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In the Second Book of Samuel we read something very curious:

2 Samuel 5:6-8: "Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, 'You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away'; thinking, 'David cannot enter here.' 7[David] captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David. 8David said on that day, 'Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, through the water tunnel.' Therefore they say, 'The blind or the lame shall not come into the house'” (emphasis added).

On the other hand, we read of David's kindness to Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth who was lame:

2 Sam. 9:11, 13: Mephibosheth [Jonathan’s son] ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons... 13So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet."

  1. How do we reconcile these verses?
  2. What is meant by "let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, through the water tunnel" and "the blind or the lame shall not come into the house"?
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  • For starters, Mephibosheth wasn't a Jebusite.
    – Lucian
    Oct 21 '21 at 3:54
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2 Samuel 5:

6 Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, 'You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away'; thinking, 'David cannot enter here.'

The Jebusites used the phrase "the blind and the lame" meaning that even our weakest men could defend the stronghold because of its strategic formation. Zion was a fort that was easy to defend but difficult to attack. This was their way to mock David. This was their over-confidence.

David proved them wrong:

7[David] captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David. 8David said on that day, 'Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, through the water tunnel.'

Now David was quoting the Jebusites and used the phrase to sarcastically and derogatively mean all Jebusites. They were easy enemies. David found a secret way to reach them through the water tunnel.

The phrase was never used literally by the Jebusites or David and his men in this encounter.

Did David really hate the blind and the lame?

No, but he hated the Jebusites at that time of warring against them.

On the other hand, 2 Sam. 9:

11 Mephibosheth [Jonathan’s son] ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons... 13So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet."

This was a literal usage.

How do we reconcile these verses?

2 Samuel 5 involved non-literal usages; 2 Samuel 9 was a literal usage.

Lastly, 2 Samuel 5:

8b Therefore they say, 'The blind or the lame shall not come into the house'”

This one is tricky to interpret. I understand it to mean the Jebusites were not welcome to the Israelite household.

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  • This is a very interesting answer that I've not heard or read. Your points are well taken. +1
    – Xeno
    Oct 21 '21 at 18:48
  • "The phrase was never used literally by the Jebusites or David and his men in this encounter." What do you mean by David not using the phrase "literally"? You continue: "Did David really hate the blind and the lame? No, but he hated the Jebusites at that time of warring against them." But if David only hated the Jebusites, why does the text confuse us by telling us that David hated the "lame and blind" as it is impertinent? In the text it seems like David's hate is specifically related to the lame and blind, and that's what prompted the OP's question.
    – Bach
    Oct 21 '21 at 19:55
  • literally means physically. I never said: "David only hated the Jebusites". Also, see Xeno, the OP's comment just before your comment.
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 21 '21 at 20:03
  • When I said "David only hated the Jebusites" I meant it as opposed to the "lame and the blind" which is a much broader term. Indeed this is what you say in your post. I saw the OP's comment and I'm happy that he liked it, I'm just not getting how the question was adequately addressed.
    – Bach
    Oct 22 '21 at 0:10
  • Perhaps you can raise your question on a separate OP since Xeno has found my answer adequate.
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 22 '21 at 13:14
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While I am not attempting to address your question thoroughly, I just want to note that according to the LXX's reading "and those who hate David's soul", there is no need for reconciliation. Similarly in the Vulgate "remove the blind and lame who hated David’s soul”, there is no tension between chapter 5 and 9. The Hebrew word שְנֻאֵי actually has a ketiv שנאו which should probably be vocalized שָֹנְאוּ = "hated the" (similar to the Vulgate). To ease the tension in the grammar evident from the text (it switches from present to past; כל מכה indicates present, but שנאו indicates past tense), and being aware that the text has been somewhat corrupted (specifically the first part of the verse), the masoretes changed the text by adding the qere שנאי--or in this case followed a different textual tradition that read שנאי which they felt was superior to the existing text--which is itself ambiguous, because depending on how you vocalize this word it will yield different results: שְנֻאֵי = "hated by". שֹנְאֵי = "haters of". LXX probably had וְשֹנְאֵי. The masoretic nekudot indicate שְנֻאֵי = "hated by". Even so, some translations like the NJPS render thus: "the lame and blind who are hateful to David", despite the masoretic nekudot indicating otherwise. You can choose whichever translation suits your fancy, but the point is that there are many other ways to translate this text and there are many different versions as well, and you shouldn't feel the need to justify a translation based on a very specific and narrow textual tradition.

Hope this helps.

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The-Blind הַעִוְרִ֤ים "Ha-Ivrim" & The-Lame הַפִּסְחִים֙ "Ha-Pischim" were עֲצַבֵּיהֶ֖ם "idols" used as barricades (stumbling blocks) which had sculpted eyes that cannot see, sculpted ears that cannot hear, sculpted legs that cannot walk - those which David’s soul loathed [II Shmuel 5:8] and which he hated to hear of them & those that worship them.

[Radak on II Samuel]

"unless you remove the blind and the lame – Yonatan translates this phrase as ‘unless you remove the sinners and the wicked who say that David will not come here.’ - We find in the rabbinic literature that the men of Yevus said to Avraham ‘make a covenant with us that your descendants will not inherit the city of Yevus and we will sell you the Machpela cave. He did so, and the men of Yevus made bronze idols upon which they wrote the oath and then placed in the city square. - When Israel came into the land they were unable to enter the city because of the oath, as it says “And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem…” (Shoftim 1:21) When David became king he wanted to enter there but they did not allow him to, as it says “…you shall not come here…” (Shmuel II 5:6) They said to him ‘you are not able until you remove these idols upon which the oath and covenant are written’ as it says “…unless you remove the blind and the lame…" - “Therefore they say, ‘The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.’” (Shmuel II 5:8)

https://www.sefaria.org/II_Samuel.5.8?with=Radak%20on%20II%20Samuel|Quoting&lang=bi

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