II Samuel 8–10. David's Victories. Help For Saul's Kin.
Key Notes: Occupation of the land promised to Abraham. Mephibsheth as an example of the redeemed.
Summary: This lesson describes David’s extension of the Israelite kingdom to the Euphrates on the north and to the River of Egypt on the south. His government became stable and he found time to settle an old obligation with the family of Saul. We are allowed to see a fair amount of politics and military maneuvering. The fulfillment of God’s promises is not always neatly or miraculously done.
Psalm 60 describes Israel’s distresses in this time of war:
“Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom?
Hast Thou not rejected us, O God? Thou dost not go forth, O God, with our armies.
Grant us help against the foe, for vain is the help of men” (Psalm 60:9–11).
8:1 David defeated the Philistines and took Metha-gammah out of their hand. Metha-gammah means, roughly, “bridle of the mother”. At this time, Gath was the main city of the Philistines, the mother city, perhaps. "...he took Gath and its villages out of the hand of the Philistines." (I Chron.18:11). To capture Gath would bring Eglon, Ashkelon, Gaza and Ashdod under David’s control.
8:2 The extraordinary execution of two-thirds of the Moabite army has not been explained. Earlier, David had his parents under the protection of the king of Moab. (I Samuel 22:3). However, decimating the army of Moab fulfils the prophecy of Num.24:17. "...a star shall come forth out of Jacob; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth."
This is one reason why David was not permitted to build the temple : “You have shed much blood and have waged great wars.” (I Chronicles 22:8)
8:3–8 Hadadezer, king of territory north of Syria, was caught facing a challenge at the Euphrates River (in present-day Iraq), and was defeated by David. David’s army did not use chariots and this force was destroyed by killing or crippling the horses. David conquered Damascus and Syria. Captured gold and bronze was stockpiled for the future temple (as in 8:11).
Comment: II Samuel 8:4 reports 1,700 horsemen; I Chronicles‘:4 says 7,000 horsemen. This is one of the very few problems (less than ten) of fact in Scripture. One or the other manuscripts has an error in copying. This is why our statement of faith says, “inerrant in the original manuscripts”.
8:9–12 Hadadezer’s rival, Toi, sent his son, Joram, with presents of gold, silver and bronze to add to the treasury of David.
8:13–14 Edom was the next country to be captured. This also was prophesied by Balaam.
"Edom shall be dispossessed...while Israel does valiently." (Num.24:18). The Lord gave David success in every military venture.
8:15–18 The chapter concludes with the cabinet of David’s government. He was the chief justice over Israel. David’s sons are called priests, but I Chronicles‘:17 calls them, “chief officials”. They are not of the tribe of Levi, but could serve as spiritual advisors. Cherithites are believed to have originated in Crete; Pelethites, in Philistia.
9:1–8 David was not only just, but scrupulous about his obligation to the family of Saul for the sake of Jonathan. (I Samuel 20:16,42). Ziba was Saul’s servant who had evidently been left in charge of Saul's estate. He reported a son of Jonathan who was lame due to an old injury. His nurse rescued him when he was five years old as they fled from the Philistines at Jezreel; Saul was killed, and the city overrun. Unfortunately, she dropped him, leaving him with leg injuries, perhaps broken ankles. II Samuel 4:4
Mephibosheth fell on his face in fear before David. Traditional politics called for elimination of all rivals from the previous administration, so he described himself as a dead dog. But David promised him the ownership of Saul’s estate and a place at David’s table.
9:9–13 Ziba was then called upon to administer the estate and produce crops for Mephibosheth. Ziba was already a powerful man with fifteen sons and twenty servants as his farm managers. So Mephibosheth became as one of David’s sons. He was married, with a young son and lived in Jerusalem like royalty. Mephibosheth will re-emerge later in the book.
10:1–5 David had been friendly with Nahash, king of the Ammonites. When he died, David sent messengers to console his son, Hanun. But Hanun’s government thought David’s men were spies and sent them back in disgrace with their beards half shaved off and one buttock exposed. David sent them into isolation until their beards regrew.
The Ammonites had a foolish, contemptuous attitude toward the Hebrews. They preferred to insult them rather than negotiate peace or attack them militarily. Previously Nahash offered the men of Jabash-Gilead their lives in exchange for their right eyes. (I Sam.11). Saul beat them soundly. David then became Nahash’s friend by default. The next generation of the Ammonites, however, made a joke of the Hebrew messengers, provoking them to outrage.
10:9–14 The Ammonites realized that they were repulsive and did not wait to see what David might do but hired 20,000 mercenaries from the north and set themselves for war. Joab went after the Syrians with picked troops in the open field while Abishai was assigned to the Ammonites at the gates of the city. When the Syrians fled, the Ammonites retreated into their city and the fight was over for the moment. (Ammon is now Amman, the capital city of Jordan.)
10:15–19 Now the Syrians gathered northern allies with Hadadezer’s commander Shobach in charge. David went after them and they ran. Shobach was fatally injured and the northern alliance made peace with David. But the conflict with Ammon was not finished.
David’s wars and successes in battle were under God’s support. He helped David, as we are told repeatedly. (II Samuel 7:8; 8:6, 14). As much as we deplore war, we must also know that David was completing a prophecy made by God to Abraham a thousand years before:
“To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates ....” (Genesis 15:18)
David acquired a lot of wealth in battle, but did not spend it on himself. He gave it to the Lord, for the Temple.
Mephibosheth is a model of a person in need of salvation. He was:
a. crippled (9:3) and unproductive, unable to work,
b. living in Lo-debar ("the place of no pasture") in the home of Machir ("sold"),
c. orphaned, his family dead,
d. vulnerable to execution by association with the previous king, "a dead dog" (9:8); "a doomed man" (19:28).
What David did for Mephibosheth foreshadows what Jesus did for us:
1. he remembered to do kindness, "the kindness of God", "for Jonathan's sake” (II Samuel 9:3).
"... God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)
2. he went out of his way, searching out someone to whom to do good.
"The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke’:10).
3. he risked having a rival to the throne at his table.
"When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His son.... " (Romans 5:10)
4. he told him not to fear, because he was respected because of his father Jonathan.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption ...” (Romans 8:15). We are treated as God's children.
5. he gave him a seat at the king's table.
"...raised us up with Him and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places ...." (Ephesians 2:6)
"You may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom ...." (Luke 22:30).
We may think that we found God, but in truth He was seeking us:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13).