1 Samuel 16 – God Chooses David
A. Samuel anoints David as king.
Psalms that may go with this period: 8, 19, 23, and 29.
1. (1-3) God tells Samuel to go and anoint a new king over Israel.
Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”
a. How long will you mourn for Saul: There is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to move on. Fill your horn with oil must have excited Samuel because he knew that God wanted him to anoint someone else as king over Israel.
i. God will never allow His work to die with the death or failure of a man. If it is God’s work, it goes beyond any man. Perhaps Samuel was paralyzed with mourning because of Saul’s tragic rebellion, but God was not paralyzed.
b. I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite: Israel’s next king would be found among his sons, the sons of Jesse. Jesse was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:17, 22).
c. How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me: We can certainly understand Samuel’s fear. There isn’t any doubt that Saul would consider this treason. At the same time, it shows a note of fear in Samuel we are almost surprised to see. Perhaps Samuel’s excessive mourning over Saul introduced an element of fear and unbelief in his heart. Samuel didn’t have anything to worry about, because God promised I will show you what you shall do.
i. Was God telling Samuel to lie? Not at all. “This was strictly true; Samuel did offer a sacrifice; and it does not appear that he could have done the work which God designed, unless he had offered this sacrifice, and called the elders of the people together, and this collected Jesse’s sons. But he did not tell the principal design of his coming; had he done so, it would have produced evil and no good.” (Clarke)
d. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons: Years before this, Israel rejected the LORD as their king and they wanted a human king instead. God gave them a human king after their own desire (Saul) but God was still on the throne, crowning who He pleased as He pleased.
i. The simple fact was that God did rule Israel. They could recognize His rule, submit to it, and enjoy the benefits. Or they could resist His reign over Israel and suffer because of it. It does not matter what my attitude towards God is as far as it affects His ultimate victory. The LORD is God and King and will always triumph. But my attitude matters a great deal as it affects my ultimate destiny.
ii. We don’t have to fear for the future when we know God has provided for Himself leaders. In some unlikely places God is raising up leaders for His people. He will keep them obscure and hidden until the right time then He will raise them up.
e. You shall anoint for Me the one I name to you: The first king of Israel was anointed for the people. He was the “king from central casting,” the kind of king the people wanted. Now the “people’s choice” failed and disqualified himself. “Now,” the LORD said, “It’s time for a king for Me.” God was going to show Israel His king.
2. (4-5) Samuel comes to sacrifice at Bethlehem.
So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
a. So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem: Bethlehem was a small town not very far from Jerusalem. It was the home of Ruth and Boaz, from whom the family of Jesse descended. It was a hilly grain-growing region with many small grain fields carved into the hillsides.
b. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” Considering what Samuel had just done with the Amalekite king, Agag (1 Samuel 15:33), it is no wonder the elders of Bethlehem were afraid.
c. Come with me to the sacrifice: The idea was not that Jesse and his sons were to just watch Samuel sacrifice this heifer. They would watch the sacrifice and then share in a large ceremonial meal, eating the meat that came from the sacrificed animal.
i. When an animal was sacrificed to atone for sin none of it was eaten and it was all burned before the LORD. But when an animal was sacrificed as a peace offering, a fellowship offering, or a consecration offering, then part of the animal was burnt before the LORD, and part of it was eaten in a special ceremonial meal.
3. (6-10) God doesn’t choose any of Jesse’s older sons.
So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.”
a. Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him: As Samuel looked at the oldest son Eliab he thought, “This man sure looks like a king. This must be the one God will tell me to anoint. That’s a good choice, God!” Samuel saw a tall, good-looking young man who looked like he would be a great king and leader.
b. Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him: Samuel made the mistake of judging Eliab based on his appearance. This was the same mistake Israel made about their first king. Saul looked the part, but he didn’t have the heart a king of God’s people should have. It didn’t matter how good Eliab looked because God said, “I have refused him.”
c. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart: This was both a statement of fact and an exhortation to godly thinking.
i. First, it was a statement of fact. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. Even the best of men will look at the outward appearance. At that moment, Samuel was guilty of it. We must understand that we can’t read the secrets of another’s heart and we often do only judge on outward appearance. “The world is full of idolatries, but I question if any idolatry has been more extensively practiced than the idolatry of the outward appearance.” (Blaikie)
ii. It was also an exhortation to godly thinking. God told Samuel, “Your natural inclination is to only judge on outward appearance. But I can judge the heart that you can’t see. So, look to Me and don’t be so quick to judge a person only on their outward appearance.” Samuel needed to know his natural inclination to judge only on outward appearance, but he didn’t have to give in to it. He could seek the LORD and seek God’s heart and mind when looking at people.
d. The LORD has not chosen these: God told Samuel that He had not chosen any of the seven sons of Jesse attending the feast. It wasn’t that these sons of Jesse were bad men, but they were not God’s choice. God had a man in mind different from Samuel’s or Jesse’s expectation.
i. Eliab and the seven oldest sons of Jesse were perfect potential kings as far as the flesh is concerned. But God didn’t want a king after the flesh. Israel already had a king like that.
4. (11) Samuel asks about an absent son.
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”
a. Are all the young men here? Samuel had a problem. God told him of Jesse, I have provided Myself a king among his sons (1 Samuel 16:1). Yet here were the seven sons of Jesse and God did not choose any of them. Since Samuel knew God’s word was true he knew there must be another son of Jesse who was not at the sacrificial feast.
b. There remains yet the youngest: This shows the low regard David had among his own family. First, his father didn’t even mention him by name. Second, he wasn’t even invited to the sacrificial feast. Third, he was only called to come because Samuel insisted on it.
i. “So small was David in his father’s esteem that it wasn’t considered necessary to include him in the family when the prophet of God called them to sacrifice.” (Redpath)
ii. When we consider that David was the youngest of eight sons, we aren’t surprised at the low regard he had in his own family. It wasn’t because David’s character or conduct was unworthy; it was simply because he was the youngest of eight sons.
iii. God often chooses unlikely people to do His work, so that everyone knows the work is God’s work, not man’s work. He wants to work in a way so that people regard His servants as they regarded Samson: they wondered at the secret of his strength (Judges 16:5).
iv. “You may not be intellectual or well thought of in your family circle; you may be despised by others for your faith in Christ. Perhaps you had only a little share in the love of your parents, as David did. But remember that those who are rejected of men often become beloved of the Lord.” (Redpath)
c. And there he is, keeping the sheep: David was called for this great anointing when he was out keeping the sheep. David simply did his job and was faithful in small things and what his father told him to do.
i. Keeping the sheep was a servant’s job. The fact that David was out keeping the sheep showed that the family of Jesse was not especially wealthy, because if they were wealthy a servant would be keeping the sheep. But they were not affluent enough to have servants.
ii. Keeping the sheep meant you had time to think. David spent a lot of time looking over the sheep and looking at the glory of God’s creation. God built in him a heart to sing about His glory in all creation (Psalm 19:1-4 and Psalm 8 are good examples).
iii. Keeping the sheep took a special heart, a special care. It meant you knew that sheep needed the care and help of a good shepherd. You learned that you were a sheep and God was your shepherd. During these years, God built in David the heart that would sing about the LORD as his shepherd (as in Psalm 23).
iv. Keeping the sheep meant you had to trust God in the midst of danger. David had lions and bears and wolves to contend with and the sheep had to be protected. “The country round Bethlehem was not a peaceful paradise, and the career of a shepherd was not the easy life of lovesick swains which poets dream.” (Blaikie)
v. David’s years keeping the sheep were not waiting time; they were training time. David was a great man and a great king over Israel because he never lost his shepherd’s heart. Psalm 78:70-72 speaks of the connection between David the king and David the shepherd: He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
5. (12-13) David is chosen and anointed.
So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
a. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking: The physical description of David tells us he had a fair complexion (this is probably the meaning of ruddy, and a light complexion was considered attractive in that culture). He had bright eyes, which speak of vitality and intelligence. David was also good-looking.
i. David had a pleasant appearance, but he did not look like Saul, who looked like a leader and a king (1 Samuel 9:2). David looked nice, but you didn’t look at him and say, “There’s a born leader. There is a king.” That is what people said when they looked at Saul. When they looked at David they said, “That’s a nice-looking boy.”
ii. We don’t know how old David was at this time. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus says that David was ten years old. Others guess he was about fifteen years old. It’s safe to say he was in that range.
b. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” By all outward appearances David’s seven brothers seemed to be better material for royalty. As unlikely as he was, David was the one.
i. David was a shepherd, but there were a lot of shepherds. David was good-looking, but so were a lot of young men. David was young, but there were plenty of young men God could have chosen. God described what made David special in 1 Samuel 13:14: The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people. What made David the one was that he was a man after God’s own heart.
ii. God’s choice of David shows that we don’t have to quit our jobs and enter into full-time ministry to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need to be famous or prominent to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need to be respected or even liked by others to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need status, influence, power, the respect or approval of men, or great responsibilities to be people after God’s own heart.
iii. Where did David get this heart? Obviously, from time spent with the LORD. But someone started him on that path. David says nothing of his father, but twice in the Psalms he refers to his mother as a maidservant of the LORD (Psalm 86:16 and 116:16). Probably, it was David’s godly mother who poured her heart and love and devotion of the LORD into him, and gave him a foundation to build on in his own walk with the LORD. Like Timothy, God used a mother to pour into him a godly faith (2 Timothy 1:5).
c. Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: From the actions of David, Jesse, and David’s brothers, after this we can assume that only God and Samuel knew exactly what happened here.
i. Everyone else probably thought that Samuel just honored David for an unknown reason. Probably no one even dared to think this was a divine royal anointing. But God knew because He had worked in David’s heart for a long time. “The public anointing was the outcome of what had taken place in private between David and God long before.” (Redpath)
d. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward: The real anointing happened when the Holy Spirit came upon David. The oil on the head was just a sign of this inward reality.
e. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah: Samuel did not begin a “Let’s Enthrone David” political party and he did not begin to undermine Saul’s throne, looking for a way to establish David as king. Samuel took one look at David and reacted exactly the way God wanted him to: “LORD, I don’t know why You chose this kid. But You will have to put him on the throne. I can’t do it.”
i. God did do it. 1 Samuel 16:13 is the first mention of the name “David” in the book of 1 Samuel. He has been referred to prophetically before (as in 1 Samuel 13:14 and 15:28). But this is the first mention of his name, which means “Beloved” or “Loved One.”
ii. David will become one of the greatest men of the Bible, mentioned more than 1,000 times in the pages of Scripture – more than Abraham, more than Moses, more than any mere man in the New Testament. It’s no accident that Jesus wasn’t known as the “Son of Abraham” or the “Follower of Moses,” but as the Son of David (Matthew 9:27 and at least a dozen other places).
iii. “From whatever side we view the life of David, it is remarkable. It may be that Abraham excelled him in faith, and Moses in the power of concentrated fellowship with God, and Elijah in the fiery force of his enthusiasm. But none of these was so many-sided as the richly gifted son of Jesse.” (Meyer)
B. Saul’s distressing spirit.
1. (14) Saul’s distressing spirit troubles him.
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.
a. The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul: In 1 Samuel 16:13, the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. As the Holy Spirit came upon David, a distressing spirit came to Saul and troubled him.
b. A distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him: If God is all-good, why did He send a distressing spirit upon Saul? There are two senses in which God may send something. He may send something in the active sense or He may send something in a passive sense. Actively, God never initiates or performs evil; He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Passively, God may withdraw the hand of His protection and therefore allow evil to come, without being the source of the evil itself.
i. This is indicated by what happened with Saul. First, the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul. This meant Saul lost his spiritual “protection” and covering. So, Satan was more than ready to send a distressing spirit to fill the void in Saul.
ii. This is why the continual presence of the Holy Spirit for all Christians is such a comfort. We don’t have to fear that God will take the Holy Spirit from us (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
c. From the LORD: Perhaps this was to judge Saul’s past wickedness and rebellion against the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This may be an example of God giving Saul over to his sin.
i. Saul clearly had the Spirit of the LORD upon him at one time (1 Samuel 10:10). As he was proud and rebellious against God, Saul resisted the Holy Spirit. He told the Holy Spirit “No” and “Go away” so many times that God finally gave Saul what he wanted. But Saul never realized the price to pay when the Spirit of the LORD departed from him. Saul thought he would be freer to do his thing without the Spirit of the LORD “bugging” him. He didn’t realize he would be in even more bondage to a distressing spirit that troubled him.
ii. Even in this state Saul could repent. He was not past the place of repentance and restoration. It was up to him to receive God’s correction and respond with a tender, repentant heart before the LORD.
d. A distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him: Today, Saul would probably be diagnosed as mentally ill. Yet his problem was spiritual in nature, not mental or psychological.
i. There are many people in mental hospitals today that are really suffering from spiritual problems. It is certainly wrong to assume that every case of mental distress is spiritual because chemical imbalances and physiological problems are also real in this fallen world. Even so, there are certainly some that need liberation from a distressing spirit and may never find it in our modern mental health system.
2. (15-17) A solution suggested.
And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”
a. Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely a distressing spirit from God is troubling you”: This was obvious to Saul’s servants, but it does not seem to be obvious to Saul. Often our spiritual condition is far more apparent to others than it is to ourselves.
b. Seek out a man who is a skillful player: Essentially, Saul’s servants advise him to find what we would call a “worship leader.” They will seek out a man who can, using music, bring the love, peace, and power of God to Saul. King Saul needed to be led into worship, so it was important to seek out a man to do the job.
i. God created music and gave it the capability to touch people with great power. Music can be used for great good or for great evil, because it so powerfully communicates to our inner being.
c. You shall be well: In the past, Saul received the Spirit of the LORD in the presence of music (1 Samuel 10:10). Perhaps this is an effort to create that experience again.
3. (18) A man is nominated.
Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him.”
a. Look, I have seen a son of Jesse: Saul’s servants suggested a search; Saul commanded the search, and then one of Saul’s servants found this son of Jesse named David.
b. Skillful in playing: David needed skill to lead Saul in worship and to minister to him in music. The technical quality of his music was important. The heart matters, but so does technical ability.
i. This doesn’t mean that a person must be a virtuoso before God can use them. But it does mean that they cannot tolerate a too casual, unconcerned, lazy, “we don’t really need to practice” attitude. Skillful in playing reflects an attitude as much as it reflects an ability.
c. A mighty man of valor, a man of war: David needed the character of a warrior to effectively lead Saul in worship and to minister to him in music. Worship ministry is a constant battleground. There are often conflicts and contentions surrounding worship ministry and if someone isn’t equipped and ready for spiritual warfare they will probably be spiritually and emotionally “injured” in worship ministry, and probably “wound” others.
i. So much of what makes a person a good musician or a good artist goes against true worship ministry. The need for ego satisfaction and the desires for the spotlight, prominence, and attention each work against effective worship.
d. Prudent in speech: David needed to speak wisely to effectively lead Saul in worship or to minister to him in music. Good worship ministry needs a lot of diplomacy. Everyone has an opinion on music and a suggestion. Effective worship ministers know when to speak and when to be quiet on the platform, among the team, and in the congregation.
e. A handsome person: David was a good-looking young man (1 Samuel 16:12). An effective worship minister doesn’t need to be a fashion model, but their appearance is important. They need to present themselves so as to be invisible. If they are so dressed up or so dressed down that their appearance calls attention to themselves, it needs to change.
f. The LORD is with him: This is the most important attribute. The other measures will grow and develop, but it must be said of any worship minister, the LORD is with him. This means that they are called by God, submitting to God, and submitting to whatever leadership the LORD has placed over them.
4. (19-23) David enters Saul’s court.
Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.
a. Send me your son David, who is with the sheep: Since this happened after Samuel anointed David, this means he simply returned to the sheep after his anointing. Perhaps David didn’t yet understand the significance of what Samuel did. Or if he did, he understood that it was God’s job to bring him to the throne. In the meantime, David would simply go back to the sheep.
b. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight”: David did not have to manipulate his way into the palace or into Saul’s favor. He allowed the LORD to open the doors for him. David didn’t have to wonder, “Is this of the LORD or is this of me?” because he let the LORD open the doors for him.
i. “Wonder not that David was so suddenly advanced, from a poor contemptible shepherd, to so great a reputation; for these were the effects of that Spirit of the Lord, which he received when he was anointed.” (Poole)
c. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer: David was an outstanding young man who was worthy of his name (“Beloved” or “Loved One”). Saul took to him immediately and gave him the important and trusted position of armor bearer, his chief assistant in battle. A soldier’s life often depended on the courage and faithfulness of his armor bearer, and Saul knew David was worthy of this position.
i. This was an important time in David’s life, and training for God’s destiny for him. For the first time he lived in a royal court and began to learn the customs and manners he needed to know to be a good king later in life.
d. David would take a harp and play it: A harp is a lyre, the ancient version of the guitar. This isn’t one of the big harps you might find in an orchestra.
e. Then Saul would become refreshed and well: God used David to minister to Saul. David was happy to be used. What seemed like a great arrangement would not stay great for very long.
i. God was at work in ways no one could see. It seems plain to us from our distant perspective, but at the time perhaps only Samuel knew what was going on. “Unwittingly, Saul was becoming dependent on the one designated to succeed him.” (Baldwin)
2 Samuel 24 – David and the Census
A. David commands a census to be taken.
1. (1-2) David is moved to take a census.
Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.”
a. The anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David: The translators of the New King James Version believe that “He” in this sentence applies to God, because they capitalize it. Yet 1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us, Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. The best explanation is that Satan prompted King David and is the “he” of 2 Samuel 24:1. Yet the LORD expressly allowed it as a chastisement against David.
i. “Now the ‘he’ there, we assume would be the Lord. But as we find out in 1 Chronicles, chapter one, it was Satan that moved David’s heart, to the numbering of the people. So God opened the door, and allowed Satan to move in and tempt David.” (Smith)
b. Go, number Israel and Judah: This was dangerous because of a principle stated in Exodus 30:12: When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
i. The principle of Exodus 30:12 speaks to God’s ownership of His people. In the thinking of these ancient cultures, a man only had the right to count or number what belonged to him. Israel didn’t belong to David; Israel belonged to God. It was up to the LORD to command a counting, and if David counted he should only do it at God’s command and receiving ransom money to “atone” for the counting.
2. (3-4) Joab objects to the census.
And Joab said to the king, “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. Therefore Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel.
a. Why does my lord the king desire this thing? Joab wasn’t afraid to speak to David when he thought the king was wrong. With the best interests of both David and Israel in mind, Joab tactfully asked David to reconsider this foolish desire to count the nation.
i. Joab also hinted at the motive behind the counting – pride in David. This thing that David desired was the increase of the nation, and he perhaps wanted to measure the size of his army to know if he had enough force to conquer a neighboring nation. “He did it out of curiosity and creature-confidence.” (Trapp)
ii. So late in his reign, David was tempted to take some of the glory for himself. He looked at how Israel had grown and prospered during his reign – it was remarkable indeed. The count was a way to take credit for himself. “The spirit of vainglory in numbers had taken possession of the people and the king, and there was a tendency to trust in numbers and forget God.” (Morgan)
b. Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army: It wasn’t only Joab who tried to tell David not to do this – the captains of the army also warned David not to count the soldiers in Israel. But David did so anyway.
3. (5-9) The census is taken.
And they crossed over the Jordan and camped in Aroer, on the right side of the town which is in the midst of the ravine of Gad, and toward Jazer. Then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; they came to Dan Jaan and around to Sidon; and they came to the stronghold of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went out to South Judah as far as Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to the king. And there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
a. When they had gone through all the land: It took almost 10 months to complete the census. David should have called off this foolish census during the 10 months, but he didn’t.
b. Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to the king: The results showed that there were 1,300,000 fighting men among the twelve tribes, reflecting an estimated total population of about 6 million in Israel.
i. “In the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 21:5, the sums are widely different: in Israel one million one hundred thousand, in Judah four hundred and seventy thousand. Neither of these sums is too great, but they cannot be both correct; and which is the true number is difficult to say.” (Clarke)
ii. “To attempt to reconcile them in every part is lost labour; better at once acknowledge what cannot be successfully denied, that although the original writers of the Old Testament wrote under the influence of the Divine Spirit, yet we are not told that the same influence descended on all copiers of their words, so as absolutely to prevent them from making mistakes.” (Clarke)
B. David’s guilt and God’s punishment.
1. (10) David knows that he has done wrong in numbering the people.
And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
a. David’s heart condemned him: The man after God’s heart was not sinless, but he had a heart sensitive to sin when it was committed. David kept a short account with God.
b. Take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly: David now saw the pride and vainglory that prompted him to do such a foolish thing.
2. (11-13) David is allowed to choose his judgment.
Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.’” So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”
a. I offer you three things: God used David’s sin and the resulting chastisement to reveal David’s heart and wisdom. His choice of the following three options was to test David:
· Seven years of famine: This would surely be the death of some people in Israel, but the wealthy and resourceful would survive. Israel would have to depend on neighboring nations for food.
· Flee three months before your enemies: This would be the death of some in Israel, but mostly of them would be soldiers. Israel would have to contend with enemies among neighboring nations.
· Three days’ plague in your land: This would be the death of some in Israel, but anyone could be struck by this plague – rich or poor, influential or anonymous, royal or common.
b. Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me: God wanted David to use the prophet as a mediator, and to answer to the prophet instead of directly to God.
3. (14) David chooses the three days of plague.
And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
a. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD: This meant that David chose the three days of plague. In the other two options, the king and his family could be insulated against the danger, but David knew that he had to expose himself to the chastisement of God.
i. “Had he chosen war, his own personal safety was in no danger, because there was already an ordinance preventing him from going to battle. Had he chosen famine, his own wealth would have secured his and his own family’s support. But he showed the greatness of his mind in choosing the pestilence, to the ravages of which himself and his household were exposed equally with the meanest of his subjects.” (Clarke)
b. Do not let me fall into the hand of man: This meant that David chose the three days of plague. In the other two options, Israel would either be at the mercy of neighbors (as in the famine) or attacked by enemies. David knew that God was far more merciful and gracious than man.
4. (15-17) The plague of destruction hits Israel severely.
So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”
a. Seventy thousand men of the people died: This was a great calamity upon Israel – a devastating plague striking so many in such a short period of time.
b. The LORD relented from the destruction: This justified David’s wisdom in leaving himself in God’s hands. He could not trust man to relent from destruction.
c. Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house: Like a true shepherd, David asked that the punishment be upon him and his own household. Having another purpose to accomplish, God did not accept David’s offer.
C. David builds an altar.
1. (18-21) David is instructed to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah.
And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded. Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.”
a. Erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite: This is where David met the angel of the LORD, and where God relented from the plague before it came upon Jerusalem. Now God wanted David to meet Him there in worship.
i. “Threshing floors were usually on a height, in order to catch every breeze; some area to the north of David’s city is indicated.” (Baldwin)
ii. The threshing floor of Araunah had both a rich history and a rich future. 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us that the threshing floor of Araunah was on Mount Moriah; the same hill where Abraham offered Isaac (Genesis 22:2), and the same set of hills where Jesus died on the cross (Genesis 22:14).
b. To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the LORD: David wanted to transform this place where chaff was separated from wheat into a place of sacrifice and worship. It would remain a place of sacrifice and worship because this land purchased by David became the site of Solomon’s temple (1 Chronicles 21:28-22:5).
2. (22-24) Refusing the gift of Araunah, David buys the threshing floor.
Now Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
a. Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him: Araunah had a good, generous heart and wanted to give David anything he wanted.
i. “Had Araunah’s noble offer been accepted, it would have been Araunah’s sacrifice, not David’s; nor would it have answered the end of turning away the displeasure of the Most High.” (Clarke)
b. I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing: David knew that it would not be a gift nor a sacrifice for the LORD if it did not cost him something. He didn’t look for the cheapest way possible to please God.
i. “He who has a religion that costs him nothing, has a religion that is worth nothing: nor will any man esteem the ordinances of God, if those ordinances cost him nothing.” (Clarke)
ii. “Where there is true, strong love to Jesus, it will cost us something. Love is the costliest of all undertakings…. But what shall we mind if we gain Christ? You cannot give up for Him without regaining everything you have renounced, but purified and transfigured.” (Meyer)
3. (25) David’s altar and sacrifice.
And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.
a. And offered burnt offerings and peace offerings: This shows that David understood that the death of the 70,000 in Israel in the plague did not atone for his and Israel’s sin. Atonement could only be made through the blood of an approved substitute.
i. Burnt offerings were to atone for sin; peace offerings were to enjoy fellowship with God. This shows us from the beginning to the end, David’s life was marked by fellowship with God.
ii. “We finally see the man after God’s own heart turning the occasion of his sin and its punishment into an occasion of worship.” (Morgan)
b. So the LORD heeded the prayers for the land: 1 Chronicles 21:26 tells us that God showed His acceptance of David’s sacrifice by consuming it with fire from heaven. God honored David’s desire to be right and to fellowship with God by answering with divine blessing from heaven. So it always is when God’s children draw near to their God and Father for cleansing and fellowship.
2 Samuel 23 – David’s Last Psalm
A. David’s last psalm.
1. (1-4) The character of God’s perfect king.
Now these are the last words of David.
Thus says David the son of Jesse;
Thus says the man raised up on high,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel:
“The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me:
‘He who rules over men must be just,
Ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,
By clear shining after rain.’
a. These are the last words of David: It wasn’t that these were the words David spoke from his deathbed, but they expressed his heart and longing at the end of his life.
i. “I suppose the last poetical composition is here intended. He might have spoken many words after these in prose, but none in verse.” (Clarke)
ii. This short psalm is a beautiful song of wisdom from David at the end of his life. “Wherein he doth, in few words but full of matter, acknowledge God’s benefits, confess his sins, profess his faith, comfort himself in the covenant, and [announce] destruction to unbelievers…. How much in a little!” (Trapp)
iii. What a life his was – we have a capsule of David’s life in the titles and descriptions of 2 Samuel 23:1:
· The son of Jesse: Jesse was a humble farmer and this title reminds us of David’s humble beginning.
· The man raised up on high: David allowed God to raise him up, so that he could confidently rest in this title.
· The anointed of the God of Jacob: David was anointed by God, not by himself or merely by man. He had a unique empowering and enabling from God.
· The sweet psalmist of Israel: David had a beautiful gift of eloquence and expression before God. This title reminds us of David’s deep inner life with God.
b. The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me: This indicates that at least at times, David was aware of the work of divine inspiration through him and expressed in his words.
c. He who rules over men must be just: As David looked back over his life and reign, he was struck by the great need for rulers to exercise justice. He knew this because he had seen the goodness of justice provided and the curse of justice denied.
d. Ruling in the fear of God: This is the key to justice in the work of a leader. When leaders rule in the fear of God they recognize that a God of justice reviews their work and will require an accounting of how the ruler has led.
e. He shall be like the light of the morning: David reflected on how a wise ruler is blessed when he rules with justice. Though David’s reign was not perfect it was blessed – and his reign is the one most identified with the reign of the Messiah.
i. From one perspective David’s reign was a disaster. He suffered from a dark scandal during his reign, he suffered under repeated family crises, under an attempted insurrection from his own son, under another civil war, and from three years of famine.
ii. In contrast to David, his son Solomon’s reign seemed perfect. Solomon enjoyed a reign of peace, great prosperity, prominence, and glory.
iii. Yet the Bible has nothing but praise for David and his reign, reflected in passages like Psalm 89:20, Isaiah 55:3-4, Romans 1:3, and Revelation 22:16. In contrast, Solomon is barely mentioned in the rest of the Scriptures and when he is, it is almost in a backhanded way (see Matthew 6:28-29 and Matthew 12:42).
iv. The difference between David and Solomon was found in their different relationships with God. David’s passion in life was simply to be with God (Psalm 84:10), while Solomon’s passion was personal improvement (1 Kings 3:4-15). We can also say that David endured to the end, loving and serving God in the final chapters of his life (2 Samuel 23:1-7), while Solomon forsook God in his later years (1 Kings 11:4-8).
2. (5-7) David’s trust in God’s covenant.
“Although my house is not so with God,
Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things and secure.
For this is all my salvation and all my desire;
Will He not make it increase?
But the sons of rebellion shall all be as thorns thrust away,
Because they cannot be taken with hands.
But the man who touches them
Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear,
And they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place.”
a. Although my house is not so with God: David looked at the complete blessedness of a just ruler’s reign and he knew that his reign fell short of both perfect justice and complete blessedness.
b. Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant: David knew that the everlasting covenant from God was not based on David’s perfection as a ruler. It was based on God’s gracious commitment to His everlasting covenant.
c. This is all my salvation and all my desire: David only said this because the covenant was based on God’s faithfulness and not his own. David knew that his own obedience was not enough to be a foundation for all his salvation and all his desire.
i. We can say that because of his sin and its consequences, David’s light dimmed towards the end of his life, but it was not extinguished. He shined until the end. “In the Divine dealing with us, there is no mistake, no lapse. Nothing has been permitted which has not been made to serve the highest purpose. This is so even of our failures, if, like David, in true penitence we have forsaken them and confessed them. It is certainly so of all our sorrows and trials.” (Morgan)
d. The sons of rebellion shall all be as thorns thrust away: The covenant was based on God’s faithfulness, but David knew that obedience still mattered. God would still oppose the sons of rebellion and they would end in ruin. David knew he could trust the LORD to take care of his enemies and wicked men.
i. “This was the whole theme of David. The Lord is in control. Rest in Him. Don’t fret yourself because of the evildoers that bring evil devices to pass. Rest in the Lord, trust also in Him. Delight thyself in the Lord! And all of the help, and the strength, the ministry of God’s Spirit to our hearts, through the Psalms, the sweet psalmist of Israel. What a legacy he has left.” (Smith)
ii. This remarkable relationship with God is the reason why David was Israel’s greatest king, and the most prominent ancestor of Jesus Christ. The New Testament begins with these words: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Matthew 1:1).
B. David’s mighty men.
1. (8-12) The names and exploits of David’s top three soldiers.
These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief among the captains. He was called Adino the Eznite, because he had killed eight hundred men at one time. And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder. And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines had gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. So the people fled from the Philistines. But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the LORD brought about a great victory.
a. These are the names of the mighty men: David was nothing without his mighty men, and they were nothing without him. He was their leader, but a leader is nothing without followers – and David had the mighty men to follow him. These men didn’t necessarily start as mighty men; many of them were the distressed, indebted, and discontented people who followed David at Adullam Cave (1 Samuel 22:1-2).
i. “These men came to David when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, and he himself was regarded as a rebel and an outlaw, and they remained faithful to him throughout their lives. Happy are they who can follow a good cause in its worst estate, for theirs is true glory.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The day for mighty men and women – heroic men and women for God – has not ended. “The triumph of the church as a whole depends upon the personal victory of every Christian. In other words, your victory, your life, your personal testimony, are important to the cause of God today. What happens out in New Guinea, down in the Amazon jungle, over in disturbed Congo, is not unrelated to what happens in your own personal relationship with God and your personal battle against the forces of darkness. Victory for the church on the whole world-front depends upon victory in your life and in mine; ‘home’ and ‘foreign’ situations cannot be detached.” (Redpath)
b. Adino the Eznite: This leader among David’s mighty men was noted for having killed eight hundred men at one time.
i. “Three hundred is the reading in Chronicles, and seems to be the true one.” (Clarke)
c. Eleazar the son of Dodo: This leader of David’s mighty men was famous for enduring with David in a famous battle and when his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. Through his tenacity, the LORD brought about a great victory that day.
i. Spurgeon saw that Eleazar, in his solitary stand until victory, was a tremendous example for believers today. “Solitary prowess is expected of believers. I hope we may breed in this place a race of men and women who know the truth, and know also what the Lord claims at their hands, and are resolved, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to war a good warfare for their Lord whether others will stand at their side or no.”
ii. “Remember Mr. Sankey’s hymn, – ‘Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!’Dare to be an Eleazar, and go forth and smite the Philistines alone; you will soon find that there are others in the house who have concealed their sentiments, but when they see, you coming forward, they will be openly on the Lord’s side. Many cowards are skulking about, try to shame them. Many are undecided, let them see a brave man, and he will be the standard-bearer around whom they will rally.” (Spurgeon)
d. Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite: This leader among David’s mighty men stationed himself in the middle of the field when others fled, and he held the ground single-handedly until the LORD brought about a great victory.
2. (13-17) A daring exploit from David’s days at Adullam.
Then three of the thirty chief men went down at harvest time and came to David at the cave of Adullam. And the troop of Philistines encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD. And he said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men.
a. Came to David at the cave of Adullam: David spent time in this cave when those who would become his mighty men first came to him in 1 Samuel 22:1-2. This passage describes something that happened either during that time or a later time of battle against the Philistines when David went back to the cave of Adullam.
b. David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem”: During this time David had a nostalgic longing for the taste of water from a well near his boyhood home.
c. The three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem: In response to David’s longing – which wasn’t a command or even a request, just a vocalized longing – these three mighty men immediately went to fulfill David’s desire at great personal risk.
d. He would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD: David was so honored by the self-sacrifice of these three mighty men he felt that the water was too good for him – and worthy to be poured out in sacrifice to the LORD. He believed that the great sacrifice of these men could only be honored by giving the water to the LORD.
i. “Accounting it too dear a draught for himself, he poured it out unto the Lord, out of a religious respect.” (Trapp)
3. (18-23) Two more notable men among the mighty men.
Now Abishai the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of another three. He lifted his spear against three hundred men, killed them, and won a name among these three. Was he not the most honored of three? Therefore he became their captain. However, he did not attain to the first three. Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among three mighty men. He was more honored than the thirty, but he did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard.
a. Abishai the brother of Joab: This leader among David’s mighty men was famous for his battle against three hundred men. His leadership is also recorded in passages like 1 Samuel 26:6-9, 2 Samuel 3:30, and 2 Samuel 10:10-14.
b. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada: This leader among David’s mighty men was famous for his battles against both men (two lion-like heroes of Moab…. an Egyptian, a spectacular man) and beasts (a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day).
4. (24-39) A list of David’s mighty men.
Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, Abiezer the Anathothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite, Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, Heleb the son of Baanah (the Netophathite), Ittai the son of Ribai from Gibeah of the children of Benjamin, Benaiah a Pirathonite, Hiddai from the brooks of Gaash, Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite (of the sons of Jashen), Jonathan, Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite, Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, Hezrai the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite (armorbearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah), Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, and Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all.
a. Eliam the son of Ahithophel: This man is notable among the mighty men because he was the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3) and this shows that Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather.
b. Uriah the Hittite: He is notable among the mighty men because he was the husband of Bathsheba. When David heard of Bathsheba’s relation to Uriah and Eliam and Ahithophel (2 Samuel 11:3) he should have put away every idea of adultery.
c. Thirty-seven in all: These remarkable men were the foundation of the greatness of David’s reign. They did not come to David as great men, but God used his leadership to transform them from men who met David back at Adullam Cave: men who were in distress, in debt and discontented (1 Samuel 22:1-2).
i. “More than all his victories against outside foes, the influence of his life and character on the men nearest to him testify to his essential greatness.” (Morgan)
2 Samuel 22 – David’s Psalm of Praise
A. Part one: praise, deliverance, and the reason for deliverance.
1. (1) Introduction to the psalm.
Then David spoke to the LORD the words of this song, on the day when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.
a. Then David spoke to the LORD the words of this song: For many reasons, most commentators assume that this was a psalm David wrote and sung many years before and was inserted at the end of 2 Samuel, out of its chronological place. This is a possible explanation, but not a necessary one.
i. “The psalm appears almost as David’s final words. Hence, it is a summary thanksgiving for God’s many deliverances of him through his long life of service.” (Boice)
b. The words of this song: With minor variations, this psalm is the same as Psalm 18. It is likely that David composed this song as a younger man – perhaps when Saul died, and he first took the throne, as described in 2 Samuel 8:14, when David had subdued all his enemies, and the LORD preserved David wherever he went. Yet in his old age, David could look back with great gratitude and sing this song again, looking at his whole life.
i. This psalm is a great summary of David’s whole character and attitude through life. “Such convictions – of the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah, of His omnipotent power to deliver, of the necessity for obedience to His law, and of assurance that in the case of such obedience He ever acts for His people – constituted the underlying strength of David’s character.” (Morgan)
ii. “We have another form of this Psalm with significant variations…and this suggests the idea that it was sung by David at different times when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2-4) David praises the God of his deliverance.
And he said:
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation,
My stronghold and my refuge;
My Savior, You save me from violence.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
a. My rock and my fortress and my deliverer: David piled title upon title in praising God. God’s work for David was so big and comprehensive that it couldn’t be contained in one title.
i. “In the opening sentence, which we have emphasized, the sense of truth is reinforced by the final words, ‘even mine.’ By them the singer revealed the fact that all he celebrated in song was more than theory, it was experience.” (Morgan)
ii. David experienced the LORD’s deliverance:
· God delivered David from Goliath.
· God delivered David from Saul.
· God delivered David from backsliding.
· God delivered David from Israel’s enemies.
· God delivered David from Absalom.
· God delivered David from David’s own sinful passions.
b. In whom I will trust: When we see God for who He is, it is easy to trust Him. When we know He is our rock and fortress and deliverer and shield and stronghold and Savior, it is natural to then trust Him completely.
i. Faith does not completely depend on knowledge, but the right knowledge of God gives great strength to faith.
c. My Savior, You save me: Each title was meaningful to David because God fulfilled the meaning of each title in David’s experience. This isn’t a list of the names of God one might find in a systematic theology; this is the knowledge of God combined with the right experience of God.
d. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: “It is well to pray to God as to one who deserves to be praised, for then we plead in a happy and confident manner. If I feel that I can and do bless the Lord for all his past goodness, I am bold to ask great things of him.” (Spurgeon)
3. (5-20) David’s deliverance comes from God.
“When the waves of death surrounded me,
The floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry entered His ears.
“Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
And He was seen upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness canopies around Him,
Dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
“The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At the rebuke of the LORD,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
“He sent from above, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me;
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.
a. Waves…floods…. Sorrows…snares: Danger surrounded David on every side – physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially – David was on the brink of ruin when he cried out to God.
b. In my distress I called upon the LORD: The enemy of our soul wants us to believe that we can’t call upon the LORD in our distress – as if we had to be right with God and sitting peacefully in a prayer chapel to pray rightly. David knew that God hears our distress signals.
c. He heard my voice: For David, it was that simple. He cried out to God, and God heard. David also knew that God could not hear the distress of His people without taking action on their behalf.
d. Then the earth shook: God was so concerned about David’s problem that it seemed to David as if He shook the earth to meet his need.
i. “What is most impressive…is the magnificent way the psalmist describes God rising from his throne in heaven in response to his servant’s cry, parting the clouds, and descending to fight the king’s battles accompanied by earthquakes, thunder, storms, and lightning.” (Boice)
e. He rode upon a cherub, and flew: David pictured the LORD coming to meet his need, coming with glory and speed. He came so fast to David that it seemed that God traveled upon the wings of the wind.
i. “In the original of this sublime passage, sense and sound are astonishingly well connected…. The clap of the wing, the agitation and rush through the air are expressed here in a very extraordinary manner.” (Clarke)
f. The Most High uttered His voice: When God came He spoke up on David’s behalf, commanding all creation to respond to His passionate desire to deliver His child.
i. All this is a reflection of David’s confidence in the love of God. David sees a God so loving that He won’t tolerate the distress of His beloved. When things aren’t right for His beloved all creation will see His passion and urgency to meet the need of His beloved.
g. He took me…He drew me…. He delivered me: David saw God apply all that majesty and strength to the meeting of his need.
h. They were too strong for me…. the LORD was my support: David knew that the victory was due to God’s hand, not due to his own ingenuity or ability. Without the LORD for support, David would fall.
i. He delivered me because He delighted in me: David had a sense of God’s delight in him. His plea for deliverance was rooted in relationship, not merely in a desire to survive.
4. (21-25) Why God delivered David.
“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me;
And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.
I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His eyes.
a. According to the cleanness of my hands: These words are one reason why many people believe David could only sing this psalm before his sin with Bathsheba. Yet the text seems to indicate that David sang this towards the end of his days, when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies (2 Samuel 22:1).
i. We might say that David simply believed what the prophet Nathan told him in 2 Samuel 12:13: The LORD also has put away your sin. David knew he was a forgiven man, and that the cleanness of his hands was because God cleansed them, not because they had never been dirtied.
ii. “If we were to remind David of his sin with Bathsheba, he would claim it as an illustration and a proof of this principle since he suffered in a variety of ways as a consequence of that great sin. But even though that happened, just as similar transgressions are committed by us all, on the whole he was nevertheless a man after God’s own heart and was greatly blessed by God.” (Boice)
b. I have kept the ways of the LORD…. I was also blameless before Him: David isn’t claiming sinless perfection. He spoke of his general righteousness and of his righteousness as it contrasted with the wickedness of his enemies.
i. “Before God the man after God’s own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the ‘cleanness of his hands’ and the righteousness of his life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We can come to God in prayer with the same claim, but not on the basis of our own righteousness, but the righteousness we have received in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).
c. I kept myself from my iniquity: Some think this is arrogance or pride on David’s part. Spurgeon quotes one commentator who wrote, “Kept himself! Who made man his own keeper?” Yet we know there is certainly a sense in which we must keep ourselves from sin, even as Paul spoke of a man cleansing himself for God’s glory and for greater service (2 Timothy 2:21).
B. Part two: the reason for deliverance, deliverance, and praise.
1. (26-30) Why God delivered David.
“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
You will save the humble people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down.
“For You are my lamp, O LORD;
The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
a. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful: Jesus discussed this principle in the Sermon on the Mount but from the perspective of man instead of from God: For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:2)
i. “In these words we have revealed the principles of relationship between God and man. God is to man what man is to God.” (Morgan)
ii. David didn’t only sing about this principle; he also lived it and benefited from it. God showed David great mercy because he showed great mercy to others, like Saul (1 Samuel 24:10-13) and Shimei (2 Samuel 16:7-12).
iii. “Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy.” (Spurgeon)
b. With the devious You will show Yourself shrewd: Translators have trouble with this sentence because it communicates a difficult concept. It’s easy to say that if a man is pure towards God then God will be pure to him. But you can’t say that if a man is wicked towards God, then God will be wicked towards him because God can’t do anything wicked.
i. “David expresses the second half of the parallel by a somewhat ambiguous word, the root meaning of which is ‘twisted.’ The verse actually says, ‘To the twisted (or crooked) you will show yourself twisted (or crooked)’…. The idea seems to be that if a person insists in going devious ways in his dealings with God, God will outwit him, as that man deserves.” (Boice)
c. You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down: David proclaims his confidence in the principle repeated in Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
i. There is something in true humility that prompts the grace and mercy of God and there is something in pride and haughtiness that prompts His resistance and displeasure.
ii. Humility isn’t necessarily a low opinion of self; it is a combination of an accurate opinion of self and simple self-forgetfulness. Humility is others-centered not self-centered.
d. The LORD shall enlighten my darkness: When God met David’s need He first brought light. Great strength and skill don’t help much at all if we can’t see in the midst of the struggle.
e. By You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall: When God met David’s need He brought strength. One man should not be able to battle a troop, nor should he be able to leap over a wall protecting a city.
i. David knew the principle of Ephesians 6:10 long before Paul penned the words: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. God has a resource of power (His might) that He makes available to us by faith. We don’t have to be strong in our might, but we can be strong in His might.
2. (31-46) David’s deliverance comes from God.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
“For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power,
And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip.
“I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them;
Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
And I have destroyed them and wounded them,
So that they could not rise;
They have fallen under my feet.
For You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose against me.
You have also given me the necks of my enemies,
So that I destroyed those who hated me.
They looked, but there was none to save;
Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
Then I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I trod them like dirt in the streets,
And I spread them out.
“You have also delivered me from the strivings of my people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
A people I have not known shall serve me.
The foreigners submit to me;
As soon as they hear, they obey me.
The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.
a. He is a shield to all who trust in Him: When God met David’s need He brought protection. David could see with light and stand in God’s strength, but he still needed supernatural protection. David’s trust was the vital link in receiving this protection from God.
b. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places: David thought of how deer seem to skip from place to place and never lose their footing. God gave him the same kind of skill in working through the challenges brought by his enemies.
c. So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze: David thought of the strength needed to bend a bow made of bronze. God gave him the same kind of strength to overcome the challenges brought by his enemies.
d. Your gentleness has made me great: For David, it wasn’t only about skill and power. It was also about receiving God’s mercy and enjoying a relationship with the God of great gentleness. This also was a resource of strength for David.
i. “We might brave the lion; we are vanquished by the Lamb. We could withstand the scathing look of scorn; but when the gentle Lord casts on us the look of ineffable tenderness, we go out to weep bitterly.” (Meyer)
e. I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them: David relished the place of victory he had in the LORD. He wasn’t hesitant to proclaim it, either out of false humility or out of an uncertainty of possessing the victory. He knew that enemies might rise again, but he looked back at the field of battle and said, “They have fallen under my feet, and when they were under my feet I trod them like dirt in the streets.”
f. You have also delivered me from the strivings of my people: David didn’t only have to battle with problems from enemies, but also with the strivings of his own people. In the midst of the battle he had to endure the contention of his own people, but God sustained him through that also.
g. You have kept me as the head of the nations: David knew that the throne belonged to God. David knew, “The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep. The throne is the LORD’s.” (Edwards) Therefore, when David had the throne, he knew it was God who gave it to him.
3. (47-51) David praises the God of his deliverance.
“The LORD lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let God be exalted,
The Rock of my salvation!
It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
“He is the tower of salvation to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.”
a. The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock: David thought of the great victory of God on his behalf and could only worship.
b. It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me: David emphasized the thought, “This is the LORD’s victory. He won it for me. The glory goes to Him.”
c. He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up: We see in this psalm that David constantly moved back and forth from speaking about God (He delivers me) to speaking directly to God (You also lift me up). David didn’t seem to have a problem moving between the two aspects, indicating that there is a place for both in praise.
d. And sing praises to Your name: “To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still on his lips.” (Spurgeon)
i. Paul quotes 2 Samuel 22:50 (Psalm 18:49) in Romans 15:9.
e. And shows mercy to His anointed: David ended the psalm understanding his position in mercy. Though earlier in the psalm he proclaimed his own righteousness, he came back to the foundation of God’s mercy. David’s relationship with God was based on God’s great mercy, not upon David’s own righteousness.
2 Samuel 21 – Avenging the Gibeonites
A. David avenges the Gibeonites.
1. (1) A three-year famine prompts David to seek God.
Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.”
a. And David inquired of the LORD: David wisely sought God in the face of chronic problems. David was concerned after the first year of famine, and even more after the second – but two years of famine didn’t make him look to a spiritual cause. Yet after three years of famine, David inquired of the LORD.
i. David didn’t see a spiritual reason for every problem, but he did not shut his eyes to the hand of God in circumstances.
ii. “The first and second year he might look upon it as a punishment laid upon them for the common sins of the land: but when he saw it continuing a third year also, he thought there was something in it more than ordinary, and therefore, although he well knew the natural cause to be drought, yet he inquired after the supernatural, as wise men should do.” (Trapp)
b. It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites: This massacre isn’t recorded in 1 Samuel, but David didn’t question that it happened. Apparently at some time during his reign Saul attacked and killed many of the Gibeonites.
i. “The whole people suffered for Saul’s sin; either because they approved it, or at least bewailed it not; neither did what they could to hinder it; whereby they became accessory.” (Trapp)
c. He killed the Gibeonites: When David heard it was because of an attack against the Gibeonites, a chill probably ran up his back. He knew that it was especially wrong for Saul to attack and kill this tribe of people.
i. In the days of Joshua – more than 400 years before David’s time – Israel swore not to harm the Gibeonites, a neighboring tribe (Joshua 9). God expected Israel to keep its promise, even though the Gibeonites tricked Israel into making the agreement. Saul’s crime was not only in killing the Gibeonites but also in breaking this ancient and important oath.
ii. This emphasizes many important principles:
· God expects us to keep our promises.
· God expects nations to keep their promises.
· God does not excuse the obligations to keep our promises because of the passage of time.
· God’s correction may come a long time after the offense.
iii. If God has such a high expectation that men keep their covenants, we can have great confidence that He will keep His covenant with us. There is an emerald rainbow around the throne of God to proclaim His remembrance of His everlasting covenant with His people (Revelation 4:3).
2. (2) David speaks to the Gibeonites.
So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.
a. The king called the Gibeonites: David knew he had to do something about this and so he initiated a resolution with the Gibeonites.
b. Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah: We normally think of such zeal as something good. Yet Saul’s misguided zeal was a sin and brought calamity on Israel.
i. This is a good example of good intentions not excusing bad actions. We often excuse bad actions in ourselves and in others because of what we think are good intentions. But God examines both our intentions and our actions.
3. (3-6) David’s agreement with the Gibeonites.
Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?” And the Gibeonites said to him, “We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us.” So he said, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” Then they answered the king, “As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel, let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD chose.” And the king said, “I will give them.”
a. What shall I do for you? In resolving this matter with the Gibeonites, David did not dictate terms to them. He came to them as a servant, not as a king.
b. That you may bless the inheritance of the LORD: David felt that if the Gibeonites could bless Israel then the reconciliation would be complete, and God’s chastening of Israel would end.
c. We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us: The Gibeonites made it clear that they didn’t want money or direct retribution. Though Saul made a wholesale slaughter of the Gibeonites, they didn’t ask for the same among the people of Israel.
d. Let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us: In those ancient times, the request of the Gibeonites was considered reasonable. Instead of money or an “eye for an eye” they only asked for justice against Saul through his descendants. David agreed to this (I will give them).
i. “Which God had now a purpose to root out, that they might not be further troublesome to David – who had lately suffered so much – in the quiet enjoyment of the kingdom.” (Trapp)
e. I will give them: David knew this was the right thing to do. Some believe he knew it was right because David knew that Saul’s descendants helped in or benefited directly from that massacre.
i. Obviously, we are not told everything about this incident; we must trust the principle stated by Abraham: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
4. (7-9) David fulfills the agreement with the Gibeonites.
But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the LORD’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the hill before the LORD. So they fell, all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.
a. The king spared Mephibosheth: Mephibosheth was the most notable living descendant of Saul and it made the most sense to put him as the first of the seven to be delivered to the Gibeonites for execution. Yet David promised to protect and bless Mephibosheth and he would not fulfill one promise at the expense of another.
b. They hanged them on the hill before the LORD: David chose seven male descendants of Saul to give over to the Gibeonites and they executed them by public hanging. The phrase before the LORD implies God approved of their execution.
i. The method of death was also important because it fulfilled the promise of Deuteronomy 21:23: he who is hanged is accursed of God. These descendants of Saul bore the curse Saul deserved and so delivered Israel from the guilt of their sin against the Gibeonites.
ii. This promise from Deuteronomy 21:23 explains why Jesus died the way He did. Galatians 3:13 explains: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).
5. (10-14a) Rizpah’s vigil.
Now Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the late rains poured on them from heaven. And she did not allow the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night. And David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. Then David went and took the bones of Saul, and the bones of Jonathan his son, from the men of Jabesh Gilead who had stolen them from the street of Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them up, after the Philistines had struck down Saul in Gilboa. So he brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there; and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged. They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father.
a. Spread it for herself on the rock…until the late rains poured on them from heaven: Rizpah – the mother of two of the seven delivered for execution – held a vigil over the bodies until the late rains came. The coming of rain showed that the famine was over, that justice was satisfied, and that Israel was delivered.
i. This means that the bodies of these men were deliberately left unburied. This was to emphasize the fact that these men were executed as an act of judgment.
b. They gathered the bones: David gave these seven a public burial, together with the remains of Saul and Jonathan.
6. (14b) The famine ends.
So they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.
a. They performed all that the king commanded: David directed all of this and he did it partly on the principle stated in Numbers 35:33: So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. The idea is that blood from unpunished murders defiles a land and God will one day require that blood from the nation.
b. After that God heeded the prayer for the land: It wasn’t as if from the time Saul massacred the Gibeonites until David’s day that God did not answer any of Israel’s prayers. Yet there came a time when God wanted to deal with this sin, and at that time He would not answer their prayers until they dealt with it.
i. There are many reasons for unanswered prayer. When we see that our prayers are not answered we should seek God to address the problem.
B. Defeat of the Philistine giants.
1. (15-17) David retires from active duty.
When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
a. And David grew faint: Even a great man of God grows old. As the years went on, David became unable to fight as he once did. In this battle against the Philistines David’s life was endangered when he grew faint in battle against a descendant of Goliath.
i. The Israelites faced the challenge of what they would do when they saw weakness in their leader. Since it was a weakness that could be understood – David’s increasing frailty in old age – they needed to rally around their leader and supply what he could not.
b. Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid: When David’s strength failed, God protected him through the strength of others. God will allow us to be in places where we need the strength of others.
i. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up…. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
c. You shall go out no more with us to battle: In his advanced age, it was time for David to retire from the field of battle. His season as a warrior had passed.
i. “David is considered as the lamp by which all Israel was guided, and without whom all the nation must be involved in darkness.” (Clarke)
ii. “The body drowneth not whilst the head is above water; when that once sinketh, death is near: so here. Pray therefore for the preservation of good princes; we cannot pray for them, and not pray for ourselves.” (Trapp)
2. (18-22) Killing three more Philistine giants.
Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant. Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
a. Now it happened afterward: This description of victory over Philistine giants showed that Israel could slay giants without David.
i. Sibbechai…. Elhanan…. Jonathan: These men accomplished heroic deeds when David was finished with fighting giants. God will continue to raise up leaders when the leaders of the previous generation pass from the scene.
ii. David’s legacy lay not only in what he accomplished but also in what he left behind – a people prepared for victory. David’s triumphs were meaningful not only for himself but for others who learned victory through his teaching and example.
b. Who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot: Some Bible commentators like Adam Clarke can’t resist reminding us that this is a known phenomenon. “This is not a solitary instance: Tavernier informs us that the eldest son of the emperor of Java, who reigned in 1649, had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot…. I once saw a young girl, in the county of Londonderry, in Ireland, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, but her stature had nothing gigantic in it.”
c. Fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants: Part of the idea is that David conquers enemies in the present, so it will be better for Solomon in the future. Our present victory is not only good for us now, but it also passes something important on to the next generation.
i. The defeat of these four giants is rightly credited to the hand of David and the hand of his servants. David had a role in this through his example, his guidance, and his influence.
ii. “Let those who after long service find themselves waning in strength, be content to abide with the people of God, still shining for them as a lamp, and thus enabling them to carry on the same Divine enterprises. Such action in the last days of life is also great and high service.” (Morgan)
2 Samuel 20 – The Rebellion of Sheba
A. David returns to Jerusalem and to an insurrection.
1. (1-2) Sheba’s rebellion.
And there happened to be there a rebel, whose name was Sheba the son of Bichri, a Benjamite. And he blew a trumpet, and said: “We have no share in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” So every man of Israel deserted David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah, from the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king.
a. There happened to be a rebel: Sheba took advantage of David’s weakened position after Absalom’s failed rebellion and the conflict between Judah and the other ten tribes (2 Samuel 19:40-43). He based his rebellion on three principles common to rebels:
· We have no share in David: Sheba denied the king’s sovereignty. He claimed that David had no right to reign over him or the ten tribes of Israel.
· The son of Jesse: Sheba devalued the king’s identity. Jesse was a humble farmer and Sheba wanted to emphasize David’s humble beginning.
· Every man to his tents: Sheba decided to go his own way and drew others with him. He acted on his low opinion of David.
i. G. Campbell Morgan thought the phrase We have no share in David, nor do we have an inheritance in the son of Jesse was an effective slogan promoted by Sheba. “The story should teach us that popular and plausible catchwords ought to be received and acted upon with great caution.”
b. Israel deserted David: Sheba succeeded in drawing away the ten northern tribes and David had another civil war to deal with.
i. In 2 Samuel 19:40-43 leaders from these same ten tribes argued with the tribe of Judah over who honored David more. Their response to Sheba’s rebellion shows that their desire to honor David had nothing to do with honoring him, but in exalting themselves.
ii. We might say that the tribe of Judah treated the other ten tribes unfairly, but “Injustice is never corrected by a yet deeper wrong.” (Morgan)
iii. We might say that it is in the nature of men to divide. We have to be held together by the Holy Spirit. Paul put it like this: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). We don’t make the unity of the Spirit, we keep the unity of the Spirit – but we must keep what He makes.
c. The men of Judah…remained loyal to their king: The desertion of the ten tribes was distressing but the loyalty of the men of Judah was wonderful. When others desert or divide it gives a greater opportunity to demonstrate loyalty.
i. We should imitate the loyalty Judah showed to their king. This means we must be loyal to Jesus in spite of the mocking of the multitude. We must be loyal to Jesus in spite of the rebellion of the flesh. We must be loyal to Jesus in spite of the times when He seems distant.
2. (3) David puts away the women Absalom violated.
Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.
a. Put them in seclusion: Absalom raped these ten concubines as part of his rebellion against David (2 Samuel 16:20-23). Upon his return, David set them aside as unfortunate victims of Absalom’s sin.
i. “He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could not more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state.” (Clarke)
b. They were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood: The sad fate of David’s ten concubines is an example of how our sin often has horrible effects on others. They suffered because of Absalom’s sin – and David’s sin.
3. (4-5) David tells Amasa to marshal an army to deal with Sheba’s rebellion.
And the king said to Amasa, “Assemble the men of Judah for me within three days, and be present here yourself.” So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah. But he delayed longer than the set time which David had appointed him.
a. The king said to Amasa: Amasa was Absalom’s former general and David made him the commander of his army as a conciliatory move after the death of Absalom.
b. Assemble the men of Judah for me within three days: David knew that time was of the essence. When Absalom had the chance to quickly crush David, he did not take advantage of the opportunity. David did not want to make the same mistake with Sheba.
c. He delayed longer than the set time: Amasa wasn’t up to the job David gave him. He was not a completely competent military man, and Joab (the former commander of David’s army) defeated Amasa soundly when they fought together.
4. (6-7) Tired of waiting, David sends his royal guard.
And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he find for himself fortified cities, and escape us.” So Joab’s men, with the Cherethites, the Pelethites, and all the mighty men, went out after him. And they went out of Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.
a. David said to Abishai: David gave these orders to Abishai. He was the commander over your lord’s servants – David’s personal guard.
b. So Joab’s men…and all the mighty men, went out: Joab was the field commander of these troops, but Abishai was in command over him.
B. Joab kills Amasa and defeats Sheba.
1. (8-10) Using deception, Joab murders Amasa.
When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came before them. Now Joab was dressed in battle armor; on it was a belt with a sword fastened in its sheath at his hips; and as he was going forward, it fell out. Then Joab said to Amasa, “Are you in health, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab’s hand. And he struck him with it in the stomach, and his entrails poured out on the ground; and he did not strike him again. Thus he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.
a. Amasa came before them: Amasa didn’t assemble the army of Judah quickly enough, but he didn’t want to be left out of the battle. He joined the troops loyal to David at Gibeon.
b. Joab took Amasa by the beard: Joab approached Amasa with cunning and deception. Holding the beard was a sign of a friendly welcome, and the fallen sword made it seem that Joab was unarmed.
c. He struck him with it in the stomach: Joab showed how ruthless he was. He murdered Amasa – the man who replaced him as commander of David’s armies – out of both rivalry and concern that Amasa did not genuinely support David.
i. “It is very likely that Amasa did not immediately die: I have known instances of persons living several hours after their bowels had been shed out.” (Clarke)
2. (11-14) Joab takes command of the troops loyal to David.
Meanwhile one of Joab’s men stood near Amasa, and said, “Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David; follow Joab!” But Amasa wallowed in his blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he moved Amasa from the highway to the field and threw a garment over him, when he saw that everyone who came upon him halted. When he was removed from the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. And he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel and Beth Maachah and all the Berites. So they were gathered together and also went after Sheba.
a. All the people went on after Joab: For all his ruthless devotion to David, Joab was a true leader. The soldiers naturally followed the commander who had successfully led them many times before.
b. He went through all the tribes of Israel: Joab was able to find men loyal to David in all the tribes of Israel. Though Sheba was able to assemble an army against David, there were still many people loyal to David.
3. (15-22) The end of Sheba’s rebellion.
Then they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth Maachah; and they cast up a siege mound against the city, and it stood by the rampart. And all the people who were with Joab battered the wall to throw it down. Then a wise woman cried out from the city, “Hear, Hear! Please say to Joab, ‘Come nearby, that I may speak with you.’” When he had come near to her, the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Hear the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” So she spoke, saying, “They used to talk in former times, saying, ‘They shall surely seek guidance at Abel,’ and so they would end disputes. I am among the peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?” And Joab answered and said, “Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not so. But a man from the mountains of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has raised his hand against the king, against David. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city.” So the woman said to Joab, “Watch, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” Then the woman in her wisdom went to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. Then he blew a trumpet, and they withdrew from the city, every man to his tent. So Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.
a. A wise woman cried out from the city: When Sheba took refuge in the city of Abel, Joab set a siege against the city. Siege warfare was a terrible ordeal for the citizens of the besieged city, and this wise woman was smart enough to seek a speedy end to the struggle.
b. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city: Joab was a practical man. He had nothing against the city of Abel, only against Sheba. If the people of Abel helped him get Sheba it was all the better.
c. They cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab: Sheba probably thought he was safe within the walls of that city, but no one is safe when they run against God’s will. There isn’t a wall high enough or strong enough to protect against God and His will.
i. We can make a spiritual analogy out of Sheba, his rebellion, and his refuge in the city of Abel. “Every man’s breast is a city enclosed. Every sin is a traitor that lurketh within those walls. God calleth for Sheba’s head, neither hath he any quarrel to us for our person, but for our sin. If we love the head of our traitor above the life of our soul, we shall justly perish in the vengeance.” (Trapp)
ii. “It were happy if all such traitors might hop headless.” (Trapp)
iii. So ended the rebellion of Sheba. Yet the division between Judah and the other eleven tribes of Israel remained. After the death of Solomon, there was a civil war that permanently divided the twelve tribes into two nations: the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel.
4. (23-26) David’s second administration.
And Joab was over all the army of Israel; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; Adoram was in charge of revenue; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; Sheva was scribe; Zadok and Abiathar were the priests; and Ira the Jairite was a chief minister under David.
a. Joab was over all the army of Israel: Though he gained the position through murder, David allowed Joab to take control over the armies of Israel.
b. Benaiah…Adoram…Jehoshaphat…Sheva… Zadok and Abiathar…Ira the Jairite: The greatness of David’s kingdom was not built on David’s abilities alone. He knew how to assemble and lead an effective team.
i. Some people think that the idea behind the phrase chief minister is that Ira was sort of a chaplain to David. “He was probably a sort of domestic chaplain to the king.” (Clarke)
ii. If David – a man after God’s heart and the sweet psalmist of Israel – needed help in his devotional life, we should not think ourselves above it.
2 Samuel 19 – The Kingdom Is Restored to David
A. David’s mourning and Joab’s rebuke.
1. (1-3) The effect of David’s grief upon his loyal supporters.
And Joab was told, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.” And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
a. The victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people: This was not good. David’s loyal and sacrificing supporters won that day for the glory of God and the good of Israel. Then they felt bad about the victory because David was overcome with excessive weeping and mourning for Absalom.
i. There is such a thing as excessive mourning – mourning that is basically rooted in unbelief and self-indulgence. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul warned Christians: I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. Some Christians sorrow at times of death or tragedy like those who have no hope in God and this is wrong to do.
ii. “If your dear ones are dead you cannot restore them to life by your unbelief; and if they still survive, it will be a pity to be downcast and unbelieving when there is no occasion for it. ‘Your strength is to sit still.’ Remember that you are a Christian, and a Christian is expected to be more self-possessed than those who have no God to fly to.” (Spurgeon)
b. The people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed: David’s excessive sorrow made his loyal friends and supporters feel ashamed that they had won a great victory.
2. (4-7) Joab rebukes David.
But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now.”
a. O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son! David could not stop singing this song. He was still locked into his excessive mourning and lack of perspective. He was mastered by his feelings, and feelings were never meant to master us.
i. God is not against feelings – not at all. Many Christians lack deep and profound feeling and experience in their walk with God. At the same time, feelings were never meant to have mastery over us.
ii. David’s problem was not in what he knew – Absalom’s tragic death and David’s own role in it. David’s problem was in what he forgot – that God was still in control, that a great victory was won, that he had many loyal supporters, and that God showed great grace and mercy to him. When someone is overcome by tragedy or sorrow, the problem is not in what they know, but in what they forget.
iii. “Who ever heard David cry out in godly sorrow, O Uriah, would God I had died for thee!” (Trapp)
b. Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life: Joab gave David a stern wake-up call. “David, your excessive mourning is selfish. It isn’t all about you. These loyal, sacrificial supporters of yours deserve to feel good about their victory and you are making them feel terrible. Snap out of it.”
c. I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well: This is a sharp truth delivered with precision. Joab wanted David not only to see that he was foolish in his excessive grief, but he was also selfish.
d. Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants: “Go out and encourage the team – they deserve it. If you don’t you will lose most of them.”
3. (8) David receives Joab’s rebuke.
Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king. For everyone of Israel had fled to his tent.
a. Then the king arose and sat in the gate: David didn’t feel like doing this. His feelings told him to stay locked into his excessive mourning. Yet David let his understanding of what was right override what he felt.
i. We never again hear David crying out, O Absalom. Doing what he needed to do got that song out of his head.
b. So all the people came before the king: This is what they needed to see – David sitting as king in the place of authority (sitting in the gate). This told them that their sacrifice was worth it, that it was appreciated, and that David would continue to reign. Joab’s rebuke worked because Joab cared enough to say it, and David was wise enough to receive it.
B. Israel returns to David.
1. (9-10) The tribes debate receiving David back as king.
Now all the people were in a dispute throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king saved us from the hand of our enemies, he delivered us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled from the land because of Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?”
a. All the people were in a dispute throughout all the tribes of Israel: David survived Absalom’s attempted overthrow, but the kingdom was not yet restored to David.
b. The king saved us…. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died: The tribes of Israel understood what David had done for them, they understood that they had rejected him and embraced Absalom, and they understood that Absalom was now dead. It left the people of Israel in a dispute about bringing back the king.
i. They only seemed to want David back after the false king, Absalom, failed. In the same way, we often only decide to bring back King Jesus when our false kings fail.
ii. “The folly of their allegiance to Absalom was clear – it had brought only misery and confusion. They were on the wrong side; they had rejected their true king, and therefore the situation was full of unrest.” (Redpath)
2. (11-14) David sends negotiators to the tribes.
So King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, “Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the words of all Israel have come to the king, to his very house? You are my brethren, you are my bone and my flesh. Why then are you the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you are not commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’” So he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man, so that they sent this word to the king: “Return, you and all your servants!”
a. Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house: David would not force his reign on Israel. He would only come back if the tribes who rejected him for Absalom agreed to bring back the king.
i. “David didn’t lift a finger to re-establish his authority…. His return to sovereignty was decided by the voluntary submission of his kinsmen and by their loving obedience to his will.” (Redpath)
b. Amasa…commander of the army…in place of Joab: David agreed to replace Joab with Amasa, who was the captain of Absalom’s army. This was to put Joab in his place and to offer a gesture of reconciliation to the former supporters of Absalom.
c. So he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man: The efforts of Zadok and Abiathar succeeded. David would not come back until welcomed by the hearts of all, and that could not be forced – their hearts had to be swayed.
i. There is a sense in which God will not, in the present age, force His reign on us. We must welcome His reign, and He will not force our heart-response. Our hearts must be swayed by the work of the word of God and the Holy Spirit.
ii. Just as the heart of one man: David wanted the reception to be unanimous. The men of Judah responded together to the wooing work of Zadok and Abiathar.
3. (15-18a) David comes over the Jordan River, helped by Judah and Benjamin.
Then the king returned and came to the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to escort the king across the Jordan. And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they went over the Jordan before the king. Then a ferryboat went across to carry over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good.
a. Then the king returned: The point is emphasized – David would not return as king until he was welcomed, until hearts were swayed to receive him.
b. To escort the king: David left Israel as a desperate fugitive, rejected by the nation and hunted by his son Absalom. He came back escorted by thousands of enthusiastic supporters.
C. David’s kindness to his subjects.
1. (18b-23) David shows forgiveness to Shimei.
Now Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king when he had crossed the Jordan. Then he said to the king, “Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart. For I, your servant, know that I have sinned. Therefore here I am, the first to come today of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.” But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” And David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should be adversaries to me today? Shall any man be put to death today in Israel? For do I not know that today I am king over Israel?” Therefore the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king swore to him.
a. I, your servant, know that I have sinned: Shimei showed a remarkably humble, contrite confession. He sinned greatly against David, and here he repented greatly before him.
i. Shimei’s repentance was humble (fell down before the king). His posture represented his low place before David.
ii. Shimei’s repentance honored David (Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me). He knew David had the right to impute iniquity, but he pleaded for mercy.
iii. Shimei’s repentance was honest (I have sinned). He made no attempt to minimize his actions.
iv. Shimei’s repentance was put into action (here I am, the first to come today of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king). Real repentance will show itself not only in words and ideas but also in action.
b. The king said to Shimei, “You shall not die”: David spared the life of Shimei, showing forgiveness to the man who formerly bitterly cursed him (2 Samuel 16:5-13).
i. “Perhaps you have been like Shimei, who cursed king David, and you are afraid that Jesus will never forgive you. But David forgave Shimei, and Jesus is ready to forgive you. He delighteth in mercy. I do believe that the harps of heaven never give to Christ such happiness as he has when he forgives the ungodly, and saith, ‘Thy sins are forgiven; go in peace.’” (Spurgeon)
c. Do I not know that today I am king over Israel? David could readily forgive a man who deserved to die because he was secure, knowing that God gave him the throne. Insecurity is a great motivator for revenge and holding on to bitterness.
2. (24-30) David shows understanding to Mephibosheth.
Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he returned in peace. So it was, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?” And he answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king,’ because your servant is lame. And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes. For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?” So the king said to him, “Why do you speak anymore of your matters? I have said, ‘You and Ziba divide the land.’” Then Mephibosheth said to the king, “Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house.”
a. Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king: Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan and the last surviving heir to the dynasty of Saul. 2 Samuel 9 told how David showed unique kindness to Mephibosheth. 2 Samuel 16:1-4 described how Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, met David with supplies as he left Jerusalem. Ziba said that Mephibosheth had abandoned David and hoped to gain from the conflict between David and Absalom.
b. My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: Mephibosheth explained why he did not join David, and how Ziba slandered him before David.
c. You set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king? Though Mephibosheth was slandered before David, Mephibosheth didn’t defend himself or demand a hearing before David. He knew David had already given him more than he deserved, so if David were to now take it all away he would still be ahead.
d. You and Ziba divide the land: When Ziba told David that Mephibosheth had abandoned him, David granted Ziba all of Mephibosheth’s land and property (2 Samuel 16:4). Hearing the whole story, David didn’t go back on his promise to Ziba even though it was base on fraudulent claims. Yet he did lessen Ziba’s reward by offering a split between Ziba and Mephibosheth of all the property from Saul’s house.
e. Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house: Mephibosheth was content to let Ziba have all the property if he could only know that David reigned. David’s reign was more important to him than his personal enrichment.
i. “For his own enrichment this man cared nothing at all. It was everything to him that his king should come into the possession of his kingdom in peace…. It is to be feared that too often we are more concerned about our rights than about His. It is a great and glorious thing when our loyalty and love make us far more concerned about the victories of our Lord, than about our own unquestioned rights. Yet that should be the normal attitude of all who sit at the King’s Table.” (Morgan)
3. (31-39) David shows appreciation to Barzillai.
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim and went across the Jordan with the king, to escort him across the Jordan. Now Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. And he had provided the king with supplies while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very rich man. And the king said to Barzillai, “Come across with me, and I will provide for you while you are with me in Jerusalem.” But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am today eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way across the Jordan with the king. And why should the king repay me with such a reward? Please let your servant turn back again, that I may die in my own city, near the grave of my father and mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what seems good to you.” And the king answered, “Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what seems good to you. Now whatever you request of me, I will do for you.” Then all the people went over the Jordan. And when the king had crossed over, the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own place.
a. Come across with me, and I will provide for you while you are with me in Jerusalem: Barzillai brought essential help to David when he fled Jerusalem as Absalom took over the city. In gratitude, David offered him the honor of living with the king in Jerusalem.
i. He was a very rich man: Barzillai was a man of great resources – and he wisely used those resources to support the servant of God and the cause of God. In Luke 12:21, Jesus spoke of the foolish man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Barzillai was wise enough to use his resources to lay up treasure in heaven and he was rich toward God.
b. Why should the king repay me with such a reward? Barzillai did not do this for the sake of reward. He gave out of a right heart, not from the motive of self-exaltation.
c. Here is your servant Chimham; let him cross over with my lord the king: Barzillai respectfully declined the honor for himself but accepted it on behalf of his son Chimham.
i. “It is generally understood that this was Barzillai’s son; and this is probable from 1 Kings 2:7, where, when David was dying, he said, Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai.” (Clarke)
4. (40-43) Israel and Judah quarrel about David.
Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him. And all the people of Judah escorted the king, and also half the people of Israel. Just then all the men of Israel came to the king, and said to the king, “Why have our brethren, the men of Judah, stolen you away and brought the king, his household, and all David’s men with him across the Jordan?” So all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is a close relative of ours. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we ever eaten at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, “We have ten shares in the king; therefore we also have more right to David than you. Why then do you despise us; were we not the first to advise bringing back our king?” Yet the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
a. All the people of Judah escorted the king, and also half the people of Israel: The northern tribes felt excluded in this ceremonial welcoming back of David from across the Jordan River.
b. Why have our brethren, the men of Judah, stolen you away…. why then are you angry…. why then do you despise us: This argument was ultimately about who was more loyal to King David, and who had the greater right to honor him.
c. Why then do you despise us: The ten northern tribes felt unappreciated by the tribe of Judah. This competitive attitude between Judah and the ten northern tribes set the stage for civil war in David’s day and the eventual division of the nation into two.
2 Samuel 18 – The Defeat of Absalom
A. Absalom’s defeat and death.
1. (1-4) David puts the army under three captains.
And David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. Then David sent out one third of the people under the hand of Joab, one third under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, “I also will surely go out with you myself.” But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.” Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands.
a. David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains: David knew just what to do in organizing his army. He set them into three divisions under the leadership of Joab, Abishai and Ittai the Gittite.
b. I also will surely go out with you: David knew that the commander belonged out in the battle. He didn’t want to repeat his previous mistake of not going to battle when he should have (2 Samuel 11:1).
c. You shall not go out: The people surrounding David would not allow him to go out to battle with the rest of his army. There were three reasons why they insisted on this:
· His life was more valuable (you are worth ten thousand of us).
· He could bring reserves if needed (you are now more help to us in the city).
· They understood that it would be hard for David to fight against his own son, Absalom.
d. Whatever seems best to you I will do: David was not stubborn. He knew how to submit to the good advice of others. He did not give up leadership; he practiced good leadership by listening to the wise advice of the people around him.
e. So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands: They were willing to take on sacrifice and danger for the benefit of their king. Their devotion to David is an example of how the believer should be devoted to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
2. (5) David’s command to the three captains.
Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.
a. Now the king had commanded: David wanted it clearly known that Absalom was to be captured alive and should not be mistreated in any way.
b. All the people heard: David gave this commandment in the presence of all the people so that the captains would feel greater pressure to do what David commanded.
3. (6-8) Absalom’s armies are defeated.
So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim. The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day. For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
a. So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel: Those loyal to David fought against Israel, because Israel was not loyal to David. Israel was seduced by Absalom’s charisma and power.
b. The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David: The experienced leadership of David and his captains was probably the main reason for their overwhelming victory.
i. “David had arranged that the battle should take place in this terrain, where the experience and courage of each individual soldier counted more than sheer numbers.” (Baldwin)
c. The woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured: This phrase implies that God fought for David in unusual ways. Soldiers loyal to Absalom seemed to be “swallowed up” by the woods.
i. “Perishing not only by the sword, but among the thick oaks and tangled briers of the wood, which concealed fearful precipices and great caverns, into which the rebels plunged in their wild fright when the rout set in.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “It is generally supposed that, when the army was broken, they betook themselves to the wood, fell into pits, swamps, and so forth, and being entangled, were hewn down by David’s men; but the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, state that they were devoured by wild beasts in the wood.” (Clarke)
4. (9-17) Joab kills Absalom.
Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!” So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.” Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him. So Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel. For Joab held back the people. And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his tent.
a. Absalom rode on a mule: Absalom’s vanity put him in this battle, against the wise counsel of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:1-14). Absalom didn’t seem like a great general, riding a mule into battle.
b. His head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth: Absalom was noted for his good looks and his luxurious hair (2 Samuel 14:25-26). What was his glory was now his curse – Absalom was literally caught by his own hair in the thick trees of the forest.
i. Adam Clarke is careful to point out that the text does not say that Absalom was caught by his hair – we assume that. It may be that he was caught by his neck. Nevertheless, the image remains of Absalom hanging in the tree: “So he hung between heaven and earth, as rejected of both.” (Trapp)
ii. “Absalom’s end was beset with terrors. When he was caught in the branches of the oak-tree, he was about to sever his hair with a sword stroke, but suddenly he saw hell yawning beneath him, and he preferred to hang in the tree to throwing himself into the abyss alive. Absalom’s crime was, indeed, of a nature to deserve the supreme torture, for which reason he is one of the few Jews who have no portion in the world to come.” (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews)
c. I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree: When this was reported to Joab, the general wondered why the man did not immediately kill Absalom. The man replied that it was in obedience and faithfulness to David that he did not do it.
i. Joab insisted he would give both money and a promotion to the one who killed Absalom (I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt). Yet the man would not do it because he was loyal to David.
ii. “The military belt was the chief ornament of a soldier, and was highly prized in all ancient nations; it was also a rich present from one chieftain to another.” (Clarke)
d. He took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart: Joab didn’t hesitate to strike Absalom, though he knew David commanded him not to. Joab was convinced that it was in David’s best interests and in Israel’s best interests to show Absalom justice, not mercy.
i. Absalom only received what he deserved. He was a murderer, a traitor, and a rapist. Joab knew that David was generally indulgent towards his children and would never punish Absalom. “He had seen David’s action toward his sons characterized by lack of discipline. In the highest interests of the kingdom his hand was raised to slay Absalom.” (Morgan)
ii. We might say that Joab was correct but not right. He was correct in understanding that it was better for David and for Israel that Absalom was dead. He was not right in disobeying King David, the God-appointed authority over him. By David’s dealings with King Saul, we see that God can deal with those in authority, and we don’t need to disobey them unless commanded to by Scripture or a clear conscience.
iii. “Long ago he should have died by the hand of justice; and now all his crimes are visited on him in his last act of rebellion. Yet, in the present circumstances, Joab’s act was base and disloyal, and a cowardly murder.” (Clarke)
iv. At the same time, there is an ironic twist in that the rebel Absalom had his life taken in a rebellious act by Joab. Absalom got what he deserved and Joab would be held accountable for what he did to Absalom, both by God and eventually by David (1 Kings 2:5-6).
e. Ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him: Absalom was still not dead after three spears because heart is a general reference to the middle of the body instead of the specific internal organ.
i. “As he had defiled his father’s ten concubines, so by these ten youngsters he hath that little breath that was left in him beaten out of his body.” (Trapp)
f. They took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him: Joab wanted to make sure that Absalom’s body was not memorialized as an inspiration to other followers or future rebels.
g. All Israel fled, everyone to his tent: This means Absalom’s army was in full retreat. David’s forces completely carried the day.
5. (18) Absalom’s pillar.
Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.
a. Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself: This is what we would expect from a self-centered, self-promoting man like Absalom. Joab made sure that Absalom did not have a memorial in death, but Absalom made himself a memorial in life.
b. I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: Absalom did have three sons (2 Samuel 14:27). From this statement, we surmise that they died before their father did.
B. David hears of Absalom’s death.
1. (19-27) Two runners are sent to tell David the outcome of the battle.
Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run now and take the news to the king, how the LORD has avenged him of his enemies.” And Joab said to him, “You shall not take the news this day, for you shall take the news another day. But today you shall take no news, because the king’s son is dead.” Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran. And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.” So Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?” “But whatever happens,” he said, “let me run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite. Now David was sitting between the two gates. And the watchman went up to the roof over the gate, to the wall, lifted his eyes and looked, and there was a man, running alone. Then the watchman cried out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he came rapidly and drew near. Then the watchman saw another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “There is another man, running alone!” And the king said, “He also brings news.” So the watchman said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the king said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.”
a. You shall not take the news this day: Ahimaaz wanted to take David the news of Israel’s victory and Absalom’s death. But Joab wanted to spare Ahimaaz the son of Zadok the burden of being the messenger of bad news.
b. Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite: Ahimaaz was faster than the other runner. Since the messenger was someone David knew (Ahimaaz), he assumed it was good news (He is a good man, and comes with good news).
2. (28-32) David learns of Absalom’s death from the Cushite, who arrives after Ahimaaz.
And Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “All is well!” Then he bowed down with his face to the earth before the king, and said, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king!” The king said, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.” And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still. Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the LORD has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.” And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”
a. Is the young man Absalom safe? This was David’s only concern. He should have been more concerned for Israel as a nation than for his traitor son. At the same time, David’s question is an example of the great bond of love between parent and child, and between God our Father and His children.
i. “He might have said, ‘Is the young man Absalom dead? For if he is out of the way there will be peace to my realm, and rest to my troubled life.’ But no, he is a father, and he must love his own offspring. It is a father that speaks, and a father’s love can survive the enmity of a son.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Our children may plunge into the worst of sins, but they are our children still. They may scoff at our God; they may tear our heart to pieces with their wickedness; we cannot take complacency in them, but at the same time we cannot unchild them, nor erase their image from our hearts.” (Spurgeon)
b. I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about: Compared to the Cushite, Ahimaaz was a better runner but a worse messenger because he didn’t know his message. A message can be delivered beautifully, but the messenger’s first responsibility is to get the message correct.
c. May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man: Without saying it directly, the Cushite told David that Absalom was dead.
3. (33) David’s great mourning.
Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom; if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”
a. The king was deeply moved: The Hebrew idea of deeply moved implies a violent trembling of the body. David felt completely undone at hearing the news of Absalom’s death.
i. In part, David was so deeply moved because he knew that he supplied the soil this tragedy grew from.
· The soil came from David’s indulgent parenting.
· The soil came from David’s sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, after which God promised David: The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife…. I will raise up adversity against you from your own house (2 Samuel 12:10-11).
· The soil came from David’s own sinful indulgence of his passions and smaller rebellions against God, which sins and weaknesses were magnified in his sons.
ii. David’s sorrow shows us that it isn’t enough that parents train their children to be godly; they must first train themselves in godliness. “We cannot stand in the presence of that suffering without learning the solemn lessons of parental responsibility it has to teach, not merely in training our children, but in that earlier training of ourselves for their sakes.” (Morgan)
b. O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom: David mourned so much for Absalom because he really was his son. David saw his sins, his weaknesses, his rebellion exaggerated in Absalom.
i. “Everything in the story leads up to, and culminates in, this wail of anguish over his dead boy…. Five times he repeated the words, ‘my son.’” (Morgan)
ii. “This surely had a deeper note in it than that of the merely half-conscious repetition of words occasioned by personal grief. The father recognized how much he was responsible for the son. It is as though he had said: He is indeed my son, his weaknesses are my weaknesses, his passions are my passions, his sins are my sins.” (Morgan)
c. If only I had died in your place: David wanted to die in the place of his rebellious son. What David could not do God did by dying in the place of rebellious sinners.
i. “So in the cry of David, we actually hear the cry of God, for His lost children. His desire to restore, His desire to forgive.” (Smith)
2 Samuel 17 – Absalom Decides His Direction
A. The advice of Ahithophel and of Hushai.
1. (1-4) The counsel of Ahithophel.
Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Now let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and weak, and make him afraid. And all the people who are with him will flee, and I will strike only the king. Then I will bring back all the people to you. When all return except the man whom you seek, all the people will be at peace.” And the saying pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.
a. I will arise and pursue David tonight: Ahithophel advised a quick, selective attack against David only (I will strike only the king). He advised urgency, doing it all while David was still west of the Jordan River.
b. I will strike only the king: This slip of the tongue was more like an unknowing prophecy. Deep in his heart, even Ahithophel knew that David was the real king.
c. And the saying pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel: Ahithophel’s plan was smart. It was bold and had a high probability of success and it would spare Israel a protracted civil war between the supporters of David and the supporters of Absalom.
2. (5-10) Hushai disagrees with Ahithophel’s advice.
Then Absalom said, “Now call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he says too.” And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom spoke to him, saying, “Ahithophel has spoken in this manner. Shall we do as he says? If not, speak up.” So Hushai said to Absalom: “The advice that Ahithophel has given is not good at this time.” “For,” said Hushai, “you know your father and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are enraged in their minds, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field; and your father is a man of war, and will not camp with the people. Surely by now he is hidden in some pit, or in some other place. And it will be, when some of them are overthrown at the first, that whoever hears it will say, ‘There is a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ And even he who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt completely. For all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and those who are with him are valiant men.”
a. Now call Hushai the Archite: It is a remarkable evidence of the hand of God and answer to David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 15:31 that Absalom even asked for another opinion after such wise, well-received counsel.
b. The advice that Ahithophel has given is not good at this time: We can imagine that Hushai’s heart sank when he heard of the smart plan Ahithophel suggested. He had to quickly think of a counter-plan so that he could defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, as David asked him to do in 2 Samuel 15:32-35.
c. You know your father and his men, that they are mighty men: Hushai spoke of the David of the past, not the David of the present. Hushai saw David with his own eyes and knew that he was not strong and mighty. He hoped that Absalom would vividly remember the David of the past.
d. Like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field…. by now he is hidden is some pit: Hushai knew David could barely keep himself together, but he effectively painted the picture that David and his men were dangerous and should not be attacked quickly.
e. There is a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom: Hushai’s point was that it was too risky to attack David immediately. We can imagine that he said all this praying that God would indeed answer David’s prayer and defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.
3. (11-13) Hushai advises Absalom to raise a huge army and get David in person.
“Therefore I advise that all Israel be fully gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, like the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. So we will come upon him in some place where he may be found, and we will fall on him as the dew falls on the ground. And of him and all the men who are with him there shall not be left so much as one. Moreover, if he has withdrawn into a city, then all Israel shall bring ropes to that city; and we will pull it into the river, until there is not one small stone found there.”
a. I advise that all Israel be fully gathered: This would take time. Hushai not only wanted to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, he also wanted to do whatever he could to buy David more time before the inevitable attack came.
b. And that you go to battle in person: This suggestion flattered Absalom’s vanity. He could prove that he was a mighty soldier like his father David. In Ahithophel’s plan, Ahithophel led the battle; in Hushai’s plan, Absalom led the battle.
4. (14) Absalom and the elders favor Hushai’s advice.
So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom.
a. The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel: This was the first time anyone said this – people always favored the advice of Ahithophel. One reason Absalom liked Hushai’s advice was because it appealed to his vanity.
b. The LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel: This was the main reason why the advice of Ahithophel was rejected. God was in control. The throne of Israel belonged to Him, and He could grant it or deny at His will.
i. Absalom had the smartest man in Israel on his side, but David’s prayer was mightier than Ahithophel’s intelligence. God led Ahithophel to give foolish counsel that was listened to (as in 2 Samuel 16:20-23). God allowed Ahithophel to give great advice and yet have it be rejected. God was in control; the LORD had purposed.
ii. “This is one of the great principles of life which every page of the Bible emphasizes and illustrates. Men cannot escape God. They go their own way, but that way never sets them free from the authority and the invincible power of God.” (Morgan)
iii. We see that the LORD purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel because David prayed. Prayer moves the hand of God, and David prayed: O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness! (2 Samuel 15:31)
c. That the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom: In all of this there was a severe chastening for David, and he knew it. Yet God did not forsake David during this time of chastening. He was there for David at this time also. He was not out to destroy David but to correct him.
B. David is warned of Absalom’s plan.
1. (15-16) Zadok sends his sons to tell David.
Then Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, “Thus and so Ahithophel advised Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus and so I have advised. Now therefore, send quickly and tell David, saying, ‘Do not spend this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily cross over, lest the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up.’”
a. Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: This is exactly what David had in mind when he sent Hushai and the priests back to Absalom (2 Samuel 15:35-36).
b. Do not spend this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily cross over: Hushai meant that David should cross over the Jordan River, giving him room and time to regroup before Absalom’s attack.
2. (17-22) David is warned.
Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed at En Rogel, for they dared not be seen coming into the city; so a female servant would come and tell them, and they would go and tell King David. Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom. But both of them went away quickly and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, who had a well in his court; and they went down into it. Then the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground grain on it; and the thing was not known. And when Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house, they said, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” So the woman said to them, “They have gone over the water brook.” And when they had searched and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem. Now it came to pass, after they had departed, that they came up out of the well and went and told King David, and said to David, “Arise and cross over the water quickly. For thus has Ahithophel advised against you.” So David and all the people who were with him arose and crossed over the Jordan. By morning light not one of them was left who had not gone over the Jordan.
a. A man’s house in Bahurim: Jonathan and Ahimaaz could find help along the way. The whole nation had not gone over to Absalom, especially because he had publicly disgraced David’s concubines.
b. So David and all the people who were with him arose and crossed over the Jordan: Because of this successful intelligence operation, David escaped the immediate danger from Absalom.
3. (23) Ahithophel commits suicide.
Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb.
a. When Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed: Ahithophel did not kill himself over hurt feelings because his counsel was rejected. Instead, he was wise enough to know that under Hushai’s plan Absalom would fail and Ahithophel would be implicated in the conspiracy. He knew all was lost.
b. He put his household in order, and hanged himself: Ahithophel committed suicide, and we know that suicide is a sin because it is self-murder and God commanded you shall not murder (Exodus 20:13). Yet suicide should not be regarded as an unforgivable sin. Anyone who does commit suicide has given in to the lies and deceptions of Satan, whose purpose is to kill and destroy (John 10:10).
i. “Suicide is always the ultimate action of cowardice. In the case of Saul, and in many similar cases, it is perfectly natural; but let it never be glorified as heroic. It is the last resort of the man who dare not stand up to life.” (Morgan)
ii. “I desire to call your attention to the text on account of its very remarkable character. ‘He put his house in order, and hanged himself.’To put his house in order, showed that he was a prudent man; to hang himself, proved that he was a fool. Herein is a strange mixture of discretion and desperation, mind and madness. Shall a man have wisdom enough to arrange his worldly affairs with care, and yet shall he be so hapless as to take his own life afterwards?” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Thousands set their houses in order, but destroy their souls; they look well to their flocks and their herds, but not to their hearts’ best interests. They gather broken shells with continuous industry, but they throw away priceless diamonds. They exercise forethought, prudence, care, everywhere but where they are most required. They save their money, but squander their happiness; they are guardians of their estates, but suicides of their souls.” (Spurgeon)
4. (24-26) Absalom crosses the Jordan to pursue David.
Then David went to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed over the Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him. And Absalom made Amasa captain of the army instead of Joab. This Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Jithra, an Israelite, who had gone in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. So Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.
a. Absalom crossed over the Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him: Now Absalom was the head of Israel’s army. This was good for Absalom’s vanity but bad for success on the battlefield.
i. “Absalom’s vanity ensured his ruin.” (Morgan)
b. Absalom made Amasa captain of the army instead of Joab: Amasa was the son of a niece of David and a cousin of Joab.
5. (27-29) David finds supporters in Gilead.
Now it happened, when David had come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the people of Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”
a. Shobi…Machir…Barzillai: These otherwise obscure men are given special mention because they helped David in a time of great need. Friends in need are friends indeed.
b. The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness: These helpers of David were not dramatic warriors, but they helped David in this crisis as much as the bravest soldier. They were specially sent by God to comfort David in his affliction.
i. “It was as though God stooped over that stricken soul, and as the blows of the rod cut long furrows in the sufferer’s back, the balm of Gilead was poured into the gaping wounds. Voices spoke more gently; hands touched his more softly; pitiful compassion rained tender assurances about his path; and, better than all, the bright-harnessed angels of God’s protection encamped about his path and his lying down.” (Meyer)
2 Samuel 16 – David Flees as Absalom Asserts His Reign
A. Ziba’s deception.
1. (1-2) Ziba meets David with supplies.
When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine. And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink.”
a. Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth: This Ziba was the servant of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan to whom David showed great kindness to (2 Samuel 9).
b. Who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys: At a time of great need, Ziba met David with essential supplies. This was a generous and helpful gift from Ziba.
2. (3-4) Ziba speaks against Mephibosheth.
Then the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” And Ziba said to the king, “Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.’” So the king said to Ziba, “Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” And Ziba said, “I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, O king!”
a. He is staying in Jerusalem: Ziba told David that Mephibosheth was in Jerusalem, waiting to come to power after David and Absalom ruined each other. Ziba told David that Mephibosheth longed to restore the family of Saul to power. (Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.)
i. These were lies that Ziba told David and this will be revealed in 2 Samuel 19:24-30. Actually, Ziba left Mephibosheth behind to make it look as if Mephibosheth did not support David.
ii. This report from Ziba hurt David because in this time of crisis the last thing he needed to hear was that another friend had turned against him. Ziba “was utterly despicable, and the more so because at the moment the sorrow he brought to the heart of David was his feeling that his kindness toward Mephibosheth was ill requited.” (Morgan)
iii. This was a “shameless and senseless slander, uttered by a false and faithless sycophant.” (Trapp)
b. All that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours: David – acting on the only information he had – assumed that Ziba told the truth. Therefore, he rewarded Ziba’s loyalty and punished Mephibosheth’s reported disloyalty.
i. This was exactly the response Ziba wanted. Ziba is an example of someone who wickedly uses a crisis for his own benefit.
B. Shimei curses David.
1. (5-8) Shimei curses a deposed king.
Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!”
a. A man from the family of the house of Saul: Shimei was a distant relative of the former King Saul, and he still resented David for replacing the dynasty of Saul.
b. Cursing continuously…. threw stones…. “You bloodthirsty man, you rogue”: Shimei was about as offensive as a person could be. He wanted to destroy any shred of dignity or confidence that David had left.
i. There are always people ready to rejoice when a leader falls. Shimei had this heart against David for a long time, but he could only show it when David was down and out.
ii. “It is very hard to bear a cowardly attack. One is very apt to reply and use hard words to one who takes advantage of your position and deals you the coward’s blow. Only the coward strikes a man when he is down.” (Spurgeon)
c. The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul…. you are caught in your own evil: A quick look at the outward appearance of things seemed to confirm Shimei’s analysis, but Shimei was wrong. None of this came upon David because of what he did to Saul or Saul’s family.
i. Shimei was wrong because David actually treated Saul and his family with great love and graciousness.
ii. Shimei was wrong because David was not a bloodthirsty man. It is true that he was a man of war, but not a bloodthirsty man.
iii. Shimei was wrong because David did not bring Saul and his family to ruin – Saul himself brought the family to ruin.
iv. Shimei was right that the LORD had brought this upon David, but not for any of the reasons Shimei thought.
2. (9-14) David receives adversity with humility.
Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust. Now the king and all the people who were with him became weary; so they refreshed themselves there.
a. Let me go over and take off his head: Abishai didn’t want to listen to Shimei curse or to dodge his stones anymore. The mighty men surrounding David were more than ready to kill Shimei in an instant.
b. So let him curse: David didn’t try to shut up Shimei. He didn’t close his ears to unpleasant or critical words. David was willing to hear what God might say to him through a cursing critic.
i. David let Shimei speak because he was not a bloodthirsty man (what have I to do with you). Ironically, if David were the kind of man Shimei said he was, Shimei would have been killed.
ii. David let Shimei speak because he saw the hand of God in every circumstance (the LORD has said to him). He knew that God was more than able to shut Shimei up; David didn’t need to give the order.
iii. David let Shimei speak because he put the “Shimei problem” in perspective. (See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite?) David knew that his real problem was Absalom, not Shimei, and he did not lose this perspective.
iv. David let Shimei speak because he knew that God’s hand was on the future as well as the present. (It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day) David knew that if he did what was right in the present moment, God would take care of the future.
v. Let him alone, and let him curse: “David could take this fellow’s head off and that in a moment, and yet he said, ‘Let him alone. Let him curse.’ And this makes a splendid example. If you can revenge yourself, DON’T. If you could do it as easily as open your hand, keep it shut. If one bitter word could end the argument, ask for grace to spare that bitter word.” (Spurgeon)
c. So they refreshed themselves there: David was not without hope or comfort. God allowed comfort to find him, even if it was in the small things. David was able to receive comfort because he was at peace and he knew that God was in control of Israel.
i. In refusing to cling to the throne, David was like Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). “As we thus follow David through these days of humiliation and shame…we nevertheless understand more perfectly that he was indeed a man after God’s own heart.” (Morgan)
ii. In his book A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards put these words into the mouth of David: “The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep. The throne is the LORD’s.” It was that kind of heart that kept David on-track through such a difficult time and enabled him to even be refreshed.
iii. “This is a radiant illustration of the deep and inward peace given to any man who is living in fellowship with God in motive and desire.” (Morgan)
C. Absalom’s counselors.
1. (15-19) Absalom receives Hushai as an advisor.
Meanwhile Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem; and Ahithophel was with him. And so it was, when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, that Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” So Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” And Hushai said to Absalom, “No, but whom the LORD and this people and all the men of Israel choose, his I will be, and with him I will remain. Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? As I have served in your father’s presence, so will I be in your presence.”
a. When Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom: Hushai wanted to leave with David and support him (2 Samuel 15:32-34). David thought it was better to send Hushai back to Absalom, to both spy on Absalom and to give him bad advice.
i. The bad advice from Hushai was thought necessary because Ahithophel was with Absalom. Ahithophel was famous for his wise counsel, and David wanted someone on the inside of Absalom’s leadership who might frustrate Ahithophel’s counsel.
b. As I have served in your father’s presence, so will I be in your presence: Hushai lied to Absalom, concealing his motives – like any good spy hides his or her true intentions.
2. (20-23) Absalom follows Ahithophel’s advice.
Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give advice as to what we should do.” And Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. So was all the advice of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
a. Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go into your father’s concubines”: Ahithophel told Absalom to do something so offensive that it would eliminate any possibility of reconciliation with David. Ahithophel felt this strong statement would give courage to Absalom’s followers.
i. In the ancient world, taking the king’s concubines was not only an act of immorality; but also, an act of treason. This was a way for Absalom to not only replace David but also to completely repudiate his father.
ii. Why did Ahithophel give such radical advice? Because it made sense from his own self-interest. Ahithophel had the most to lose if Absalom failed to keep the throne or if David and Absalom reconciled. He would be revealed and rejected as a traitor.
iii. The Puritan commentator John Trapp wrote this of Ahithophel’s tongue, which gave this wicked advice: “O tongue worthy to have been cut out, shred in gobbets and driven down the throat of him that thus misused him, to the engaging of Absalom in such an unpardonable villainy, beside hazard of his immortal soul!”
b. So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines: This disgraceful act said a lot about Absalom, who actually did it. It also said a lot about Ahithophel, who must have had a strange sense of satisfaction in seeing David’s women violated in a similar way to his granddaughter Bathsheba.
i. 2 Samuel 11:3 tells us that Bathsheba’s father was Eliam, one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:34). This also means that her grandfather was Ahithophel (according to 2 Samuel 23:34).
ii. This shows the power of bitterness. Ahithophel was willing to see these women abused, Absalom grievously sin, and the kingdom of Israel suffer greatly – all simply to satisfy his bitter longing for revenge.
iii. This disgraceful incident also shows that God kept His promise to David: I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun (2 Samuel 12:11-12).
iv. “Every part of the conduct of Absalom shows him to have been a most profligate young man; he was proud, vindictive, adulterous, incestuous, a parricide, and in fine, reprobate to every good word and work.” (Clarke)
c. Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God: Ahithophel had a well-deserved reputation for giving counsel almost as good as God. But in this case, his counsel was foolish and destructive.
i. It was foolish and destructive because it was motivated by bitterness. Bitterness has the power to turn our best qualities sour.
ii. It was foolish and destructive because God answered David’s prayer (2 Samuel 15:31) by prompting Ahithophel to give this foolish counsel, and in prompting Absalom to take the foolish counsel.
iii. Strangely, Absalom thought he could establish his kingdom through immorality. He was a clever and skilled politician but ignorant about the ways of God.
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