II Samuel 2:1-11 Two Kings And Two Kingdoms.
Immediately we see a major contrast between David and Saul. Before David moves on he asks the LORD if he should go up to any of the cities of Judah, until he is specifically told to go to Hebron (v. 1). This echoes the behavior of the people with the passing of Joshua when they inquired of the LORD as to who should lead the charge against the Canaanites, to take the promised land, where Judah was also selected (Jud. 1:1-2). We know that this continued the same pattern that David had followed earlier against the Philistines (I Sa. 23:2, 4), including the employment of Abiathar the priest and the ephod, which of course contained the Urim and Thummim (I Sa. 23:9-12). David again employed the latter before going against the Amalekites (30:7-8). Hebron was one of the places, we are told, where David and his men liked to roam, and one of those places to which David sent some of the spoil from the defeat of the Amalekites (I Sa. 30:31). Since there is no such direct guidance like David had today, what is to be learned by the present people of God, beyond the thought that we should seek the guidance of the LORD? What specifically ought we to look at in this passage and incident that we can employ in our decision making process?
Firstly, David’s whole basis for this inquiry was the fact that the LORD had already chosen him to be anointed as the new king of Israel. Secondly, with the death of Saul the nation was ready and in need of a successor. Thirdly, with respect to Judah, there was a history of the LORD choosing this tribe to lead and represent the whole in the nation’s covenant relationship with Yahweh. Fourthly, and furthermore, with respect to Hebron in particular, it held special covenantal significance. When the covenant was renewed with the patriarch Abram (Gen. 12), part of which included his leaving his country and going to the land the LORD had promised, the first place Abram went to, where he built an altar to the LORD, was at Hebron (Gen. 13:18). It was also the place where Abraham acquired his first plot of land in which to bury his wife Sarah (Gen. 23). Abraham was also buried here, as was Isaac, and later Jacob (Gen. 25:7-11; 35:27-29; 49:29-33). Although Joseph died in Egypt, he made the people take an oath that his bones would be brought up from there and taken with them when they entered the promised land, no doubt to also be buried with the other patriarchs in Hebron (Gen. 50:25). Fifthly, Hebron was also “a royal city when the Israelites came from Egypt (Josh. 10:3)” (NGSB. 427).
Hebron was no doubt chosen as a royal dwelling place because its elevation was the highest in the land, therefore having a strategic advantage. It seems likely that David could have also based his decision on all the above reasons even without direct divine revelation (vv. 2-3). It was the place which held covenantal significance. Hebron would now become the place where the people would confirm the LORD’s anointing of David as king of Judah, with an anointing ceremony of their own (I Sa. 16:1-13). The people were simply confirming that they would be bound by the decision of the LORD (v. 4a). As soon as they had anointed David, they told him that “the men of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who buried Saul” (v. 4b). Upon hearing this David sent messengers to them and informed them that they were blessed of the LORD for what they did in showing kindness to Saul their king (v. 5). David then hopes and prays that the LORD might continue to show kindness to them, and that he also would continue to do so (v. 6). He also encouraged them to be strengthened and valiant, because there was a succession to the kingly throne with the people’s anointing of him as the new king over the house of Judah (v. 7). This was both a theological reality, but also a political move on David’s part.
This was a strategic political move because Jabesh Gilead was in the territory of Israel, and David needed allies if he were to be anointed as the king of Israel also. “But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim; and he made him king” (vv. 8-9a). Here we see the stark contrast between the political leadership of Judah and Israel, and of the godly and ungodly seeds. Even though David was anointed by the LORD through the prophet Samuel, his reign nevertheless required the confirmatory anointing of the people. In Israel, on the other hand, Abner simply decides to make Ishbosheth the successor to Saul, the king over all Israel, basing this merely upon him being Saul’s only son. Abner’s man-made political move based strictly on heredity, ignored the greater move made by the LORD of the covenant. David, on the other hand was seeking the loyalty vote of the people of Jabesh Gilead (v. 9b-10). Even under monarchial rule, the people had a vote as to who their kingly representative would be, a feature lacking in modern monarchies, such as we find in the British commonwealth. “The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months” (v. 11).