2 Samuel 5:17
But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold.
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(17) When the Philistines heard.—After this general summary, the narrative goes back to take up detailed events in their order. First comes an attack of the Philistines. Their attention had naturally been hitherto occupied with Abner and Ish-bosheth, who ruled over the far greater part of the land; but when they heard that the old nation was united under their old foe, they saw that no time was to be lost in attacking him before his power should be consolidated. Yet their necessary consultations, and the mustering of their forces, allowed time for the conquest of Jerusalem, which David seems to have accomplished with the forces gathered at his coronation.

Went down to the hold.—As David went “down” to this place, and then “up” (2Samuel 5:19) from it to the attack on the Philistines, it is not likely that “the hold” means the citadel of Zion. It must have been some stronghold near the Philistine army. It could not have been, as some have thought, the cave of Adullam. According to the monastic tradition, this was seven or eight miles S.E. of Bethlehem; according to the more ancient view, it was in the plain of Judah, west of the mountains; thus, in either case, quite remote from the scene of the battle.

2 Samuel 5:17. All the Philistines came up to seek David — They raised all the forces they were able, to come up to David, and fight him before he was settled in his new kingdom. While the civil war subsisted between the partisans of David and Ish-bosheth, the Philistines contented themselves with being calm spectators of their mutual ravages and conflicts, which naturally tended to their mutual destruction; but when all these were ended in their unanimous election of David to the throne, and that election was succeeded by those beginnings and omens of a prosperous reign which have been mentioned, they began to be alarmed, and thought this the fit season to crush the growing power of this prince before it rose to a greater height. And David heard it, and went down to the hold — To some fortified place, to which his people might conveniently resort from all parts, and where he might intrench his army.

5:17-25 The Philistines considered not that David had the presence of God with him, which Saul had forfeited and lost. The kingdom of the Messiah, as soon as it was set up in the world, was thus attacked by the powers of darkness. The heathen raged, and the kings of the earth set themselves to oppose it; but all in vain, Ps 2:1, &c. The destruction will turn, as this did, upon Satan's own kingdom. David owns dependence on God for victory; and refers himself to the good pleasure of God, Wilt thou do it? The assurance God has given us of victory over our spiritual enemies, should encourage us in our spiritual conflicts. David waited till God moved; he stirred then, but not till then. He was trained up in dependence on God and his providence. God performed his promise, and David failed not to improve his advantages. When the kingdom of the Messiah was to be set up, the apostles, who were to beat down the devil's kingdom, must not attempt any thing till they received the promise of the Spirit; who came with a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, Ac 2:2.The hold - Not the same place which is so named in 2 Samuel 5:7, 2 Samuel 5:9, but probably the cave (or hold) of Adullam 2 Samuel 23:13. The invasion most probably took place before David had completed his buildings in the city of David; and is probably referred to in 2 Samuel 23:8-17. 2Sa 5:17-25. He Smites the Philistines.

17. when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel—During the civil war between the house of Saul and David, those restless neighbors had remained quiet spectators of the contest. But now, jealous of David, they resolved to attack him before his government was fully established.

Whilst the civil war lasted between the houses of Saul and David, they wisely forbore all hostilities, and left them to tear out one another’s bowels, that afterwards they might make a more easy conquest of both; but that being ended, and all united under David, they bestir themselves.

To seek David; to find him out, and fight against him, and cut him off now in the infancy of his kingdom; whereby they give David a just occasion to fight against them for his own necessary defence, and acquit him from any note of ingratitude, in opposing them who had formerly exercised kindness and hospitality to him; though indeed David’s obligations were in a manner wholly to Achish, who seems to be dead at this time, there being no mention of him.

To the hold; to some fortified place to which his people might conveniently resort from all places, and where he might intrench his army, and which lay towards the Philistines.

But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel,.... That the civil war in the nation was now at an end, which they hoped would have issued in their destruction, and therefore lay still and quiet; but now being united under the government of David, and he hereby greatly strengthened and become powerful; and hearing also of his success against Jerusalem, and the friendship he had contracted with Hiram king of Tyre, they thought it was high time to bestir themselves, and put a stop to his power and greatness; and now it was, as Kimchi thinks, that David penned the second psalm, which begins, "why do the Heathen rage", &c. Psalm 2:1,

all the Philistines came up to seek David: in order to fight him, all the five principalities of the Philistines combined together against him; perhaps his old friend Achish king of Gath was now dead, or had now entertained a different opinion of him:

and David heard of it; that they had invaded his kingdom, and sought to fight him:

and went down to the hold; some fortified place or strong hold near Jerusalem, which lay lower than the city, or than the strong hold of Zion, in which David dwelt; hither he went, not so much for safety, or with an intention to abide there, but as a rendezvous for his men, and to prepare to meet the Philistines.

But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold.
17–25. Two victories over the Philistines

 =1 Chronicles 14:8-1617. But when the Philistines heard] This Philistine invasion probably followed soon after the capture of Jebus. The Philistines were alarmed by the union of the Israelites under a king of proved vigour, who had inaugurated his reign by a brilliant military achievement. They therefore mustered their whole force (cp. 1 Samuel 29:1), for a strenuous effort to crush him.

came up] From the plains of Philistia to the highlands of Judah.

went down to the hold] The word translated “hold” is the same as that translated “stronghold” in 2 Samuel 5:7, and “fort” in 2 Samuel 5:9. But as David “went down” to it, and “went up” from it into the valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:19), it cannot here mean the citadel of Zion. Most probably David wished to drive the Philistines back, and prevent them from plundering his country, and marched down with his forces to his old post at Adullam. The term “stronghold” is used of Adullam in ch. 2 Samuel 23:14, and the incident there related may have happened in this war. It was a strong position in the valley of Elah, one of the most likely routes for an invading army from Philistia to take. See notes on 1 Samuel 17:1; 1 Samuel 22:1. This view agrees with the general statement in 1 Chron. that “he went out against them.”

Verse 17. - But when the Philistines heard. After the battle of Gilboa the Philistines became the virtual rulers of much of the country west of the Jordan, and probably even David and Judah paid them tribute. On its eastern bank, though Abner kept them from molesting Ishbosheth's kingdom, yet the rule of Saul's house in Ephraim and Benjamin must have been nominal only, and the Philistines would have seen him with pleasure wasting his strength in civil war. After Ishbosheth's death they had tightened their grasp over the central districts of Palestine, though probably content with exacting tribute. They must now have seen with displeasure the consolidation of the tribes under one able ruler. Even in their divided state, the natural strength of the country and the bravery of the people had made it a task too great for the Philistine power entirely to crush Israel's independence. But if they could destroy David before he had had time to establish himself in his kingdom, they would at least prolong indefinitely that feebleness of Israel which had made it so long subject to their dominion. Of this supremacy the Philistines have handed down a token forever in giving to the whole country the name of Palestine, the Philistines' land. David... went down to the hold. Many commentators identify the hold with the cave of Adullam, and certainly the account of the brave deed of three of David's heroes, in breaking through the Philistine garrison of Bethlehem to bring him water thence, gives great probability to this view. For we read there that "the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim, and that David was then in the hold" (2 Samuel 23:13, 14, where note that the word "hold" has the definite article). There are, however, many difficulties connected with this view; for the cave of Adullam was in the valley of Elah, on the road from Hebron to Philistia (1 Samuel 22:1), but the valley of Rephaim is close to Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8), abutting, in fact, upon the valley of Ben-Hinnom. Baal-Perazim also is in the same neighbourhood, being the rocky height which forms the border of Ben-Hinnom, and bounds the valley of Rephaim on the north. Still, the passage in 2 Samuel 23:13, 14 seems too precise to be lightly set aside, and we must suppose, therefore, that the Philistines, alarmed by the gathering of half a million of men and women at Hebron, sent messengers throughout their country to assemble their warriors. It was the weakness of ancient warfare that its vast hosts of people melted away as rapidly as they had gathered. For provisions were soon spent, and the men had to return to their farms and their cattle. Thus David, having used some of that large concourse of strong men for the capture of Jerusalem, was left immediately afterwards with no other protection than that of his "mighty men." Saul had endeavoured to have always round him three thousand trained men (1 Samuel 13:2), and David subsequently had probably quite as many (2 Samuel 15:18); but at this early stage he had probably not many more than he had brought with him from Ziklag to Hebron. He could not, therefore, make head against the Philistines coming with all the militia of their land; but, leaving his wives and the wives of his mighty men in the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, we may well believe that he sped away to gather the warriors of Israel. But what seems strange is that he should have gone to the rear of the Philistines, especially as they had come in such vast numbers as to occupy the whole country - a garrison, for instance, being posted at Bethlehem, and doubtless at other fit spots. Still, this country was well known to David, and he could gather there old friends, whose bravery he had often tried before. And while thus waiting for the mustering of such as God would move to help him, in deep distress at so terrible a reversal following so quickly upon his exaltation, a strange longing for water from the well of his native town seized him. He was suffering apparently from fever of body as well as from distress of mind, and soon there was relief from both. For three of his heroes heard the words burst from his parched lips, and, hastening to Bethlehem, broke through the Philistine garrison, and filled a waterskin from the well at the gate of the city. Such an act naturally made a great impression upon David. What room was there for despair when he had such men around him? Pouring out, then, the water as a drink offering to Jehovah, his heart was now filled with hope, and inquiring of the Lord whether he might attack the Philistines, he received the assurance which he had already gathered from the exploit of his heroes, that God would deliver them into his hand. 2 Samuel 5:17David gains two Victories over the Philistines (compare 1 Chronicles 14:8-17). - Both these victories belong in all probability to the interval between the anointing of David at Hebron over all Israel and the conquest of the citadel of Zion. This is very evident, so far as the first is concerned, from the words, "When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:17), not when David had conquered the citadel of Zion. Moreover, when the Philistines approached, David "went down to the hold," or mountain fortress, by which we cannot possibly understand the citadel upon Zion, on account of the expression "went down." If David had been living upon Zion at the time, he would hardly have left this fortification when the Philistines encamped in the valley of Rephaim on the west of Jerusalem, but would rather have attacked and routed the enemy from the citadel itself. The second victory followed very soon after the first, and must therefore be assigned to the same period. The Philistines evidently resolved, as soon as the tidings reached them of the union of all the tribes under the sovereignty of David, that they would at once resist the growing power of Israel, and smite David before he had consolidated his government.

2 Samuel 5:17-18

"The Philistines went up to seek David," i.e., to seek him out and smite him. The expression לבקּשׁ presupposes that David had not yet taken up his abode upon Zion. He had probably already left Hebron to make preparations for his attack upon the Jebusites. When he heard of the approach of the Philistines, he went down into the mountain fortress. "The hold" cannot be the citadel of Zion (as in 2 Samuel 5:7 and 2 Samuel 5:9), because this was so high that they had to go up to it on every side; and it is impossible to sustain the opinion advanced by Bertheau, that the verb ירד (to go down) is used for falling back into a fortification. המּצוּדה (the hold), with the definite article, is probably the mountain stronghold in the desert of Judah, into which David withdrew for a long time to defend himself from Saul (vid., 2 Samuel 23:14 and 1 Chronicles 12:8). In 2 Samuel 5:18 the position of the Philistines is more minutely defined. The verse contains a circumstantial clause: "The Philistines had come and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim," a valley on the west of Jerusalem, and only separated from the valley of Ben-hinnom by a narrow ridge of land (see at Joshua 15:8). Instead of ינּטשׁוּ the Chronicles have יפשׁטוּ, they had invaded, which is perfectly equivalent so far as the sense is concerned.

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