A conquering king
What stops us from trusting in the LORD with all our heart? Why do we become impatient and anxious about the future?
1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of how Israel received David as their king. The main characters, of course, include David, Saul and Samuel. The story is carried along by the nation of Israel’s number one enemy of the time: the Philistines. Samuel’s leadership is marked with success as “throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:13). The instruction from Samuel to the people of Israel was that Saul would deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16) and yet in Chapters 10 to 13 we read of how Saul failed to do this because of his disobedience. The summary of Saul’s reign is described in 1 Samuel 14:52, “all the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines.” Even before David is made king over all Israel, he demonstrates his ability to fight and defeat this enemy in Chapters 17 to 23. It is at the hand of the Philistines that king Saul is killed in battle when Israel were defeated, and when many Israelites abandoned their towns “the Philistines came and occupied them” (1 Samuel 31:7). The king in Israel was meant to be subject to Yahweh and bring peace and blessing to the nation of Israel. Saul had failed to be that king.
Since Saul’s death, David has demonstrated his patience and kindness toward all of Israel, waiting on the LORD to unite all the people of Israel under him. He seeks God’s will before acting. He acts in righteousness and judges justly. He weeps and leads the people in lamenting. We come now to see, when the people accept him as their king, will he be the king he promises to be. What about those Philistines?
Read 2 Samuel 5
5 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’ ”
3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
6 The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.
8 On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”
9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.
11 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. 12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
13 After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet.
17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”
The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”
20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. 21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.
22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25 So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.
What did you see? (Observation)
The first noteworthy thing about this chapter is that it acts as a resolution to the whole saga of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel 1-4. David is a worthy king and the people are ready to receive him. Once he reigns he proves himself to be the very leader they always needed. Not because he is great, but because the LORD is with him. So, the structure is not so much as a narrative with Beginning, Middle and End but scenes that reveal how he establishes a safe kingdom for Israel.
- The tribes of Israel come to David their king (1-3)
- David takes Jerusalem (and a bunch of concubines!) (4-16)
- Round 1 against the Philistines (17-21)
- Round 2 and the Philistines are gone (22-25)
The tribes of Israel came to David their king (1-3)
“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron…” Clearly the whole entire people did not come to Hebron but the elders who represented all the tribes. But all the tribes coming to David is a very significant thing. They have come to their senses.
“We are your own flesh and blood.” The people recognise that they know David. He is one of them. And they have known about him for some time. The people used to sing songs about his victories even when Saul was king. He is not a stranger, a foreigner or a Johnny-come-lately. They have come to David who they know very well. His credentials, track record AND the word of the LORD support David. All the people are coming to David as ‘his body’ to call him their head.
“…the king made a covenant with them at Hebron…” The deal is done. David is now the King over all Israel. The covenant is not detailed here but the scope that the bible gives to this role is quite big on both parts. Deuteronomy 17 outlines what would happen when Israel gets a king. And the king is required to listen to the law of God and lead the people. It is through the king that the people are blessed. We’ll see later that David knows this.
The people have not been forced to bow to David. The people are not agreeing to make him king under duress. The patience of David who, for many years even while running away from Saul, has consistently trusted in the LORD to deliver and to bless has paid off.
David takes Jerusalem (and a bunch of concubines!) (4-16)
On the history of the Jebusites in the city of Jerusalem and Israel, see Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:8, 21 (also Joshua 10). The only other history of this city prior to David (which is not conclusive) is of another key figure named Melchizedek who was a priest of God and king of Salem in Genesis (which means peace). ‘Jer’ usually means foundation while Salem means peace. The link between Jerusalem and Salem is more of a whisper than of a solid link (although Psalm 76:2 seems unambiguous about the two being one). The book of Hebrews makes more out of Melchizedek’s priestliness than of his kingship. But Jerusalem seems like it was destined to become the city of David, the King of the LORD’s people.
Israel had not been successful in removing the original inhabitants from this city. David strikes to take a city which a) no other man has laid claim to in Israel to date and therefore it can be truly the king’s city (aside from it being part of the land prescribed for Benjamin), and b) because the Jebusites seem to have claimed that David could not take it even if they defend the city with blind and lame people. They sneer at Israel’s new king. They claimed that “David cannot get in here”. They claim that they are their weakest is too strong for God’s king. David proves them wrong.
“Because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” This is the important note in this story. We are seeing a triumphant king because he is working with the LORD God Almighty. Romans 8:31 – if God is for us, who can be against us?
“…Hiram king of Tyre…built a palace for David.” Even the nations around David were seeing this as a blessing and a kingdom to get behind. Tyre is a foreign nation in the north-west of Israel. In David’s reign and also Solomon’s, the nations around Israel, beyond their borders, look to Israel as a blessing. And also a nation to be feared (1 Chronicles 14:17).
“Then David knew…” David knew three things. 1) that the LORD had established this kingdom. 2) that David’s kingdom had been exalted in the sight of other nations – ie, shining, and 3) that it is for the sake of God’s people that this has been done. So, David may be the king, but God is blessing the people of Israel – not just David. And David knows this. He is to be a shepherd over the people and not a tyrant (5:2).
“David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem…” David is indeed God’s king over the people of God. His victories are showing how he inquires of the LORD and listens and obeys. And yet, the bible is very truthful about the failings of humans. While the story is overwhelmingly positive, the narrator gives us clues to suggest that even David will not mount to being the king that does everything right. The practice of many wives and concubines is tolerated by God in the Old Testament – never prescribed and often spoken negatively about – but it is tolerated for the moment. It will be the greatest symptom of Solomon’s downfall. See Deuteronomy 17:17 on the direct instruction from God to the future kings of Israel not to accumulate wives or wealth.
Round 1 against the Philistines (17-21)
“When the Philistines heard…” Philistines had been living among the towns of Israel sins they conquered Saul at the end of 1 Samuel. They are a present threat and an enemy living in their midst. See the background (context) section regarding the significance of these people as the constant threat to Israel. The people of God have been dwelling in the promised land since Joshua brought them across the Jordan and brought down Jericho. But Israel has been unable to completely remove foreigners from the land that God was giving them. It would be God’s king who will bring peace in the land and remove the enemy. This kind of language often disturbs Christians who wonder what to make of all this. Keep in mind that the gospel story is an historic one and at this stage in the story, the world is being taught that God calls a people who were not a people and blesses them. God never promised Israel that they would rule the world but that they would be a blessing to the world. The borders of Israel were set by God. The occupants of the land would submit to the rule of God or get out. Also, it is the Philistines who go to ‘search’ for David.
“Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD…” The Valley of Rephaim got its names from those who once lived there, the Rephaites. They were giants (Deut 2:20-21). The Septuagint (or LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) calls it ‘the valley of the giants or titans. This triggers a memory of David going up against a giant Philistine back in 1 Samuel 17. He had defeated Goliath in the name of the LORD in that day. And on this occasion, he still does not resort to his own strength thinking, ‘I’ve beaten them time and time again, I’ll just do it again now.’ Rather, he inquired of the LORD.
“So that place was called Baal Perazim.” Baal means lord or master and Perazim means breaking through or bursting forth. When David defeated the Philistines, he knew that it was because Yahweh, the LORD, had delivered them into his hands and David renamed the place in memory of what God had done there. David has inquired, listened, obeyed and remembered.
“David and his men carried [the Philistine idols] off.” The idols of the Philistines were useless to save them while the living God of Israel broke through and won the battle. He alone is mighty to save. Instead of the foreign gods carrying David and his men away, David and his men carry them off. Isaiah 46 gives a comical comparison between idols that do nothing – in fact they need people to do everything for them – with the living God who creates and delivers. Deuteronomy 7:5 commands Israel to conquer the enemy in the land and smash and burn the idols. 1 Chronicles 14:12 describes the same battle and informs us that David did just that.
Round 2 and the Philistines are gone (22-25)
Verses 22 to 25 provide a repeat performance. The Philistines try a second time to defeat David. We should note two things. Firstly, that David continues, despite his past record of winning, to inquire of the LORD. Secondly, that when David goes to battle in obedience to God, he is to listen for the sound of God’s army going out before him. The story is contrasting the living God of Israel against the fake and phony idols of the foreign nations. The Philistines were driven out of the land of Israel.
What did we learn? (Meaning)
We are seeing a foretaste of the Kingdom of God victorious to defeat the enemy. Fortresses that promise much (like wealth) and false gods provide no defense against the true and living God. The church is the body and Christ is the head. He has defeated the enemy and sat down at the right hand of God to reign. The head of God’s people is a shepherd who will rule for the good and blessing of God’s people.
Now what? (Application)
Topic A: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Many kings that went after King David were poor shepherds of Israel. They lead people away from the living God and toward dead idols. But Jesus is the Son of the living God who leads his church to worship God in Spirit and in truth. The victory that Jesus brings is release from the enemy of sin and death. Freedom in Christ is eternal freedom.
Topic B: The battle is over before it begins. There is not much detail of the battles in this chapter. Three battles are fought, three victories won but the detail is mostly missing. Revelation 19:11-21 describes One riding who is named the Word of God and he is confronted with the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies to wage war against him. But, in a sentence, the beast is captured and the rest defeated by the words coming from the rider’s mouth. We are to remember that the King we serve is none other than the creator of heaven and earth. There is nothing and nobody greater than He. An even clearer image and appropriate cross-reference is that of Psalm 2, widely regarded as the Psalm used when consecrating a king in Israel.
Topic C: Inquiring of the LORD. Although David’s story is unique and points us first and foremost to Jesus and His kingdom, the model of turning to God is translatable to the church also. As Jesus came to teach and preach about the Kingdom of God he demonstrated his own dependance on turning to God in obedience to His will. He instructed his disciples to pray ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done’. Hebrews 5:7-10 describe Jesus as much more than a casual prayer. He bore his heart to God and acted in obedience.
The head of the body prays and so ought the body of Christ. Love, joy, peace AND patience are fruit of the spirit. Time in prayer is not time wasted. Even when the anxiety of life looms on us, we should learn to turn to God in prayer and seek his face.
‘They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.” Psalm 24:5-6