Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This section represents the warlike aspect of David’s character, just as 1 Chronicles 15-17 portrayed him from the religious point of view, as zealous for the due observance of the Divine order in worship. The narratives are closely parallel to the corresponding ones in 2 Samuel, and are given in the same order. The variations, such as they are, may be accounted for (1) by mistakes of copyists; (2) by the chronicler’s habit of explaining difficult expressions, abridging what appeared needlessly prolix, and adding here and there small details from another source.
Now after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them, and took Gath and her towns out of the hand of the Philistines.(1-3) Reduction of the Philistines, Moabites, and Arameans of Zobah.
(1) Now after this it came to pass.—Literally, And it befel afterwards. This expression does not put the contents of this chapter into direct chronological sequence with those of the last. (Comp. Note on 1Chronicles 17:1.) The formula of the original history, from which both Samuel and Chronicles have derived a chief part of their substance, has been taken over without modification, after the manner of Oriental compilers. We may, therefore, regard the phrase as a mere mark of transition in the narrative.
Gath and her towns.—Heb., her daughters, that is, outlying dependencies. Samuel has, “And David took the bridle [control, supremacy] of the metropolis [mother-city] out of the hand,” &c. The chronicler or his authority has interpreted this curious expression (mètheg hā’ammāh). If at the time Gath was the chief city of Philistia, and David made it recognise his suzerainty by payment of tribute, the phrases of both books are intelligible. In Solomon’s time Gath was ruled by a king, Achish (1Kings 2:39), but he was hardly independent of Solomon. ( Comp. 1Kings 4:24. ) The general sense is the same if mètheg hā’ammāh be rendered the bridle of the arm—i.e., the sovereign control, or supremacy.
And he smote Moab; and the Moabites became David's servants, and brought gifts.(2) Much abridged, as compared with Samuel. After the words “he smote Moab,” we read there of a partial massacre of the conquered. The emission is scarcely due to any unfair bias on the part of the chronicler. Indeed, as a Jew, possessed with all the national exclusiveness and hatred of the aliens who always misunderstood and sometimes cruelly oppressed his people, he was not likely to regard the slaughter of captive Moabites from a modern point of view. (Comp. Ezra 6:21; Ezra 6:9-10; Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 2:4; Nehemiah 2:6; Nehemiah 2:13) Besides, he has related the cruel treatment of the Ammonite prisoners (1Chronicles 20:3). (See the prophecy, Numbers 24:17.)
And the Moabites became.—Literally, and they became—viz., Moab. The name of the country denotes the people. Samuel has “and Moab [i.e., the country] became” (verb singular feminine).
David’s servants.—Samuel, “to David for servants.”
And brought gifts.—Literally, bringers of an offering—i.e., tribute. Similar notices are common in the Assyrian inscriptions. (Comp. 1Kings 4:21; 2Kings 3:4; and the famous Moabite inscription of which the fragments are now in the Louvre, and which records Mesha’s revolt against the successor of Ahab.)
And David smote Hadarezer king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates.(3) Hadarezer.—Samuel, “Hadadezer” (Hadad is help), which is correct. Hadad was a Syrian god, identical with Dadda (Rimmon), worshipped from the Euphrates to Edom and North Arabia. Comp. the royal names Benhadad and Abdadad (i.e., servant of Hadad, like Obadiah, servant of Iahu), which last occurs on Syrian coins, and the Notes on 2Kings 5:18; 1Chronicles 1:46. Samuel adds. “son of Rehob.”
Zobah unto Hamath.—Rather, Zobah towards Hamath. The word (Hămáthāh; not in Samuel) defines the position of Zobah. (Comp. 2Samuel 8:8; Ezekiel 47:16.) The town of Zobah lay somewhere near Emesa (Horns), and not far from the present Yabrûd, north-east of Damascus. (The Assyrian monarch Assurbanipal mentions the towns of Yabrudu and Cubiti—i.e., Zobah—in his Annals.) Its kings are spoken of in 1Samuel 14:47. Hadadezer appears to have brought the whole country under a single sceptre.
As he (Hadadezer) went.—The occasion intended appears to be that whereof the particulars are given at 1Chronicles 19:16-19.
To stablish his dominion.—Heb., to set up his hand—i.e., “his power.” Samuel has a different word, to recover his power, or repeat his attack.
The river Euphrates.—The Hebrew text of Samuel has “the river.” Our text explains.
And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them an hundred chariots.(4) A thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen.—Hebrew text of Samuel, “a thousand and seven hundred horsemen.” The territory of Zobah lay somewhere in the great plain of Aram. Hadadezer would, therefore, be strong in chariots and horses, and our reading is probably correct. (Comp. 1Chronicles 19:18.)
Houghed.—Hamstrung—i.e., cut the sinews of the hind legs, so as to disable them.
Chariot horses.—The same Hebrew term has just been rendered chariots. It means also chariot soldiers.
David reserved a hundred chariots, with their horses, probably for his own use. Horses were always a luxury in Israel. (Comp. Isaiah 2:7.) Solomon recruited his stud from Egypt. (Comp. the prohibition, Deuteronomy 17:16.)
And when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadarezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.(5) And when the Syrians of Damascus came.—Literally, And Aram of Damascus came. The verb is masculine here, feminine in Samuel. (Comp. 1Chronicles 18:2.)
Damascus.—Heb., Darmèseq, a late form, occurring again in 2Chronicles 28:5; 2Chronicles 28:23 (= ancient Dammèseq). In Syriac the name is similar: Darmĕsûq. The Arabic is Dimashqu, the cuneiform Dimashqa or Dimmasqa.
David slew of the Syrians.—Literally, smote in Aram. The preposition is partitive.
Then David put garrisons in Syriadamascus; and the Syrians became David's servants, and brought gifts. Thus the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went.(6) Put garrisons.—The noun here omitted in the Hebrew, probably by an oversight, occurs in Samuel. In 1Chronicles 11:16 and 2Chronicles 17:2 it means “out post,” or “garrison;” in 1Kings 4:19, “prefects,” or “pashas.” The Targum of Samuel gives strategi, “generals;” Syriac and Arabic, “prefects” and “collectors;” LXX. and Vulg., “garrison.” The Arabic here has “collectors and guards;” the Syriac, “commanders.”
David’s servants.—To David servants—the order in Samuel.
Preserved David.—Samuel has ‘eth-David—i.e., the simple accusative; Chronicles, le-David, a late construction.
Shields.—Shiltê. Probably “armour” or “arms.” (Comp. 2Kings 11:10; 2Chronicles 23:9, “the spears, and the shields, and the sh’lātîm; “Ezekiel 27:11; Song of Solomon 4:4; Jeremiah 51:11, “quivers.”) LXX. here, “golden collars” (Samuel, “bracelets”); Syriac and Arabic, “golden plates which hung on the horses;” Vulg., “quivers (Samuel, “golden arms”).
Hadadezer was not dethroned, but became a vassal king.
And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadarezer, and brought them to Jerusalem.(7) On.—Samuel, “to” = belonging to.
Likewise from Tibhath, and from Chun, cities of Hadarezer, brought David very much brass, wherewith Solomon made the brasen sea, and the pillars, and the vessels of brass.(8) Tibhath, and . . . Chun.—Two unknown places. The names in Samuel are Betah and Berothai. Tebah occurs as an Aramean name in Genesis 22:24, of which “Tibhath” is a feminine form, and “Betah” probably a corruption. Syriac, “Tĕbah” and “Bĕrûthi” in both places. So Arabic of Samuel, “Tābāh” and “Barûti” (here “Himsa” and “Baalbec,” probably by way of an explanation). The readings of the LXX., “Metebak” (or Masbach) in Samuel, and “Matebeth” here, support Tebah. Vulgate in Samuel, “Bete,” but here “Thebath,” obviously equivalent to Tibhath. “Chun” is doubtless corrupt. All the versions support “Berothai” (LXX., “chosen cities;” comp. Heb., bārôth) except Arabic and Vulg. here.
Much brass.—Copper (as Job 28:2), or bronze (an alloy of copper and tin, which was well known to the ancients). Samuel, “copper in abundance” (harbēh), an older form of expression.
Wherewith Solomon made . . .—Not in the Hebrew of Samuel, though LXX. adds it.
Now when Tou king of Hamath heard how David had smitten all the host of Hadarezer king of Zobah;(9, 10) The King of Hamath’s embassy to David.
(9) Now when . . .—And Tou king of Hamath heard. Samuel, “Toi.” The Hebrew letters answering to w and y are often confused in MSS. Tō-ū is right; so LXX. and Vulg. in Samuel; Syriac, “Thû‘;” Arabic, “Tû‘u;” The Syriac here has “Phûl king of the Antiochenes” (!); the Arabic, “Phâwîl king of Antioch,” an apparent allusion to Pul the Assyrian (1Chronicles 5:26). Professor Sayce believes he has read the name Tu-ve-es—that is, Toü—on the stones from Hamath, now in the British Museum.
He sent Hadoram his son to king David, to inquire of his welfare, and to congratulate him, because he had fought against Hadarezer, and smitten him; (for Hadarezer had war with Tou;) and with him all manner of vessels of gold and silver and brass.(10) He sent.—Heb., and he sent.
Hadoram.—Samuel, “and Toi sent Joram” (LXX., “Jeddūram”). Vulg., “Adoram;” but Syriac and Arabic, “Joram.” Hadoram, or Adoram (Hadar or Adar, is high), seems right; but Joram, i.e., Jehoram (Jehovah is high), may be correct, for it appears from an inscription of Sargon that the God of Israel was not unknown to the Hamathites. Sargon calls their king Iahu-bihdi.
To congratulate.—Bless—i.e., pronounce him happy.
Had war with Tou.—A man of wars (a foeman) of Tou was Hadadezer.
And . . . all manner . . .—Samuel, “and in his hand [were] vessels of silver, and vessels of gold,” &c. The clause is here curtailed.
Them also king David dedicated unto the LORD, with the silver and the gold that he brought from all these nations; from Edom, and from Moab, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, and from Amalek.(11) He brought.—Samuel, “dedicated.” Chronicles avoids the tautology.
These nations.—The nations—scil., “whom he had reduced” (Samuel).
From Edom.—Samuel, “from Aram,” but LXX., Syriac, and Arabic, “Edom;” (Targum and Vulg., “Aram”). All the versions read “Edom” here, which appears correct. Edom and Moab were conterminous, and the reference includes all the nations whom David conquered and despoiled.
And from Amalek may refer to 1Samuel 30:16, seq., but more probably to an unrecorded campaign. Samuel adds, “and from the spoil of Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah,” which Chronicles omits, as implied already in 1Chronicles 18:7-8.
Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah slew of the Edomites in the valley of salt eighteen thousand.(12, 13) The reduction of Edom. The paragraph mark should be at 1Chronicles 18:12, not 1Chronicles 18:13.
(12) Moreover Abishai . . .—Heb., And Abishai son of Zeruiah had smitten Edom in the Valley of Salt, eighteen thousand.
In Samuel we read something quite different: “And David made a name, when he returned from his smiting Aram.” “Aram” should be read Edom, as the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic have it. Perhaps, also, the text of Samuel is further corrupted. (Comp. 1Kings 11:15. and Psalms 60, title.) From a comparison of the three passages it appears that Edom took advantage of David’s absence to invade Judah, whereupon the king detached a column of his forces, and sent them south under Joab and Abishai to repulse the new enemy.
Valley of salt.—2Kings 14:7.
And he put garrisons in Edom; and all the Edomites became David's servants. Thus the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went.(13) And he put garrisons (or “prefects,” 1Chronicles 18:6) in Edom.—Samuel adds, “in all Edom he set garrisons,” thus marking the complete subjugation of the country.
Thus the Lord preserved David.—See 1Chronicles 18:6. David was victorious on all sides, north (1Chronicles 18:3-8), and south, and east, and west (1Chronicles 18:11). The six peoples whom he reduced had been the foes of his ill-fated predecessor (1Samuel 14:47-48).
So David reigned over all Israel, and executed judgment and justice among all his people.(14-17) David’s internal administration and high officers of state.
(14) Executed.—Was doing; a permanent state of things.
Judgment and justice.—Right and justice. The former is the quality, the latter the conduct which embodies it.
Among.—For, or unto.
And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, recorder.(15) Recorder.—Literally, Remembrancer. LXX and Vulg. render the word “over, or writer of, memoranda.” Syriac and Arabic of Samuel have “leader,” “director;” here they render literally. (Comp. 2Samuel 8:16; 2Kings 18:18; 2Chronicles 34:8.)
And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Abimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Shavsha was scribe;(16) Zadok, of the line of Eleazar (1Chronicles 6:4-8). (Comp. 1Chronicles 12:28; 1Chronicles 16:39; 2Samuel 8:17; 2Samuel 15:24; 2Samuel 19:11; 1Kings 1:8; 1Kings 4:4.)
Abimelech the son of Abiathar.—Read Ahimelech the son of Abiathar. Samuel has “Ahimelech the son of Abiathar.” Elsewhere Zadok and Abiathar figure as the priests of David’s reign (comp. 2Samuel 15:29; 2Samuel 15:35), and as Abiathar was a son of the Ahimelech who was slain at Nob by Saul’s orders (1Samuel 22:20), it has been proposed to read here and in the parallel passage,” Abiathar the son of Ahimelech.” The correction, however, is far from certain, inasmuch as an “Ahimelech son of Abiathar,” who was priest in David’s time, is mentioned thrice in 1Chronicles 24:3; 1Chronicles 24:6; 1Chronicles 24:31, and this Ahimelech may have been acting as locum tenens for his father at the time when this brief list was drawn up. In the absence of details, it would be arbitrary to alter the text of four different passages of the Chronicles. In Samuel the Syriac and Arabic read “Abiathar son of Ahimelech,” but here LXX., Vulg., Syriac, Arabic, all have “Ahimelech son of Abiathar.”
Abiathar was of the lineage of Ithamar.
Shavsha.—Besides the variants in the margin, 2Samuel 20:25 has “Shĕva” (Heb. margin, Shĕya). Seraiah (with which comp. Israel) appears to be the original name. (Comp. Syriac and Arabic, “Sarīyā.”)
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and the sons of David were chief about the king.(17) Cherethites and the Pelethites.—2Samuel 8:18. The royal body-guard, for which office Oriental kings have always employed foreign mercenaries. Josephus calls them the body-guard (Antiq. vii. 5, § 4). The names are tribal in form, and as the Cherethites recur (Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5) in connection with the Philistines (comp. 1Samuel 30:14), and the name Pelethites resembles that of Philistines, it is natural to assumo that David’s guard was recruited from two Philistine tribes. (Comp. 2Samuel 15:18, where the Cherethites and Pelethites are mentioned along with a corps of Gittites.) The Targum of Samuel, and Syriac and Arabic of Chronicles, render “archers and slingers.”
Chief about the king.—Heb., the first at the king’s hand, or side, a paraphrase of what we read in Samuel: “were chief rulers” (kôhănîm). Kôhănîm is the common and only word for “priests,” and has just occurred in that sense (1Chronicles 18:16). In 1Kings 4:5, as well as here, the term is said to denote not a sacerdotal, but a secular “minister.” But this theory seems to be opposed to the facts of history. Under the monarchy the priests were brought into close relations with the king, owing to their judicial duties; and the chief priest of a royal sanctuary became one of the great officials of state (Amos 7:11; Amos 7:13). Such a position would be of sufficient importance to be filled by the princes of the blood. The chronicler, writing from the point of view of a later age, has substituted for the original term a phrase that would not offend contemporary feeling. In Samuel the LXX. renders “chief courtiers;” the other versions have “magnates,” except the Vulg., which has “priests.” Syriac of Chronicles, “magnates.”