2 Samuel 8 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

2 Samuel 8
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - David smote the Philistines. In the previous chapter we have seen that the empire of David not only marked an era in the development of Israel nationally, but was also the reaching of a new stage in the preparation for the advent of the Messiah; and we saw that without this the development of prophecy would have been impossible, and the people have remained unfit for the high mission to which they were called as the witnesses to the unity of Cod. We have in this chapter a brief summary of the wars which raised Israel from the position of a struggling and oppressed race to the possession of widespread empire. With this narrative the first history of David ends, and in the subsequent narratives many of the events referred to here are more fully detailed, and given with additional incidents. David took Metheg-ammah out of the hand of the Philistines. Metheg-ammah means "the bridle of the mother city." We learn from the parallel place (1 Chronicles 18:1) that the city of Gath is meant by this phrase. Gath was at this time the metropolis of Philistia, and had reduced the other four chief towns to a state of vassalage. Thus by taking Gath, his old city of refuge (1 Samuel 27:2), David acquired also the supremacy which she had previously exercised over the whole country, and by placing a strong garrison there, as previously the Philistines had done in the towns of Israel, he kept that martial race in awe. It denotes great progress in the arts of war that David could besiege and capture a town so strong as Gath.
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.
Verse 2. - He smote Moab. In the previous history we find David and Moab on such friendly terms that he entrusted his father and mother into their king's keeping (1 Samuel 22:3, 4). Now he not only subjugates them, but puts two-thirds or, according to the ancient versions, half of the captured combatants to death. Compared with the custom of the Romans, and with the attempt to destroy all the males in Edom, this was mild treatment; for we find Caesar in his Gallic wars putting all his prisoners to death, and using for their execution the mere phrase, "he counted them in the number of enemies," as if the killing of enemies was a matter of course. The customs of the Israelites in war were not so cruel, and this treatment of the Moabites seems to be mentioned as showing that they received exceptionally severe treatment. The justification of this is found by Jewish commentators, on the authority of the Midrash, in the supposed fact that the King of Moab had put David's father and mother to death. But as Philippson adds, even so it was an instance of the extreme barbarity of ancient warfare. Casting them down to the ground; Hebrew, making them to lie down on the ground; and so the Revised Version. It is plain that those who were made to lie on the ground were combatants who had been made prisoners, and the Hebrew seems to mean that, while they were thus prostrate, they were measured off into three divisions, whereof two were put to the sword, and one permitted to live. All the versions, however, understand that only half were put to death, making the sense to be that he measured them with two cords, one to kill, and one full cord - one, that is, of larger size, to save alive. We get no help from 1 Chronicles 18:2, where this treatment of the Moabites is omitted. It is probable that it was in this war that Benaiah slew "two lion-like men of Moab" (1 Chronicles 11:22), who were its champions and perhaps members of the royal house. They brought gifts means that they paid an annual tribute; but the phrase shows that, though now they were David's servants, that is, subjects, yet that they were left in possession of their independence, and that their internal affairs were managed by native authorities.
David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates.
Verse 3. - Hadadezer. The name is spelt Hadarezer in 2 Samuel 10:16 and in 1 Chronicles 18:3, and such is the reading of the versions here and of many Hebrew manuscripts. The other reading has been defended on the ground that Hadad is the name of the Syrian sun-god, but the cuneiform inscriptions show that his real name was Hadar. The King of Syria, mentioned in 1 Kings 20:1, is called in Assyrian Ben-Hidri. Zobah. Ewald identifies Zobah with the "Sabo" mentioned by Ptolemy. This is uncertain, but evidently Zobah lay northeast of Damascus and south of Hamath, in the region between the rivers Orontes and Euphrates. In 1 Samuel 14:47 it appears as a powerless country governed by a multitude of petty kings; but evidently now Hadarezer had made himself supreme, and become a powerful monarch whose authority extended even across the river into Mesopotamia (2 Samuel 10:16). Having crushed his rivals at home, he had next endeavoured to extend his dominion abroad. As he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. The word "Euphrates" is inserted in the Authorized Version, because the margin says, "Euphrates read but not written." In the Revised Version it is omitted, because the unauthoritative nature of these directions to read something not in the text has been demonstrated. Technically these readings are called K'ri, and the written text K'tib. In 1 Chronicles 18:3 the reading is, "as he went to stablish his dominion by the river" - a change which involves the alteration of only one letter, as the word rendered here "his border," and in 1 Chronicles 18:3 "his dominion," is the same, signifying literally, "his hand." For this reason the Revised Version renders it correctly in both places "his dominion." Now, David never had possessed up to this time any dominion upon the Euphrates, but in the fuller narrative in ch. 10. we learn that these Syrians of Zobah had sent powerful reinforcements to the Ammonites in their war with David; and he might reasonably, therefore, determine to follow up his victory over. them by extending his power up to the river, so as to guard the fords, and prevent all future invasions. And this Hadarezer would resent. As an able and enterprising man, he had succeeded in making Zobah a powerful realm, and was not likely to submit to having a bridle put upon his adventurous spirit by the posting of an Israelitish garrison on the borders. We learn from 2 Samuel 10:19 that David's object was to prevent aid coming to Ammon from Zobah, and that he succeeded in putting a barrier in Hadarezer's way. We can scarcely doubt, therefore, that the reading in the Chronicles is to be preferred. In 1 Samuel 14:47 we read that Saul had waged war with Zobah, and as David had probably served in it, he would have thereby acquired both a knowledge of the country, very useful in this present more serious expedition, and also have learned the necessity of guarding his dominions against perpetual invasions from that quarter.
And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.
Verse 4. - David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen. The word "chariots" is inserted in the Authorized Version after "thousand," from the parallel place in 1 Chronicles 18:4, where also it is said that David captured seven thousand horsemen. The numbers of the Chronicler are more in proportion to one another than those mentioned here, provided we assume that the word "chariots" ought to be supplied, which, as it is not the only difference, is uncertain. Until the Arabs invented our present system of notation, the ancient methods of representing numbers were so liable to error that little dependence can be placed upon them. The Hebrews used their letters for numerals, but after 400 their system breaks down. Any number higher than 400 can be represented only by long sums in arithmetic, or by an intricate system of points above and below, which were sure to get into confusion. David houghed all the chariot horses. There is good reason for concluding that the word used here, recheb, is a collective, and signifies animals used either for riding or driving. What David reserved was not a hundred chariots, but a hundred riding horses, which would be useful to him for rapid communication, and could scarcely be regarded as a violation of the command in Deuteronomy 17:16. Both the Authorized and Revised Versions are wrong, but the Authorized Version at least makes the word recheb have the same meaning in both clauses, whereas the Revised Version makes it signify chariot horses in the first clause, and the chariots themselves in the second. The defeat by David, with infantry only, of an army provided with so powerful a force of cavalry and chariots, proves his great military skill, and their capture hears even more emphatic testimony to his generalship. In the Psalms we find horses often referred to as objects regarded with terror, and which gave a great advantage to their enemies (Psalm 20:7; Psalm 33:17; Psalm 76:6; Psalm 147:10), but over which they had triumphed by Jehovah's aid. This method, however, of rendering them useless, though practised by Joshua (Joshua 11:6), was most cruel; as the poor things, unable to move about with the sinews of their hind legs severed, would perish of hunger.
And when the Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.
Verse 5. - The Syrians of Damascus; Hebrew, Aram-Dammesek; that is, Aram-Damascus. The inhabitants of these regions and of Mesopotamia were descended from Aram, the son of Shem (Genesis 10:22), and bore his name. Thus Zobah is called Aram-Zobah in the title of Psalm 60. As members of a kindred race, and speaking the same language, all the clans of the Aramean family would naturally combine to check the growing power of Israel.
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.
Verse 6. - Garrisons. This is the word used in 1 Samuel 10:5 and 1 Sam 13:3. The Arameans were left free to manage their internal affairs themselves, but they had to pay tribute (see on ver. 2); and to prevent the assembling of troops to contest David's authority and shake off his yoke, garrisons were stationed in such places as commanded the country. The Philistines had done the same in Israel when they were masters there.
And David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem.
Verse 7. - Shields of gold. Probably they were plated with gold, and were borne by Hadarezer's bodyguard. But it is very uncertain whether shields are really meant. The word in Syriac means "quivers." Jerome evidently could not at first find out what it signified, as he in this place translates in the Vulgate "arms," but subsequently he became better, informed. The LXX. renders "bracelets," and adds that they were carried away from Jerusalem by Shishak in the days of Rehoboam. There is no contradiction in this with what is said in 1 Kings 14:26, as what Solomon made were undoubtedly shields, such being the certain meaning of the word in the Hebrew, and its rendering in all the versions. No version renders the word used here "shield." In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 18:7) the Syriac and Vulgate render it "quivers," the LXX. "collars," and the Arabic "plates of gold hung on the trappings of the horses." As they were captured from a Syrian king, they probably retained their Syriac name, and if so they were "quivers."
And from Betah, and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, king David took exceeding much brass.
Verse 8. - Betah... Barothai. Of these cities nothing certain is known, and in 1 Chronicles 18:8 the names are changed to Tibhath and Chun. An interesting addition is made there, inserted also by the LXX. in this place, that it was from this brass (that is, copper) that Solomon made the great laver, the pillars, and many other vessels for the temple service.
When Toi king of Hamath heard that David had smitten all the host of Hadadezer,
Verse 9. - Toi, called in Chronicles Tou, King of Hamath. This was a famous city upon the river Orontes, afterwards called by the Greeks Epiphania, and was situated upon the northernmost boundary of Palestine. Its interest in the present day lies in its having been the capital of the Hittites - a race whose very existence was doubted a few years ago, in spite of the testimony of Holy Scripture; but whose marvellous empire has been lately proved to be historical by Egyptian records on the one side, and cuneiform inscriptions on the other. Unfortunately, inscriptions which they have themselves left behind have not yet found any one capable of deciphering them. In the twelfth century B.C. they were the paramount power from the Euphrates to the Lebanon. For many centuries they contended with the Pharaohs for the possession of Egypt, and while Rameses II. had to make an inglorious peace with the Kheta, as they are called, and marry the king's daughter, Rameses III won a great victory over them, and saved Egypt from thraldom. In the cuneiform inscriptions we find the record of a struggle between Assyria and the Hittites, lasting for four hundred years, during which Shalmaneser made thirty campaigns against them, but they were not finally conquered until B.C. 717, during the reign of Sargon. Fuller details will be found in Dr. Wright's 'Empire of the Hittites,' published by Messrs. Nisbet.
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:
Verse 10. - Joram. In 1 Chronicles 18:10 he is called Hadoram, and this was apparently his real name, Joram being merely the substitution of the nearest Hebrew word for something foreign and therefore unintelligible. So among the descendants of the French refugees settled in England similar changes are common. Thus Pillons becomes Pillow; Chevallier, Shoveller; St. Amour, Stammers. As Hamath bordered upon Zobah, and apparently had waged unsuccessful war with the vigorous Hadarezer, Tel was grateful to David for smiting his rival, and sent this embassy of congratulation for the purpose of ensuring the conqueror's friendship. For this end he also sent rich presents; and as a present is called in the Hebrew a blessing (1 Samuel 25:27; 1 Samuel 30:26, margin), the phrase used here, to bless him, contains the idea, not only of congratulation, but of offerings. There is something admirable in this high Oriental courtesy. The material value of the gifts is left in the background. Their worth lies in their being the acknowledgment of the Divine favour resting upon David, and in the prayer that that favour may continue. In Psalm 18:43, 44 we have proof of the great pleasure which this embassy from so great a nation gave to David.
Which also king David did dedicate unto the LORD, with the silver and gold that he had dedicated of all nations which he subdued;
Verse 11. - Which also King David did dedicate. The blessing became more blessed by this use of it, and it shows how strong were David's feelings, that he thus gave to God's house, not only the spoils of war, but also gifts of friendship. It was in this way that he accumulated those large stores of the precious metals enumerated in 1 Chronicles 29, and employed in making the sacred vessels of the temple. Their vast amount is the more remarkable because Palestine previously was almost destitute of them. Wherever the armies of Israel went, they made diligent search after everything that would serve towards the building of their sanctuary.
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.
Verse 12. - Of Syria; Hebrew, Aram. The reading in 1 Chronicles 18:11 is Edom, which differs from Aram in only one letter. The two words are constantly confused in manuscripts, and "Edom" is probably right here, first, because it is coupled with Moab and Ammon, which were its neighbours; but chiefly because the spoil of Hadarezer, mentioned at the end of the verse, is the spoil of Aram. It would not be enumerated twice.
And David gat him a name when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand men.
Verse 13. - From smiting of the Syrians; Hebrew, of Aram. Here "Edom" is certainly right (see 1 Chronicles 18:12), unless we accept Keil's conjecture, and suppose that "he smote Edom" has dropped out of the text, and must be inserted. In the superscription of Psalm we find the wars with Aram-Naharaim (Mesopotamia) and Aram-Zobah coupled with this smiting of Edom in the valley of salt, which lay to the south of the Dead Sea, and was a fatal place to the Edomitos in their war subsequently with Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7). Such a double victory over the Arameans first, and immediately afterwards over Edom, would account for the "name," that is, the reputation, which David gained. The course of events seems to have been as follows. The Edomites, believing that David was engaged in a struggle beyond his powers with the Syrians, took the opportunity to invade Israel. But the campaign in Aram was quickly decided, and David was able to send Abishai with a detachment of his forces to repel the Edomites. On hearing of his approach, they retired before him, and, making a stand in their own territories, were defeated in the valley of salt, with the loss of eighteen thousand men (1 Chronicles 18:12). In this place the victory is ascribed to David, because it was won by his general acting under his orders. For some unexplained reason, the feelings of the Israelites against Edom were very vindictive, and Joab followed with larger forces, and not only slew twelve thousand in a second battle (Psalm 60, title), but remained six months in the country, ruthlessly putting every male to death (1 Kings 11:15, 16). From this time the Edomites and Israelites were implacable foes, and in later Jewish literature the Jews gave vent to their intense hatred of the Roman empire by giving it the name of Edom.
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.
Verse 14. - Throughout all Edom put he garrisons. In a country naturally so strong as Edom, and with neighbouring states ready to give shelter to their fugitives, Joab's attempt would cause great misery, but only a moderate loss of life. And as soon as he withdrew, the exiles would return to their old homes. To keep them, therefore, in entire subjection, the country was. held by strong garrisons, and the Edomites became David's servants, being apparently deprived for the present of any form of independent government. We have, then, in this chapter, a brief summary of David's wars, whereby he established his supremacy ever the extensive region from Hamath on the north to the salt plains on the south of the Dead Sea, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates.
And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.
Verse 15. - David executed judgment and justice. There was very little real truth in Absalom's fault finding with the administration of justice (2 Samuel 15:3, 4), unless we suppose - what is only too probable - that David, after his terrible crimes of murder and adultery, became lax in the discharge of his judicial duties. Here, at this period of his life, he was a zealous judge at home, as well as a brave and skilful general. He was one of those many sided characters who are great in a multitude of ways. Like Julius Caesar and our own Alfred, he was as distinguished in the arts of peace as in those of war. And thus, while his first care was for the establishment of religion, and while even the singing in the sanctuary was not beneath his notice, he also, even in the midst of dangerous wars, gave careful attention to the orderly government of his kingdom and the maintenance of right and law. We have already seen with what consummate skill he selected a capital immediately that he was made king of all Israel. Saul had done much in war. Though finally defeated at Gilboa, he had taught the Israelites their strength, and laid the foundations of David's empire; but he had done nothing to consolidate the tribes, or provide tribunals for the settlement of disputed legal rights or the punishment of crimes. Israel was as loose an aggregate of discordant atoms at his death as it was at his appointment; and the maintenance of order was left to the caprice of local sheiks. Samuel had done far more for the internal development and consolidation of the people than Saul; but it was David who made them into a nation. The continuance of his work was frustrated by the extravagance of Solomon, the folly of Rehoboam, and the ambition of the restless tribe of Ephraim; but the two parts into which his realm was broken at least held together, and there never again was danger of such anarchy and threatened disintegration as existed in the times of the judges.
And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder;
Verse 16. - Joab... was over the host. Twice in this book we have lists of David's chief officers - here and at the end of ch. 20. The present lint belongs to the period of David's greatest prosperity, when all went well with him in peace and war, and when Jehovah had elevated him to the unique rank of Messianic king - a distinction which belonged to him personally, and was inherited by none of his successors. Between it and the second list there lies a tragic tale of sin and shame, of crime and merited punishment, of the realm rising in rebellion against the adulterous king, and of his own family breaking away from the bends of godly discipline, and giving way to licentiousness, to bloodshed, and to parricidal ambition. But probably David's character had then gained in spirituality and singleness of heart; whereas now prosperity must already have begun its work of sapping the foundations of his moral nature. Joab, who had been stripped of his command for the murder of Abner, had regained it by his bravery at the capture of Jerusalem. We have seen also that David entrusted to him the building of Jerusalem, and apparently he was prime minister in all matters except probably the king's judicial functions. Jehoshaphat... was recorder; literally, remembrancer. It was his office to reduce the king's decrees to writing, and also to see that they were carried into execution. Probably after they had been committed to writing, they were laid before the king for his approval, and, when confirmed by his hand or seal, were entered in the book of remembrance.
And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
Verse 17. - Zadok... and Ahimelech... were the priests. We have already seen that this was contrary to the letter of the Mosaic Law, and yet that there was no schism, and that by patience matters came back to the right groove. Zadok, of the elder line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:4-8, 50-53), was high priest at Gibeon, and Ahimelech, of the junior line of Ithamar, was the high priest at Jerusalem. Instead of Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, the Syriac transposes the names, and reads, "Abiathar the son of Ahimelech" This agrees with the list in 2 Samuel 20:25, and it is certain that Abiathar outlived David (1 Kings 2:26), and that he was David's high priest throughout his reign, though Zadok is not only constantly associated with him, but is placed first, as the man of higher rank (2 Samuel 15:24-35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:11; 2 Samuel 20:25). It is also remarkable that our Lord makes Abiathar the person who gave David the shewbread (Mark 2:26), whereas in 1 Samuel 21. he is repeatedly called Ahimelech. As both the LXX. and the Vulgate support the Hebrew against the Syriac, and as the reading "Ahimelech" is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 18:16 and 1 Chron 24:3, 6, 31, we must reject the emendation of the Syriac, and conclude that there was a double tradition respecting these names, some manuscripts making Abiathar the father, and others giving the seniority to Ahimelech. Our Lord made Abiathar the father, but the scribes, in their editing of the Hebrew text, gave that place to Ahimelech, yet did not carry out their restoration so thoroughly as not to leave proof that the names probably ought to be reversed. Seraiah was scribe. His office was similar to that of a secretary of state with us. For Seraiah we have Shavsha in 1 Chronicles 18:16, Shisha in 1 Kings 4:3, and Sheva in 2 Samuel 20:25. This illustrates what has just been said as to the uncertainty about proper names. They are always most difficult to read, as the sense gives no aid, and these various forms of a name that does not occur elsewhere really bear witness to the high antiquity of the manuscripts uses by the scribes in settling the text of the Old Testament; and also to their self-restraint in not making them all forcibly agree.
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David's sons were chief rulers.
Verse 18. - The Cherethites and the Pelethites. As we have already seen (1 Samuel 30:14), the Cherethim were an insignificant tribe inhabiting the southern part of the country of the Philistines. Nor is that place the only proof of this fact; for they are connected with the Philistines also in Ezekiel 25:16 and Zephaniah 2:5. David made their acquaintance when at Ziklag; and probably the Pelethim dwelt in the same neighbourhood, and were a still more unimportant clan or family. Much ingenuity has been expended in finding for their names a Hebrew derivation, and Gesenius explains them as meaning "cutters and runners," though for the latter signification he has to go to the Arabic, where he finds a verb falata, "to run away," "flee." But this craze of explaining the names of aboriginal tribes and their towns by Hebrew words is not only absurd in itself, but bars the way to sounder knowledge. For it is possible that, by the study of names not belonging to the Hebrew language, we might arrive at some correct ideas about the races who had previously occupied Palestine. Instead of this, the whole system of derivation is corrupted, and philology made ridiculous. What can be more ludicrous than to explain these Pelethim as "runners away," unless it be the notion that the Rephaim took their name from the Hebrew word for "a ghost"? In his "mighties" David had a powerful bodyguard of native Israelites, and Saul previously had formed a similar force of three thousand men, not merely for the protection of his own person, but to guard the land from marauding incursions of Amalekites and other freebooting tribes. Such a body of men was of primary importance for police purposes and the safety of the frontiers. How useful such a force would be we can well understand from the history of the marches between England and Scotland (see also note on 2 Samuel 3:22); but I imagine that the Cherethites and Pelethites were used for humbler purposes. While "the mighties" guarded the frontiers, and kept the peace of the kingdom, these men would be used about the court and in Jerusalem, to execute the commands of the king and his great officers. Native Israelites would refuse such servile work, and the conquered Canaanites might become dangerous if trained and armed; while these foreigners, like the Swiss Guard in France, would be trustworthy and efficient. As for the true-born Israelites, they probably did not form the mass of the population, but, like the Franks in France, were the privileged and dominant race. We read that even from Egypt, besides their own dependents, there went up with Israel "a great mixture" (Exodus 12:38, margin). In Numbers 11:4 these are even contemptuously designated by a word which answers to our "omnium gatherum;" yet even they, after the conquest of Palestine, would be higher in rank than the subjugated Canaanites, from whom, together with another "mixed multitude" spoken of in Nehemiah 13:3, are descended the felahin of the present day. David's armies would be drawn from the Israelites, among whom were now reckoned the mixed multitude which went up from Egypt, and which was ennobled by taking part in the conquest of Canaan. In the army "the mighties" would hold the chief place; while the mercenaries, recruited from Ziklag and its neighbourhood, which continued to be David's private property (1 Samuel 27:6), would be most useful in the discharge of all kinds of administrative duty, and would also guard the king's person. In 2 Samuel 20:23 for Cherethi we find Cheri, which word also occurs in 2 Kings 11:4, 19. In the former passage the spelling is a mistake, the letter t having dropped out, and it is so regarded by the Jews, who read "Cherethi." The versions also translate there just as they do here, namely the Vulgate and LXX., "Cherethi and Pelethi;" and the Syriac by two nouns of somewhat similar sound to the Hebrew, and which signify "freemen and soldiers." In the latter place in Kings it is probable that some other tribe supplied the bodyguard in Queen Athaliah's time. David's sons were chief rulers; Hebrew and Revised Version, priests. Similarly, in ch. 20:26, "Ira the Jairite was David's priest," Hebrew, cohen; and in 1 Kings 4:5, "Zabud was Solomon's priest." Gesenius and others suppose that they were domestic chaplains, not ministering according to the Levitical law, but invested with a sort of sacerdotal sacredness in honour of their birth. But if we look again at 1 Kings 4:5 we find "Zabud was priest, the king's friend;" and the latter words seem to be an explanation of the title cohen, added because the word in this sense was already becoming obsolete. In 1 Chronicles 18:17 the language is completely changed, and we read, "and David's sons were chief at the king's hand." We may feel sure that the Chronicler knew what was the meaning of the phrase in the Books of Samuel, and that he was also aware that it had gone out of use, and therefore gave instead the right sense. Evidently the word cohen had at first a wider significance, and meant a "minister and confidant." He was the officer who stood next to his master, and knew his purpose and saw to its execution. And this was the meaning of the term when applied to the confidential minister of Jehovah, whose duty it was to execute his will according to the commands given in the Law; but when so used it gradually became too sacred for ordinary employment. Still, there is a divinity about a king, and so his confidants and the officers nearest to his person were still called cohens; and we find the phrase lingering on for another century and a half. For Jehu puts to death, not only Ahab's great men and kinsfolk, but also "his cohens," the men who had been his intimate friends (2 Kings 10:11).

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