And David gat [him] a name
Fame and reputation in the several nations of the world for valour and courage, for the many and signal victories that he obtained; the Jewish writers generally refer this to his humanity in burying the dead bodies of his enemies slain in war, which gained him great esteem among all, and even his very enemies; but nothing of that kind is pointed at here, but his conquests: or "he made himself a name"; erected a triumphal arch F2 in memory of his victories:
when he returned from smiting of the Syrians in the valley of salt,
[being] eighteen thousand [men];
in the relation of this fact in different places some difficulties arise, both as to the people smitten, and their numbers, and by whom; in this place they are said to be Syrians, but in ( 1 Chronicles 18:12 ) , and in the title of ( Psalms 60:1 ) , which was composed on account of these victories, they are called Edomites, and said to be of Edom; which may be reconciled by observing, that the Syrians and Edomites were confederates in this war; and that whereas the latter were auxiliaries to the former, the whole body of the army might be called Syrians, of which twenty two thousand were slain that were properly Syrians, and eighteen thousand Edomites, in all forty thousand; which was a very great slaughter: or the sense is, that when he had smitten the twenty two thousand Syrians, and was upon the return, he met with a body of Edomites, who came to the assistance of the Syrians, and he slew eighteen thousand of them; and the Jews say, as Jarchi observes, there were two battles; and if so, this would remove all the difficulties started; as for the numbers slain, here eighteen thousand, and ( Psalms 60:1 ) , twelve thousand, it is reconciled by observing, that Abishai first began the attack upon the Edomites, and slew six thousand of them; and then Joab fell upon them, and slew twelve thousand more, in all eighteen thousand; in ( 1 Chronicles 18:12 ) , this slaughter is ascribed to Abishai, because he began it, even the whole number; and in ( Psalms 60:1 ) , to Joab, the twelve thousand slain by him, who seconded Abishai; and the whole is here attributed to David, because he was king, under whom Abishai and Joab served as generals: and no less difficult is it to ascertain the place where this slaughter was made, called "the valley of salt": it seems by our text that it was in Syria, but in other places as if it was in Edom; see ( 2 Kings 14:7 ) ( 2 Chronicles 25:11 ) ; but in Edom itself is no such valley to be found, though there is in Syria; one traveller F3 tells us, that in the way from Aleppo to the banks of Euphrates are many villages, among which is one of note, called Tedith, famous for a synod held here by the Jews, in the year from the creation 3498, of which Ezra was the scribe; when were placed the books of the Old Testament in the order in which they now are; and near this town, he says, is the valley of salt, memorable for the victory here recorded: others say F4 about three or four hours' journey from Aleppo is the valley of salt, near which is a salt spring, whose waters running over the place leave, when dried by the sun, a great quantity of excellent salt; this salt is thrown together in the Gabboul, or salt house; but by others F5 we are informed, that near about an hour's distance from the city of Tadmor, see ( 1 Kings 9:18 ) ( 2 Chronicles 8:3 2 Chronicles 8:4 ) , is to be seen a large valley of salt, affording great quantities thereof; and it is thought that this is more probably the valley of salt mentioned here, than another which lies about four hours from Aleppo, and has sometimes passed for it; and which the above accounts show: but a modern writer F6, in his account of Palmyra, the same with Tadmor, speaks of a great plain, all covered with salt, from whence the whole country round is supplied. This plain is about a league from Palmyra, and extends itself towards the eastern part of Idumea (or Edom) the capital city of which was Bozra; and indeed this valley being both in Syria, and reaching to the borders of Edom, bids fair to be the valley here spoken of.
F2 So Hieron. Trad. Heb. in 2 Reg. fol. 78. D.
F3 Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 11.
F4 Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 347.
F5 See Lowthorp's Philosophical Transactions abridged, vol. 3. p. 504.
F6 Halifax apud Calmet's Dictionary in the Word "Salt".