The biblical account of David’s reign, particularly in the book of 1 Chronicles, focuses on David’s success as king of Israel. This makes sense, for the reign of David—and the reign of David’s son Solomon—was the high point of the history of old covenant Israel. It was during the reign of David that Israel became an empire with extensive land and influence. David extended the borders of Israel south to the edge of Egypt and in the northeast to the Upper Euphrates. He took control of the Philistine area in the west, completing the occupation of the promised land, and to the east he captured the regions of Edom (including also land southeast of Israel), Moab, and Ammon, nations that had been hostile to God’s people (Judg. 10:6–9; 1 Sam. 14:47).
In today’s passage, we read a summary of David’s conquests and their consequences for Israel’s territorial boundaries. The Chronicler mentions the conquest of Philistia in the west as well as the capturing of Edom, Moab, and Ammon in the east and southeast (1 Chron. 18:1, 11–13). We also see David’s victories against an alliance of Zobah and Syria, two territories to the north of Israel (vv. 3–8). It should be noted that the Israelites did not necessarily occupy every square inch of the territories described in 1 Chronicles 18. They did in many cases, but in some instances, the territory was effectively under Israelite control even if the Israelites did not have a lasting physical presence there. Such was the case with Hamath, located even further north. David entered into an arrangement with Tou, king of Hamath, which had often been at war with Zobah. Essentially, this was a peace treaty wherein Tou sent tribute to David and to Israel—“all sorts of articles of gold, of silver, and of bronze” (vv. 3–11). Note that much of this tribute, including what was taken from conquered and occupied territories, ended up being used in the temple that Solomon built.
First Chronicles 18:14–17 lists several officials David appointed to help him rule over Israel. It tells us also that David “administered justice and equity to all his people,” the Lord having given “victory to David wherever he went” (vv. 13–14). This was an important encouragement to later Israelites. God had promised victory to His people, and they could trust Him to provide it. As a consequence, later Israelite rulers were to show their gratitude by reigning in justice and equity. Today, this is to be modeled in the church, where leaders are to make decisions according to the justice and equity of God’s law.