II Samuel – Chapter 8

Homeland Security

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

David subdued the Philistines and captured the city of Meseg Ha’amah, another name for Gath, referring to its role as chief city of the Philistines. He then turned his attention to Moav. He took a rope and measured the captives on the ground. Two-thirds were killed and one-third were kept alive. (According to the Midrash, the reason David treated Moav so harshly was because they promised his family sanctuary – way back in I Samuel chapter 22 – but they killed them, instead. However, King Nachash of Ammon gave refuge to David’s brother Elihu because David was the enemy of Saul, who had defeated Ammon and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” We’ll get back to Nachash in chapter 10.)

David also conquered King Hadadezer of Tzovah, who was trying to take control of the Euphrates. David captured his chariots and horsemen; he hamstrung all the horses except enough for 100 chariots. (He had limited options. A Jewish king is not allowed to have more horses than necessary, he couldn’t return them to the enemy, and killing them would be unnecessarily cruel. He took his precedent for hamstringing them from Joshua in chapter 11 of that Book.) The kingdom Aram (of Damascus – specified because there was another Aram) came to help Hadadezer and were also defeated. David captured Hadadezer’s golden shields and large quantities of copper.

To’i, king of Chamas, heard that David defeated Hadadezer, who was an enemy of his. He sent his son Yoram to David with greetings, as well as vessels of gold, silver and copper. David dedicated all of these precious metals to the future Beis HaMikdash (Temple).

So great was David’s reputation that even his enemies respected him. Even Edom, the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, became subjects of David’s kingdom.

The chapter ends with a list of David’s “cabinet” – Yoav was his general, Yehoshafat was his historian, Tzadok and Achimelech eventually succeeded Evyasar as Kohein (Priest), S’rayah was scribe, Benayahu was military strategist and David’s sons were advisors. (At this point, they were too young. As with Tzadok and Achimelech, the verse refers to a position they were destined to hold, rather than one they held at this point.)

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