The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took Methegammah out of the hand of the Philistines.2 Samuel 8
(The eighth chapter closes the direct narrative of David's reign. The rest of this book gives detailed accounts of particular incidents occurring at irregular intervals.)
1. And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them [reduced them to a position of inferiority]: and David took Metheg-ammah [no such place known. Means, took the bridle of the metropolis] out of the hand of the Philistines.
2. And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites [who were supposed to have killed David's father and mother] became David's servants, and brought gifts [paid tribute].
3. ¶ David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border [to cause his hand to return] at the river Euphrates.
4. And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred [seven thousand] horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed [hamstrung] all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.
5. And when the Syrians of Damascus [the most powerful branch of the Syrian race] came to succour Hadadezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.
6. Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.
7. And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem.
8. And from Betah, and from Berothai cities of Hadadezer, king David took exceeding much brass.
9. ¶ When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the host of Hadadezer,
10. Then Toi sent Joram his son unto king David, to salute him, and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer, and smitten him: for Hadadezer had wars with Toi. And Joram brought with him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass:
11. Which also king David did dedicate unto the Lord, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he subdued:
12. Of Syria [of Edom?], and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek, and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
13. And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.
14. ¶ And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David's servants. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went 15. And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.
16. And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder [chancellor];
17. And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
18. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites [bodies of men named here for the first time], and David's sons were chief rulers.
The Intended Temple
THERE is something beautiful in allowing certain men to muse a long while in religious silence, and waiting for their first word after the long contemplation. What can a king be thinking about when he is silent, almost day after day? What will an old warrior say after a fit of silence? He will cry because there are no more enemies to be conquered, or he will propose to add some new province to his crown. But David was more than soldier, and more than king. Soldier and king are passing terms indicative of accidental callings and situations; there is no eternal substance in them, as we understand the words. David was a seer, a prophet, a man with the inner vision, gifted with the genius of insight and foresight, the poetic soul; the man who turned common things into things uncommon. A worthy predecessor might such be of the Coming One, who turned supper bread into his flesh, and supper wine into his blood! David looking at his own personal comfort did not say, Let me now enjoy it; I have paid dearly for it: everything in my house cost me blood; if any man is entitled to a long quiet afternoon in life, I am the man; I am thankful for this tranquillity, and nothing shall disturb it. Men of David's quality never make speeches of that kind: their peace is in their activity; their Sabbath is in their worship: the Sabbath is not an external time, a figure on a dial-plate, it is rapture of soul, elevated meditation,—deep, loving, full reading of the divine statute and study of the divine ordinances, and a practical invention of ways by which to express the true peace and love of the soul. So, said David, look at the condition of affairs: I dwell in a house of cedar, and the ark of God dwelleth within curtains—in an apparently insecure place, in a habitation unworthy of its history and dignity; I am sensible that things are out of balance, out of harmony, out of proportion; it cannot be right that I should have all this gold and all this splendour, and that God's ark should be resident within curtains.
Truly, he was a poet, with a fine sense of rhythm. Were a syllable too much in a line it would afflict him like the puncture of an edged instrument. Without studying letters, he knew when things swung in astronomic rhythm and balance and harmony. We may have lost that fine sense of unity and practical poesy; some men have lost it in speech. God has set all things in relation. He is a God of order. He has published the universe as a poem, and all his goings fall into noble sequence. We must study that spirit and pray for it, so that we cannot rest while a picture is out of square, whilst a pillar that ought to be upright is leaning a little to the right or to the left. We ought to be flung into disorder and sense of shame by a false colour, a false note. But whilst this is impossible to us in a practical way, what is possible to us is a sense of moral justice, a sense of righteous relation, a sense of what is due to God. To be at ease whilst his house is without a roof is to proclaim oneself no child of Heaven. It was nothing to David that his own house was lighted with splendour, whilst the ark was without a fit lodgment. Here is the poet again—the poetic soul, the poetic conscience; the nature that studies harmony, relation, completeness, music. It is wonderful how content some people can be in the wildest tumult, and marvellous to observe how such people would make themselves the judges of what other people ought to be and to do: they themselves can be at rest—why not all the world? They do not see the dust, the mud, the soil, the stain, the flaw, the inequality,—why should other people look after such things? But these people must not be allowed to rule a universe which God has made.
Having come into personal comfort, David will do good. That is the right expression of gratitude. What can I do for the Church? What can I do for the poor? Having read many books, and acquired some information, what can I do for the ignorant? Having a table off which crumbs fall, what is to be done with the crumbs at least? If we begin by giving away the crumbs, we may end by cutting off part of the body of the loaf. Begin where you can. This nobility of benevolence is a growth. It pleases us to think we are economic, and have a keen eye for lines and limits and stopping-places, but as we give bread, or knowledge, or help of any kind, the next donation becomes easier than the one before; and so here, as everywhere, and now, as always, we are lured, not driven, to noble issues. Here is a man with a grand design. It is something to have a great purpose, although it may never come to anything visible. David dreamed a temple, and he was the better for the dream. In proportion to the width and general nobleness of our thought is the benefit accruing from it to our whole life. A grand wish is an instrument of education. It comes almost to the dignity of a prayer. Herein is the wonderful mystery of prayer in human conduct: we cannot follow the prayer, or lift up the suppliant to the noble petition, but having uttered the supplication we are proportionately ennobled by the very sacrifice. Think of a mind without a great thought, a heart without a generous purpose, a life without a dream! Why, it is like the earth without sky. Cultivate high wishes, fine desires, pure aspirations, religious outgoings of soul, and though they may never come to anything visible and tangible, so far as this world is concerned, the heart is the better for this ministry of purpose, this ministry of secret purification, and this ministry of dispossession of evil by the encouragement and culture of good.
Nathan and David settled the matter according to their own will. Nathan was a man who might perhaps be not indisposed to agree with the king whatever he said. He may come to another temper under divine ministry; for that we must wait. The idea struck Nathan as a good one. Nathan had no objection. He said, The idea is beautiful: carry it out instantaneously; the Lord is evidently with thee; this is a thought the image and superscription of which cannot be mistaken; and Nathan went home to sleep. There are some things that appear to need no judgment. There are some proposals that are so beautiful and precious that we at once accept them, endorse them, and pass them on to fulfilment, and then retire to rest. The Lord taught David another lesson; he said: This thing is all wrong; it is out of season; there is much more to be done before this man can advance in the direction he has proposed: my house must not be built by his hands; I have an interest in my house: I care for the masonry as well as for the sanctuary. No blasphemer ought to be engaged in building the walls of a cathedral; no flippant man ought to touch the meanest part of God's house; and no man of blood should build a temple. It is not every man who can give to a Christian subscription. The Church should not beg of bad men, because their money is bad. It is a fearful thing to serve in the sanctuary. Who can serve now but those in whom God may inspire the wish at least to be better, to be worthy to light a lamp or put one stone on the top of another in his great house? "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
Yet how gentle is the Most High! Who can speak like God? It is the dignity that gives the value to the condescension. The lesson which God taught to David is to trust the providence which has been good from the very first:—"Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote,"—so I am not going to forsake thee; if I had taken thee from a throne, reasoning in another direction might have been at least partially justified, but "I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel."
God will have his providence judged as a whole,—that is to say, he will have the mind thrown back to the point of origin, and have all the days linked, like loops of gold, like loops of light; then he will say to the subject of his gracious government: Look back to the beginning; count the days; read between the lines; study the whole, and see how all the time I have been building thee a house; and, until that house is finished, wait! What peace it would give to us all if we could adopt this holy method of criticism! Look at the beginning: Where were we? What were we? How have we been trained, watched, defended 1 "When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell." The men that waited for my halting—saith the psalmist—were disappointed, for, by God's grace, I never halt. Sometimes we have said, If another great gust of wind like the last should arise, the roof will be blown off our life-house. But it never did arise. Sometimes we have had the last coal in our hand to put into the grate, and we have measured it with an anxious eye, and calculated how long it would last, and then said the cold would overcome us; but it was a wonderful coal: it burned without being consumed, and made wonderful necromancy for us in the grate—built cities for us, planted forests visible, had all kinds of operation proceeding within the fiery sphere; and then, behold, the bitter cold never benumbed us. Why, then, should we be so fearful today, and speak now as if to-morrow would be our last—as if we could endure no longer? It is not we who endure; it is God. God is in us, with us, for us; Immanuel—God with us. So whilst David is disappointed on the one side, he is comforted on the other.
God further shows that all things are critically timed: "Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers" (2Samuel 7:12)—But God never sleeps. He says: "I will put thee to rest, O brave soldier, chivalrous grand heart; I will close thine eyelids, stained with rivers of tears; I bury the universe." But is the universe ended when David sleeps? The universe always begins—never ends. "Thou shalt sleep"—but in 2Samuel 7:13, "he shall build." We must leave something for the future to do. All things are written down in God's book. Do not be afraid of this doctrine because some people call it Fatalism. Some people have a mischievous faculty of inventing foolish names, and then fall into the snare of being victimised by their own expressions. Fatalism is a stone which the enemy has thrown at God's providence, but God's providence abides the same as if the stone had never been lifted. The end is known from the beginning: there hath no temptation happened unto us that was not foreseen. The devil cannot invent a new temptation. He shot all his arrows in the first encounter, and he has no more to shoot. We understand him, and we can beware of his coming.
Then is Solomon to be a perfect man, to have all his own way, to do what he pleases, to shed what blood he likes, and build the temple any size he may? God forbid! Hear the word of the Lord:—"If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my mercy shall not depart away from him" (2Samuel 7:14-15). There is a great central line of providence and purpose. God is not turned aside by what happens today or to-morrow, in the nature of accidental occurrence. This is the great doctrine of strength and assurance. The Lord reigneth. He moves by a certain definite unchangeable line, with many a variation of outward circumstance and visible ministry: the fear is that we may be deluded by the accidental and the familiar, and mistake the central, eternal purpose of God. God's purpose is to save the world, and save it he will. God's purpose is to have the whole world for his house, and he will not rest until the topstone be brought on with shoutings of "Grace, grace unto it." So David is told that he must not build, but he must still work; so in the eighth chapter—without being unduly critical regarding chronology—in the eighth chapter we find him at work again. And that is God's answer to us in many a reverie. We must not be left too long in the easy homestead; we must be put out in the cold air, and climb the steep hill. Where we cannot build a temple, we may at least destroy a mischief.
In the eighth chapter David accomplishes seven victories. He could not have rested with six; his sense of harmony would have been disturbed again: the victory must be complete: seven is the mystic number; it represents fulness, completeness, fruition, satisfaction. The eighth chapter could not have been written in the New Testament. David's Son never could have re-enacted this chapter. The day of David was a day of war, battle, blood, conflict; the day of Christ is a day of war, but a day of spiritual contest: the instruments are not carnal: the words are gentle, the weapons are arguments, the great thunder-burst is the eloquence of truth, the eloquence of music. But we must not force the ages. This record is in its right place. Every age has its own genius; its own orthodoxy; its own opportunities; and every age has its own interpretation of nature and of grace. Think of the time when there was a false theory of astronomy: what matter? Now it would be doing violence to civilisation; then it marked a point in slow progress. Think of the time of witchcraft: what of it? It meant something more than it seemed to be: it was a longing, a yearning, a struggle after something almost within reach. Think of the time of idolatry, when the heathen were falling down before all manner of vain idols: what of it? Now it would be intolerable; then it was a page in the soul's education. Think of the sermons that have been preached; think of the mistakes committed in many instances on points of criticism; think how their authors if living today would revise, correct, amend, and enlarge them; think how some who were the orthodox of their day would now be ashamed of their own thoughts and productions: what of it? At the time they worked up to their opportunity, they were faithful to their opportunity; now to retain all these mistakes would not be veneration but mischievous superstition. But this must not go on. The book of Samuel could not, blessed be God, have been in the New Testament. The wars of the ancients are not in the spirit of the cross. But Providence is a long story, a serial issue, coming out in daily parts, quite a wonderful book, and should be read straight on from the beginning of the beginning up to the latest sunrise. He who reads so will be no pessimist, but will see that God's eternal purpose stands, and that the holy purpose is to make the whole world a temple, and the whole universe beautiful with holiness.
Almighty God, thou art indeed a consuming fire to them that are out of the way, whose hearts are obstinate and whose will has gone wantonly from God. Thou dost fight with fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We come to thee for mercy,—for a gentle rain of mercy, pity, compassion, love. We have done the things we ought not to have done, and all we hold in our hands is a broken law. God be merciful unto us, sinners! Speak to us from the cross: there do thou commune with our hearts, letting us whisper our sin and rather hint at our shame than tell it in plain words. We bless thee for a gospel so many-sided; it is like a thousand doors opening upon the heart of God. The prodigal is welcome: therefore are we here,—not because of our goodness and perfectness, but because our of evil and imperfection. We are here where the cross is and the speaking blood—the sacrifice for the sins of the world: a mystery even greater than our sin, and for the mystery we bless thee. To no argument would we trust, to no wall of words would we come for security and rest, but to an infinite mystery, to that which is above us like a sky, beyond us like the horizon,—something without words, putting all speech to shame and confusion because of its inadequacy to express the infinite compassion of God. Where sin abounds grace doth much more abound. Who can be greater than God? What can be vaster than his love? What can get so deeply into the nature that the all-penetrating blood of Jesus Christ cannot remove it? Wash us, and we shall be clean. Undertake for us when our strength is all gone; when our sorrow is intolerable, do thou find the solace which we need; when we are blind through tears, do thou terminate the weeping by one night's grief, that in the morning we may see a risen sun and a radiant sky. Amen.