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August Konkel: Between the dynastic oracle in chapter 17 and David’s purchase of the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (Ornan, NRSV) as the location of the future temple (ch. 21), the Chronicler has provided a summary of the wars of David that provided the circumstance in which Solomon had peace to build the temple. . .

David’s victories are extensive: the Philistine territory along the Mediterranean (1 Chron 18:1), Moab across the Jordan (v. 2), Hadadezer and the Arameans of Damascus in the north and northeast (vv. 3–8), Edom in the southeast (vv. 12–13). He is known as far north as Tou of Hamath, who receives relief from his own wars with Hadadezer (vv. 9–11). Booty is garnered from Edom, Moab, the Philistines, Ammonites, and Amalekites (18:11), though no battles are mentioned for the last two. . .


Expansion of the Kingdom, 18:1–13

Administration of the State, 18:14–17

Victories over Ammonites and Arameans, 19:1–20:3

Victories over Philistines, 20:4–8

Martin Selman: Chapters 18-20 contain an outline of David’s creation of an Israelite empire. This achievement was mainly the result of external expansion through military victories, though one short passage (18:14-17) shows that internal reorganization also played a part. The material is clearly selective, with few details and little analysis of the causes and progress of individual conflicts.

Andrew Hill: The literary genre of this section may be identified as historical story and includes a variety of subgenres like the battle report (e.g., 18:1–6, 12–13; 19:16–19), booty lists (e.g., 18:7–11; 20:2–3), exploit report (e.g., 20:4, 5), and anecdote (e.g., 20:6–7). Structurally, the literary unit of chapters 18–20 is loosely organized by the repetition of the conjunctive formula “in the course of time” (18:1; 19:1; 20:4). Allen has detected a more subtle structural marker in the repetition of the word “subdue” (knʿ ) at the beginning and the end of the passage, creating a type of envelope construction for the account of David’s wars (1 Chron. 18:1; 20:4 [NIV “subjugated”]; cf. 17:10). This theme is reinforced by the repeated phrase “became subject to” (ʿbd) in each of the battle reports (18:2, 6, 13; 19:19).

Theologically, the retelling of David’s wars and the subduing of the nations demonstrates a partial fulfillment of the covenant Yahweh granted David, an important theme in the Chronicler’s theology of hope for postexilic Judah. The narrative also verifies David’s role as a faithful servant in the fulfillment of the commission entrusted to him to provide a haven for the people of Israel (cf. 17:8–10). . .

More important to the Chronicler’s message is the theological commentary found at the midpoint and end of the chapter (18:6, 13). The God who “gave David victory” is the God of the Chronicler and postexilic Judah. That same blessing of divine approval awaits those who dedicate themselves in expectant faith to the spiritual and physical restoration of Jerusalem, even as King David dedicates the silver and gold plundered in war to the work of the Lord (18:11).

Iain Duguid: The collation of David’s victories carries the story forward in two ways.

– First, we see how God fulfills his promise (1 Chron. 17:10) as David “subdues” his enemies (18:1; 20:4) and neighboring peoples become his “servants” (18:2, 6, 13; and “became subject,” 19:19).

– Second, the collation illustrates how David was indeed one who “shed much blood and . . . waged great wars,” but the result was the “rest” that enabled Solomon to build the temple (22:8–10; 28:3). Chapters 18–20 will be followed by arrangements for the temple and its worship.

It is possible that the overall arrangement is intentionally chiastic: Philistine victories provide the outer frame (18:1; 20:4–8) and victories east and north the inner frame (18:2–13; 19:1–20:3), with administrative arrangements central (18:14–17). This is a pointer that the military ventures were a means of providing stability and security for the good administration of “all Israel.”


A. (:1) Military Victories against the Philistines in the West

“Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines

and subdued them and took Gath and its towns from the hand of the Philistines.”

August Konkel: David’s earlier wars with the Philistines in 1 Chronicles 14:8–17 were defensive battles to preserve Israelite territory. The wars described here are to subjugate enemies, as Nathan the prophet had promised (17:10), to eliminate threat and fear, to provide security and rest.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown: The full extent of David’s conquests in the Philistine territory is here distinctly stated; whereas in the parallel passage, 2 Sam 8:1, it is only described in a general way. Gath was the ‘Methegammah,’ or ‘arm-bridle,’ as it is there called, either from its supremacy, as the capital, over the other Philistine towns, or because, in the capture of that important place and its dependencies; he obtained the complete control of his restless neighbors.

Rich Cathers: Gath — About 30 miles west and south of Jerusalem. The parallel passage states:

2 Samuel 8:1 Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines and subdued them; and David took control of the chief city from the hand of the Philistines.

So, apparently Gath was considered the chief of the five Philistine cities. (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Lachish, Gath) Also, Gath was the home of David’s first conquest, Goliath.

B. (:2) Military Victories against the Moabites in the East

“And he defeated Moab,

and the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute.”

Andrew Hill: David apparently leaves local leadership in place [ in the land of the Philistines and of Moab] but imposes annual tribute as a satellite state of Israel.

Ron Daniel: The Moabites had been enemies of Israel ever since they hired Balaam the prophet to curse the Jews (Num. 22) as they wandered in the wilderness. When David defeated them, he made them subject to Israel, forced to pay tribute, which is essentially “protection money.”

C. Military Victories against a Variety of Enemies in the North and Northeast

1. (:3-4) Defeat of Hadadezer king of Zobah

“David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his rule to the Euphrates River. 4 And David took from him 1,000 chariots and 7,000 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers, and David hamstrung all the chariot horses, but reserved enough of them for 100 chariots.”

August Konkel: The encounter with Hadadezer king of Zobah, a territory north of Damascus toward Hamath, is introduced immediately following the subjugation of Philistia and Moab (18:3). It was the result of an intervention in setting up a monument at the Euphrates River. Kings would set up monuments outside their own territory to represent their presence in territory they controlled. The Euphrates was a natural boundary for such a monument because it separated the northwest from the east. It is not certain whether David or Hadadezer was engaged in setting up the monument, which was north of both of their territories. The inference of the Chronicler, made from 2 Samuel 8:3, is that David was setting up the monument as a testament to his expanded conquests when Hadadezer resisted him. The result was an expanded war with the Arameans (2 Sam 8:4–6), which brought about a very significant dominion to the young state. The territory of David now extended to the boundaries of Tou, king of Hamath, and its territories on the Orontes River (1 Chron 18:9–11). The king of Hamath was eager to form an alliance with David since the Israelites effectively ended his conflict with the Arameans to the south. Tou had no desire to engage the military might of David, but he was content to have a secure southern border to his territories. Summary statements are given in verses 6 and 13: The LORD gave David victory wherever he went. These episodes demonstrate the fulfillment of the prophetic promise in 17:8–10a. . .

David also engaged in destroying the weaponry of the Arameans. The Chronicler tells us that David hamstrung all but a hundred of the chariot horses (1 Chron 18:4b). This practice follows the analogy of Joshua 11:6–9, where God requires that the horses be disabled and the chariots burned. In both cases this was to cripple the military of mercenary forces. It may have been a precaution against them being hired again in a military attack, but it also may have been regarded as a stipulation of what is termed holy war. All booty of those battles won by direct divine intervention belonged to God and could not be used as plunder [War in Chronicles, p. 481]. In Joshua 11:6 the spoils of war at Hazor were regarded as profane (ḥalalim) for Israel, a categorization that always carries moral implications.

Ron Daniel: We can see how riches might corrupt a king, and we certainly understand the problems associated with multiple wives. But what harm could there be in having lots of horses? God wanted the king of Israel to be dependent upon the Lord, not on his own military might. David understood this, and even wrote in one of his psalms,

Psa. 20:7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.

Andrew Hill: David opposes Hadadezer’s declaration of sovereignty, perhaps because he has designs on controlling the trade route known as the King’s Highway (running from Sela in Edom to the city of Hamath through Damascus; this would explain David’s expansionist policy in the Transjordan against the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites).

2. (:5-8) Defeat of the Arameans of Damascus

“When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 men of the Arameans. 6 Then David put garrisons among the Arameans of Damascus; and the Arameans became servants to David, bringing tribute. And the LORD helped David wherever he went. 7 And David took the shields of gold which were carried by the servants of Hadadezer, and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 Also from Tibhath and from Cun, cities of Hadadezer, David took a very large amount of bronze, with which Solomon made the bronze sea and the pillars and the bronze utensils.”

Iain Duguid: vv. 7-11 — Although still involving Hadadezer, focus shifts from the victory itself to the spoils and their use. Emphasis is on the temple, so reinforcing the Chronicler’s association of victories and temple building.

Andrew Hill: Among the spoils David takes from Hadadezer and the cities of Zobah are large quantities of bronze. The Chronicler adds the fact that the booty is later used by Solomon in casting the bronze vessels for the temple (18:7–8). This not only provides further detail as to what became of the plunder, but also it is another way in which the Chronicler connects David to the preparations made for building Yahweh’s temple.

Rich Cathers: It seems that gold shields seem to be a picture of God’s blessing and protection. Here we see David capturing and taking gold shields. Later, Solomon would make 300 shields of gold, the pinnacle of the kingdom.

II Chronicles 9:16 And three hundred shields [made he of] beaten gold: three hundred [shekels] of gold went to one shield. And the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.

Under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the nation began its decline, as pictured with the gold shields being taken away.

II Chronicles 12:9 So Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house; he took all: he carried away also the shields of gold which Solomon had made.

3. (:9-11) Tribute from Tou King of Hamath via Hadoram

“Now when Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer king of Zobah, 10 he sent Hadoram his son to King David, to greet him and to bless him, because he had fought against Hadadezer and had defeated him; for Hadadezer had been at war with Tou. And Hadoram brought all kinds of articles of gold and silver and bronze. 11 King David also dedicated these to the LORD with the silver and the gold which he had carried away from all the nations: from Edom, Moab, the sons of Ammon, the Philistines, and from Amalek.”

Frederick Mabie: In the north against the Arameans (Syrians) of Damascus (who pay tribute and allow Israelite garrisons in Damascus; cf. v.6) and in territory previously held by Hadadezer, king of Zobah, in the Beqa Valley (prompting the king of Hamath to seek peace; vv.9–10; cf. 2Sa 8:9–10).

August Konkel: The wars against the Ammonites and the Arameans granted David control of the territory east of the Jordan as far north as the kingdom of Tou at Hamath, on the Orontes River (1 Chron 18:9–11).

D. (:12-13a) Military Victories against the Edomites in the South

“Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah defeated 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 13 Then he put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became servants to David.”

August Konkel: The subjugation of all the north and east side of Jordan provided David with the opportunity to subdue Edom and establish garrisons there. This not only granted Israel a strategic seaport to the south; it also secured the southern border. By this description, David had created a small empire. He had enlarged the size of his territory in the conquest of Philistia, and had secured subordination and contribution of tribute from all the surrounding nations.

J. Parker: Spoils from Edom

If we have conquered an enemy we must hold the conquest as an illustration of the power of God rather than of the skill of our own might or hand. The idols which we bring away from the lands of darkness are to be set up in God’s house, and are to mark points in the progress of Christian civilization. They are to be regarded as indications of a universal conquest which Christ has yet to win over the nations of the whole world. If we have brought back spoils–such as art, music, or any form of pleasure by which the popular mind can be touched and moved in an upward direction–we are to remember that in all these spoils we are to see the Divine power, and not proofs of our own military genius.

E. (:13b) Summary of the Lord’s Assistance

“And the LORD helped David wherever he went.”

Iain Duguid: In all these battles, the key element is that “the Lord gave victory [Hb. verb yashaʻ] to David wherever he went.” God’s actions through David provide for postexilic hearers an example of his answer to the cry of 1 Chronicles 16:35: “Save (yashaʻ) us . . . from . . . the nations.” (Forms of yashaʻ occur over 350 times in the MT, describing “salvation, deliverance, victory, help.” The LXX almost always has a form of sōzō, common in a variety of contexts in the NT with similar English translations, including “healing.”)


“So David reigned over all Israel;

and he administered justice and righteousness for all his people.”

August Konkel: Israel itself was a confederation of disparate tribes, genealogically related, but they retained their separate identities. David was able to reduce the hostile states to agreements of taxation and thereby provided domestic security. This could be described in a brief eulogy as governing with justice and equity (18:14 AT), much as could be said of King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21). If such a kingdom were to survive, it would require very judicious administration.

Andrew Hill: The NIV includes 18:14 in this section as an introduction to the catalog of King David’s officers, recognizing the organizational structure as a demonstration of his “just and right” rule. Some scholars mark the paragraph break at 18:15, arguing that the summary statement characterizing David’s reign better serves as the conclusion to the report of David’s victories on the battlefield. The theological assessment of David’s reign may serve double duty, functioning as a summary statement to the report of David’s wars and as an introduction to the roster of the king’s primary advisers (so Japhet). The remark does stress the fact that David rules over “all Israel,” an important theme in the Chronicler’s retelling of Israelite history. The statement also stresses that David’s reign is one of justice and righteousness. According to Japhet, this confirms that David has satisfied the Israelites’ expectations of the ideal king. Doing what is “just and right” becomes the standard by which later kings are measured (cf. Jer. 22:15) and the model for future Davidic kingship (cf. Jer. 23:5).

Mark Boda: The final phrase is literally “he enacted justice and righteousness,” qualities related to the proper administration of justice, which was a key role for the king in ancient Israel as vice-regent of the Lord (Pleins, 2001; Weinfeld 1995). These qualities typify conformity to an ethical standard or norm set by God and his law (see Ps 72:2-4, 12-14). Those who benefit from such righteous justice are the vulnerable of society, often listed as the poor, the needy, the widow, and the fatherless. Such justice has both a positive and a negative quality, that is, it involves frustrating the schemes of the oppressor as well as protecting the rights of the oppressed (see Ps 72:4). Such characteristics of royal justice ultimately find their source in the character and action of the High King of Israel, the Lord (Ps 146:7-10).

Peter Wallace: Too often we think that treating everyone “fairly” means treating everyone the same. But the equitable administration of justice means doing what is right and fair in this case. No one has ever devised a code of justice that covers every possible situation. So the question for the judge is this: given the law, how do we apply the law rightly? How do we apply the law equitably to the case before us?


“And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army,

and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder;

16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Shavsha was secretary;

17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and the sons of David were chiefs at the king’s side.”

Frederick Mabie: This list summarizes leaders entrusted to oversee particular sectors of government within David’s royal administration, perhaps as an aspect of his “just and right” rule of “all Israel” (v.14; cf. Japhet, 351). In addition, such governmental needs would stem from the territorial expansions of David’s kingdom (vv.1–13) and reflect the maturing of the Israelite nation. In addition to the royal princes (David’s sons) who served in various leadership roles within the royal bureaucracy, the Chronicler notes two areas of administration (recorder and secretary [scribe]), two areas of military service (the regular army and the specialty wing of the Kerethites [Cretans] and Pelethites [Philistines]), and one area of religious oversight (priests).

August Konkel: One of the positions in the king’s administration was that of recorder. It is not possible to determine his precise function, but it may have included the oversight of public records, necessary in a royal court, as well as reporting to the king and transmitting royal decrees, as was true in Egyptian courts. Kings were reliant on scribes, who no doubt had to function in several languages for international correspondence. Shavsha is not a Hebrew name (v. 16); it is possibly Egyptian.

J.A. Thompson: This was a carefully planned administration, a sort of cabinet. Certain parallels with Egyptian models have been noted. The “recorder” was parallel to the royal herald in the Egyptian court whose duties included regulation of the palace ceremonies, admission to royal audiences, reporting to the king matters concerning the people and the country, reporting the orders of the king to the people as the official interpreter, accompanying the king on his travels as his personal secretary, arranging for the stages of his itinerary, and serving as chief of police for the pharaoh.

Andrew Hill: The list of royal cabinet members is borrowed directly from 2 Samuel 8:15–18 (cf. also 20:23–26). This naming of the royal bureaucracy is not directly related to the accounts of David’s wars, but there are logical connections between territorial expansion and the need for administrative oversight of the Israelite empire. The source for the Israelite administrative model remains a topic of scholarly debate, with both Egyptian and Canaanite governments suggested as likely paradigms. Selman correctly reminds us, however, that native Hebrew developments in the political structure of the Israelite empire should not be overlooked.

Three distinct “departments” comprise David’s royal cabinet: a war office, a priestly office, and an administrative office.

Iain Duguid: The brief overview of administrative personnel prepares for both Joab’s key role in the census narrative that leads to the temple site (1 Chronicles 21) and the subsequent detailed temple and palace administrative arrangements (chs. 23–27).

Ron Daniel: Ben-aw-YAW, the son of Yeh-ho-yaw-DAW was over the Ker-ay-thites (“executioners”) and the Pel-AY-thites (“couriers”). These were David’s two teams of bodyguards, his secret service agents. It would seem that the Ker-AY-thites were the guys that would take down anyone who would attempt to attack David in his house, while the Pel-AY-things seem to have specialized in protection of David when traveling from one place another.