2 Samuel 5:17
(17) When the Philistines heard.--After this general summary, the narrative goes back to take up detailed events in their order. First comes an attack of the Philistines. Their attention had naturally been hitherto occupied with Abner and Ish-bosheth, who ruled over the far greater part of the land; but when they heard that the old nation was united under their old foe, they saw that no time was to be lost in attacking him before his power should be consolidated. Yet their necessary consultations, and the mustering of their forces, allowed time for the conquest of Jerusalem, which David seems to have accomplished with the forces gathered at his coronation.

Went down to the hold.--As David went "down" to this place, and then "up" (2Samuel 5:19) from it to the attack on the Philistines, it is not likely that "the hold" means the citadel of Zion. It must have been some stronghold near the Philistine army. It could not have been, as some have thought, the cave of Adullam. According to the monastic tradition, this was seven or eight miles S.E. of Bethlehem; according to the more ancient view, it was in the plain of Judah, west of the mountains; thus, in either case, quite remote from the scene of the battle.

Verse 17. - But when the Philistines heard. After the battle of Gilboa the Philistines became the virtual rulers of much of the country west of the Jordan, and probably even David and Judah paid them tribute. On its eastern bank, though Abner kept them from molesting Ishbosheth's kingdom, yet the rule of Saul's house in Ephraim and Benjamin must have been nominal only, and the Philistines would have seen him with pleasure wasting his strength in civil war. After Ishbosheth's death they had tightened their grasp over the central districts of Palestine, though probably content with exacting tribute. They must now have seen with displeasure the consolidation of the tribes under one able ruler. Even in their divided state, the natural strength of the country and the bravery of the people had made it a task too great for the Philistine power entirely to crush Israel's independence. But if they could destroy David before he had had time to establish himself in his kingdom, they would at least prolong indefinitely that feebleness of Israel which had made it so long subject to their dominion. Of this supremacy the Philistines have handed down a token forever in giving to the whole country the name of Palestine, the Philistines' land. David... went down to the hold. Many commentators identify the hold with the cave of Adullam, and certainly the account of the brave deed of three of David's heroes, in breaking through the Philistine garrison of Bethlehem to bring him water thence, gives great probability to this view. For we read there that "the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim, and that David was then in the hold" (2 Samuel 23:13, 14, where note that the word "hold" has the definite article). There are, however, many difficulties connected with this view; for the cave of Adullam was in the valley of Elah, on the road from Hebron to Philistia (1 Samuel 22:1), but the valley of Rephaim is close to Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8), abutting, in fact, upon the valley of Ben-Hinnom. Baal-Perazim also is in the same neighbourhood, being the rocky height which forms the border of Ben-Hinnom, and bounds the valley of Rephaim on the north. Still, the passage in 2 Samuel 23:13, 14 seems too precise to be lightly set aside, and we must suppose, therefore, that the Philistines, alarmed by the gathering of half a million of men and women at Hebron, sent messengers throughout their country to assemble their warriors. It was the weakness of ancient warfare that its vast hosts of people melted away as rapidly as they had gathered. For provisions were soon spent, and the men had to return to their farms and their cattle. Thus David, having used some of that large concourse of strong men for the capture of Jerusalem, was left immediately afterwards with no other protection than that of his "mighty men." Saul had endeavoured to have always round him three thousand trained men (1 Samuel 13:2), and David subsequently had probably quite as many (2 Samuel 15:18); but at this early stage he had probably not many more than he had brought with him from Ziklag to Hebron. He could not, therefore, make head against the Philistines coming with all the militia of their land; but, leaving his wives and the wives of his mighty men in the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, we may well believe that he sped away to gather the warriors of Israel. But what seems strange is that he should have gone to the rear of the Philistines, especially as they had come in such vast numbers as to occupy the whole country - a garrison, for instance, being posted at Bethlehem, and doubtless at other fit spots. Still, this country was well known to David, and he could gather there old friends, whose bravery he had often tried before. And while thus waiting for the mustering of such as God would move to help him, in deep distress at so terrible a reversal following so quickly upon his exaltation, a strange longing for water from the well of his native town seized him. He was suffering apparently from fever of body as well as from distress of mind, and soon there was relief from both. For three of his heroes heard the words burst from his parched lips, and, hastening to Bethlehem, broke through the Philistine garrison, and filled a waterskin from the well at the gate of the city. Such an act naturally made a great impression upon David. What room was there for despair when he had such men around him? Pouring out, then, the water as a drink offering to Jehovah, his heart was now filled with hope, and inquiring of the Lord whether he might attack the Philistines, he received the assurance which he had already gathered from the exploit of his heroes, that God would deliver them into his hand.

5:17-25 The Philistines considered not that David had the presence of God with him, which Saul had forfeited and lost. The kingdom of the Messiah, as soon as it was set up in the world, was thus attacked by the powers of darkness. The heathen raged, and the kings of the earth set themselves to oppose it; but all in vain, Ps 2:1, &c. The destruction will turn, as this did, upon Satan's own kingdom. David owns dependence on God for victory; and refers himself to the good pleasure of God, Wilt thou do it? The assurance God has given us of victory over our spiritual enemies, should encourage us in our spiritual conflicts. David waited till God moved; he stirred then, but not till then. He was trained up in dependence on God and his providence. God performed his promise, and David failed not to improve his advantages. When the kingdom of the Messiah was to be set up, the apostles, who were to beat down the devil's kingdom, must not attempt any thing till they received the promise of the Spirit; who came with a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, Ac 2:2.But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel,.... That the civil war in the nation was now at an end, which they hoped would have issued in their destruction, and therefore lay still and quiet; but now being united under the government of David, and he hereby greatly strengthened and become powerful; and hearing also of his success against Jerusalem, and the friendship he had contracted with Hiram king of Tyre, they thought it was high time to bestir themselves, and put a stop to his power and greatness; and now it was, as Kimchi thinks, that David penned the second psalm, which begins, "why do the Heathen rage", &c. Psalm 2:1,

all the Philistines came up to seek David: in order to fight him, all the five principalities of the Philistines combined together against him; perhaps his old friend Achish king of Gath was now dead, or had now entertained a different opinion of him:

and David heard of it; that they had invaded his kingdom, and sought to fight him:

and went down to the hold; some fortified place or strong hold near Jerusalem, which lay lower than the city, or than the strong hold of Zion, in which David dwelt; hither he went, not so much for safety, or with an intention to abide there, but as a rendezvous for his men, and to prepare to meet the Philistines.

2 Samuel 5:16
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