Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
2 Kings (2 Samuel)
David subdues the Philistines, Sa2 8:1; and the Moabites, Sa2 8:2; and the king of Zobah, Sa2 8:3, Sa2 8:4; and the Syrians in general, Sa2 8:5-8. Toi, king of Hamath, sends to congratulate him on his victories over the king of Zobah, and sends him rich presents, Sa2 8:9-10. David dedicates all the spoils to God, Sa2 8:11-13. He garrisons Edom, Sa2 8:14; and reigns over all Israel, Sa2 8:15. An account of his chief officers, Sa2 8:16-18.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:1
David took Metheg-ammah - This is variously translated. The Vulgate has, Tulit David fraenum tributi, David removed the bondage of the tribute, which the Israelites paid to the Philistines. Some think it means a fortress, city, or strong town; but no such place as Metheg-ammah is known. Probably the Vulgate is nearest the truth. The versions are all different. See the following comparison of the principal passages here collated with the parallel place in 1 Chr: -
2 Samuel 1 Chronicles Sa2 8:1. - David took Metheg-ammah Sa2 8:3. David Ch1 18:1. - David took Gath and her towns. Ch1 18:3. David smote Hadadezer Sa2 8:4. And David took from him smote Hadarezer Ch1 18:4. And David took from him 1000 and 700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot. 1000 chariots, and 7000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot. Sa2 8:6. Then David put garrisons in Syria Sa2 8:8. And Ch1 18:6. Then David put in Syria Ch1 18:8. And from Betah and Berothai cities of Hadadezer. Sa2 8:9. from Tibhath and Chun cities of Hadarezer. Ch1 18:9. When Toi heard that David had smitten When Tou heard that David had smitten Hadadezer Sa2 8:10. Then Toi sent Joram his son Hadarezer Ch1 18:10. He sent Hadoram his son Sa2 8:12-Syria and Moab Sa2 8:13. - Syrians, in the valley Ch1 18:11-Edom and Moab Ch1 18:12. - Edomites, in the valley of salt, 18,000 Sa2 8:17. - Ahimelech - and Seraiah of salt, 18,000 Ch1 18:16. - Abimelech - and Shausha was the scribe. Sa2 10:16. Shobach the captain was scribe. Ch1 19:16. Shophach the captain Sa2 10:17. David passed over Jordan, and came הלאמה Ch1 19:17. David passed over Jordan and came אלהם to Helam. Sa2 10:18. David slew 700 upon them Ch1 19:18. David slew of the Syrians 7000 chariots of the Syrians, and 40,000 horsemen; chariots, and 40,000 footmen; and smote Shobach, etc. and killed Shophach, etc.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:2
And measured them with a line - even with two lines - It has been generally conjectured that David, after he had conquered Moab, consigned two-thirds of the inhabitants to the sword; but I think the text will bear a meaning much more reputable to that king. The first clause of the verse seems to determine the sense; he measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground - to put to death, and with one line to keep alive. Death seems here to be referred to the cities by way of metaphor; and, from this view of the subject we may conclude that two-thirds of the cities, that is, the strong places of Moab, were erased; and not having strong places to trust to, the text adds, So the Moabites became David's servants, and brought gifts, i.e., were obliged to pay tribute. The word line may mean the same here as our rod, i.e., the instrument by which land is measured. There are various opinions on this verse, with which I shall not trouble the reader. Much may be seen in Calmet and Dodd.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:3
David smote - Hadadezer - He is supposed to have been king of all Syria, except Phoenicia; and, wishing to extend his dominions to the Euphrates, invaded a part of David's dominions which lay contiguous to it; but being attacked by David, he was totally routed.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:4
A thousand chariots - It is strange that there were a thousand chariots, and only seven hundred horsemen taken, and twenty thousand foot. But as the discomfiture appears complete, we may suppose that the chariots, being less manageable, might be more easily taken, while the horsemen might, in general, make their escape. The infantry also seem to have been surrounded, when twenty thousand of them were taken prisoners.
David houghed all the chariot horses - If he did so, it was both unreasonable and inhuman; for, as he had so complete a victory, there was no danger of these horses falling into the enemy's hands; and if he did not choose to keep them, which indeed the law would not permit, he should have killed them outright; and then the poor innocent creatures would have been put out of pain. But does the text speak of houghing horses at all? It does not. Let us hear; ויעקר דוד את כל הרכב vayeakker David eth col harecheb, And David disjointed all the chariots, except a hundred chariots which he reserved for himself. Now, this destruction of the chariots, was a matter of sound policy, and strict piety. God had censured those who trusted in chariots; piety therefore forbade David the use of them: and lest they should fall into the enemy's hands, and be again used against him, policy induced him to destroy them. The Septuagint render the words nearly as I have done, και παρελυσε Δαυιδ παντα τα ἁρματα.
He kept however one hundred; probably as a sort of baggage or forage wagons.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:6
Brought gifts - Paid tribute.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:7
David took the shields of gold - We know not what these were. Some translate arms, others quivers, others bracelets, others collars, and others shields. They were probably costly ornaments by which the Syrian soldiers were decked and distinguished. And those who are called servants here, were probably the choice troops or body-guard of Hadadezer, as the argyraspides were of Alexander the Great. See Quintus Curtius.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:9
Toi king of Hamath - Hamath is supposed to be the famous city of Emesa, situated on the Orontes, in Syria. This was contiguous to
Hadadezer; and led him to wage war with Toi, that he might get possession of his territories. For a comparison of the 10th verse, see Ch1 18:9.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:13
David gat him a name - Became a very celebrated and eminent man. The Targum has it, David collected troops; namely, to recruit his army when he returned from smiting the Syrians. His many battles had no doubt greatly thinned his army.
The valley of salt - Supposed to be a large plain abounding in this mineral, about a league from the city of Palmyra or Tadmor in the wilderness.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:14
He put garrisons in Edom - He repaired the strong cities which he had taken, and put garrisons in them to keep the country in awe.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:16
Joab - was over the host - General and commander-in-chief over all the army.
Ahilud - recorder - מזכיר mazkir, remembrancer; one who kept a strict journal of all the proceedings of the king and operations of his army; a chronicler. Or, remembrancer, or, writer of chronicles.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:17
Seraiah - the scribe - Most likely the king's private secretary. See Ch1 24:3 (note).
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 8:18
Benaiah - The chief of the second class of David's worthies. We shall meet with him again.
The Cherethites and the Pelethites - The former supposed to be those who accompanied David when he fled from Saul; the latter, those who came to him at Ziklag. But the Targum translates these two names thus, the archers and the slingers; and this is by far the most likely. It is not at all probable that David was without a company both of archers and slingers. The bow is celebrated in the funeral lamentation over Saul and Jonathan; and the sling was renowned as the weapon of the Israelites, and how expert David was in the use of it we learn from the death of Goliath. I take for granted that the Chaldee paraphrast is correct. No weapons then known were equally powerful with these; the spears, swords, and javelins, of other nations, were as stubble before them. The bow was the grand weapon of our English ancestors; and even after the invention of firearms, they were with difficulty persuaded to prefer them and leave their archery.