2 Samuel 5:17
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.
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(17) When the Philistines heard.—After this general summary, the narrative goes back to take up detailed events in their order. First comes an attack of the Philistines. Their attention had naturally been hitherto occupied with Abner and Ish-bosheth, who ruled over the far greater part of the land; but when they heard that the old nation was united under their old foe, they saw that no time was to be lost in attacking him before his power should be consolidated. Yet their necessary consultations, and the mustering of their forces, allowed time for the conquest of Jerusalem, which David seems to have accomplished with the forces gathered at his coronation.

Went down to the hold.—As David went “down” to this place, and then “up” (2Samuel 5:19) from it to the attack on the Philistines, it is not likely that “the hold” means the citadel of Zion. It must have been some stronghold near the Philistine army. It could not have been, as some have thought, the cave of Adullam. According to the monastic tradition, this was seven or eight miles S.E. of Bethlehem; according to the more ancient view, it was in the plain of Judah, west of the mountains; thus, in either case, quite remote from the scene of the battle.

2 Samuel 5:17. All the Philistines came up to seek David — They raised all the forces they were able, to come up to David, and fight him before he was settled in his new kingdom. While the civil war subsisted between the partisans of David and Ish-bosheth, the Philistines contented themselves with being calm spectators of their mutual ravages and conflicts, which naturally tended to their mutual destruction; but when all these were ended in their unanimous election of David to the throne, and that election was succeeded by those beginnings and omens of a prosperous reign which have been mentioned, they began to be alarmed, and thought this the fit season to crush the growing power of this prince before it rose to a greater height. And David heard it, and went down to the hold — To some fortified place, to which his people might conveniently resort from all parts, and where he might intrench his army.5:17-25 The Philistines considered not that David had the presence of God with him, which Saul had forfeited and lost. The kingdom of the Messiah, as soon as it was set up in the world, was thus attacked by the powers of darkness. The heathen raged, and the kings of the earth set themselves to oppose it; but all in vain, Ps 2:1, &c. The destruction will turn, as this did, upon Satan's own kingdom. David owns dependence on God for victory; and refers himself to the good pleasure of God, Wilt thou do it? The assurance God has given us of victory over our spiritual enemies, should encourage us in our spiritual conflicts. David waited till God moved; he stirred then, but not till then. He was trained up in dependence on God and his providence. God performed his promise, and David failed not to improve his advantages. When the kingdom of the Messiah was to be set up, the apostles, who were to beat down the devil's kingdom, must not attempt any thing till they received the promise of the Spirit; who came with a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, Ac 2:2.The hold - Not the same place which is so named in 2 Samuel 5:7, 2 Samuel 5:9, but probably the cave (or hold) of Adullam 2 Samuel 23:13. The invasion most probably took place before David had completed his buildings in the city of David; and is probably referred to in 2 Samuel 23:8-17. 2Sa 5:17-25. He Smites the Philistines.

17. when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel—During the civil war between the house of Saul and David, those restless neighbors had remained quiet spectators of the contest. But now, jealous of David, they resolved to attack him before his government was fully established.

Whilst the civil war lasted between the houses of Saul and David, they wisely forbore all hostilities, and left them to tear out one another’s bowels, that afterwards they might make a more easy conquest of both; but that being ended, and all united under David, they bestir themselves.

To seek David; to find him out, and fight against him, and cut him off now in the infancy of his kingdom; whereby they give David a just occasion to fight against them for his own necessary defence, and acquit him from any note of ingratitude, in opposing them who had formerly exercised kindness and hospitality to him; though indeed David’s obligations were in a manner wholly to Achish, who seems to be dead at this time, there being no mention of him.

To the hold; to some fortified place to which his people might conveniently resort from all places, and where he might intrench his army, and which lay towards the Philistines. But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel,.... That the civil war in the nation was now at an end, which they hoped would have issued in their destruction, and therefore lay still and quiet; but now being united under the government of David, and he hereby greatly strengthened and become powerful; and hearing also of his success against Jerusalem, and the friendship he had contracted with Hiram king of Tyre, they thought it was high time to bestir themselves, and put a stop to his power and greatness; and now it was, as Kimchi thinks, that David penned the second psalm, which begins, "why do the Heathen rage", &c. Psalm 2:1,

all the Philistines came up to seek David: in order to fight him, all the five principalities of the Philistines combined together against him; perhaps his old friend Achish king of Gath was now dead, or had now entertained a different opinion of him:

and David heard of it; that they had invaded his kingdom, and sought to fight him:

and went down to the hold; some fortified place or strong hold near Jerusalem, which lay lower than the city, or than the strong hold of Zion, in which David dwelt; hither he went, not so much for safety, or with an intention to abide there, but as a rendezvous for his men, and to prepare to meet the Philistines.

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.
17–25. Two victories over the Philistines

 =1 Chronicles 14:8-1617. But when the Philistines heard] This Philistine invasion probably followed soon after the capture of Jebus. The Philistines were alarmed by the union of the Israelites under a king of proved vigour, who had inaugurated his reign by a brilliant military achievement. They therefore mustered their whole force (cp. 1 Samuel 29:1), for a strenuous effort to crush him.

came up] From the plains of Philistia to the highlands of Judah.

went down to the hold] The word translated “hold” is the same as that translated “stronghold” in 2 Samuel 5:7, and “fort” in 2 Samuel 5:9. But as David “went down” to it, and “went up” from it into the valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:19), it cannot here mean the citadel of Zion. Most probably David wished to drive the Philistines back, and prevent them from plundering his country, and marched down with his forces to his old post at Adullam. The term “stronghold” is used of Adullam in ch. 2 Samuel 23:14, and the incident there related may have happened in this war. It was a strong position in the valley of Elah, one of the most likely routes for an invading army from Philistia to take. See notes on 1 Samuel 17:1; 1 Samuel 22:1. This view agrees with the general statement in 1 Chron. that “he went out against them.”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. David's Palace, Wives and Children (comp. 1 Chronicles 14:1-7). - King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, and afterwards, by the express desire of the latter, cedar-wood and builders, carpenters and stone-masons, who built him a house, i.e., a palace. Hiram (Hirom in 1 Kings 5:2; Huram in the Chronicles; lxx Χειράμ; Josephus, Εἴραμος and Εἴρωμος), king of Tyre, was not only an ally of David, but of his son Solomon also. He sent to the latter cedar-wood and builders for the erection of the temple and of his own palace (1 Kings 5:8.; 2 Chronicles 2:2.), and fitted out a mercantile fleet in conjunction with him (1 Kings 9:27-28; 2 Chronicles 9:10); in return for which, Solomon not only sent him an annual supply of corn, oil, and wine (1 Kings 5:11; 2 Chronicles 2:9), but when all the buildings were finished, twenty years after the erection of the temple, he made over to him twenty of the towns of Galilee (1 Kings 9:10.). It is evident from these facts that Hiram was still reigning in the twenty-fourth, or at any rate the twentieth, year of Solomon's reign, and consequently, as he had assisted David with contributions of wood for the erection of his palace, that he must have reigned at least forty-five or fifty years; and therefore that, even in the latter case, he cannot have begun to reign earlier than the eighth year of David's reign over all Israel, or from six to ten years after the conquest of the Jebusite citadel upon Mount Zion. This is quite in harmony with the account given here; for it by no means follows, that because the arrival of an embassy from Hiram, and the erection of David's palace, are mentioned immediately after the conquest of the citadel of Zion, they must have occurred directly afterwards. The arrangement of the different events in the chapter before us is topical rather than strictly chronological. Of the two battles fought by David with the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:17-25), the first at any rate took place before the erection of David's palace, as it is distinctly stated in 2 Samuel 5:17 that the Philistines made war upon David when they heard that he had been anointed king over Israel, and therefore in all probability even before the conquest of the fortress of the Jebusites, or at any rate immediately afterwards, and before David had commenced the fortification of Jerusalem and the erection of a palace. The historian, on the contrary, has not only followed up the account of the capture of the fortress of Zion, and the selection of it as David's palace, by a description of what David gradually did to fortify and adorn the new capital, but has also added a notice as to David's wives and the children that were born to him in Jerusalem. Now, if this be correct, the object of Hiram's embassy cannot have been "to congratulate David upon his ascent of the throne," as Thenius maintains; but after he had ascended the throne, Hiram sent ambassadors to form an alliance with this powerful monarch; and David availed himself of the opportunity to establish an intimate friendship with Hiram, and ask him for cedar-wood and builders for his palace.

(Note: The statements of Menander of Ephesus in Josephus (c. Ap. i. 18), that after the death of Abibal his son Hirom (Εἴρωμος) succeeded him in the government, and reigned thirty-four years, and died at the age of fifty-three, are at variance with the biblical history. For, according to these statements, as Hiram was still reigning "at the end of twenty years" (according to 1 Kings 9:10-11), when Solomon had built his palaces and the house of the Lord, i.e., twenty-four years after Solomon began to reign, he cannot have ascended the throne before the sixty-first year of David's life, and the thirty-first of his reign. But in that case the erection of David's palace would fall somewhere within the last eight years of his life. And to this we have to add the repeated statements made by Josephus (l.c. and Ant. viii. 3, 1), to the effect that Solomon commenced the building of the temple in Hiram's twelfth year, or after he had reigned eleven years; so that Hiram could only have begun to reign seven years before the death of David (in the sixty-third year of his life), and the erection of the palace by David must have fallen later still, and his determination to build the temple, which he did not form till he had taken possession of his house of cedar, i.e., the newly erected palace (2 Samuel 7:2), would fall in the very last years of his life, but a very short time before his death. As this seems hardly credible, it has been assumed by some that Hiram's father, Abibal, also bore the name of Hiram, or that Hiram is confounded with Abibal in the account before us (Thenius), or that Abibal's father was named Hiram, and it was he who formed the alliance with David (Ewald, Gesch. iv. 287). But all these assumptions are overthrown by the fact that the identity of the Hiram who was Solomon's friend with the contemporary and friend of David is expressly affirmed not only in 2 Chronicles 2:2 (as Ewald supposes), but also in 1 Kings 5:15. For whilst Solomon writes to Hiram in 2 Chronicles 2:3, "as thou didst deal with David my father, and didst send him cedars to build him an house to dwell therein," it is also stated 1 Kings 5:1 that "Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was a lover of David all days (all his life)." Movers (Phnizier ii. 1, p. 147ff.) has therefore attempted to remove the discrepancy between the statements made in Josephus and the biblical account of Hiram's friendship with David and Solomon, by assuming that in the narrative contained in the books of Samuel we have a topical and not a chronological arrangement, and that according to this arrangement the conquest of Jerusalem by David is followed immediately by the building of the city and palace, and this again by the removal of the holy ark to Jerusalem, and lastly by David's resolution to build a temple, which really belonged to the close of his reign, and indeed, according to 2 Samuel 7:2, to the period directly following the completion of the cedar palace. There is a certain amount of truth at the foundation of this, but it does not remove the discrepancy; for even if David's resolution to build a temple did not fall within the earlier years of his reign at Jerusalem, as some have inferred from the position in which it stands in the account given in this book, it cannot be pushed forward to the very last years of his life and reign. This is decidedly precluded by the fact, that in the promise given to David by God, his son and successor upon the throne is spoken of in such terms as to necessitate the conclusion that he was not yet born. This difficulty cannot be removed by the solution suggested by Movers (p. 149), "that the historian necessarily adhered to the topical arrangement which he had adopted for this section, because he had not said anything yet about Solomon and his mother Bathsheba:" for the expression "which shall proceed out of thy bowels" (2 Samuel 7:12) is not the only one of the kind; but in 1 Chronicles 22:9, David says to his son Solomon, "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, A son shall be born to thee - Solomon - he shall build an house for my name;" from which it is very obvious, that Solomon was not born at the time when David determined to build the temple and received this promise from God in consequence of his intention.

To this we have also to add 2 Samuel 11:2, where David sees Bathsheba, who gave birth to Solomon a few years later, from the roof of his palace. Now, even though the palace is simply called "the king's house" in this passage, and not the "house of cedar," as in 2 Samuel 7:2, and therefore the house intended might possibly be the house in which David lived before the house of cedar was built, this is a very improbable supposition, and there cannot be much doubt that the "king's house" is the palace (2 Samuel 5:11; 2 Samuel 7:1) which he had erected for himself. Lastly, not only is there not the slightest intimation in the whole of the account given in 2 Samuel 7 that David was an old man when he resolved to build the temple, but, on the contrary, the impression which it makes throughout is, that it was the culminating point of his reign, and that he was at an age when he might hope not only to commence this magnificent building, but in all human probability to live to complete it. The only other solution left, is the assumption that there are errors in the chronological date of Josephus, and that Hiram lived longer than Menander affirms. The assertion that Solomon commenced the erection of the temple in the eleventh or twelfth year of Hiram's reign was not derived by Josephus from Phoenician sources; for the fragments which he gives from the works of Menander and Dius in the Antiquities (viii. 5, 3) and c. Apion (i. 17, 18), contain nothing at all about the building of the temple (vid., Movers, p. 141), but he has made it as the result of certain chronological combinations of his own, just as in Ant. viii. 3, 1, he calculates the year of the building of the temple in relation both to the exodus and also to the departure of Abraham out of Haran, but miscalculates, inasmuch as he places it in the 592nd year after the exodus instead of the 480th, and the 1020th year from Abraham's emigration to Canaan instead of the 1125th. And in the present instance his calculation of the exact position of the same event in relation to Hiram's reign was no doubt taken from Menander; but even in this the numbers may be faulty, since the statements respecting Balezorus and Myttonus in the very same extract from Menander, as to the length of the reigns of the succeeding kings of Tyre, can be proved to be erroneous, and have been corrected by Movers from Eusebius and Syncellus; and, moreover, the seven years of Hiram's successor, Baleazar, do not tally with Eusebius and Syncellus, who both give seventeen years. Thus the proof which Movers adduces from the synchronism of the Tyrian chronology with the biblical, the Egyptian, and the Assyrian, to establish the correctness of Menander's statements concerning Hiram's reign, is rendered very uncertain, to say nothing of the fact that Movers has only succeeded in bringing out the synchronism with the biblical chronology by a very arbitrary and demonstrably false calculation of the years that the kings of Judah and Israel reigned.)

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