One would supposed with the death of Saul that David’s way to the throne would be easy and clear. But God is going to show us more pictures through David about how the path to the throne will come for Jesus. The means of establishing the anointed and his kingdom will not be easy. The path to the throne will be a path of difficulty. We have seen David experience great difficulty after his anointing. But the resistance to the Lord’s anointed has not ended even though Saul has died. So in our lesson we are going to look at how God is going to establish the kingdom for the anointed. As we look at this we are going to see how God will establish our lives as well.
A Divided Kingdom (2:1-11)
After Saul’s death, we see David’s humility. We do not see presumption in David. He inquires of the Lord if he should go up to any of the cities of Judah. Is now the time for David to take his place? The Lord answers that David should go up to the city of Hebron. So David and his wives along with his household all come to Hebron. The men of Judah come to him and anoint him king over Judah. Hold this surprising statement in your mind for a moment. The people of Judah tell David about the bravery of the people of Jabesh-gilead who showed bravery by rescuing Saul’s body from the Philistines and burying it. David blesses them for showing such loyalty to their king, calling upon the Lord to show these people steadfast love and faithfulness. Not only does David call on the Lord to be faithful to the people, but David says he will also do good to them for the good they have done (2:6).
Now remember that David was anointed as king over Judah. In verse 8 we read that Abner, who is Saul’s commander, takes Ish-bosheth who is the son of Saul, and declares him king over Israel. He reigns for two years over Israel and David rules over Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years. This is the background for the chapters we are reading. So what is happening here and what is God showing? First, we need to note that Hebron is the place of God’s covenant faithfulness. Abraham settled at Hebron after receiving the land and offspring promises (Genesis 13:14-18). Hebron is the place where the ancestors of faith were buried (Genesis 23:2,19). We read about Isaac and Jacob settling in Hebron. Hebron was given to Caleb because he wholly followed the Lord (Joshua 14:14). So Hebron has a rich history regarding God’s covenant promises. The Lord tells David to establish himself in Hebron which puts him inline with God’s covenant faithfulness. But rather than all of Israel following David, we read about a divided kingdom. Judah will follow David but Israel follows Saul’s son. This is foreshadowing the divided kingdom that will come later as Judah will maintain the lineage of the anointed, while Israel will never have a righteous king but live in constant rebellion to God, just like Saul. Finally, we are seeing a picture that though David has been chosen by God as his anointed, not all Israel is going to follow him. Most of Israel will initially reject the arrival of the anointed.
This division naturally leads to hostilities between the house of David and the house of Saul. Abner is the commander of Saul’s armies and Joab is the commander of David’s armies. The two sides decide to war with each other at Gibeon where Abner and his men are defeated. Abner is on the run and Joab’s brother, Asahel, is chasing Abner and catching up to him. Abner tells Asahel to go chase someone else or he is going to have to kill him. Asahel does not take the warning and continues to chase Abner. So Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear and he died (2:23). Abner gets away until he is able to muster his army from the tribe of Benjamin and calls out to Joab for a truce or else this battle will never stop between the two houses. So Joab turns back with his army and no longer goes to war with Abner and his men (2:28).
The first verse of chapter 3 summarizes what has happened during these years. The house of Saul is becoming weaker while the house of David is growing stronger. God is with David and is establishing his kingdom while weakening Saul’s kingdom. Yet we have a troubling foreshadowing in 3:2-5. David has many wives and two of the sons David has are Amnon and Absalom. But this will be for a later time. But the text is foreshadowing trouble ahead.
A surprising turn of events takes place. Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, charges Abner, Saul’s commander, with sleeping with his father’s concubine (3:6-7). Now you would do something like this in ancient Near Eastern times to show you were taking the throne. So that is what Ish-bosheth charges Abner with doing: growing in his power, seizing the throne, and taking Saul’s concubine to confirm the usurping. It is interesting to see Saul’s son act just like Saul, thinking everyone is trying to seize the throne from him. Abner is enraged by this charge because he has very loyal to Saul and to his family (3:8). Abner could have handed over Ish-bosheth to David at any time if he was seeking to seize the kingdom. Abner says he will do everything on his part to solidify David’s kingdom because of Ish-bosheth’s false accusation (3:9-10). It is very important to highlight verses 9-10 of chapter 3. Abner and Ish-bosheth know the will of the Lord is to transfer the kingdom from Saul to David and for David to rule over Israel and Judah. They know this but they are actively resisting the will of the Lord. So we know what will be their ultimate outcome for resisting God’s will and his anointed.
Abner goes to David and tells him that he will bring all of Israel to David (3:12). But something striking happens. David will agree to making a covenant with Abner if he will bring his wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter back to him. Verses 15-16 paint David in a bad light yet again with these wives he has acquired. Michal had been given to another man, Paltiel. Abner seizes her and her husband follows behind them weeping all the way to Bahurim until Abner finally makes him go back home. Abner then rallies all of Israel, reminding them of the Lord’s promise to David to make him king and rescue them from all their enemies (3:17-18). So Abner brings Israel to David and Abner and David make peace. Joab knows that Abner came in peace to David (3:23) but he did not care. Remember that Abner had killed Joab’s brother. So Joab follows Abner, brings him close, and murders him (3:27).
When David hears about this, he proclaims his innocence in this matter (3:28-29). It was not David’s will for Abner to be killed. David curses Joab saying that Abner’s murder be on Joab and on all his house. David calls for all the people to tear their clothes and mourn for Abner (3:31). David honors Abner and lamented over him (3:32-34). David cannot even be convinced to eat because he is so sorrowful over Abner’s death. This response causes the people to realize that David’s sorrow was sincere and not ceremonial (3:35-37), which solidified Israel under the rule of David.
News of Abner’s death reaches Ish-bosheth, who is the king over Israel. He knew that he was doomed when he lost Abner because Abner was the one who was rallying the people for him. Two of his captains come into Ish-bosheth’s chambers while he is napping and assassinate him. They stabbed him in the stomach and cut off his head, making his death just like his father’s death (4:5-7). They bring the head to David at Hebron, saying that this is the day the Lord has avenged him. Now if we have followed along with David, we know what his response will be and it will not be what these two captains expect.
David says that when the messenger came who told me that he had killed Saul, I seized him and killed him as his reward for killing the Lord’s anointed (4:10). How much more for you two wicked men who have killed an innocent man in his own house on his own bed (4:11)! David kills these two captains and has the head of Ish-bosheth buried in Abner’s tomb in Hebron.
Unification of the Kingdom (5:1-5)
But God has accomplished something without David lifting a finger. All of the tribes of Israel come to David to submit to his kingship. They quote the prophecy made to David.
“Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. (2 Samuel 5:1–3 ESV)
David will be the shepherd of Israel and lead them. He will be the prince over them. Then David as the king makes a covenant with Israel before the Lord. Now notice verse 4. David was 30 years old when he started his rule over Israel.
A Picture of the Anointed
As we have seen throughout our study of 1 and 2 Samuel, there are many pictures of the Lord’s anointed as paralleled in the life of David. We noted many of those as we went through the narrative. But the big picture we need to see from these chapters is regarding how the Lord will establish Christ’s kingdom. When Jesus comes, he would not take the throne by going around killing people. This is not how his kingdom will be established. He is not going to seize the throne for himself. Think about when the masses come to make Jesus king, Jesus rejects this and slips away from the crowd, and goes to a mountain alone (John 6:15). Think about how Jesus could have pressed his will and established the throne by his own hand. Amazingly, what we see in Jesus is that he does not do one evil thing with all his power. We see this picture in David. David does not want Abner killed. David does not want Ish-bosheth killed. Jesus was not pressing his will to be made king in Israel either. We have a proverb that absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is only one king with whom that it is not true: King Jesus. Jesus has absolute power but does not use that power for his own personal pleasure or gain.
Rather, what we are seeing pictured in David that would happen in Jesus is that Israel would be united under one king. Jesus will bring not only bring all of Israel to himself, but the whole world to himself. Listen to what Isaiah prophesied about this.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6 NIV)
What David is doing by peacefully bringing a divided Israel under his rule is a small picture of the great work of Jesus who will bring a divided world under his rule to enjoy salvation. Not only this, but the words declared in 5:2 are very important. Jesus will be the shepherd over his people and he will make a covenant with them before the Lord. This would be through the sacrifice of his own life. Remember that the fruit of the vine is remembering the blood of the covenant that was given. His death is what established this covenant of hope and restoration with us. The point is that the establishment of the anointed’s kingdom would come in a way so different than how human kings establish kingdoms. God is going to do the work to bring all the nations and peoples under his feet. Like David, Jesus work began when he was about 30 years old.
Please notice that we are being shown that power does not mean we use it for our own will, justification, satisfaction, or pleasure. It seems that nearly every chapter of this book has shown this amazing picture of David not taking power for himself or establishing him. We see this with Jesus as we just noted above. But this is to be true for ourselves also. We are to not take matters into our own hands but wait for the Lord to do his work. Notice that we see David have this response to the two captains who think they have done him a favor. Look at 4:9.
“As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity….” (2 Samuel 4:9)
Notice David does not look at himself and say that he has solved all of his own problems. He does not say that he has saved himself because of all the good decisions he has made. He looks at the Lord and says that he has redeemed his life. We belong to a kingdom where Jesus is enthroned and he is going to take care of our adversities in his time. Consider how this is contrasted with David’s commander, Joab. Abner made peace with David but Joab did not care. He takes matters into his own hands. He takes vengeance for his brother’s death. David pronounces a curse of calamity upon Joab and his household for doing what he did (3:29). Joab’s decisions will come back around on him and this curse will be upheld later on. In 3:39 David places justice in the hands of the Lord. David’s throne is not established yet for him to be able to bring the proper justice for Abner’s death. But David depends on the Lord to “pay back the one who does wickedly in accordance with his wickedness.”
Be sure that your sin will find you out. We will receive the consequences for our choices and actions. Everyone will. This is why we never take matters into our own hands. This is why we wait for the Lord. This is why we refuse to act punitively toward others who hurt us, lie to us, wrong us, or do evil against us. Not only are we able to trust in the Lord to act, but if we act, we are worthy of judgment. God will have to act against us for what we have done. We have compounded evil for evil rather than doing good and remaining righteous in the face of evil. Let the Lord vindicate you. Let the Lord redeem your life. Let God handle justice. Jesus is king. He rules in righteousness. We must have the faith to believe it.