Category Archives: anxiety

2 Samuel 15:1-16:14 The King betrayed

Discussion Question

As we observe the powers of this world gain strength (politically, commercially, wealth etc), how does it affect your commitment to Jesus?

Background (Context)

David taught us much about the kingdom of God which looks for faith rather than beauty. It looks for faithfulness rather than force. Then David’s sin with Bathsheba happened in Chapter 11 and we’ve watched the wonder of David’s partnership with God digress to a limping image of inaction.

Chapter 15 is different. Absalom becomes a background character after his initial acts of political spin and we will watch David portray something of the kingdom of God again.

Mephibosheth appears again in the story along with Ziba, his carer. The former was a grandson of Saul who was lame in both feet but was blessed by David, eating at his table.

We have learned back in Chapter 3 that Hebron was an important spiritual place for Israel. Another piece of background info is the description of Absalom in Chapter 14 as a beautiful man without blemish, with amazing hair and that the people loved him. He had ordered the death of his older brother, Amnon. Now, it seems, Absalom is the next in line to be king. At the end of Chapter 14, we read of Absalom and David being reconciled.

Read 2 Samuel 15-16:14

Read 2 Samuel 15 online here

Read 2 Samuel 16:1-14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)
  • The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)
  • The King’s hope (16:1-14)

Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)

“If only I were appointed judge in the land!” Absalom is a politician. A man who orchestrates devotion from the people. His play is to win the backing of Israel so that they will love him more than David. He builds his own entourage. He greets people at the gate and spins the truth to sound like the king has no time for his people. Except that we only read a chapter ago that David listened to a woman from a southern town in great detail. Lastly, Absalom recalls back to the days of the judges when there was action to resolve issues – neglecting the fact that the people of Israel wanted to end the days of the judges and move forward to having a king like the other nations. Absalom was playing a political game to weaken his father’s kingdom and make people feel like they needed him.

“…so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” Not only did he undermine his father’s kingdom and offer much to the people of Israel (more than he could really deliver) – but he showed much charisma. None of this ‘bow down and worship’ nonsense! No need to show honour and submission before this ‘man of the people’. Forget what you have known about the old days and welcome in a new age of Absalom!

“…Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.” His third move is to hint to the king that he is a reformed man of God. The story he gives the king about an oath does not seem credible. Nothing so far hints that this is a real story and the chapter will unfold to show that this is a big scheme to evoke spontaneous allegiance to Absalom as king. But we can imagine that the king’s heart is softened by this gesture of authentic worship. He gives the appearance of godliness.

“The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” That will be the last thing that David says to his son. Absalom wishes no peace on his father’s house. Absalom will force David to escape the palace and become a fugitive again like the days of King Saul.

“…as soon as you hear the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” This town, as we saw back in Chapter 2, was a spiritually significant one to Israel. Abraham had lived there and received promises from God there. David was sent there to be anointed king over Judah. It is the perfect location from Absalom to orchestrate a coup. Make no mistake. Everything is being choreographed by Absalom. The people are being manipulated to forget that they anointed David as their king and that David had won many battles for the people. The people of God will be mislead by the clever actions of Absalom.

“While Absalom was offering sacrifices…the conspiracy gained strength…” How can one give honour to God and at the same time spin lies throughout the land. Absalom cannot be trusted. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” James 3:9-10. Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of religion that offers something to God but comes out of a man with hatred in his heart (Matthew 15:1-19 esp, Verse 8-9).

The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)

“We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin us and put the city to the sword.” David’s escape was not about saving his own skin but for the protection of the city and his people.

“The king set out, with his entire household following him…” Watch and listen for the imagery of this story now. David has been betrayed and is leaving the city and his faithful ones of his household will all follow him. The story has created an enemy of the kingdom – someone who everyone is easily trusting – but a small few who are named as the household of David. They will walk with him out of the city. Let’s keep listening for more clues about who this will remind us of (hint: it’s Jesus).

“…he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.” The fact that he had concubines is not good but it is not new information to us (see Chapter 5). Leaving them behind will end badly for them in Chapter 16) But it seems that David had ideas that he would return to the city again and he left them there. How they took care of the palace is unclear – but the palace was not left totally empty.

“…they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and the Pelethites; and al the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.” King David was God’s King. The Messiah. The ancestors of Abraham were being manipulated to follow a false and lying betrayer while the entourage of the Messiah consisted of people from surrounding nations as well as some of the King’s own. They are the true Israel.

“Ittai [the Gittite] replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’” This is the true statement of a believer. We do not follow who looks to be winning but we follow the true king.

Verse 23: “The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.” Before you read my words, go and re-read Verse 23 and see what you can see…. The king, the Messiah, the chosen one of God has been betrayed by a smooth talking conspirator and he is walking away from Jerusalem, the city of God. This is a sad, sad day. The Kidron Valley lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The reputation of this valley will increase in the Old Testament with the place that you throw unholy things (1 Ki 2:37; 2 Ki 23:12; 2 Ch 15:16; 29:16; 30:14; Jer 31:40). The only reference to it in the New Testament is in John 18:1. Jesus will one day walk the same road that David walked on this day. He too will be the rejected Messiah. Jesus will take on the place of the unholy and represent the sinners as he goes to the Mount of Olives. The final piece of sorrow is in the King leading the faithful back into the wilderness. They were leaving the promised land that God had blessed them with and headed back to the place of testing. No home. No Jerusalem. But they had the King.

“If I find favour in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back…” David is once again putting his faith in the LORD to deliver him, as we loved seeing him do in the past. He is no longer the inactive and passive, stand back and do nothing, kind of king. He is now the Messiah who lays down his life in the hope that God will raise him up again! Yes, I am reading the resurrection out of this. The point of the ark staying in Jerusalem instead of staying with the king is about David’s submission to God. David will be restored as King as God intends him when David is returned to Jerusalem – brought back to God’s presence. It is not God who is being expelled from the city, but David is willing to go and will wait for God’s reply. Meanwhile, he walks through the valley.

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot.” We see a king as vulnerable as a king can be. Weeping. Barefoot. Head lowered and hidden. At the point that Jesus went to the cross, we see his weakness too. Weeping and weak but allowing his betrayers to get what they want and putting his faith in God.

“…David prayed…” He prayed on the Mount of Olives. The prayer concern was not for the death of his son but for his council to be foolishness. He wanted the schemes of the evil one to be confused. The answer to the prayer occurred, in part, before he reached the end of his ‘prayer-walk’. He met Hushai who would become the confusing council in the house of Absalom. God’s prayers often do get answered quickly. And when they are answered, they are often as practical as that. Our partnership with God in prayer is exactly that: partnership. We pray for our concerns and that our concerns would match God’s concerns and that our actions will go hand in hand with God’s responses. We talk to God. We trust God. We walk with God. We do not simply take things into our own hands, nor do we pray and then leave it solely with Him. Our walk with God is a partnership, with him always in the lead.

“So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.” The end of Chapter 15 highlights how narrowly David escaped the city before Absalom arrived. David had reached the summit of the Mount of Olives and, by the time Hushai descended back to Jerusalem, Absalom was arriving. David would be out of site of the city and on his way, but just in time. This is the reverse image of Jesus entering Jerusalem in Luke as he got to the summit and saw Jerusalem in his view – then he wept.

The King’s hope (16:1-14)

The king’s hope is that God will find favour in the LORD’s eyes and be brought back to see his dwelling place again (15:25). This hope is shown in the next two episodes with Ziba (1-4) and with Shimei (5-14).

“The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’” Ziba was the steward of Saul who was then given charge over Saul’s property on behalf of Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth (Shebby). What we read in Verses 1-4 is a contrived story that makes Ziba look amazing and Shebby look bad. It maps a bit with Absalom’s lies to get the country behind him instead of David. Both Ziba and David seem to believe that the kingdom still belongs to David. What Ziba wants is for the deeds to his master Saul’s property. The support for this is found later when we hear from Shebby that Ziba had tricked him (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

“As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul…” Shimei does not stop cursing David. We must understand that he starts and then does not let up. His accusation against David is about bloodshed and so, this man has concluded that because of the many deaths David has made in battle (see the second half of 1 Samuel) that God has caught up on this. He is unlikely referring to Uriah since he mentions all the blood shed in Saul’s household. So, here is a man who has seen the king exiled and believes it is right in the eyes of the LORD. We may say that this man cannot fathom God’s will also including times of suffering and misfortune for His greater good. Shimei will ask for forgiveness in Chapter 19 when David is restored by God.

“Then Abishai…said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’” Abishai’s method of dealing with this (verbal and physical attacks) is to slay the man down. David took off the head of Goliath for mocking the people of God and therefore God. Why not the same approach with this ‘dead dog’ (that language ought to remind us of Goliath). But David’s response is to maintain that God will do what is right with David. Abishai will have some dejavu in Chapter 19.

“If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” David does have reason to feel that God has taken the kingdom away from him and needs this time of exile. Not only did he have Uriah put to death (a deed that God has forgiven and dealt with) but he watched as his eldest sons commited adultery and then murder. How is even David to know if this man is not a prophet, speaking the very message of God? He then explains himself well in Verses 11-12. Note particulary David’s hope that God will restore his covenant blessing – a promise that David’s throne would go on forever.

“The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.” The walk to the destination, the fords in the wilderness (15:28), was made more exhausting by fact that Shimei son of Gera was throwing stones and dirt out over the head of David and all around him. Those who followed David had to endure what David endured. If he is cursed, then they would be too. No student is better than their teacher or servant better than their master. When they finally arrived, David refreshed himself. He had arrived and was only to wait now. Will David’s hope to be restored by God come to fruition. The kingdom is in God’s hands.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The chosen one of Israel has been rejected by the descendants of Abraham who have been mislead by a want-to-be king. Although Absalom has the appearance of godliness, he wishes to fool everyone to submitting to him and giving him the kingdom that does not yet belong to him. David’s exile is one that foreshadows the exile of the Messiah to the cross. He walks the same path through the valley and the motive is both the same and also enlightening – the Messiah commits his hands into God’s will for the outcome. He goes out for the benefit of his followers. But his followers all share in the same suffering. David is back.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Moving forward while leaving it to God. David prayed and then acted on solving his own prayer. David also hear the warnings about Absalom and retreated in wisdom, all the while trusting in God for the outcome. His walk with God is exactly that: a walk. He does not walk alone and he does not sit still in faith. He uses both his leg muscles and his faith muscles. I’ll pass on here four things I saw recently as healthy coping practices of the godly. 1) work together with God as partner. 2) Do what you can and put the rest in God’s hand. 3) Look to God for strength, support and guidance. 4) Ask others for prayer. These four interweave and overlap in practice but I see David demonstrating all of these as he walked through the valley, praying and making wise decisions as he went – all the while knowing that God has got this.

Topic B: Beware of those who appear to have God’s interests at heart. Absalom and Ziba both gave the appearance of generosity and kindness and a heart for God, while always they were just working out an inheritance for themselves that was not theirs to have (at least not yet). Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. How do you compare this description with Absalom? How can we watch for people like this and how should we respond? 

Topic C: Praise God for Jesus’ darkest hour. We must not forget what this passage ultimately points us to: the suffering servant who did not treat his divinity as something to be godless with. He humbled himself to the place of a convicted human and suffered death on the cross for our sake. He gave over his future into the Father’s hands. The link between Jesus’ walk and David’s walk is made clear in John 18:1-14 and there is a similar echo in the words of Jesus who told Peter to put his sword away. He did not go to the cross to save himself but to save us. He is the King that we need and our walk with Him, through the toughest of times, is worth it knowing that He is the King that God pulled out of the grave (Romans 8:11; Galatians 1:1).

2 Samuel 5

A conquering king

Discussion Question

What stops us from trusting in the LORD with all our heart? Why do we become impatient and anxious about the future?

Background (Context)

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.

Structure

  • 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

2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

How the Kingdom of God grows

A note to leaders: This section covers two chapters. This would take too long to cover in detail in one study. A decision is needed to look at the whole two chapters superficially or one of three sections (scenes) in a little more detail. Each scene looks at the reaction of King David to three types of offerings to the King and how exactly does the House of David grow stronger and stronger (2 Sam 2:1). We see, in the first scene, a man who crosses over to the kingdom of David and peace is made between him and the king. In the second scene we see a loyal member of the king’s court who is damned because he does not understand the nature of the kingdom. And the third scene similarly sees judgment paid on those who think that good can come out of wicked means.

So, will you draw out those three lessons broadly and look at the whole two chapters? Or will you choose one of the three scenes and cover that as a group?

Discussion Question

It is better to do right and not to have than to do evil and have it all.

Background (Context)

Once king Saul had been killed in battle, David inquired of the LORD and was directed to go up to Horeb. He went up as the LORD had directed him and was anointed king over Judah. Saul’s cousin, Abner, placed a son of Saul (Ish-Bosheth) as king over “all Israel”. He initiated a division in the nation that went against the wishes of God. The battle between the house of David and the house of Saul lasted a long time but David’s house grew stronger. We enter Chapter 3 with the message that David’s kingdom will flourish but what will become of Abner and the kingdom under Ish-Bosheth?

Read 2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ ”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

4 When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have resided there as foreigners to this day.

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.

7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

  • Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
  • Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
  • Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
  • Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
  • End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

  • Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
  • Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
  • Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
  • Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
  • End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

  • Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
  • Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
  • Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
  • Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
  • End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)

Notice how Ish-Bosheth isn’t even mentioned in this description. Abner is a political warrior aiming to position himself well in the land. He may not be king, but we’ll see that he regarded himself as good-as.

Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)

In Abner’s position, he took one of Saul’s concubines. Saul was not longer alive of course. Ish-Bosheth’s question in Verse 7 seems reasonable except that it was a step too far for Abner. He had served Saul and had created this kingdom for Ish-Bosheth, who had done nothing. Why should Abner be denied this small thing? How dare Ish-Bosheth!

Abner decides to remove the kingdom from Ish-Bosheth and hand it to David. He even admits that David was promised the Kingdom by God (V9). He is likely to have been present with Saul when Saul declared such a thing (see 1 Samuel 24:20). In that same passage he would have noticed the kindness of David compared to the little he has gained from Ish-Bosheth.

Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)

Abner came to David with the offer to bring Israel over to David (see how Abner feels he has the nation under his spell?). David accepts but quickly takes the lead in the agreement: “I will make an agreement with you.” He asks for his wife Michal to be returned to him but then doesn’t wait for Abner to organise it, but sends a message to Ish-Bosheth directly on the matter. Michal and David had loved one another and their marriage is a tragedy – all because of the wickedness of Saul.

Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)

Abner goes around all of Israel speaking to the elders and calling them to make David their king. He is like an evangelist telling others of the goodness of coming to David. When he arrived back in Hebron, David sits him down for a feast that David had prepared. The once enemy of David was now being treated at his table.

End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Abner proposes to assemble all of the elders at once so they can set David as their king and David sends him away in peace. The future of David as the one king of Israel looks to be here. The strength of David’s house had been growing and it was about to be complete. The path? Through peace made between enemies.

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)

Joab returned to Hebron having fought in the fight for the House of David but he had missed the agreement and discussions make between David and Abner. If he had been there he would have had something else to say.

Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)

Joab spoke his mind to David but we get no response from David. Later, David makes it clear to all of Israel that he did not betray Abner. Joab accuses Abner of being a lier and conspiring but it is Joab who kills Abner in a deceptive manner. Rather than accept the peace made, Joab strikes down Abner, both for the kingdom but also from revenge for his brother. Joab may be serving in the House of David but he does not have the same motives of David. What will David do when he hears what happened?

Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)

David prays a curse on the family of Joab. They reflect all of the curses that God promises to those who do not obey his commands. David’s hope is that his kingdom would not be connected to Abner’s death in any way. David totally disapproves of what Joab did.

Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)

Notice the repetition in these verses of ‘all the people’. David directs the people and even Joab to mourn for the loss of Abner. The King leads the way in the mourning, it is not a show and the people followed his directions. The King’s lament asks if Abner really deserved to die like the wicked. The people try to ease the King out of mourning but he insists on grieving Abner completely.  

End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

‘All the people’ are convinced that David is a good king. Everything he did pleased them. Abner did not bring all Israel over to David in his life but ‘all the people’ present grew deeper in their loyalty to David. He proved again to be a good and righteous king.

In Verse 39, David gives us a snapshot of his kingdom. He has people in his kingdom who are too strong for him. If the kingdom is to be given entirely to David, he will not be able to restrain the likes of Joab, Abashai and Asahel. He calls on the LORD to protect and grow the kingdom.

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)

The scene changes from Hebron to the kingdom of Ish-Bosheth which, to this point, is ‘all Israel’ apparently. Abner had been killed before he was able to bring all of Israel to serve David as King. The son of Saul hears the bad news that Abner died in Hebron. Perhaps he did not hear of all the details and is left to wonder and worry about the future.

Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)

We are told that he lost courage and all Israel became alarmed. What do people do when anxiety and fear overtakes them? They fight or flee. It seems that Ish-Bosheth lost his courage and became weak. What will be the response of ‘all Israel’?

Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)

Rekab and Baanah are introduced in Verses 2-4 with a great deal of backstory and gap-filling. Mephibosheth is introduced here and we shall hear more about him later in the book.

As we read of what Rekab and Baanah do, two stories come to mind. The first is the most recent of Joab killing Abner and being cursed by the king for his treachery. The second is of the messenger at the beginning of the book who came to report the death of Saul (lying that he himself killed him) and was killed for his evil treatment of the LORD’s annointed. So, as readers, we must surely expect David to not like what they have done. And yet we still wonder if he will still be a righteous king.

Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)

David begins his response to these two men with the declaration that he has come to know that the living God is the one who delivers. He does not trust in the craftiness of men to do his bidding but in the deliverance of the LORD. He is a righteous King and a just judge.

End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

The evil men were made a spectacle of. David making it clear once again that his kingdom is not growing through evil ways but growing by the providence of God. It is, after all, the LORD’s kingdom. David buries Ish-Bosheth with Abner – an show of kindness to the son of Saul.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Kingdom of God welcomes those who turn to the King. It is a Kingdom of forgiveness and peace and will not grow through unrighteous means. The LORD will welcome enemies but reject those who do not understand what the Kingdom is about.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Rejoice that we rebels are welcomed to feast with The Lord Jesus in peace. The image of Abner eating a feast prepared for him by David, his once rival and then sent out to gather in the rest of the tribes of Israel is a glimpse of the church of Christ who are forgiven and sent out to tell all that Jesus is King and Saviour. Have you understood this grace offered to you?

Topic B: Unable to forgive. If forgiveness were easy then everybody would be doing it. Abner had been welcomed in and made peace with the Kingdom of David but Joab was unable to accept this change of heart. Joab was cursed by David for his failure to forgive and was later taught how to mourn for the death of his enemy. Forgiveness is hard, yes. It was not an easy thing for Christ to forgive you and me either. But it is the nature of the Kingdom of God and the King whom we serve.

Topic C: Accomplishing good through unrighteous means. Rekab and Baanah expected to receive blessings for bringing down the King’s enemy but they did it by unrighteous means. We are not driven to stab anyone in the name of Jesus but are there other ways that Christians can be tempted to expand the Kingdom through evil ways? Lying? Stealing? Measuring the church by number of people on seats rather than souls saved?