2 Samuel 5:23
And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, You shall not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come on them over against the mulberry trees.
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(23) Shall not go up.—The enemy, on the same battle-expound, would have prepared for attack from the same direction as before; consequently David is directed to go round them and attack them unexpectedly from the opposite quarter.

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 mulberry trees - Rather, the Bacah-tree, and found abundantly near Mecca. It is very like the balsam-tree, and probably derives its name from the exudation of the sap in drops like tears when a leaf is torn off. Some think the valley of Baca Psalm 84:6 was so called from this plant growing there. 22. the Philistines came up yet again—The next year they renewed their hostile attempt with a larger force, but God manifestly interposed in David's favor. Thou shalt not go up, to wit, directly against them, as the following words explain it.

Over against the mulberry trees, where they least expect thee. God’s purposes and promises do not exclude men’s just endeavours, but require them. And when David inquired of the Lord,.... For though he had success before, and got the victory, he would not engage again with them without having the mind and will of God, on whom he knew victory alone depended:

he said, thou shalt not go up; that is, directly, and in a straight line:

but fetch a compass behind them; and get to the rear of them, instead of falling upon them in the front:

and come upon them over against the mulberry trees: which grew in the valley of Rephaim, and near where the Philistines had pitched.

And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.
23. Thou shalt not go up] The addition of the Sept. “to meet them” is needed to complete the sense. This answer implies the same question as in 2 Samuel 5:19.

fetch a compass behind them] Go round to their rear. “Compass” in old English means “circuit;” and “to fetch a compass” means “to make a circuit or detour,” “to go round.”

In Chron. the same manœuvre is described in different words: “Go not after them: turn away from them and come upon them,” &c.

mulberry trees] So the Jewish commentators explain the word bâcâ which is found only here and in the parallel passage of Chronicles. Probably however a tree called bâcâ by the Arabs, resembling the balsam shrub, is meant. The name is derived from bâcâh, “to weep,” from the tear-like sap which exudes when a leaf is torn off. “The valley of Baca” (Psalm 84:6) may have been named from these trees, and the Psalmist refers to it with a play upon its etymological significance, “valley of weeping.”Verse 23. - Thou shalt not go up. The attack in front is forbidden, and the answer shows that the priest with the ephod did more than give a mere affirmative or negative reply. For David receives full instructions. Taking advantage of the valleys, he is to creep round into the rear of the Philistines, and approach them under cover of a thicket of baca trees. Mulberry trees; Hebrew, baca trees. This suggests the idea that David's place of attack was the Baca valley (Psalm 84:6), and that there was such a valley, though this is not certain. For the Revised Version translates "valley of weeping," concluding that baca is not there a proper name. By baca trees the LXX. and Vulgate "pear trees," but as bacah means "to weep," it is probably some balsamic shrub, from which a resin exudes. The Revised Version puts here in the margin, "balsam trees." Dr. Tristram thinks it was a sort of aspen, but the authority of the Vulgate is great in such matters, as Jerome obtained his information in Palestine itself. David 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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