II Samuel 8 David’s Military Campaigns.

II Samuel 8 David’s Military Campaigns.

When reading of Israel’s military campaigns, in this case under David, it is well to keep in mind that the same God who brought the flood upon the whole earth, saved only a godly remnant in Noah and his household. These events share several things in common. They are all as a result of the rampant depravity of those who are the subject of God’s wrath. We also too easily forget the absolute holiness of God, and the years of patience displayed by God in giving people the opportunity to repent. It was not that Israel was sinless, just that they were a people constituted by God with his law which made provision for their failures. Finally, these events share the same basic truth, the godly participants had the direct revelation from God to do what was right and just. With the close of the canon, and the once for all completed work of Jesus the Christ, the church now lives in a situation where we do not fight literal military conflicts for Yahweh, such as was previously commanded. There are some things, like the whole of the OT sacrificial system, which simply do not carry forward in a new covenant context. One thing we do know from David’s military campaigns is that, “the LORD preserved David wherever he went” (vv. 6, 14). Whereas earlier the LORD’s people were to utterly destroy everything of his enemies, now under David they kept much spoil, which he dedicated to the LORD (v. 11).

II Samuel 7:18-29 David Bears Witness Concerning The Covenantal Bond.

II Samuel 7:18-29 David Bears Witness Concerning The Covenantal Bond.

David acknowledges that the covenant the LORD made in and through him was one in continuity with the previous administrations of the one covenant of grace, as he sat and confessed that there was nothing in him or his house to merit such favour, that in fact it was the LORD alone who had brought him to his place of rest with the promise of being a citizen in a kingdom that would last forever (vv. 18-19a). David asked the following rhetorical question. “Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” (v. 19b). Clearly it was a covenant relationship and bond that was not according to the manner of man. This covenant was not a contract between two equal parties. No, rather, it was according the revelatory word of the Lord God. It was not David’s words which initiated or established this covenantal bond and promise, for the Lord himself knew the sinful and humble state of David and those he represented (v. 20). Not only was there nothing David did to merit such favour, but his very knowledge of this covenantal bond was given to him by the revelatory word of the Lord God (v. 21).

It is always the case that the revelatory word must accompany the acts of redemption, as only thereby does any sinner come to a knowledge of the truth. For David, the fact of divine revelation is of the greatest significance. It is in and of itself a supreme act and example of grace (v. 22). After all men broke that first covenant of works in Adam, there was no obligation on God’s part to reveal anything to humans. The fact that he opens the ears of some, like David and those with him, is a shear miracle of his sovereign grace. However, it does not end there, it is through this revelatory word that his people know that he is their only redeemer, therefore we are uniquely his. Furthermore, it is through his redeemed people that his great name is known throughout the whole earth, in both the word and in his “great and awesome deeds” (v. 23). He is the one who went before them for their deliverance and inheritance. David then testifies to what is at the core of this covenantal bond. “For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD, have become their God” (v. 24).

Here David switches from ‘Lord’ God to ‘LORD’ God, indeed ‘the LORD of hosts’ (vv. 25-26). He is confessing with this that he is indeed in a covenant relationship with the LORD God, including his house (vv. 25-26). Again, he acknowledges and gives thanks for the fact that the LORD God chose to reveal this to him, including the building of the LORD’s house through his Son (v. 27). These were words spoken by the same Lord God who spoke every created thing into existence, and they are true, including the promise which goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15, and it stems from his goodness (v. 28). Given all this overflowing grace, David asks that the LORD God would enable him and his house to know the blessings that flow from fidelity to the LORD God in this covenantal bond (v. 29a). David’s faith, hope, and love were based on the word spoken by the LORD God. The biblical faith is not one of man’s own imagination, or a god of his own choosing. Biblical faith comes by hearing the word of God and bearing witness to the same. “For You, LORD God, have spoken it” (v. 29b)

II Samuel 7:1-17 The Davidic Covenant.

II Samuel 7:1-17 The Davidic Covenant.

The Davidic covenant was the last OT administration of the one covenant of grace, in direct succession from the Mosaic, which succeeded the Abrahamic, which succeeded the Noahic, which succeeded the Adamic 2.0. The Adamic 1.0 or Creation covenant was a covenant of works, which all humanity broke through Adam, necessitating that first administration of the covenant of grace. The new covenant is of course the last expression of the one covenant of grace in direct succession to this Davidic covenant. This is one reason why the Scriptures refer to Jesus the Messiah as the Son of David (Mt. 1:1; Jn. 7:42). This story begins with David’s desire to build a house for the LORD, whose presence dwelt in a special way above the ark. David dwelt in a house of cedar but the ark was in a tent (vv. 1-2). Since they had arrived and settled in the promised land, and had captured and reigned from Jerusalem, there was no longer a need for the tabernacle, instead a more permanent dwelling made sense.

David turns to Nathan the prophet, no doubt wanting to know the LORD’s will in this regard. It is Nathan who presumes to know what is right and so tells David to go ahead, for the LORD was with him (v. 3). This is a cautionary note to us all. Our lives and current state may indeed be a case of the LORD in fact being ‘with’ us, but this should never be a pretext for not turning to him in prayer, especially as it concerns his house, which is the church of the living God (Heb. 3:6). “But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, ‘Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?”” (vv. 4-5). The LORD then recounts for David how he led his people up to David’s time dwelling in a tent, never once asking for a house of cedar to be built (vv. 6-7). The LORD then recounts how he had chosen David to help lead his people as the one who gave them deliverance and victory (vv. 8-9). This echoes the preamble to the Mosaic covenant in the deliverance from Egypt (Ex. 19:3ff.).

This presence of the LORD going before them extended on through the judges up to David. We should also not miss a key point here. The LORD said that he “commanded” judges (plural), to be over his people (v. 11a). This was in effect a continuation of the government established with Moses, of a representative administration of equals. It was the people who asked for a king, and in doing so they were in rebellion in rejecting the LORD as their King (I Sa. 8). In any case, if they were to have a king then it would be a man of the LORD’s own choosing, and as one knows from chapter 2 and 5:1-5, it required the approbation of the people. Now the people were done with their wanderings. The LORD would plant them in the land where they now dwelt (v. 10). However, with respect to a house, the LORD makes the point that his house is his people. This is not just a new testament concept. The LORD, through a covenantal administration with David, in succession with all those who came before him, would be the house that the LORD would build (v. 11b).

In this covenantal administration God as their King would give them rest from their enemies – “the sons of wickedness” (vv. 10-11). However, there was also an individual rest which David and all his true sons and daughters would experience, and that is an eternal rest, again, not just a new testament concept (v. 12a Cf. Heb. 4:1-10). Furthermore, this last of the OT administrations of the one covenant of grace would continue on through a godly seed. This is carried forward ultimately until we come to the Messiah himself, in the person of Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God. In him the gospel promise of a seed, first proclaimed at Genesis 3:15 in the Adamic 2.0 covenant, would find its ultimate fulfillment. The LORD would indeed establish Solomon’s kingdom for a time, but only in the Messiah could it be said that the LORD would establish his kingdom forever. The ultimate goal of this one continuing administration of the covenant of grace has always been, and continues to be, the establishment of the LORD’s kingdom.

The LORD’s will is that his kingdom be established on earth as it is in heaven (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 6:10; Lk. 11:2b). It is also true that Solomon would indeed build a house or temple for the LORD, but it is the Messiah, the greater Son of David, who would build the spiritual house of the LORD’s own people, and he “will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (v. 13). Again, the LORD was indeed as a father to David’s son, and he would discipline him when he sinned, but of David’s greater Son the LORD would be his Father in a unique way, and in a unique way he would also punish him, but for the sins of others, not his own (v. 14). Solomon would find mercy, but so would all those who would look to David’s greater Son, the Messiah (v. 15). His house and his kingdom is that which will be established forever (v. 16). Nathan thought that the matter of the building of a house for the LORD was settled so well that he didn’t even need to inquire of the LORD, but in the end the LORD spoke to and through him the words of this covenant (v. 17).

II Samuel 6 The Ark Is Brought To Jerusalem, And The Regulative Principle Of Worship.

II Samuel 6 The Ark Is Brought To Jerusalem, And The Regulative Principle Of Worship.

This chapter highlights an incident of both deep historical and theological significance, and also very common soap opera drama. David musters 30,000 soldiers of the united kingdom to go and retrieve the ark of God (v. 1). Baale Judah was another name for Kirjath Jearim, in Judah (Cf. Josh. 15:9). The author of I Chronicles also notes that David included the priests and Levites in this effort since it involved the moving of the ark (13:2). There could be no doubt that David knew the history of previous attempts to move the ark after the nation attempted to retrieve it after it was captured by the Philistines (I Sa. 4-7:1). There are those who see the judgment that fell on Uzzah in this passage as harsh and unreasonable on God’s part, but Uzzah clearly should have been aware of the past incidents where those seeking to transport it also were not mindful of the LORD’s directives in this regard.*

The author of I Chronicles also notes that David consulted with the peoples representatives, and as a result found that they had the support of the people as well (v. 4). He also notes that the ark is not just the place where the LORD takes on the specific name of ‘the LORD of hosts’, but it is the place where this name is proclaimed (v. 6). The ark is where the LORD “dwells between the cherubim” (II Sa. 6:2). The LORD dwells between the cherubim as Israel’s Shepherd and Leader (Ps. 80:1). The ‘hosts’ refers to the angelic army of the LORD who go in and out from his holy presence to fight his battles as he commands. The cherubim are special angels who are given the specific charge of guarding the ark itself. The author of Hebrews describes them as “the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat” (9:5 Cf. Ex. 25:18-20; 26:1, 31; I Kgs. 8:7; II Chron. 3:11; Ps. 18:10; Is. 6:2; 37:16; Ezek. 1:4-14; 9:3; 10:5, 8, 12, 15; 37:9).

The cherubim are present from the guarding of the garden after the fall (Gen. 3:22-24), to the revelation of the throne of heaven (Rev. 4:8). They guard the way into the presence of the LORD, and they are stationed immediately above the mercy seat to show that since the fall no one may approach the LORD of hosts without the atonement which his own mercy provides, prefiguring the atonement which Christ himself provided (Heb. 9:3-15). So when Uzzah stretches out his hand to steady the ark, he presumes upon his own innocence (v. 6). The LORD was angry because he must guard his own holiness, but David appears to be angry because he did not understand the depth of the separation between a holy God and sinful humanity (vv. 7-8). However, anger quickly turned into fear, “and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?’” (v. 9)

David wanted the ark in Jerusalem because he knew of the blessing it would bring, including victory in their battles with the LORD’s enemies, but now he realized it could also bring cursing for not obeying the directives in the law-word of the covenant. More proof was given when David decided to leave the ark with Obed-Edom the Gittite, who presumably did not touch the ark but let it rest in his presence, such that the LORD blessed his house (vv. 10-11). When David learns of this, he decided to continue the journey of the ark to Jerusalem, presumably after he studied what was required to do so (v. 12). It would appear that, just in case, David decided to offer sacrifices after six paces for the forgiveness of any sins of omission (v. 13). David was so happy to finally have the ark in Jerusalem that he made music and danced before the LORD (vv. 14-15). However, Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife, despised him (v. 16).

Once the ark rested in the midst of the tabernacle that David had made, he also offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (v. 17), and “blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts’ (v. 18). This blessing was more than just words, he also distributed to all the people “a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins” (v. 19). Michal then expresses her displeasure regarding David shamelessly uncovering himself in front of the maids like some base fellow, but David made clear that he was not dancing for them but before the LORD (vv. 20-21). Further to the point, David emphasized the need for him and anyone to humble themselves when worshipping the LORD (v. 22a). For this attitude and consequent behaviour, the maidens would hold him in honour (v. 22b). We are then told that Michal “had no children to the day of her death” (v. 23).

This incident is commonly referred to as an example of the importance of the doctrine called ‘the regulative principle of worship’, which holds that one must not worship the LORD in any other way than what he has prescribed in holy scripture. It is in fact a doctrine which one ought to follow with respect to the whole of life and not just formal worship. With respect to worship, it does stress the need to pattern our worship after the manner prescribed by the LORD in holy scripture. However, lest one thinks that it is simply a matter of externals, we also see in the example of David, that it also involves the attitude of one’s heart. David humbled himself, part of which was the acknowledgement that in order to approach the LORD one must seek mercy and forgiveness, seen in his offering of blood sacrifices and in his words to Michal. Finally, worship is covenantal, so that when done right yields blessing, but cursing when done wrong.

* “Only God’s appointed priests were to touch God’s ark and even then only in a specified manner (see Lev 16:2; Nu. 4:15).” Thomas and  Greear, ‘Exalting Jesus In 1 & 2 Samuel’ (79)

II Samuel 5:17-25 The Master Of Breakthroughs.

II Samuel 5:17-25 The Master Of Breakthroughs.

No sooner had David and his men captured Jerusalem, then the Philistines plotted how to take him down (vv. 17-18). However, as was his custom, David turned to the LORD in prayer, asking if he should go against the Philistines. Only because the LORD answered in the affirmative, did David then go up against them (v. 19). David was victorious against them and gave the glory to God, calling the place ‘Baal Perazim’, because the LORD showed himself to be the “master of breakthroughs.”* “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water”(v. 20). Sometimes when one has done all one can do we come to a place where we know that what we need is a breakthrough. Prayer to the LORD only makes sense if he is the sovereign Lord of history. Why ask someone who has no power or willingness to change things? David’s enemies, in this case the Philistines, were so overwhelmed that they left their idols behind, idols which were clearly of no help to them (v. 21).

This is still the behaviour of the LORD’s enemies to this day. People abandon their idols when the LORD overwhelms them, giving the victory to his covenanted people. Having abandoned their trust in their idols, they then decided to go at David and his men from another way, on their own. Again David turns to the LORD in prayer, and he is given a strategy, he is also given the privilege of hearing the army that the LORD had sent to fight with him (v. 23). The LORD said, “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go before you to strike the camp of the Philistines” (v. 24 Cf. Ex. 14:14; 15:3). When the LORD’s people turn to him in confidence, he always goes before them. We may not hear the sound of the marching, even as the young man with Elisha could not see what Elisha knew, that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around” (II Ki. 6:17). We, like David, must simply do as the LORD has commanded us (v. 25).

 

*“Baal Perazim has been identified with a site three miles southwest of Jerusalem.” (NGSB. 434)

II Samuel 5:6-16 David Takes Jerusalem And Dwells There.

II Samuel 5:6-16 David Takes Jerusalem And Dwells There.

David’s first campaign as King over both Judah and Israel was the conquest of Jerusalem. The Jebusites who inhabited the city were arrogant and boastful, mocking the people of God and David, that the blind and lame could repel them, but in the end they took the city (vv. 6-7). As motivation, before making the charge against the city, David promised to make chief and captain whoever climbed up by the way of the water shaft and defeated the Jebusites (v. 8). David would move his dwelling place here and called it ‘the city of David’ (v. 9). “So David went on and became great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him” (v. 10). Finally, when Hiram king of Tyre came and built him a house that “David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (v. 12). However, David also took more wives and concubines. As a consequence, he had many more sons and daughters (vv. 13-16).

II Samuel 5:1-5 A Kingdom United Via A Covenant.

II Samuel 5:1-5 A Kingdom United Via A Covenant.

The people of Israel come to David at Hebron and confess three key reasons why they now wanted to shift their allegiance to David. First of all, David was not a foreigner, but rather flesh and bone with them, as the law required (v. 1 Cf. Dt. 17:15). Secondly, by his acts David proved himself to be the true defender of the nation, leading them in and out like the good shepherd that he was (v. 2a Cf. I Sa. 18:5, 13, 16). Finally, and most important of all, the LORD of the covenant said to him “You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel” (v. 2 Cf. I Sa. 16:1). Based on these three reasons, “all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and king David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel” (v. 3). David reigned as king over Judah 7 ½ years and over Israel 33 Israel for an approximate reign of 40 years (vv. 4-5). What is significant here is that even though the LORD had already anointed David as king, as with Judah, so now with Israel, it still required a loyalty oath of the people via a covenantal bond.

II Samuel 4 The Assassination Of Ishbosheth And Judgment.

II Samuel 4 The Assassination Of Ishbosheth And Judgment.

With the death of Abner Ishbosheth feared, and the people of Israel were troubled. Peace was so soon broken. Perhaps because they saw how fearful Ishbosheth was, two of his captains from the tribe of Benjamin, Baanah and Rechab, set out and killed and beheaded him as he laid in his bed (vv. 5-7). Like the Amalekite of 1:1-16, these men thought that they would pacify any wrath of David, and secure their place in his favour (v. 8). David in fact referred back to this incident with the Amalekite and the death of Saul, stating that he never took vengeance into his own hands, but rather that the LORD was his redeemer “from all adversity” (v. 9). So as with the Amalekite, so also with Rechab and Baanah, he declared them guilty of murder, since like Abner, Ishbosheth was assasinated in a time of peace. He therefore ordered his servants to execute Baanah and Rechab, cut off their hands and feet, “and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron” (v. 12).

Our author parenthetically notes that Ishbosheth was not the only descendant of Saul. He was placed in his position by Abner (2:8-10). Jonathan had a surviving son named Mephibosheth. Baanah and Rechab were thinking that the death Ishbosheth would eliminate any hereditary claim to Saul’s throne. He was likely out of mind to most, because “he was five years old when the news of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel” (v. 4a). Perhaps he was also disregarded because he was a cripple. When his nurse took him and fled in haste, “he fell and became lame” (v. 4b). This son of Jonathan will come into play later, as David sought to show kindness to anyone related to his covenantal friend Jonathan (Ch. 9). For now, it is enough for the author to mention him, because it has to do with the focus of this passage, namely the succession to the Israelite throne and a covenant of peace with Judah and her king. That covenant would in a way find continuation in the covenant that David will make with the house of Israel in the next chapter (5).

II Samuel 3:22-39 Joab Murders Abner.

II Samuel 3:22-39 Joab Murders Abner.

The covenant of peace between David and Abner was a threat to Joab’s position with David as his commander-in-chief. While David and Abner were negotiating, Joab was leading David’s men to victory over their enemies, bringing back the spoil (vv. 22-23). Joab argued before David that Abner had deceived him, seeking only to know his plans etc. So when he left David’s presence he tricked Abner into thinking that David still wanted to talk. Upon returning to Hebron Joab met Abner and stabbed and killed him for the death of his brother Asahel (vv. 24-27). Since David did not know what Asahel’s brothers did until after the fact, he pronounced his house as innocent, but a curse on Joab and the father of Joab’s house (vv. 28-30). Furthermore, David commanded the people to mourn for Abner, and he was buried with the patriarchs in Hebron (vv. 31-34). David’s behaviour with regard to Abner also won the respect of the people, which was something David needed if he was to become the king over Israel as well (vv. 35-37). David declared that Abner was a prince and a great man, but the men who killed him were evil and wicked (vv. 38-39). Asahel was killed in battle, Abner not wanting to kill him, but Abner was murdered as a partner in a covenant of peace.

II Samuel 2:12-3:21 War And Peace.

II Samuel 2:12-3:21 War And Peace.

Neither Judah and their king David, or Israel, primarily focused on the tribe of Benjamin, with their king Saul, were going to back down. After 12 from each group grasp and kill each other with their swords, David and Judah pursue the Israelites, “and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David” (v. 17). Joab was David’s right hand man, as Abner was to Saul, and his brother Asahel with very swift and pursued Abner, and despite a warning from Abner to stop, he did not, and Abner killed him. However, in the end, even though Israel greatly outnumbered the tribe of Judah, “there were missing of David’s servants nineteen men and Asahel. But the servants of David had struck down, of Benjamin and Abner’s men, three hundred and sixty men who died” (30-31). This history of the divide between these two evolving kingdoms is summarized by the author at 3:1. “Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.”

While this protracted battle was being waged, “Abner was strengthening his hold on the house of Saul” (v. 6). Abner also took one of Saul’s concubines, Rizpah. When Ishbosheth asked Abner about this he became very angry, and at that point had decided that he would hand the kingdom of Israel over to David (v. 10). To this end Abner proposed that he and David make a covenant, with one condition from David, that his first wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, be returned to him. Peace and unification came via the covenantal bond. “Returning David’s wife Michal to him (1 Sam. 18:27) would not only make right Saul’s wrong of having given her to another in David’s absence (1 Sam. 25:44), but would also strengthen David’s claim to the throne over Saul’s former realm. The restrictions of Deut. 24:1-4 do not apply in this situation, since David’s separation from Michal was involuntary.” (NGSB. 430) Abner’s commitment was based, as he said himself, on the LORD having spoken to David, “saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David, I will save My people Israel’” (v. 18).