Israel was a fledgling country during the reign of King David with enemies that surrounded the country on all sides. This part in history is listed on the Bible Timeline Poster around 1029 BC. Throughout Saul’s reign, incursions by neighboring tribes were constant, and it was no different during David’s reign. King David himself started his military career by slaying Goliath, one of the Philistines’ well-known giant warriors. 2 Samuel 8 offers a glimpse of David’s victories at the height of his reign.
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The Philistines were mentioned in the Bible as early as Genesis 10, in the Table of Nations under Ham (Genesis 10:14). The relationship between earlier patriarchs and the Philistines was civil. It was only when Israel emerged as a nation after the Exodus from Egypt that the relationship between the two turned hostile. The Philistines emerged as their archenemies after the Israelites settled in Canaan.
These ancient people lived on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean in cities that include Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron. Raids, as well as full-blown wars with the Philistines, were common from the time of the judge Shamgar (Judges 3:31) to Samson to David. After many years of war with the Philistines, they were finally subdued by David and he took control of Gath and its surrounding villages (1 Chronicles 18:1).
Moab, Ammon, and Amalek
The Moabites and Ammonites lived respectively east of the Dead Sea and Jordan River; while the Amalekites settled north of Kadesh Barnea in the Negev Desert. In Deuteronomy 2:9 and 2:19, the Israelites were instructed not to harass or provoke the Moabites and Ammonites owing to their descent from Lot. The Amalekites (who were Esau’s descendants) were Israel’s enemies as early as the days of wandering in the Sinai desert (Exodus 17:8).
These three surrounding tribes, however, were used by God to turn the Israelites around each time they did evil at the time of the judges. They were still raiding Israelite towns during the time of David. After he had been proclaimed king, David subdued the Ammonites. This was following the humiliation his delegates suffered while offering sympathy to the king of Ammon from his father’s death. Hanun, king of Ammon, further provoked David by assembling a coalition of Arameans and Ammonites to attack Israel. David’s commanders of the army, Joab and his brother Abishai defeated this alliance.
The last details about David’s war with the Moabites are in 2 Samuel 8:2 and 1 Chronicles 18:2. Where he dealt with the Moabites violently after their defeat and they became his subjects. The Amalekites, however, continued to be Israel’s enemy. It culminated when the Amalekites raided Negev and Ziklag. They held captive all the women and children and carried them off. Two of David’s wives were among the captives. David and his men later pursued them and recovered the women and children (1 Samuel 30).
The Amalekites gradually disappeared from the Biblical narrative after David’s time, while the Moabites and Ammonites made intermittent incursions and waged war against Israel.
There were three Aramean kingdoms mentioned during Saul and David’s reign: Damascus, Beth Rehob, and Zobah. Arameans antagonized David in the alliance with each other and once in alliance with the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10:8). All these kingdoms were defeated by David (2 Samuel 8).
Edomites and Israelites were related through their ancestors Esau and Jacob, but the Edomites refused Israel passage through their territory on the way to the Promised Land. Furthermore, there was enmity between them during the reign of Saul. David defeated the Edomites in the Valley of Salt and made them his subjects (2 Samuel 8:12-13).
Israel’s Golden Age
David’s victories against neighboring tribes are listed in 2 Samuel 8. It could be said that this was the golden age of the fledgling nation. The tribes that were subdued became subjects who paid tribute to David and plundered goods were dedicated to the Lord. David’s influence reached north when the king of Hamath sent his own son Joram to congratulate him and give gifts. Solomon reaped the benefits of his father’s military victories when he consolidated power and ruled from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines after David’s death (2 Chronicles 9:26).
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