2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
The book of First Samuel ends with the death of King Saul and his three sons (1 Samuel 31). Much earlier in that book, we learned that Saul had disobeyed the Lord and that the Lord had rejected him as king (1 Samuel 15). The Lord then directed Samuel to anoint the boy, David, as king, and Samuel did so in a secret anointing (1 Samuel 16:1-13). That was quite some time ago—even before David killed the Philistine, Goliath.
After David killed Goliath, the women greeted the homecoming warriors by shouting, “Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:6), causing Saul to become murderously jealous. Saul plotted to kill David, but the Lord (sometimes with the help of Saul’s son, Jonathan, who was a good friend of David) always helped David to escape. David had both reason and opportunity to kill Saul, but refused to do so (1 Samuel, chapters 24 and 26). He remained loyal to Saul even in the face of great provocation, and mourned the deaths of Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1).
Following Saul’s death, David was anointed king of Judah—the southern portion of the Promised Land (2:4).
One of Saul’s sons, Ish-bosheth (also known as Ish-Baal), survived his father and brothers. Abner, who had been Saul’s general, made Ish-bosheth king of Israel (the northern portion of the Promised Land (2:8-11). Following that, there was a battle between Israel, led by Abner, and Judah, led by Joab (2:12-32). In that battle, Judah lost twenty soldiers, but Israel lost 360—a clear victory for Judah. During that battle, Abner killed Asahel, Joab’s brother—a fact that would ultimately lead to Abner’s death by Joab’s hand.
Accused by Ish-bosheth of going in to Saul’s concubine (wrongly accused according to Abner), Abner defected to David and persuaded the elders of Israel to favor David over Ish-bosheth (3:1-21). But then Joab killed Abner to avenge the death of his brother, Asahel (3:22-39).
Rechab and Baanah, thinking that they would incur David’s favor, killed Ish-bosheth. David responded by having Rechab and Baanah killed and their bodies mutilated (chapter 4).
The death of Ish-bosheth left a power vacuum—a leadership vacuum. That led the elders of Israel to come to David seeking to persuade him to assume their throne as well as the throne of Judah—to establish a united kingdom.
2 SAMUEL 5:1-2. THEN ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL CAME TO DAVID
1Then came all the tribes of Israel to David to Hebron, and spoke, saying, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. 2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. Yahweh said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'”
“Then came all the tribes of Israel to David to Hebron, and spoke, saying, ‘Behold, we are your bone and your flesh‘” (v. 1). Hebron is David’s capitol city. It is located 19 miles (31 km) southeast of Jerusalem and 23 miles (37 km) northeast of Beer-sheba.
Hebron has a rich history. Abraham made it his home after he separated from Lot, and built an altar to the Lord there (Genesis 13:18). When Sarah died, he buried her in the cave of Machpelah at Hebron (Genesis 23:1-20). As we shall see (v. 5), David will reign seven and a half years at Hebron prior to capturing Jerusalem and making it his capitol.
As noted above, the elders of Israel were left bereft of leadership when Saul, Saul’s sons, and Abner were killed. Now they come to David, who has already been installed as King of Judah (2:1-7) to ask him to be their king as well.
Their first appeal to David is that “we are your bone and your flesh”—i.e., we are your kinspeople. In a narrow sense, that is not true. David is from Bethlehem of Judah, so his tribal affiliation is with Judah in the south—not Israel in the north. However, in a broader sense it is true. Both Israel and Judah are descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their ancestors suffered side by side through the long siege of slavery in Egypt and the forty-year trek in the wilderness. Israel and Judah have a great deal in common—and little reason to be divided.
“In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel“ (v. 2a). This is the second appeal by the elders of Israel. They tell David that, even while Saul was their king, David “led out and brought in Israel.” Similar language in 1 Samuel 18:13 and 16 refers to military leadership. The elders of Israel are saying that, even while Saul was their king, David performed many of their king’s military duties.
“Yahweh said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel‘” (v. 2b-c). This is the third appeal by the elders of Israel—and they saved their best appeal until last. The Lord has called David to be the shepherd of Israel—ruler of Israel. David could conceivably ignore their first two appeals, but he cannot ignore the Lord’s call.
“You shall be shepherd of my people Israel“ (v. 2b). Shepherds provide leadership and protection to their flocks, and the shepherd motif is a common metaphor for kings and other leaders—albeit often negatively. Kings and other religious leaders are supposed to be shepherds. They are supposed to provide trustworthy leadership and tender care for those in their charge—but seldom do (Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-4; 25:34-38; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Zechariah 10:3; 11:4-17). David, however, will be an exception. The Good Shepherd, Jesus will come from David’s lineage (Luke 2:4; John 10:11).
But it is the Lord, not David, who is the true shepherd of Israel (Psalm 23:1-6; 78:52, 80:1).
2 SAMUEL 5:3. THEY ANOINTED DAVID KING OVER ISRAEL
3So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a covenant with them in Hebron before Yahweh; and they anointed David king over Israel.
“So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron“ (v. 3a). In verse 1, we heard that “all the tribes of Israel came to David.” Here we hear that “the elders of Israel came to the king.” These are more than likely the same event. It is unlikely that verse 1 intended to convey that the entire population of all the tribes of Israel came to David. More than likely, it was their elders who came to David in verse 1.
“and king David made a covenant with them in Hebron before Yahweh“ (v. 3b). The text refers to King David—only the second time that this full title is used (see 3:31).
A covenant is an agreement between two parties. Essentially legal contracts, covenants typically describe what is required of each of the parties and the benefits that each can expect to enjoy. Examples of human covenants include everything from an agreement between two people to a treaty between two or more nations. In the ancient world, covenants were binding agreements, and people entering into covenants would usually ratify a covenant by swearing oaths and making ritual sacrifices.
In a relationship between two parties of unequal power, the more powerful person would be in a position to dictate the terms of the covenant (or at least to heavily influence the terms). In this case, David is most powerful, and David makes the covenant with these elders—not vice versa.
They make this covenant “before Yahweh.” Their promises, therefore, are sacred and binding. In the event that one of the parties to the covenant fails to live up to the provisions of the covenant, they will be answerable, not only to the other party, but also to the Lord.
“and they anointed David king over Israel” (v. 3c). David was first anointed as king by Samuel, many years earlier (1 Samuel 16:1-13). This was a secret anointing, and showed the Lord’s intention for David’s life.
More recently, the people of Judah “anointed David king over the house of Judah” (2:4).
Now these Israelite elders anoint David as king over Judah. This brings unity to the people of God. They now have a common king.
2 SAMUEL 5:4-5. DAVID REIGNED FORTY YEARS
4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.
“David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years“ (v. 4). David was relatively young when he assumed the throne, and he reigns for forty years—forty being shorthand for a very long time. Forty appears frequently in both Old and New Testament key events. The great flood lasted forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4). Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Exodus 16:35). Moses remained on Mount Sinai for forty days while receiving the law (Exodus 24:18). Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days (Luke 4:2).
“In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah “ (v. 5). This tells us that David’s foray against the Jebusites where he took the city of Jerusalem (vv. 6-8) was not the first act of his kingship. He ruled in Hebron for seven and a half years before conquering Jerusalem. He will rule there for thirty-three years.
2 SAMUEL 5:6-8. DAVID TOOK THE STRONGHOLD OF ZION
These verses, not included in the lectionary reading, tell of David leading his army against the Jebusites at Jerusalem. The Jebusites considered their city impregnable, but David used their water shaft to infiltrate soldiers into the city, and he “took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David” (5:7).
2 SAMUEL 5:9-10. DAVID NAMED IT THE CITY OF DAVID
9David lived in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. David built around from Millo (Hebrew: mil·lo — “filling” or “what is full”) and inward. 10David grew greater and greater; for Yahweh, the God of Armies, was with him.
“David lived in the stronghold, and called it the city of David“ (v. 9a). The stronghold under consideration is Jerusalem. David names it after himself.
“David built around from Millo (mil·lo —”filling” or “what is full”) and inward“ (v. 9b). We are not quite certain what is meant by the Millo. The NIV translates verse 9b, “He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward,” reflecting archeological evidence that the Millo was terraces supported by retaining walls. In any event, this verse tells us that David engaged in a major effort to improve and expand the city of Jerusalem.
1 Kings 9:15 tells of King Solomon conscripting labor to build the Millo. That probably has to do with additional construction or reconstruction work.
“David grew greater and greater“ (v. 10a). Earlier, we read, “Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: and David grew stronger and stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker” (3:1). Now Saul and his sons are dead, and David is well on his way to becoming the greatest king in Israel’s history.
“for Yahweh, the God of Armies, was with him“ (v. 10b). This is the reason for David’s success—not his personal ability or courage—not luck. This is a theme that we have heard before (1 Samuel 18:12, 14; 2 Samuel 3:1).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Copyright 2008, 2010, Richard Niell Donovan