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Tide Reversal


2 Samuel 8:1–8

After this it came to pass that David attacked the Philistines and subdued them. And David took Metheg Ammah from the hand of the Philistines.

Then he defeated Moab. Forcing them down to the ground, he measured them off with a line. With two lines he measured off those to be put to death, and with one full line those to be kept alive. So the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought tribute.

David also defeated Hadadezer the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his territory at the River Euphrates. David took from him one thousand chariots, seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers. Also David hamstrung all the chariot horses, except that he spared enough of them for one hundred chariots.

When the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David killed twenty-two thousand of the Syrians. Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus; and the Syrians became David’s servants, and brought tribute. So the LORD preserved David wherever he went. And David took the shields of gold that had belonged to the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. Also from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took a large amount of bronze.

This section shifts gears from David’s magnificent prayer of thanksgiving to a summary of his military conquests. However, this may not have happened right after the prayer of 2 Samuel 7:18–29.

The defeat of Hadadezer in verse three fits best when viewed as coming after the events at the end of chapter ten. As such, this is Hadadezer’s Waterloo. It’s an attempt to recover from his defeat in 2 Samuel 10:15–19, and the result is disastrous.

So, this section probably sets up what is to follow logically, not chronologically. Here David expands and consolidates the nation of Israel, initiating an era of peace and prosperity.

David did what Saul could not.

Most importantly, these military victories reversed the tide. Saul was crowned for the purpose of fighting battles; that’s why Israel wanted a king in the first place. The Philistines killing Saul and his sons in battle had great symbolic significance.

The encouragement this brought to the Philistines cannot be overstated. They thought it was all over and they had won. They assumed that Israel would be subjugated, that the Philistines would gain the spoils of war, and that Israel would have to pay tribute to its new masters.

But just the opposite happened. The Philistines and their allies end up totally defeated. They are subjugated. Their gold and bronze are hauled away. They are the ones who bring tribute.

And, most importantly, Israel’s God is the real one.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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