2 Samuel 8:13
And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.
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(13) When he returned from smiting of the Syrians.—Possibly, from the similarity in the original between Syria and Edom (see 2Samuel 8:3; 2Samuel 8:12), the words “he smote Edom” have dropped out of the text, but this supposition is not necessary. The course of affairs appears to have been as follows:—the war was originally undertaken against the Ammonites (2Samuel 10:1-12), who had obtained the aid of the Syrians. In the first campaign their combined armies were defeated (2Samuel 10:13-14), and they sought aid from every quarter, from the tribes beyond the Euphrates, on the north (2Samuel 10:16), and from the Edomites on the south. David first inflicted a crushing defeat upon the allies near Hamath, and then “returned” to the south, where he again met them in “the valley of salt”—the Arabalt south of the Dead Sea, this latter army being naturally chiefly composed of Edomites, and so called in 1Chronicles 18:12, and in the title of Psalms 60, but here spoken of as Syrians because the whole confederacy is called by the name of its most powerful member. David himself returned from the southern campaign; but what was done by his general, Abishai, under his orders, is naturally said to have been done by him. Meantime, when this first battle, attended with the slaughter of 18,000 men, had been won by Abishai, Joab, the general-in-chief, being set free by the victories in the north, gained another battle in the same locality, killing 12,000 (Psalms 60, title). The power of Edom was now completely broken, and the whole forces of Israel were mustered under Joab to overrun their country and destroy all its male inhabitants (1Kings 11:15-16), certain of them, however, excepted (1Kings 11:17), and their descendants in after ages were relentless foes of Israel. (Comp. the prophecy of Isaac, Genesis 27:40.)

In this summary of David’s reign the historian here turns from his wars and victories over other nations to the internal affairs of his kingdom. Substantially the same list of officers is again given in 2Samuel 20:23-26.

8:9-14 All the precious things David was master of, were dedicated things; they were designed for building the temple. The idols of gold David destroyed, 2Sa 5:21, but the vessels of gold he dedicated. Thus, in the conquest of a soul by the grace of the Son of David, what stands in opposition to God must be destroyed, every lust must be mortified and crucified, but what may glorify him must be dedicated; thus the property of it is altered. God employs his servants in various ways; some, as David, in spiritual battles; others, as Solomon, in spiritual buildings; and one prepares work for the other, that God may have the glory of all.The Syrians - Read the Edomites, as in marginal references (compare Psalm 60:1-12 title), and as the context 2 Samuel 8:14 requires. For a further account of this war of extermination with Edom, see 1 Kings 11:15-16. The war with Edom was of some duration, not without serious reverses and dangers to the Israelites (2 Samuel 8:2 note). The different accounts probably relate to different parts of the campaign. 13. David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians—Instead of Syrians, the Septuagint version reads "Edomites," which is the true reading, as is evident from 2Sa 8:14. This conquest, made by the army of David, was due to the skilful generalship and gallantry of Abishai and Joab. (1Ch 18:12; compare Ps 60:1, title.) The valley was the ravine of salt (the Ghor), adjoining the Salt Mountain, at the southwestern extremity of the Dead Sea, separating the ancient territories of Judah and Edom [Robinson]. Gat him a name, i.e. much increased his reputation. The Syrians, or Edomites, as they are said to be, 1 Chronicles 18:12. It is likely these two people were confederates, and that divers of the Syrians whom David had defeated in Syria fled to Edom, and there joined with them against their common enemy, and made up together a very great army, (as the number of the men slain in it showeth,) consisting of the veteran soldiers of both countries; although the slaughter here following may seem not to have been of the Syrians, as the words at first reading seem to intimate, but of the Edomites; (it not being probable that the Syrians would come so far from their own country, as to the valley of salt, to fight;) and this verse may be read thus, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew:

And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians, in smiting (which is easily repeated out of the last clause, according to the common usage of Scripture)

in the valley of salt eighteen thousand men, who were Edomites, as is sufficiently implied here in the next verse, and expressed 1 Chronicles 18:12.

The valley of salt; a place in Edom so called, either from its neighbourhood to the Salt Sea, or for some other cause now unknown. Being eighteen thousand men; as it is also 1 1 Chronicles 18:12, where also they are said to be smitten by Abishai, because he was then a chief commander of the army under David, and, it may be, began the fight; as, for the like reason, they are said to be smitten by Joab, Psalm 60:1, where also there are only 12,000 mentioned; which place, if it speak of this battle, the state of it was this: Abishai begins the combat, and kills 6000; after him comes in Joab, and kills 12,000 more, which makes up this 18,000. But why may not that be another history and battle? So the Edomites and Syrians together did first fight with Abishai, and lost 18,000 men, and afterwards recruited their forces and fought with Joab, and lost other 12,000 men. Nor is it strange if two battles were fought in one place; of which there are divers instances in historians.

And David gat him a name,.... Fame and reputation in the several nations of the world for valour and courage, for the many and signal victories that he obtained; the Jewish writers generally refer this to his humanity in burying the dead bodies of his enemies slain in war, which gained him great esteem among all, and even his very enemies; but nothing of that kind is pointed at here, but his conquests: or "he made himself a name"; erected a triumphal arch (b) in memory of his victories:

when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt,

being eighteen thousand men; in the relation of this fact in different places some difficulties arise, both as to the people smitten, and their numbers, and by whom; in this place they are said to be Syrians, but in 1 Chronicles 18:12, and in the title of Psalm 60:1, which was composed on account of these victories, they are called Edomites, and said to be of Edom; which may be reconciled by observing, that the Syrians and Edomites were confederates in this war; and that whereas the latter were auxiliaries to the former, the whole body of the army might be called Syrians, of which twenty two thousand were slain that were properly Syrians, and eighteen thousand Edomites, in all forty thousand; which was a very great slaughter: or the sense is, that when he had smitten the twenty two thousand Syrians, and was upon the return, he met with a body of Edomites, who came to the assistance of the Syrians, and he slew eighteen thousand of them; and the Jews say, as Jarchi observes, there were two battles; and if so, this would remove all the difficulties started; as for the numbers slain, here eighteen thousand, and Psalm 60:1, twelve thousand, it is reconciled by observing, that Abishai first began the attack upon the Edomites, and slew six thousand of them; and then Joab fell upon them, and slew twelve thousand more, in all eighteen thousand; in 1 Chronicles 18:12, this slaughter is ascribed to Abishai, because he began it, even the whole number; and in Psalm 60:1, to Joab, the twelve thousand slain by him, who seconded Abishai; and the whole is here attributed to David, because he was king, under whom Abishai and Joab served as generals: and no less difficult is it to ascertain the place where this slaughter was made, called "the valley of salt": it seems by our text that it was in Syria, but in other places as if it was in Edom; see 2 Kings 14:7; but in Edom itself is no such valley to be found, though there is in Syria; one traveller (c) tells us, that in the way from Aleppo to the banks of Euphrates are many villages, among which is one of note, called Tedith, famous for a synod held here by the Jews, in the year from the creation 3498, of which Ezra was the scribe; when were placed the books of the Old Testament in the order in which they now are; and near this town, he says, is the valley of salt, memorable for the victory here recorded: others say (d) about three or four hours' journey from Aleppo is the valley of salt, near which is a salt spring, whose waters running over the place leave, when dried by the sun, a great quantity of excellent salt; this salt is thrown together in the Gabboul, or salt house; but by others (e) we are informed, that near about an hour's distance from the city of Tadmor, see 1 Kings 9:18 2 Chronicles 8:3, is to be seen a large valley of salt, affording great quantities thereof; and it is thought that this is more probably the valley of salt mentioned here, than another which lies about four hours from Aleppo, and has sometimes passed for it; and which the above accounts show: but a modern writer (f), in his account of Palmyra, the same with Tadmor, speaks of a great plain, all covered with salt, from whence the whole country round is supplied. This plain is about a league from Palmyra, and extends itself towards the eastern part of Idumea (or Edom) the capital city of which was Bozra; and indeed this valley being both in Syria, and reaching to the borders of Edom, bids fair to be the valley here spoken of.

(b) So Hieron. Trad. Heb. in 2 Reg. fol. 78. D. (c) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 11. (d) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 347. (e) See Lowthorp's Philosophical Transactions abridged, vol. 3. p. 504. (f) Halifax apud Calmet's Dictionary in the Word "Salt".

And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.
13, 14. Conquest of Edom

13. gat him a name] Won renown. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 7:9. This, and not “erected a monument,” as some render, is the right meaning.

when he returned from smiting of the Syrians] The text is certainly corrupt. Chr. reads, “And Abishai the son of Zeruiah smote Edom in the valley of salt, (to the number of) eighteen thousand men.” The Sept. has, “And David made a name: and as he returned he smote Edom in Gebelem [a corrupt transliteration of the words meaning valley of salt] to the number of eighteen thousand.” Moreover the Valley of Salt was nowhere in the neighbourhood of Syria, but on the ancient border between Judah and Edom, to the S. of the Dead Sea. It was the scene of Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites (2 Kings 14:7). We must therefore either adopt the Sept. reading, or insert after Syrians the words and he smote Edom, which may easily have dropped out, as the second of two similarly ending clauses.

Psalms 60 is referred to this occasion by its title; “Michtam of David. When he fought with Aram of the two rivers [Mesopotamia] and Aram of Zobah, and Joab returned and smote Edom in the Valley of Salt (to the number of) twelve thousand men.” The genuineness of this title is disputed, chiefly on the ground that the Psalm speaks of heavy disasters, of which there is no mention in the history. But we should scarcely expect defeat to be chronicled in such an extremely brief summary as the present, which records only the final results of the war. We may conjecture that while David was occupied with his campaign against the Ammonites and Syrians, Edom seized the opportunity for invading the south of Judah, and succeeded in inflicting serious damage, until David sent back part of his forces under Joab or Abishai, and repulsed their attack, following up his victory by the complete subjugation of Edom. We learn further from 1 Kings 11:15-16, that the war was pursued with relentless severity, and signal vengeance taken upon the Edomites. That the successful campaign is here attributed to David, in Chr. to Abishai, in the Psalm and in 1 Kings to Joab, need cause no difficulty. David was concerned in it as king, Joab as general of the army, Abishai probably as commander of the division sent forward in advance. The variations as to the number of slain, here put at 18,000, in the Psalm at 12,000, may be due either to a textual error, or to some difference in the mode of reckoning.

Verse 13. - From smiting of the Syrians; Hebrew, of Aram. Here "Edom" is certainly right (see 1 Chronicles 18:12), unless we accept Keil's conjecture, and suppose that "he smote Edom" has dropped out of the text, and must be inserted. In the superscription of Psalm we find the wars with Aram-Naharaim (Mesopotamia) and Aram-Zobah coupled with this smiting of Edom in the valley of salt, which lay to the south of the Dead Sea, and was a fatal place to the Edomitos in their war subsequently with Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7). Such a double victory over the Arameans first, and immediately afterwards over Edom, would account for the "name," that is, the reputation, which David gained. The course of events seems to have been as follows. The Edomites, believing that David was engaged in a struggle beyond his powers with the Syrians, took the opportunity to invade Israel. But the campaign in Aram was quickly decided, and David was able to send Abishai with a detachment of his forces to repel the Edomites. On hearing of his approach, they retired before him, and, making a stand in their own territories, were defeated in the valley of salt, with the loss of eighteen thousand men (1 Chronicles 18:12). In this place the victory is ascribed to David, because it was won by his general acting under his orders. For some unexplained reason, the feelings of the Israelites against Edom were very vindictive, and Joab followed with larger forces, and not only slew twelve thousand in a second battle (Psalm 60, title), but remained six months in the country, ruthlessly putting every male to death (1 Kings 11:15, 16). From this time the Edomites and Israelites were implacable foes, and in later Jewish literature the Jews gave vent to their intense hatred of the Roman empire by giving it the name of Edom. 2 Samuel 8:13"And David made (himself) a name, when he returned from smiting (i.e., from the defeat of) Aram, (and smote Edom) in the valley of Salt, eighteen thousand men." The words enclosed in brackets are wanting in the Masoretic text as it has come down to us, and must have fallen out from a mistake of the copyist, whose eye strayed from את־ארם to את־אדום; for though the text is not "utterly unintelligible" without these words, since the passage might be rendered "after he had smitten Aram in the valley of Salt eighteen thousand men," yet this would be decidedly incorrect, as the Aramaeans were not smitten in the valley of Salt, but partly at Medeba (1 Chronicles 19:7) and Helam (2 Samuel 10:17), and partly in their own land, which was very far away from the Salt valley. Moreover, the difficulty presented by the text cannot be removed, as Movers supposes, by changing את־ארם (Syria) into את־אדום (Edom), as the expression בּשׁבו ("when he returned") would still be unexplained. The facts were probably these: Whilst David, or rather Israel, was entangled in the war with the Ammonites and Aramaeans, the Edomites seized upon the opportunity, which appeared to them a very favourable one, to invade the land of Israel, and advanced as far as the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. As soon, therefore, as the Aramaeans were defeated and subjugated, and the Israelitish army had returned from this war, David ordered it to march against the Edomites, and defeated them in the valley of Salt. This valley cannot have been any other than the Ghor adjoining the Salt mountain on the south of the Dead Sea, which really separates the ancient territories of Judah and Edom (Robinson, Pal. ii. 483). There Amaziah also smote the Edomites at a later period (2 Kings 14:7). We gather more concerning this war of David from the text of the Chronicles (2 Samuel 8:12) taken in connection with 1 Kings 11:15-16, and Psalm 60:2. According to the Chronicles, it was Abishai the son of Zeruiah who smote the Edomites. This agrees very well not only with the account in 2 Samuel 10:10., to the effect that Abishai commanded a company in the war with the Syrians and Ammonites under the generalship of his brother Joab, but also with the heading to Psalm 60:1-12, in which it is stated that Joab returned after the defeat of Aram, and smote the Edomites in the valley of Salt, twelve thousand men; and with 1 Kings 11:15-16, in which we read that when David was in Edom, Joab, the captain of the host, came up to bury the slain, and smote every male in Edom, and remained six months in Edom with all Israel, till he had cut off every male in Edom. From this casual but yet elaborate notice, we learn that the war with the Edomites was a very obstinate one, and was not terminated all at once. The difference as to the number slain, which is stated to have been 18,000 in the text before us and in the Chronicles, and 12,000 in the heading to Psalm 60:1-12, may be explained in a very simple manner, on the supposition that the reckonings made were only approximative, and yielded different results;

(Note: Michaelis adduces a case in point from the Seven Years' War. After the battle of Lissa, eight or twelve thousand men were reported to have been taken prisoners; but when they were all counted, including those who fell into the hands of the conquerors on the second, third, and fourth days of the flight, the number amounted to 22,000.)

and the fact that David is named as the victor in the verse before us, Joab in Psalm 60:1-12, and Abishai in the Chronicles, admits of a very easy explanation after what has just been observed. The Chronicles contain the most literal account. Abishai smote the Edomites as commander of the men engaged, Joab as commander-in-chief of the whole army, and David as king and supreme governor, of whom the writer of the Chronicles affirms, "The Lord helped David in all his undertakings." After the defeat of the Edomites, David placed garrisons in the land, and made all Edom subject to himself. 2 Samuel 8:15-18. David's Ministers. - To the account of David's wars and victories there is appended a list of his official attendants, which is introduced with a general remark as to the spirit of his government. As king over all Israel, David continued to execute right and justice.

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