After the lists of names we continue today beginning with the tragic end of King Saul. As I wrote yesterday the Chronicler is all about making King David look good and we see the beginnings of that here today. King Saul and the Israelites were fighting the Philistines again, this time on Mount Gilboa. This Mount is about 1,700 feet in elevation and it is in the southern plains of Jezreel, near Shechem. This was Philistine territory at the time and Saul was trying to win it back for Israel. Just as we read in 1 Samuel, the fighting was fierce and Saul was wounded. Three of his four sons were killed in battle. When Saul noticed he was wounded he asked his armor bearer to killed him. It would have been a grave disgrace to have the king killed by a Philistine. Because his armor-bearer would not kill him, Saul fell on his own sword, killing himself. He was driven to an extreme course of action. Suicide was a very rare occurrence among the Israelites of Old Testament times. In an interesting twist, the Chronicler records that all of Saul’s house died together. He still had Ish-Bosheth remaining but he would be killed in a few short years. And Saul’s dynasty would come to an end. Even though this part of the country was controlled by the Philistines, there were a few Israelite cities there. With this loss, the Philistines took these as well when the Israelites abandoned them. Dagon was the Canaanite god of grain, worshiped by the Philistines, Syrians, and other people of northwest Mesopotamia. Nearly one hundred years earlier the Philistines had put the captured ark of the covenant in the same temple as Dagon. And later Samson stood between the pillars of a temple of Dagon where he was mocked by the assembled Philistines. It seems that any spoils of war were brought to their temple and displayed as a tribute to the might of their god. The people of Jabesh-Gilead took great care to honor Saul after his death, most likely in response to his helping them early on in his reign. But note, the Chronicler makes a point of telling us that these horrible things happened to Saul because he was disobedient to the Word of the Lord. He offered sacrifices in his impatient waiting for Samuel. He had consulted mediums instead of the Lord, and as a result the kingdom was given to King David.
Chapter 11 begins the cleaned up account of King David. Here are some things to consider. The Chronicler describes David’s ascension to the throne in three verses but 2 Samuel takes three chapters to describe the same thing. The difference lies in the purposes of the two authors. The author of 2 Samuel goes to great lengths to describe the rocky course that David had to travel before unifying the entire kingdom. And although the Judeans anointed David king immediately after the death of Saul, the rest of Israel crowned Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth as king. Abner, Saul’s cousin and military commander, supported Ish-Bosheth’s kingship vigorously and confronted David’s army in battle. When it became apparent that Ish-Bosheth had no ability to rule, Abner recognized the inevitability that David would rule over all of Israel. So, Abner set in motion a plan whereby the northern tribes would submit to David, and Abner would be rewarded by becoming the leader of David’s armies. The northern tribes submitted, but Joab, jealous about his own role as general, assassinated Abner. Ish-Bosheth was murdered as well by some of his own countrymen. During all this David maintained his integrity. He genuinely mourned for the fallen leaders and he punished those who acted treacherously against them. He not only pleased the Lord but gained the affections of his people. The author of 2 Samuel lets us observe David’s life up close so it can become both a model and a warning for us.
On the other hand, the Chronicler emphasizes the unity of all Israel in support of God’s anointed, King David. The three short verses stress that ALL Israel supported David and they came to Hebron to make a covenant with David, something that is only hinted at in 2 Samuel. Chronicles gives the impression that the shift of loyalty from Saul to David was seamless and without opposition. For the Chronicler this was all that was significant about David’s accession to the throne. He wanted to emphasize both the unity of
the nation and God’s choice as David as king. We read that the battle for Jebus, later named Jerusalem went off without a hitch and we see the list of David’s mighty men. The first three men on the list were singled out for their bravery and their service to David. This is followed by another elite group of three who are not named here. They penetrated the defenses of thePhilistines. The cave of Adullam was about 12 miles southwest of Bethlehem and it was one of David’s favorite hiding places when he was on the run from Saul. These three men went to Bethlehem, behind enemy lines to bring David a drink of water from the well outside of town. But David would not drink it because these men had been selfless in getting it and he felt unworthy to drink it. Instead he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. Next we see Abishai and Joab. They were the sons of David’s sister Zeruiah. They too had performed great exploits for David. There was another list of three mighty men though only two are listed. One was Abishai and the other Benaiah. Below them was a list of thirty names. Thirty may actually denote an elite military unit that consisted of approximately thirty men. The term does not indicate a literal number because this list has more than thirty names. One name on the list I find distressing and that is Uriah the Hittite. This is the same Uriah who was married to Bathsheba, the same Uriah David had killed to cover up his sin with Bathsheba.
As we continue to read we see the Chronicler’s bias. Men from every tribe of the nation of Israel come to David to be part of his army, even 3,000 from the tribe of Benjamin, king Saul’s tribe. Again we see way more unity than there actually was. And the stronghold listed here is the cave of Adullam. The Gadites came from the far northern and central areas east of the Jordan River to join David. They were famous for their valor and leadership skills and they rose high in the ranks of David’s army. In a rather unusual description of their valor the Chronicler describes how they crossed a raging, flooded Jordan River to pursue their enemies in all directions.
Again we see the account of moving the ark to Jerusalem. The difference is this time David recognized that they had moved it improperly the first time. After Uzziah tried to catch a falling ark…and was killed by the Lord for his efforts…the ark was left at the house of Obed-Edom. The ark was a holy object, representing the presence of God Himself and it had to be handled in accord with the strictest regulations. Even with their best intentions they had disobeyed the Lord. David established himself in Jerusalem and took more wives and had more children. In 15:4 there are four sons listed, all sons of David with Bathsheba.
The ark of the Lord is finally brought to Jerusalem, dwelling in the tent of the tabernacle because there was no temple built yet. Here we see the divisions of priests and Levites and their assignments for serving in the temple. This was a great day of celebration for King David and all of Israel. The ark finally had a home in the city the Lord had chosen for His name. The one black mark in the day was the daughter of Saul whom he had given to David as his wife. David had married Michal at the beginning of his time of service in Saul’s court. Perhaps their relationship had been stormy in part because David had spent at least ten years in flight from her father. In fact, Saul had annulled the marriage and given Michal to another man. But one of the conditions of David’s peace agreement with Abner and the reunification of the nation under David’s kingship was that Michal be returned to him. Michal was one of the few remaining links remaining between David and Saul. For the transfer of government from Saul to David to be complete, it was necessary for Saul’s daughter to be transferred to David, even against her will. When Michal saw David rejoicing at the return of the ark, she despised him out of loyalty to her father and the anger that she had been forced to return.
And then David offered up a psalm of praise. There are three sections of this psalm; 8-22, 23–33, 34-36. These three sections correlate with other psalms we have. 16:8-22 with Psalm 105:1-15; 16:23-33 with
Psalm 96:1-13 and 16:34-36 with Psalm 106:1,47,48. A couple of things about this psalm. In verse 22 David speaks about the anointed ones. Many look to the patriarchs here but they were not anointed with oil as if they were serving as priests. They were however set apart for service to the Lord. And the reference to above all other gods does not admit the real possibility of other gods. Instead it refers to the various gods the pagans worshiped and believed in. The heathen might fear nonexistent gods but the living Lord was to be feared more than them all, and He is alive and demands accountability. David appointed Asaph to be the overall supervisor of worship before the Lord. And there are two different Obed-Edoms listed here. The first is the one whose house the ark of the covenant was left at and the second, also a gatekeeper was a son of Jeduthun. Until the temple was built under Solomon there were two legitimate places for community worship, the Mosaic tabernacle at Gibeon and David’s tabernacle on Mount Zion. Zadok, a descendant of Eleanor served at Gibeon and Abithar, a descendant of Aaron served at Jerusalem.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W