This section represents the warlike aspect of David’s character, just as 1 Chronicles 15-17 portrayed him from the religious point of view, as zealous for the due observance of the Divine order in worship. The narratives are closely parallel to the corresponding ones in 2 Samuel, and are given in the same order. The variations, such as they are, may be accounted for (1) by mistakes of copyists; (2) by the chronicler’s habit of explaining difficult expressions, abridging what appeared needlessly prolix, and adding here and there small details from another source.
1. A summary account of David’s wars of conquest (1 Chronicles 18:1-13). 2. His internal administration (1 Chronicles 18:14-17). (Comp. 2 Samuel 8, and the Notes on that chapter.)
(1) Now after this it came to pass.—Literally, And it befel afterwards. This expression does not put the contents of this chapter into direct chronological sequence with those of the last. (Comp. Note on 1 Chronicles 17:1.) The formula of the original history, from which both Samuel and Chronicles have derived a chief part of their substance, has been taken over without modification, after the manner of Oriental compilers. We may, therefore, regard the phrase as a mere mark of transition in the narrative.
Gath and her towns.—Heb., her daughters, that is, outlying dependencies. Samuel has, “And David took the bridle [control, supremacy] of the metropolis [mother-city] out of the hand,” &c. The chronicler or his authority has interpreted this curious expression (mètheg hā’ammāh). If at the time Gath was the chief city of Philistia, and David made it recognise his suzerainty by payment of tribute, the phrases of both books are intelligible. In Solomon’s time Gath was ruled by a king, Achish (1 Kings 2:39), but he was hardly independent of Solomon. ( Comp. 1 Kings 4:24. ) The general sense is the same if mètheg hā’ammāh be rendered the bridle of the arm—i.e., the sovereign control, or supremacy.
And the Moabites became.—Literally, and they became—viz., Moab. The name of the country denotes the people. Samuel has “and Moab [i.e., the country] became” (verb singular feminine).
David’s servants.—Samuel, “to David for servants.”
And brought gifts.—Literally, bringers of an offering—i.e., tribute. Similar notices are common in the Assyrian inscriptions. (Comp. 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 3:4; and the famous Moabite inscription of which the fragments are now in the Louvre, and which records Mesha’s revolt against the successor of Ahab.)
Zobah unto Hamath.—Rather, Zobah towards Hamath. The word (Hămáthāh; not in Samuel) defines the position of Zobah. (Comp. 2 Samuel 8:8; Ezekiel 47:16.) The town of Zobah lay somewhere near Emesa (Horns), and not far from the present Yabrûd, north-east of Damascus. (The Assyrian monarch Assurbanipal mentions the towns of Yabrudu and Cubiti—i.e., Zobah—in his Annals.) Its kings are spoken of in 1 Samuel 14:47. Hadadezer appears to have brought the whole country under a single sceptre.
Hamath.—See 1 Chronicles 13:5, and 2 Chronicles 8:4. The town lay in the valley of the Upper Orontes, west of Zobah, and north of Hermon and Damascus.
As he (Hadadezer) went.—The occasion intended appears to be that whereof the particulars are given at 1 Chronicles 19:16-19.
To stablish his dominion.—Heb., to set up his hand—i.e., “his power.” Samuel has a different word, to recover his power, or repeat his attack.
The river Euphrates.—The Hebrew text of Samuel has “the river.” Our text explains.
Houghed.—Hamstrung—i.e., cut the sinews of the hind legs, so as to disable them.
Chariot horses.—The same Hebrew term has just been rendered chariots. It means also chariot soldiers.
David reserved a hundred chariots, with their horses, probably for his own use. Horses were always a luxury in Israel. (Comp. Isaiah 2:7.) Solomon recruited his stud from Egypt. (Comp. the prohibition, Deuteronomy 17:16.)
Damascus.—Heb., Darmèseq, a late form, occurring again in 2 Chronicles 28:5; 2 Chronicles 28:23 (= ancient Dammèseq). In Syriac the name is similar: Darmĕsûq. The Arabic is Dimashqu, the cuneiform Dimashqa or Dimmasqa.
David slew of the Syrians.—Literally, smote in Aram. The preposition is partitive.
Syria-damascus.—Aram of Damascus (1 Chronicles 18:5). (Comp. 1 Chronicles 18:2 for the next clause.)
David’s servants.—To David servants—the order in Samuel.
Preserved David.—Samuel has ‘eth-David—i.e., the simple accusative; Chronicles, le-David, a late construction.
Whithersoever he went.—Same phrase as in 1 Chronicles 17:6; 1 Chronicles 17:8.
Shields.—Shiltê. Probably “armour” or “arms.” (Comp. 2 Kings 11:10; 2 Chronicles 23:9, “the spears, and the shields, and the sh’lātîm; “Ezekiel 27:11; Song of Solomon 4:4; Jeremiah 51:11, “quivers.”) LXX. here, “golden collars” (Samuel, “bracelets”); Syriac and Arabic, “golden plates which hung on the horses;” Vulg., “quivers (Samuel, “golden arms”).
Hadadezer was not dethroned, but became a vassal king.
Much brass.—Copper (as Job 28:2), or bronze (an alloy of copper and tin, which was well known to the ancients). Samuel, “copper in abundance” (harbēh), an older form of expression.
Wherewith Solomon made . . .—Not in the Hebrew of Samuel, though LXX. adds it.
(9) Now when . . .—And Tou king of Hamath heard. Samuel, “Toi.” The Hebrew letters answering to w and y are often confused in MSS. Tō-ū is right; so LXX. and Vulg. in Samuel; Syriac, “Thû‘;” Arabic, “Tû‘u;” The Syriac here has “Phûl king of the Antiochenes” (!); the Arabic, “Phâwîl king of Antioch,” an apparent allusion to Pul the Assyrian (1 Chronicles 5:26). Professor Sayce believes he has read the name Tu-ve-es—that is, Toü—on the stones from Hamath, now in the British Museum.
Hadoram.—Samuel, “and Toi sent Joram” (LXX., “Jeddūram”). Vulg., “Adoram;” but Syriac and Arabic, “Joram.” Hadoram, or Adoram (Hadar or Adar, is high), seems right; but Joram, i.e., Jehoram (Jehovah is high), may be correct, for it appears from an inscription of Sargon that the God of Israel was not unknown to the Hamathites. Sargon calls their king Iahu-bihdi.
To congratulate.—Bless—i.e., pronounce him happy.
Had war with Tou.—A man of wars (a foeman) of Tou was Hadadezer.
And . . . all manner . . .—Samuel, “and in his hand [were] vessels of silver, and vessels of gold,” &c. The clause is here curtailed.
These nations.—The nations—scil., “whom he had reduced” (Samuel).
From Edom.—Samuel, “from Aram,” but LXX., Syriac, and Arabic, “Edom;” (Targum and Vulg., “Aram”). All the versions read “Edom” here, which appears correct. Edom and Moab were conterminous, and the reference includes all the nations whom David conquered and despoiled.
And from Amalek may refer to 1 Samuel 30:16, seq., but more probably to an unrecorded campaign. Samuel adds, “and from the spoil of Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah,” which Chronicles omits, as implied already in 1 Chronicles 18:7-8.
(12) Moreover Abishai . . .—Heb., And Abishai son of Zeruiah had smitten Edom in the Valley of Salt, eighteen thousand.
In Samuel we read something quite different: “And David made a name, when he returned from his smiting Aram.” “Aram” should be read Edom, as the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic have it. Perhaps, also, the text of Samuel is further corrupted. (Comp. 1 Kings 11:15. and Psalms 60, title.) From a comparison of the three passages it appears that Edom took advantage of David’s absence to invade Judah, whereupon the king detached a column of his forces, and sent them south under Joab and Abishai to repulse the new enemy.
Valley of salt.—2 Kings 14:7.
Thus the Lord preserved David.—See 1 Chronicles 18:6. David was victorious on all sides, north (1 Chronicles 18:3-8), and south, and east, and west (1 Chronicles 18:11). The six peoples whom he reduced had been the foes of his ill-fated predecessor (1 Samuel 14:47-48).
(14) Executed.—Was doing; a permanent state of things.
Judgment and justice.—Right and justice. The former is the quality, the latter the conduct which embodies it.
Among.—For, or unto.
Abimelech the son of Abiathar.—Read Ahimelech the son of Abiathar. Samuel has “Ahimelech the son of Abiathar.” Elsewhere Zadok and Abiathar figure as the priests of David’s reign (comp. 2 Samuel 15:29; 2 Samuel 15:35), and as Abiathar was a son of the Ahimelech who was slain at Nob by Saul’s orders (1 Samuel 22:20), it has been proposed to read here and in the parallel passage,” Abiathar the son of Ahimelech.” The correction, however, is far from certain, inasmuch as an “Ahimelech son of Abiathar,” who was priest in David’s time, is mentioned thrice in 1 Chronicles 24:3; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 24:31, and this Ahimelech may have been acting as locum tenens for his father at the time when this brief list was drawn up. In the absence of details, it would be arbitrary to alter the text of four different passages of the Chronicles. In Samuel the Syriac and Arabic read “Abiathar son of Ahimelech,” but here LXX., Vulg., Syriac, Arabic, all have “Ahimelech son of Abiathar.”
Abiathar was of the lineage of Ithamar.
Shavsha.—Besides the variants in the margin, 2 Samuel 20:25 has “Shĕva” (Heb. margin, Shĕya). Seraiah (with which comp. Israel) appears to be the original name. (Comp. Syriac and Arabic, “Sarīyā.”)
Chief about the king.—Heb., the first at the king’s hand, or side, a paraphrase of what we read in Samuel: “were chief rulers” (kôhănîm). Kôhănîm is the common and only word for “priests,” and has just occurred in that sense (1 Chronicles 18:16). In 1 Kings 4:5, as well as here, the term is said to denote not a sacerdotal, but a secular “minister.” But this theory seems to be opposed to the facts of history. Under the monarchy the priests were brought into close relations with the king, owing to their judicial duties; and the chief priest of a royal sanctuary became one of the great officials of state (Amos 7:11; Amos 7:13). Such a position would be of sufficient importance to be filled by the princes of the blood. The chronicler, writing from the point of view of a later age, has substituted for the original term a phrase that would not offend contemporary feeling. In Samuel the LXX. renders “chief courtiers;” the other versions have “magnates,” except the Vulg., which has “priests.” Syriac of Chronicles, “magnates.”