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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

2 Samuel 5

Verse 1





With this chapter we have the beginning of a major section of 2Samuel, namely, 2 Samuel 5-10, where we have an abbreviated and condensed record of David's successes. A record of his sins, sorrows and disasters of his later years appear in the following section, 2 Samuel 11-20. Willis pointed out that this section carries the record of seven major events of King David's reign, these being: "(1) the conquest of Jerusalem; (2) two victories over the Philistines; (3) Bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem; (4) God's prophecy that of David's posterity one would arise to build God a `house'; (5) David's victories; (6) his kindness to the son of Jonathan; and (7) victories over the Ammonites and Syrians."[1]

The first two of these seven major happenings occur in this chapter.


"Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, "Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you that led out and brought in Israel; and the Lord said to you, `You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.' So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years."

"All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron" (2 Samuel 5:1). We learn from 2 Samuel 5:3 that they `all came' in the person of their representatives, the elders.

"David made a covenant with them" (2 Samuel 5:3). We have no way of knowing what this covenant contained and not even what any of the provisions of it were; but it fully satisfied Israel, and they promptly anointed David king.

"They anointed David king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:3). This was his third anointing. (1) He was anointed by Samuel, but at first that anointing remained a secret. Samuel did not wish to precipitate a war. (2) Then after the death of Saul, Judah made David king over them at Hebron, where he was anointed a second time. (3) This was the third.

"Before the Lord" (2 Samuel 5:3). Cook suggested that the tabernacle and altar at this time might already have been moved to Hebron. Certainly, "Abiathar and Zadok the priests were both with David, although the Ark was still at Kearjath-jearim."[2] The expression "before the Lord" indicates that solemn religious ceremonies accompanied the making of the covenant between David and the elders of Israel.

Although the heir apparent to Saul's throne was still alive, being about thirteen years old, "There was no thought in anyone's mind that Mephibosheth, Saul's grandson, should reign. The situation demanded a warrior, not a cripple."[3]

"David was thirty years old when he began to reign" (2 Samuel 5:4). This is a very interesting chronological statement.

"This proves that the earlier years of Saul's reign (during which Jonathan grew up to be a man) are passed over in silence, and that the events narrated in 1 Samuel 13 to the end of the book did not occupy a period of more than ten years. If David was twenty years old at the time he slew Goliath, four years in Saul's service, four years wandering from place to place, one year and four months in the country of the Philistines, then a few months after Saul's death would bring him to the age of thirty."[4]

This emphasizes what we have frequently pointed out that these accounts in the historical books of the Bible are extremely condensed and abbreviated.

"And he reigned forty years" (2 Samuel 5:4-5). Caird stated that, "The seven years and six months of his reign in Hebron may be accurate; but the remaining thirty-three years have probably been added to bring the total up to forty."[5] This is exactly the type of critical comment which is offensive to believers. Where is the proof of any such thing?

Verse 6


"And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, "You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off" ... thinking, "David cannot come in here." Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, "Whoever would smite the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, who are hated by David's soul" Therefore it is said, "The blind and the lame shall not come into the house." And David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. And David built the city round about from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him."

"Jerusalem has been called the spiritual capital of the world, a judgment underscored by the judgment of the United Nations' resolution of 1947, designating it as an international holy city, held in honor by Moslems, Jews and Christians alike."[6] Christians honor Jerusalem as the place from which the "Word of the Lord went forth," the scene of Our Lord's earthly ministry, especially the place where he made Atonement for the sins of mankind in his vicarious Death upon Calvary and his Resurrection from the dead, and as the type of that "Heavenly Jerusalem which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26).

Regarding David's capture of this city, there is strong disagreement among able scholars regarding the exact time of its capture. As Willis said, "It is debated";[7] and we do not consider the question to be possible of any dogmatic solution. If the exact time had been of any great importance, surely the sacred writer would have informed us. Keil placed the capture of this Jebusite city at the very first of David's reign on the basis that the sum-total of the thirty-three years of David's reign were in Jerusalem, leaving no interim in which part of his reign over all Israel could have been while David lived anywhere else.[8] Caird also accepted this, stating that, "It is quite possible that the campaign against Jerusalem was already over before the Philistines ever heard that David had become king over a united kingdom."[9] Willis preferred the opinion that, "The two battles with the Philistines occurred between David's anointing as king over all Israel and his conquest of Jerusalem."[10] The simple truth appears to be that nobody knows for sure.

The Hebrew text of this passage has been damaged in transition, and the meaning is not certain, as a comparison of various versions shows. Also, the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 11:4-9 states that David said, "Whoever smites the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander. And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became chief."

The ancient city of the Jebusites had a protected water supply that went down to a spring at the eastern foot of the ridge on which the city was built, called the water shaft in 2 Samuel 5:8. David overcame the city by sending his men up that water shaft. This has caused some to believe that David captured Jerusalem much earlier, for Joab was mentioned as the leader of David's men, during the first part of the reign of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 2:13). However, it is significant that Joab is not there called "chief and commander," indicating that, following this exploit of Joab in the capture of Jerusalem, he received the titles indicated. In these extremely-abbreviated records, it is impossible to read all the details.

"The blind and the lame will ward you off" (2 Samuel 5:6). The conceit of Jebusites was such that they boasted that they could repel any attack by David by the blind and the lame manning their fortifications. Jerusalem was indeed strong, the ancient citadel occupying the rockbound tip of the ridge lying between the Kedron Valley on the east and the Tyropeon Valley on the west at the point where the two valleys joined.

"Attack the lame and the blind who are hated by David's soul" (2 Samuel 5:8). It is best to understand these words as David's reference to the Jebusites who had so labeled their defenders. Although the Jews later forbad crippled and blind persons from serving in the temple, there is no reason to connect that with what is said here. The judgment of H. P. Smith that this verse is corrupt may very well be true.[11]

"David built the city ... from the Millo inward" (2 Samuel 5:9). There may have been a number of fortifications in Palestine that were called 'Millo,' one of them being in Shechem (Judges 9:6,20). "It appears to have been a fortress of some kind, the northern defense of the city of David, and to have been a part of the original Canaanite defenses of the city of Zion."[12] Both Solomon and Hezekiah in later times strengthened and repaired the Millo.

With the capture of this stronghold, David eliminated a Jebusite fortress that, in effect, had cut his kingdom in two; and the making of Jerusalem as his capital was one of the most important achievements of David's kingship.

Verse 11


"And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel."

"David's policy as king was that of being strong at home, but living side by side with other nations as his allies. Here he made an alliance with Hiram king of Tyre, and later an alliance with Toi king of Hamath (2 Samuel 8:9); and it was his proposed alliance with the Ammonites, which, due to their rejection of it, led to his war with them and with the Aramaeans."[13]

"Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David" (2 Samuel 5:11). This king is also mentioned in 1 Kings 9:10-14; and, critics always alert to find something they can contradict in the Bible. Since Hiram is mentioned as king in the 20th year of Solomon's reign, Bennett declared, "Hiram I cannot have been reigning so early in David's reign."[14] We might ask, "Indeed! And Why not?" Manasseh reigned over Israel for over fifty years; and since this event was probably in the eighteenth year of David's reign, and since the use of the past perfect tense in 1 Kings 9:10 indicates that what Hiram did for Solomon had been done at some indefinite time in the past, there is no reason whatever that demands that the Hiram in this chapter and in 1 Kings 9 must be considered as two different men. Keil did not hesitate to conclude that "Hiram reigned at least forty or fifty years."[15]

"Who built David a house" (2 Samuel 5:11). From the mention of cedar trees, it is evident that this house was built of cedar, as David also mentioned in 2 Samuel 7. There is no more desirable timber from which a house may be built. At Washington-on-the-Brazos, once the capital of the Republic of Texas, tourists may see the cedar house which was built for the first president of that state. The cedar wood is hostile to all kinds of insects and creeping things; and even after more than 150 years since the place was built, the attendant sweeps the dead insects out of that house every morning.

"God exalted his kingdom for the sake of ... Israel" (2 Samuel 5:12). Tatum remarked that, "It appears strange that at the very time when God was so richly blessing David, he seemed so utterly selfish. He built his own house BEFORE thinking of building a house for God."[16] There is even more evidence of David's selfishness in his sinful multiplication of his wives and concubines as related a little later. As this verse states, it was not anything that David personally deserved that resulted in all of God's wonderful blessings; those blessings were directed to the good of God's people Israel, and eventually to the salvation of all mankind.

Verse 13


"And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron; and more sons and daughters were born to David. And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada,, and Eliphelet."

Note that the daughters were not even named. The status of women was quite low in that society, and women today should indeed thank the Lord Jesus Christ who alone elevated womankind to their rightful importance and eminence. One of David's daughters, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother and was avenged in his murder by her brother Absalom.

"Shammua" (2 Samuel 5:13). This is the name that heads the list of the twelve spies sent out by Moses into Canaan (Numbers 13:1).

Speaking of David's many wives and concubines, DeHoff wrote that, "This was one of the mistakes that David made."[17] However, this was far more serious than a `mistake.' It was a gross and ridiculous sin! Yes, it was sanctioned in the lives of kings and other mighty men in ancient times, but it was still dreadfully wrong. Willis has this to say:

"In violation of Deuteronomy 17:17, David multiplied wives and concubines in Jerusalem. In addition to the six in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5) and Michal (2 Samuel 3:14-16), we must add those mentioned here ... Apparently, he had fifteen or twenty wives and concubines, opening up the way for Solomon to take seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines."[18]

It is of interest that 1 Chronicles 3:5 says that the first four sons mentioned here were born to Bathshua, the daughter of Ammiel, evidently the same as Bathsheba, since Solomon is among the four. Keil concluded that, "David had nineteen sons, six of whom were born in Hebron, and thirteen of whom were born in Jerusalem."[19]

Verse 17


"When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David; but David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of the Lord, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Wilt thou give them into my hand?" And the Lord said to David, "Go up; for I will certainly deliver the Philistines into your hand." And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them; and he said, "The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a bursting flood." Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away."

"All the Philistines went up in search of David ... David went down into the stronghold" (2 Samuel 5:17). The implications of this passage are not clear. The Philistines going "up" in search of David seems to imply that they went up against Jerusalem; but David's going "down" into the stronghold is thought by some to indicate the cave of Adullum or some other place rather than Jerusalem. Such passages as this feed the disagreement of scholars as regards the time when these battles were fought. We do not know what the answer is; but it could be that David's going down into the stronghold is a reference to his leaving the city of Jerusalem and setting up his outpost against the Philistines at some area fortification below the elevation of David's capital. Caird proposed this solution:

"If David was engaged in building operations on the hill northward from Jerusalem, he certainly would have had to `go down' to the old Jebusite city, which stood at a slightly lower level."[20]

"Now the Philistines spread out in the valley of Rephaim" (2 Samuel 5:18). Many able scholars, including Willis, identify this valley as "southwest of Jerusalem";[21] but Caird insists that, "The valley of Rephaim has been wrongly identified with the plain El Baqa which runs southwest of Jerusalem, but if the valley is placed to the south of Jerusalem, the boundary would fall well within the territory of Judah. In the present passage, it is said that David pursued the Philistines from Geba to Gezer (2 Samuel 5:25), which could have been done only if the battle were fought to the north of Jerusalem."[22] This is another of those questions which can hardly be settled satisfactorily within the limits of the abbreviated information which has come down to us.

"The Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away" (2 Samuel 5:21). 1 Chronicles 14:12 relates that David's men burned the idols of the Philistines as commanded in Deuteronomy 7:5,25; but this does not contradict what is said here. They did both!

Verse 22


"And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread out in the valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, "You shall not go up; go around to their rear and come upon them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the top of the balsam trees, then bestir yourself,' for then the Lord has gone out before you to smite the army of the Philistines. And David did as the Lord commanded him, and smote the Philistines from Geba to Gezer."

The big thing here is that God Himself achieved this victory over the Philistines. The noise of marching in the tops of the balsam trees probably threw a great panic into the hearts of the Philistines, just as the sound of many trumpets had done for the enemies of Gideon in his victory over the Midianites (Judges 7:15-23).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.