2 Samuel 23:1
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) The son of Jesse said.—The description of the human author of the following prophecy is strikingly analogous to that of Balaam in Numbers 24:3-4; Numbers 24:15-16. The word “said,” used twice, is a peculiar form (used between two hundred and three hundred times) of direct Divine utterances, and applied to human sayings only here, in the places referred to in Numbers, and in Proverbs 30:1, in all which special claim is made to inspiration.

The sweet psalmist of Israel.—Literally, He that is pleasant in Israel’s psalms, i.e., by the composition and arrangement of Israel’s liturgical songs he was entitled to be called “pleasant.” David, with life now closing, fitly sends down this prophetic song to posterity with such description of its human writer as should secure to it authority.

2 Samuel

THE DYING KING’S LAST VISION AND PSALM

2 Samuel 23:1 - 2 Samuel 23:7
.

It was fitting that ‘the last words of David’ should be a prophecy of the true King, whom his own failures and sins, no less than his consecration and victories, had taught him to expect. His dying eyes see on the horizon of the far-off future the form of Him who is to be a just and perfect Ruler, before the brightness of whose presence and the refreshing of whose influence, verdure and beauty shall clothe the world. As the shades gather round the dying monarch, the radiant glory to come brightens. He departs in peace, having seen the salvation from afar, and stretched out longing hands of greeting toward it. Then his harp is silent, as if the rapture which thrilled the trembling strings had snapped them.

I. We have first a prelude extending to the middle of 2 Samuel 23:3. In it there is first a fourfold designation of the personality of the Psalmist-prophet, and then a fourfold designation of the divine oracle spoken through him. The word rendered in 2 Samuel 23:1 ‘saith’ is really a noun, and usually employed with ‘the Lord’ following, as in the familiar phrase ‘saith the Lord.’ It is used, as here, with the genitive of the human recipient, in Balaam’s prophecy, on which this is evidently modelled. It distinctly claims a divine source for the oracle following, and declares, at the outset, that these last words of David were really the faithful sayings of Jehovah. The human and divine elements are smelted together. Note the description of the human personality. First, the natural ‘David the son of Jesse,’ like ‘Balaam the son of Beor’ in the earlier oracle. The aged king looks back with adoring thankfulness to his early days and humble birth, as if he were saying, ‘Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should proclaim the coming King.’ Then follow three clauses descriptive of what ‘the son of Jesse’ had been made by the grace of God, in that he had been raised on high from his low condition of a shepherd boy, and anointed as ruler, not only by Samuel and the people, but by the God of their great ancestor, whose career had presented so many points of resemblance to his own, the God who still wrought among the nation which bore the patriarch’s name, as He had wrought of old; and that, besides his royalty, he had been taught to sing the sweet songs which already were the heritage of the nation. This last designation shows what David counted God’s chief gift to him,-not his crown, but his harp. It further shows that he regarded his psalms as divinely inspired, and it proves that already they had become the property of the nation. This first verse heightens the importance of the subsequent oracle by dwelling on the claims of the recipient of the revelation to be heard and heeded.

Similarly, the fourfold designation of the divine source has the same purpose, and corresponds with the four clauses of 2 Samuel 23:1, ‘The Spirit of the Lord spake in [or “into”] me.’ That gives the Psalmist’s consciousness that in his prophecy he was but the recipient of a message. It wonderfully describes the penetrating power of that inward voice which clearly came to him from without, and as clearly spoke to him within. Words could not more plainly declare the prophetic consciousness of the distinction between himself and the Voice which he heard in the depths of his spirit. It spoke in him before he spoke his lyric prophecy. ‘His word was upon my tongue.’ There we have the utterance succeeding the inward voice, and the guarantee that the Psalmist’s word was a true transcript of the inward voice. ‘The God of Israel said,’ and therefore Israel is concerned in the divine word, which is not of private reference, but meant for all. ‘The Rock of Israel spake,’ and therefore Israel may trust the Word, which rests on His immutable faithfulness and eternal being.

II. The divine oracle thus solemnly introduced and guaranteed must be worthy of such a prelude. Abruptly, and in clauses without verbs, the picture of the righteous Ruler is divinely flashed before the seer’s inward eye. The broken construction may perhaps indicate that he is describing what he beholds in vision. There is no need for any supplement such as ‘There shall be,’ which, however true in meaning, mars the vividness of the presentation of the Ruler to the prophet’s sight. David sees him painted on the else blank wall of the future. When and where the realisation may be he knows not. What are the majestic outlines? A universal sovereign over collective humanity, righteous and God-fearing. In the same manner as he described the vision of the King, David goes on, as a man on some height telling what he saw to the people below, and paints the blessed issues of the King’s coming.

It had been night before He came,-the night of ignorance, sorrow, and sin,-but His coming is like one of these glorious Eastern sunrises without a cloud, when everything laughs in the early beams, and, with tropical swiftness, the tender herbage bursts from the ground, as born from the dazzling brightness and the fertilising rain. So all things shall rejoice in the reign of the King, and humanity be productive, under His glad and quickening influences, of growths of beauty and fruitfulness impossible to it without these.

The abrupt form of the prophecy has led some interpreters to construe it as, ‘When a king over men is righteous. . . then it is as a morning,’ etc. But surely such a platitude is not worthy of being David’s last word, nor did it need divine inspiration to disclose to him that a just king is a great blessing. The only worthy meaning is that which sees here, in words so solemnly marked as a special revelation closing the life of David, ‘the vision of the future and all the wonder that should be,’ when a real Person should thus reign over men. The explanation that we have here simply the ideal of the collective Davidic monarchy is a lame attempt to escape from the recognition of prophecy properly so called. It is the work of poetry to paint ideals, of prophecy to foretell, with God’s authority, their realisation. The picture here is too radiant to be realised in any mere human king, and, as a matter of fact, never was so in any of David’s successors, or in the whole of them put together. It either swings in vacuo, a dream unrealised, or it is a distinct prophecy from God of the reign of the coming Messiah, of whom David and all his sons, as anointed kings, were living prophecies. ‘The Messianic idea entered on a new stage of development with the monarchy, and that not as if the history stimulated men’s imaginations, but that God used the history as a means of further revelation by His prophetic Spirit.

III. The difficult 2 Samuel 23:5, whether its first and last clauses be taken interrogatively or negatively, in its central part bases the assurance of the coming of the king on God’s covenant {2 Samuel 7:1 - 2 Samuel 7:29}, which is glorified as being everlasting, provided with all requisites for its realisation, and therefore ‘sure,’ or perhaps ‘preserved,’ as if guarded by God’s inviolable sanctity and faithfulness. The fulfilment of the dying saint’s hopes depends on God’s truth. Whatever sense might say, or doubt whisper, he silences them by gazing on that great Word. So we all have to do. If we found our hopes and forecasts on it, we can go down to the grave calmly, though they be not fulfilled, sure that ‘no good thing can fail us of all that He hath spoken.’ Living or dying, faith and hope must stay themselves on God’s word. Happy they whose closing eyes see the form of the King, and whose last thoughts are of God’s faithful promise! Happy they whose forecasts of the future, nearer or more remote, are shaped by His word! Happy they who, in the triumphant energy of such a faith, can with dying lips proclaim that His promises overlap, and contain, all their salvation and all their desire!

If we read the first and last clauses negatively, with Revised Version and others, they, as it were, surround the kernel of clear-eyed faith, in the middle of the verse, with a husk, not of doubt, but of consciousness how far the present is from fulfilling the great promise. The poor dying king looks back on the scandals of his later reign, on his own sin, on his children’s lust, rebellion, and tragic deaths, and feels how far from the ideal he and they have been. He sees little token of growth toward realisation of that promise; but yet in spite of a stained past and a wintry present, he holds fast his confidence. That is the true temper of faith, which calls things that are not as though they were, and is hindered by no sense of unworthiness nor by any discouragements born of sense, from grasping with full assurance the promise of God. But the consensus of the most careful expositors inclines to take both clauses as questions, and then the meaning would be, ‘Does not my house stand in such a relation to God that the righteous king will spring from it? It is, in this view, a triumphant question, expressing the strongest assurance, and the next clause would then lay bare the foundation of that relation of David’s house as not its goodness, but God’s covenant {‘for He hath made’}. Similarly the last clause would be a triumphant question of certainty, asserting in the strongest manner that God would cause that future salvation for the world, which was wrapped up in the coming of the king, and in which the dying man was sure that he should somehow have a share, dead though he were, to blossom and grow, though he had to die as in the winter, before the buds began to swell. The assurance of immortality, and of a share in all the blessings to come, bursts from the lips that are so soon to be silent.

IV. But the oracle cannot end with painting only blessings as flowing from the king’s reign. If he is to rule in righteousness and the fear of the Lord, then he must fight against evil. If his coming causes the tender grass to spring, it will quicken ugly growths too. The former representation is only half the truth; and the threatening of destruction for the evil is as much a part of the divine oracle as the other. Strictly, it is ‘wickedness’-the abstract quality rather than the concrete persons who embody it-which is spoken of. May we recall the old distinction that God loves the sinner while He hates the sin? The picture is vivid. The wicked-and all the enemies of this King are wicked, in the prophet’s view-are like some of these thorn-brakes, that cannot be laid hold of, even to root them out, but need to be attacked with sharp pruning-hooks on long shafts, or burned where they grow. There is a destructive side to the coming of the King, shadowed in every prophecy of him, and brought emphatically to prominence in his own descriptions of his reign and its final issues. It is a poor kindness to suppress that side of the truth. Thorns as well as tender grass spring up in the quickening beams; and the best commentary on the solemn words which close David’s closing song is the saying of the King himself: ‘In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.’2 Samuel 23:1. These be the last words of David — Not simply the last that he spoke, but the last which he spake by the Spirit of God, assisting and directing him in an extraordinary manner. When we find death approaching, we should endeavour both to honour God, and to profit others with our last words. Let those who have had experience of God’s goodness, and the pleasantness of the ways of wisdom, when they come to finish their course, leave a record of those experiences, and bear their testimony to the truth of God’s promises. The man who was raised up on high — Advanced from an obscure estate to the kingdom. Whom God singled out from all the families of Israel, and anointed to be king. The sweet psalmist — He who was eminent among the people of God, for composing sweet and holy songs to the praise of God, and for the use of his church in after ages. These seem not to be the words of David, but of the sacred penman of this book.23:1-7 These words of David are very worthy of regard. Let those who have had long experience of God's goodness, and the pleasantness of heavenly wisdom, when they come to finish their course, bear their testimony to the truth of the promise. David avows his Divine inspiration, that the Spirit of God spake by him. He, and other holy men, spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. In many things he had his own neglect and wrong conduct to blame. But David comforted himself that the Lord had made with him an everlasting covenant. By this he principally intended the covenant of mercy and peace, which the Lord made with him as a sinner, who believed in the promised Saviour, who embraced the promised blessing, who yielded up himself to the Lord, to be his redeemed servant. Believers shall for ever enjoy covenant blessings; and God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shall be for ever glorified in their salvation. Thus pardon, righteousness, grace, and eternal life, are secured as the gift of God through Jesus Christ. There is an infinite fulness of grace and all blessings treasured up in Christ, for those who seek his salvation. This covenant was all David's salvation, he so well knew the holy law of God and the extent of his own sinfulness, that he perceived what was needful for his own case in this salvation. It was therefore all his desire. In comparison, all earthly objects lost their attractions; he was willing to give them up, or to die and leave them, that he might enjoy full happiness, Ps 73:24-28. Still the power of evil, and the weakness of his faith, hope, and love, were his grief and burden. Doubtless he would have allowed that his own slackness and want of care were the cause; but the hope that he should soon be made perfect in glory, encouraged him in his dying moments.This song, which is found with scarcely any material variation as Psalm 18, and with the words of this first verse for its title, belongs to the early part of David's reign when he was recently established upon the throne of all Israel, and when his final triumph over the house of Saul, and over the pagan nations 2 Samuel 22:44-46, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites, was still fresh 2 Samuel 21. For a commentary on the separate verses the reader is referred to the commentary on Psalm 18.

The last words of David - i. e., his last Psalm, his last "words of song" 2 Samuel 22:1. The insertion of this Psalm, which is not in the Book of Psalms, was probably suggested by the insertion of the long Psalm in 2 Samuel 22.

David the son of Jesse said ... - The original word for "said" is used between 200 and 300 times in the phrase, "saith the Lord," designating the word of God in the mouth of the prophet. It is only applied to the words of a man here, and in the strikingly similar passage Numbers 24:3-4, Numbers 24:15-16, and in Proverbs 30:1; and in all these places the words spoken are inspired words. The description of David is divided into four clauses, which correspond to and balance each other.

CHAPTER 23

2Sa 23:1-7. David Professes His Faith in God's Promises.

1. Now these be the last words of David—Various opinions are entertained as to the precise meaning of this statement, which, it is obvious, proceeded from the compiler or collector of the sacred canon. Some think that, as there is no division of chapters in the Hebrew Scriptures, this introduction was intended to show that what follows is no part of the preceding song. Others regard this as the last of the king's poetical compositions; while still others consider it the last of his utterances as an inspired writer.

raised up on high—from an obscure family and condition to a throne.

the anointed of the God of Jacob—chosen to be king by the special appointment of that God, to whom, by virtue of an ancient covenant, the people of Israel owed all their peculiar destiny and distinguished privileges.

the sweet psalmist of Israel—that is, delightful, highly esteemed.David’s last words: a character of himself; of a good ruler, and his usefulness, 2 Samuel 23:1. His faith on God’s covenant with him, 2 Samuel 23:5. Destruction to the wicked, 2 Samuel 23:6,7. David’s worthies and their valiant acts, 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

The last words of David; not simply the last that he spoke, but some of the last uttered in his last days upon the approach of his death; or the last which he spoke by the Spirit of God, assisting and directing him in an extraordinary manner.

Raised up on high; advanced from an obscure family and estate to the kingdom.

The anointed of the God of Jacob; whom, though despised by men, and rejected by his own brethren, God himself singled out from all his father’s house, and out of all the families and tribes of Israel, and anointed to be king.

The sweet psalmist of Israel; or, sweet, or delightful, or amiable in the songs of Israel: either, first, As the object of them; he whom the people of Israel mentioned in their songs with joy and praise, as when they sung, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands; and many others which doubtless they made and sung concerning him, upon the occasion of his eminent victories, and the blessings of his wise and righteous government; some whereof we have in the Book of Psalms. Or, secondly, As the author of them, he who was eminent and famous among the people of God for the composing of sweet and holy songs to the praise of God, and for the use of his church in after-ages; for he did not only indite most of the Book of Psalms, by the direction of God’s Spirit; but also invented the tunes, or appointed tunes to which they were to be sung, and the instruments of music which were used in and with those holy songs, 1 Chronicles 25:1,6 Am 6:5. If the expressions here used seem arrogant, and not fit to be said by David in his own praise, let it be considered, first, That holy men spake by inspiration from God; and therefore must follow his suggestions impartially, as indeed they do sometimes in the publishing their own praises; which yet is never done unnecessarily, and always moderately; and sometimes in the publishing of their own infirmities and shame, as they are moved thereunto, and as the edification of the church requires.

Secondly, That these seem not to be the words of David, but of the sacred penman of this book, to make for and gain the greater attention and respect unto David’s following words.

Now these be the last words of David,.... Which refer not to the psalm in the preceding chapter, but to what follows; not the last words he spoke, for he said many things afterwards; for the advice he gave to Solomon, and the instructions to him about building the temple, were delivered after this time; but these were the last after he had finished the book of Psalms; or the last that he spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, or that he delivered out by way of prophecy; though the Jews (f) will not allow him to speak by the spirit of prophecy; they own he spoke by the Holy Spirit, which they distinguish from prophecy; but the Targum calls these words a prophecy, and takes them to be a prophecy of the Messiah, and of things to come, as undoubtedly they are, paraphrasing them thus;"these are the words of the prophecy of David, which he prophesied concerning the end of the world, concerning the days of consolation that should come;''this is observed to excite attention, the last words of dying men being usually regarded and remembered:

David the son of Jesse said; he began with his descent, which was comparatively mean, in order to illustrate the distinguishing goodness of God to him in his exaltation:

and the man who was raised up on high; from a low estate to an high one, from the sheepfold to the throne, to be king over all the tribes of Israel, and a conqueror, and head of the nations round about him:

the anointed of the God of Jacob; who was anointed king by Samuel by the order of the God of Jacob; and which was an instance of his being the God of Jacob or Israel, and of his care of them, and regard unto them, that he anointed such a man to be king over them, as well as it was an honour to David:

and the sweet psalmist of Israel; who composed most of the psalms and hymns of praise for the people of Israel; invented and set the tunes to them to which they were to be sung, and the instruments of music on which they were sung; and appointed singers to preside, and lead them in that part of divine worship, singing psalms and hymns; and very sweet were the psalms he composed as to the matter of them, and very sweet and delightful to the ear was the music in the manner of singing them: it may be rendered, who was "sweet" or "pleasant in the songs of Israel" (g), his warlike exploits and victories being the subject of them, 1 Samuel 18:6,

said; as follows; for all that goes before are the words of the penman of this book, drawing the character of David; in which he was a type of Christ, a branch out of the root of Jesse, highly exalted, and chosen from among the people, anointed to be prophet, priest, and King; and who sweetly expounded the psalms concerning himself, and ordered them to be sung in the churches, and of which he is the subject, and may be said to be sweetly held forth in them, see Luke 24:44.

(f) Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 45. (g) "jucundus psalmis", Montanus; "suavis in canticis", Vatablus; "amoenus psalmis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Now these be the {a} last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,

(a) Which he spoke after he had written the psalms.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. David the son of Jesse said] The oracle of David the son of Jesse: a peculiar word, generally used of a direct message from God through a prophet in the phrase rendered, “saith the Lord,” and joined with the name of the human speaker only here and in Numbers 24:3-4; Numbers 24:15-16; Proverbs 30:1. It therefore marks these “last words” as an utterance delivered by special divine inspiration.

raised up on high] Raised by God from a low estate to be the king of Israel. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 7:8-9; Psalm 78:70-71.

the God of Jacob] The use of the name Jacob, instead of the more familiar Israel, is chiefly poetical. It suggests more vividly the connexion of the nation with their great ancestor, and recalls more forcibly the covenant made with him by God. Cp. Psalm 20:1; Isaiah 2:3.

the sweet psalmist of Israel] Lit. pleasant in Israel’s songs of praise: a title deserving to stand by the side of “the anointed of the God of Jacob,” because he was God’s instrument for educating and developing his people’s religious life by means of his Psalms, not less than for governing them as king. See Introd. ch. V. § 6, c, p. 31.

Ch. 2 Samuel 23:1-7. The last words of David

The great hymn of triumph in ch. 22, composed when David was in the zenith of his prosperity, is followed by his “last words:” his last prophetic utterance, delivered not long before his death, a parting testimony to the world of his confidence in the fulfilment of the promise concerning the eternal dominion of his posterity.

A translation of the Targum or Aramaic paraphrase of David’s last words is given in Note IV., p. 237.Verse 1. - Now these be the last words of David. A long interval separates this psalm from the preceding. The one was written when David had just reached the zenith of his power, and, when still unstained by foul crime, he could claim God's favour as due to his innocence. These last words were David's latest inspired utterance, written, probably, towards the end of the calm period which followed upon his restoration to his throne, and when time and the sense of God's renewed favour had healed the wounds of his soul. David the son of Jesse said. It was probably this account of the author, and its personal character, which caused the exclusion of this hymn from the Book of Psalms. It seemed to belong rather to David's private history than to a collection made for use in the public services of the temple. Said. The word is one usually applied to a message coming directly from God. It is used, however, four times in Numbers 24. of the words of Balaam, and in Proverbs 30. of those of Agur. The solemnity of the word indicates the fatness of its inspiration. The sweet psalmist; literally, he who is pleasant in the psalms of Israel. David might well claim this title, as, under God, we owe the Psalter to him. 44 And Thou rescuest me out of the strivings of my people,

Preservest me to be the head of the heathen.

People that I knew not serve me.

45 The sons of the stranger dissemble to me,

Upon hearsay they obey me.

46 The sons of the stranger despair,

And tremble out of their castles.

By "the strivings of my people" the more indefinite expression in the psalm, "strivings of the people," is explained. The words refer to the domestic conflicts of David, out of which the Lord delivered him, such as the opposition of Ishbosheth and the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba. These deliverances formed the prelude and basis of his dominion over the heathen. Consequently תּשׁמרני (Thou preservest me to be the head of the nations) occurs quite appropriately in the second clause; and תּשׂימני, "Thou settest me," which occurs in the psalm, is a far less pregnant expression. עם before ידעתּי לא is used indefinitely to signify foreign nations. Toi king of Hamath (2 Samuel 8:10) was an example, and his subjugation was a prelude of the future subjection of all the heathen to the sceptre of the Son of David, as predicted in Psalm 72. In v. 45 the two clauses of the psalm are very appropriately transposed. The Hithpael יתכחשׁוּ, as compared with יכחשׁוּ, is the later form. In the primary passage (Deuteronomy 33:29) the Niphal is used to signify the dissembling of friendship, or of involuntary homage on the part of the vanquished towards the victor. אזן לשׁמוע, "by the hearing of the ear," i.e., by hearsay, is a simple explanation of אזן לשׁמע, at the rumour of the ears (vid., Job 42:5), i.e., at the mere rumour of David's victories. The foreign nations pine away, i.e., despair of ever being able to resist the victorious power of David. יחגּרוּ, "they gird themselves," does not yield any appropriate meaning, even if we should take it in the sense of equipping themselves to go out to battle. The word is probably a misspelling of יחרגוּ, which occurs in the psalm, חרג being a ἁπ. λεγ. in the sense of being terrified, or trembling: they tremble out of their castles, i.e., they come trembling out of their castles (for the thought itself, see Micah 7:17). It is by no means probable that the word חרג, which is so frequently met with in Hebrew, is used in this one passage in the sense of "to limp," according to Syriac usage.

In conclusion, the Psalmist returns to the praise of the Lord, who had so highly favoured him.

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