Another Rebellion (20:1-26)
We have witnessed David’s return to Jerusalem. In his return to Jerusalem, the king is bestowing grace upon his people. Even those who cursed him are receiving grace. Those who remained loyal to him are receiving their reward. As David returns to Jerusalem, however, Israel (the ten tribes) proclaim a rebellion against David. Sheba leads a revolt and claims no part of David’s reign. But the people of Judah remained loyal to their king. Again we are seeing a picture that the reign of David is divisive to Israel and only a remnant would remain loyal to David. This will happen again when Jesus arrives as Israel will be divided about his kingship and only a remnant will be loyal to him.
A response to this rebellion is required. David calls for his new commander, Amasa, to gather Judah to deal with this rebellion. Amasa was Absalom’s commander (17:25) and when David returned he declared to Amasa that he would be his new commander (19:13). However, for whatever reason, Amasa takes longer to do this than the time set for him (20:50). So David calls for Abishai, Joab’s brother and also has been David’s right hand man, to gather the people of Judah against Sheba or this rebellion will be worse than what Absalom did. Amasa comes to meet Joab. Joab surprisingly grabs Amasa by the beard and shoves his sword into his belly, leaving him to die on the road. Joab kills Amasa for no recorded reason. Sadly, Amasa is tossed to the side of the road because people were stopping to look at him as he was wallowing in his own blood. It is a cold-blooded act, likely done so Joab can reassert his place as David’s commander. In fact, we see this in verse 23 where it is stated that Joab is in command of all of Israel’s army.
Sheba goes and hides in the city Abel. Joab surrounds the city with his army and is going to lay siege to it. A woman of the city calls out to Joab if he is going to destroy this city, a heritage of the Lord. Joab says that he just wants Sheba for his rebellion. Turn Sheba over and we will leave. The people of the city cut off Sheba’s head and throw it over the wall to Joab (20:22). Thus the rebellion against David is put down. Anyone who goes up against the Lord’s anointed will be destroyed.
Judgment on the Nations (21:1-14)
As we come to chapter 21 it is important that we maintain a literary connection but notice that we are in a different point in time. Chapters 21-24 are an epilogue to David’s reign. Rather than continue the linear description of events in David’s reign, we are going to trace back to a couple of key events in David’s reign. But chapter 21 must maintain its connection to chapter 20 because it is placed here, not earlier or later in the book, for a reason.
The picture of chapter 20 is that though the king returns to extend grace to his people, those who are in rebellion to the king will be severely judged. Chapter 21 continues the picture of judgment from the king. But chapter 21 opens with a strange event. There is a three year famine in the land in the days of David. A famine was a display of God’s disfavor with the nation. So David seeks the face of the Lord to find out why God is displeased and has brought this famine on the nation. God’s answer is that during Saul’s reign, he attacked and put to death the Gibeonites. Remember that the Gibeonites were the people in Canaan who pretended to be from a far away land and made a treaty with Joshua, tricking them. But the covenant was made and an oath was taken that wrath would come on Israel if the treaty with the Gibeonites was broken (Joshua 9:20).
Now consider that an injustice that had happened many years earlier during the reign of Saul was still on God’s mind in the reign of David. Here is my point: God does not forgot injustices just because time goes by. Time does not heal all wounds with God. God’s justice does not forget and is unrelenting. So David asks the Gibeonites how atonement can be made for this brutal act and covenant breaking. Their answer is that seven sons of Saul be hung before the Lord. Now we may be troubled by this but it is the right answer because in verse 14 we see that the Lord now responds to the pleas of the people. God relents from the famine because justice has been served and atonement has been made. The second picture I want us to see of the king is that his arrival also means justice will be served. The sins and injustices of the past will finally receive their due consequences when the anointed takes his rightful place on the throne. So this is what happens in 21:1-14. Now there is one more picture of the king at the end of chapter 21.
Goliath Again? (21:15-22)
Another war happens between Israel and the Philistines. Another giant comes against David. But rather than David striking down this giant like he did Goliath, Abishai kills this Philistine (21:17). Sibbeacai kills a giant in verse 18. In verse 19 another person named Elhanan strikes down the brother of Goliath. Some translations read that he struck down Goliath and some read that he struck down the brother of Goliath. Goliath may be a title like we use it today. The point is that another giant falls but not by David’s hand either. Finally, in verse 20 we read about another hug man who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He taunts Israel and David’s brother kills him. In verse 22 we see four more giants and they are struck down by David and his servants.
What is the point of this final picture in this chapter? The victory that had been given to David in the past is also given to his people. Now that David is on the throne, his subjects are granted victory against the enemies and the giants. With David on the throne, the rebellious are destroyed, justice is given to those who have been longing for it, and his loyal subjects are given victory over the enemies. Think about what a difference this scene is. When Goliath made his appearance before Israel in 1 Samuel 17, all of Israel was afraid and ran away. No one was willing to fight against him, not even King Saul. Now look at what has happened. Now when the giants of the Philistines appear, not only does David go out as king but Israel is not afraid. Israel goes and fights the Philistines and they are victorious. Israel is not running away but rising to fight the giants. Further, the names of those who rose up to slay the giants are named and recorded for all to acknowledge and remember.
So we have two pictures of hope. First, our Lord will deal with his enemies and bring justice to those who do evil against us. We are living in the land waiting for our king to return and bring justice to the world. When we are mistreated, we wait for Jesus to bring justice and to do right. When we suffer, we wait for Jesus to come and right the wrongs. The Gibeonites had suffered under Saul’s reign. David comes and he brings justice on behalf of the Lord. Remember the words that we prophesied by Israel about the person and reign of Jesus.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6–7 ESV)
So we look for Jesus to uphold his rule with justice and righteousness. He will right wrongs committed. He will bring justice. He will uphold those who depend on him. This is our first hope from the text.
Our second hope is that we are able to have success against the spiritual giants because Jesus is on the throne. You are also in a fight against giants today. Listen to what the apostle Paul said:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
Think about all that we are up against in our lives that are seen and unseen. We have giants that are rising against us. We are dealing with wicked rulers. We are dealing with evil authorities. We are dealing with the various powers that are in this dark world. We are fighting against spiritual forces of evil. Now back up one verse.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)
These giants that we are facing are the schemes of the devil. This is his work that is going on in this world. He is working against us and he is using physical forces of this world to do this. We see this clearly pictured for us in the book of Revelation. Are there not days that we can more clearly see this? Are there not days where it really feels like this in our lives? But Jesus is on the throne and he has given us the strength we need in the Lord to be able to stand against these giants. We have what we need to be strong in the Lord because he has given us his armor to use. You can survive your giants. You can stand against your giants. You can get through whatever you are dealing with in this life because victory belongs to those who belong to God. More giants are going to rise up. The devil is not going to stop threatening your life with difficulties. Put on the armor of God. Get ready for the fight. Take your stand because your king is with you.