CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

His Victory Over The Philistines

2 Samuel 5


"But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David" (2 Sam. 5:17). The civil war in Israel, which had continued for several years, having been brought to an end, and the whole nation being now united under the government of David, he had thereby become much more powerful. Probably hearing, too, of Davidís capture of Jerusalem (v. 7) and of the friendship shown him by Hiram, king of Tyre (v. 11), the Philistines now thought it was high time to bestir themselves and put an end to his prowess. Accordingly they assembled a great army against him, but were overthrown, though not annihilated.

The typical significance of the above (by which we mean its prophetic and dispensational foreshadowings) points to much that is recorded in the book of Acts, which, in turn, presages that which was to obtain more or less throughout the whole of this Christian era. As soon as the kingdom of Christ had been set up in the world, it was vigorously attacked by the powers of darkness, which, by the combined forces of Jews and Gentiles, sought to overthrow it. Definite proof of this is found in Acts 4, where we read of the arrest of Peter and John, their being summoned before the Sanhedrin, being threatened by them, and subsequently released. On returning to their own company and reporting their experiences, they all "with one accord" quoted from the second Psalm, which someóprobably with good reasonóconclude was written by David just after his victory over the Philistines.

That part quoted from the second Psalm was, "Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ" (Acts 4:25, 26). This is a clear intimation from the Spirit Himself that the substance of these verses is by no means to be restricted unto the opposition made by the powers of evil (through their human emissaries) against Christ personally during the days of his flesh, but include also Christ mystical, His Church, and is a prophetic intimation of the continuous enmity of the Serpent against the womanís Seed, i.e., Christ and His people. But as the remainder of the second Psalm shows, all such opposition will prove futile, for "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:25).

In this chapter, however, we do not propose to develop at length the prophetic application of Davidís victories over the Philistines, but rather shall we endeavor to concentrate upon the spiritual and practical bearings of the same. Surely this is what our poor hearts stand most in need of in this "cloudy and dark day"óthat which, under Godís blessing, will better equip us to fight the good fight of faith; that which will instruct and encourage for running the race that is set before us. There is a "time" and "season" for everything. While it is our happy privilege to admire and study the handiwork of God in creation, yet neither the pleasure of beholding the beautiful flowers nor investigating the mystery of the planets would be in order if an enemy were at our doors, and we were called upon to defend our lives. The same principle applies to concentrating upon one or more of the many different departments of Scripture study.

It was to carry forward the conquest of Canaanóbegun by Joshua, but long interrupted (see Judges 1:21-36) that God had raised up David. "And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you: now then do it; for the Lord hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies" (2 Sam. 3:17, 18). Chief among Israelís enemies were the Philistines. They had long been a serious menace to Godís people, and eventually succeeded in slaying Saul and his sons (1 Sam. 31:1-6). But now the time had come for God to stain their pride, fight against them, and overthrow their forces. "The triumphing of the wicked is short" (Job. 20:5); so discovered Pharaoh, Haman, Rabshakeh, Nero; and so shall it be with those who now oppose the Lord and His people.

"But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David" (2 Sam. 5:17). First of all, let us behold and admire here the providential dealings of God: "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). Nothing happens by chance in this world, and the actions of the wicked are just as truly controlled, yea, and directed, by the Governor of this world, as are those of the righteous. It was of the Lord that these Philistines threatened Israel at this time, and therein we may perceive His grace toward His servant. They were the enemies of Jehovah, and belonged to the people He had commanded Israel to destroy. But to take the initiative against them, David might feel was the height of ingratitude, for on two occasions the Philistines had given him protection when sorely persecuted by Saul (1 Sam. 27:1-3; 28:1,2). By Godís moving the Philistines to take the initiative, Davidís scruples were subdued.

Though David had ascended the throne of Israel, this did not deter his former enemies; rather did it excite their jealousy and stirred them up to come against him. Therein we may find an illustration of Satanís ways against the saints. Whenever an advance step is taken for God, or whenever honor is put upon the true King and Christ is given His proper place in our arrangements, the enemy is on hand to oppose. Let Abraham return unto "the place of the altar" and at once there is strife between his herdsmen and those of Lot (Gen. 13:4-7). Let Joseph receive a divine revelation in a dream, and immediately the cruel envy of his brethren is stirred against him (Gen. 37). Let Elijah triumph over the false prophets upon Carmel, and Jezebel threatens his life. Many such cases are also found in the book of Acts. These are recorded for our instruction. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Let, then, the attack of the Philistines upon David right after his coronation warn us against finding security in any spiritual prosperity with which we may have been blessed. High altitudes are apt to make the head dizzy. No sooner had David made Zion his own city, and that to the glory of the Lord, than the Philistines came up against him. The very next words after the boastful "Lord, by Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong," are, "Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled" (Ps. 30:7). Our "strength" is to maintain a conscious weakness (2 Cor. 12:10). Every spiritual advance needs to be accompanied by watchfulness and prayer. "Let not him that girdeth on his armour boast himself as he that putteth it off" (1 Kings 20:11)!

"The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim" (v. 18). The valley of Rephaim was but a short distance from Jerusalem: no doubt the Philistines expected to make themselves masters of that strategic city before David had time to complete the fortification of it. In the words "spread themselves" indication is given that their force was a large one: "all the Philistines" (v. 17) probably denotes that their five principalities (1 Sam. 6:16,18) were here combined together. Little did they realize that they were rushing onward to their destruction, for they knew not the might of Davidís scepter nor the power of Jehovah who had exalted him. The Philistines were unaware of the fact that the living God was for David, as He had not been for Saul.

Let us now consider Davidís response unto the threatening presence of the Philistine hosts. "And David enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? Wilt Thou deliver them into mine hand?" (v. 19). This is very blessed, accentuated by the final clause in verse 17, which is in marked contrast to what is recorded in verse 18: in the one we read "and David heard of it, and went down to the hold"; in the other we are told that the Philistines "came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim." In sharp antithesis from the self-confident Pharisees, David took a lowly place and evidenced his dependence upon God. Instead of accepting their challenge and immediately engaging them in battle, David turned to the Lord and inquired His will for him. O that writer and reader may cultivate this spirit more and more: it is written "In all thy ways acknowledge Him," and the promise is, "and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:6).

"And David enquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt Thou deliver them into mine hand"? Not as the mighty man of valor did he impetuously rush ahead, but as the man submissive to his God did the king here act: most probably it was through Abiathar, by means of the urim and thummim in his ephod, that the Lordís mind was sought. His inquiry was twofold: concerning his duty and concerning his success: "his conscience asked the former, his prudence the latter" (Matthew Henry). His first concern was to make sure he had a divine commission against the Philistines. In view of 2 Samuel 3: 18 his duty seemed clear, but the question was, Is it Godís time for me to act now! His second concern was whether the Lord would prosper his efforts, for he realized that victory was entirely dependent upon Godóunless He delivered the Philistines into his hand, all would be in vain.

"And the Lord said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand" (v. 19). He who has said, "Seek ye My face" will not mock that soul who sincerely and trustfully responds with, "my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek" (Ps. 27:8). Gods of wood and stone, the idols of earthly fame and material wealth, will fail their devotees in the hour of need, but the living God will not disappoint those who are subject unto Him and seek His aid in the time of emergency. The Lord is ever "a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46: 1), and the sure promise is "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8). The divine ordering of our ways, the directing of our steps, is urgently needed by all of us, nor will it be withheld if sought after the appointed order.

"And the Lord said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand." This also is recorded for our instruction and comfort; then let us earnestly seek faith to appropriate the same and make it our own. Those words were graciously spoken by the Lord to encourage and nerve David for the battle. We too are called upon to fightó"fight the good fight of faith." Yes, and it is only as faith is in exercise, only as the divine promises are actually laid hold of (expectantly pleaded before God), that we shall fight with good success. Has not God said to us He will "bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20): how that ought to animate us for the conflict! If we lay hold of that promise we shall be able to exclaim, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air" (1 Cor. 9:26).

"And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and said, The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters" (v. 20). Here, too, David has left a noble example for us to follow, and the more closely we do so, the more will God be honored, and the more will further successes be assured for us. Having obtained mercy to be dependent, David found grace to be humble, and ascribed the victory unto its true Author: "The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me"óas when a swollen river bursts its banks and carries all before it. In every forward step, in every resistance to temptation, in every success in service, learn to acknowledge "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). May writer and reader be delivered from the self-praising, boastful, Laodicean spirit of this evil age, saying, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory" (Ps. 115:1).

"And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them" (v. 21). No doubt the Philistines had expected both protection and help from their idols, but they failed them in the hour of need: equally vain and impotent will prove any visible or material thing in which we put our trust. Now they were unwilling to preserve such gods as were unable to preserve them: "God can make men sick of those things that they have been most fond of, and compel them to desert what they doted upon, and cast even the idols of silver and gold to the moles and bats (Isa. 2:20)" (Matthew Henry). In burning the idols of the Philistines, David not only made clean work of his victory, but obeyed Godís order in Deuteronomy 7:5: "thou shalt . . . burn their graven images with fire."

"And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim" (v. 22). Yes, even though we have the promise "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7), there is no assurance given that he will not return. He departed from the Saviour only "for a season" (Luke 4:13), and thus it is with His followers. Yet let not his return to the attack discourage us: it is but a summons to renewed waiting upon God, seeking fresh strength from Him daily, hourly. "And when David enquired of the Lord, He said" (v. 23). On this second occasion also David sought Divine guidance: even though he had been successful in the first battle, he realized that further victory depended entirely upon the Lord, and for that he must be completely subject to Him.

"Thou shall not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines" (vv. 23, 24). This is striking: here was the same enemies to be met, in the same place, and under the same Lord of hosts, and yet Godís answer now is the very opposite of the previous one: then it was, "Go up"; now it is "Go not up," but make for their rearócircumstances may seem identical to human sight, yet on each occasion God is to be sought unto, trusted and obeyed, or victory cannot be insured. A real test of obedience was this for David, but he did not argue or decline to respond; instead, he meekly bowed to the Lordís will. Here is the man "after Godís own heart"ówho waited upon the Lord, and acted by His answer when it was given. Nor did he lose by it: "The Lord shall go before thee to smite the hosts of the Philistines": God is ready to do still greater things when we own what He has already done for us!

"And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer" (v. 25). "David observed his orders, waited Godís motions, and stirred then, and not till then" (Matthew Henry). Complete success was granted him: God performed His promise and routed all the enemyís forces. How that should encourage us! "When the kingdom of the Messiah was to be set up, the apostles, who were to beat down the devilís kingdom, must not attempt anything till they receive the promise of the Spirit, who Ďcame with a sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty windí (Acts 2:2), which was typified by this Ďsound of a going in the tops of the mulberry treesí; and when they heard that, they must bestir themselves, and did so: they went forth conquering and to conquer" (Matthew Henry).