Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.
Verse 1. - Then came all the tribes of Israel. As Ishbosheth reigned only two years, and David's reign at Hebron lasted for seven years and a half, there is an interval of more than five years to be accounted for; and we have given reason for believing (see note on 2 Samuel 2:10) that it must be placed after the death of Ishbosheth. The treacherous murder of Abner, and the tragic fate of Ishbosheth following upon it so rapidly, must have filled all Israel with horror, and made them look upon David as "a bloody man" (2 Samuel 16:8). But gradually his innocence became clear to all except inveterate partisans, and as the prejudice against him passed away, the evident advantage of union under so able a ruler would force itself upon their attention, and their decision would be hastened by the advantage which the Philistines would be sure to take of their anarchy. How much they had profited by it we gather from the haste with which they endeavoured to crush David's kingdom. The enormous gathering at Hebron to anoint David king proves not merely the unanimity of the tribes, but that his election was the result of long preparation and arrangement. We have fuller details of it in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40, where we learn that the people assembled in large numbers, the total being computed in the 'Speaker's Commentary' at 348,222; and it is remarkable that of this vast array only sixteen thousand nine hundred came from the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, which were situated in the neighbourhood of Hebron. On the other hand, the two and a half trans-Jordanic tribes sent no less than a hundred and twenty thousand men, and the three unimportant tribes of Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali mustered a hundred and eighteen thousand; while Issachar was content to send only two hundred, who were all, however, "men that had understanding... and their brethren were at their commandment." These words suggest the probable explanation of the disparity in the numbers, which to many seems so strange that they think they must be corrupt. Each tribe settled for itself in what way it would be represented, and the more distant sent a large proportion of their men of military age on what would be an enjoyable holiday. As they spent three days at Hebron, the expedition would occupy, even for those most remote, little more than a week; and it was well worth the while of the tribes thus to come together. It made them feel the value of unity, and gave them a knowledge of their strength. Their tribal independence during the time of the judges had made them too weak even to maintain their liberty; but now, welded by the kingly power into a nation, they soon, not only won freedom for themselves, but placed their yoke upon the shoulders of their neighbours. As for the difficulty of supplying them with food, all would bring victuals from home; and the neighbouring tribes showed great hospitality. Especially we read that those who were nigh unto Hebron, "even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victual of meal, cakes of figs, and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in abundance: for there was joy in Israel" (1 Chronicles 12:40). It was a grand national festival, joyously kept because the people saw in the election of David an end to all their troubles; and so vast a gathering overbore all opposition, and gave both to them and their king the consciousness of their might. But while we find in the Book of Chronicles the account of this mighty multitude, it is here (ver. 3) expressly said that it was the elders who made a league with David, and anointed him king. The people by their presence testified their joyful assent to what was done; but David's election was made legitimate by the decision of the constituted authorities in each tribe. It would be most interesting to know the various steps taken, and how the agitation grew and spread from tribe to tribe, until all hesitation and resistance were overcome. But the object of this book is to show us the great qualities, the sin, the repentance, and the punishment of the man who added to the old routine of sacrifice bright services of song, and who was the author of that book of devotion which to this day best expresses the feelings of the heart, as well in the joys as in the sorrows of life. The manner of his election throws no light upon his character, and is passed over. Enough to know that in those five years after Ishbosheth's murder David won the approval of all Israel, and that his appointment to the kingdom was by the free choice of the tribes, acting in a legitimate manner, and sending each their elders to Hebron to notify to David their consent; and that their decision was ratified by this joyful gathering of a mighty multitude from all parts of the land. Three reasons are given by the elders for David's election, and we may be sure that they represent the arguments used in their popular assemblies. The first, that they were David's bone and flesh. In other words, the tribes were all of one race, and united by the closest ties of relationship. For the descendants of a common ancestor to be at war with one another was both morally and politically wrong. The second, that David had been their actual leader in war even in Saul's time. His personal qualities, therefore, justified their choice of him to be their deliverer from the evils which had overwhelmed the land after the disastrous defeat at Gilboa, when Saul had no longer the aid of David's presence. The third, that Jehovah had by the mouth of his prophet given the throne to David. It is remarkable that the elders place this last. Their view probably was that the Divine command must be proved by outward circumstances, that so reason might confirm faith. So Saul's public appointment by Samuel was ratified by the people only after he had shown himself worthy to be a king by the defeat of the Ammonites.
Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.
Verse 2. - Thou shalt feed. In biblical language the pastoral office is that of the civil and not of the spiritual ruler. Captain; Hebrew, nagid, prince; so the Revised Version (and see note on 1 Samuel 9:16). The word refers not to military matters, but to the civil administration. David had proved himself a competent leader in war when Saul was king. What Jehovah now gives is the government of Israel in time of peace. The Authorized Version renders "captain" from not perceiving that the Divine promise ensured to David far more than a military chieftainship.
So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel.
Verse 3. - A league. The early kings of Israel were not invested with despotic power. Thus, on Saul's appointment, "Samuel wrote in a book the manner of the kingdom" (1 Samuel 10:25, made most emphatic in the Revised Version by the note in the margin, that the Hebrew is "the book"). The revolt against Rehoboam was the result of the too great extension of the royal power in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 12:4). Though subsequently the kings seemed to have retained their supremacy, yet when the good and patriotic Jehoiada restored the family of David to the throne, he reverted to the old ways, and "made a covenant between the king and the people" (2 Kings 11:17). Besides personal rights, the tribes, accustomed to their own leaders, and unused to yield obedience to a central authority, would certainly stipulate for a large measure of tribal independence, and the management of local matters by themselves. They anointed David king. This was the public ratification of Samuel's anointing, and by it David became de facto, as well as de jure, king. The prophets could not give any right over the people without the consent of the people themselves. But all religious men would see in the Divine command an obligation upon their conscience to accept as their king the man whom the prophet had anointed; and Saul acted in an irreligious manner in seeking to frustrate God's will. And this impiety culminated in his murder of the priests at Nob, which was the open avowal that he would trample all scruples of conscience underfoot.
David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.
Verse 4. - David was thirty years old. As David was probably about eighteen or nineteen years of age at the time of his combat with Goliath, the events recorded in 1 Samuel 17-31, must have occupied about ten or eleven years.
In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.
Verse 6. - The king and his men went to Jerusalem. This expedition took place immediately after David's coronation, and probably he was moved to it by the presence of so large a number of the warriors of Israel. He had long foreseen the arrival of the time when he would be king of all the tribes, and must have debated in his mind the problem of his future capital. He could not remain in Hebron, as it was too far to the south, nor would haughty tribes such as Ephraim have consented to be merged into Judah. On the other hand, he could not move far away, as Judah was his main strength. But living in its neighbourhood, he must often have noticed the remarkable position of the city of Jebus, and admired its rock girt strength (Psalm 48:2). Though the Jebusites had been conquered by Joshua (Joshua 11:3), and Jerusalem captured (Judges 1:8), yet, as the children of Judah did not occupy it, but "set the city on fire," it seems to have been soon repeopled by its old inhabitants, who there maintained their independence, and, owing to the impregnable nature of its site, could not be treated as Saul treated the Gibeonite inhabitants of Beeroth. Even subsequently, the Jebusite chief who possessed what probably was Mount Moriah, still bore the titular rank of king; for the words in ch. 24:23 literally are, "All this did Araunah the king give unto the king." The explanation of this long independence of the Jebusites is to be found not only in the feebleness of the tribes during the troubled times of the judges, but even mere in the conformation of the site of their stronghold. Jerusalem is situated on the edge of the precipitous wall which forms the western boundary of the valley of the Jordan, and occupies a promontory, on three sides of which are ravines so abrupt and steep that, were it not for their vast depth, they might seem to have been the work of man. On the north side alone it is open to attack, but even there, when the besieger has obtained an entrance, he finds the city divided by another ravine into two parts; whereof the western portion contains the strong citadel of Mount Zion, while the eastern and smaller portion contains the less elevated mountain of Moriah. Though actually raised above the sea level several hundred feet less than Hebron, it seems to the eye more emphatically a mountain-city; and being well nigh encircled by the valleys of Ben-Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, it seems to sit enthroned above the Jordan valley, compared with which it enjoys a cool and refreshing climate. To its inhabitants it was "beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth" (Psalm 48:2, Revised Version); to the exiles it was "the city of God," to which their hearts ever turned; to us Christians it is the type of Christ's Church on earth, and of his kingdom in heaven. It was an act worthy of David's genius to foresee the great future of the place, and to inaugurate his kingdom by its capture. We gather from Ezekiel 16:45 that at the time when the Hittites were the dominant race in Syria, Jerusalem was one of their fortresses. The name is a dual, literally Yerushalaim, and probably the town was so called because it consisted of two parts - the upper and the lower city. Shalaim means the "two Salems," thus carrying our minds back to the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). In Psalm 76:2 Salem is apparently contrasted with Zion, and so would be the lower town, containing Mount Moriah. Of the other part of the word, Yeru, numerous derivations are given, of which the only probable one is that which connects it with "Yehovah-yireh" - "God will see to it," the name given to the spot where Abraham on this mountain offered a vicarious sacrifice for his son. We must, however, bear in mind that towns retain the names which they bore in primitive times, and that the name of a Hittite fortress belongs probably to the language of that people. Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither. These words have been a sore puzzle to commentators, and many strange explanations have been given. Rashi says that the blind meant Isaac, and the lame Jacob, and that the words referred to an old compact by which Abraham gave Jerusalem to the Jebusites, and that Isaac and Jacob had confirmed this agreement. Unless, then, David was prepared to violate this covenant, he must abstain from the attack. We get no help from 1 Chronicles 11:5, as the words are there omitted, probably because they were not supposed to have any important meaning. The Orientals delighted in dark sayings, and possibly there was here some local reference which the people of Jerusalem would understand, but which is lost for us. But evidently it was a boastful defiance, and may mean that the Jebusites pretended that it would be enough to post only their feeblest men, the blind and the lame, for defense, and that David would try in vain to break through them. Thinking; Hebrew, to say; answering to our phrase "that is" It should be translated, "meaning."
Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
Verse 7. - The stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David. Zion was the hill on the southwestern side of the city; but we learn from ver. 9 that the Jebusites had not occupied the whole of it, but a part only, which was their stronghold, round which there would be scattered dwellings, as the whole tribe dwelt there. The total area of the hill top was about sixty acres, and it was now quickly covered with houses, and called "the city of David," after its captor. The view of Dr. Birch and others, that the stronghold of Zion was Ophel, is rendered untenable by the fact that this southern tongue of Mount Moriah is completely commanded by other parts of the hill. According to Gesenius, Zion means "sunny;" others render it "the dry hill;" others, "lofty;" and Furst, "the castle." None of these derivations is of any real value, as the word is probably Hittite.
And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.
Verse 8. - Whosoever getteth up to the gutter. The word rendered "gutter" occurs elsewhere only in Psalm 42:7, where it is translated "waterspout." Josephus thinks that it was an underground passage or drain. Ewald argues that it was a precipice, and others that it was a dent or hollow in the rocky face of the ravine, which David had noticed and thought practicable. The view of Josephus, suggested to him probably by his knowledge of the way in which the site of Jerusalem is honeycombed by tunnels, has been wonderfully confirmed by the discoveries made by Sir C. Warren ('Recovery of Jerusalem,' pp. 240, sqq.). At the northern end of the Pool of Siloam he found an arched passage gradually narrowing down from a considerable height, till finally there was a passage of only fourteen inches, and as there was a depth of ten inches of water, there were left but four inches of space for breathing. But through this his men struggled, and, at the end of four hours' labour, they reached the light of day at the spring called the Virgin's Fount. Beginning here on a subsequent day, they went along a passage sixty-seven feet in length, and came to a perpendicular shaft leading up through the solid stone of the hill; and, having scaled this, they next came upon a sloping passage, which finally conducted them to a spot on the hill of Ophel within the fortifications. Now, there are reasons for believing that this passage is older than the wall built by Solomon, and through it, or some such tunnel, Joab and a few men may have worked their way, and so have effected an entrance into the city, which otherwise was impregnable. It was probably the entrance near the Virgin's Fountain which they had observed, and David's words mean, "Whoever will undertake this dangerous enterprise, let him try this underground passage, and when he has entered the fortifications by its means, let him smite the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul," because of the boast of the Jebusites, that their cripples were a match for his heroes. It must be noticed, however, that the K'tib, or written text, has "who hate David's soul;" and as this is what the Jewish Massorites found in the manuscripts, it has more authority than their correction. These Jebusites had probably, in their boastful insult, spoken of David with contempt, and even said, like Goliath, that they would give his flesh to the vultures (1 Samuel 17:44). We learn from 1 Chronicles 11:6 that David promised the office of commander of the host to the man who undertook this exploit; and when Joab had volunteered and succeeded, he regained thereby the post which he had forfeited by the murder of Abner. The blind and the lame shall not some into the house. The proverb is one of contempt for these poor cripples, and forbids the exercise of hospitality to them. Such people, if they took to mendicancy, were to meet with refusal, though at their own homes they were fit objects of charity. This way of describing tramps as "the blind and lame" arose, we are here told, from this Jebusite taunt.
So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward.
Verse 9. - David dwelt in the fort. It was the stronghold or citadel of Zion which David took for his abode; but as he needed space for the dwellings of his mighty men, and for those who would soon flock for trade and security to the capital, David proceeded to fortify the whole of the summit. His works began from "the Millo," rendered "the citadel" by the LXX. Many, deriving the name from a Hebrew root signifying to fill, think that it was a mound, but Nature had herself supplied fit heights for defence, and it is evident that the place was called "the Millo" when David captured the city. We find "Beth-Millo" also in Judges 9:6, 20, where it signifies those who held the citadel of Shechem; and this Mills at Jerusalem was without doubt the old Jebusite keep, and the explanation of its name must be sought in the Jebusite language. As it formed one of the strongest defences of the city, it was rebuilt by Solomon (1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 11:27), and repaired by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:5) in preparation for the Assyrian attack. Probably it stood at a corner, whence the phrase, "round about from the Millo and inward," or, as it is expressed in 1 Chronicles 11:8, "from the Millo inward," that is, starting from. the Millo, the walls enclosed the space behind it. In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 11:8) we find an interesting addition to the narrative, namely, that "Joab repaired the rest of the city." It appears from this that the Jebusites had occupied a good deal of the ground with their habitations, though probably the number of the tribe was not great; or possibly there remained old buildings which were the remains of the Hittite city, and which, being of massive construction, were easily made fit once again for human habitation. We see also proof of Joab's great ability in peace as well as in war. He it was who had captured the stronghold, and it was now his office to arrange the streets and plan of the city, and to assign dwellings to David's mighty men. This would be a work sure to cause jealousy and heart burnings, and no one but Joab, their old commander, could have satisfied them. We find that he assigned to one of them, Uriah the Hittite, a space of ground for a dwelling close to the royal palace. We may suppose, then, that David was now fully reconciled to the "hard sons of Zeruiah" (2 Samuel 3:39), and in the stern wars which followed David's election, he needed and had the full benefit of their vigour and ability.
And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.
Verse 10. - David went on, and grew great. This is the Hebrew phrase for "David grew greater and greater." In this and the six following verses (10-16) we have a summary of David's reign, telling us how he increased in prosperity because of the blessing of "Jehovah God of hosts." The birth of Solomon even is recorded in it, though it took place long afterwards. The insertion in this summary of Hiram's acknowledgment of David proves that this event made a great impression upon the minds of the people.
And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house.
Verse 11. - Hiram King of Tyre. At first sight it seems as if the Hiram who so greatly aided Solomon in the building of the temple was the same person as David's friend (1 Kings 5:10; 2 Chronicles 2:3), but this identification is disproved by the express statement in 2 Chronicles 2:13, and by the chronology. For granting that this account of Hiram's embassy occurs in a general summary, yet David would not long defer the erection of a palace, and in the history of Bathsheba we find, as a matter of fact, that it was then already built (2 Samuel 11:2). But as Solomon was grown to manhood at his father's death, David's sin must have been committed not more than nine or ten years after he became king of all Israel. Now, we are told by Josephus ('Contr. Apion,' 1:18), on the authority of Menander of Ephesus, that Hiram reigned in all thirty years. But in 1 Kings 9:10-13 we have an account of a transaction with Hiram in Solomon's twentieth year. In another place ('Ant.,' 8:03. 1) Josephus tells us that Hiram had been King of Tyre eleven years when Solomon, in the fourth year of his reign, began the building of the temple. He would thus have been a contemporary of David for only the last seven or eight years of his reign. But the history of this embassy is given as a proof of David's establishment in his kingdom, and cannot therefore be referred to so late a period in his lifetime, when it would have lost its interest. The improbability of two successive kings having the same name is not, after all, so very great, especially as we do not know what the word Hiram, or Haram, exactly means. Nor is Menander's statement conclusive against it, where he says that Hiram's father was named Abibal - "Baal is my father." This would probably be an official name, borne by Hiram as the defender of the national religion, or as a priest king. There is, therefore, no real reason for rejecting the statement in 2 Chronicles 2:13 that Hiram, or as he is there called Huram, David's friend, was the father of the Huram who was Solomon's ally. Cedar trees. Cedar wood was greatly valued both for its fragrance and durability, owing to the resin which it contains preserving it from the attacks of insects. Its colour also is soft and pleasing to the eye, as may be seen in the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey, the panels of which are of cedar. It did not grow in the Antilibanus, or eastern part of Lebanon, which belonged to Israel, but only in the western part, which belonged to Tyre. Cedar from the time of David became the favourite material at Jerusalem for the interior of houses (Jeremiah 22:14), and Isaiah charges the people of Samaria with pride for not being content with the native sycomores which had satisfied their fathers, but substituting for it this costly foreign timber (Isaiah 9:10). Carpenters and masons. The necessity of importing "workers of wood, and workers of stone for walls," as the words literally mean, proves how miserable was the social state of Israel in David's time. Though they had been slaves in Egypt, yet at the Exodus the Israelites had men capable of working in the precious metals and jewelry, in weaving and embroidery, in wood carving, and even in the cutting of gems (Exodus 35:30-35). During the long anarchy of the judges they had degenerated into a race of agricultural drudges, whom the Philistines had debarred from the use of even the simplest tools (1 Samuel 13:19). Possibly in Saul's time there was a faint restoration of the arts of civilized life (2 Samuel 1:24); but when we find Joab killing Absalom, not with darts, but with pointed stakes (2 Samuel 18:14), the weapons probably of most of the foot soldiers, we see that not much had been done even then in metallurgy; and here earlier in his reign David has to send to Tyre for men who could saw a plank or build a wall. When, then, we call to mind the high state of culture and the magnificence of Solomon's reign, we can form some idea of the vigour with which David raised his subjects from a state of semi-barbarism.
And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake.
Verse 12. - And David perceived. We may well believe that David had many seasons of despondency and misgiving after he became king. His subjects were brave and energetic, but turbulent, unwilling to obey, and but half-civilized. His election had put an end to civil war at home, but only to arouse the hatred of the enemies who had long oppressed them. The tragical fate, too, of Saul, who, after so many heroic struggles, had seen the earlier glories of his reign fade away, and had sought deliverance from his misery by suicide; all this must have often depressed his spirits. But gradually his fears passed away; and when he had twice defeated the Philistines, and been able to establish his rule, and with it some degree of orderly government throughout the twelve tribes, David saw in all this, and in the embassies from foreign nations, the proof, not of his own ability, but of Jehovah's purpose to exalt his kingdom for his people Israel's sake. In this David was still a man after God's own heart, in that he felt himself to be only an instrument for the doing, not his own will, but the purpose of his Divine Master.
And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.
Verse 13. - David took him more concubines. Thus with increase of power came also the increased gratification of David's weakness and sin. Well for him would it have been if, like Saul, he had been content with one wife. But this enlargement of his harem was gradual, and the list includes all the sons born at Jerusalem. Of these four, namely, Shammuah, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon. were his children by Bathsheba (see 1 Chronicles 3:5, where the names are differently spelt). Besides a variation in the spelling, two sons are mentioned in Chronicles, Nogah and an earlier Eliphelet, whose names are not given here, perhaps because they died young. From 1 Chronicles 3:9 we learn that only the names of the sons of wives are given in these tables.
And these be the names of those that were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shammua, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon,
Ibhar also, and Elishua, and Nepheg, and Japhia,
And Elishama, and Eliada, and Eliphalet.
But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold.
Verse 17. - But when the Philistines heard. After the battle of Gilboa the Philistines became the virtual rulers of much of the country west of the Jordan, and probably even David and Judah paid them tribute. On its eastern bank, though Abner kept them from molesting Ishbosheth's kingdom, yet the rule of Saul's house in Ephraim and Benjamin must have been nominal only, and the Philistines would have seen him with pleasure wasting his strength in civil war. After Ishbosheth's death they had tightened their grasp over the central districts of Palestine, though probably content with exacting tribute. They must now have seen with displeasure the consolidation of the tribes under one able ruler. Even in their divided state, the natural strength of the country and the bravery of the people had made it a task too great for the Philistine power entirely to crush Israel's independence. But if they could destroy David before he had had time to establish himself in his kingdom, they would at least prolong indefinitely that feebleness of Israel which had made it so long subject to their dominion. Of this supremacy the Philistines have handed down a token forever in giving to the whole country the name of Palestine, the Philistines' land. David... went down to the hold. Many commentators identify the hold with the cave of Adullam, and certainly the account of the brave deed of three of David's heroes, in breaking through the Philistine garrison of Bethlehem to bring him water thence, gives great probability to this view. For we read there that "the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim, and that David was then in the hold" (2 Samuel 23:13, 14, where note that the word "hold" has the definite article). There are, however, many difficulties connected with this view; for the cave of Adullam was in the valley of Elah, on the road from Hebron to Philistia (1 Samuel 22:1), but the valley of Rephaim is close to Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8), abutting, in fact, upon the valley of Ben-Hinnom. Baal-Perazim also is in the same neighbourhood, being the rocky height which forms the border of Ben-Hinnom, and bounds the valley of Rephaim on the north. Still, the passage in 2 Samuel 23:13, 14 seems too precise to be lightly set aside, and we must suppose, therefore, that the Philistines, alarmed by the gathering of half a million of men and women at Hebron, sent messengers throughout their country to assemble their warriors. It was the weakness of ancient warfare that its vast hosts of people melted away as rapidly as they had gathered. For provisions were soon spent, and the men had to return to their farms and their cattle. Thus David, having used some of that large concourse of strong men for the capture of Jerusalem, was left immediately afterwards with no other protection than that of his "mighty men." Saul had endeavoured to have always round him three thousand trained men (1 Samuel 13:2), and David subsequently had probably quite as many (2 Samuel 15:18); but at this early stage he had probably not many more than he had brought with him from Ziklag to Hebron. He could not, therefore, make head against the Philistines coming with all the militia of their land; but, leaving his wives and the wives of his mighty men in the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, we may well believe that he sped away to gather the warriors of Israel. But what seems strange is that he should have gone to the rear of the Philistines, especially as they had come in such vast numbers as to occupy the whole country - a garrison, for instance, being posted at Bethlehem, and doubtless at other fit spots. Still, this country was well known to David, and he could gather there old friends, whose bravery he had often tried before. And while thus waiting for the mustering of such as God would move to help him, in deep distress at so terrible a reversal following so quickly upon his exaltation, a strange longing for water from the well of his native town seized him. He was suffering apparently from fever of body as well as from distress of mind, and soon there was relief from both. For three of his heroes heard the words burst from his parched lips, and, hastening to Bethlehem, broke through the Philistine garrison, and filled a waterskin from the well at the gate of the city. Such an act naturally made a great impression upon David. What room was there for despair when he had such men around him? Pouring out, then, the water as a drink offering to Jehovah, his heart was now filled with hope, and inquiring of the Lord whether he might attack the Philistines, he received the assurance which he had already gathered from the exploit of his heroes, that God would deliver them into his hand.
The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.
Verse 18. - The valley of Rephaim. This fruitful valley (Isaiah 17:5) is about three miles in length, and two in breadth. Occupying it in vast numbers, the Philistines sent out bodies of men to plunder the whole country, while a sufficient force watched Jerusalem, intending to take it by famine. The Rephaim were an aboriginal race, first mentioned in Genesis 14:5, and evidently in early times very widely spread in Palestine. The idea that they were giants has no more to be said in its favour than that they were ghosts - the meaning of the word in Isaiah 26:14, 19. No sensible philologist will endeavour to explain the names of these primitive races and of their towns by Hebrew roots, though there has been too much of this craze in past times. The Rephaim seem. however, to have been physically a well-developed people, and several races of Canaan of great stature are described in Deuteronomy 2:11 as having belonged to them, as did Og, who was a man of extraordinary dimensions (Deuteronomy 3:11).
And David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the LORD said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baalperazim.
Verse 20. - Baal-Perazim; literally, possessor of breaches, that is, the place where the attack burst forth. It is called Mount Perazim, "the hill of breaches," in Psalm 28:21, and as we have seen, it was the rocky height on the north of the valley of Rephaim. David must, therefore, have stolen round the army of the Philistines, creeping, probably by night, up to this ridge of Ben-Hinnom, and thence at the dawn of day have rushed down upon the camp. And his onset was sudden and irresistible, like the rush of the waters of some mountain lake when, swollen with rains, it bursts through the opposing dam, and carries hasty destruction to everything that lies in its way.
And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.
Verse 21. - They left their images. This is a further proof of the suddenness of the attack, and the completeness of the Philistine discomfiture. For images we find "gods" in the parallel place in 1 Chronicles 14:12, and the word used here is rendered "idols" in 1 Samuel 31:9. As the Philistines supposed that these images of their deities would ensure their victory, they would set great store by them, as the Israelites did by the ark (1 Samuel 4:4), and the French by the oriflamme. Their capture, therefore, was a feat as great as the winning of the eagle of a Roman legion. David and his men burned them; Hebrew, took them away. This translation of the Authorized Version, made to force the words into verbal agreement with 1 Chronicles 14:12, is utterly indefensible; and, like most wrong things, it is absurd. The Bible cannot be improved by frauds, and really the two narratives complete one another. David and his men carried off these images as trophies, just as the Philistines carried off the ark (1 Samuel 4:11). But the ark proved mightier than the Philistine gods, and in terror the people restored it to Israel. But no avenging hand interfered to rescue these gods, and, after being paraded in triumph, they were made into a bonfire.
And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.
Verse 22. - The Philistines came up yet again. Their first defeat had probably not been accompanied by much slaughter; for David's men were few in number, though brave as lions. Retreating then to some distance, the Philistines called in their garrisons, and waited also for reinforcements from home, and then advanced again to the same spot. And as David was prepared to attack them in front, he also must now have gathered round him the chivalry of Israel.
And when David inquired of the LORD, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.
Verse 23. - Thou shalt not go up. The attack in front is forbidden, and the answer shows that the priest with the ephod did more than give a mere affirmative or negative reply. For David receives full instructions. Taking advantage of the valleys, he is to creep round into the rear of the Philistines, and approach them under cover of a thicket of baca trees. Mulberry trees; Hebrew, baca trees. This suggests the idea that David's place of attack was the Baca valley (Psalm 84:6), and that there was such a valley, though this is not certain. For the Revised Version translates "valley of weeping," concluding that baca is not there a proper name. By baca trees the LXX. and Vulgate "pear trees," but as bacah means "to weep," it is probably some balsamic shrub, from which a resin exudes. The Revised Version puts here in the margin, "balsam trees." Dr. Tristram thinks it was a sort of aspen, but the authority of the Vulgate is great in such matters, as Jerome obtained his information in Palestine itself.
And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the LORD go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.
Verse 24. - The sound of a going; Hebrew, a marching. Under the cover of this thicket David was to wait until he heard the sound as of the regular tramp of an army in the tops of the baca trees. It would be in the morning that the wind would shake the treetops, but the sound was to be something more than the soft whispers of a gentle breeze. A gale was to put them into sudden motion, and then the soldiers would know that their Jehovah had gone forth to battle, and David must immediately bestir himself. The enthusiasm of his men must not cool down, but as soon as the wind rustled he must charge the enemy, and his warriors, feeling that they were going with the host of God, would break down all resistance by their impetuous onset.
And David did so, as the LORD had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.
Verse 25. - From Geba until thou some to Gazer. In 1 Chronicles 14:16 "Gibson" is substituted for "Geba," and it is one of those corrections which a commentator is inclined to adopt, because it makes all things easy. For Gibeon lay directly on the road from the Rephaim valley towards Gazer, and the armies must have passed it in the fight. But if "Geba" be the right reading here, then the battle must have been most sternly contested. For it is the "Gibeah of Benjamin," Hebrew, "Geba of Benjamin," described in 1 Samuel 13:16. The Philistines had a garrison there in Saul's time (1 Samuel 13:3), and had probably again occupied it as a military post after their victory at Gilboa. To reach it the line of retreat would go nine miles northward over difficult ground; but this was not disadvantageous to a retreating army as long as it remained unbroken, and the Philistines would expect to be able to make a successful defense at a strong citadel like Geba, held by a garrison of their own troops. But when driven by David's "mighty men" from this fortified hill, being hemmed in by the defile of Michmash on the east, they would have no choice but to hurry down the valleys to the west, and, still passing by Gibson, so flee to Gazer. Thus the reading "Geba" implies a stout and long resistance ending in a most complete victory. And confessedly this was a decisive battle, fought with larger forces, and causing far larger loss to the Philistines than that at Baal-Perazim, where, attacked by only a few men, they were seized with panic, and saved themselves by a headlong flight. Gazer lay upon the border of Ephraim, and was one of the royal cities of the Canaanites, and so strong that it was left in the hands of its old possessors (Joshua 16:3, 10; Judges 1:19). Subsequently Solomon fortified it (1 Kings 9:17), as being the key of the defiles which led from Ekron and the plain of Philistia up to Jerusalem. We also find it mentioned as an important military post in the days of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 9:52). The pursuit would naturally stop here, as the fugitives would now be in their own country, and succour would be close at hand. Probably, too, the Canaanites who held the fortress were friendly to them, and gave them shelter.