Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The last words of David - i. e., his last Psalm, his last "words of song" Sa2 22:1. The insertion of this Psalm, which is not in the Book of Psalms, was probably suggested by the insertion of the long Psalm in 2 Sam. 22.
David the son of Jesse said ... - The original word for "said" is used between 200 and 300 times in the phrase, "saith the Lord," designating the word of God in the mouth of the prophet. It is only applied to the words of a man here, and in the strikingly similar passage Num 24:3-4, Num 24:15-16, and in Pro 30:1; and in all these places the words spoken are inspired words. The description of David is divided into four clauses, which correspond to and balance each other.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:4
Comparisons illustrating the prosperity of the righteous king.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:5
Although my house ... - The sense of this clause (according to the the King James Version) will be that David comparing the actual state of his family and kingdom during the later years of trouble and disaster with the prophetic description of the prosperity of the righteous king, and seeing how far it falls short, comforts himself by the terms of God's covenant Sa2 7:12-16 and looks forward to Messiah's kingdom. The latter clause, "although he make it not to grow," must then mean that, although at the present time the glory of his house was not made to grow, yet all his salvation and all his desire was made sure in the covenant which would be fulfilled in due time. But most modern commentators understand both clauses as follows: "Is not my house so with God that He has made with me an everlasting covenant," etc.? "For all my salvation and all my desire, will He not cause it to spring up?" namely, in the kingdom of Solomon, and still more fully in the kingdom of Christ.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:8
The duplicate of this passage is in 1 Chr. 11, where it is in immediate connection with David's accession to the throne of Israel, and where the mighty men are named as those by whose aid David was made king. The document belongs to the early part of David's reign. The text of Sa2 23:8-9 is perhaps to be corrected by comparison with Ch1 11:11-12.
Chief among the captains - There is great doubt about the exact meaning of this phrase.
(1) the title is given to two other persons, namely, to Abishai in Sa2 23:18; Ch1 11:20, and to Amasa in Ch1 12:18.
(2) the word translated "captain," is of uncertain meaning, and the orthography repeatedly fluctuates throughout this and the duplicate passage in 1 Chr. 11, between "Shalish" a captain, and "Sheloshah" three.
(3) if, however, the text of Chronicles be taken as the guide, then the sense of "captain" will not come into play, but the word will be a numeral throughout, either "three" or "thirty," and will describe David's band of thirty mighty men, with a certain triad or triads of heroes who were yet more illustrious than the thirty.
In the verse before us, therefore, for "chief among the captains," we should render, "chief of the thirty."
Eight hundred - The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles has "three hundred," as in Sa2 23:18. Such variations in numerals are very frequent. Compare the numbers in Ezra 2 and Neh. 7.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:9
Gone away - Rather, went up to battle (Sa2 5:19; Kg2 3:21, etc.) against them. These words and what follows as far as "troop" Sa2 23:11 have fallen out of the text in Chronicles. The effect of this is to omit EIeazar's feat, as here described, to attribute to him Shammah's victory, to misplace the flight of the Israelites, and to omit Shammah altogether from the list of David's mighty men.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:11
Hararite - Interpreted to mean "mountaineer," one from the hill country of Judah or Ephraim.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:13
The feat at Bethlehem by three of the thirty was the occasion of their being formed into a distinct triad; Abishai Sa2 23:18, Benaiah Sa2 23:20, and a third not named, were probably the three.
In the harvest time - An error for "to the rock" (compare the marginal reference).
The troop of the Philistines - The word rendered "troop" occurs in this sense only here (and, according to some, in Sa2 23:11), and perhaps in Psa 68:11. In 1 Chr. 11, as in Sa2 23:16 the reading is "host" or "camp," which may be the true reading here.
Pitched - The same Hebrew word as "encamped" in Ch1 11:15.
Valley of Rephaim - Or Giants. See Sa2 21:16 note.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:14
In an hold - In "the hold" Ch1 11:16 close to the cave of Adullam (marginal reference note). It shows the power and daring of the Philistines that they should hold a post so far in the country as Bethlehem.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:15
A cistern of deep, clear, cool water, is called by the monks, David's Well, about three-quarters of a mile to the north of Bethlehem. Possibly the old well has been filled up since the town was supplied with water by the aqueduct.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:16
Brake through the host - Their camp was pitched in the valley of Rephaim Sa2 23:13; Ch1 11:15. It follows from this that the way from Adullam to Bethlehem lay through or across the valley of Rephaim.
Poured it out unto the Lord - It was too costly for his own use, none but the Lord was worthy of it. For libations, see Jdg 6:20 note.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:17
Better as in Ch1 11:19.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:18
Three - "The three" Sa2 23:22. It was Abishai's prowess on this occasion that raised him to be chief of this triad.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:19
i. e., "Was he not the most honorable of the three of the second order, howbeit, he attained not to the three," the triad, namely, which consisted of Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah. That two triads are mentioned is a simple fact, although only five names are given.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:20
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada - He commanded the Cherethites and Pelethites all through David's reign Sa2 8:18; Sa2 20:23, and took a prominent part in supporting Solomon against Adonijah when David was dying, and was rewarded by being made captain of the host in the room of Joab Kg1 1:8, Kg1 1:26, Kg1 1:32-40; Kg1 2:25-35; Kg1 4:4. It is possible that Jehoiada his father is the same as Jehoiada Ch1 12:27, leader of the Aaronites, since "Benaiah the son of Jehoiada" is called a "chief priest" Ch1 27:5.
Two lion-like men - The Hebrew word אריאל 'ărı̂y'êl, means literally "lion of God," and is interpreted to mean "an eminent hero." Instances occur among Arabs and Persians of the surname "lion of God" being given to great warriors. Hence, it is supposed that the same custom prevailed among the Moabites. But the Vulgate has "two lions of Moab," which seems to be borne out by the next sentence.
Slew a lion ... - Rather, THE lion, one of those described above as "a lion of God," if the Vulgate Version is right. Apparently in a severe winter a lion had come up from its usual haunts to some village in search of food, and taken possession of the tank or cistern to the terror of the inhabitants, and Benaiah attacked it boldly and killed it.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:23
David set him over his guard - "Made him of his privy council," would be a better rendering. See Sa1 22:14 note. This position, distinct from his office as captain of the Cherethites and Pelethites, is clearly indicated Ch1 27:34.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:24
etc. The early death of Asahel Sa2 2:32 would make it very likely that his place in the 30 would be filled up, and so easily account for the number 31 in the list. Compare throughout the list in 1 Chr. 11.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:36
It is remarkable that we have several foreigners at this part of the list: Igal of Zobah, Zelek the Ammonite, Uriah the Hittite, and perhaps Nahari the Beerothite. The addition of Zelek to the mighty men was probably the fruit of David's war with Ammon Sa2 8:12; 10; Sa2 12:26-31.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 23:39
Thirty and seven in all - This reckoning is correct, though only 36 "names" are given, the names of only two of the second triad being recorded, but 31 names are given from Sa2 23:24 to the end, which, added to the two triads, or six, makes 37. Joab as captain of the whole host stands quite alone. In Ch1 11:41-47; after Uriah the Hittite, there follow sixteen other names, probably the names of those who took the places of those in the former list, who died from time to time, or who were added when the number was less rigidly restricted to thirty.