was faint, is very suitably narrated, as being a visible proof of the divine grace which watched over the pious king. For the concluding remark in 2 Samuel 21:17, that in consequence of this event his captains adjured David not to go any more into battle along with them, that the light of Israel might not be extinguished, shows in how great danger he was of being slain by this giant. For this reason the author of the book of Samuel has placed this event at the head of the exploits of the Israelite captains which he was about to relate, although it happened somewhat later in time than the three exploits which succeed. The author of the Chronicle, on the contrary, has made the account of these exploits an appendix to the account of the victorious wars by which David obtained dominion over all the neighbouring peoples, and made his name to be feared among the heathen, as a further example of the greatness of the power given to the prince chosen by the Lord to be over His people. For this purpose the story of the slaughter of the Philistine giant, who had all but slain the weary David, was less suitable, and is therefore passed over by the chronicler, although it was contained in his authority,
(Note: Lightfoot says, in his Chronol. V. T. p. 68: Illud praelium, in quo David in periculum venit et unde decore et illaesus exire non potuit, omissum est.)
as is clear from the almost verbal coincidence of the stories which follow with 2 Samuel 21:18. The very first is introduced by the formula, "It happened after this," which in 2nd Samuel naturally connects the preceding narrative with this; while the chronicler has retained אהרי־כן as a general formula of transition, - omitting, however, עוד (Sam.) in the following clause, and writing ותּעמוד, "there arose," instead of ותּהי. עמד in the later Hebrew is the same as קוּם. The hypothesis that ותעמד has arisen out of עוד ותּהי (in Samuel) is not at all probable, although עמד is not elsewhere used of the origin of a war. Even קוּם is only once (Genesis 41:30) used of the coming, or coming in, of a time. On בּגזר and ספּי instead of בּנב and סף, see on 2 Samuel 21:18. ויּכּנעוּ at the end of the fourth verse is worthy of remark, "And they (the Philistines) were humbled," which is omitted from Samuel, and "yet can scarcely have been arbitrarily added by our historian" (Berth.). This remark, however, correct as it is, does not explain the omission of the word from 2nd Samuel. The reason for that can scarcely be other than that it did not seem necessary for the purpose which the author of the book of Samuel had in the first place in view. As to the two other exploits (1 Chronicles 20:6-8), see the commentary on 2 Samuel 21:19-22. אל for אלּה in the closing remark (1 Chronicles 20:8) is archaic, but the omission of the article (אל instead of האל, as we find it in Genesis 19:8, Genesis 19:25, and in other passages in the Pentateuch) cannot be elsewhere paralleled. In the last clause, "And they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants," that David should be named is surprising, because none of those here mentioned as begotten of Rapha, i.e., descendants of the ancient Raphaite race, had fallen by the hand of David, but all by the hand of his servants. Bertheau therefore thinks that this clause has been copied verbatim into our passage, and also into 2 Samuel 21:22, from the original document, where this enumeration formed the conclusion of a long section, in which the acts of David and of his heroes, in their battles with the giants in the land of the Philistines, were described. But since the author of the second book of Samuel expressly says, "These four were born to Rapha, and they fell" (2 Samuel 21:22), he can have referred in the words, "And they fell by the hand of David," only to the four above mentioned, whether he took the verse in question unaltered from his authority, or himself added אלּה את־ערבּעת. In the latter case he cannot have added the בּיד־דּוד without some purpose; in the former, the reference of the בּיד־דּוד in the "longer section," from which the excerpt is taken, to others than the four giants mentioned, to Goliath perhaps in addition, whom David slew, is rendered impossible by אלּה את־ערבּעת. The statement, "they fell by the hand of David," does not presuppose that David had slain all of them, or even one of them, with his own hand; for בּיד frequently signifies only through, i.e., by means of, and denotes here that those giants fell in wars which David had waged with the Philistines - that David had been the main cause of their fall, had brought about their death by his servants through the wars he waged.
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