2 Samuel 2:16
And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; so they fell down together: why that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon.
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(16) Helkath – hazzurim is interpreted in the margin “the field of strong men,” but the etymology is very doubtful. Most modern expositors understand it as meaning “the field of sharp edges.”

2:8-17. The nation in general refused David. By this the Lord trained up his servant for future honour and usefulness; and the tendency of true godliness was shown in his behaviour while passing through various difficulties. David was herein a type of Christ, whom Israel would not submit to, though anointed of the Father to be a Prince and a Saviour to them. Abner meant, Let the young men fight before us, when he said, Let them play before us: fools thus make a mock at sin. But he is unworthy the name of a man, that can thus trifle with human blood.Compare Livy's history of the battle between the Horatii and Curiatii. This combat, like that, may have been proposed as a means of avoiding the effusion of blood of two nations united by consanguinity, and having a common powerful enemy in the Philistines.

Helkath-hazzurim - i. e. "the part, field, or plat Genesis 23:19 of the sharp edges or blades." This seems, on the whole, the best explanation of this rather obscure name.

14. Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us—Some think that the proposal was only for an exhibition of a little tilting match for diversion. Others suppose that, both parties being reluctant to commence a civil war, Abner proposed to leave the contest to the decision of twelve picked men on either side. This fight by championship instead of terminating the matter, inflamed the fiercest passions of the two rival parties; a general engagement ensued, in which Abner and his forces were defeated and put to flight. By the head; by the hair of the head, which after their manner was of a considerable length, and therefore gave their enemy advantage; which every one of them endeavoured to get, and to improve against the other.

Helkath-hazzurim, or

the field of rocks, i. e. of men who stood like rocks, unmovable, each one dying upon the spot where he fought. And they caught everyone his fellow by the head,.... By the hair of his head with his hand:

and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; which he had in the other:

so they fell down together; the twelve on each side, all the twenty four; some think only the twelve on Abner's side fell; but to me it seems that they all fell dead as one man, since they thrust their swords in each other's sides:

wherefore that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon; the field of rocks, or of mighty men as strong as rocks, who stood as immovable, and would not give way, but fell and died in the field of battle; the Targum interprets it, the inheritance of the slain.

And they caught every one his {i} fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; so they fell down together: wherefore that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon.

(i) Meaning his adversary.

16. And they caught, &c.] Self-defence was forgotten in the ferocity of the struggle, and all the combatants fell together by a mutual slaughter.

Helkath-hazzurim] This obscure name is variously explained as the field or plat, (a) of sharp edges, in allusion to the swords which proved so fatal; (b) of strong men, literally rocks, from the rock-like obstinacy with which they fought; so the Vulg. ager robustorum; (c) of plotters, the rendering of the LXX. (μερὶς τῶν ἐπιβούλων), which involves a slight change in the Hebrew word, implying that there was some foul play in the combat; (d) of sides, according to a conjectural emendation suggested in the Speaker’s Commentary, in allusion to the phrase “thrust his sword in his fellow’s side.” Either the first or second explanation is the most probable.Verse 16. - His sword in his fellow's side. The absence of the verb in the original sets powerfully before us the rapidity of the whole action. But what an action! Twenty-four experienced men each take the other by the head, and, without any attempt at self-defence, thrust their swords into their opponents' side, and leave their own sides exposed to a similar thrust. Were they, then, unskilful in the use of weapons? Impossible. Were they blinded by hatred of one another? But no rancour would make a man forget his skill in defence. Here there is no variety, no checkered fortune of the combatants, but all twenty-four do and suffer just the same; and it is remarkable that they had swords only, and no shields. With shields on their arms, they could not have seized one another by the hair. It seems certain, therefore, that this mutual butchery was the "play;" nor can we conceive of a more murderous and savage proceeding. Abner, at the head of his fierce Benjamites, thought, perhaps, that Joab had no men among his followers willing to throw life away in so senseless a manner. But Joab was as ready as Abner, and possibly some code of false honour, such as used to make men practise duelling, required the acceptance of the challenge. And so, with their appetite for blood whetted by the sight of twenty-four murders, they hastened to begin the fight. Helkath-hazzurim. Literally this means "the field of flints;" but as the flint is constantly used for any hard rock (Psalm 78:20), the Authorized Version has admitted into the margin a paraphrase taken from the Vulgate, which supposes that by flints are meant "strong men," and renders, "the field of strong men." So in Isaiah 26:4 "the flint," or rock, "of ages," is even translated "everlasting strength." Flints, however, were constantly used by the Israelites for knives whenever extreme sharpness was required. Thus for the circumcising of Israel, Jehovah commanded Joshua to prepare knives of flint (Joshua 5:2); and in course of time the sharp or whetted edge of a weapon was called its flint. Thus in Psalm 89:43 we read, "Thou hast turned back the flint of his sword." The name therefore probably means "the field of the sharp knives" (see margin of the Revised Version), and refers to the short swords with which they murdered one another. Length of the reigns of Ishbosheth over Israel, and David at Hebron. The age of Ishbosheth is given, as is generally the case at the commencement of a reign. He was forty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years; whereas David was king at Hebron over the house of Judah seven years and a half. We are struck with this difference in the length of the two reigns; and it cannot be explained, as Seb. Schmidt, Clericus, and others suppose, on the simple assumption that David reigned two years at Hebron over Judah, namely up to the time of the murder of Ishbosheth, and then five years and a half over Israel, namely up to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem: for this is at variance with the plain statement in the text, that "David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah seven years and a half." The opinion that the two years of Ishbosheth's reign are to be reckoned up to the time of the war with David, because Abner played the principal part during the other five years and a half that David continued to reign at Hebron, is equally untenable. We may see very clearly from 2 Samuel 3-5 not only that Ishbosheth was king to the time of his death, which took place after that of Abner, but also that after both these events David was anointed king over Israel in Hebron by all the tribes, and that he then went directly to attack Jerusalem, and after conquering the citadel of Zion, chose that city as his own capital. The short duration of Ishbosheth's reign can only be explained, therefore, on the supposition that he was not made king, as David was, immediately after the death of Saul, but after the recovery by Abner of the land which the Philistines had taken on this side the Jordan, which may have occupied five years.

(Note: From the fact that in 2 Samuel 2:10, 2 Samuel 2:11, Ishbosheth's ascending the throne is mentioned before that of David, and is also accompanied with a statement of his age, whereas the age of David is not given till 2 Samuel 5:4-5, when he became king over all Israel, Ewald draws the erroneous conclusion that the earlier (?) historian regarded Ishbosheth as the true king, and David as a pretender. But the very opposite of this is stated as distinctly as possible in 2 Samuel 2:4. (compared with 2 Samuel 2:8). The fact that Ishbosheth is mentioned before David in 2 Samuel 2:10 may be explained simply enough from the custom so constantly observed in the book of Genesis, of mentioning subordinate lines or subordinate persons first, and stating whatever seemed worth recording with regard to them, in order that the ground might be perfectly clear for relating the history of the principal characters without any interruption.)

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