II Samuel 8
8 In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Metheg Ammah from the control of the Philistines. 2 David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute. 3 Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when he went to restore his monument at the Euphrates River. 4 David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses. 5 When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. 6 He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went. 7 David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Tebahand Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze. 9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, 10 he sent his son Joram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze. 11 King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued: 12 Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. He also dedicated the plunder taken from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah. 13 And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 14 He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went. 15 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.16 Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 17 Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; 18 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests.
With immediate threats of imminent attacks from near neighbors past, David took advantage of the rest God had given him and became even more aggressive and on the offensive laying hold of what God promised Israel. Until now Israel had been living far beneath their privileges. God had promised them the land from the Euphrates River in the North to Egypt in the south. As we proceed through this victorious season of David’s reign, think about any area in your life or ministry that you feel God has promised you but you have not yet taken hold of it.
1. David’s Victories Over His Enemies 1-8
David fully subdued the Philistines. According to II Sam 5:17, the Philistines had earlier attacked Israel. “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold.” In fact, they attacked two times. And both times David inquired of the Lord and the Lord showed him how to wage war. It is fair to assume that the method David used, i.e, inquiring of the Lord, became standard procedure. Now David himself took the initiative and went on the attack again and again. Many verses tell us that David had success everywhere he went. “In the course of time, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them, and he took Metheg Ammah from the control of the Philistines” (1).
When he discovered Israel’s army and Israel’s God to be strong, David became more aggressive and assertive. What parallel can we find in today’s Christian soldier to match what David discovered. Is it possible that each victory you win is intended to give you a greater appetite for victories? Samson had fought the Philistines many years earlier and gained only limited victories. Saul had some victories, but nothing like what David was about to experience. David attacked them and made himself and Israel the master of their country. For many years they were an irritating and pesky offense, an aggravation, annoyance and oppression to Israel.
David completed Israel’s deliverance out of their hands and what was the significant indication that this was true. They took Metheg Ammah. Where was and what was Metheg Ammah? According to II Sam 2:24, which says, “ But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon,” it was a Philistine garrison near the city of Gath. Metheg, means a bridle, and on the hill of Ammah was Metheg Ammah—a Philistine garrison. David now took that place from the Philistines. Metheg-Ammah (meaning “the bridal of the mother city”) was Gath, the chief and royal city of the Philistines, where David himself had gone to see his Philistine friend King Achish numerous times. Now David is king of Israel and, emboldened by his recent success and evidently with God’s approval, that is if David continued to inquire of the Lord as a battle strategy, he took Metheg-Ammah out of their hand and used it as a bridle or curb against them. In taking Metheg-Ammah, David “took the bridle of the mother-city”—that is he subdued their capital or strongest city, Gath. The Arabic idiom for submission is to give up one's bridle to another. It was no small accomplishment after years of difficulties with the Philistines that David took control of Gath.
The meaning of and experience of winning these campaigns becomes more clear for us in this section. When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. “He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went (v6). This is repeated with reference to Edom: “He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (10).
David not only conquered, he established garrisons—so the conquered would stay conquered. This has enormous and excellent encouragement for Christian ministers today. Luke 11:22-22 refers to our spiritual battle, saying that “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.” In this way when the strong man is disarmed, that is when the armor in which he trusted is taken from him, and used against him, when his Metheg-Ammah ceases to be his but now belongs to the godly warrior who conquered it, his enemy now uses Metheg-Ammah (bridle of the mother city) against him.
So today’s man or woman of God, after sometimes a long or frequent struggle, wins a victory over some habit or sinful tendency, like Israel won over the Philistines, he or she gains not only a victory for the present instance, but also the boldness, courage and experience that empowers him or her to gain further even more significant victories in the future. This is what today’s man or woman of God can learn from David’s victory over the Philistine garrison near Gath. We can become conquerors and more than conquerors. We too take Metheg-Ammah, make it ours and use the testimony and experience of it against the enemy.
David also attacked the Moabites and made them pay tribute in acknowledgment of subjugation or having been conquered. He divided his captives into three parts, killing two thirds of them and sparing one third to live. Quite possibly they had to serve in some way as other conquered people had, become water carriers, or soil tillers or stone cutters. Psalm 60 was written at this time and verse 6 may refer to the process David used to measure off the two-thirds and the one-third. It says, “God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.”
Years before when David was in exile, he had taken his parents to the king of Moab for safe-keeping. The Bible does not tell us how safe they were; It only says they stayed there as long as David was in the stronghold. Presumably David’s parents were not in Israel or had deceased. David’s great grand-mother, Ruth, was a Moabite so it is a little difficult to understand why David conquered and then killed so many in Moab. Perhaps it was because of his great-grandmother that David let one-third of them live! But God’s policy is more important than family matters and God wanted them subjugated. They had been dangerous enemies to the Israel of God; and if left in their strength, they still would have been so.
Balak was the king of Moab that hired Balaam to curse Israel. When Balaam tried, one of his prophecies said this about Israel’s eventual victory over Moab, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17). Apparently through David this prophesy was fulfilled. The Moabites served Israel until after the death of Ahab, recorded in II Kings 3:4-5 “Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to pay the king of Israel a tribute of a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams. But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.” Israel never conquered them again.
David also attacked the Syrians or Aramites. Two distinct parts of this nation existed, one was Aram Naharaim,—Syria of the rivers, the capital of which was Damascus. Naaman had boasted about its rivers in II Kings 5:15: “‘Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’ So he turned and went off in a rage.” The second part was Aram Zobah, which joined Aram Naharaim, but extended to Euphrates. In Genesis 15:18 God had given this land to Abraham and his descendants. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—.’” David began with the Syrians of Zobah, as vases 3-4.say, “Moreover, David defeated Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when he went to restore his monument at the Euphrates River. David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses.” David defeated Zobah and took his chariots and horsemen. I Sam says there were 700 horsemen, but I Chron 18:4 says 7,000. If the 7,000 were divided into groups of 10 each, there would be 700 groups with 10 horses in each group. These were evidently all crippled by David and his men except for the 100 which David kept.
God had forbidden Israel’s kings to multiply horses in Deut. 17:16, “The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself” David reserved only 100 chariots out of 1000 for his own use. Hopefully this was because he placed his strength not in chariots nor horses, but in the living God as he claimed in Ps 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Furthermore, David also wrote Psalm 33:16-17, which says, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.”
And what good were the Syrians of Damascus to help poor Zohah? Twenty-two thousand died on the battlefield and Damascus also became a garrison for David’s soldiers, not enemy soldiers, just like at Metheg Ammah in Phlistia. “When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down twenty-two thousand of them. He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (6).
It became easy for David to make himself master of the country, and garrison it for himself. The Metheg Ammah event was repeated for David and it can be for you and me today too. The enemies of God’s church in your community want to unite against you to secure themselves, but in the end, because of your Metheg Ammah victory they will ruin themselves; in their unity against you they will all fall together. Isaiah was a masterful literary genius. Notice the irony in his words as he challenges and taunts the king of Assyria. Isaiah 8:9 says, “Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered!” This was the confidence Isaiah indicated that could belong to those who enjoyed God’s victory. You can too. I can too.
In all these wars, David was protected: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (6). Apparently, David himself led the troops in the cause of God and Israel. He risked his own life in the high places of the field; but God covered him in the day of battle, which he often wrote about in his psalms to the glory of God. David was not only protected, he received much from the spoils of the battle. He was enriched. He took the shields of gold which the servants of Hadadezer had in their custody, “David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem” (7). He also took a lot of brass from several cities of Syria. “From Tebah and Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze” (8). David took it, and if we express it in military terms, he took it by the uncontrollable right of the longest sword and also a commission from heaven. This land belonged to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and David secured it.
2. Gifts David Received From His Friends 9-14
Next we observe God’s favor on David by the benefits he receive from the kindness of his friends. The king of Hamath was apparently at war with the king of Zobah. If ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is true, we can understand why Hamath was so happy to hear of David’s victories. He sent his own son to congratulate David on his victory, to express thanks for the favor David had done for him in reducing the power of one he feared and to ask for his friendship. And to bring him gifts: “When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, he sent his son Joram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold and of bronze (9-10). David lost nothing by taking Tou under his protection.
And what did David do with the spoils and the gifts? He evidently dedicated them all to the Lord, since verses 11-12 say, “King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. He also dedicated the plunder taken from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah.” This crowned all his victories, and made them far out-shine any glory other kings may have appeared to enjoy. Alexander and Caesar, for example, like most kings, wanted their own glory, but David aimed at the glory of God. David burned their gods of gold, but he dedicated their vessels of gold. Was this foretaste of the fulfillment of Rev. 21:24 which says, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.”
Consider the reputation David gained by his victory over the Syrians and their allies the Edomites. The Edomites are referred to in Psalm 60 the title of which seems to apply uniquely to these developments. Let’s compare the title of the 60th Psalm, which he wrote then, with verses 3-14: “And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” And Psalm 60 is called “A Miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Nahaaraim and Aram Zobah, and the Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” David wrote a Psalm or song so he could sing about the victory God had given to him and he dedicated the spoils and gifts from those victories so his successor could build a glorious temple. The Edomites all became David’s servants and remained subservient to Israel for many years. Isaac had predicted that Esau would eventually break the yoke off his neck. This was apparently done in Joram’s day many generations later. II Chron 21:8 says, “In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled and set up its own king.”
David and Solomon worked well together though a-synchronically (not at the same time). David conquered the surrounding enemies and received wealth from them, so the land had rest and peace and Solomon had time to build the temple. These were Israel’s glory days. God gives gifts, and abilities and then directs His servants according to an amazing plan. Some are busy in spiritual battles, others in the spiritual buildings, one prepares work for the other, that God may have the glory in it all. Each man and woman of God needs to understand the role they are to play, the work they are to do. Are they building on what has proceeded them or are they ploughing and preparing for what God has in mind to follow. You and your predecessor and your successor are a team, God’s team. You work a-synchronically, but you each do your part and God builds His church. Remember the unique partnership between David’s conquests and Solomon buildings.
3. Administrative Matters 15-18
David was not so engaged in his wars and diplomacy abroad that he neglected the administration of the government at home. Both parts of verse 15 are beautiful: “David reigned over all Israel,” his care included all the parts of his dominion, not only did he have the right and responsibility to reign over all the tribes, but he did so; they were all safe under his protection, and shared in the fruits of his good government. And at the same time, he did justice with an unbiased unwavering hand: doing what was just and right for all his people.” He neither did wrong nor denied or delayed right to any. He heard complaints from anyone, high or low. He did not pervert justice and was in many ways a type of Christ who is described in Rev. 19:11. “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, who rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” He never perverted justice through favoritism or prejudice and had respect of persons in judgment. See Ps. 72:1-2 say, “Endow the king with justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.”
David’s administration included a group of fine men who kept good order. Saul had one, Abner the captain of the hosts, but David had a list: Joab that was general in the field, and Banaiah that was over the Cherethites and Pelethites, who were either archers and slingers, the life-guards, or the standing force that attended the king’s person, perhaps comparable to national police who kept order at home while the army dealt with enemies abroad. They were ready to do any necessary service, to assist in the administering of justice, and to preserve the public peace. We find them employed in proclaiming Solomon the new king in I Kings 1:38. Compare the names in verses 17-18, “Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites;” with the names in I Kings 1:38, “So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok and Ahimelech were apparently priests under the leadership of Abiathar, the high priest.
Two civil offices are mentioned, one that was recorder, probably with the responsibility to help the king remember the wide variety of pieces of information kings are supposed to know and/or remember and, another that was scribe, possibly with a responsibility similar to those of a secretary of state. David’s sons had places of honor and responsibility. Another brief picture of them is recorded in the last phrase of I Chron. 18:17, “David’s sons were chief officials at the king’s side.”
As Christian leaders we will have administrative responsibilities too. May the Lord grant to each of us the discernment necessary to ascertain the skills, strengths and weaknesses of each team member so that each person is serving in the capacity for which God created them to be well suited. From the brief description of David’s administrative team we are not able to know how successful it was. We know that it was not perfect in that it allowed Absalom to gain political power that certainly more than just threatened the security of David’s throne. Also in I Chron 27:25-34 is a much longer list of officials and responsible persons. Suffice it to say for the present study, that David was organized and he administered fairly and with justice.
With regard to your external enemies, the devil and his agents, you and I can learn from David’s military policies and establish garrison in places of victory so we too become more than conquerors. Phil 4:7 says, “. . . the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Amplified New Testament says something like “will mount a garrison” in place of the word “guard.” God not only gives us peace but establishes a garrison in our heart to maintain it. David not only conquered the Philistines, Arameans and Edomites, he also placed garrisons in those places to maintain the victory he had gained. Let’s do that with our spiritual victories so our ministries—the work God has assigned to us—flourish from glory to glory. We learn here from David that we not only want victories; we also want garrisons to maintain them.