2 Samuel begins with David learning Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle and it will end with the death of King David. This book tells of how David united the twelve tribes of Israel into one nation. In the process David and his army defeated their enemies. They expanded their territory and David prepared the way for Solomon to succeed him as king. One of the recurring themes in 2 Samuel is restoration. Israel was still divided under Saul, but under David the nation came together. They were restored. We will also see the restoration of David after his sin with Bathsheba. And there is the restoration of the throne after Absalom’s rebellion. There is also an emphasis on power. God empowered David and his people to accomplish His will. Saul had torn things apart, but God used David to start putting things back together once again. We have seen civil war, political ambition, and blatant disregard for the Lord. David is by no means perfect but even when he sins, he works to return to the Lord and keep his relationship with the Lord alive. If the life of David teaches us anything it is that God can and does use imperfect, flawed, sinful people to accomplish His purposes. There are always consequences and God will discipline and prune His people when the need arises. But He does not abandon them.
We begin with a young man coming to find David after he had defeated the Amalekites. The young man had news. He has come from the Israelite camp where they were fighting the Philistines. He told David the fighting was fierce, many Israelite men fled from the battle and many others died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead. David must have felt shock and grief over this news, and he asked the man how he knows this. We can piece the events together here. On the day David was killing the Amalekites the Philistines were overpowering the Israelites on Mount Gilboa. This is where and when Saul and Jonathan were killed. The next day David was returning to Ziklag and the Philistines were humiliating Saul by desecrating his body and the bodies of his sons. This would have been the day the messenger started his trip to David. On the third day David received the news. There are three accounts of Saul’s death. 1 Samuel 31:1-13, 2 Samuel 1:1-10, and 1 Chronicles 10:1-14. Two of the three accounts match and the one we read for today does not. It is most likely the messenger who came to David was lying, perhaps to make himself look much more important than he was. There is no doubt he was at the battlefield. He was most likely searching for spoils before the Philistines got all the good stuff and he found the bodies of Saul and his sons, took the insignias of Saul’s kingship, his gold armband, and the gold chaplet he wore on his helmet. He would not have been able to get close enough to Saul and his sons if they had been alive. As a ‘reward’ for bringing this news he lost his life. David was grieved and incensed that this Amalekite would kill the Lord’s anointed. In other words, the messenger really did get killed!
Another key word here is the word fallen. Remember Saul was taller than anyone else when he was crowned king. But it didn’t take long for him to fall from grace with the Lord. He fell on his face in the presence of the spirit medium. He fell on the battlefield before the enemy. He fell from favor in the Lord’s eyes because he was disobedient. Saul may have stood taller than anyone else when he was crowned king, but he died a fallen and broken man. David on the other hand humbled himself before the Lord. He did not force himself on the people of Israel as king because there were still many who were loyal to Saul. David’s grief was sincere, and he even went so far as to write a poem/elegy to honor Saul. David treated Saul as the Lord’s anointed even in death. In this poem David addressed the people of Israel, the mountains of Gilboa, and he offered praises for Saul and Jonathan.
It had been many years that David had already been the anointed king of Israel. Now it is time to move into that role. He cannot reign from Ziklag so he consulted the Lord about where he should settle, and the Lord told him Hebron. This is an important city in the history of God’s people Israel. The tomb of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah was very near there. The city was part of the inheritance of Caleb, one of the two sipes who were convinced Israel could move into the promised land and defeat the people. Hebron was probably the most important city in the south of Judah, so David moved there with his family and his men and their families and all their possessions. The elders of Judah appointed David king of Judah right away, but the nation of Israel was still badly divided. David was 30 years old. Some in Israel were quick to join forces with David and support him and others remained loyal to Saul and his weak son Ish-Bosheth.
The play for power was on full display here. Not just the power of the kingship but in the military as well. Here we see the struggle between Abner, Saul’s cousin and the commander of his army, and Joab, David’s nephew, the commander of David’s army. Abner did not like David and Joab did not trust Abner. When it became clear David would be the king, he could not have two commanders. Abner was still loyal to Saul’s family and rejected David’s kingship. He took Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, and crowned him king over the nation minus Judah. He ruled for two years.
When we look at this narrative in light of today, we see the same three kinds of people. There are the weak people like Ish-Bosheth who get where they are because they have connections. There are people like Abner who are strong and selfish, and they know how to manipulate people for their own personal profit. And there are people like David who turn to the Lord and are called, anointed, and equipped but must wait for God’s time before they can serve.
By making Ish-Bosheth king, Abner was declaring war on David and they both knew it. Abner had ten tribes behind him, and he was sure he could defeat David if it came down to a battle. This was really Abner rebelling against the Lord. David was gaining in strength, power, and followers while Abner and Ish-Bosheth were growing weaker by the day. Slowly but surely people were moving to follow David. This all happened in the Lord’s time. David’s family was growing, many different kids all with different mothers who were wives of David. This would only lead to trouble and David’s life was plagued by family struggle and strife, competition, and bad behavior.
Abner was shrewd and there came a point when he knew he would never be stronger than David, and he defected to David’s side. There are several things of note here. Abner and David did not meet face to face initially. Given the danger of the times they met first through their respective officials. David had no reason not to cooperate with Abner. He had never been at war with him. There were two options. Abner could call for an all-out war against David, but he knew he would never win. The other option was to make peace and unite the nation under one king. Abner liked being associated with the winning side and he was willing to bring the rest of Israel to David to accomplish this. This would save face for Abner and prevent much bloodshed.
One of David’s demands of Abner was that he bring his wife Michal back to him. Saul had given her to another man, but she was still David’s wife. By reuniting with Michal, David was now inviting the “queen” to join him. The fact that she was Saul’s daughter and Ish-Bosheth’s sister would help unite the nation. And it appears they loved each other when they were first together. By Abner bringing Michal to David, it would show his break with the house of Saul and that he was now aligned with David. We should also note that Abner came to David in peace, and he left David in peace.
David had sent Joab out on a raid to secure more wealth for David and they were returning when Abner was leaving. Joab could not understand why Abner was there in the first place. He didn’t trust Abner, and Joab didn’t understand why David let him go in peace. David’s family dynamics were very complicated and created many problems for David. Perhaps Psalm 120 was written at this time. When Joab left the king, he made plans to harm Abner. He lured Abner back to Hebron under false pretenses and when Abner arrived Joab took him aside and killed him. Everything about this death was wrong. Joab and his brother got their revenge for Abner killing their other brother, but that brother was a battlefield casualty. This was out right murder. Joab knew what the king wanted and that was to unite the country. They had put themselves above the needs of the kingdom. Hebron was one of the six cities of refuge, a safe place where an accused murderer could get a fair hearing, but Joab and his brother never gave the elders in Hebron a chance to hear the case. Abner killed their brother in self-defense. Joab acted in cold blooded murder.
When David heard the news, he immediately put distance between himself and Joab. He even went so far as to put a curser on the house of Joab. David commanded Joab and his men to mourn Abner’s death along with the rest of the nation. This was the death of a great man. Once again David wrote a poem/elegy, this time as a means of honoring Abner. David was working very hard to unite the people, not tear them apart and he wasn’t getting much help. And then there is Baanah and Recab who, like the Amalekite thought he would gain favor with David by telling him he killed Saul. They were minor officers in Saul’s army and thought they would get in good with David by killing Ish-Bosheth. They were wrong too and ended up paying for their crime with their lives.
We are introduced to Jonathan’s son here. He was young and he was crippled. When the news about Jonathan’s death came back to the family the sons nurse picked him up to run, fearing an invasion or harm, and the son fell…most likely he was dropped and his feet were injured. His name is Mephibosheth. This is the beginning of the troubles David has with his many family members. There will be more.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W