Verses 1-8 (2 Samuel 8:1-8)

God had given David rest from all his enemies that opposed him and made head against him; and he having made a good use of that rest, has now commission given him to make war upon them, and to act offensively for the avenging of Israel?s quarrels and the recovery of their rights; for as yet they were not in full possession of that country to which by the promise of God they were entitled.

I. He quite subdued the Philistines, 2 Sam. 8:1. They had attacked him when they thought him weak (2 Sam. 5:17), and went by the worst then; but, when he found himself strong, he attacked them, and made himself master of their country. They had long been vexatious and oppressive to Israel. Saul got no ground against them; but David completed Israel?s deliverance out of their hands, which Samson had begun long before, Jdg. 13:5. Metheg-ammah was Gath (the chief and royal city of the Philistines) and the towns belonging to it, among which there was a constant garrison kept by the Philistines on the hill Ammah (2 Sam. 2:24), which was Metheg, a bridle (so it signifies) or curb upon the people of Israel; this David took out of their hand and used it as a curb upon them. Thus, when the strong man is disarmed, the armour wherein he trusted is taken from him, and used against him, Luke 11:22. And after the long and frequent struggles which the saints have had with the powers of darkness, like Israel with the Philistines, the Son of David shall tread them all under their feet and make the saints more than conquerors.

II. He smote the Moabites, and made them tributaries to Israel, 2 Sam. 8:2. He divided the country into three parts, two of which he destroyed, casting down the strong-holds, and putting all to the sword; the third part he spared, to till the ground and be servants to Israel. Dr. Lightfoot says, ?He laid them on the ground and measured them with a cord, who should be slain and who should live;? and this is called meting out the valley of Succoth, Ps. 60:6. The Jews say he used this severity with the Moabites because they had slain his parents and brethren, whom he put under the protection of the king of Moab during his exile, 1 Sam. 22:3, 4. He did it in justice, because they had been dangerous enemies to the Israel of God; and in policy, because, if left in their strength, they still would have been so. But observe, Though it was necessary that two-thirds should be cut off, yet the line that was to keep alive, though it was but one, is ordered to be a full line. Be sure to give that length enough; let the line of mercy be stretched to the utmost in favorem vitae?so as to favour life. Acts of indemnity must be construed so as to enlarge the favour. Now Balaam?s prophecy was fulfilled, A sceptre shall arise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, to the utmost of which the fatal line extended, Num. 24:17. The Moabites continued tributaries to Israel till after the death of Ahab, 2 Kgs. 3:4, 5. Then they rebelled and were never reduced.

III. He smote the Syrians or Aramites. Of them there were two distinct kingdoms, as we find them spoken of in the title of the Ps. 60:1-12: Aram Naharaim,?Syria of the rivers, whose head city was Damascus (famed for its rivers, 2 Kgs. 5:12), and Aram Zobah, which joined to it, but extended to Euphrates. These were the two northern crowns. 1. David began with the Syrians of Zobah, 2 Sam. 8:3, 4. As he went to settle his border at the river Euphrates (for so far the land conveyed by the divine grant to Abraham and his seed did extend, Gen. 15:18), the king of Zobah opposed him, being himself possessed of those countries which belonged to Israel; but David routed his forces, and took his chariots and horsemen. The horsemen are here said to be 700, but 1 Chron. 18:4 they are said to be 7000. If they divided their horse by ten in a company, as it is probable they did, the captains and companies were 700, but the horsemen were 7000. David houghed the horses, cut the sinews of their hams, and so lamed them, and made them unserviceable, at least in war, God having forbidden them to multiply horses, Deut. 17:16. David reserved only 100 chariots out of 1000 for his own use: for he placed his strength not in chariots nor horses, but in the living God (Ps. 20:7), and wrote it from his own observation that a horse is a vain thing for safety, Ps. 33:16, 17. 2. The Syrians of Damascus coming in to the relief of the king of Zobah fell with him. 22,000 were slain in the field, 2 Sam. 8:5. So that it was easy for David to make himself master of the country, and garrison it for himself, 2 Sam. 8:6. The enemies of God?s church, that think to secure themselves, will prove, in the end, to ruin themselves, by their confederacies with each other. Associate yourselves, and you shall be broken in pieces, Isa. 8:9.

IV. In all these wars, 1. David was protected: The Lord preserved him whithersoever he went. It seems, he went in person, and, in the cause of God and Israel, jeoparded his own life in the high places of the field; but God covered his head in the day of battle, which he often speaks of, in his psalms, to the glory of God. 2. He was enriched. He took the shields of gold which the servants of Hadadezer had in their custody (2 Sam. 8:7) and much brass from several cities of Syria (2 Sam. 8:8), which he was entitled to, not only jure belli?by the uncontrollable right of the longest sword (?Get it, and take it?); but by commission from heaven, and the ancient entail of these countries on the seed of Abraham.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary