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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 23

 

 

Verse 1

2 Samuel 23:1. Now these be the last words, &c.— It is supposed that these are called the last words of David, as being the last which he pronounced by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Dr. Grey, who has taken great pains to explain this passage of Scripture, observes, that it is a point in which the learned seem now to be universally agreed, that this illustrious prophesy, introduced in so magnificent and awful a manner, is to be understood of Christ's spiritual kingdom, and his final triumph over the enemies of it. The beginning of its accomplishment may properly be dated from his entrance upon his mediatorial office; but when the time shall be of its perfect completion, is yet a secret in the hand of God. The royal Psalmist, immediately (as is probable) before his death, when the spirit of prophesy was most strongly upon him, as it had been upon Jacob and Moses in the like circumstances, being favoured by God with a clearer and more distinct revelation of this great and wonderful event, begins first with expressing the deep sense he had of the divine goodness in this gracious and comfortable communication to him, and of the certainty and powerfulness of the inspiration he was under. In the four first lines [see the following translation] this peculiar grace and favour is heightened from a consideration,—Of the person inspired; one whom, from obscure parentage and a low condition, God had exalted to be king over his chosen people, and made an instrument of establishing, or at least of considerably improving, the most delightful part of his religious worship. In the four next,—Of the author of the inspiration: the Lord Jehovah, the God and rock of Israel; whose powerful impulse is expressed by repetition of the words, He hath said, He hath spoken, and His word is upon my tongue. After this magnificent introduction, he breaks out into a kind of transport of joy and admiration at the prospect before him: 2 Samuel 23:3.

"The Just One ruleth over men!"

In the four following lines he describes the spiritual nature and glorious effects of this dominion; at line 14 his firm assurance of its perpetuity, and of the designation of it to a person of his own house and lineage; with a lively declaration of the delight and comfort which this assurance gave him, line 17. From hence to the conclusion, is a short but dreadful representation of the condition of the wicked, and of the everlasting vengeance which awaits them at that terrible day, when the wheat shall be gathered into the garner, and the chaff shall be burned with unquenchable fire. Dr. Grey observes further, that this beautiful piece of poetry consists of an agreeable mixture of iambics and trochaics, which he has reduced to metre, and given us the following translation of it:

Line 1. David the son of Jesse hath said, Even the man who was raised on high hath said, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet Psalmist of Israel.

5. The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, And his word is upon my tongue. The God of Israel hath said, Even to me hath the rock of Israel spoken.

The Just One ruleth over* men! *or among 10. He ruleth in the fear of God!

As the light of the morning a sun shall rise, A morning without clouds for brightness, When the tender grass after rain springeth out of the earth.

For is not my house established with God? 15. Yea, he hath made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and preserved: Surely in him is all my salvation, and all my desire!

Doubtless the wicked shall not flourish: They are like thorns thrust away. 20. Which shall not be taken by the hand: But the man who shall lay hold of them, Shall be armed with iron, and the staff of a spear; And they shall be utterly burnt with fire.

The sweet Psalmist of Israel This title seems most eminently to belong to David, as he was the person who had brought to perfection the music of the Jewish service; and this not only as he was the author of most of the Psalms, but as composer of the music they were set to; as prescribing to the performers their several parts; as having invented the instruments which accompanied them, and as bearing himself a part in the performance. Grey.


Verse 3

2 Samuel 23:3. He that ruleth over men must be just We prefer Dr. Grey's translation of this verse, which appears most agreeable to the whole tenor of the prophesy. He observes, that this is the first time that we meet with the Messiah, or great expected Deliverer of the Jews, under this title of the Just One. He is so called, not so much for having fulfilled all righteousness in his own person, and performed an unsinning obedience to the will of God, as because by his righteousness we are justified or accounted righteous before God upon the terms of the Gospel. The prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 53:11 is more explicit upon this point: By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities; i.e. the punishment of them: and Zechariah 9:9. He is just, and bringing or causing [not, as in the English translation, having] salvation, as all the ancient versions agree. Hence it was, that, as the time of his appearance drew nearer, we find the Messiah was frequently spoken of, and expected by the Jews, under that name; (see Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14. 1 Peter 3:18.) insomuch that even the Centurion is by some supposed to have applied to him upon the cross; Luke 23:47. Certainly this man was [not a righteous man, but] the Just One, or expected Messiah. The construction of the latter part of this verse in the original is remarkable. It is not in the fear of God, which would rather have expressed the religious character of the ruler, than the spiritual nature of his kingdom; but ruling the fear of God; that is, his rule and dominion should be such as was founded in the fear of God, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.


Verse 4

2 Samuel 23:4. And he shall be as the light, &c.— Bishop Sherlock suggested that interpretation of this verse which Dr. Grey has given: according to which, says the Bishop, taking the sun to be an image or character of the Just One, the sense will be, "This sun shall be like the kind gentle light of the morning free from clouds, and when the earth, refreshed by kind showers, is putting forth fresh verdure." The passage is beautiful, and gives an idea of a sun that never scorches, but is ever gentle, and shining with a genial heat; a sun with healing under his wings. Dr. Kennicott, in the first volume of his Dissertation, has confirmed this interpretation of the Bishop. He observes, that this song will certainly be determined to contain a prophesy of the Messiah, if a various reading in one of the oldest manuscripts, respecting the words above quoted, should appear to be genuine. It is said in our translation, that he shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth. Now is not the sun the light of the morning? Or is not the morning light the certain effect of the sun-rising? And can any thing be compared to itself, or the cause to its effect? The various reading which, if true, not only frees us from this difficulty, but proves this passage to be prophetical, stands thus: and as the light of the morning, Jehovah, the sun shall arise. This word Jehovah is regularly written in the oldest manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, as here expressed, and seems to have been omitted on account of the similitude between the adjoining words יזרח iizrach, shall arise, and יהוה iehovah, Jehovah in the original. It is impossible to read these words without recollecting the allusion to them in Malachi (iv. 2.) Shall the sun of righteousness arise, &c. which words in the original farther confirm the reading in the manuscript; for in Malachi we have the same verb, and the same noun as in this place. Here we read,—shall Jehovah the sun arise:—in Malachi—shall the sun of righteousness arise:—in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16.)—Jehovah, our righteousness:—in Isaiah 60:1. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of JEHOVAH is risen upon thee. 2 Samuel 23:2. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but יהוה יזרח iizrach iehovah, JEHOVAH SHALL ARISE upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 2 Samuel 23:3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. I leave the inference to the reader. It should be observed, that the two principal characters of Christ's kingdom are represented to us in the fine image contained in this verse: the first, that light or knowledge, which, when the sun of righteousness should arise, was to fill the earth, and to dispel the clouds of ignorance under which the world had so long sat: the other, that reviving consolation, or peace of mind, which a deliverance from the dominion of sin and death would afford true believers under the Gospel dispensation: a state, which cannot be more fitly represented than by that of the tender grass, when, after rain, it is cherished and invigorated by the kind and genial influence of the sun.


Verse 5

2 Samuel 23:5. Although my house be not so with God, &c.— This passage is universally allowed to be extremely difficult and obscure. I have not met with any interpretation which appears preferable to that given by Dr. Grey. But to those, says he, who prefer the common way of pointing, (for I make no alteration in the words of the text,) perhaps the following explanation may not appear unnatural: "Although the present situation of myself and family, and of the people of God, falls so much short of these glorious characters; yet I am fully assured, that such a time will come, according to the covenant he hath renewed with me, and his promise since the world began."


Verse 7

2 Samuel 23:7. They shall be utterly burned with fire The Chaldee paraphrase gives us the following exposition of the first words of this song: "These are the words of the prophesy of David, which he prophesied concerning the consummation of all things, in the day of consolation which is to come." And it expounds the last words thus: "Their punishment is in the hand of man, but they shall be burnt up utterly, when the house of the great judgment appears, that they may sit on the throne of judgment to judge the world." It may be proper just to observe, that several commentators understand these words primarily of David, and secondarily only as referring to the Messiah. But we have followed that interpretation of them which seems most consistent with the text, and, for the better understanding of the whole, subjoin the following paraphrase: "Thus spoke the Lord, the God of the son of Jesse, the Lord mighty and powerful, who took me from the dust, to lift me up to a throne! Thus spoke the Spirit of the Lord, which animateth David, and dictateth to him those harmonious songs, so pleasing to his nation! It is He, it is the divine Spirit who openeth my mouth, the Spirit of that God whose protection is my happiness and my glory, who inspireth me with new accents. I declare, as the monarch of the universe, the JUST ONE, by way of eminence; a king whose spiritual government will subject the nations to him, only to cause the fear of God to flourish among them. As we behold the bright morning dispel the clouds by its splendour, and recal nature into joy, causing heat to spring up in it with the day; as a gentle shower, by opening the womb of the earth, fertilizes the fields, and causes the plant to shoot, and the green herb to spring forth; so shall be the rising of the Sun of righteousness: so shall Christ bring from heaven salvation to the world, and by illuminating mortals with his light, and vivifying them by the influence of his Spirit, cause the faithful to walk surely under his laws, in the path of perfection and immortality. By promising me that this great king shall issue from one of my descendants, what hath not the great God done for my house? What a covenant is that which he hath condescended to make with me, to assure the glory of my family, and to make it flourish for ever! A covenant immutable and eternal; a covenant, in which his promises, being gradually accomplished, will from age to age have their full effect exactly at the time appointed; a covenant, which is the sure basis of my salvation, the support of my hopes, the source of all my happiness, even in the hour of death. But how different will be the fate of the wicked, obstinately bent to reject or to break the yoke of Christ! Like thorns, which are good for nothing but to tear those who touch them, they shall be approached only to be destroyed. With a destructive sword and a sure hand, they shall most terribly be smitten, shall be crushed, shall be extirpated, and utterly burned in in eternal fire."


Verse 8

2 Samuel 23:8. These be the names of the mighty men As there are variations between this list of David's mighty men, and that in 1 Chronicles 11:10 we shall omit our remarks upon those variations till we come to that chapter of the Chronicles; referring our reader in the mean time to the first volume of Kennicott's Dissertation. Note; Every faithful believer is one of the worthies of Israel, fighting under the banners of Jesus, strong in the Lord and in the power oh his might, victorious over the powers of sin and Satan; and written great, not in the annals of time indeed, but in the annals of eternity, in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Lord, may my name be found written there!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-23.html. 1801-1803.

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