1 David Beats the Philistines
1 Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines and subdued them; and David took control of the chief city from the hand of the Philistines.
“Now after” means that there is a link with the foregoing. After the house of David in the previous chapter comes in this chapter his kingdom. When the house is established, there is also strength to fight. David has been in the sanctuary and is now coming outside to gain victories. We can overcome enemies by the Spirit. The Lord Jesus has conquered the world and we can do so in the power of His Spirit.
The first enemies David defeats are the Philistines. Samson was long ago the man who had been told he would begin to defeat the Philistines (Jdg 13:5), but Samson himself was defeated by them. The same goes for Saul. David has already begun to defeat the Philistines (2Sam 5:17-25) and is now completing his work. This brings to an end a long period in which the people of God were delivered to the power of the Philistines.
Taking control of the chief city – by which is probably meant Gath – seems to be an act that is symbolic for the breaking of the power of the Philistines. Now he exercises his influence on the Philistines and subdues them.
2 - 6 Other Enemies Defeated
2 He defeated Moab, and measured them with the line, making them lie down on the ground; and he measured two lines to put to death and one full line to keep alive. And the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute. 3 Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob king of Zobah, as he went to restore his rule at the River. 4 David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; and David hamstrung the chariot horses, but reserved [enough] of them for 100 chariots. 5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans. 6 Then David put garrisons among the Arameans of Damascus, and the Arameans became servants to David, bringing tribute. And the LORD helped David wherever he went.
After the Philistines it is Moab’s turn. This enemy is also defeated. Here a pre-fulfilment of the prophecy of Bileam takes place: “A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab” (Num 24:17). In judging the Moabites, David uses lines to measure. In this way he determines who is killed and who is allowed to stay alive. It is reminiscent of the effect of the gospel, which we read is “to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2Cor 2:16).
Moab is also defeated by David. The Moabites remained indebted to Israel until after the death of Ahab. Then they rebelled and were never subjected again (2Kgs 3:4-5). The final submission, according to the quoted prophecy of Bileam, will be done by “the star of Jacob” and the “scepter of Israel”, which in reality refers to the Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
The spiritual meaning of this enemy is not difficult. We read from Moab that it is characterized by pride and laziness (Isa 16:6; Jer 48:11a). These sins are in us, in our flesh. In Christ we have power over sin. In practice, it means that we must keep ourselves dead for sin. This can be done by constantly thinking that our old man has been crucified with Christ. As soon as pride or laziness are to assert themselves in our lives, we must look at Christ and His work on the cross. Only in this way will the flesh not have a chance to assert itself.
The next enemies to be defeated are the Arameans. These enemies try to undermine the authority of David at the extreme borders of God’s people. David goes there to maintain his authority. What God has given as a boundary for His people, the Euphrates (Gen 15:18), there the enemy tries to regain authority. The spiritual lesson is that there are powers that try to take possession of the boundaries God has given in His Word. For example, we can think of the limitation of marriage as the only area God has given in which sexuality can be experienced in the way He intended.
The Arameans consist of two groups. We read that in Psalm 60, a psalm David has made in response to the battle described here. David begins with “the Arameans of Zobah” (verses 3-4; Psa 60:1a). When he goes to the border of his empire at the Euphrates, he finds the king of Zobah on his way. This king claims the possession of the countries that belong to Israel. They are assigned to Abraham and his seed by the promise of God. David beats him, takes his chariots away from him and captures many horsemen and footmen. He also cuts through the hamstrings of many horses, making them lame and unusable for battle.
David also deals with the Arameans of Damascus who came to the rescue of the king of Zobah. They do this to their own destruction. All the conspiracy against the LORD and His anointed one only simplifies the judgment of them. The enemies of God are also joined together in the end times by an invisible power to be completely destroyed in one moment (Isa 8:9). Many of the Arameans are killed by David. As a result he simply conquered Damascus and turned it into a garrison town.
David overcomes because the LORD gives him victory (verses 6,14). It is good to realize that in ourselves there is no power to overcome any enemy.
7 - 12 David’s Booty of War
7 David took the shields of gold which were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a very large amount of bronze. 9 Now when Toi king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer, 10 Toi sent Joram his son to King David to greet him and bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and defeated him; for Hadadezer had been at war with Toi. And [Joram] brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze. 11 King David also dedicated these to the LORD, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated from all the nations which he had subdued: 12 from Aram and Moab and the sons of Ammon and the Philistines and Amalek, and from the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
Because David has defeated Hadadezer, there is joy with Toi, king of Hamath. Defeating enemies has a richer effect than just a personal joy. Just as failure has evil consequences for others (2Sam 6:7), so a victory in the power of God has good effects for others.
Toi does not come forced, but voluntarily. In the realm of peace, kings and realms will be subjected with an iron rod, while others will voluntarily submit to the rule of the Lord Jesus (Psa 18:43-45). They are grateful to Him for defeating their enemies. Toi brings objects of materials that David can use for building the temple.
David sanctifies all that he captures in the various wars for the LORD (verse 11). Everything is destined for building the temple (1Kgs 7:51). That the temple is built from the spoils and gifts of pagan peoples shows God’s benevolence to the pagans. The house of God will therefore be called “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa 56:7). We see the same with regard to the new Jerusalem. We read of “the kings of the earth” that they “bring their glory to her” (Rev 21:24).
If someone is overcome by the grace of the Son of David, all that has served first to his own glory must be used from that moment on to glorify Him. For this it must be sanctified, i.e. consciously given that destiny and no longer used for its own glorification (cf. Isa 23:18; Mic 4:13b). This is only possible if everything is seen in the light of the cross.
13 - 14 David Makes a Name
13 So David made a name [for himself] when he returned from killing 18,000 Arameans in the Valley of Salt. 14 He put garrisons in Edom. In all Edom he put garrisons, and all the Edomites became servants to David. And the LORD helped David wherever he went.
Through his victories, especially those on the Arameans, David makes a name. He does so through his policy and courage that make him stand out from other military commanders. Probably there is something extraordinary in his way of warfare. However, he is very careful to give credit to himself. This is clear from the conclusion of the psalm he wrote as a result of this war: “Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries” (Psa 60:12). He realizes that his victories are exclusively due to God.
All Edomites become servants of David. In this way and at this moment the blessing of Isaac is fulfilled, in which he made Jacob lord over Esau (Gen 27:37-40). This is also a pre-fulfilment, because the final fulfilment only comes in the kingdom of peace. The Edomites remained indebted to the kings of Judah for a long time, as did the Moabites to the kings of Israel. In the time of king Jehoram they revolt (2Chr 21:8), according to the prophecy by Isaac that Esau will in time cast off Jacob’s yoke from his neck.
15 - 18 Reign of David
15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 16 Joab the son of Zeruiah [was] over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud [was] recorder. 17 Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar [were] priests, and Seraiah [was] secretary. 18 Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers.
These verses give a picture of the kingdom of peace under the reign of the Lord Jesus. David reigns over all Israel. The whole people are safe under his protection and share in the fruits of his good reign. He is impartial and fair in the lawsuit. He has never twisted the law out of favor or predilection. In his legal proceedings he proceeds without regard to the person. In this he is a type of Christ, Who is faithful and true and “in righteousness He judges and wages war” (Rev 19:11; Psa 72:1-2).
With a steady hand he exercises justice and righteousness among all the people, without doing wrong to someone or denial of the right to anyone. It shows that the people have easy access to him and that he is prepared to listen to those who want to ask him something or appeal to him.
David also has good officials at his court. He is the first leader of God’s people to have an established government. He also sees that he needs people who are good at driving. He has two military officers, Joab and Benaiah. Joab is over the army in view of hostile forces outside Israel. Benaiah is over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, the bodyguard of David, and ensures the maintenance of internal order.
He also hath two priests for religious matters, Zadok and Ahimelech. The joint mention of Zadok and Ahimelech as priests indicates the transition that takes place in the priestly service. Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, is a descendant of Eli, the son of Ithamar, the son of Aaron. This line of the priesthood will end, as Samuel said to Eli (1Sam 3:10-14). Zadok is a descendant of Aaron via Eleazar, the other remaining son of Aaron (1Chr 6:3-8). Via Zadok the line of the priesthood is continued from the reign of Solomon (1Kgs 2:35).
Finally, there are two civil servants, Jehoshaphat and Seraiah. Jehoshaphat is recorder. He brings the important issues to David’s attention to deal with them. Seraiah is a secretary of state. He establishes public order and keeps records of decisions and court rulings.
We can learn spiritual lessons from David’s concern for internal peace by maintaining the law. He provides a good army because he realizes that, all his enemies having been defeated, a threat from them continues to emanate. The army is not only there to maintain peace towards the peoples around them, it is also used to maintain peace among the members of the people themselves. Also internally there must be no outbreak of revolt.
If we apply this to the life of the church, the lesson is that also when there are tensions between them, the true David is ready to restore peace and quiet. He has an ‘army’, His gifts to the church, which give clues that can make the tension disappear.
In Acts 6, we have an example of such tensions. A group of believers feels disadvantaged. These believers believe that, compared to others, they get too little. If this grumble does not disappear quickly, it will have a devastating effect on the church. The ‘army’ of the Lord Jesus, the apostles, comes up with the solution, by which the grumble stops. This solution does not lie in the use of violence, but in meeting the complainants wherever possible (Acts 6:1-6). Such a solution requires a spiritual mindset, the mind of the Lord Jesus.
We also have a responsibility to ensure that we uphold His right in our own lives and in the church of God. That is, what He says in His Word is obeyed. This cannot happen by force or violence, but by the Spirit Who works in pastors whom the Lord has given. These predecessors are not officially appointed persons. There is no such thing in the Bible. They are servants trained and formed by the Lord in the school of life. We are warned to be obedient and submissive to them (Heb 13:17a).