2 Samuel 5
The long-hunted exile has now been elevated to the throne: his principal enemies are in their graves, and David is exalted over the kingdom of Israel. There is not a little in the opening chapters of 2 Samuel which we have passed over, as being outside the scope of this series; yet they record several details that present some lovely traits in the character of our hero. As we have previously pointed out, the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan was received by David with no carnal joy, but instead with magnanimous grief (2 Sam. 1: 17). He had never regarded the apostate king and his favorite son as standing between him and the kingdom, and his first feeling on their fall was not—as it had been in a less generous heart—a flush of gladness at the thought of the empty throne, but instead a sharp pang of pain that the anointed of God had been grievously dishonored and degraded by the enemies of Israel (2 Sam. 1:20).
Even when he began to contemplate his new prospects, there was no hurried taking of matters into his own hands, but instead, a calm and reverent inquiring of the Lord (2 Sam. 2:1). He would do nothing in this crisis of his fortunes, when all which had been so long a hope seemed to be nearing its realization, until his Shepherd should lead him. Curbing his naturally impetuous disposition, refusing to take swift action and subdue his remaining opponents, holding in check the impatient ambitions of his own loyal followers, he waited to hear what God had to say. Few men have exercised such admirable self-restraint as David did under the circumstances which confronted him when his long-persecuting oppressor was no longer there to contest the field with him. Blessedly did he fulfill the vow of earlier years: "my Strength! upon Thee will I wait" (Ps. 59:9).
Even before the death of Saul, the strength of David’s forces had been rapidly increased by a constant stream of fugitives from the confusion and misery into which the kingdom had fallen. Even Benjamin, Saul’s own tribe, sent him some of its famous archers—a sure token of the king’s waning fortunes. The hardy men of Manasseh and Gad, "whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as roes upon the mountains" (1 Chron. 12:8) sought his standard; while from his own tribe recruits "day by day came to David to help him, until it was a great host like the host of God" (1 Chron. 12:22). With such forces, it is evident that he could easily and quickly have subdued any scattered troops of the former dynasty. But he made no such attempt, and took no measures whatever to advance any claims to the crown. He preferred God to work out things for him, instead of by him!
When he was settled at Hebron he followed the same trustful and patient policy, not merely for a few days or weeks, but for a period of upwards of seven years. The language of the history seems to denote a disbanding of his army, or at least to their settling down to domestic life in the villages around Hebron, without any thought of winning the kingdom by force of arms. His elevation to the partial monarchy which he at first possessed was not from his own initiative, but was from the spontaneous act of "the men of Judah" who came to him and anointed him "king over the house of Judah" (1 Sam. 2:4). Then followed a feeble hut lingering opposition to David, headed by Saul’s cousin Abner, rallying around the late king’s incompetent son Ishbosheth, whose name significantly means man of shame.
The brief narrative which we have of the seven years spent by the still youthful David at Hebron, presents him in a very lovable light. The same gracious temper which had marked his first acts after Saul’s death is strikingly brought out in 2 Samuel 2:2-4. "He seems to have left the conducting of the (defensive) war altogether to Joab, as though he shrank from striking any personal blow for his own advancement. When he did interfere, it was on the side of peace, to curb and chastise ferocious vengeance and dastardly assassination. The incidents recorded all go to make up a picture of tare generosity, of patiently waiting for God to fulfill His purposes, of longing that the miserable strife between the tribes of God’s inheritance should end. He sends grateful messages to Jabesh-Gilead; he will not begin the conflict with the insurgents. The only actual fight recorded is provoked by Abner, and managed with unwonted mildness by Joab.
"The generosity of his nature shines out again in his indignation at Joab’s murder of Abner, though he was too meek to avenge it. There is no more beautiful picture in his life than that of his following the bier where lay the bloody corpse of the man who had been his enemy ever since he had known him, and sealing the reconciliation which Death even makes in noble souls, by the pathetic dirge he chanted over Abner’s grave (3:31). We have a glimpse of his people’s unbounded confidence in him, given incidentally when we are told that his sorrow pleased them, ‘as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people’ (3:36). We have a glimpse of the feebleness of his new monarchy as against the fierce soldier who had done so much to make it, in his acknowledgment that he was yet weak (3:39)" (Alexander Maclaren).
The final incident of David’s reign over Judah in Hebron was his execution of summary justice upon the murderers of the poor puppet-king Ishbosheth (4:12), upon whose death the whole resistance to David’s power collapsed. Immediately after, the elders of all the tribes came up to Hebron, with the tender of the crown (5:1-3). They offered it upon the triple grounds of kingship, of his military service in Saul’s reign, and of the divine promise of the throne. A solemn pact was made, and David was "anointed" in Hebron "king over Israel": a king not only by divine right, but also a constitutional monarch, chosen by popular election, and limited in his powers. The evangelical significance of this event we considered in the preceding chapter; other points of interest connected therewith are now to engage our attention.
This crowning of David king over all Israel was, first, the fulfillment of one of the great prophecies of Scripture. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee" (Gen. 49:8). Let it be carefully noted that the clause "thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies" is placed between "thy brethren shall praise thee" and "thy father’s children shall bow down before thee"; and that immediately following this, Judah’s victories over the enemies of God’s people is again pointed out: "Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up" (v. 9).
The above prophecy intimated the exalted position which Judah, when compared with the other tribes, was to occupy: Judah was to be the fore-champion in Israel’s warfare against their enemies, God having empowered him with conquering power over the foes of his kingdom. The commencement of this in the life of David is plainly intimated in 2 Samuel 5:1-3. David’s hand had been "in the neck of Israel’s enemies": seen in his memorable victory over Goliath, the Philistine giant; following which we observe the begun-fulfillment of "thy brethren shall praise thee" in the song of the women, "Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands" (1 Sam. 18:6). So also here in 2 Samuel 5 the elders of the eleven tribes "bowed down before him" when they nominated him their king, and that, specifically, in view of the fact that he had triumphantly led out and brought in Israel’s army in times past (v. 2)!
This leads us, in the second place, to contemplate the coronation of David as a blessed foreshadowment of the exaltation of his greater Son and Lord. This is so obvious that there is little need for us to amplify it at much length —though the interested reader would find it profitable to prayerfully trace out for himself other details in it. The life and activities of David are plainly divided into two main parts, though the second part was of much longer duration than the first: thus it is also in the mediatorial work of Him to whom he pointed. In the first section of his career, he who was born at Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16: 1) and "anointed" of God (16:13), wrought some mighty works (1 Sam. 17:34-36,49) which clearly demonstrated that the Lord was with him (for the antitype see Luke 2:11; Acts 10:38). The fame of David was sung by many, which stirred up the jealousy and enmity of the ruling power (1 Sam. 18:7, 8): for the antitype see Matthew 21:15!
The enmity of Saul against David was exceeding bitter, so that he thirsted for his blood (1 Sam. 18:29): compare Matthew 12:14. From that time forth David became a homeless wanderer (1 Sam. 22:1): compare Matthew 8:20. A little company of devoted souls gathered around him (1 Sam. 22:2), but the nation as a whole despised and rejected him: compare John 1:11, 12. This was the period of his humiliation, when the anointed of God suffered privation and persecution at the hands of his enemies. True, he could (as we have seen above) have taken matters into his own hands, and grasped the kingdom by force of arms; but he steadily refused to do so, preferring to meekly and patiently wait God’s time for him to ascend the throne: compare Matthew 26:52. In these and many other respects, our hero blessedly foreshadowed the character and career of his suffering but greater Son and Lord.
But the time had now arrived when the season of David’s humiliation was over, and when he entered into that position of honor and glory which God had long before ordained for him: "they anointed David king over Israel" (2 Sam. 5:3). In his coronation we have a precious adumbration of the ascension of Christ, and His exaltation unto "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3), when He "took upon Him the form of a servant" and "made Himself of no reputation" was "highly exalted" and given "a Name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:7-10). As we are told in Acts 5:31, "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to (the spiritual) Israel." The recorded deeds of David after he came to the throne, which will come before us in the chapters to follow, also strikingly prefigured the work and triumphs of our exalted and glorified Redeemer.
And now, in the third place, let us inquire, How did the fugitive bear this sudden change of fortune? What were the thoughts of David, what the exercises of his heart, now that this great dignity, which he never sought, became his? The answer to our question is supplied by Psalm 18 which (see the superscription) he "spoke in the day that the Lord delivered him from all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul," that is, when the Lord brought to an end the opposition of Saul’s house and followers. In this Psalm the Holy Spirit has recorded the breathings of David’s spirit and graciously permits us to learn of the first freshness of thankfulness and praise which filled the soul of the young king upon his accession to the throne. Here we are shown the bright spiritual beginnings of the new monarchy, and are given to see how faithfully the king remembered the vows which as an exile had been mingled with his tears.
"It is one long outpouring of rapturous thankfulness and triumphant adoration, which streams from a full heart in buoyant waves of song. Nowhere else, even in the Psalms—and if not there, certainly nowhere else—is there such a continuous tide of unmingled praise, such magnificence of imagery, such passion of love to the delivering God, such joyous energy of conquering trust. It throbs throughout with the life-blood of devotion. All the terror, and pains, and dangers of the weary years—the black fuel for the ruddy glow—melt into warmth too great for smoke, too equable to blaze. The plaintive notes that had so often wailed from his heart, sad as if the night wind had been wandering among its chords, have all led up to this rushing burst of full-toned gladness. The very blessedness of heaven is anticipated, when sorrows gone by are understood and seen in their connection with the joy to which they have led, and are felt to be the theme for deepest thankfulness" (Alexander Maclaren).
It is blessed to note that this eighteenth Psalm is entitled, "A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord," upon which C. H. Spurgeon remarked, "David, although at this time a king, calls himself ‘the servant of the Lord,’ but makes no mention of his royalty: hence we gather that he counted it a higher honour to be the Lord’s servant than to be Judah’s king. Right wisely did he judge. Being possessed of poetical genius, he served the Lord by composing this Psalm for the use of the Lord’s house." We cannot here attempt a full analysis of its contents, but must glance at one or two of its more prominent features.
The first clause strikes the keynote: "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength." "That personal attachment to God, which is so characteristic of David’s religion, can no longer be pent up in silence, but gushes forth like some imprisoned stream, broad and full even from its well-head" (Alexander Maclaren). Scholars have pointed out that the intensity of David’s adoration on this occasion moved him to employ a word which is never used elsewhere to express man’s emotions toward God, a word so strong that its force is but freely expressed if we render it "from my heart do I love Thee." The same exalted spiritual fervor is seen again in the loving accumulation of divine names which follow—no less than eight are used in verse 21—as if he would heap together in a great pile all the rich experiences of that God (which all names utterly fail to express) which he had garnered up in his distresses and deliverances.
In verses 3 and 4 David recalls pathetically the past experiences when, like an animal caught in the nets, those who hunted him so relentlessly were ready to close in upon and seize their prey. "In his distress," he says, "I called upon the Lord and cried unto my God" (v. 4). Though it was but the call of one weak solitary voice, unheard on earth, it reached Heaven, and the answer shook all creation: "He heard my voice out of His temple . . . Then the earth shook and trembled" (vv. 6, 7, etc.). One saint in his extremity put in motion the mighty powers of Omnipotence: overwhelming is the contrast between cause and effect. Wonderful as the greatness, equally marvelous is the swiftness of the answer: "Then the earth shook."
It is blessed to note how David ascribes all to the power and grace of the Lord. "For by Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall . . . It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect . . . Thou Inst also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great . . . It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me . . . Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto Thy name. Great deliverance giveth He to His king; and showeth mercy to His anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore" (vv. 29, 32, 35, 47, 49, 50).