Category Archives: Faith

2 Samuel 10

A Despised King

Discussion Question

Is there anyone in the world that does not deserve the kindness of God?

Background (Context)

2 Samuel Chapter 10 contains a few place names that we need some background information on. A good bible dictionary can really speed up research like this but remember that 99% of what we need to know about places in the Old Testament come from the Old Testament itself. Therefore, a good bible search tool or cross-reference bible are both very helpful.

The Ammonites are descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Israelites were commanded not to harm or take the land from the Ammonites in Deuteronomy 2:19 because God had made a separate promise to Lot. But the Ammonites were also forbidden to join in the Israelite blessing (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) because they had hired Balaam to prophesy against Israel. Nahesh, king of the Ammonites besieged Jabesh-Gilead (an Israelite town) at the time when Saul became king. Saul rescued Jabesh-Gilead. We are told in 2 Samuel 10:2 that David had a good relationship with King Nahesh.

In Chapter 8, we read of David defeating Hadadezar, king of Zobah. David took a lot of gold and bronze from Hadadezar. People from Damascus tried to help Hadadezar but failed. It appears that the people of Zobah and of Damascus and of Rehob are also part of a common group known as the Arameans – the Arameans of Damascus, of Zobah and of Rehob for example. Hadadezar oppressed the people of Hamath who then thanked David for defeating Hadadezar.

Joab was a commander in David’s army (2 Samuel 8:16).

The theme of Chapter 9 was about the kindness of God shown through David to Mephibosheth. The events of Chapter 10 continue the theme of God’s kindness but this time as it is directed to the nations around Israel.

Read 2 Samuel 10

10 In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.

When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.”

When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob.

On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men. The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob and the men of Tob and Maakah were by themselves in the open country.

Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. 10 He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. 11 Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. 12 Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”

13 Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. 14 When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.

15 After the Arameans saw that they had been routed by Israel, they regrouped. 16 Hadadezer had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam, with Shobak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them.

17 When David was told of this, he gathered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him. 18 But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there. 19 When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them.

So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.

What did you see? (Observation)

For the sake of clarity, here is a quick summary of Chapter 10! David wanted to extend his friendship to the next king of the Ammonites but instead of friendship, king Hanun humiliated David’s men. The Ammonites then hired 20,000 Aramean foot soldiers and others. David sent Joab and his whole army to fight the Ammonites. The Ammonites stood outside their city to wait for Joab while the hired men went behind Joab. Joab took half of his men to turn and fight the Arameans while Abishai, his brother, took the other half to confront the Ammonites. The Arameans got scared and fled. The Ammonites got scared and retreated into their city. Joab returned to Jerusalem but the Arameans regrouped and descended, along with more men from the Euphrates to a town called Helam. David himself came out with his men to fight at Helam and he defeated them. Everyone who was once subject to Hadadezar now became willing subjects to David.

Structure

  • The King’s kindness extended (1-2)
  • The kindness rejected (3-5)
  • The conflict that followed (6-16)
  • The king who ended the conflict and those who thanked him (17-19)

The King’s kindness extended (1-2)

“In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died…” As mentioned in the Context section, we may read this chapter as what happened when the Ammonite king died, rather than ‘what happened next’ chronologically. This chapter is a story about what happened when this king died. A time that is fragile for kingdoms – an opportune moment for other nations to take advantage of their transition.

“David thought, “I will show kindness…”” The theme of this chapter is also kindness just as Chapter 9. This kindness is stretched out beyond the borders of Israel. The Ammonites were East of the Jordan River. The Kingdom of David, which foreshadows the Kingdom of God, is to be an international blessing. Abraham was told that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations.

“…just as his father showed kindness to me.” This is surprising since they had not shown kindness toward Saul but we take David at his word. At the least, there was no hostility between David and Nahash. Their relationship may have gone further but we do not know.

“So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy…” David sent messengers with his condolences. Although David did not go in person, he sent people with authority to announce his words. We may ponder how God has sent prophets and apostles into the world to announce His intentions for peace.

“When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites…” Now the problem of the story is ready. David’s men have travelled across the Jordan into foreign territory to represent the king of Israel. What reception will they get?

The kindness rejected (3-5)

“…the Ammonite commanders said to…their lord, “Do you think…” In contrast to David being in command of his men and sending them based on his thinking, the commanders in Hanun’s court speak to their lord and try to influence his thinking. I’m not sure how big a deal this difference makes except to contrast David’s command with Hanun’s.

“So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.” If I could put an emoji here it would be the one with no mouth and wide round eyes! David’s men may not have even had the opportunity to speak what they had been sent to say. King Hanun despised the kindness of King David. The half shaven beard and the trouserless men were sent away humiliated. The darker side of Nahash (1 Samuel 11:2) is seen in his son, Hanun.

“David…sent messengers to meet the men…”Stay in Jericho till your beards have grown…” David’s kindness is seen again. He was alert to the news of what had gone down and didn’t wait for the men to return to Jerusalem. He knew that they would be ashamed to come to Jerusalem as they were. Even if they had acquired clothing on their journey back, they still had their shaved beards to bare (see Leviticus 19:27; Jeremiah 48:37 and Ezekiel 5:1 for examples of how the beard was a sign of dignity).

The conflict that followed (6-16)

“When the Ammonites realised that they had become obnoxious to David…” Another clue here is given to show David’s care for his messengers. The way that his messengers were treated were directly felt by King David. They were truly his flesh and blood – part of the body of Israel with David as the head. We don’t hear what David thought of the Ammonites but they devised that they had become a stench to David. A strong rejection was felt from the point of view of the Ammonites. But what will they do in response to this awareness?

“…they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers…” They could have opted for an apology – to repent – but they chose to go all in and gather supporters. Enter the Arameans of Beth Rehob and Zobah (where Hadadezer is from) plus some from Maakah and Tob. See Romans 2:4 to remember the kindness of God toward sinners.

“On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men.” O-Oh…they’re in trouble! David has remained at Jerusalem but his whole fighting army has gone out with the commanding officer. We ought to picture a righteous response to the aggression initiated by the enemy of Israel. We ought also wonder what the result will be since David is not with them and there has not been that particular habit of enquiring of the LORD.

“The Ammonites came out…at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans…were…in the open country.” Picture the city of the Ammonites guarded by soldiers in front and the Israelite army approaching but a third army forming behind the Israelites. The people of God have been sent by God’s king into the world and the nations are hostile all around them.

“Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him…” The surprise attack was revealed. Joab saw what was literally happening on the battlefield – in contrast to how the Ammonites saw that they had become obnoxious to David (Verse 6). The Ammonites were reacting to an inner fear while Joab was seeing real hostility forming around him.

“…best troops in Israel…against the Arameans.” The greater threat to Israel appeared to be the Arameans rather than the silly Ammonites who cut beards and dack their enemy.

“Joab said…” The speech from Joab is unexpectedly long in this passage. A good rule in reading the bible is to take note of what people say in the narratives. They reveal their intentions (derr) but the narrator (Holy Spirit driving the writer) uses speech to disclose important details.

“Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God.” When brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God are in battle, spiritually and through interacting with the world we live in, how good is it to hear something like: take courage, be strong, think of what we are doing here. Let us support and rescue one another and be mindful that we are doing battle with the enemy of God. We need to unpack how this translates to Christians fighting which we will look at in the application.

“The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” After the plans of Joab have been laid out, we hear of his faith or at least his understanding of God’s sovereignty. The fighters in David’s kingdom know that they are part of the plans of God. They make the plans but God will direct the outcome. He may not know what God would do but he does know that whatever God does will be good.

Let me quote John Woodhouse on this speech from Joab…

“Joab’s words to Abishai stand at the heart of this chapter. He makes the only direct reference to God in the whole chapter, and what he said illuminates the whole episode. The words are a wonderful expression of faith in God. Faith is knowing that the Lord is good and that he does what is good. What is good is decided by God, not us.42 But with this faith we can face any enemy, any situation, any threat with a strength that comes from this faith. As we walk honestly before God, doing what he approves, he will give us strength that surpasses whatever power confronts us (cf. Romans 8:31–39).”

“…Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.” Both hostile armies fled. There was no need for Joab to support Abishai nor Abishai to support Joab. There were no recorded deaths in this battle. The enemy fled in both directions. The first outcome seems like a win for God’s people. Joab was able to return all the way to Jerusalem.

“After the Arameans saw…they regrouped.” The enemy gets their second wind. One battle had been won but the enemy takes every opportunity to attack. Even a quick beating will not resolve this situation. The enemy is relentless.

“Hadadezer…” He is mentioned in Verse 16 for the first time in this chapter but is named twice more. We met him in Chapter 8 when we heard of his defeat and David acquiring much gold and bronze from him. He is the king of Zobah and has therefore been part of this conflict since Verse 6. Hadadezer means “Hadad is [my] help”. Hadad was a pagan storm-god known as “the one who smashes.”

“…brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam…” The enemy regrouped but came back even stronger and came to Helam. The location of Helam is not certain but way closer to home. Perhaps some 60km east of the Sea of Galilee.

While the Ammonites had retreated to their city, their hired help were now determined to show their strength against Israel. So far it has been a battle led by commanders, Joab and now Shobak. The enemy are poised to engage with more force than the first time.

The king who ended the conflict and those who thanked him (17-19)

“When David was told this…” The next stage of the story begins here – the resolution. David is now brought back into the story and we watch to see what he does.

“…he gathered Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam.” He doesn’t send this time but he gathers and goes. The king is going to war.

“The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him.” Both sides are engaged to fight with all the force they can gather. It’s multiple tribes of the Arameans against David.

“But they fled before Israel…” It’s all over folks. Nothing to see here. David wins. This time, however, there is more than just the enemy fleeing…

“…David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousans of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shoback the commander of their army, and he died there.” David not only won but he disabled any future attacks from this evil people. There were a few points in this chapter which would have allowed the enemy to live. They first of all should not have sided with the city that shunned David’s kindness. They should have also kept away after the first battle. These were a people bent on attacking God’s people.

“When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw…they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them.” We learn here that Hadadezer, king of Zobah, was lord over other kingdoms too. These other kings were subject of him with a kind of feudal allegiance. He would not harm them if they saluted him. Likely they paid tribute or taxes and perhaps they would receive some protection from him. The details of the arrangement can differ but he was their dominant rival. They get to keep their land but as subjects of Hadadezer. But they see that David has defeated them. They make peace with David – accepting the kindness that was initially offered to the Ammonites. They reject the power of king Hadadezer and come to David now as their King.

“So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.” The Arameans were defeated but the story leaves us to contemplate the future of the Ammonites. They were the ones that were offered David’s kindness. They rejected it. They did not relent but looked for help from others. Now, they do not have the kindness of King David nor the help from anybody else. They are left on their own. Alone in the world and without the friendship of God’s King.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The kindness of God’s king is offered to the nations of the world. If only they would learn to trust in the offer that God makes instead of choosing to hate His friendship. Those who oppose the goodness of God will face the judgement of God. There are those in command who stand up against God’s kingdom but there is One True King who will receive all who come to Him and call Him Lord.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The gospel for all nations. The story opens and closes with the message of kindness to nations outside of Israel. David opens his hand to a foreign king and it is rejected. But the conclusion of the story is of other nations coming to David – recognising that he is the king to be at peace with. The gospel is very much like this. Romans 10:9 tells us that salvation is about declaring Jesus as Lord. How can people do that if they do not know because they have not heard. Did you notice along the story how everybody acted on what they saw (V6, 9, 15, 19)  and on what they heard (V5, 7, 17). The gospel is not a secret to be kept but a message of what God has done, what He is like, and how He wants to make peace with all who will not stand up against Him.

Topic B: The encouragement of a Christian brother or sister. As noted, Joab’s speech is a significant one. It is a conversation between two brothers fighting for the same king and trusting in the same God. The battle ahead would be daunting especially when they felt trapped by two armies. But their trust was in the LORD to do what the LORD sees as good. They were of one mind with regard to their mission. Their faith was in God who they trust will do good. The word of encouragement is not simply to toughen up but to see the bigger picture and know that Yahweh is God. And to go even one step further, they are to be ready to rescue one another. It is important for us all to have friends. Not just work colleagues or fellow church goers but friends. It is so great when we have a friend who will talk to us about God and give us courage to keep trusting in the LORD.

Topic C: The trouble with kindness is that it is too subtle for fools. The kingdom of God has two faces – the face you see depends on your response to the kingdom. On the one hand there is kindness. God created a good world, damaged by the sin of humanity, but kept mercifully going by God, his wrath held back so that many can be saved. This is the loving kindness of God to the world that says, “God gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will…have eternal life.” What a wonderfully generous offer that we all ought to accept straight away! But the other face of the kingdom is punishment on fools who say that there is no God, or that God does not deserve to be recognised. John 3:16 implies that if we continue in our unbelief then we will perish.  John 3:36 puts it like this: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” All of humanity are experiencing the kindness of God while He refrains from pouring His wrath on those who have not yet turned to the King. Our race mistakes God’s kindness as idleness when really it means salvation. As Romans 2:4 says, “do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

2 Samuel 2-3:5

A New King

Discussion Question

Is it possible to talk about right and wrong in this world anymore? In our democratic society, is the majority always right?

Background (Context)

The first 5 books of the bible (AKA the Pentateuch) cover the origins of life and the origins of the nation of Israel – a priviledged nation because God Almighty chose them to be his people, in a promised land, with directions (commands) to obey and live in rest and peace. The book of Joshua described a great time of the nation entering the promised land and driving out all foreign nations lest they tempt them to stray from God’s plans. Then, in Judges, we read of a nation declining as they returned again and again to sin, rejected God as their king. While the nation should have strived by loving the Lord with all their heart and neighbour as themselves, the problem of sin continues to blossom in the bible narratives.

Then we get to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. Israel demands of Samuel that they have a king just like the other nations. By the word of the LORD Samuel consents to the people’s wicked request. While having a king was not a sin, the real error is that they were rejecting God once again. The first king of Israel, God’s anointed one, was Saul with his son Jonathan as the prince of Israel. The book of 1 Samuel describes how this came to be and how king Saul disobeyed God and so God found another man, a man after His own heart, to be the next king. David, the son of Jesse, the great grandson of Ruth and Obed, was anointed by Samuel as the king of Israel. David was pursued by the jealous king Saul but befriended by Saul’s son, Jonothan.

Finally, in the first chapter of 2 Samuel, David receives word from a foreigner that king Saul has been killed. The messenger reports that he killed a dying Saul. Rather than rejoicing, David demands the life of this man for killing the LORD’s anointed. The fact that Saul gave David a really hard time in his life does not change the fact that Saul was anointed by God to be king. David demonstrates his love for God and His kingdom more than the kingdom of David. The lament that he teaches all the people to recite shadows the lament of those who would look on the ultimate King of the Jews slain. Good Friday is a day to reflect on our sins as we humans slay The Anointed One.

Read 2 Samuel 2-3:5

In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The Lord said, “Go up.”
David asked, “Where shall I go?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.

2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men from Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, 5 he sent messengers to them to say to them, “The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 6 May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 7 Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.”

8 Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9 He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months.

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13 Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”

28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours and came to Mahanaim.

30 Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.

3 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

2 Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; 3 his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; 4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

Beginning: David’s move to be king over Israel (1-7)

Problem: Abner makes Ish-Bosheth son of Saul king over most of Israel (8-11)

Quest: Abner (Israel/Ish-Bosheth) vs Joab (Judah/David) (12-25)

  • 12 against 12 – all die (12-16)
  • The battle that followed was fierce – David’s men win (17)
  • Asahel of David’s house pursues Abner – Asahel dies (18-25)

Resolution: Abner calls a truce (26-32)

End: David’s kingdom grows (3:1-5)

The structure of a narrative can be broken down into the 5 basic elements of any story: Beginning, Problem, Quest, Resolution, End. See this post from the book of Jonah to see how this works. We’ll step through the five stages of this narrative to discover what we are supposed to notice.

Beginning: David’s move to be king over Israel (1-7)

“…David inquired of the LORD…” The story begins with David having waited a respectable time since the death of Saul. He is not eager or ambishish to take the kingdom of Israel before it is time. After a time, he asks of Yahweh if he should go up to the region of Judah. David appears as the good guy in this story, acting nobly as a propper king of Israel. This inquiry is not a small mention at the beginning of this story. Just as God went before Moses and Joshua and the judges of Israel, David is shown to be a man of God. Notice the slow pace of Verse 1 and then the deliberate and complete obedience of Verse 2 as David goes all in.

“…the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.” I have placed a table below on all of the people and place names for a quick reference. The LORD sent David to Hebron. He is welcomed there and enthroned as king over Judah – one of the 12 regions of Israel. Judah is the region David came from (in Bethlehem) and it is prophesied as the kingly line of Israel (Genesis 49:8-10). David is to be God’s anointed king of Israel.

“…I too will show you the same favour…” David approaches Jabesh Gilead, a region of Saul followers, and proposes a peace. We are not told what the people of Jabesh Gilead say in reply – presumably it is a positive one – but the absence of an answer leads us to ask the question of this passage: will everyone submit to king David as God has ordained it?

Problem: Abner makes Ish-Bosheth son of Saul king over most of Israel (8-11)

“Meanwhile, Abner…made [Ish-Bosheth son of Saul] king over … all Israel.” So, there’s the problem. While David and Judah and the LORD are on the same page, the rest of Israel are not. From this point on, the story is driven by the men of Ish-Bosheth and the men of David and not by David or Ish-Bosheth (IB) themselves. This is a question of who the people will follow. IB is silent in this whole process and the rebellion is driven by Abner, the son of Ner who was Saul’s uncle (1 Samuel 14:50). Benjamin was Saul’s native people.

“The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David.” The problem is laid out for us. It is another David v Goliath battle. David and his relatives in Judah against IB and his relative in Benjamin and the rest of Israel.

Quest: Abner (Israel/Ish-Bosheth) vs Joab (Judah/David) (12-25)

12 against 12 – all die (12-16)

“…men of IB…and…David’s men went out and met…at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.” There is a face-off sounding similar to the confrontations between Israel and the Philistine enemy. This, though, is civil war.

“Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.” Abner asks this of Joab and his response is, “All right, let them do it.” Again, I’m reminded of the battle between Israel and the Philistines where Goliath came down to represent Philistine against a representative of Israel. The united Israel won that day as David stepped up to represent the people of God. This time we have the brothers of Israel facing each other.

“Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together.” Twelve men of IB faced up against twelve men of David. Though the country is divided, they all fall down this day together. Twenty four men died. Do we make much of the number 12? We ought to pause and reflect that Israel contains 12 tribes who are later represented by the 12 disciples. We won’t go too crazy over numbers in the bible but 12 appears to be a complete number.

The battle that followed was fierce – David’s men win (17)

“The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.” After the twenty four men fell by the dagger, the rest of the men present that day fought each other. David’s men, against the rest of Israel, were victorious.

Asahel of David’s house pursues Abner – Asahel dies (18-25)

“Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.” What a cool verse! Abner survived the battle and we now learn of Asahel and his brothers. Asahel goes in hot pursuit of Abner.

“…turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him.” Asahel was determined and concentrated on the man, Abner. He might have stopped and slain people this way or that but he ran past them and fixed his eyes on Abner. This man, above all others, has instigated a rival to the anointed king of Israel.

“Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?” We are reminded that this is civil war. Much death has occured on this day but Abner does not want to kill the brother of Joab.

“Asahel…fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.” Asahel had been miles ahead of his comrades since he was ‘as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.’ When they had caught up to him they found him killed.

“But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner…” Two men continued the pursuit. They had not been as fast as Asahel but they were as determined to end this.

“Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.” We get ready for another round of fighting. Only Joab and Abishai are there to face up against the men of Benjamin. It could easily turn into a slaughter of the leaders of David’s men.

 

Resolution: Abner calls a truce (26-32)

“How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?” It’s odd to find Abner as the one to call a truce. But Abner, who is leading most of Israel (on a defeated day) sees that the men of David are driven. They will not stop until this is over. Abner has shown remorse in killing Asahel. He seems to not want to see any further bloodshed today. We are reminded again that this is a civil war.

“As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”  Joab agrees that David’s men would not have stopped. The issue in this story has taken a strange twist. It was initially about who the people in Israel would submit to. Now the issue has become about how far will the people of God go in destroying each other. Will the kingdom of David be overcome by bloodshed? Will his kingdom be defined by being the stronger army?

“So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt…” And as the sun was setting (Verse 24) the battle stops suddenly. The pursuit is over. The challenge is paused. Everyone is ready to go back to their homes.

“…marched through the Arabah….came to Mahanaim.” Abner and the men of IB travelled back home to where IB reigned. The Arabah is south of the Salt Sea which is the Dead Sea and which was known as the Arabah Sea.

“Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.” David’s men made their way back to David by the next day. The comment in Verse 32 about Asahel’s burial need not have been fulfilled that night.

End: David’s kingdom grows (3:1-5)

“The way between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.” These 5 verses do not drive the story further at this point and so we come to the end of this account. David’s house grows increasingly stronger and Saul’s house grows increasingly weaker. David’s house is described during his reign in Hebron. Later in this book we will hear of how David came to live in Jerusalem.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The narrative begins and ends with David, the anointed king of Israel. He is God’s king, walking in obedience to God and God blesses and establishes his kingdom. The enemy of David’s house, Abner, puts a false king on the throne and instigates a civil war among the people of God. He does not succeed but the people of God were struck with a death toll. While God is sovereign and his promised king is clear, the way of the kingdom contains battles and resistance. The King of the Kingdom has His enemies who will try to shake it.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The true King verses the world. The world we live in has the choice of submitting to the Anointed King Jesus or establishing a kingdom of their own. Even as the people of God, Christians are confronted every day with temptations to bow to other rulers: money, self-gain, popularity etc. King Jesus reigns in truth over a world that denies his rule.

Topic B: Turning neither to the right nor to the left. The episode of Asahel pursuing Abner with his gazelle-like legs leads us to consider our determination to run straight and true in the Kingdom of God. While this application appears allegorical at first (which is a reading method that comes with great caution) it appears amidst a greater story establishing David as king and yet people have looked elsewhere for an alternative. The enemies of the Kingdom of God are our enemy. We don’t consider people as the enemy, rather we consider the lies of the devil and of this world as the enemy. The New Testament teaches Christians to put to death the misdeeds of the body.

Topic C: An unfinished war. While the men of David won the battle that day, the war was not over. Jesus is the established king of the kingdom and his subjects continue to grow over time and across the world. We live in this time of an unfinished war. We don’t fight with swords or spears or daggers, but we speak the truth that Jesus is Lord of all. We won’t win this battle by strength or wit but by faith – simply knowing that the King we serve IS the King. Plain and simple.

Table of people and places

 

The House of David The House of Saul
The King David Ish-Bosheth son of Saul
People David’s wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel; Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel.

Zeruiah, of Bethlehem (deceased), father of Joab, Abishai and Asahel.

Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army.
Places Hebron in Judah.

Jabesh Gilead(?)

Jabesh Gilead – Saul had fought for them in 1 Samuel 11 and they took care of Saul’s body in 1 Samuel 31.

Mahanaim – where Ish-Bosheth reigned.

Gilead, Ashuri, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin.

Gibeon – in the Benjamin region. Renamed Helkath Hazzurim meaning field of daggers.

 

Luke 22:39-46

The Father’s Will

Discussion Question

Prayer is __________.

OR

Prayer is faith speaking. Discuss.

Background

Previously, Jesus had shared the Passover meal with his disciples. At that table sat Judas who had already consented to betraying Jesus, being tempted by Satan to do so, and Simon Peter whom Jesus declared would be attacked by Satan and will betray Jesus before dawn. The time of pleasant ministry and small verbal attacks are over. It is time for Jesus to be betrayed and it will happen this very night. Despite Jesus’ warnings to the disciples and his teachings to them about the kingdom of God, they have been dull in their understanding.

Read Luke 22:39-46

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • The plan to pray (39-40)
  • The crying Son (41-44)
  • The exhausted disciples (45-46)

The Plan to Pray (39-40)

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives…” See Luke 21:37. At the end of his day in Jerusalem, Jesus would retire to the same location at the Mount of Olives. This is the hillside he travelled along when he arrived at the city. See John 18:2.

“…and his disciples followed him.” The way this sentence is constructed shows Jesus knowing where he is going next while the disciples are simply following. That is, they are not a band of brothers, like-minded and driven together – but a party with one leader, the one with the plan and the mission and the twelve men who followed behind. The previous episode illustrated how their minds were on a different path to Jesus’.

“On reaching the place…” Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 note that the exact place is Gethsemane.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He tells them to use this time to pray and gives them the specific direction of praying to stand firm in the midst of temptation (not that temptation will be avoided but that they will not fall on account of it). Jesus had told them at the Lord’s Supper that Satan had asked to sift Simon and the others like wheat (22:31). Jesus told Simon that he was going to betray him that very night. They are instructed to pray to God to ‘deliver them from evil.’ This is the theme of this small passage. Praying to God to protect us and to surrender our wills to the will of the Father.

The Crying Son (41-44)

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them…” The withdrawing suggests an emotional ‘pulling away’ (see Acts 21:1 which uses the same Greek word for ‘tearing oneself away’). The distance of a stone’s throw adds to the emotion picture of the passage.

“…knelt down and prayed…” Jesus had instructed them to do the same and immediately proceeded to do it himself. If prayer was what was needed then pray is what he did. It’s hard to know what to make of the detail that he knelt rather than stood or even just to note that he prayed without describing his position. Common practice was apparently to stand while praying. I’m not sure about that. Perhaps it is best to stick to the narrative and have our minds picturing the scene of Jesus pulling himself away from his friends to spend time with his Father; to position himself a few metres away; and to kneel down in humility. The Son of God is on his own, in the quiet of the night, knelt down and ready to speak to the Father.

“Father, if you are willing…” The Lord’s prayer contained the your will be done element as well as the deliver us from evil. It is a grand prayer that, when meditated on, provides all the ingredients of a faithful mind and life – aligning our wills with the Father’s will. Jesus called the God whom he prayed to Father. We pick up our language of the Trinity from verses like this. Who did Jesus pray to? God of course! This God whom he prayed to, he called Father. Jesus is also in submission to the Father. He demonstrates through his prayer that the will of the Father is paramount. If the Father is willing… When we pray, we discuss what we desire and ask if the Father is willing to allow or fulfill our request. We also surrender our expectations in order to grow in our understanding of what He wills.

“…take this cup from me…” This is a profound prayer from Jesus! The Father and the Son had a plan for salvation from the beginning and the Son entered the world knowing what this plan was. He had described on a number of occasions to the disciples what the plan was (Luke 18:33; 24:6-7). He knew the Father’s will and yet spoke honestly to the Father about it. Now, what is the cup? The closest imagery to flesh this out is what Jesus demonstrated at the last supper only a few verses earlier. Luke 22:17-20. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Jeremiah 25:15-38 (esp. 15-29) uses the cup filled with wine as an image of God’s wrath that must be drunk. It is His wrath raged against the nations of the world, on all who live on the earth to receive punishment (see also Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17-22; . The two images of the cup of wrath and the poured out blood combine to provide for us a cup of mercy because the Son was willing to drink of it on our behalf. Note also that Jesus does not have a death wish as if this is going to be fun for him.

“…yet not my will but yours be done.” As alluded to before, what an amazing model of prayer for us. A rebellious heart may choose to run away from responsibility or consequences and hide until the storm dies down. A godly person will talk to God about what is weighing them down, ask for help and conclude to do what must be done. Tired of having not enough money? Talk to God about that but conclude that His will be done. Is there a health issue that you are facing. God can remove that for you but it may not be his will. Let His will be done. Is there a dilemma that you have – a decision that needs to be made – ask God for the answer! Know that His answer may be clear or it may be that you need to continue in prayer over the matter. Perhaps you already know what you need to do but just wish that there was another way? The examples of prayer can go on. The point though is that it is God’s will that is excellent and we ought to be growing toward loving it always.

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Clearly the will of the Father was not to take the cup from him – but He was willing to send help to get Jesus through the night.

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Note the relationship between his physical, spiritual and emotional being. We have noticed briefly the relationship between the Son and the Father – the Son being submissive to the Father. Now we note the physical realm that Jesus existed in during his ministry here on earth. He was in physical pain, not from the sword or something else, but through the torture of having to face the outcomes of tomorrow. This was obviously more than any human has ever had to face. More than facing the wrath of God – he knew it was coming! His response? To pray even more earnestly than before! The strength of his faith ensured that he would not give up on prayer the minute things got hard. Prayer is a powerful resource that we have to centre our minds on the things of God and to speak with him about them. Our weaknesses and our hurts are shared with God. Our struggle to walk the path is shared with him. We keep talking especially in the thick of temptation. Hebrews 5:7ff alludes to prayers such as this one of Jesus that helped him to stay the path for the sake of those who would trust in him.

“…and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke has used very few words in this entire passage to paint the picture of Jesus’ struggle. Here he uses a simile to describe the anguish (and anxiety?) that produced sweat for Jesus. It is remarkable enough that his prayer session produced sweat.  We need not believe that the sweat was actually mixed with blood but had the weight and consistency of blood. Trust a physician to use an analogy like that (Colossians 4:14). Some manuscripts do not include verses 43 and 44, most likely because it is unique to Luke’s description of events and so scribes may have omitted this.

The Exhausted Disciples (45-46)

“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples…” The passage has a clear focus on prayer as it begins and ends with Jesus speaking to the disciples on their need to pray and centres with Jesus’ prayer in the middle. Verse 45 is the reverse of Verse 41.

“…he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” We are not told weather they prayed at all or not but that they did not have the endurance like Jesus – perhaps they did not last long at all! But we are told that their sleep was more than laziness, it was brought on by emotional fatigue! Was it sorrow brought on by their knowledge of temptation at hand (similar to Jesus) or was it brought on by distress of looking and watching Jesus in distress? Either way, the garden that night was filled with very intense emotion.

“Why are you sleeping?… Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story returns to where it began – the call to pray for protection from sin.

What did we learn?

Prayer is the right response to distress and sorrow. The weapon to overcome temptation is not will power, but prayer. It is an act of faith as we speak honestly about our desires and wants and bring them submissively before the Father who is able to do anything He wills. Jesus carried such anguish leading up to the cross which was exercised with prayer and was responded to with care from the Father. The disciples demonstrate humanities weakness.

Now what?

Topic A: Bringing it all to the Father in prayer. It is rare to find a real prayer warrior. Someone whose instinct is to take things to God in prayer and to wrestle with him in the things that need talking about. Jesus demonstrated, in his perfect example of being human, that prayer is essential. He prayed regularly and he instructed his disciples here that when things are getting ugly, the best thing to do is to pray. Notice that when he found them exhausted, he didn’t say, “oh good on you for taking care of yourselves.” He said, “wake up and pray!” Prayer is the right and loving thing to do when joy is in our hearts. Prayer is the faithful response to stress and trouble. It is the greatest tool that we have in response to temptation.

Topic B: Making prayer a habit. Given Jesus’ own dependance on the Father active in praying, how can we foster a genuine habit of praying? It would be foolish to leave all of our praying up to spontaneity. It would be foolish to assume that making something a habit equates to making it a duty. If dependance on God is what we need, then we need a daily dose of conversing with him. The Lord’s prayer has a daily flavour to it. Prayer is not about tickling God’s ear but about expressing our faith in him through habitually meeting with Him. Discuss what has been some wins or failures with your group on trying to make prayer a daily love. Have lists helped? Has routine been good? Some people associate a time of day or an activity with prayer. Perhaps abstaining from something (like TV or Facebook) until time with God has occurred.

Topic C: The cup that we do not have to drink. Jesus was in anguish over the looming event of the cross. It has been the will of the Father and of the obedient Son to propitiate (expend God’s wrath) on Jesus. We can meditate on what the cup of God’s wrath may be like but we will never ever have to experience it ourselves if we put our trust in Christ and his blood poured out on our behalf. Of course, if we ignore this momentous gift of grace, then where else can we go to avoid drinking this cup ourselves? Perhaps as we consider the topic of prayer, we can equate a praying life with a faithful life lived in response to the price that has been paid for you and me. Not willing to drink the cup yourself? Let’s run to God in prayer of thankfulness and ask Him for all wisdom to live humble and faithful lives.