2 Samuel 23
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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,
David’s last words: a character of himself; of a good ruler, and his usefulness, 2 Samuel 23:1. His faith on God’s covenant with him, 2 Samuel 23:5. Destruction to the wicked, 2 Samuel 23:6,7. David’s worthies and their valiant acts, 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

The last words of David; not simply the last that he spoke, but some of the last uttered in his last days upon the approach of his death; or the last which he spoke by the Spirit of God, assisting and directing him in an extraordinary manner.

Raised up on high; advanced from an obscure family and estate to the kingdom.

The anointed of the God of Jacob; whom, though despised by men, and rejected by his own brethren, God himself singled out from all his father’s house, and out of all the families and tribes of Israel, and anointed to be king.

The sweet psalmist of Israel; or, sweet, or delightful, or amiable in the songs of Israel: either, first, As the object of them; he whom the people of Israel mentioned in their songs with joy and praise, as when they sung, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands; and many others which doubtless they made and sung concerning him, upon the occasion of his eminent victories, and the blessings of his wise and righteous government; some whereof we have in the Book of Psalms. Or, secondly, As the author of them, he who was eminent and famous among the people of God for the composing of sweet and holy songs to the praise of God, and for the use of his church in after-ages; for he did not only indite most of the Book of Psalms, by the direction of God’s Spirit; but also invented the tunes, or appointed tunes to which they were to be sung, and the instruments of music which were used in and with those holy songs, 1 Chronicles 25:1,6 Am 6:5. If the expressions here used seem arrogant, and not fit to be said by David in his own praise, let it be considered, first, That holy men spake by inspiration from God; and therefore must follow his suggestions impartially, as indeed they do sometimes in the publishing their own praises; which yet is never done unnecessarily, and always moderately; and sometimes in the publishing of their own infirmities and shame, as they are moved thereunto, and as the edification of the church requires.

Secondly, That these seem not to be the words of David, but of the sacred penman of this book, to make for and gain the greater attention and respect unto David’s following words.

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and 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 my private fancies or human inventions, but both the matter and the words of them are suggested and governed by God’s Spirit, which is the great Teacher of the church.

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.
The Rock of Israel; he who is the strength, and defence, and protector of his people; which he here manifests by obliging and directing kings and rulers so to manage their power and authority. as may most conduce to their comfort and benefit.

Spake to me, by way of command; or, of me, by way of prediction and promise concerning me and my house, and the Messias who is to come out of my loins.

He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God: thus it is a precept or declaration of the duty of kings, and particularly of Solomon his son, (to whom as a dying man he gives this advice,) and of his successors the kings of God’s Israel, for whose instruction he gives this rule. And so here are the two principal parts of a king’s duty, answerable to the two tables of God’s law, justice towards men, and piety towards God, both which he is to maintain and promote among his people; to which if you add benignity and clemency, whereby a king renders his government not frightful and burdensome, but acceptable and amiable to his people, which possibly may be meant by the following similitudes, here is a complete character of an excellent prince or governor. Others make it a prophecy of Christ; and then the words are or may be thus rendered, There shall be a Ruler over men, (or rather, among men, as the Hebrew word properly signifies, to wit, the Messias, who, though he be the eternal and invisible God, yet shall visibly appear and rule among men,) a just or righteous one, (a title oft given to Christ, as Isaiah 53:11 Jeremiah 23:5,6 33:15 Zechariah 9:9)

ruling in the fear of the Lord, making it his great business to advance the service, and worship, and glory of the Lord; or, as it is in the Hebrew, ruling the fear of the Lord, i.e. governing and ordering the worship of God, which is oft called the fear of God. And so this clause is added to prevent or remove scandals and offences which might be taken at the Messias when he should come, because of his changing and abrogating the ceremonial law; and to insinuate that he should have no less power in the governing of God’s house and worship than Moses had, and that he might make such laws as he thought meet. And if this be the meaning of the place, then as Jacob, being greatly afflicted with the troubles which he by the Spirit of prophecy foresaw were coming upon his posterity, comforts himself with the thoughts of that great and glorious salvation of God, which he also foresaw and waited for, Genesis 49:18; so David, reflecting upon the great disorders, and miscarriages, and calamities which had already arisen in his house, and either wisely presaging or foreseeing by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Samuel 23:2, that the same sins and miseries should be fall his posterity and successors, he supports and comforts himself with this consideration, that one of them should be a most excellent person, just, and pious, and merciful, and an unspeakable blessing to David himself, and to all his family and people, and to the whole world, even the great Messias, who was undoubtedly revealed to and expected by David, as appears by many passages of the Psalms, and by other scriptures.

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.
These words are either,

1. A further description of the king’s duty, which is not only to rule with exact justice and piety, but also with sweetness, and gentleness, and condescension to the infirmities of his people; to render his government as pleasant and acceptable to them as is the sunshine in a clear morning, or the tender grass which springs out of the earth by the warm and refreshing beams of the sun after the rain, which hath a peculiar kind of sweetness and fragrancy in it. Or rather,

2. A prediction or declaration of the sweet and blessed effects of such a government, both to the governor himself; in that peace, and prosperity, and glory, and happiness which it brings to him, and to his people; to whom it is no less grateful, , and comfortable, and beneficial, than those great and public blessings of sunshine and rain, and the fruits which they produce; which is true of every good king or governor, but most eminently of the Messias.

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.
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; but our morning light, or the beginning of that kingdom promised to me and mine for ever, hath been overcast with many black and dismal clouds, and my children have not hitherto been like the tender grass springing out of the earth, and thriving by the influences of the sun and rain; but rather like the grass that withereth away, or is cut off before its due time.

Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant: not-withstanding all our transgressions whereby we have broken covenant with God, and the confusions and civil wars. which have threatened our dissipation and utter destruction; yet I comfort myself with this, that God, to whom all my sins were foreknown before I committed them, was graciously pleased to make a sure covenant, to give and continue the kingdom to me and to my seed for ever, 2 Samuel 7:16, until the coming of the Messias, 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 and unchangeable counsel; and disposed by his wise and powerful providence, which doth and will overrule all things, even the sins and sufferings of my house, so far, that although he would punish them for their sins, yet he will not utterly root them out, nor break his covenant made with me and mine; as is said, Psalm 89:31-34. Sure, or preserved or observed, or kept, to wit, on God’s part, or by God’s power and faithfulness, in the midst of all the oppositions and uncertainties to which it seems to be exposed on our part. Compare Romans 3:3 2 Timothy 2:13. For, or therefore, as the Hebrew particle chi oft signifies; therefore, i.e. because God hath made such a covenant. This is, or, he is, he who hath made this covenant; or, in this is, i.e. it consists in and depends upon this covenant.

All my salvation; both my own eternal salvation, and the temporal salvation, or the preservation of the kingdom to me and mine.

All my desire, or, every desirable thing; the word desire being oft put for desired, or a desirable thing; as Psalm 21:2 78:29,30 Eze 24:16. David being deeply sensible, and having had large experience, of the vanity and uncertainty of all earthly things, here declares that the covenant made by God with him and his in the Messias, is the only happiness which he prizeth and desireth, in which he doth fully acquiesce.

Although he make it not to grow, i.e. my house, mentioned before. So the sense is, Although God as yet hath not made my house or family to grow, i.e. to increase, or to flourish with worldly glory and prosperity, as I expected; but hath for my sins cut off divers of my most eminent branches, and sorely afflicted my person and family; and although he may for the future deal in like manner with my sons and successors for the like miscarriages, which it is probable they may commit: yet this is my great support and comfort, that God will constantly and inviolably keep this covenant; and therefore, in the midst of all the shakings, and confusions, and interruptions which may happen in my house and kingdom, will preserve my line and family until the coming of the Messiah out of my loins, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; who, as he is the desire of all nations, Haggai 2:7, so in a special manner is my desire, and the author of all my salvation.

But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands:
The sons of Belial, or, the men of Belial, as it is expressed 2 Samuel 16:7, and elsewhere. Having in the foregoing verses described the nature, and felicity, and stability of that kingdom which God himself had by a sure and everlasting covenant settled upon him and his seed; and especially, upon the Messiah, who was to be one of his posterity; he now describes the quality, the mischievous nature, the hazardous and miserable condition, of all the enemies of this holy and blessed kingdom, whom he justly calleth sons of Belial, because they rebelled against God’s appointment, and against that king whom God had set over them; for which reason others are so called, 1 Samuel 10:27 2 Chronicles 13:7.

As thorns thrust away which men do not use to handle, as they do other trees, but thrust them away from themselves, by some instrument chosen for that purpose. And so will God remove or thrust away from himself, and from his people and kingdom, all those who shall either secretly or openly set themselves against it. And this may be here added, either,

1. By way of prescription to rulers, whom, as before he admonished to be just and kind to their people, 2 Samuel 23:3,4; so here he requires them to be severe in punishing and purging away wicked and incorrigible men from about his throne, and from among his people; the encouraging of the good, and the punishing of the bad, being the two chief works of every good magistrate, and the two pillars of all government. Or,

2. By way of caution; to show, that notwithstanding the holiness, and happiness, and sureness of this kingdom, yet there would be sons of Belial in it, who would endeavour to disturb and overthrow it, but to no purpose; for all their projects against it should be vain, and fall upon their own heads.

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.
The staff of a spear; so the meaning is, he must fill his hand, or arm himself with some iron weapon, whereby he may cut them down; or, with the staff of a spear, or some such like thing, whereby he may thrust them away from himself, that they do him no hurt. Or thus, he will be filled, or will fill himself, i. e. his hand, wherewith he attempted to touch and take them, with thorns, as

with iron and the staff of a spear; i.e. he will be as surely and sorely wounded, as if one should run the iron head and part of the wood of a spear into his hand.

And they shall be utterly burned, or, therefore; because men cannot safely touch them, therefore they will burn them up. Or, or, i.e. if they do not cut them down with iron, or thrust them away with the staff of a spear, they will burn and consume them.

In the same place, or, in their place, where they grow or stand; and they will not trouble not hazard themselves to remove them. Withal, it may imply that they shall be destroyed when and where they thought themselves most secure, even in their own place. And it may possibly intimate, that those children of Belial, the wicked and unbelieving Jews, who rejected and rebelled against the Messiah, David’s successor, and their lawful King, should be destroyed in their great, and strong, and holy city Jerusalem, where the greatest part of that people were gathered together as fuel for the fire, and were destroyed together by the Romans under Titus, where also their wicked predecessors had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in former times.

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.
Of the mighty men whom David had, i. e. of his chief and most valiant commanders. And as it was noted upon 2 Samuel 21:1, that the things related in that chapter were done before Absalom’s and Sheba’s rebellion, though they be mentioned after them; so that opinion is confirmed by this catalogue, which, though placed here, was taken long before, as is manifest from hence, that Asahel and Uriah are named here. And whereas there are some differences between this list and that 1Ch 11, most of them are easily reconciled by these two considerations:

1. That nothing is more common than for one person to have divers names.

2. That as some of the worthies died, and others came in their steads; so this must needs cause some alteration in the latter catalogue, 1Ch 11, from this, which was the former.

The Tachmonite, or, Hachmonite, called Jashobeam, 1 Chronicles 11:11, from his place; or, as here, Josheb-bassebet, i. e. as we render it,

that sat in the seat, i.e. was, under Joab, chief or president of the council of war, or lieutenant (locum tenens).

The same was Adino: this was his proper name.

The Eznite; so called, either from his family, or from the place of his birth or education.

He lift up his spear; which words are fitly supplied out of 1 Chronicles 11:11, where they are expressed. Or thus, he was above eight hundred, i.e. he conquered them. So there is only an ellipsis of the verb substantive, which is most frequent.

At one time; in one battle, which though it be strange, yet cannot seem incredible, supposing him to be a person of extraordinary strength and activity, and his enemies to be weak, or discouraged, and fleeing away; and especially, God’s singular blessing and assistance; all which may very reasonably be supposed.

Object. But this man is said to have slain only three hundred in 1 Chronicles 11:11.

Answ. 1. Possibly he slew eight hundred at one time, and three hundred at another; whereof the former is related here, as being most considerable; and the latter in the Book of Chronicles, which supplies many passages omitted in the former writings.

2. He slew three hundred with his own hands; and the other five hundred, though killed by his men, are said to be slain by him, because he was the chief cause of all their deaths; for he, by his undaunted courage, killing three hundred, put the rest to flight, who were easily slain by his soldiers in the pursuit.

3. Some of the Hebrew writers affirm that these were two distinct persons, being called by differing names; the one the father, and the other the son, who succeeded his father, as in strength and valour, so also in his place of honour and trust.

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:
The Ahohite; of the children of Ahoah, 1 Chronicles 8:4.

One of the three, i. e. one of the first three, 2 Samuel 23:19.

Mighty men with David; who were with David at this time, or who usually attended upon David.

When they defied the Philistines; when he either in the name of all the Israelites, or with the countenance and help of some of them, challenged the Philistines to fight. Or, when some of, or among, the Philistines defied them, i. e. the Israelites, according to their manner, and the example of their great Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:25,36. Or, in Harpam (for some make it a proper name of a place) among the Philistines. Gone away, i. e. fled away, 1 Chronicles 11:13, being dismayed at the approach of their enemies. Heb. ascended, i. e. vanished away like smoke, which ascends, and so disappears, as that verb is oft used.

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.
He arose, i. e. he undertook the work, as that word sometimes is used. Or, he stood (as it sometimes signifies) when the rest fled.

His hand clave unto the sword; either through sweat or blood, or by a contraction of the sinews. Or thus, yet did his hand cleave to his sword, i.e. though he was weary, he did not desist, but continued fighting.

Only to spoil i.e. to pursue the enemy, whom he had discomfited, and to take their 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.
Full of lentiles, or barley, as it is 1 Chronicles 11:13; for both might very well grow in the same field, in divers parts of it. And this fact is ascribed to Eleazar, 1 Chronicles 11:12, but so as it is implied that he had some partner or partners in it: for it is there said, 1 Chronicles 11:14, They set themselves, &c. So Eleazar might stand and fight in that part where the barley was, and Shammah there where the lentiles were.

But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory.
Defended it; that the Philistines could neither burn, nor tread it down and spoil it or carry it away.

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.
Three of the thirty; either,

1. The three already named, as is generally supposed, because it is said of them, in the close of this history, 1 Chronicles 11:19, These things did these three mightiest. But in the Hebrew it is only these three mighty men, as the same words are rendered here, 2 Samuel 23:17. Or rather,

2. The following

three; for it is expressly said, both here, 2 Samuel 23:18, and 1 Chronicles 11:20, that

Abishai was chief, and therefore one of the three; and this three are plainly distinguished from the first three, 2 Samuel 23:19 1 Chronicles 11:25.

Unto the cave of Adullam; which was a strong place, where David had been before, 1 Samuel 22:1, &c., and where he had now again fortified himself in the beginning of his reign, when the Philistines were too strong for him.

In the valley of Rephaim; of which see above, @2 Samuel 5:18.

And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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!
Being hot and thirsty, he expresseth how acceptable a draught of that water would be to him, as is usual with men to do in such cases; but was far from desiring or expecting that any of his men should hazard their lives to procure it, as appears from 2 Samuel 23:17.

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.
The host of the Philistines was in the valley of Rephaim, 2 Samuel 23:13, and in the way to Beth-lehem.

He would not drink thereof; lest by gratifying himself upon such terms, he should seem either to set too high a price upon the satisfaction of his appetite, or too low a price upon the lives of his soldiers, or should encourage others to the like vain-glorious and foolish attempts.

Poured it out unto the Lord, as a kind of drink-offering, and acknowledgment of God’s goodness in preserving the lives of his captains in so dangerous an enterprise; and to show that he esteemed it as a sacred thing, which, considering all things, it was not fit for him to drink it.

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.
Is not this the blood of the men, i.e. the price of their blood or lives, which they rashly exposed to manifest hazard?

These things did these three mighty men; either one of these three are here omitted, as one of the first three is not named, 1Ch 11; or Abishai, who follows next, was one of these three.

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.
He fought with and killed three hundred men in one battle.

Had the name among the three, i.e. was the most famous and eminent among them.

Was he not most honourable of three? therefore he was their captain: howbeit he attained not unto the first three.
He fell short of them in strength and valour.

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:
Of Kabzeel; a place in Judah, Joshua 15:21.

Who had done many acts: this may belong either to Benaiah, or to his father, to note that Benaiah was a son becoming such a father.

Two lionlike men, for courage and strength. Or, lions of God, i.e. great and strong lions. Or, two gigantic persons; and therefore both so called, as being either equal in might, or brethren by birth.

In the midst of a pit; where he put himself under a necessity, either of killing, or being killed.

In time of snow; when lions are most fierce, both from the sharpness of their appetite in cold seasons, and from want of provisions, cattle being then shut up, and fed at home.

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.
A goodly man; for stature, as it is expressed, 1 Chronicles 11:23.

With a staff; without a sword, or any warlike weapon.

These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had the name among three mighty men.
No text from Poole on this verse.

He was more honourable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first three. And David set him over his guard.
Heb. over (for el is sometimes put for al) the men (which is oft understood, as hath been noted before) of his command. So his guard is called, because they were always at the king’s hand, ready to hear and receive the king’s commands, and to put them in execution. Over the Cherethites and Pelethites, as appears by comparing 2 Samuel 8:18 20:23, who were faithful and obedient to him, when others revolted from him, 2 Samuel 15:18.

Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
One of the thirty; Heb. with or among the thirty; not only as one, but as the chief of them.

Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite,
In 1 Chronicles 11:27,

Shammoth the Harorite; concerning which and such-like alterations, and other changes of the names, which will be observed by comparing this catalogue with that, it will be sufficient to suggest,

1. That the same names of persons or places are differently pronounced, according to the different dialects used by men of divers places or ages.

2. That one man had oft two names.

3. That David had more worthies than those here mentioned; and as some of these were slain in the former part of David’s reign, as Asahel was; so others came up in their steads; and some were added to this number, as appears from 1Ch 11, where they are named, but not numbered, as they were here; and where there is a greater number than is here expressed.

Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Abiezer the Anethothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Heleb the son of Baanah, a Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai out of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Abialbon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Eliahba the Shaalbonite, of the sons of Jashen, Jonathan,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Hezrai the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, armourbearer to Joab the son of Zeruiah,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Ira an Ithrite, Gareb an Ithrite,
No text from Poole on this verse.

Uriah the Hittite: thirty and seven in all.
Here are but thirty-six named; either therefore one must be supplied whose name is not expressed among the three second worthies, or Joab is comprehended in the number, as being the lord-general of all.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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