“And after this it came to pass, that David smote the Philistines, and subdued them: and David took Methegammah out of the hand of the Philistines. And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts. David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David hocked all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots. And when the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men. Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts. And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went. And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. And from Betah, and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, king David took exceeding much brass. When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the host of Hadadezer, Then Toi sent Joram his son unto king David, to salute him, and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer, and smitten him: for Hadadezer had wars with Toi. And Joram brought with him vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass: Which also king David did dedicate unto the LORD, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he subdued; Of Syria, and of Moab, and of the children of Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek, and of the spoil of Hadadezer, son of Rehob, king of Zobah. And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men. And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all they of Edom became David’s servants. And the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went. And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people. And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe; And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers” (2 Samuel 8:1-18).
This chapter lists several victories that David won over the enemy nations surrounding Israel. Through these conquests he was able to extend the borders of Israel to a greater extent than had ever been done before, and was close to realising the promise of God to Abraham. “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15:18-21).
If we were to look at these nations on a map we would find that Israel was completely surrounded by her enemies. At least six of these, Philistia, Moab, Zobah, Syria, Hamath, and Edom, were considered to be strong and well able to defeat little Israel, but, as we see, God was with David and brought him the victory over them.
The Philistines are mentioned first, which is probably due to them being the constant adversary for many years. David attacked Methegammah, which according to 1 Chronicles 18:1 is Gath, because as the name implies it was the “mother city”. When the capital fell, the other cities toppled too.
We remember that David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, came from Moab, and that this nation was not always at odds with Israel. Though there appears to be no friction between them at this time, it seems that David saw some threat and so mobilised his army against Moab. David divided Moab into three districts, two of which he slew and made the third his servants. This may appear to be gruesome, but it does in fact partially fulfil Balaam’s prophecy when the Moabites wanted him to curse Israel. “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab” (Numbers 24:17).
Zobah was defeated by David, but found that the Syrians tried to assist them in repelling him to no avail. Later when the Syrians came to the rescue of Edom, David overcame them again. Syria got themselves involved in something that did not concern them and suffered the consequences of their mistake. The king of Hamath wisely pre-empted an attack from David by making peace with him and sending gifts which were dedicated to the Lord for use in the future temple.
The Edomites were descended from Esau, but though there was a family tie to Israel, they had been a constant threat to them from the very beginning of the nation. The defeat of Edom was brought about by the courage of Abishai. “Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah slew of the Edomites in the valley of salt eighteen thousand. And he put garrisons in Edom; and all the Edomites became David’s servants. Thus the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:12-13).
In the closing verses of the text we can see that though David made a name for himself because of these victories and the great spoils he brought to Israel, and even though he was blessed and preserved by God, he did not get big headed, but instead continued to reign in justice and wisdom. He did not become a dictator but treated everyone in Israel fairly. The bountiful gifts that were brought to him did not turn his head or corrupt his judgement, that is, he was not someone who ruled through bribery and backhanders.
We see also that David set in order the way the nation had to operate both spiritually and politically. He appointed men who he could trust to manage the government of the land. Three sets of two men seem to be over three main areas of the governing of the kingdom, that is, military, religion and civil. David also gave his sons chief places in the government, but in light of 1 Chronicles 18:17 they served the king directly, “The sons of David were chief about the king.” David wisely saw that the king’s sons were not to be served but to serve, so gave them responsibilities that in effect made them servants instead of masters. We know from Scripture that most of David’s sons could not handle authority and would cause him great grief, so maybe David saw something in them at an early stage. No one could accuse David of nepotism.
The chapter starts off by detailing several bloodbaths, but ends by revealing a nation in peace and security. Though some may object to the slaughter of the enemies of Israel, we must see the whole picture. David understood very well that for Israel to survive the surrounding enemies must be dealt with. These nations were a constant and potential threat, and as we see, could easily join together against Israel. Also, and a fact that cannot be dismissed, these nations posed a threat to Israel on the spiritual level too, for they were all idolatrous to the core. Lastly, we find here David laying the groundwork not only for the reign of Solomon, but also for the future millennial reign of Christ, because for Him to return, there has to be an Israel to come back to. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10) … “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Revelation 1:7).