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,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.
The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.2 Samuel 23:2-3. His word was in my tongue — The following words, and consequently the other words and psalms composed and uttered by me upon the like solemn occasions, are not to be looked upon as human inventions, but both the matter and the words of them were suggested by God’s Spirit, the great teacher of the church. The Rock of Israel — He who is the strength, and defence, and protector of his people; which he manifests by directing kings and rulers so to manage their power, as may most conduce to their comfort and benefit. He that ruleth over men — Here are the two principal parts of a king’s duty, answerable to the tables of God’s law, justice toward men, and piety toward God, both which he is to maintain and promote among his people.
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.2 Samuel 23:4. He shall be as the light of the morning — These words are a further description of the king’s duty, which is not only to rule with justice and piety, but also with sweetness, and gentleness, and condescension to the infirmities of his people; to render his government as acceptable to them as is the sunshine in a clear morning, or the tender grass which springs out of the earth by the warm beams of the sun after the rain.
Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.2 Samuel 23:5. Although my house be not so with God — Although God knows that neither I nor my children have lived and ruled as we should have done, so justly, and in the fear of the Lord; and therefore have not enjoyed that uninterrupted prosperity which we might have enjoyed. Covenant — Notwithstanding all our transgressions whereby we have broken covenant with God, yet God, to whom all my sins were known, was graciously pleased to make a sure covenant, to continue the kingdom to me, and to my seed for ever, 2 Samuel 7:16, until the coming of the Messiah, who is to be my son and successor, and whose kingdom shall have no end. Ordered in all things — Ordained in all points by God’s eternal counsel, and disposed by his wise and powerful providence, which will overrule all things, even the sins of my house so far, that although he punish them for their sins, yet he will not utterly root them out, nor break his covenant made with me and mine. Sure — Or, preserved, by God’s power and faithfulness in the midst of all oppositions. For this is all my salvation — That is, my salvation consists in, and depends on, this covenant; even both my own eternal salvation, and the preservation of the kingdom to me and mine. Although he make it not, &c. — Although God, as yet, hath not made my house or family to grow; that is, to increase, or to flourish with worldly glory as I expected; yet this is my comfort, that God will inviolably keep this covenant. But this refers also to the covenant of grace made with all believers. This is indeed an everlasting covenant, from everlasting, in the contrivance of it, and to everlasting, in the continuance and consequence of it. It is ordered, well ordered in all things; admirably well, to advance the glory of God, and the honour of the Mediator, together with the holiness and happiness of believers. It is sure, and therefore sure, because well ordered: the promised mercies are sure, on the performance of the conditions. It is all our salvation: nothing but this will save us, and this is sufficient. Therefore it should be all our desire. Let me have an interest in this covenant, and I have enough, I desire no more.
But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands:2 Samuel 23:6-7. But the sons of Belial — Having in the foregoing verses described the nature and stability of that kingdom which God had, by a sure covenant, settled upon him and his seed; and especially upon the Messiah, who was to be one of his posterity; he now describes the nature and miserable condition of all the enemies of this holy and blessed kingdom. Shall be all as thorns — Which men do not use to handle, but thrust them away. And so will God thrust away from himself, and from his people and kingdom, all those who shall either secretly or openly set themselves against it. That shall touch them must be fenced — He must arm himself with some iron weapon, whereby he may cut them down; or, with the staff of a spear, or some such thing, whereby he may thrust them away from himself, that they do him no hurt. They shall be utterly burned — Or, if men do not cut them down or thrust them away, they will burn and consume them. The place — Or, in their place, where they grow or stand.
But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place.
These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time.2 Samuel 23:8. These be the names of the mighty men whom David had — Who helped to raise David to his dignity, and to preserve him in it, being continually with him in all his wars. There is a list of them also 1 Chronicles 11., different from this in several particulars. But Abarbinel thinks this creates no difficulty, if we do but observe that there he distinguishes them into three classes. Those that had always been with him; those that came to him at Ziklag, a little before he was made king of Judah; and those that came to him in Hebron, after he was made king of all Israel. It was proper that the memories of all these should be preserved. But here, in this book, the writer intended only to mention the most excellent of his heroes, who were always with him in his wars; and for whose sake he composed the preceding song of praise to God. Add to this, that this catalogue, though placed here, was taken long before many of the preceding events, as is manifest from hence, that Asahel and Uriah are named in it. It must be observed also, that it was very common for one person to have divers names, and that as some of the worthies died, and others arose in their stead, a great alteration must of course take place in the latter catalogue from the former. We may learn from hence, how much religion tends to inspire men with true courage. David, both by his writings and example, greatly promoted piety among the grandees of his kingdom. And when they became famous for piety, they became famous for bravery.
The Tachmonite that sat in the seat — He sat in the counsel of war, next to Joab, being, it is thought, his lieutenant-general. Chief among the captains — The principal commander after Joab. The same was Adino — This was his proper name, and he probably was of the family of the Eznites. He lifted up his spear — These words are properly supplied out of 1 Chronicles 11:11, where they are expressed. Against eight hundred — In the above-mentioned place of 1 Chronicles it is only three hundred. Whom he slew at one time — In one battle, which, though it be strange, cannot be incredible, supposing him to be a person of extraordinary strength and activity, and his enemies to be discouraged and fleeing away.
And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away:2 Samuel 23:9-10. The men of Israel were gone away — Had fled from before the Philistines, as it is explained, 1 Chronicles 11:13, being dismayed at the sight of them. And his hand clave unto the sword — Being all besmeared with blood. The Lord wrought a great victory that day — Like that of Shamgar and of Samson; God inspiring him with wonderful courage, and striking a terror into the Philistines. The people returned after him only to spoil — They that had fled, rallied again when they saw the wonders he did; and followed after him, not to fight, but only to partake of the spoil.
He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.
And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines.2 Samuel 23:11. After him was Shammah — Who, although not expressly mentioned in the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 11:14, yet is plainly implied to have been engaged in this great action. For it is said, that they set themselves, &c., that is, Shammah and Eleazar, who joined in this enterprise. But this place, in Samuel, teaches us that Shammah had the chief hand in it, and therefore it is ascribed to him. Ground full of lentils — In 1 Chronicles 11:13 it is, full of barley: in which there is no difficulty, one part of the field having probably been sown with lentils and the other with barley. The people fled from the Philistines — Fearing to defend the place.
But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory.
And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.
And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem.
And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!
And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.
And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.2 Samuel 23:17. He said, Far be it from me — He looked upon it no longer as water, but as the blood of those men who fetched it with the peril of their lives; and the blood of every thing belonged to the Lord, and therefore he poured it out before him. If the generosity of David’s worthies was great, David’s generosity was no less so. Such actions as these dignify human nature, and manifest an excellence and grandeur which one should not otherwise think it capable of. These things did these three — They all joined in this hazardous exploit. But now follows what they did singly.
And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them, and had the name among three.2 Samuel 23:18-19. Abishai was chief among three — The chief of those three mighty men before mentioned. See 1 Chronicles 11:20. Had the name among the three — That is, was most eminent and famous. Was he not most honourable? — Worthy to be the leader of them, for his superior valour and virtue? He attained not unto the first three — He fell short of them in strength and valour.
Was he not most honourable of three? therefore he was their captain: howbeit he attained not unto the first three.
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow:2 Samuel 23:20. Who had done many acts — As Abishai also had done, who had succoured David, when a giant thought to have killed him. But their greatest acts only are here mentioned. He slew two lion-like men of Moab — The Hebrew word אראל, ariel, signifies a lion of God, that is, a great lion. And it was the name among the Moabites for a very valiant man. Such a one at this day is called assedollabi, a lion of God, among the Arabians. He slew a lion in the midst of a pit — By going down into which he had put himself under a necessity of killing or being killed. In time of snow — This is mentioned to magnify the action, because then lions are fiercer both for want of prey, and from the sharpness of their appetite in cold seasons.
And he slew an Egyptian, a goodly man: and the Egyptian had a spear in his hand; but he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and slew him with his own spear.2 Samuel 21:21-22. An Egyptian, a goodly man — A person of great stature, 1 Chronicles 11:23. He plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand — This shows him to have been both fearless, and a person of great skill and dexterity in managing a combat, either with man or beast. And had the name among three mighty men — That is, among the three in the second rank, for it is said in the following verse that he did not attain or come up to the first three. Who the third was of this second rank of mighty men is not mentioned.
These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had the name among three mighty men.
He was more honourable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first three. And David set him over his guard.
Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite,2 Samuel 23:25. Shammah the Harodite — In 1 Chronicles 11:27, he is called, Shammoth the Harorite, the same names of persons or places being differently pronounced according to the different dialects of divers places or ages. They that compare this catalogue with that in 1 Chronicles 11., will observe more names mentioned there than are found here. For the author of it reckons up and records the names of all the chief commanders in the army, though they were not in themselves heroical persons. But here the sacred writer only numbers those who were of themselves great heroes, not noticing the great commanders in the army who were not so.
Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite,2 Samuel 23:26-39. Helez the Paltite, &c. — None of the memorable acts of these or of the following worthies are recorded; therefore, all that can be said of them is, that when God determined to raise a king to a great height of power and glory, he raised up several great men to co-operate with and assist that king in his designs and undertakings. Thirty and seven in all — Here are only thirty-six named. Either therefore one must be supplied whose name is not expressed among the three worthies of the second rank, or Joab is comprehended in the number, as being the general and head of them all.
Abiezer the Anethothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite,
Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite,
Heleb the son of Baanah, a Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai out of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin,
Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash,
Abialbon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,
Eliahba the Shaalbonite, of the sons of Jashen, Jonathan,
Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite,
Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,
Hezrai the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite,
Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite,
Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, armourbearer to Joab the son of Zeruiah,
Ira an Ithrite, Gareb an Ithrite,
Uriah the Hittite: thirty and seven in all.