We are only four chapters into 2 Samuel and already much has happened. There was murder and chaos. And there are A LOT of names. I have included a small graphic of the names of David’s wives and their children. There were more wives and children, but these are the names we have. All of these wives and children, especially sons, complicated David’s life from early on. Then we add to these names the names of military commanders, Abner who was related to Saul and Joab who was related to David. Add to the mix the last of Saul’s sons who was not killed in the battle at Mount Gilboa and there are many people to keep straight. In all of this there wasn’t much unity or working for the common cause David was trying to accomplish, that of bringing the twelve tribes together as one nation. The need for power and position was first and foremost.
Not only are there a lot of names, but there is also a lot of killing. In that day and age, the only way to gain more power was to defeat your enemies and take their land and possessions. That usually meant was and killing. And sometimes there was fighting among the twelve tribes of Israel. There was a point when David was able to subdue the Philistines and most all of Israel’s other enemies. The biggest challenge was calming the tensions between tribes. There always seemed to be a threat of civil war. David needed the Lord’s help to manage that as well. There is obedience and disobedience here in 2 Samuel. To this point David has worked hard to be the leader God is honing him to be. He is trying to go to the Lord when decisions need to be made and David worked hard at listening for the voice of God. Sometimes when we try to lead by example it seems to take forever for people to fall in line with what is needed of them.
As we read these first four chapters there is another theme that seems to be present, and that is the theme of consequences. Consequences can be good, or they can be bad. For most of this reading they are bad. We begin right off the bat with the Amalekite who comes running to David with the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death. He came running with his clothes torn and dirt on his head, both signs of mourning. And he came bearing the kings crown, gold armband, which he removed from the king on Mount Gilboa. His story did not square up with the accounts from others and if his story was true then this Amalekite was the one who killed King Saul. He probably didn’t expect the reaction he received from David and his men. They wailed, tore their clothes and, grieved Saul’s death. No doubt the Amalekite thought he would be handsomely rewarded for his trouble. Instead, David was incensed that anyone, let alone an Amalekite, would kill the Lord’s anointed. The consequence…death for the Amalekite.
The men of Jabesh-Gilead had heard about Saul’s death and journeyed to Mount Gilboa where the Philistines had routed the Israelites and killed Saul. They retrieved his body and that of his sons and burned off the desecrated flesh and buried their bones. Their consequences for this action were praise and thanks from King David for the kindness they showed to Saul, the Lord’s anointed. We watched as Abner crowned Saul’s remaining son, Ish-Bosheth king. And we looked on as young men from Saul’s side and David’s side met and proceeded to kill one another. There was no trust among the Israelites David was trying to unite, and Abner and Joab were not making David’s job easier. The men following David and the men following Abner fought a fierce battle and Abner and his men lost. As Abner was fleeing the battle site Joab’s brother Asahel chased after him to kill him. Abner tried to call a truce, but Asahel refused, and Abner killed him. Another sad consequence of the state the twelve tribes were in. Joab and Abishai keep chasing Abner but finally he was able to reason with them and a truce was called. The men went their separate ways and the fighting stopped.
But the war between the house of Saul and the house of David raged for many years, causing death and bloodshed and the changing of many lives along the way. Abner finally realized he would not win against David and he was willing to throw his support behind David. But Joab still did not trust Abner and killed him out of revenge for the death of his brother. See what I mean about all the names and killing? There will eventually be consequences for Joab because he killed a good and innocent man. Eventually two men from the tribe of Benjamin…Saul’s tribe…killed Saul’s remaining son Ish-Bosheth. Like the Amalekite before them, they believed what they were doing would please King David. They came to him with the news, and like the Amalekite, David had them killed as well. Again, for killing an innocent man.
But there were good consequences as well. David and Jonathan had made a covenant with each other that if something happened to Jonathan, David would not destroy his family. And we see in chapter four that Jonathan had a son who was young…five years old when his father was killed. True to his word, Davis brought Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, into his own home and took care of him.
If nothing else, we can see that God’s people are messy critters. That goes for us today as well. How many of us have done or said something we wish we could take back? How many of us have caused hurt or damage to a relationship because of something we have said or done? We may not have caused bloodshed, but it is just as easy to kill someone with our words and actions as it is with a sword. And those scars are not visible to the eye. That doesn’t mean they are any less painful or harmful. Like the folks we have just read about, we too have consequences for our words and actions. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. 3,000 years later and we are doing the same things with the same consequences. It feels like we are very slow learners!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W