Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Asahel.—As he was killed by Abner while David reigned over Judah only, it is plain that this list is not restricted to any one definite time in David’s reign. Leaving out Asahel, however, the names that follow are exactly “thirty.” Of but few of them is anything further known.2 Samuel 2:32 would make it very likely that his place in the 30 would be filled up, and so easily account for the number 31 in the list. Compare throughout the list in 1 Chronicles 11. One of the thirty; Heb. with or among the thirty; not only as one, but as the chief of them.
Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem: a townsman of David.Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)24. The list in Chron. is headed “And the mighty men of valour were Asahel,” &c.
Asahel] David’s nephew. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 2:18.
Elhanan] Apparently not the same as Elhanan the son of Jair of Beth-lehem (ch. 2 Samuel 21:19), if the text is sound.
24–39. The Thirty Heroes
The names in this list vary considerably from those in the corresponding list in 1 Chronicles 11:26-41. In all probability both lists have suffered considerably from textual corruption, by which names are especially liable to be affected, and many of the differences can clearly be traced to this source. But it cannot be assumed as absolutely certain that the lists were originally identical. This catalogue may possibly have been revised at a later period of David’s reign, when the body was to some extent differently constituted.
The heroes are for the most part distinguished by the names of their native places or residences; and these are in some cases identical with clan or family names, because the head of the clan gave his name to the place where his family settled.Verse 24. - The thirty. This order of knighthood consisted originally of thirty-three men, of whom three were of higher rank, and presided, probably, each over ten, while Joab was chief over them all. This arrangement of men in tens, with an officer over them. was, in fact, the normal rule among the Hebrews. The second triad is unusual, but is explained by the history. In honour of the exploit of bringing the water from the well of Bethlehem, this second order of three was instituted, lower than the three chiefs, but higher than the rest. The third of these is not mentioned, and the disappearance of the name is not the result of accident, but of purpose. Had it been a scribe's error, there would have been some trace of it in the versions. But if the name was erased, it must have been blotted out for treason, and we thus have two candidates for the vacant niche: one is Amasa, and the other Ahithophel. The name of Joab we cannot for one moment admit. He never was a traitor to David, nor would the latter, though king, have ventured to degrade one so powerful, and who continued to be commander-in-chief until David's death. Now, if Amasa is the same as the Amasai in 1 Chronicles 12:18, who was chief of the captains who came from Judah and Benjamin to David when he was in the hold, it is difficult to account for the absence of his name from the list of the thirty. Plainly, however, David did not regard his treason with strong displeasure, but was prepared, after Absalom's death, to make him commander-in-chief. But we must remember that a place in this second triad was gained by one exploit. The three were those who broke through the Philistine host, and fetched the water from Bethlehem. Such a deed would account for the close attachment between David and Ahithophel. He was the king's companion, and his familiar friend. It would account also for his suicide. His love to David had, for some unknown reason, turned to bitter hatred. He sought, not only David's life, but his dishonour. His feelings must have been highly excited before he could have worked himself up to such a pitch; and the reaction and disappointment would be equally extreme. He never could have faced David again, remembering the warmth of former love, and the shamelessness with which he had sought, not only his life, but to bring upon him public shame and ignominy. And his name would have been totally erased, and gone down into silence. Of Ahithophel's personal accomplishments as a brave warrior, we cannot doubt (see 2 Samuel 17:1), and his son Eliam was one of the mighties. (On a son and father both belonging to the order, see note on ver. 33.) Elhanan (see note on 2 Samuel 21:19). 2 Samuel 23:18, 2 Samuel 23:19. Abishai, Joab's brother (see 1 Samuel 26:6), was also chief of the body-guard, like Jashobeam (2 Samuel 23:8 : the Chethib השּׁלשׁי is correct; see at 2 Samuel 23:8). He swung his spear over three hundred slain. "He had a name among the three," i.e., the three principal heroes, Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah. The following words, מן־השּׁלשׁה, make no sense. השּׁלשׁה is an error in writing for השּׁלשׁים, as 2 Samuel 23:23 shows in both the texts (2 Samuel 23:25 of the Chronicles): an error the origin of which may easily be explained from the word שׁלשׁה, which stands immediately before. "He was certainly honoured before the thirty (heroes of David), and became their chief, but he did not come to the three," i.e., he was not equal to Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah. הכי has the force of an energetic assurance: "Is it so that," i.e., it is certainly so (as in 2 Samuel 9:1; Genesis 27:36; Genesis 29:15).
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