2 Samuel 23
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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 Prophetic Words

CHAPTER 23:1–7

1Now [And] these be [are] 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. 2The Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] spake by me [or, into me], and his word was in [on] my tongue. 3The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in 4the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even [om. even] a morning without clouds, as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain [when from shining after raining the herb springs from the earth]. 5Although my house be not so with God; [For is not my house so with God?] yet [for] 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 [for all my salvation and all my pleasure, shall it not prosper 6(or, shall he not cause it to prosper)?]. But the sons of Belial shall be [And the wicked are] all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands [for they are not laid hold of with the hand]. 7But the man that shall [And if a man] touch them, must be [he is] fenced with iron and the staff of a spear, and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place.


These “last words of David” have not a merely lyrical (Ewald), but a lyrical-prophetical character. Their historical pre-supposition is the prophecy through Nathan, 2 Sam. 7. Their connection with the preceding song, chap. 22, is not indeed a chronological one, since there is no chronologically definite statement in either; but as both obviously belong (22 by its content, 23:1–7 by its title) to David’s last years, they cannot lie far apart in time, and both, partly by their retrospect of a long and eventful life that rose out of the depths to high honor, partly by their outlook into a still more glorious future, have the character of the solemn, grand final words of a king. For an inward connection of the contents of the two songs is clearly to be seen in the fact that the closing view of 2 Samuel 22. (based on the prophecy of an everlasting house, 2 Sam. 7) traverses and controls this whole song, 23:1–7, that the seed of the Anointed of the Lord (22:51) is here individualized into a person, and the salvation there promised as an everlasting possession to the Anointed and his seed by God, is here more definitely announced as one proceeding from and secured by the messianic Ruler.—On the theocratic attitude in the biblical-theological content of this Song, see further in the appropriate section [Historical and Theological].

For the exegesis compare the following literature: Luther on the last words of David, 2 Sam. 23:1–7, opp. Jen. VIII. 137–152. Walch III. 2790–2910. Erl. A. Bd. 37, p. 1 sqq.—Pfeiffer, Dubia Vexata, pp. 398–401—Buddeus, Hist. Eccl. N. T. I., pp. 194–196.—Crusius, Hypomnemata II., pp. 219–224.—Joh. G. Trendelenburg, Comment, in noviss. verba David, Göttingen, 1779.—Herder, Vom Geist der ebr. Poesie, II. 2, Leipz., 1825, p. 387 sqq., and Briefe das Studium der Theologie betreffend, I., p. 135.—Ewald, Die poet. Bücher des Alt. Bundes [Poetical Books of the Old Testament], I., pp. 99–102, and Hist. of Israel, III. 268 (3 ed.).—Vaihinger, Zur Erklärung des Liedes 2 Sam. 23:1–7, in the Stud, und Krit., 1843, pp. 983 sqq.—Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, in loco.—Reinke, Beiträge zur Erklärung des Alt. Testament, IV., p. 455 sq. Fries, Die letzten Worte Davids 2 Sam. 23:1–7, Stud. u. Krit., 1857, pp. 645–689.—G. Baur, Gesch. der alt.-test. Weissagung, I. 387.—Tholuck, Die Propheten und ihre Weissagung, p. 166 sq.—H. Schultz, Bibl. Theol. des Alt Testament, I. 463 sq. [Oehler, Theol. of the Old Testament, § 230.—TR.].

2 Samuel 23:1. The superscription.—And these are the last words of David.—The Davidic origin of this song, affirmed by the superscription, is raised above all doubt by the archaic form of the introduction, the pregnant curtness of the expression, the characteristic peculiarity of the thoughts, the Davidic stamp borne by form and content, and the originality of the Messianic thought, as well as the direct reference of the latter to 2 Sm. 7. “Only hyper-criticism could declare against the Davidic origin by first forming an arbitrary conception of David’s poetic style, and then rejecting this song for not coming up to that conception.—A poem that was composed later and put into the mouth of the royal singer would certainly betray its origin by a fuller and clearer exposition of the idea of the Israelitish kingdom” (Baur, as above, p. 388). So H. Schultz, as above, 464. Though the song is by its superscription attached to 2 Samuel 22, the opinion held by some (Mich., Dathe, Maurer), that the “last words” are only words later than the song in chap. 22, is untenable. Nor can the superscription refer to the following history of David, as given in the remaining part of “Samuel” and the beginning of 1 Kings (Paulus, exeg. krit. Abhandl., pp. 99–134). Further, it does not mean: the last prophetic word in the list of David’s prophetical utterances (Grot.), or the last psalm (Vatablus: “after he produced all his psalms”), or, his last will and testament, “though he said, did and suffered much afterwards” (Luther); but it is to be understood in the absolute sense: the last of all his words, which he spoke at the end of his life in his theocratic calling and royal consciousness, and in reference to the kingdom of God in Israel, “the last poetical flight that he ever took, perhaps shortly before his death, and which was specially noted down for the reason also that it was (from 2 Samuel 23:2) regarded as the utterance of a seer (נְאֻם, Num. 24:3, 4, 15, 16)” (Thenius).

Divine saying (נְאֻם1) of David. The word always signifies a saying or oracular utterance based on immediate revelation or inspiration. It is the passive participle, = “the thing breathed in, inspired word,” and stands here with the Genitive of the human receiver, as in Num. 24:3 sqq. (Balaam) and Prov. 30:1 (Solomon),2 while it is as a rule followed by “Jehovah” as the author of the inspiration. The following words of David are thereby announced to be a peculiarly prophetic declaration, which rests on an inspeaking of God by His Spirit into his soul. The introduction of the song corresponds in form and content with that of Balaam’s prophecy, Num. 24:3. It begins with a simple personal designation, and then designates the qualities of this person that here come into consideration, and may serve to give the reasons for the expression “divine saying” (Hengst.) [As this expression is frequent in the prophetical writings (in Eng. A. V., rendered by “saith the Lord”) it is not improbable that the title is from the hand of a later prophetical editor.—TR.]—The son of Jesse. “How humbly he proceeds, boasting not his circumcision, his holiness or his kingdom, not ashamed of his lowly stock, that he was a shepherd; for he will speak of other things that are so high that they need no nobility or holiness, and shall be hurt by no sorrow, neither by sin nor by death” (Luther).

And divine saying of the man who was raised up on high3—the contrast to his lowly origin, as in 2 Sam. 7:8, “with omission of those above whom he was raised, in order to express absolute superiority” (Hengst.). Tanchum: “Fixed on the plane of loftiness.” On this idea see 22:44, 48.—Next follows the unfolding of the content of this idea in two members: the Anointed of the God of Jacob, and the pleasant in the praise-songs of Israel [the sweet psalmist of Israel]. The first designates his high position not only in the theocratic royal dignity conferred on him by God, but also in his royal dominion as Anointed of the Lord as God’s representative and in God’s name over against the people, and “not merely as an individual, but also as representative of his race” (Hengst.). The second member characterizes David as the representative towards God of the people in their praise of the Lord for His mighty deeds. “Pleasant (lovely) in the praise-songs of Israel.” The Adjective (נְעִים) does not mean “approved, well-pleasing,” as Fries takes it, explaining: “chosen to sing Israel’s songs of triumph,” which is contrary to the constant signification of the word; comp. Ew. § 288 c, 291 a. Nor is it: “beloved [popular] through the songs that Israel sings” (Mich.), or “kindly through songs” (Maurer). It is not an ordinary song that it is here named (זְמִיר), but a solemn, joyful song of praise, Job 35:10; Ps. 95:2; 119:54; Isa. 24:16, and so in Ex. 15:2 (זִמְרָה) and in the titles of the Psalms (מִזְמוֹר).—As the “Anointed of the Lord” he is equipped with the Holy Spirit from above; as one that is “pleasant in Israel’s songs of praise” he likewise shows himself filled with the Lord’s Spirit. His high position consists on the one hand in the dignity of his royal office as God’s representative towards the people, and on the other hand in his priestly position, wherein as representative of the people towards God he guides their worship to the height of praise and prayer; and in so far as he is raised to and enabled for both positions by the invoking of the divine Spirit, he is also a prophetical king and singer of his people, and his word is now spoken as a “divine word.”

In accordance with this it is said in 2 Samuel 23:2:—The Spirit of the Lord speaks into me, and his word is on my tongue. These words explain the phrase “divine saying” above, and declare that what follows is given him by God’s Spirit. The old Rabbis and Crusius (as above, p. 221), connect 2 Samuel 23:2 closely with the preceding, and suppose that David meant herewith to establish the theopneustic authenticity of his psalms, and dying, to put his seal, as it were, on them. The verbs must then be taken as real preterites [spake, said, as in Eng. A. V.], 2 Samuel 23:2 must be understood of all David’s songs and prophecies, and 2 Samuel 23:3 specially of the individual prophecy concerning his seed, which was fulfilled in Christ (sanctio nativitatis Christi e progenie Davidis). That is: “the Spirit of the Lord has always spoken through me, His word has always been on my tongue in all my lays and songs, and especially the God of Israel has spoken through me the prophecy of the future Messiah.” But against this Fries (as above, p. 652) properly remarks, that it would distort the relations to reckon in this especial way, among all David’s direct and indirect prophecies, precisely that one that was in fact given not through him, but through Nathan. The very definite expression of the second member: “and his word on my tongue,” does not permit such a general reference, and is besides to be taken on Present time. Then also the parallel verb in the first member is better taken as Present (speaks), and 2 Samuel 23:2, 3 a are the announcement of what follows as the content of the divine inspiration from 2 Samuel 23:3 b on. “The Spirit of Jehovah spake,” not “through me,” which would require the Participle rather than the Perf. (Hengst.), nor “in me,” against which is the meaning of the phrase elsewhere, but “into me,” as in Hos. 1:2. Thereby the origin of the following declaration is affirmed to be divine in-speaking. [The reading “through (by) me” as in Eng. A. V., is allowable, and corresponds very well with the second member.—TR.]. On the other hand: the “his word is on my tongue” refers to the human expression of this divinely given word. While in 2 Samuel 23:1 the prophetic organ of the divine saying is doubly characterized, 2 Samuel 23:2 sets forth in two-fold expression the twofold divine medium of the inspired prophetic word: the Spirit and the word of God.

The first half of 2 Samuel 23:3: Says the God of Israel, to me speaks the Rock of Israel is identical in form with 2 Samuel 23:2, and expresses in two members the same thought, with special emphasizing of the relation of God (who speaks through David’s mouth) to His people, and particularly of His rock-like faithfulness towards them as the foundation of all manifestations of salvation. There is therefore no tautology here. “Says the God of Israel,” the God that has chosen Israel as His possession, giving them the promises of salvation, whose fulfilment the following revelation announces. “To me speaks the Rock of Israel,” the God that fulfils His promises according to His faithfulness and unchangeableness (22:3, 32, 47). The Present rendering is preferable here also. But if the Past be taken: “spake the Rock of Israel,” what is here said in 2 Samuel 23:3 a cannot belong to the content of the “divine saying” (2 Samuel 23:1), “since then David would have derived a very simple, psychologically easily explicable recapitulation of former revelations from present inspiration, and have introduced it with a disproportionate outlay of solemn words” (Fries); rather the Past form is explained by the fact that the act of divine inspeaking preceded the outspeaking of the divine word. The object of the verbs (says, speaks), is not a number of prophecies relating to blessed rule, that were received before by David (Tanchum), or (as Thenius thinks probable) the declaration of a prophet, who uttered 2 Samuel 23:3 b, 4 (here recalled by David) at the beginning of David’s reign (this thought would have been necessarily otherwise expressed), but the now following declaration. What God now, at the moment of His speaking, immediately imparts to him, is declared in what follows: The “to me” stands emphatically first (“to me speaks the rock of Israel”), because David has in view his theocratic relation to the following divine word and its relation to him, and because it will be fulfilled in his seed; he expresses his consciousness (which was connected with his prophetic endowment) of the soteriological significance of his person for the people in respect to the future fulfillment of the glorious promises given to his seed.—The four members in 2 Samuel 23:2, 3 a stand in chiasmic relation to one another; the first member of 2 Samuel 23:3 a corresponds to the second of 2 Samuel 23:2, and the second of 2 Samuel 23:3 a to the first of 2 Samuel 23:2.

2 Samuel 23:3 b, 4. First part of the divine saying. The thoroughly abrupt, lapidary style corresponds with the solemn announcement of the imparted divine declaration, and with the fact (thereby declared) that the poet is filled with the divine Spirit and word; the words are inspired exclamations, whose pregnant and enigmatic curtness, heightened by the omission of verbs, is in keeping with the condition of the writer’s soul, overpowered by the mighty impulse of the prophetic Spirit, and the immediate view of truth produced by it. Comp. Tholuck, as above, p. 58. A ruler over men just, a ruler in the fear of God. These words are not to be taken as apposition to the “God of Israel” in 2 Samuel 23:3 a (Vulg., Luth.), nor as object of the verb “say” taken as = “promised” (Maurer: God promised a ruler), or as opposition to “me” [“me a just ruler”], that is, as David’s praise of himself (Sachs). Nor with Trendelenberg (in Thenius) are we to read “derision” (מָשָׁל “proverb, byword”) instead of “ruler,” and render: “a byword the righteous may be among men, a byword the fear of God, but as morning light, etc.” Further, the words are not to be understood as an affirmation concerning a pious king: “if among men one rules righteously—he is as morning-light, etc” (Cler., Herder, De W., Ew., Then., Baur), as if they expressed for a parenetic end the ethical-religious significance and mission of the Israelitish royal office in general. Such laudation of the governmental virtues of a king would accord neither with the preceding solemn announcement of a divine oracle, nor the thence naturally to be expected weighty content of the divine saying, would indeed make the prophetic character give way to the didactic. To the view that any pious and righteous king is here meant, by the portraiture of whom David wished to convey an exhortation to his sons, is opposed also the content of the individual statements that follow, picturing a royal form far above the proportions of an ordinary regent, and especially the reference in 2 Samuel 23:5 to 2 Sam. 7 as giving the ground of the picture. The “ruler” here spoken of stands to David’s prophetic gaze, in the light of the divine word spoken into him, as the ideal royal form proceeding from his seed, wherein he sees fully realized the idea of a theocratic king according to his religious-moral qualities, and the wielder of a dominion that stretches over all humanity. This last is expressed in the phrase “over4 men.” The “men” are not, however, the people of Israel, for the expression would then be surprisingly weak and flat, nor are they men as subjects in general and necessary appendage to “any ruler” (Then.), which would be a meaningless pleonasm, but “men” in the absolute sense, humanity, the human race (Fries, as above, p. 656 sq.). If David already sees himself made head and ruler of “the nations,” his royal dominion extended wide over “the strangers,” and praises the Lord’s name before the heathen, so that they acknowledge him and give him the honor (22:44, 45, 48, 50), here his prophetic glance takes in all the nations of the earth as embraced in the kingdom of God, wherein the portrayed ruler of the future will bear his universal sway. Comp. Ps. 72:8–17.—This ruler is just, perfectly conformed to the holy will of God, compare Psalm 72:1 sq.; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 9:9.—A ruler in the fear of God. His moral integrity combined with religious perfectness; the “fear of God” is not merely the attribute of the Messianic king, but will be seen completely to fill and control him. Compare Isa. 11:2, 3. “A ruler of the fear of God, that is, a ruler that will be, as it were, the fear of God itself, the bodily fear of God” (Hengst.). [When we compare this song with Pss. 45, 72, Isa. 11, and similar passages, it seems correcter to regard it as the picture of the ideal theocratic king, than as a vision of a future king. This ideal king is, in the view of the pious Israelite, invested with all conceivable moral and governmental grandeur, and the picture finds its perfect realization only in Jesus of Bethlehem. The “men,” however, can hardly be said here to mean “all humanity,” but the expression must be taken in the general sense: “a human ruler.”—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:4. Picture of the blessings that follow the appearance of the future ruler, under the figure of the wholesome effects of the light of the rising sun on a bright morning. And as morning-light, when the sun rises, morning without clouds, from brightness, from rain grass out of the earth (sprouts). These words are not to be connected with the following 2 Samuel 23:5, protasis to it as apodosis [as morning-light, etc., is not my house so?] (Dathe); against this is the “for” at the beginning of 2 Samuel 23:5. Nor are they to be connected syntactically with 2 Samuel 23:3—either by adding the first clause of 2 Samuel 23:4 to complete the preceding sentence: “he is as the light of the morning” (De Wette, Thenius, Sept., which reads: “and in the morning-light of God”)—or by regarding the whole statement about the morning-light as the continuation of the description of the “ruler” in 2 Samuel 23:3 (the Rabbis, Maurer: “and He will come forth as the morning-light shines,” etc.). Against this connection is both the form of 2 Samuel 23:3 b, which is a sharply defined, isolated exclamation, and the form of 2 Samuel 23:4, “which sensibly enough deviates from the sharply-cut, monumental style of the six words compressed in 2 Samuel 23:3 b by a peculiar fulness of lingering description” (Fries, as above, p. 663). Besides, it is only by isolating 2 Samuel 23:4 on both sides that we can find the ground of its content in 2 Samuel 23:5 (which is introduced by “for”), since the statements of 2 Samuel 23:5 agree only with the content of 2 Samuel 23:4, standing in factual [or real] connection therewith, while 2 Samuel 23:3 b presents the ideal of a person.

2 Samuel 23:4 has the same abrupt, enigmatical, exclamatory tone as 2 Samuel 23:3 b, though it differs from it in its particular statements, a natural result of the fact that here a comparison taken from nature is carried out. As in 2 Samuel 23:3 b, there is not a single verb, and the different statements are unconnected. Even from this formal similarity, 2 Samuel 23:4 is to be regarded as continuation of the immediate divine saying in 2 Samuel 23:3; and not less from its content, which is closely connected with that of 2 Samuel 23:3, describing under the figure of natural light the effect of the light that proceeds from the ruler portrayed in 2 Samuel 23:3, and in similar lapidary style. Fries, however (pp. 663, 665), separates 2 Samuel 23:4 from the preceding, holding that the “divine saying” ends in the latter, and that in the former (2 Samuel 23:4) follows a vision to the ravished eye of the dying David, while at the same time his opened ear heard the revealing word of God; accordingly he translates: “God speaks—: and before me it is as morning-light in sunshine.” But against this view is 1) that the “divine saying” (confined to 2 Samuel 23:3 b) would be singularly short in comparison with the elaborate announcement [2 Samuel 23:1–3 a]; 2) that if David here consciously began to describe a vision (different from the divine saying above), he would have somehow intimated the fact, instead of proceeding with “and as the morning-light;” and 3) that the explanation: “before me it is light,” etc., introduces into the text what is not intimated in it, for there is no hint here of any special vision given to David along with the immediate word of God divinely imparted to him. The appearance of the bright glory of a clear life-awakening morning does not now for the first time dawn on the singer, but he sees it from the same height of prophetic contemplation whence he saw the ruler in 2 Samuel 23:3 b. He sees both together, and certifies both by the “divine saying,” which extends over 2 Samuel 23:4; on both sections of this divine saying, 2 Samuel 23:3 b and 2 Samuel 23:4, is stamped the same plastic objectivity of prophetic view, as it is produced by the Spirit of prophecy.

The subject is not the Messiah, as was held by several early expositors (for ex., Crusius [and so Wordsworth now]), who took “the sun rises” as principal sentence, and “sun” as figure of the Messiah (after Mal. 3:20): “as the morning-light will the sun rise;” this is forbidden by the collocation of words, and by the fact that this comparison would involve a tautology. It is rather an impersonal expression, the subject being left undetermined: “And it is as morning-light, when the sun rises,” or, its appearance is as morning-light. The “light of morning” stands in contrast with the darkness of the preceding night, and denotes (as the figure of light generally does) the well-being that comes with the ruler after wretchedness and ruin. Comp. Ps. 59:17 [16]. The “when the sun rises,” defining the “morning-light,” indicates its source, and answers to the “ruler over men.” The “without clouds,” parallel to the preceding, strengthens the conception of the well-being as wholly unalloyed. In the “brightness” [Eng. A. V.: clear shining] of the risen sun its light unfolds itself and shows itself active. The “rain” stands in connection with the “without clouds;” after the rain of the night the clouds have dispersed; but from rain and sunshine now sprouts forth the verdure. The expression may be rendered either: “from brightness, from rain comes herb,” where “brightness” and “rain” are both causes, or: “from brightness after rain.” The former rendering is favored by the immediate repetition of the same Preposition. The fact involved [which is the same, whichever rendering be taken] is the morning sunshine, following the night-rain, dispersing the rain-clouds, and making the fresh herb sprout vigorously from the moist soil. On rain as a figure of blessing see Isa. 44:3. The verdure sets forth the blessings that are the fruit of dispensations from above. Comp. Isa. 44:4; 45:8; especially Ps. 72:6: “He will come down as rain on the mown field, as showers that water the earth.”—“Here,” says Thenius rightly, “ends the divine saying,” only there is described therein not “the happy work of a ruler, as he ought to be” (Then.), but in general the blessing brought by the definite ideal ruler of the future seen by divine revelation.—The whole figure carries out the thought that the ruler described in 2 Samuel 23:3 will bring weal and blessing in his train.

2 Samuel 23:5 gives the ground for the divine revelation in 2 Samuel 23:3, 4, by reference to the promise in chap. 7, which forms the foundation of this prophetic view. The introductory conjunction = simply “for,” not: “is it that my house?” (as if = הֲכִי, Crus., Dathe). The first member is not to be taken as an affirmation: “for not so is my house” [so nearly Eng. A. V.]. Several Rabbis so understood it, putting an artificial and foreign sense into the words: thus in the preceding verse they take the “morning without clouds” as = “not a cloudy morning,”5 and the “from shining after rain,” etc., as defining this “cloudy morning,” when sunshine after rain produces mildew (Isaaki), or only fleeting light breaks through the clouds (R. Levi), or under the capricious alternation of sunshine and rain “nothing better springs up than quickly withering grass” (D. Kimchi), that they may find in contrast therewith the glory of the Davidic House set forth in 2 Samuel 23:5 (comp. Fries, p. 688). So Luther takes the sentence as an affirmation, but with the exactly opposite contrast with 2 Samuel 23:4, namely, he regards 2 Samuel 23:5 as an humble confession: “it is not such a house as is worthy of such unspeakable honor from God,” that is, such honor as is pictured in 2 Samuel 23:4. “Here David falls into great humility and astonishment that such great things should come from his flesh and blood.” In accordance with this he takes the following words: “all my salvation and doing is that nothing grows,” that is, “I am also a king and lord, and have well ordered and established the kingdom; but such kingdom of mine, yea the realm of all kings on earth, is, in comparison with the dominion of my son Messiah, nothing but a dry branch, that has never grown nor thriven.” Against this view is the absence of the subject assumed in it, or, if this subject be found in the “not” taken as = “nothing,” the absence of the defining term (“earthly”); nor could David possibly have based the thought that his house would not continue on the prophecy in chap. 7. Rather the first member of 2 Samuel 23:5, as well as the third, is to be taken as a question.6For is not my house so with God? As 2 Samuel 23:3 and 2 Samuel 23:4 are in content inseparably connected, the “for” assigns the reason of the whole divine saying, not merely of 2 Samuel 23:4; and the “so7 refers to the whole of 2 Samuel 23:3, 4, that is, so as is said above of the ruler, the wholesome influence that he brings (light) and its happy effects (verdure). But the thought on which this statement is based is not that David says that his own reign was in accord with the truth (2 Samuel 23:3, 4), that a pious king is like the morning-light, under whose influence every thing prospers—that God has granted blessing to his house and his house’s future—that he thence infers that he answers to that figure of a pious ruler, the whole being an instance or example (in the form of a question) attached to the preceding general statement about the “ruler” (De Wette, Then.). For (apart from the fact that this interpretation of 2 Samuel 23:3, 4, as a statement concerning any pious ruler, whose government diffuses blessing, has been above refuted) against this is that the sentence speaks only of David’s house, not of himself and his government, and that, if David had intended to derive an argument respecting himself from the blessing that came to his house, he must have expressed himself quite differently. And Fries rightly remarks that instead of such self-assertory thoughts, it would be seemlier to put into the dying David’s mouth a “who am I and what is my house?” (7:18).—The sentence is rather to be rendered: “For—stands not my house in such a relation to God?” Hearing and declaring the divine saying (2 Samuel 23:3, 4), the picture of the ideal theocratic ruler and his attendant blessings, David recalls the promise of imperishable royal dominion that has been given to his house and seed. These two divine declarations he here so combines that the latter (chap. 7.) is made to confirm and give the ground of the former (2 Samuel 23:3, 4). The sense is, then, not merely: Stands not my house in such relation to God that out of it shall arise the righteous ruler? (Keil), but also that the promised blessings will proceed from him? On the connection between this divine saying (2 Samuel 23:3, 4) and 2 Samuel 23:5, Fries admirably remarks: “This ‘for’ serves as in innumerable cases, to attach a reflection that is meditating an explanation, and we need only put aside the erroneous opinion (that so often makes difficulty in the explanation of Old Testament passages) that sentence on sentence must be taken, as it were, in one breath, and grant the speaker a short pause of quiet thought, and we shall then understand the free transition of ideas here between 2 Samuel 23:4 and 2 Samuel 23:5. The quiet transition lies in the successful, effort of the soul to gird itself to conscious justification of its belief in the offered blessing.” [The connection may be thus indicated: the ruler of men is just and God-fearing, and brings with him all blessings, and this is true of my house, for it is thus in communion with God, for He has made an everlasting covenant with me.—TR.]—The second “for” gives the reason not merely for the “so” (Böttch., Then.), but also for the whole phrase “so is my house with God,” since the following sentence involves the position of his house towards God: for He has made with me an everlasting covenant. These words refer directly to the promise in 7:12 sq. It is called a covenant because of the reciprocal relation between God and the seed of David, as set forth in 2 Samuel 23:12–14. It is according to 2 Samuel 23:16 an everlasting covenant: “And sure is thy house and thy kingdom forever before thee, thy throne will be established forever.” The phrase “ordered (arranged) in all things” denotes that the draught of the instrument or deed of covenant is legally correct and exact, is arranged by the declaration of God (Fries). Comp. 7:14 sqq., where the eventual apostasy of the bearer of the covenant is considered, and in spite of this the maintenance of the covenant is contemplated. The covenant is preserved, secured, guarded against non-fulfillment by the truthfulness of the divine promise. Comp. 1 Kin. 8:25, where Solomon, with reference to 2 Sam. 23:12–16, prays: “Preserve to thy servant David, my father, what thou spakest to him.”—As these words (“for a covenant, etc.,”) thus undoubtedly refer to chap. 7 it is inadmissible with Crusius to refer them to 2 Samuel 23:3 sqq.; for in this latter passage the reciprocity involved in the term “covenant” is altogether lacking, and the predicates, ordered and preserved are not applicable to it.—The third “for” now introduces the interrogatory third member (whose reference to the image in 2 Samuel 23:4: “verdure (sprouts) from the earth” is indubitable), and grounds the writer’s confidence in the sureness of the covenant on the future blessings secured by that covenant. For all my salvation and all pleasure, should He not make it sprout? My salvation, that is, the salvation promised, assured to me and my seed. The pleasure must be taken (as the salvation is from God) as = what is well-pleasing to God, not as = “what is well-pleasing to me” (Then., Hengst.); the pronoun “my” is not to be repeated with it [as in Eng. A. V. ]. David refers the salvation promised him and his house—not also “the religious and ethical culture of his people” (Then.)—to its source in God’s good pleasure, expressed in the covenant as a divine counsel of salvation. “David will say of the divine resolution of salvation that it, because it has once been lodged as a principle in the bosom of the Davidic house by the divine covenant, cannot be accomplished except by thorough development, elaboration of all its elements, conclusory revelation of its deepest secret” (Fries).—“Should he not8 make it sprout?” The verb is transitive, having “salvation and pleasure” as its object. This corresponds also with the idea of divine causality that controls the whole of 2 Samuel 23:5 and is distinctly expressed in the phrase “made a covenant with me” (lit.: established a covenant to me). Fries would find here “the first example and fundamental passage for the solemn use of this verb (צמח “sprout”) that occurs afterwards in Isa. 4:2; 43:19; 44:4; 45:8; 58:8; 61:11; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12;” but here the “sprouting” (comp. 2 Samuel 23:4) is affirmed not of the person of the “righteous ruler,” but of the salvation and blessing that accompanies him.9 [Comp. the parallel statement in Isa. 53:10, where it is said that the “pleasure” of Jehovah shall prosper in the hand of the righteous servant of Jehovah. Possibly there is a connection between this passage and ours, though the verb employed is different. The general declaration here is, that God in His covenant-mercy will secure all blessing to the writer.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:6, 7. From the form of the righteous ruler, and in the light of the blessing that proceeds from Him, David sees in prophetic perspective, on the basis of the promise given him, not only the salvation and blessing of the everlasting covenant under the dominion of the future everlasting king, but also the judgment (which will come with Him) on the ungodly and the enemies of the Messianic theocracy. But the wicked—as cast-away thorns are they all.—The abstract worthlessness (for the concrete worthless, Deut. 13:14) designates the ungodly in their general character, in contrast with the abstract fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3), which forms the religious-moral nature and character of the righteous ruler; as in him only fear of God, so in them only worthlessness. The thorns set forth the hurtful and dangerous enemies of God’s people and kingdom, Num. 33:55; Isa. 27:4; Nah. 1:10; Ezek. 28:24. The thorns, considered as representing enemies, are said (literally) to be “hunted, driven away;”10 when the thing itself (the thorns) is had in view, this meaning is modified into “put, cast away.” The basis of the figure is the field (comp. the “verdure out of the earth,” 2 Samuel 23:3), whose yield is obstructed by thorns. The rapid, prophetic glance, not pausing at the details of the process, but hastening to the end, sees the enemy already overpowered, and now tarries by the final act of destruction, which makes the enemy harmless. While the production of blessing under the righteous ruler is represented (by the figure of sprouting, growing) as a gradual process, the judgment on the ungodly is set forth as final judgment (the burning of the thorns). The thorns are no longer hurtful; they appear to David “already as thorns torn up, with which one may no longer hurt his hands, since all kindness to them has been in vain” (Herder).—For they are not taken with the hand, that is, one does not grasp them with naked, unarmed hand in order to throw them into a heap for burning, but he that touches them for this purpose, provides,11 arms himself with iron and shaft. The poetical discourse names the various parts of the implement with which the thorns are seized and thrown into a heap (not: “torn out of the earth,” Then.). The expression refers not to the attacking and overcoming of the ungodly, but to their final destruction, set forth by the burning of the thorns, to which this seizing and heaping up is preparatory.—And with fire are they utterly consumed; the fire is symbol of the divine wrath; the expressions indicate the indubitable certainty and completeness of destruction in this final catastrophe (the same figure in Matt. 3:10; 13:30).—The concluding word (בַשָּבֶת)12 is to be rendered: “so that there is an end to them” [Eng. A. V.: “in the same place”]. Not “at the seat,” as euphemistic expression for the place where trash and filth are thrown (Böttcher, Deut. 23:12 sqq.)—why should the thorns be first brought to this place? not: “in the place of dwelling,” the place where they grow (Kimchi, Keil), for the term “dwelling” would be here unsuitable, and the thorns are burnt not where they grow, but where they are cast; and so not: “at the seat,” = “on the spot,” “burnt straight-way,” because no other use can be made of them than to manure the fields with their ashes (Then. [Eng. A. V.]); not: “at home” (Cler., Buns.), for one does not take the trouble to carry them home, nor: “at length” (Dathe). The word = “in ceasing,” not, however: “as the extirpation is ended” (Thenius formerly), but: “in that they cease;” the burning proceeds so that a complete ceasing, disappearance takes place. “They are there only for burning, and this end awaits them, that not even the place where they stood is seen” (Herder). The complete cessation or annihilation of the thorns follows naturally on the “burning” as its final result. “This figure also … is taken from the promise in 7:10. Israel is there represented as a vineyard, his family is to be its guardian, and so the rebels are hurtful, unfaithful thorns” (Herder).—The Prep, “in” serves to supplement the verbal statement by the substantive-idea, as in Ps. 65:6: I have heard thee in or with salvation, that is, so that I gave thee salvation; so here: they are burned in ceasing, so that they cease.

[Condensed, paraphrase of David’s last words: “God said to me: The righteous theocratic king dispenses blessings as the rain and sunshine. God, in His covenant, has assured me salvation; but the ungodly shall be destroyed.” The neum or oracle is thus first, a description of the ideal theocratic king, and then the expression of the writer’s personal relation to God, with the implication that godliness is the basis of the divine procedure. This conception of the true theocratic king is realized perfectly only in Jesus Christ, and may thus be termed a typical conception, that is, one that was partially realized for the contemporaries, and destined hereafter to be completely realized.—The versions here are not very useful; the Chaldee paraphrases throughout, and interprets the passage directly of the Messiah, the text of the Sept. differs from that of the Heb., but Vulg. and Syr. conform in general in text and rendering to the masoretic text.—TR.]


1. The prophetic element, which appears in David’s Messianic Psalms, comes out most strongly here. In Nathan’s promise and prophecy in 7:12 sq. David is merely passively receptive, and his prayer (2 Samuel 23:18 sq.) is only the echo of the divine word he has received; but here he rises to highest prophetic action, which presupposes indeed a passive bearing towards the divine saying (the Neum) by which he receives an immediate revelation in plastic form of what he had previously received as a promise through Nathan, and this revelation he announces in a prophetic discourse, which in form and content answers to the complete possession of his soul by the power of the divine Spirit. The theocratic king is here also the theocratic prophet, applying to himself as God-inspired singer epithets that are suitable only for prophecy (2 Samuel 23:1 sq.), and then, on the historical ground of his kingship and its blessings, and on the revelation-ground of the word of God that came directly to him, prophesying the antitype of his kingdom in the appearance of the royal glory and saving work of the righteous ruler of the future. It is clear from the preceding exposition that this picture transcends the form of an ordinary pious king and his blessings; and strict exegesis also shows that David here looks wholly away from himself to a royal personage in the far future.

2. The content of the prophecy is the picture of a future ruler perfect in righteousness and the fear of God. He is accompanied by the light of salvation, which has dissipated the darkness, and diffuses itself in purest radiance like morning-light at sunrise. The effect of this light-appearance is the manifestation of gracious blessings, set forth under the image of verdure springing from the earth. But with the blessing of the future ruler’s peaceful work is completed also the revelation of judgment (presupposing victorious conflict), whereby the righteous ruler puts an end to all the enmity of godlessness and to all opposition to his rule.

3. From the height of prophetic view and in the line of prophetic perspective David’s look rests on the ideal of a glorious royal person, raised high above all earthly royal forms in Israel (his antitype in the historical person of Christ), in whom righteousness and piety appear absolute and complete, and whose dominion in truth extends over all men. Comp. Ps. 72. The fulness of salvation and blessing, which is to appear with the prophesied king, is the object of the Messianic hope and expectation through all the periods of Israel’s history, but does not appear as here portrayed, in historical reality till the coming of Christ. The final judgment (following the appearance of the righteous ruler) that annihilates all ungodliness, is completed only under the rule of Him to whom all judgment has been committed by the Father, and in the final decision to which the opposition between the kingdoms of light and darkness is pressing on.

4. The historical presupposition of the prophecy is the promise in chap. 7.; here for the first time is shown how, on the basis of this promise, the view [anschauung, intuition, conception] of the Davidic-kingdom becomes clear. “In that the song gives the image of a righteous ruler with a glorious future, adding that such a government is signified by the everlasting covenant that God made with the house of David, we see clearly here already how the knowledge of the idea advances to individualization in the ideal, and so (to use Sack’s expression) typical prophecy [bildweissagung] arises. Doubtless epithets may be applied to any king that sits on David’s throne, that are true not of himself, but of the dynasty he represents (comp. such passages as Ps. 21:5, 7 [4, 6]; 61:7 [6]). But, impelled by the Spirit, the sacred poetry produces a royal form that transcends all that the present shows, and exhibits the Davidic Solomonic kingdom in ideal perfectness” (Œhler, in Herz. IX., 412, Art. Messias).


A blessed end, when in looking back upon the path of life that lies behind, and the manifestations of God’s grace that have been made to him, one has nothing to utter but gratitude and praise—when in looking around upon his own life’s acquisitions and his possession of salvation, all self-glorying is silent, and only the testimony to God’s grace and mercy, that has done all and given all, comes upon the lips—when in looking forward into the future of God’s kingdom upon earth, on the ground of the grace experienced in life one’s faith becomes a prophet, beholding the ways along which the Lord will lead His kingdom through darkness to light, through conflict to victory, and by such a proclamation of the coming glory strengthening the hearts of many and confirming them in the hope of the Lord’s gracious help to the end, which never suffers His people to be put to shame—and when in looking up to the everlasting hills from which all help has come,13 the “last word” upon earth is a loud Hallelujah, that sounds across into eternity.—The humbler the heart is, the more highly does it praise the gracious gifts and guidance of the Lord; the more a man feels himself little and poor in the sight of the great and gracious God, so much the greater and more glorious will that appear to him which without desert on his part God has given him, in bodily good and spiritual gifts, so much the more joyfully will he, under the guidance and impulse of the Holy Spirit, regard all that flesh and blood might boast of, as coming from the foundation of divine grace.—A servant of God should (every one) show himself, who like David is called to service in God’s kingdom; every one’s place is in God’s sight high and glorious, however lowly and mean it may be in men’s eyes, and in his place he should 1) as an “anointed of the Lord” perform the duties of his kingly office, and with his God and Lord conquer and rule the world, 2) as a priest of the Lord proclaim His praise in word and deed, and to the Lord’s honor make the harp of his ***art sound out into the world, and 3) as a prophet of the Lord prophesy of the glory of the Lord and of His kingdom, the Spirit of God and not his own spirit speaking through him, the word of God and not his own word sounding from his lips.

True preaching is always a prophetic testimony, 1) as to its origin: the Spirit of the Lord speaks through it, 2) as to its content: the word of the Lord is upon its tongue, and 3) as to its subject: the mysteries of God’s saving purpose, which only God’s Spirit can explain; the great deeds of God’s grace, which can be proclaimed only on the ground of personal inner experience and of one’s own seeing and hearing; and the future affairs of God’s kingdom, in the manifestations of divine salvation and divine judgment, which only the eye illuminated by the light of the Spirit can behold.—When the Lord speaks through His Spirit and in His word, then should man’s own thoughts bow and be silent, but then also should the human spirit and the human word be the instruments of God’s Spirit and God’s word.—The prophetic photograph of the future ruler in the prophecy of David answers in its outlines to the counterpart of the fulfillment in Christ, and this 1) in respect to his personal appearing, perfect righteousness and holiness in complete fear of God (religious-ethical perfection); 2) in respect to the extent of his royal dominion—he is ruler “over men,” universality of world-dominion; 3) in respect to the foundations of his kingdom, the promises of God; 4) in respect to the activity and effects of his royal rule on the one hand in the enlightening, warming, animating and fructifying light of his manifestations of grace and blessings of salvation, on the other hand in the fire of His judgment, consuming all ungodliness.

The morning-light of divine grace and truth in Christ, 1) Breaking in the dawn of the promises and predictions of the Old Testament; 2) Flashing up out of the night that before covered the world, and frightening away its darkness and its clouds; 3) Appearing in the Sun of righteousness and salvation; 4) Bringing salvation and blessing, dispensed from on high to call men—and a new life, fruitful for the kingdom of God, which springs from below out of the earth.—The rain in the night is the image of the blessing coming from above, which has been hidden in the trouble brought by the night, and not merely becomes manifest when the night is gone, but also in the shining of divine grace and truth dispenses the fructifying life-force, from which springs new health and new life.—“Morning-light—sunrise—morning without clouds—shining after rain—grass out of the earth—then—then—then,” this is the gradation in which faith beholds the process of appearing of salvation and life from above, and the effects of salvation beneath—this is the surpassing fullness of salvation, in presence of which our human speech, unable adequately to express the unspeakable, can only speak and testify in such a lapidary style.

LUTHER: Here David comes forth and boasts high above all bounds, yet with truth, without any arrogance!—Here David is another man than Jesse’s son. This he did not inherit from his birth, nor learn from his father, nor gain by his kingly power or wisdom. From above it is given him, without any desert on his part; in this he is joyous, praises and gives thanks so heartily.—Faith is and also should be a fortress of the heart, which does not shake, totter, quake, writhe nor doubt, but stands fast and is sure of its point.—Faith is not quiet and silent; it comes forth, speaks and preaches of such promises and grace of God, that also others come to them and partake of them.—SCHLIER: In the first place we see the natural ground and soil in which the prophecy grows, namely the person of David, who out of a shepherd’s son has become the anointed of the Lord. If no prediction attaches itself to this historical ground, it is to be feared that it is no true prophetic word. But the main matter now first comes, namely, the Spirit of the Lord, that the prophet does not bring his own thoughts but God’s thoughts, and that he does not speak what has pleased himself, but what God has put into him.—LUTHER: David means not only the loveliness and sweetness of the psalms, as to grammar and music, in that the words are ornamentally and skillfully arranged and the song sounds sweet—but much rather as to Theology, as to the spiritual understanding, therein are the Psalms very lovely and sweet; for they are consoling to all troubled and distressed consciences, which are involved in sin’s anguish and deadly torture and fear, and all sorts of need and sorrow.—[TAYLOR: David spoke, and the human style had all the characteristics of his usual productions; for the Spirit and not the vocal organs of the prophet alone, but his intellectual and emotional powers as well. But God spoke by David, and that which he uttered was the truth, infallible as He who gave it.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:2. LUTHER: What a glorious, noble pride it is; he who can boast that the Spirit of the Lord speaks through him, and his tongue speaks the Holy Spirit’s word, must indeed be sure of what he says. Such boasting may still be made by every one of us that is not a prophet.—This may we do, inasmuch as we also are holy and have the Holy Spirit, so that we boast ourselves catechumens and disciples of the prophets, who say after them and preach what we have heard and learned from the prophets and apostles, and are also certain that the prophets have taught it.

2 Samuel 23:3. SCHLIER: So profess all the prophets of themselves, so professes all Scripture from beginning to end, and God be thanked that we have before us such a revelation of God, wherein God unveils Himself to us and draws near in the Holy Spirit.—STARKE: The chief aim, the star and heart of Holy Scripture is Christ. Luke 22:44; John 5:39. Christ, while a true high-priest and prophet, is also a true king. Luke 1:32,33.—LUTHER: They fall into Jewish blindness who make David such a righteous ruler and ruler in the fear of God, and pervert the promise into a command and law, to the effect that whoever wishes to rule over men should be righteous and God-fearing, while David so devoutly and heartily boasts that they are words of promise of the Messiah of the God of Jacob, and not a command to secular lords. [This represents an extreme view of the present and many similar passages which some still entertain. The language is completely fulfilled only in Messiah, but had its suggestion and basis in what was true of David, and what every good ruler ought to strive to reproduce in himself. So above, in additions of Tr. to “Exegetical.” TAYLOR: David describes the character of a ruler: and reduplicating on that description, he in effect says (2 Samuel 23:5), “Is it not to be the distinctive feature of my lineage that it shall rule in justice, and in the fear of the Lord?”—a feature which came out not only in Solomon, but also in Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah and others, and especially and pre-eminently in Jesus Christ, in whom this prophecy culminated, and by whom it was thoroughly fulfilled.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:4. SCHLIER: Is not the Lord really our sun, which after a long movement at last rises upon us and with the splendor of His light makes all bright and clear and warm, and now under the blessing of His beam all begins to be green and blooming; everything grows and prospers, at least whatever does not shut itself against the Lord, but opens itself to Him and repels not His sunny beams?—The Lord brings blessing and prosperity, and in Him there is nothing lacking, if only we would like to receive such a blessing which is present for us.—LUTHER: Like the spring, so is also the rule and reign of grace a joyous, lusty time, wherein Messiah makes us righteous and God-fearing, so that we become green, blooming, fragrant, and grow and become fruitful. For He is the sun of righteousness, who draws near to us. Mal. 4:2—And now go so: Who lives in spring, he dies no more; who dies in winter, he lives no more;—for the sun goes away from the latter; but to the former the sun rises up of which David prophesies. Where the sun, Christ, does not shine clear, the spring also is not pleasant; but Moses with the law’s thunder makes everything dreadful and quite deadly. But here, in Messiah’s times (says David), when He shall reign over Israel itself, with grace to make us righteous and save us, it will be as delightful as the best time in spring, when before day there has been a delightful warm rain, that is, the consoling gospel has been preached, and quickly thereupon the sun Christ comes up in our heart through right faith without Moses’ clouds and thunder and lightning. Then all proceeds to grow, to be green and blooming, and the day is rich in joy and peace.

2 Samuel 23:5. CRAMER: God’s covenant is an everlasting covenant, and remains also when the world passes away.—S. SCHMID: In Christ alone our salvation blooms; He alone can quiet all our longing. Acts 4:12.—LUTHER: Of the everlasting covenant and house of David the two words “ordered” and “sure” are designedly used to instruct and console. For if you look at the histories, it will seem to you that God has forgotten His covenant and not kept it sure;—after Messiah His kingdom the Church is, when outwardly looked at, much more waste and disorderly, so that there is no more distracted, wretched, good-for-nothing government or dominion than the Christian Church, Christ’s dominion. Here the tyrants distract and waste it with all their might. Here the fanatics and heresies root up and spoil it. So also the false Christs with their evil life make it as if there were no more shameful, disorderly government upon earth. And these are working, or rather the evil spirit through them, to the end that Christ’s dominion shall not exist, or at any rate shall be a wretchedly disorderly thing. And in fine Christ acts as if He had forgotten His dominion and was never at home, so that here neither “ordered” nor “sure” is seen by the reason. Though we do not see it, He sees it who says, Song of Sol. 8:12: My vineyard is before me; Matt. 28:20, Lo, I am with you even to the end of the world; John 16:23, Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. However, we see that there has always remained and still remains a people which honors the name of Christ, and has His word, baptism, sacrament, key and Spirit, even against all the gates of hell.

2 Samuel 23:6, 7. S. SCHMID: He who seizes thistles with the naked hand acts imprudently; but yet more imprudent is he who holds close friendship with the children of Belial. 2 Cor. 6:7.—SCHLIER: Where Christ the Lord counts for something there is blessing and prosperity; but where He is despised there are thorns and thistles.—A man’s true worth is determined by his attitude towards Christ.—Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.—He who cares for Christ is also cared for in the sight of God. But he who despises Christ amounts to nothing, and is counted in the sight of God as mere thorns and thistles.

[2 Samuel 23:5. The covenant with David. I. Its contents: 1) His seed should reign forever, 7:12–16. 2) Should reign in justice and the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3). 3) Should bring great prosperity to His subjects (2 Samuel 23:4), like morning light dispelling the darkness, like morning showers causing the grass to spring up. 4) Should utterly destroy his enemies (2 Samuel 23:6, 7). II. Its character—everlasting, well-ordered, sure.—TR.]


1Const. state of נָאוּם, from נאם, properly=המה ,נהם “to boom, murmur, buzz,” used of any dull tone (kernel of the root m), hence especially of secret, confidential impartation (as Germ. raunen [Eng. roun, whisper]) = inspirare, of divine inspiration to prophet or poet as the confidant of God, which is conceived of as whispered into the ear” (Hupf. on Ps. 36:2 [1], where נאם is used of the inspiration or oracle of wickedness personified as an evil demon).

2[Eng. A. V.: “the man spake unto Ithiel.” The text is probably corrupt, but there is no mention of Solomon in it.—TR.]

3 עַל absolutely = “above,” as in Hos. 11:7 and perhaps 7:16 (so תַּחַת often = adverb “below,” for example Gen. 49:25). Sept. wrongly: “whom God [Vat.: the Lord] raised up to be God’s anointed” whence Thenius would without ground read: הֵקִים יהוה עַל. Luther, following Vulg. (cui constitutum est de Christo Dei Jacob) renders: “who is assured by the Messiah of the God of Jacob.” Against the latter (Vulg.) is that there is no Dative sign corresponding to the cui. Against the former (Sept.) is that עַל is not = לְ [as introducing what a thing is made to be]; in the passages cited by Then. (Lev. 4:35; 5:12, comp. 7:5) עַל denotes either “being conformed to” or “coming in addition to” the other free-offerings.—D. Kimchi and Böttcher arbitrarily make עֶלְיוֹן = עַל “whom the Above [= Most High] has raised up.” On the form הֻקַּם, u with doubling, see Ew. § 131 d.

4 מָשַׁל בָּאָדָם “to rule over men,” as Gen. 3:16; 4:7, not: “among men.”

5 בֹּקֶר לֹא עָבוֹת in the sense of לֹא בֹקֶר עָבוֹת.

6 לֹא without the Interrog. particle, 19:23; Deut. 20:19; Hos. 11:5; Mal. 2:15. Ew. § 324 a.

7 כֵּן is Adverb, = “so,” not Adjective = “firmly fixed,” firma (Fries), or = נָכוֹן, 7:26; 1 Kings 2:45, 46 (Crusius).—עִס־אֵל = “with God,” not “before God” (De Wette).

8The fourth כִּיּ resumes the third, the interrogation being continued. It (the כִּי) might have been omitted, but its double use makes equally emphatic the salvation and the sprouting.—יַצְמִיחַ is Hiphil, causative. [Instead of חֵפֶץ כִּי Wellhausen proposes to read חֶפְצִי, which is smoother, but perhaps for that very reason suspicious.—TR.]

9Sept. separates the כי־לֹא יַצְמִיחַ from 2 Samuel 23:5 and inserts it before 2 Samuel 23:6, omitting the וֹ: ὅτι ὀυ μὴ βλαστήσῃ ὁ παράνομος. So Michaelis: “the ungodly will not spring forth.” Against this is the Hiphil, and the fact that if this last clause were intended to express the thought: “He (God) alone is my salvation, etc.,” we should at least expect to find the words “for he” (כִּי הוּא).

10 מֻנָד not Pass. of הֵנִידshaken (in order to remove)” (Böttch.) but Hoph. Part. of נוּד or כֶּלָּהַס—.נָדַד for כֻּלָּם. The ָהם- for ָהֶם- (cont. ָם-) is infrequent archaic form of 3 masc. Ges. § 91, Rem. 2.

11On ימָּלֵא. [lit.: fill the hand] comp. 2 Kings 9:24, and on the “arms” 1 Sam. 17:7.

12 שֶׁבֶת is Subst. from שָׁבַת “to cease” (Prov. 20:3); it may also be pointed as Infin., בִּשְׁבֹת For the verb see Gen. 8:22; Isa. 24:18; 14:4; Lam. 5:15; Prov. 22:10; Josh. 5:12. [The word is possibly not part of the true text. It occurs again in the next line, and in both places Sept. reads בּשֶׁת, αἰσχύνη, “shame” (see on 2 Samuel 23:8); it may have gotten into our verse from the following (Wellh.). Vulg.: usque ad nihilum; Syr.: “for cessation.”—TR.]

13[Ps. 121:1, 2, of which, however, the proper translation is: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Whence cometh my help? My help is from Jahveh the Maker of heaven and earth.”—TR.]

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.

David’s Heroes

CHAPTER 23:8–39

8These be [are] the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat [margin, Josheb-basshebeth the Tachmonite], chief among the captains [margin, head of the three], the same was Adino the Eznite [om. the same was A. the E.]; he lift up his spear [write without italics] against eight hundred whom he slew [slain] at one time. 9And 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 [probably: he was with David at Pasdammim, and the P. were there assembled] to battle, and the men of Israel were 10gone away [went up]. He arose and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword; and the Lord [Jehovah] wrought a great victory [deliverance] that day, and the people returned after him only to spoil. 11And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop [or, to Lehi], where was [and there was there] a piece of ground full of lentiles, and the people fled from the Philistines. 12But [And] he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended [saved] it, and slew [smote] the Philistines; and the Lord [Jehovah] wrought a great victory [deliverance].

13And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest-time unto the cave of Adullam; and the troops of the Philistines pitched [encamped] in the valley of Rephaim. 14And David was then in an hold, and the [a] garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15And David longed and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! 16And the three mighty men broke 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 [and] he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord [Jehovah], 17And he said [And said], Be it far from me, O Lord [Jehovah forbid] that I should do this; is not this [shall I drink] the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore [and] he would not drink it.

These things did these [the] three mighty men.

18And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three [better, chief of the thirty]. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred and slew them [300 slain], and had the [a] name among three [the thirty]. Was he 19not [He was] most honourable of three [the thirty], therefore he was [and became] their captain, howbeit [and] he attained not unto the first [om. first] three.

20And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of [om. the son of] a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts [man, who had done many acts, of Kabzeel], he slew two lion-like men of Moab. He went down also [And he went down] and slew a [the] lion in the midst of a [the] pit in time [in a day] of snow. 21And he slew an Egyptian, a goodly man [or, a man of great stature], and the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but [and] 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. 22These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had the [a] name among three mighty men [among the thirty heroes]. 23He was more honourable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first [om. first] three. And David set him over his guard [made him of his privy council].

24Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty, Elhanan the son of Dodo of 25Bethlehem, Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, 26Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, Abiezer the Anethothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite, 27Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, Heleb the son of Baanah a [the] 28Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai, out of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin, 29Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash [or, of Nahale-Gaash], 30Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, of, 31the sons of Jashon [probably, Hashem the Gizonite], Jonathan, Shammah the 32, 33Hararite [or, Jonathan the son of Shammah (Shage) the Hararite], Ahiam the 34son of Sharar the Hararite [Ararite], Eliphalet the son of Ahasbai, the son of [or, Hepher] the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, 35Hezrai the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, 36Zelek the Ammonite, Nahari the Beerothite, armour-bearer to Joab the son of Zeruiah, 37, 38Ira an [the] Ithrite, Gareb an [the] Ithrite, Uriah the Hittite; thirty and seven in all.


2 Samuel 23:8. Superscription. These are the names of the heroes that David had. In the parallel section 1 Chron. 11:10–41 there are two superscriptions. 2 Samuel 11:10 has: “And these are the heads [chiefs] of the heroes that David had, who stood stoutly by him in his kingdom with all Israel, to make him king.” With these words the Chronicler attaches the following list of heroes to the account of the choice of David by all the Tribes (2 Samuel 23:1–3), comp. 2 Sam. 5:1–3, thus giving a reason for inserting the list here. Further the list follows immediately the narrative of the conquest of Zion and the choice of Jerusalem as capital, 2 Samuel 23:4–9 (2 Sam. 5:6–10), especially to illustrate the remark in 2 Samuel 23:9: “and David grew greater and greater” (comp. 2 Sam. 5:10).—Besides the fuller superscription, which assigns the list its historical position, the Chronicler has a second simpler one, 2 Samuel 23:11 a: “And this is the number of the heroes that David had.” The Gibborim [Heroes, Mighty men], elsewhere given in round numbers at six hundred men, formed a standing central corps, which (just as the body-guard, the Cherethites and Pelethites) remained near David and at his personal disposal. On the origin and development of this corps comp. 1 Sam. 22:2; 23:13; 25:13; 27:2; 30:9–24; 2 Sam. 10:7; 15:18; 16:16; 20:7, and Ewald’s Hist. of Israel, III. 122, 140; 189 sq. [Germ. ed.] The first superscription in Chron.: “these are the heads of the heroes” (2 Samuel 23:10), corresponds exactly with the list, which gives not the “names” (2 Sam., 2 Samuel 23:8) nor the “number” (1 Chron., 2 Samuel 23:11) of the heroes, but only the chief among them. The list in Chron. gives no number, though the superscription (2 Samuel 23:11) states this to be the number of the heroes, while the list in 2 Sam. 23. speaking only of names on the superscription, gives at the close the whole number as thirty-seven. As in our list only thirty-seven out of six hundred Gibborim are mentioned, we may conjecture (with Then., after Chron.) that the word “heads” has here fallen out after “names” [“the names of the heads of the heroes”]. Otherwise the term Gibborim must be taken in a narrower sense (heroes among the heroes) [which is the more probable explanation.—TR]. Neither the form nor the content of the list indicates a division into three classes (as held by most expositors); there is only a triple gradation in respect to the bravery of the heroes, first, three of the first rank (2 Samuel 23:8–12), then two, distinguished for bravery, hut “not attaining to the three” (2 Samuel 23:18–23), and finally thirty-two, of whom no deeds are mentioned. The five of the first and second ranks, and seven of the third, altogether twelve, were named by David leaders of the twelve divisions into which he divided the army, each of which had to do service one month in the year (1 Chron. 27:1–15). In the list in 1 Chron. (11:41–47) occur sixteen names that are lacking here. In other respects the two lists agree materially, only that in both there is a considerable number of textual errors.

2 Samuel 23:8–12. The three greatest heroes, Jashobeam, Eleazar, Shammah, and their deeds.

2 Samuel 23:8. Our text has Josheb-basshebeth, while Chron., has Jashobeam; the latter (according to 1 Chron. 27:2) is the correct reading.14 Instead of Tachmoni read “the son of Hachmoni” as in Chron.; comp. 1 Chron. 27:32, where it is said: “Jehiel the son of Hachmoni was with the sons of the king;” this Jehiel was perhaps a brother of Jashobeam. Comp. also 1 Chron. 27:32, where Jashobeam is called the son of Zabdiel; but this “is no discrepancy, since Zabdiel might he the proper name, and Hachmoni the patronymic but better known name of the father” (Böttch.).—“Head of the knights (body-guardsmen).” “Head” here is not = “leader” (which would be שַׂר according to the usage of our books, comp. 2 Samuel 23:19, Böttch.), but = “chief, most distinguished.” “Shalishim or riders (knights);” this word (שָׁלִישִׁים)15 is to be taken with Thenius as meaning the most distinguished warriors, standing nearest the persons of kings and generals; the name [lit.: “third man”] it may be conjectured, had its origin in the fact that from these warriors was chosen the man who, when the king or general went to battle, stood with him in the chariot (along with the driver) as third man. With this agrees (Then. p. 276) 2 Kin. 9:25, where Jehu says to his Shalish: “Remember how I and thou rode together after Ahab;” and so in the pictures at Nineveh (Layard), in which the principal personage, drawing the bow, is covered by the shield of a warrior on his left, while the driver stands in front of the two. According to Ex. 14:7 (comp. 15:4) every chariot was in unusual wise provided with a shalish [Eng. A. V. captain]. From Ezek. 23:15, these favored men seem (later, at least) to have been distinguished by a special dress. From these shalishim (who afterwards formed a special Corps, near the person of the king, 2 Kin. 10:25) the kings seem to have chosen their adjutants, comp. 2 Kin. 7:2 (17:19); 9:25; 15:25, and in 1 Kin. 9:22 they appear as a special military rank or office. The term signifies, therefore, not: chariot warriors, three on a chariot, nor: (with a different pointing) the 30 leaders of the 600 Gibborim [Heroes] (Ew., Berth.), nor: regulars drawn up “three deep,” that is, superior soldiers (Böttch.), but: shalish16-corps, shalish-men, lifeguardsmen, “knights” (Luther, in “Kings”). [The meaning of shalish is obscure, but here it seems better to adopt the reading “three.” Jashobeam was chief or most eminent of the three highest, which agrees best with the context. So margin of Eng. A. V.—TR.]—The text of the next following words [Eng. A. V.: “the same was A. the E.”] is corrupt and unintelligible, and is to be read (after 2 Samuel 23:18 and Chron. 2 Samuel 23:11): “he brandished his spear.”17 Instead of 800 Chron. has 300, taken probably from 2 Samuel 23:18, in order to soften the seemingly monstrous number 800. “At one time” = in one battle. “Eight hundred slain” (חָלָל), not “warriors,” as Kennicott (according to Thenius) renders: “he brandished his spear over 800 warriors, was their leader.” The meaning is, either that in one battle he swung his spear till he had killed 800 men (Ew., Berth., Böttch., Keil), or that after the battle he brandished his spear over those that were killed by him and his men, as symbol of victory over them (Thenius). [For various forced interpretations of the verse see citations in Wordsworth and Philippson.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:9 sqq. After him, next him in the list, was Eleazar … with David; comp. 2 Samuel 23:11. “The son of Dodai,” as the text reads (pointed according to 1 Chron. 27:4). The margin has Dodo, 1 Chron. 11:12 [so Eng. A. V. here]. “The son of an Ahohite,” in Chron. “the Ahohite.” “Among the three heroes,”18 that is, the renowned trio, Jashobeam, Eleazar and Shammah (2 Samuel 23:11).—Instead of our text19 read with Chron.: “with David (Chron.: he was with David) at Pas-dammim, and the Philistines, etc.Pas-dammim is probably the same place with “Ephes-dammim,” 1 Sam. 17:1.—And the Philistines had there assembled to battle. The words from “and the men of Israel went up” (2 Samuel 23:9) to “and the Philistines were gathered together to Lehi [Eng. A. V.: into a troop]” (2 Samuel 23:11) have fallen out of the text of Chron.20 so that the name of the third hero Shammah” is there wanting, as his deed (2 Samuel 23:11, 12) falls to Eleazar.—The verb “went up” [Eng. A. V. wrongly: were gone away] denotes simply the marching of the men of Israel against the Philistines; it is unnecessary to add: “in flight” (Then.). The flight or holding back of the Israelites (involved in the “and the people returned,” 2 Samuel 23:10), inasmuch as it occurred after the advance to battle (wherefore Eleazar undertook the contest with the Philistines alone), is not expressly mentioned in the concise narrative, but is first indicated by the “returned.” If the word “went up” had been intended to indicate “flight to higher positions earlier occupied” (Then.), then necessarily a corresponding additional statement would have been made, such as Böttcher too boldly conjectures: “they went up on the mountain and lost heart.” A correct explanation of the “returned” is given by Josephus [Ant. 7, 12, 4]: “when the Israelites fled, he alone remained,” and by the Vulgate, in its addition in 2 Samuel 23:10: “and the people, who had fled, returned.” [There is not necessarily any hint in the text that the people had fled; the “returned” might refer to the withdrawal from pursuit of the defeated enemy. Bib.-Com., suggests that this view (as in Eng. A. V.: “gone away”) may have arisen from the misapplication in 1 Chron. 11:13 of the phrase “the people fled” to this battle, whereas it belongs to Shammah’s exploit.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:10. He arose, that is, when the others had fallen back. Josephus: “he alone remained.” And smote the Philistines till his hand clave to the sword, his hand was cramped around the sword-hilt by weariness. “Jehovah wrought great deliverance,” that is, a great victory [observe the theocratic form of the Heb. expression: a victory is a deliverance or salvation from God.—TR]. And the people returned after him.21 After this exploit the people had nothing to do but to follow for the purpose of plundering, to strip the slain (Sept.).

2 Samuel 23:11 sqq. The third principal hero, Shammah. Another of this name (not to mention the incorrect reading in 2 Samuel 23:33) is given in 2 Samuel 23:25, and called the Harodite. Here “a Hararite” is no doubt to be taken as the same with “the Hararite,” 2 Samuel 23:33, since in the parallel passage, 1 Chron. 11:34, the same name Agee is given. Therefore we read: “Shammah the son of Agee, the Hararite.”—“And the Philistines were assembled at Lehi.”22 So we must render [and not: into a troop], because the words “there” and “assembled” both presuppose the name of a place (Then., Ewald). Chron. has: “to battle,” no doubt from 2 Samuel 23:9.—Lehi (= “jaw-bone”) = Ramath Lehi, where Samson smote the Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass, Judg. 15:9, 14, 17, 19. In Josephus’ time the place was still called Siagon (Σιαγών, “jaw-bone,” Ant. 5, 8, 8, 9). The Philistines had encamped in a lentil-field, because they found provision there (instead of “lentils,” Chron. has “barley” [probably both barley and lentils were found there.—TR.]). The Israelites had fallen back. Then Shammah planted himself in the field, took it from the Philistines and smote them. A situation like that of 2 Samuel 23:9, 10, is here described in short, sharp strokes, and the hero’s victory extolled as the immediate gift of God.

2 Samuel 23:13–17. Exploit of three other principal heroes of David, whose names are not given. Instead of the text: “thirty,” the marginal reading “three” is to be taken (with Chron. and all the Versions). As the Art. is lacking both here and in Chron., the heroes here named are not the chief three above (De Wette, Jos.), but other three out of the list, 2 Samuel 23:24 sqq.23And three of the Shalish-men (that is, the life-guardsmen, knights, see on 2 Samuel 23:8) went down, that is, from the heights of the mountains of Judah. The masoretic text has: “three of the thirty,” but instead of “thirty” we are to read “shalish-men” (Then.), as in 2 Samuel 23:8.—[There is no need to change the text. We have here an anecdote of three of the thirty afterwards mentioned. Perhaps this anecdote interrupts the list proper, in which Abishai should follow immediately after Shammah (Wellh.); but it is also possible that Abishai and Benaiah were two of the three here engaged.—TR.]—“three of the knights, captains” [Eng. A. V.: “three of the thirty chief”]. The ראשׁ is to be rendered as in 2 Samuel 23:8 (“head”), but is here postposed as apposition (=“captains”). The text, however, is difficult.24 “In the harvest-time” (אֶל־קָצִיר25), for which Chron. has: “on the rock;” but there is no reason to reject our text as spurious, since the rendering “in harvest-time” is not set aside by the context (Then.).—To the cave of Adullam, see 1 Sam. 22:1. According to the situation here described this exploit occurred in the Philistine war narrated in 5:17 sq.—“And the troop (חַיָּה, Num. 35:3; Ps. 68:11 [10]; 1 Sam. 18:18) of the Philistines encamped in the valley of Rephaim.” Thenius thinks that (on account of the “post, garrison” of 2 Samuel 23:14) the “host” of Chron., as a larger body, is to be read instead of the “troop” of our passage; but this cannot be established. On the valley Rephaim see on 1 Sam. 5:18.

2 Samuel 23:14. On the “post” (מַצַּב) see 1 Sam. 13:23; 14:1, 4.262 Samuel 23:15. “Who will give me to drink?” that is, Oh that some one would, etc., (Ew. § 329 a). Clericus explains this exclamation of David from his desire to see Bethlehem soon freed from the enemy’s siege; but this does not accord with the idea of appetite that especially belongs to this verb. The connection does not indicate that David wished to refresh himself after a hot fight (Ew.). Perhaps the water was bad or failed, and he had a longing desire for water from the well “at the gate,” which was perhaps particularly good. The traditional “David’s Well” lies” half an English mile from the present Bethlehem, and is, according to Ritter (Erdk. xvi. 286) “deep, and well provided with clear, cool water.” Comp. Tobler, Bethlehem, p. 10.

2 Samuel 23:16. The camp of the Philistines was in the valley of Rephaim in the direction from Adullam towards Bethlehem; comp. the local statements in 1 Sam. 22:1, 2 Sam. 5:18.—David would not drink the water, but poured it out to the Lord, not in thanksgiving for the preservation of the heroes (Jos.), nor as prayer for forgiveness of his fault in sending them into such deadly peril (Kennicott), but to honor the Lord (Vulg.), as an offering to the Lord, to whom alone it ought to belong, since it was too costly for David.

2 Samuel 23:17. His reason: Far be it from me, O Lord! to do this. One would expect here the usual form of an oath:27 “the Lord forbid that I should do this” (1 Chron. 11:19, Syr., Chald., Then.). “But,” rightly remarks Böttcher, “the Chronicler and the modern critics have failed to note the difference in the situation. Here David pours out a drink-offering to Jahwe, and in connection with it, invokes him; here, therefore, the elsewhere unusual vocative is necessary.”—“Should I [or, shall I] drink the blood of the men, etc?” Not: “The blood of the men, etc?” (interrogation with aposiopesis, Ew. § 30 3 a), which would be too unclear (Böttch.). The words do not permit Movers’28 rendering: “is it not the blood?” [so Eng. A. V.]. The verb “drink“29 must be supplied, and the sense is: should I drink this water, which has the same value for me as the blood of these heroes, since they brought it “at the price of their souls,” at the risk of their lives? According to Lev. 17:11 the soul [life] is in the blood; to drink this water would be equivalent to drinking the blood of these men.

2 Samuel 23:18–23. Feats of two other heroes of David.

2 Samuel 23:18 sqq. Abishai, see 1 Sam. 26:6. He was (as Jashobeam), a chief man, captain of the shalish-corps. (Erdmann retains the text (Kethib) shalish, Eng. A. V. follows the margin (Qeri): “chief of (the) three;” but it seems better to read: “chief of the thirty.” Abishai and Benaiah attained to fame and distinction among the thirty, without reaching to the three (2 Samuel 23:8–12).—TR.] He brandished his spear over, etc., as in 2 Samuel 23:8. And he had a name among the three, Jashobeam, Eleazar and Shammah. Among these greatest heroes he had a name for heroic bravery.

2 Samuel 23:19. But also above the Shalish-corps (knights) was he honored. Our text reads: “above the three he was honored,” but, while the “three” at the end of 2 Samuel 23:18 is to be maintained against Thenius (who would unnecessarily change it to Shalish), here it must be regarded as a scribal error, and changed to Shalish, partly because of the following words: “and he became their captain,” partly because of the relation of these words (which indicate his position) to the “chief of the Shalish” in 2 Samuel 23:18.—The text here is as to one word (הֲכִי30) unintelligible, and must be changed after Chron., so as to read: “above the Shalish he was doubly honored,” so that he became their leader, which answered to his position as “chief of the Shalish-corps” (2 Samuel 23:18). But to the three (first) he attained not, they were beyond him in bravery and heroic achievement. [Dr. Erdmann thus, by somewhat arbitrary changes of text, brings out of this list a Shalish-corps with Abishai as captain; but we hear nothing elsewhere of such a corps, and it seems foreign to the design of this list to mention it. Moreover, the statement in 2 Samuel 23:23 concerning Benaiah seems to be parallel to that in 2 Samuel 23:19 concerning Abishai, and 2 Samuel 23:23 gives a clear and appropriate sense, in accordance with which it is better to render 2 Samuel 23:19: “He was more honorable than the thirty, and became their captain, but did not attain to the three.” Thus, between the three and the thirty we have the two eminent soldiers, Abishai and Benaiah, of whom the first was made Captain of the Thirty, and the second Privy Councillor. The change of text required in order to give this reading (that is, to conform 2 Samuel 23:19 to 2 Samuel 23:23) is slight, involving only the alteration of ah to im.TR.]

2 Samuel 23:20–23. Benaiah; first, his person and character. The son of Jehoiada, according to 1 Chronic. 27:5 the priest Jehoiada (compare 2 Samuel 12:27); he was (8:18; 20:23) the commander of the body-guard (Cherethites and Pelethites), and became (1 Kings 1:35) in Joab’s stead commander-in-chief of the army. He was the son of an honorable man. As both texts have the “son,” it is not to be stricken out (Ew., Berth., Then., Bötttch.), though of the Versions only the Chald. has it. Not: “the son of a valiant man”—that would not suit the priest Jehoiada—but: “of an upright, honest, capable31 man” (as in Numb. 24:18; 1 Kings 1:52; Ruth 4:11; Prov. 12:4; 30:10, 29). [It is not probable that, after the name of his father has been given, he would then be described afresh by this general phrase: “son of a man of force;” in spite of the concurrence of the two texts (Sam. and Chron.) in retaining the word “son,” it is better to omit it.—TR.].—He was “rich in deeds.” Of Kabzeel, in the south of Judah, Josh. 15:21; Neh. 11:25.—His deeds: 1) He slew the two Ariels [Eng. A. V.: two lion like men] of Moab. Thenius (after the Sept., with a slight alteration32) renders: “he slew the two sons of Ariel, the Moabite.” So also Ewald, who conjectures that Ariel was a name of honor of a king of Moab. But as both texts have the same reading, the renderings of Sept. and Targ. are mere conjectures. Nor can our text be translated: “two lions of God33 (God-lions)” (De W., Böttch.) = monstrous lions; poetical expressions such as “mountains of God, cedars of God” (Ps. 36:7 [6]; 80:11 [10]) [= great mountains, goodly cedars] are not suitable to wild beasts and to “historical prose” (Then.). Among the Arabians and Persians “Lion of God” is the designation of a hero, comp. Boch. Hieroz. II. 7, 63, ed. Rosenmüller; Indian princes call themselves Dœvasinha, “god-lions” (Ew.). It was two famous Moabite heroes that Benaiah conquered and killed. Why is it so improbable (Then. [Wellh.]) that this name should have been given to two contemporary men of a nation? This exploit belongs, therefore, in the history of the Moabite war, of which we otherwise know little.—2) He went down and slew the lion in the pit.—The word (אַרְיֵה) denotes a lion-animal, a beast that looks like a lion (Böttcher).34 The Art. points out that the fact was generally known. On the day of snow, on a snowy day, when more snow than usual had fallen, and the lion, having approached human habitations to seek food, fell into an ordinary cistern, or a pit dug to catch him.—3) 2 Samuel 23:21. And he slew the Egyptian; the Art. denotes that the man was known according to this account. He was a “man35 of appearance,” that is, a large man. Chron. has: “a man of measure,” = a man of great height. Which is the original reading must be left undetermined; both denote gigantic stature, Chron, adding: “he was five cubits high, and his spear as a weaver’s beam.” The heroic nature of Benaiah’s deed consisted in his going down with a staff to the Egyptian, who was armed with a spear. We must suppose that there was a battle, in which Benaiah stood with Israel on a height, while the Egyptian and the enemy were below in the plain; he showed his skill and strength by snatching the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killing him with it.

2 Samuel 23:22. His name also (as Abishai’s) was renowned among the three chief heroes (comp. 2 Samuel 23:18) [here, as there, it seems better to read: “among the thirty.”36TR.].

2 Samuel 23:23. Here (as in verse 19) instead, of the “thirty” of the text, we are to read “Shalish” (knights).—Above the knights he was honored (as Abishai), but also he came not up to the three, the first-named three heroes.—And David made him his privy-councillor.—See on 1 Sam. 22:14. On his high military position see 8:18 and 20:23.—[As above remarked, it is simpler to retain the text here (as in Eng. A. V.), and make 2 Samuel 23:19 conform to it.—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:24–39. The remaining heroes [thirty-two in number], who belonged to the corps of Shalishim, and, in comparison with the above-named, formed the third grade.

2 Samuel 23:24. Asahel, Joab’s brother;37 see 2:18. He was one of the Shalishim [the text reads “thirty”], and this designation “among the Shalish” applies to all the following names. Chron. has as superscription: “and brave heroes were” (Asahel, etc.).—Elhanan, the son of Dodo, is to be distinguished from the Bethlehemite Elhanan mentioned in 21:19. Instead of “Bethlehem” read “Bethlehemite;” Chron. has “of Bethlehem” [so Eng. A. V.].

2 Samuel 23:25. Shammah, Chron. has the Harorite; here correctly the Harodite, of Harod, Judg. 7:1; Chron. writes the name Shammoth (1 Chron. 27:8: Shamhuth).—Elika, wanting in Chron., omitted by reason of the identical “Harodite” in the two clauses.

2 Samuel 23:26. Helez the Paltite, of Beth-pelet in the south of Judah, Josh. 15:27; Neh. 11:26. In 1 Chron. 11:27 and 27:10 stands by error “the Pelonite.”—Ira, of Tekoa in the wilderness of Judah, see 14:2, comp. 1 Chron. 27:9.

2 Samuel 23:27. Abiezer, of Anathoth in Benjamin, Josh. 21:8; Jer. 1:1, comp. 1 Chron. 27:12.—Instead of Mebunnai read Sibbekai (1 Chron. 11:29) the Hushathite, 21:18; comp. 1 Chron. 27:11.

2 Samuel 23:28. Zalmon, of the Benjaminite family Ahoha; Chron. (2 Samuel 23:29) has llai [perhaps corrupted from Zalmon].—Maharai, of Netophah near Bethlehem (Ezra 2:22; Neh. 7:26; comp. 2 Kings 25:23), now Beit Nettif (Rob. II. 600 [Am. ed. II. 15, 223], Tobler, 3 Wand. 117 sq.).

2 Samuel 23:29. Heleb, according to 1 Chron. 11:30 and 27:15 Heled = Heldai, also of Netophah.—Ittai, Chron. Ithai, not to be confounded with the Ittai of 15:19 [since this was a Benjaminite, and the other a Gittite.—TR.].

2 Samuel 23:30. Benaiah; read “the Pirathonite”38 (Chron.), of Pirathon in Ephraim, now Ferata, near Nablus, comp. Judg. 12:13.—Hiddai (1 Chron. 11:32: Hurai), of Nahale-Gaash [Eng. A. V. less well: “brooks of Gaash”], near the mountain Gaash in Benjamin, Josh. 24:30; Judg. 2:9.

2 Samuel 23:31. Abi-Albon (Chron.: Abiel39) of Beth-ha-arabah = Arabah, Josh. 15:61; 18:18, 22, in the wilderness of Judah.—Azmaveth of Bahurim, see 16:5; Chron. has: “the Baharumite” for “Bahurimite” (Thenius), see 3:16.

2 Samuel 23:32 sqq. Eliahba, of Shaalbon = Shaalbin, Josh. 19:42, perhaps the present Selbit.—Instead of the following text, Chron. has Benehashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shagee the Hararite. This is probably the correct text, since “Bene Jashen Jonathan” [Eng. A. V.: “of the sons of Jashen, Jonathan”] gives no sense; but probably the Bene [“sons”] has gotten into the text by erroneous repetition from the preceding word [Shaalboni], so that we must read simply: Hashem. The locality of Gizon is unknown. Shammah has probably gotten in here from 2 Samuel 23:11, in place of Ben-Agee.—Ahiam, the son of Sharar (Chron. Sakar, comp. 1 Chron. 26:4); the Ararite (Chron. Hararite [so Eng. A. V.]).

2 Samuel 23:34. Eliphelet (Chron.: Eliphal, the t having fallen out). It is surprising that the text here gives not only the father, but also the grandfather, which is not done elsewhere in the list; nor does the word “son” suit before the gentilic name “the Maachathite.” Chron. here (2 Samuel 23:35 sq.) has: “Eliphal (-phelet) the son of Ur, Hepher the Mekarathite.” The first part of the Sam. text might have arisen from that of Chron.40 (not the converse, Thenius), while the latter part of our text is to be preferred, so that the reading will be: Eliphelet the son of Ur, Hepher the Maachathite, of Maachah in Gilead, see on 10:6; comp. Deut. 3:14 and 2 Kings 25:23.—Eliam, son of Ahithophel the Gilonite; Chron. has an entirely different text: “Ahijah the Pelonite.” On Ahithophel see on 15:12. [This Eliam is supposed by some to be the father of Bathsheba (11:3).—TR.]

2 Samuel 23:35. Hezro, as in the text and in Chron. [the margin has Hezrai, and so Eng. A. V.; Bib. Com. thinks this name the same with the Hezron of 1 Chron. 2:5, the ancestor of Nabal the Carmelite.—TR.]; the Carmelite, of Carmel, 1 Sam. 25:2 [south of Judah].—Paarai, of Arab on the mountains of Judah, Josh. 15:52. Chron. has: “Naari the son of Ezbai,” both names doubtless scribal errors [it is hardly possible to determine the correct reading here.—TR.].

2 Samuel 23:36. Jigal [Eng. A. V.: Igal] the son of Nathan, of Zobah. Chron.: “Joel the brother of Nathan.” The designation “brother” instead of the usual “son” is suspicious from its reference to the prophet Nathan, whom, the “of Zobah” (in Syria) does not suit. Whether Jigal [Igal] or Joel is the original name must be left undetermined.41Bani the Gadite; Chron.: “Mibhar the son of Hagri,” probably a corruption of our text.42

2 Samuel 23:37. Zelek the Ammonite, a foreigner, as Igal of Zobah in Syria.—Naharai [Eng. A. V.: Nahari] the Beerothite, of Beeroth (see on 4:2), armor-bearer to Joab. The text has the Plu. “armor-bearers,” but the Sing. (Qeri and Chron.) is to be preferred. If several armor-bearers were meant, their names would be connected by “and.”

2 Samuel 23:38. Ira and Gareb, both Ithrites of Kirjath jearim, comp. 1 Chron. 2:53, see on 20:26.

2 Samuel 23:39. Uriah, also a foreigner, comp. 11:3.—In all 37; not including Joab, who, as Commander-in-chief of the whole army, is not named, but after correcting the text of 2 Samuel 23:34, and reading three names there instead of two. Otherwise there would be only 36 names.43 [This seems a better explanation of the numbers than the supposition that one name in a second triad (2 Samuel 23:18–23) has been omitted (Bib.-Com., Phil.), for which there is no good ground.—In 1 Chron. 11:41–47 follow sixteen additional names, probably heroes that “took the place of those that died, or were added when the number was no longer limited to thirty” (Bib.-Comm.).—TR.].


1. The heroes of David here enumerated as the most prominent and important, and of whom particular exploits are narrated, represent David’s whole heroic army, with which he carried on the Lord’s wars, and gained the Lord’s victories; they are the heads and leaders of the people in arms, which with its king fought the heathen nations as enemies of Jehovah’s king and kingdom in Israel (comp. 1 Chron. 27). Their deeds are deeds of God, whereby He “works great deliverance” for his people and their king against their enemies (2 Samuel 23:10, 12).

2. As the Prophetic Office is the organ of God’s immediate word of revelation to the theocratic king and the chosen people, so is the Body of Heroes the instrument whereby God’s kingdom in Israel is protected against heathen powers, and triumphs over them. To the School of the Prophets, which gathered around Samuel, and whence came the heroes of the word and the Spirit, answers the School of Heroes gathered about David, whence came those whose forms are here slightly sketched. In them is mirrored the splendor of the royal power and glory of the Anointed of the Lord, to whom, as the visible representative of God among His people, they are devoted body and soul, and in whose person they serve the invisible Lord and King of His people with inviolate fidelity even unto death. These heroes “know themselves to be the banner-, shield-, and armor-bearers of him who stands at their head, not by human commission, but by divine investiture—to be the divinely-appointed watchmen and guardians of hearth, throne and altar, of the noblest and most inalienable possessions of their people, against attacks from without and from within. As the armed population of the land they form the brazen wall of defence of God’s kingdom, and the respect-compelling hedge-row of the soil in which their people ripens in body and spirit towards its God-appointed destiny. Such a rich consciousness must have given David’s warriors a peculiar exaltation of feeling; it imparted to them the true knightly sense, which alone up to the present hour has conferred true nobility on the profession of the soldier” (F. W. Krummacher).

2. A beautiful and touching proof of the love and fidelity that bound these heroes of David to their lord is given in the reckless devotion with which they put their lives in peril to gratify a casually expressed wish of his. Though in form it may seem to be a piece of foolhardiness, the moral kernel in it is the faithful, self-sacrificing love, which perils even life for a neighbor, and shuns no danger, in order to serve him.

4. In David’s conduct to the heroes that bring him water from Bethlehem at the risk of their lives, are set forth these things: 1) Noble modesty, which regards the love-offering of one’s neighbor as too dear and valuable for one’s-self, and declines to receive it; 2) Sincere humility before the Lord, which lays the honor at His feet, as He to whom alone it belongs: 3) A clear view and tender estimation of the infinite moral worth of human life in men’s relations towards one another and towards God.


Where heroism and bravery put themselves exclusively in the service of God and subserve only the aims of His kingdom, the Lord causes great things to be performed through them, and often a victory to be torn from the enemies of His kingdom that they had already gained.—Even the military calling God has chosen and sanctified through His word, that through it in times of sore conflict of right against wrong and of truth against falsehood He may “work great deliverance.”—A military hero should seek his highest honor in dedicating his sword to the Lord, and as a servant of God helping to work deliverance for his fatherland and his people against their enemies.—Often in history does God the Lord use one man’s heroism and bravery to make a people great from small beginnings, or to lift it up from disgrace and downfall, or to turn its defeats into victory and triumph. Examples are furnished by every period of history.

The source of true heroism is life-communion with God, wherein deeds of arms are 1) undertaken in His fear, 2) performed for the ends of His kingdom, 3) crowned with glorious results.—A threefold garland of victory for the hero, who 1) bravely repulses the pressing foe, 2) mightily strikes down the foe that is already victorious and triumphing in advance, and 3) lifts up again his people’s sunken courage.—Happy the people that has heroes, who 1) advance in God’s strength, 2) courageously stake their life for God’s honor and the people’s welfare, and 3) are counted worthy by God to work great deliverance for their people.—Hail to the throne that is encompassed by heroes, who 1) find their highest nobility in the real knighthood that roots itself in true fear of God, 2) with humble heroism defend altar and throne, 3) seek their highest honor in being God’s instruments for the aims of His kingdom and for the revelation of His power and righteousness, and 4) set the whole people an example of self-devoting love and fidelity, and of unterrified courage.

TUEB. B.: Even the soldier’s calling is well-pleasing to God, especially when he wages the Lord’s wars.—CRAMER: Bravery and other gifts of God should be directed not to arrogance and display and oppression of the poor, but to the maintenance and propagation of the kingdom of God and of His righteousness.

2 Samuel 23:10. Through bodily strength, however great, nothing can be performed where God does not give the success (Jer. 9:23).

2 Samuel 23:12. STARKE: We may indeed glory in and praise heroes for their heroic deeds; but it must be so done that God shall keep His honor and His glory (Psa. 115:1).

2 Samuel 23:16. F. W. KRUMMACHER: A knightly deed this! But was it not rather foolhardiness, if not downright servility, and was not this expending courage recklessly, and dealing wastefully with human life? This question resembles that with which Judas Iscariot presumed to censure the anointing of Mary at Bethany. True love has its measure in itself, and in its modes of manifestation puts itself beyond all criticism.—The joyfully self-sacrificing deed of the three heroes regarded not so much the man David, as rather the “anointed of the Lord,” and so the Lord Himself. [Hardly.—TR.].—SCHLIER: David’s pious mind would have no right over the life of his men; that the Lord alone had, to whom all belongs. We have no right to claim for ourselves the sweat and blood of others; men do not exist for us, but we exist for others. We should not get ourselves served, but should rather serve others.—Genuine fear of God shows itself in this, that one serves another in self-devoting and self-sacrificing love, such as was mutually shown by David and these three heroes.

[2 Samuel 23:15–17. The well by the gate of Bethlehem. David’s circumstances. Recollections of youth, longing for the water he used to drink when a boy at home. Strong affections which a great soldier awakens in his followers—they are eager to gratify his slightest wish. Romance of military life—brave men love sometimes to go off on an unpractical adventure. David’s regard for human life; affectionate gratitude to his men; generous sentiments overcoming bodily appetite; devout desire to honor Jehovah.—TR.]


14According to Kennicott the two last letters of ישבעם stood in a MS. under the בשבח of the preceding line (2 Samuel 23:7). and a transcriber by mistake attached the latter word instead of עם to ישב. [Or, it may be that the בשבת here is corruption of עסבן in Chron., and passed from 2 Samuel 23:8 into 2 Samuel 23:7. Sept. Ἰεβοσθέ = אִשְׁבּשֶׁת for אִשְׁבַּעַל (Wellh.). See on בשבת 2 Samuel 23:7.—TR.]

15So read here and in Chron. instead of our text; so in 2 Samuel 23:13, 23, 24, and 1 Chron. 11:15, 42; 12:4; 27:6 (instead of שְׁלֹושִׁים). [Or, perhaps better here שְׂלשָׁה.—TR.]

16In שָׁלִישִׁי the ִי- is Adj. ending (as in כְּרֵתִי and פְּלֵתִי), denoting rank. Ew. § 177 a, § 164.

17[Some hold that עדינו is corruption of עוֹרֵד, and that עצן = “spear” (comp. Arab. עדן and עֹסן), but this last is altogether uncertain.—TR.]

18The Qeri and Chron. insert the Art. before גִּבֹּרים. But there is nothing strange in the absence of the Art., as Böttcher remarks against Thenius, who would read בְּשָׁלִשֵׁי הַגּ֞, thinking it necessary on account of following references (2 Samuel 23:12, 16 sqq.). On the stat. abs. of the Numeral before the Subst, see Ges. § 120, 1.

19Against our text is 1) the following שָם “there,” which supposes a preceding name of a place, 2) חֵרֵף takes not בְּ, but the Accus. (21:21; 1 Sam. 17:10, 25 sq., 36), 3) the failure of the Rel. Pron. before נֶאֶסְפוּ “were assembled.” Instead of בפ׳ read וְהפ׳ “and the Philistines.”

20By erroneous passage from הפ׳ נֶאֶסְפוּ (2 Samuel 23:9) to the similar וַיֵּאָסְפוּ פ׳ (2 Samuel 23:11).

21Vulg.: populus qui fugerat reversus est. According to Thenius an אֲשֶׁר נָס “who had fled” (comp. 2 Samuel 23:11) seems to have fallen out after “the people.” If this be rightly taken as probable (Ew.), then there is the less propriety in explaining the “went up” with Thenius as above mentioned.

22The masoretic pointing לַחַיָּה came no doubt from the וְחַיַּת in 2 Samuel 23:13. [לֶחְיָה would be the proper name Lehi with ה local, = “to Lehi.”—TR.]

23This is favored also by the מֵהַשְׁלשִׁים ראֹשׁ, which introduces them as other persons.

24Of the Versions ראֹשׁ is found only in the Chald., and Thenius would thence regard it as an [inserted] explanation of the preceding word. But it is perhaps better to detach the ם from the preceding word (which would then end in ִי-, as in 2 Samuel 23:8), prefix it to ראש, then insert הַצּוּר (as in Chron., omitting עַל), and render: “descended three of the knights from the top of the rock.”

25[This phrase cannot be rendered: “in the harvest-time,” and it would seem better, therefore, to adopt the reading of Chron., or Erdmann’s suggestion in the preceding note.—TR.]

26[“The hold” in which David found himself, was a strong-hold or fortress near the cave of Adullam.—TR.]

27 מיהוה (1 Sam. 24:7; 26:11) instead of יהוה.

28This would require: הֲלֹא זֶה דָם.

29 אֶשְׁתֶּה (Sept., Vulg.) may easily have fallen out after בְּנַפְשׁוֹתָם by homœoteleuton.

30 הֲכִי is not to be taken as a question, equivalent to a lively asseveration (= is it so that? = certainly, comp. 9:1; Gen. 27:36; 29:15); “he was certainly honored”—“for what is a question doing in the midst of this perfectly smooth narration?” (Then.); nor is it to be explained as having arisen from the preceding ה and an inserted כִּי. Instead of this unintelligible reading the text of Chronicles is to be taken, only pointed בִּשְׁנַיִם, “in two, double.” Comp. Ewald § 269 b. [It is easier to suppose הֲכִי an insertion than to get it out of בשנים, though the presence of the latter in Chron. is not easily explained. Wellh. suggests הִנּוֹ “behold, he” for הֲכִי.—TR.]

31 חַי is certainly scribal error for חֵיִל (Chron.).

32He inserts בְּנֵי and reads הַמּוֹאָבִי instead of מואב.

33 אֲרִאֵל, more fully אַרְיֵי אֵל. [The reading of Vulg.: “two lions of Moab” is less likely on account of the following special mention of a lion. The Ariel of Isa. 29:1 is different.—TR.]

34 אַרְיֵה (Keth.) as distinguished from אֲרִי (Qeri). [This distinction of Böttcher’s is hardly sustained by usage.—TR.]

35Instead of אֲשֵׁר read Qeri אִישׁ (Chron.).—Instead of מַרְאֶה Chron. has מִדָּה. [As אִישׁ מֵר׳ (Sam.) means a “goodly man” (so Eng. A. V.), not a “large man” (Erdmann), the reading of Chronicles is to be preferred.—TR.]

36[Wellh.: בִשְׁלשִׁים הגּבוֹר “among the thirty heroes.”—TR.]

37[Kennicott and Böttcher think that Asahel forms a second triad with Abishai and Benaiah, and ought to be separated from the list, but the text is against this. “The early death of Asahel (2:32) would make it likely that his place would be filled up, and so account [in part] for the number 31 [32] in the list” (Bib.-Com.).—For the Captains of the several months see 1 Chron. 27:1–15.—TR.]

38And omit the ו of בניהו [this is unnecessary.—TR.]

39[This reading is preferred by Bib.-Com., Abialbon being regarded as a corruption of Shaalboni below, which 15 MSS. of Kennicott write ש עבלונ י. Wellh. suggests Abibaal = Abiel.—TR.]

40The אחסבי may have come from אוּר חֵפֶר.

41[The reading “son of Ahinathan” in some MSS. of Chron. is probably merely an attempt to conform this clause to the others.—TR.]

42The מִבְחָר is probably out of מִצֹּבָה and the בֶּן־הַגְרִי out of בָּנִי הַגָּדִי.

43[Wellhausen: “More successful corrections in this list will be possible only when the proper names of the Old Testament, together with the variations of the Sept., have been all collected and thoroughly worked up.”—TR.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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