II. Jerusalem, the Davidic Covenant, and Military Victory (2 Samuel 5:6–10:19)
II. Jerusalem, the Davidic Covenant, and Military Victory (5:6–10:19)
5:6 Until he was anointed king over all Israel, David had been reigning from Hebron. Now, he set out to conquer a new capital, a city that would become one of the most well-known in history. David did not know at this point that his choice would become the holy city, the place of God’s temple. But, God would make that clear in time.
This would be a capital for a united Israel that was past the hostility of the civil war between Saul’s house and David’s. It would need to be in neutral territory, so David selected a city on the border of the lands of Benjamin and Judah—the tribes of Saul and David.
The Jebusites, one of the Canaanite peoples, didn’t think much of Israel’s new ruler. In fact, they felt so secure in their mountain stronghold of Jerusalem (formerly, Jebus; see Josh 18:28) that they claimed the blind and lame among their people could repel David’s troops. The city was easily defensible on three sides, an important feature in the ancient world.
5:7-9 The Jebusite fortress seemed impregnable, but David knew there was a way through the water shaft under the wall (5:8). According to 1 Chronicles 11:6, Joab found the access and was given the command of David’s army. David conquered Jerusalem and the stronghold of Zion . . . which he named the city of David (5:7, 9). Verse 9 seems to indicate that David filled in the area between the hills to level the city, or he may have built embankments to protect Jerusalem on the north at its most vulnerable point.
5:10 David became more and more powerful. As king, this was certainly necessary. But, the most significant fact was that the Lord God of Armies was with him. Tremendous earthly strength is useless unless heaven is on your side. David was powerful because the heavenly armies were fighting for him—as he would soon learn (see commentary on 5:20-25).
5:11-16 Once David was secure in his capital, other kingdoms had to come to grips with the new force. King Hiram of Tyre did it peacefully, sending envoys, supplies, and builders to construct a palace for David (5:11). David also took more concubines and wives (5:13). This was a violation of God’s law (see Deut 17:17) and would lead to grief for him.
5:17-19 Other foreign powers didn’t take as kindly to the new king. The Philistines, whom David had battled and deceived for years, were determined to bring him down (5:17-18). But, the Lord made it clear to David that he need not fear. He vowed to hand the Philistines over to David (5:19).
5:20-25 In two decisive battles, God gave David victory in radically different ways. In the first battle, the Israelites burst out against the Philistines like a roaring flood and swept them away (5:20). On the second occasion, the Israelites surprised the enemy from behind. This time, God told David to wait until he heard the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees. When this happened, he was to attack, for then the Lord [would] have gone out ahead of [him] (5:24). In other words, God himself would lead the armies of heaven in the charge against David’s enemies.
When God goes before you, you have no need to fear—but you do have to follow. God will clear the way before you, but the victory isn’t yours unless you do things his way. David did exactly as the Lord commanded him, and the battle was won (5:25).
6:1-2 David turned his attention to God’s throne—the ark of the covenant. This sacred chest, which bears the Name, the name of the Lord of Armies who is enthroned between the cherubim (6:2), had been neglected during Saul’s reign. But, unlike Saul, David was zealous for the worship of the Lord. He understood the importance of the ark to Israel’s worship and spiritual well-being.
Moreover, David knew that God was the heavenly King who stood behind his own earthly kingship. Therefore, it was essential that God’s throne be brought into Israel’s capital city. This would not be an everyday event but, rather, a time of great celebration. David himself wrote of the day, “Lift up your heads, you gates! Rise us, ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in” (Ps 24:7).
6:3-5 David and his troops went to Abina-dab’s house, where the ark was located, and prepared for the journey to Jerusalem (6:3). But, for some inexplicable reason, David disobeyed God’s explicit commands regarding how the ark was to be transported. God’s throne was to be moved the way God had demanded. The Levites alone were to carry the ark with poles inserted through its rings (see Exod 25:12-15; 37:3-5; Deut 10:8). Instead, David and his men set the ark of God on a new cart (6:3). The ark was once transported this way—by the Philistines (see 1 Sam 6:7). But, God’s people should have known better. They had God’s revealed Word available to them. All their sincere worship (6:5) could not make up for neglecting God’s will.
6:6-7 When the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, a man named Uzzah, who was guiding the cart, reached out and touched the ark to steady it (6:6). Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead . . . for his irreverence (6:7). The Israelites had failed to treat God as holy or “set apart” from his creation. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies,” the seraphim would declare to Isaiah. “His glory fills the whole earth” (Isa 6:3). Forgetting that was a costly mistake.
6:8-11 David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah (6:8). Was David angry with God—a sin for which he later repented? Was he angry with Uzzah for touching the ark? Or, was he angry with himself for being foolish? Whatever the reason, David feared the Lord that day (6:9). Even though he sincerely loved God, he had not taken him seriously enough. That day, however, he realized the awesome holiness of the Lord in a new way. And, afraid to proceed, David diverted the ark to the house of Obed-edom of Gath, who was mightily blessed for the three months the ark remained there (6:10-11).
6:12-14 The report of Obed-edom’s blessing convinced David that it was time to finish his task of bringing the ark to Jerusalem—this time in the right way. Notice that the author mentions those carrying the ark of the Lord. This is no doubt a reference to the Levites transporting the ark properly, in accordance with God’s Word. David also offered sacrifices (6:13). The king was now fully following his King’s agenda, and he got his praise back on, dancing with all his might (6:14).
6:15-20 As David was leaping and dancing before the Lord, his wife Michal saw him. Apparently, as far as she was concerned, these were not the dignified actions of a king. So, she despised him (6:16). When the ark was in its new home and the celebrations were complete (6:17-19), David went home to an angry and embarrassed wife. Three times in this chapter, Michal is referred to as Saul’s daughter (6:20; also 6:16, 23). By emphasizing this relationship, the author wants us to know that Michal had the same uncaring attitude toward the ark and toward the true worship of God that her father had.
6:21-23 For David, worshiping the Lord from the heart was more important than his appearance before others. The God who had appointed him as ruler over . . . Israel deserved his praise (6:21). David was willing to dishonor and humble himself, if God were exalted in the process (6:22).
Will you live life from God’s perspective or from your own? Michal viewed the extravagant worship of God from an earthly perspective and considered it vulgar and embarrassing (6:20). As a result, God closed her womb (6:23). David viewed the worship of God from a heavenly perspective, and it brought him tremendous joy. For this, he was honored (6:22).
7:1 In chapter 7, we have one of the Bible’s watershed moments. David was not simply the next king in line after Saul. He was the anointed king of Israel, the Lord’s sovereign choice to establish a dynasty through which the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come. In spite of David’s own sins and those of the kings who would follow him, God was about to establish an unconditional covenant that would guarantee the eventual eternal reign of the ultimate Son of David.
Though he was previously a fugitive in the wilderness running from King Saul, David was now a king living in a palace. Though David was a courageous and mighty warrior who had slain “his tens of thousands” (1 Sam 18:7), the author makes it clear that the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies. All that David had was from God. (That’s a truth that too many believers are quick to forget with relation to themselves.)
7:2-3 David was very aware of how God had blessed him. That’s what prompted him to visit the Lord’s prophet. He told Nathan that he felt uneasy living in his cedar palace, while the ark of God was housed in a mere tent (7:2). Sensing the king’s zeal for God and knowing that God was with him, Nathan encouraged David to do whatever he had in mind (7:3). But, the Lord had other plans.
7:4-10 That night, God gave Nathan a word for David. With regard to building a temple, God’s response was essentially, “Thanks, but no thanks.” From the time of the exodus to David’s day, God had never demanded a house from the Israelites. So, there was no need for David to feel sorry for God (7:4-7). Instead, God reminded David that he had taken this shepherd boy from humble beginnings and made him king, even as he took Israel from being a nation of slaves and had planted them in their land (7:8-10). Far from needing provision, God had always been the Provider.
7:11-16 Don’t miss the shock value of this statement: The Lord himself will make a house for you (7:11). God was engaging in word play. Instead of David building God a house (that is, constructing a temple for him), God would build David a house (that is, he would raise up a kingly dynasty for him). God promised that he would establish the kingdom of David’s descendant (7:12). It was this king who would build a house (a temple) for the name of the Lord (7:13). God would be his father, and the king would be his son (7:14). If he rebelled, God would discipline him, but his faithful love would never depart from him (7:14-15). Thus, the house and kingdom and throne of David would be established forever (7:16).
Clearly, the near-term fulfillment of these promises would be David’s son Solomon. God would indeed establish his kingdom, paving the way for Israel’s golden age. Solomon would be the one to build the temple. And, when Solomon (and subsequent kings) sinned, God’s discipline would fall.
But, ultimately, it would take more than a mere man to fulfill the promises of this Davidic covenant. To have a kingdom and throne established forever, the God-man, Jesus Christ, was needed. The divine Son of God fulfills the Father-Son relationship in the truest sense. As Matthew and Luke show, Jesus in his humanity is a descendent of David and heir to the throne (see Matt 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38). As the angel proclaimed to Mary, he is “the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). “He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15). Jesus will take up his right and rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem when he returns in glory to reign in his millennial kingdom. Then, he will rule for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords.
7:17-29 When Nathan reported all of this to David, the king was overwhelmed. He responded with a prayer of praise and humble worship, recognizing his unworthiness. He asked God, Who am I . . . that you have brought me this far? (7:18). (If that isn’t the testimony of your own heart, you don’t yet see the depth of your sin and the lavish grace and kindness of God.) David also magnified the Lord for doing great things for him, for Israel, and for future generations (7:19-24). Finally, David prayed that God would fulfill his promise (7:25-29).
In this last part of David’s request, we see a reminder that when you don’t know what else to pray, you should ask God to fulfill his promises, because “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). So, like David, pray that the promises God has made in eternity become a reality in your history.
8:1-2 God had promised that David would have “rest from all [his] enemies” (7:11), and now he set about to accomplish it. David began by defeating and subjugating Israel’s ever-present foes to the west, the Philistines (8:1). He also defeated the Moabites, who lived to the southeast of Israel, and he executed two-thirds of their captive troops. Then, they became David’s subjects (8:2).
8:3-6 David’s expansion of his kingdom continued in every direction. His campaigns in the north included the conquest of Had-adezer . . . king of Zobah, whose area lay just north of Damascus (8:3). When the Arameans of Damascus came to assist King Hadadezer . . . David struck down twenty-two thousand Aramean men (8:5). David then placed garrisons in Aram, a kingdom that would be later known as Syria, and also made these people his subjects who paid him tribute. The reason for David’s unbroken success was unmistakable: The Lord made David victorious wherever he went (8:6).
8:7-8 David also took large amounts of plunder from his defeated enemies in the form of the gold shields of Hadadezer’s officers and huge quantities of bronze from Betah and Berothai, Hadadezer’s cities, which he took to Jerusalem and added to his royal coffers.
8:9-12 Not every kingdom north of Israel was sad to see David march north and conquer territory. A king named Toi ruled over Hamath, another Aramean city-state that was about a hundred miles north of Damascus. Toi was so glad that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer that he sent his son Joram to David with expensive gifts to congratulate him on his victory, because Toi and Hadadezer had fought many wars (8:9-10). As he did with all his spoil and gifts, David also dedicated these to the Lord (8:11). Notice the pattern: “The Lord made David victorious” (8:6), and David dedicated his spoils to the Lord (8:11). The gracious provision of God should inspire our gratefulness and giving, too.
8:13-14 Turning to the south, David gained widespread fame when he defeated an army of eighteen thousand Edomites in Salt Valley (8:13). These were the descendants of Esau and proved to be bitter enemies of the Israelites. David also subjugated the Edomites to make sure they didn’t rise up against him again. As before (see 8:6), the author tells us that the Lord made David victorious wherever he went (8:14). God’s might enabled David’s army.
By now David ruled over a kingdom territory promised to Abraham by covenant (see Gen 15:18). But, this was not the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, because David did not occupy all of this territory, and Israel did not possess it permanently. This covenant will not be fulfilled until Jesus Christ returns to rule in his millennial kingdom.
8:15-18 At this point, David’s reign over all of Israel was in its relatively early stages. But, he still needed religious, political, and military leaders to help him in administering justice and righteousness for all his people (8:15). Joab was military commander (8:16). The priests Zadok and Ahimelech were from two different priestly lines descended from Aaron (8:17). Ahimelech was from the line of Eli, whose family was cursed because of the sins of Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and Eli’s failure to restrain them. Samuel had said this family line would come to an end (see 1 Sam 3:10-14). The line of Zadok, however, would continue on through the end of the Old Testament. Benaiah was the leader of the Cherethites and the Pelethites, elite troops of David. His sons served as chief officials (8:18).
9:1-4 David never forgot his covenant promise of friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan. He wanted to honor that promise with kindness to anyone in Saul’s family for Jonathan’s sake (9:1). Ziba had been a servant in Saul’s house who had kept up with the family (9:2-3). He knew that Jonathan had a crippled son, Mephibosheth (introduced in 4:4), and Ziba knew that he was living in Lo-debar on the opposite side of the Jordan River—possibly in hiding (9:3-4).
9:5-7 David immediately sent for Mephibo-sheth, who bowed down to the ground and paid homage to David, perhaps not knowing the fate that awaited him as the heir of the disgraced former king (9:5-6). But, David quickly laid the young man’s fears to rest by repeating his covenant promise to Jonathan and assuring Mephibosheth that he was to be the recipient of that blessing. These blessings included all his grandfather Saul’s fields and a permanent seat at the king’s table (9:7).
9:8-13 Mephibosheth was understandably grateful and deeply humbled because he knew that he had done nothing to deserve this favor from David’s hand (9:8). The change in circumstances came as a result of sheer grace. David also arranged for the administration of Mephibosheth’s new estate. He assigned Ziba and his family to manage the grant he had just made to Mephibosheth (9:9-11). The land David had restored was to be cultivated to feed the rest of Mephibo-sheth’s household, while he himself lived in Jerusalem and ate at the royal table with David.
There was no precedent in the ancient world for what David did on behalf of Mephibosheth. But then, there was no king like David, a type and forerunner of Jesus Christ, who took mercy on us as crippled sinners and extended to us his kindness (see Titus 3:4-5).
10:1-2 Chapter 10 begins with another story of David’s kindness. This time, however, his kindness was rejected, and he received gross insult in return. David sent a delegation to Ammon, the kingdom directly east of Israel, to express his sympathy at the death of the king of the Ammonites (10:1). The late king, Nahash, had been an enemy to Saul and Israel many years earlier (see 1 Sam 11:1-10). But, in later years, he had apparently shown some unnamed kindness to David. So, David wanted to express his condolences to Nahash’s son Hanun (10:2).
10:3-5 Hanun had foolish counselors who had no love for Israel or her king. Without evidence, they accused David of sending his delegation as spies to scope out the capital so he could come with his army and demolish it (10:3). Unfortunately for Hanun and his people, he listened to his counselors and humiliated David’s representatives by shaving their beards and exposing their nakedness (10:4). The men were understandably and deeply humiliated (10:5). David would not let the insult pass without response.
10:6-10 The Ammonites realized they had become repulsive to David, so they began preparing for war with Israel. Taking on a formidable enemy like David would require extra troops, so Hanun hired tens of thousands of mercenaries from the Arameans, and from the smaller kingdoms of Maacah and Tob (10:6). David sent Joab and all the elite troops (10:7). The enemy split their forces, with the Ammonites guarding the city while the mercenary troops were in the field by themselves (10:8). So, Joab also divided Israel’s forces and sent his brother Abishai against the Ammonites while he attacked the Arameans (10:10).
10:11-14 Joab and Abishai agreed to help each other if one of their lines faltered and prayed for God’s will to be done (10:11-12). As a result of their strategy (and God’s help; see 8:6, 14), the Arameans fled from Joab, and when the Ammonites saw this they lost courage and retreated into their city (10:13-14). Thus, Israel won another great victory, and Joab called off the attack against the Ammon-ites. He and his forces returned in triumph to Jerusalem (10:13-14).
10:15-19 The Arameans, however, couldn’t take their whipping, learn their lesson, and go home. Instead, they regrouped (10:15). Hadadezer called for even more troops and lined up for battle (10:16). This time, David responded in person. He gathered all Israel and engaged the Arameans in battle (10:17). The outcome was a foregone conclusion. David and Israel not only routed the enemy, but David also killed Shobach commander of their army, a devastating psychological blow to the Aramean troops (10:18). At last, the Arameans realized that fighting against David was a hopeless cause, so they made peace with Israel and became their subjects (10:19).As a man after God’s own heart (see 1 Sam 13:14), David had been a faithful follower of God as a young shepherd, an unjustly persecuted fugitive, and then as a powerful king. God had blessed him with a powerful kingdom and rest from his enemies on every side. David’s fame and power were at their height. Unfortunately for David and Israel, it was at this point that he faltered.